timefliesTime lately has been flying and I’ve been super-busy, though I know, that is no excuse. I’ve been slacking on my writing duties and even slacking on my weight-management a bit too. I had a birthday, we took a vacation, then my husband turned 40, which resulted in a party and vacation, and now, I’m ready to write and get my waistline back on track. I have put on a few pounds (13 to be exact), nothing anybody likely notices. My clothes still fit, they aren’t tight to the eye, but I know what the scale is supposed to say. I’d been neglecting my own rules as related to partying, anticipating extra food consumption and planning for my day or an event. It is amazing how quickly the body reacts to these thoughtless moments, as additional pounds come and just as easily, as I’d started implementing these in my rotation again, the pounds go. Below is a list of things that I became lax on but have reinstated: 

  • When drinking alcoholic beverages, do not just sit and drink. Stand, circulate around the room and talk to people. This burns more calories and the drink lasts longer, thus I consume fewer calories.
  • If I know about an event in which I’m going to allow myself to indulge, I need to do extra workouts a week before and possibly (depending on how much I indulged) a week after the event. For me this is typically adding a 30-minute bike ride and/or 2-mile walk to my day. Since normal workouts are in the morning, I do the extra workouts after work, which actually helps me wind down for the day.
  • Dance off extra calories when at a club or party with music, as this burns calories, keeps me from eating and is just fun!
  • Plan the day. Recently, I went to the state fair, planned what I was going to eat and actually ate less food. I did some extra workouts earlier that week to make sure I had the calories for my favorite foods. Once I got to the fair, I didn’t really want all that I’d planned. The result was a 1-pound loss for the week.
  • Even plan for snacks. I’ve gotten back in the bad habit of being at home and noshing. Now, I make sure to plan for any snacks, “extra curricula” food, or even a nightcap on those days I know I’ll have a lot of down time.
  • Write everything down. I started keeping a few things in my head and well, in my head or not, they did end up on the scale, as it is quite unforgetting. When I first started my journey, I put down 5-calorie gum and 2-calorie espresso beans. Then, I started thinking those were minimal calories so I didn’t need to do that. I started making allowances/excuses for 20-calorie items here open and paperr 30-calorie there. Over time, this really does add up. So now, back to, “if I eat it, I write it.” 

I’ve already started seeing the results of my restored roadmap for weight-loss and management. Soon, I will be back to my 172-175 pound self and this will be yet another closed chapter in this long and continued journey.

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Over July 4th weekend, I was reminded of how “easy” it is to lose weight. As the conversation went on, we all know what the problem is. We either eat too much or don’t exercise enough, or both. I was asked what I did to lose weight and everyone already knew what the simple answer would be, “I eat less and workout.” Yup, so easy, so simple, and yet… not! That’s what we all laughed over as we contemplated health, wellness, weight-loss, and weight maintenance. 

In our conversation we realized that knowledge or know how might not be the problem. The problem for some is sticking to the plan. The problem for others is resisting the need for instant gratification. The problem for others is prioritizing exercise. My initial problem actually was expertise, as I wanted to know how much I should eat. I wanted to be accountable for the calories in and calories out. Once I gained that knowledge, came up with a plan, stuck to it mountainsand prioritized my workouts, I lost the weight. Perfection, right? Nope. Now of course, to maintain weight loss, there are other problems, which, as our conversation developed, we realized is likely always going to happen. It’s called “moving mountains” for a reason as it’s not just one mountain. Just as one is moved, another will appear. 

What I’ve learned recently is that once I recognize there is a problem, I don’t have to know why or define it. What I can do is create rituals or good habits to combat those problems. Hearing this made me feel like a lightbulb had gone off. The best example I was given for this behavior involves a person that might be a workaholic and doesn’t spend as much time at home as they’d like. Instead of trying to figure out why this happens, they should create a ritual and stick to it. Be home for dinner at 6pm at least 2 nights a week (to start). They can later change it to more days and over time, the problem is solved. There wasn’t time wasted on trying to figure out why the problem existed or complicated steps to fix the problems. Setting rituals and sticking to them became the new behavior.    

lightbulbA ritual I have created is to always order the small size, even if that means the kids size. I’m getting used to it as sometimes it is hard to remember but I have found the smaller size to be plenty. I now get kid scoops, small or kid size fries, a cup instead of a bowl, etc. It allows me to still eat what I want, get wonderful flavor and food, but without the guilt or as many calories. 

Another ritual I’ve started is to use the small plate, regardless of the food size or amount I think I’m going to get. This is for home, restaurants, the buffet, etc. Sometimes I think the food will not fit but it does. Sometimes I also think I would not get satisfied by what I put on the plate but I do. The truth is, if I had more on the plate, I likely would have eaten it. There is no harm in going back if I’m truly hunger but typically, that doesn’t happen. I don’t know why I sometimes overeat or don’t stop while there is still food on the plate but getting a smaller plate keeps me from caring so much and eating less. 

I plan to add a few rituals in my personal life that have nothing to do with food and exercise as well. I do ponder too much about the why, as opposed to coming up with action items to obliterate the bad behavior. Quite honestly, rituals is not something I think I would have come up with as a solution on my own, so I thought I’d share it as others might find it equally useful.

I do love summer. It’s warm, people always seem friendly and there’s so much to do. With that said, summertime for me sunshinehas its difficulties as related to health, wellness, and my eating regimen. The warmer weather makes me want to go out and do more; however, that’s not necessarily a good thing. I like to sit on patios at various restaurants and watch the passersby. I like to head down the street to grab a bite of ice cream and sit in the park. Sure, I walk to all these events, which add to a healthier me, but eating, drinking and possibly staying out late, those aren’t helping my wellness cause. I try to do a mixture of things to balance my summer fun. 

I love salads. As a cold natured person, I don’t typically eat salads in the winter, as I need food that will warm me up. However, in the summer, I crave salads all the time. This is a good thing as I can have a light dinner salad with a glass of wine (or two), sitting on a patio. This keeps the calories low and helps me soak up some vitamin D through the sun. Since we frequent many establishments in our neighborhood that are in walking distance, I do burn off a few more calories in the summer than usual, so that’s a plus as well. If I walk to get a salad and a couple of glasses of wine, I’ve likely walked off at least one glass of wine. 

sushi rollI also love sushi. For some, sushi in the summer is not desirable as there is the risk that it’ll go bad quite quickly, but again, I’m cold natured so the best time for me to eat it is in the summer. Sushi, at least the sushi I eat, is extremely low in calorie and very good for me. I don’t get sushi with excessive ingredients or with crunchy, fried, or saucy accompaniments. I like most of my sushi au naturel, with wasabi of course. If I get it with rice, I try to get brown rice. I try to mix it up a bit with some nigiri (but typically don’t eat the rice) and a few bites of a sushi roll. Luckily, I finally have my husband into eating sushi so we can get a couple of different small rolls and some nigiri to get the most bang for our buck and save our waistlines. 

 As I stated, I do try to walk more during the summer. Many places that we frequent are within walking distance (less than 2 miles), so regardless of the weather, if I know I’m going to eat and drink, it’s time to walk. If I do eat any excess calories, it’s possible I’ll burn them off. For example, my birthday is next Sunday. On Saturday, we’re doing a 5k event and then hanging out with friends that afternoon, likely bar hopping. I figure the 5k gets us started off with a good calorie burn (this is after I already do my 2-hr normal workout for the day). From there, I’ll be sure to watch what I eat. We’re going to a Mexican place, so I’ll get a couple of tacos with everything on the side so I can control the sour cream and cheese, along with no chips and salsa. When we bar hop, I’ll sip slowly (thus shooting for no more than one beverage per establishment) and make sure I only eat if I’m hungry, and even then, it’ll be low in calorie. In addition, we’re making sure to walk everywhere. This will certainly keep my metabolism in overdrive, as I’ll wake up, workout, do the 5k, and never stop going, thus burning numerous calories.

picnic ants, noWhether or not this plan works next week, we’ll see but as I’ve always said, having a plan is at least a good start. Moreover, knowing my weaknesses and setting boundaries is quite helpful too. Luckily, I do like low-calorie foods such as salad and sushi and I live in a walking neighborhood that helps offset my need to be active when the sun comes. This summer, I hope to continue having plans and ideas to ward off the pounds like Raid against ants at a picnic; I’m going to squash all these summer temptations like a bug.

Behavior

Behavior is not really a word I’ve paid much attention to until recently. Over the past couple of weeks I’ve found myself continually pondering the question, “how do you change behavior?” Someone asked me this in reference to losing weight and honestly, I didn’t really have an answer. Oddly enough, I’ve changed many of my behaviors in life but I don’t know how I was able to do it. Maybe I was just motivated. Maybe I just had a great support team. Maybe I chanted a few good mantras along the way and decided to live by them. Maybe I just got lucky. I suppose any of these answers is true, depending on the behavior I was trying to change and that moment in my life. 

The biggest behavior that I changed that is monumental to my health is that I stopped smoking. I had a 3-4 pack a week no smokinghabit. Why did I stop? Because I knew it was a bad habit and it really made no sense that I smoked. My parents didn’t smoke, I didn’t grow-up around smokers and quite frequently, I didn’t even do it in the house because I couldn’t stand the smell. As tobacco has been proven to be an addictive substance, and I smoked for about 12 years, I would have to say I was addicted but quitting didn’t seem too hard because I had a great support system. Everyone wanted me to stop anyway. None of my friends smoked and even my father-in-law, who’d smoked for years of his life, had quit. I suppose I started smoking in college to prove I was grown. In hindsight, that seems a bit silly and I’m sure that’s another thing that helped me quit. It took me a few times to stop before it really took, but once I went a year within a cigarette, I was done and that was over 10 years ago. 

Not eating out for every meal and going to fast food restaurants is another behavior I changed, as this was crucial to losing weight. I was able to alter this behavior because there are various great tasting foods out there that are low in calorie and good for me. Moreover, I do know how to cook. Bottom line, I like flavorful food regardless of whether it is healthy, good for me, or is food categorized as a heart attack waiting to happen, and it doesn’t matter from where the food comes. Once I figured out a schedule on when to prepare home meals and found terrific tasting recipes, cooking more of my meals at home and eating that wonderful food became the new behavior. If I drilldown and examine behavior and habit, maybe they haven’t changed that much. I still eat food that tastes great; I just get the food from a different source. Additionally, I know I’m still a few pounds overweight and could stand to eat less, so overeating is still a behavior I’ve yet to conquer. 

Adding exercise to my daily routine might be the one area in which I can say I’m lucky. I just happen to enjoy working sunriseout. It doesn’t hurt that I’m a morning person and so getting up in the morning is generally not a problem for me. I see exercise like work, so this is where having a couple of life mantras come in handy too. It doesn’t matter if I want to get up and do it or not. I have to get up, it has to be done and if I like my current lifestyle, I had better get to it. For me, there is no better motivator than the truth. 

My best answer to the question of how to change behavior is to keep trying. If at first you don’t succeed… As I said, it took me a few times to stop smoking but I kept trying and finally did. Staying motivated and being true to self are helpful. One of the things I do every morning is say to myself, “Today I’m going to be a better person than I was yesterday.” In my head sometimes I think “be a better person every day, all day long.” I try to make sure my actions speak to being a better person. Sure, sometimes I fail but other times, I soar. The fact that I even try is what brings about my success and changes in my behavior.

With Memorial Day being the official kickoff to summer, I thought I’d repost this blog. It’s one of my favorites and is in my top 10 of blogs with the most views. Enjoy and have a great Memorial Day weekend all!!!

Summertime! The time of year many people eagerly wait for and loudly cheer for once it is here. Various people find they exercise more in the summer as the weather lends itself to walking and running. It is a great time of year to be out, active, and enjoy the surroundings. It is also that time of year for backyard BBQs, family reunions, and potlucks. Let’s face it, even the increase in exercise doesn’t equal the possible increase in food available in the summer. 

I already gave a few points on the BBQ in my Independence Day post, but here are a few more to help guide you: 

When attending a BBQ:

  • Ask the host for the menu prior to attending.
  • Plot a “food course” based on that menu.
  • Plan to eat and drink every hour or so while there. For example, let’s say you plan to be there for 4 hours and want to have 2 ribs, 2 chicken wings, some baked beans, a small salad, and a piece of dessert. Once you arrive, get a drink and mingle for about 45 minutes, then grab a salad. About an hour later, get another drink and have the 2 ribs and a spoonful of baked beans. An hour after that, have the wings and one more spoon of beans. About 30 minutes prior to leaving, have some dessert.
  • Use a dessert plate to keep portions in check, or even use a napkin or just a fork (unused fork of course) if appropriate. (Last BBQ I went to I already ate before arriving, but my sister-in-law makes the world’s best macaroni and cheese. I had to have a bite so I got a fork, dipped it in the mac and cheese, and had one heavenly bite. Had I gotten a plate, I’d have gone hog-wild. The one bite really was all I wanted and needed.)
  • Never take anything home. If you go over calories, at least it is limited to one day. Don’t even take veggies (unless raw) home with you as you never know how much olive oil, butter or other high calorie flavoring was used.

 When hosting a BBQ:          

  • Cook some good for you, healthier food (i.e., grilled fish and chicken with no sauce, green beans, etc.), along with food your guests will expect. This gives you something flavorful and lower calorie to eat and food to store for later.
  • If you have food left that you don’t usually keep in your house, give it to your guests. Only leave food in your house that you’d normally eat. However, if you’re guests have read my blog, they will not take the food with them, in which case donating the food to a church or shelter is recommended.
  • Keep in mind that you’re at home. If you want to snack or nibble, choose your usual snacks and not the chips, dips, or desserts you set out to make your guests happy.
  • Be sure to use the timing pattern and small plates as mentioned when attending a BBQ.

 If attending a potluck: 

      • Don’t go hungry. Be sure to eat just prior to the event so you’re not tempted to scarf down everything.
      • Wait at least an hour prior to eating, as to wait for the arrival of all the food. No sense in figuring out what you want to eat, eat it, and something new arrives. Wait so you can “size up” the entire smorgasbord.
      • Determine the “must-have” dishes. This should only be a few foods. Those items you have a taste for or may never get a chance to sample again. Be honest about what you truly crave and “can’t live without.” Once you know what you want, plan your attack just as you would a BBQ. Save a bit of room/calories for a “must-have” late arrival.
      • Again, don’t take anything home, including the dish you arrived with, and use small plates. 

 (Note: never host a potluck as you want to be able to control the type of food at your gathering and you don’t want to be left with the remaining items people don’t eat or take with them)

I hope this helps in maneuvering through what can be a challenging season and allow you to enjoy the long-awaited summer.

sleepzzzsI recently read about a sleep study called Lights at Night (LAN). This study showed that exposure to artificial light while asleep can contribute to cancer, lead to depression and even make you fat. Sadly enough, it was only the last part that intrigued me to read further as now-a-days it seems that almost anything can cause cancer and I suppose the same could be said about depression. I’ve worked pretty hard at losing weight so I figured something that might “make me fat” as the article stated was worth me continuing to read. Apparently, light pollution, such as passing traffic, television light, or streetlights affect the melatonin, leptin, and ghrelin levels in the body as well as the biological clock. In short, as related to weight gain, the body’s hunger cues are affected and people tend to eat more. 

I found this quite compelling. So much so, that as I continued to read, I was wondering how much pollution I get at night. There is a streetlight right outside our window, the blinds do not close out all the light (moonlight and otherwise), and my husband generally stays up watching television after I’ve fallen asleep. The article lists various ideas on how to make a sleep environment dark and conducive to a good night’s sleep. Those suggestions are:

  • Installing blackout drapes or blinds – I figured that since I live in an apartment, I wasn’t getting this installed. Plus, it didn’t help my problem with the television being on at night. I go to bed about 7:30 or 8pm work nights, so I would not expect my husband to turn off the television. 
  • Close the bedroom door – again, this gets rid of some of the outside light but not the inside. 
  • Get rid of your electric clock – I love my clock and frankly, I’m not getting rid of it. My dad gave me that clock over 20 years ago and it (knock-on-wood) still works like a charm. The article did mention to move the clock away from the sleep area so the light does not illuminate that part of the room. Additionally, it was mentioned that red light might have a minimal impact on sleep patterns. I keep my clock clear across the room anyway forcing me to get up out of the bed when it goes off. 
  • Avoid night-lights and television lights – I’ve already mentioned that one, so it’s not going to happen. 
  • Wear an effective sleep mask – ta da! I found my solution. I can take this with me anywhere I go (travel, airplane, sleepover, etc.). No matter what, I’ll have darkness at night. Additionally, this solution is inexpensive.sleepmask

I started using my sleep mask Tuesday night and honestly, I’ve had the best sleep ever. I woke up a little after midnight last night and feeling completely rested, wondered how I managed to oversleep. I looked at the clock and realized I had 3 plus hours left until it was time to wake up. Wow. Keeping the light out does allow for a more relaxing sleep. Even my husband mentioned Wednesday that I was out like a light thus sound asleep much quicker than usual. I don’t know if I’m in the honeymoon stages or if this is what you call a placebo effect but for now, I’ll take it. If this $10 expense can lower my risk of cancer, keep me happy, without the fat part (of fat and happy), and make such a HUJ difference in restful and soothing sleep, I’m all for it. With sleep mask in hand, I’m continuing my strides to a healthier me.

moonlit skyI realized today, it sure does seem like every month in the year provides eating challenges. My list includes:

  • January – it starts on the first as it’s rolled over from New Year’s Eve
  • February – Valentine’s Day, a holiday that should be called Chocolate Day
  • March – sometimes it could be Easter but it’s always March Madness
  • April – again, this could be Easter or maybe, just maybe a break on indulgent temptations
  • May – Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, bar-be-que season starting… a myriad of things
  • June – If there wasn’t enough eating at Mother’s Day, now it’s Father’s Day and for me, my birthday
  • July – Independence Day… there are tons of desserts only made on this day as they look like the American flag, not to mention, more bar-B-cue
  • August – the State Fair
  • September – Labor Day and those final BBQ bites
  • October – two problems for me here: tailgating and my anniversary
  • November – Gobble gobble
  • December – Christmas, New Year’s Eve (and we circle back to the beginning)

Honestly, it really does seem so hard sometimes to not overdo it. There is temptation everywhere, at every corner, during every month. If I manage to make it successfully past one month without gaining a pound, well, it seems there’s always next month. Moreover, if I do gain a pound, I have to get it off before that next month arrives. Whew, it does seem like it never ends. If you feel this way also, have no fear as I’ve found something that works for me and it might work for you too.

I work hard on visualizing success. For example, the next enticing food holiday is Easter. For me, that will be the first day that I go back to enjoying alcoholic beverages, as I gave up all alcohol for Lent (and believe me, I’m counting these bloody Marydays down). We’re going to Easter brunch per usual and I already know that my brunch will include an extra spicy bloody Mary. This will be my calorie focal point, that bloody Mary for brunch and the bourbon I’ll have as a nightcap that evening (I really do miss my bourbon). Nothing else should matter to me but of course, I’ll see the food and forget these sentiments. So, I’m planning now. Now I’m envisioning myself sipping my intoxicating beverage and having a simple, small plate of food, only food that will complement the flavors of tomato and spice. I imagine myself walking away from food that looks good but isn’t what I want that day. I picture myself happy with just my one beverage, sampling of food and a taste of dessert. For dinner, I’ll just have a salad or some vegetables before leisurely sipping my glass of 2-ounce bourbon, one rock. The more I envision this, the more I know it will happen, as I want to succeed and I am the only person that can make this dream come true. And really, isn’t that what we all want in life, for our dreams to come true?

I frequently try this when I see my challenges ahead and it does help me succeed. If nothing else, it makes me quite mindful of the foods I eat and how much I drink. If I drink another glass of wine at a happy hour than I intended in my calorie count, I make the adjustment by not having dessert, or leaving more food on my plate. The point for me is to make my vision a reality. I want to finish the night proud of myself and know that I accomplished my goal. I have HUJ dreams and I plan to make as many of them as possible come true. I hope this technique works for you as well.