February 29, 2016

Leap Year 4-Miler (Night of the Glow) race report

Well, today was the second "annual" Leap Year 4-Miler race. I ran the inaugural race in 2012, and I was really excited to run it again. It happened to be at the perfect time in my 10K schedule to use as a tune-up race and hopefully see if I'm on pace to hit my 10K goal in April.

As I mentioned yesterday, my goals were:

"A" goal: If I have a REALLY good race, I could probably do sub-31:00 (7:45/mi).
"B" goal: Take 4 minutes off of my last Leap Day time, for 31:15 (7:49/mi)
"C" goal: A sub-8 pace, for a time of sub-32:00.
"D" goal: Just finish.

To spoil the ending, I will tell you that I did, in fact, reach ONE of those goals ;)

Nathan (my younger brother) said he would pace me, and I really liked that idea. Having a pacer makes it much easier to focus on the race, because then I wouldn't have to worry about looking at my watch all the time. I just had to keep up with Nathan, and I'd hit my goal. I told him that I wanted to aim for 7:45 on the first mile, and then see how I was feeling. If I was feeling good, I could try another at that pace; if not, then I could scale it back to 7:55. And just go from there.

Kendall (Nathan's girlfriend) picked up my packet a couple of days ago, so I didn't have to get there early, which was nice. I dropped the kids off at my friend Andrea's, who was kind enough to watch them, and then I went to Willow Metropark for the race. I met Nathan there, and then at 6:00, I did a warm-up (the race start was at 6:30). I ran about 1.5 miles very easy, and did a few strides and stretches. I felt pretty good, other than a stomachache that I'd had all day. 

My stomach felt like it had a pit in it all day today, and I ate more than normal, thinking it would make my stomach feel better. For dinner, I made what I thought would be a good pre-race meal: a sandwich with peanut butter, banana, and honey. It ended up feeling like lead in my stomach, but I ate it three hours before the race, so I figured there was time to digest.

Anyway, the race was a little late starting. Nathan and I stuck together at the start, and then when we crossed the starting line, my only goal was to keep up with him. I told him not to let me start too fast (something I always do), and at first, I felt like we were going so slow! But after a half mile, I was really feeling the pace, and it certainly didn't feel slow. I didn't look at my watch at all, because I just didn't want to know.

From the very beginning of the run, I just didn't feel right. Normally, when I do speed work, my legs feel springy and light (on a good day, anyway); but today, they felt clumsy and heavy. And my stomach--ugh. The pit was just getting deeper, and soon, it was all I could think about. Once I let that negativity get into my mind, I just started thinking that today wasn't my day. It just wasn't going to happen.

My first mile was 7:45 on the nose, which is what I planned, but I knew I had to slow down. I told Nathan I'd try to run 7:55 for the next one, but in my mind, I wasn't sure if I could even do another mile, let alone three. I felt really bad about it. I told Nathan that I would try to make it to mile two, but I couldn't do more than that. There was just no way. We hit mile two at exactly 7:55--seriously, Nathan is a ridiculously accurate pacer--and a few steps later, I just crashed. I slowed and spent the next five minutes trying to catch my breath. Those two miles felt much harder than they should have!

The last half mile of the race was extremely windy, and I was glad that I was no longer aiming for a time goal at that point. The wind was so strong it took my breath away. I crossed the finish line in 34:15, exactly two minutes faster than my time in 2012. So, I hit my "D" goal, which was just to finish. Hey, at least it was a course PR ;)

I felt really bad, like I completely let Nathan down, even though he kept insisting that it was okay. He said he knows I have a 10K PR in me, and today just wasn't my day. That's exactly what I would tell someone in my situation, but it's hard to believe it when it's about me, if that makes sense.

As I drove home, I was totally beating myself up about the whole thing. I kept wondering if I could have made it if I had kept trying, but honest to God, I don't think I could have today. Looking at my stats now, I am kind of stunned--my heart rate got up to 209! The only time I've seen it in the 200's is when there is a problem with the monitor; but that's always obvious from a lot of spikes and dips. This one looks pretty accurate:

Crash and burn at mile two 

I'm completely torn when I think about how this race went. I was pretty confident going into it that I would do well, based on my 5K time from the beginning of this month. Now, however, I'm questioning everything about my training and whether or not I can hit my 10K goal in April. But, here is what I know:

I know that people have bad runs sometimes, and bad races.
I know that I'm not going to hit my goal at every race. If I do, then my goals are too easy.
I know that I did try my best, and I didn't finish the race thinking that I could have done better.
I know that my speed has improved dramatically over the past four months.
I know that I still have six more weeks until my 10K, so plenty of time to work on it.
I know that I was not feeling my best going into the race today, so it just may have not been my day.
And again, I know that people have bad runs sometimes. It's a fact of running life.

So, even though I felt bad about it immediately after the race, now that I've given it some thought and wrote it out here, I am going to continue my training and just chalk this up to experience! 

February 28, 2016

Reader Questions #27

As I mentioned last week, I'm bringing back the Reader Q&A. If you have a question you'd like me to respond to on the blog, you can email it to me at questions@runsforcookies.com (I don't respond personally to these emails--they're just for the Reader Q&A). I have an inbox full of questions right now, so I'll pick 2-3 to answer about once a week. Today's questions are about running...

Q. At what speed/pace do you consider someone a runner? I ask because I currently run intervals at 3:1 and my average pace is usually between 10:30-11:15 per mile. I'm not sure if I should call myself a runner or jogger. Can you still be considered a runner if you run intervals? What pace would be considered a runner and/or what pace would be considered a jogger?

A. I love this question, and I could seriously write a whole post about it. When I first started running, I refused to call myself a "runner". I was barely able to run a 13:30 pace, and I "only" ran a few miles each week. In my mind back then, a "true runner" was someone like my friend Renee, who has been running for years, who is fast, who regularly runs races, who is thin, etc. I was not a runner.

Eventually, I became very comfortable with that term when I was running regularly three times a week and following a training schedule. I had run several races, and it was my exercise of choice. It took nearly a year before I felt comfortable saying, "I'm a runner". And then, as a new runner, I despised the word "jogger"--it felt offensive, like what I was doing wasn't hard work. If someone called me a jogger, I outwardly smiled but really wanted to punch them ;)

Image source (used with permission)

Now, however, the word "jog" doesn't bother me in the slightest, and I even use it regularly myself. I use the word "jog" to mean running at a slow, easy (for me) pace. Depending on the person, it could be a 7:00 pace, a 10:00 pace, or a 14:00 pace--it just depends on the runner and what is easy or hard for him or her. For example, when I run intervals, I might say that I ran half a mile hard, then jogged a quarter mile, then ran half a mile hard, then jogged a cool down. In that case, the "jogging" is just a way of saying "easy running".

To be very technical, the moment that walking becomes running is when both feet are off the ground for a moment. When you are walking, one of your feet always has contact with the ground; to switch to jogging or running, both feet will be off the ground for a split second. So, whether you're running a 13:00 pace or a 7:00 pace, you're still running. And if you run regularly, you're a runner :)

About the intervals, this is just personal opinion. I believe that running intervals is still running, and I think you can still call yourself a runner if you run intervals. There will be some people who disagree, but in my opinion, it's still running. I dare anyone to say that I didn't run the Chicago Marathon just because I walked through all the water stations! ;)

Q. So I have been doing strength training 3-4 times a week for 8 years. This fall I got frustrated with the lack of weight loss progress and decided to get moving more. I started with walking and moved through a "Couch to 5k" app. My goal was a 5k on New Year's Day. I was hoping to finish in 40 minutes and finished in 37:45! So thrilled! 

So I decided then that my New Years Resolution would be one 5k per month for the year. So I'm trying to run 3 miles three times a week. I've done 2 more 5ks since then. Your b-day one and one in February. Both were slower than the first. How can I increase my speed and endurance? I rarely can run the 3 miles without walking. I don't really want to run further, but I would love for the 3 miles to be more comfortable and quicker! Close to 30 minute 5k by December? Is that doable?

A. First, I think running one 5K per month for the year is an awesome goal; second, congrats on finishing much faster than you anticipated!; and third, I absolutely think it's possible to hit a 30-minute 5K by the end of the year.

It's best to work on either speed or distance at one time--not both. Since you're currently running three miles, and you don't want to increase the distance, you're off to a great start. (For someone who hasn't yet been able to hit that distance, I would suggest increasing distance before worrying about speed. It's called building a "base", and it's a super important part of training. It should just be a lot of easy effort running, gradually increasing distances over time.) 

If you've run three miles without walking before, you know that your body is capable of it; so it is likely just a mental block that keeps you from being able to do it every time you run. I would suggest running SLOWER until you are comfortably able to run the whole distance. It sounds counter-intuitive, but trust me. 

The three-mile distance will eventually feel quite easy! (Before I was a runner, I never dreamed I'd say that sentence, haha.) Run at a very easy pace to where you feel like you could probably walk faster than your run. At that point, you may want to add just a little distance (maybe four miles instead of three) so that the actual 5K distance will feel easier; but if you want to stick with three, that's fine, too.

Once you're running three miles at a time comfortably, I would start to work on your speed. You don't want to push yourself hard every time you go out for a run; most of your running should still be at a very easy effort. I would suggest once a week, adding in some speed work. Speed work options are endless, but here are a couple of simple ones you could use to get started:

400 meter repeats: These are quarter-mile intervals where you run hard for a quarter mile, then jog or walk very easy to recover, and then repeat. You can use the McMillan Race Calculator to determine what your speed should probably be during these 400's, but to keep it simple, I would say just run at a hard effort. Not an all-out sprint, but faster than your 5K pace. 

Then, the recovery portion should be roughly half the amount of time of the fast interval (so, if you ran your quarter mile in 2:30, then you would walk/jog for about 1:15 before starting the next interval). You could start with 4 intervals, and then slowly build your way up as you train, until you're able to do 10-12 intervals. (Always warm-up for at least 10 minutes before doing these, to avoid getting injured.)

Tempo run: Start out with a warm-up of about 10 minutes (jogging, or even fast walking). Then run at a moderately-hard pace for X minutes (start with maybe 10 minutes, and build your way up to 20 or more). The pace should be difficult, but not so hard you can't speak. You should be able to say a few words at a time. You'll feel like you want to slow down, but you know that you can keep going at that pace. (Again, you could use the McMillan Calculator to determine a good pace, but for now, I would keep it simple and run by feel). 

Hills: This isn't an option for me, because I don't have any hilly routes, but if you happen to live near hills, they can be great at making you faster! Just pick a hilly route, and run at an easy pace until you come to a hill--pick up the speed until you get to the top of the hill, and then jog again. These simulate intervals, because they get your heart rate up high from the effort, even though you aren't going as fast.

Again, you want to keep the majority of your time spent running (at least 80% of it) at a low intensity. Most recreational runners (myself included, until a few months ago) run their easy runs too hard and their hard runs too easy, which keeps them from reaching their full potential. I've had a lot of success at getting faster since I started obeying this running "law" ;) 

Make sure you share a picture when you hit that 30-minute 5K! 

Tomorrow is Leap Day! I'm going to be running the second "annual" Leap Year 4-Miler. I ran it in 2012, and my time was 35:15 (8:49/mi). Nathan is going to pace me tomorrow, so I can hopefully run my 10K goal pace of 7:55/mi. However, I was thinking it would be kind of cool to take 4 minutes off of my previous race time (4 minutes for 4 years, because Leap Day), for 31:15 (that would be a 7:49/mi pace). It would be really tough, but it IS possible, so we'll see. 

The race is in the evening, after sunset, so that could make it more challenging (I wish it would start a half hour earlier). Also, it's supposed to be very windy, and wind is my nemesis. My goals:
"A" goal: If I have a REALLY good race, I could probably do sub-31:00 (7:45/mi).
"B" goal: Take 4 minutes off of my last Leap Day time, for 31:15 (7:49/mi)
"C" goal: A sub-8 pace, for a time of sub-32:00.
"D" goal: Just finish.

At my 5K a few weeks ago, I managed sub-8:00 for my pace, so I really should be able to do that tomorrow. I don't want to push the pace too hard in the beginning and crash before the finish, though; so most likely, I'll have Nathan pace me at 7:55 for the first 3 miles, and then see if I can push it for the last mile. And in about 6 weeks, I'll be doing it for my 10K! (I hope so, anyway)

February 26, 2016

What a difference the last 20 pounds makes!

As you all know, I gained quite a bit of weight in 2014; and in spring 2015, I became the heaviest I'd been in over four years. I recently wrote about why that happened, and in August 2015, I started calorie counting. Over 15 weeks, I lost 27 pounds and got back to my goal weight. I was thrilled, because I never thought I'd see 133 on my scale again! Even though I wasn't trying to continue losing, my weight has continued to decrease, and I am now the thinnest I've ever been!

In 2010, when I'd lost about 100 pounds, I wrote a post about all of the non-scale victories I noticed since losing the weight. That remains one of my most popular posts, and people always tell me how much they can relate to the "before" side of me.

One hundred pounds is a LOT of weight to lose, and of course the changes were very noticeable from the 253-pound version of me. I got comfortable over these last few years of maintaining 100+ pounds lost, and had started to take a lot of those things for granted. When I gained nearly 30 pounds in 2014, I started to notice some of those things, because they were starting to reverse.

Yes, losing 100+ pounds made a world of difference in how I felt; but surprisingly, going from 160 to 123 has made quite the difference as well. While weighing 160 wasn't nearly as uncomfortable as weighing 253, I definitely didn't feel my best. I'd like to write some of the changes here, so that people who don't have a lot to lose can see that those last pounds really do make a big difference. And, in my opinion, it's worth putting in the effort to do it!

When I was at 160 pounds, I tried to convince myself that losing the extra weight was just cosmetic--according to my medical numbers, I was very healthy! I even wrote a blog post when I discovered I was a size 10, and I convinced myself to embrace the new size. But having lost that extra weight now, I realize that it wasn't just cosmetic. There are a lot of things that improved, and have made life a little easier.

When going from 160 to 133 (and then 123)...

*My running pace improved significantly, even without training. At 160, I was injured, and I stopped running altogether for 6 weeks in August to heal the injury. The next time I ran, I was 14 pounds lighter, and my pace was actually faster than it was before I stopped running. In August of 2015, my pace was 11:00+ minutes per mile; in October 2015, after taking 6 weeks off, my pace was under 10:00 per mile. That was solely due to the weight loss, because I hadn't run at all during those 6 weeks. And just recently, I actually PR'ed my 5K, running a 7:57 pace!

August 2015 vs. February 2016

*My clothes started to feel much more comfortable almost immediately. At 160 pounds, I was wearing size 10 (or 8 on a good day). Within a couple of months, I was back in my looser pairs of size 4's, and then when I got to 133, I was able to wear ALL of my jeans again. These last 10 pounds (going from 133 to 123), I've actually dropped another size, and I had to go buy several pairs of size 2 jeans!

Size 10 (Sept 2014) vs size 2 (Feb 2016)

*I became much more satisfied with smaller portions of food and drinks. When I was binge eating during 2014 and 2015, and consequently heavier, I never felt satisfied. I felt like I could eat endless amounts of food. But losing these last 30-something pounds has made me get used to smaller portions. I never thought I'd see the day where I only wanted two slices of pizza, but here it is. A third slice would make me feel overly full.

*Likewise, I've become a bit of a lightweight when it comes to alcohol. At 160 pounds, I was able to have several drinks with barely a buzz; but at 123, I feel plenty happy with just one glass of wine. If I'm feeling really crazy, I'll have two ;)

*I have a lot more energy now. I didn't realize it when I was gaining weight, but I started to feel more lethargic and get lazier. I wanted to sit more and move less. Getting back down to a healthy weight has given me motivation to move more. I start to get antsy if I sit too long.

*I have chronic back pain due to arthritis and a couple of bone spurs on my vertebrae, and the weight gain exasperated it greatly. I remember going to the county fair with my family in early August, and we had to leave earlier than we would have liked because my back hurt so badly. Losing the weight didn't eliminate the pain entirely, but it has gotten much more bearable. Some days, I don't even notice it, which is saying a lot! I can actually comfortably sleep on my stomach again; before, my back hurt too much to do that.

*My confidence has soared since losing the extra weight I'd picked up. When I had gained a noticeable amount of weight, I always dreaded running into people I knew, and I hated having my picture taken. People talk about these kinds of things, and considering my weight loss had been so public, I knew people would speculate about what had happened to make me "fall of the wagon". Getting back down to goal weight (and below) has made me feel so much better about myself. I don't dread seeing people or having pictures taken.

*Since my body fat is at an all-time low right now (under 19%!), I'm noticing things about my body that I've never seen before. I can see muscle definition, particularly in my arms, thighs, and even my lower abdomen. I've never had the desire to look muscular, but being able to see the muscle means that there isn't much fat blocking the view ;)

*I don't feel like a "phony" anymore, particularly with the From Fat to Finish Line documentary being released very soon. In the film, I was at my goal weight; and since then, I was dreading the release of the film because I was 27 pounds OVER my goal. I felt, for lack of a better word, like a phony. Now, having lost the extra weight and actually being under my goal weight, I feel proud for the film's release. I'm obviously not trying to hide the fact that I had gained weight, but if people check up on me to see if I've kept the weight off, I am glad to show that I am under my goal.

*When I was noticeably over my goal weight, and received some hurtful comments on my blog about it, I became very self-conscious. I constantly felt so much pressure to lose the weight, but I was having such a hard time actually doing it. The stress and anxiety was a big binge trigger for me, and I felt better when I was eating (only to beat myself up for it later).

For a year or so, I spent SO MUCH TIME thinking about my weight and feeling like I'd let everyone down. I feel like I missed out on a whole year of my life because of stressing over my weight! I wish I hadn't had that reaction, but the fact is, I did. I can't even describe how much better I feel now that I don't have that hanging over my head. I wrote a post called "Get it over with", which explains all of this in detail, and now I have gotten it over with. This new headspace was completely worth dropping the extra weight I'd picked up.

It's kind of amazing how much difference these last 20-30 pounds have made. Obviously, I hope that this is the last time I'll have to lose it; but in some crazy way, the extra pounds made it kind of nice to be reminded of what extra weight does to my mental and physical well-being. I think these last 10 pounds were probably cosmetic, but going from 160 to my goal of 133 made a world of difference! I hope I don't need reminding again ;)

February 24, 2016

Week 28 Weigh-in

I had a feeling the scale was going to be up this morning from last week's weigh in, and I was correct:

I was up half a pound, likely from Eli's special day yesterday. I had some salty popcorn at the movies, and we ate out at La Pita. Eating out always makes me retain some water weight. My calories were very similar to the previous week, so I don't think it's a "real" gain.

Average calories per day for the week was 1899, which was nearly spot-on with my plan of about 1900! I wasn't consciously focused on eating 1900 per day, but I deliberately ate just a little more than last week, and it ended up being right where I'd planned. Since I lost half a pound last week, and gained half a pound this week, I'm guessing that around 1900 is probably about my maintenance level. I'll have to continue for a few more weeks at this calorie count to know for sure. I'm going to aim for roughly the same amount this week, and see what happens, then adjust as necessary.

A few people have asked if I am going to change my goal weight, since I'm now 10 pounds under my goal. I may end up changing it in the future, but right now, I'm still figuring out a good maintenance plan. I really like the way I look and feel at this weight, so of course I'd like to maintain it; but if it becomes too difficult, then I won't be upset to gain 5-10 pounds back. I'd like to give it six months or so to see how I feel about it. Summer is the most difficult time of year for me to NOT gain weight, so right now, my biggest goal is to stay at or under my goal weight of 133 through the summer.

It feels so strange that I can eat 1900 calories a day and not gain weight. Logically, it make sense; but all these years of dieting have ingrained in me the idea that I have to eat much less than that to lose or maintain weight. I really think that being consistent has paid off. I gave it enough time to really work this time. In the past, I may have undereaten for a little while to lose weight (probably 1400-1500 calories, thinking that was necessary); felt very deprived; binged; and then started over. So, I wasn't eating at a particular level for very long to see real progress (except for when I lost the weight in 2009-2010).

(I'm still getting a lot of email with questions about calorie counting--this post explains pretty much everything. I really just keep it very simple--count my calories, try to keep them reasonable, and eat what I enjoy.)

Anyway, as far as my long term goals this week:

Get in 7000+ steps per day for 6+ days/week: I didn't have a battery in my FitBit for the first half of the week, so I'm not sure if I got in the steps or not; but I got a new battery on Sunday, so now I'm back to wearing the FitBit.

Stay binge-free: Today is Day 204! I think this is my longest streak since 2010. My longest streak ever was 365 days, so I am determined to beat that. Interestingly, it's getting easier and easier. Sometimes I still get binge urges, but I don't really entertain the thought of it anymore. The less I think about it, the easier it is to resist. So, if the thought pops into my head, I immediately try to think of something else. It's been very helpful!

Try one new recipe weekly: This week, I made this recipe for Italian Breakfast Casserole. Holy smokes, this was so amazing! It was really fast and easy to throw together, and despite having eggs, it was even good reheated the next day. Jerry and I both loved this! The kids liked it, but didn't eat the crescent roll crust--the best part, in my opinion ;) (I used cheddar cheese instead of Italian cheese, but that's what I had on hand).

It's basically layers of crescent roll dough, ham, salami, scrambled eggs, peppers, onions, and cheese. We ate it for dinner (I love breakfast for dinner!).

My running was good this week, as well.

I did a couple of afternoon/evening runs, which I really enjoyed. I may start doing some more like that. I ran with Joey a couple of times as well. On Monday, Jerry and I took Joey to the state park for a run, which was actually really fun. We saw about a dozen bald eagles while we were there! There were a couple of people with fancy cameras there photographing them (I didn't even bother taking a pic with my phone, haha). But Jerry got a cool picture of Joey and me at the end of our run:

I don't really have much going on this coming week, so let's hope I have another good week on maintenance! :)

Several readers have asked me recently about doing some sort of accountability group for Wednesday Weigh-ins. I created a group this morning called Runs for Cookies Wednesday Weigh-ins on Facebook, and if you are looking for accountability and/or support, you are welcome to join! It's a closed group, so only the people in the group will see your posts. You can post weigh-ins if you'd like, and share your success, struggles, etc.

The only "rules" of the group are: 1) No selling/promoting anything, and 2) Keep the comments positive (I don't want anyone to feel hurt or upset by comments, because the group is about support). Also, I would appreciate if you don't just go to lurk--please introduce yourself, share what you're comfortable with, and support others! Here is the link if you'd like to join. (By the time this post goes live, I will likely be sleeping--I've been going to bed by 9:00 each night!--but I will approve the requests to join in the morning.)

February 23, 2016

Lunch with Eli

Today was Eli's "special day" with me. Once or twice each school year, if the kids' grades are good, we let them skip a day of school and have some one-on-one time with Jerry or me. We call it their "special day", and we let them choose what they want to do. Noah had his day in December, when he and Jerry went to the Star Wars marathon. Eli decided that he wanted to go to the movies and to La Pita for lunch with me for his day.

The movie was at 10:00, so I wanted to get my run done first thing. Eli got kind of dressed up, and did his hair for our "date", so I made sure I'd have enough time to do my hair and make-up as well. I think it makes him feel special when he notices that I put effort into his day.

Anyway, I had "4 x 5:00 fast" on the schedule today. It had been two weeks since I did speed work, because last week I took five days off of running (due to my knee incident). I was a little nervous to see how it would go today. I've been hoping to get my "fast" speed to 7:30/mile, and it's tough! My race pace is going to be 7:55/mile, so at this point, I should be able to handle 7:30 for short periods. Here is what my scheduled run was for today:

10 minute warm-up
5 minutes at 7:30 pace
Walk to recover (heart rate less than 136 bpm)
Repeat intervals for a total of 4 times.

It was a great morning for a run! Low 30's temperature, but no wind to speak of. As soon as I started my warm-up, I could feel it was going to be a good run. My feet felt nice and springy, which is always a good sign. I kept my warm-up slow, and then when my Garmin beeped at the 10 minute mark, I started running hard.

It felt REALLY good. Honestly, the first interval felt so much easier than I was used to. I don't think I could have gone much faster than 7:30, but running at that pace a couple of weeks ago felt much harder. And so it went for three more intervals. By the fourth, my legs were definitely tired. My heart and lungs felt good, like they wanted to go faster, but my legs just couldn't turn over fast enough. So, my pace was a tad slower for the fourth interval. But I was very pleased when I checked out my stats later!

My pace wasn't quite 7:30, but I think it was good enough without staring at my Garmin the whole time. The point of running at that faster pace is to make race pace (7:55) feel easier. I have to say, I really like this Run Britain training plan. It's very different from anything I've done before, and while I don't know yet if it will get me to PR my 10K, I have really enjoyed doing it. The plan is specified for a sub-50 10K, but you could use it for any time goal you like, really.

After my run, I showered and got ready to go out with Eli. First, we went to the movies to see Kung Fu Panda 3. We were the only two people in the theater, which was nice; and the movie was cute. Eli and I laughed out loud several times.

There was one line during the movie that was actually really thought-provoking, and it caught my attention. I didn't write it down, so this may not be an exact quote, but it was something like this: "If you only do what you know you can do, then you'll never do anything else." This is very true, especially when it comes to weight loss and fitness goals. I could set my 10K goal much easier, because I know I could do it. But I'm aiming really high, even though I have no idea if I can do it!

After the movie, we headed to Dearborn to have lunch at La Pita. I love that Eli loves La Pita enough to choose it for his special day! He got the chicken kabob, which is what I usually get. Today, I decided to try something different, and shrimp was sounding good, so I got the shrimp appetizer and a side of garlic sauce.

The garlic sauce is that white mayonnaise-looking stuff at the top of the photo. It's made with garlic, olive oil, and potato to thicken it. It's absolutely delicious, and my favorite thing about La Pita. I scooped out a quarter cup, because I could easily eat the whole dish if I wasn't paying attention. It's 100 calories per tablespoon, so just that sauce was 400 calories--yikes! But the shrimp and vegetables were low in calories, and I only had one small pita. Guesstimated the total to be 622 calories for what I ate. I loved the shrimp, and would definitely order it again. The carrots were really good dipped in the garlic sauce, too.

Eli was very happy with his special day, so that made me happy. Later, I made homemade chicken noodle soup for dinner. My friend Adam had mentioned on Instagram that he loves homemade chicken noodle soup, so we invited him over for dinner, too. He's allergic to the cats, so he couldn't stay very long, but it's always good to get to see him. Great day!

February 22, 2016

Reader Questions #26

I just looked back in my archives, and the last Reader Q&A post that I did was in September 2012, so it's been a long time! I'm not sure why I stopped doing the series. It's kind of fun to respond to questions, especially when they are questions I haven't gotten before. Anyway, I'm not sure yet if I'll be doing this on a regular day of the week, or just sporadically when I have writer's block.

On the Reader Questions posts, I will respond to questions I've received via email at questions@runsforcookies.com. The questions don't have to be about weight loss or running--anything is game! And Jerry said he's up for answering questions as well.

I'm sure you all know this, but just keep in mind that I am not a doctor or medical professional, so everything I write is based on my own experience. I am a certified running coach and certified weight loss specialist, so I don't just make things up out of nowhere, however ;) Anyway, that said, here goes the first RQ post in over three years!

Q. How many tattoos do you have? And has anyone told you that you look like Tina Majorino?

A. I had a dream last night that I was answering this question, which is so weird! The answer is one tattoo (but in my dream, I actually had four--haha!). The only tattoo that I have is a ladybug on my toe, which I got when I was 18. I hate it. It looked good when I got it, but it faded and the ink bled a little over time, so now it looks like a fuzzy mole. I even get emails from people who see my tattoo on my Wednesday Weigh-in photos, suggesting that I get it looked at because it looks like it could be melanoma ;) Someday, maybe I'll get it removed, but I just deal with it for now.

And interestingly, yes--people HAVE told me that I look like Tina Majorino! My "real life" friends and family don't see it, so maybe it's just in the way that I look in photographs. I went through Tina's pictures on Google, and Jerry and I agreed that this is the one that resembles me the most... but I have pretty much zero pictures of me not smiling, so it's hard to say!

Q. How do you deal with the emotional side of weight loss? As an example, I'm currently overweight and eat whatever/whenever I want without caring, so for me to go from that to having to count, measure, and care about the foods I'm eating fills me with dread and sadness. Let's face it: food is good and eating is fun! I just don't know how to get over that aspect of weight loss.

A. This is something I struggled with a lot when I was counting Weight Watchers Points. I was willing to do it forever, but I tried not to think too far ahead. Some days, I just got so frustrated because I wanted to just EAT and not have to calculate Points. It's especially difficult when going out to eat, and you can't just look at the menu and decide--you have to calculate the Points. I've even had little breakdowns at home when trying to figure out what to eat!

Since I started calorie counting, I feel much more relaxed about it. A lot of restaurants list the calories, which is simple. And if they don't, it's easy to make a good guesstimate. Now, I honestly don't mind tracking my food! I eat what I enjoy, and by eating smaller portions, I feel like I enjoy the foods even more. I take my time eating, instead of eating very quickly. 

It is a difficult transition at first, going from not counting/caring to having to plan/measure/track. But after a few weeks, it really becomes second nature. I find that planning ahead takes a lot of the stress out of it. I would suggest to try and spend 10 minutes each evening planning out the following day's food, so you don't have to come up with something when you're hungry. I don't know about you, but hungry=cranky for me ;)

Q. You've mentioned before how you don't like some foods, like salad or some vegetables. I really admire how you've overcome things like fears of flying or dogs through exposure. Have you considered doing that with healthy foods you don't like? Or have you done that over the years with foods you now enjoy? I ask this because I used to not like a lot of healthy foods like peppers, avocado, almonds, etc. and learned to tolerate them just by exposing myself. Over time I grew to really like them.

A. This is a great question! I'm trying to think of foods that I really dislike, and there are only a couple that come to mind right now--yogurt and several types of cheese (blue cheese, goat cheese, gouda--I basically just like the average-joe cheeses). I used to say that I hated salad as well, but I go through phases where I eat it often. I love Caesar salad! I can't think of any vegetables that I really dislike.

Anyway, I am very open to trying new foods! I've tried yogurt dozens of times--all the different brands, flavors--and I still just don't like it. Once in a while, I'll buy a container to try again, but no luck with that one yet. Before having kids, I hated green peppers. When I was pregnant with Eli, I craved them like crazy, and now green peppers are one of my favorite vegetables! It's kind of odd how that works. 

The main issue I have with vegetables isn't that I dislike them, but just that they are inconvenient to prepare. I love roasted cauliflower, for example, but washing it, cutting it into florets, and roasting it is quite a bit of prep work. Usually, when I eat vegetables, they're mixed into whatever dinner I'm making--I make a lot of skillet meals and casseroles, so I'll throw the vegetables into that. 

So basically, to answer your question, yes--I am very open to trying foods that I dislike in the hopes that I will one day enjoy them. There are a lot of foods I eat now that I hated when I was kid, so I believe that our tastes change over time. Wine is another example--I used to hate wine, can you believe it? Then I found a sweet wine that I liked, so I started drinking that. Renee and I formed a wine club for our friends to get together and try different wines (and learn about them). At first, I only liked the very sweet ones; then I gradually started to like the semi-dry wines. And now, I like the very bold, very dry reds--the ones that I hated when I first started wine tasting!

I found this in a book that I filled out when I was six years old, and I thought it was kind of funny. I apparently used to love salad when I was a kid!

Nathan is my younger brother, for those of you that may not know ;) It's so funny--Nathan was just looking through his "My Book About Me", and on this same page in his book, he wrote, "And please don't give me any Jeanie. I can't stand it." (Jeanie is our sister). Clearly, we were a very loving family!

Thanks for the great questions!

February 21, 2016

Finders keepers!

I feel like it's been such a long time since I wrote, but maybe that's just because I've had a lot of random things going on over the last week or so.

As I mentioned, I hurt my knee on last week's long run. It was REALLY painful on Monday, and I was pretty upset that it would totally derail my training. I decided not to panic, and it's early enough in my training that taking some time off isn't going to be the end of the world. I decided not to run at all from Monday through Thursday. Then, on Friday, I went for a very short test run to see how it felt. It was good!

On Saturday, I ran three miles, and again--no problems. Relief! Today was my long run, and since I ran 10 miles last week, I decided to cut back today to just 5 miles. I didn't want to risk aggravating my knee, just in case it wasn't 100% yet.

We've had some amazing weather this weekend. Yesterday, it was 64 degrees and sunny! A week ago, it was just 9 degrees--shows you how much Michigan weather can change at the drop of a hat. This morning, it was a little cooler (about 40), but great weather for a run. My friend Bonnie was interviewed on a podcast recently, so I listened to that on my phone while I ran today. Bonnie is adorable--she has the sweetest Virginian accent, and she made me laugh out loud several times while I was running. (Here is a link to the podcast--Bonnie is on S2E6, from 2/19. You can read Bonnie's weight loss story here on my blog.)

My run went great! I was wondering if my heart rate monitor stopped working, because it rarely beeped to signal that I was using too much effort. It was so nice to just run, listening to Bonnie chat in my ear, and not worry about my pace. At around mile four, I spotted something on the side of the road that caught my eye--a $20 bill! That's the most money I've ever found on a run before, so I was pretty excited.

When I got home, I was happy to see that my pace was 10:42/mile and my average heart rate was 143 bpm. That's good for an easy run! (I keep my heart rate below 146).

We had a couple of exciting things happen on Wednesday. Jerry was off work, so we decided we'd better go get our taxes done--I'd been dreading it, because we've had to pay for the last couple of years instead of getting a refund (the downside of blogging). We went to a new tax preparation guy, and he was extremely helpful! We ended up getting a nice refund this year, which is awesome.

While I would love to use the money for a new treadmill, that would be rather selfish of me; so instead, we decided to plan a vacation. The From Fat to Finish Line group on Facebook is planning an event in Virginia Beach over Labor Day weekend (the Rock n Roll races and a showing of the documentary). Jerry and I decided to plan a trip there and take the kids, so we'll make a vacation out of it. I don't plan to do the race, but I would like to meet up with anyone from the group that would like to. (It's open to the public, so if you're not already a member of the group, you're welcome to join! And please let me know if you'll be in Virginia Beach, so we can meet up.)

After we did our taxes, we went to the car dealership to turn in Jerry's lease (a Dodge Dart). He's had it for three years, and we planned to buy another Patriot when we turned it in (we love our Jeep Patriot that we bought in 2010). When we got there, we checked out our options. I'm not a big "car person", meaning that I basically just choose whatever is cheapest and I don't need any of the bells and whistles. Our Patriot doesn't even have automatic locks or windows!

We saw a very cute bright yellow Jeep Renegade in the showroom. I'd never heard of the Renegade, and the salesman told us it was new. After using my brother-in-law's employee discount, and using the rebates from the lease, it ended up being cheaper to buy the Jeep Renegade than it would have been to buy a used Patriot. And even though I'm not a big car person, I fell in love with the yellow Jeep! So, we left the dealership in my new wheels ;)

I absolutely love it! And the color just makes me so happy. We picked up the kids from school, and they were really surprised (and excited) to see the new Jeep.

I finally remembered to buy a new battery for my Fitbit, so I will start wearing it again tomorrow. It's been a week without it, so I have no idea how many steps I was getting in!

February 19, 2016

What I eat

Lately, I've been getting a LOT of requests for me to post a typical day's meals. I used to openly share my food logs, but every time I did, I would get comments criticizing me for too many carbs, not enough protein, too much fat, not enough vegetables, too much sugar, unbalanced macros, too many grapes, and about a dozen other things. My diet isn't perfect. Far from it, actually! However, it's a hell of a lot better than it was when I was obese, and the way I eat now is keeping me binge-free (today is Day 199!). I eat foods that I enjoy, skip the ones I don't, and I am very happy with that. Maybe someday, I'll start trying to make healthier changes; but for right now, I'm good with the way I eat.

All of my health stats are good--I have the numbers checked annually, and I am perfectly healthy. The only number that is regularly too low is my blood pressure (which is what caused me to faint). The cardiologist who did all the testing after my fainting incident in 2010 told me to eat a higher sodium diet to keep my blood pressure from dropping too low; so, in planning out my meals, I don't try to limit my sodium. I just thought that was worth mentioning.

I don't really have a "typical" day, because I eat whatever sounds good to me that day. However, I went through my food logs and pulled several things out to post here. As I've mentioned before, I don't snack--I eat breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a nightly "treat". I don't usually get very hungry between meals; but if I do, I'm okay with that. Food tastes best when I'm hungry, so I like to feel hungry before I eat.

(I'm only posting this because so many people have told me they are curious about what I eat. I am in no way saying that this is what people "should" eat, however. The food that I eat isn't anything special--I just eat what I enjoy.)

That said, here are some examples from my food log. In addition to what is listed, I may add something else on the side to each meal. It just depends on my food plan for the day, and how many calories I have to spare. When I plan out my food ahead of time, I typically keep it to around 1500 calories, and then just add to it if I'm hungrier at each meal. By the end of the day, my average calorie count is usually between 1600-1900.

Breakfasts (I always have tea with sugar and half & half with breakfast)

Larabar with Dark Chocolate Dreams Peanut Butter

Larabar with peanut butter (I eat this nearly every single day--I LOVE Larabars)
Oatmeal with brown sugar, blueberries, and almonds (300 calories)
Sourdough toast with coconut oil (248 calories)


Panera Half Asian Sesame Chicken Salad; cup of Chicken Noodle Soup; bread; tea

Panera (I go to Panera once a week with my friend Andrea)
     -Tomato soup with bread (510 calories)
     -Cup of chicken noodle soup; 1/2 Asian Sesame Chicken Salad; bread; iced tea (490 calories)
     -Full Asian Sesame Chicken Salad with bread (600 calories)
     -Blueberry Scone (470 calories)
Can of tuna with real mayonnaise and sweet relish; Skinny Pop popcorn; prunes (376 calories)
Chicken Melt (pita bread with chicken and cheese); Skinny Pop popcorn; apple (376 calories)
Soup (chicken noodle or clam chowder, usually); crackers. (250-400 calories)
McDonald's Filet O Fish and small fries (620 calories)
Imitation crab with real butter; broccoli-cheese pasta (458 calories)
Scrambled eggs with cheese; Asian pear (374 calories)
Scrambled eggs with cheese; sweet cherry tomatoes; cinnamon applesauce (388 calories)
Toast with peanut butter; pineapple (341 calories)
Stouffer's frozen meal (My favorite is the vegetable lasagna) (350-450 calories)
Spicy Peanut Noodle Bowl (389 calories)
Brown rice with a chipotle jack chicken sausage (368 calories)
Hostess Fruit Pie- apple (450 calories)- When I first started calorie counting, and I felt so much freedom to eat whatever I wanted, I ate these a couple of times a week! I absolutely love them. After getting that out of my system, I don't eat them very often anymore. Now I buy the mini version, and have it for a treat sometimes.
Leftovers from dinner the night before (300-600 calories)


Turkey meat loaf with roasted bell peppers

Cabbage Casserole with rice (414 calories)
Chili with cornbread (506 calories)
Pasta e Fagioli (444 calories)
Split Pea Soup (258 calories)
Taco Salad (494 calories)
Spicy Taco Gnocchi Skillet (350 calories)
Keema and rice (433 calories)
Homemade Fettuccine Alfredo (588 calories)
Red Pepper and Italian Sausage Pasta (379 calories)
Kielbasa & Corn Hash with an egg on top (448 calories)
Pizza, three small slices with pepperoni and bacon (1101 calories-this is what I like on a high calorie day)
*A lot of things I cook for dinner are found on Pinterest. You can see my pins there for other ideas.


Merlot and a Cadbury Creme Egg

Two small sandwich cookies and a glass of wine (254 calories)
Mini Haagen Dazs ice cream cup (310 calories)
Kit Kat Minis (170 calories)
Mini Apple Pie (240 calories)
Chocolate covered dried cherries (200 calories)
Swiss Cake Rolls (270 calories)
Butterfinger Cups (230 calories)
Popcorn (187 calories)
Glass of wine (125 calories)
Rice Krispies Treat (150 calories)
Homemade dessert (200-500 calories)

As far as drinks go, I drink tons of water (usually at least three quarts a day). I also like La Croix seltzer water, so I have one of those each day. Occasionally, I'll have diet tonic water with lime. The only calorie-containing drinks I usually have are wine, an occasional light beer, tea with sugar and half & half, and if we go to the bar or something, I'll have a vodka tonic. I don't really like soda or juice, so I don't drink them.

So that's about it! Like I said, nothing special or magical. Just foods that I like, regardless of how healthy or unhealthy they are. In the past, whenever I've tried to cut out processed foods, or sugars, or anything like that, it backfires on me big time. My diet now isn't great, but it isn't terrible, either. And I'm happy with it.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

February 18, 2016

Health class

Whew! What an exhausting day. I have so much respect for people who have a full time job AND a family AND who manage to get anything else done ;)

Last night, Jerry, the kids, and I went to Anson's for pizza. There, we met my friend Chris and his wife, and their two boys, so that Chris and I could figure out a game plan for today. Chris is a health teacher at a high school in a nearby school district, and he invited me to come in and speak to his class about anything health related--diet and exercise, mental illness (depression and anxiety), how running has helped my health, etc. Basically to give a face to all the stuff they are studying.

He actually invited me to do this a long time ago, but I ended up declining. I was not in a good place mentally, and I felt like it just wasn't my place to talk about health when I clearly wasn't doing well myself. That was in the midst of my weight gain and depression/anxiety a year ago. Now, I feel very comfortable talking about it, and if there is one thing I'm passionate about, it's helping teenagers to feel good about themselves and NOT deal with the same battles I did.

Dinner last night was delicious (Anson's pizza always is! Jerry and I got a Reuben pizza). When I got home last night, I still wasn't sure of exactly how I was going to focus my talk to the class. There were three classes, each one 45 minutes long, and the whole class time was mine. Since I'm not used to giving presentations or speeches or anything, I had no idea how long it would take me to talk about things or tell my story.

I tried to get it all figured out last night, but I finally just gave up and decided to wing it. I did get a folder of photos together on the computer, in case I decided to use them. This morning, after I got my kids off to school, I got ready to head to high school for the first time in 16 years.

When I got there, Chris met me at the office, where I got a visitor's pass, and then we went to his classroom. I got there 20 minutes early, so I could get comfortable. The first class was the smallest, with just 12 kids, so that was a good starting point for me! On the way to the school, I had decided that what I would do is quickly go over my story, focusing on the points that were most relevant to teenagers (bullying, depression, eating for comfort, not giving up my favorite foods, and only making lifelong changes rather than fad diets); then, I would show them some fun stuff--the clip from the Today Show, the trailer for From Fat to Finish Line, my size 24 jeans, etc. And then see if anyone had questions.

Luckily, Chris made a worksheet for the kids to fill out, so they actually had to pay attention ;) And they got bonus points for asking *good* questions (asking "What's the date today?" or something like that didn't count). When I first started talking, I was really nervous. But about two minutes later, I started to relax, and just tell my story like I was talking to a friend. The time went by pretty quickly!

There weren't any very dramatic reactions, so I had no idea what the kids thought at the time. I just hoped I wasn't boring them. At the end, they did ask some really great questions, though. Some of them may be reading my blog, so I don't want to put anyone on the spot--I have to be pretty vague here.

I was particularly touched by one boy who told me that the part of my story about my not being able to be an active parent was relatable to him. He said his mom was very overweight, and that she wasn't able to be an active parent to him or his brother when they were young. Hearing that made me so sad! He wanted to know some ideas of things he could do to help his mom lose weight. Even if nobody else got anything out of what I talked about, I was really glad to have talked with him personally at the end of class.

The second class was right after the first. Based on the questions the kids in the previous class asked, I modified my story a bit, so I wasn't saying the exact same things over and over. Again, they asked some really great questions. The class had just finished up a chapter on depression and anxiety, so I was really glad to talk about that with them. Chris had told me about a couple of students in particular who would benefit from it. Some of the kids were clearly asking questions for extra credit, but there were some kids whose questions made me want to hug them and take them out for coffee to discuss. I think I would have a hard time being a teacher, because hearing the difficulties that kids go through would be so hard.

After the second class, Chris had "study hall", where the kids all work independently. We just chatted, and he told me some fun teacher "secrets" (for example, while the kids are using their computers to take a test or something, he can open up a program on his computer that allows him to see EVERYTHING that they are doing. So he can catch kids Googling, copying and pasting for tests, and prove it with a screenshot! Very interesting.) Also, I felt really old. When I was in high school, the only classroom with computers was the journalism lab!

After study hall was the third and final health class. I was feeling very comfortable by that point, and wasn't even really nervous at all. One thing that I talked about was how losing the weight gave me the confidence and courage to try new things and get over fears (or at least face the fears!). Ironically, one of the fears I had was when Chris first asked me to be a guest in his class--speaking in front of people is very scary! So as I was talking about facing fears today, I was actually facing one of my own.

The third class flew by, and before I knew it, I was heading home. I'm really glad that I did this! I hope that at least a few kids got something out of what I talked about. I mentioned to Chris that I don't think I could be a teacher, because talking so much was exhausting. He agreed that on the days where he does a lot of lecturing, it's really tiring. But I think that if I was a teacher, high school would definitely be the age I would want to teach. I could tell the kids all really liked Chris, and he is a very good teacher with great ideas.

The day was fun! I would definitely do it again if Chris asked me to.

Unfortunately, I don't have any relative pictures for this post! So here is a picture of Joey watching me cook dinner :)

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