The Dirty Truths about Losing Weight

Weight-Loss involves a lot of Math and Discipline. Notice that these two factors are what most Americans lack/fear. And with this in mind, think of all of the celebrity endorsements of equipment that will more likely gather dust in your house or of those milk-shakes/prepared meals that will make you spend more money on than actual groceries! Keep in mind that they are getting paid to lose the weight (with huge amounts of money!) whereas all you have is well…none of that. But it can be done on the cheap as long as you can keep in mind how much work it really takes.

The First Part of Discipline: Math and A lot of Digging!

There is no way around it. After loosing 5 lbs so far (no..not in water weight!) I found out why the Dieting Industry is filled with pills, juices, powers, canned foods, prepared meals and support groups. The cheapest way to loose weight lies in your own damn kitchen, but it involves using A LOT OF MATH:

Food Scale: shows how much you can really put on your plate before eating it.
Food Scale: shows how much you can really put on your plate before eating it.

If you are lucky enough to use the FitBit basic free program, you can enter all kinds of common brand-name foods and ingredients you can find in your local supermarket or even at a fast food place. And depending on your weight loss goals, your jaw will drop as you find out how much one “serving” of your favorite food is versus how much you think you can eat. Hence, the use of a food scale that easily converts to ounces, grams, and milliliters will have you cutting your burgers into quarters or tacos in halves before eating any of them.  In short, eating out is a pain when restaurants can’t be honest about how much food they serve you or not willing to post their nutritional value. Which is why eating out became sporadic and almost none-existent to us. The hardest part (when away from home) is resisting temptation. This is especially true when you are focused on mentally-draining tasks and you can’t really gauge accurately between wanting to snack or needing to eat due to real hunger. :( So you have to resort to more home cooked meals instead of buying those prepared frozen meals that have more sodium than a bottle of soy sauce.

Reminds me of airplane food while being stuck in an 8-hour flight.
Reminds me of airplane food while being stuck in an 8-hour flight.

Home cooked meals are your best aid to healthier eating and weight loss, but once again, it involves A LOT OF MATH and DISCIPLINE!  Hell, my cooking has changed from healthy, flavor-heavy cooking to healthy/portion controlled cooking to minimize caloric intake:

Food Science in a nut shell :(
Food Science in a nut shell :(

It is still daunting for me because I can’t be as liberal with oils or other flavor enhancers unless they have ZERO calories (like spices and vinegar). And once a home cooked meal is made, it has to weighted to know exactly how much of a serving really is, calorie-wise.  Writing down every single ingredient of the meal also helps with this tedious process. I call it tedious because after a long-exhausting day, you just want to give into instinct and grab a bowl-full or a plate-full of food, damned the consequences.

The Second Part of Discipline: A Condescending Pedometer

My pedometer, which counts steps, shows how many calories I burn based on age and weight, also likes to remind me when I need to be more active:

Discretion is key to show you how lazy you really are..
Discretion is key to show you how lazy you really are..

If I am standing or sitting too long, the display screen will show the above image within the 2-3 hour period. If more time passes, it will show the image of a dead spider or what looks like a digital turd/rock/bean/whatever it really is.  It changes to a happy face after 2 hours in the gym or long-walk on the nearby trail. But the little thing is only happy for about 15 minutes until it goes back to its condescending nature.

The Third Part: Avoid suffering alone!

Since weight loss is mentally and physically taxing, it takes a lot of will power and determination to stay on track and not to cheat (or cheat too much!). This is why paid support groups/weight-loss programs like Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers make a lot of money while offering people help/encouragement/reminders to avoid temptation and re-program one’s eating habits. If you have ever tried dieting alone, one thing that always happens is trying to eat a tiny salad while the person sitting next to you eats a plate full of Chicken Alfredo. The feelings of resentment/temptation can urge you to quit! This is why I am lucky to have Cutie on board with this: if you or your partner wants/needs to loose weight, the only way to succeed is to do so as a team. He helps me with the cooking while I help him stay more active because this journey is hard as hell, which brings to another discovery…

On your least active days, you WILL go hungry else you will go over your caloric consumption.

On days when I hit the gym, then go walking 3-4 miles with Cutie, I can indulge on either more than one serving of dinner or a freaking desert (our favorite has become ice cream sandwiches because they are satisfying and low-caloric). Reason being is that your body works like a furnace: the more it works, the more fuel it needs. If that furnace is not working that hard, that left-over fuel will just sit there, insulating you or be stored for reserves. So in order for Cutie and I not to feel famished, we walk as often as daylight is present, damned the weather.  With that being said, you will notice the difference in the weirdest of ways:

When a man looses weight: “Hey my belt is getting looser!”

When a woman looses weight: “Oh crap my boobs just got smaller. Other parts of body are still the same.” :(

Fourth Part: Being realistic

Vanity is not my reason to refrain myself from living towards a healthier lifestyle. It’s being more genetically cursed than anything else. Fear, perhaps is the biggest factor, although illness cannot truly be prevented. Maybe the goal is to have the odds in my favor. But, so what? When you are surrounded by loved ones who are getting closer to death what can you do? Or when you know you will need to be physically able to take care of loved ones when that time comes. Will you be able to handle it well or will you drop dead from a heart attack when life throws an unexpected surprise at you? I want to be able, as anyone should, to respond to a fight/flight response and survive what life throws at me. Because you never really know…

The D&D Approach to Career Planning

insomnia-death-sleep-demotivational-poster-1285185600.jpg w=640

I can’t sleep. I have been surfing the web, doing research on how to become a computer programmer (and working conditions as a female programmer). The results are not promising: story after story of sexism, double-standards and proliferate abuse of the H1 Visa programs soured my mood. I had to prepare for my Career Development Appointment due this Friday and all I can come up with are reasons why I want to major in Computer Science:

– I like working with computers instead of in my old field. (And maybe less contact with large quantities of people?)

-I was tired of my old career getting ridiculously automated to the point of layoffs and did not want to continue.

-There is potential to work as an individual contractor as a programmer if I could not find full-time employment after graduating.

Not exactly a well-thought out game plan. I looked at my degree plan from my academic advisor and saw that if I were a character in a game, I would be at level 0. Not even at level 1 (Calculus is not under my belt yet). Then the idea hit me: I could make a D&D style character sheet out based on what I want to major.

It sounds crazy and ridiculous, but upon further inspection of my old D&D character sheets, the parallels between a student and a starting character are very similar:

-You have a back story, starting your journey with  little to no possessions and your current location is a super-somewhat safe central location. You end up in a party no bigger than 6 and there is no guarantee all of you will finish your campaign.

This sounds a lot like going to the student food court for orientation the first time as a freshman.

-You start with traits that are the bare minimum in order to be the fighting class you want to be. If you didn’t have those traits (Intelligence, Dexterity, Strength) you had to switch classes. Some of those traits can be linked to your past and race.

This is very similar to having X amount of scores on entrance exams, AP Class grades just to get into the program of your choice. And if you were from a wealthy family or were lucky enough to get scholarships, you could probably afford to do a double major! From my standpoint, my chances are better if all I had to do was roll dice and add or subtract traits I didn’t need.

-Before you choose a class, you look in the Player’s Handbook at all of classes before making a choice (Fighter, Wizard, Bard, etc). Each level details what abilities you can gain as you progress in the game.

I honestly wish it were this easy to see what I would/could be 10-20 years from now following a chosen career path. Why can’t it be this way? Maybe it can be done from an academic perspective but I am not a traditional student (experienced in a full-time work environment, not a first-time college graduate).

I guess that is where the similarities end. You really can’t predict at which level you will those new skills you will need once you graduate. The best bet would be joining a professional organization that offers Credit Education Equivalencies in order to stay current with “trends”. But even that becomes murky: from past experience, after spending hundreds of dollars on classes and certifications-none were viewed as credible enough to get hired somewhere  or to help get promoted.

So I am back to square one. But at least with this method, I can organize my goals better and not waste anyone’s time at that office. (I hope!)

I want to become this! How do I become THIS?!!
I want to become this! How do I become THIS?!!

Middle Fingers and Hard Work

After returning from an unpleasant visit to my relatives, I vowed not to make another visit to them until further notice. The visit, back in December, was O.K. until the differences between Cutie and #dumbfuck (my brother’s boyfriend) clashed over Cutie’s idea of wanting to make a salad for my brother’s New Year Party.

(Sarcasm) A threat to tradition, according to #dumbfuck.
A threat to tradition, according to #dumbfuck.

Traditional Caribbean Christmas food is so greasy, fried and lack of veggies that it makes European/Western dishes look like NutriSystem Food items. Of course, such an innocent thing as a salad should not have forced Cutie and I to an unexpected exodus from my brother’s house. But it did and so we vowed that once we returned to the U.S. we would a) never visit them again and b) detox and exercise as much as possible. Enter the Fit Bit Zip (the Tamagouchi for Adults):

It's happy only when you are walking or exercising.
It’s happy only when you are walking or exercising.

It’s a digital pedometer that sticks its tongue at you if you are sitting at your desk for too long or not walking. If you sleep for ten hours, it shows the image of a dead spider. Or it occasionally shows an image of a heart. But it also records how many calories you burn (by syncing it to your laptop or mobile device), and allows you to keep track of what you eat based on ingredients or brand-name food items when eating out. This thing is a dietitian/nag that is discreet enough to be worn everywhere. Oh and it tells the time :P.

Cutie and I set individual goals on our little FitBits based on the post-holiday damage and became more picky eaters and more active. We measured everything we made/cooked and walked a lot. When I wasn’t biking to campus (a good 12-mile round-trip) I would go to the gym before my first class. Since Cutie and I were lucky to live close to the extensive walking/bike trail, it helped us go on long walks we needed for the day (10,000 step minimum). The purchase of a treadmill was halted due us unable to find an affordable one from a store that would deliver it to our place (yay for trails!).

Downside to a restricted diet/exercise program: you are hungry a lot. But unlike juicing, your muscles won’t hurt after exercising  from the lack of protein. I felt like I was in starvation mode more of the time, fighting my body’s urges to eat more. It was more like arguing with a child that keeps asking “why?” to every answer you give him/her. I found some relief in drinking a lot of tea (Organic Jasmine and Green Tea) while Cutie drank gallons of regular Organic Green Tea like a fish.  We hope that if our weight loss plans are successful, we can switch our FitBit Dashboard goals to “maintain the damn weight” mode.

Counteracting High Anxiety

I am enjoying my visits to campus every week: free math tutoring, clean bathrooms, clean water to drink, healthy food variety, nice professors (so far), career counseling, unrestricted access to gyms and computers. No wonder the university charges so damn much: if you stay on campus all day, even while working on your homework or studying, it is 10x less stressful than an 8 hour day at work. Those rumors about universities in the U.S. becoming adult day cares are becoming true. If anything, it motivates me more to work harder to get a good GPA in my classes and make the best out of all it has to offer as much as possible. Especially the career counseling. Before I graduated from my old alma mater, the career counseling center was a sad joke and job fairs were far few in between.  As an alumni, I am never sending money to that place or recommend anyone to go there.

Time, the Eternal Enemy

I don't want this to happen!
I don’t want this to happen!

Time is the worst enemy of man and women. Trying to use time to your advantage is the biggest challenge of every person’s life.

Especially when you are:

1) Not so young anymore

2)Trying to start a new career through getting new skills (Hello college!)

3) Visiting loved ones who have succumbed to Alzheimer’s disease

I stayed  about 3 weeks with my family. During that time, I tried to help my mom out as she took care of my grandmother who has Alzheimer’s disease. It was at times frustrating and heartbreaking the transformation in my grandmother. Her memory has been reduced to fragments: she can recognize all of us but she can’t remember how to take care of herself in terms of hygiene, counting money or even driving. Her behavior can be as best described of that of a worn out 2-year-old’s: crying, barely eating and reteaching simple concepts over and over with a heavier dose of diaper duty.  Such observations sadden me because the possibilities of my mother succumbing to the disease herself are possible. Should such an event happen, I would prepare myself to become her caretaker.

Becoming her caretaker would not frighten me, although it would sadden me because I would be giving up a career and the ability to earn money again.  What frightens me is the possibility that I would get Alzheimer’s myself and become a burden to Cutie. It frightens me because I am already scattered-brained and slow to retain new concepts  (especially math!). I curse at myself whenever I study for hours at different math problems and how I am unable to remember everything I studied. I wonder if such work could delay or prevent the disease. I can only hope that should such a disease would happen it would happen in late adulthood for me.  That is why I try to learn new things, in spite of not having a talent for them but I still try. Because time is against me more than ever.

Small minds are found in the unlikely of places

After a long hiatus from blogging (Christmas and New Year’s Activities) Cutie and I decided to retreat to a place where there is Air Conditioning and away from people for the weekend. Don’t get me wrong: I do missed seeing several of my family members but there are some I needed to get away from because of some unexpected drama/B.S./misunderstandings.

Which is why I needed this Mojito at the local Tapas bar. Because beer just wasn't cutting it!
Which is why I needed this Mojito at the local Tapas bar. Because beer just wasn’t cutting it!

I was getting tired of explaining/playing diplomat to family members because do not have thick enough skin to accept assertiveness or different points of view about things.  I am also sick and tired of hearing excuses:

“This is not traditional”

“You know how things are around here and such comments are not appreciated”

Well, they can kiss my ass. And no, I will NOT control my Cutie because a bunch of narrow-minded people can’t handle him. Not my fault some people were raised to be pussies.

This is why I also took Cutie to Rincon, PR, away from that B.S. and the NOISE!

No one judges you at the sea: everyone becomes seafood at some point in their lives.
No one judges you at the sea: everyone becomes seafood at some point in their lives.

For our anniversary, instead of giving ourselves presents, we went to the Tres Palmas Reserve and Para sailed together.

I was nervous because I’ve never done this before, but after we saw a 90-year-old woman return from her trip, my nerves calmed a bit.

High as a kite, without getting high!
High as a kite, without getting high!

The experience was worth it: Cutie and I got a bit nauseous,  but the view of the ocean off the coast was spectacular: the sea filled with emerald tones of blue and green glistening against the midday sun. We spotted a sea turtle bobbing out at sea, without a care in the world. We truly felt like we were being flown like kites, not knowing when or where we will be dropped. Lucky for us, we glided back into the boat without incident.

Dealing with small-minded people opened my eyes to appreciating the experiences I went through when I was challenged/pushed to do things. Of course I hated experiencing half of the B.S. that comes with traveling/moving/working in different places. But my Cutie was right: if I didn’t challenge myself, I would have been missing out on unique experiences and not learn anything.  Or worse: I would have ended like my small-minded relatives (thin-skinned, anxious, racist, etc).  Yeah, so glad for that Mojito!

Happiness from a cup of coffee

I woke up sad this morning. Then I got some coffee and it made me feel normal enough to not be so sad/worried.

The uphill battle of changing careers:

It is hard as hell to learn math on your own. I would study for hours working on math problems, then one thing would distract me (a phone call, the mailman, the cat doing something naughty, an errand that needs to be completed) and then my mind would turn into a Tabula Rasa. It’s like my mind is conspiring against me. It doesn’t help that I am scattered brained by nature. But after walking away from my miserable corporate job last year, my options are limited. It doesn’t also help that since that Civil Rights Ordinance got appealed, the odds for finding employment have increased slightly against me. So I have to retrain myself into a much-in-demand field and hope that I will find employment after the whole mess is done (in another state/country).

That is what I have been using my time on besides of learning Modern Greek. I am doing well on the class and hope to continue to do so the next semester.

And so the holidays begin

Will be traveling again to visit family in PR. If it weren’t for family and friends still living there, I wouldn’t return. There was recently a shoot out at a gas station close to my parents’ house and I cringe at driving through any city period.  Maybe out in the country it won’t be too bad (keeping my fingers crossed). I am hoping transportation will be less of a problem this year too.

Mental Muscle Building

Teaching yourself math is hard.

So is life. Been working hard teaching myself Algebra to test into the next phase of testing: Trigonometry and Pre-Calculus. Why torture myself, you ask? Because getting into the STEM field is my last shot at getting a good-paying career before calling it quits. You can only do so much to try to be as marketable as possible. I can’t let hard things stop me from learning what I have to learn in order to get a shot at a better life.

Another good reason: maybe to curve my risk for Alzheimer’s Disease. My grandmother’s condition is getting worse, but at least she still remembers me. Whenever I can’t remember something, I just cringe with frustration. What if I am already showing symptoms? Exercise and learning a new language (Greek) are supposed to help prevent the disease, but to what extent?

Which also brings me to the constant struggle of getting in shape in spite of the cold weather. It has gotten too cold to bike to the university, so I opted to go to the gym instead. One thing I have learned about getting older (Happy Birthday Me!) is that it doesn’t take as much time to wear yourself out. I used to still have energy after working out for 2 hours while I was in my twenties. Now it takes me just one hour. :(

This is why I love coffee!