4 Weeks of No Smoking

I’m proud to report that I have 4 weeks of no smoking! To sweeten this, I also stopped using the patch about a week ago. I forgot to put a new one on one day, and by the time I remembered, the day was almost over, so I decided to see if I could do it for another day, and then another. It ended up being an excellent decision because now I’m nicotine free too! I quit drinking alcohol to keep me from smoking, so I have had no booze for a month as well.  How does it feel? Pretty amazing, let me elaborate.

Some things that I have noticed recently are that my constant cough has gone away! That is such a blessing right now because coughing can earn you some dirty looks these days. I clear my throat less.  I have also noticed that my lung capacity has improved greatly, I don’t get winded by the same things that I used to! I looked up some things that change about the body after a month of not smoking, and the articles were spot on with how I am feeling.  I have more energy overall, and I no longer feel as queasy all of the time as I used to.

Not drinking for a month has brought my appetite back, which has been gone for some time, and I have SO MUCH MORE ENERGY!  It’s unreal, I forgot how much energy I could have.  Coupled with jogging every day, by the time I get home and I’m about to cook dinner, I am starving.  I’m a healthy eater anyway, but I’ve been recording my calories on myfitnesspal, and minus the alcohol, which I always recorded while I was drinking (never lied to my app about that), I eat so healthily that I almost can’t eat 1,200 calories in one day sometimes.  I’ll eat a tremendous dinner, then go to record the calories and it’s like 500.  This is good because tonight, I ate BBQ potato chips because I had enough calories left to do that (and have another snack if I want).  Everything I eat is nutrient dense and it is so nice to not only want to eat again, but to not feel sick all of the time.  I can also tell that my body is absorbing more nutrients- I eat plenty of lean protein for muscle healing/building right now, and it really does make a huge difference.

I’ve learned a lot about working out and eating healthy as a woman over 40, which is new territory for me.  Gaining muscle is a top priority because after 40, women lose muscle every single year if they are not actively adding or maintaining it.  Muscle burns more calories than fat, and women over 40 have fewer caloric needs if they are not somewhat active.  This means that a good, all over wellness plan includes both losing some fat (if there is a good sized layer of fat over top of the muscles, like on the stomach for example), and building muscle.  In order to do these 2 things, many dietitians recommend increasing lean protein intake for women over 40 so that they can more easily heal and build muscle.  This is really great advice because protein also takes longer to digest and keeps you fuller longer.

When I first wake up, the very first thing I reach for (besides coffee) is protein.  Greek yogurt is excellent for this, as is cottage cheese, a glass of milk, and of course, eggs.  I tend to make sure that I give my body a dose of protein first thing in the morning and right before I go to bed.  I know that sounds contrary to all of the dieting advice you have ever gotten, but if you have worked out hard enough that you have sore muscles (I have several right now, sitting here, writing this), then that protein will be the fuel your body uses to repair the muscle tears in those sore muscles as you sleep.  Some dietitians recommend upping your protein intake from 20% of your diet to 30% if you are actively trying to gain muscle.

This doesn’t mean that you have to stuff yourself with meat lol.  Meat substitutes abound, there’s always tofu, dairy is excellent if you eat it, as are eggs, and don’t forget all of your legumes, quinoa and protein enriched products (use whatever works for you).  I am currently also trying to make sure that I get enough calcium so that I don’t get osteoporosis when I get older.  If you don’t like dairy, and orange has a huge amount of calcium, and broccoli is also an excellent source of calcium that is plant based.  I ate both of those things today.

I’m proud that I started my day with a 1 mile walk with my dog.  Later I did another 6 miles at a faster pace, walking from Rock Quarry Rd. all the way to Player Retreat on Hillsborough St. and back.  My sorest muscles as I lay down tonight are my calves, and a set of muscles called the serratus anterior, or as many folks call them “chicken wings”.  These are the muscles in the region that I affectionately call the “armpit biscuit”, typically set on fire by push ups and burpees.  I did 10 burpees day before yesterday and am still paying for them.

I’m so much happier these days with the way that I feel every day.  It’s truly amazing, and I mean that in the literal sense of the word- I am actually amazed.  I didn’t think that I had it in me anymore to work towards fitness like this.  The best I had done up to this point is compulsively count calories, but I didn’t have the energy that I needed to make working out of any sort a daily part of my plan.  I’m excited to see if I can get some definition in some of these muscles now, and about what new things I’ll try and discover.

Getting more serious about working out/healthy eating

Yesterday’s blog was definitely not about the advantages of being afraid to be around humans.  The advantages to this mess, for me, can be summed up very simply: I would have never quit smoking or drinking, I would have never started running/jogging/walking (not like this, maybe something a little lighter), and my yard would have never looked this amazing.  Why?  I would have been distracted, probably by people.  I would have been distracted by nights out at the bar, vodka, cigarettes, whatever I had to do during the day, and the constant rat race that our lives have become.  If you needed some positives, there are some.

I probably wouldn’t have dyed my hair, or if I had, I wouldn’t have taken my time with it.  I probably wouldn’t do my nails every other day.  I never had time for that shit, or I didn’t perceive that I had time for that shit.  I probably wouldn’t take large swaths of time to see how far I can travel all over town on my feet simply because “who has time for that”?  A friend of mine said that the other day, that he simply “Didn’t have 2 hours to do anything”, and I was like “You work for yourself?  How do you not have 2 hours to do anything?  That doesn’t even make sense.”  It’s because he perceives that he doesn’t have time.  I know he has time to drink multiple beers in a night.  I know he has time for a movie.  It’s a matter of priorities at that point.

I have had many jobs that I was so exhausted from when I got off that I couldn’t have even thought about putting more hurting on my tootsies than was absolutely necessary.  Many of my jobs have required me on my feet for hours and hours, conversely, it was much easier to keep my weight down during that time- the activities were built right into my daily job.  Easy-peasy.  I get that feeling and absolutely wouldn’t be doing this if that were my life now.  In those days I did a lot of crunches and pushups instead.  These days I think that planks and burpees would probably do me the most good, and I’ve gotten some of those giant rubber band things, so I’ve got to really check those out.

Tomorrow I really should take the day off from walking (or at least walking so much) and let my calves have a rest because they are absolutely so sore, and have been every day for the past 8.  I may do a shorter walk because I had a friend that wanted a walk buddy, and try to do some other types of more body conditioning, resistance exercises.  I’ve turned myfitnesspal back on and integrated it with a walking app (like I used to have my fitbit done).  I do really like that walking and running makes it so I really don’t have to worry so hard about what I eat.

Being a person over 40, especially a woman, is hard.  We require about 1400 calories a day (if you don’t have a physical job), 1200 if you’re losing weight.  Exercising makes it so that you can eat like a “normal person”.  Really, I’m not extravagant, and I am a very healthy eater, but even I can get very depressed very quickly at how little we’re “supposed” to eat.  It’s really hard to get enough protein, calcium, zinc, iron, and potassium at such tiny amounts of food too- in fact, I’ve never been able to do it, no matter how hard I’ve tried.  You simply cannot eat that few calories and get a daily dose of everything that you need to be healthy.  Vitamins are the cheat for that (at least for calcium, iron and zinc).  Protein, you just have to plug away at it and know that the app will tell you that you have eaten too much cholesterol, no matter how careful you are.  I have never gotten enough potassium.  I don’t know what you would have to eat in a day to reach that number, and I’ve tried it all and studied it all, trying to find the perfect balance.

So, this is what I’m going to control and obsess over for a while.  I don’t have alcohol to take up a bunch of garbage calories, so it should be a bit more healthy than I’ve been in the past.  I just have to do something, and now is the time for doing pretty much anything at all (that doesn’t involve people).