Saturday, January 29, 2011

Healthy Habits

I was talking with a friend, sharing and learning ideas for weight loss and a healthier lifestyle. It is interesting to me how many aspects there are to being healthy; eating, sleeping, exercise, spiritual fulfillment, emotional fulfillment, interactions with friends and others that affect our emotional and mental well-being. As we talked about these different areas and trying to be aware of taking care of ourselves in all areas, I suggested that she start creating 'healthy habits'. Once something is a habit we just do it as a matter of course. Our mind has learned that 'this is what we do'. By creating 'healthy habits' we can train our mind and body to do certain things that we know are good for us. The more healthy habits we can develop the easier it is to get and stay healthy because we already know how we will respond and what we will do in certain situations. The goal is to not have to 'make decisions' when we feel weak, but to go on auto pilot because 'that's what we do'.

For example, when I get up in the morning I no longer think about what I 'want' to eat or drink. I walk to the fridge for a bottle of cold water. I have one beside me right now since I am writing early on a Saturday morning. I don't ask myself if I feel like having water. I have created a habit of drinking a bottle of water every morning before eating anything.
It was suggested that when blogging about any of these things, I title it "Healthy Habits". I will take that suggestion...Healthy Habits is born!
What healthy habits do you have? I'm always looking for ways to improve mine.
In what area(s) would you like to develop more healthy habits?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Healthy Habits: Favorite Breakfast Recipes Under 300 Calories

One of the most important tips I can give to help you along your weight loss journey is: DON'T SKIP BREAKFAST!! Eating within an hour of waking in the morning (ideally 30 min) jump starts your metabolism. This means you will burn more calories throughout the day. Not eating breakfast sends your body into starvation mode and your metabolism slows down in order to conserve energy. The key is to put something (fuel) in your body that can be converted to energy and metabolized slowly. Sugar will metabolize quickly giving you a burst of energy but won't last very long. The right kind of carbs, fat and protein will give you sustained energy over several hours.

Interesting thing about sugar. If you eat sugar, your body will crave sugar. Then it's an ongoing battle with yourself, trying not to eat the 'bad stuff'. If you don't believe me, try this experiment. Eat sugar early in the day and then pay close attention to what you 'want' to eat for the rest of the day. Then take a day and make one of the breakfast recipes below and see what your body is craving for the rest of the day. Obviously this doesn't mean that you won't want sugar any more. But you will find that if you can go for about three days without sugar your body stops craving it. Fresh, sweet fruit becomes sugar to you and you will truly notice the intense sweetness of things like fresh pineapple or oranges and grapefruits. You will start to crave the natural sugars in fruit for energy.
I always drink a 24 oz bottle of water first thing after waking in the morning. Then I eat about a cup of fresh fruit giving me carbs for energy and jump starting my metabolism. That's enough food to exercise on; you shouldn't exercise on an empty stomach, but definitely don't want a full stomach. After exercise I will make one of the breakfasts below.

These are three of my favorite breakfast recipes. All are under 300 calories!!

Fresh Banana Nut Oatmeal  (267 calories)
1/2 Cup Water
1/2 Cup Skim Milk
1/2 Cup Quaker Rolled Oats (NOT instant)
1/2 Ripe Banana
3 Walnut halves

Put water, milk and oats in small sauce pan on stove. Turn stove on low-med. Stir frequently as it heats, oats will cook (approx 3-4 min) and start to thicken. Do not turn on high, do not boil.

Meanwhile in cereal bowl, mash 1/2 banana with fork. Break walnut halves into small pieces on top of banana.

When oats are cooked pour into cereal bowl over banana. Mix with spoon.

Chocolate-Strawberry Smoothie    (285 Calories)
1/2 Cup Skim Milk
1/2 Cup Cold Water
1 tsp Ground Flax Seed
1 Scoop Chocolate Whey Protein Powder
1/2 Ripe Banana
5 Large Frozen Strawberries

Put in Blender in order above and blend until smooth. If you like it thicker, add one or two more strawberries.(add 7 calories for each strawberry you add)

Protein Bowl    (234 Calories) 
This recipe makes 4 servings: 234 calories per serving
(This is a variation of Jillian Michael's Breakfast Bowl)
2 Cups Fat Free Plain Yogurt
2 Cups Fat Free Cottage Cheese
3 Tblsp Sliced Almonds
1/2 Cup Quaker Rolled Oats (NOT instant)
2 tsp Vanilla

1/2 Cup Fresh Blueberries OR Blackberries OR Strawberries (Can also use frozen berries-let thaw first)

Combine yogurt, cottage cheese, almonds, oats & vanilla in a bowl. Mix. Divide into four-1 cup servings in four storage bowls with seals. Put in fridge. Needs to sit overnight or at least four hours for oatmeal to "cook" as it absorbs moisture.

Put fruit on top of protein bowl at the time you are eating it.

There you go...three great breakfasts that are quick and easy or make ahead, super nutritious and great tasting! Enjoy!

When do you have the most difficulty creating a healthy meal; when fixing breakfast, lunch or dinner?

Are you most interested in changing your eating habits or your exercise habits right away? Or both?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Healthy Habits: Five Easy Tips To Jump Start Your Weight Loss Program

      As I was writing this I realized that I could have made this the top 7 or 8 or 10 tips...I have a number of them. But I've narrowed it down to 5 things that you can do immediately that will NOT require you to make any major changes in your diet or exercise or lifestyle. The hope is that by following these five easy tips you will see immediate changes in how you feel (within a few days) and be motivated to make bigger changes in your diet and exercise program. If you are like me, you like to know why you are doing something. So after each tip I explain why it makes a difference or how it works on your body.   

      1) Drink a bottle of water every morning, first thing after waking up, before eating anything. I drink a 24oz bottle, you could start with 16oz if needed, but at least 16 oz. I keep several bottles in the fridge that I refill with filtered water from my kitchen sink so I always have cold water available. I take my vitamins and supplements right then. Sometimes I drink it quickly (10 min), sometimes I carry it around with me and take 20 – 30 minutes to finish it. But don’t eat anything until you have finished that bottle of water.

WHY: Breakfast is exactly that – Break Fast. Your body has been on a fast and has had no fluids for at least 8 hours, likely longer. Your cells and organs need to be rehydrated. Hydrating your body wakes it up and you’re your metabolism going. Often when our body is thirsty we mistake it for hunger, and we eat in an effort to satisfy the thirst.  Hydrating will help keep you from eating more than your body needs.

      2)  After drinking your bottle of water, make the first food you eat fruit. Any kind of fruit that you like. I eat whatever is in season that I am able to grow or purchase inexpensively. Eating healthy does NOT have to cost more (we’ll address that in another post). Right now oranges and grapefruits are ripe on the trees in Arizona. I put them on the cutting board like an onion. Cut the rind off and cut them into sections and put them in a bowl it takes 30-45 seconds to skin and section a citrus fruit. (If you’re not sure how to do it let me know. Maybe I will do a separate post with pictures of the steps.) The key here is making the fruit ready and accessible for you. If you have to take time to peel and separate, you will likely grab for something easier…I know I will. I like mixing grapefruit (both pink and white) with oranges, tangerines, or whatever I have. When mixing them, the sweet overrides any sour that might come from a grapefruit. The taste is wonderful and the juice that collects in the bowl is amazing. I cut up a large bowl to keep in the fridge so I don’t have to take any prep time in the morning. Other things I cut into a large bowl are cantaloupe, watermelon (mixed or by itself) & pineapple (definitely by itself). I also really like berries of any kind in the morning. You might choose to have an apple, peach, pear…any fruit that you like is good.

WHY: Our body gets energy from carbohydrates. Fruit is carbs. Despite what you may have heard about carbs being bad, it’s not carbs in general that are bad it’s certain types of carbs that are bad. If the body draws energy from carbs, then we need to eat carbs. The key is eating the type of carbs that can be completely converted to energy, not the type that weighs us down, makes us feel sluggish and converts to fat. When you eat fruit before eating anything else, the body immediately converts it to energy and jump starts your day.

      3)  Cut out ALL soda/pop/soft drinks (whatever you call it) from your diet. (This may be the most difficult change for some of you, but one of the most important.)

WHY: Soda is truly worthless to your body; you are taking in calories with absolutely no nutritional value. Sugary sodas filled with high-fructose corn syrup have been linked to obesity & diabetes. Diet sodas with artificial sweetener actually INCREASE your appetite!  But what you may not know is that the carbonation in soda (whether regular or diet) makes it very difficult to lose weight; it actually encourages your body to hang on to its fat stores. Not to mention the fact that soda weakens your bones and damages your major organs.

      4) Go to bed hungry; stop eating 3-4 hours before going to bed. It is our nature not to deprive ourselves, so as soon as we feel the slightest hunger we want to satisfy it. We should eat carbs (energy) EARLY in the day and protein and vegetables (recovery and building) LATER in the day. So, to make this even more effective, eat only protein and veggies for dinner. But whatever you eat, stop eating 3-4 hours before you go to bed so you can go to bed on an empty stomach.

WHY: The purpose of sleep is for the body to repair, rest, and re-energize. When you go to bed with a full stomach, your body has to work all night processing and digesting food instead of being able to relax rest and repair for the next day. You will awaken not as well rested as you should/could be. Ever wonder why you don’t have much energy during the day? This one tip will help you to get better rest so you feel more energized. (An exercise plan is much easier to stick to when you are rested and energetic.) Another important reason is this: When your stomach is empty your body turns to fat stores for energy.  While you are sleeping, your body still requires calories to function. It will be drawing those calories/energy from fat stored as opposed to food you recently put into your stomach. If I go to bed with my stomach growling, I am always down on the scale the next morning.

      5)  Get enough sleep each night. Every person is different here, but usually it is 7-8 hours of sleep that the body requires to function at its very best. You may be able to ‘get by’ on six hours, but for peak function, that’s not enough. If you don’t know how much sleep your body requires to function at its very best, here’s how you can find out. Go to bed between 9-11PM and don’t set the alarm for the morning. Allow your body to wake up when it is ready. Do this 3-4 days in a row. It will take a few days for your body to recognize that you are allowing it to get ‘what it needs’ and take it. Each morning write down exactly how long you slept. It’s important that you go to sleep around the same time each night. After several days you will see exactly how long your body wants to sleep when you let it set its own schedule. For me it is 8 hours 15 min. That is my perfect night’s sleep; I feel great and energetic, and my body functions at its very best.

 WHY: When you have not had enough sleep and you feel tired during the day you will find yourself constantly eating. Your mind and body know that you get energy from food, so if you are lacking energy the obvious thing is to eat in an effort to get some energy. Funny thing is, eating doesn’t give you energy. It will only make you feel bogged down and worse. The energy that your body needs can only come from rest. You will take in many more calories than you need and you will feel like you have absolutely no self control or restraint. Really, it has nothing to do with your commitment to eating a healthy diet; it’s just your body trying desperately to get energy. In addition, without enough sleep you body tends to retain fluid making you feel bloated and sluggish. It is scientifically proven that not getting enough sleep inhibits your ability to lose weight.

Again, the hope is that by following these five easy tips you will see changes within a few days in how you feel and be motivated to make bigger changes in your diet and exercise program.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Before and 3/4 way there photos

I'm really stepping outside of my comfort zone here, but I'm going to post 'before' and '2/3 of the way there'  pictures in this post. There aren't too many before pics to choose from. Those who are on this same journey of weight loss and improved health will understand that I did my best to stay OUT of pictures. Maybe I can ignore it a little longer if I don't actually see myself. And more importantly, this is not how I want to be remembered as people look back at the pictures. I'll take pictures after I lose some weight and feel better about myself.

My journey is unique in many ways and yet very similar to others in many ways. I had entered  a new phase of life March 8th, 2001 when I met my awesome husband. (We were married July 31st, 2001. I'll save that amazing story for another post). I will say that my 'weight' challenge began Thursday, Dec 13th, 2001. 

I lived a healthy lifestyle and was athletic. I didn't eat fast food, had a diet consisting mainly of fresh fruits & veggies, lean protein and complex carbs. I drank only water, no soda, juice or alcohol. I didn't smoke, and I exercised regularly. In fact, my idea of a great date was to run Thunderbird Mountain (with a little friendly competition involved), ending at the picnic tables for a healthy dinner picnic of veggies and protein while watching the sunset. (I probably wouldn't have admitted that I ran that circuit every morning after dropping my son off at school until after the date.) I was a regular at the gym and enjoyed feeling alive, strong and energetic from my workouts.

December 13th, 2001 I received the diagnosis of breast cancer. If that wasn't enough, there was two types present...Inflammatory Breast Cancer (very rare-no lumps involved) and Ductal Invasive (very common-has lumps). I will save the BC story for another post, as it is an amazing journey of it's own. There is good in everything, if you allow yourself to see it. But suffice it to say, 12 surgeries and 30 weeks of aggressive chemo in 12 months really took a toll on my body. But the day I was given the okay to begin exercising again, I did. It didn't last long though. While I thought the fight with Cancer was over, little did I know that it had only just begun. The trickle down affect, the consequences, repercussions or fall-out if you will, from treatment received during that year would now begin.

I was given massive amounts of steroids with my treatments. Summarizing a year in a few short sentences: I gained 70 lbs during my year of treatment. I gained weight so fast I could feel my skin stretch...and no, that is not a pleasant feeling. My eating habits changed. The healthy foods I loved to eat made me nauseous. Food with a high fat content seemed to sit well in my stomach. I honestly thought "I'll eat what ever I can tolerate now, and when I'm done with this I will go back to my usual eating habits". Word to the wise: It's not so easy to change habits that you have ingrained for a year.

After completing chemo and being pronounced cancer free, most Doctors like to follow breast cancer treatment with five years of Tamoxifen or Aromasin (or other similar drug). I took Aromasin.This drug began incapacitating me, but so slowly that no one recognized that it was an affect of the drug. My joints would swell until they were unusable. My knees were the size of volley balls. I found myself using crutches or at best a cane. If I sat in a chair where I was sitting lower than my knees I couldn't get up without assistance. One day it would seem to be better, then the next day I was completely unable to walk. For a period of time I borrowed a wheel chair. It affected all of my joints but the most obvious was my knees because they carry the rest of my body. 

Within a couple of weeks of starting this drug I was no longer able to exercise. I continued to take this drug for 18 months while being tested for everything under the sun. I didn't know that there are over 100 different types of arthritis. When I did stop taking it, the damage had been done. The inflammation went down over a number of months...literally months. But my joints never returned to normal. They had received permanent damage.

Jump ahead to 2009. I was now seven years cancer free, but still fighting to recover from the damage that had been done to my body from chemo and other drugs. I was still 70 lbs over weight. Many times I had tried to start an exercise program and had to stop because of 'over use' injuries. Once I started walking to the end of my street and back and developed plantar fasciitis. Ouch!! I thought only tennis pros got that! I had injuries in my elbows from carrying the groceries and injuries in my back and knees from standing too long to do dishes. Three years in a row I was in for cortisone injections in my lower back. I was more than frustrated. This was not ME. I felt like my soul was in someone else's body. I was uncomfortable and lacking energy and I wanted to hide. I felt beaten down emotionally and physically. It was easy to blame all the reasons I couldn't lose weight for how I felt. 

One day, I got tired of reviewing all of the things that stood in my way and the reasons why I couldn't exercise and lose weight; basically all of the things that were  out of my control. I decided to look at what I COULD control. For starters, I could control what went in  my mouth. (It's just hard to be motivated to eat right when you don't feel well physically). Although slowly, I could still walk around the grocery store, so that meant I could walk for 10 minutes. I knew that if I did EVERYTHING that I could do to get my health back and lose the weight and it didn't work, then I had something to complain about. But until then, it was just an excuse.

That very day I cleaned up my diet. What does that mean? Fresh fruits & vegetables. Lean protein (not fried, breaded or surrounded in fat), complex carbs: whole grains (no white flour or sugar). No processed foods from cans, bags or boxes or fast food joints. After about 3 days of having no sugar your body quits craving it. Sweet fruit such as pineapple then tastes like 'sugar' to you and satisfies in a much deeper sense.

That same day I began to walk on the treadmill. If you think you are too heavy or tired to walk, it's not true...listen to how I started. I had just had another series of cortisone injections in my lower back to try to stabilize degenerative, herniated discs. They inflame easily. I got on the treadmill at 1.8 MPH. If you don't now how fast/slow that is, your toddler walks faster than that. I didn't care about speed, I was committed to doing whatever I could. I needed to feel like I had control of my life once again. I could only walk for 10 minutes then I had to get off and lay on ice for my lower back. I came back and did it again that evening. For two weeks I did that, morning and night until I was able to increase my time to 12 minutes. Again, after each short walk I laid on ice to reduce inflammation in my back. 

Slowly, I built up the time as well as the speed that I was able to walk. All the time eating a 'clean' diet as described above. Six months later I had literally walked off 65 pounds. During this six months all I did was eat a clean diet and walk. In the end I was walking 1.5 hours in the morning and 1.5 hours at night. Yes, that is a substantial amount of time. But I was willing to give that time to lose over 10 pounds a month and feel great. If I could run or weight lift or do some other form of exercise that would burn more calories then I wouldn't have had to dedicate 3 hours a day. But I couldn't, so I did what I could do. 

If someone could guarantee you that if you paid them $1000 you would look and feel like you wanted, would you do it? If someone guaranteed you that if you spent 3 hours a day for six months walking, you would look and feel like you wanted, would you do it? Would it be worth that short term sacrifice? That's how I looked at it. Remember, I started out 10 minutes at a time. Six months later it was 1.5 hours at a time. If you don't have similar back restrictions and can walk faster or jog slowly, you can do it in much less time.

I have managed to maintain my weight loss for over a year now. I feel good, but I want to feel great. I realize that I need to lose another 20 lbs (roughly) to feel great. I say roughly because I  don't care what the number on the scale is, it's how I look and feel. I will know when I hit that point. If you are ready to begin or continue your journey to weight loss and better health, begin today with me. 

My next post will be sharing five fabulous tips that I found for losing weight that may surprise you and do not require major changes in your diet or lifestyle. If you are not ready to eat a completely clean diet yet, these five tips will give you results and motivate you to make bigger changes for greater results!

So, here are my before and 2/3 there pictures. I look forward to being comfortable enough to take an 'after' picture soon!!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Donkey and the Well

Here we are at the beginning of a  new year. 2011. How do you feel about that? Are you anxious to see the close of an especially tough year or do you look back at 2010 as a year of learning and growth, both personally and professionally? Are you excited about the prospects 2011 offers?

As I contemplate the year past and the new year before me, I am reminded of the Donkey and the Well.

One day a farmer's donkey fell down into a well. The animal cried piteously for hours as the farmer tried to figure out what to do. Finally he decided the animal was old, and the well needed to be covered up anyway, it just wasn't worth it to retrieve the donkey. 

He invited all his neighbors to come over and help him. They each grabbed a shovel and began to shovel dirt into the well. At first, the donkey realized what was happening and cried horribly. Then, to everyone's amazement, he quieted down. A few shovel loads later, the farmer looked down the well, and was astonished at what he saw. As every shovel of dirt hit his back, the donkey did something amazing. He would shake it off and take a step up.  As the farmer's neighbors continued to shovel dirt on top of the animal, he would shake it off and take a step up. Pretty soon, everyone was amazed, as the donkey stepped up over the edge of the well and trotted off.

The Moral: Life is going to shovel dirt on you, all kinds of dirt. The trick to getting out of the well is to shake it off and take a step up. Each of our troubles is a stepping stone. We can get out of the deepest wells just by not stopping, never giving up! Shake it off and take a step up!

Remember the five simple rules to be happy:
1. Free your heart from hatred.
2. Free your mind from worries.
3. Live simply.
4. Give more.
5. Expect less. 

There will always be 'wells' in life, some deeper than others. While we can't prevent the wells from appearing in life, we CAN control what we do with our wells. You are who you are today as a result of everything you have experienced in life to this point. Recognize the value in the difficulties and resolve in the new year to "shake it off and take a step up!"  What have you resolved to do in 2011? What are you going to continue that you started in 2010? Is there a 'well' in your life that you will now begin to 'step on'?

Introducing a new blog in 2011

If you've read my other blog "What's On Your Mind?", you already know that the theme of that blog is Insurance. I am an Insurance Agent by day and am passionate about educating my clients in order to help them be able to make informed decisions and protect their assets.

This blog, "Passion For Excellence" is intended to be a forum for discussion on many things in life that cause me to take action, speak up or participate in some way. Topics will include Healthy Cooking, Physical Fitness & Weight Loss, Personal Progress & Awareness, Overcoming & Exceeding, Fighting Breast Cancer & the Unique Life of Recovery...basically, everything but Insurance.

I love hearing new perspectives and learning from others, so don't hesitate to share your comments and will be contributing to my personal progress and growth! Here's to an AWESOME 2011!!