Are You Insane Enough For Insanity?

by PenRei

Back in early June, my friend RoboMon, massage therapist and fitness enthusiast, introduced me to Insanity. She texted me one afternoon asking me if “I’d like to join her for Insanity”. I texted back saying “sure”, and then five minutes later with “What’s insanity?”. Knowing RoboMon, I was positive that she wasn’t referring to the the abnormal mental state associated with strange behavioral patterns… but still, it’s good to know what you’re getting into. She then told me it was a series of workout videos that she wanted to try. Sounded safe enough! Plus, ever since the end of the holidays, I have been trying to get back to my regular weight. It’s been a challenge that at many times makes me wonder why I even bother trying.

By mid-May, I was FINALLY starting to see some progress in my weightloss. It took a whole 5 months of exercising 4 times a week and changing my diet, but it finally happened. My potbelly was shrinking and very slowly starting to flatten out. My bootie didn’t feel as tight in my jeans anymore – although I have accepted that it will always be oversized for a half-asian. It’s hard to keep track fo your progress when you don’t weigh yourself or keep track of your measurements, but as previously mentioned, I’m choosing to judge my weight based on how I feel about the way I look. For those of you who need a number description, in December I was a size 10. Now, I’m nearly a size 8 (so so close, as in I can fit in it, but there are some specific areas that are a little tight). All of this to say that after seeing some of my weight shed off, I was motivated to try different types of exercises.

After trying the Fit Test and the first workout video (Plyometric cardio), I was hooked. I’m a fan of exercise routines that don’t require me to buy accessories (except yoga matts, those I accept). I think this comes from my days of competitive dancing – I’ve learned how to use the weight of my body in specific positions for exercising. Separately, the various exercises in Insanity aren’t that difficult (except for pushups, I SUCK at those), but when done repetitively and in sequence, you can feel your heart beating while the sweat drips down your neck.

Beach Body Insanity contains approximately 14 videos, comprised of a fit test, cardio workouts (both in intervals and marathon style), ab workouts, resistance training, and recovery (but don’t be fooled, squatting for 2 minutes at a time is part of recovery). The workouts are hard! Even the people in the video have trouble finishing them and are dead on the floor.

What I really like about Insanity is that in the videos, Shaun T mostly talks about personal goals and progress, not about weight. I for one prefer this form of encouragement, because it prevents me from focussing on my physical appearance, but more on how far I can push myself. To me, knowing that I started with only 7 half push-ups in 1 minute and am now up to 10 real push ups is something to feel good about. I also appreciate that Shaun T repeats the following statements:
1) Take a break when you need it (he even tells people in the video to stop and take a break)
2) Stay hydrated, drink water (water breaks are included and recommended)
3) Don’t compromise form over speed (despite the exercises going faster and faster, it’s more important to do it right than pick up the tempo)

I haven’t been following the program on a daily basis (nor have I adoted the nutrition guide), but I can honestly say that I have felt a difference in myself. When I first started, I couldn’t complete the first workout video. By the end of the second week, I was able to do everything from beginning to end. Sure, I was still dead afterwards, but it was a good and accomplished kind of dead. Walking up 6 flights of stairs is easy now, versus when I would get winded by the 4th.

All in all, I have thoroughly been enjoying Shaun T’s Beach Body Insanity workouts and recommend it to anyone who is looking to strengthen their cardio (or even shed a few pounds). Douggy Fresh is already planning on giving it a try. I will get Nomes hooked to it this weekend. Next week, I’m heading over to Falls Church in the US. Watch out Gretchen! You better be ready for the Insanity that’s about to come your way!

Beach Body Insanity Sneak Peak

The Plan To Counteract the Holidays

by PenRei

If you’ve read my previous post about the consequences the holidays have had on my weight, than perhaps you’re either waiting to hear how I have already failed (as most resolutions’ failures happen within the first week), or how I’ve managed to stay on track. Lo and behold, I am definitely ON TRACK! It hasn’t been ridiculously hard, but it definitely required motivation on my end.

Taking a page from my friend Gretchen, I’ve decided to announce to the internet that I’ve decided to drop the approximate 10-15lbs I’ve gained between September and December to get back to my happy weight. Sure, it’s hard to keep track of my progress since I choose not to weigh myself. So I’m going to keep it on a more personal level and just work on it until I am back to my happy weight and my clothes no longer fit with that extra tightness around the arms, thighs, or waist. Gretchen has been right so far: once I announced to a few of my friends that I wanted to loose that extra flab, not wanting to fail in their eyes has been that extra push I needed on a few nights.

So how exactly am I planning on doing this? It’s pretty simple actually. I’m not even planning on counting calories. It just takes willpower.

Ever since I started working in the control room of the studio at the television station, I have been drinking A LOT less water. It’s mostly because we’re not really allowed any food or drink in there, and it’s my desk for 8 hours everyday. Guh! So, I’ve taken to bringing a 500ml bottle of water and found a place near my desk that can’t accidentally cause a technical problem if the cap pops open and it spills. I’ve been drinking minimum 1L during my work hours, and now it’s slowly becoming more.

At first, it was really hard. I didn’t think that drinking so much water would actually be a challenge. On Monday, when I tried to drink that whole liter, I felt like I would accidentally drown myself from the inside. It was SO uncomfortable! This was the period of transition. My body wasn’t used to getting so much water at a time and had to work its own mechanics between the new amount of water that was coming in and the water that was already stored. Luckily, by Wednesday, my body was getting the flow of it and drinking 1L-1.5L of water in a work day felt normal. Now, constant hydration is welcomed. Plus, if I’m ever feeling peckish, I’ll drink water first and that might curb my appetite from unnecessary snacking.

If you’re interested in knowing why water can help with losing weight, check out this article that I read.

Essentially, I’ve cut out all non-fruit related sugars from my diet at the exception of my Mini-Wheats (the extra fiber in them is welcomed by my bowel movements), honey, and the few little snacks that are already in my apartment. After all, I am a firm believer in not wasting food. Luckily, I’ve been good with not indulging in those sweets. I have three chocolate bars in my kitchen and I haven’t touched any since I’ve been back.

Foods that I’m temporarily avoiding:

  • Sweets
  • Junk
  • Root vegetables (such as potatoes, carrots, ect.)
  • Corn
  • White pasta and bread
  • Cheese (EXCEPT when I’m with Nomes, but in very small quantities)
  • All pastries (CRY)

The hardest part of all is to stop my nasty habit of overeating and shrink my stomach back down to a normal size. As previously mentioned, every time I go back home to Ottawa, I overeat because my parents’ food is just too tasty. After four (or ten over the holidays) days of stuffing my face, my stomach expanded. Once I came back, I was faced with having to shrink it back down to its original size. Unfortunately, it’s a lot harder than expanding with too much food.

For the first three days, I was always hungry. Even if I ate a full meal, carefully portioned to be enough, but there was this deep hunger in my stomach I couldn’t get rid of. It was so frustrating! Still, I told myself that a large wrap and salad is enough. Luckily, after four days of always being uncomfortably hungry, my stomach started shrinking to its original size. Now I’m back to a healthy portion of eating. Hello sandwich accompanied by pita chips and a filling Bolthouse juice!
DISCLAIMER: Please don’t misunderstand this section as potential anorexia. I fully believe in eating and fitting in your 4 food groups as much as possible in every meal (at least 3 times a day). This is simply about knowing the difference between overeating and eating a healthy portion.

Many of us have a problem with this frenemy, but exercise is essential to maintaining that balanced lifestyle we all want, and to losing weight. Luckily, I don’t hate exercise… I just hate the gym! I have always found ways of exercising without the gym. The only problem was my motivation to really keep it consistent.

So how did I do last week?

  • Tuesday: Various stretches and short exercises (like sit ups and jumping jacks) to wake up my dormant muscles. I didn’t want to start my week of exercising by shocking my system.
  • Wednesday: Pilates for 30 minutes.
  • Thursday: Brisk 7km walk. My abs were in too much pain from the previous night for any hard exercise, and I was too tired to run. But luckily, I still found a way to do something.
  • Friday: 50 minute run + 2 hours of sports and dance Kinect with my friends. Maybe you don’t consider the Kinect to be exercise, but it’s definitely physical activity.
  • Saturday: Yoga class with Nomes for 1 hour and a half at Yoga Sanctuary.
  • Sunday: Day of rest. I was in too much pain from yoga in my upper back and arms to do anything. The last thing I wanted was to push myself too far and cause an injury.

I’ve been pretty good so far. The most important thing is to keep up the motivation, because the only person who will be stopping me is myself. I don’t want to make excuses to not do anything. On a positive note, having exercised almost every day has made me feel very good. My energy levels were surprisingly higher and I was glad to find things that didn’t involve sitting in front of any kind of screen.

Perhaps I shall go to Yoga again tonight. We’ll see how my arms and back fair throughout the day. More on our (Nomes’ and mine’s) yoga experience in the future.

If you’ve got a goal or a resolution, don’t give up! That’s the easy way out.


Note: This post is about my personal experience. I am not a certified nutritionist, dietitian, doctor, or trainer. Losing weight and maintaining a balanced lifestyle can be different for everyone. If you’re serious, consider speaking to someone first to ensure minimal injuries and proper nutrition. Most importantly, listen to your body. It will tell you what it needs.

Why I Get Fat Over the Holidays

by PenRei

There are many reasons why people tend to gain weight over the holidays. For most people, it’s because they over-eat so much delicious holiday food. As much as this is part of the reason for me, I found that there was a deeper level.

Ever since I can remember, I love to cook. I just don’t like to cook for myself. What’s the point of putting so much effort into cooking a meal if it’s only for you? I’m generally happy if I can fit my 4 basic food groups in and have leftovers for lunch. Safe to say, living along is not the greatest motivator to be lean-mean-cooking-machine. I do, however, like to go big if I have a friend over. It suddenly becomes fun! I believe that food always tastes better when you have someone to share it with.

About two years ago, after a lengthy conversation with someone about how grapes and pies are amazing, I found myself with little to do on a Sunday afternoon. Out of nowhere, I decided to put my hands hard at work towards making a grape pie. It turned out to be quite good, although better cold or room temperature than hot. It took a surprisingly long time, due to peeling every single grape carefully whilst watching the anime Samurai 7. During the pie making process that took the rest of the afternoon and most of the evening, I found myself to be strangely calm.

Time went by and I discovered that making pies was a really great way for me to release stress. Yes, running has always been a good way, but when it’s -40 celsius, your lungs freeze from taking in so many deep breaths. When it’s 40 celsius (104 Farenheit), with humidity, you’re basically dehydrating yourself and possibly bringing on heat stroke instead of relieving stress. Sure, I could solve this problem by running at the gym, but it’s SO BORING! If I’m not running in a ravine or a nature trail, I feel like I’m back in middle school in track and field as I lagged behind with the other nerds while the sporty kids whizzed by, occasionally overlapping us, as our teacher yelled to push through the pain.

All right, this is starting to get off track. While I made pies at home and fed them to my friends at work, it occured to me that cooking can not only be fun, but a good way to help deal with stress. To each their own, right?

Now, when the holidays come around, it’s only natural that some families have certain members who become a bit more controlling, nervous, or perfectionist than usual. This is something that I don’t deal with very well, especially since Christmas’ are the only vacations I’ve known for the last 6 years. For me, a vacation is not about running errands between cooking and cleaning… but that’s what Christmas time is like. So, whenever I start to feel the annoyance bubbling inside, the only thing that truly calms me is cooking food. I’m not talking about any food, I mean the whole Christmas meal, pies, sweets, stuffed artichoke, stuffed duck, you name it. It’s the type of cooking that takes time, patience, and a wallet to make.

So, the more that certain annoyances come up, the more I cook, and the more I cook, the more everybody eats. It gets to the point where we find ourselves eating not because we’re hungry, but so that the food doesn’t go bad… and because it’s delicious.

Back in Toronto, my fridge is near empty about 90% of the time. The reason being that I am only one person and I have taken to buying my groceries in small quantities on a daily basis for freshness and to reduce waste with expired foods. This means that I can’t really eat out of boredom. If I’m bored and want to eat, I have to go out to buy a snack, and let’s face it, you only do that when you’re at work. When I’m at my parent’s home, with a fridge full of delicious foods, I eat when I’m bored. What a nasty habit!

So, why do I get fat over the holidays?

  • Families stress people out over the holidays, so I overcook
  • By overcooking, the family can end up overeating
  • I overeat one step further out of boredom

I try to make myself feel better by using the treadmill at home to exercise. But let’s be honest! The 500 calories I burn every two days on that treadmill are nowhere near the 400 million calories I probably ingest a day. At this point, those treadmill runs are just there so I don’t feel so guilty.

Once I get back to Toronto, my habit of eating out of boredom will stop, and I will only be cooking enough to feed myself, and not expand my stomach. Lastly, I bought some winter running gear on Saturday, so until it hits -40 celsius, I’m going to run instead of bake pies.

Care to share why the holiday season can be a difficult time for you to control your weight?