Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Counting Calories, Day 2

Sometimes in a valiant effort to be healthy we sabotage out healthiness. Here’s an example.

Let’s say you eat oatmeal drizzled with real maple syrup and pecans for breakfast. For a midmorning snack you have a banana and peanuts. Then for lunch it’s a green salad with organic dressing. Midafternoon you go with a high-oxidant Odwalla bar. Dinner consists of rice and chicken and stir-fry vegetables.

The day may have been nutritious, but you may also fail to lose weight. Why? Because nutritious doesn’t always mean lean. Take the organic salad dressing. A serving of Newman’s Own Creamy Italian Dressing contains 140 calories and 14 grams of fat for 2 tablespoons. Health bars like the Odwalla brand carry a surprisingly high number of calories along with the nutrients. The Super Protein bar has 230 calories. Sounds more like a small meal. Real maple syrup may be natural, but it is extremely high in sugar. ¼ a cup equals 210 calories. Rather high for a flavoring.

The best way to avoid having too much of a good thing is to write the good things down. Just because it’s nutritious doesn’t give us a right to binge. Too much health food is simply not healthy.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Counting Calories Week, Day 1

When I was a music major in college, I remember one day during a voice lesson when I felt utterly overwhelmed. Lessons are times when a teacher gives as many pointers as possible so that we can go home and practice what we learned, but on this day I was trying to conquer each pointer at once and failing miserably.

My teacher found a reasonable solution: only concentrate on one pointer at a time until it’s easy enough that I can add another pointer to focus on. The overwhelming task of trying to learn that difficult song suddenly become much easier.

The same concept can be used when we feel overwhelmed with anything, like healthy eating and exercise. Last week was exercise week and I focused on that alone. Now that I jump-started my workout routine, perhaps I can add a new focus. How about calorie counting? When I am really serious about losing weight, I count every calorie. When I slack off on losing weight, I usually have slacked off on counting calories.

This week let’s add a new layer to our health focus. Each day let’s track what we eat and mark the calories. It is the best, most successful way of eating healthy. And of course let’s not forget to keep exercising!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Exercise Week, Day 4

Two more obstacles, but still successful!

Obstacle one. It’s hot! Triple digits. Need I say more?

Obstacle two. I’m sick! I woke up this morning to find that my daughter had crawled into bed with me and was singing one of her Sunday school songs. About the time she yelled, “Yessir!” I asked her to please go back to sleep. I felt croaky and muddled, from the inside out. Getting sick is no fun, especially during my Exercise Week.

Solutions. For the heat, I try to workout as early as possible. For my evening exercise the other night it was way to hot to even think about going on a bike ride, so I stayed home and jumped around my living room for forty minutes. My kids loved it.

While being sick, I make sure I drink plenty of water first. I’m not afraid to take cold medicine either. There are definitely times when the best thing to do is go to bed, but I’m not about to slack off during my Exercise Week. It means too much to me.

Day 4 is my daughter’s third birthday. I’m having a small party for her with dinner and dessert. I suppose TIME is my ultimate obstacle, when there is so much to do! But if I can overcome heat, sickness, and the demands of small children, then (note the slight sarcasm and the smile) I can manage something easy like making exercise fit into my busy day.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Exercise Week, Day 3

Exercise creates time. Impossible, you say? Well it must create time because whenever I make an effort to exercise in the mornings, I manage to get much more done during my day. So it must mean that I have magically created time while exercising.

The second day of my Exercise Week challenge I was not as energetic. Normally I would have passed on the morning workout when feeling like this, let alone getting two workouts into the day. But I told myself I can’t give up (I have to tell myself that now and then) and proceeded out the door with my two kids an hour later than I’d planned.

The bad news, you could say, is that during the whole day I remained tired. Sometimes when we up the effort bar, our bodies react against it. So it’s normal that on Day 2 I am a little tired.

The good news is that I got so much done between the workouts that my spirits were bolstered. Watch out Day 3. I have a feeling you’re going to be full of energy and results.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Exercise Week, Day 2

I am in the middle of a self-provoked challenge: workout at least two or more times a day this week. My first day was an invigorating success. I took a morning walk before the temperatures climbed too high. Then after dinner my family took a bike ride.

Exercise with small children is definitely challenging, but not impossible. The morning walk was really more of a morning push. The double stroller I have isn’t the best quality. In fact, the front wheel doesn’t swivel, so I have to push down on the handle bar to turn a corner. And the way it glides to the right adds more push-and-adjustments. It takes muscle and burns extra calories. The stroller is absolutely perfect for a good workout.

My evening bike ride is more of a bike haul, with my two little ones riding along in the trailer behind me. While my husband is showing off with his pop-a-wheelies and curb jumps, I’m trudging along like a work-horse. It’s the perfect workout.

At the end of an active day I feel pumped. I have had a good dose of sunshine, fun, and family time. And don’t forget the calorie-burning, metabolism-revving aerobic workout. Oh how I love being active!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Exercise Week

It is time to shake things up a bit. Get the blood pumping. Rev the metabolism. Sweat out the toxins. Wake up the workout junkie. It is Exercise Week!

Life is busy. It always will be.

There are valid reasons not to exercise. There always will be.

Exercise Week is about isolating one of our biggest obstacles—procrastination—and conquering it. If you have been meaning to start exercising, or if you have been meaning to step up the frequency and intensity of exercise, but haven’t gotten around to it, this is the week to do it.

We only have to take this on for one week and just see where it takes us. My goal is to exercise two to three times every day this week. What I hope to see by next week is this: a spike in my energy, a decrease in stress, and some weightloss. Also, I expect a higher standard in what is “normal exercise” for me.

Are you with me? What is your exercise goal this week? Let’s get started!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Paint

My day today wasn’t easy. It wasn’t a bad day—in fact a lot of good things happened. It just was the kind of day that makes you think, I want to go into the mountains and do nothing for at least a week. Unfortunately, there are no mountain retreats in my horizon, only more days of a similar routine as today.

I wasn’t able to get to blog writing until late, which incidentally tends to lead to rambling rather than insight. I sat with my computer on my lap and meaninglessly tapped my fingers on the keyboard, typing nothing. Not even ramblings would come out. About that time, I looked at the title for the blog, “Paint.”

Earlier in the day at the time I usually write, I got as far as the title when my little one-year-old interrupted me. Paint. Whatever inspiration I’d had earlier was now gone.

We had the inside of our house painted today. It was simultaneously fun and hectic with two small children to keep under control. I’m sure I had something clever in mind that would have tied my topic into healthy living. Maybe I was going to talk about the value of inward transformation. Or maybe I was going to discuss how the color of a kitchen can affect one’s appetite.

Instead, I’ll leave you with a verse out of the Bible that has come to mean a great deal to me on days when I am tired and tempted to slack off of my goals. It goes like this: “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”* It’s enough to keep me going, at least one more day.

*Galations 6:9

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Doughnuts for Breakfast?

I read just an article—a health blog actually—that asked the question, “Which is Better: A Doughnut or Skipping Breakfast?”* I had a feeling I wouldn’t agree with the writer’s answer even before clicking and reading. Sure enough, she proposed that eating a doughnut is better than not eating breakfast at all.

This kind of question isn’t unique. I can think of a trendy health book, called “Eat This, Not That” by David Zinczenko, asking “which is better” questions about a whole slew of foods. Often I am left with a whole slew of unsatisfactory answers. Why would I choose between the lesser of two evils when I could avoid all the evils?

The doughnut vs. skipping breakfast blog mostly concerns me because of the message it sends. It’s not that I’m saying someone should never eat a doughnut, but let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that we are doing our bodies a favor by it.

The strongest point made by the doughnut proponent is that eating a doughnut will rev the metabolism. It might sound okay scientifically, but take in mind the psychological aspect. Most people who eat a doughnut for breakfast are more inclined to make poor choices the rest of the day. Would a person have an appetite for a healthy lunch after a breakfast like that? Probably not.

I don’t think an article like this is doing a reader any favors, at least when it comes to instructing on healthier living. What the article did best was entertain; it was a catchy question and a controversial opinion. But let’s keep it real. If I’m going to eat a doughnut, I should at least be sensible enough to call it part of the “other” group.

*Which is Better: A Doughnut or Skipping Breakfast?” by Tanya Jolliffe
http://www.dailyspark.com/blog.asp?post=which_is_better_a_doughnut_or_skipping_breakfast

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Clutter

Lately we have been cleaning and organizing our garage. We installed racks that hang from the ceiling for extra storage, bought a large shelf off Craigslist, and gave away a bunch of stuff we don’t need. Slowly the garage is looking like it could actually house a couple of vehicles.

I really can’t stand clutter. But somehow clutter appears everywhere in every corner of our house and our garage, faster than confetti at a birthday party. It probably has something to do with having a family with two small children! It’s difficult to stay on top of the clutter.

When I think about unhealthy food, I get a similar feeling as with clutter. I can’t stand it! But how many times do opportunities appear for me to clutter my body with unhealthy food? It’s constant, like rain in Portland.

I have to stay on top of the game if I want to avoid the unhealthy clutter. It’s like cleaning house. It has to be regularly maintained or it becomes a shambles. I have to guard my breakfast, lunch, and dinner—and in between—if I am going to keep the unhealthy clutter out. If I throw out the junk, and plan out the rest, I’ll have pretty neat results to enjoy.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Amnesia

Amnesia has always fascinated me. Stories about someone who has completely forgotten their name, where they live, their hobbies and profession are eerie and packed with possibilities. The person could be anybody! The mystery is intriguing.

In reality, amnesia would be a very difficult trial to suffer. There would surely be a lack of foundation in your life and many insecurities to face. It’s more fun to think of amnesia as a fictional intrigue than wish it upon my life or someone else’s. Except in one way.

I like to have selective amnesia. Selective amnesia is choosing to forget something, and then forgetting it. It is refreshing to forget the awful things in life. The mistakes, the hurts, the misunderstandings, the offenses, and the regrets… It’s so easy to hold on to something that hurts. Selective amnesia is my mind’s way of saying, “Let go. It isn’t healthy to keep remembering that.”

We are wronged sometimes. It is a very heavy burden to bare the anger and hurt of being wronged. In fact, the burden is usually worse than the offense itself. Unless the hurt dissipates, it will turn to bitterness. And bitterness can manifest itself in many unhealthy ways, such as over-eating, poor sleep, unhappiness, and depression.

But we can have amnesia. We can choose to forget. If someone has done something to us that hurts, holding onto the hurt will only make it worse. We need to forget in order to be happy again and to bounce back into living to the fullest. And what happens to the hole that is left in our hearts when we let go of the hurt? It is filled with sweetness and love.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Practice saying "No"

Be sure you practice!

We may have all heard those words at some point. A piano teacher, our mom, a tennis coach, or math tutor, perhaps.

Why do I have to?

That might have been our response when we were kids. Somehow, our mom or teacher always had a good answer.

Because practicing is how you will improve.

Practicing not only improves a skill, such as typing or playing the guitar; practicing can also improve daily habits. For example, have you practiced saying “no” to chocolate? Here is how you might do it.

Grab a small bowl and fill it with chocolate chips. Keep this bowl in your pantry for a week without allowing yourself a single one. At the end of the week, it will be easier to say “no” to chocolate. It works! It works because you would have just spent a week practicing saying “no.” It would take a very conscious decision to step outside of the practice and eat chocolate.

This sort of practice can work on any weakness we might have. If you know there is a time coming when you will be tempted by bad food, try practicing saying “no” to prepare yourself. Chances are that if you have been passing by those Ruffles potato chips all week, that when you go to the potluck you’ll pass by them without even thinking.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Work or Workout

There are a few truths that I have learned since becoming a mom. Among them, one is that toys that are the most fun usually have many small parts. Two is that many small parts lead to many big messes. Three is that many big messes lead to constant cleaning by mom, followed by more big messes, and more cleaning. Therefore, it seems, in order to give my kids a fun childhood, it requires having a very tired mom!

My days fall into one-or-the-other kind of pattern. I can exercise and get a good, satisfying work-out—or I can have a clean house. I can’t seem to ever have both. I’m too exhausted from one to do the other.

I know that household chores burn calories, so I don’t feel quite so bad after spending the day scrubbing and cleaning. But—and this is a big BUT—housework will never equal the renewal I get from working out. Housework will also never give my body the extra dose of oxygen that I get from aerobic exercise.

I need exercise to cope. There is quite a lot of noise and drama that goes on in a household of little children. If I don’t let out some steam that has been building throughout a long day, I just might start howling like my two-year-old!

As much as I could let go of an exercise routine with some justification, the truth is I need it. Badly. My personal goal for the next month is to rekindle my determination to exercise and make it happen at least four times each week. It’s time to take what I know in my head and apply it.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Rolling and Sliding

Yesterday the topic was on momentum. I had a great response from one of my readers and thought I share for today’s blog.

Rolling and Sliding

Did you know that it's easier to stop a rolling object than a sliding object? Once an object has started sliding, friction has lost a great deal of its ability to control the object's momentum! That's why it's best to pump your brakes when you need to stop quickly—once you start sliding, you're out of control.

I think the same is true of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. We will occasionally find ourselves starting to lose control, bumping up against the edges of our lifestyle goals. What we want to ensure is that we regain control before we start into a full slide.

An example: last night I went with a group to Wendy's after church. I'd been good all day, had gotten in some exercise that morning, and had plenty of calories left for the day. So, I had a bacon cheeseburger, fries, and a root beer. YUM! It was slightly more calories than I had allowed myself for that day, but was still within my "buffer," so I wasn't too worried. Still, it flagged for me that I was over my line.

Soon after, the burger was gone, the fries were gone and my pop was nothing but melting ice. We were still sitting talking though, so I got up and got another cup of pop. I was still under my maintenance calorie goal, so I was fine in that respect, but I was definitely starting to feel the "bump, bump" of my weight loss goal.

On the way out of the restaurant, I was tempted to have "just one more cup of Coke." I'd already topped out my goal for the day. It couldn't hurt to have one more, right?

That's when I stopped and threw my cup away. I knew if I kept on, I'd end up feeling bad and potentially sliding out of control. The good news? By making that decision, I felt pleased that I was able to stop, and that kept me from entering a full slide.

And this morning, when I stepped on the scale I was down another two pounds! I'm pleased with my ability to stop, pleased that my loss is continuing, and am that much more encouraged that I can do the same thing again the next time.

Guest contributor: Chris Luka

Monday, August 9, 2010

Momentum

It can sail us to the finish line of our goals. It can also swing us away from our goals. Momentum is a powerful force. It is the energy that surges after we aim and shoot to our goals.

Think about it scientifically. A decade and a half ago I learned in my high school science class that it takes more energy to start a ball rolling than to keep a ball rolling. The same can apply to habits and routines in our lives. It takes focus, determination, will power, and self-discipline to start eating right. After several weeks, however, eating healthy seems natural. Temptations come much less frequently. Momentum is carrying us to our goal.

The same kind of momentum can also lead us away from our goal though. Have you ever eaten past the point of being full—not because you’re hungry, but simply because you were spooning in the food at such a steady rate that the momentum kept you eating? I have. Have you ever eaten badly on a Monday and therefore eaten badly all week because it was easier to give into the momentum than to start afresh? I have done that too.

Momentum is a force, but it does not have a mind of its own. Nor does it start be itself. The power is in our hands. We are sitting on massive amount of power, ready to be unleashed into the direction we point. When it is unleashed, it will shoot us toward our goal…if we aim carefully.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Be Creative, Be Healthy

I recently heard these days called the dog-days of summer. While I’m not sure exactly what that means, I get a picture in my mind of a blazing hot sun and a lazy dog with his tongue hanging to his feet. There are certainly days when I feel just like that myself. It takes an extra amount of energy to try new things, it seems. Still, there are a slew of things to do on a hot summer day. Sometimes it helps to make a list of ideas.

Go to the library. This is one of my daughter’s favorite places. When it’s too hot to even think about the park, we head to the library. Libraries often have computers with kid-friendly activities, and of course, they have tons of books. And it is cool inside! Even on cooler days the library can be a good place to entertain the kids. Many people live within walking distance of their local library, so you can walk or bike there for some exercise along the way.

Go to a farmers’ market. This time of year farmers’ markets are springing up all over with an abundance of freshly-picked produce. This kind of food is the best in taste and in nutrients. A surprising number of nutrients are lost when produced is shipped over many days. The best way to have the most nutritious food is too eat it when it’s picked ripe. Farmers’ markets are also a fun experience for kids. They love to see the many varieties of food and help pick them out. Another fun idea is to go to you-pick farms where you can actually pick your own berries or other fruit. My kids are a little too young for this, but I can’t wait to try this in a few years.

These are just a couple of thoughts to make it through a hot week with restless kids. I’m sure there are many other ideas. I’d love to hear them!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Butter or Margarine?

When I was growing up, we always had margarine in our kitchen because the health experts said it was better for you. Later when I was in college, I always bought real butter because natural was in. Now, I’ve gone back to margarine again (although it’s now termed a “buttery spread” and is processed much differently than previous margarines). The question is this—what is really the best choice?

The debate is not so much about butter or margarine, but about “natural” food against processed food. Is natural always better? Generally I go for the natural—or foods that are the least processed. There are a few exceptions to my preference, one of them being margarine.

Butter is natural in the sense that it came from an animal, but there is a process that it goes through before it becomes that sweet, thick, and delectable cream. So in a sense, it is natural and processed. Margarine usually comes from a vegetable oil and is processed too. Okay, it’s usually a lot more processed than butter. But the reason margarine for me is the winner over butter is that butter has so much cholesterol and bad saturated fats. Margarine on the other hand, uses non-saturated fats. You can even buy margarine that uses cholesterol-fighting oils, like olive oil and canola oil.

The most important thing to remember when buying margarine is to stay away from hydrogenated oils. What made margarine so bad twenty years ago was the high content of these deadly oils. Margarine brands like Smart Balance, Earth Balance, and Promise are the ones to go for because they do not go through the hydrogenation process.

I know that taste is important, and to many people butter is better. However, I do think some of that is a pre-conceived notion. I’ll just say that I make very good cookies now and then, using margarine. Then I send them off to work with my husband. (No, I do not keep them around to tempt me!) The feedback I get from the happy people who eat those cookies are enough to keep me making them again and again. Maybe margarine tastes better after all.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Mountains

I just climbed two large mountains—in a way. There is a website with a tracking system that I use for daily calories, weighing in, and setting weightloss goals for myself. I can access a horizontal graph that visually shows me how many pounds I have lost in relation to my overall goal. There are various themes and designs that I can pick from to personalize it, and I chose a picture of three mountains.

There is a small picture of a scale on this graph that moves to indicate how many pounds I have lost. When I started tracking last January, my scale was at the far left of the graph. Since then I have “scaled” two of the mountains. I’m almost two-thirds the way to my goal—and there is one more mountain to climb.

I love the analogy of the mountains. This challenge of meeting my weightloss goal is a demanding adventure. You know that feeling when you want to do something big—like take on a huge hike or run a long-distance relay…or climb a mountain. There is adrenaline and excitement at the beginning. You know it’s going to be tough, but you’re ready to man it out!

That is kind of how I felt at the beginning of this weight-loss adventure last January. I was going to conquer! But like every mountain-climbing experience, there are highs and lows. Seeing the picture on my weightloss graph reminds me of the mountains I have already conquered. I’m also reminded of the adrenaline-pumping excitement I had when I started. And I am reminded of what a thrilling adventure I am on. I have one more mountain to the finish-line. Time to step it up!

Monday, August 2, 2010

My Son

One year ago my son was born. The past 12 months have light-sped by. My little boy is a cognizant, babbling, running, and mischievous human being. It’s hard to believe that one year ago he was placed in my arms and welcomed to the world for the first time.

I thought I would have been happy to have just one child. We were enjoying my daughter Eden so much, it just didn’t seem necessary to go through those awful nine months of pregnancy when we were happy with our family. But we thought it would be nice for Eden to have a playmate and a friend.

I was dreading pregnancy. I remembered all too well the miserable nights, the sickness, and the weight-gain. I had finally lost the weight from my first pregnancy, and it was no easy task. But did we really want Eden to be an only child? No.

The first three months of being pregnant the second time, I was sicker than I’ve ever been. I couldn’t get off the couch. It was like I had the stomach flu morning, noon, and night. I lost 15 pounds in 4 weeks. You’d think that was a blessing, but it was awful!

After the first 3 months the sickness eased some. Soon I gained back those 15 pounds and then some. And then some more. My stomach felt like a bottomless pit. I couldn’t stop eating. The day finally came when we settled on a name (at last!) and not long after that Lance was born into our family.

Recently I was having a very difficult day. My kids and I were at a park downtown. I was trying to get a very grumpy daughter into her car seat, and I was biting my lip at the pain from a freshly sprained toe. Nothing was going right. I managed to buckle in my over-emotional daughter and turned for my son. He looked up at me and gave me a dimpled smile. And suddenly everything seemed right again.

I can vaguely remember the miserable pregnancy, but it’s almost forgotten. I am still dealing with the weight I gained, but soon I’ll reach my goal and that part will be forgotten too. What I never will forget, though, is the joy that Lance has brought to our lives. Every second of this blindingly fast year with him has been worth it.