Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Shedding for the Wedding

Here it is, my long awaited, excruciatingly detailed review of Shedding for the Wedding

I had never watched The Biggest Loser or any of the other shows where overweight people compete to lose the most weight and win fantastic prizes. I never watched any of their motivational stories (although I do read plenty in my plethora of fitness magazines). A couple months ago, though, I started to hear radio ads for Shedding for the Wedding during my morning commute to work, and I was intrigued. When it first aired on Wednesday, February 23rd, I had no idea what prime time bliss was in store for me.
 In this series, nine overweight couples with nine unique wedding themes engage in competition to the win the wedding of their dreams. The big winners will ultimately be the big losers: the couple that loses the highest percentage of body weight. In addition, each week the couples will complete in challenges in an effort to win specific aspects of their wedding (the dress, the flowers, the cake, etc.).

Usually, I disagree with shows like this. Based on my research of The Biggest Loser, these shows demand immediate weight loss in large magnitudes, and do not promote healthy diets or activity levels that can be sustainable for the long haul.

At first, I thought this was true for Shedding for the Wedding as well. The trainers seemed to push the contestants way too hard, way too fast. If I had been a couch potato for years and was trying to turn my life around, being forced to go on a 5 mile run on my first day would probably kill me (in fact, I'm still having a lot of trouble with my 2 minutes of jogging at a time)!

Furthermore, it looked like they were all eating nothing but celery and protein shakes, and were all losing weight at an alarming pace. At the first week's weigh in, most couples (they're weighed together, how adorable!) lost anywhere between 20 and 40 pounds. Granted, that's impressive, and I would be totally psyched to lose 10-20 pounds in a week. However, fitness experts, medical professionals, and dieticians all agree that weight loss numbers that large are unhealthy and unsustainable. Most people agree that a sustained loss of 2 pounds/week is really the most you can lose without risking problems.
I would have stopped watching then because I disagreed so much with the basis of the show, but as you may have seen on my Ode to Sara Rue, I absolutely adore the host, Sara Rue. To be honest, though, I would have watched anyway. These were 9 cute couples trying to get over the obstacles of their weight and plan the wedding of their dreams, how could I resist?

I'm really glad I stuck it out. After week one, things calmed down. The workouts were still brutal, but not so bad that the contestants were hurting themselves (Taylor only almost threw up twice during week 2!). Also, through listening to some of the couples bicker about food preparation, it was clear that they had normal calorie and nutrition goals they were supposed to meet each day, so all of my fears of them semi-starving themselves were quelled. They've even sustained an average weight loss of 2-4 pounds per week each, so they're not too far out of the healthy weight loss range.

I suppose the week one numbers can be attributed to the dramatic lifestyle change and water weight. I know that when I was on the South Beach Diet, I lost 12 pounds in the first two weeks, because it was meant to hit you hard in the very beginning. After that, the book told me to expect and aim for a loss 1-2 pounds a week, because the sheer shock to my system of the first couple weeks had worn off. In fact, I am really glad that it hit me so hard in the beginning, because it meant that I had immediate results that I could focus on to keep me motivated!

I still maintain that their weekly challenges demand too much (two weeks ago they hung onto a ring dangling mid-air for over an hour and one girl had to go to the hospital for back spasms because of it) but overall, I think the show is helping more than it is hurting the long-term results for the contestants.

My favorite part of watching the show, other than getting to see Sara Rue look super cute all the time, is listening to the couples talk with each other and plan their weddings. They are all so sweet (well, most of them), and such individuals. As I mentioned before, the show consists of 9 couples with 9 unique wedding themes, and I do mean unique! Some of the themes are as follows:
  • Greek Week - complete with Beer Pong Table (that will be monogrammed with their initials to make it classy for a wedding)
  • Eco-Friendly - the Maid of Honor's dress is biodegradable
  • Final Fantasy - the couple met playing online and want to recreate the wedding scene from the game
  • Football - they support rival teams but have come together regardless
  • Fairy Tale
  • Hollywood
  • Beach Paradise
  • Fun and Games - complete with foosball table and board games
  • Big Band - this one is my personal favorite, as I absolutely adore brass instruments and swing dancing
What I dislike about Shedding for the Wedding is that it is an elimination show. I would prefer if it was a fitness reality show that just helped everyone make positive life choices and work together. Unfortunately, that doesn't have nearly enough pizzazz for television. You see these couples work so hard, and then have to go home because they didn't lose copious amounts of weight. The couples spend so much time terrified of being sent home that they don't realize how much they've accomplished in their time on the show. One girl started crying because she only lost 4 pounds in a week (which, may I remind you, is still more than recommended by health professionals).

The worst part, bar none, is that in the past two weeks, my two favorite couples have gone home. Lindsay and Chase (Team Greek Week) are so cute and enthusiastic (and from Texas!) and they were sent home week 4. Valerie and Dave (Team Big Band) are an interracial couple that faces so many challenges today, and we got to see them work through so many emotional boundaries. They were sent home week 5. Allison (part of Team Fairy Tale) does nothing but hypocritically and rudely bash other couples and walk all over her fiance David, and she's still in the game. Bummer.

Hopefully, Team Football or Team Eco-Lovers will be able to make it to the end and win the wedding of their dreams, as they are my next favorites. I also wouldn't mind if Team Fun and Games won... just not Team Fairy Tale.

On tonight's episode, they will be getting makeovers, and I imagine having their engagement pictures taken? I can't be sure as the previews just say that there will be a surprise for the contestants. I can't wait!

Does anyone else watch this show as avidly as I do? Do you think the couples that have been sent home will be able to sustain their progress in an attempt to win the honeymoon at the end? Is it strange that I have never watched The Biggest Loser but have done a lot of research on it?

Shedding for the Wedding airs Wednesdays at 8pm (CT) on the CW.

Monday, March 28, 2011

3 Exercises to Slim Down Your Inner Thighs

I was reading one of my fitness magazines recently (I can't recall which one, as I am addicted to them and have subscriptions to three) and I saw an advertisement that I found extremely interesting. It was for running skorts. RUNNING SKORTS!

In high school, I was lauded for my extremely fashionable choice to wear a skort as a part of my everyday ensemble. That is, of course, when I wasn't in my school uniform consisting of a plaid skirt and undershorts that were, to my utter dismay, not connected. Although, to remember it correctly, I might have been mocked rather than lauded, but that is neither here nor there.

Regardless, I loved my skorts. They weren't the mullet-esque type that were skirts in front and shorts in back, but rather just skirts with built in undershorts. They were comfortable and cute, and I wore them all the time. I only stopped wearing them shortly after starting college because they were kind of short and I had become self conscious of my thighs. In fact, I stopped wearing shorts all-together, with the exception of those that go all the way down to my knees.

Then enters advertisements for running skorts.

I think these are so cute, and would be perfect for running in the summer! There is one problem though: I am still self conscious of my legs. Nothing seems more unpleasant than running outside in the heat while your thighs, which seem to be twice the size of your entire body (which doesn't even come close to making sense!), insist on rubbing each other and smacking together the whole way.

So, I am left with two choices: get over my self-conscious issues or forego wearing these adorable skorts and stick with my pants which will likely produce a furnace effect in the summer. As a skirt/skort enthusiast, I will choose the former, and go about this task by regularly doing this fantastic inner thigh workout I found in this month's issue of Shape Magazine.

3 Exercises to Slim Down Your Inner Thigh
We're going to let you in on a secret: The inner thighs are a minor muscle group—compared to your quads, hamstrings, and glutes. But, oddly this tiny area has an enormous psychic-grip on so many women. If your thighs rub together, you know exactly what we're talking about, and if they don't, you probably work hard to keep them that way. We're going to help you conquer this common trouble spot so you can expend that mental energy on more important things—like which heels make your legs look sexier.
Inner Thigh Workout Details
You’ll need: Two balance discs, a 5- to10-pound dumbbell, a cable machine (or use a resistance tube), and a 5- to 8-pound medicine ball. Find gear at
How it works: Incorporate these moves into your normal strength routine 2 or 3 times a week. Do 2 or 3 sets of 12 to 15 reps of each exercise. Aim to squeeze in 4 to 6 cardio workouts a week to help trim fat all over.

Plie Wobble Squat
Reps: 12-15
Body Parts: Butt, Hamstrings, Legs
Equipment: Free weights, Balance Discs
A: Stand with feet wide and toes turned out, each foot on a balance disc, and hold a dumbbell vertically with both hands in front of you at shoulder height.

B: Lower into a squat, keeping your knees aligned with your toes. Rise up and repeat.

Cable Cross
Reps: 12-15
Body Parts: Hamstrings, Legs
Equipment: Cable Machine (or Resistance Band), Balance Disc
A: Adjust the pulley on a cable machine to the lowest setting, attach the ankle cuff to your right foot, and load 20-30 pounds on the weight stack. Stand about a foot or two away from the machine with your right side closest to it and your left foot on a balance disc. Extend right leg out to the side, toes angled in. (When Hannah and I did this, we looped one end of a resistance band under a table leg, and the other end around our ankle)

B: Cross right leg in front of left. Hold for 1 count, then return to the starting position and repeat. Switch sides to complete set.

Side Weight Lift
Reps: 12-15
Body Parts: Hamstrings, Abs, Legs
Equipment: Medicine ball
A: Begin by lying on your right side, resting your head on your right arm and placing your left hand in front of you for stability. Hold a medicine ball between your feet and make sure your hips and shoulders are square.
B: Slowing lift the medicine ball off the ground a few inches and hold for one count. Lower almost all the way to the ground and repeat. Switch sides to complete the set.
**I am sorry there are no pictures for this move, I could not find any on**

Hannah and I did this workout Thursday evening, and at the time I wasn't sure it had done anything because it wasn't very difficult (not extremely easy, but not too difficult). By Friday afternoon, however, I could feel that it had worked. My legs continued to remind me of how well it worked until Sunday morning. Again, I was not so sore that it was unpleasant, but enough that I knew I was doing something right. I think that if I am diligent about doing this 2-3 times a week as it suggests, I'll be ready for that running skort in no time!

On an unrelated side note, the Gaining Power Institute has ordered my Cardio Dual Trainer that I won on Friday, and it should be shipped to me shortly!! I'm so excited!!

Friday, March 25, 2011

I love my job!

Today I WAS going to post about this awesome inner-thigh workout my friend and I did last night after we went running, but then something way cooler happened! (Note: post on inner thigh work out still to come)

You may have heard me ramble on about the fact that my company is participating in the 100 Day Live Healthy Wellness Challange, sponsored by the Gaining Power Institute. Employees form teams of 2-10 people (I have 3 in my team) and we compete based on percentage of weight loss or average minutes of activity. My team is competing in the minutes of activity division, as one of the ringers (an active marathon runner) we brought in can't afford to lose any more weight.

The Gaining Power Institute keeps rewarding people who didn't give up and are still actively tracking and logging their progress online. About a month ago, everyone that has been consistently recording data got a stainless steel water bottle! After we hit the 50 day mark a couple weeks ago, they decided to up the stakes. Everyone that has consistently tracked was placed into a drawing for a FANTASTIC prize, AND I WON!

Check it out, a Body Champ BRM3600 Cardio Dual Trainer!

I am so excited! Now, I can sit on the elliptical/stationary bike while I watch Shedding for the Wedding (excruciatingly detailed review of Shedding for the Wedding still to come)!!
I just hope my mom doesn't flip out when I try to put this giant piece of machinery in our house. I've already pointed out that she can use it while she watches her Soap Operas everyday, so maybe that'll help grease the pot. (Is "grease the pot" a real phrase? Am I using it correctly? What does it mean? Will my mom be upset with me portraying her as some one who does nothing but flip out and watch soap operas, when in fact, she's one of the coolest people I know?)

I cannot wait until it arrives!

Note: Picture copied from product review page

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Burns So Good

Sometimes, I really like being sore.

On Monday, a few of my girlfriends and I went rock climbing at an indoor rock wall in town. They were re-working most of the roped courses due to the upcoming competition season, so only one section of wall was available. Fortunately, it was the section of wall where the beginners can climb. I was able to make it up 3 of the routes I've done before, but without falling this time! I also tried a route much harder than I thought I could do, and was right... but I think I might have a better shot next time.

Because most of the roped courses were closed, though, we ended up doing some bouldering. These are the routes where you don't go as high because you aren't attached to anything. If you fall, you actually fall (onto a bunch of mats). Needless to say, I was terrified, and only tried one really easy route. When I jumped down at the end (much easier than climbing back down), it was much less scary than I thought it would be, so I might try some other routes next time.

What I love about rock climbing, though, is just how much it works your arms! I don't even feel like I'm lifting weights, because it is so much fun, but I am, in essence, lifting a large portion of my body weight. Sure, my legs do most of the work, but have you seen how scrawny my arms are? Note: the answer to that question should be no, as I haven't posted any pictures of myself on here... creeps

Last time I went climbing, I had worked my arms really hard, and definitely felt it for the next couple days. I was having trouble opening my car door. It was borderline unpleasant. This time, however, I am still sore, but it is one of those aches that burns so good. It doesn't impede my daily activity, but only reminds me of what a great time I had on Monday!

... kind of got me in the mood to start weight-lifting again...

(Note: not body-building weight lifting, just trying-to-get-less-wimpy weight lifting)

In the event that I get to the point of unpleasant muscle aches again, does anyone have any suggestions for remedies?

Monday, March 21, 2011

My recent haitus from activity...

Between the birth of my first nephew (which involved me making 3 separate round trips across Texas) and a Spring Break weekend getaway with my oh-so-wonderful boyfriend, the past couple of weeks have been busy to say the least! In that time, the only physical activity I have been able to manage has been a few brief games of "Pass the Baby" and a few hours spent Walking in Memphis (eh? anyone? anyone?... and yes, I made a million references to that song while we were there).

This past weekend, while visiting my nephew, I finally found a couple of spare hours and decided to take full advantage of them. I was staying at my Grandma's house, as she lives extremely close to my sister, her husband, and their new son. I had just had breakfast and had no plans until lunchtime anyway, so I decided to go for a run in Grandma's neighborhood. It is a beautiful neighborhood that is covered in colorful flowers and has a park with a view of the Bay nearby, so I was excited about the prospect of running through it.

It may be important to note that since starting our running program, Hannah and I have only run with each other, and we have only run after dark when it was cool, maybe even borderline cold. Running by myself during the warm, humid morning was very different. It is also important to note that the last time I went running was on March 3rd (which as you may recall here, did not go too well).

Having two weeks since my last run, combined with my overall ineptitude with running, made for a kind of poorly executed outing. Don't get me wrong, I powered through and finished my cumulative 6 minutes of light jogging, but it was rough, and I was glad when it was over. And I was genuinely glad. It was difficult, but I did it. I accomplished one challenge, and am excited to face the next one that comes my way.

Anyway, I think my life will be a bit calmer in the coming weeks. Or at the very least, will at least allow me to stay in the same city for a bit. I plan to kick start my exercise regimen and hit it hard with a week chock-full of activity (see below). Hopefully, my time away won't prove to be too big of a problem.

Monday: Indoor Rock Climbing
Tuesday: Running (last day of Week 2 - see our
running program outlined here)
Wednesday: Swing Dancing
Thursday: Running (Week 3 - Day 1)

We'll see how it goes from there. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

"I thanked my legs for walking 7 miles that morning, and immediately felt better."

In a society of airbrushed models and fashion that seems to show every dimple and bulge, it has become more than natural for our generation to cut ourselves down at every turn. Magazines and movies seem to demand perfection from models and actors, and as a result we demand perfection from ourselves. Rather than focusing on the positive aspects of our lives, we seem to be constantly bogged down with self loathing thoughts of not being pretty enough or thin enough, not having skin that is clear enough or hair that is shiny enough. What is enough? When do we decide that we are good enough? We beat ourselves up for every night spent watching tv and for every french fry or cookie that we eat. And what for? Our self confidence is crumbling and we're more miserable than ever.

I found this to be especially true last year. Starting in July of 2010, I lost roughly 30 pounds over a 4 month span. Even though it felt really good seeing the weight come off, I couldn't help but think that it wasn't enough (as it happens, I still want to lose 25 more pounds). I dropped 2 pants sizes and was then upset that I didn't drop another. Whenever I skipped a workout or ate a burger, I felt so guilty and awful that it was almost unbearable. Then, I read this article by Jennifer Barnett in Shape Magazine:

"Silencing my inner critic": While I'm thrilled with the changes in my body, I still can't stop beating myself up. It's time to banish those negative thoughts for good

A few weeks ago, I went out to dinner with my husband and treated myself to a rib-eye steak, mashed potatoes, and some dessert. The next day, before I even opened my eyes, thoughts like "I have no willpower" and "I'll never keep the weight off" entered my head. Then I got mad: After losing 38 pounds, why was I being so hard on myself? I worried that if I didn't act fast, my self-criticism would undermine my motivation.

Mind over meanness

That's why, when a friend told me about a two-day workshop called Never Diet Again: Welcoming Weight Loss and Wellness, I signed up. Led by Nina Smiley, Ph.D., co-author of The Three Minute Meditator, it was a series of seminars about how to silence cruel thoughts through meditation.

We began by closing our eyes and breathing deeply. After a few minutes, Nina taught us the next step: The moment you have a negative thought, label it, dismiss it, and turn your focus back to your breath again. So as soon as my mind started wandering (I wondered if I was going to hit traffic on the ride home), I named that thought "worrying" and pushed it out of my mind. Once we got the hang of that, we were ready for the last part: calling up a good feeling on demand. Nina asked us to picture a happy moment; mine was reading a bedtime story to my son. By doing this, you can instantly improve your mood.
Then we put it all together. Nina told us to take a negative statement about a body part and replace it with a kinder one. I zeroed in on my thighs, which I feel are flabby--despite all the time I spend in the gym. After classifying that thought as "bullying," I willed myself to come up with something nice to say to them. I thanked my legs for walking seven miles that morning, and immediately felt better.

Practice makes perfect 
I had the hang of it by the end of the weekend, but I wasn't sure I could control my inner critic in the "real" world. I found out when I ate a cupcake at a baby shower and felt the familiar disappointment. Since the technique should work anywhere, I named that thought--again, "bullying"--then focused on how proud I was for not also snacking on the chips. I was able to enjoy the rest of the day guilt-free--a huge milestone in an already eventful year!
"I thanked my legs for walking seven miles that morning, and immediately felt better." I find that this line in particular motivates me like none other. It reminds me to not take myself for granted. It reminds me that even if I'm not perfect (which P.S., no one is), I still have a lot going for me. It keeps me from thinking that my journey is futile, and gives me the confidence to keep going. I hope this article can help others as much as it helped me. .

Friday, March 4, 2011

Running into Difficulties

Last night, Hannah and I attempted Week 2: Day 3 of our running program. I say "attempted," because it did not go so well. For some reason, last night's run was much more difficult than either of us had expected.

Maybe it was due to the environment change, as we had decided to run in my neighborhood rather than hers for the first time. Maybe we were disheartened that we couldn't run with the dogs as much (Kiff, named after a Futurama character, has heart worms). Maybe we had just started running too late. We didn't start running until after 9pm, when we had usually been going out by 8pm at the latest. In my case, at least, I am going to assume it couldn't have been the plethora of extremely unhealthy food I have eaten this week. In fact, I think I had just stuffed my face with half a sleeve of Girl Scout cookies and 2 giant slices of pizza when she came over, so I just have no idea how things could have gone so poorly!

Whatever be the case, I am determined to not let this one set back throw a wrench in our training or in our motivation! We have to look at the positives. Even though it was difficult, we were able to complete the workout, which is something we wouldn't have been able to do a few weeks ago. It's something I definitely wouldn't have been able to do a year ago.

After such a disheartening run, though, we decided to treat ourselves to a viewing of the Shedding for the Wedding premier (I have the episodes recorded). So all in all, it was a successful night.

Have a great weekend!

Note: As I will be out of town this weekend, we will pick up our running program again either Sunday or Monday. Wish us luck!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Ode to Sara Rue

I have found myself utterly enthralled with Sara Rue. I used to watch Popular on what was then the WB in 1999, and while I don't remember the show that well, I feel like hers was the character I liked the most because she was genuine and not catty like everyone else.
Now, she can be found not only on Jenny Craig commercials, but also as the host of the CW's new reality/competition show, Shedding for the Wedding. In this series, nine overweight couples with nine unique wedding themes engage in competition to the win the wedding of their dreams. The big winners will ultimately be the big losers: the couple that loses the highest percentage of body weight (watch for my extremely detailed review of Shedding for the Wedding later). Sara Rue is a perfect host for this show, because according to her Jenny Craig commercials, she recently lost 50 pounds for her very own dream wedding!
In my opinion, Sara Rue steals the show. Whenever she is on screen, I find myself paying more attention to her than any of the contestants. She just looks so fantastic! She was not huge or anything before, but she looks absolutely marvelous now. Her face, particularly, accentuates how much weight she has lost. On Popular, she had kind of a baby face with slightly puffy cheeks, but in the past 12 years, she developed such a thin face that is just beautiful to look at. I find that she, more than any other celebrity or success story I have seen, has motivated me to get active and healthy. I would say that before I started my weight loss program, I had a body type very similar to the "Before" Sara Rue. If eating healthy and working out will get me to look like the "After" Sara Rue, I will be extremely happy!
Furthermore, she's always wearing such cute outfits on the show; outfits that I would love to wear, but don't quite feel comfortable in yet. Also, she wore a wavy side-braid in yesterday's episode, so that just clenches it. I would like to hear much more of her transforming story, and how she went about shedding for her wedding. Eh? Eh?

Picture of Sarah Rue found via Google Images on

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

You've got to push it to the limit

Who knew that attempting strenuous physical activity after years of couch potato-ing would be so difficult?

Last night, I went rock-climbing. Not outdoor, cliff-side, if-I-misstep-I-fall-down-miles-of-jagged-rocks climbing, but rather safe, indoor rock wall climbing. This was only my second night climbing ever (if you don't count that one time my Girl Scout troop went to a rock wall in the 6th grade). I was actually able to reach the top of four separate routes! Sure, I gave up on one and had to go back to it later, and I kept repeatedly falling on another one... but I got to the top eventually! Thanks to the encouragement of everyone that was with me, and their determination to not let me give up, I pushed myself pretty hard to do my best. It was very exciting and I can't wait to go again. I think Corbin Bleu said it best in his work of cinematic genius, Jump In:

You've got to push it, push it
To the limit, limit
'Cause we're in it to win it, in it to win it
Aw yeah!

At least, that was what I was saying while we were still at the rock wall. Shortly after leaving, I realized that my hands were positively burning. I have extremely soft hands, which have been the subject of admiration by many a friend and acquaintance. Trying to hoist myself up a wall proved to be too much for my soft hands, and they've been torn up. On the bright side, I am starting to form calluses, but too little too late. In addition to my burning hands, my arms have not been under such duress in a while. Sure, I've dabbled in weight lifting, but I am weak, so it usually ended up being extremely light-weight lifting at best. I, however, am much heavier than the weights I usually lift. Even the assistance from my legs wasn't enough to save my arms from the agony of having to lug a 115 pound** mass up the side of (fake) mountain. My arms are so positively useless today, that I had difficulty climbing up into a co-workers giant truck (in all fairness, it is extremely tall).

Fortunately, my hands will heal (they already feel almost normal today), and my arms will grow stronger. I feel confident that these injuries will not be prolonged, and I will live to climb another day... probably next Monday.

**Note: All weights have been altered to preserve the ego of the author**