Wednesday, February 16, 2011

My Fitness Quest

Four years ago, I found myself in the dressing room of JC Penney's crying because I had just tried on the biggest size pants I had ever worn...and I needed a bigger size!  I HATED clothes shopping.  I avoided it at all costs because I hated having to admit that I had gained weight.

I knew I had gained a few pounds but had not come to terms with the fact that it was more than just a few pounds.  I was in denial.  I knew when I would eat unhealthy foods that I shouldn't be eating them but I wanted them.  I was living life blindly fumbling through my days.  

I hear people often say they never gave their weight, fitness, or nutrition much thought.  This wasn't true with me.  I thought about it every day.  I couldn't avoid it.  The vast majority of my family is overweight.  The vast majority of the residents of my state is overweight.  How can we not be when our state meal is chicken fried steak and fried okra?!

My story is similar to many in that I was thinner and more fit when I was in high school.  I had my first problem with weight the summer before my freshman year in high school.  Up to that time, I had been active in and track...and ate pretty much what I wanted.  Then my mother, brother, and I moved to a different city, which meant a different school.  I went from a small town school and knowing everyone to a larger town and larger school where everyone already had their groups of friends and weren't very willing to invite in newbies.  I had never experienced "clicks" before.  It never occurred to me that people would choose their friends based on looks or status in the community or money.  This is exactly how life was at this new school.  I was highly intimidated and didn't try out for basketball or track or band...I gave up everything I loved because I didn't feel accepted.

I gave up the activity but not the eating.  I continued to eat whatever I wanted.  I didn't eat more, just didn't sensor myself.  I didn't know I needed to.  My mother had always struggled with weight loss and always ended up giving up.  She was victim to the same struggles as most people...without instant results, it is difficult to find the motivation to continuing doing what you know you need to do.  Needless to say, by the end of the school year, I had gained 20 pounds.  I hated it.  I didn't really know how it had happened but I did know that chili-cheese coneys certainly didn't help me keep the weight off!

I started educating myself on how to get healthier and was determined to try out for my beloved sports the next school year.  I learned how to eat better and ran daily.  By the end of the summer, I had lost that 20 pounds.  The school year began and I was back on the track team.  My self-esteem was back up.

The next time I would really have a struggle with my weight would be after I had my kids.  I know...who doesn't!  Nevertheless, I knew I could get the weight off because I had done it once.  I joined Weight Watchers and got active.  By the time my son was a year old, I had lost all the weight.  My body wasn't "perfect" in my eyes but I was at least comfortable in my own skin.

Fast forward about five years, two failed marriages later, working full-time, going to school full-time, on my third marriage, and not giving much thought to my health.  We come to Thanksgiving, November 2006.  I am approximately (I avoided the scales but this was the last I had weighed) 189 pounds and wearing a size 16 pants.  I suffered from constant lower back pain so intense it took my breath away when I lay in bed at night.  I couldn't lay flat on my back because the pain was too much.  I also had a sharp shooting pain through the socket of my right hip.  This hurt me mostly when I was on my feet for more than an hour at a time.
This is when I had found myself crying in the department store.  I had let myself go and I was unhappy.  I was unhappy in my marriage, with myself, with my career.  This was unacceptable.  I wasn't sure how I had let it all happen but I knew I could do something about it.

I took back control of my life.  I dusted off my Weight Watchers tools and bought Slim in 6 (home fitness program by Beachbody). I worked hard despite still raising two kids, supporting a non-working husband through college, going to college full-time myself, while working full-time.  I didn't have a lot of time to squeeze in a workout but it was important to me, so I made the time.  If I couldn't manage 30 minutes a day to take care of myself, how could I manage to take care of my family for 16+ hours per day?

I lost 20 pounds and hit a plateau.  I began running again.  Boy, was that painful and certainly not pretty!  It hurt and I couldn't run even a quarter mile without feeling like someone was choking the life out of me!  My knees hurt, my ankles hurt, my hips hurt...but I was determined to get better.  I knew if I could get the weight off, I wouldn't hurt anymore.  This pain I felt was only temporary.  Still, I could not lose anymore weight.

This is when my husband, at the time, saw the P90X infomercial.  He had been wanting to gain muscle.  He was one of those freak shows who had a hard time gaining weight at all.  I did my research, as I always do.  They offered a 100% money back guarantee.  You can't find this on workout programs you buy in the store!  We bought the program and began it right away.  The only thing I noticed about it right off was the amount of food the nutrition guide had me eating.  It was enough for my husband but I could not cram all that food down if I wanted to!  My solution was to simply eat what I could but still follow the program.

Finally, I began losing weight again...and fast!  By the end of the first 90 days, admittedly I did not follow to a T, I had lost another 30 pounds for a total of 50 pounds lost in a year. 

I felt so sexy and great about myself.  This was despite the fact that during that first round my marriage came to an end.  Staying focused on my fitness and health kept me sane during that horrible ordeal.  I was 137 pounds and a size 4-6.  I couldn't remember being that size in high school!

Then, my kids and I moved so I could be closer to work and have more time with them.  The move through my routine upside down.  I got off track and was missing workouts.  At first, it was just a couple of days a week.  Then, before I knew, it a month had gone by and I hadn't worked out.  I also started eating junk again.  

When my kids weren't home, I didn't know what to do with myself.  I didn't know how to be alone.  I came to the realization that I didn't know who I was as a woman and an individual.  My whole life had been wrapped up in my husband and my kids.  I was terrified and depressed.  I gained back 20 pounds inside of six months.

The new year began, and as most do, I set my resolutions.  No more crying, no more feeling sorry for myself, no more being lonely and seeking companionship anywhere I could find it, no more eating myself into a deeper depression.  I picked myself up, held my head high, and became determined, once again, regain control of my life.

At 160 pounds, I dusted off my P90X program and nutrition guide and got to work!  My gawd it was difficult!  Yes, the program was, of course, but the getting back on track with what I put in my mouth was the hardest part!  I came to crave sugar again.  I craved all those things that were horrible and not nutrient dense.  However, I knew I had to get over it.  For goodness sake, I quick smoking!  I could certainly overcome food addictions!

I struggled with the nutrition.  I struggled with the workout routines.  I struggled giving into exhaustion and missing workouts.  I struggled and struggled and struggled.  However, by Thanksgiving of this year, I had finally lost about 15 pounds and was doing sooo much better.  We were eating so much healthier and I had kicked most of the cravings I was having.  Every now and then, I would allow us a "free" meal night in which we ate whatever we wanted.  I would indulge in some of my old faves life snack cakes.  Much to my surprise, pleasant surprise, they tasted horrible!  I couldn't stand how sweet they were.  They had become completely unsatisfying to me!  This was a VERY good thing!  Now, I need to kick the soda habit, then caffeine altogether!

I began doing Insanity the beginning of November 2010.  I was three weeks in and got a head cold.  I was down for a week.  Determined as I was to NOT miss a workout, I started the program over the beginning of December.  Again, I struggled.  I was still not feeling 100% and was still giving into being tired and using that as an excuse to miss workouts.  Instead of skipping altogether, however, I did what I could and missed at most 4 days in a row.  The beginning of the year, 2011, I started the program over and added P90X Lean.  I still have struggles.  It is winter and with every winter I fight colds that linger for months.  I have come accept this and work through it despite not feeling 100%.  Every time I do a workout when I don't feel like it, I have a great sense of accomplishment and feel so empowered and more determined to succeed and get the body I want!

I have just completed my first 30 days of Insanity.  I missed a total of 4 workouts.  I have missed more P90X workouts but I don't sweat it because both programs are intense alone and I am doing them together.  I gained 3 pounds during my first month of Insanity but I lost 3 inches and 1.5% body fat in total.  This means my gain was lean muscle.  I'm perfectly okay with that!

Why don't you join me and let's "bring it" and "dig deeper" together?  It is so much more fun and easier to be successful when you have a partner...or a few!  Join Beachbody's virtual gym and workout with me.  Click here

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Homemade vs. McDonald's: Fruit & Maple Oatmeal

As I did with the "fruit & yogurt parfait," I wanted to see just how healthy this offering was.  While definitely far more healthy than other alternatives on the menu, I want to show that it is still less expensive and healthier to just make it at home.

Here is the nutrition information for McDonald's "Fruit & Maple Oatmeal."

As list on
At a glance, this doesn't look too bad.  Allow me to draw your attention to a couple of specific items.

Sodium: 160mg
Sugars: 17g

Now, let's look at homemade.

As provided by the nutrition calculator
Again, at a glance, it looks comparable, right?  Let's take a look a those same two items.

Sodium: 33mg
Sugars: 5g

That's a difference of 127mg in sodium and 12g in sugar...for one meal!

The ingredients above are for the homemade oatmeal.  Everything is organic except for the maple syrup.  Organic honey can be easily substituted for the syrup without adding too much to the sugars.  In these ingredients, what you see is what you get.  No added chemicals, colors, or flavors.

Now, let's look at McDonald's list of ingredients.

As provided by
Let's see what all they added.

Oatmeal: food starch-modified, salt, natural flavor (plant source), barley malt extract, caramel color
Diced Apples: calcium ascorbate (a blend of calcium and vitamin C to maintain freshness and color)
Light cream: sodium phosphate, datem, sodium stearoyl lactylate, sodium citrate, carrageenan.

Homemade doesn't have any of those chemicals!  It took me 10 minutes tops to make this oatmeal for three, including dicing the apples.  If we are honest with ourselves, we all have 10 minutes to cook a hot, healthy meal for our families.  You'll spend less than $.50 per serving and save hundreds in future medical expenses.

I mean, really, how awesome does this look!?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Making Snow Ice Cream

My kids were dying to make snow ice cream since it started falling Tuesday.  A drift settled a foot up our side garage door.  The kids only needed to open the door and scoop to find good clean snow!

They were so excited, they grabbed the biggest bowl we have (I usually use it to dole out candy at Halloween) and scooped it full!

They were so proud of themselves.  They go to work right away on the mixing.  I just knew if I didn't "assist" they would end up with watered down vanilla-flavored sugar milk!  I quickly hobbled (whole other story) to their side!  

Sissy mixed as I poured (quite the feat after shoveling that crap for an hour and 45 minutes).  

Bubba came in from a hard day's play on the Wii, just in time to taste-test!  He worked hard on watching to make sure sissy mixed thoroughly.  

After some careful mixing, pouring, and taste-testing, we finally had our snow ice cream.  We put the bowl in the freezer so it could refreeze (I'm sure we could have saved the energy & just sat the bowl back outside, but who knows what critters might decide to taste-test, too, or add an additional ingredient or two!  

This will go great with the chocolate chip cookies sissy made yesterday!  



I read something this morning in the book "Failing Forward" by John C. Maxwell.  In chapter 5, he talks about accepting responsibility for our own mistakes.  By accepting the responsilibity, and not blaming others or things, we can finally learn from and move beyond the mistakes we make.

He offered the following acronym to help keep mistakes in perspective:

Messages that give us feedback about life.
Interruptions that should cause us to reflect and think.
Signposts that direct us to the right path.
Tests that push us toward greater maturity.
Awakenings keep us in the game mentally.
Keys that we can use to unlock the next door of opportunity.
Explorations that let us journey where we've never been before.
Statements about our development and progress.

Apply this to the mistakes in your life.  Learn what you can from the mistakes.  Grow your character and move on.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Kid Approved: 100-Calorie Whole Wheat Corn Bread

Low fat, low calorie and exceptionally yummy!  A delicious compliment to any soup, stew, chili, or beans.  My daughter said she could not tell the difference between this corn bread and the old recipe I used to use from Better Homes & Gardens.  My son said it tastes better!

Be sure to refrigerate or freeze leftovers.  The applesauce will spoil despite being baked.

1 c. yellow corn meal
1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1/2 c. unbleached white flour
1 T + 2 t. (6 packets) Truvia
1 T. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1 c. skim milk
1/3 c. unsweetened applesauce
2 large egg whites

Preheat oven to 400 F.
Grease 8-inch baking pan.

Combine corn meal, flour, splenda sugar blend, baking powder and salt in medium bowl. Combine milk, oil, and egg in a small bowl mix well. Add milk mixture in flour mixture, stir just until blended. Pour into pan.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until wooden toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Serve warm.

For muffins spoon batter into 10 to 12 paper lined cup filling 2/3 full.  Bake in a preheated oven at 400 for 15 minutes. 

Nutrition Information:  Calories 93, Fat 1g, Sodium 220mg, Carbs 21g, Sugars 0g, Protein 4g

100- Calorie Ham & Beans (Slow Cooker)

This is a must-have on a cold, winter's day!  Pair it was warm corn bread for a complete meal.

Makes approx. 8 (1 cup) servings, including juices

2 c. dry pinto beans
8 oz. diced ham
3 quarts water
1 T. dried marjoram
1 t. dried thyme
1/4 t. ground black pepper
1 dried bay leaf

Add dry beans to crock-pot or bowl.  Cover generously with water and let soak over night.

Drain and rinse beans.  Return to crock-pot and cover with water (approx. 3 quarts - enough to cover & still have room for juices after cooked).  Add diced ham and seasonings.

Cook on low 10-12 hours, or high 5-6 hours, until beans are tender.

Serve with whole wheat corn bread.  Be sure to discard the bay leaf.

Freeze leftovers for those busy nights when you forget to plan ahead!

Nutrition Information: Calories 97, Fat 1g, Sodium 360mg, Carbs 2g, Sugars 1g, Protein 5g

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Eat Clean Make Ahead Beef Stew

With a little bit of prep the night before, you can set & forget this great stew and warm your body the next night.  Pair with a great whole wheat dinner roll.

Makes 16 (1 cup) servings

2 lbs. lean top sirloin steak, cut into 1-1/2 inch cubes
1/2 c. unbleached flour
3 T. extra virgin olive oil
5 c. diced potatoes
1/2 large yellow onion
4 c. diced carrots,
2 c. diced celery
4 cloves garlic, minced
46 oz. no sugar added vegetable juice
1 t. dried basil, crushed
1 t. thyme, crushed

Heat half of the oil in a large non-stick skillet.  Add half of the beef to a bowl or bag with the flour.  Toss to coat thoroughly.  Remove beef from bag or bowl, shaking off excess flour, and add to skillet.  Cook until browned.  Set aside.  Repeat with the remaining half of the beef.

Layer slow cooker with potatoes, onion, carrots, celery, garlic, basil, and thyme.  Add beef to the top and pour vegetable juice over all.  Cook on low for 10-12 hours.

Nutrition Information: Calories 182, Fat 5g, Sodium 107mg, Carbs 20g, Sugar 6g, Protein 15g

100-Calorie Easy Whole Wheat Dinner Rolls

Homemade bread, especially dinner rolls, brings that special, home cooked feeling to just about any meal.  These "no need to knead" rolls are simple to prepare and have a delightful rustic flavor.  If desired, brush a bit of beaten egg over the dough before baking for a rich, golden brown color.

Makes 12 Dinner Rolls
Serving size: 1 roll

1 1/4 c. whole wheat flour
2.5 t. Truvia
1/2 t. salt
1 package active dry yeast
1 c. warm (105 to 115 F) skim milk
3 T. unsalted butter
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 c. all-purpose unbleached flour

Preheat oven to 400F. 

To get started, make sure that all ingredients are at room temperature.  Put whole wheat flour, Truvia, salt and yeast into a large bowl and stir well.  Add milk, butter and egg and beat with a spoon until smooth.  Add all-purpose flour and mix until fully incorporated and batter is smooth.  Cover bowl and set aside in a warm spot to let rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

Meanwhile, lightly spray a 12-muffin tin with non-stick spray and set aside.

Stir the batter gently to deflate it.  Spoon even amounts of the dough into each cup of the prepared muffin tin and set aside in a warm spot until the dough has risen just over the top of the muffin tins, about 1 hour more.

Bake rolls until golden brown and cooked through, 15-20 minutes.

Nutrition Information: Calories 108, Fat 2g, Sodium 137mg, Carbs 19g, Sugar 0g, Protein 4g

A Great No Cook Snack Under 100 Calories & Under $1

This quick low-calorie dip is great for an afternoon snack or as a party appetizer.  It is great paired with fresh veggies or baked pita chips


Serving size: 2 Tablespoons
Makes 2 cups: 16 (2 tablespoon) Servings

1 (15 oz.) can no-sodium chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
1/4 c. fresh lemon juice
3 T. tahini (pureed sesame seeds - found with nut butters)
1/2 t. salt
2 t. extra-virgin olive oil, for garnish
1/8 t. paprika, for garnish

Place a strainer over a bowl and drain the chickpeas; reserve 1/4 cup of the captured liquid.

In the work bowl of a food processor, place the lemon juice, tahini, garlic, and salt.  Process until combined.  Add the drained chickpeas and the reserved liquid.  Process until very smooth, scrapping down the sides of the work bowl once or twice or as needed.  Taste and add more lemon juice if desired.  (The hummus can be stored in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.)

For a single snack, place 2 tablespoons of the hummus in a small bowl.  Drizzle with 1/8 teaspoon olive oil and sprinkle a pinch of paprika over it.  Serve with 3 pita chips or a fresh carrots, cut into sticks.

To serve a crowd, transfer the hummus to a small serving bowl.  If desired, use the back of a spoon to make a shallow well in the surface of the hummus; pour in the olive oil.  Sprinkle the top with the paprika.  Serve with pita chips or fresh veggies.

Nutrition Information: Calories 39, Fat 1g, Sodium 118mg, Carbs 6g, Sugars 0g, Protein 2 g

Recipe from Jillian Michaels's "The Master Your Metabolism" cookbook