Tuesday, February 02, 2010

We're moving!

This blog has now moved over to a new site so please go find me there!


You should be re-directed to this site within the next 6 seconds. If not, please click over now.

Update your readers too please! Thanks!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Accomplishment takes hard work

I get really frustrated by people that don't grasp that life is hard and that hard work IS necessary to make their dreams come true. You know.. the people who think they are the victim and nothing ever goes their way. They think everyone is SO much better off than them. These people generally feel entitled as well to an "easy break" or to receive help from others. They want other people to feel bad for them because of their lack of success in one area or another of their life. And sure, there are people in this world that got the longer straw in the draw and have a pretty "easy" life.. but even the easy lives still have hard times and most of those people have to work for the things they want. I get very frustrated by those that feel entitled and feel like they DESERVE for people to give them things when they did nothing to deserve it (no matter what their status is in the class structure by the way.) I also feel frustrated when people who are bitter about their lives project these feelings onto you, because they feel like you have everything and you aren't appreciating their lack of having what you have.

I get frustrated because I don't have everything and I work really hard for the the things that I've accomplished (or have) in my life. I was raised in a household where rewards were given for hard work but were not given if you didn't accomplish the goal. My dad assigned us chores to do and we were to do these particular chores until we had "mastered" the chore and then could be relieved of the duty. I can't tell you how many nights I was SO frustrated because I would wash dishes and my dishes weren't clean enough for him. Glasses still had spots or bowls had residue on the outside of the bowl. But looking back, we didn't have a dishwasher and thus our dishes HAD to be clean by hand washing.. so he had a very valid point. We had the same attitude towards education. I was very self motivated, but my dad always wanted more for me. I would come home with a 94 on my report card and he would push me to make a 96 in the next six week period. There was never a question of IF I would go to college, it was always where will I go and what will I study. Every lesson that my dad taught me was how to be independent, and how to be self sufficient and how to do things for myself, rather than depend on someone else to do it for me.

I grew up in a very poor household, but looking back, I don't feel like I'm entitled to anything now. I knew growing up and (I know now) that I would only be rewarded if I worked hard and stayed focused. I'm not perfect and there have most likely been times that I have been a brat and felt like I deserved something I didn't actually deserve, but overall I really try push myself to work hard to see success. I push myself to achieve the "unattainable things in life" because I know that I can accomplish anything through hard work because my Dad taught me that lesson.

To be frank, I have been noticing some people in my life that DO feel entitled and play the victim card. These "victims" think people who "have everything" should give to them and when the people don't, people are spending too much time thinking about themselves. I started thinking about it and I didn't feel like I could relate. I felt angry because these "victims" don't do the things necessary to have success in their life. When they have to face a challenge to meet a goal, they complain about the struggles rather than focus on the GOAL. And then their goal gets pushed off because they complained about struggling rather than buckled down and just DID IT. 

And so I felt angry, threatened and frustrated that these "victims" don't take the necessary steps to "have everything". And I started to feel a little 'holier than thou' because damnit, I work for my goals and I'm NOT like these people. That is.. until I started thinking about my health journey. And then it hit me that I TOTALLY play the victim pretty often when it comes to weight loss. So I came down off my pedestal and really started to think about how I feel when I'm "doing the right things" regarding weight loss. Why is it that after 2-3 days of perfect eating and exercise I step on that scale and EXPECT the scale to have dropped 5 pounds? Why do I want to cry and give up when that scale actually shows the same weight or maybe even a pound up? I want to yell at that scale and say, "Scale how dare you say that number. Look at all the hard work I've done the past three days!" But in reality, three days is nothing. I didn't gain 80 pounds in three days did I? No, I gained 80 pounds in 6 years. I didn't even gain 5 pounds in 3 days, so why do I play that victim card and expect to be rewarded so soon for good work?

Sure, growing up I was rewarded for my hard work. But it didn't always happen immediately after I did this hard work. I didn't get rewarded for every day I woke up and went to school, did I? I didn't get rewarded when I scored an A on a quiz either. I DID get rewarded at the end of a six week period or the end of the year when ALL my good habits paid off and I made that A in that class. I have to view weight loss the way that I do school (because school is the one thing that I'm wholeheartedly committed to). In school I didn't make 100s on everything I turned in. I had bad days. But over time, the good days outweighed the bad and it paid off. I made that A. It's the same thing here folks. We will all slip up. We will all have bad days. But the more we are "present" and work hard, the more pay off we are ultimately going to see.

I know I have these type of revelations every so often, but really I feel like it's just a new way of approaching this journey. Since I've committed myself to healthy living for the rest of my life.. every now and then I need to be reminded of WHY I'm doing this. And I need to be reminded of WHAT the benefits are and sometimes that requires you to look at things a different way. I believe in hard work. I believe in setting goals. And I believe the only way to accomplish your goals is through hard work. This applies to my weight loss as well and I refuse to be the victim with weight loss. I refuse to feel entitled to lose weight. I also refuse to be upset when other's don't have to work as hard as I do to be thin. Thin does not mean healthy and that's something that often gets lost in my thought process.

So for right now, I'm going to view weight loss the same way as I do school. I'm going to remember it takes a little work every day and you won't always be rewarded for that work on a day to day basis. But, one day I WILL be rewarded and my hard work WILL pay off and I WILL accomplish the goals I have set for myself. And I will probably still be upset with those "victims" out there but I will not feel like a hypocrite because I'm committed to stop acting this way and to work hard for the things I want in life.

Do you believe in hard work?

Friday, January 22, 2010

School is in session

Many people have been asking me about how school is going, and I just want to say THANK YOU! I really appreciate everyone acknowledging and asking about how everything is going so far. That shows that I have support and it makes me feel stronger than ever!

School has been.. interesting to say the least. Honestly this week has been a whirlwind! I have been inundated with realizations and flashbacks to my college years that are both positive and negative. I thought I would share some of the silly, simple ones with you guys and then hit you with some of the larger, deeper realizations I have had this week.

Things I have realized this week:

1. I still love school supplies. Especially ones that are bright colored.

2. Buying the nicer school supplies IS worth the money (I realized this after I spent $12 on my spirals for the semester).

3. I am still very OCD about my school materials. Every class has a binder (with divider for each lab/chapter) and a spiral and they are color coordinated. I also do NOT want my books getting written in or pages crumbled (Already had to scold Matt a few times with my chem book.. just sayin').

4. I still like to snack when I study.

5. I still need something going on in the background (TV, music, snacking) while I'm studying - otherwise I fall asleep.

6. Community College is glorified high school.

7. Community College is NOT for me.

8. I would rather pay 3X the tuition to take a class at a 4 year university rather than a Community College.

9. I have already had a major fight with a Community College professor, which has probably skewed my view of Community College.

10. Everyone IN community college has a kid. WTF?

11. My Type A personality comes out to the extreme when I am involved in something I really care about.

12. I miss my old university and wish I was back there :(

13. I have to buy a parking permit even though I take online classes at my 4 year school, which is LAME.

14. I have thought, "No wonder I gained so much weight during college" about 15 times since Tuesday.

15. Going to my job is a complete waste of time now. I have better things to be doing.

16. I wish my job would fire me.

17. I'm not going to exercise unless I do it as soon as I get home from work. Studying, then exercising, then more studying isn't working.

18. I still like to take starbucks teas to class.

19. No wonder I went to starbucks twice a day during college.

20. I haven't been in a chemistry class in 8 years (imagine a subsequent breakdown after this realization).

21. My preferred attire for class is STILL a hoodie, flip flops and athletic pants.

As you can see, there have been some MAJOR adjustments this week. Here are a few of these in detail:

1. I have really felt at home with school. Granted, I am going to two different schools than my Alma Mater, but just being in the school setting is comforting to me. I feel my best and my most productive when it comes to school. I have also realized how much (and for how long) I have really hated my job based on how much effort I have put into school this week. My type A personality DEFINITELY is the strongest when I truly want or care about something. When I don't care, I put forth minimum to no effort.

2. I also have been relatively shell shocked by Community College (could you tell??). I knew that most of my instructors had the chance of being an adjunct and they would not all be a "Dr." But I was not prepared to be treated like I am in high school. I haven't been in high school for 8-9 years, and I like it that way. Perhaps the greatest shock was the lack of a course schedule on the first day. I got into a fight (via email) with one of my distance learning professors because she would not send us a schedule of due dates for the course. [The first day of school is my absolute favorite because you receive a syllabus with your entire semester laid out for you - right? I spend the rest of the class writing all these deadlines in my planner and color coding with a highlighter all the assignments, quizzes, papers and tests (dude, you wish I was kidding).] She accused me of being "stressed out" (LADY.. we are not even shaking the tail of stress right now.. just send me the schedule) and sent me the first "UNIT"'s (again high school?) schedule before she released it to the rest of the class. This schedule gets me through February.. great.

There also were two different policies stated on tests in the class. Since it's an online class, the tests should be online - right? Well in one area she said that, but in our class orientation she said that we had to go to campus to take them in the testing center. You should know, I don't care either way.. but I need to know ahead of time so I can take off work to go take the tests. When I emailed her about which one was correct, she replied with a very snide comment about how I needed to read the schedule she emailed me. So I replied right back with both policies she had stated and she later apologized and FINALLY answered my question. Also she asked the entire class to make note of any mistakes in the lessons and let her know. Really!?

It's been a world of difference between what I am used to (and what level of care I am currently receiving in my 4 year university classes) and what's going on at the good ole' CC. I do not like it. I have one more class I could take at a CC, but I am seriously going to try to take it at my 4 year school because I just can't handle it. In college, you should have the expectations of the class laid out on the first day, regardless of who your professor is and how organized they are. Perhaps I am spoiled, but this is simply my experience so far and maybe I've just been unlucky?

3. Other than that, I have been pleasantly surprised to feel alive again inside and to feel like my days have a purpose. Each class has a purpose as well and I really have to soak up the information, because it's a stepping stone for my future classes. This has been a very different experience than business school. Business school classes all teach you theories and the theories apply to ONE aspect of a business. But now, I'm in science classes. And we have labs, and we have to learn everything in this class before going to the next level and that's been a little weird for me. Perhaps the greatest example of this is my Chemistry class. I knew, going into this semester, that Chemistry would be my hardest class and I would have to study the most for it. But I never really considered the fact that I haven't been in Chemistry for 8 years and that the classes I took 8 years ago were a prerequisite for the class I'm in now. I spent the first 5-10 minutes of our night class this week having a panic attack in my head because I had NO idea what the guy was talking about. Let's just say, I forgot the periodic table even existed - let alone what everything on it means. Since I am taking O-Chem this summer and BioChem in the fall, I HAVE to do well in this class.

Luckily for me, my boyfriend is a Chem genius (read: he had a fantastic Chem teacher in high school and remembers everything from the class), so we spent about 2 hours the other night reviewing what I learned 8 years ago. I'm feeling much better now and I have to keep remembering myself that I can do ANYTHING I put my mind to. Also, I'm hoping to find a gigantic periodic table poster and hang it on my wall in my living room. My theory is the more I look at it, the more sense it will make? (again, you WISH I was kidding).

4. Everyone thinks I am crazy and I think those people are stupid. Seriously. I've had almost everyone in my life (except Matt) tell me at some point the past few weeks/months that I've put too much on my plate. People have questioned my sanity and I've just wanted to stick my middle finger in their face. I WILL make it out of this semester alive, and well, and knowledgeable and successful. And if you aren't capable of what I'm doing, don't do it. But I AM capable of it and if you don't believe me - sit back, shut your mouth and watch me. The past few weeks I have been so busy doubting myself because everyone's comments have blown up in my face and I'm so sick and tired of it. I put more thought into the decision to go back to school than I have anything else in my life. I used a rational head and I spent weeks planning everything, keeping in mind my own abilities. I know myself better than anyone else and therefore, no one else can tell me what I am capable or not capable of doing other than myself. So I just wanted to let it be known that I'm not entertaining anyone else's doubt about my schedule right now. Also, I'm clearly NOT bitter about this (right?).

I keep thinking of this quote that says (roughly): "If you want to accomplish what you've never accomplished, you have to do what you've never done." I keep remembering that before I decided to go back to school, I had never made a decision for myself without taking into considerations someone else's opinion. If I decided I wanted to really do something, I wouldn't do it without the support of my family and my friends. I have been living a life that was designed by the people around me rather than by myself. Sure, I had a part in the decision but I've only done things that are "approved". Do you know how many opportunities I've missed out on because of this?? So even if I hate Community College and I'm busy and I can't go out every weekend with my friends, I know these things because I found them out MYSELF. I didn't listen to anyone else when I made this decision so why would I listen to them now???

(Clearly this is a pep talk for myself that I thought you all would enjoy!)


That's really about it. I spend my days sitting at my desk thinking about school and all the stuff I have to do - and I spend my nights reading, doing assignments/labs and actually going to my Chemistry class and lab. It's definitely going to be a busy semester, but it's certainly do-able (no matter what anyone says to me). And most of all, it's worth it. Because I'm worth it and my dreams are attainable and I want it badly enough that I'll make the "impossible" sacrifices to make it happen!

Monday, January 18, 2010

It all changes tomorrow

The day has finally arrived, and that day is tomorrow. School starts.

I can't tell you how many feelings I've been experiencing lately. I'm excited and anxious, hopeful and worried and a bundle of other emotions that come at me out of no where approximately every 2 hours. The past 2-3 weeks have been, frankly, unbearable. I have been literally up and down with no rhyme or reason and the mood switches without any warning whatsoever. I've spent approximately 50% of the past 2-3 weeks crying, 25% planning and getting ready and the other 25% going about my other daily business. I have spent 100% of this time, in my head, imagining how everything will play out and that is not a good thing. It's making me crazy because I'm literally believing these made up scenarios about situations that will happen weeks and months from now are happening RIGHT NOW. It's caused me to take it out on others in my life and get into fights, to get worried and to become somewhat neurotic. I'm SO happy that this is all going to end tomorrow.

This exact minute, I'm feeling ready and confident and just want today to fly by as soon as possible. I'm not sure how long this feeling will last, but for now, I'm liking it. I'm very lucky, in that 4 of my 5 classes are online. 2 of these classes have already posted syllabi, assignments and information online and I've been able to access all of this. Luckily, these two classes that have posted all of this are the classes I am the most interested in, but will take the most work. I actually completed part of the first assignment in one of these classes yesterday and I have a rough idea of what my weekly school schedule (taking quizzes, studying, reading and completing assignments) will look like based on these two classes alone. You have no idea how comforted this makes me feel.

The part that I find interesting and a bit funny is that although I've been planning in my head and spending all this time thinking about how much work school is going to be (on top of my job and personal life), I never took the time to think about WHAT I would be doing. I imagined reading for class and going to my one night class - but I totally forgot about taking quizzes, or the fact that one of my classes has an at home lab where I have to conduct experiments in my kitchen each week. I didn't consider writing lab reports or doing online discussion posts for the classes. I have been so caught up in all the TIME it will take for school, but I never stopped to think about what I'd be doing. I just find that funny. But, I have to remember that I am going back for a science degree this time and my previous degrees are in business. A little different class structure, huh? In business classes, you really just read, take tests and write papers. I have completely forgotten the work that science classes require!

Alas, I am ready and excited. I don't mind spending time on these classes because I'm interested in the material. The material means something to me outside of my future career because I can (and want to) apply it to my current personal lifestyle. There were very few business classes I took that applied to my life directly, right now, and were something that I was interested in outside of a career. Don't understand what I mean? I was a finance major and I have always paid someone to invest my money for me. I think that explains it, don't you?

Seeing my schedule come together and knowing when the tests, quizzes and assignments are due is comforting to me. I feel like several people have questioned my ability to juggle 16 college hours with my full time job and my personal life. At first I was defensive and said I could do it. But as time has passed, I have let these comments affect me more and more. I have had countless mental breakdowns in the past few weeks about IF I could do this and HOW I would find the time and WHEN I would be able to spend time with Matt. I have lost faith in my ability to schedule, plan and delegate tasks in my life. Seeing all the individual deadlines for these classes helps me tremendously. It breaks down these large goals (finish this semester, get As in my classes) into smaller, more attainable goals. If all I am focusing on is finish this lab by Thursday and comment on people's results by Saturday, write the lab report by Monday - it makes the goal more achievable. I have always done this with my personal goals (breaking a monthly goal into tasks to accomplish each day), but doing that with school is so difficult since you do not manage the coursework. Having these syllabi allows me to see the individual work that needs to be done over the next few months and restores my confidence that I can do this.

There are still a few loose ends to tie up, but I will be in the full swing of the semester by this weekend (save my in-person lab Monday nights). I have my first assignment due this Thursday, followed by another deadline Saturday night and a quiz on Sunday. Knowing things are truly going to pick up this quickly and as of tomorrow I am officially in school again takes a huge weight off my shoulders. There are no more internal struggles about 'if this is the right decision for my life'. There are no more arguments with those that think I'm making a mistake. There is a new direction to my life and every single day for the next 3.5 years will be working towards one common goal - becoming a RD. This all starts tomorrow and I am hoping to ride this wave of pure excitement and joy well into tomorrow and go from there.

From now on, the question of "Can I do this?" is gone and replaced by the statement - "I am doing it, so watch me succeed." I have been waiting for MONTHS for this moment and I'm so happy it's finally here.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

How to: Eat healthy when away from home – Pt 1

One of the goals I made for 2010 was to work on my blog. And one of my big plans for my blog (and the things I enjoy writing about the most) are blog series posts generally involving how-tos or tips and tricks.

Today I'm going to introduce a few things to you. The first is a tag on some of my posts that say: Tips and Tricks. This will allow you to easily search through my posts to find the informational blogs. While I won't do it today, at some point I am going to filter through all my tags and reduce the number of tags I actually have so it's even easier to find stuff. But that will have to wait for another day. I also will go back and back tag some old posts with this new Tips and Tricks tag so you can go back and find those too if you are newer to my blog.

Anyways, the second thing I'm going to introduce is a new blog series - Eating away from home. Since I'm about to start school and have night class and labs twice a week, I'm obviously going to have some dietary changes. The major change will be eating away from home the nights I have class or lab. The second change is making sure that I am prepared with breakfast and lunch for work the day after my class. But, we'll go more into that later. I'm going to share recipes, tips and show you what I'm doing when I'm eating away from home during this time period.

To introduce this I'm going to start with two introductory posts - one on eating at a restaurant and another on eating "convenience foods" at school or work (or even home) when you are short on time and can't make yourself a full meal.

Part 1 - Surviving the restaurant experience.

I think eating at a restaurant is one of the most stressful things about being a healthy lifestyler and watching what you eat. The only MORE stressful thing is probably eating at someone else's house where you don't have options, because at least in a restaurant you can choose from a variety of selections. But, nonetheless eating out was very traumatic for me when I started my healthy journey. I used to view it as a cheat time and that I could order anything I wanted because "it's a special time" or "I don't really like salad and that's all they have that is healthy", etc. etc. But what I've learned over time that eating out is everything that YOU make it to be and if you want to be healthy, it's actually pretty easy.

Now, there is a variety of general restaurant tips out there about menu key words to avoid and tips that tell you to only eat half your meal and take the rest home, etc. etc. Frankly, while I appreciate these tips, I'm going to assume you guys know them all and I'm not going to review them. If you are looking for these very basic tips about eating at a restaurant, SparkPeople has a WONDERFUL collection of restaurant articles that can help you here. Instead, I'm going to give you some tips that are outside of the normal advice. These are the things that REALLY helped me feel comfortable eating out.

1. Making eating out the special occasion, not the norm.

You know I have to start with this one. The easiest way to master the restaurant is to stop eating there as much! The easiest way to be healthy is to prepare food yourself and control exactly what you are eating. Next time you are going out to eat, think why? Are you being lazy and don't want to cook? Are you in a situation where you really need to eat out due to a lack of time, convenience or otherwise? If you are meeting friends could you just as easily have them over to your house and make a healthy dinner there? Is it a celebration and you are treating yourself? Ask yourself these questions to cut back on eating out. It saves you a lot of money and calories!

Make eating out a special time and you will be more inclined to stick to your healthy eating habits. If you are healthy at home, you will want to be healthy at the restaurant, right? Why does eating out ruin your "healthy streak?" It doesn't! Being healthy doesn't stop when you leave your house.

2. Never view eating out as impossible.

A lot of times that Matt and I decide to eat out, he worries that I "won't be able to find something to eat". And every time, I tell him - I will find something, don't worry. Matt's worries COULD be true of people with limiting diets, like vegans, vegetarians or people with certain food intolerances, but I am not on one of those diets. Therefore, I should be able to find something I will enjoy that is moderately healthy almost anywhere we go. And if I find myself in a situation where I can't find something healthy, then I can always say - I don't want to eat here OR practice moderation with what I eat.

Also in this mix is viewing certain restaurants as "off limits". The more you do that, the more you're going to crave those places. If no place is ever off limits then you will feel more confident with your abilities to choose a healthy meal (which means you probably WILL choose the healthy meal). Obviously there will be exceptions to this rule, but in general leave your options open.

I live in Texas and Mexican food is a HUGE deal down here. I used to throw all Mexican restaurants out of the mix because I didn't feel like I could eat a healthy meal. At the end of this post, I'll tell you how I've finally changed that mindset and now eat Mexican food without issue.

3. Take control of your decisions about the food and the restaurant.

Where you eat and what you put into your mouth is YOUR decision only and you have to remember that when eating out. Don't feel like you have to order a burger because everyone else is having one. Also don't feel like you have to go to a restaurant just because someone else suggests it. Always ALWAYS exercise your option to choose the place you go, what you order and how much you eat of your meal. If you find yourself ordering something that is a splurge for you, don't eat all of it. You don't have to be a member of the clean plate club. Take leftovers home. Leave it on your plate (if you don’t want to eat it again) or just share with someone. Restaurant portions are huge and sharing meals is the BEST thing that I do now.

4. Look at the menu differently

A lot of times the "healthy items" on a menu are boring because they are the same things as every restaurant, right? Grilled chicken with veggies and salads. So look at the other options with an open mind. See a chicken dish you like but don't like the sides? Look around for other sides you might like more and ask to substitute them. Also, check the appetizers. This is a HUGE tip that I have learned. We don't normally think of appetizers as entrees, but say you like crab cakes and see them on the appetizer menu. Ask for the crab cakes, with a side salad and steamed veggies. See what I mean? Pick and choose the things that you want and put them together. If all else fails, just ask for the waiter to make you a salad with whatever you want on it. If you start looking at what's on the menu and breaking it all down, I bet you can find something you will be really satisfied with.

5. Know what you want

These next two tips are a little conflicting, so I'm going to combine them under one number and give them both to you at the same time to make my point. If you don't want a salad or grilled chicken (like I mentioned before), then get what you really want. If you don't get what you really want, you're more likely to binge later. But remember moderation, remember the skinny girl rule, "You can have it all, but not all at once" and remember to make it healthy however you can. If you really want a pizza, ask for light on the cheese and swap the fatty meat toppings for veggies. If you really want a pan fried chicken breast, ask a friend to split it with you and order veggies as your sides (I've SO done this before with Heather). But remember, there are limits to this rule.....

Remember what else you're going to have (or had!) that day or week and ask yourself if you really need this dish you crave NOW or if you can have it at home. If you can make a homemade pizza at home that is JUST as tasty and will leave you just as satisfied, don't order a pizza when out. If you really want enchiladas but know that Amy's makes a frozen enchilada you love that is healthier, choose something else. So yes, order what you want, but also practice moderation and make trades where you can. You might not want to order a salad, but if you know you're having an indulgent meal the next day, just order it and enjoy your splurge tomorrow. You can enjoy your more healthy swap for the food you are craving at home the next day. Just because you have a craving doesn't mean you should give into it at that exact moment.

The day we flew to Jersey for Christmas, I had a starbucks oatmeal in the morning at the airport. Lunch was VERY indulgent because I had an authentic Philly cheesesteak on our way to our destination. It was worth every bite and calorie. That night we had dinner at a steakhouse and I really wanted steak. But, knowing that I had steak earlier in the day and knowing this was one of the few times I'd be able to order whatever I wanted while we were there, I chose a grilled chicken dish with spinach, a salad and mashed potatoes. Sure the mashed potatoes were also a big of a splurge, but I balanced it out with the rest of my meal.

6. Plan ahead

I've always been one that knew what I would eat before I went to a restaurant. Often, I choose to go to a particular restaurant because of one dish they have. But recently, I've started choosing what I'll eat before I go and make my decision final. (I track my food, so I usually enter my food before I go to the restaurant too.) Once arriving at the restaurant, I check the menu or with the waiter to make sure my previous selections are available and then I set my menu down and I don't look at it again. This keeps me from being tempted by items on the menu. Since I'm hungry when I get to the restaurant, I'm more likely to pick something that "sounds good" instead of what is really healthy for me. Making my selection in advance, when I'm not hungry, allows me to use a level head in my selection and I'm less prone to slip up that way. If you can't look at the menu in advance, search the menu for the healthiest options available and once you find one that you would enjoy, set the menu down. The more you look at that menu, the more you will second guess your choice or your first instinct.

7. Know your dining guests

I've mentioned sharing plates earlier. I am a big sharer and I will generally just eat off your plate without asking if I knew you well (sorry!). If I go to a restaurant and I know I really want something that isn't my best option but someone else is getting it, I'll ask for a bite. Or, I'll ask my dining companions if we could split plates, so I get to have some of what I want and some of what is healthy. I know this is probably hard to do all the time, but just try it and see if it works for you.

For example, tonight Matt and I are meeting a friend at a Mexican restaurant. The key to eating Mexican food for me is to order a small entree. Since I love chips and salsa, I know I will eat a lot of them. Ordering a small entree means that I have less food to eat and I can enjoy the chips and salsa without feeling stuffed or guilty. Today I'm really craving fajitas, but that is not a small entree. I know I will over-do it if I order fajitas. I know I should order black bean soup and a side salad because it's fantastic at this particular place. So I have probed my guests by asking what they will order. When they asked what I'm ordering, I told them my dilemma. Both of my dinner guests offered to split fajitas with me. Even if they change their mind and don’t want to split meals, I know I they would give me one fajita from their plate and I can order my salad and soup. And if they decide they don’t want fajitas, I will live with just my soup and salad! Yes, I'm kind of annoying - but I  am eating a healthy meal and still having a small taste of what I really want. Plus, I guarantee you there are others in every situation that wouldn't mind sharing at all. There's no harm in asking, right?

So that's it... those are my tips for eating at a restaurant successfully. Sure you'll have triumphs and you'll have other times where you blow it. But don't worry, it's just one meal. One day, you will get more comfortable and more confident I promise. One book that really changed my views on eating out was Bethenny Frankel's Naturally Thin. It's a great read! To end, I'll share one last successful restaurant experience with you from this week.

I was invited to attend a friend's birthday dinner this week on a night where I had to work very late. The dinner was at a popular italian/pizza place. I decided that packing a dinner to bring to work the best in case I had to work late. When I was finished work with enough time to meet my friends for dinner,  I remembered that my work group is treating me to a birthday lunch this Friday. We are visiting a different popular italian/pizza place where I have already planned to order a custom pizza (veggies please!). I ate my packed dinner at work and attended the birthday party, arriving just in time for everyone's food to come. I was full from dinner and didn't feel the need to eat off people's plates. I saved money by not eating out and I simply ordered a club soda with lime and enjoyed the company of my friends. Because really folks, it's about the company, not the food.

If I can do it, YOU CAN DO IT!

Monday, January 04, 2010

Things I love - Week 7

Remember once upon a time when I wrote a list once a week of "Things that I love"?

Somewhere along the way, that tradition was lost. And today is the day it comes back.

Here are the things that I'm loving this week that are helping me live a healthy life!

1. Amy's Kitchen frozen dinners: I actually am planning a post dedicated to these later in the week (along with some notes on some diet changes upcoming for me), but these babies are letting me eating healthfully through this very hectic work week I'm having. I never eat frozen dinners, but Amy's makes plenty that not only taste fantastic, but have ingredients you can recognize and are not something you should be ashamed to have in your freezer. Sure, they have a few downfalls - but for a quick and easy meal in a pinch, these are working for me.

2. Club soda - sticking on the food bandwagon (which is personally my favorite), I'm obsessed with club soda HARDCORE right now. I'm so obsessed that I've been passing up alcohol to just drink club soda. I think I've gone crazy. I've always loved it, but usually mixed with my alcohol, mixed with cranberry or flavored (a la La Croix). But lately, I've been ordering it (and drinking it at home) plain with just a lime everywhere I go and my mouth has never never been happier. Oh well, it works for me. The only downside is the sodium in it, but since I cut sodium mostly everywhere else in my diet, I'm okay to have a little from my drink!!

3. Shorter, but intense workouts - If you missed my previous blog about my small victory of overcoming my "perfect workout" syndrome - I would check it out. Shorter workouts are something I've always strayed from in the past, but right now I am loving them and they are working for me!

4. Eggs - (we're back on the food bandwagon!). I've been eating a LOT less meat lately, which means my protein has been lacking. I've always had a love/hate relationship with eggs, but recently it's been more love than hate. With the recent addition of my boiled egg timer that I was given for Christmas and the rekindling of my like for scrambled eggs, I've been actually enjoying the eggs I've been eating! I've also had my eyes peeled for a mini muffin pan that is cheap and small so I can make mini crust less quiches with veggies. Ooo la la.

Small Victories: Overcoming the "perfect workout"

I'm deciding to start a new blog series called Small Victories. These blogs will be dedicated to acknowledging and celebrating the small changes that are made in the transition to a healthy lifestyle. I don't think that people (myself especially) focus so much on the big goals (like weight loss), that we don't celebrate those small changes. Those small changes are actually the reason the big goals get accomplished, so acknowledging the small victories can help you see how much progress you have made. If you think you aren't making progress, keeping a list of your small victories to reflect on in down times will help tremendously!!

If you know me or have been following my blogs long enough, you'll know that I am obsessed with perfection. The strive to be perfect plagues me every day and really gets in the way of my goal setting. I tend to have a black or white view on perfection. If I can't achieve perfection, I normally just give up and don't try. Overcoming this perfection plague has been a priority for me as of late as I'm trying to live a more balanced life. I keep reminding myself that I have to practice what I preach. How can I be a successful RD and tell people to set achievable goals when I am not doing that in my own life? Obviously this is an area I am working on and I recently have been focused on my biggest struggle, overcoming the "perfect workout."

My "perfect workout" involves working out for 1 hour (minimum) a day, usually 6 days a week. This "perfect workout" involves a class at my gym - usually spinning, water aerobics, step aerobics, body pump or yoga. If not a class at my gym, I run for 2-3 miles and walk about a mile between my warm up and cool down. Now, obviously these are decent workouts right? I definitely need to add strength training (part of my January goals that I haven't posted yet), but other than that.. I'm really pushing myself hard with these workouts. And honestly, most weeks the "perfect workout" is completely achievable. But the problem arises when I have a scheduling conflict or generally burn myself out and I can't achieve a week of perfect workouts. As I mentioned above, I'm inclined to do nothing and usually - that's exactly what I do.

The holidays were emotional, busy and overall threw me off my routine and I found myself not working out at all when faced with the lack of time or drive to complete my "perfect workouts." Isn't that ridiculous? I had plenty of time some days to work out for an hour and more than enough times that I could workout for at least 30 minutes, but I chose to not workout instead! A big part of my problem is the lack of activities that I enjoy and find rewarding that don't last an hour. I am motivated the most by group exercise and slightly less (but still a lot) so by running outside. When it's cold, I don't want to run outside. I generally hate the cardio machines in the gym, so lately I've been leaving myself the option of a group fitness class only. If I can't attend, I don't work out.

That's just not acceptable and I have realized I have to make a mental change. Last week, I decided to suck it up and just GO to the gym and get on the elliptical. I absolutely despise the elliptical, but realistically I can tolerate it for 20 minutes maximum. I prefer 15 minutes :). Same goes for the treadmill, but I can make myself run a mile on it before I want to go insane. I'm trying to like the stairmaster, but that's still a work in progress.  Continuing on this path, Saturday with the option of group exercise not available, I chose to take a long 4 mile walk with Matt and Lexi and just get outdoors. Sure, I wasn't running - but since I had company I had a great time.

The point IS that there are plenty of exercises I can still do when group exercise is not available. There also are times when a shorter, less intense workout is just as beneficial (if not more!) than my "perfect workout." The hard part is pushing myself to not over think the workout and just GO. With school about to start and my extra time about to be significantly crippled by the extra load of school, now is definitely the time to start re-evaluating my workouts and make sure that I have a plan that is both enjoyable and attainable. A week of "perfect workouts" on top of school and work is NOT achievable for this upcoming semester.

So where have my small victories been lately? Well, there have been several! As I mentioned, Saturday I went on a long walk for my workout. Sunday I chose to take my little sister (big brothers big sisters) ice skating rather than to a movie and we skated for 1.5 hours! These were both great victories for me since normally I would feel unaccomplished since my workouts were not intense or traditional. But perhaps the greatest victory occurred this morning.

This week is VERY hectic at work. I have conference calls that last most of the day today, tomorrow and Wednesday. This means some late nights that are going to interfere with my workouts (i.e.. too dark to run outside and no group exercise offered). Today, knowing that I would be at work until ~7:30pm, I asked my boss if I could come in a little later than normal. Mondays I normally come into work at 6:30 AM so I was very thrilled he let me come in at 9 AM. The SOLE reason I asked him for this favor was so I could start my day with a workout. I awoke this morning 1 hour earlier than necessary to go to the gym and get in a very short but intense workout on the elliptical/treadmill. Even better was the fact that I was running 30 minutes late compared to my original plan and normally I would totally blow off my workout due to the "lack of time". But today, I stuck it out and decided that working out and going into work 30 minutes later was NOT a problem and would be totally worth it. And that's exactly what I did! The entire time that I was at the gym, I felt accomplished and I celebrated my victory.

I thought afterwards about how my workout this morning took 30 minutes, in which I burned 425 calories. If I did ONLY 5 of these workouts a week, I would burn 2,215 calories a week, which is 8,500 calories a month. That is 2.5 pounds a month that I would lose simply from these easy workouts that I never have deemed significant before. So in the weeks when I feel rushed or like I have no time to workout, just getting to the gym to do a simple workout will really add up over time. This was very eye opening and rewarding for me to think about this morning and definitely motivates me to just GET to the gym, no matter what. Sure, I will still strive to fit in my "perfect workouts" when I can, but I also will try to integrate more of these simple workouts into my weekly routine.

The entire principle of SparkPeople is that any fitness is better than no fitness. They preach that even 10 minutes a day will make a difference and they have a large variety of 5-10 minute workout videos available on their website. While I've always believed their principle, I've never applied it to my own life. I am going to continue celebrating my small victory of overcoming my "perfect workout" in 2010 by applying SparkPeople's principle and getting in a workout anytime that I can. Any workout is better than no workout, especially when the only reason I'm not working out is because my workout isn't "perfect" in my eye.

What are some small victories that you have celebrated lately? How does celebrating these small victories help you accomplish the big goals? What is your "perfect workout" and what do you do when you can't achieve it?

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

2010 Goals

I normally do not make New Year's Resolutions. But, in the past I never made them because I never would keep them. This year, it's very different. Spark has taught me the importance of goal setting and I know this year that I can complete anything I want. My plan is to make blanket resolutions (which I will call goals) for the year that will be easy to maintain. Each month, as I make my monthly goals, I will spend a little time focusing on these yearly goals and making monthly goals specifically tailored to them. So here are my goals for 2010!

1. Run a 10K.
This one is pretty self explanatory. I have a 10K lined up for July, so that's the race I am shooting for!

2. Take better care of my skin.
This is actually the ONE resolution I make every year. I am very inconsistent about taking care of my skin and that's AWFUL. I generally get lazy and tired and don't want to wash my face at night. If I do wash my face, I almost never moisturize or use eye cream, etc. I know I need to start doing these things in my 20s so I can have beautiful skin as I get older! Part of taking care of my skin is actually wearing makeup. I have very oily skin, so I use acne fighting foundation and powder and it keeps my skin SO much clearer! Wearing makeup also gives me an incentive to wash my face. So wearing makeup more regularly and taking care of my skin are priorities for me this year! If anyone has good recommendations on moisturizers/eye cream/etc let me know please!

3. Make a 4.0 in school.
I've never made a 4.0 in college and this year is the year I will do it. I have three semesters to accomplish this and I just want a 4.0 in one of them. The old me would put a lot of pressure on myself and said I needed to make one every semester, but not this year! Making a 4.0 just once is good enough for me and if it happens more than one semester, I will sure be thrilled!

4. Continue my work with stress/anxiety.
I have made significant progress with managing my stress and anxiety over the past 6 months, but I still have a long way to go and I'm about to enter a very difficult time in my life - going back to school! So keeping up with my work is imperative. Some of the things that help me manage my stress and anxiety the most are: exercise, planning and maintaining a routine. I'm not going to make specific resolutions for these things, but these will be a part of my monthly goals that I make.

5. Become more realistic with myself about my goals.
Everyone that knows me knows that I make RIDICULOUS goals for myself and I am really really hard on myself when I don't meet them. I have to be more forgiving and sympathetic to myself, without becoming a total softie and not pushing myself out of my comfort zone. So I will really work on this in 2010. The first step for me is recognizing that a 2 pound loss per week is not realistic for my body. I am moving my expectation to 1 pound a week and I will go from there. Although my focus is no longer on the scale, I still will weigh-in and shoot for 1 pound a week loss in 2010!

6. Build my blog.
Blogging truly is an emotional and spiritual outlet for me. It helps me to get my thoughts out of my brain and onto "paper" so I can focus on something else. It also is a means of analyzing my behavior and making plans for the goals I want to reach. One of my goals after becoming a dietician is to have a blog where I post food facts, new recipes, cooking demonstrations, general health news, etc. So this year I want to focus on improving my current blog and creating several blog series and maintaining them. As I build these series and become more dedicated to blogging, I believe it will be easier for me to have a successful blog as a dietician!!

That's it. Light and simple and focusing on the key aspects of my life that I would like to change and goals I want to achieve. Rather than focus on the bad habits I have now or the things that I feel like I need to fix, I just want to focus on the possibilities in my life and the goals that I have. Taking a positive approach is putting me in the right step for both #4 and #5! As I mentioned, these are my general blanket resolutions/goals for 2010 and each month I will spend time making monthly goals that reflect these yearly milestones.
One thing I did want to mention is my new reward system for 2010. Many of you know I used to put quarters into a jar based on specific goals (working out, calories and alcohol) for each day. I am done with this system because I was never giving myself anything! haha! I was just stocking up on the quarters with no reward in sight. So a few weeks ago we rolled all the quarters ($300 worth!) and put them into the bank.

The new reward system focuses on running, because I find when I'm focused on my running I'm the most successful. Now I will "pay" myself $1.00 per mile that I run/walk. I will have a reward set in my mind and once I have enough money accumulated to buy the reward, I will buy it and then start over and pick a new reward! The rewards must be things that I wouldn't buy for myself otherwise. My first reward is a dutch oven for my kitchen. These are very heavy cast iron stock pots and I have wanted one for the past 1.5 years SO much. They are approximately $50-$75, so now I just need to find the one I want and run for it! I have $2.00 accumulated since I started this new program!

Here's to health, happiness and love in 2010 to everyone!

Dinner + Random Pictures

Well, I made it to the gym tonight! I was very pleased with my workout. I felt fantastic afterwards. I think it’s ridiculous how I sometimes don’t want to go work out, but I feel so great afterwards. I spent 15 minutes on the elliptical, 18 minutes on the treadmill (.5 mile walk, .5 mile jog) and about 5 minutes on the stair stepper. It was a nice easy workout to get me back in workout mode.

Then I came home to make a very easy, random and tasty dinner.

12.30.09 109Seasoned brown rice with parmesan cheese, caramelized cabbage, celery with hummus and a hard boiled egg. 

Random, I know. I seasoned the rice with dried chopped onions and this fantastic Mrs. Dash seasoning that I bought a few weeks ago. Then I topped with a little shredded parmesan cheese and mixed it all together.

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It’s seriously good. I added the hummus and the egg for extra protein. I sometimes have big problems eating enough protein when I don’t eat meat. I’m trying right now to eat more eggs. Hard boiled is my favorite way to eat an egg, so I didn’t complain tonight. I grew up eating a lot of hard boiled eggs and we always had an egg timer to tell us when they were done. I had an egg timer at my house, but somehow it got lost in my move at the beginning of this year. I was very happy to receive a new one for Christmas this year!

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If you’ve never used one of these, I really recommend buying one! I love it. I also had caramelized cabbage, aka my favorite veggie ever. I used a little less EVOO than normal today, which resulted in slightly more “burnt” cabbage. It was fantastic this way!

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Dessert was a cup of Celestial Seasonings Sugar Cookie Sleigh Ride (PS Candy Cane Lane is my favorite tea now) and a small bowl of peppermint ice cream. This peppermint ice cream is like my favorite thing in the world and I definitely should not be trusted around it. I’m really glad sad this container is almost gone.

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It was an awesome dinner! My stomach is feeling a little off right now, but that happens with really intense exercise, so I’m just riding it out.

Now time for some random pictures! I uploaded pictures to my computer today and found several from the past few weeks!

12.30.09 031My new Garmin with my first run/walk on the display

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This stuff is incredible. I’m obsessed and bought a huge bag to last me through the year.

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An authentic Philly Cheese Steak from Jim’s Steaks in downtown Philly. We had these right after we flew into Philly to get to Matt’s mom’s house in NJ for Christmas vacation. This steak was INCREDIBLE.

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A random little casserole I made a few weeks ago. I roasted broccoli and added it to cooked lean beef and whole wheat pasta. I topped it with mozzarella cheese and broiled it in the oven. I definitely added too much cheese to this but I only had a tiny bit left in the package, so I threw it on there.

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The Christmas Tree in Rockefeller center in NYC. Is it sad that I wasn’t really impressed? I thought it was going to be much bigger!

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Carrie’s stoop from SATC. Yes, we went to find it while in NYC last week!!

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Matt and me at the Yuengling Brewery in Pottstown, PA. It’s America’s oldest brewery!

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Matt and me on my 24th birthday at lunch. We both look ridiculously tired because we got in very late the night before from Christmas vacay in NJ.

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Lexi and me on my birthday. She didn’t really want to pose!

Coming up are my 2010 goals and tomorrow I’ll have my January goals up for you guys!!

Post Holiday Tips

A quick note first:

The Spark came out yesterday. This is SparkPeople's first book and I recommend everyone buy it! I pre-ordered my copy back in September and will be receiving it next week! In case you aren't familiar with SparkPeople, it's the largest online diet and fitness website that teaches people to lose weight through diet moderation, exercise, goal setting and an online support community.

I've been a member of SparkPeople since October 2008 and I can't sing enough praises about how much this website has helped me. Although I've already been through the 28 day plan that is taught in The Spark, I will still read this book and be using it as a reference guide and as a refresher for some healthy habits I have slacked on as of late. I really recommend all of you to check out the book, or at the least check out SparkPeople. If you decide to join, let me know and I'll send you my information so you can look me up there!

And with that, I NOW can tell you that I'm REALLY excited the bulk of the holidays are over! I still have a few special holiday events planned over the next few weeks, but the majority of the holiday rush (and travel!) is over and it's time to get BACK on track. Unfortunately this year, I didn't do as great a job of maintaining my healthy habits and practicing moderation as I had hoped I would. But, I'm not going to let that get in my way right now. It's time for me to focus on my health again and start feeling fantastic as we all move into 2010 and I move into this next year as a 24 year old (still so weird!). In the past, I would feel like focusing solely on healthy habits would be difficult with the few holiday engagements I still have pending. This year, I'm choosing to remember that a healthy lifestyle is about balance and every little bit counts for something. I don't start school until January 19th, so until then I have to juggle these last few events with special conferences at work and can't really settle down into a solid routine until school starts.

So what am I doing to balance a healthy lifestyle with the next few weeks of spotty post-holiday engagements? Here are a few tips, plus how I am integrating these tips into MY life.

1. Take charge of the events you have left.

You still have a few friends you need to meet up with, right? And of course there is the NYE celebration, along with a few stray holiday parties in January or birthday celebrations you need to attend. When and if possible, take charge of these events and plan it yourself! There's no better way to control the menu, location and timing of these events than taking it on yourself. When you are in charge of the planning, you can make sure everything works for you! Plan a healthy menu, ensure the party will be somewhere convenient for you and time the party around your exercise routine.

I am definitely doing this! I had plans to go out to dinner with an out of town friend last night. Rather than going to a restaurant and being subjected to their menu, I asked my friend if she would like to come over for a home cooked meal! She of course obliged and I prepared a taco bar with healthy ingredients for everyone. I'm doing a similar thing for NYE. Instead of going to a party or worse, a bar, I invited a friend over to my house and suggested we stay in for the night. I'm planning a healthy menu as well as making my own cocktails. It's going to save me time, calories and the hassle of being out that night!

2. Resume moderation with the treats and drinks.

The sweet treats are mostly gone, but there may be a few strays left around your house or office. Or maybe you did a lot of drinking over the holidays and feel like you can still drink that way now. Think back to your summer self and recall that you practiced moderation with treats and drinks in your life and did not always indulge. Practice this mindset again! Obviously going from a treat eating machine to quitting cold turkey is a horrible idea (you'll SO binge!), so just resume your normal treat schedule. Freeze any left over treats in your house and you can enjoy them year round (in moderation of course)! If you feel the craving for a drink, try having a "mocktail" first. You might be surprised to find that you won't miss the alcohol in the mocktail!

Leftover chocolate and treats are in my freezer so that's a check for me! I did still allow myself a cupcake for my birthday that a coworker brought in yesterday. I am definitely on board with the mocktails right now. My birthday this year was the first birthday I've had in 6ish years where I didn't have a drop of alcohol. To be honest, I am alcoholed out from the holidays this year! In the past, I would feel obligated to have a drink at my birthday dinner, but this year I ordered what I really wanted - a club soda with a splash of cranberry juice and a lime. I DID NOT miss the vodka at all. It was refreshing and fabulous.

3. Hydrate.

Hydrate that body people. With all the extra salt, sugar and alcohol you put in your system over the past few weeks, your body will really appreciate the extra water. Try adding fresh limes or lemons to your water. It will not only boost the taste and vitamin content of your water, the lemons are a natural diuretic and it will keep your body from retaining the water. If you are retaining water right now, you definitely want to keep hydrating. It sounds counter-intuitive but your body is holding on to that water because it thinks it isn't getting any more. Show your body you will give it water and it will stop retaining!

Yesterday I had roughly 12 glasses of water - split across lemon/lime water, hot tea and club soda and today is chugging right along the same path!

4. Exercise.

Even if you think you don't have time, 10 minutes of exercise is better than 0. If you took off the past few weeks of exercise, then slowly build yourself back up this week and next. Even if it's a walk around the block, 20 minutes on the elliptical or a few sun salutations before bed, it's worth it and it will push you to workout harder when your schedule allows for it.

This time of year, I prefer to integrate a few shorter workouts into my routine so I don't feel SO busy. I have plans to spend about 20 minutes on the elliptical tonight at the gym, as well as walking 1-2 miles on the treadmill. It's light exercise, but it's still exercise and it's a lot more than I've done in the past week! :)

5. Set realistic goals

It's about to be 2010, which means a new year and new resolutions for everyone. This year, make goals, not resolutions. Make yearly goals that will require a little work each month and are attainable. Then each month, look at your yearly goals and make monthly goals based on what you need to accomplish to make these goals happen. Maybe a goal for you is to have an organized house. Each month, write down one or two areas of the house that you can tackle and by the end of the year, you'll have everything organized (also you should make a monthly goal to tidy these areas daily or weekly to keep them organized.. just saying). Make sure that you are setting goals that are realistic and meaningful to you. Can you devise a plan that will accomplish these goals but fit into your daily or weekly life? Is it something you will stick with? Don't just say you want to lose 50 pounds and drop off the goal by the end of January because you only lost 5 pounds and feel discouraged. You see what I mean?

My 2010 goals and my January goals will be posted on the blog today for you to read!!

6. Realize that most of the weight gain is temporary.

Most of the weight you gained (if any) over the holidays is temporary. It's from water retention, a little lost muscle mass from not working out and TOO MUCH SUGAR. It will easily come off if you give it a few weeks and don't do anything radical. Focus on the things I mentioned above and remember that the holidays are over and you can get back on track and be healthy.

I'm not even going to talk about my weight gain because I am focusing on this tip myself and remembering that it WILL come off soon ;)

Those are just a few tips that I have for getting back on track post holidays and starting the new year off right!

What tips do you have for the post-holiday weeks and how do you balance any damage you did to yourself over the holidays?