Saturday, March 20, 2010

Mar. 20: Quickie

No, get your mind out of the gutter! Not that kind of quickie. Just a quick update.

I did my walk/run today I wanted to gloat. Do you all recall the old man smoking the cigar who passed me walking his dog while I was running on run #1?

Well, bite me, OLD MAN!!!! I passed your big old cigar-smokin' butt today!!! And your little dog too!!! (read that last part ala Wicked Witch of the West.)

So run #3: Of my 3 kms, I ran (shuffled quickly - I can't be bothered with semantics) 2 kms!!! Yay! Furthest yet.

I sucked serious wind, thought I might puke, but have survived to update you all.

If I can run, anyone can run. Trust me. I am still at least 30 pounds overweight, was sedentary until a few months ago and I'm 41. YOU CAN DO IT!!!

It hurts, you will gasp for air, your legs will burn, and you will feel so darned accomplished!!! Give it a try!

Mar. 20: People Frustrate Me!

Another two-for-one day from Daisy! I'm really "wordy" today!

People really frustrate me. After you have been at it for a while, it's fairly obvious that you've lost weight, tightened up and just generally look healthier. Inevitably, people ask you what you've been doing. They want to know "your secret."

Initially I was the Jehovah's Witness of clean eating. I wanted to tell everyone in great detail how much better it felt to live a life free of chemicals. I wanted to knock on the neighbors doors and tell them all about my epiphany. However, their eyes tended to glaze over very quickly.

I began to edit. "I walk everyday and I don't eat processed foods."

It rarely fails that someone doesn't immediately respond with why they can't do such a revolutionary thing themselves. Some folks are defensive and others are downright snide, pointing out all the time I have on my hands since I am currently unemployed.

Other people that actually are dieting, are limiting the changes they are willing to make. It's too much trouble for them to measure their servings, there is no microwave at work, or their kids won't eat healthy food so there is no point in making it. I really do try to help, but I've begun to be able to recognize the people that are in there for the long haul and the ones for whom this is just another in a long line of "diets."

I finally figured out that no one actually wants to know it involves a personal commitment. They just hope you can give them a shortcut so there is no actual work involved. If there is work involved, they want to justify why they can't do it. They don't want to make an actual change, they just want to wake up and look different. There really aren't any reasons - only excuses.

Here are a few of the things that no one wants to know:

1.) It doesn't actually take that much more time to make things from scratch than to drive to McDonalds, place your order at the window, and drive home.
2.) Walking can be easily incorporated into your daily errands.
3.) Changing from soda pop to water takes no time at all.
4.) Cutting out refined sugar takes no time at all.
5.) Bringing and apple and almonds from home is just as easy (and cheaper) than hitting the vending machine for a Snickers bar.
6.) If an unemployed single mom can afford a healthy, semi-organic diet, someone with 2 full time incomes can definitely swing it.
7.) 30 minutes a day that you would ordinarily watch TV could be spent walking, working out to a DVD in the basement, or going to the gym. You CAN work it in if you really want to.
8.) There is no magic pill, no powerful supplement and no secret key to living a healthier lifestyle. It's simply a matter of making better choices, eating real food, and working activity into your life whenever there is an opportunity.

There are 1001 reasons people "can't" make a change, but the number one reason, and the basis for the other thousand is that they "won't" make a change.

I have a friend who is one of the most remarkable people that I have had the gift of knowing. She is quiet and humble. She is not rolling in money, and is a very busy stay-at-home mom of 2 young children. She is a lovely person inside and out. She has been battling her weight with the determination of a Spartan soldier. She is one of the few people that actually has a medical reason that makes weight loss extremely difficult. She suffers from PCOS, which causes all sorts of hormonal imbalances, insulin resistance and many more issues that are not conducive to weight loss. In two months of strict, weighing-and-measuring, calorie-counting dieting, she might lose one pound. She has literally been at this for years, plugging away with endless determination. How many people could do that?

And yet she never gives up. Sure, she gets frustrated. Yes, she falls off the wagon from time to time. But the next day, she gets up, she eats a healthy breakfast, and gives 100% to getting back on track. She spends hours researching her condition. She experiments with her macronutrients. With medical odds against her, she keeps pushing on. I know that she will meet her goal, despite anything her health can throw at her, because of her determination and her sheer will to succeed.

If my friend can do all this, despite the legitimate obstacles she faces, who are the rest of us to say we "can't" for silly reasons like convenience?

And, honey, you know who you are. My admiration for your strength is endless and it is an honor to be your friend.

Mar. 20: More Tips For Getting Started

Sometimes the first step is the hardest. There are so many people who want to change their life. They want to lose weight or correct unhealthy eating habits. They want to get fit. They want to revel in feeling truly WELL. But starting out is just so overwhelming.......that they just never start.

Sometimes you read a book on fitness and/or nutrition and it inspires you. That happened to me, when I read Tosca Reno's The Eat-Clean Diet. It resonated with me. I knew that it was at least part of a path to where I wanted to go. However, getting started felt like preparing an army of 10,000 to launch an invasion on a small country. I spent a fortune at the grocery store purchasing obscure ingredients. I tossed trigger foods I had in my house. I planned menus meticulously, measured foods maniacally and re-learned how to cook. I am thrilled with my new eating habits but I feel like it can be simplified. Now that eating clean and healthy has become a habit, I know how simple it can be!

If you are thinking of starting out on a plan like this, try incorporating these tips:

1.) See what clean foods you already have in your house. If your current habits were anything like mine were, it may not be a lot, but it could be the basis for a few meals.

2.) Figure out a simplified menu for the first week. This is especially important if you are on a budget. It can help you spread out the expense of getting started a little bit. Base the menu on the ingredients that you already have, and add some heart-healthy nuts and beans, some fruits and vegetables, and some ingredients to round out the meals you plan to make.

3.) Change the way you look at shopping - you are shopping for ingredients, not meals. Break down your list like this: protein sources, complex carbs, simple carbs, and healthy fats. Make certain you have enough food to get you through a few days. Lack of planning can send you straight to the drive-thru.

4.) Plan ahead for days that will be challenging. For our family, Thursdays are always crazy. There are after school activities and gymnastics lessons, with just a short amount of time for dinner squeezed in. We have planned leftovers or something that cooks in the crock pot on Thursdays. Most of the time, you know in advance which days of the week will be crazy. Not only will it help you stick to your eating plan, but preparation can really reduce your stress on those days.

5.) Always bring one more snack than you expect to need. Having a Kashi bar and some almonds in my purse has saved me from demise the mall food court many times. Life likes to throw you curve balls just to make sure you are awake. Surprise life by being ready for them.

6.) Make planned leftovers. This way you always have food that is ready to eat. I never make just two chicken breasts. I make six. I make a big pot of brown rice, not just the amount we need for dinner. I freeze things in single serving Tupperware for lunches and family sized servings for quick dinners.

7.) Try to make cleaned up versions of old favorites. It's far easier to bring the family on board when you don't try to feed them tofu and lemongrass, but instead continue to make them burgers and chicken strips. (Only you have to know how healthy the new versions are!)

I know this post is getting kind of long. However, I'm going to make it longer. Let me give you an example of a week at our house. We nearly always have the same breakfast: toast w/ natural peanut butter and a piece of fruit or some oatmeal. Lunches are nearly always leftovers. Snacks are nearly always fruit and yogurt or fruit and nuts. Dinners change, so that is the list I'm making here.

We're going to also pretend we are just starting out, so in my theoretical pantry and fridge I have a can of black beans, a can of crushed tomatoes, some chicken breasts, some whole wheat pasta, and a frozen broccoli cauliflower mix.

Based on the above ingredients, here is a menu. The items that I "already had" are in bold, and leftovers are italicized:

Monday: Spaghetti sauce (made from crushed tomatoes and herbs) with ground turkey and spinach, whole wheat pasta

Tuesday: Brown rice, grilled chicken breasts, and steamed broccoli cauliflower mix

Wednesday: Brown rice, stir fry with chicken breasts and broccoli/ cauliflower mix

Thursday: Crock pot chili (remember? Thursday is crazy day!) made with crushed tomatoes, ground turkey (this could also be made from leftover spaghetti sauce!) and black beans.

Friday: Nachos: Chili over organic blue corn tortilla chips, topped with some low fat cheese.

Now, what did I get at the grocery store?

Bag of brown rice
Lean ground turkey
Fresh baby spinach
low fat cheese
organic blue corn tortilla chips
fresh fruits and veggies of choice
Nuts for snacking
This also assumes you have an array of spices to cook with. The meals are fairly safe and familiar for those family members you are trying to bring over to the "Clean Side". You aren't breaking the bank. You aren't spending 77.8 hours in the kitchen.
See? Getting started can be easy with just a little planning!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Mar. 19: Adventures in the Gym

I've decided to gym hop a little bit to decide where to join (plus to give myself a little more time to come up with some $$$!). Today was my first real gym workout since I started this journey.

I felt really awkward trying to figure out what the heck I was doing, but I got through it. I'm going with simple movements, one exercise per body part, and the heaviest weights I can lift properly.

Here is what I did today:

2 sets: Chest Press: 90 # x 9, 100 # x 5
2 sets: Curls: 40 # x 6
2 sets: Cable Pushdowns: 30 # x 10, 40 # x 6
2 sets: Shoulder Press: 10 # x 6, 10 # x 5

I used machines for everything except the shoulder press where I used dumbbells. I can hardly lift my arms now, so either that means I have a sudden weird neurological disorder or I worked really hard.

When I go home I had to charge my Ipod for 10 minutes or so, then I took the dog for a brisk 30 minute walk. Okay, it would have been brisk if she had not had to stop and sniff the pee of the other dogs every five seconds for one stretch.

I'm having weird issues. My weight is actually UP 6 pounds right now, and I can find no good reason for it. My calories are well under maintenance, I'm exercising way more than I was previously, and I consume very little sodium. I'm chalking it up to some hormonal weirdness but I am decidedly unhappy about this turn of events.

The only thing I can do is hang in there. I know that I am doing everything one should do to lose weight in a healthy manner. To borrow a little quote I saw on another site, I'm not a "precious unique little snowflake." The basic rules of weight loss are the same for nearly all of us. Eat less, move more - that is the long and the short of it. All the other stuff is fluff - useful fluff for your health, but if you don't make those two points (particularly the "eat less" part) the basis of a weight loss plan, you will not achieve weight loss.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Mar. 18: What do you eat when you aren't at home?

Lunch meetings happen. Dinners with the in-laws happen. Company banquets and picnics, dinner at a friend's house, bridal showers and pot lucks all happen. It's a regular part of life. People ask me quite often what they should do.

There isn't just one answer, but there are some guidelines.

First of all, if you are changing your eating habits as a change of lifestyle you are going to run into this for the next 75 years or so (I'm an optimist!) Don't let your eating habits isolate your from the rest of the world. Remember that it's what you do 95% of the time that makes up the composition of your body. You'd have to REALLY pack it in for one meal to make that much of a difference. If your diet is tight most of the time, it's absolutely fine to let go of the control here and there.

Secondly, there are very few times that there will be absolutely NOTHING healthy for you to eat. Simply make the best choices possible from the options that are available. If the meat is fried chicken, discreetly pull off the skin and batter. If the sides are all mayo-loaded salads, take a tiny spoonful. If the dessert is cake and ice cream, have a small serving or pass on it. Load up on garden salad if it's available, and look for a fruit or veggie platter. If you leave hungry, just eat when you get home.

These occasions don't usually completely sneak up on us. If you know it's happening and you are certain there aren't going to be healthy options, and you really don't want to blow your diet that day, eat a good meal before you go and just nibble on a few things while you are there to be sociable. Trust me, the other people are so busy eating they will hardly notice that you are NOT eating.

Most people have off plan meals here and there. You might consider it your off-plan meal for the week, and just enjoy it in reasonable amounts!

Another suggestion would be to donate something to the meal. Make a veggie platter, a healthy dip with homemade pita chips or a delicious fruit salad. Most hostesses are delighted when someone offers to bring something to add to the meal.

While it is very important to focus on your goals, rare is the time that you have to be 100% focused, 100% of the time. If you aren't a fitness competitor going into a contest, it's unlikely that you can't afford to let go of the reins a little bit. Don't let your healthy habits turn you into a social pariah. Within limits, give yourself permission to go off plan now and then. Don't do it every day, but don't lose your connection with people for the sake of keeping things clean.

And the most important advice of all? Don't hesitate to get right back on your plan the very next meal. Don't use the off-plan meal as an excuse to blow off the rest of the day, the weekend or, worst case scenario, the week. Enjoy your off plan time and then focus your efforts back on your goal.

Mar. 18: Emotional Eating

It seems like the world is programming us to be emotional eaters. Think about popular culture: in nearly every chick flick, the skinny blond sadly grabs a spoon and a gallon of Ben and Jerry's out of the freezer to bemoan her love life. What they don't show is the ever-widening butt of people who indulge in this habit.

I think emotional eating is somewhat a newer issue. 75 years ago, there wasn't the ready access to prepared food that there is now - you couldn't go to the grocery store and grab a bag of chips and a gallon of ice cream like you can now. Between the addictive chemicals in processed foods and the abundance of sugar making your blood sugar go up and down like a yo yo, is it any wonder that bingeing has become a pattern behavior?

One way to help combat emotional eating is to go back to the beginning of it. Do you remember when you first began to binge to make yourself feel better? I do.

When my first child was 6 months old, my husband at the time and I moved way out in the country to this beautiful old farmhouse. We both loved it. What I didn't expect was that the fighting between us would lead to him taking off with the car for 3-4 days at a time, leaving me alone and isolated with a baby for company. We didn't have long distance service on our phone and my family all lived 1000 miles away. I did not have one single friend in the local calling area. I got more and more depressed. To make matters worse the only thing in walking distance was a little convenience store about half a mile down the road. I remember doing my husband's laundry and scrounging enough change from his pockets to equal about $5. I would put the baby in the stroller and trudge down the highway to buy BBQ potato chips and candy. My step was lighter on the way home; I couldn't wait to get home and stuff the food into my mouth as fast as I could. I gained about 30 pounds this way.

After that, a pattern was established. I dealt with stressful situations by numbing myself with food. I ate my way through my unhappy marriage and my subsequent divorce, I ate my way through a stressful job and when my beloved father became terminally ill, I really chowed down. Each stressor brought with it a certain food in which I took comfort.

Here's what I learned: through research about what I was eating, I discovered that certain food additives trigger responses in the brain. Briefly, they give your brain a boost in serotonin, the chemical that is lacking in a depressed person. Unfortunately it's only a temporary effect, triggering the urge to eat that food again.

Keeping a very detailed journal is what helped me get over emotional eating. You have to delve back to the very origin of it. Did you start doing it as a child because you saw your mother doing it? Was there a certain circumstance that occurred, triggering the beginning of this unhealthy cycle? Once you identify these triggers, you can begin to recover.

Since I began this journey I have definitely had serious stress in my life. My teen daughter moved in with her dad. My business bottomed out. Money is definitely in a shortage. However, not once have I turned to food since I made my personal discoveries. Before any and all of these things would have sent me diving headfirst into a bag of Doritos.

So today's exercise: When is the first time you recall bingeing because of unhappiness?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Mar. 17: Good News/ Bad News

Which do you want first?

Okay - the good news. Today was Day 2 of my walk/run program. It went way better than Day 1 and I was really excited to be able to run (or at least shuffle quickly) for half of it. I went a total of 3 km and I ran 1.5 km of it! Yippee! I did everything fro 1/4 mile intervals.

The bad news? I think I may be developing shin splints. My legs are sore alongside my shins towards the outside of my legs. Not making me a happy camper. It's not excruciating but I don't want an injury that may keep me off my feet I'm just getting into the swing of fitness. No injuries please!

I don't have much of a plan except I am limiting the dog walks to 20 minutes for the next couple of days. I'll schedule my next run as planned, based on how I'm feeling - I might even take an extra rest day. Boo hiss to shin splints! How could I have an injury this soon into it?

So, anyhow, here we sit, the dog and I, wishing for a very speedy recovery.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Mar. 16: The First "Run"

Well, folks, there's nothing like being passed by an elderly man walking, yes walking, his little dog while smoking a cigar, when you are running and gasping for air, to put you in your place.

Sad but true. I'm slower than molasses in January.

My new purple shoes apparently do not have magical powers, setting my feet afire with the joy of running. They really are pretty though, and my ankles and knees didn't hurt, so that's good.

I went for 3 km yesterday, using the basic plan in the Couch to 5K program here:
I was feeling pretty gung ho, thinking I'd be able to advance far past what they recommended. Alas, I couldn't even do quite what was recommended. From my 3 K, if I'm being very generous with myself, 3/4 km was running (or perhaps shuffling quickly.)

You know, though, I'm not giving up on it. It has to get easier - the website says it will! Tomorrow, I'm going to give it another shot, and then in 2 more days, another, and eventually, I'll be running the whole thing without sucking wind.

And the old dude with the cigar won't be able to catch me!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Mar. 15: Weekly Check In and a Recipe

Boo! It's that time of month, which has completely skewed my results on my experiment with calories. I was up 4 pounds from yesterday this morning so I have to pitch the whole week's results as inaccurate. I'm going to try to keep my intake similar in the coming week to see whether or not my increased calories are causing an issue or still resulting in a good rate of weight loss.

Weight is NOT being posted - it's just inaccurate. Here are the food stats:

Weekly Average Intake:

Calories: 1489
Carbs: 163.5g
Fat: 51g
Protein: 99g
Sodium: 1728mg
Fiber: 26.5

I'm happy with every thing except the protein. I'll be focusing on raising my protein intake this week. I want to get to 125 g of protein per day, and hopefully, thanks to a reasonable tasting protein powder I found, I'll get there!

(The numbers above factor in off plan meals and snacks for the weekly averages.)

Last week was a success for working out. I did two days of strength training and will do 3 in the coming week. I walked every day except one. This week I'm starting a walk/run program that I found online - very excited to do that!!!

I don't have a picture but I came up with a spectacularly delicious new food concoction I want to share with you! It's hard to believe this is clean!

Black Bean and Sausage Quesadilla
Sausage ( I used an all nat. chicken sausage - no preservatives or nitrates)
Refried Black Beans (I used canned fat free - just beans and seasonings)
Soft goat cheese
Tablespoon of olive oil, divided
Garlic and onion, finely chopped, to taste
Wrap (I used Ezekiel wraps)
Salsa for dipping
1.) Heat half of oil in a skillet. When the skillet is hot, add garlic and onion. Squeeze sausage from its casing and add that in little crumbles to the skillet also.
2.) Brown sausage and veggies until done.
3.) Spread 1/2 of wrap with goat cheese and the other half with refried beans. Top one side with the sausage veggie mixture and fold it over, quesadilla style.
4.) Wipe pan and heat remaining oil in it. When the pan is sizzling hot put the quesadilla in, bean side down.
5.) Flip quesadilla after about two minutes and cook for approximately two minutes on the other side.
6.) Let the quesadilla rest for about 2-3 minutes, then slice with a pizza cutter. Enjoy with salsa for dipping.
343 calories, 36 grams of carbs, 13 grams of fat, 21 grams of protein