Wednesday, December 30, 2009

In Search of Zumba

Zumba at Discovery Green Houston. Photo by Amanda Clark.

First of all, I'm sorry I haven't posted in over a week. I've been trying to balance life and whenever I'm working on balance I get off balance in another area. Crazy, I know! That's the challenge of trying to balance. It's like trying to balance a bunch of plates on your arms like a talented waiter, which I am not. You get a couple of plates just right and one will fall and crash to the ground.

This past week was busy with working out, the kids were out of school for winter break and my step-daughter Amanda was visiting. She came to visit for two weeks and while she was here she worked out at 24 Hour Fitness almost every single day. She also ate tofu with us and actually liked it! She didn't think she would but she had to agree that MorningStar Farms makes it really tasty.

The first week she was here she played basketball, swam, and used the elliptical machine or treadmill. The second week she was here I told her that they teach zumba classes at the gym. I remembered that she loves zumba because on one of her last visits we did zumba at Discovery Green, our downtown mini-Central Park.

I wish I'd remembered to tell her Sunday because we could have done the class on Monday at my gym. Tuesday we went to the Midtown 24 Hour Fitness, which is a really nice gym by the way! I have seriously been interested in checking it out and possibly upgrading my membership to use the Super Sport clubs, so we went there for the class. It was an OK class, fun, but not exceptional.

Wednesday we went to the Richmond location and that class was great. The teacher is really good and we really sweated. Totally worth the drive over there that day. This teacher did a great combination of salsa, merengue and middle eastern music. We did a lot of hip movement, reminiscent of an old belly dancing class I took back in 1993.

We had a lot of fun and my kids loved the kids' club. It has a wii! Wow! Very impressive. They recently renovated that location. It used to be a lot smaller. They added a pool, but surprisingly, not a basketball court.

I had a lot of fun with Mandi driving around town trying out different zumba classes. It made me want to try the class on Monday nights at my gym.

This is my week of vacation. I am trying to relax and to take it easy because I have a lot of stress in store when I get back to work. Stress I am not looking forward to, but that is inevitable. I will have to handle the stress while still keeping up the work out routine. It's all part of the balance!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Quick Update from this Latina Now-Runner

Image from

I am at three weeks of regular exercise! I have gone to the gym or walked in my neighborhood on average 3 times a week. My running is getting better and there are actually times when I run 90 seconds instead of 60. That is HUGE for me! If you read my earlier blog about running you'll know what I mean.

So on to Week 4! What is it that I always hear about creating a habit? It takes 4 weeks of doing something to make it a habit? Well, I'm almost there! And I survived the weekend of my mother-in-law's menudo without getting completely out of hand.

Now I need to work on other areas of my life to get myself back on-line. I've been lagging in some important areas and I need to get back with the program. I need to create a perfect balance of all things spiritual and physical. It's a challenge, but I believe it can be done.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Then There's the Food (Mexican, Latin, etc..)

I think it's more challenging to try and lose weight when you're a Latina. Seriously. Here are a few examples.

Last weekend my sister called me that she was in the neighborhood and was buying chicharrones at Matamoros Meat market. She asked if I wanted some. Of course I had to say yes.

Next weekend my mother in law is coming over to make menudo. Of course I will eat some.

Next Tuesday my very good friends' parents are in town and they want to go lunch at my cousin's restaurant, Sylvia's Enchilada Kitchen. Of course I will want to eat the mole enchiladas.

So you see, being a Latina makes it very hard to lose weight. It's just that the food is sooo good! Even the stuff that some non-Latinos don't like are so delicious. Chicharrones, menudo, barbacoa, tripitas, tamales.... I know there's some of you non-Latinos that like these foods too so you know what I mean.

Seriously, I've been trying to cut down on the meat so I really shouldn't be eating any of those things anyway. Maybe I'll just have a taste. :) I wonder if all of them are in the calorie counter!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Mama's on a Roll!

Design by Anne Taintor.

This past week I worked out three days at the gym and I walked in my neighborhood once! FOUR days of working out! I’m kicking butt and taking names!

I walked/ran on Monday and I did the elliptical machine on Tuesday. I went back on Friday even though I really wanted to go home. I ran and walked again for 30 minutes and burned 205 calories. Saturday my dad came by and we went walking for 30 minutes and that was my fourth work out day.

So I'm officially on a roll. I worked out two days last week and four days this week. I think I can call that a roll. It was a busy week too! With the kids starting a new after school program and everything else that went on.

I'm actually looking forward to a new week so I can go to the gym on Tuesday! It will be Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday this week. Provided everything goes as planned and I have that packed gym bag in my car.

Having a bag with me really makes a difference. Friday I even changed into my clothes at work so I could just go straight to the gym. No excuses.

This week I will concentrate on doing better logging my food on I lagged behind in that area. So that’s my goal! Having a lap band doesn't mean that I don't have to watch what I eat and that I don't have to exercise.

One interesting thing I have found about the lap band versus other weight loss surgeries is that since it's more of a control, and not a forced starvation, the weight loss can be a lot slower. That may not work for everyone because everyone is different. Some people prefer that fast weight loss to get to their goal faster. On a good note, since the weight loss is slower my body has had time to go back into place. So sometimes people have seen me and have said that I lost more weight when I really didn't. What they are really seeing is my body reshaping itself.

That's why working out is so important. I need to help my body reshape itself by pushing and pulling it there. On to Week Three!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

My Legs Are Killing Me!

Yesterday I went to the gym. My daughter usually has a program called Odyssey of the Mind after school for an hour and it makes it kind of tough to work out. I usually do my grocery shopping on that day. Odyssey of the Mind will be on Wednesday, so I went to the gym on Monday.

Yesterday was also the first day at a new after school program. We hit some bumps in the road at the other after school program with my son, so I decided to withdraw both of them. My daughter is eight and my son is five. They both have a lot of energy and I think this new program will work really great for all of us. They will be attending a gymnastics and cheerleading academy, so they will be using all of their energy. It will also give them 60 minutes of uninterrupted exercise per day. (the recommended exercise time for kids) They have snack time, computer time, homework time and tumbling time. If I really like the school I'm going to add more formal gymnastics classes to their schedule. They get to take the bus from the school to the gymastics academy so they are excited about that.

In addition to all of this, the school is literally down the street from my gym. What does that mean for me? NO EXCUSES! I'll be able to stop in and run for 30 minutes every day after I pick them up. Packing my gym bag every night should just be the norm.

I think I'm just as excited as the kids. On a sad note, I'm feeling my forty years! I ran two days last week and then I took a four day break. I ran yesterday and I am totally feeling it today. TOTALLY! Even my neck and lower back hurt! I feel it all over my body, which is how it should be. I feel like I worked out and that's good.

This week we've gotten away from our regular routine, but I think it will work. Today I'm going to the gym again because tomorrow we are attending a fund raiser for the amazing Maria Palacios, spoken word artist and disability activist. It's a fundraiser for a new wheelchair. If you are in the Houston area come check it out. It will be a night full of art. It will be this Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at Bohemeo's.

Every Thursday I have a bible meeting. I really want to get into the gym on Friday, regardless of anything that may happen. I'm making it a point to work out because I don't want such a large gap in my work out days. I feel it today!

On another note, I also had the lap band adjusted yesterday so I'm on liquids through tomorrow noon and then I have soft foods for the rest of Wednesday. We'll see if that gives me a little kick start on some much needed weight loss. When I weighed in at the lap band clinic I found out that I definitely gained 10 pounds. I can't deny it any longer. I used to say 5-10 lbs, now I have to say, "Yes, I have gained 10 pounds from the weight I averaged the longest." Bummer, but not something I can't fix by being more disciplined and exercising!!

So, what do you have planned for this week? How about trying the 60/90 running technique?

Friday, December 4, 2009

I Can Actually Run? Amazing!

Design by Dolly Mama

I've been delinquent in reporting. I did half okay on the food journal on but I did pretty good working out. I dove right in!

Tuesday and Wednesday I made it to the gym and I walked for 10 minutes and then walked and ran for 20 more minutes. I followed a routine that my friend Kimmi the runner taught me. She got it from a running website that takes you from couch potato to runner. It works amazingly! I warm up by walking and then I run for 60 seconds and then I walk 90 seconds. I continue doing that until the end of the 30 minute session, and then I do the cool down.

What is amazing about this is that I, me, the total non-runner, can run. You don't understand how amazing this is. I have NEVER been a runner. NEVER!

I will never forget this (and never is a very strong word). In first grade my class was choosing people to run in the relay race for Field Day. When the teacher asked about me the whole class said, almost in unison, "NO!" I remember looking at my very good friend Carl, who also lived across the street and was a really good runner. even then at age 7, and not even he defended me. I felt devastated and angry. I was only 7 years old, I had just turned 7 in February, because I remember it was that Spring. I also remember feeling so ashamed that no one thought I could run. Even though I wasn't chosen to run the relay race we all still had to practice relay running in P.E.

Our P.E. teacher was Ms. Washington and she was tough! She was so athletic and I realized this, even at such a young age. Her arms were well defined. (funny, the things you remember as a child) She always wore a track suit and she had a short afro. I think she wore either small stud earrings or small hoops and she was mean. Not mean in an evil way, more like mean in a strict way.

Ms. Washington had us practicing the relay race that same day that no one chose me and when it was my turn to run I decided that I was going to run harder than I had ever run before. I put my all into it and surprising to all, even me, I won my heat. It was hilarious. I shocked everyone. I remember feeling smug and very, "Ha!"

Ms. Washington just laughed and shook her head. (It was rare to see her laugh.) I'm sure she guessed what had happened. She knew the kids had said I couldn't run and that I was mad that I wasn't chosen to run. The funny thing is that I don't think it was so much that I wasn't chosen to run. It was the fact that they all said I was a "bad" runner that made me mad. I was determined to prove them wrong. WOW! I can't believe I was that way at that age already. I haven't changed much in that aspect.

After that day, even though I won my turn, I actually believed that I couldn't run. I never ran again. The only athletic things I ever did after that was throw the shot put in middle school. Yes, I did the shot put. I was also on the swim team, but I was terrible. Terrible! I got more out of being on the swim team than I gave. Being on the swim team taught me the different swim strokes and how to swim to compete. It was a good experience. And even though I threw the shot put and I was on the track team, I didn't run. I never really ran again. I think I may have given it a bit of a try in my late teens when I used to do aerobics every day.

So for me to start running now in my very very late 30s is very amazing. I can not believe how well that 60/90 technique works. The goal is to start walking less and to start running more. I will do 60/90 for a while until I can change to 90 seconds of running and 60 seconds of walking. It makes it doable! Then eventually one day I will run long periods of time. I would recommend it to anyone. It makes me feel like a runner for the first time in my life! If it can do that to me, the non-runner, it definitely works. It's worth trying!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Crazy Week & Semi-Vegetarian Lifestyle

Design by Anne Taintor.

I tried this week, I really did... But "life is what happens when you're making other plans." Or as I like to call them, life's detours.

My son was sick last Sunday and on Monday I had to take him to the doctor. That morning I found out that one of the girls he played with the Friday prior had strep throat. I took him in to the doctor Monday afternoon and she confirmed it was strep. All I could do was get him started on antibiotics, but thankfully he wasn't running fever any more. The doctor said that if he wasn't running fever the next day he could go to school. Tuesday was the kids' last day of school before the holiday so I didn't really want him missing more school.

Monday was a challenge! I got a very late start to my day and I had to be at work for a meeting. After dropping of the kids late I was on my way to work when my friend called to tell me that her niece had strep. My husband was out of town for work until Wednesday so I had to figure things out on my own. Thank goodness for my mother-in-law who was able to pick up my son (he only infected others for a couple of hours) and thank goodness for my doctor's office who agreed to see him that same afternoon.

Tuesday I was able to send him off to school, but I faced some of my own personal challenges at work. Between the short week, a husband who was out of town for work, and a sick child I did not do any of the things I said I would. It's interesting. I did not log anything that I ate that week on and I know why I didn't. Since I knew how bad I was eating I didn't even bother logging anything. That's bad too because it's equivalent to running away from the truth. This weekend I did a little better. Which leads me to my second topic. For a couple of months now my husband has been practicing a semi-vegetarian lifestyle. I say semi because he has been eating fish. In addition to fish we have become big fans of Morning Star Farms.

If you've never tried Morning Star Farms you have to! Their products are soooo delicious! They have "chicken" nuggets and "chicken" patties that even a picky 5 year old little boy eats without question. They also make crumbles that look just like beef. I cook up the crumbles in olive oil with a little bit of garlic and then I add tomato sauce. Then I serve it over whole grain pasta. delicious! I still want to try the crumbles in taco sauce and I want to make tacos. They make another product similar to chicken strips that I cook up and I've added Alfredo sauce and I serve that over pasta too. The products are all soy based.

We've also become big fans of tofu at Asian restaurants, one restaurant in particular. We've been eating lunch a lot at Sawadee, a Thai restaurant on Weslayan, near Bellaire. I LOVE their tofu and eggplant in either sweet basil or kaffir lemon. (they call it lemon but according to wikipedia it's lime) Rey loves the tofu and broccoli in garlic sauce.

Long story short about this change in diet is that my husband, who has been sticking to it for two months now, has lost thirty pounds! YES! Thirty pounds from just cutting beef, chicken and pork out of his diet and practicing healthier choices. Amazing, I know.

I know that it's a smart choice, so now I'm trying to follow his lead. I say "trying" because he did take a short break this weekend when he received a delicious honey ham from his boss at work. We are getting back on track tomorrow.

So, tracking food, exercising and cutting beef, chicken and pork out of my diet. I can get all my protein from tofu and fish. I've been eating a lot of sushi too but without all the rice.

A new week, a new month this coming week. Let's try this again.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Addiction is a Very Bad Thing

Design by Anne Taintor

One of the biggest steps for me was admitting that I have addictive behavior. That was not something that I truly admitted to myself until after I got the lap band. I've also learned that I can transfer my addictions from one thing to another and this is my next step to recovery.

The day before my lap band surgery the surgeon visited with me in the pre-op appointment. He asked me how I felt and he asked me how much weight I realistically hoped to lose. I told him eighty pounds. He told me that it was a good number. Then he said something that stayed with me since. He said, "Just remember, some people get the lap band here (pointing at stomach) but they don't get the lap band here. (pointing at head)"

I feel like I am still working on getting that lap band in my head.

At the beginning I went on the lap band discussion groups and I read so many horror stories and negative comments. I also read some good comments and I saw some amazing before and after pictures.

After a while I decided to stop reading these discussion groups because there were so many negative comments out there. I kind of wish I had kept reading them for incentive from the before and after pictures. But I resolved to just follow all the rules.

I've followed the main rules for the most part, but I am the first to admit that I haven't followed all of the rules. If I had I would have lost eighty pounds by now.

That's the part that's hard about the lap band. Some people get it and think that it will do all of the work. It doesn't. It does control the quantity that you eat. You will never overeat in one sitting again. But it doesn't control you from eating the rest of your food two hours later. It doesn't control you from taking in liquid calories or fat. It doesn't make you exercise.

The lap band is put in place to remind you that you shouldn't overeat or do any of those things. That's another thing I've learned. But does it stop the addiction? Especially my addiction to carbs? Honestly, no. That's something that I have to cure myself.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Two Year Lap Band Adventure

In December of 2007 I decided to have lap band surgery. It was a huge decision that I really thought about. The main reason for my decision had to do with the history of diabetes in my family. Not only did my mom die of complications from diabetes, so did my aunt and my grandmother. There are also several family member's on my mother's side who have or had Type 2 diabetes. I knew that at the rate that I was going I was well on my way to follow in the family tradition.

Another reason I decided that this was the best option was the fact that both times that I lost weight I had to place myself in a radical situation. Both times that I lost thirty pounds I was pregnant and I had gestational diabetes. I had to be strict because my baby was counting on me.

The lap band was a lot like that. It placed me in a drastic situation that forced me to stop eating certain things and to control my portion size. Since I've had the lap band I haven't had a carbonated drink. Carbonation is really bad for the band because of the gas that expands in your stomach. It can cause the band to stretch and complications can arise. I also haven't had bread because bread also swells and can get stuck in the band. I haven't had breakfast in almost two years because I'm always tight in the morning. I can only have coffee and a protein shake for breakfast.

If you don't understand how the lap band works look at the illustration above. The band goes around my stomach, causing the opening to tighten. Because of this I can't eat things like bread that get backed up at the opening and cause me to stop eating everything. Instead I have to eat small bites and I have to chew them really well so that the food can go through. I've learned to eat less, to eat slower, and to really chew my food well. I've also learned to NOT eat certain food and I never thought that could happen. I've also learned not to drink when I eat. Drinking with my food can cause two things. Either my food will get backed up with all the fluid or it will push the food through causing me to eat more. Sometimes I can feel tight from hormonal changes. In the morning I'm very tight and I loosen up as the days progresses.

I lost the majority of the forty pounds in the first year. This year I've only lost and gained around ten pounds and I am completely responsible for that. I didn't read my body in order to make the right decisions regarding when to go in to the lap band clinic to have the lap band tightened or loosened.

I got thrown off of my path close to a year ago when I got sick. I won't get into all the boring details of what happened, but I learned a lesson. For six months I was super tight. I could hardly eat during the day so I was eating too much at the end of the day. My body probably thought it was starving during the day so it started just hanging on to the food I was eating. On top of that I'm sure I was over-eating in the evening or eating things that were bad for me, like chips. For some odd reason I can eat chips really well. There's something about crunchy things that makes the texture a lot easier to digest.

I got sick a couple of months ago and I had to have the band loosened. That was the second time that happened to me in one year. Then I went in a couple of weeks ago to have the bad tightened a bit, but I wanted to ease into it so I only had them tighten it a little less than half of what it was loosened last time. Apparently that was not enough. Now I have to go in to have it tightened a tiny tiny bit, but enough to give me some restriction. I haven't found exactly the right restriction since I was thrown off of my original schedule.

So this is where my blog will pick up. I've gained and lost ten pounds with the back and forth and not having very much restriction. On top of all this I had abdominal surgery for a umbilical hernia back in August and I couldn't exercise for around 8-12 weeks. It has been VERY hard to get back on track, but now almost 16 weeks later I have got to get back into the gym and on to the track walking/running.

This blog will be very instrumental in keeping me on track and keeping me honest. I invite you to join me on my adventure as I work on losing forty more pounds in another year. My goal is one pound a week!

The tools? 1. Tracking my food on, yes as in Lance Armstrong. It is one of the best places to track your food and it's FREE for basic services. 2. I'm also weighing myself every day, because studies have shown that people who weigh themselves on a regular basis are more likely to lose weight and to keep weight down. 3. And finally... finally I am going to put my gym fees to good use. I am going to make it a point to work out for at least 30 minutes every day.

There. Are you ready? Join me and let's see how much we can accomplish doing these three things.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

So the Introduction Continues

When my mother died I had been married for two and half years. I was putting off having a baby for many of the same reasons that some women do. I wanted to be settled in a new career and I wanted to wait until my husband and I had been married for a good period of time. My mom told me to have a baby before it was too late because she feared that there was a chance that I wouldn’t be able to have children like two of my older sisters.

Shortly after she passed away I had a great desire to become a mother. I wanted to replace that same relationship that I’d lost. Seven months later I found out I was pregnant and twenty weeks into my pregnancy, when everything happens at the same time, I found out that I was having a little girl and that I was gestational diabetic.

I instantly thought of my mother and how she was gestational diabetic when she was pregnant with me when she was thirty-nine. I was only thirty, so naturally I worried. I did the math. My mother was thirty-nine when she had me and thirteen years later when she was 52 she was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. So if I was thirty and diabetic I could very well be diagnosed with Type 2 by the time I was forty-three.

I was very strict with my diet and I walked on a regular basis. The results were that I was able to control my blood sugar with the diet and exercise and I had a healthy baby girl. I even lost thirty pounds in the process after the baby’s birth and breast feeding. Sadly, the weight came right back.

Four years later I became pregnant again and the same thing happened. Only this time I couldn’t control the sugar with diet or exercise. The endocrinologist put me on insulin injections almost immediately. I was devastated, but the gestational diabetes had come back a lot stronger this time and that’s all that I could do.

I continued to keep a strict diet and to check my sugar daily. But now in addition to all that I had to give myself insulin injections three times a day.

So did I learn? No. After I had my baby boy I lost the same thirty pounds and two years or so later I gained them all back.

The interesting thing about telling this story is that it was not that I didn’t know the simple rules of weight loss. Eat right and exercise. It was that I chose not do them. I knew from past dieting experiences that when I made the right food choices and worked out that I lost weight.

Both of my pregnancies I met with a dietician as soon as I was diagnosed and I learned all about the right way of eating. I actually learned new things with them that I had never learned before in my thirty years.

So when people assume that I gained weight because I didn’t know how to lose weight or when they offer advice it cracks me up. Of course I know how to lose weight. It’s not about not knowing. It’s about not wanting to do it. Very simple. I’m not saying that’s right but it’s true. That’s basically the reason many of us gain weight. We don’t feel like working out. We don’t feel like eating right. I knew that I was in danger of becoming a diabetic like my mother. Yet I still continued to eat the wrong things.

Three years after having my little boy and gaining back all my weight I was listening to npr one day. There was a report about weight loss surgery, like lap band and gastric bypass. The segment discussed a new study by The Journal of the American Medical Association. This study found that people who had some type of weight loss surgery were most likely to control their diabetes or get rid of it.

I thought back to the two times when I had the most weight loss. Each time I lost weight I did so because I was forced to do well. I had a living being inside of me and I was the main person responsible for their health. I had to be good. The thing is, I should have been doing it for myself too and I didn't. I thought about all this and I also realized that both times I had to be put myself into a radical situation in order to lose weight. Maybe I had to do that again.

That’s when I really started thinking about lap band surgery. Next I’ll discuss my two year adventure with the lap band.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Welcome to Hips 'n Salsa

I've been writing this blog in my head for the past week. When you start a blog it’s only fitting to introduce yourself and tell you all why I chose this subject.

I have so much to say when it comes to weight and body image that I don't even know where to start. All these memories float around in my head, starting with being conscious of my body at a very young age. I'm the youngest of five girls so that was inevitable. Therefore I was pressured at a very young age to conform to society's idea of beauty. And I rebelled.

When I saw the movie, "Real Women Have Curves" I finally found a movie that verbalized how I felt growing up. The protagonist, Ana Garcia (played by America Ferrera) is fed up with how society expects women to conform. In a liberating moment, and to her mother’s horror, she pulls off her t-shirt and her pants and works in her underwear in her sister’s hot dress shop. That is how I felt as I grew older.

I remember dieting at eleven, the summer I was taking a ballet class because I thought my best friend was much more graceful than me. I remember thinking that her natural grace was related to how slim she was. I started drinking Diet Coke after swim practice when I was in eighth grade. In high school I did aerobics religiously every day at 5:30 p.m. with a show on the Lifetime channel, “It Figures.” I kept my weight steady but it still crept up.

Once I went to college and I entered by twenties I felt liberated. I felt like I was an adult and no one was going to tell me what to do. I was living at home and had to conform to my parents’ house rules, but I was paying my way through college with financial aid and I earned my own spending money selling advertising for my university’s newspaper. From then on the weight came on and the yo-yo dieting continued.

I steadily gained weight through my twenties. It was such a contradiction of feelings. On one hand it bothered me that I was gaining weight, but on the other hand I didn’t want to let it bother me. I wanted to just enjoy life without worrying. I thought that thinking about my size made me shallow.

Then my mother died the month before my 30th birthday from complications of diabetes and my whole outlook on body weight and size changed. To be continued…