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Friday, September 30, 2011

Who is this lifestyle change for anyway?

For any lifestyle change to be effective it must be something you want to do for yourself.  It doesn't really matter what your friends or your spouse wants if your heart is not in it.  Any prodding by friends or relatives isn't going to make a difference.  Think about the smoker who doesn't want to quit smoking but is nagged by family members and friends. Likewise when you are not satisified with a certain aspect of your life but people try to convince you everything is fine.  You will not escape the nagging feeling that something needs to change.

I remember how I felt after my first child was born.  I had lost weight but was having difficulty reaching my pre-pregnancy weight.  Many of my friends and family told me I looked fine, but I just was not happy with myself.  My weight had settled at about 10 pounds higher than what I wanted it to be.  One big change I have made since then is I do not incorporate sugary or salty snacks in my diet.  As I have gotten older it is much more challenging for me to remain at a healthy weight than it was when I was younger.  Honestly, I find it much easier to control compulsive snacking when I don't eat junky foods because I no longer crave them.  There has been a lot in the news lately about the addictiveness of junk foods and I believe there is a lot of truth to this.  I try to eat things like fruit, cereal, yogurt or boiled eggs for snacks and this helps to keep my hunger under control.

I think the most important thing is to keep your progress in perspective.  This is why it is important to set goals for yourself and measure your progress as you go.  Recognizing the need to make a change is the very first step.   Following through with lifestyle changes is a very difficult process and requires committment, dedication, and patience.  Reward yourself for the small victories.  Remember that you are making these changes for yourself and not to focus too much on the judgement or criticism of others.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Staying fit and active with your partner.

I couldn't imagine what my life would be like if I didn't have a supportive spouse.  My husband and I encourage each other in our committment to eating healthy and exercising.  He is willing to try new foods when I prepare a healthy new recipe.    I have even talked him into trying the Morningstar veggie bacon strips instead of regular bacon when I make scrambled eggs.  He is willing to experiment and try vegetarian meatless entrees with me.  It is not to say that we don't enjoy a nice juicy steak once in awhile.

We both share an interest in staying fit.  We have been going to the gym together in the mornings before work.  We do different types of workouts, he is a runner and I either walk briskly on the treadmill or do aerobics and zumba classes.  We also both enjoy lifting weights. I know how easy it would be to fall into bad habits if we didn't encourage one another. There are days when we both wake up tired and decide to take a break and not go to the gym.  I just know never to let one day turn into 3, 4, or 5 more days. It becomes a lot more difficult to get motivated to go back after a long absence. 

Suggestions on ways to stay active and fit with your partner.

  •  Plan healthy menu options that you will both enjoy.
  •  Go to the gym and exercise together during the week.
  •  Try a new exercise class that looks fun which you both haven't tried.
  •  Compliment and encourage your partner when s/he has achieved fitness goals.
  •  Plan a weekend getaway at a resort where you can hike, bike, golf, or participate in fitness classes.
  • Have a bowling night and get together for a fun night with your friends.
  • Tell your partner when they look great and s/he will appreciate you have noticed.
  • Be supportive and offer to help with household chores so you both will have enough time to exercise.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Finding the time and energy for early morning workouts

I love to workout first thing in the morning.  I am relieved to know that no matter how busy I will become later in the evening I won't have to worry about finding time to get around to it.  I am always helping one of my kids with their homework or driving someone to an extracurricular activity. The biggest difficulty I have been facing is not to be dragging by the middle of the day because I am so tired after waking up at 6 AM to go to the gym.  I feel energized after exercising, but at about 2 PM in the afternoon I have been becoming a little sleepy.  And no, I can't take naps at my desk at work!

I know what needs to happen.  I need to move my bedtime earlier to about 10 PM at night.  I could easily manage this if my 3 children were always highly organized and managed to get their homework done on time.  But you know how it is, there are always the variables you do not plan for and are difficult to control.  Sometimes you have to leave the dishes in the sink, save that extra load of laundry for tomorrow, and not stay up to watch your favorite late night TV talk show.  It is all worth it in the end, because I feel so much better when I exercise. 

Here are some thoughts on how to be more organized in the evenings so that you will be better able to make it to the gym for those early morning workouts.

1. Ask your kids to tackle their homework right when they get home from school.
2. Try to prepare meals in advance to freeze and serve during the week when you are busy.
3. Avoid coffee and caffeinated drinks in the evening.  Try decaffinated coffee or warm milk instead.
4. Try not to fill up on heavy snacks at night that might interfere with your ability to fall sleep.
5. Avoid watching TV in your bedroom as this makes it difficult to unwind at bedtime.
6. Listen to some soothing music and take a warm, relaxing bubble bath.
7. Set your workout clothes out before bed so you can make a quick dash to the gym in the morning.
8. Have family members help with household chores so that you can have an earlier bedtime.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

As we evolve and grow, so do our friendships

Sometimes I wonder how my life might have been different.  When I was younger there were friends I was certain I would remain close to and in communication with as I have gotten older.  There have been achievements I wish I could have shared with some of these friends.

Change is good.  What I mean is that as people we evolve over time and our relationships are a reflection of our identity at a given point in time.  Maybe our friends from high school would no longer identify with the person we are today.  I had tried to reach out to an old friend with whom I was very close to for many years.  I was disappointed that she did not respond.  After thinking for some time I realized that we are completely different people at this point in our lives.  She and I might share nothing in common anymore.  Is this a reason for sadness? I think it is mainly a point for reflection.  The challenges and struggles are another part of the bigger picture of who we have become.  I thought about the qualities that define me as a person.

I am a mother, a wife, and a good friend.  I enjoy staying active and fit in my daily life and eating healthy is very important to me.  I love interacting with other people who share common goals and interests.  I am an accounting nerd with a career in public accounting.  I enjoy keeping up with the latest news in my profession. 

If you could describe in a few words who you are and what defines you, what would you say?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Juggling family priorities and making the time to exercise

I was thoroughly tested on my committment to making the time to workout and exercise this week.  After a nice long relaxing summer, it is back to the busy days of after school activities and multiple demands on my free time.  My family's schedule is jam packed from Monday through Friday with activities and time is scarce!  Monday evenings are my daughter's art lessons, Tuesday evenings are my son's guitar lessons, and Thursday evenings are my youngest daughter's violin lessons.  The youth league basketball season has not even started yet.  In other words, our family is running from morning until night almost every day of the week.

I decided that my evening workouts would be too difficult and I would have to make the time in the morning to make it to the gym by 6 AM.  I will miss the hour I usually spend watching the news and drinking coffee with my husband before work.  I also know that I must make the time to exercise because of how much better I feel when I stay fit.  I plan to hit the gym on Monday through Wednesday at 6 AM each morning.  On Thursday and Friday mornings I enjoy attending the Zumba class at the gym.  On Sunday mornings I go to a class which is 20 minutes each of weight training, step aerobics, and high impact aerobics.  How do you make the time to workout when your schedule is very busy?

Here are some suggestions on how to schedule the time to workout-

Make a list of all your family's committments, appointments, and activities for the week.

Schedule a time that is convenient for you to exercise or make it to the gym and stick with it.

Enlist the help and support of friends and family members who know how important this is to you.

If you have the time while your child is at a sports practice or activity, take a walk or run.

If you are watching TV with your family, try doing some strength training exercises such as push  ups,  squats, or crunches during commercial breaks.

If time is so limited that you can't make a full hour at any point during the day, try working out in 15 to 20 minute short bursts.

Reward yourself for sticking to your exercise regimen and when you have attained some of your fitness goals.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Corn and Black Bean Salad Recipe

 I recently had a barbeque with some friends and tried out this recipe.  I spotted this recipe on the allrecipes website.  My friends and I loved it so I thought I would pass it along.  We enjoyed this with barbequed steaks on the grill, perfect for a summer day.

Corn and Black Bean Cilantro Salad
  • 1/3 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 2 (15 ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen corn kernels
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 6 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro (optional)
Combine the lime juice, olive oil, clove garlic, salt and cayenne pepper in a jar.  Shake until well mixed.  Combine fresh vegetables, black beans and cilantro.  Pour dressing over the mixture and stir.  I would strongly recommend adding the cilantro, it gave this recipe a wonderful flavor.  Refrigerate overnight and enjoy.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

People who inspire you to be your best

I remember when one of my previous supervisors had been evaluating the pool of candidates applying for a position within the company we both worked for.  Something he had said made a lasting impression on me.  While he was reviewing resumes he said he hoped he would be able to hire someone who was down on their luck and did not have a job, but showed tremendous potential.  I thought that this was an extremely rare and respectable quality in a person. I was very impressed by his professionalism and his out of the box thinking.  The world would be a much better place if more people thought the way he did.

It is possible that people are positive influences and transform our lives even when and if we do not know them very well.  I received support during my job search from some very unexpected sources. I am most grateful when I think about how much more difficult the experience might have been without the assistance and intervention of many wonderful people who came to my aid.

In facing challenges and adversity, isn't it rewarding when people notice and compliment you on your achievements? It can make you feel that all your hard work has been worthwhile.

I remember when the manager of the gym where I needed to cancel my membership let me know she was sad to see me go.  When I was at the gym she would compliment me on how disciplined I was during my workouts and on my positive attitude.  It did wonders for my self esteem when she told me how healthy and fit I looked.  I was impressed that she took the time to acknowledge my efforts and encourage me even though I did not know her very well.

Can you think of people who have inspired and motivated you?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

How often should you weigh yourself?

I have the habit of getting on the scale every morning when I get up.  I like to check my weight about the same time each day to monitor any changes.  The reason I do this is to be ahead of myself in the event that I should gain a few pounds.  It is definitely easier to deal with a 1-2 pound weight gain than to ignore the scale and suddenly realize you have 10 pounds to lose.

My goal is to maintain my "happy weight".  This is what I call the weight range that I am most happy to stay within.  My goal weight is between 135 and 140 pounds.  When I am going on vacation or I have a special event to attend, I am happiest at 135 pounds.  You know, it's the weight that you feel most confident wearing that extra special dress in your closet.  To get there sometimes I have to make some minor changes in my activity level and monitor my diet.    I will cut back on snacks, which for me these days includes nuts and dry cereal.  Maybe I will squeeze in a few more Zumba classes during the week and take longer brisk walks.

There is some debate about whether it is healthy to check your weight daily.  Minor fluctuations are not a cause for concern.  I just want to be aware and honest with myself of what is going on with my body.  I eat healthy so my relationship with the scale is not out of a compulsion to lose weight.  I know I feel my best when I stick with a healthy diet and exercise regimen and I maintain my "happy weight".

Do you have a "happy weight"?  How do you monitor changes in your weight?

Thursday, September 1, 2011

How to stay on your diet when eating with friends

It can be very difficult in social settings to follow your diet as you might have planned.  Many times well intentioned friends encourage us to eat "just one cookie" but just one often leads to 4 or more.  What I have learned over the years is that the healthy diet that works best for me is probably completely different from the approach that works for you.  This is why it might be so difficult for friends to understand why what they think is helpful advice might actually be sabotaging your weight loss efforts. I had a difficult time explaining why I completely abstain from sugary and junk foods.  The simple reason is that I just do not feel well after eating them. 

I live in Buffalo, NY, and a tremendous aspect of the culture here is dining and eating out in the local restaurants.  It is not easy being a health nut in the chicken wing capital of the world.  Sometimes I feel a little disjointed from the culture because I do not eat the wings or many of the other popular local eating fare.  When I go out with friends I will order a bowl of soup and a salad when the rest of my friends are eating wings and fries. My guess is that they do not even notice and I am more sensitive to it because I feel like I am the only one not joining them.

What I try to do is ask myself several questions and let my conscience lead me to the right decision.  How will I feel in a few hours? Often food might taste good while I am eating it, but later on I will not feel so well.  Have I exercised enough during the day that I should not worry about the excess calories? Maybe I could have a small portion now and bring home the rest to eat later.  Is there salad on the menu that I could order with my entree?  If so, it will help me to not overeat.

What tricks help you to stay in control when you are eating with friends or family?