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"Our lives are a book that has already been written. The brilliance of the plan is that we are only given a chapter at a time..." ~A. Drayton Boylston

Friday, April 15, 2011

Getting Fit and Eating Healthy - My Journey and Tips

Here is an update I plan to do once in a while about getting fit and eating healthy. As you probably guessed from reading my blog so far.... I am trying to lead a healthier lifestyle. About a year ago, I was very sedentary....I constantly felt horrible, didn't really exercise except for necessary walks to get from Point A to Point B, and felt like because of my appearance - I was basically invisible to people. Things started turning around when I finally said to myself "This is it."

I joined a wonderful gym in Nashua called Get in Shape for Women in July of 2010. I had heard their commercials on the radio, and it sounded like a great way to get a jumpstart into the world of getting fit for someone who was completely clueless. Instead of working out by myself (and I wouldn't have known where to begin), there is always a personal trainer at every workout session... and the workout is a great mixture of weight training and cardio. Aside from that there is accountability... there are weigh-ins and you have to keep track of everything you eat in a journal. In addition to the great services, having the same personal trainer almost every time I work out - and (since the gym is small) seeing the same people on the same days - has given me a sense of family, and I have fun talking and joking with them while I work out.

Aside from losing a bunch of weight, I knew my lifestyle was changing when I felt BAD for missing a workout. I'm used to the routine of working out on generally the same days each week, and I MISS the gym when I can't go... or even on my off days.

And the gym lead to me wanting to do MORE physical activity....I went on several hikes with my mother in law last summer. She has also gotten me into Hot Yoga, and I have just recently added that to my workout regimen. Hot Yoga is NOT by any means the easiest 90 minutes (yep...90 minutes in a 105 degree room) you'll ever spend, but you can FEEL it working from the moment you start. There is a cleansing feeling...you just KNOW that you're doing something awesome for your body. And since I am a beginner, I've had to learn to listen to what my body tells me.... and mostly during hot yoga it tells me to relax once in a while and sit out on a posture. Some postures I just can't do.... even after going to the gym regularly for almost a year, I am not very flexible. And that's ok, it comes with time!!!! Like they say on the website of the yoga place I go to (Bikram Yoga in Nashua).... "the worse you feel, the more you need it." The great thing about it is although its a tough workout, there is also a surge of energy afterwards, and you can feel your body thanking you :) .

One thing I have definitely realized (and it took a long time for me to really understand this) is that you CANNOT workout without knowing how to eat and expect to lose a lot of weight. Yes, working out is good for you, but you really have to make a LIFESTYLE CHANGE in order for it to have a lasting and positive effect. I remember being frustrated at first when I started working out.... why aren't the numbers going down very much on the scale, I'm working my butt off??? But I made a mistake...I thought that BECAUSE I worked out, I could eat what I always ate and have the added bonus of weight loss. It doesn't work that way at all. And because I have a special relationship with food.... food was always how I dealt with difficult issues....I had to relearn how to eat.

I hate the word DIET...and there are so many different kinds out there. Some are silly and downright dangerous. But here's something I learned....you don't need to follow a strict diet. You don't have to deprive yourself of what you love. The key is MODERATION (or the other term I hate... "portion control"). You don't really need to weigh your food....it helps to look at the fat and calorie content of what you're eating and decide if its really a healthy choice... you just need to be sensible.

Eating better actually means eating MORE. Its not how much/how often you eat so much as WHAT you eat that matters. In order to keep yourself feeling full, you should be eating every 2-3 hours. My daily routine goes: breakfast - snack - lunch - snack - dinner - snack.

One of the hardest things for me on my journey to becoming healthier has been the lack of support. Instead of being happy for me, most people in my life either blatantly put me down for trying ("Yeah right, you'll be back to snacking on a whole bag of chips next week!"), or made a point of ignoring my efforts and piling more food onto my plate (or giving me a guilt trip about not eating what they made), knowing full well that I will have a hard time pushing my plate away. There has been even more discouragement that is difficult to discuss here. The bottom line is that I'm slowly learning that even though I want to tell everyone about my progress, I have to TRY and bite my tongue. The less loved ones know of your efforts and progress, the less likely they will be to discourage you. Not talking about it allows them to gradually get used to the new you and who you are becoming, rather than responding defensively. And discouragement doesn't mean that your friends and family don't love you.... they may see the new you as a threat. They are afraid that the old lovable you will be replaced by someone they won't know how to deal with. So the unfavorable behavior they display is out of fear.... its not lack of love. Your increase in self-esteem and the increasing use of the word NO may seem to them as selfish behavior. But really, you're finally doing what you should have been doing all along... putting YOU on the top of your list. This lifestyle change is for YOU and YOU ALONE. If you are doing it for someone else, its not going to last.

The wonderful thing about this lifestyle change is that will positively affect you on the outside AND inside. When you feel good about yourself and your body, you are driven to reach further to accomplish OTHER things you never thought you could. It boosts your self esteem, your attitude, and your stamina. I never knew that feeling great at the gym would carry over to other aspects of my life. I actually have this foreign quality called "SELF WORTH" now. No one can tell me I'm not good enough now... because I know I am. No one can tell me I can't do something... because I know I can. Jibes at me and my "diet" are met with a quick laugh and a smile.

It has NOT been easy, and I still have moments of weakness. I long for Pop Tarts (my old breakfast...with a diet coke) and a giant peanut butter cup. It's an every day struggle. But I use mantras and positive role models to inspire me. As I'm working out, I find it helpful to visualize my ideal body, and with every inch and pound dropped, I know that I am closer to my goal. I still have a lot of work to do but I am getting there. I can see the finish line, and the light at the end of the tunnel. And if I can do this, ANYONE can! :)

Here are some food tips and snack ideas that have helped me. I will add new things to this list (and repost it) as I learn. These tips have been gathered from various resources and been adapted to something I found works for me. Not all of them may be for you, but they may give you some ideas of things you can do for yourself.

Grocery Store Tip - Shop the perimeter of the grocery store. Go for fresh fruit, vegetables, and minimally processed foods when you can. The perimeter contains essential healthy products... the middle isles contain processed food and junk that is generally bad for you with few exceptions. Really, everything you need is in the perimeter.

Drink LOTS of water - Sorry, no exact amount provided here because how much you need to drink is widely debated. At least 6-8 glasses per day... but as much as you can. Whenever you're thirsty, water is best. If you can't stand the bland taste of it (like me), add a squirt of lemon juice or some other natural flavoring. If you crave soda, get sparkling water. Coconut Water is also very hydrating and can be found at every grocery store. There are some really expensive brands of coconut water in the health food areas of grocery stores, but there ARE other kinds. For instance, in the ethnic food section there is a GOYA brand, that comes in a can, that is very inexpensive...usually less than a dollar (at Walmart). Big Lots also carries the Genesis Today Coconut Water which is .70 per bottle and contains added vitamins.

Even DIET Soda is bad for you. Not for the same main reason as regular soda... since there is no sugar. But even diet soda bloats you, is bad for your teeth, etc. I used to drink about EIGHT cans of soda daily... or go through one 2 liter bottle a day. So I know how hard it is to kick the habit. I am not there yet, but I've been drinking a lot more water than I used to. When I drink nothing but water, when I have the will power, I feel significantly better overall than when I drink soda.

Trick your eyes and brain - Instead of putting your properly portioned food on a large plate, thereby feeling before you even start that your meal won't fill you up because of the meager (in comparison to other peoples' plates) portion.... put it on a dessert plate (or a similar type of small plate). This tricks your eyes and brain... and all you see is a FULL PLATE. I tend to feel more full using this trick.

Bring your own meals and snacks away from home - This helps resist temptation to splurge on a large unhealthy meal from cafeterias, vending machines and fast food joints.

Try not to eat too late at night. Try not to eat a heavy dinner after 6pm. If you're hungry, have a simple salad with a slice of whole grain bread. Or a whey protein shake.

Allow yourself one cheat MEAL per week... NOT a whole day of cheating. Reserve this for a weekend day, and one meal only. That way you can have pasta at your favorite Italian restaurant for example and not feel like you missed out.

Now here are some snacking ideas for you:

Yummy Shake
- almond milk (about a full glass worth)
- raw cacao powder (can be purchased at Whole Foods - or "Whole Paycheck" as I like to call it) - maybe a tbs
- fresh mint leaves or vanilla beans
Blend all ingredients

Mocha Morning Smoothie
- 1 scoop of chocolate whey protein
- 1 cup skim milk
- 2 spoonfuls of lowfat yogurt
- creamer (optional)
- coffee (1-2 cups)
- 2-3 icecubes
Blend all ingredients
* I have also used mocha lowfat yogurt in place of coffee.

Quickie Breakfast
- 1 whole wheat flax tortilla spread with 1 tbs almond butter or natural peanut butter, roll one whole banana up in it like a burrito.... great to-go type of breakfast. I usually eat this on the way to the gym

Snack Mix
Mix together FiberOne Cereal, craisins, and raw almonds

Pop Secret
When you're craving something on the salty side... eat popcorn! The mostly (90 something %) fat free kind

When you're craving something sweet, fudgicles are awesome!
So are Weight Watchers chocolate candy packs, containing individually wrapped candies that are 1 point each. Eat one after dinner for a dessert.
Dark Chocolate is also great and healthy in moderation.... buy a large bar and break off ONE square for dessert.

Cedar's Tzatziki Sauce...... so good with cut up veggies. Great flavors to choose from.

When eating raw veggies.... don't forget the peppers. Most people snack on carrots and celery.... celery is good for you because it makes you feel full, carrots not so much. Peppers are awesome for burning fat, and not to mention they come in pretty colors :) . Try different kinds... some are slightly sweet.

Make your own salad dressing instead of buying it in the store. This puts you in control of the ingredients, and a really simple salad dressing is not only healthy... it doesn't mask the taste of the delicious vegetables you're eating! To start making your own...DO go out to the store and in the salad dressing isle, purchase a CRUET if you don't already have one. It usually comes in a kit... and includes a seasoning packet (and you can buy more of them if you want). The glass cruet has measuring guides right on the bottle... so you will know how much oil, water, and vinegar to add. The basic recipe includes those three ingredients plus the seasoning packet. INSTEAD of white vinegar though, use BALSAMIC. And instead of any oil, use OLIVE. After a few times of making this recipe, you'll feel comfortable coming up with your own recipes. I recently made my own Sesame Tahini salad dressing which included a few dollops of tahini, enough water to make it a smooth liquid (I used a blender), a garlic and shallot seasoning packet, olive oil, and a squeeze of lemon. Simple and healthy.

Almond Butter Tip - Because people striving to eat healthy know that almond butter is better for you than peanut butter.... there seems to be an influx of Almond Butter brands. Make sure that the ingredients are only two.... almonds and salt (and maybe oil). It should not have added sugar or other unnecessary ingredients. All almond butter is not created equal.

I hope you find some of these tips helpful :)

"IF YOU KNOW YOU DESERVE BETTER... GO GET IT!" - Josh Woods, manager of Get in Shape for Women in Nashua NH.

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