Fit and on Plan during EuroTrip 2011!

May 22, 2011 § Leave a comment

I feel relaxed and fulfilled, realizing how lucky I am  to be able to say that I just traveled abroad to visit extended family in EUROPE.  Just returned from a trip to Hamburg and Paris (oooh la la!) where I was able spend much-needed QT with family and explore both the historic and ultra modern parts of both cities. To describe my trip in one word – FREEING. It was my first vacation after almost EIGHT months (since my last week of time off) of intern insanity and not a singe two day weekend since that time. It was needed and well deserved.

The most remarkable part about all of this, keeping with the purpose of this fitness blog, is show how I managed to stay on track while enjoying traditional Afghan and European meals.  I was actually terrified to go; I know my appetite and the fact that I was traveling to food & wine-rich places with opportunities to eat my way fat again was almost overwhelming.  I am also proud to say that I come from a long line of talented cooks who know their ingredients and NEVER measure.  While this is a blessing, it’s also hell for me because once I taste a morsel of well-made Afghan food, I find it almost impossible to control my portions.  I was also going to spend a considerable amount of time with my cousins so I was fearful that we’d frequently go out to eat and that I’d have a hard time controlling my cravings from the flavor and lipid- heavy menu options.  Point is that I didn’t think I had what it would take to control myself in Europe and basically didn’t trust myself to make smart decisions. Thankfully, I couldn’t have been more wrong.

My tactic once I arrived at Manchester airport: Simple, really. Just followed the Points system.  I didn’t want to spend the money on an internet package for my phone so I picked up a few paper trackers during my pre-trip weigh-in.

  • tracked EVERY SINGLE bite I ate. And I mean every, from each bit of cucumber to chocolate croissants
  • I did NOT limit myself because I knew I deserved the hell out of this trip and I was not about to leave without tasting some things I had dreamed of, I just tracked each bite
  • Walked almost everywhere, except taking flights, driving from one city to the next in which case we either took the train or my cousins drove
  • made sure I had a bottle of water with me at all times and made sure to drink at least 3 daily
  • told my cousins that I was trying to keep track of what I was eating (love my family but regardless of how Westernized my family is, all Afghans have the same habit when it comes to feeding your loved ones…they pile food on your plate regardless of whether you can eat it or not and love to buy snacks/food for you everywhere you go)
  • made sure to keep some homemade trail mix with me just-in-case
  • took the stairs where ever possible; train stations, museums, the Eiffel tower where I was determined to take all 669 stairs to the second level, and the  hotel room in paris…which was on the 13th floor
  • only had one dreamy cup of cafe while in Paris (I’ve been poison coffee  sober for almost 2 months! Living off of a daily venti iced unsweetened green tea.  Coffee/espresso makes my stomach feel like i’ve released a piranha in it)
  • wore comfortable, practical shoes so that I was able to get the most out of my trip without developing painful feet
Results: Weighed-in two days after returning; Lost 1.6 lbs!! Since then, at today’s weigh-in, I’m down another 2.6 lbs.
Reasons why I think I’ve been successful lately:
(1) continued tracking and being very careful in Europe + walking all over the cites,
(2) started to Spin again. I looked back to my lowest weight while on WW and realized that I was spinning at least 3-4 x/week. Lately (for the past 5 months) I’ve been spinning nearly ZERO times. I had been doing P90x at the encouragement of one of my closest physical therapy friends…that DID NOT work for me at all.  I was actually doing p90x Lean and still managed to gain weight despite continually tracking and staying within my points range for the most part. My clothes felt tighter and I felt uncomfortable.  It was not just muscle weight I was adding, there is just not enough cardio in that program and it didn’t work for me. I still occasionally use a few of the programs when I’m mixing up my weekly routine, but spin class, body pump and sorry attempts at running really give me my weight loss mojo.
(3) when i got back I re-read the WW Articles in search of the major pitfalls on the new PointsPlus system, because I really didn’t think was working as well as the old Points system for me.  I had been losing weight faster on POINTS and looking back on pics from November, noticed a clear difference in the way my face looked at that time…wasn’t as round as it is now.   I noticed that I might be eating too much fruit and probably underestimating volume.  This article was great. 
Just a tid-bit about European culture: their diet is generally not composed of the same processed garbage as ours.  Yes, they still have a McDonald’s and Au Bon Pain at every corner and have adopted the cafe culture like no other, but the food QUALITY is pristine.  For example, my cousin’s wife in Hamburg (and subsequently my cousin in Limoge) made the most amazing eggs I’ve literally EVER had.  Here’s why they were amazing; they were real eggs.  I wish I had taken a photo – the yolks were a deep orange, smelled like a farm fresh egg (if you’ve ever had one, you know exactly that freshness that I mean), and the taste…Oh my god…the taste was out of this world. Who knew that a simple egg seasoned with just salt and black pepper sould taste this heavenly.   Second, the MILK.  The 2% milk tasted like whole and it was naturally sweet.  Ice cream even tastes “cleaner” in Europe.
**Side note: I’m big into researching environmental impact on food quality and I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmingly upset that the europeans are light years ahead of the US when it comes to food quality and environmental standards.  It’s based on a EU policy which Germany has obviously adopted but perfected by working towards less fossil fuels and nuclear energy towards more natural forms of energy.  We have a long ways to go….even in terms of their modernism which makes all of the US appear like a third world nation (if you don’t believe me, check out the architecture of South Hamburg – it’ll blow your mind).**
Few Pictures of my trip

Croissant

In the Eiffel Tower

L'arc de Triomphe, Champs Elysees

Macaron, Paris

Cidre and Galette

Cheese at the Market, Paris

Fois Gras....not weightwatchers friendly but very Foodie Friendly

Afghani Aush at my uncle's in Limoge, France.

Crepe with pureed apple, walnuts, vanilla ice cream, and more chocolate than even I could handle

Iranian restaurant with my cousins in Hamburg. total happiness

How have you stayed fit while vacationing?

Here are a few tips to review (which I should have done before I went abroad) if you’re about to embark on a trip abroad:

It Just Hit Me

August 22, 2010 § 1 Comment

It just hit me that after this week I’ll be more-or-less vacationing for one month.  Planned on taking a trip to Cali and doing nothing but relaxing my mind, hiking, and wine tasting. Perfect.

That also made me feel OK about the way things have been going with my weight over the past two months.  I haven’t been to a weight watchers weigh in for four weeks now although I’ve been occacianally (OK, daily) stepping on the scale to chastise myself for the previous days’ gluttony.  I’ve lost. Not much, but I’ve lost weight and I think some muscle mass has been replaced by adipose. Oh well.  With the easy peasy schedule I have for the next four weeks I’ll be able to work out DAILY and continue watching what I eat. Hopefully I’ll finally make it to goal weight by the end of the term. 🙂

For the Birds

July 30, 2010 § 2 Comments

This month of night float is almost over…THANK GOD!

That lifestyle is for the birds

The things that this schedule has done to my metabolism, mood, waistline, circadian rhythm, personal relationships, work ethic are catastrophic.  I have never felt more out of touch with the world, even while I made my monthly cross country treks during my last two years of school.

It’s such a struggle for me to look on the bright side of things right now.  I hate seeing these changes in my life.  I have been venting non stop to one of my favorite people how my life feels so out of whack right now and how I’m not sure how much more of it I can take – having second thoughts on a daily basis and wishing I had chosen surgery or ER over internal medicine.  Dammit, I had the scores (I think).  Why did I choose internal medicine out of the fear that I wasn’t cut throat enough to survive a surgical residency or fear that I wouldn’t get interviews? Why didn’t I tell the program director at my ER rotation that I would do anything to switch to his program because it was so strong in both didactic and clinical areas? I’m so damn sensitive.  Why the hell did I settle? Maybe these ridiculous questions are just part of this treacherous territory. It’ll most likely all work out in the end…only if I get that cardio fellowship (fingers crossed).

The main goal of this post was to highlight how my body and mind have changed drastically this month.  I have to look on the bright side and congratulate myself for the strides I know I’ve made.  I started spin class when I knew my stress level was a bit high, fell in love with it and now I can’t get enough.  I  spin about 3 times a week and I’ve continued my C25K on days opposite spinning, almost right on schedule. That’s pretty stinking good, right?  I typically only leave one day out of the week to rest my muscles one weekly.  I’m so f^&*ng proud of myself for the determination that takes.

There’s a but….

Despite how much more exercise Im getting and how the scale reassures me that things are going well overall, I still look at my gut and overly large chest in the mirror and wonder why they won’t budge.  Aggravation!  I have attributed it to a few things, all related to night float (for the most part). I’m not doing nearly as much yoga/pilates as I was during my slightly flatter belly days, not eating on a normal diurnal cycle, and not eating the most of the healthy foods I used to crave – simply because night shift is such an abusive schedule on the body.  I used to eat once every three hours and barely ate carbs simply because I didn’t crave them.  I would have one of the major meals of the day and creaking it up with a Kind bar, fruit, little yogurt shakes, SOMETHING of substance.  I can’t eat on my normal schedule when I’m sleeping at odd times and eating when I can.  These days all I crave are bagles, Dunkin’ donuts grilled cheese flatbreads, chocolate, sweet breads, chips and salsa, chinese food, salty, and more chocolate.  What the F*** is that about?  I suppose my body is just in freak out mode because of the change in cycle – I think that’s why the carbs are being over desired.  This is no bueno.

so….

I’m going to attempt to take these changes in stride.  It’s OK that I put on pound on this week – after all, the nurses loved working with my co-intern and I so much that both the ICU and the ER had little parties for us. That meant pizza, wings, ice cream cake, garden fresh veggies, homemade brownies/choc chip cookies, and my favorite – cheese and crackers.  This, by the way, is an extremely rare thing for nurses to do for interns (so I’ve heard) so I’ll give myself (and my co-intern) a huge pat on the back for keeping the RNs happy. (Plus of the month) It’s OK that I ate that way.

I’ll also have to learn to forget the scale for the time being.  I didn’t go for my weigh in this week because I knew what the situation was and I didn’t want to be too much harder on myself.  I know what this night-style is doing to me so I’m letting it go. Along those lines, I’ll have to let go the negative feelings I have about my job right now.  I think the mental and emotional hardship is part of the game at this point and I have to remember that I’m still learning.  I think it’ll all be OK at the end.

My main goal of the week will be to add more of my Yoga or Pilates as my schedule changes to day team, finally.  I’ll see how that schedule works out and if I have time for the yoga, I’ll do it; if not, then so be it.

Happy Reading 🙂

Here goes nothin’…first post on a shiny new blog!

June 14, 2010 § 9 Comments

Welcome to my brand spankin’ new blog and thank you for reading

Here’s a little lot of insight into what my goals are and why I chose to start throwing my ideas out to the masses. There’s a long-ish story. If you know me, you know there always is a story.

Here’s the gist: MEDICAL SCHOOL -> stress ->eating like I was hibernating->no exercise + super unhealthy BAD relationship -> more stress->self esteem in the crapper->more stress->more eating +energy drinks and coffee = 30 pound weight gain in 2 yrs.  If you’re bored or I’ve piqued an interest, read on…

Now here’s the sort of full exciting story:

I’ll preface this by telling you, interested reader, that I have dreamed of being a physician since I was 12 years old.  I worked my ass off trying to get there.  Words cannot ever express the euphoria I felt when I opened up my acceptance letter – I was finally in.  It was very easy for me (and probably most of  my classmates) to forget that feeling upon being, pardon the cliche, thrown to the wolves, and expected to learn everything on our own from day one.  DAY ONE.   I never once in my first two years took the time to reflect on how lucky I was to be given the opportunity to become a doctor.  Oddly enough, it was literally the night before I took my STEP 1 boards- two years after school started – that I stopped myself to think that my constant worrying and misery was selfish.  There were hundreds if not thousands of kids out there who would have done anything to be in my shoes – taking the boards to progress to third year. But I was stuck feeling miserable.  I stopped “hating” medical school.  That very day I made a valiant effort to stop wishing I never went or wanting to drop out of medical school.  Who drops out of their dreams? Not this fool. I learned to appreciate being a medical student (an appreciation that heightened after my first rotation with my cardiology mentor – the man who moved me to choose his field…tear).  After all, I was going to be able to help bring someone’s beloved mother/grandmother/daughter/son back to health with whatever skill set I develop.  Why should I be miserable….

The dirty deets

After four (two, really) years of diligently paying full attention to my well being hell in medical school I finally graduated last week and entered the realm of “Physician”.  The dream was finally fulfilled after much emotional torture that is something that I can only describe as sadistic and seriously masochistic to the nth degree, minus the sexual pleasure that typically results from such practices (I wouldn’t know..really).  I was taking out a $200,000 loan (OK, pick your jaws up off of the floor) to pay for torture and to be devalued.  Seriously? I could have found more exciting ways to spend $200,000 AND I could have gotten that happy ending at the end of the session….

The first two years were the worst emotional roller coaster I’ve ever ridden and it was as if the damn breaks failed.  After heart break, tears, non-stop diarrhea, sugar-free Red Bull which-PS false advertising – I STILL DON’T have WINGS, multiple uni-ball pen purchases, dead highlighters, practically non-existent sex life,12 plus hours a day studying at Starbucks, USF, and Barney’s, multiple appointments with my gastroenterologist after developing ulcerations from about four-16 oz coffees daily (with the devil Siamese twins I call CREAM and SPLENDA), horrendous back pain from poor reading posture, tears, tears, and more tears, losing friends, sacrificing a social life, feeling alone, developing a nasty sense of competitiveness, driving my family crazy with worry, missing my best friend, wanting to drop out, thinking I made a mistake….and ultimately falling into a pretty bad depression, I can finally say I made it. Yay.  Was I alive? Let’s check some vitals.  Barely there.  But, I’ll tell you, there was nothing like the smile on my little sister’s face after I walked off that stage with my diploma and hood – that ONE look – that made it all worth it.  She was glowing for me and I had NEVER felt so proud of myself.

The events:

It was during these few years that I also lost myself for the sake of feeling smart-compared to my supposedly much smarter and talented classmates/roommates.  I really wanted to know my stuff inside and out, and excel, but excel I did not (at least for the first year).  I was unhappy.  I missed my family.  I missed having free time.  I missed my best friend.  I missed celebrating holidays with my family.  I missed feeling happy.

It was a mixing pot of fear of failure, a terribly unhealthy romantic relationship with a narcissist (that lasted a horrendous 2.5 or so years and killed my sense of self, worth, happiness, zeal for life), and zero physical/emotional health efforts.   I wanted to be the best, but that was at the expense of my well being.  I stopped exercising, ate every meal of every day at a fast food restaurant because I simply felt it was a waste of time to cook.  Exercise took a back seat to everything.  I didn’t even remember what the inside of a gym looked like or what it felt like to take a fun group workout class.  The sad part was that I didn’t even miss it but I knew I needed it for the sanity that I probably lost.

The nutrition was an utter mess.  I would devour anything that was covered in sugar, mayonnaise and, well, I loved anything that was of ZERO substance.  The more fattening the better.  Slather it on, bitches.  (Speaking of slather, a fun fact about my developing one-woman obesity epidemic was that I developed a love for Mexican food, so much so that my cell phone actually accidentally drowned in a heap of tomatillo sauce and had to be relplaced.) I digress. It was my vice.  It was to the point where the awesome husband and wife duo (two of my best cheerleaders) who ran the cafe at school knew how I liked my poached eggs and buttered toast, cashiers at Panera knew my first name and knew what I was going to order before I even walked in, the Starbucks baristas at three different stores knew my drinks based on the season and would prep them the very minute I walked in – and would add my extra caramel.  My favorite sushi restaurant even made up an interesting special order avacado roll for me…ironic…roll.  Here’s the worst, the creepy Pakistani man who managed the gas station near our study spot actually knew my name (luckily I never found his out).  He knew I’d be likely to wander in about 3 days per week and buy some  sour patch kids, teriyaki beef jerky, cajun mix, Rockstar, a sprite zero (duh, I was watching my caloric intake), or a banana.  There was even a point when I looked so nervous about a test with my beautiful dark under eye circles and acne, that he kindly offered me pot.  I should probably have taken it but here’s an interesting side fact: I’ve actually never smoked (or otherwise consumed) the shit.

Food was the ONLY thing that wouldn’t make me feel like an idiot in medical school and made me feel happy  for about 10 minutes.   I devoured it.  Fat=happiness and ultimate sadness.  Tell me you’ve seen Supersize Me; you know how Morgan feels like death? Yes, well that’s how I would feel about an hour after I ate the sugary and fattening poisons – except the feeling never went away…ever.  I grew to despise the way I looked.  Never wanted my ex to see me naked and quite frankly he never wanted to once I gained my weight (because, and I quote from his mouth, that he started to hate my “fat, wide ass, huge gut, enormous saggy tits, and double chin” – charming, right? – trust me, I finally realized the low/no self-esteem I had to have had to date him – and honestly, he was no model of health himself), and avoided fun social situations because (a) that meant less study time and (b) I looked like crap in everything I wore.  All of this fast food added up pretty fast and depleted my student loan account at the end of each semester and I was almost 30 pounds heavier than when I started school.  It was all over my ass, gut, and chin.  My clothes looked terrible, I looked terrible.  Needless to say, I felt it, too.  My vice has destroyed me. Was this all worth it???? (to be answered in subsequent posts)

The stare-down that changed my bad behavior:

Welcome fourth year.  I had been out with my adorable sister having lunch.  She casually happened to ask if I decided what I thought I wanted to ultimately practice.  I dropped it – “EFF yeah, obviously I love interventional cardiology”.  The look I got when I said this felt like a round-house to the heart.  All she did was look me up and down and say “Seriously? YOUUUU want to be a cardiologist? How are you gonna convince your patients that they need to lose weight?” and yes, it sounded just that bitchy.  That was it, folks. I was crushed.  For days I was uneasy.  I thought, well, maybe patients will listen, who cares if I’m obese?  Then it hit me like a ton of cheeseburgers – I need to stop my cycle.  I need to be my patients’ advocate and model.  I was being a hypocrite.  How selfish could I be? How could I say I wanted to be a cardiologist and treat heart disease if I was sitting at Starbucks drinking a grande caramel macchiato with extra caramel with an apple fritter? How could I dare not exercise then turn to a patient and with genuine love tell them they needed to make better choices? I have to start making better choices.  Let me get on that STAT.  we all know what stat means – it means when I feel like it = never.

I was also getting so tired of getting crooked- brow stares from truly concerned family members whenever I ordered that nastiness that is takeout.  I will NEVER forget my dad’s (who might very well be my favorite person on earth and he knows it) birthday dinner about two years ago.  After we had all finished our dinners, mine, of course, was an alfredo-laden pasta, 8000 calorie , total shit fest that curiously left me craving for more…shit.  When the waitress came around donning a charming smile and full dessert menu…who the hell was I to deny that SMILE and additional tip out of my dad’s wallet? Of course I’d take the menu off her hands.  Salivating like a rabid dog and scouring the menu with an appetite that could put sumo wrestlers to shame, I chose my dessert…and if you know me, you’re likely to correctly guess that it involved the trilogy: booze, fat and sugar…YES, TIRAMISU!  I patiently waited for the waitress to come back and when she did, I reciprocated with that friendly smile and nearly screamed my gluttonous desire for tiramisu…and that’s what I looked at my dad’s face.   He was wearing his “angry face”.  $#*^ !  The one where he looks me dead in the eye, head slightly titled as to look at me from the corner of his eyes, lips pursed as if about to spew profanities, and nares flared.  This was not the look I’d hope for.  I shamefully asked what everyone else was ordering and my father blurted out, “NOTHING! We already ate!”  in his little accent, but theu this teeth as if he just wanted to scream.  I shut my mouth and almost cried.  Yikes. I knew why he was so upset.  I knew that every time I came home and he saw the new weight I’d put on he was becoming more and more fearful of the threat of diabetes which two of his sisters died from, which he is also victim of (although he’s a Type 1).  I should also add that he is by far THE HEALTHIEST person I have ever met.  First off, he is rail thin but well built, works out twice daily – both cardio and weight training, eats extremely regimented meals (possibly stemming from his obsessive compulsive -mindset as a hardcore nerdy engineer).  The fact that this specimen of health looked at me like this…MAN I was defeated.  Embarrassed. I felt like the universe had shat on me…great, now I would never hear the end of it.  I had ruined dinner.  But did that stop me from making that tiramisu my bitch? Nope.  That was THE Worst stare-down in the history of stare-downs. Dad-1,Dessert-0

I dragged this out. It was time to find the tools that I thought I would be best able to eventually recommend to my patients. I researched several diets, plans, fads, gyms.  You name it, I read about it.  But that was the problem…I dragged my feet for weeks researching.  In the meantime I started waking up at 5am to head to the hospital’s free gym.  I finally picked the most practical one I knew; WeightWatchers.  This was one, I knew, would be the most sound weight loss tool I could follow and hoped I would be successful.  After all, now I had graduation to look forward to.  Had to show my stuff off on the beach!

I have felt fabulous on WW.  I have lost a total of 28 pounds thus far (8 on my own and 20 with WW) and I feel like a million bucks – unfortunately this million won’t pay off all of my school debt. Bummer. Not only did I start meticulously watching what I was shoving down my gullet, I also began working out about 5 days per week.  I developed a liking (GASP!) for the gym and bought several work out videos for the days I couldn’t make it to the fitness center.  My favorite routine (and bank-buster) thus far has been HOT YOGA!  I started this to teach myself how to focus and outlast a grueling workout.  I am in some serious love.  I will blog more about that later.  I also found myself popping my AM/PM Yoga in the DVD player right before bed every night.  May I just tell you that this was magic.  Magic sprinkles all over.  I found such stress relief with this practice that I may have reversed the lunacy I developed during my first two years of med school. The jury’s still out.

Finally, the reasons I chose to start blogging were many, but most importantly, during my health journey I have found it immensely helpful connecting with fitness and health bloggers via Twitter.  I’ve been introduced to helpful books, websites, more bloggers and even that intro to Bikram Hot Yoga that so enlivened me.  Ergo, I thought I might jump on that band wagon while it’s hot!  Pop it like it’s hot? Getting my fitness goals out to people who are reading my progress  helps me stay focused and accountable.  That’s my reason…love it or leave it.

So that’s where my story begins.  Hopefully it set the tone, giving you and idea of where I’m coming from and events that lead me to blog.

My subsequent posts will focus primarily on:

  • residency- the ups, downs and all arounds *(I will never divulge the name of my training program, fellow residents, or my patients.  I will also NEVER describe details of their intimate stories – trust and faith in character are traits of utmost importance to me (most importantly in medicine) so I take this responsibility with honor and hold it in extremely high regard)*
  • continued weight loss
  • how my first few months on WeightWatchers panned out
  • my weight loss journey
  • pearls of wisdom I learn along the way, both in terms of weight loss and becoming the physician I am destined to be
  • motivational quotes
  • exercise goals I set for myself and tips that I learn along the way
  • pointing out my healthfulness struggles and obstacles along the way
  • finding balance between work, family, and health (both emotional and physical)
  • continuing to develop healthier habits
  • I LOVE FOOD! recipe posts and photos (yes, I’m one of those people)

These blogging goals are important to me but I am more than likely to add some random fun stories in just to shake things up a bit.  I’m also using this as a way to document my personal growth and development over the next three years.  I’m hoping I can inspire, help and motivate a few while doing the same for myself.

And being that I’ve been trained in a world where lawyers set the tone for medical practice, I should add a disclaimer that none of my posts should be taken as medical advice.  Ever. I post and practice only what helps me and what I’ve learned from fellow bloggers or interesting articles.  I also won’t/can’t give specific medical advice. Trust me, at this stage in my training and the nerves built up over impending internship, you wouldn’t want me giving you any advice on anything other than menu recommendations at local restaurants.

I hope I’ve intrigued you to continue following me in my little journey.  Feel free to add comments and pass this on 🙂

happy blogging!

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