Eating in a Pickle: What to do when you’re eating out

Well, I’m back from New York, and I had a grand time!  The City that Never Sleeps is definitely filled with some great energy! 

So back to the topic at hand – Eating in a Pickle.  In my last post, I discussed Scenario #1: You need something quick to eat.  I talked about keeping emergency food stashed in your freezer and choosing healthy “fast food.”  Now let’s talk about Scenario #2.

SCENARIO #2:

You’re out to eat with a client, colleague, or friend, and you want more than just a green salad with balsamic vinaigrette.  What do you do?

As I’ve said before, food has an amazing way of bringing people together, so usually when I spend time with friends and family, there’s some form of eating involved.  And suffice it to say, when you’re entertaining co-workers or a client, wining and dining is usually in order.  So how bad would it look if you brought a Tupperware of salad into the restaurant (you’d probably get kicked out) or if you ordered nothing but a green salad while your client ordered the 24-ounce New York steak with mashed potatoes, a pint of beer, and the chocolate-lovers cake for dessert?

You have to survive in the social world of eating without completely compromising your nutritional values.  Contrary to popular belief, it’s not impossible to do.  There’s usually something on the menu that you can eat without feeling completely guilty or freaked out afterwards.  Sometimes it might take some special requests to the waiter to adjust, but it’s doable.

So let’s start with my usual guidelines when choosing menu items.  These are actually the same guidelines I discussed in my last post.  Same idea here:

  • The meal must include some kind of lean protein and fibrous carb (fruits and vegetables).  If it includes a starchy carb, it must be either made from whole grains or there shouldn’t be too much of it. 
  • Nothing fried
  • No creamy or cheesy sauces, minimal butter and cheese
  • Stay away from anything that’s likely to include MSG, be overloaded with sodium, or use plenty of artificial ingredients.

Sometimes you have to ask the waiter to modify things for you.  Usually they’re pretty open to doing that.  Here are some other rules of thumb I follow, some of which sometimes require special requests:

  • Ask for salad dressing and sauces on the side
  • Always order the vinaigrettes (skip the ranch, thousand island, and blue cheese)
  • Make sure to ask for whole wheat toast and order it dry
  • Always pass on the sour cream
  • Order the side salad instead of the fries
  • Always order the non-cream-based soups (broth-based are better – chicken noodle, garden vegetable, etc.)
  • Just say “no” to any pastas with cream-based sauces – pastas tossed with pesto, tomato sauce, or EVOO are better
  • Always hold the mayo
  • Ask for brown rice
  • Always order water (never soft drinks or sweetened teas)

So, here are some restaurants you might find me at, and what I usually choose to order (when I’m not using my 10% cheat meals):

  • Subway – 6” Turkey sandwich on wheat with all the veggies, pepperjack cheese, and a touch of dijon mustard (280 calories, 4.5g fat, 1.5g saturated fat, 46g carbs, 5g fiber, 18g protein)
  • McDonald’s (yes, when I’m in a pickle, you might find me here) – Asian salad with grilled chicken.  I usually only use about 1/4 of the packet of dressing (300 calories, 10g fat, 1g saturated fat, 23g carbs, 5g fiber, 32g protein)
  • Starbucks – Tall Americano with a touch of cream and a 1/2 packet of Sugar in the Raw, Perfect Oatmeal with dried fruit and walnuts (ask if they can put some of their vanilla protein powder in your oatmeal)
  • Red Robin – Grilled turkey burger, hold the mayo, order a side salad instead of fries (512 calories, 22g fat, 51g carbs, 3g fiber, 29g protein)
  • Panera – Half Orchard Harvest Salad with Chicken + Cup of Lowfat Chicken Noodle Soup (370 calories, 18g fat, 4g saturated fat, 32g carbs, 4g fiber, 23g protein)

And here are some local restaurants you might find me at if you’re in the Bellevue/Redmond/Kirkland/Seattle area:

  • Taphouse Grill, Bellevue/Seattle – Seared Ahi Salad (dressing on the side) or Peppered Ahi Tuna Sandwhich, very light on the wasabi aioli, with the coleslaw or side salad instead of fries
  • SushiMe, Bellevue – any fresh sushi, go easy on the fried varieties
  • Pho Hoa, all around the greater Seattle area – Pho Tai (noodle soup with eye round steak) or the variety with chicken, or Bun Ga Nuong (grilled chicken with vermicelli noodles and vegetables)
  • Village Cafe, Redmond – Half order of the Popeye Omelet, substitute the hashbrowns with fruit cup, and if I must have pancakes, I order the buckwheat variety and dip it in the syrup rather than drench it with syrup…and I never butter my pancakes
  • Cactus, Kirkland/Alki/Madison – Sonoran Spa Chicken

Hopefully that gives you some ideas.  As with the last post, when you’re in a pickle, you never know what exactly is in the food you’re ordering.  Just do the best you can to make wise choices, and don’t be afraid to ask for modifications.  Just because you’ve made a choice to eat well doesn’t mean you have to give up your social life or your career.

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Yummy, Healthy Thanksgiving Recipes

So I know my last post was all about indulging this Thanksgiving.  And although I still say you should go for it IF you can uphold the three points I mentioned – 1) moderation is key, 2) remember there are consequences to your indulgence and accept them fully, and 3) promise yourself that it’s for Thanksgiving Day ONLY – there are still some of you who want to make your Thanksgiving meal a healthy one.  If you’re one of those people, props to you!

In fact, even though I still plan on eating pumpkin pie with whipped cream, leche flan, and creamy mashed potatoes, I think I’ll help my mom with the cooking this year by trying out a few healthy Thanksgiving recipes. 

For this post I’ve compiled some ideas that I found all over the place.  Some are from other blogs, some are from food and nutrition sites, and some are floating around in my head.  After you’ve let the food digest after Thanksgiving dinner, add a comment and let me know how some of these recipes worked out for you.  Enjoy!

Salads

  • Arugula and Pear Salad* – I love any salad with fruit on it.  Especially pears.  If you don’t like the bitterness of the arugula, even though the sweetness of the balsamic vinegar should even it out nicely, I’m sure you could nix it and just go with the butterhead lettuce. 
  • Spinach Salad with Dried Cranberries, Walnuts, and Pomegranate Vinaigrette^ – I personally would substitute the dried cranberries with fresh pomegranate seeds since it’s kind of hard to find unsweetened dried cranberries and since pomegranates are in season.  This salad is a triple whammy – three power foods in one: spinach, packed with vitamins A, C, and folate; walnuts, packed with omega-3 fatty acids (good for your heart); and pomegranate, packed with antioxidants.

Main Course

  • Roasted Turkey – You gotta have this one.  And turkey is probably one of the healthiest items on the menu as it is.  As an article called Substitutions Make Holiday Fare Healthier suggests, instead of basting it with butter, baste the turkey with its own juices and consider removing the skin after cooking.  Oh, and oven roast the thing; don’t deep fry it.  It’ll be much less fatty, and you significantly decrease the chance of burning your house down.

Side Dishes

  • Roasted and Pureed Cauliflower^ – If you’re starchy carb conscious, try this alternative to mashed potatoes.  It’s quite garlicky and yummy.  Just keep in mind that it’s cauliflower – not potatoes – so don’t expect it to taste like potatoes.  Also, try using non-fat or low-fat milk instead of whole.
  • Roasted Sweet Potatoes – And if you just can’t live without the potatoes, try sweet potatoes instead.  They’re packed with all kinds of vitamins and minerals, higher in fiber, and lower in calories.  Slice ‘em up, toss them with a little bit of olive oil, salt, and whatever herbs you like.  Throw them in the oven at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes.  I personally like to drizzle white truffle oil over them.  Mmmmm….
  • Stir-Fried Green Beans with Lemon, Parmesan, and Pine Nuts** – Try this instead of green bean casserole.  Because let’s face it – who actually likes that stuff?  Be sure not to get too carried away with the oil and parmesan though.  You don’t want overly oily and salty green beans.  This dish should be light and refreshing.
  • Whole Wheat Stuffing with Sage, Italian Sausage, and Pears** – I don’t know about you, but stuffing is a must-have on my Thanksgiving table.  Try this alternative with whole wheat bread and turkey sausage.  Oh, and don’t cook it in the turkey.  It’ll just end up absorbing all the fat from the turkey, and in order to cook the stuffing, you’ll probably end up overcooking the turkey.  (Yuck, who wants dry turkey?)

Desserts

  • Pear Crumble* – This one sounds good and nice and easy to make.  Try to go a little easy on the brown sugar and maple syrup though. 
  • Squash Cheesecake Bars* – Surprisingly low in calories, fat, and carbs for a cheesecake recipe.

Beverages

And for some great ideas on what to do with all that leftover turkey, check out my husband’s latest blog, Creative Fat-Blasting Thanksgiving Leftover Recipes.

Happy Healthy Thanksgiving!

 

*   Taken from EatingWell
** Taken from Kalyn’sKitchen
^  Taken from Food Network
^^Taken from Natural Health Magazine

High Fructose Corn Syrup: A Modern-Day Food Dilemma

High fructose corn syrup (or HFCS) is quite the buzz word these days.  Similarly to trans fats, HFCS has become ultra taboo to mainstream America. 

Various studies have controversially linked HFCS with the recent rise in obesity and diabetes.  It’s cheaper and sweeter than sugar, easier to transport, and extends the shelf-life of various popular food products.   

Go to the grocery store these days, and you can find it pretty much anywhere: ketchup, soft drinks, bread, even children’s vitamins!  Since sugar is so expensive, let’s sweeten everything with this highly processed compound!  Sounds like a good idea!

Poor HFCS, getting such a bad rap.

But it’s made out of corn, isn’t it?  Yes, it’s derived from corn.  So why not call it a vegetable?  (BTW, corn is not a vegetable; it’s a grain.)  But everything is derived from some sort of naturally-occurring ingredient.  Then some are heated, twisted, wringed out, spliced, and osmosis-ized into something else so it vaguely resembles anything even close to its original form.  Such is HFCS.

Time magazine quoted Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, saying, “High-fructose corn syrup starts out as cornstarch, which is chemically or enzymatically degraded to glucose and some short polymers of glucose. Another enzyme is then used to convert varying fractions of glucose into fructose…High-fructose corn syrup just doesn’t exist in nature.”

Now the Corn Refiners Association is trying to say HFCS isn’t as bad as it sounds.  (Hm, does clearing up HFCS’s bad rap sound like it would be in their self-interest?  I wonder…):

HFCS Ad

So maybe it has the same number of calories as table sugar.  So maybe when it comes to pure calorie-counting, it’s not so bad.  But to me, it still doesn’t sound like something I care to have in my body. 

I’m no nutrition expert, but I do know one thing – our bodies are intelligent machines. However, throw something in there that’s been totally morphed into something crazy like HFCS, and it won’t know how to react to it.  So it’ll react in a not-so-favorable way.

This is why I always prefer Sugar in the Raw, agave nector, or natural pure cane sugar over Sweet & Low, Equal (lovingly referred to as “Pink and Blue Death”) or Splenda.  Your body is a naturally-occurring mechanism.  Feed it with fuel that’s as close as you can get to its naturally-occurring state.

Do your own research.  And decide for yourself whether or not you want to feed HFCS to your children.  As for me, I plan on feeding my body, and the bodies of my future children, something that hasn’t been treated with something highly processed – or “osmosis-ized”, my new favorite word (yes I made it up) – like HFCS.

Do What You Gotta Do…Then Make It Work for You

My last entry got me thinking more about “cheating.” Why am I so concerned about “cheating”? Some of you might be thinking, “That’s no way to live – always having to stop yourself from eating something you enjoy.” That reminded me of a conversation I recently had with one of my good friends who is currently on a mission to lose some weight.

My friend is a very social individual. One night she’s out with one friend, and the next night she’s out with another. The common factor is a bottle of wine and dinner at some fancy restaurant. Besides the fact that she was spending WAY too much money on eating out, she was not eating very healthy, which didn’t help her at all when it came to her fitness goals.

She felt that there was no way her lifestyle and social calendar could uphold any type of “diet”, and she didn’t think that depriving herself from eating the food she enjoys was any way to live.

This is where we get into the whole “diet” vs. “lifestyle change” issue. I’m sure you’ve heard someone say it: “Diets don’t work. Lifestyle changes do.” Which is easier to do? Change how you eat for a month, or change how you eat for the rest of your life? I put my money on #1. The problem is, any results you saw from that diet will soon disappear, and you’ll be left at square one.

So I believe that to have any kind of lasting results, you must change your eating habits, or your lifestyle with regards to food and nutrition. However, what kind of lifestyle do you want to live? What is acceptable to you?

You’ve heard me talk about the 90% rule. Allow yourself a “cheat meal” only 10% of the time. Seems kind of strict, doesn’t it? Who wants to keep count of all their meals and how many of them were “compliant”? And who wants to wants to keep track of all the “compliance” rules?

This is where I blur the lines between a “diet” and a “lifestyle change.” I think if you’re going for a specific goal – to lose X pounds, to decrease bodyfat by X%, to fit into your old cocktail dress in time for your girlfriend’s wedding – you have to play full on. If you want more than snail-paced progress, you have to bear down, make sacrifices, and adhere to your “compliance rules”. You need to prioritize and say for example, “Right now this goal is more important than going out to dinner with my friends every night.” Do what you gotta do.

Once you obtain your goal, then if you want to maintain those results you have to take what you did and make it work for you in the long term. Go into maintenance mode, so to say. So maybe that means you don’t count your calories anymore, or you allow yourself starchy carbs even though you haven’t worked out. Or maybe you allow yourself a moderate “cheat meal” more than 10% of the time.

But you won’t go back to eating creamy pasta every night, making a run to the golden arches for lunch every other day, or eating a chocolate lava cake for dessert every single weekend. You have new habits and operate under new knowledge, so you can’t go back. “Man’s mind stretched to a new idea, never goes back to its original dimensions.” — Oliver Wendall Holmes

What I’m saying is, do what needs to be done to get to your goal. Once you get there, it’s okay to take it back a notch or two. Understand, however there are consequences. You might experience a slight decrease in energy, you might not feel as lean or rock hard. You might even gain a little bit of bodyfat back. But it’s all about tradeoffs. To enjoy life, if you truly feel you need to take it back a notch, then I propose you do it. Make it work for you. But keep in mind the consequences and what consequences are really, truly worth it to you. I highly doubt after accomplishing your health and fitness goal, you’ll think going back to your original unhealthy ways would be worth it. At least, I hope not.

So yes, while I was trying to achieve my goals, I was religious about the 90% rule. I logged my food, I watched my calories, I made sure I always ate a protein with a fibrous carb at every “eating opportunity.” Now that I’ve gotten there, I don’t pay as close attention, but I am ALWAYS cognizant of what I’m putting into my body and how it’s affecting me. I still make healthy choices, but I don’t freak out if I occasionally eat a snack without a source of lean protein. And I occasionally allow myself the pleasure of a warm, chocolate lava cake.

So what happened to my friend? She made a sacrifice, stopped eating out every night, and limits herself to one glass of wine every other week. She logs her food, eats plenty of vegetables and lean protein, and limits her sugar intake. She’s well on her way to her fitness goals. But once she gets there, I have a strong feeling she’ll stop logging her food and she’ll probably drink more than one glass of wine every other week. And that’s fine because to her, it’s worth it. (What is worth it, and if it’s truly worth it is another conversation.)

You know yourself better than anyone else. You know what’s important to you. Live life to the fullest. To you, if that means occasionally enjoying a bottle of wine with an old friend, more power to you.

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When the Cat’s Away…

I am a cheater. My husband has been out of town for the past week, and while he’s been gone, I’ve been cheating. About a year ago, he regularly went out of town once a month for work, and I cheated back then too. I cheated in the kitchen, I cheated in the bedroom, I cheated in the car, and I even cheated in my office.

It’s not something I’m proud of. This weakness of the flesh is a sore reminder that I’m human with carnal urges. How can I say no when temptation is staring me in the face? When I can feel the intense yearning deep within me…

Whoa, stop me before I get carried away and start talking about something totally unrelated to what I really mean to talk about: Snickers bars, chocolate covered pretzels, McDonald’s french fries, and hot fudge sundaes. Mmm…

*Sigh* So I know I’ve talked about the 90% rule and allowing yourself a cheat meal 10% of the time. And I admit that this is probably easier to uphold when your husband is your personal trainer. Here’s a secret: when my husband is away, the temptation to cheat is, like, 500% greater.

No one is here to slap my hand. I’m like the kid after trick-or-treating who is stuffing her face with the candy her mom told her to put away because she turned away for two seconds.

What about personal accountability, you say? I know, I know. Hey, just because I’m a trainer’s wife, and just because I have chosen to start living a healthier lifestyle doesn’t mean I stop having all urges to indulge. Especially when no one is watching.

But I’m watching. I’m watching, and I have to live with myself afterwards. I’ve heard about a few strategies to stop yourself from reaching for the food that you know shouldn’t come anywhere near your mouth. Things like saying, “Oh well, it’s not part of my plan” and moving on from the tempting situation, or saying, “Thank you that I have food, but not this food.”

What tends to work for me – when I truly apply myself to doing this – is to just quiet my mind. Because usually while I’m reaching for the chocolate chip cookie, thoughts are churning through my mind like a whirlwind: “Mmm…chocolate. I love chocolate. But I shouldn’t eat this. Think about how you’ll feel after you eat it. But it’s just one cookie, it can’t hurt. But one cookie will lead to another cookie. And I didn’t even work out today, so I didn’t even earn it. But chocolate is so goooood…”

So the trick is to cut it off at the “Mmm…” or as soon as you can. Some have described this as the “chatterbox” in your head. And then move your body away from the cookie. As Alton Brown says, “Step away. Just step away.” (Well, that’s usually in the context of over mixing wet ingredients with dry ingredients when baking, but it works for my purposes too.) And then occupy your mind with something else. Like updating your status on Facebook or something useless like that. Or finishing that email you meant to send to your co-worker before lunch.

Okay, so tonight my method didn’t really work for me. I knew I should have eaten the salad with grilled chicken and balsamic vinaigrette, but the Panino Italiano with prosciutto and hot coppa was just crying out to me.

At least I’ve moved on from the hot fudge sundaes, Take 5’s, and Whopper Juniors from the cheating days of my past. This is progress. Next business trip he takes, maybe I’ll take the cheating down another notch. Probably a good idea.

Breaking Free

In my last post, I revealed that before I started working out regularly, I went through seven years of trying and failing. A vicious cycle that got me zero results and got me pretty down on myself. I was finally able to break free from that cycle, or the “thermostat”, about ten months ago. So how did I break free?

Before I get into that, I have to throw in a little disclaimer: I am not a therapist. I am not a personal trainer. I’m merely a person who’s also struggled with having the discipline and motivation to work towards her fitness goals. I can only share with you what I know – what worked for me. Everyone is wired differently. Everyone has a different background, different lifestyle, different situation in life, etc. Take what you need from what I say, make it work for you, or just leave all of it.

Okay, now that that’s out of the way, here goes.

The turning point came for me one night over dinner. My husband was telling me about his FitCamp program. It’s a 12-week program that includes group personal training classes, a nutrition program, before and after photos, progress tracking, etc. To qualify for the program, you have to go through an interview so they can get a feel for what your goals are and why you want to transform your life.

That got me thinking. What are my motivators? Why have I been trying to go to the gym for the past seven years? On a superficial level, it was always just to “look good.” I never really took the time to dig deep and figure out the real “whys.”

So after some soul-searching, I realized that it wasn’t about “looking good.” It was about more than that. Firstly, I didn’t just want to “look good.” I actually wanted to be the type of person who is healthy and fit. In other words, I wanted that feeling of achievement knowing that I reached the goal I’d been striving towards for seven years. I wanted to know that I grew as a person and was therefore able to get there and uphold a way of life I’ve always wanted to. Secondly, I’ve always wanted to help my husband grow his business. How could I represent his company in any way without “walking the walk”? And lastly, I wanted to be an example to my future children. How could I teach them to live healthy lifestyles if I’m not living one myself?

These were the true “whys”. Only after I identified them did I finally have a deep, emotional drive to achieve my health and fitness goals.

I met with my husband, and I told him that I wanted to join his FitCamp. Before that, I had never taken any kind of group fitness class. So this was stepping way out of my comfort zone. But I realized that I needed to hold myself accountable. For me, what better way to do that than to make it visible to other people when I’m not pushing myself hard enough or when I get lazy and skip class.

I interviewed with my husband told him all the reasons why this time I was serious about making a lifestyle change. I also set a timeline for myself – my cousin’s wedding in Vegas in four months.

Then the work began. It wasn’t easy, but I got there. I didn’t reach my goal by my cousin’s Vegas wedding, but that’s okay. I didn’t give up, and about a month later, I did get there. I knew I would.

The FitCamp was the jumpstart I needed. When the 12-week program ended, I continued to focus on the progress I had made, and I never wanted to risk losing it. I’ve found that once you get over the initial hump, it gets much easier. I stopped craving all the bad food (the bad food didn’t taste as good anymore either), and working out became less of a choice and more of a way of life.

Some days I’m still tempted to skip the workout, and yes sometimes I do. But I forgive myself, move on, and know that I’ll do better the next day.

So in summary, here’s how I broke free from my thermostat:

1) I took the time to do some soul searching and uncovered the real, deeply emotionally compelling reasons I wanted to reach my fitness goals.

2) I said these reasons out loud to someone else to hold myself accountable.

3) I set myself up in a situation to hold me accountable – the FitCamp. The key for me was that I made my quest visible to other people, surrounded myself with people who were also working towards similar goals, and made it fun.

4) I set a timeline.

5) I knew I would get there.

6) I was patient with myself.

So there you go. Like I said, take what you need from this and make it work for you. Hopefully I gave you some ideas about how you can break free from your thermostat. I think the most important things are to find the deep, emotionally compelling reasons behind your goals, be patient with yourself, and know you’ll get there. I mean really KNOW it. And you will.

Best wishes on your journey!

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Survival of the Fittest

I took a self-defense class today.  A good investment for a rainy, Sunday afternoon if you ask me. 

My husband and I like to hit and wrestle each other (not hard, and playfully of course)…actually, more like he likes to show me whatever cool lock GSP had on whatever UFC fighter he contended with the other night.  [Sigh]…GSP…What a hottie…Oh, sorry.  Got lost in a dream world for a bit. 

Anyway, even though we just play around, he sometimes grabs me and then asks me, “What would you do if some guy grabbed you like this?  How would you get out of it?”  And all I can do is flail my arms around and squirm.  Not very effective.  And I know, this is not a good thing.  Hence, the self-defense class today.

We learned about being aware of our environment, aware of verbal and non-verbal cues from others, and aware of what tips us off.  We also learned some very useful ways to get out of certain grips and situations when being threatened by an attacker.

I’m a petite person.  If a 6’2″ monster is grabbing me by the shoulders, there is no way in hell I am going to be able to get all J-Lo in “Enough” on his ass.  Nor should I expect or try to.  The point is to “stun and run.”  Get out of the grip, hit or kick him where it counts, and get the hell out of there to safety. 

As was taught to us, it’s not about strength, but about being simple and smart.  But, if there are any factors that can work towards my favor should I ever find myself in the situation where I need to defend myself or my loved ones, I’m going to make damn sure I do what I need to do to get those factors working in my favor.  What I’m trying to say is, as J-Lo did, I’m going to become as strong as I can be.  I’m going to become as fast as I can be.  I’m going to become as alert and alive as I can be.

I’m going to prepare myself.  Not that I expect or want to attract being in that situation.  But I should have the tools, the knowledge, and the awareness should I ever need it. 

This weekend I recognized another reason I do what I do – another reason I try to eat well, exercise regularly, and take care of my body in general.  Not just to look good, not just so I can run a marathon if I choose to, and not just so I can have a sense of achievement.  So I can hit hard, so I can kick hard, and so I can run like hell to protect myself.

Whatever your reasons are, add that one to your list.

*If you live in the Seattle Metropolitan area and are interested in taking a self-defense course, contact Kamara’s Harmonizing Martial Arts at 206-265-2957 or hma@guardup.org.

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UPDATE: Women who lift heavy UNITE!

Surprisingly enough, I actually got a response to my inquiry about putting heavier weights in the women’s area at my gym.  (Read about it here.)  Only two days after I received the email from the nice, young personal trainer I spoke to saying they’d “definitely consider it,” I got an email from his manager indicating they were going to put in heavier weights that same day!  And they did! [Insert Hallelujah Chorus here.]

Granted, they only added a set of 25’s and a set of 30’s – way short of the 50-60 pounders I asked them to incorporate into their dumbbell ensemble – this is progress.  They’re supposedly looking into incoporating up to 50 pounds by way of Power Block dumbells.

So they still have yet to follow through completely on their word.  Hopefully they don’t disappoint me. 

I was in there today using the 25’s, and it’s not far off that I’ll need to upgrade to using the 30’s.  Pretty soon I’ll need those 35’s or 40’s.  (Not to mention that I already need those and heavier for single dumbbell squats (aka plie squats), but I’ve been avoiding doing those because of the lack of appropriate hardware.)

So yet again, I will keep you posted.  At least I got a response that indicates they acknowledge there’s a need for heavier weights in the women’s area.  I hope I’m not the only one using them!

Women who lift heavy UNITE!

I work out at a pretty huge gym.  It’s actually more like a health club.  They have raquetball, tennis courts, a spa/salon, a restaurant, a pool, fancy locker rooms, etc.  They also have a small area that is restricted to women’s use only.

Don’t get me wrong.  I actually like working out.  But that wasn’t always the case.  I used to get nauseous at the thought of going to the gym.  Not only because it just seemed like too much effort to put some workout clothes on, drive to the gym, and expend way more energy on a treadmill or doing squats than sitting on the couch watching reruns of Friends, but also because it was actually a daunting experience.

I think now I can say I somewhat know what I’m doing when I’m at the gym.  But when I first started working out, I was really self-conscious about it.  Firstly, I didn’t know what I was doing, and I was sure it was obvious to everyone around me.  Secondly, all those guys on the weight machines, grunting and flexing in the mirror, while scrawny, petite me had to completely remove the pin on the row machine because even the lightest weight was too heavy. 

And while I was in college, I was self-conscious around men in general, let alone while suggestively raising my hips off the ground to do lying butt bridges.  And honestly, I still am slightly self-conscious about these things.

Fitness institutions such as Curves were established for this very reason.  They understand that testosterone-laden gyms may not be the best environment for women who are not figure competitors to begin their journeys towards their fitness goals. 

And this is the reason behind the area at my gym that is women only.  Sometimes I workout in the big, crowded weight room, filled with Arnold-wannabe’s.  But sometimes I want to work out in an environment where I feel comfortable and where I don’t have to put myself on a waitlist for the 30-pounders.  Only problem is, the dumbells in the women’s area only go up to 20 pounds.

Back in my college days, that may have been good enough.  But now that I’ve gotten stronger, I need to lift heavier.  It’s like the big-wigs at the fancy gym think that women who are able to lift more than 20 pounds are advanced enough that they shouldn’t be self-conscious about working out among the men.

(This could potentially get into the whole “I’m afraid I’ll look like a man if I lift more than 8 pounds” conversation, but I’ll save that for another day.)

I don’t know about you, but I feel it’s discriminatory and somewhat hypocritical that this gym would force me out of the women’s area because I start getting stronger.  Isn’t that something the gym big-wigs should support?  I can see how this would deter some women from continuing to pursue their fitness goals: They start seeing results, get stronger, start needing to lift heavier weights, but then stop progressing because they continue to lift 20 pounds because they don’t want to leave the women’s area.

Anyway, so I approached the nice, young man behind the personal trainer’s desk and asked him if they’ve ever considered putting heavier weights in the women’s area.  The answer was “no.”  But he did talk to his supervisor and emailed me asking what weights I would like introduced.  It’s something they’ll “definitely consider.”

Good sign.  I’ll let you know what happens.

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Call me a skinny minnie? Oh no you di’int!

I remember when I was in high school, when I would lie down I thought it was really cool that my stomach would sink down and my ribs and hip bones would protrude from my skin.

Now that I think about that, it actually sounds kind of disgusting.  Who wants to be a “skinny minnie,” as many have dubbed me?

I get that an awful lot – “why do you work out?  You’re already a ‘skinny minnie!'”

First of all, I don’t want to be a skinny minnie.  And second of all, even if people didn’t think I look like a skinny minnie, that isn’t why I’d be working out!

Yes, I’ll admit that one of my reasons for working out and eating consciously is to improve my body composition.  (i.e. So I can rock a bikini or skin tight dress)  What woman doesn’t want to look good in what she wears?

But improved body composition does NOT mean being skinny!  When you say skinny, images of Mary Kate & Ashley, Nicole Ritchie, and Twiggy run through my head.  Ew.  I don’t want to look like a drug addict.  That is NOT the goal.

Hm…Jessica Biel maybe, and even Britney (during her sultry “I’m a Slave for You” days) maybe.  I wouldn’t mind looking like them.  Solid, fit, and like they could probably kick your ass.

Actually, I take that back.  I don’t want to look like them.  I want to look like me.  But a solid, fit, I-could-kick-your-ass version of me.  It’s ridiculous to want to look like this actress or that super-model.  We all have different genetics, different body compositions.  It is probably genetically impossible for my butt to look as good as Jessica Biel’s.

But I can admire their level of physical fitness and aspire to achieve my own pinnacle of physical fitness and health.

Anyway, body composition and overall health – that is what it’s about.  In the words of James Ray, “Let health be the goal, and let fitness be the by-product.”  Just try to get and stay healthy and happy, and it’ll manifest itself in your physical appearance.

When you start eating healthier and become more physically active, your body can’t help but conform.  Eating right, working out, and other healthy habits – getting enough sleep, minimizing stress etc. – shouldn’t make you look like an Oleson twin.

Skinny minnie?  Not me, thank you very much.