Monday, October 20, 2014

By request: Gwynnie Bee private label fit testing

Back in early September, Gwynnie Bee (affiliate link) solicited participants to help them fit-test redesigned garments for their private labels Flor Spruce & Sage Postcards Flutter, Triste. They had been getting some negative reviews on the fit and fabric of the original designs.

You can see one of those old private label garments in my "Not a Model" shoot, it's the green Flor Electric Animal dress. In fact several of those old-fit garments are now only $25 in the Gwynnie Bee shop. Many people didn't like the soft jersey fabric of those garments, and the fit was also inconsistent. I really liked a couple of them, but the jersey fabric was very warm and some of the styles were huge on me, and then others had very tight waistbands. It was hard to order the right size.

The new fabric is a polyester/spandex blend with a semi-matte finish and a nice weight. The fit has changed quite a bit. In the old brands, I would always order the smallest size, but even though the 0X looked good on me, there is an elasticized band at the waist in the fit-and-flare dresses that feels tight on me, so I have experimented with sizing up to the 1X. I was a little frustrated that this "sketch" print didn't look great in photos, so I tried taking a picture outdoors.

In the shift dress, which is not supposed to be fitted at the waist, the 0X was a little clingy. I got a pucker in the small of my back with the 0X, which is why I took the picture below, to try to show that. It also was clingy in the belly area so, again, I think I need to size up to the 1X for the fit to be just right.

The quality of the new garments was definitely better, or at least more consistent. They have a coordinating lining to help them fit more smoothly and avoid any show-through of undergarments. 

It was fun to participate in this project. All I had to do was try the dresses, write a review, and take some photos.

Edited to add: The easiest way to get a good fit on Gwynnie Bee garments is to use the size charts when they are provided. The new size charts seem accurate, but these dresses may run smaller than many subscribers expect for a GB brand.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Progress photos: Before, during, trying to get back to after

After my father passed away, we spent a lot of time going through old photos. This photo was taken on a family trip to the Mall of America when I was at my absolute heaviest. I have no idea what I weighed, because I was avoiding the scale and pretending that things weren't really that bad. I know that those shorts were a men's size 36, and they look skintight. I was wearing whatever I could fit into, men's or women's sizes.  Occasionally I would go to Lane Bryant if I needed something that looked decent.  After I saw the photos from this trip, I made my first attempts to lose weight.

The photo I have been using up until now as a "before," above, was taken many years later, after I had lost weight but rebounded. This was right around the time that I had a "Come to Jesus" moment with my doctor, because on his scale I weighed 197 pounds.  I think in the first photo I look much heavier, so I might have been as high as 225-250.

Triste Blurred Lines Shift Dress
Here's a more recent photo of me, taken for a Gwynnie Bee (affiliate link) fit-testing project for the updates to the Triste sizing. I'm around 180 pounds in this photo.

Finally, the photo above is me at or near my Weight Watchers goal weight of 155 (with my husband, who was also at what is probably his ideal weight). We were dressed up for my 15-year high school reunion, which was in 2003.  I loved that dress and still have it in my closet.

It's hard sometimes when I struggle to lose, or make some progress only to regain. Looking at these photos helps me to remember that even though I'm not quite where I want to be, I have made progress. The fact that I have maintained the initial loss of whatever amount of weight is between the initial picture and the one above is no small feat.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Linking Weight Watchers and Jawbone UP

When I heard that the Jawbone UP and other activity trackers were now going to be able to be linked to Weight Watchers, I was intrigued.  Weight Watchers had a history of preferring their own proprietary tools (like ActiveLink), and this seemed to be a big change for them. I looked forward to connecting my Jawbone UP to my tracker. 

I was disappointed when I did link it up.  Yesterday's activity earned me 2 points. I had a very normal day, but instead of running or walking, I did a 30-minute swim.  If I had tracked the 30-minute swim on my Points Tracker, it would have earned me 6 points. When I looked up the reason in the FAQ, it had to do with not meeting the activity baseline for the day. The baseline formula is not available, but Weight Watchers seems to have a fairly high standard for a "low-activity day" if 6,000 steps doesn't count. The Activity Points formula was already designed to take into account that people overestimate the calories that they are burning.  Adding in a high baseline seems to be set too high a bar.

True, I didn't have 10,000 steps on top of my 30-minute swim, but if I had done a 30-minute walk instead of the swim, which would have made me exceed the 10,000 steps goal, I wouldn't have burned as many calories as I did in a 30-minute swim. Would I have earned more Points? I haven't used the ActiveLink, but the reviews I read suggested that results were similar. Users doing step-based activity got a lot more points than those doing other types of exercise, even after entering those activities. 

I know this will be controversial, but I disconnected my Jawbone UP after that first day. I'm already finding Weight Watchers hard to stick to because the points allowance seems low for me. I get 26 points a day, plus an average of 7 from the Weekly Points. The approximate value of a point is 35 calories, putting me at just under 1200 calories a day if I used all of those Points (and many people don't use their Weekly Points. Even if I add in a few Points for activity and a reasonable amount of "Free" fruits and vegetables, I should have a sizable deficit.  If I didn't use any APs and stuck to the baseline, I'd feel too tired and hungry and would be more likely to just quit.

I don't want Weight Watchers to be any harder for me to stick to, even if that would make it more "pure" somehow. When I was tracking consistently and swapping my Activity Points for food, I was finding it much easier to stick to, and I was losing weight -- multiple pounds a week.  If my weight loss slows, maybe I'll go back to the "better" way. For now, I'm doing what was working for me.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Getting back to my routine

The view from my napping place

I'm trying to get back to a little more of my normal routine, as I have been feeling pulled in too many different directions lately. I feel the need to put things in order a little more. When I don't have meetings, my days are kind of flipped -- I get up early and do my "me" things before going into the office in the afternoons and teaching in the evenings. I like the quiet and having time in the house with just the kitties. The house stays so much nicer when I have alone time to tidy up.

My Tuesday evening class has ended (though I still have to grade some of their assignments), so I will have another free evening.  I went to a Weight Watchers meeting with my favorite leader and weighed in. This leader is the reason I have enjoyed Weight Watchers so much more this time around, and I haven't been able to get to her meetings. Most Weight Watchers leaders are too chirpy and cheerful. Tina keeps it real, and I feel like she's in it with me and knows how hard it is sometimes.

I knew I would be up -- everyone has been bringing over food, which is nice, but when I was already feeling emotional and tired, I didn't have as much willpower.  That kind of food also is saltier than the food I make for myself. My goals for this week are simple: Track every day no matter what, and get in some kind of workout every day. 

Today I hit the pool for a swim -- this was only the second time since the outdoor summer swimming season ended that I got into the pool. I only did half an hour, but it felt good anyway. On the way home I stopped at a different grocery store and stocked up on fruits, veggies, yogurt, and other foods that fit well into my Points.  My husband is getting a cold so I picked up the ingredients for my Chicken Pho soup, which is the best thing in the world when you are sick.

I came home, put all the food away and reorganized the fridge.  Then I had a snack and took a short nap.  I'm way behind on sleep and I think it is going to take a while to catch up.

I'm hoping to be caught up at work by the end of this week.  I have an exciting new product I was sent to review but I'm not touching it until all my grading is done.  Ditto the new camera setup I bought so I could take Gwynnie Bee outfit photos by myself. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Dr. Dennis Gross 14 Day Challenge: Day 1

Note: This is an unsolicited, honest review. I purchased the products with my own funds. I am including Amazon Affiliate links in the post.

Day 1 Before
I need to lighten the mood here, and I'm also looking pretty terrible -- my skin is getting a double whammy of stress and hormones right now, and I am desperate to start looking and feeling better. I happened to be at the mall today right near the Sephora store, and had about an hour to kill. I didn't get the usual expert service there that I'm used to -- the service associate basically used the self-help tool that customers can use to find a product, and didn't have any specific recommendations for me. She was really young and didn't have a line or a visible pore on her face, so she probably doesn't spend much time thinking about skincare.   I specifically wanted something with retinol, because that is the one thing that has been proven to help improve both breakouts and wrinkles, and I'm looking at both right now. I don't want some magical new ingredient that is hyped up with fancy-sciencey-sounding words.
I watched the associate use the tool three or four times, and I noticed that Dr. Dennis Gross products were near the top of the recommendations list each time. I didn't want to spend a lot on a product that I didn't know would work, so Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Alpha Beta Daily Face Peel 14 Day Challenge product seemed perfect to me.  It was about half the price of the full-sized product I was interested in, the Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Ferulic Acid + Retinol Brightening Solution,
A tiny (0.25 oz) sample of this product is included in the kit as the final step.

Here's my protocol for the challenge. I am using the kit in the evenings, after washing with my Clarisonic Mia 2 (with a Delicate brush head) and CeraVe Foaming Facial Cleanser. I'll follow later with CeraVe Moisturizing Lotion.  In the morning, I'll just wash my face with my hands and the same cleanser and use a moisturizer with sunscreen. I'll report my results in 14 days, and maybe even check in midway if it seems like there is anything happening.

The facial kit includes 14 days worth of peel pads -- the first step is the peel and the second step supposedly neutralizes the peel ingredients. I got the regular version but there is also an Extra Strength version. The peel pads are about the size and texture of Wet-Naps.  Some people have reported cutting them in half and stuffing them back in the packets and somehow resealing them to make them last longer. I am just using them as is, but I'm doing my neck and d├ęcolletage as well. I even might do the backs of my hands.

I noticed a tingling sensation when using the first peel pad, which was just short of unpleasant, but did make me feel like the product was working.  I set a timer on my phone for the two minutes specified on the package directions before tearing into the second pad. It did seem to soothe that tingly feeling.

The next step was to smooth on some of this serum. It was hard to know how much to use but I tried a dropperful. I might try using a little less next time., as I had more than enough and I don't want to waste any.

I won't know how things are going for a little while, but my skin feels better.  I'm hoping to see quite a difference. I'll be watching for fading of brown spots, clearing of acne, and/or softening of fine lines and wrinkles.

Have you had any experience with this or a similar product?

Monday, October 13, 2014

Saying our goodbyes

My father finally passed Wednesday night. We had the memorial service yesterday. This has been a hard time for me, and it was even harder for him -- there was a lot of suffering that I thought no one should have to go through. I know he was more than ready to go. 

The timing turned out to be good for family and friends to make it in to town for the memorial yesterday. A lot of kids have today as a holiday from school, so people were able to make it from out of town.

We held the service in a hall in a local park instead of doing anything at a funeral home. He is being cremated and it wasn't important to us to have his ashes there -- I feel like it would be the same as bringing a pair of old socks -- he isn't in those ashes any more than he is in his clothes.

We spent a lot of time going through pictures and I forgot how healthy he had seemed for most of his life.  He did pretty well until the last ten years, until things started to gradually go downhill. He managed his diabetes just by taking his meds and staying active for almost thirty years.  

It is hard to say goodbye but he isn't in pain anymore, and I'm happy about that. 

Monday, October 06, 2014

Hoping to die at 75 isn't the right approach

Ezekiel Emanuel, a bioethicist (and brother to Rahm Emanuel) has created a bit of a firestorm with an Atlantic article about his desire to stop at 75. The Emanuel brothers seem to share a gift for brashness and controversy, because I am guessing that 90% of the attention that is being given to the article is because of the choice to name a specific age for his end. That's a shame, because there are some genuinely important issues getting lost in the brouhaha.

Emanuel, as a bioethicist, sees health and life and death from a population-level perspective, and makes some excellent points about the way our current so-called health care system just manages to prolong sickness and disability. I think that those points have gotten lost in the furor over the idea that there is an age at which people might want to choose death (in a passive way, as Emanuel opposes euthanasia and doctor-assisted suicide).

Americans are uncomfortable with death as a rule, so like everything unpleasant, we don't think about it and hope to put it off as long as possible. The best thing about this article going viral is that maybe it will start people thinking about not only what kind of life they want to have, but what kind of death they'd like to have.

We don't have a health-care system, we have a death prevention system and an illness-curing system.   Doctors rightly focus on patching us up when we're sick or injured, because that is what they are trained to do.  But if patients go on with the same habits that got them sick and injured in the first place, they may be worse off in the long run for that care, or even get a false sense of security that they can continue to make bad choices because the doctors will fix them with a procedure or a pill.

It makes sense to think, when making medical decisions, about what the likely long-term outcomes will be, given the patient's lifestyle and willingness to make changes. This kind of decision-making should be done at all ages, not just after 75.

I also think Emanuel is too quick to dismiss the role that lifestyle plays. Maybe total "compression of morbidity" is impossible, but lifestyle definitely plays a role in long-term health. I think that he envisioned people like himself when writing the article, health-conscious people with relatively high incomes.  For many Americans, the kind of slow decline that he envisions from old age starts happening a lot younger because they don't look at the ways to prevent disease and disability with lifestyle.  75 may be way too late for them.

The author has a high standard for what he considers a quality life, and though as he acknowledges, some exceptional people live high-achieving, high-quality lives long past 75, he doesn't want to live long after he starts to slow down.  It's a hard-driving male perspective, but he's a man and he has the right to have it.

My grandfather had the kind of quiet life that Emanuel was so quick to dismiss. He was from Italy and he was a shoemaker. He gardened, painted, and spent time with his family. He was active but also overweight. He smoked a pipe sometimes. A cardiologist who didn't know him tried to tell him to have open-heart surgery in his late 70s, and recommended a strict diet and all kinds of changes. Another cardiologist, a friend of the family, said, "Nick, don't do it. Go home and enjoy the rest of your life." He had the ideal death. He had a stroke a couple of weeks before his 90th birthday, and never regained consciousness, dying a few days after. A nurse said, "He's the strongest 70-year-old man I've ever seen."

I don't discount the value of a quiet life, but I am also never going to be the kind of person who wants to put death off as long as possible. I know too well what "as long as possible" looks like, and it isn't pretty. I'd suffer just about anything as long as there was hope to go back to a satisfying, mostly self-sufficient life.  But I would think carefully about any surgery or prescription drug. What is the whole picture? What are the risks? Are the long-term consequences worse than whatever it is I'm trying to address? What kind of lifestyle changes can I make instead? This is the kind of thing we should all be doing, and not just after 75.

"Count your calories, work out when you can, and try to be good to yourself. All the rest is bulls**t." -- Jillian Michaels at BlogHer '07