Thursday, October 20, 2011

Health and Whimsy: A new weekly feature

Hello ladies,

Welcome to the new weekly feature at Painted Lady Fingers: Health and Whimsy. I have been working on restructuring my diet and fitness routine since the beginning of September. Pleased with the results, I thought it would be beneficial to check in once a week and share my progress. 

The focus of Health and Whimsy is going to be about presenting ideas for healthy living and sharing my regimen with you. I'll be detailing behaviors that have helped me keep focused over the past week along with goals for the coming week and month. I also welcome feedback and suggestions based on what you would like to see discussed and what works for you. 

While Health and Whimsy is not specifically a weight loss journal, I am happy to disclose when I do lose weight or experience changes in my body based on adopting a more healthy way of life. I want to maintain a positive space where woman of every size and shape can feel open to comment about their health and well being. Science is proving that thinness does not necessarily equal fitness. My purpose in sharing will be primarily behavior based content, not honing in on numbers on the scale. I'm more interested in my strength and energy levels and overall good feeling. 

I'll also be addressing situations many of us face on the path to better health: what to do when people comment on your body, how to politely (or cheekily) shut down those who try to sabotage your efforts, how to deal with unnecessary competition, how to create and maintain a routine and how to connect with your motivation on days of indifference.

My body has ranged from a size four to a size 16 over the past decade. While I am currently at the larger size of that spectrum, I maintain positive self esteem at whatever size I happen to be. I tend to gain weight when I am not exercising even while engaging in healthy eating habits. This past year especially has been challenging while helping my sister back down the road to health and deciding to end a long term romantic relationship. Recent health concerns have led me to make exercise a priority.

What initiated this particular phase of my journey was signals from my body at the end of August. I started developing a burning pain along the calf of my right leg, which was discovered to be a form of nerve damage. The sensation feels a bit like the flash burn of spilling hot tea on the skin. Sometimes the pain felt like the a rush of warmth, other times as hot as a fever. Thankfully, it is a condition that can be easily treated with good nutrition, additional vitamin supplements and regular exercise. The nerves will most likely repair themselves over time. Since adhering to a walking program six days a week, I have had very few occurrences. I feel confident my body is healing itself and I am thankful the solution was something easily within my control to fix.

During the month of September, I worked on refining my eating plan. I am a ovo-lacto vegetarian, which means I don't consume animal products other than eggs or dairy. My diet was healthy to start, but I focused on cooking more and having an abundance of fruits and vegetables in my fridge. I also used measuring cups to help make sure I was consuming proper serving sizes. Just by making small changes, I lost six pounds.

I felt it best to devote a month to fine tuning my diet before increasing my exercise levels. For me, it's easier to form a routine and make changes over time. My body seems to adjust better and I feel more encouraged as my energy levels increase. I began power walking at the beginning of October and have been slowly increasing my speed and endurance. The first week was exhausting, but as my body became accustomed to regular cardio, I looked forward to walking almost every day. So far this month, I am down five more pounds.

I will admit that walking along the river can be entertaining. My neighbor, Cate, and her schnauzer have kept me company on a few occasions. Sophie, my personal trainer in canine form, likes to pull forward up the hill by the museum and look back at us with pure insistence. Today, while on my own, I suddenly was surrounded by about 50 shirtless guys from the La Salle Rowing Team, jogging by en masse.

Behaviors that have been helpful:

  • Investing in exercise attire that fits well and coordinates. This doesn't have to be expensive. I went to Franklin Mills, a local outlet mall, with my friends Lisa and Sarada. The Nike Factory Store sells walking sneakers that are priced at $20 less than the website. Sarada quipped that she was looking for comfortable knitting sneakers. The entire Old Navy was promoting an additional 40% all purchases. While I understand the idea of not feeling the need to dress up for athletics, I find value in dressing in a way that helps me feel attractive. 
  • Cooking with fresh produce. I made an omelette yesterday with mushrooms, avocado, extra sharp cheddar and French herbs. Simple to prepare, it tasted like a restaurant brunch offering. 
  • Keeping my fridge stocked with healthy options. I have little interest in take out when everything I need to cook is at hand. 
  • Starting a walking program. I do best when I have an easy to follow exercise plan. For me, that entails power walking six days a week. 
  • Incidental exercise. I live in a city environment, which necessitates a lot of walking. It's not uncommon for me to walk 20 blocks one way to go see a movie. Every grocery bag is carried from the store for three to ten blocks and up two flights of stairs to my apartment. 

Goals over the next month:

  • Adjust sleeping schedule so that I can start exercise earlier in the day. 
  • Continue working up to a 15 minute mile pace. 
  • Put together a routine for daily stretching. I know basic stretches, but I feel it's useful to do some focused stretching based on where my body feels tight. 

Goals for the next week:

  • Eat fruit daily. Bananas are especially helpful because they provide natural pain relief for sore muscles. 
  • Stop by the farmer's market. 
  • Organize exercise videos and fitness accessories (weights, yoga mats) so everything is easily accessible. This will require a bit of wrangling from my four closets and various cabinets. My goal here is to have an easy back up plan if the weather is inclement. 
  • Slightly extend walking route. Because my speed has increased, I am finishing my walk each day in about 55 minutes instead of an hour. I would like to cover more distance and keep my schedule to an hour, six times a week. 
I hope you enjoyed the first installment of Health and Whimsy. Look for this feature once a week on either Thursday or Friday. 

Have any of you ladies started a health and fitness regime lately? Are you feeling like you need to re-focus on health and exercise or have you developed a comfortable routine? What activities do you enjoy?  

Happy painting, ladies!


  1. I am delighted to read your Health and Whimsy column. Sounds like you're taking a very wise approach to making healthier lifestyle changes. Best of luck to you on your endeavors.

  2. I think it's a great idea, this column!

    Good luck with your programm!

  3. DesertNails08: Thank you! I feel positive about the experience. I'm looking forward to sharing as I go along. :)

    Biba: Thank you! I am really enjoying writing about a new topic. <3

  4. I look forward to reading your new feature. It's very well written & interesting. I've lost 100lbs over 3 years. I used Weight Watchers program. I haven't been doing as well since I stopped going online and keeping track of what I eat. I really have to start doing that. I keep losing and gaining the same 10lbs in the past year. At least I've kept the weight off. Before I would just go off a diet & gain everything & more back. This will inspire me to do better. You really have a good program set up for yourself. Good luck. I look forward to reading more.

  5. Lucy: Thank you! I am glad you found the first post in the series inspiring. I'm feeling pretty excited about getting into a routine and finding what works best for me. I'm looking forward to feedback as well. Always nice to share ideas along the way. <3

  6. first post i read from your blog and i see "franklin mills mall." northeast philly represent! <3

  7. Anon: I'm a Philly girl. You will find references to our city throughout. I did a post about the zoo last month. :)

  8. Great feature and good luck with your new healthier habits! I should re-start doing some exercise too, and avoid junk food :-( Last Spring I started following the From Couch to 5K program and I managed to actually run for 30' (without feeling I was going to die) in 9 weeks. The "I made it/I sticked to my plan" sensation was really rewarding; unfortunately in August I stopped for a while and my lazyness took control.


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