Thursday, July 29, 2010

300 Only Sounds Like a Lot

Greetings from the Buckeye State!

In spite of the fact that this Gator girl is surrounded by Ohio State fans, I'm having an awesome time with my 6 (yes 6!) girl cousins, my mom, my aunt, (and my poor uncle) in Columbus, Ohio. It's like an over the top slumber party and I think it goes without saying that our eating has not been the healthiest.

Because of this, we have had to work in fitness where we can (in between shopping, gossiping, and all the other things girls do when they get together). Though my cousins range in age from 7-17, they are all rockstars of athletics (which p.s. - I was not!). In the group, we have a soccer player, two varsity cheerleaders, two lacrosse players, and a gymnast. This has made it easy and fun to work out.

The oldest of the rockstars, Michaela, graciously demonstrated a fabulous lower body/ab workout for us today. The fitness series is called 300s...and it sounds much scarier than it is. Basically, you are doing three basic moves in sets of 10 - and then you repeat ten times. In no time, you've hit 300!

300s

10 Basic Squats: Squats are a great lower body exercise, as they easily target the glutes, quads, hamstrings and calves all at once.
Start in a standing position with your legs about hip width apart. Bend your knees and hips to lower your torso, but remember to contract your abs while doing so. Then return to the upright standing position. Always keep your knees in line with your toes.


10 Pushups: Pushups are one of my favorite total body workouts.
Face down on the floor and balance on your hands and toes/knees. Position your hands wider than your shoulders and try to keep your body as straight as possible (don't push that butt in the air or let it sag!). Bend your arms slowly to lower your body to the floor (keeping it straight!) and stop when your arms reach a 90 degree angle. Push yourself back up and repeat.



10 Crunches: Because I am pretty sure everyone knows how to do a basic crunch (and like me, hates them), I had Michaela demonstrate a V-Tuck style crunch.
Start by laying flat on your back, with your hands behind your head.





Sit up and bring your knees in while also bringing in your elbows.





Touch your elbows to your knees, lean back to the ground, and repeat.




Integrating the 300 series into your cardio, weight training, and healthy eating is a great way to build those abdominal muscles.


No guarantee that you won't be giving me the look of death at the end though:
:)

Links to Health:

Target Heart Rate

Fitness Magazines 2010 Healthy Food Awards


The Best Weight Loss Drink


Chelsea Clinton's Vegan and Gluten Wedding


An Interview With the Queen of Clean

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

tuning in.

it's coming to the end of the summer semester, and the beginning of fall looms.  musicboy and i just moved into a new, bigger place. i graduate in a week and a half with the Big Degree, the one that makes you elicit promises from your nearest and dearest that if you ever, under any circumstances, mention going back to school, they will promptly do something drastic to sort you back into your right self.  musicboy begins his stint in a huge, famous, amazing marching band in fall, which means i'll never see him, along with starting his new degree program.

we've got stuff going on is my point.

with all of these momentous changes come goals.  i am a goal setter. i am not always a goal keeper, but whenever i feel a little left-of-center, i make goals and i figure out how to achieve them. sometimes this manifests itself in planner explosion, when i figure out what i have to do hour by hour during the day in order to make a dent in a too-long to-do list.  sometimes this manifests itself in creating a long list of manageable but perhaps overambitious long-term goals.  sometimes this manifests itself in mega-micromanagement.

it's that last one that has got me thinking. i've been musing on it for a while now, but this weekend really cemented some things for me. 

(i hate to shamelessly link to my other blog all of the time, but i'm a gal who likes context but also dislikes when people go on and on and on...so there you go. read if you wish.)

now it's time to put that revelation into practice.

one of the ways i'm planning on letting go is to tune back into my body, with all of its quirks and strange behavior.  for the longest time, i was a sensational eater. if it tasted good, i wanted more of it because of the sensation i got when i ate it.  it wasn't about being satisfied physically; it was about satisfying some other sense.  or i was a time eater.  if it was time for dinner, well, i guess i'd better eat something regardless of how i feel.

i really want to learn how to listen to what my body is telling me, to cut through the madness of bad social conditioning and habits that have been weakened, if not completely broken.  i want to be able to interpret the messages that i'm getting.  i want to have wisdom about what works for my body.

i want to eat pizza and stop when i'm full.
i want to be able to eat lunch not when it's 12 on the dot but when my stomach says that breakfast is most assuredly gone and, hey lady can we get some sustenance up in here?
i want to learn the difference, in my body, between hunger and thirst. i think we often get them confused.
i want to know how far i can push my body in a workout but also know that moderate work is doing something great too.
i want to feel my muscles working and to feel successful when i have accomplished something well.

i want to get out of my head and into my heart, my lungs, my body in all of its majesty and wonder.  in so doing, i want to learn how it works, how it's different than anyone else's, and how beautiful it really is.

we are works of wonder.  i want to stand in awe.

The French Connection

Hello from Paris!

(Before I start this post, you should know that I love Paris. Love love love Paris. That is all.)

In leaving Barcelona and coming to Paris, I had to leave behind the staff that I had been working with and start new with a different staff. And a new roommate.

My new roommate's name is Julia. Awesome girl, who just moved to DC with her boyfriend. But the really cool thing about her is that her mom is French, so Julia speaks French like a native and spent the summers of her childhood in the south of France (certainly beats my childhood summers!).

The reason I tell you about my new roommate is that you need to know how healthy she is. No, I am not saying that she eats salads at every meal or works out at the gym for hours. I mean her general outlook in life. For example, last night we went to dinner and I got the menu of the day, which included appetizer (French onion soup), entree (roasted chicken) and dessert (crème brûlée). Julia ordered the roasted duck. And had a few bites of my crème brûlée. Her entree was certainly less "healthy" than mine, but her entire meal was more "healthy" than mine.

I hope you are seeing the theme of how to enjoy food but not get carried away. Julia ordered what she really wanted, ate it (leaving some on her plate) and then enjoyed a few bites of dessert. Moderation is the key to achieving the goals that we have set for ourselves. For me, Julia is a case study that I want to understand better.

For more info on French eating: CLICK HERE

Monday, July 26, 2010

Farmers Market VS Grocery Store


I watch a ton of cooking shows throughout the day and one very common thread amongst all the chefs is their love of farmers markets. I finally decided to heed their words and give my local farmers markets a go.

So I saved all of my produce shopping for Saturday, got myself and Emma Kate up early, and off we went to our first market.

There were several different produce vendors, which was to be expected, but what was a surprise was the price tag.


Here's a great example. Peaches. Peaches at the market were $2.49/lb. Peaches at the grocery store are $0.99/lb. That's 2 1/2 times greater... 150%!

Watermelon at the farmers' market, $5.00. At the grocery store, $3.00.

And the kicker... corn. First let me say, around here there are A LOT of corn fields. Corn should be dirt cheap. And it is... at the grocery store. 8 for $1. At the grocery store.

At the farmers market.... $0.50 - $0.75 an ear!!!

*(*#$U)#I%*$%&#)(Q@)*$&!!!!
(the thoughts that went on in my head when I discovered this)

Another interesting tidbit... most of the produce available at this market was not even grown by local farmers. That's right. Not cheap AND not local.

But I didn't give up with that market. I thought maybe this was a bad one, an anomaly.

So after nap time, off we went, to our second market.

No change. Not only was this market equally as overpriced and stocked with produce from all over the country, the produce wasn't even fresh.

I don't write all this to bash farmers markets, rather to let you know that if you don't shop at one,
IT'S OKAY.
After watching all these cooking shows, I felt almost inadequate as a home cook because I wasn't supporting my local farmers or finding extra ways to save money by shopping at the local markets.

Well I'm here to tell you that's a load of you know what.

I'll probably check out another market once the weather cools down, maybe just to buy some of the other goodies (like local honey), but I'll save my produce shopping for the grocery store.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Fit For the Road

With summer in our house come road trips galore. The hubs and I are hitting the road soon for a vacation. On top of packing, cleaning (I hate coming home to an unclean house), and work…I also need to pack some healthy snacks for the road.

Because I know I often have a hard time thinking of snacks, I thought I’d share my list of items to munch on:

#1) Frozen Ranier Cherries (Only available this time of year and totally delicious!). Frozen grapes and regular cherries are good replacements when those delightful yellow and orange cherries go out of season.
#2) Trail Mix
#3) Bottled water
#4) Granola Bars
#5) Mini carrots with dip
#6) Healthy baked muffins
#7) Sliced fruit in Tupperware (kiwis, grapefruit, strawberries, etc)
#8) Hershey’s Cookies and Cream bar (what? A girl has got to eat!) ☺


Links to Health:

Stylish and Sporty One-Piece Swimsuits

Most Obese States of 2010

Keep Your Marriage From Ruining Your Health

New Site Focuses on Health and Wellness for Pregnant Women, Moms, Babies, and Families


Courtyard by Marriott Starts Listing Calorie-Counts to Menu Items

for those who don't know, the new health care bill will require chain restaurants to do this as well

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Progress

I have a series of questions that I ask myself every once in a while, and I wonder if you ask yourself these same questions:

1. Why can't I just wish myself thin and healthy?
2. Why do I sabotage my efforts?
3. Why did I just eat that?
4. Why is this so hard?

I have had success in my "healthy living" goals. I've lost weight, fit into that pair of jeans, eaten more veggies and fruits. And yet, just as I am getting comfortable (which is probably the problem), the weight starts creeping back up, the jeans don't fit quite as well, and veggies and fruits are replaced with chocolate and ice cream.

What is it about healthy habits that make them so hard to keep? I feel better when I exercise and eat well. I know that keeping those habits will make the difference when I get older. Yet, as soon as I feel a little success, I reward myself with a little "something" (insert your "something" of choice).

So, how do we accomplish our goals? How do we tell ourselves that we are a work in progress and we need to stay consistent? The brain understands it, yet somehow, as my hand is reaching for a chocolate candy, there is some sort of disconnect.

Well, I did a little research and this is what I have found about making and keeping goals:

1. Make goals that can actually be achieved. Sure, I want to look as good as Jennifer Aniston, but that ain't gonna happen (we have totally opposite bodies types). Instead, shoot for a healthy weight range, a race you want to compete in, or even a pose in yoga that completely defies gravity.

2. Commit yourself completely. And I mean completely. Don't allow yourself a day off (but don't push yourself to a point that you hate yourself). Make your goals manageable so that you WANT to achieve them.

3. Give yourself a resonable amount of time to achieve your goals. There is no way that I could run a 10k after training for a week. Or those 30 lbs. in a month (well, if I want to live after losing those 30 lbs). Time is on your side for achieving your goals. Allow it to guide you and be your friend.

4. Track your progress. What good would setting up goals be if you can't see the progress you are making? This will totally motivate you and help you move to the next level of your goal.

5. Set up a reward system . A mani/pedi, a new dress...even a buying a new DVD (did you notice that none of these are based around food?)! Using your progress chart, set up milestones and reward yourself when you reach them. As you get closer to your goal, have the rewards get bigger and better (I once read an article about a woman who got a manicure for every 5 lbs she lost, a pedicure for every 15 lbs, and she was going to have a day at the spa when she hit her goal weight).

6. Accept that sometimes things don't work as well as we hope. Plateaus, injuries, stress: things that can derail us. All we can do is pick ourselves up and start again. Which is fine, because we need to remember:

We are a work in progress“Don't wait until everything is just right. It will never be perfect. There will always be challenges, obstacles and less than perfect conditions. So what. Get started now. With each step you take, you will grow stronger and stronger, more and more skilled, more and more self-confident and more and more successful.”
- Mark Victor Hansen

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

in which twizzlers feature prominently.

listen, folks...i've got no words of wisdom today.

we're moving and it's chaos and, on top of that, i have had some bad day doozies over the past week or so.  the combination of those things has made me less apt to do anything that i normally do.

vegetables have virtually disappeared from our diet.
sugar has returned, more than i really like.
working out has been replaced by things like painting walls and putting things in boxes and hauling them across town and then unloading them.

in short, our life has, this week, made it very clear why convenience foods are...so convenient. and popular. and why they'll kill us all.

i just don't like eating this way.  i keep finding my mind traveling to my deep freezer, wondering what vegetables there are in there.  maybe a nice bag of steamable broccoli florets that i can pop in the microwave? some sweet peas? anything?

there has to be a silver lining to this story, right? or are you just telling us how bad your diet is right now, teachergirl?

no.  there's a silver lining. 

despite feeling like i really need to get back on track, i also look at the way that i'm reacting to this way of eating--that it's entirely temporary--and see how far i've come. on a really bad day, when i cried and caved and bought some twizzlers, i recognized very clearly that i was feeding my feelings.  but, hey. i recognized it, and stopped it before it could be too detrimental. i am always conscious of my water consumption, and recognize how much i need to be drinking more especially as we're moving so much in the heat. the sugar that i do eat i try to portion out, so that i don't mindlessly eat.  i am craving vegetables, for heaven's sake.

i don't feel like, today, i can tell you anything you don't already know.  i will just say this--there's no shame in realizing that life sometimes throws you periods of time when you can't be everything to all people. sometimes, you have to miss a week at the gym so that life can happen successfully. sometimes, you end up making homemade pizza on sunday night (with not a vegetable in sight) because that's really all you can make.  sometimes you have to dig in your cabinet for that can of green beans that makes you shudder a little (not a huge fan of canned green beans, i must admit) because you haven't been to the store in a while and you don't have time but you know that something naturally occurring and green needs to have a presence in your diet.

sometimes, all you can do is the best you can do. every day, that best looks a little different. 

but if you spend the other 40-something weeks making healthy habits, even during those weeks of offness, you will default to healthier choices.  you'll order grilled chicken instead of chicken fingers. you'll save half of your small ice cream cup for the next day.  you'll put applesauce into your cake mix instead of oil, and then you'll premeasure the slices to ensure that six servings come out of that delicious creation. 

and you'll begin to long for the endorphins of exercise and the vitamins of vegetables and the happiness of healthful living.

that's when you know that you are a success. 

Monday, July 19, 2010

Veggie Brownies.


If you're like me, you're thinking, "YUCK!" I'm not going to lie, I thought that when I first read the recipe, when I bought the needed ingredients, and throughout the entire process of making these brownies.

I am anything but a spinach girl.

Apparently chocolate can cover anything up because I will eat these brownies (although I would rather eat a real brownie).

Emma Kate LOVES them. Nothing like watching your toddler ignorantly eat something good for her with a big smile on her face.

Back to the recipe, this is Jessica Seinfeld's Deceptively Delicious Brownies from her book, Deceptively Delicious. Allow these brownies to cool completely before eating to avoid tasting the veggies.


Ingredients:
Nonstick cooking spray
3 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate
1/2 cup carrot puree
1/2 cup spinach puree
1/2 cup firmly packed light or dark brown sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tablespoons trans-fat free soft tub margarine spread
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 large egg whites
3/4 cup oat flour, or all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions:

I used a jar of baby food instead of pureeing my own carrots. This is the way I would go, unless you feel like spending 30 minutes cooking carrots.

To puree the spinach:

First, wash it! I don't care what those bags say, there have been plenty of tests done to bagged salad and the stuff is dirty.

Steam over an inch or so of water for 30 seconds (just get your water boiling, pop the spinach on top, and cover). I steamed mine in the same colander I used to wash it.

When it's done, it will have wilted quite a bit.

Add this to your food processor or mini processor. I found the mini to make quick work of the job, minus the lugging around of heavy equipment.

There, spinach is ready.

Now go ahead and prepare your pan by coating with nonstick cooking spray.

Melt your chocolate over a double boiler. I used the same pot I steamed my spinach in. Just place any glass bowl over simmering water, making sure the water doesn't touch the bowl.

Now add your veggies and chocolate to your mixing bowl and stir. Almost looks like Mardi Gras, doesn't it?

To this, add sugar, cocoa powder, margarine, and vanilla.

Mix on medium speed with your whisk attachment (or just use a whisk and go at it) for 1 to 2 minutes, until smooth and creamy.

Whisk in your egg whites.

Sift your flour, baking powder, and salt together.

Add flour mixture to chocolate mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until well combined.

Pour mixture into prepared baking dish and bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes.

Allow to cool, then ENJOY!


The to-the-point version:

Deceptively Delicious Brownies

Ingredients:
Nonstick cooking spray
3 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate
1/2 cup carrot puree
1/2 cup spinach puree
1/2 cup firmly packed light or dark brown sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tablespoons trans-fat free soft tub margarine spread
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 large egg whites
3/4 cup oat flour, or all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions:

1. Heat oven to 350 and prepare baking pan by coating with nonstick cooking spray.
2. Melt chocolate in double boiler over low flame.
3. Add veggies and chocolate to mixing bowl and stir. Now add sugar, cocoa powder, margarine, and vanilla. Mix on medium speed with your whisk attachment (or just hand whisk) for 1 to 2 minutes, until smooth and creamy.
4. Whisk in your egg whites.
5. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt together. Add to chocolate mixture and mix with wooden spoon.
6. Pour mixture into prepared baking dish and bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes.
7. Allow to cool, then enjoy!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Good Enough is Good Enough

As a part-time employee, full-time broke college student (with a paper due in 2 weeks that's worth 25% of my grade... Yikes!)and full-time wife, I know stress. And telling me "Don't worry about it," just makes me more stressed and more likely to want to punch you. That said, I also know stress is bad for my health (and that of my unborn child, blissfully floating around in my ever expanding belly).

So what's a girl to do? I'm sure we've heard a million ways to fight stress (yoga, taking a walk, bubble bath), but what about not getting stressed in the first place? Hmmm... hadn't thought of that before. One of the things we can do to avoid unnecessary stress is to have a living space (dorm, apartment, house, mansion) that is neat and organized. With this comes the realization that perfection is a myth. Now, I'm am so not one of those people that is tidy and organized by nature (just ask my mother or my husband). In truth, I can be a bit of a slob, but that doesn't mean I should be. Something that revolutionized the way I view housekeeping is letting go of perfectionism because it just isn't real. My desk is (and always has been) a disaster. I would avoid cleaning any of it, because in my busy day I didn't have time to clean all of it. Then I learned that even a little bit (read: 2-5 minutes), when done consistently, will eventually lead to big successes. My desk is still pretty messy, but it's not nearly as bad as it used to be.

So that's little big thing #1: Even a little is a lot more than nothing. Do something everyday! Sort mail, clean your purse, wash (dry, fold and put away) just one load of laundry, anything helps maintain (or gain as the case may be) control of our homes.

Little big thing #2: Maybe mom was right about making the bed... everyday.

I always hated making my bed as a kid and especially as a teenager. Truth be told, I might have made my bed 10 times during middle school and high school combined, and that was only for company after receiving death threats from my mother. I saw it as a total waste of time. A friend of mine began a (free)cleaning program called FLYLady (www.flylady.net), maybe you've heard of it, in which you do a little bit everyday and learn to stick to a routine so you're not spending all day cleaning. One of the big focuses of the program is having a morning and evening routine to get ready for the day ahead. One of the things you must do is make your bed. While I'm not a full-time part of the program (a FLYBaby), I figured a lot of what she was saying was common sense (picking out your clothes the night before ensures that you won't be stressing about it in the morning, go to bed at a decent hour, drink water), so I decided to try it out. My husband and I have made our bed every morning as soon as the last one (usually me) got up. WHAT A DIFFERENCE! The master bedroom is far from perfect, but having a made bed when we walk in makes it seem so much less chaotic which makes us want to spend time in there cleaning up. We can go in there after work and lay down and have 20 minutes of winding down before we make dinner and go about our evening.

Little big thing #3: The dishes won't be any cleaner in the morning.

It's true. Doing the dishes every night after dinner prevents science projects from forming in your sink. After all, that's what the fridge is for. LOL Just kidding, of course. Walking into a clean kitchen in the morning for breakfast (because you're eating breakfast everyday, right?) is good for the body and the spirit. I challenge you to set an egg timer (or the one on your stove or microwave oven) for just 15 minutes and see what you can accomplish in that time. If I were a betting woman, I'd bet you could have the dishwasher loaded and those other dishes washed with probably a full minute to spare, maybe more if you have a helper to dry and put away the clean dishes. You'll feel so accomplished and peaceful knowing that you did something good for your home.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

i go a-walking...

Do you know what I love about traveling in Europe/South America/Asia (and other countries...)?

I love that we walk EVERYWHERE! Yesterday, for example, I walked back from school (we take a bus with the kids to school, but the counselors have to walk back by themselves), which is about a 45 minute walk. I walked to the store to buy some tennis balls for the kids who want to play tennis. In the afternoon I walked the kids to an area of the city where there is a cathedral and tons of shopping (and walked from store to store making sure they were all OK) and in the evening I walked to a restaurant and then a plaza to play sports with the kids (more exercise!).

One of the counselors on this trip brought a pedometer and we are easily hitting above and beyond 20,000 steps a day (the recommended total is 10,000 steps a day).
There is only one problem with this: my feet hurt.
But honestly, even if I ate chocolate (or gelato or a crepe) at every meal, I don't think I could gain weight because of all the walking that is being done. There are always ways to get in more steps, just by walking around the city that you are visiting (and think of how much more of the city you will be seeing!).

One trend that I am hearing a lot about for big cities in foreign countries are walking tours. Usually much cheaper than the double decker buses that tour a city, they allow you to learn the side streets and secrets that a city has to offer.

So when traveling- get out there, walk around, and enjoy!

(As a side note, I should probably tell you that my program does not allow the kids to take public transportation, so walking is really the only option, unless we take a bus. When traveling on your own, I would encourage you to walk just to get to know the city. You can always see strange and fascinating things on the way to your destination.)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

"every one that you do is more than you would have done if you didn't do it at all."

today, i want to talk about support.

no, i'm not about to go into a diatribe about sports bras (although, really? they're so bad. i just use my old bras and take them out of "regular" rotation...).  i'm going to talk about how, when you're working out, you must have people in your life who you can a) vent to when your frustration level is peaking and b) be sure will push you past what you believe your limits are.

on my regular blog, i often talk about how much i love body combat. i love it. i've been doing it for about six months, and it is probably my favorite part of every week. that may sound stupid, but in one sixty minute class, i find challenge and encouragement. my favorite instructor makes me work harder through a finely honed combination of guilt and encouragement.  she challenges me with the choreography and with her expectation and i, like the group exercise junkie that i am, follow.  unfortunately, i can't keep that instructor in my pocket to tell me what to do when i feel like i don't want to go to the gym, when i don't think i can keep running, when i don't see the results that i want. 

like it or not, i think exercise, fitness, and weight loss pursuit is the most psychologically demanding thing i've ever done.  and i've finished a dissertation, so that's saying something.

it will take everything out of you sometimes, and that's when you need your dream team in place.  you need someone by your side, metaphorically or literally, who understands you and what you're going through, who you want to impress, who you want to make proud, who you admire and who sees in you all of the things that you hope to be, that you can be, that you are.

this isn't about accountability. i don't believe you should have to answer to anyone other than yourself, because if the reason you're doing something is so you can tell someone else, it won't last. the motivation has to come from inside of you.  but we all get tired, and we all need encouragement, especially when all concrete numbers seem to not indicate any sort of progress at all.

in the dark times, you need the support that you don't have the strength to give yourself.

your dream team doesn't have to be physically near you. sometimes, a little electronic pep talk can do wonders. one of my dream team members is meg.  you know her--she posts every thursday.  she is the person that i can email with my long rambling rants and she can wade through the nonsense to get right to the heart of the matter.  we rarely see each other in person (why is that?), but there have been many times when we've used email as our way to reach out and find solace in the times when nothing seems to be working.

one of her awesome reminders to me last week, when i was hitting a hard place in my journey, was that i had already come so far: "i think you'll be surprised at how muscular you actually are. you are buff. you have been working out like a mad woman since we joined the gym...what seems like forever ago."  she encouraged me to take a scary step (body fat measurement!) that she thought would really help, and then she shared her own struggles with the psychology of being a woman trying to navigate body image in a world that is just not kind.

it really helped.

the other member of my dream team right now is my husband, who has had a fitness fire lit under him. why? he has a goal. he wants to play intermural rugby, and knows he needs to get into better cardiovascular shape in order to endure such a rugged sport.  we went to the stadium last week and we did running intervals. let me say first: i am not a runner. i would like to be a runner, and one of my grandest dreams is to run a 5K--the whole thing--but i just struggle with it.  between my knees, my glutes, and my lungs, it seems like everything is screaming at some point "STOP!"

but my sweet husband just kept going with me.  he just kept telling me he knew that i could do it. he didn't guilt trip me, he didn't make me feel badly for stopping or for running so VERY VERY SLOW. he just encouraged me to keep going...even when i thought i could go no further.

i ended up doing more because HE believed i could.  i'm not completely convinced that he was always right, but there's something intensely motivating about someone who believes that purely in you, who sees your potential as completely reachable, who never doubts your capacity to be amazing.

everyone needs that.  everyone needs those moments amid the chaos of thoughts that encourage you to stop.  my husband even threw back at me the convoluted, but valid, logic that i threw at him when he was doing chest presses earlier that week, the line that makes up today's title--that every step, every rep, every ramp, every kick, every punch, everything you choose to do is more than you would have done if you chose not to do it at all.

sometimes those choices are made infinitely easier by having people in your corner who know you can get back into that fight.

feeling like you're bleeding, sweaty, beaten down by your journey?  go back to your corner and get encouraged by your dream team.  find the people who make you feel inconquerable and strong and able. put them in your corner. let them bandage you up and send you back out there.  take a moment, inbetween the metaphorical bells, and listen to the words of the people who know who you are.

then go out there and do it.  if they know you can do it, believe them until you believe yourself again.

it works, i promise.

(proof positive? i'm doing body combat AND superset conditioning today.  my dream team works.)

Monday, July 12, 2010

Ravioli and Peas in Lemon Pepper Cream Sauce

Sounds glutenous, right?

Wrong!

This recipe is one of my "dang-I don't-feel-like-cooking-forever-but-we-need-something-to-eat" staples. My family loves it and I love that it's so fast and easy! I also love that the cream sauce in this recipe is made with evaporated milk and olive oil, giving you that yummy rich flavor and texture, without the extra saturated fat.

Ingredients:
Refrigerated or frozen ravioli, we use Bertolli whole-wheat cheese ravioli. You'll either need two small packages or one family-size package.
1 12 oz can evaporated milk
2 tbsp butter (okay, so there's a little bit of butter. But you need this in order to keep the sauce from breaking-when fat sits on top of whatever liquid... icky)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp flour
1 tsp lemon-pepper seasoning (available in any grocery store)
1/2 tsp onion powder (or 1/2 cup diced onion if you like)
Zest from one lemon
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced (or pressed, I love my garlic presser)
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese (please don't buy the pregrated stuff, a small wedge will last you forever in the fridge and will add lots of body and flavor to just about anything)
1 1/2 cups peas, fresh or frozen (if frozen, thaw them in a bowl while you cook everything else)
Salt and pepper to taste (don't salt until AFTER adding the parmesan, you might not need any)

Directions:
1. First get your ravioli cooking. Remember to salt your water and add a little bit of oil to prevent sticking. Drain.
(and don't forget to get those frozen peas out so they can defrost)

2. While those cook, melt butter and olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. To this, add both garlic and cook until very lightly browned. Now add your onion powder and flour. Using a whisk, cook flour until light brown. It will be thick (nice rue you got there!).

3. Whisk in evaporated milk and keep whisking until flour mixture is well incorporated. To this, add your lemon-pepper seasoning, lemon zest, and parmesan cheese. Let simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. If the sauce seems too thick, add water a tablespoon at a time; too thin, add flour a teaspoon at a time or let simmer a little while longer. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

4. Once the sauce is how you like it, add your peas. Give those a minute to cook and then add your ravioli and toss.

Not exactly the best picture (I realized I should blog this recipe a little too late), but...

Kid Tested.

Husband approved.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

"Someone Busier Than You is Running Right Now"

The quote above is from an old Nike ad, and I just love it. It’s something I have to remind myself constantly when I try to justify my excuses not to exercise. The truth is, everyone is busy. We all have tight schedules and heavy commitments. There are plenty of people who have more on their plates and less time to spare, but they make their health a priority. Why would I not do the same?


It’s easy to list the hours of work, school, and married life that I need to tend to. It’s difficult to get out there and just do it (isn’t that another Nike ad? I’m on a roll). It takes work. It takes discipline.


Discipline is a huge part of my fitness journey. While others often focus on what helps them to stay motivated, I focus on staying motivated AND disciplined. They have to work together. However, to me, discipline is the more important of the two. Why? Discipline can be learned and practiced. The extent of your discipline can be developed and honed through routine and goal setting.


I also think discipline is more important than motivation because I feel like when all is said and done, discipline will carry me further. If my reasons for eating well are to lower my cholesterol…what will keep me going when my cholesterol level reaches an ideal range? If my reasons for exercising are to lose Xlbs…what happens when I’ve lost them? Sure, sustaining those actions for the long term could also motivate me…but that’s rarely how my mind works. Motivation is short term and fleeting in my world. Motivation also isn’t around all the time. Sometimes, the Xlb weight loss can’t stand up to Ben and Jerry. :) Discipline can.


Discipline helps me to focus on the long-term goals and ignore the short-term pain, laziness, and hard times. Even on the days when I feel tired, (…unmotivated!), or convinced my workout will be no good – I go because that’s my routine and I’ve got a long-term plan.


The picture below is the calendar that is on my fridge at all times. Each time I workout, I note it on the calendar. The different colored star stickers represent strength vs. cardio workouts, as I have weekly goals I like to meet for each.



Discipline to maintain a workout schedule is like any other habit…it has to be built and slowly sustained. Pull out a calendar right now. Make a commitment to yourself to workout this week….to get in the habit…to be disciplined. Even adding one more workout than you do now is putting you on a path toward long-term discipline. You are not too busy for an extra 30-45 minutes this week.


Links to Health:


Australian Mags and Airbrushing


A Woman Runs 2,500 Miles for AIDS Orphans


That Chlorine Smell Doesn’t Guarantee a Pool’s Cleanliness


Top Two Activities to Prevent Weight Gain in Women


How To Raise a Healthy Eater


Bye-Bye BMI


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Cooking Class...

Hello from Barcelona!
First: Let me tell you why I am in Barcelona. I am chaperoning a group of American high school students who are taking classes at a school in Barcelona. They range from 14-17 and are from all over the USA.
Second: One of the classes being offered is a Spanish cooking class. Because the class is far away, a chaperone needs to accompany the students to the class. And guess who that chaperone is...you guessed it! Me!

In today's class, we made a Spanish tortilla and mushrooms al ajillo (in garlic). The mushrooms are what I want to focus on today...

The chef placed in front of each student a large bowl of mushrooms, a handful of parsley, 2-3 cloves of garlic and some olive oil. He also preheated the oven to about 200 degrees Celsius (about 450 degrees Fahrenheit).

The chef had us cut the mushrooms in half (you don't want the pieces to be too small) and wash them. He then had us dice up the garlic and and parsley.

We placed the mushrooms in a small roasting pan and spread olive oil on the top (not too much, you don't want the mushrooms to swim in the oil). We mixed it all together in the pan and put it in the oven for about 5 minutes.

It was so good! The mushrooms were cooked enough that they were soft, but were not mushy at all. It was the perfect amount of oil and the garlic with the parsley was amazing. Cooking the mushrooms this way allows the flavors to mix well together, but not over power each other. Plus, the mushrooms don't have time to absorb the oil, so you are not consuming a large amount of it.

I spoke to the chef as to why he thinks Spanish people are so thin (they really are!). He said that they allow themselves to enjoy food, but not too much of it. That is why Spanish tapas are so popular. You can enjoy your food without feeling that you have overeaten. He also said that the Spanish walk a lot, so their weight stays constant naturally.

Truly, I think that I am enjoying the class more than the kids, and I am definitely learning more about being in the kitchen.

Unfortunately, I don't have a picture of the mushrooms, but this is the chef as he was explaining how to cook the tortilla.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

it's naptime, y'all.

Hamlet talked about it, babies do a lot of it (but not enough at the right times), and all of us adults dream of doing it more often.  sometimes, it's better than cookies.

(and only sometimes!)

i'm talking about sleep. the restorative need we all have and the one we can't live without.

(my case in point: the episode of star trek: the next generation when they stopped sleeping and there were THREATS and CRAZY and ALMOSTMURDER.  that's evidence right there, folks.)

we all know that sleep is important.  anyone who has had a bad night and then a big day can tell you that they weren't their best that morning. their poor spouses can probably testify to that fact as well. 

but did you know that sleep is crucial to weight loss?

i'm sure you've all heard this before, but studies have shown that when we sleep well, our efforts at changing our bodies are more successful. it makes sense.  as a machine, your body needs downtime, especially when you're pushing it further than ever.  working out more or changing up your routine? you'll likely need to get more sleep.

flip this on its head, though.  imagine you're working hard, watching your calories, and doing well. you're seeing the weight slowly come off. something's obviously working. then, suddenly, you see the scale's number jump up higher.  you are probably thinking that you've done something wrong. you begin to calculate what you've eaten, berate yourself for all of the slip-ups, and maybe even begin to slip into the dark abyss of "no matter what i do, it doesn't matter."

before you buy property in that abyss of frustration, think about how well you've been sleeping.

this happened to me last week. four pounds worth of calories? all of my work over the past two weeks gone over a few slip-ups? 

perhaps.

but then i realized--i had been suffering from mega sleep issues all week.  i was sleeping probably between 4 to 6 hours a night when i am accustomed to a good 8.  they were a bad 4 to 6 too, fitful and out of the norm.

i am a person who really needs 8 hours. i don't always get it, but i'm at my best when i consistently get close to that.  what happens when i get less? it builds up, and that sleep deprivation will cause me to gain weight. 

i've seen it happen before--struggling and struggling with my weight and my workouts and the plateaus continue no matter what i do. then, i started resting more, taking better care of myself, and trying to eliminate stress from my life as much as possible.  and BAM.  changes.  

so when you're doing all the right things and are frustrated by the lack of progress?  assess your sleep.  take naps when you can and do all you can to get good sleep. though i'm far from an expert, i know that when i am more rested and paying attention to the amount and quality of my sleep, my body begins to respond in all kinds of good ways.  it is kinder to me, allowing me to be more flexible with my workouts and eating while also seeing results, and it gives me the energy to do all of the things in my day that i need to do. 

and do we really need to question any excuse to take a nap? 

it's like eating a vegetable. feel no guilt. just do it. 

Monday, July 5, 2010

If all else fails, freeze it.

Talk about a crazy Monday! There's not much time to get on the computer in between getting our new house unpacked and packing my husband to ship out. But alas, I shall grace you with this simple and easy trick.

My daughter is a picky eater. I'm not sure where she got that from (people who know me know that I'm laughing right now because I'm probably one of the pickiest eaters around... like When Harry Met Sally picky). She doesn't like the taste or texture of a lot of fruits and vegetables. One day, I was cooking with frozen peas and gave her one. She gobbled it up and asked for more. So I gave her a bowl full, and wah-la, she scarfed down about two good servings of vegetables and was none the wiser.

An example of a typical toddler dinner in our house: grilled cheese on whole wheat, pasta with cooked peas (this was a little taste of Mommy's dinner), frozen grapes, and frozen peas.


Now I freeze everything (or buy frozen).

Grapes
Bananas
Peas
Green beans
Cooked carrots (diced up)
Blueberries
Strawberries

You get the idea.

So next time your picky eater won't eat her vegetables, try freezing them!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Cheap, easy, yummy? Oh yeah.

Let's be honest with ourselves for a minute. Fast food/ casual dining places(like Apple bee's or Olive Garden)are not the place to go for healthy meals. We all know that, but we also know that going there means somebody else does the cooking and somebody else does the cleaning up. It's summer here in Florida and that means it's too flipping hot to crank up the stove! We go to these places because of perceived convenience. We're hot, tired, feeling down-right blah. Does eating at these establishments help solve this? Probably not, so why waste the money and take in the absurd amounts of sodium, fat, MSG, etc. (even in salads!) that they provide?

If offered you a way to have a super yummy meal waiting for you when you got home and it would cost you $.05 an hour, the cost of the ingredients and 20 minutes of your time either in the morning before heading out the door or while on your lunch break, would you want it? I'm sure you've guessed that I'm talking about a slow cooker (a.k.a. a crock-pot). Yes, the $.05/ hour is a real statistic!

When we (my husband and I) are deciding to go to dinner we spend about 20-30 minutes deciding where to go.
"What are you in the mood for?"
"I dunno."
"How about Italian?"
"OK. Pizza or pasta-type?"
"Eh... Olive Garden ish."
"It's 6:00. The line will be out the door."
"Yeah, I'm not really feeling Olive Garden anyway."
"Well, then what do you want?"
"Applebee's? Nah. Tonight's that crazy drink special offer. The line will be even longer than usual, and we'll have to deal with a bunch of wasted students."
"How about Outback?"
"Ehh..."
"Oooo. Tonight's that really great special at Leaning Tower (local pizza place... super yummy!)"
"But we went there last time."
Get the idea?

If we transferred the time and energy we spent picking a place to eat to dumping stuff into a crock-pot that morning (or when we were home for lunch), we'd have been eating dinner and relaxing. There are about a billion resources for easy, cheap slow cooker meals.

My favorites are both blogs. The first is Hallee the Homemaker (an amazing resource for homemaking in general): www.halleethehomemaker.com

and A Year of Slow Cooking. (This lady used her slow cooker everyday for a full year! She can cook anything!) http://crockpot365.blogspot.com/

My personal suggestions for recipes from HTH are Root Beer Barbecued Beef Sandwiches and Spinach Lasagna (not a crock pot meal, but very easy and AMAZING!)I haven't tried the recipes from AYOSC, but they are making their way onto our calendar soon.

Crock-pots save you money because you can buy cheap cuts and slow cook them, making them very tender. Beans are super cheap (and good for you), but they can be kind of blah. Most slow cooker recipes fix that. Also, most of the time, you can grab a few ingredients you have in your pantry /fridge(beans, veggies, leftover hamburger, mashed potatoes),and some spices (Salt and pepper, maybe some garlic powder)... dump, pour, sprinkle... and you're good to go. Think what you want about her, but Rachael Ray's measurements (a dollop, a palm full, etc.)are SO easy, and they're perfect for this type of cooking. (I don't really do exact measurements, which is why I don't bake... too much science.) Crock pot meals are PERFECT for teaching teens/ young adults that will be off fending for themselves soon... no tears mom! Perfect for dorms. Oh how I wish I'd had a crock pot when I was in the dorms! *sigh*

Traveling this summer? Take a crock-pot! You'll save a bunch of money by going to a local grocery store and doing a pouring cans into the crock pot (and letting it cook all day while you're out and about) rather than going out to eat. (More money for souvenirs!)You come back to your hotel room and VOILA! Dinner is served!

Of course, crock-pot meals can become far less healthy very quickly (creamed soups, tons of cheese, salt from canned veggies, etc.), so you have to be aware of what you're eating. Lentil and veggie soup is both filling and healthy. Cocktail weinnes with grape jelly and barbecue sauce (seriously, it's delicious!)... not so much, but oh so yummy!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Sometimes All Relationships Are Rocky...

There is one relationship in my life that has outlasted many others. We have been close for over a decade – longer than most of my close friendships have lasted. We have fought, gone months without interacting, and I always go back…seeking fulfillment. This relationship…is with my scale.




Unfortunately, the scale and I rarely see eye to eye. We have an inverse relationship, when I’m working hard, he rarely moves. When I’m not doing what I need to be doing, he seems to move up on cue.

I know a lot of women share this struggle, which is why I think it’s important to find other ways to measure progress in fitness and look away from that piece of plastic and metal on the floor.

After working out consistently for nearly a year, I have seen more progress from body fat measurements, progress pictures, and body measurements than I have ever seen from the scale. Even when my bicep or thigh measurements move up a bit (dude! I thought numbers should go down. what is going on?), I am happy…because I know they are moving up with muscle and my body fat is decreasing. When my body fat decreases, I see myself living longer, living healthier, and living happier. That’s something the scale was never able to tell me…no matter what number showed up in those little red digits.

I think these three progress tracking methods are integral to a fitness-training program, at least for me. I like to see progress and often times a scale can't show me that.

I have my body fat measured every three months or so. I take my measurements whenever I remember…generally every 8-12 weeks. The measurements and pictures are something you can do yourself with a camera and measuring tape (some day I might be bold enough to post some of my fitness progress pictures…but not today ☺ ). You can get your body fat measured at many different places. I get mine measured at the Personal Training and Assessment Center at the local university, but you can also have yours tested at many gyms, doctors offices, etc, for a small fee (many gyms even do it for free!).

I capture my measurements on Spark People, so that I know exactly the day they were put in. It will also show you a graph of your progress during a specific date range, which is nice. But keeping the data in a notebook works just as well!

Now I guess I will get courageous and show off some numbers, so you can see some of my progress (not saying it's impressive or anything. but when the scale refuses to budge, it's all of I've got). To emphasize how these numbers can show you things the scale can’t, remember that between my March 2010 body fat reading & the one I had earlier this week, I am only about 3lbs lighter (yeah, I didn’t say I don’t use the scale, I just said I can’t judge progress by it….nobody is perfect ☺)

Body Fat Readings:

12/18/2009: 30.00%
03/19/2010: 25%
06/28/2010: 22.89%

I know that it is not as much fun to look at where you are starting, but it is VERY fun to look back and see where you have been. Before starting a fitness regimen, I encourage you to take some measurements and photos...and try to look away from the number on the scale. Will you?


Links to Health:

What's The Best Time to Exercise?

5 Shockingly Unhealthy Salads

Is Your Job Harming Your Health?

Stay on Track While Heading Out of Town for the 4th