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Planning For Your Health & Chocolate Challenge Update

17 Jan

I used to think I was the kind of person who hated being stuck in a routine. Waking up to be at work at 9am everyday, and then not having any free time until 7pm. Now, without that big chunk of my life planned for me, I can see the benefits of both sides. It takes a lot to stay focused and productive when you’re purely on your own time, let me tell ya. But during this lifestyle shift, one thing that hasn’t changed for me is my workout schedule. I’m a morning person without a doubt. Working out has got to be the first thing I do to start my day, or else it’s most likely not going to happen. Blame it on my busy schedule, blame it on my biological clock, blame it on the a-a-a-a-a-alcohol, but I have a very hard time motivating mid or end of day. This one fact forces me to keep a set exercise schedule for myself (as in 7am or bust), and it gives me that bit of structure I need to focus the rest of my day.

Based on my experience, I will say if you know what works for you, plan your schedule around it. Put yourself and your health first, and get your ass in gear, because it’s totally worth it.

  • Are you better in the gym in the morning? Let your team at the office know you’ll be in 9:30 everyday and stay an extra half hour on the back-end.
  • Better at night? Sign up for a class after work at your gym to keep yourself motivated.
  • Or when you get home change IMMEDIATELY into your workout clothes and turn on that workout DVD so you don’t throw off your game by walking into the kitchen and suddenly find yourself scarfing cereal and then skipping your workout (the habit that totally kills all chances of me working out after a day at the office).

When I was in Costa Rica last week our meetings started with a 7am breakfast everyday. Holy. early. batman. This brought me back to my old schedule of going to bed at 9:30pm (they called me grandma Mel) and waking up at the buttcrack of dawn to get a workout in. I remember being on the phone with my boyfriend one night–a night I was completely exhausted from all day meetings–and saying, “Do I want to wake up at 5:30am and kick some ass? Or sleep an extra hour?”. I chose 5:30am, and I was glad for it. I hit the very small gym for a 12 minute routine, and felt great the rest of the day.

Here’s the routine I did at the gym–something I could’ve easily done in my hotel room, also.

6 minute jog on the treadmill to warm up, then an interval training routine. 50 seconds of each exercise listed below in a row, with 10 seconds rest in between each one (one circuit takes 6 minutes flat). I completed the 6 exercise circuit twice. On each 50 second interval, I pushed as hard as I possibly could. That’s how you can make 12 minutes so effective–you give it your all, and give your body something to push against and work up to. See the 12 minute workouts page for more info.

The circuit:

1. high knees (as fast and as high as possible–keep count so you push harder each time)

2. press ups (these are push-ups with your arms pinned by your sides, working your shoulders and triceps more heavily)

3. jump squats with a 15lb weight (works great without the weight, too)

4. V-ups (abs baby!)

5. high knees

6. jump lunges with a weight

Stronger Than Chocolate Challenge Update

OH MAN. We are currently at the beginning of week three of the Stronger Than Chocolate Challenge (a challenge where me and 9 readers attempt to not eat chocolate for as long as possible) and the competition is getting stiff! Remember on day five of the challenge when I told you I was finally over my cravings? Well, that was a false alarm (bummer). I’m not sure how I had such a strong hold over chocolate that day. The only thing I can think of is that I happened to be hungover, so maybe my appetite was just off in general. But the truth is I still think about chocolate everyday. Not chocolate in general, but one specific piece of chocolate that I know is in my cabinet which has been haunting me since the very beginning–a Trader Joe’s dark chocolate peanut butter cup. I was driving home from personal training class this morning and I thought of it. The physical reaction I still get is insane. The back of my throat kind of lurches forward in a “give it to me right now” kinda way, and I get a little restless. Addiction? I think it’s very possible I truly have one.

None the less, I’m talking to you as the proud record holder (my personal record, that is) of 14 days chocolate-free. That’s two whole weeks that I’ve cried not eaten my most favorite food on the planet, and I’m not alone.

Here’s the standings of the Stronger Than Chocolate Challengers as we move into week three. There are three remaining challengers, four if you include me:

Stronger Than Chocolate Challenge

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post where I answer the most frequently asked question I’ve been getting, “Why are you doing this to yourself?”.

Have you ever tried to change a habit of yours? If so, how’d it go?

Stronger Than Chocolate Challenge: Days 4 & 5

9 Jan

I can’t believe how far we’ve come. Today is my sixth day having no chocolate and you know what? I finally feel liberated. Yesterday I can honestly say that I did not crave chocolate once. Can you imagine that? I went from being a virtual chocolate slave–having it on average twice every single day–to not having an urge to taste it at all. It feels like the miracle of Hannukah. There must be pigs flying outside my window. For my next trick, I’m going to walk on water.

Stronger Than Chocolate Challenge

I wonder what it was about that fifth day that finally got me over the cravings hump. Is there a chocolate detox period? Or is it just a habit I broke?

I found an interesting article online from MSNBC in 2006 that looked at food as an addiction, and how to overcome it. Now I don’t think I was addicted to chocolate in a way that required medical attention or hypnosis (I said I think..) but I was curious to see what kind of info was given. Turns out that there is a chemical make-up in some people that gives them a tendency toward addiction–be it food or drugs, and it can manifest itself in many different ways. Now, please note that this article is talking about a LOT more extreme food addictions than what me and the fellow challengers are going through, but it’s interesting none the less.

The article also gave some tips on how to overcome a food addiction. After reading them, I think it was a combination of reasons that helped me break through my chocolate regime. I took excerpts from the first five and pasted them below. For the full list, check out the article in the link above.

  • Don’t go cold turkey. Although treatment for life-threatening drug or alcohol addiction generally requires abstinence, an all-or-nothing approach is impossible for food addicts — everyone has to eat. Besides, some weight loss experts believe that such rigid thinking can make you crave the offending food more than ever.
  • Control your home environment. Just as someone with an alcohol problem shouldn’t buy a magnum of champagne, you shouldn’t overstock your kitchen…
  • Temper temptation. Sometimes it’s not just a food that sets you off but also the place in which you eat it — and that’s why putting yourself in a situation where you used to eat excessively can be a recipe for trouble.
  • Retrain your brain. In order to be satisfied with two cookies instead of an entire bag, you need to change the way your brain sees food on the plate, says Gold. First, switch to smaller plates and bowls to automatically reduce portion sizes. “This can make people very distraught because the brain looks at the smaller portions and decides they’re not enough,” says Gold. “But over time, the brain gets used to it.”
  • Adjust your tastebuds. One of the best ways to gain control over your eating is to restore your sensitivity to flavors, says Katz. You can do it without depriving yourself: If sugar is your downfall, keep sugar cookies in your diet, but when picking prepared foods that aren’t supposed to be sweet — such as pasta sauce, bread, and chips — look for ones without added sweeteners.

Don’t go cold turkey? Woops!

What I think is most interesting about this whole challenge is the way it is making people feel. I didn’t realize how pervasive chocolate was in other people’s diets until I had this window! Chocolate is e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e. I asked the Stronger Than Chocolate challengers to answer some questions about how they were feeling, and here were some  responses:

What was the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?

“The biggest challenge is realizing that pretty much all my usual treats are chocolate!  Theres also chocolate chip pancakes that are so hard to avoid.”

“The biggest challenged I faced was baking cookies and mini chocolate tarts for the Giants game yesterday without actually trying the sweets I was going to serve.”

“The biggest challenge I face is that my desk drawer is full of goodies and I’m trying to ignore it.”

What have you learned so far?

“I’ve learned that it’s hard to avoid chocolate altogether, but its actually really easy for me to sub-in other snacks to keep me going.  If I can replace 90% of my chocolate intake with fruits and nuts, then I don’t have to feel bad about having a bite sized piece of chocolate! “

“What I’ve learned is that I have no will-power against sweets”

“I learned that I actually like chocolate… I thought I wasn’t into it but I was wrong. I also learned that if you tell me I can’t have something, then that’s exactly what I want lol”

This weekend, we lost uno mas–Barb from Bands & Bows. Here’s the tally thus far. I’m REALLY pumped to make it to one solid week (and kick all of the competitors butts if I can keep going even longer):

Have you ever felt addicted to a certain food?


Stronger Than Chocolate Challenge: Day 3

7 Jan

Have you ever tried kicking your biggest food addiction?

It’s hard. As the days go on in the Stronger Than Chocolate Challenge, I thought I would feel more free and lightweight like I was starting to feel on day two. Instead, it feels like my chocolate cravings are getting worse. But Why? What is it about chocolate that drives me insane? Why do I want it all the time? How can we be lovers if we can’t be friends?

The times that I find myself really wanting a piece are after meals or right at the start of a hunger itch. The idea of having a small piece of chocolate just seems to solve everything. I think I associate chocolate with five minutes of zen. Like those Dove chocolate commercials where the women take that tiny square and somehow turn it into four bites, eating it quietly in their own moment of “me time.” Yup, those women do exist. Hi, my name’s Melanie, nice to meet you.

Addiction: compulsive need for and use of a habit-forming substance

I don’t think it’s truly an addiction for me like coffee is. If I try to skip my morning coffee I get a nice little headache and am forced to take two advil and get Starbucks. Bad, I know. But with chocolate, I don’t get an adverse physical reaction that demands immediate medication. What I get is an intense yearning. I actually said to Dave yesterday, “It feels like something is tugging at my heart, like an itch inside.” He looked at me like I was crazy. I think I was trying to describe an anxious feeling. Like breaking up with a boyfriend and not being able to call him just to say hi.

And I’m not alone.

Last night, insanity broke out on Twitter as many challengers faced their Friday night chocolate battle. First Mike said, “Out with friends, table just ordered choc cake to share. Not looking good…”. Then Brittany chimed in sharing a picture of an empty brownie wrapper: donezo. Tasha won a cupcake battle by choosing peanut butter & jelly flavored over chocolate. Melissa kept her head high as she baked chocolate cookies for friends and resisted tasting the batter. Jen guzzled iced coffee trying to drink her chocolate sorrows away. Mariam managed to stay away from the gourmet chocolate her boyfriend brought home from Mexico (um, sharing is caring?), I ordered another margarita instead of dessert (that’s good Mel, turn to alcohol..) And then Mike tweeted, “Ah, it’s over. Delicious chocolate cake at Apothecary Cafe.”

Chocolate casualties: 2

Stronger Than Chocolate Challenge

Regardless of the itch, I am resisting. No matter how often (>10 times a day?) I think about those chocolate peanut butter cups in my cabinet and actually visualize unwrapping one and biting into the hard chocolate shell (AH!) I haven’t done it. The other half of the challenge that I’m finding surprisingly difficult is choosing fruit when a chocolate craving hits. I haven’t been 100%. I’ve been 50% fruit, 50% Teddy Grahams, granola bars, animal crackers… sweet things. I think cutting chocolate is hard enough in itself, so I’m going to let the replacement foods be what they may for now. Baby steps, people.


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