Planning for 2016

As I reflect back on this year, I see a lot of stressful events. To name a few:

  • My stepfather passed this year, and my mom lives 5 hours away.
  • We undertook a big renovation and ran into a few snags with specific items we wanted and were no longer available. We’re still waiting for the final replacement that we’re settling for in the Master Bath – our vanity.
  • My job changed (I won’t go into details here) – although I do still HAVE a job.
  • I started an MBA program. While I enjoy learning new things, and getting an MBA has always been on my “must do” list, the timing probably could have been better. But then “they” always say that there is no better time than now.
  • My co-leader in Girl Scouts is out of the country for 2 years!

Ironically, those stressors also have a number of positives associated with them.

  • I got to see my mom more than usual this year, and I got to apply my organizational skills to help dig her out of a lot of junk that my stepfather had piled in over the years. I should have taken pictures.
  • This renovation is going to be awesome when it’s done.
  • I still have a job. It is not ideal, but I have a job, and I still get to work with great people every day.
  • I am finally getting around to pursuing my MBA. Yes, I already have a Master’s, but I want to be more well-rounded with my knowledge, and I want to continue to grow in my career.
  • My Girl Scout parents have become even more supportive and helpful than I could have ever imagined. They were already great volunteers.

So why would I post this on my diet blog? Well first of all, stress is my #1 problem with my eating, sleeping, and (lack of) exercise habits. I think recognizing that is part of the battle. I know that stress in general is not going away. There will always be something that makes life challenging, but I always get through it. Sometimes I even have the benefit of some “down time” before the next major challenge, and I get to have the feeling that “life is great.”

So, on to the next chapter in 2016. I’m going to take an example from Gretchen Ruben’s, The Happiness Project. Instead of making a meaningless New Year’s Resolution, I am going to break it down into meaningful and managable chunks. Because we all know that the statement, “live healthier” is not actionable. Also, establishing new habits takes about a month. So, in the spirit of “dieting” slowly, I am going to slowly add in healthy habits.

I thought about posting all my ideas here in this post, but I also realize that my needs might change throughout the year, and I might need to re-prioritize. I’m still actually debating what to do first – increase my water intake, or establish a bedtime so I can get enough sleep every night. I know Coach Charles will want me to come in to exercise, but I think I need to tackle these first. Plus, I’ll be broke after this renovation is done. :) My other intents for the year include meditation and modifying the food we eat. Time to find more healthy foods the entire family will eat. I also know that new “resolutions” will become apparent as the year progresses.

What do you think – water or sleep in January – and why?

From March Madness to April Fools

I’ve been neglecting more than my blog this past month, but I’ve been fortunate to maintain through it all. It has been a very hectic and stressful month at work, and that has meant that other things have fallen by the wayside. Fortunately, I have been able to keep getting to my workouts – although I’ve had to reschedule a few. Even laundry had to wait this month!

Given the hectic days lately, I’ve neglected taking care of some basic things – sleep and water being two of them. I’ve even skipped snacks and a couple of lunches. Not good! Meal planning has happened somehow this month, but things haven’t always gone as planned.

There isn’t much I can do about my work day other than force myself to be attached to my water bottle. As for getting my house back in order – one of my former female co-workers once said, “I need a wife.” I need someone to help with the laundry and maybe even the cooking. My hubby does help, but he’s also stretched pretty thin.  He gets home from work right at dinner time, and then it’s time for the kids’ bath and bedtime routine, which typically takes effort from both of us.

My hubby and I have talked about re-hiring the housekeeper we had, but that just takes care of the cleaning (which we have also sadly neglected). I’m trying to figure out who could help with some of the more basic things (the cooking and the laundry) so I can help the kids with homework and such. Would a mother’s helper do that? Have you ever used a laundry service like Total Cleaners? I’m pretty sure we can’t afford a personal chef… yet. :) I’m also open to suggestions or directions to the nearest time-stopper or miracle medicine so I don’t have to sleep and can still feel fresh!

 

Back to the Basics

This past month has been tough on me. I’ve had a number of stressful days at work, trying to get a software release out the door.  I haven’t slept well in at least two weeks. My water intake has gone down and my wine intake has gone up. I have felt run down and downright BLAH for the past week. Ugh, I’m stress eating/drinking again! Fortunately, I haven’t gained any weight. Time to dial it down and get back to healthy habits.

I need to refocus:

  • Water intake – drink water with snacks, in between snacks, and with meals.
  • Sleep – Go to bed at a reasonable time. Midnight is not reasonable, no matter how funny Jimmy Fallon is. That’s what DVRs are for.
  • Healthy Snacks – I’ve been buying fruits for snacks but choosing “comfort” foods this week. Which may actually be why I have felt like crap for the past few days.

What I’ve managed to maintain:

  • Meal planning – Despite all the craziness, I’ve managed to continue meal planning. It’s still not perfect, and we do sometimes need to adjust based on our schedules, but it’s been a great guideline and an easy way to answer the question, “What’s for dinner?”
  • Working out – Except for this week because of not feeling well, I’ve continued working out. When we had “challenge week” at the end of February, I managed to beat my own record of how many sets I could do of the workout routine in 21 minutes!

I realize everyone has setbacks, and nobody is perfect. I’m no exception!

When you are following a routine and go back to old (bad) habits, how do you break yourself again?

Sitting On a Stress Plateau

I feel like I’m constantly apologizing for the delay in posting! Many of you know that I work in software. We have a couple of releases coming shortly, so we always have a last-minute scramble to re-prioritize work so we can release when we said we would. It has been a very stressful couple of weeks, and there’s still several weeks to go. How does this affect my weight loss goals? Simple. Stress increases cortisol levels, which makes it harder to resist “stress eating,” which in turn makes it harder to keep losing weight (and can actually lead to weight gain). (ref: WebMD)

So did I gain weight this week because of all the stress? I am glad to say that I maintained, and I learned that I need to do even more despite (or maybe because of) how overwhelmed I feel. I am eating more healthily, and I am still working out. That 3rd time in the week hasn’t managed to make its way in yet. I should put it on my Google calendar. But I think in times like these, I need something to help me relax. Yes, working out helps reduce stress, but I find that my muscle tension and stress return within a few hours of the workout.

So what can I do? I’ve tried yoga a couple of times before, but I couldn’t move past old shoulder and ankle injuries. Now that I’ve dropped weight and built up some muscle, that’s a possibility. But that’s another expense, and that’s yet another hour out of my day that I don’t have.

I used Hypnobirthing for labor “pains” so I do understand that self-hypnosis can be calming. I still have those CDs I could listen to. But again, I don’t have an hour in the morning – and I also don’t want to fall back to sleep.

 

I’ve heard that meditation in the morning can really help relive stress and keep you focused for the rest of the day. But how long does it take, and how would I start?

Do you meditate? How much time do you spend? Do you have a certain method or just clear your mind and slow your breathing for a few minutes?

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Working Through Craziness

Where did this week go? This week was very busy, so cooking every night was more of a challenge than usual – but I still managed. Planning ahead definitely helped. I keep the weekly menu on the fridge, and I have the recipes clipped to the fridge so all I have to do is grab the one on the top and work from it. We’re still trying to find recipes that both kids like. We did manage to find a way to cook chicken that my son likes, so we might still add it to the “regular” list and then just make plain chicken for my daughter.

I also owe you a weigh-in. I’m down to 189 – that’s 15.5 pounds!

Now to put the finishing touches on my grocery list and go shopping. Yes, it’s 9:15 pm on a Sunday. This is the first time I’ve had a chance!

What do you do when you have a crazy week? Do you have a couple quick go-to dinners that you always have ingredients handy? Not chicken nuggets! :)

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Weigh In and Workouts and Meals, Oh My!

Weigh-In
I am happy to report another loss this week! I’m down to 190.5 – a total loss of 14 pounds! I don’t even feel like I’m trying. I am never hungry, I do still eat some “bad” foods, but the key seems to be that I don’t overdo it. I also don’t want to overdo it, because then I would feel lousy afterwards. I remember my Weight Watchers leader a couple of years ago telling us that you really only need a couple of bites of something that you really enjoy – and savor it. If you continue to eat it, you’ll end up feeling guilty and you’ll end up back in the emotional eating cycle.

Workouts
If you live on the east coast, you know the amount of snow we got this week took a long time to shovel, so that was my added workout this week. I would be very happy to not see snow again, unless I specifically travel to a snow resort for snow tubing. :)

Meals
I mentioned in an earlier post that I was looking at meal planner templates and websites, and I found one that I absolutely LOVE. It’s called Plan to Eat, and it was created and maintained by a husband and wife team. It is very user-friendly! I love that you can auto-save recipes from other websites and when you plan your week (or month) you can get a shopping list of all the ingredients that you need. You can also add items to your list that you want to have on hand but may not have it in a recipe. They have opted not to be supported by advertising, which is a nice touch. This does mean there is a $39 annual charge, but you can try it for free for an entire month!

Goal this week: Keep going!

I’d like to add some new healthy recipes to our list of things to try. What’s your favorite family recipe?

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New (but good) problems

I’m sorry I haven’t posted in a while. Life got in the way. I did weigh myself on Saturday, and I’m down to 192 – a total weight loss of 12.5 pounds in just 8 weeks! So what’s my new problem? I need to go shopping for new clothing! Those who know me well know that I’m not a typical woman – I hate shopping. But at least this is for a good reason.

So just a recap of changes I’ve made to get this far:

  1. I’m still following my personal trainer’s plan for breakfast and most lunches. This consists of more protein for breakfast (my breakfast used to be cereal). This also consists of more vegetables than I have ever eaten in my life (and I’m actually enjoying them)! I will still eat cereal or waffles on my “cheat” day, but I don’t feel guilty about it.
  2. I’m down to one cup of coffee (with milk) per day. Before starting on this diet, I would have at least 2 cups of coffee a day, with milk. I was drinking my calories and probably tearing up my gut with acids, and I know it wasn’t helping my sleep patterns.
  3. I’m drinking more water. I’m still not perfect in the water department – I should definitely be drinking more water. On the positive side, I haven’t had soda since my gall bladder removal a couple of years ago. Coffee and milk were my substitutes for the soda I was missing, but I actually don’t miss the extra milk I would normally drink with my afternoon snack.
  4. I’ve cut back significantly on wine. I was drinking a glass of wine a night. It was my way of winding down and dealing with the stress of the day. I do still drink some wine, but most nights I completely forget to eat and drink out of boredom or stress.
  5. I’m still working out twice a week. My personal trainer is right, I need to add at least one more day that I do on my own. Even twice a week is difficult on my schedule, but he keeps me accountable and reminds me that I need to do more. Thank you. Keep that up – it will get through to me soon. :)
  6. I worked on sleep. I had one really good week of getting to bed before midnight. I blame Jay Leno and Jimmy Fallon for the one week. I can’t blame anyone but myself for the other weeks. I think my hubby is right – I need to set my watch alarm so I can realize when it’s 11 pm.
  7. We’re planning meals for the week. I’m still cooking breakfast and lunch in advance, but dinners nightly. This has been a lot more manageable than the cooking-all-weekend approach, and although I’m not only using recipes from my personal trainer for dinner, the meals have been a lot healthier than in the past.

What can I do next? Continue working on sleep, and add a day for cardio. It’s way too cold to go outside and walk, and we’re about to get a foot of snow. I can use our stairs, though – and possibly drive our dog crazy while I do it. :) I also have a recumbent bike in the basement, courtesy of my brother-in-law. So I could even watch television while exercising. I could also do several sets of the “warm up” exercises I do with my personal trainer. For reference, I had a very difficult time getting through just one set in the entire allotted time for my first session. Now I do them in about 10 minutes.

What are your next goals?

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One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

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Ok, I can’t completely complain. I didn’t lose weight this week, but I didn’t gain either. I also learned a lot about myself and my own limits. Apparently, I can’t clone myself! :)

The good:

  1. I maintained this week.
  2. I ate the planned meals and as usual, I couldn’t finish them.
  3. I fit into smaller jeans with ease this week!
  4. I continued to work out this week.

The bad:

  1. We celebrated my daughter’s birthday this past weekend, and I had a cupcake. Every night.
  2. I slacked off on water intake
  3. I slacked off on my sleep schedule, so I felt tired and hungry most of this week

The ugly:

  1. Laundry. Those piles of laundry that I usually do over the weekend didn’t get completely done because I was too busy cooking.
  2. The cleaning doesn’t get done when I’m too busy.
  3. When the two above things don’t get done the way I like, I get stressed, cranky, and tend to lose my temper more quickly. Just ask my hubby!

The verdict: I didn’t listen to myself to slow down. I got excited about the weight loss and tried to do too much this week. This always stresses me out, which leads to more food – usually unhealthy choices.

So, this week I need to take a step back. Get back on track with the water intake and the sleep. I will work on planning food for the week, but not cook it all over the course of two days. I am not Wonder Woman!

Someone once told me that laundry done every night makes it more manageable (still working on that). I’m thinking that the same holds true for food. So, for my own sanity, food will be cooked nightly, but my goal is to not have to think about “what’s for dinner.” Plus, freshly cooked food tastes much better than re-heated food.

Goals for this week:

  1. Water intake
  2. Sleep
  3. Plan meals, but cook nightly
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Thank Goodness It’s Friday!

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For those of us in the Northeast, we have been fighting this “polar vortex” for too long. I am thankful that today the kids get to go back to school! We have all had a bit of cabin fever with the bitter cold, negative temperature wind chills, and snow/ice. I can’t wait for Spring!

Anyway, despite being cooped up indoors, I have been good about not stuffing my face with snacks out of boredom. Last night was the first night I deviated from the meal plan that my trainer gave me because we went out for dinner. Despite it being a BBQ place, I was still good about what I ordered – salmon with vegetables, and a salad! I couldn’t even finish my dinner. Partly because it was so spicy, partly because I couldn’t eat anymore. I did have a few bites of the brownie dessert, but I didn’t feel guilty afterwards because I didn’t feel bloated or sick after eating it. AND I didn’t overdo it, which is half the battle.

So Friday is also weigh-in day. How has this “extra” sleep and planned meals worked out for me? Drumroll, please…

Starting weight: 204.5 lb

Today’s weight: 193 lb

Total lost: 11.5 lb

So how much is because of the extra sleep, and how much is because of the planned meals? Well, I lost 5 pounds in one week. That’s not completely unheard of when you change eating habits. Despite the portion sizes, I have not been able to finish some of the planned meals. Despite the planned snacking and removing night-time snacking and wine, I have not felt hungry at all. I actually have to remind myself to snack!

So, I could be wrong, but I attribute the lack of constant hunger to the continued water intake and extra sleep. I’m still not getting “enough” sleep, but I’ve been getting to bed before midnight this week, which is an accomplishment. I’m aiming for 11pm for heading upstairs for bed this week. Wish me luck!

How do you deal with a diet when eating out? Do you splurge, or do you continue to eat healthily?

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Weekly Food Planning

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For some of you out there, weekly food planning is already a norm for you. I’ve had several friends tell me that they cook for the week so all they have to do is reheat and eat. Others plan the meals for the week, but still cook them nightly. It is not something that our family has done. Even though I am organized and like to plan ahead for just about everything else, food has not been a priority. Of course, the lack of planning makes it difficult to come up with something to eat when it’s already 6 o’clock at night and dinner isn’t being cooked yet. Not because we’re lazy, but because that’s when we’re getting home from work throughout the week.

So, I am giving this weekly food planning a try – and I didn’t come up with the plan (my personal trainer did). All I had to do was shop for the food and cook it. What he didn’t tell me is that cooking is a workout itself when you’re doing it for several hours! His plan has us eating the same breakfast, lunch, and dinner for three days at a time with Sunday as a “treat” day. I am not going to post his recipes, since it is part of my paid plan with him. I am happy to refer you! :)

Today is the first day with the planned food. Breakfast had more protein than I am used to in the morning, and I couldn’t finish it. Not because I didn’t like it, but because I was already starting to feel full. I’ll be having my morning snack soon, and I’m glad I don’t have to go outside for lunch because it’s COLD outside! This will also save me money on eating out or paying convenience store prices for food that’s just OK (and high in sodium).

Once Marc and I have tried the dishes, I will save the recipes for ones that we both like and plug them into this Monthly Meal Planner template. I’ve already entered meals that I like (of course most of those will be “treat day” foods), and the best part about it is once you enter the recipes, you pick what you will eat on certain dates and it will generate a shopping list for you. How convenient!

I do need to make one last comment before I sign off for the day. Despite how crazy busy Wegmans was on Saturday, it took me just 45 minutes to shop for everything for the week. Not just because I had a list (we always have a list). There are employees everywhere to help you find things – and they are actually helpful and friendly. There was one employee in produce who took care of grabbing a couple of things for me while I tried to avoid colliding with others. The weirdest part of the whole trip for me was how polite the other customers were, too. Everyone worked around the crowd, generally took turns, and actually said “excuse me.” It was like I wasn’t in northern Virginia anymore. :) In addition, the produce was superior to the other stores we usually shop – so fresh! I absolutely hate crowds, but I have to say that Wegmans is worth it.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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