Like Iron for Vegetarians

A vegetarian diet is great, but there’s a lot of nonsense out there about filling your nutritional requirements on a vegetarian diet.

We are probably meant to eat some meat. You need iron and B12, and these things are tricky on a fully natural vegetarian diet.  Your doctor might tell you that spinach is an excellent source of iron, but this is largely a myth.  Also – you might eat all the lentils in the world and still end up severely anemic.

Things like iron and B12 are not always easy to get from plants. You can get them from fortified cereals and such, but if you don’t eat processed foods – then you could run into some trouble.  And even if you do eat fortified foods, you can still run into some trouble.

If you’re a female who doesn’t eat much meat – do yourself a favor and track your iron levels.  Not just hemoglobin but indications of stored iron (ferritin).

I’m very careful to eat plenty of veg iron sources. Even so, I’m dealing with a second bout of severe anemia in two years.  The creepy thing about low iron is you might not feel anything is wrong until your levels are catastrophic.

Once you’ve depleted your iron stores, your hemoglobin might come up quickly with supplementation but it could take months to relieve symptoms. I’ve been taking iron twice daily for almost a month, and now finally starting to feel relatively normal.

Also, iron supplementation is not fun, as iron pills have plenty of unpleasant side effects. So really, it’s better to prevent problems.

Unfortunately, way too many doctors know nothing about nutrition or don’t think to order the most obvious test.

If you’re feeling fatigued, there are doctors who will tell you to get some exercise. If your iron stores are catastrophically low, this will only make the problem worse. You need to be your own health advocate and learn what tests to ask for, what good numbers look like, and what advice you should take with a grain of salt.

A CBC will give you your hemoglobin levels, which should be at least 12 for females. I just bought a copper sulfate solution on Amazon to self-monitor my hemoglobin (this is what they use at blood banks to quickly disqualify you from donation if your hemoglobin < 12.5). But you should get a blood test for accuracy.

In most states (not NJ), you can get a ferritin test for less than $30 without visiting a doctor 

Last time I tested my ferritin, I was at a 7 and I felt like death.  My doctor didn’t even think to order the test, didn’t pay any attention to the number, and tried to send me to a rheumatologist.

Trust your own intuition, and do what you can to come to your doctor prepared. If your doctor says something that betrays a lack of common sense, go to a second doctor.  A medical degree does not make a good doctor, just as a law degree does not make a good lawyer.

That said, Iron can be very dangerous to supplement if your levels are not low, so make sure you know where you stand before trying anything.

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On Sheeple and Smart Cars

Everyone has an opinion.

For a few years now, I’ve had no car. It’s been moderately unpleasant, but not excruciating.

On one hand,  life without a car in New Jersey can be tricky, especially as a lawyer and as someone who dabbles in local politics.

On the other hand, I live in a very urban area.  My town sits directly on the Hudson river across from midtown NYC, and having a car around here is a pain. Parking is expensive (200-300$ month), unpredictable, and inconvenient.  Even if you can afford parking, good luck finding it.

Despite living in an urban area with a terrible parking situation, I recently came to feel like my lack of transportation was holding me back.

I needed a car, but I needed something cheap and I wanted something tiny. I did my research, and test drove about a billion cars (well, actually just a few). Finally, I narrowed my search further to just two contenders:

  • The Fiat 500; and
  • The 2016 SMART ForTwo

In all honesty, I preferred the Fiat. The Fiat is slightly bigger (which I didn’t like) and slightly more expensive (which I felt was OK). But the Fiat is real car whereas the SMART is *almost* a real car.  So in an ideal world, I would have gone with the Fiat.

Unfortunately, although similarly priced, the lease terms on the Fiat were not feasible for me, while the SMART was very much affordable. Also, if I chose Fiat, I’d have to shell out an additional $200/month for parking (at least!), whereas the SMART parks for free. So I went with the Smart car.

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Here I am in my silly little car.

I really love my little Smart car, but it’s a weird car and it’s not for everyone. First, it’s about half the size of standard car. Second, it only has two seats. To make things worse, previous models have been heavily trashed due to poor performance.

For most people, the SMART is the definition of impractical. But for me, it’s the most practical car I could have right now. I have no children and no need (or desire) for a roomy car. I live in a land notorious for a lack of parking. I like how it drives, and also, I can afford it.  Most importantly, I can park it.  In sum: it works for me.

So why am I posting this on FatGirlsFitness?  Because my car works for me, and it might not work for you. And that’s a metaphor that transcends the automotive realm.

Here Come the Trash Talkers

Since I’ve gotten my new car, I’ve heard nothing but trash about my decision.  A normal thing to say to someone upon the acquisition of a new vehicle might be something along the lines of “hey dude, congrats!”  But be wary my friends.  If you get a weird car, the opinions will come, and they won’t stop coming.  They’ll say:

“Wow – you actually paid for that golf cart?”
“That’s not safe on the highway”
“Did you do your research? You could have gotten a 2003 Acura for the same price.”

Here’s the thing.  I  really don’t want a 2003 Acura, so please don’t make me have one. I want a 2016 SMART. How do I know? Because that’s the car I got. And interestingly enough, every single person who has actually stepped foot into my car loves it. It’s only those who have zero experience with my car who seem to develop such strong feelings against it.

So yes, I actually paid for the “golf cart.” Actually, I find it drives beautifully on the highway – you should try it.  Yes, I did exhaustive research. In fact, it was based on that research that I determined that the Smart is the most practical choice for me.

But still, it might not be practical for you.  And that’s OK.  That doesn’t mean it’s impractical for me.

Teachable Moments

I think there are more than a few teachable moments in the tale of my new adorable car.

  1. People have a hard time wrapping their heads around things that are unusual or new, but most still feel a need to have an opinion on all things. It could be your car, your diet, your job,  or your fitness routine. This is human nature.
    • “CARS SHOULD HAVE FOUR SEATS AND SHOULD BE A OF A CERTAIN SIZE”
    • “Fat is the devil”
    • “If you don’t eat six meals a day, you’ll go into starvation mode”
    • “You can never lose weight without a dedicated workout regime”
  2. What works for you might go entirely against conventional wisdom for any number of reasons. Maybe conventional wisdom is wrong, or maybe it simply doesn’t apply to your circumstances. Maybe conventional wisdom is 100% right, and you are a freaky mutant who just won’t listen. So who cares? Be your freaky mutant self. You weren’t put on this earth to be practical. You were put on this earth to do whatever  it is you want to do. (Unless what you want to do is diss my car).
  3. Peer pressure is strong.  We are hardwired to want acceptance. Why else am I writing this blog post? In some way, I’m still trying to justify my “impractical” decision to the universe, even though I know in my brain that I made the right choice for me

Moral of the story?

Don’t give in to those who will shower you with haterade.  If you do anything in this world, you’re going to get criticism that you probably don’t deserve, even if it’s something as seemingly inconsequential as leasing an unusual car.  Take the criticism, and use it only to the extent that it benefits you.

But if you do give in,  that’s ok too. You might end up with a 2003 Acura. And maybe (just maybe) that would be the perfect car for you.

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Weekend Hiking

I’ve begun to think differently about movement and exercise in general. There’s something about that gym lighting, that repetitive gym motion that just doesn’t satisfy me as much as finding other ways to move.

My thoughts on this were probably influenced by an audiobook I listened to recently (incidentally, while walking). The book is called “Go Wild: Free Your Body and Mind from the Afflictions of Civilization.” It’s written by John J. Ratey, Richard Manning, and David Perlmutter. 

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m highly afflicted by the afflictions of civilization. I try to be zen about it, and while I enjoy ordering food on grubhub, I also long for the days without email and constant contact.  I need to spend some time in nature, and disconnect. I think we probably all should.

In any event, this book talks about a lot of things. But one of them is the many benefits of taking a “wilder” approach to exercise. And I’m kind of loving the approach.

Don’t get me wrong. I think the gym is great. But I find myself lately focusing more on movement that just comes through natural activity. And while I’m hiking less than I did in previous years, I’m being careful not to let Fall entirely pass me by without getting at least a few nice hikes in.

Last weekend, I did two mini-hikes that I thought I’d share with anyone who might happen to live in the NY/NJ area.

Hike One

On the weekend, a few friends and I hiked Campgaw Mountain County Reservation .

This one was surprisingly close to home, although not very challenging. And I hate to say, it wasn’t the most exciting hike I’ve done.

However! There was one exciting aspect, a ski lift at the top. Sitting on it was fun 🙂 Why didn’t I take any pictures??? GRR.

Also – it’s Fall. So everything is orange and pretty. Plus, friends. ❤

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moderate, but festively fall

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view from the top 🙂 

Would I recommend? Maybe. If you live close by, it’s worthwhile.

Hike Two (barely a hike, but still).

This one I’d definitely recommend!!

I’m lucky enough to live just off the Hudson River in New Jersey, which means I’m super close to palisades hiking.  This was a weekday, and it was already late afternoon, so we kept it short. But you could hike all day if you’d like to!

We took an Uber from West New York to Fort Lee Historic Park which was nice and beautiful and orange everywhere. It’s part of the Palisades Interstate Park Commission, which has a ton of highly unique terrain you can only really find here.

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Fuck People Who Hate on NJ

We then did a short hike on the “Long Trail” towards the bottom of the palisades, where we chilled in some chairs. It’s pretty there and I’d recommend it.

You can hike up or down, and theres also a shore trail.  A nice starting point is the Alpine Picnic Area (although, that’s where we ended up).

Anyway…

These were not the most intense hikes, and I have not been the most intense hiker lately. But still a great way to spend time outdoors with friends, while working out the hot bod. Exercise really doesn’t have to be a chore – it could be awesome.

If you know of any local hikes, I’m always on the lookout so hollz at me.

Happy Hiking!

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GoodRX.com

Ok, so admittedly this blog post has nothing to do with fatness or fitness. But sometimes a tantientally related website makes its way into my life, and I feel I must share it.

www.GoodRX.com – for those without prescription coverage is a really an awesome resource that I very much wish I had found sooner.

This website will compare pharmacies BY PRICE, giving you the ability to get the best price on your prescriptions. It’s likely that all your local pharmacies are listed.

I used it this weekend, and saved on prescriptions that I had apparently been overpaying for for years. #awyiss

Hope this does some good for someone out there.  Please share with any of your friends who you feel might benefit from this information.

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How a Blank Calendar Can Help You Lose Weight

Dun Dun Dun! Introducing, one of the most powerful (and understated) weight loss tools in the known universe. A blank calendar for the month of November 2016.

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The Power of a Blank Calendar

You might have read my earlier post about the fresh start hypothesis.  If so, you know that a clean slate (for example, a new month or week) can either help or hurt your weight loss efforts, depending on your own circumstances.

The blank calendar is mighty.  Why?

  • It’s a great way to leverage the positive psychological benefits of “starting fresh.”
  • It forces you to break a large daunting goal into smaller, more immediate goals (which translates to a higher rate of sustained motivation and success).
  • The concrete action of writing your goals down might alone be enough to keep you sticking to them
  • It can serve as a visual reminder of the bigger picture, which helps when motivation starts to wane
  • It’s effectively free! (Provided you have access to a computer and printer).

How to Use a Blank Calendar for Weight Loss

Step One. Find a printable blank calendar (I googled “blank calendar 2016”) and print said calendar
Step Two. Choose an achievable weight loss goal for one month (for example, 8 pounds). Subtract this goal from your current weight, and write your new goal weight the last day of the month.
Step Four. Create weekly weight loss goals, and write each new weekly weight at the end of each week.
Step Five. Surrender to the blank calendar (optional).
Step Six. Tape the calendar somewhere visible.
Step Seven. At the end of each week, reevaluate your goals. If you lost more than your weekly goal, you can change your next weekly goal post to reflect your current weight. If you lost less than your weekly goal, you can do the same. The key is that you can keep adjusting your goals as you get closer to the end of the month. (For more details, see this post.)

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Your calendar might look something like this.

But How Do I Actually Lose Weight?

Obviously, the calendar itself is not a weight loss plan.  It’s just a tool to help you stay organized and to improve your stick-to-itness.

As far as losing the weight itself – there are plenty of different ways.  The right way will depend largely on your own circumstances and preferences, but removing processed foods and focusing on a plant based diet will likely go a long way.  In any event, you need to do what works for you.

Additional Uses of the Blank Calendar

In addition to using the blank calendar to plan your weight goals, you can also use the blank calendar to plan concrete actions on specific days to help you reach those goals.

These actions can be related to food intake or to exercise. Just remember to keep your actions achievable.

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Example of calendar with concrete behavioral actions

Also, keep in mind that missing one day doesn’t mean you should give up on the rest.  In fact, you will be better off if you plan for failure.

Rewards.  You can also use weekly or monthly rewards for making your goals (mani-pedi, anyone?).  Just remember not to be too hard on yourself if you miss a week.  Weight is weird, and it’s not the best measure of fat loss. On my own weight loss journey, I found that I lost weight 3 out of 4 weeks.

If you try this method, let me know how it works out for you.

If you have any thoughts on modifications, I’d love to hear those also.

Happy calendaring 🙂

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Dream Big, Plan Small

Sandwich with avocado and poached egg

Regardless of how you plan to get into shape, there is one psychological trick that I believe will be helpful to most.  You have to dream big, and you have to plan small. 

By dream big, I’m referring to your ultimate goal. Visualize it, taste it.  It can and will be yours, no matter how far away it seems right now.

You don’t have to write it down, you don’t have to meditate on it.  In fact, now it’s time to  (for the most part) throw it away. Because it doesn’t matter how big your dream is if you aren’t able to break it down into smaller parts.

By plan small, I don’t mean anything specific. But here is the general idea. Imagine that your “dream big” goal is to lose 50 pounds. Realistically, you think you can do that in 5-6 months. Assuming you’re starting in November, you should safely be able to hit that goal by May (losing 8 – 10 pounds a month).

Now – imagine yourself in the springtime, 50 pounds lighter and feeling so free. Wonderful! But in order to get there, realize that right now, 40 of those 50 pounds don’t matter. What matters is that you lost the first 10 pounds. The prospect of losing 10 pounds is much less daunting than the prospect of spending the next 5 months trying to lose a total of 50. So the last step is to forget the rest, and plan small.

Your “plan small” goal is now to lose 8 – 10 pounds in the month of November.  How are you going to do that? I don’t know. There are a million different ways. But here are a few tips that might be helpful:

It might be a good idea to plan even smaller. Forget 8-10 pounds this November, how about 2 pounds this week?  How about .3 pounds today?

One Small Caveat

Planning small is great, with one caveat.  The smaller you plan, the more you need to realize that fluctuations will happen while still losing fat. This is especially true for females as we go through our cycle.

If your goal is to lose two pounds a week, realize that you might do everything you can but still not lose those two pounds in any particular week. Assuming you are doing everything right, you might lose 1 pound one week, and 4 pounds in another.  This is the nature of attempting to measure fat by  using weight – it’s far from perfect. So you have to be sufficiently psychologically healthy that you will survive apparent disappointments (which really, are not disappointments at all).

My Method

When I first decided to lose weight, I printed out a blank calendar for a period of one month. I subtracted 10 pounds from my starting weight, and wrote in that new weight on the last day of the month. I knew I had 60+ pounds to lose, but unlike any of my previous efforts, I decided to just focus to the here and now.

In order to reach 10 pounds by the end of the month, I’d have to lose 2.5 pounds a week.  So I subtracted 2.5 pounds from my current weight, and wrote it in on the last day of the first week. I then subtracted 2.5 pounds from that weight, and wrote it in on the last day of the second week. I did this one more time, and voila – I now have 4 weeks and 4 goals.

I realize that 2.5 pounds is a lot of weight to lose consistently week after week, but because this was my first month – I figured I’d be losing a lot of water. I decided that even if I only lost 8 pounds by the end of the month, I’d consider it a huge success. In fact, any weight loss would put me in a better position than I’d been in at the beginning of the month.

In any event, I’d now start out on my first week, not thinking about the three weeks to come. My only goal this week is to lose 2.5 pounds.  When I reach the end of the first week, I’d write my new weight down.  If I lost exactly 2.5 pounds, I’d leave my goals as is. If I lost less, I’d adjust my goals to only 2 pounds per week. If I lost more, I would adjust my goals so that they reflect 2.5 pounds per week starting from my new weight (but still only until the end of the month).  Even if I gained weight, my new weekly goal is just to lose 2.5 from my new weight.

The effect is that no matter what, my goal is always “lose 2.5 pounds (or 2 pounds) this week.” The month is not important, and the goal re-sets each week.

Here is what I found. Three out of four times, I met or exceeded my weekly goal. Usually about once a month, I lost slightly less than my goal, and very rarely I gained.

Over time, this method worked for me.  My mind is overcrowded, and I’m sure yours is too. We want to fast forward to the future, but things just seem to work out better when we try our best to focus on the here and now.

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Falling into Fatness

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As a basic millennial of the female type, I am under enormous pressure to enjoy Fall.

Yes, I’m white. Female. Twenty-something.  I understand well what my obligations are.

Boots are cute, everything is orange, and all the pumpkins have features carved into them. I get it. And I don’t mean to distance myself from my cohort, but I just don’t enjoy Autumn.  (Except, of course, for all the dogs in costumes.)

Fall makes me cold, and when I’m cold I want to eat creamy delicious things called “food.” When the leaves drop off, my body begins to sense that Winter is coming. This bodes poorly for my upper arms.

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my only consolation

In Summer, hot long days bring me joy and food barely crosses my mind.  During Fall, I sometimes find myself wondering how the fella adjacent to me on the subway would taste drenched in Nutella.

Speaking of which, I had a rough weekend.

I ate a jar of Nutella – the whole jar. (In all fairness to me, it happened over a two day period. But also, I ate it with buttery crackers).

This is what happens in Fall. Bad bad things. Bad chocolatey things.

I don’t consider eating a jar of Nutella a setback, actually. And I’m not “Falling” into Fatness.

My former self would ruminate, and to be perfectly honest – my current self is doing some of that also. But my current self also has a sense of proportion: Nutella happens, life goes on.

Fall is an easy time to put on weight for me, as I suspect it is for many people. But the key, I think, is to allow yourself to let go a little and remind yourself that not every decision needs to be a great decision.  The important thing is that you regularly make good decisions.

There is no such thing as falling off the bandwagon. There is no such thing as “all or nothing.” To the extent these things exist, they are products of your own imagination. Products of my own imagination, and I’ve lived with them for years.

This weekend I ate an entire jar of Nutella. With crackers. But today, I’ll eat eggs and veggies. I love eggs and veggies, and I’ll enjoy the contrast.

I don’t think weight maintenance should be such a tricky thing. It’s hard as long as you make it hard, and for me, it’s harder in the colder months.

My simple tricks are these:

  1. don’t freak out;
  2. don’t keep tempting caloric things in the house;
  3. don’t avoid the scale (catch problems while they’re small)
  4. exercise if you want (long walks are nice)

I’m also going to try a bit harder to find joy in the colder months. Starting with cute new Fall boots, and MAYBE (just maybe) a new fitness regimen 🙂

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