Monday, January 31

BBQ in January!

One of my absolute favorite dinners is shish kabobs!  Kabobs are the perfect dinner because they’re quick, they’re easy and they’re delicious.  They’re a great kind of dinner to get the kids involved with (learning opportunity!).  And it’s just so invigorating to have BBQ when it’s cold and blustery out!
Kabobs are one of those foods where you don’t really need a recipe—just imagination!
I’m a big fan of Teriyaki Kabobs.  I’ll use a lean cut of beef (like filet mignon or top round), zucchini, mushrooms, and green peppers.  Lightly brush some teriyaki sauce over top and you’re good to grill.  If you have calories left for some extra carbs, you can even have a little brown rice on the side.
There are also the classic BBQ Kabobs.  I like BBQ chicken best, but I like to mix it up with snow peas, mushrooms, and asparagus.  I have friends who love to add some pineapple to their BBQ kabobs.
Here in Seattle, you can pretty much grill all year round.  But my parents, buried in snow in Pennsylvania right now, also do a lot of winter grilling.  If you don’t have a grill, your broiler is actually a great way to fake it.  No broiler?  A ridged skillet and some olive oil are all you need.  You’re going to want a very hot heat on the stove.  You don’t want to cook them, you want to sear them.
And it’s a perfect dinner to involve the whole family!  Get the kids to cut veggies (with supervision, of course) or and have them skewer the kabobs.  It’ll be the perfect time to explain why veggies and protein are so important for them.  And I guarantee that kids are far more interested in eating their veggies when they get to see where they came from and how they’re made.
What do you think?  Do you have favorites for your own kabobs?  Or does the sound of winter grilling just make you shiver?

Wednesday, January 26

Ready! Set! Eat?

People, I have discovered one of the most amazing tools ever!  Our friend over at Leaving Fatville turned me on to  Awesome!  Ok, whether you’re trying to lose or maintain your weight (or just don’t care), this is the perfect website for planning our last minute dinners.
The basics: You tell it how much time you have and what kind of main ingredient you’d like, and then it spits out some quick and easy dinner recipes for you.  You can enter your zip code and select your normal grocery store (so that it can tell you what ingredients are on sale).  AND there’s a “Healthier Recipes” button to filter out the high calorie dinners.
Awesomeness:  The recipes are designed to be quick and simple, but flavorful.  You won’t have to go scrounging for hard-to-find ingredients, and you won’t be spending a fortune.  Once you register on the site, you can rate recipes and find other coupons and offers.
Pitfalls: Even the “Healthier Recipes” aren’t perfect.  If you’re trying to lose weight, the worst thing you could do is just pick one of their healthy recipes and assume the calories are low.  However!  It’s easier than pie to substitute what are obviously paid sponsor foods (like Banquet frozen chicken) and just use plain chicken breast in your recipe.
I can’t even tell you how thrilled I am!  I’ve been in one of those ruts where I’m eating the same five dinners every week.  While that’s ok with Mr. Husband, I’m getting bored and quick.  I can see me using this on the weekends to plan out my meals for the week (so I don’t have to make last minute stops at the store).
Any great suggestions on how to keep dinners simple but creative?  Any weekly timesavers you’ve discovered?  Favorite easy recipes?

Monday, January 24

Skipping the Gym

I was meeting with my trainer the other day—I figured a good way to jumpstart my fitness is a couple weeks of visiting the ol’ trainer—and he was asking me about my weekly schedule.  I gave him a rundown of the classes I like and machines I like on days when I don’t have class.  He asked, “What days are your days off?”  I laughed at him.  I don’t schedule myself days off from working out because they seem to happen all on their own!
Those are the days when you get home from work, having every intention of going to the gym throughout the day, but after cooking dinner you just can’t seem to muster the energy to head back out again.  Often I feel guilty for not making any effort to be active.  That’s why I have a few Plan B’s at home!
One of my favorite at-home activities is video games!  If this sentence takes you by surprise, then you haven’t been paying much attention to what your kids are playing.  My parents have a Wii—my mom loves the Wii Zumba and Wii Fit games.  I got my brother the Wario Smooth Moves game for Christmas and you’d be shocked at the sweat you can build up just paying a simple game.  At our house, we have a new Kinect!  I love the Dance Central game (I can’t dance, but I’m a star!).
I don’t have any machines or weights at home, but I did splurge on a Bosu Ball.  It’s a great tool that I can use for balance, abs, legs, pushups or anything I can think of!  You don’t have to fill your house with fitness aids or bulky machines (that just end up holding your laundry).  But if you pick one tool to keep around, you have a backup plan for those days when you just want to stay in, like a yoga mat, a balance disc, or an exercise band.
What kind of backup plan do you have for when your normal routine gives?  Any favorite DVD workouts?  Have you tried other simple exercises that don’t require any equipment?

Friday, January 21

Diet Food Protest

The lovely Lorrie, over at The Token Fat Girl, posted an interesting personal discovery this week.  She was talking about the differences between “diet food” and “health food.”
She defines “diet food” as anything in a package that has a weight loss claim.  I thought it was a very good description!  These are the foods that you might like or not like, but that we can easily find ourselves gravitating toward in our search for that quick fix weight loss solution.
“Health food,” on the other hand, is what I think Miss Lorrie would describe as anything natural.  It’s safe to say that these are the foods that we all know we should eat every day, but most likely don’t.
Now, we know that any food—however we classify it—can potentially be unhealthy in large amounts.  Avocado is definitely a natural food, but if you choose to each 20 avocados every day you’re certainly not going to lose any weight.  But most of us generally don’t get enough of these “health foods” in our diets every day.
For example, yesterday I decided to only eat like 4 of my Zone protein bars, some Greek yogurt and granola.  Needless to say I desperately need to go grocery shopping.  Calorie-wise, my day was great!  I hit my 1200 calorie goal with no problem.  Nutrition-wise, well…  my day was lacking.
Do you ever feel like you need to strike from your “diet food?”  Does your “diet food” make you feel deprived?  Or do you feel that it helps you not feel deprived?

Monday, January 17

Kings and Queens of Reasoning

It’s Sunday afternoon, and you’re still in your pajamas.  It occurs to you that you should head to the gym at some point in the day.  But you still have the house to tidy up and some laundry to throw in.  Oh, and you were hoping to run to the grocery store, too.  By the time you did that errand, it would be dinner time.  And you had been pretty good with your eating so far in the day, so it was no big deal if you didn’t make it to the gym.
It’s so easy to reason away those things you’ve committed yourself to!  I find reasoning far better than just making excuses.  With excuses, at least you feel a little guilty for your decision.  When you reason your way to a decision, there’s no guilt because you had perfectly good reasons!
But the scary thing is—I reasoned away my need to get to the gym for the entire month of December.
You can reason away your need to eat fewer calories.  You can reason away your need to drink plenty of water.  Saving your money.  Working reasonable hours.  Staying active.  Our commitments and resolutions float away on a river of reasons.
The best way I have found to help fight the urge to reason is to make sure I have rules and routine in place.  Every Monday I attend Body Attack and Fridays are Zumba nights.  As a rule, I try to get to the gym at least four nights a week.  On principle, I never schedule myself off days (because they seem to happen all on their own without me scheduling them).  When you have a rule that can stop you in your reasoning tracks, or a sense of routine that prevents you from even getting to that point where you’re reasoning away your need.
How to you keep yourself on track?  Do you find that once you start making reasons that it gets harder to get back on track?  What do you do to not give yourself room for reasons?

Friday, January 14

Protein Bar Puzzle

There’s a lot of talk out there over protein bars.  They are touted as meal replacements, diet aids, snacks or nutrition supplements.  So what should we do with them?  How do you pick a good one?  Do any good ones even exist, or do they all taste like Styrofoam?
I’m here to help!  Protein bars can be a big part of weight loss and weight maintenance.  You can use them as snacks or meal replacements.  One thing protein bars are not: nutritional.  It doesn’t matter how many vitamins they pack in them, a protein bar cannot replace vegetables and fruits—natural sources of fiber, vitamins and minerals.  I often use protein bars to replace a breakfast when I know I don’t have time to put anything together or a snack when I know I’m going to be crazy busy at work.
When you’re choosing a protein bar, your choice is going to first be based on the nutritional facts and second on the taste.  When you’re looking at the nutritional facts, what’s the most important number?  Protein!  That’s why it’s called a “Protein Bar!”  You want there to be more grams of protein than fat.  Ideally, there will be 10 grams of protein or more.
Since you’re already comparing your protein number to your fat number, you simply want to make sure there’s as little fat as possible.  There should definitely be less fat than protein.  Ideally, there will be 5 grams of fat or less.
The next number you’re looking for is carbs.  When you start looking at the number of carbs in protein bars, you’re going to be in for a shock.  For the most part, you don’t want any more than 25 grams of carbs.  If more than 50 percent of those carbs is sugar, chances are that you’re not holding a protein bar in your hand.  Say “hello” to the candy bar that snuck its way into that section with fancy words like “nutrition” and “all-natural.”
If you’re following the rules listed above, you’ll get a protein bar that’s between 150 and 200 calories.
I have a list here of bars that I have tried and that actually taste good!
Special K Protein Meal Bar (Strawberry)
170 Calories, 5g Fat, 25g Carb (15g Sugar), 10g Protein
Zone Perfect All-Natural Nutrition Bar (Double Dark Chocolate)
190 Calories, 6g Fat, 22g Carb (14g Sugar), 12g Protein
Luna Bar (Peanut Butter Cookie)
180 Calories, 6g Fat, 26g Carb (11g Sugar), 9g Protein
I’ve tried a lot of protein bars, and some of them are just disgusting!  Have you tried any good ones?  Any we should avoid?  Were you surprised by the nutrition numbers on your own protein bar?

Thursday, January 13

Year of the Happy Medium

I guest posted on Healthy Living Blogs (a fantastic resource for all topics health related)!  It’s my first guest cameo.  I’ve giving a rundown of my New Year’s resolution.  Check it out!

Wednesday, January 12

That Fleeting Good Feeling

During my December eating extravaganza, I pretty much let myself eat anything I wanted to.  I over-ate on several occasions, and I think about ninety percent of my eating was sugar.  I was mostly aware of the choices I was making, but it just felt so good!
When it comes to sugar, I have a very real and very noticeable physical reaction.  I feel good.  I feel happy.  And when that sugar leaves my body, I can feel that, too.  I noticed how quickly my old cycle of sugar high to crash to sugar seeking became habit again.  It’s so very similar to a drug addict seeking their next high.
But the high is never lasting.  It was scary how quickly my body became used to the sugar again.  I would look at a bowl of M&Ms and realize that it wouldn’t be enough to get that good feeling.  I would want the cookies instead.  I would add hot chocolate.  I was eating constantly, but eventually, it wasn’t making a difference in how I felt.
And I didn’t feel energized like I normally do.  I didn’t feel like I could go dancing or run around the block.  I felt comatose.  But gosh darn it—I “felt” good.
It’s interesting how our brains interpret these situations.  Because the sugar was sending endorphins and opioids to my brain, I interpreted it as feeling good.  But when I compared that feeling to my normal state, it wasn’t good.  I didn’t like the way that I felt.
Have you had any moments like this?  Moments when you realize that something you thought you desired wasn’t really anything you wanted?

Monday, January 10

Change It up!

For me, one of the most sure fire ways to keep my workout routine consistent is to keep it fun and challenging.  If you let boredom creep into your routine, every workout will become a fight to stay on track.
Many times we want to change up our habits, but all we do is move from the elliptical machine to the stair master.  We’re afraid of leaving our comfort zone; we bore ourselves into failure!  This year we’re going to be brave!  We are going to do what we’ve never done!
If you’re one of those elliptical machine people (meaning, four days a week you put in your 30 minutes on the same machine), try a group class!  There are plenty of cardio classes that would shock some fun into your schedule, as well as give you an opportunity to work a few other muscle groups.  Zumba classes are everywhere.  I love Les Mills classes—Body Attack, Body Combat and Sh’Bam.
If you’re one of those group class people (meaning, you only attend classes and hate to work out alone), grab a buddy or a trainer and do some strength training!  You might have variety of muscle groups, but you probably don’t have the strength you could.  You’ll see some gigantic men and women in the weight areas, but I promise they are very nice.  Many are more than willing to help you find weights or give you a quick instructional on how to work a machine.
If you’re one of those weight lifting people (meaning, you only bulk up), try a martial arts class or the Les Mills Body Combat.  You’ll find it will let you still work in some strength training (as well as make you feel like there’s a use to all those muscles now) while letting you build in some cardio to your schedule.
And finally, my running friends!  If you’re one of those marathon freaks (meaning, you’re a marathon freak—you know who you are), try anything else!  Many runners have very healthy hearts and keep their weight in check.  The truth is you’re only working out one very small muscle group.  Can you play a game of basket ball or jump on the trampoline with your kids?  Can you help a friend move some furniture or climb a rock wall?
How are you going to change up your routine this year?  What have you been dying to try but always been too afraid?

Friday, January 7

Brown-Bagging It

My coworkers drive me insane.  Everyone complains about their holiday weight gain; yet, everyday at lunch, everyone is asking what restaurant we want to go to.  Every day it is “Who else wants Mexican?” or “Does anyone want Jimmy John’s?” or “Where are you going for lunch?”  I swear I’m just going to start packing them all a lunch every day because I’m tired of it!
It’s tough being that one person brown-bagging it.  But, when it comes down to it, I think my lunches look so much better than anyone else’s!  And my lunches always range from 300 to 450 calories.
One of my favorites is Turkey Teriyaki.  I guarantee you have left over turkey!  Ladies, grab about 4-5 ounces of turkey; guys will probably want 5-6 ounces.  Don’t smother your turkey in teriyaki sauce—measure yourself a serving and keep it on the side.  If you dip your turkey into it, you’re going to eat much less sauce but still get plenty of flavor.  I’ll often take one of those Steam Fresh bags of broccoli and then add a piece of fruit.
A lot of people think you need to eat nothing but salad in order to lose weight.  If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ll notice a significant lack of salads.  However!  Here’s my favorite salad!  Start with some spring greens or spinach.  Add a few slices of grapefruit and tangerines.  Top it off with a small slice of grilled salmon (grill the night before and eat it cold, it’s delicious)!  The flavor combination is fantastic, and you’ll be getting some heart healthy fats into your diet.
Do you ever get to lunch time and just want something sweet?  Kashi makes some fantastic high protein and high fiber cereals.  I like the Almond Flax Crunch because it’s sweetened just enough (and I love Almonds).  Take a cup of cereal and add to a cup of Chobani Greek Yogurt.  They have great flavors—I just tried the pomegranate today, but my favorite is the peach!  They have fat free and 2% options.  It’s a quick way to get a good amount of protein and satisfy that sweet tooth.
Got any good brown bag ideas?  Seen anyone else bring in the kind of packed lunch that makes you wish you hadn’t gone out?

Wednesday, January 5

Creative Resolutions

I’ve been reading a lot of blogs lately—everyone is on one of two wagons: the Weight-Loss-Resolution Wagon or the Resolutions-Don’t-Help-Anyone Wagon.  But I’ve been seeing a lot of really creative resolutions!
Vicky, my oh-so-sexy Body Attack instructor, is committing to drinking more water.  A friend of mine is going to give another shot at quitting smoking.  My husband hasn’t explicity said so, but I’m pretty sure he’s going to try his darnedest to cut soda out of his day.  Great resolutions that make big steps toward making their lives healthier.
Here are a few more creative resolutions I’ve seen:
  • I will not compare myself to other people.  I will be content with myself, my home and my possessions.
  • I will not be so busy that I do not have spare moments for myself or anyone else.  I will make sure to leave margins in my schedule.
  • I will read 30 books in 2011 (and magazines don’t count but graphic novels totally do).
  • I will not acquire any new debt in 2011.
  • I will not eat any fast food.  I will either eat at home or be discerning with the places I do choose to eat out at.
Some of these creative resolutions could potentially have a greater impact on your life (and your weight) than simply a resolution to lose weight.  Have you seen any other interesting resolutions?  Have you thought about adjusting your own resolutions?

Monday, January 3

Your Beginning!

Welcome to 2011!  The holidays are behind us, and we’re staring down a fresh start.  I love a clean slate!  And I don’t care who you are—we all need a clean slate right now.  Whether you’re a size 2 or a 26, you’re a couple pounds heavier than you were at the beginning of October.
So here we are armed with our resolutions.  We’re ready to go!  We’re committed!  And we’ve been here before…
Anyone remember their 2010 resolutions?
This year, we’re going to do some reflection over our resolutions and set ourselves up for success!
1)      Is my resolution too lofty?  I didn’t want to ask if it was “realistic” or “attainable.”  If your resolution is to lose 100 pounds, you can and are capable of doing that.  But when you set your first goal too high, you guarantee yourself a struggle in reaching it.  Make your goal easy!  Set yourself to lose 5 pounds.  You’ll reach it quickly and can set your next goal at 10 pounds.  Give yourself room for momentum.
2)      Is my resolution really my goal?  Do you really want to lose 5 pounds, or do you want to feel better about yourself?  Maybe your goal is really to feel physically fit or to be able to run up the stairs without being winded.  All these goals have very different ways of getting there.  And you may work at your resolution, but never feel the happiness you could if you actually accomplish your real goal.
3)      Can I see myself achieving my resolution?  If you can’t visualize it, you’ll never get there.  We don’t realize how much we hold ourselves back!  When you reach your goal, it may be completely different from how you even imagined (I could never have truly imagined my life as it is now).  But you need to be able to see yourself reaching that finish line—the subconscious knowledge that you can and will.
What are your resolutions?  Do you plan on adjusting your resolution at all?  January 3 isn’t too late to do a little midcourse correction.  Share your resolution and book mark this page—visit back to remind yourself of your real goals.

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