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A New Season


Each time the first snowflake dances to the ground, the first leaf transitions to a bright orange, or the first tulip blooms, I feel happiness that is hard to describe. I love new years, new months, and even new days... but nothing quite as much as the birth of a new season. I love each new season and wait for it with anticipation as the last fades away.

This is not a blog post from someone pretending to be a health expert; far from it. I am a normal, happy, blessed, busy wife like many of you. I simply woke up one morning and decided it was time for a new season.

On New Year’s Eve I sat down to write my New Years Resolutions and all that came to me was, “This year I want to smile more, compliment more, and hug more.” My health didn’t even cross my mind. I wrote that down and felt comfortable and content with it. About two weeks later, still in the “smack dab” <-- I sound like my mother -- middle of winter, with another week off of school from the snow, I woke up and decided I was ready for something fresh to bloom. Don’t misunderstand, I was still overjoyed with the mornings of spending extra time with my husband, drinking coffee, and enjoying my fireplace; I wasn’t needing spring to speed up. I needed a new season of LIFE to wake up inside of ME. I felt anemic and exhausted 75% of the time. It was a busy, but physically inactive winter full of school lunches that are packed with starches and carbs. Yummy ones. I happily ate the fried chicken, mac and cheese, and brownies each day (I honestly still miss it a little) but, I knew I HAD to make a change. I woke up and it clicked; I was ready to become a healthier version of me.

It wasn’t a New Year’s Resolution. I didn’t write it down. I just woke up on January 18th with a made up mind.

I don’t intend to make this post spiritual, I simply hope to provide some practical information and maybe a little bit of inspiration to help someone else “wake up” to a new season of health in their life. With that being said, the fact that I have remained consistent with something for the past 93 days is a miracle in my book. I give God full credit for helping me with daily determination, focus, and dedication. I decided early on that instead of listening to music or podcasts during my runs, I would dedicate that time for me and Jesus. Getting your endorphins flowing + talking with the Lord is an excellent combination.

If you are reading this blog out of entertainment purposes, the remainder of this post will probably bore you to tears. If you are reading in hopes of receiving guidance on starting/organizing a new lifestyle, I pray this helps and encourages you to make your own change! Whichever category you fall into, hang with me and let’s see where this takes us.

I lost 14 pounds with NO diet, NO pills, and NO gym.

If you do those things, more power to you! It just wasn’t the route for me, for several reasons. First, a diet just sounds like punishment and has a stopping point, and I wanted a new, permanent, happy life change. I have learned from past experience that any pill I take either makes me shaky and nauseous with heart palpitations, or is a pointless waste of money because I completely forget to take them. Lastly, I don’t personally feel comfortable working out at a gym without my husband. So, I knew I would have to figure this out without those three things. And, I did! Successfully, at that! I lost 14 pounds in 13 weeks.

I have broken it down into three parts: Accountability/Organization, Activity, and Intake. All equally important in helping me formulate a goal, and begin my journey towards reaching it.

The first thing I learned (and learned quickly) was that not preparing, IS preparing. Preparing to fail miserably. The first week of this 13 week life change was about 1/3 successful. I was unprepared and embarrassingly out of shape. After a week or so, I decided to get organized.

*ACCOUNTABILITY/ORGANIZATION

The first thing I did (which happens to be the GREATEST thing I’ve done) was download the “Lose-It!” App on my iPhone. I’m obsessed. I live and breathe by this app. It’s free and a complete game changer. While comparable to My Fitness Pal, Lose-It! is slightly more aesthetically pleasing in my opinion. You plug in your current weight with your gender, height, and your desired weight and the app gives you your allotted calorie intake for each day! It does all of the hard work for you! I chose a slow healthy path to aim for about 1 pound weight loss a week, which happens to be 1,375 calories a day for me!

You can scan in ANYTHING with a bar code and the calories will pop up, or type in any restaurant and the menu will show! It’s easy and it’s ACCURATE! I might have been living under a rock the past several years, but I didn’t know that actually keeping my calorie intake to a healthy, reasonable amount (with physical exercise of some fashion a few days a week) would make weight fall off. It actually works. Mostly because you find out that healthy things have fewer calories (crazy, I know) so you can have more of them, and still feel full! I have documented EVERYTHING I’ve eaten for the past 90 days. I usually come in under my calorie count on Monday-Friday (I've almost made that into a challenge), "struggle" a little on Saturday, and do pretty well on Sunday. I don’t prep for Saturdays! This is my day to hang out with my husband and have fun. I have naturally become more cautious about what I order at restaurants, though. The cool thing about this app is any calorie intake you come under each day will roll over for that week, so a little splurge on Saturday still keeps you at range for the week!

*ACTIVITY

I decided I could give 20-30 minutes of my day, 3-5 days a week, to my health. You can do it, too. No matter how busy you are, you can give 20 minutes a few days a week. The first two weeks I got a little overzealous and worked out 6 days straight. It wasn’t realistic for me. I’d branch out and say that’s probably not very realistic for most. I decided that to stay consistent and not get burnt out or discouraged, I would stick with my 3-5 days a week. Sometimes that day includes Saturday, but I usually reserve weekends for rest/cleaning/husband time.

I bought **Jillian Michael’s 30 Day Shred** on Amazon to play through my Apple TV. My sister in law used this last year and loved it, and I had heard many other success stories from it. It is an 18 minute workout split into 3 levels. All you need is a yoga mat and two hand weights! You are instructed to work out with level 1 for 10 days, level 2 for 10 days, and then level 3 for 10 days. I literally documented every workout in my *journal*- rating my endurance on a scale of 1-10, along with my weekly weigh-in (that I was already plugging in on my Lose-it! app). Having to give myself an endurance of 2-3 on day one of level 1 of her video was a low moment for me. But, it was an honest moment. Instead of doing each level for 10 days, I chose to stay on a level until I could rate myself a 10 on it. I was on level 1 for 20-something days. LOL.

A few weeks after starting the J.M. videos, nice weather occasionally began breaking through the cold! I decided to begin alternating my home workout days with running/walking at the park across from our church. Depending on which part you walk, It’s about a 2-3 mile track with several hills on it. The first day, I could jog about .10 of a mile. No joke. It was rough. But, it felt so good! My legs were jello walking back in my house, and it was wonderful! I am now almost up to running the entire 2 miles with several small brisk-walking breaks in between. I never stay more than 30 minutes. The 30 minute days I have spent at the park have helped me fit back nicely into all of my favorite dresses, though! Easy and worth it. I promise it is worth it.

I want to give the designers/owners of Snoga Athletic (snogaatheletic.com) a huge shoutout. I have worn their skirts every day for these workouts for the past few months, not to mention the past few years for many other activities, errands, or for travel. Their pieces are made with top notch quality, and have withstood hundreds of washes while still looking brand new! I always feel confident and comfortable in anything I own from them.

*INTAKE

1. Vitamins- I BOUGHT VITAMINS, AND REMEMBERED TO TAKE THEM EVERY DAY. This has been a huge growing up moment for me. I have been horrible at remembering to take vitamins my entire life. I Take two “Olly” biotin and prenatal vitamins every day. No, I am not pregnant, for anyone that just read prenatal and gasped- ha. After about two weeks I noticed a huge energy boost, along with hair/skin/nail improvement. Invest in some good vitamins, and remember to take them. I began sitting them out by my coffee pot. They are cute, so my OCD didn’t mind- ha!

2. Fluid- Now, for the tough part. I basically lived off of coffee and sweet tea. I knew this would have to change, mostly because I use about 3 TBSP of sugar in each, ha. I decided to cut out my beloved sweet tea and replace it with ONLY water. A lot of water. I drink several water bottles a day now. I order water at every restaurant, aside from the occasional Sunday lunch (maybe once a month). This was especially hard because I had been drinking two big cups of our cafeteria sweet tea every day for five months and was ADDICTED. I cut my coffee down to one cup in the morning, keeping my normal 2% milk and sugar in it. (You can’t win every battle- LOL).

3. Food- Lastly, I decided I could dedicate an hour every Saturday to prepare to succeed for the week ahead. I had proven to myself if I didn’t prep in advance, I would eat whatever the school had to offer- which included my entire calorie intake for the day. In one meal. Dun dun dunnnn.

Before I begin this part. Let me just say... I. LOVE. ALDI. When Anthony and I returned from our honeymoon, we took a $75 Visa gift card someone gave us and decided to get our first big round of groceries. We went to Aldi (my first time ever) and filled up a cart! I figured this $75 would cover about half of the huge load. When the cashier told me it was $60-something dollars, my mind was blown. I’ve been dedicated ever since!

For my smoothie preps, I have the 8-piece Magic Bullet by NutriBullet. It is totally perfect for what I need. This set comes with three different containers to drink out of. The stainless steel straws I use every day are Norwex, and I love them! For the lunch preps, I had been using a small Tupperware pack I purchased from Target. I now use super nice "Misc Home" glass containers with vented lids that my mom shipped to me off of Amazon!

SMOOTHIE PREP

This big (easy) step changed so much for me. I had been eating mini muffins or a granola bar at about 7:45 before I arrived at school each morning, so when lunch rolled around I would be absolutely starving! This led to me eating large portions of unhealthy items. Once I began bringing my smoothies, I noticed that I sipped on them from about 8:00 AM until lunchtime at 11:00, rarely ever finishing them before then. I never even have a chance to be hungry! This really helped me with eating smaller portions and being okay with it. I pack a 100cal snack (something like a little apple/cheese snack pack or yogurt) to eat at 1:00 when my kids go to P.E., and then I usually eat a TSP of peanut butter when I get home from school to hold me over until dinner. It really is doable! You will see I don’t have a dinner prep section- when you eat a 150 cal breakfast and an under 400 cal lunch, you have plenty of calories to spare for dinner. Anthony is the epitome of anti healthy (yet still ridiculously perfect) and rarely eats anything green. He will eat baked chicken when I wrap it in bacon- ha! I have continued to eat the dinners I cook for him, just smaller portions and changing things when I can. For example, when I make tacos or fajitas, I will go without the shell/wrap and make mine a salad with salsa as the dressing. Small things really have helped.

Now, back to the smoothies. Friday afternoon or Saturday morning I go to Aldi and spend about 25 minutes getting what I need. Along with my lunch prep purchases, I buy a bag of baby spinach ($1.29), 2-3 bags of frozen fruit- Aldi brand ($2.09), and bananas! the spinach and frozen fruit should last two weeks, and I buy new bananas each weekend. I started out adding Greek yogurt, almond milk, and oats to them, but now I mostly just add water/ice. It honestly tastes the same to me and it’s less calories. I add honey or a dash of cinnamon sometimes, too! I start with a handful of spinach with a half of a banana and add a cup of whichever frozen fruits I want into a ziplock bag and stick it in the freezer until I’m ready for them! seriously that easy. When I get up to make my coffee in the mornings, I take them out of the freezer and set it on the counter to let the frozen fruit soften just a touch so it’s not too hard on my Bullet blades.

I pinned so many fancy smoothie recipes when I began, and became overwhelmed. I've learned I’m happiest when things are organized and simple. If you want bright and colorful with a variety of ingredients- Pinterest will have everything you need! I stick to basic and simple. I love bananas, strawberries, and peaches the most. I buy a bag of mixed berries with blackberries and blueberries that I like, and sometimes I buy fresh sliced apples to add. Do what works for you! I have found that with fruit, anything mixed with anything is delicious. The spinach adds no taste, so don't stress about it turning your smoothie slightly green. The only thing that is adding is better skin, improved eyesight, stronger muscles, decreased risk of heart attacks or cancer... you get it.

LUNCH PREP

For this, I buy two fresh chicken breasts (never more than $3.75 for both), a bag of broccoli florets ($2.19), and depending on if I’m doing Japanese or a more of a seasoned flavoring, either a bag of three medium zucchini ($1.69) or a bag of sweet potatoes ($1.69). Somehow I’m still in love with these ingredients 90 days later. Call me crazy.

If I’m craving more of a Japanese flavoring, it’s a one skillet meal! I cut the chicken breasts into cubes and cook it on a skillet on medium-high, with a little bit of olive oil and low sodium soy sauce for about 3-4 minutes. The last minute or two, I add Teriyaki or a honey sauce and it’s good to go! I portion the two chicken breasts into 4 or 5 days, then move on to the broccoli and zucchini! In the same pan, I add a little extra olive oil and get that broccoli nice and toasty. I like mine almost burned- adding a little soy sauce as I go. Lastly, I cook thinly sliced or noodled zucchini for 3-4 minutes- and I’m done! This lunch comes up to about 285-300 calories with about 3-3.5 ounces of chicken with Low Sodium Soy/Teriyaki, a serving of the stir fry zucchini, and about 3/4-1 cup of stir fry brocolli. I used brown rice the first week of meal prep, but a cup of brown rice is around 250 cal, and you can have an entire medium zucchini spiralized like noodles for about 50 cal... soooo you do the math.

If I’m craving spicy/Italian seasoning for the week, it’s a one pan meal! I throw both of the chicken breasts on a lined pan, surrounded by broccoli! I love cubed sweet potatoes so much I fill an entire pan full of them! everything drizzled with olive oil and seasoned with a packet of dry Italian/Ranch dressing mix, salt, and pepper (and sometimes garlic powder/onion powder/paprika). I bake everything at 400*, putting the sweet potatoes in first and setting on 35 minutes. I add the pan of chicken and broccoli at the 25 minute mark. Equally as easy and delicious! This lunch comes up to about 290 calories with about 3-3.5 ounces of chicken per meal, a cup of sweet potatoes, and the serving of roasted broccoli.

I used to be one of the many who say things like, "Why is eating healthy so expensive?!" I never realized I was just doing it wrong! Now, the most expensive single item that is placed in my cart is Anthony's jumbo box of fruit snacks. This is doable, affordable, and worth it.

I realize most of this is very basic information, but I hope I have helped or encouraged even one person to find their own path to a new season of health! I tried my best to answer all of the questions that people have sent me over the past few months. I don't have an "end goal," but if I did, I wouldn't be anywhere close. I'm not saying I want to lose another 14 pounds, but I do want to continue this journey to feeling healthier for as long as I can! I intend to begin playing around with new foods (cauliflower, anyone?) and trying to tone a bit more. Until this point, most of my workouts have consisted of cardio in an effort to shed the excess weight.

If you have an questions, comments, thoughts, advice, recipes, or ideas to share with me, feel free to leave a comment or send me an email! I love the new online community that has formed from these blog posts. I have made many new friends, and appreciate anyone that takes the time to reach out to me!