The Difficult Reality: Time to Calorie Count

This is a hard one for me.

I know, like all capital letters and in bold know, that my weight is a problem. I have excuses and plans and can logic everything six ways from Sunday. But it’s time to own up.

And I’ve done that and still failed several times to take control of the situation.

So, on Saturday, after a strong workout and a report from the physical therapist that really suggested I shouldn’t offer any more excuses, I re-downloaded My Fitness Pal and started tracking activity and food.

I challenged myself to make sure I hit 5,000 steps a day, with the intent of increasing that over time. And my current average is probably 4,000. Walked to the gym Saturday. Took the teenager and the dog for a walk. Hit 5,000 by 5 p.m. (And the dog wore down her claws on the sidewalk to the point where she bled. All over the house.)

I entered my gym workout, my water consumed, counted my physical therapy as yoga. Then I dealt with the fact that my eating is half trash, half perfect. Post gym meal? Coffee, Lebanon balogna and a Otis Spunkmeyer Chocolate Chip Cookie.

Yeah, that was the meal choice that made me re-download My Fitness Pal. It’s one thing to accept I made this choice. It’s another to stare at it for the rest of the day.

My dinner plan was more balanced. My Hungryroot box came. Since the teenager was at Petco buying first aid supplies and styptic powder for the dog, I made a lamb Mediterranean salad.

By 6 p.m., my food selections looked like this:

The program defaults to 50% carbohydrates, 25% protein (or is it 30%?) and the remainder fat for the Macro distribution. My diet is always higher in fat than it should be and I know from past experience that protein and fat keep my mood and hunger more stable than a high carb, low fat diet. So I adjusted it. Since I am regularly weight training, my diet should be high protein if I am trying to gain muscle. Which I am. Right now, I am merely aiming for a calorie deficit. If I succeed in shedding some weight, the next step would be to adjust fat and carbohydrates to encourage a leaner look.

The easiest solution to equalize the balance in these macros depicted would be for me to eat a stack of leftover turkey, plain, or perhaps with a little bit of horseradish if I get hungry again. That would shift the ratio of carbs, fat and protein.

Celebrating the small victories

Yesterday was a day of mixed signals.

The pain in my hips kept waking me the night before, despite a cocktail and a Tylenol PM. I woke grumpy, stiff and achy.

I didn’t keep that from affecting my workout with Dan at Apex Training.

Because here’s the thing about pain— sometimes it’s a warning that you need to stop but sometimes it’s recognition that your body is changing.

I did 75 lbs on the barbell incline press. And that reminded me that my body is not all bad.

But at the same time whatever is impacting my spine, hips & leg is making basic mobility difficult and my job folding clothes painful.

I slathered myself with my CBD Medic Arthritis ointment and somehow folded more than the requested 130 fixes QCed. I did 133.

I’m probably in half the pain I was last night.

And in seven hours I need to get out of bed and go to the gynecologist for my Mirena IUD.

A Saturday morning fitness surprise and a delicious breakfast

So good morning all, and I have to say it’s a gorgeous Saturday and I had another great workout at Apex Training with my trainer Dan.

Me in my Best Strong t-shirt

The photo is actually from Thursday’s workout, taken by Dan so I could tag #NickBestStrongman on social media, which I did and his official Instagram account started following me.

But today, the teenager got up early and came with me to the gym. The teenager is super strong and very balanced with the use of her body, full of power, so I wanted her to have the chance to really lift.

I think she’d be an amazing powerlifter.

And she did most of my weights at the gym today without breaking a sweat. Flexibility is her weakness. Balance is mine. Well, other than the cerebral palsy.

The teenager and I did a barbell bench press of 55 pounds, and did some hex deadlifts as well.

I came home and had an almost vegan breakfast— cream of wheat, vanilla soy milk, fresh artisan cashew butter from The Peanut Company in Cape May, dried blueberries, chia seeds and the one animal product, local honey. That was so delicious.

Are disabled athletes more mindful?

Barbells might be my new obsession. Remember my new shirt from the Fitness Tee Company in Michigan?

“Let’s hit the bar.”

I bought it after my first bench press with the barbell. I have always wanted to lift barbells. I’m fascinated with power lifters, and admire women like Meg Squats. She recently had a baby, but to stay on topic, here is one of her lifting videos: 5 things I wish I knew before I started lifting.

So when my trainer first put me on the bench with a barbell, it was in part to evaluate me. What he didn’t know was my secret burning desire to do it. And it did not disappoint.

Those first couple lifts I learned so much— about form, about using “power zones” in the body, and how a simple bench press uses most of your muscle groups. Fascinating. To see other people do it hints at the complexity, but to do it yourself is a true lightbulb moment to the depth of the interactive mechanics of the human body.

Today I did my first one plate barbell deadlift. Pretty much because my trainer said, “You could totally lift that,” and pointed to the barbell on the floor.

And I said, “I’ve always wanted to.”

You could totally lift that.

Dan, my personal trainer at Apex

So he let me deadlift the one-plate (on each side) barbell. I mimicked his form, which appeared to be underhand and it was a totally different kind of effort from the dumbbell deadlifts I previously completed. Those seemed very concentrated in the butt and legs, these included more of the body in a fluid way.

I did three in that first set and returned to my dumbbell circuit— 10 lb dumbbells in a swing style motion up to a press, 10 reps, followed by 10 bicep curls— before back to the bar. This was my cool down set of the day. And I did 3 more additional sets at the barbell— a set of five, another circuit with the dumbbells, then eight at Dan’s urging, another circuit, and he asked for another eight, but I tapped out after five.

I determined that I prefer underhand grip. Overhand grip puts too much stress on my lower back. Mixed grip is awesome, too, but I think that may require some work before I can up my weight. Mixed grip forces a certain instability and requires more focus on balance, which as a balance exercise would be stellar.

But what does any of this have to do with athletes and disability— the idea I propose in the title?

I have no athletic talent what so ever. My coordination is awful. I tend to walk “all done f*cky” when my health is poor or I am fatigued. I also deal with a myriad of aches and pains from walking crooked and associated issues with my S1 joint.

But my trainer often comments on my form, well, once he reminds me to point my toes for a squat or perfect that lean for a row. He’s even commented that I’m “built for that” while we do certain exercises. That once I correct manually what my brain can’t make my body do automatically, that I use a very deliberate form.

As I’ve mentioned before my weight training is very meditative for me because I am counting (something my trainer and the teenager were discussing because she said even with a decade of band she can’t count) and my trainer said I was good at keeping count, but that many of his clients needed assistance. I am also thinking about control in every motion of the exercise— from each body movement, to pace and control.

And on top of that, I try to note feeling and body function. Though that is touchy. In a “leg day” session a week or two ago, Dan said he noticed something strained about the lift I was doing. He wanted to know if it were legs or back bothering me.

I had to do an extra rep of the exercise to answer him. Because I hadn’t noticed.

“Ankles,” I answered. “My ankles are stiff and shaky today.”

All of this makes me think, and question, how those of us will a mild physical disability like cerebral palsy might be better athletes because we don’t have talent or physical advantages. But we know our bodies and we are accustomed to acknowledging the details of our bodies and their functions.

Does the fact that I am required to concentrate on every motion make me more prone to perform that motion closer to perfection than someone who can breeze through it without thinking about it?

Compelling idea.

A little bit of life updates: from warehouse work to cat fostering

This particular blog post will touch on brief updates of multiple areas of my life.

1. My new phone: The refurbished iPhone Xs sent to be my Square Trade has developed a green line in the display. I went to report it and their website is down for maintenance.

2. The laundry room project: The teenager has selected a color with the help of her grandmother, polka dot skirt.

3. Hungryroot and Purple Carrot: Yesterday’s meal kit was Purple Carrot’s Palestinian Spiced Peppers with Crispy Seitan and Tomato Caper Relish and Lemon Dill Rice. We also cooked the Chicken Bruschetta Burgers from Hungryroot. Everything was amazing.

4. Work and/or Disability: starting Thursday night my body was stiff and my right leg is giving me so much trouble. It appears to be the perfect blend of weather (tropical storms), hormones (ovulation) and disability (cerebral palsy). I was very uncomfortable.

But my numbers at the Stitch Fix Bizzy Hizzy have been consistently decent— I QC’ed 46 fixes from 3:30 to 6:30ish, and then picked an M cart in 20 minutes before clocking out at 7:05. The night prior I was on “mailer machine” (a folding machine that operates with a lot of compressed air) that they call creased lightning.

5. Foster Cats: someone expressed interest in Louise. Here’s a video of her last night: Louise

FURR Khloe
FURR Shady

6. The Gym (Apex Training): I did my first one plate barbell deadlift. I’ve always wanted to do barbell lifts. So far I’ve done bench press and deadlifts. Today I did four sets: one of three so my trainer could evaluate the weight of the lift, a set of five, another of eight, and a final of five.

He didn’t tell me how much weight that was— but my research from Mr. Google says the bar is 45 pounds and the plates are 20 kg. That together it’s 135 pounds?

Fitness update and my favorite vegetarian protein sources

My trainer Dan at Apex Fitness said something last week that made me chuckle and made me beam with pride.

“I forget you can handle more [weight] than most [women].”

“I still got it?” I asked.

He laughed.

Dan is very good at using full body motions even on isolated body part days. So on leg day we’ll throw in some bicep curls after those deadlifts and on upper body day, we do things that focus on form and stretching the lower body in addition to burning out the arms and chest.

I’m noticing much more flexibility in my body and that my chiropractor has gotten more agressive as well.

And I get to play with Dan’s super adorable baby and we talk a lot about food. He just picked up a client who is a vegetarian and doesn’t like tofu and some other stuff. We were brainstorming protein sources.

I thought I’d make a list.

Here’s my favorite vegan athlete on YouTube: Simnett Nutrition. Look at the sheer volume of food he eats. That is why I can’t be vegan. It has nothing to do with the diet— I just couldn’t stomach that much food.

For more gourmet cooking, check out Gaz Oakley, the Avant Garde Vegan (here).

My favorite vegetarian proteins that are not tofu

  • Greek yogurt
  • Cabot cottage cheese
  • Silk unsweetened soy milk
  • Nut butters (morning hack— coffee, nut butter and yogurt smoothie. Add dates if you want to feel trendy)
  • Homemade salad dressings featuring tahini or peanut butter
  • Add black beans or chick peas to anything you can
  • Add hummus or tahini and/or sprouts to sandwiches. Pick bread with higher protein.
  • Nuts and seeds (including chia, flax and hemp) on salads, oatmeal, in baked goods or smoothies
  • Ancient grain or chick pea pasta
  • Peas and lentils
  • Frozen lentil pasta
  • Morningstar vegetarian breakfast patties
  • “Wheat meat”/seitan
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Adding beans or eggs to soups
  • Eggs & cheese
  • Snap pea snack crisps
  • Special K nut and fruit protein bars
  • Sweet Earth frozen foods

And for vegetarian meal services/meal kits:

  • Purple Carrot offers meal kits and prepared food. They have low calorie and high protein options are plant-based and get on the table in about 40 minutes. Purple Carrot is expensive, and requires a minimum of three dinners a week. Read my previous blogs on Purple Carrot here.
  • Hungryroot has more flexibility than Purple Carrot and offers “free protein”with each box. You can order meal kits, prepared foods or groceries. I get one or two meals and spent the rest of my credits on groceries. A lot of their recipes include extra ingredients— instead of a small jar of a tablespoon of Chile sauce for example, they send a tub. So you can use the extra for other meals. They can get on the table very quickly. They use a lot of “whole” main ingredients coupled with prepared sauces which keeps nutrient value high but prep time low. Read about my impressions of Hungryroot here.
  • Hello Fresh has a lot of great recipes and offers vegetarian food. All the sauces are incredible. But you spend a lot of time in the kitchen. Also expensive. Servings tend to be small. I am told Every Plate is cheaper. My experience with Hello Fresh is here.
  • Green Chef, have not tried it

Week Four of Physical Training at Apex and more thoughts on Disability

When I turned up at the Apex Gym today for my first session of the week, I was accompanied by the teenager and her dog. They were both impressed— and in the dog’s case confused— that my trainer Dan was wearing his baby.

I am always impressed with the different bodies I see at the gym and the attention both trainers give to their clients.

There was a woman at the gym finishing her session when I arrived. She was working hard with some dumbbells, with her back to me. She was older than I was, and overweight, probably at least obese by BMI standards (because I am overweight by BMI standards).

But she was uneven, with 80% of her excess weight in her legs.

And just like with me, Dan supported her and challenged her as if we were athletes. You could tell she was proud of herself, and I was proud of her.

And I couldn’t wait to tell my trainer Dan that I can already feel my body moving better. In his eyes, he calls it “a little increased mobility” and to me, I feel like my knees are moving the correct direction.

I told him that I got to pick at the Stitch Fix Bizzy Hizzy and covered about 6,000 steps and pulled 216 items in less than three hours. Now those aren’t stellar numbers, but I haven’t left QC in months. And I didn’t hurt.

If this Apex experience doesn’t teach me to participate in exercise and strength training daily, nothing will.

Today’s workout t-shirt was “let’s hit the bar” by The Fitness Tee Company and my trainer Dan let out an enthusiastic battle cry. We did hit the bar, and we added weight to it. I really enjoy bench press.

In other news, I listened to the latest podcast from the NYT Daily Sunday Read, “The Man who filed 180 disability lawsuits.” It looked at the “industry” of people hired by lawyers to find non-ADA-compliant businesses. And sue them.

I need to digest this more, but the reporter interviewed a small restaurant that almost lost everything because of such a lawsuit, in what seemed a situation where a new restaurant just had everything go wrong.

But the reporter also interviewed the litigant who said businesses have a responsibility to know the law better (my note: it’s almost 300 pages) and that being disabled is expensive so these lawsuits help pay for his equipment and care.

Link to the podcast on Spotify.

Luau luncheon at the Bizzy Hizzy

Changes are brewing at work. Tomorrow I learn the infamous mailer machine and QC Valley 0 has been transformed into a test site to see if QC centers can prep their own boxes as they fold each fix.

I’m terrified of this. I have a really awkward relationship with packing tape.

Training Update: Finishing Week Three at Apex Training

My body turned to me as I went to my car after work today, and as I fiddled with the radio (calling up Natalie Merchant on Spotify singing Space Oddity), my body said to me,

“Jesus, woman, what are you doing? We need to talk.”

But seriously.

Let’s start at the beginning, shall we? But we can’t spend too much time on all this as it is 1:30 a.m. and my aching body craves sleep.

The teenager was up fairly early today so I suggested she and our almost 1-year-old pit bull/mastiff/black lab puppy walk with me to the gym, about 5 blocks away.

Now if you’re new here… I’m 46 years old, a former newspaper reporter. I have an amazing 17-year-old daughter. Her father and I separated two years ago but he lives nearby and is still an important part of our household. I have cerebral palsy. He has a club hand. I have recently started a quest to learn more about my body, restart my bodybuilding commitment (I was really into it six years ago) as an alternative to traditional physical therapy, and hopefully lose the 20 pounds I gained stress eating to cope with the toxic workplace of the last nonprofit I worked for.

So, the teenager, the dog and I walked up to the gym. F. Bean Barker is learning new manners everyday and the guys at the gym thought she was a beautiful dog.

And then the focus changed to leg day. Now, on upper body day I get to train like a normal person. On lower body day, my poor trainer has to balance my physical deficits with my desire to kick ass.

Or maybe I’m just as awkward both days, and I just never noticed.

Today was session six. It’s the last week of two sessions a week and next week we increase to three.

Please note: I have been in gyms lifting weights since college, which was about 25 years ago, and in recent years I’ve been in physical therapy to learn to walk, for balance, for the strain of my lumbar region caused by trouble with my S1 joint and my broken ankle. Every body is different. Every ailment or disability is different. It is a quest to balance what works for you, what your body needs and what hurts.

I firmly believe that nothing fixes the body like the right exercises. But for people with disabilities or health issues, it’s hard to recognize what pain you need to work through and what hurt is bad. As a weight lifter, I know muscle recovery pain. As a person with a disability, I often experience burning pain.

As a society, I feel like we invest so much money in medical tests, mental health, drugs, organic food, but we don’t want to pay for a trainer.

My trainer is getting to know me. He knows how to observe me. He asks questions about my mobility. We test exercises by going easy at first and adjusting them based on my performance.

And he reads me well.

There are times I can tell he’s afraid of pushing me too far and then I do the exercise and he makes it ten times harder because I surpassed his expectations. This makes him a good trainer because it means he’s testing my basic form and strength so I don’t get hurt. And he reads my body language to see how I’m doing— not relying on my words.

A good trainer has to push you out of your comfort zone. But he also has to make sure everything’s executed for best impact and in a way that you don’t get hurt.

I have to admit, I hated him a little today. But I also love his full body approach. But when he tells me to do sumo squats with a 15-pound dumbbell and my toes pointed out AND make sure my knees “follow” my toes… I don’t know whether to cry or punch him.

It’s the gym— both those feelings are valid.

But let’s examine the issue. My knees face in.

This means to perform the motion he has requested, I need to move one foot at a time carefully into position. I need to really concentrate on balance. As I move, I need to keep my head up, focus on stretching the knees to position in line with my toes (which is not the way they go) while holding a weight and trying not to fall.

I was dripping sweat by the end of this session— before he hands me a kettle bell to end the work out with kettle bells swings.

When I got home, I made a massive high protein vegan pasta. See me make it here (this can also be my official “before” video.)

I ate 90% vegan today. Only animal products I had were half and half for my coffee and a pack of beef jerky at work. I almost had iced tea with local honey but the teenager spilled it when I left it on the dog crate.

This was dinner:

Speaking of dinner— tonight at the Bizzy Hizzy my team competed in the Stitch Fix olympics. We won the gold medal in the egg toss. I was relieved they weren’t real eggs.

In other news:

  • I almost started editing William Prystauk’s latest novel in the Kink Noir series.
  • My Poppy Z. Brite books have arrived.
  • I hurt. I hope it’s the good hurt.
  • My friend Joan not only brought us old linens, but scored a cat carrier and animal crate at a yard sale.

Saturday update: Apex session 4

Today marked my fourth session at Apex Training and my first meeting others at the gym.

Last night we had voluntary time off at the Bizzy Hizzy warehouse. We were released for a a long weekend at 6:30 p.m. (The warehouse is closed Monday for a computer upgrade.)

The teenager wanted to drive and enjoy sports mode in my Jetta. So we stopped at Sheetz and ate fried food and drank energy drinks as one should do at Sheetz. (View Sheetz Shenanigans here.)

I did some editing for Aspire to Autonomy. They are planning their annual 5K. They also recently opened a new safe house and currently have a labor trafficking survivor living there.

I also worked on more of the final proof for my first novel, the debut publication for Parisian Phoenix Publishing. No pressure!

And some of my main characters are having sex again. That, coupled with the fact that I was in men’s returns processing at the warehouse… led to some mental distraction.

I was in bed before midnight as I had a 10 a.m. session with Dan.

I love Dan’s philosophy in incorporating isolated and full body exercises. I love how he paces the workouts— apparently next week is our last week of two sessions a week and we begin three times a week and he’s going to develop metrics to track our progress.

I tripped on the way home, on the same damn bad patch of sidewalk, but this time I caught my balance and did not fall.

And when I got home, the teenager received her new crate for F. Bean Barker. And she bought one way too big. (More ridiculousness here— Bean and Em the FURR kitten).

Now, I’m off to grab Nan and we’re going to can some corn salsa with farm fresh corn.

Meeting my fitness trainer, let the work begin

Today I woke up at 8:30 a.m., before my alarm, ready to start the laundry, unload the dishwasher and check on my split pea soup. I had my initial meet-and-greet, evaluation session with my new local, small business fitness trainer at 11 a.m.

At 10:30, I went down to the basement to get the linen wash and hang it on the line.

Oz, the big, scared and stupid cat bolted through my legs and out the door. In his mind, he was going to go eat some grass and relax in the sun.

Except the dog saw him escape. So he ran around the house and into our neighbors yard where our other neighbors were breaking up cement manually.

I was focused on catching the dog and they were very keen to tell me there was also a cat. I knew that cat would be sitting and waiting at my neighbor’s back door.

I catch the dog and clip her to the neighbor’s tie and turn my attention toward retrieving my daughter’s cat.

Grab the cat while the dog yowls in confusion. Toss him in the house, grab the dog’s leash, walk the dog across our small yard, and then watch her corner Oz and jump through the open window to chase him around the house while still wearing her leash.

By the time I crated her, I was already dripping with sweat.

And I barely had time to eat (after all, the wet laundry is in the basket in the yard) so I spoon some of my current favorite Cabot cottage cheese into my mouth and grab a pack of salt and vinegar almonds (both from the Grocery Outlet, of course) and an unopened bottle of plain seltzer.

I walk the five blocks to the trainer’s gym.

He’s practicing his golf swing when I arrive. He knows my name. We chat. My seltzer explodes all over but I manage to minimize the disaster. His name is Dan. He has an infant. And dogs. Both trainers have kids and dogs.

He has similar problem areas in his hips and back from an accident. He gives me the usual rundown— we’ll start slow so we can build a foundation, results take time. We talk more. I tell him my most recent experiences with strength training/weight loss/anemia. I show him pictures of ripped, underweight me five years ago.

“So you know what you’re doing,” he says.

“I do, but I need someone to watch my form so I don’t hurt myself and motivate me as I’m still struggling with the emotional repercussions of a really bad work experience.”

“I can give you some guidance and a kick in the butt,” he says.

That is what I need,” I reply.

I tell him my hopes: I want to start with light workouts to develop the habit and rebuild my energy as I recover from anemia-related fatigue. Then, we focus on full body weight training at so I can be as strong as the woman in the picture, but I don’t care what the scale says. And maybe we’ll work toward running a 5K. And if the relationship works out, I might pursue my dream of a bodybuilding hobby. Not competitive. Just for myself.

I think I saw him visibly relax. He liked that I understood what realistic expectations are and that I want to put in the work long term.

He gives me weights. He increases them after the first set of shoulder presses. He mentions that we’ll be able to capitalize on my muscle memory and that I have pretty good form.

I explained my lower body issues, and we did some body weight squats. He seemed pleased with my form and my concentration.

We talked about different things we could do, and he evaluated me in several exercises including one compound set I really liked, best described as moving from a sumo squat (with dumbbells) to a bicep curl using the hips instead of the back and finishing with a shoulder press. It loosened all sorts of muscle groups.

I felt invincible.

He explained that he would use this observation and discussion to build my program as he didn’t design anything until he met the client. I chuckled.

“If you did, I wouldn’t trust you,” I said.

I return Monday. I’m very excited.