Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Gadget Queen's Guide To Weight Loss

That dreaded plateau. The dieter's nemesis. We've all been there ... some of us have frequent flyer miles to that gawd-awful place.

That's where I am right now. Or, more accurately, where I was a few weeks ago. For the past two years, I've been working my poor old body into a lather with almost religious devotion, attending Taekwondo classes 3 nights a week, taking time off only when the dojang was closed for holidays. I've lost some weight, have built up lots of great muscle tone, increased my endurance beyond my wildest expectations, and have conquered my personal issues with self-confidence and public display by entering (and winning, I might add) several regional tournaments.

However, I was paying ZERO attention to my diet. I mean ZERO. As in indulging in giant bags of M&M peanuts on a weekly basis. And it caught up with me. I had started gaining back some of the weight I had lost.

So, I spoke to my Master and was told that my problem was simple...if I want to lose weight, I need to be in a caloric deficit every day. Simple problem...not so simple solution. I know my limitations. I've done the Weight Watchers thing before. I apparently have D.A.D.D. - Dieter's Attention Deficit Disorder. After a few days of weighing and measuring and tallying and agonizing, I get bored and chuck the whole process out the window.

What I need, I've decided, is a process that's simple, easy to follow, and requires minimal effort on my part.

For those of you who don't know, I love my gadgets. Love 'em to bits. From my pretty purple cell phone with its crystal-covered Bluetooth ear piece, to my iPod Touch, to hubby's latest object of our affection, the iPad I'm using to create this post - you'll never find me without my toys for any reasonable length of time.

So it isn't much of a surprise that my iPod Touch gave me the answer I was looking for. While surfing for apps a few weeks ago, I came across a little FREE gem called LoseIt!

LoseIt! is a calorie counting app for those of us with very short attention spans. When you sign up, the app asks you for your age, height, current weight and (I think) gender. Then it asks you what your goal weight is, and how many pounds you want to lose per week. Being a reasonable app, you're limited to a max of 2 pounds. It then calculates how long it'll take you to lose that weight, giving you the date you'll reach your goal. It also tells you how many calories you can take in every day in order to lose the weight you want every week.

Then the fun starts.

Every day, you enter in the food you eat. The app comes pre-loaded with all sorts of foods from almost every major brand name and restaurant out there, along with generic foods like peanut butter or bananas. Bear in mind that this is an American-based app, though, so Canadian content is scarce. The good news is that you can add custom foods with all of the nutritional information you want to capture. You can also enter recipes and the system will calculate the caloric content for you! As you enter food and drinks you've had throughout the day for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks, the system counts the calories down for you, letting you know how many calories you have left for the day and whether you're over or under your daily goal. As you weigh yourself weekly or monthly or whenever, you record your new weight in the app so it can keep track of your progress.

Since misery loves company, the app lets you find friends who are also using the app, so you can keep tabs on each other, encourage each other, call each other out...whatever floats your boat. You can set alerts to send you e-mail reports on a weekly basis, or to remind you if you've forgotten to enter a meal at any point. You can also set it up to send updates to your Facebook or Twitter accounts so you can share your progress with your friends...which might help to keep you honest.

Did I mention that the app is FREE? Not too shabby, huh? After 3 weeks and 9 pounds, I'm still trucking along, annoying the heck out of my husband by whipping out my iPod Touch before every meal, and Googling nutritional information before going out to any restaurants. I figure this app is going to be as important to me for the rest of my natural life as a blood sugar monitor is to a diabetic. After all, if I don't stay on top of things, I just might be needing a blood sugar monitor one day, so I might as well stick with this particular gadget that lets me play games or listen to music at the same time. Like I need another excuse to grow more attached to my gadgets.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Listen To The Cookie!

Do you believe in fate? Kismet? That some things are just "meant to be"?

Hubby and I have been in the market for a 2nd vehicle - used, of course, but not so used that it would become a paperweight in our driveway within the next five or six years. The problem is, we had no idea what we were looking for.

I thought a people-mover (but not a mini-van, by God!) would be a better idea. Let's face it, our children weren't getting any smaller, and neither was the amount of gear they needed hauled around. Personally, I had fallen in love with the Honda Pilot.

Our financial situation was screaming for a very cheap gas mizer, just big enough to fit the four of us and the dog without causing permanent injury. Something that wouldn't require a bank loan. Something that could be paid for by visiting the ATM a couple of times in a day.

While at dinner for our niece's birthday the other night, we were once again agonizing over the decision. I half-jokingly suggested we flip a coin. Sure, let a coin toss decide our financial down-fall. Why not? Hubby, looking to make this situation a tad more realistic, said two out of three. I called heads for the people-mover, tails for el-cheapo.

Toss number one landed heads. Okay, so far, so good. Toss number two also landed heads. Hubby and I looked at each other. Are we really going to let this coin toss make this huge decision for us? We let it lie and went on with dinner.

Now, this particular dinner was happening at a Chinese buffet. So, the end of dinner also brought the requisite fortune cookies. We all cracked open our cookies and laughed at each other's fortunes. Except for hubby. He did laugh at his own, but it was not a laugh at the ridiculous...it was a laugh of incredulity. Here's what his fortune cookie read:

"You received some good advice tonight. Listen to it!"

Seriously? Heed the coin-toss's advice? Was someone "up there" trying to tell us that we should buy this people-mover after all? Kind of spookey, don't you think?

Alright, we can certainly take a hint when one hits us over the head. So we were on the hunt for a used Honda Pilot. Easier said than done. Apparently, anyone who turned one of these trucks in after their lease was up did so because they never learned how to park it properly. Every one we looked at had some major dents and gouges on each of the four fenders. One even looked like part of the interior had been chewed by a beaver. Many disappointing leads later, we found one in our price range with all our required options about an hour's drive away. So we pile into the CR-V and head on down to have a look.

On the way down, we start chatting about some of the accessories we'd like to get for the new vehicle, if and when we ever find the right one. One of the items we would be getting is a rubber mat for the cargo area so that the dog fur would be less likely to weave itself in to the carpet.

Once we arrived at the dealership and were greeted by the salesman who immediately became our long-lost best friend, we were steered through the showroom. And there she was. Oh...my...GOD she was beautiful! Of all the trucks we had looked at, this one was by far in the best condition cosmetically. Yes, there were a few dings and scratches, as expected in a used vehicle, but way fewer than any other truck we had seen so far. The paint was almost new, with the exception of a couple of rock chips here and there. The interior was pristine. The leather gleamed. The motor positively purred. She was perfect.

And then we opened the back hatch. What did we see sitting in the cargo area? The exact rubber mat that hubby and I had just been discussing on the way down.

Yet another sign that this match was meant to be?

I certainly think so!

We signed the papers as soon as we could without seeming too desperate. We pick her up tomorrow night. Yes, I'm so excited about getting this truck that I'm even willing to take the chance of missing one night of Taekwondo (just in case we don't make it back in time)! Of course, I'll make up for it later in the week if I do miss it, but you get the picture. ;)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Looking For Shoes

Hey all.

For those of you who don't know, I lost my one and only sparring match at this past week-end's tournament. It was a close match, and I came home with bronze because of the way the tree fell.

I won't get into the gory details. Suffice it to say I'm not impressed with my performance, and I'll be working diligently to improve the situation before the next tourney.

On to other matters at hand...

I'd like to get a pair of Taekwondo shoes. I'd like something I can wear around the dojang (since I spend a few hours there several times a week, between my own classes and my son's), as well as at tournaments while warming up. I learned at this last tourney that warming up in bare feet on the cold, concrete floors of the high-school hallway is not a pleasant experience - even for those of us with the most weathered "Taekwon-toes" in the dojang.

I probably won't train in them, since we're not allowed shoes at tournaments, and we're taught to train the way we compete.

Here's where it gets interesting...

I'm looking for a style to match my latest girl-power-themed mid-life crisis.

Hitting the Big 4-0 was something that took me completely by surprise. Not the number itself, although I shied away from even thinking the number until the very last possible minute. No, it was the manner in which my mid-life manifested itself.

I've never been a girly-girl. I never understood the concept of "make-up" or "wardrobes" or "shoe fetishes" the way my friends all did. Shopping gave me a headache. Every stitch of clothing I owned was either black or red...not a drop of pink or purple to be found. I've spent several decades sporting the same bland, utilitarian Timex watch, small gold hoop earrings and no other jewelry to speak of.

I still don't think I'm "girly" per se.

But my 40th birthday brought with it a sudden, inexplicable, and somewhat scary appreciation for the more feminine things in life.

Like my new purple, flowery cell phone with the Bluetooth earpiece that is bedecked with Swarovski crystals so it looks like I have a cross between the Star Trek triangle emblem and a disco ball stuck in my ear.

And my pink iPod with the matching pink aluminum case that I had laser-etched with my name and a flaming horse.

And my new short, spiky, sassy haircut that is modeled after the one Halle Berry sported in her Catwoman movie - after she develops the feline 'tude, of course.

Right...back to the shoes. What I'm looking for is something functional, yet feminine. Pink would be preferable. Something shiny would not be frowned upon, either. But it has to be something that won't dent or mark the mats in the dojang, and something I can do light work-out/warm-up work in.

What do you all think? Any suggestions? Reviews? Favourite on-line shopping sites for all things "martial arts"? Lay it on me, folks! :)

Friday, March 20, 2009

Wish Me Luck!

This is it, folks. The night before my very first Taekwondo tournament.

Silly me, I actually went to the dojang to train tonight. So, everything from the neck down is tired and achy. Actually, it was all still sore from Wednesday's beating...I mean...training session. On top of that, we did a little sparring tonight, so I have several new bruises coming with me tomorrow as well. I'm just hoping I'll be able to lift my arms to protect my face. If I come home with all my teeth, it will have been a good day.

Am I nervous? Yup. Can I sleep? Nope. That might present a bit of a problem when my alarm goes off at 6:00 in the blessed AM.

So, here I am, on the eve of my very first foray into competitive Taekwondo, sore and battered...and doing laundry. Yup, I'm staying up, trying to get my whites their whitest. Because, Heaven forbid I should face my almost phobic fear of public display and humiliation in a dingy dobuk.

Wish me luck!