Saturday, January 31, 2015

Pushing Through Gnawing Hunger

A few of the staples I purchased today to make the next week easier for eating healthy. A note on the real maple syrup. I use a small amount to flavor my oatmeal and make some of my homemade salad dressings. It is much lower on the glycemic index than table sugar and many other sweeteners. I also purchased numerous fruits and veggies. Yum! 

I was hungry almost all day yesterday, a terrible gnawing hunger, despite eating a healthy and tasty breakfast and lunch. I imagine my hunger was a consequence of Thursday night's unplanned indulgence (lasagne). My body was scoffing at the healthy food I gave it yesterday. It wanted more of the high-calorie, high-fat content food I enjoyed the night before. Even so, I've been down that path too many times - one indulgence leading to more and more indulgences that make me feel like I can never get enough of what's not good for me.

I want better for myself. I want the energy and clarity of thought and weight loss that comes from consistently eating healthy, so I persisted last night, eating a healthy dinner with a protein drink, and I feel much, much better today - less vulnerable to foods that aren't so good for me. I'm not as hungry. I'm glad I stayed the course.

To make the next week easier, I took extra care this morning in planning menus for the next seven days. Once I had the menus set, making the grocery shopping list was a breeze because some time ago, I created an aisle by aisle grocery shopping list for our grocery store, which includes foods we frequently purchase. All I had to do was circle the needed food items and add a few that weren't already on the list.

So, now I'm set with a week of foods I'm looking forward to, foods that will delight my taste buds and nourish my body, including lentil chili that is bubbling in the slow cooker at this very moment, and several loaves of healthy whole grain bread baking in the oven. The house smells heavenly!

One thing I know about striving to eat healthy overall is that some days are better than others. And I'm glad today's a good day.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Accountability Check-In: Feeling Satisfied, Thankfully

So, I'll be honest, today was hard. Like I said in my earlier post (in the comment section), I ate a healthy breakfast and lunch, but still ended up pretty hungry and with cravings this afternoon. Friday afternoons have traditionally been "treat time" at our house after a busy week. And I'm not talking about a super-healthy treat either. I was tempted several times to dive into a pan of brownies or something similar. Thankfully, I didn't have any brownies in the house.

So, instead, I went for a run and then came home and ate a delicious black bean and brown rice burrito as well as a green salad while my family ate the leftover lasagne. I still felt hungry after dinner, so I made a protein drink and I finally feel satisfied. I am especially vulnerable when I'm hungry and I don't need to be hungry tonight while my family has ice cream. I am committed to finishing this day strong.

The Rewards of Eating Healthy for Even a Few Days

Day Five of eating healthier may seem like no big deal to some, but to me, it feels pretty significant, something worth noting. Here are a few of the rewards I've experienced for eating healthier over the last few days:
  1. I have more energy. None of the energy slumps I experience on the days I eat poorly. I find that I am more productive in the late afternoon/early evening, which is a good thing since I usually feel like I'm about to tank toward the end of the day.
  2. I feel less bloated and achy. Too much sugar and salt make my hands, feet, and abdomen feel swollen, and probably causes inflammation throughout my body, which I suspect is what makes me feel especially achy at times. By eating healthier these last few days, I feel far less bloated and achy. My stomach is flatter and I don't feel that awful swelling in my hands and feet. 
  3. I am sleeping much better. When I'm not focused on eating healthy, I tend to especially overindulge in the evenings, which often leaves me hyped up on sugar and chocolate. When this happens, I cannot fall asleep until late at night, which makes me super fatigued the next day, hence chasing more sugar for energy, resulting in late and short nights. After a few days of eating healthier, I have eased into a better sleep schedule with little effort (no sugar/chocolate keeping me awake) and I sleep better once I'm out. 
  4. I am experiencing a positive ripple effect in my self-care. I am finding that when I make better choices in one area of my life, I tend to make better choices in others. I am meditating regularly now. I have returned to taking walks with my son after we get home from school and work. And I find myself pausing now when I feel stressed to take a few relaxed breaths rather than reaching for a cookie. 
On the days I'm tempted to stray well off the healthy-eating pathway, I will look back at this list and press on. What benefits have you experienced from eating healthier? I hope you'll make your own list and keep it handy. Let's all press on.
One thing that helps me to press on when it comes to walking and jogging is to keep my running shoes out where I can see them when I roll out of bed in the mornings.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Accountability Check-In: Stuffed

I did really well overall today on eating food that is delicious and healthy. Tonight, I had one indulgence - a small serving of the wheat pasta lasagne my husband made for dinner. I made sure though that I had a protein drink before eating to curb my appetite so I wouldn't overindulge. It worked. Actually, I feel overstuffed right now, something that eating less fatty foods doesn't cause. I am committed to keeping my indulgence to what I had for dinner. I am done eating for the day. And though stuffed, I am feeling great overall.

The Choice to Take Care

I do not know a single fit and healthy woman who does not make a conscious choice to take good care of herself. I've known a few who say, "Nah, I don't really make a conscious effort," but when I dig a little deeper, I find that there's the daily walk, or the wholesome breakfasts. They may not tick all of the boxes for exceptional self-care, but they have some of the important things in place.

In my case, I've long been good at getting exercise, and it's a good thing for numerous reasons, including the fact that I would likely weigh 25 pounds more if I did not exercise at all. Even so, if you've read previous posts, you know that I have some work to do on the food front but also the sleeping and stress-reduction fronts.

As far as the food goes, I don't think I will ever choose a healthy diet on a daily basis without some serious conscious thought. There are too many less healthy options easily available in the grocery store, at church or other social gatherings, or in my own home (because I am not willing to force my family to eat only what I eat). If I am going to eat healthy overall on a regular basis, I must make conscious choices.

One of my friends has chosen, for very specific health reasons, to eat vegan while her family continues to eat a more mainstream diet. She says the only way she maintains her diet is to plan and make meals in advance, which includes making multiple servings of something like black bean burritos and individually wrap and store them in the freezer.

Though I'm not a huge advance planner like she is, I am committed to better planning menus and grocery shopping trips with healthy foods in mind, especially foods that I can grab when I'm in a hurry. Even now, my better choices are adding up to a positive impact in how I feel and will eventually impact how I will look.

So, while I may always have a fantasy of eating however, whatever, whenever I want without a moment's thought about the consequences of my choices, I know that such a fantasy will not give me the energy I need to live life to the fullest. And, let there be no mistake, I want to live life to the fullest...for me and for my children. So, today, I choose to take care of myself by eating foods that will nourish and replenish my body and mind. In other words, I choose to live life to the fullest. Today. No more putting it off. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Accountability Check-In: Feeling Fantastic Though Sometimes Hungry

Another great day behind me and I don't take it for granted!

Having these accountability check-ins makes all the difference, before and after the check-in. Wanting to give a good report about my food choices at the end of the day keeps me on track during the day, but also after giving my report because I don't want to have to go back and amend it.

Last night, I did my accountability check-in fairly early (afraid I would otherwise forget), and then a little while later, I started to feel terribly hungry, especially when I spent some time on YouTube learning about Réunion Island where my daughter is serving on her 18-month mission trip. There was an entire segment on the Island's amazing Creole and French food. I wanted some. Bad. Though I didn't have any on hand, without the motivation of my accountability report, I might have gone off scrounging for a poor substitute in the kitchen. I'm glad I didn't because a little while later, I was off to bed with another successful day under my belt. And that felt like a big, big win.

So, whatever temptations come between now and bedtime, I am going to stay the course, committed to a third day of serious success.

How has your day gone? I'd love to hear.

Slow Cooker Heaven: An Easy, Nutritious, Delicious Pinto Bean Dinner

What would it be like to have a personal cook, someone to prepare all of our nutritious, delicious meals for us? All we would have to do is show up at the dinner table ready to eat. I could handle that, but alas reality sets in, and I have to work with what I have - me...and children and a husband who sometimes cook.

The truth is that I don't really mind cooking. It's just the cooking pretty-much-every-day that gets old, so I try to cook smart, which for me, means cooking big batches of whatever I'm making so it will feed us for more than one meal. I love using the Crock-pot or slow cooker because once I throw everything into the pot and set the temp, I'm done. I just have to get the kids to set the table before dinner and prepare a simple salad. This makes eating healthy super easy.

Not the most exciting photo ever, but for me, the sight of this pot means dinner is on it's way. When I come home to the delicious smell of pinto beans or some other nutritious, delicious meal in the slow cooker, I feel like someone else has done the cooking for me.

Here's my much-requested recipe for a delicious, steaming pot of vegan pinto beans -

Debra's Favorite Pinto Beans:

4 cups pinto beans
8 cups water
1 medium onion, diced
2 heaping teaspoons of cumin
2 teaspoons salt
1 heaping teaspoon of oregano
1 generous tablespoon of minced garlic (I use garlic from a jar; use less garlic, if desired.)

Rinse beans and add them and water to the slow cooker. Add diced onion and seasonings. Set slow cooker to low for 6 to 8 hours-plus cooking time. Or, set it on high to cook in 4 to 5 hours. I do not soak the beans overnight. Depending on the size of your household, you may be able to use this for a second meal as is, or by adding some browned ground turkey and a 1/4 cup of of chili powder and, if desired, a can of stewed tomatoes. You can also freeze single serving-size portions to use as needed. Enjoy!  


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Accountability Check-in for Jan. 27th

I have finished day #2 of eating clean and nutritiously. Knowing that I have these accountability check-ins is motivating. I want to give a good report. I'm feeling great.

Beginning with the End of Today in Mind

There's a lot to be said for beginning with the end in mind in any goal we set. For example, years ago I set the goal to run a marathon. The day I set the goal, I had just three months to go from being a relatively flat-land 5k/10k runner to running 26.2 miles in the Rocky Mountains. I found the perfect training schedule and went for it. Along the way, I thought a lot about what it would be like to complete the race. Envisioning the accomplishment gave me a lot of drive and made the tougher running days more doable.

I've tried to do that same thing with eating healthier and especially losing weight - envisioning what I will look like/feel like at the finish line of losing all the extra weight. And while there is some benefit to such an exercise, I find if I focus too much on achieving that ultimate goal of losing all the extra weight, I tend to become incredibly impatient, anxious, and overwhelmed. And pretty soon I feel like giving up because it all seems so impossible, and next thing you know, I have a slip-up in my eating and another and another until I am no longer even trying.

So, here is what I've decided: If I am going to eat healthy on a long-term basis and lose that extra weight, I must take it one day at a time. Instead of focusing on how I will look/feel months from now as a driving force for my actions today, I am going to focus on where I want to be at the end of today. That is a manageable chunk of time.

So at the end of today, I want to feel good about how I've eaten and good because I have eaten well - less bloated, less fatigued and more energetic. If I navigate day by day, focusing on today rather than anticipating all the days to come, the days will add up, and I will have success.

So this morning, I begin with the end of today in mind. I hope you'll join me. Stay tuned. I'll report back tonight.
Few things make me feel as good as a protein drink after running or lifting weights. Recipe: In a blender, blend 8 to 10 oz of milk or non-dairy drink and one sliced banana until smooth. Then add 1 scoop of protein powder and a sprinkle of nutmeg and blend for 10 seconds or so. Drink and Enjoy!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Stepping it Up: An Accountability Check-In

I had high hopes this morning of starting the week out strong, and I've done it!

I ate healthy all day and had a great day because of it. I felt better than usual on my 3-mile run (I wasn't faster, but the run was easier), got a lot done throughout the day without feeling worn out, and felt better emotionally because of the effects of healthy eating and because I feel better about myself when I do what's good for me.

I've had ample vegetables and some fruits. I chose whole grains (oatmeal and brown rice) that filled me up, and proteins that stabilized my blood sugar (beans primarily). I also stopped eating at 7 p.m., except for allowing myself a club soda with a twist of lime while spending time with my kids. It may take some time until I adjust to the 7 p.m. cut-off. My friend says it takes her about a week (she actually has a 6 p.m. cut-off). 

I exercised today, attending my Body Pump (weightlifting class), and jogging those three miles. I even snuck in a quick walk with my son before dinner that boosted my late day energy level, and reduced my appetite.

I did it. The first day of cracking down is behind me, and I'm feeling great!

Stepping it Up

A Delicious Power Breakfast: oatmeal, diced Pink Lady apples, flaxseed, Chia seeds, almonds, a splash of soy milk, and a sprinkle of cinnamon. A filling, nutritious breakfast.
My big success so far this year is that I've upped my daily vegetable and fruit count. And as a result, I've had more energy and stamina overall. The problem is that my little splurges have morphed into bigger splurges and I've gained some weight back, and that's definitely not the direction I want to head, so it's time to step it up, time to up my game.

Here are my goals for this week:
  1. Eat Vegetables especially plentifully. 
  2. Limit Fruits to two or three a day. 
  3. Eat some protein at each meal to stabilize blood sugar and limit cravings.
  4. Eliminate sugar and white flour, focusing on whole grains instead, including oatmeal and brown rice.  
  5. Stop eating no later than 7 p.m. each day. One of my friends says that this goal alone makes a real impact on her weight loss and maintenance. 
What do I need to do to set myself up for success this week? First, I need to plan some activities to distract myself from night-time snacking, maybe a reading-date with my son (where he reads his book and I read mine), or watching an enjoyable show like Granite Flats. Second, I need to hold myself accountable each day.

As you can see, I've posted fewer entries on my blog in the last two weeks, in part, because I've had a hard time squeezing writing time in since my schedule hit full-throttle again with work and other responsibilities. The key is going to be writing earlier in the morning and then writing a quick follow-up in the evening to maintain accountability.

Though I've had some setbacks in the last couple of weeks, I've had a second success that's also worth sharing: I've meditated for 15 minutes every night this past week, and as a result, I've fallen asleep sooner, slept more soundly, and awakened feeling better rested. And that's a very good thing, hence my relative ease at waking so early this morning. Click HERE to see a terrific set of options for meditating. I'm especially keen on Meditation 2 - The Body Scan.   

Am I embarrassed that I have had some serious setbacks, even as I've blogged about eating healthier and losing weight? Yes, I am. And yet I feel good about the successes I've had - eating more vegetables and fruits, and meditating regularly - and determined to make adjustments to have greater success overall. The day is just beginning, but I feel good about it so far. After all, I've made my commitment early by writing this post. I've cast my vote for success. 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Veggie Power: How to Have More Vegetables Every Day

The delicious power-salad I made for lunch today. It included 10 vegetables - romaine lettuce, spinach, kale, tomatoes, celery, orange bell pepper, Portobello mushrooms, carrots, green onions, and broccoli. My green smoothie included kale, spinach, strawberries, pineapple, 1/2 small banana, wheat grass, and about 12 oz of water. I feel super-nourished!

As important as vegetables are to our health and well-being, I don’t always get enough. Here’s my brainstorm for doing better: 

  • Eat Salad for Breakfast: The earlier I eat vegetables in the day, the more likely I am to have enough. The first time I had salad for breakfast, along with my oatmeal, I felt a little silly, but I actually liked the sense of satisfaction it gave me while eating and after. I did not feel hungry all morning. I need to eat salad for breakfast more often. 
  • Prepare Veggies in Advance: I am far more likely to eat enough vegetables if they are prepared ahead of time. So are my kids. The best time to prepare them is right after a grocery trip. As I’m putting the groceries away, I set the vegetables on the counter to rinse and cut up. Some like to put their prepared veggies in baggies. I love to fill up a large shallow Tupperware container with a rainbow of vegetables. The only problem I have with preparing veggies in advance (other than finding the time) is that my kids may eat them before I’ve had my fill.
  • Purchase Bagged Salad: As much as I love freshly cut up romaine lettuce in my salads, I have more salad if I keep a bag of triple washed salad in the fridge. On the days I’m running short on time, it takes just seconds to pour some salad into a bowl and go.
  • Take the Seven-Veggie Super-Salad Challenge: Years ago, a woman challenged me to include at least seven vegetables in my salads. Some of my favorites include cubed jicama, tomatoes, two or more varieties of lettuce, kale, spinach, colorful bell peppers, green onions, cucumbers, and celery. Sometimes to change things ups, I throw in some blueberries, tangerine sections or strawberries. 
  • Dive into a Delicious Dip –I can only eat so many celery sticks plain, but with a good dip, I could probably eat an entire head. I love Hummus, and White Bean, and want to try Baba Ganoush. Click HERE to see my go-to recipe for Hummus.
  • Tank up on Tomato or Vegetable Juice: When I’m short on available vegetables or especially short on time, I pump up my veggie quotient with a bottle of tomato or vegetable juice. It’s nourishing, cuts the cravings, and ties me over until I make the trip to the grocery store.
I’d love to hear your suggestions for increasing the veggie count in our lives.  Here's to Veggie-Power!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Exceptional Self-Care: A Great Gift for Every Woman

Taken right after running a Turkey Trot 5K. I run one every Thanksgiving to celebrate good health, something I don't take for granted as a cancer-survivor.
Five months from today I turn the big 5-0! That feels like a pretty big milestone and one I plan to welcome. The forties have been amazing in many ways, but I'm ready to embrace a new decade in my life, and one of my biggest goals is to hit 50 full-throttle in terms of energy and joy for life!

My forties have taught me that you pay a heavy price if you consistently push yourself too hard without taking good care of yourself. Too many times, I have dismissed exceptional self-care as somehow not worth my time or too self-centered or self-indulgent, but I can tell you that the consequences of self-neglect add up, and sometimes those consequences are irreversible. For example, when I pushed myself too hard after ovarian cancer surgery in my early forties, I ended up with a second surgery for an injured back. I live with the nerve damage down through my leg and foot to this day, though it's thankfully much more manageable than it was for several years.  

Life is amazing but it is also very, very challenging at times and none of us are exempt. There are health crises (ours and/or others), worries about loved ones and friends, financial challenges, difficult decisions to make, heartache and so on. And I have learned that those are the times when perhaps we should make an extra effort to take good care of ourselves. For example, I remember when my father was very sick in the hospital five hours away. Though I was tempted to just jump in the car and go, I took a few minutes and packed some fruits and vegetables and hummus dip to accompany me since I knew I would hardly leave the hospital at all. And I was glad that I took that time because eating to nourish in the midst that crisis gave me more energy and focus to be present for my dad in his final days.

As I have worked to eat healthier this year, I have really begun to wonder how much difference exceptional self-care can make in our lives. When I say "exceptional self-care," I'm not talking about a luxury spa trip, though I'm open to that being a possibility someday. Rather, I'm taking about taking good care of ourselves on a daily basis right here at home. What difference can exceptional self-care make over time?

So far, I have learned that eating healthier overall (I've had a few slip-ups) makes me less sluggish, more energetic, clear-thinking, and upbeat. I have a well of energy that I do not experience when I eat for instant gratification rather than thinking about how what I eat will ultimately impact me.

I know from experience that exercise (something I'm consistently good at) makes a huge difference in my days. When I exercise, whether by walking, jogging, cycling or swimming, I feel far less stressed and more focused overall. Though I'm not a big fan of swimming laps (I'd rather splash around), there's something about swimming laps in the summer time that makes me sleep like a baby at night. And sleeping like a baby at night is the ultimate self-care!

There is one more big thing I want to do more consistently to take better care of myself and that is having a daily meditation practice. I have become a huge fan of Mark Williams, a Professor of Clinical Psychology at Oxford University,  who writes and teaches about the power of mindfulness and meditation to change our lives for the better.

Sometimes people think of meditating as esoteric or hippie-like. Not so with Mark Williams' book, "Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World." His website offers free audio-meditations that are very effective.

On the days I take time to meditate (usually 8 to 15 minutes is all it takes), I experience a wonderful calm energy. I am less preoccupied with worries, more engaged in the present and so more able to positively impact my life. Worries and stress are draining. Meditating is energizing, while I'm doing it and for hours afterwards. Among other things, meditating allows me to get more out of my daily devotionals with my scripture study because I am more fully engaged in what I'm reading and studying.

Is there something else I need to add to eating healthier, exercising regularly, and daily meditation? The truth is, I need to have a little more fun every day. Sometimes, I can be so serious about life that I forget to do something just for fun. Later today, I will watch a few silly Studio C show segments with my husband and kids. That will be good for some laughs.

So, I have five months until the big 5-0! As a gift to give myself, I'm going to find out what difference five months of exceptional self-care can make. I hope you'll join me.

Love and Blessings,


Friday, January 16, 2015

When Plan A Goes Awry (Plan B to the Rescue)

I came home for lunch today, a rare opportunity, so I wanted to make the most of it. After mixing up the prepackaged ingredients for roasted red pepper & basil quinoa, I headed to the microwave where I popped the door open, then proceeded to fumble the bowl of ingredients, splashing them all over the interior of the microwave and kitchen floor.

After cleaning up the mess, I was tempted to grab whatever I could to eat without regard for nutritional content, but something stopped me. I had a full afternoon ahead with some very social 6th grade students, and I needed energy. And, if I was going to have a splurge today, I wanted it to be tonight rather than an unplanned lunch alone.

And so I quickly created Plan B - a lunch that included a black bean burrito, cucumber slices and a V-8. It tasted good and I went back to school feeling energetic, instead of sluggish, feeling good about the choice I had made when my original plan went awry.

And that got me thinking. There's a lot to be said for Plan B. In fact, there have been a number of times in my life when Plan B has saved me. For example, the times when I have wanted to go out for a walk or a jog, but the roads have been icy, too icy to even make it to the gym. Plan B, in those instances, has been to go for a walk in my own home, walking round and round the circuit of my living room, kitchen, family room and entry. As ridiculous as this Plan B sounds, it keeps me exercising even when the weather's bad and keeps me from going stir-crazy. It's been an essential Plan B.

When it comes to food and fitness, I find myself wondering about other times when a Plan B might be helpful, Here are a few:

  1. On the days when I don't have enough time for a full 30-minute jog, I can jog just 20 minutes, or break it down into three 10-minute fast walks.
  2. When I'm out of lettuce and am desperate for a salad but have no time to run to the store, I can go through the produce drawer and pull out a few vegetables and wash, peel, and slice, making a delicious mini-veggie tray of tomatoes, carrots, celery, etc.
  3. When I have no time to fix a healthy dinner, I can have healthy freezer meals ready to grab, perhaps some vegetarian spaghetti sauce, turkey loaf, or pinto beans. 

In the next few days I will brainstorm more Plan Bs because I want to have more experiences like I had today when I ate a bean burrito rather than spiraling into a train wreck of overeating less healthy foods. Let's hear it for Plan Bs! I'd love to hear yours. 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

When You Want to Eat the Whole Horse (or House)

For all of my talk about experiencing fewer cravings recently, today is not one of those days. Today, I feel like I could eat an entire horse or, better yet, an entire house. And not just any house. It would be a house made of steak - a big, juicy medium-rare rib-eye with crumbled blue cheese on top and a baked potato on the side. And then for dessert, I'd have the most fantastic bread pudding you can imagine, except that...I'm not going to do it.

For starters, my food budget doesn't generally allow for rib-eye steak on just any Tuesday, and while I could raid the fridge and pantry or make a beeline to a decent fast-food joint for something affordable, quick and yummy, it isn't in my best interest.

As filled as I am with cravings right now, I choose not too succumb to what I know would turn into a binge. Why? Because, as good as it would feel while eating, I wouldn't feel so good afterwards. In fact, I'd feel awful physically - tired, and sluggish with an upset stomach - and probably worse emotionally because of the disappointment I'd feel in myself.

I believe in allowing ourselves splurges, just as I blogged about in my last post, but today feels like a splurge would turn into an all-out eating fest that would do me no good.

I note as I feel these cravings that I also feel a little down today, disappointed about a couple of things and concerned about one or two more. Those feelings may be contributing to my impulse to indulge. Eating out of control would not help remedy those disappointments or alleviate those concerns, so instead of responding with a binge, I will allow myself a splurge today that has nothing to do with food. Not sure yet what that will be, but I will figure it out.

As far as food goes today, as soon as I end this post, I'm going to go have some cottage cheese with crushed pineapple and a salad on the side, inspired by a reader's comments to yesterday's post. I think that will help, and on a day like today, it's good to have some help.

Monday, January 12, 2015

My First Weigh-In and What's Working

I stepped on the scale first thing this morning, and I have lost 3.2 pounds since January 1st!!! And I have done it without a crash diet (or any gimmicks or special products), and I feel fantastic. My new way of eating is absolutely doable, which is a very good thing.

As an FYI, my starting weight was 173.8 pounds and my current weight is 170.6 pounds. And that is the morning after my planned Sunday evening splurge meal, which included a divine hot chocolate tasting party (and coffee cake) with my family and a close friend. I am very close to breaking my first weight-loss goal to be below 170. I am just under 5'9" tall.

Right now, I am not setting an overall weight loss goal. I want to take it about 5 pounds at a time, and see how it's going. This is more about feeling good than it is about arriving at an exact number on the scale, though let there be no mistake, I welcome the weight-loss.

Here's what's working for me so far:
  1. Eating fresh fruits and vegetables plentifully. This is the one big change I made at the beginning of the year. I did not banish or limit any foods. I just focused on eating more of what is good for me. And the results have been amazing. Such a plan has kept me from feeling terribly deprived, and helped me to feel more nourished, and more energetic overall, with fewer cravings.  
  2. Being Accountable. Writing a blog/journal has made me a more conscious eater...more thoughtful about what I eat and the connection between what I eat and how I feel. I am making healthier food choices overall because I am thinking things through more carefully, and also because I know I'm going to be reporting back to you.
  3. Realizing that a setback doesn't have to mean failure. In the past, when I fell off the horse, I stayed down and dug myself into deeper failure by eating more and more. I now know that, instead of giving up and beating myself up, I just need to make food choices going forward that help me to energize and thrive. A bad afternoon or even a bad day can be just a blip in the overall scheme of things. 
  4. Knowing that I can lose weight without adhering to a stringent diet. I have not super-deprived myself on this new eating plan. I have had little Finnish chocolates several times this past week. I had a terrible food day last Wednesday, but then recovered and have lost more than 3 pounds in a matter of days.What a revelation this is. It gives me confidence going forward.
With all of this said, my goal this week (to compliment my Saturday goals) is to eat super healthy overall with two or three splurges sprinkled through the week. So, right here, right now, I am committing to allowing myself a Sunday Dinner & Dessert Splurge, with the qualification that whatever I eat for that splurge must be super delicious. Also, I will allow myself two other splurges this week - (1) another meal of my choice and (2) a second dessert or dessert-snack or equivalent.

This means that about 85% of the time I will focus on eating to nourish, energize and thrive and 15% of the time, I will allow myself to indulge. This feels right for me this week but is subject to change in the weeks to come. I believe that having built-in splurges will keep me from having the kind of out-of-control Wednesday I had last week. I will keep you posted. I'm feeling great.

A Few Questions: What's working for you right now? What could work in the future? What do you think of built-in splurges? Could they be part of the answer for you?

Here's my before photo. Yes, I'm 11 days and 3 pounds late taking it but better late than never.

When I look at this photo, I see a woman who carries extra weight but feels way more energetic and healthy than she did just days ago. I feel like I'm on my way.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Gratitude: A Powerful Key for a Happier Life

“Gratitude always comes into play; research shows that people are happier if they are grateful for the positive things in their lives, rather than worrying about what might be missing.”
                                         ― Dan Buettner, Thrive: Finding Happiness the Blue Zones Way  

Here's my gratitude jar. Very simple...just a jelly jar and some colorful slips of paper. 

I am keeping a gratitude jar this year. And what a positive difference it is already making in how I feel about my life. Each day (or most days, anyway), I write on a slip of paper something I am especially grateful for and stick it into the jar. If I miss a day or two, I go back and write down what I was grateful for on those days. On my birthday (in June) and on December 31st, I will read through the slips of paper and celebrate all I have to be grateful for. 

Today, I feel especially grateful for my daughter's safe trip to Africa, my husband's handyman help around the house, and good health. I am blessed. And that's my Sunday Inspiration.

Take Action: Create Your Own Gratitude Jar. 

Sneak Peek at Tomorrow's Post: My First Weigh-In


Saturday, January 10, 2015

Reviewing and Revising Goals for an Energetic Life

So last Saturday, I enthusiastically set three primary goals for my first full week of eating healthier, and today I'm ready to hold myself accountable. So how did I do? 

Goal #1: I will eat 2-3 servings of fruit a day and 7-9 servings of vegetables. Overall, I did extremely well on this one, eating fruits and especially vegetables plentifully, except for Wednesday, which was my falling-off-the-horse day. And even then, it was eating fruits and vegetables later in the day that subdued the cravings set into motion by the poor food choices and helped me to get back into
the saddle.

This was the most important goal I set as I launched into a healthier eating plan. I feel so much better physically than I did before I committed to this goal. I am more energetic. A lot more energetic. I feel less sluggish. I don't feel as tired when I wake up in the mornings. I feel less cravings overall. I feel more even-keeled emotionally. And I feel more ready to tackle my daily have-tos and enjoy the daily get-tos. No kidding. I feel so much better today than I did before I started, that there is no comparison.

Goal #2: I will keep a food diary for the next week. Reality-check. I didn't do so well in this area.  In fact, it was a big fail. My excuse: It was an extremely hectic week with last minute preparations for my daughter's mission trip to Africa. We were on the go, trying to get everything she needs for her 18 months over there. So, will I forgive myself my epic fail?...the answer is...Yes!!! I was far from perfect on this particular goal, but I'm making progress overall. I don't know if I have lost any weight yet (weigh-in is Monday), but I am definitely feeling more energetic and less bloated.

How to go forward? I have located my underused food diary and bound it to my planner with a rubber-band. That way, I can't look at my planner without remembering to record what I've eaten on a given day. I'm not too keen on the idea of recording what I eat every day for the rest of my life, but I believe it can be insightful and a great tool for launching my healthy eating goals. I'm ready to give it another chance.

Goal #3: I will slow down when I eat and savor my meals and snacks. I did okay on this goal, though clearly not super well or I would not have experienced the setback I had on Wednesday. I will be honest, this one is going to take some time. After all, my eating habits (too much, too fast) are deeply rooted in my childhood. My mother says that I was a very happy baby as long as she kept me fed, so as a young mom living in a foreign country with two kids (my sister was just 13 months older than me) and a husband who traveled, she kept the bottles coming. And over time those bottles turned into other comfort foods, which I devoured given the chance. I can still remember as a young child times when I would rush through my bowl of ice cream so I could have seconds before it was all gone. So, yes, this one's going to take some time.

How will I make progress this week? I will sit down when I eat (ate on the run more than was probably necessary this week), and focus on really tasting and savoring my food, allowing eating to serve as a meditation. My primary goal in this area is to turn off the automatic pilot while eating so I can enjoy less food more.

In the past, I would have felt defeated that I had not done better on goals #2 and 3, and especially defeated by my bad-food day on Wednesday, but not anymore because now I am focused on making progress instead of achieving perfection. And that's a good thing because a hyper-focus on perfection in eating/dieting is what has set me up for failure in the past. Mistakes are invetible, but we don't have to stay stuck by them. 

Despite an imperfect week, I'm glad that I kept going because today I feel so much better than I otherwise would. It feels good to feel this good!

Take Action: Set at least one food/eating goal this week. Make it concrete and doable.

Not the most captivating of subjects, but I want to show you that I really have bound my food diary to my planner. I'm going to do it. I'm going to record what I eat as a tool for eating healthier.

Sneak Peek at Tomorrow's Post: Gratitude: A Powerful Key for a Happier Life

Friday, January 9, 2015

Back in the Saddlewith with a Breakthrough (Part 2)

Feeling a little under the weather today (respiratory illness), but taking good care of myself on the food front. Homemade chicken soup (with brown rice instead of noodles) is simmering on the stove, and I'm drinking a green smoothie as I write. Also, I'm planning to have a large leafy green salad with dinner, topped with a new salad dressing - Lemon Tarragon. Yum!

Though I'm not feeling so good today, I want to take a moment to share what I'm learning, and I'm learning a lot about taking better care of myself with the food I eat.

Most importantly, I think I've made a breakthrough. I now get it that when I have a bad day food-wise, I can get back in the saddle the very same day by making my next food choice a choice to eat something good for me, say steamed broccoli with fresh-squeezed lemon or a sweet potato with cinnamon.

In the past, when I've fallen off the horse and begun to eat out of control, I've pretty much given up for that day, eating anything and everything until the day is over. And, as a result, I feel worse and worse as the day goes on, physically and emotionally. I feel defeated and like I have to have a new day (a clean slate) to begin again. 

And when that new day comes, I am plagued with cravings (set into motion the previous day) and anxious that I'm going to have a slip-up and if/when I do, I feel I've fallen off the horse again and I eat my way through to the end of another day and, sadly, before I know it, days and days of eating terribly have added up.

I now know that it doesn't have to be like that. The more good food choices I make each day, even if I eat too much of something that isn't good for me on a given day, the better I will feel overall and the less I will crave foods that are low in nutritional content, and the more likely I am to eat an overall diet that is highly beneficial in terms of energy level and a sense of well-being. 

For the next two days (today and tomorrow), I want to continue to eat super healthy, and then on Sunday, I'm going to allow myself a splurge dinner. And just for the record, if I'm going to splurge, the splurge has to meet the high-bar test of my daughter's Finnish chocolates. Until then, I want to indulge myself with the ultimate splurge: foods that make me feel fantastic. I hope you'll join me.

A Question for You: What inspirations or breakthroughs have you had when it comes to eating?

Sneak Peek at Tomorrow's Post: Streamlining Goals for Week 2 

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Getting Back in the Saddle after a Bad Food Day

I'd like to say that I'm writing about the way-back past when it comes to having a bad food day, but the truth is, I'm writing about yesterday. So, yes, even while writing a blog about eating healthier, I had a crash-and-burn day on the food front.

Here's the lowdown, filled with excuses and rationalizations: 

So yesterday was a very big day for our family. My 19-year-old daughter left for an 18-month mission trip to Africa. She'll receive her missionary training in Ghana and then is off to Madagascar and, I wanted to make her last two meals extra special as she will be eating lots of rice and beans and some unfamiliar dishes while over there. I got up early and made an egg casserole and our very favorite authentic French hot chocolate. On the sweets front, I thought that if my husband picked up some donuts from the bakery (instead of my making something from scratch), I would have an easier time of it food-wise.

I did okay at breakfast, having a little of everything but neglecting to have any fruit or wholegrains. Then, I offered to take my daughter out for lunch, just the two of us, and she chose a favorite local Italian restaurant. Swept up in the current of such a big day, I didn't think through what I was going to order and ended up ordering nothing healthy at all...then, we came home and put together a bag of little Finnish candies (from my other daughter who is on a mission-trip in Finland) for my daughter to take with her to Africa. Of course, I sampled and then sampled some more and, well you get the idea, I slid down the slippery slope and into the black hole of a bad food day. And while it was an amazing day for our family, it was not so good on the food front.

What I learned: I was reminded that when I don't eat well, I don't feel so well. By evening, I felt anxious (a common symptom when I've had too much sugar/white flour) and sluggish, and while a portion of the anxiety might have had something to do with having a daughter on a plane bound for Africa for the first time, a good portion was also due to my food choices.

I also had it reinforced that when I make poor food choices earlier in the day (especially the decision to have a breakfast that consists only of things with little or no nutritional content), I am more likely to continue making poor food choices throughout the day.

My Plan of Action Going Forward: I actually did something very beneficial last night...I got back in the saddle before I went to bed. While my husband and two youngest children were at an activity, I made a large salad. My husband and kids came home while I was eating it, and my 12-year-old son asked to have some salad himself. Hooray! Before eating the salad I was experiencing those gnawing hunger pangs that I have only when I have eaten lots of food with low nutritional content. After the salad, the pangs were subdued and I went to sleep feeling much better.

This morning, I made a point of eating a terrific bowl of oatmeal with some Flax and Chia seeds thrown in. Mid-morning, I drank a smoothie with spinach and kale leaves, frozen strawberries, 1/2 banana, and 1/3 cup plain non-fat yogurt with some water for blending. Then for lunch, I enjoyed some delicious crock pot split pea soup. Yum. Everything has tasted delicious and I don't have those hunger pangs I did yesterday.

For the remainder of this day, I commit to eating a large salad and having some more split pea soup for dinner as well as fruit, and possibly some whole grains. I commit to having no sweets today. I need a vacation. If I am tempted to sway from this plan, I will check in on my blog to hold myself accountable. Though I have been tempted to weigh myself to better assess yesterday's damage, I will hold off to weigh until Monday, knowing that one day will not do me in. This is about progress, not perfection. And, overall, I'm making progress. I hope you are as well.
Love this visual reminder to stay in the boat of eating healthier, keeping it well stocked. I need to look at her more often.

Sneak Peek at Tomorrow's Post: More Thoughts on Recovering from a Bad Food Day

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Favorite Non-Food Treats and Indulgences

In the past, I have looked to less healthy foods as a primary way to treat or indulge myself to the point where I overindulge and do not feel so good afterwards. And then, I wonder why I'm having such a hard time losing weight.

As I've mentioned in at least one previous post, I'm not interested at this moment in banning chocolate or other sweets or food treats from my life forevermore, but I am interested in doing two things that I think will help tremendously as I go forward:
  1. If I am going to enjoy something less healthy, from now on, it has to be delicious, I mean absolutely and completely delicious. I have wasted too many calories on less healthy food that was available but not especially good such as mediocre store-bought cookies at a child's school function, or a candy I think is so-so but ate because it was offered and I didn't say no. No more of that. If I am going to eat something that is less than fully nourishing, it has to pass the high bar set by the chocolates my daughter sends from Finland. In other words, it has to be mind-bogglingly good. 
  2. When I indulge in a food that passes the high-bar test of those Finnish chocolates, I am committed to eating it especially slowly, savoring every bite as if the act of eating that indulgence were the ultimate meditation. 
I'll be honest, I still have some work to do on the goal I made last Saturday of slowing down to treat  all eating as a form of meditation. And I am committed to doing better, but I want to be especially conscious of slowing down when I eat something rich and less nourishing, enjoying it as a sensory experience without overindulging.

For me, another step for putting food indulgences into perspective (relying on them less for a feel-good experience) is to develop a go-to list of favorite of non-food treats and indulgences. Here's my starter list:
  1. Enjoying A Massage. I confess I have an unfair advantage in terms of cost and convenience when it comes to getting a massage. My oldest daughter is training to be a massage therapist and she is fantastic. I think the world would be a much happier place if everyone could get a regular massage. I feel completely relaxed and content afterwards. 
  2. Diving into a Fantastic Novel. I think of reading as a mini-vacation. I can go anywhere with a good book - back in time, to another country, even another world. Sometimes it's hard to find time to read, but well worth the effort. I always feel refreshed when I return to the real world. I'm an eclectic reader, reading all over the map. Here's a few of the novels I've enjoyed - The Light Between the Oceans by M.L Stedman, Wonder by R.C. Palacio, and The Road by Cormac Mccarthy. 
  3. Watching a Terrific Movie or Television Series. Sometimes watching a movie or a terrific television show is the best possible getaway. Some of my favorites include Le Petit Nicolas (French w subtitles), Interstellar, Gravity, Saving Mr. Banks, Captain Phillips, Merlin, Downton Abbey, and Granite Flats (a fun BYU TV show).
  4. Meditating for Relaxation. I rarely find I have time for 30-minute meditations, but I can usually find 3, 8 or 15 minutes which can make a huge positive difference in my stress level and sense of well-being. Click HERE for the simple, straightforward meditations that have made a positive difference for me. I am more relaxed, and focused when I meditate. I sleep better too.
  5. Playing a Board or Card Game with My Family. I love to tune out technology and turn off the ringer to enjoy some focused time with my husband and children. We like Cranium, Blink and Cranium to name a few.
  6. Going for a Walk. I love to take a walk along our wooded greenbelt. I always come back feeling better, more relaxed. There's just something about being out in nature that soothes my spirit and makes me eat less.
  7. Listening to Good Music Snuggled Up next to my Husband on the Couch, a fire burning in the fireplace. We enjoy a variety of music, anything from John Denver to Vocal Point. Listening to music brings back good memories and helps us to make new good memories.
  8. Reading or Browsing My Way through a pile of Magazines or Newspapers: As much as I love to read, sometimes I'm not up for a longer work, so I will enjoy reading through a pile of magazines and newspapers, compliments of my mom (who hands her magazines on to me) and husband (who brings back terrific newspapers from his travels).
  9. Taking a Long Soak in the Tub. I do not do this often, but when I do, I relax and sleep better.
  10. Discovering a New Fun Place in Town. I am always amazed at how many places there are to discover in our city. We live in Oklahoma City and since living here, I have enjoyed discovering the amazing Oklahoma City Museum of Art (a real thrill if you love the Art of the extraordinary artist Dale Chihuly), the Paseo District, the Oklahoma City Zoo, and Bricktown among others. I am sold on staycations when going out of town isn't practical.
Invitation to Act:Make a list of non-food treats and indulgences you enjoy and place it where you will see often. Post it where you can see it. Let the rest of us hear some of your favorites. 

Sneak Peek at Tomorrow's Post:Getting Back in the Saddle after a Bad Food Day!

Must-Have Food Staples for an Energetic Life

Through hard-earned experience, I have learned that if I am going to succeed at consistently eating healthier, I need to keep my fridge and pantry stocked with nutritious foods I enjoy, whether for a snack or a meal. They must be foods that take zero to 90 seconds of prep-time, preferably zero. Here's my list of some of my favorites, and I hope you will share some of your favorites as well. I could use the inspiration. 
  1. Low Sodium V8 - The first time I tasted this low sodium drink, I wasn't impressed, but my taste buds quickly adjusted and now I love it. I don't have it every day, but find it is especially handy when I'm running short on time and low on vegetables. It helps me to stay on track. 
  2. Romaine Lettuce - This is going to sound silly to some, but a few years ago, when I was short on time and desperate for a salad, I started taking two to three romaine lettuce leaves, rinsing them, and eating them just like that, treating them as if they were a carrot or celery stick. I often invite my 12-year-old son to have a leaf or two with me and he actually loves it. Romaine leaves are crisper than other lettuce leaves and so quite enjoyable this way. I feel full without feeling overstuffed.  
  3. Colorful Bell Peppers - This is another vegetable I like for a quick snack. I cut out the top (I actually just punch it in and then pull it out...takes less time than a knife), rinse out the seeds and cut it into strips to eat myself or share with my kids or husband. I love the red, yellow and orange peppers (actually they are all the same pepper in various stages of ripening; they go from green to yellow to orange to read). And again, I feel satisfied after eating this. A great way to sneak in a vegetable on the run with minimal effort. 
  4. Bananas - Takes way less than 30 seconds to peel. The easiest possible snack. 
  5. Any Fruit - Though bananas are probably my first choice of fruit when in a hurry, I like to stake stocked up on others as well. It doesn't take much to peel a tangerine or rinse a small bunch of grapes. Less than a minute and I can have a power-packed snack. I do find that my blood sugar levels benefit from just a bit of protein when I eat some fruit.
  6. Almond Butter - A tablespoon of this provides just the protein kick I sometimes need mid-afternoon to maintain my blood sugar and energy levels. With a little more time, I will eat it with a banana or cut up an apple and put a bit on each slice. I like the Maple Almond Butter best. Yum.
  7. Natural Peanut Butter - I use this the same way I use the almond butter. Provides that mid-afternoon blood sugar stabilizer I need. 
  8. Protein Powder - If I have a minute or a little longer, I like to throw a scoop of protein powder, a banana, and a 8 oz. of milk in the blender and let it whir. this is a food combo that fills me up and stabilizes my blood sugar. 
  9. Yogurt and Oatmeal - I like to take about a half-cup of oatmeal and add a couple tablespoons or more of raw oatmeal, mix and eat. Very satisfying. 
  10. Canned Beans - If I have a can of beans in the pantry, I'm set for making a filling snack or main dish when I'm in a rush. Instructions: Open a can of black beans or other beans of your choice, rinse sodium off, add some frozen corn, a little salsa, microwave for a minute and then enjoy. 
Now that I've written this list, I can see that I need to add a couple of items to my grocery list, namely protein powder and bananas. I'm on my way.

This smoothie may take more than 90 seconds to make but not much longer. Recipe: 1 large handful of kale, 1 sliced banana, 1/3 to 1/2 cup of frozen strawberries, 1 tablespoon of orange juice concentrate, 1/3 cup of favorite yogurt, 1 cup water (approx.). Whir in the blender until smooth. Drink and Enjoy.
With a few Chia seeds sprinkled on top, this smoothie was delicious and satisfying!

 Sneak Peek at Tomorrow's Post: Favorite Non-Food Treats and Indulgences

Monday, January 5, 2015

A Hectic Day 1 of Eating For Energy

Today started out at Mach 2 (twice as fast as the speed of sound) and hasn't slowed down, but I have managed to squeeze in most of my fruits and vegetables. Two big salads helped - one for lunch and one for dinner. I feel very full and satisfied and energetic. I feel good.

I allowed myself a treat today - several piece of perfect chocolate candy. My 20-year-old daughter, who is on a mission trip in Finland, up near the Arctic Circle, sent a package of of Fazer (pronounced fatser) chocolates. It arrived today, a belated Christmas gift. After having a short tasting party with my family, we sat down to dinner and I filled up on soup and lots and lots of salad. Because I filled up on salad, I have no desire for any more chocolate. And that's a good feeling, to have allowed myself a treat without going hog-wild. In an hour I may feel different, so right here, right now, I commit to having no more sweets before I go to bed. Hold me to it. 

More and more, I am beginning to feel that if I will focus on filling up on healthier foods, I will naturally scale back on the less healthy foods, allowing them to be what they were meant to be - treats. As the days go on and I feel better and better from eating healthier overall, I may take a week or longer off from any sweets. I will navigate week to week as I figure things out.

One thing is for sure: If I am going to eat healthier overall, I must keep my house stocked with foods that are good for me, namely fruits and vegetables, and some good proteins and grains. Eating for energy. That's what I'm doing. 

Sneak Peek at Tomorrow's Post: The Must-Have Staples for an Energetic Life

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Sunday Inspiration

Soon after I dreamed up this blog, I decided that on Sundays I would focus on nourishing the spirit, providing food for the soul. And when I began to entertain the possibilities for my first Sunday, I ran across this short but beautiful video reminder of focusing on the things that matter most. I hope you like it as much as I do. I’d love to hear your thoughts on what matters most to you. Enjoy and have beautiful Sunday. 

Click HERE to see the video.

P.S. Here's a photo of what matters most to me:

Love my family and love being silly with them.

Sneak Peek at Monday’s Post: Day 1 of Eating for Energy