Damn you, Cadbury!

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So, I skipped a week because… well… Xmas and all. My partner and I did two solid days of cooking and baking since the normal cook is undergoing chemo at the mo. But we pulled it off! Very successfully, in fact, with approval all around for the brined turkey, the two cakes, the Michelin star carrots and the traditional pate starter. Still, lots of work.

I did not get any running done at all, because of the health issues and such, but I did quite a few core exercises, and I tried out some little weights designed to slip over the feet so that leg raises and such are more difficult. I am so getting me some of those. I also controlled my intake as much as is reasonable, but to be honest, I could have been more restrictive. There was a tin of Roses that laid me low (I shake my fist at you Cadbury!) and there was several real ales that probably did me no favours. But that is the holidays for you.

Here is the newest photo! As you can see, I am wearing my newest pair of lucky underpants. My partner and I give each other a pair for Xmas every year and then wear them for the first time on nochevieja. Ahhh, traditions!

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It is not yet a six pack, but I have to say that I do not feel that the holidays and all the challenges that they typically present have slowed me down too much. We have a few more days of travel before heading home, and they are likely to be difficult because I am not sure how much opportunity I will have to cook for myself or to or how much control I will have over what I eat, but you never know. the problem with staying with the in-laws is that you have little choice at all, so maybe staying with a friend will be better.

And then! back home! Oh joy. We get our weekly veg delivery box again! I can cook what I like and limit the fat content that goes into it! I can go to the gym! I can go for a run without worrying if someone needs their pills or help getting to the toilet or company while the medication takes effect! I can go back to the office, with my exercise mat and my scheduled breaks and my huge bottle of water and my office buddy to encourage me to achieve my goals!

I know what you are thinking. That is some strange things to be excited about, but this holiday has been more of a change in the work I do than a break from work… and the PhD deadline looms… LOOMS! I am so looking forward to a proper vacation after it is done.

Over a fifth of me is fat.

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Calipers have been used, and I have 21% body fat. Which is well inside the healthy or ideal category for a woman of my age. I may do the caliper test again later because it warns that the menstrual cycle can lead to misleading readings.

21%. Over one fifth. It means that I have almost 12 kilos of fat. Now, some of that will be intramuscular, some of that will be sub-cutaneous, and some of that will be visceral, and of course, my body would cease functioning properly if I had less than 13% or so.

Obviously, I don’t really need to lose fat for health reasons, although I suppose a reduction in visceral fat, the fat surrounding internal organs, would not be a bad thing. Even though 21% seems like a lot, at least compared to the body composition of men, I don’t really want to lower that just for the sake of lowering it. In fact, I wouldn’t mind if all the fat that covers my abs couldn’t just get relocated to my backside. I have always wanted a bedonkadonk.

So, in fact, this is going to be a very difficult challenge. I don’t have that much fat to lose. If I want six pack abs, I am going to have to do some serious working out to whittle down the fat I do have, particularly the tummy area, and to strengthen and build the muscles underneath so they show as much as possible.

So, my plan for now has three main steps.

  1. Get back into running. The last time I had well defined ab at all (only a 2 or 4 pack, unfortunately) was when I was training for distance running.
  2. Core muscles training. Big time. Long lasting planks, possibly on a wobble board or foam roller to make them trickier later on, dragon flags, windshield wipers, lots of other good stuff.
  3. Diet. I need to reduce the fat intake and the total calories as much as is reasonable. Xmas is going to be tricky.

Caliper and Dragon Flags.

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My office buddy, who is one of the inspirations for and co-conspirators of this particular challenge, brought in a pair of calipers today. I can’t use them right away, as I am wearing a dress for a Xmas lunch, but I will keep you posted on my body fat percentage as soon as I get some readings.

In addition, I have looked into some more extreme ab training exercises and will be trying to achieve a Dragon Flag!
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This looks awesome. I mean… AWESOME! How great is that? The control. The precision. The balance. The strength. That is the kind of strength I want, and I shall work up to this level of fantastic, slowly but surely. Oh yes, it will be mine.

So, next post will probably include my body fat reading, and a description of my first steps toward dragon-flagging. Don’t expect great things yet, but keep checking in.

 

Hor-moaning.

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What else can throw a spanner in the works like a serious case of the PMS? Damn. The cravings were hitting me hard yesterday. Salty things. Oh yes. Chocolate. Hell yes.

 

Did I give in? Yes, I did. But I also drank a litre of water, had a banana and tried to keep active. I can’t expect my entire life to suddenly go swimmingly and hiccough free just because I have set myself a challenge.

But here we are! Week three. Another belly shot.
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Not great lighting, I agree. But it is still dark out in the mornings when I need to take these shots, so deal with it. I can’t say the muscles are showing at all yet, but I have noticed that things are starting to fit me a little differently. My jeans, which have never been the easiest to fit, are now a bit looser and saggier. Time for a belt, methinks. I have also noticed that my core is feeling stronger, that my posture is better, and that I am feeling generally good around the midsection.

All of this means that with only a few weeks of little changes, I am starting to get results! Now if I can keep my shit together and not get totally overwhelmed by tins of Celebrations at Xmas, I should be seeing some actual muscles soon enough!

The porridge for breakfast continues, today with a couple of drops of vanilla extract and some cut up dried pear chucked in. The stair climbing has also continued, and the ab workouts during my regular 8 minute RSI breaks has not been totally consistent, but has happened most days. I need to research some more little differences to make because I want to keep up the pace of progress. I am thinking I might stand on one foot while I brush my teeth. Balance requires good core muscles and all… Any other suggestions welcome!

Keep on truckin’

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So, after my rant, I am back on topic with my six pack story! This week I have added a few new efforts

  • Staying hydrated. Tea, coffee, water, and water plus (water with mint leaves, a squeeze of lemon, a fizzy vitamin C tab, a couple of Mio drops, etc. ) are all on the menu. This is good on its own, for controlling hunger and improving skin tone, but it also means that I get up to walk down the hall more often, if you know what I mean.

 

  • Always take the stairs when reasonable. I usually take the stairs, both up and down, since I only work on the 3rd floor. That is the 4th floor in American, y puede ser la segunda or tercera en castellano (depende de si hay una entresuelo or algo). But first thing in the morning, I go for the lift/elevator so that I can have a chance to check my hair in the mirror, roll up my headphones cord, take off my gloves, get my key card out, etc. But you know what? I can do that after I climb the stairs. So, unless I am carrying a massive heavy box or something, I will be going stairwise.

 

  • Put in the effort to make lunches. Today I almost stopped off at the shop on the way into work to pick up a bento box, but instead, I made a little salad. Gem lettuce, tomato, sesame seed, dried cranberry, and a squeeze of lemon juice instead of dressing. It didn’t take me any longer to make than I would have spent queueing at the shop, so I shall save my pennies and my pounds (that is a pun, or play on words). I also packed a shedload of fruit. That is, if sheds come sized appropriately to house four pieces of fruit.

 

  • Evening ab exercises. I am kind of getting addicted to the stop, drop and give me 20 situps thing I started in the office. I have added a few for those inevitable moments when you have about 4 minutes to kill, but the cups are all returned to the kitchen already and there is not laundry to fold and the rabbit doesn’t need any more hay.

Another photo due next week! And hopefully I will report my personal fat content too, because my office mate said he would bring in his callipers. I always wanted to know my body fat. Should be interesting!

You can stick that right in your pipe and smoke it!

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I am willing to bet that you are just dying to hear me rant about what really pisses me off. No? Tough, cause it is coming out in a torrent of sarcasm and mild profanity.

So here is what has gotten under my skin today. This article about 11 differences between girls and women. At first it sounds all right-on and girl-power. It’s about how girls are immature and show it in the ways they act and the things they care about, while women have grown out of all that pettiness and are getting on with the serious business of taking charge of life.

You know what? It is utter and complete bollocks. 100% nonsense. Codswallop.

I bet that whoever wrote this cockamamie tripe is an insecure little weasel looking for the approval of others so (s)he can feel better about h(im/er)self. We’ve all done it. I recognize this fear of not being agreed with from personal experience, and that is why I am calling it out. This is the same fear that makes people go along with a conversation or laugh at a joke that has gone racist, or why people speak so passionately when they know they are just preaching to the choir, or why people advocate their life choices as the solution to everyone’s woes, even though they were just lamenting those same life choices two minutes ago. That last one totally happened to me. It was amazing to see the 160 degree about face without the least sign of awareness of the cognitive dissonance that must have been going on.

So here is what I really think. You and I might agree or disagree about what we prioritize in our lives, whether we care about looks or brains in potential partners, or whether we want financial independence or are happy to be supported by a partner. If we agree, that does not make those things right and it does not make us better people. If we disagree, we will both think that we have it right and the other has it wrong. Both of us will be correct in our thinking, and we will both also be incorrect. AT THE SAME TIME (I know… Mind blown right?)

So what if we do not prioritize the same things or respond the same way or take the time to reflect on our lives the way the other one does. They could very well be the wrong things for me to prioritize, but I have to decide that for myself. And if I am so inclined I can think (or heaven forbid, say out loud) that they are the wrong things for you to prioritize, but I am not you and my opinion is therefore almost completely irrelevant, especially if you didn’t ask for it or if we have no real responsibility for each other. They could very well be working out swimmingly for you, even if I disagree with that too and it looks to me like you are entirely up a creek without a paddle.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but we are not all the same. We do not have to conform to the same standard, not in the way we work, not in what we find attractive, not in what we think we need from other people, not in what makes us happy, not in what we care about. We don’t all have to be mature, and if we are mature then we can damn well all be mature in different ways. What would the world be like if we all tried to be like the women this article says are “women, not girls”? Are you gonna tell me that the great female artists, athletes, scientific minds, comediennes, best friends, mothers, street sweepers, pastry chefs, police officers and whatever else a woman might be are all alike? That they are all financially independent and know the value of ironing a fecking shirt?!? That they are all emotionally appropriate, monogamous, and completely unaware of how their physical appearance might be an advantage or disadvantage?  This article was about women, and I know something about that, but there was one about men vs. boys too and it is just as bad by trying force the huge range of actual people into a tiny buggery box marked “real men”. And I bet there are assholes that take it seriously too, and probably think that real men don’t eat quiche and that real women have curves.

I am calling BS on that. And as for the one about “body and heart are sacred”… That I find especially galling. Who the expletive are you to say what someone else should find sacred, or how they express their respect for something? If I get a tattoo or body piercing is that disrespecting my body? How about if I get 408 of them? Or if I get a bit drunk on my birthday? Sacred or not? How about sex? Is it disrespecting my sacred-bloody-heart to have a series of fairly shallow relationships? Should I be single then until I am sure I am in love? How about more than one partner at a time? How about sex on stage in a live sex show?

Anyone who says that they can divide things up into good and bad or right and wrong just might be a person who is not sure whether or not they are really on the good or right side of things.

Here is what I will say. You are good. Have confidence in that. You are also bad. Learn what you can from it. Everyone else is also both good and bad, sacred and profane, adult and child. Let yourself be yourself, whatever that comes out like, and let them be them. Try to see the benefit of diversity, not just in the racial/gender/sexual orientation/etc. sense. Diversity in everything has got to be better than uniformity in anything.

Rant over.

Peanut butter and belly sandwiches.

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So, a week has passed and not much change is visible. In fact, I may even be a little less muscular than I was last week? Weird.

But it doesn’t really matter too much. This is a long term thing and I am still getting used to making little changes that should (eventually) all add up.

What is in store for me this week? Well, the porridge for breakfast continues. Today’s edition contained cut up dried apple and too much cinnamon. I didn’t realize that the cap wasn’t on the spice canister properly, so a HUGE whack of cinnamon came out, almost causing a cinnamon challenge moment. Nevertheless, I persevered. I also packed myself a healthy and sensible lunch of some Hairy Dieter’s skinny lasagne, two mandarins, a banana and a handful of sugar snap peas for snacking. I love sugar snap peas. I love them so much. 
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Also on the cards is more ab workouts during the day. I have WorkRave on my computer to help prevent RSI and unbearable pain, which encourages me to take an eight minute break about every 55 minutes. I have been using these breaks to do some stretching, some press ups and crunches, etc. But the industrial grade carpet in my office is not so nice. I brought in a foam pad to make it easier for me to do those mid-day mini-workouts. Planking will certainly be less painful on my elbow skin, if not any less painful on my core muscles.

One of my previous challenges was the 100 press up challenge, which involves training yourself up to the point that you can do 100 press ups in a single go. I only made it to about 45, but I certainly felt better about myself with those 45 than I did with the pitiful 2 that I could do when I started. I am contemplating another go on that challenge, but right now I have a bit much going on. Holiday season always takes up a lot of time, for travel, shopping, cooking, gift wrap, etc. I am also mere months away from finishing my PhD. And I just started a new batch of sourdough starter (I have named it Barnaby Plankton). It looks like the press ups is going to have to sit on the back burner at least until the new year, if not until after I finish this blasted degree. But I am kind of looking forward to taking it up again. I like press ups. They feel good. And they are probably a good way to prevent RSI, so 10 or 20 a day (most days) seems like a good idea all around.

This porridge is too hot. That porridge is too cold.

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What else am I doing in my quest for a defined tummy? I am eating breakfast.

Normally, I am not a regular breaker of fasts. I am not what you would call a “morning person”. I used to be. I remember being totally awake as soon as the alarm clock turned on my local rock music FM station. But that, my friends, was at least 17 years ago. In those seventeen years I have gained a lot, so the loss of some bright eyes and bushy tails within an hour of waking up seems more that a deal.

Where was I? Ah. Breakfast. Have you noticed how disgustingly unhealthy most breakfast cereals are? I mean, even the tree-hugging hippie muesli ones or the ones aimed at paranoid dieting women are LOADED with crap. Expensive crap too. There are some classics, corn flakes or wheat biscuits or what have you, but even they are creeping up with added salt or taste-preserving chemical whatever. Just terrible.

Plus, the packages are always tiny small, definitely not a week’s worth. Annoying if you prefer to do one big shop a week.

What to do? My usual answer is to make it your damn self, and that applies to breakfast too. My breakfasts will now be quite largely based on porridge (oatmeal for those in the States) and whatever flavourings I happen to have lying around at the time. Chopped nuts, fruit, honey, maple syrup, all options. So far I have had dried cranberries and brown sugar, but I may pick up some bananas tonight on my way home. Cheap as, easy to cook, healthy, especially when made with water instead of milk, and if I control the sweet stuff that I add to it, and easy to clean up after since I have a wee non-stick saucepan that is just the right size for a bowl of oats.

But it won’t stop there! I am also planning to try the Hairy Dieter’s cook book recipes for home made muesli mix and baked granola. Tasty! I’ll keep you informed about how that works out.

Also, tomorrow marks one week in this challenge, so I shall post another pic. Exciting!

What am I gonna do about it?

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I don’t just want to achieve this six pack goal, I want to learn more about myself. I want to know which of the things that I do are because I really need or want to do them, and which of them are leftover old habits or things I have picked up but could just as easily put down again. All of this really means that I am going to start small and try to add, remove or change a few little things every week to see if I can get those awesome abs. I want them to be a natural consequence of all the choices I make in life, and I want to be in control of those choices.

So far, I have switched from cappuccinos and mochas to espresso. I like a good coffee, and I don’t want to give that up altogether, but cutting out the extra sugar and fat is easy enough. I never used to drink fancy-pants coffees, and I am not sure when I started ordering frothy frou-frou-tata caffeine drinks anyway.  I am not saying that I will never drink them, because the guy who runs the coffee place near me does a good selection of fun stuff and maybe a lazy Sunday morning is a good time for something different. But I sure don’t need them everyday.

More little changes and what they have taught me to come soon!

I set myself a challenge…

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Let’s get one thing straight before I hear any shit out of anyone. I am not fat. I know it, you know it. It is not even an issue. I am pretty happy with body right now, both for appearance and in terms of health.

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Let’s get another thing straight. I decided to take on a challenge of getting six pack abs in six months for my own damn self. Not to please my partner, not to conform to some idiotic, socially derived unrealistic ideal of what a woman’s body should be like, not to impress anyone.

In fact, let’s get one last thing out of the way. I don’t think more than two people will even see my abs, six packed or not. I have not had any occasion to wear a swimsuit or otherwise show my belly in public in almost two years.

So, I hear you cry out en masse, why am I putting myself through the reasonably difficult challenge of getting a six pack at all if I am already happy with my body and not even planning on letting anyone see it? Because I want to feel strong. STRONG!

And awesome. Awesomely strong.

Think of it like this. Have you ever worn special underwear underneath a completely not special outfit on an utterly not special day? Just a regular outfit for a normal day. But the underwear, that no one can see, that no one even knows about at all… ah. That is special. Maybe it is sexy-special, or funny-special, or weird-special, or functional-special, or just brand-new-special. Or maybe it is special in that it is absent altogether when you normally never go commando. Whatever. It doesn’t matter why it is special to you, but you know about it and no one else does. It is a little secret for you, that colours your entire day full of interactions with an oblivious world, that makes everything seem just that little bit… oooh.

Having a secret like that makes me feel powerful. And more importantly, I think real power is when no one else even knows that you have the power. Have you ever been dealt an awesome hand in poker? That hand can be a real knock-out, but you have to keep it secret, exactly the right amount of secret, and let someone else thing that they have it all sewn up.

That is what I want from my future six pack. I want that feeling of having a secret, just for me, to keep at the back of my mind. It adds a bit of mental spice to everything that happens to me in my normal humdrum, ordinary life, and makes me feel powerful. So powerful that I can keep it to myself and let everyone else in the dark precisely as long as I want to.

So you will not be surprised to know that I am not linking this blog to any of my other online life. No promoting it on social media, no sending a link to my pals. Nothing. This blog may never even be read by any one else. Which is maybe like another little secret for me. Look out world. I am coming up strong.