Surprise! It’s like a midterm exam:  LE is letting us completely loose for the week!  No assigned workouts, no new habit, no nutritional guidelines.  As they say, you don’t have to have a program to be active, a diet to eat healthy or big brother to keep you accountable — real life isn’t going to be like that, so why not practice real life for awhile, right?

I’m curious to see how this goes.  As far as the workouts go, I’m going to nail it. I’ll keep to the same basic structure — 3 strength training sessions, 2 HIIT workouts, 1 longer cardio workout — but only do stuff that I like doing.  In other words, side planks?  Not on my agenda. Shoulder press?  Not for me!  Lots of whole-body compound movements:  squats, deadlifts, benchpress, split squats, pushups and perhaps a regular plank or two.

Nutrition will be “easy” — mostly what I’ve already been doing.  Most meals are pretty clean, some meals aren’t, but the most important thing will be to go back to the foundations and eat slowly and don’t eat too much.  If I can do those two things, life will be good. The proof will be in the measurements on Saturday, or as we like to say here in the Lean Eating world, the proof is in the pudding you don’t eat.

We’ll see what else LE springs on us this week — I can’t imagine that they’ll just leave us entirely alone for a full 7 days, but who knows?  Maybe they trust us now?

All of my lovely green checkmarks

It’s a big week in the LE world:  this is their metaphorical halfway mark. “Metaphorical” since it makes their “year” of coaching only 48 weeks (which isn’t quite the 52 weeks that make up an actual year) (so close, though!). The coaching does last a full year, but measurements are done on an abbreviated schedule to allow for final photos to be submitted and winners to be picked before the program ends.

Nice to know about this, though — I only have until May 31st to get myself in prize-winning shape!

To celebrate being halfway through a Lean Eating year, I had get on the scale, take measurements, snap photos and have someone pinch my fat to get my skinfold measurements. Since I wasn’t really expecting to do this for another 2 weeks (since I usually operate on a standard year), this wasn’t as big a change from last time as I would have liked (it doesn’t seem fair to have this RIGHT after the holidays).  Still – everything moved in the right direction.  And for the first “6 months”, here are my stats:

  • weight down 9.4 pounds
  • 14.7 inches lost, with my waist and hips seeing the biggest loss
  • skinfold measurements dropped 40.4mm
  • body fat is down 5.32%
  • 11 pounds of fat mass are gone
My resolution to focus and get these done is working so far.  I’m feeling all empowered and proud of myself for making the time for these.  I’ve gotten back to running (a little) and even got back on my bike and spun away on the trainer for awhile.  Feels good.

Eating only whole foods is the current habit, and I admit that I haven’t been very committed to doing this.  Most of my meals are good, but without a lot of inconvenience I can’t make that happen — and frankly, I’m not into inconvenient things right now.

Intermittent Fasting
I got out of the habit for a few days and it was a touch difficult to get back in gear. Found myself pretty hungry — but as I’ve learned before, hunger is not an emergency, at least not when I know lunch is waiting for me in another hour or so.  And this is still going a long way to curbing impulse eating.

Habit Log:

Weeks 1-2: Fish oil and probiotic
Weeks 3-4: Eating slowly
Weeks 5-6: Stop eating at 80% full
Weeks 7-8: Lean protein with every meal
Weeks 9-10: 5 servings of vegetables a day
Weeks 11-12: Make smart carb choices
Weeks 13-14: Plan Meals
Weeks 15-16: Log all food
Weeks 17-18: Create a sleep ritual
Weeks 19-20: Drink only zero calorie beverages
Weeks 21-22: Use targeted recovery strategies
Weeks 23-24: Eat only whole foods

Boy, not even 2 days into my whole New Year’s Resolution thing to post daily and I didn’t get anything written for yesterday!  I wish it had at least taken a bit longer for this to happen, but what can I say — my day got away from me.  Until I got home around 8:40pm, I hadn’t done anything more than stop in twice, not sitting down long enough to do anything, much less post here.  I know — excuses, excuses…

Other than the slip-up yesterday, I’ve been doing well on the resolutions.  I’m excited about them; instead of being wholesale changes to the way I do things, they’re just extensions of what I’ve been doing since I started this LE thing and it’s got me all amped up to have put them down in writing and start holding myself accountable.  I know it’s still early in my resolutionist year, but I think I set things up right this time around.

One resolution that I thought would be easy that’s proving challenging is keeping the TV off more often.  Take today for example:  I was up early, got my run in, showered, did all my LE measurements and photos, walked the dogs, went grocery shopping, started laundry, made bacon and eggs for breakfast, had my skinfold measurements done AND had a training session (whew!).  So now — early afternoon — when I sit down on the couch?  I feel like I deserve to watch some college basketball (which is what I would normally do).  I worked hard today!  Of course, I still had this blog post to write and I want to read a chunk of my book — both things that would be ignored in favor of watching sports.  So this has been taking more conscious effort, but it’s been good (though I think my dogs miss college basketball… perhaps I should turn it on for them…).

How are your resolutions coming along?  Did you make any this year?

I’ve had a few friends ask me, “So, should I sign up for Lean Eating?  Is it worth the money? How much of a kickback are you getting for recommending them?”

Okay, okay… so the last question hasn’t come up, but the other two certainly have (and to be clear:  no, I get no money from them if I sign people up … I have a give, give, give relationship with Precision Nutrition). And whenever I’m asked, I kind of chase myself around in verbal circles attempting to articulate my opinions.

After some time thinking it through, my rock solid answer is:  MAYBE.

(you thought this would be easy?  do I ever make things easy?)

The program in and of itself is nothing too revolutionary.  You get a new habit every two weeks.  You work out 5-6 days a week.  You eat healthy food.  Hard to believe, but if you follow healthy habits, sweat a little and eat good-for-you food, you become a more fit individual!  Amazing!  

For some, the habits and structure of the program are worth it.  If you haven’t much introduction to the gym or to how to pick foods that are nourishing and not junk, this is an awesome program.  Tons of support and everything pretty much laid out for you.  Their whole motto is that as a client you shouldn’t be “worrying and wondering”, you should just be doing your best to be consistent with what they tell you to do.

But, if you have been an athlete and have been taught how to put together a healthy meal, the recommendation becomes much more ambiguous.  You’re not doing it expressly for the knowledge — while good, it wouldn’t be impossible to put together on your own — but more for the support system they set up around the structure.

Let me lay out why I think this was a good idea for me, perhaps that’ll help explain:

Even though I’m pretty experienced in terms of training and nutrition, I like the structure. It’s nice not having to think about things.  That doesn’t mean that I always do what I’m supposed to do, but when I stray, it’s always there to nudge me back on track. I can always go back to the foundation habits — eat to 80%, eat slowly — and the workout schedule is laid out so I can just go into the basement and get things done.

I really like that there’s no calorie counting.  I’ve been successful in the short-term logging all my food, but find that I can’t sustain the effort and when I stop, all hell breaks loose. I like the idea of learning a lifestyle that will keep me fit and active long after the program has ended.

I like the accountability.  Having a coach is good — though as I talked about in my other post, I haven’t taken advantage of that — but more than that is the small Google+ group that I belong to.  We chitchat via our Google Community all the time, talking about ideas, asking questions, offering support and tossing out cries for help when necessary. We meet using Google+ Hangouts about once a week, and that just furthers the connection that I have with these women.  Having them there makes me want to make good decisions and get things done so that I’m not all “yea, I’m a slug” at every video call (peer pressure really works on me!).

The other ancillary support systems are valuable as well.  The forums are fairly well trafficked and coaches and mentors are always around to answer questions.  The mentors, who are assigned smaller groups than the coaches, are good at keeping in touch.  And the wider Precision Nutrition community has a wealth of information, too.  You won’t have a question or a cry for support go unanswered as long as you voice it.

The mental work is really quite good, though there’s not much to force you to do it.  I’m guilty of sometimes not putting in the energy when I should, but when I do make the effort, I get results in the form of a better understanding of myself. Sometimes the work is challenging, sometimes it’s downright frightening, but I find that if I can push through the discomfort, then I reap the rewards.

So, what’s my verdict?  I’m glad I’m doing it — it keeps me honest and I’m learning a lot about myself. Could I have done it on my own?  Sure, except that I hadn’t with any consistency and so “on my own” wasn’t working for me. Is it for everyone?  Nope. I think there are plenty of people who could do this without the hand-holding. But, I think if you have mental/emotional issues in regards to food, then it could be valuable.  Also, if you lack motivation to do things on your own, Lean Eating can be the push you need to be successful, but – again – you have to do the work. It’s awfully easy to kind of skate through the program without putting in much effort, but that doesn’t usually translate into success.  The program isn’t magical (which was disappointing!), so you have to want it and make it a priority.

I guess my bottom line is that just about any system that involves training more and eating better will work if you can sustain it and transform it into a lifestyle.  Lean Eating is just another system, but unique in the support system that it provides — and I believe that success is well within reach as long as you’re willing to do the work to get there.

Any questions?  

2014 Resolutions:  Be me, be happy.  Simple.

I’m looking forward to the new year — don’t I always? — but instead of a lot of new things to do, most of what I’m planning are continuations from last year, working on myself and writing my own personal Owner’s Manual.

Not a lot of rhetoric, just laying out some guidelines for the rest of the year (really:  the rest of my life).
  1. Focus on the last 6 months of Lean Eating.  I’m paying for it, I shouldn’t ignore it or skate by and not do the mental and physical work involved to make the program a success. It’s completely up to me — the program gives me the tools, but I still have to do the heavy lifting.
  2. Start posting on my blog daily again.  I don’t always feel like I’ve got a lot to say (or what I’m saying is at all interesting), but making it a daily habit keeps me focused on where I’m headed and what I’m trying to accomplish.  It’s another form of being held accountable.
  3. Attend at least two Lean Eating Google Hangouts a month.  I always have a small amount of dread before the video calls with my Lean Eating pals — I really don’t enjoy talking through that medium for so long — but like training, I never regret having done it. Creating a connection between friends who are going through the same thing will be a big factor in my success.
  4. Schedule at least one call with Coach Veronica.  Because she’s got about 300 clients to work with, there’s not a lot of individual attention from her unless you ask for it.  I have a tendency to think, “I don’t have any big issues, I shouldn’t bother her…”, but, of course, I’m paying to be allowed to bother her.  And from everyone I’ve talked to, she’s an amazing person one-on-one and it’s a resource that I should definitely be taking advantage of.  This also falls under the heading of “Asking for help even when I don’t think I should be bothering someone”.
  5. Read 20 books.  This shouldn’t be difficult — I really enjoy reading.  The only barrier to doing it is finding the time. And the time isn’t the issue as much as turning off the distractions.  I’m thinking of creating a reading nook in the house, where the TV and computer won’t be able to lure me in.
  6. Do more dog training.  I really want well-trained dogs who will always obey a recall and act cute on command (not that they aren’t always cute!).  Belle’s a bit of a bully, and that needs to be stopped in its tracks, and Clarke is just a weird dog with weird habits that need to be corralled as best as possible.  As much trouble as they can be, though, I wouldn’t give either of them up for the world. They’re both good dogs, just have some quirks that are going to drive me to drink.
  7. Journal, follow progress of goals and write just a little about each day.  I’ve been doing this since November and have found that it helps me to get things out of my brain before going to sleep.  The payback is more valuable than the few minutes a night I spend doing it. And looking at my goals every day will be good for me.  I don’t want to lose sight of what’s important to me.
  8. 5k steps on weekdays, 10k steps on weekend.  I have both a FitBit and Withings Pulse to keep my tech geek brain occupied for the next few months.  This isn’t “real” training, but being cognizant of how much I’ve moved over the course of the day seems to make me want to move more to hit specific goals. And – honestly – this will be a stretch goal for me during the winter.  In the summer I get out a lot with the pups, but when it’s bitter cold, windy and snowy, neither me or the dogs want to be out there.
  9. TV can go on no earlier than 6pm on weekdays.  There is nothing on before that time that needs to be watched.  Instead, read, listen to music or work on the computer (computer time must be reading or writing or working… not just browsing Facebook).  Frankly, cut down on TV time altogether as well.  There is very little on TV that’s going to change my life if I don’t watch it.
  10. Do a month of not falling asleep to the TV as an experiment.  I’ve always turned on the TV when going to bed, putting the timer on and letting it lull me to sleep. However, there is research out there that shows that even if you’re not watching the TV, the light emanating from it causes your sleep to be less restful. So – reading and music will become part of my bedtime ritual.  Can’t hurt to try.
  11. More music!  Because music is just the most awesome thing in the world. Just like I forget that working out makes me feel good, I forget that listening to music really lifts my mood. It really is amazing the effect it has on me:  I relax, can get lost in the beat and lyrics, let go of whatever was bothering me.  And singing along — LOUDLY! — is a great stress reliever (as much as it might cause stress for those who have to listen to me).
Really, this list is just another expression of “be me, be happy”.  Which, I think is going to be my motto for every year from now on.  I really can’t go wrong if that’s what I’m striving for, right?  Welcome, 2014. It’s gonna be a good one.