Tag Archives: Food

Baby Steps Forward

MomandSonAfterRun

Enjoying an after run treat, with one of my favorite running partners, my son! I am thankful I can run with my children and model healthy living for them! My weight loss journey is good for my whole family.

Today I went running for the first time in almost a month.  It was a slowly, short and easy kind of run with one of my favorite running partners, my son.  As we ran along a new path in our new hometown, I felt calm and at peace.  I haven’t felt this way in a long time.  

Moving for the second time in a  year has upset so many aspects of my life right now.  My day-to-day schedule is inconsistent.  Workouts, eating healthy, spending quality time with my family, and my writing time are all out of whack. I thought once we finally moved all our belongings to one place, I would settle into my old healthy habits.  It didn’t happen.  Instead it became:

*Unpacking one day was empowering.  The next  day it was overwhelming.

*Taking a walk was the start of a new exercise routine.  It was not.

*Cooking from scratch one night was great.  It was not a regular activity.

*One writing session was the path back to my blog and novel.  That path was ignored until today.

*Now that the scale is unpacked, I’ll start using it.  It’s still gathering dust in my new bathroom.

If this happened instead of my actual goals, why does one day of running make me believe that I find my way back to my healthy lifestyle?  Because I finally acknowledged that I need to really want to change.  I accept the fact that I need to take baby steps to get back to the place I am healthiest and happiest.

In the first year of my gastric sleeve surgery, the weight flew off.  It took a lot of mental work, but physically I had the help of my small stomach.  I was making leaps with my weight loss.  In the following years I was still making large strides with the addition of regular exercise.  I crave the accolades of running my first half marathon and successfully learning strength training skills.  Tangible results are addicting and I think I’m feeling the crash of not having regular successes that are measured by pounds, inches, and race results.

If I really committed I could be back there.  If I tracked my food or did an elimination diet again, the pounds would drop off.  If I signed up for another half marathon or finally set up a home gym like I promise to do every year I’d be back in better shape.

Oh, I know I can do all this.  I’ve set big goals and succeeded.  What’s holding me back?

THE PRESSURE

The thought of food journaling, following an elimination diet, and a strict exercise routine overwhelms me.  Perhaps it’s because I have so many other responsibilities that I feel like adding a rigid regimen to my life is too much to handle.

Of course part of me thinks I should just wait for three weeks until my kids are in school and follow a more disciplined lifestyle.  When the kids are in school, I’ll have more time to do all those things I could do to lose weight again and tone and strengthen my body.  But for me, promising to start later is an invitation to lapse into bad habits. It could turn into a “ It’s like a last hurrah, the last meal before death row, the last party as single and/or childless woman” kind of time in my life.  I would make these last three weeks a time to eat mindlessly and lounge around.  For me, it’s time wasted and I never feel any better when I give up control of living healthy.

So instead of saying I’ll live better in three weeks, I am going to take baby steps which include:

*Running to clear by mind, not for distance or pace.  My mind and body were clear and revitalized after running with my son today.  I just enjoyed his company and the beauty of one of the many new running places I have in my new hometown.

*I am making protein a priority in all of my meals.  I am still dealing with low iron levels and I can tell when I don’t eat properly as my body and mind don’t function as well as they can.  

*I’m slowly getting back to cooking meals from scratch and this time I’m including my children.  It’s important for me to model good habits and cooking is an easy one to share with them.  I think they’re going to be better cooks than me!

*Making simple adjustments to eating habits like limiting restaurant meals and dropping a tablespoon of creamer from my coffee is actually easy to do.  I don’t feel deprived when I do this.  It’s just as  easy to fall back into good routines as it is into bad ones.

*Writing when it strikes me and letting things go like laundry and unpacking the last remaining boxes.  Now I don’t mean I plan to neglect things like feeding my children or picking my husband after work, but some things can wait, especially when I don’t have a set writing time right now.

It’s been tough to admit I have slipped this year.  It’s embarrassing to admit I am struggling once again.  But I am owning it.  With the help of baby steps, I can get back to the lifestyle that makes me feel best both physically and mentally.  Baby steps will help me back to where I want to be and will enable me to continue my journey Down the Scale…

What’s In, What’s Out:  Elimination Diet & Training Update

Jen April 2017

A month after my elimination diet and new workout routine, I’m feeling strong! I’ve been on this weight loss journey for almost four years, and I’m happy to share that it keeps getting better!

Yes, I did it.  I survived a month on an elimination diet .  I managed to do this while starting a new workout schedule with a personal trainer.  Besides surviving and losing some weight, what are the results of the diet and training?  Here’s what I’ve learned:

*For a month, I avoided wheat, dairy, almonds and sugar.  Now that the month is over I’m adding a new food group for just three days and then waiting two more days to see if I can note any reaction.  So far, I added back in wheat.  The only response I’ve noticed is a bit of gas.  Not very ladylike perhaps, but not the worst reaction.  Will I keep wheat in my diet?  Maybe on occasion, but I didn’t particularly miss it.  When I reintroduced wheat-laden foods, I realized most of them weren’t healthy or particularly enjoyable.  I eat crackers mindlessly and that’s not good.  I stopped eating toast with peanut butter as a snack and switched to apple slices and sunflower butter.  As I test the foods I show a sensitivity to, I plan to be more mindful of how healthy that food is and if I really like it.

*Reading labels isn’t so bad.  In the beginning of the diet, I was thoroughly annoyed that I had to read every food label for items like sugar and almonds.  It made me realize, especially with sugar, that there are ingredients in foods that really aren’t necessary.  Bacon without sugar is just as good, if not better than bacon made with sugar.  I plan to keep buying sugar-free bacon as well as the vegan Caesar salad dressing I discovered.  If I keep sugar as just a “sometime food” as opposed to an everyday food, I know I’ll continue to feel better.

*Making meals from scratch is getting easier.  To eliminate sugar from my diet, I found it easy to make some foods instead of buying prepared foods.  Yes, it takes more work to make meatloaf than to throw a preseasoned meat in a crock pot, but I got into the hang of it.  My Pinterest food page has more recipes for me to draw from.  I’m still searching for new recipes, but I’m more confident in my cooking skills.

*I feel a bit like a cavewoman with the meat I’m eating, but that’s a good thing.  Since my iron was at 2 when the range is 10 to 232, I knew I needed to eat more iron in addition to taking supplements.  While I didn’t follow through on my nutritionist’s suggestion of adding liver to my meatloaf, I did eat more red meat than in the past.  I’m happy to share in a month my iron went up to an 8.  While it’s improving I did have my first IV iron infusion this past weekend.  It was really easy actually and I didn’t have any reaction.  I’m going for a second one later this week and we’ll see what happens from there.  My symptoms of itchy skin and fatigue are gone, so unless eating a certain food bothers me when I reintroduce it, I think my low iron levels were causing them.

*An elimination diet is more than just finding out which foods are causing issues, it helps reset your eating habits.  For me, this past month was a good reminder that I need to eat mindfully.  Making better choices like eating less processed foods and more whole foods is making me feel better, I’m sure.  Also, even if I’m eating healthy foods, I need to watch the amount.  Macadamia nuts are better than chips, but they still have calories, so you can’t eat them mindlessly. This month has been a bit of reset to my old ways of eating after I had gastric sleeve surgery and with my four-year anniversary two months away, it’s been a good reminder of how I need to eat to continue to be healthy.

*Along with the diet, I began working out with my trainer with the initial goal of improving my running.  Yes, it’s improved my running!  When I first started, H., had me run 1.5 miles for a baseline.  I ran that same 1.5 miles last Friday and I’m excited to report I did it without walking.  As I’ve mentioned in many blogs, I’ve been a runner/walker since I started my weight loss journey.  And let me say that I think there is nothing wrong with doing intervals.  If you’re moving, you’re doing great!  For me, I wanted to improve my pace and see if I could improve my stamina.  After a month of twice weekly workouts and a day or two of working out on my own, I’m excited to say I ran that same 1.5 miles without walking and beat my original time by 1:09 minutes.  I will never forget when I started the Couch to 5K program, my pace was 18:30 minutes per mile.  Four years later, my new pace is 12:07 per mile.  My body can do more than I ever thought it could!

*This brings me to one of the best parts of increasing and improving my exercise routine:  I believe I can do more.  I know that it was my mental block that was part of the reason I couldn’t run without taking a break.  While I’m working on my muscle memory (my body getting used to working out harder), I’m also retraining my brain to be more positive and open to changes.  I’m learning to trust my body when I exercise.  When my head and body work together, I can accomplish my exercising goals.  

So after a month of “dieting” and a new exercise routine, I am excited with all the changes I’ve made.  Sugar and wheat are mostly out, but in on occasion.  Mindful eating is in, but mindless eating is out.  Cooking is in, but prepackaged food is out as much as possible.  Exercise and working with a trainer is most definitely in, but doubting my abilities is out.  As crazy as this month as been, I’m glad I followed the elimination diet and new exercise routine.  I feel healthy, empowered, and ready to keep going Down the Scale…

Jen April 2017 Part 2

With the spring weather approaching, I’m excited to have my sunroof open and the ability to run outside! My weight loss journey continues as Spring arrives!

Not Just a Month, But a Lifetime

Jen Week 1 Elimination Diet

Here I am, finishing up week one of my elimination diet! I feel strong and healthy! New foods and more exercise are always part of my continuing gastric sleeve journey!

“Not Just a Month, but a Lifetime”

By that statement you might think I mean that my elimination diet feels like it’s lasting forever. In some way it does feel that way as I’m missing the convenience and flexibility of eating foods with wheat, sugar, dairy, and almonds. What I’ve really come to realize is the I need to think of this diet as a lifetime change. By that, I hope to keep many of the healthy changes I’ve made so far this week. Some of them include:

*I’m focusing on eating protein first. When I first started eating non-liquid foods after my gastric sleeve surgery, I always ate my protein first followed by vegetables. Now that wheat is off my list, I am making protein my first choice in my meal. Not only is this helping me by giving me more energy, I’m sure my iron levels will show an increase on my next blood test.

*There are less preservatives, sugar, and sodium in my diet. By taking the time to read food labels, I’m now aware of what really goes into food. Well, if I could understand what some of the words included in the food are, I would know if there were good or bad. If an ingredient has more than four syllables, my guess is it isn’t good for you. I could be wrong, but I’ve decided this month to buy foods in which I actually know what the ingredients mean. There is one exception but I’ll talk about that later.

*I’m not frantically trying to figure out what I’m going to cook for each meal. I wish I was one of those people who meal plan and cook on a Sunday, but I’m not. With my kids and husband’s ever-changing schedules, I don’t always know when and who will be home for dinner. So, each morning I decide what to make for dinner based on what I know that morning. Tuesday is always Taco Tuesday thanks to the Lego Movie, but every other day, the meals change. Fortunately, I have a number of dishes that I can draw from based on the amount of time I can cook that day. My Pinterest board is filling up with more healthy recipes.

*I have more energy…finally! After wondering why I was so tired for so long, I finally feel energetic for most of the day! Instead of trying to keep my eyes open past 9 PM, I can make it until 10 PM. OK, so that makes me still sound old, but some days you just enjoy these small victories. I’m sure the new vitamins and iron supplements I’m taking are part of the reason I feel better, but I know eating better is a big part as well.

*I can exercise more! With better fuel and vitamins in my body, I am able to workout longer and better. Now, I’m sure working out with my trainer twice a week is a large part of my increased athleticism. Having a professional guide you, motivate you and push you is well worth the cost and time, in my opinion.  And by my increased interest and commitment to working out, this is a new way of living that I plan to keep!

With all these great changes, what in the world would I not want to keep from this elimination diet? Here you go:

*First, I would say coffee, but as I mentioned in my post about day one, I decided not to give it up. I tried for the first few days to drink it with cashew milk and stevia, but it wasn’t the same. It wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t particularly good either. So I broke down and went back to my non-daily sugar-free creamer. Yes, the one with words that are too long. Honestly, if this is my only vice in life, I’m good with it. Eventually, I’m willing to try other sugar alternatives, but for now this creamer makes me happy. Silly, I know, but right now this is my biggest vice, so I’m OK with it.

*All right, I’ll be honest and say that sugar-free non-dairy creamer is probably not my biggest vice. My love of Starbucks would be my worst vice. Now, if I was buying pastries or bagels along with my espresso, that would be really bad, especially when I know how great I currently feel without large doses of fat, sugar and wheat in my diet. I broke down on day three of the elimination diet and drank a tall soy latte. The only reason this drink breaks the rules of my diet is that Starbuck’s uses vanilla soy which has cane sugar in it. This is my big treat about three days a week. Yes, it might seem ridiculous, but I really enjoy lattes.  I really love grabbing one while I’m out running errands or drinking one while I write outside my home. Yes, I know they make regular coffee, but I don’t particularly care for it. I want my latte and I’m going to keep getting it..no pastries or bagels, though.

*I can’t wait to eat at a restaurant again! As a family, we only eat out once a week, but it’s a nice break from cooking for me and it gives us a chance to focus on our time as a family without home distractions. I’m sure I could eat out, but honestly I believe it will be a pain to frantically search the menu for food without dairy, sugar, wheats or almonds. Choosing better dishes that are protein and vegetable centric will be my new goal when we return to dining out.

Now, some of you might question why I couldn’t give up a few things like coffee, creamer, and Starbucks for just a month. True, in the scheme of life it’s not that long to remove these foods from my diet. But it was making me cranky, irritated, and I was focusing on what I couldn’t have instead of the what I could eat. I actually have a wide range of foods I can eat and I’m discovering new foods like sunflower butter and paleo-style meatloaf that I love. I have decided that I need to concentrate on what I can do easily and forever, not just for a month. I keep going back to the thought that I’m working on a lifestyle change, not just a month change. Just like I realized that going Down the Scale wasn’t a “before/after situation” but a continuous journey, this elimination diet is helping me focus on a healthy lifestyle permanently!

Cooking and Weight Loss Go Hand in Hand

I love cooking with my kids!  And maybe one day, I'll get them to chop the onions!

I love cooking with my kids! And maybe one day, I’ll get them to chop the onions!

You learn many things when you start a weight loss journey. Of course you learn about exercising and eating right. You learn about taking care of your head and heart as well as your body. One of the more practical things I learned over the past three years is to cook. Yes, I could cook before my gastric sleeve surgery, but I’ve realized that I’m actually a better cook now than I was before I lost weight.

I can definitely attribute some of my adult weight gain to my cooking skills…well, my lack there of cooking skills. I claimed it was easier and cheaper just to get take-out or buy frozen meals since I lived on my own. I lived so close to quick and cheap take-out restaurants so it was convenient as well.

When I moved in with my husband, we weren’t the best at cooking at home either. Occasionally we would be inspired to cook new foods, but most of the time we just made pasta dishes since they were quick and simple. And when we added two children to the family, cooking became another chore, another necessity to keep the kids happy and heathy. Take out food, frozen meals, and once the kids could sit at a restaurant without too much damage, eating out were just the easiest ways to eat.

Now I can’t say that post gastric sleeve surgery meant I was suddenly the next Julia Child. For the first few months, food was a chore and I wasn’t really interested in expanding my cooking skills. And while I did start to cook at home more often, it’s really been the past year that I’ve made more of an effort. When I started to analyze labels and food costs I decided to make a change. I knew by cooking at home I would eat better, my family would eat better, and more importantly, I would set a better example for my children. How can I send them out into the world and expect them to cook on their own if I haven’t shown them?

So what am I cooking these days? Here are a few examples:

  • Crock pot meals are awesome! Really, there’s nothing better than to come home in the afternoon to the smell of a home cooked meal! Now, there is some prep work to making a crock pot meal like browning meat or chopping vegetables. Of course, there are recipes that are just a protein thrown in with a canned soup, but I avoid those since they’re full of sodium and not always the tastiest. Here are a few of my favorite meals:
  • The oven is also your friend! As much as I love my crock pot, I’ve found a number of easy meals to make in the oven. Some of my regulars are:
    • Crispy Chicken Thighs. These are boneless and skinless, but with just a bit of seasoning and olive oil, this recipe reminds me a bit of fried chicken. Not only is it healthier than fried chicken, it’s easier to make. https://www.pinterest.com/pin/269512358930672295/
    • Baked Fish. I admit I wasn’t a big fan of fish in the past. Once I realized that fish really is good for you and doesn’t have many calories, I became a convert. I still only like the meaty white fish, but it’s a start. I buy wild caught Mahi Mahi from Trader Joe’s and with just a little olive oil spray, seasonings, and lemon, it makes a great meal in less than 15 minutes.
    • Zucchini lasagna. First, let me say, this takes a bit of prep work. Sure, using pasta noodles instead of zucchini would make it easier, but I think the zucchini actually tastes better than pasta and, of course, it’s fewer calories! I’ve recruited the whole family to help me make this dish and that in itself makes it a fantastic meal! https://www.pinterest.com/pin/269512358930794427/
  • Prepared meals are a necessity, too! Listen, we all have days when dinner needs to be quick and easy. Here are a few meals that make my life a little easier some days:
    • Prepared salads are fast, easy and tasty. Trader Joe’s has a wonderful selection of salads, but you really need to read the labels. I always check the calories on each salad. Remember, salad doesn’t always equal healthy. Salad dressings and toppings can be full of fats, sugars, and calories. My current favorite is the Lemon Chicken & Arugula Salad. It’s a nice mix of flavors and only 300 calories for the whole package!
    • Pre-seasoned meats. While I mentioned earlier I’m not a big fan of crock pot meals made with canned soups, there are days I don’t have a lot of time to prep a meal. My go-to pre-seasoned meat is Trader Joe’s Cabernet Beef Pot Roast. It’s flavorful and we always have leftovers. Some days, you just need to let someone else do some of the work for you.

Again, I’m not a fancy cook by any means, but I’ve learned a few tricks to make my meals better:

  • Flavored salts go a long way to make food better. Almost every day I use Eatwell Farms flavored salts that I buy at our local farmers’ market. Rosemary salt goes on thinly cut pork chops while heirloom tomato salt is perfect on roasted vegetables. To add more flavor to baked fish, I use the lemon salt.
  • Switch things up! I admit that I get in a rut when it comes to cooking. I tend to do the same meals over and over. While it does make life easier, it also makes dinner boring. I’ve learned to mix things up; not every Tuesday needs to be Taco Tuesday. I also plan to change how we eat our favorite meals like fish. Baked fish is great, but why not make it into fish tacos?
  • Getting the whole family involved in cooking is fun. Of course my kids love to bake cookies every Christmas, but I finally noticed that they enjoy cooking all year round. My kids love to help in the kitchen and I’ve learned that they can do more than I realized. Somehow I always end up being the one to chop onions, but they like to chop other vegetables and brown the meats on the stove. The zucchini lasagna has become a family meal from prep to cooking to eating!

Don’t get me wrong, we still enjoy the occasional take-out meal and restaurants. Who doesn’t? And sometimes you have to eat the best and quickest way you can that night. But now that I put effort into meal planning and recruited the best sous chefs, we have better meals. Learning to cook and appreciating healthy and tasty food is one of the best results of my healthier lifestyle. The fact that I am sharing this with my children is even better. I am thankful I can share this positive effect of my weight loss journey as I continue to go Down the Scale…

I love that the whole family takes part in cooking dinner.  Zucchini Lasagna is our current favorite!

I love that the whole family takes part in cooking dinner. Zucchini Lasagna is our current favorite!

My Happy Surroundings

Here I am with my writing practice inspirations:  my journal and coffee!

Here I am with my writing practice inspirations: my journal and coffee!

This past weekend I went to a writing seminar. Not only was I inspired to create a writing practice, I was reminded that I had already created a weight loss practice. It’s this routine that I developed after my gastric sleeve surgery that is keeping me healthy and happy.

The writing instructor shared many helpful and insightful writing information, but one hint he shared really struck home. He mentioned he liked to keep one of his favorite books on his desk when he writes. His favorite author inspires him. Sometimes he reads from the book to get ideas, but not to copy. It reminds him of different aspects of writing such as structure, word choice, etc. Surrounding himself with his inspirations and influences keeps him writing.

As he told this story, I realized I am already doing this with my weight loss journey. Since my surgery, I made the conscious effort to make my surroundings healthy. I believe it is one of the biggest reasons for my success. What are these positive things I surround myself with? The first is food. Out with the bad, in with the good. Soda, junk food, fatty food had to go.

No, I’m not an angel by any means. As I write, a pan of chocolate drizzled rice crispy treats are in my kitchen. They are leftovers from the ones my daughter took to a school event. Am I going to have one today? You bet! It’s a treat, not a regular food choice. The rest of the my food choices today will be healthy, especially when I know that large amounts of sugar make me ill. I am surrounded by better food so that what I choose now is what I truly want.

Exercise is another positive aspect of my life. When I don’t move, I am cranky. Trust me, I know I am. Even if I’m just walking my kids to school I am a happier woman. Now running is a passion. I’m still a solo runner, although I am getting closer to running, and hopefully chatting as I run, with friends. I really enjoyed the 5K races I completed. Even though I’m not running and talking with people during the race, I am inspired being with people who are putting themselves out there. Whether these people are competitive runners or determined walkers, they give me a sense of affirmative energy that I love. This is one of the reasons I signed up for another 5K race less than a month after my last race. When you find something that makes you happy, you keep reaching for it.

This leads me to the third thing that makes my surroundings healthy: choosing positive people to keep in my life. Naturally, I can’t control who I am in contact with 100% of the time. I have learned it’s OK to keep my interactions with negative people to a minimum when possible. I am a firm believer that positivity breeds positivity. When I’m with people who are interested in me, who encourage and support me, and see the light and humor in life, I feel better about myself. Hopefully I offer the same to my family and friends. I don’t believe a person needs to be perky and positive all the time, but if your first thoughts are always negative, how can you let in positivity? I continue to struggle with anxiety and depression and I know I always will since life is full of family drama, financial issues and just plain old unhappiness. I feel like I handle these struggles quicker and better because I have a positive, strong network in place to help me in my continuing weight loss journey.

I will take my writing instructor’s advice to surround my writing environment with things that inspire me. For me this means a cup of coffee, my journal and stacks of books that I love and ones I want to read. To lose weight and maintain my mental and physical health, I surround myself with good food, exercise and positive people. I plan to apply my positive weight loss environment method to my writing practice and hopefully other areas of my life. I look forward to a successful writing practice and healthy lifestyle as I continue to preserve my happy surroundings!