Tag Archives: health and food

The Apple Watch Sport and the (sort of) Perfect Month

If you had told me this time last year that half my laundry each week would be in the form of workout clothes, I would have laughed hysterically.  For me, exercise is something that often goes along with avoidance behavior.  Don’t want to write an article?  Jump on the elliptical (it’s work/productivity)!  It is also something that I tend to say I’m going to do starting around January, and by February, I’m sleeping in again.

The last two years have been a time of transition for me.  2014 was definitely the year to Get Happy.  And 2015 has turned out to be the year to Get Healthy.  Since last January, I have been keeping an eye on food and exercise in a way I never have.  And it shows.  I feel stronger and more flexible than I have since college, which is really my goal.  I haven’t been “dieting” or “cutting carbs” or anything–just eating slightly less, cooking at home, and making sure I move around more.  And yes, I’ve lost weight, but in healthy, consistent ways.

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The Activity app gives you achievements.  They’re like Xbox achievements, but with less Cheetos and more going outside.

I’ve had an Apple Watch (38mm Space Gray Aluminum Case with Black Sport Band) since June and have come to appreciate many of its functions.  Without question, my favorite feature is getting navigation steps on my wrist rather than having to look down at my phone while driving.  But the apps I use most by far are the Activity and Workout apps.  For the first several months, I kept myself aware of the parameters it was monitoring–Move, Exercise, and Stand–but I really didn’t care too much about them.  But with the increasingly shorter autumn days and the lack of sunlight making me crabby (and knowing that exercise really helps), I made the decision to shoot for a perfect month in November:  290 calories of movement, 30 minutes of exercise, and 12 hours of standing/moving each hour for 30 days.  Looming holiday weight gain was also another motivating factor (last year’s for me was about 4 pounds).

First, some statistics:  I’m 30, 5’0″, and my basal metabolic rate is roughly 1352 calories per day (I’m currently shooting for 1200 calories of food a day if I don’t exercise).  I set a goal of 290 calories of additional movement per day–a goal that was totally doable on days I went to the gym (a “normal” gym day plus my normal movement gets me in at closer to 385 calories) but slightly difficult on days off.  These parameters allowed this 30 day challenge to myself to actually be a challenge.  Luckily, I had friends along for the ride to keep me on track (thanks, B, B, S, and T!).

And now, Some Things I Learned About Myself and the Watch in November:

  1. I don’t move enough when I’m working – the Watch, if you enable the feature, reminds you to stand up at the :50s of every hour if you haven’t moved around.  Standing is not enough–you’ve got to move around a little (or, as I learned, do 30 squats).  If I’m really focused on writing or grading, I apparently can sit in place for 3-4 hours straight.  Everything I’ve ever been told about working at computers (or working in general) states that you should take small breaks every hour to move around and focus.  Having a reminder to do that (and a daily goal of 12 hours of standing) really helped me to realize how sedentary graduate school can make me sometimes.  And I’ve found that at the end of a day of writing where I move around appropriately, I’m far less stiff at night.
  2. Lazy Sundays really are lazy – by far, the most difficult day each
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    The Activity app gives you achievements.  They’re like Xbox achievements, but with less Cheetos and more going outside.

    week for me was Sunday.  My gym access is at work, which I’m at MWF.  On TTh, I generally walk downtown to work.  On Saturdays, my brother and I usually run errands and I do stuff around my apartment.  Sundays are total slug days, meant for catching up on TV, grading, and general lack of changing out of pajamas.  There were days that I had to exercise for nearly an hour at night just to make up for how little I had done during the day (and getting motivated to do that at 7:30 p.m. wasn’t always easy).  Luckily, I had friends keeping me motivated when I couldn’t find the motivation myself.
  3. It’s possible to psych out the Watch – The first three weeks of this challenge were hard but doable; I would exercise before bed if I had
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    I was in the car from noon to 7:30. You can totally see my once-per-hour-fist-bump-for-stand-goal in the exercise chart.

    not met my goals by the end of the day.  But by week four, holiday travel got in the way, and there were times that I simply could not stand up each hour (being stuck in the car for 7.5 hours on the Sunday after Thanksgiving will do that).  Fist-pumping raises your blood pressure and moves your arm around enough to make the watch think you’re moving (in some cases, it also gives you exercise minutes).  Bumpy car rides also psych it out–according to my Sunday statistics, I was moving around a little bit all day on Sunday.  So you might be asking, how accurate are the metrics?  When used normally, the metrics seem to be very accurate.  But as with all new tech, it’s not perfect yet.  So technically, did I have a Perfect Month? No…  But I did stay mindful daily of taking care of myself, so in that way, yes, it was perfect.
  4. Aristotle was right about habits – Several things kept me motivated this month:  not letting my friends also doing this 30 day challenge win/beat me (this was a huge motivator), wanting to continue this year of positive life-changes, wanting to stay ahead of the winter blues.  By the end of this month, though, I found myself feeling ooky on days I wasn’t moving around enough.  And consistent exercise every day made gym goals (including increasing weight at my BodyPump class) come easier.  I find myself breathing easier during cardio and feeling less fatigued after 30-45 minutes of hard exercise.  Many people say it takes 21 days to make something a habit (though others argue that depending on the difficulty of the habit, it could take longer), and on some level, I think that was part of what made that last week so hard–getting over that hurdle.  While this month (and all of my life changes this year) weren’t about losing weight, I did find that this consistent movement helped me break through a weight plateau I’ve been waffling around since May.  But I’m less concerned about weight and more about strength, and I’m definitely stronger now.

So what does that say about the coming month?  I’ve already been challenged by my peers to keep going (and, conversely, to keep supporting them of course), but with all of the upcoming travel I have for Christmukkah, I worry that this will cause more stress than good (plus, not gonna lie, it’s gray and gross outside, and I just want to stay on the couch).  But the voice in the back of my head, augmented by writing all this up, is reminding me just how much better I’ve felt this month.  So yeah, I’ll probably try.  Plus, the app is already peer pressuring me in continuing…

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That 12/2015 showed up out of nowhere. And I wants it…

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Thoughts on Not Being Vegetarian (in California)

I need to admit something to all of you:  I’m in a mixed relationship.

You see… sometimes, I eat meat.  My partner… well, he’s a lifelong vegetarian.

I’ve dabbled in vegetarianism for years, sometimes for ethical reasons, more often for health reasons.  Most days, I prefer getting my protein from plant-based sources, finding I feel healthier on days my stomach isn’t weighed down with animal parts.

And then, about once a year, I have a Ron Swanson-level squee-fest over the mere idea of a steak.

Thanks http://nbcparksandrec.tumblr.com/ for the perfect visual.

Thanks http://nbcparksandrec.tumblr.com/ for the perfect visual.

This preference toward vegetarianism is on a moving spectrum, from complete vegetarianism in high school to having chicken and turkey in the house during most of grad school.  The last year or two has been mostly a “I don’t have meat in the house, but sometimes I eat it out” sort of situation.

So where’s my “so what?’ of this post?  Let me tell you a story.

As of today, I’ve been living in California for a month.  San Jose, to be specific.  And I’ve noticed a few differences between my current home and where I live 9 months out of the year:  gas and groceries are way higher priced, diversity is actually a thing here, annnd there are usually way more vegetarian items on a menu (complete with being able to eat my body weight in avocado – yay!).

While I may not be ethically/religiously vegetarian, my partner is.  So while I honestly will eat whatever you put in front of me (including hákarl with a brennivín chaser while attending a conference in Iceland), I’ve learned to be more mindful of scouting out vegetarian options (don’t even get me started on being on the lookout for hidden gelatin and chicken broth…) when we go out.

And we’ve had some pretty good food the last month.  By far, my favorite find has been the Haute Enchilada in Moss Landing, whose vegetarian/vegan and seafood options are truly top-notch.

But lately, I’ve been noticing a trend when we order food.  I do say trend, as at this point, it’s happened multiple times.  The first couple times, I chalked it up to the server mixing up seats on an order.  Or the fact that often, a second person (not our server) would bring our food to the table.  No big deal.

But then it kept happening.  The most recent example was when we went out for pho on Saturday.  We’ve found a lovely place near us that does a decent vegetarian pho, which I’d ordered the first time we went.  But this time, I was feeling seafood.  I’m from the Chesapeake.  For me, seafood is generally always going to win over a vegetarian option.

So we’re sitting there, munching on vegetarian spring rolls when our food comes out.  The gentleman carrying our food announces “vegetarian?” and before we can answer begins putting it down in front of me.

Actually, no, thank you, that delicious bowl of seafood is mine, thanks.

So what’s going on here?  I’ve come up with a two options.  Either

  • there still is an inherent bias that women are more likely to be vegetarians than men, or
  • given my partner’s height, people assume that he can’t be vegetarian.

This second option has actually come up repeatedly.  People legitimately think that if you’re tall, you must eat meat.  When visiting family in India, people actually vocalized on several occasions that my partner must eat meat in America because there’s no way he could be that tall otherwise.

If I really wanted to make this article even more confusing, I could add in an entire side adventure about misconceptions in the West about Indians and vegetarianism.  But it seems that conceptions about size, masculinity, and vegetarianism, at least with what I have encountered, trump the “all Indians are vegetarians” myth (though you would think the conflicting perceptions would at least make servers pause before automatically plunking down a bowl of veggies in front of me).

I’m laughing to myself as I sit here thinking about all of this–in California.  In the Bay Area.  You know, the part of the US that all of us East Coast snobs refer to as “crunchy,” “granola,” “organic,” and high on its own smug (thanks Matt and Trey).  If any place were going to be openminded about vegetarianism, this would be it, right??

The good news is, through all of this, I’m having to rethink my preconceptions about living on the West Coast.  Yeah, there might be more vegetarian options (and yes, the aforementioned avocado comment is real – you really can get avocado added to anything) out here on the Left Coast, but male vegetarians still confuse people (apparently).

Which is intrinsically ridiculous.  I started doing some research and came up with some things, including a website devoted to vegan bodybuilders and this list of famous vegetarians (including Sir Paul, Mike Tyson, Ben Franklin, and, of course, Gandhiji).  I even found this really interesting article about Griff Whalen, a wide receiver for the Indianapolis Colts who decided to go vegan for health reasons.  Just read this excerpt from the article:

Despite the health benefits and Whalen’s decided push for such a diet, being a vegan is not the most popular move to make in the NFL. The few other players who have professed plant-only diets have riled up fans, media pundits and even teammates.

They’ll ruin the team’s chances of a winning season. They’ll be weaker on the field. They’ll get tackled and outplayed more easily. Meat is a must for the NFL. Protein. Manly food. To eat plants-only is foolish for a football player.

So yeah, there definitely seems to still be a misconception here about size, strength, and the health benefits of a vegetarian/vegan diet.  And of course, we can debate all day about size, strength, and whether or not vegetarianism affects either.  But the bias really seems to be clearly on the side of “of course you can’t be big and strong only eating plants.”  Unless, of course, you’re Popeye.

Notice he's not standing up straight...

Notice he’s not standing up straight…

So does what I’ve been witnessing at restaurants really come down to this continued belief?  Does it really just come down to the 15-inch height difference between myself and my partner?

I have no idea.  But it keeps happening.  And every time, I roll my eyes, and my (far more) gracious partner smiles and tells the waiter “No, actually I’m the vegetarian.”

And then I chow down on the souls of recently departed shellfish, preferably slathered with all the avocado the kitchen has.

Shellfish that, from what I’ve been told, apparently isn’t kosher