I'm SO proud to feature Lither Judy U. today in Ed. 8 of our Earned in Winter series. Judy has come a long way (she has lost over 100 lbs!). I know that you'll really enjoy reading this.
Kids?: Probably not, thanks. I'm solid with nieces and nephews - I call them my rentals. And could be down with a step kid should I find the right single dad.
Her Fit.Hip.Healthy: If you saw my preview post/love letter, you know that I was once neither fit, nor healthy. I started out as an overweight child, a chubby teen, and went straight to obese adult. College here in the city meant food truck cheesesteaks for lunch and pizza for dinner with a side of soda. When I started working, I was a fast food queen often eating twice the portions. The highest weight I ever saw on a scale was over 280 lbs. I made some half hearted attempts at weight loss - things like weight loss shakes, fasting, and frozen meals with words like "healthy or lite" in the title. None of that worked. My doctor told me that if I kept gaining weight I probably would die in my thirties. I got mono and lost about 20lbs without even trying. I knew things were out of hand but it wasn't until 2001 after my first niece joined the world that I spent more than a year on Weight Watchers and lost a ton of weight - feeling like I had finally "figured out" what I had been doing wrong - note - my "exercise" at the time was the occasional walk around the neighborhood and crazy dance nights at the old Polyester's on Race Street (I wish I was kidding about that). Jump to 2003, and my Dad passing away. Welcome to emotional eating and ballooning back up - re-finding all the weight I had lost. I floundered for a while and made a few more half-hearted attempts to lose weight. Finally in 2008, I went back to Weight Watchers with my now huge tail between my legs and at the time was over 250 lbs. I had some good success and then started grad school at about 210 lbs. I did okay - I did gain some weight back during my three years of working and going to school at night. Less time meant less preparedness and more reaching for quick solutions. In 2010, I started working in Princeton, NJ and finishing my last year of grad school at Villanova. My office is right around the corner from a gym, and so during my first week I thought I might as well check it out. I signed up an figured I could go there right after work and avoid some rush hour traffic on the nights I didn't have a 90 minute drive to get to school. They offered a free consultation with a trainer and so I took advantage of that. My trainer Patrick became a force in my life - making an appointment with him every week was a way to really make sure that I kept exercising. I was working so hard that it made me want to eat better. So I started packing my lunch and weight started coming off. I mixed in walking on the treadmill and graduated to jogging a little and did my first 5K in 2012 - I got Patrick one of the t-shirts to commemorate this huge achievement. At that point, I was pretty sure I was an invincible athlete and that I would eventually win a marathon. Later that summer, a friend suggested that we try a barre class. Since I was now this stellar athlete, obviously I would try it. Standing outside the studio, one of the gals said - "did you see that Lithe Method has a Living Social deal? That's what Becky Miller did to get ready for her wedding". Since Becky looked straight up crazy hot at her wedding, I agreed to try this mysterious Lithe thing. We did the 101 and I thought I might die - but I had paid for FIVE classes - I was going to take all of them! That showed me that I still had a long way to go and that maybe I wasn't quite the athlete I was in my head. I was mixing Lithe into my regular workouts and a couple months later, Patrick announce he was moving away. I was getting tired of the regular gym, and I kept throwing out my back every time I was running. Ugh. Lithe was always there floating along as one of the things I could do without hurting myself and it helped me realize that maybe I liked doing classes because there was someone pushing you a long - just like Patrick had been pushing me. So with Patrick gone in early, 2013, I started lithing a few times a week, and adding in a spin class, or a barre class to mix things up. The next thing I knew I was working out 5-6 times a week - and mostly looking forward to Lithe. So that's my fit. And in combination with my diet (see below) -it's my healthy.
I'm still working on my Hip - I'm more Talbots and red wine than ??? I don't even know what's hip.....
Fell off the wagon?: Not really. I started slow with Lithe - going once a week and mixing it in with Patrick, walking/running, and the occasional barre or spin class. I injured my hip (maybe that's my hip!) in the first half of 2013 and had to slow down a bit but focused on lower impact classes until it was better. Since starting regular exercise in 2010, I've never gone more than a few days without doing SOMETHING. The exercise drove me to want to eat better and though I have my emotional battles with cupcakes, most of the time I win. Only sometimes the cupcake wins.
How she Lithes: 3-4 times per week - aiming for 5. I just finished the 9 day stretch after being so inspired by Chrissy and Kristin (and Sayeh). I couldn't believe that I did it! I even did an extra class at a barre studio with some girlfriends during that week! For me Lithe is a challenge every time and there are always opportunities for improvement and learning - plus the schedule and updated classes keep everything so fun and interesting. I go back and forth between loving the sculpting classes for their slow pace and crazy burn and loving the cardio classes for their fun dancy cardio where I pretend that I'm a Laker girl in my head. Also, the cardio classes almost always have plyos - when you're 280 lbs, you can't really go up a flight of stairs without getting winded so in my head, every plyo feels like a little miracle. You may notice my often goofy smile during plyos.
What is "key" for her: Balance. I travel 20-30% of the time for my job. I'm lucky that I get to go to some amazing places and fancy restaurants but eating out takes a toll. I do the best I can with finding healthy options on the road, and often pack my own snacks with me. I've made it priority while travelling to find a good workout class and have tried barre and yoga classes across the country! While home, I believe that as long as I eat well 80% of the time I can leave room for a night out or an after dinner treat. And on the days, when hormonal, work or social challenges leave me feeling defeated in the war against the office candy jar, I find my way to self-forgiveness and get right back to trying again the next day.
Also - information - I had so much to learn over this long journey but something that has kept me focused is finding new information on working out, recipes, success stories, food ingredients, etc. Anything related to a healthy lifestyle reminds me of why I'm working so hard in class and spending time preparing meals for my week.
Her Diet: STRICT Vegetarian. Lacto ovo - although not much lacto - I was allergic as a baby and never really grew out of it. Some yogurt is ok and a splash of milk in my coffee is fine. I love cheese but when I eat to much, it makes me so sick. I became a vegetarian in 2008 after I had been living alone for the first time and found that cooking chicken and fish was really grossing me out. Ick. I read a few books, watched some documentaries, and never a piece of meat would grace my lips again. I'm not a pushy vegetarian - I think animals can be part of a healthy diet but it's just not for me. I didn't become vegetarian to lose weight and actually gained a little when I first started because I wasn't really focused on eating a healthy diet. A little at a time, my diet has changed to focus on REAL FOOD. I eat a ton of fruit and vegetables, and whole grains - mostly organic and - very minimal "processed foods". And because everyone asks.... protein comes from a lot of places - eggs/egg whites, sometimes greek yogurt, quinoa, peas, beans, nuts, a little soy, and I use a raw vegan brown rice protein powder just to fill in a little. I loosely follow the Tone It Up plan.
I also count calories using LoseIt - an iPhone app. I don't panic if I'm over or under calories on any particular day - remember my thing with balance! But it does help me monitor what's happening. But you have to be honest with it - those days when I'm typing in 4 mini twix bars from the office candy jar are not pretty but it is what it is. On the road, it helps a lot to at least try to guess what was in the restaurant meal I had - it makes me think about how to make the best choice I can when looking at the menu. I hope someday to transition to intuitive eating but I'm not there yet - and if I never get there, it's ok. I don't mind the tracking - plus I like seeing the data - I'm good with numbers! I also track calories burned from working out using a heart rate monitor. There is something gratifying when logging in a 600 calorie Lithe burn!
She does weigh in: Almost every day. Right now I'm floating between 190-195lbs. This is my lowest adult weight. But I have a LOT to say about this. I'm 5'6" - most body weight charts for women would have you believe that 150-155lbs is the upper weight limit for someone my height. And that a healthy weight is somewhere between 120-155. (depending on which chart you read) But this doesn't really tell the whole story. This can't possibly be the whole picture. Turns out there are many numbers to help access your health and fitness. How about BMI?? Well at 195, my BMI is 31.5 - that means I'm obese. Crap! This numbers thing isn't going my way huh?
How about body fat percentage? Well I've been 190-200 lbs for quite some time so last year at about 200 lbs I had my body fat percentage professionally measured using a Bod Pod - the same egg shaped thing that the Biggest Loser uses. At the time, I was 40% body fat, but 60% lean mass. (Get your calculators girls! It's about to get real!) So that meant I was 120 lbs(60%) of "lean mass" and 80 lbs (40%) of fat. This is too much fat - there's no denying that but the lady who performed the test said that I was a lot of "lean" - so many people are "skinny fat" (her words) where they are more than half fat. So let's think about this...... if I'm ALREADY 120lbs of lean, where can I land on the weight chart that's realistic.
CLEARLY, I'm never going to be at the bottom of the range - unless I start losing some lean mass which doesn't feel like a good goal. Let's say that I haven't gained any additional lean mass (or muscle in this case), and that I've only maintained that 120lbs - if I were to drop to that 155lbs, that would mean that I would have 35lbs of fat (155-120) on 155lb body. 35lbs/155lbs= 22.5% body fat. This is actually pretty lean for a woman. Again there are all sorts of charts, but it looks like the upper limit of body fat percentage for a woman my age is about 23%-27.5%.
But I've been Lithing and doing all kinds of fun workouts for a year since my last measurement - maybe it's fair to say that a I've gained 5lbs of lean mass since then. So maybe now, I could be 125lbs of lean mass - if I got to 170lbs, I'd have 45lbs of body fat - 45/170=26.5% body fat which is squarely in that healthy range. I'm not trying to math my way out of being skinny but I'm trying to find a realistic goal. We're all going to lose lean mass as we age so the more we start with, the better off we'll be later in life. I'm not willing to lose what lean mass I have to fit into some weight chart and in fact, I'm probably going to keep trying to build more! I'm never going to be skinny but what I like about Lithe it showcases a variety of healthy body types through our instructors. I'm never going to have the long slim limbs of the lovely Danielle but I can aspire to have the gorgeous curviness of Bari or Lauren. I already have big boobs and backside! I'm halfway there!
One more word on the body fat measurement - it really helped me learn a lot about Basal Metabolic Rate.(BMR) The printout they gave me showed how many calories I needed in a single day just to exist. Turns out my MINIMUM required calories were somewhere around 1600 - most diet plans would tell you not to go below 1200 calories - but for me, I can't ever go below 1600 without hurting myself. (I'm not complaining!) This was eye-opening. Gone are the days where I'm trying to eat as little as possible to stay under some ridiculously low calorie target - I'm eating what's HEALTHY for me!
What about other numbers? How about blood pressure? Mine is great - 110-120/70 is average for me. How about resting heart rate? Mine is the 50's. yeah - I'm really an athlete now! How about dress size? I'm a 14. The first time I put on a size 14 pants I cried with happiness in the dressing room at the Gap. I was this size in 8th grade. I'm closing in on a size 12 jeans- I can get them on and zipped - I just can't breathe in them - or walk or sit. Details!
She feels: Like a goddess. My weight has been a lifelong struggle but now it feels like worrying about weight isn't the top priority anymore. These days, I'm more worried about getting to class on time and what I'm going to pack for lunch this week. I also feel pretty honored to be part of the Earned in Winter feature. I think body diversity is something to be celebrated and I'm so proud of Lithe Method for taking on this challenging topic by featuring real bodies of different sizes and shapes - even those that are atypical. So many Lithers have come up to me since my love letter and told me how much they were looking forward to my Earned in Winter feature. That really meant a lot to me and it's been so great to meet new people. Lithe has also helped me feel like I can sort of do anything - at at least TRY anything. Last year I did the first day of the MS 150 City to Shore bike ride. This year, I'm hoping to do both days. I rode my bike yesterday and only fell off twice! I got back up twice too :-)
I know my squishy tummy probably isn't what you were expecting to see when you pulled up the blog today, but that fold on my belly and jiggle on my arms are my badges of pride. They used to be filled with fat that was killing me - if a little flab or skin flopping around during class is the worst thing that happens in my days, then I've lived a grand life. I hope that any of the larger lithers reading this will be inspired to find their own versions of a healthy body and those of you who pulled the super lean card from the deck get a little insight as to how things work for us bigger gals. All our bodies are fantastic! Look how they can plyo!