Wellness 101

Since childhood, I’ve struggled with my weight and eating habits.  I’ve come to truly enjoy working out, and food and nutrition have become major interests of mine, as part of a commitment to leading a healthy lifestyle. By incorporating healthy-living principles into my life, I’ve never been happier or more satisfied with how I look and feel.

I recently lost 20 pounds just by counting my calories, which made me more aware of what and how much I was eating.  It was a shock to realize that despite my regular (and quite strenuous) workout routine, I was carrying that much extra weight.

To read my post on the day I reached my goal, click here.

Here are some before photos:

And after:


It took about 4-5 months of daily calorie-counting to accomplish my goal, and I did it in the healthiest way possible.  I didn’t give anything up and nothing was really “off-limits.”  I didn’t switch to diet sodas or “fake” food.  In fact, I’ve never eaten better food than I do now!  Losing weight and being healthy isn’t about a temporary diet; it’s a lifestyle and a passion of mine.  I’m not a doctor, nutritionist or exercise physiologist, but here are some common-sense principles I’ve adopted to become healthier.  Give them a try!

Food Ideas

-Most important: Be open to new foods.  Try barley, quinoa or millet.  Give tofu a chance.  Maybe you’re still getting used to zucchini or whole wheat bread and pasta–keep trying it, and other things like it.  You’ll can’t know if you don’t like something until you try it.

-Produce:  Eat it all!  Stock-up on seasonal fruits and veggies and keep “portable” fruits like apples and bananas in the kitchen.   Alway have stuff in the fridge to make a salad and don’t forget to “eat the rainbow.”

-Carbs: Start with whole-wheat bread and pasta (if you aren’t eating them already) and then incorporate other grains, like couscous, wheat berries and brown rice.  These are all filled with good-for-you carbs, fiber, vitamins and minerals, and are less processed than their “white” or “bleached” counterparts.  (Who wants to eat bleach?)

-Proteins: It’s more than just meat!  Hummus, natural peanut butter, lowfat plain yogurt, kefir, fish, chicken, pork and lean beef, tuna, eggs, edamame, lowfat cottage cheese, beans and nuts are all sources of protein.  As long as you watch your serving size and fat content, these proteins will help keep you full throughout the day.

-Smart splurges: We still need to enjoy what we eat.  Daily “splurges” can include individually wrapped dark chocolate, whole-fruit pops, popcorn and really, just about anything in moderation.  Focus on whole foods, like a homemade muffin or cupcake made with wheat flour, and keep single-serving or lowfat ice cream (or other treats) for times you need something sweet.  Less frequently, allow yourself a true indulgence, like an ice cream sundae or cheesecake.  Again, it’s more about portion-control than what you eat.

-Water:  Drink it and almost nothing else.  Soda and juice are pretty much just sugar.  Limit alcohol to special occassions.  Experiment with different teas (with just a teaspoon of honey) if you need something other than water.  There are absolutely fantastic flavors out there, and some are really good for you.  (And I don’t mean the powered kind… loose-leaf or the kind you have to brew!)

Changing Your Eating Habits

Maintaining a healthy weight is part of a healthy lifestyle.  Here are some ways to incorporate smarter food choices into your day:

-Combine some produce and a protein for a snack, like an apple and a cheese stick, or cut-up bell peppers with hummus

-Include high-protein picks like hard-boiled eggs or tuna in your salad to keep you full

-Give spinach a try (instead of lettuce) in salads and on sandwiches for a boost in nutrition

-Try new things like sprouts and edamame in salads

-Don’t drink your calories!  Stick to water and only occasionally enjoy a soda, juice or alcoholic beverage

-Learn to like plain yogurt–top with fruit, granola and a drizzle of honey

-Mix protein, like peanut butter, yogurt or cottage cheese, into your morning oatmeal to make sure it fills you up

-Pass up pre-packaged items (like cookies and crackers) that say “Fat Free” on the box–often they have more additives and calories than the regular kind.  Better yet, pass up pre-packaged altogether!

-Start baking with whole-wheat flour and swapping in applesauce or yogurt for part of the fat

-Don’t be afraid of butter!  Real food is always best

-Get a diet scale.  They’re super convenient and really cheap (less than $5) and perfect for measuring out portions of chips, crackers, nuts, meat and cheese.  They typically only go up to one pound; larger digital scales are better for cooking, baking and canning.

-Shop the perimeter of the grocery store: produce, dairy, frozen foods, meat and bread.  Avoid the inner aisles except for essentials, like baking supplies, spices, dried fruits, nuts and tea.

-Stop eating before you’re full.  I realize that this seems like a no-brainer, but I’ve spent my life overeating.  Learn to listen to your body and strive to feel “satisfied.”

Again, enjoy what you eat.  If you’re eating healthy, real food, it’s going to do good things for your body.  If you want a brownie, eat one.  Is it OK to buy a package of Oreos every once in awhile?  Definitely.  The most important things about eating well are portion control and eating real food.

Exercise Ideas

Do something, anything, to get moving.  And do things you enjoy; if you have fun while exercising, you’ll be more likely to continue doing it.

-If you are a beginner, want a group setting or are looking for personal training, join a gym.  They have plenty of workout classes and trainers who can help you design a program that you’ll enjoy and from which you’ll benefit.

-Get outside!  In good weather, get out and enjoy it!  Take the dog for a walk or go for a bike ride.

-Start running.  All you need is a good pair of shoes and appropriate clothes.  No fancy equipment or gym membership required.  If you can’t run yet, start walking.  If you need assistance, look online for beginner runner workouts.

-Find a sports league through your office or get friends together for ultimate frisbee, biking or hiking.

-If you have a treadmill, use it!  If it’s been a clothes hanger for six months or more, make the hard decision to start using it or get rid of it.

-If you don’t lift weights yet, start.  Whether you’re a guy or a girl, weight-lifting is crucial not only for maintaining a healthy weight, but also for bone health.  The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn while working out AND while resting.

-I find working out in the morning to be the only way to go, myself, but do what works for you.  Find an activity or group of friends and work it into your schedule.  Once you have, stick to it.  It takes a few days, even a week or so, to get used to your new routine–keep going and it will get easier!

Wellness/Balance

Life isn’t just about looking good in a pair of jeans, but it sure helps.  I don’t say that because I think the only way to have a “good” life is to be thin, but because being healthy on the inside will equate to being healthy on the outside.

-First, and most important, is my faith.  Having Jesus Christ as my Savior gives me hope and strength for each day and also defines who I am as a person.

-Surround yourself with people who love you and who support you.  While it’s certainly possible to meet your goals in the face of adversity, it’s not as easy.

-Seek out things that interest you.  Whether it’s kayaking or knitting, find something and do it.

-Take time for yourself every day.  It can be first thing in the morning, a break in the afternoon to take some deep breaths and enjoy a snack, or maybe reading a book before bed.  Just make sure to have even five minutes of “quiet time” during the day.

-Do something for someone else.  This can be mentoring, volunteering, or just helping a neighbor.  Reach out.

-Weigh yourself.  If you don’t have a scale, you can’t keep your weight in check.  Aim to weigh once or twice a week and if you see the numbers creeping up, you’ll know you need to make some smart choices for the next couple days.

back on the band wagon

I gave up calorie-counting for Memorial Day weekend.  It really just wasn’t going to be practical to be jumping on-and-off the computer all day with everything going on.  Not to mention all the yummy goodies everywhere!  Cinnamon rolls and mimosas at Heather’s promotion!  Rita’s gelati TWICE!  Birthday cake, outrageous brownies, lemon bars, mojitos, sangria…and that was just FRIDAY.  Raspberry angel food cake with raspberry buttercream icing awaited me in Carmel.

I went into the weekend knowing I’d be faced with temptation at every turn.  I did my best, most of the time, to make good choices yet still enjoy myself and the food.  I am a foodie, after all.

Well, you win some, you lose some.  According to the scale, I didn’t do too much damage, but I didn’t lose any, either.  So, basically, I’ve been at the same weight for a couple weeks now, which is fine, don’t get me wrong.  But I’m supposed to be LOSING two pounds a week…  I’m fine until I think about how much I COULD have lost if I’d just been stricter.  And then I remember how good the cake tasted.

Thankfully, all has returned to (relative) normalcy around here, so I’m back on the calorie-counting band wagon.  Yippee!  After four days off, I realized I actually feel better when I’m counting.  Maybe it’s a control-thing, maybe it’s just my personality, maybe it’s because I’m typically eating healthier food, maybe it’s a combination of all three, but I really do enjoy it.  I know it stresses a lot of people out.  Or they think it’s too complicated or time-consuming.  But I love it.  I just wish I had an iPhone so I could do it when I’m on the go, too…

Between eating more produce and cleaning out my fridge, I’ve come up with some great meals since last night.  Dinner last night was roasted broccoli and cauliflower (leftover from the party), hummus and tomatoes and fruit.  Breakfast this morning was a banana, followed by a post-workout yogurt, mango and granola parfait.  Here’s what I had tonight:

Roasted cauliflower (olive oil, cumin and paprika), a Wasa Fiber cracker spread with a Laughing Cow cheese wedge and four dried figs.  Yum.  I spooned up a mixture of mango and watermelon as well, but I may save that for dessert–I got full!

I really do feel better when I’m eating smaller meals (like 200 calories) every 2-3 hours.  I’m a fan of cottage cheese with pineapple, or an apple and peanut butter or cheese and crackers.

Off to get some more exercise: disassembling Hadrian’s crate, lugging it upstairs and into the car, followed by a walk (for him) because the weather is so nice!