Friday, September 30, 2011

The Numbers Game

Growing up, I was always the chubby friend.  I wasn't outrageously overweight, but I was what one would call "pleasantly plump."  When I hit puberty, I gained weight and developed breasts pretty quickly.  This left my short, stocky frame looking quite "fluffy."  In addition, I had just discovered the pleasure of Dr. Pepper, Orville Redenbacher's cheese popcorn, bologna sandwiches and the dessert line in my middle school cafeteria.  My parents raised  me on a very healthy diet, but let me make my own food choices once I left elementary school.  Like many young teenagers, I enjoyed the freedom of eating junk food.  It wasn't unusual for me to get home from school on any given day in middle school and down two Dr. Peppers while eating an entire bag of cheese popcorn.  I ate because I loved the taste of the junk food, but more than that, I ate to avoid the emotions and angst of being an awkward, unpopular middle schooler.  The weight crept on, and I became more and more unhappy about how I looked.

When I entered high school, I became very aware of my chubbiness and became obsessed with how I looked and, more importantly, the number on the scale.  During my four years in high school, that number on the scale became the most important number to me.  I obsessed over it and convinced myself that if it was just a few digits lower, I would be happier, prettier, nicer, etc.  I decided that all of my problems were a result of the number I saw on the scale.  So, I became obsessed with keeping it down.  I was no longer the chubby girl on the outside, but inside I was still that plump pre-teen who felt bigger than everyone around her.  Luckily, my obsession with dieting and food restriction, while horrible unhealthy, never became a severe eating disorder.  Sure, I had disordered eating issues, but I was not so severe that I could be labeled anorexic or bulimic.  Instead, I followed the path that many high school girls (and some boys) follow.  I tried numerous diets, I bought and took diet pills, I restricted my food and drank diet soda to curb the growling in my stomach. 

By the time I hit college, for some reason or another, I became less focused on the number on the scale and more focused on the way my clothes fit and the kinds of food I was putting into my body.  I grew into myself and began to see who I was and what I wanted from the world.  I became comfortable with my differences and began to understand that we all come in different shapes and sizes, and the number on a scale doesn't matter much.  College is a time for opening your mind and figuring out who you are, and this was especially true for me.

As I began to age and my metabolism began to slow down, I began to gain weight once again.  Add two children into the mix and a hectic job, and it's easy to put on a few pounds without even noticing.  Throughout the past decade, I became obsessed with the number on the scale once again.  I  dieted and counted calories and exercised in an attempt to lose the weight that I put on over the years.  Now, I know that the weight needed to come off.  I was unhealthy.  However, more than losing weight, what I needed to do was get myself healthy and in shape.  Which is what I did.  After Bennett was born two years ago, I redefined my idea of what is healthy. I watched what I ate, I exercised, and then I started running.  I fully committed to a healthy, active lifestyle and my body responded by shrinking down to the shape and size it is meant to be.  I lost over 60 pounds (after gaining about 50 during pregnancy).   But, more than that, I developed an understanding that my health and well-being is not determined by a number on a scale.  It's determined by how active I am and the types of food I put into my body.  I stopped weighing myself and focused instead on being healthy and active.

Recently, I started weighing myself once again.  I gained 3 pounds over the summer, which is actually not a significant gain.  But, for some reason, I became obsessed with the number on the scale.  I fretted over the weight gain and decided that I have to lose the 3 pounds (plus a few more).  I began to think that everything would be better if I just weighed a little less.  Then, the other day, as I was reflecting on my journey toward health, I finally realized that I'm acting just like my anxious, hormone-ridden teenage self used to act.  I had to remind myself that I am healthy and active. I eat lots of fruits and vegetables and whole grains.  I exercise regularly.  I make sure my family is active.  So, I should be happy with my body because it is able to do everything I ask of it.  Three pounds doesn't really matter.  My body is the shape and size it is meant to be.  Three pounds doesn't define me. It doesn't determine my self worth.  The number on the scale is not the most important number.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Redefining Success

I was all set to post tonight about my need to get back on track with calorie-counting so that I can lose the last couple of pounds that are still hanging around.  I was going to start using sparkpeople again and put my plans to count calories and limit my food intake out there in the blogosphere so that I can be held accountable.  I was writing the post in my head, with examples of my weekly menu options and food choices already pre-determined. 

This was my plan all day.  Then, something changed.  On my drive home from work, in a rare moment of quiet self-reflection, I realized that I was looking at it all wrong.  Sure...I might have a little softness still around the edges.  Sure...I might not be at the lowest weight possible for my body type.  Sure...I do indulge a little too often in extra snacks.  But, I'm also a healthy, active, fit person who expects a lot of my body.  I run numerous days throughout the week.  I walk my dogs.  I swim.  I bike.  I play and dance with my children.  I take on a lot of extra projects and activities and expect my body to perform with little complaint.  And you know what?  It does.  My body is strong and capable, and it rarely complains when I expect it to take on a new challenge.  So, rather than focus on what is wrong with my body, I have decided to appreciate everything it can do.

I eat healthy and stay active.  I don't need to restrict my food intake.  Instead, I need to make sure I'm being as healthy and active as possible, and trust that my body will be the shape and size it is intended to be.  After all, isn't that what healthy living is all about?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Life got in the way...

It has been quite the week!  I haven't been able to blog, but I plan to start again in the next few days.  Not that I have much of a following...but, it's still important that I stick with it.

So, I'll be back soon with some great posts about exercise, food and life in general.

I hope the week is treating you well!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


I decided to end my Clean Food Challenge after a week instead of ten days.  When I did the original challenge, it was only a week long.  For some reason, I thought doing a ten day challenge this time would make me feel even "cleaner."  However, once I hit the one week mark, I decided that I was ready to be done.  Any longer, and I think I would have ended up feeling burned out and negative about the experience.  Instead, I'm ending the challenge feeling great about my success and more mindful about my body and what I put into it.  Like last time, I'm not going to deny myself any foods, but I am going to pay closer attention to what I'm eating.  I have come to realize that I have a pretty significant sugar addiction, and I need to make sure I don't let myself eat too much of it.  I firmly believe in eating everything in moderation and still plan to enjoy sweet treats occasionally, but I have to remember that "occasionally" is the operative word.  I'm also going to make sure I try to avoid refined sugar as much as possible and use alternatives that are more natural.  Other than sugar, I'm ready to introduce the other "restricted" foods back into my life.  I don't believe in complete deprivation, and have no need to eliminate entire food groups from my diet.  Obviously, if I had food sensitivities or dietary choices (i.e. vegan) that required the elimination of certain food groups, I would do it.  But, I think a healthy diet should contain a lot of variety and moderate amounts of all of the food groups. 

Now that the challenge is over, I'm ready to move to the next phase of Operation: Summer Damage Control.  I'm ready to add new forms of exercise to my routine so that I can improve my fitness and keep myself from getting bored.  As a runner, I consider myself pretty fit.  However, what I have come to realize is that running (and the occasional elliptical session) isn't enough to keep my body fit.  I need to incorporate other forms of exercise so that I use all of my muscles and improve my fitness.  So, I spent the past week reading through other blogs and thinking about the kinds of exercise I want to add, and I have come up with this:

Running:  3 - 4 times a week with at least one of the runs being a long run of 7 - 10 miles

Cross Training: 1 - 2 times a week - alternate between swimming, spinning, and the elliptical

Strength Training: 2 - 3 times a week

Yoga/Pilates: 1 - 2 times per week

I'm going to start out with this plan and see how it works for me.  Having it written down will keep me accountable and, hopefully, more likely to be successful.  It will require some changes in my schedule to make sure I fit everything in, but I'm positive it will be worth it in the end.  I know that the addition of these different exercises will help me improve my fitness, make me a stronger runner, and most importantly, keep me healthy and grounded.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Working for the Weekend

This weekend was one of those weekends that is so filled with fun and activities that you are left on Sunday night trying to catch your breath and wondering where the time went.  We went non-stop from the time we woke up on Saturday morning until we went to bed Sunday night. 

This weekend was the annual Battle of Plattsburgh event that our town hosts to remember the famous battle that happened here in 1814.  Each year, they have games, activities, reenactments, and music that lasts through the weekend.  We look forward to it each year.

So, we filled our weekend with Battle of Plattsburgh activities. 

We ate ice cream downtown while enjoying the festivities.

We marched in a parade.

Right before he fell asleep
 It was Amelia's first time in a parade.  It was Ben's  first time too, but I'm not counting it since he slept through the entire his stroller...while we walked behind a high school marching band.  Seriously, who is this kid?

We played old time children's games at the Children's Village Fair.

Amelia loves Little House on the Prairie. 
This is her "Mary" dress.

We ate our last Italian ice of the season (well, I didn't eat any...).


The Battle of Plattsburgh took up a lot of our weekend, but we also had other things to do.

The kids had karate and swimming lessons.

(There are no pictures of Ben's swimming lesson because I was in the water with him)

We visited a co-workers farm where we held baby chicks and fed goats and sheep.

Amelia attended a friend's birthday party at an indoor waterpark and finally conquered her fear of the waterslide.

It was crazy and chaotic, and sometimes even frustrating, but it was also a really good weekend.  We may be tired and behind on the laundry and cleaning, but we are all starting the week with smiles on our faces and the memories of the past two days.  That's really what life is about.

In the midst of the crazy weekend, I was able to stick with the CFC.  I ate a lot of fruits and vegetables and whole grains.  I avoided all of the junky snacks at the Battle of Plattsburgh celebration, including two of my favorites...fried bread dough and poutine.  For those of you who don't live directly below Canada like I do, poutine is an incredible dish comprised of hand cut french fries, cheese curds and gravy.  It's basically a heart attack in a dish.  It doesn't sound very appealing, but trust me when I say it is amazing.  I think I'm going to create my own "healthified" poutine to eat once the challenge is over.  If I'm successful, I'll post the recipe here.

The one area that I didn't do well with was my water consumption.  I didn't drink my 120 ounces each day, so I'm trying to be more diligent about it this week.  I'm not going to list my meals for you because they were basically repeats of what I have been eating all week, but I do have one meal that I'm going to highlight.  On Sunday night, I made myself this for dinner. 

It was fabulous.  The burger is a Sunshine Burger, which I decided was OK to eat as part of the clean food challenge because it contains only whole, real ingredients.  I made green bean "fries" by roasting them in the oven at 425 for about 20 mins.  I'm telling you, these are good!  I drizzled some sriracha on to for a little heat, topped the burger with avocado and tomato, and dug in.  YUM!  Who says clean food challenges actually have to be challenging? 

In the chaos of the weekend, I was also able to get in a long run.  I did 9 miles with some women from work on Sunday morning and it felt great.  The sluggishness I experienced on my previous run was gone, and I felt like I could run forever.  My legs felt great, my lungs felt great, and my mind felt great.  I don't know if it is the fact that I have less chemicals in my system or if I was just having a good running day, but I had a really good time.

I planned to talk about my exercise goals and future fitness plans, but this post is too long already.  I think I'll save that topic for tomorrow or the next day.  I hope your weekends were filled with fun and excitement like mine.  If not, there's always next weekend.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Just Checking In...

I'm in the midst of an incredibly long day that won't end until after my FSA (my daughter's elementary schools' version of the PTA) meeting at 9:00 tonight.  I planned to write my recap of days 5 & 6 during my lunch hour at work today, but I forgot my camera and the cord for my iPhone.  So, I have no pictures.  I want to wait to do a post because the weekend was so full of fun and activities that I don't want to just tell you about it.  I want to show you.  So, I'll have to do a proper post tomorrow morning.

For now, I'm just checking in to say that the Clean Food Challenge is going well.  I'm struggling more with the desire to eat junk this time than last time, which I think is because I'm the only one doing it this time.  Last time, there was a group of us doing it, and I felt the power of camaraderie.  this time, it's just me.  But, I did resist all of the junk that was around me this weekend, and I feel better for it.  I won't lie, I'm looking forward to the end of the week so I can eat some chocolate and drink some wine, but for today I'm OK.

The only blip I had this weekend was when, in the midst of the chaos of two activity-packed days, I pulled into Starbucks to order my standard weekend treat - a skinny vanilla latte.  Quite honestly, I wasn't even thinking.  It's not that I was intentionally cheating, I just didn't think about the challenge at all.  I had just survived a morning spent shuttling both kids to karate and swimming lessons (which are held at the same time in different locations) by myself because Paul was helping a friend put a new floor down.  I needed a boost, and as we got ready to head to the next activity, I mindlessly pulled into Starbucks, ordered my latte, and drove off.  It wasn't until I had enjoyed four sips of it that I suddenly remembered that I wasn't supposed to be drinking it.  Oh well, we all make mistakes.  It wasn't worth beating myself up over.  I decided that the damage was already done, and finished the latte.  But, I didn't let it sabotage the rest of the challenge.  In the past, I would have justified other indulgences by telling myself that I had already ruined the challenge.  This time, I enjoyed every drop of the sweet, milky caffeine, and then I moved on.  I think that's actually significant progress.

So, there's a brief update.  I have a big post planned for tomorrow with weekend highlights, including what we did and what I ate.  I also have some exercise updates and a plan for the coming weeks.  See you tomorrow!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Clean Food Challenge 2.0 - Days 3 & 4

Well, I made it through two more days.  Quite honestly, I'm having a pretty easy time.  I'm not feeling as grumpy as the first two days, and I think that I  made it over the sugar detox hump.  I still have my moments...moments where I have to go into the pantry and smell the bag of chocolate chips because I want chocolate so bad, but they pass pretty quickly.  I'm eating a lot less dried fruit, and when I do eat it, it seems really sweet to me.  All in all, I think this whole challenge is going pretty smoothly.  However, the weekend just arrived, and we have a jam-packed schedule that will put me in some pretty tempting situations.  I'll just have to keep reminding myself that this is only temporary and that my body will feel better once I'm done.

When I got home from work tonight, I went for a 3 mile run.  I don't know if it's because I haven't been able to run much lately, or if it is because I'm in the process of detoxing, but I was pretty sluggish and struggled through the 3 miles.  I remember the same thing happening the last time I did the clean food challenge.  It only happened in the beginning last time.  By the end of the challenge, I had more energy and endurance during my runs and workouts.  I'm going to pay close attention to it this time and see if the same thing happens.

For those who may wonder what I can possibly be eating, here's a list of some of the meals I have been enjoying:

Breakfast:  Overnight oats with almond milk and blueberries or a smoothie with almond milk, spinach, banana, blueberries, mango, hemp seeds, chia seeds and oats

Lunch:  Giant salads with tons of fresh veggies from my CSA and some beans for protein or leftover bean, corn and rice salad from dinner.

Dinner:  Fresh veggies, salads, sweet potatoes, beans and rice with black beans, corn, onions, tomato and avocado (this was absolutely delicious!)

Snacks:  dried fruit, veggies with hummus, rice cakes with almond butter, almonds, fruit and spinach/kale smoothies

Beverages:  coffee (one per day), water, seltzer, detox tea

As I said, my weekend is crazy, but I plan to stay on track.  I'm also going to make sure I run both days to get back on track.  Since I have been slacking so much on exercise lately, I'm in the process of developing an exercise plan for next week.  I'll post about it next time.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Clean Food Challenge 2.0 - Days 1 & 2

I'm two days into my second Clean Food Challenge.  Like last time, the "rules" are:
  • No dairy
  • No gluten
  • No alcohol
  • No sugar
  • No processed foods
  • No meat (this is optional - I haven't decided what I will do about this yet)
  • Drink 120 oz. of water a day
Some people also give up caffeine when they do the Clean Food Challenge. However, like last time, I will allow myself to drink one cup a day.

I can tell that this challenge is going to be more difficult than the last one.  I had a rough first and second day and feel grumpier than I did last time.  I think it is because my diet has been worse for the past couple of months, so I have more to detox from.  I'm preparing myself for a bumpy ride, but I know in the end I'll feel much better for having done it.

The most striking part of the past two days was how badly I wanted sugar.  I don't think I really understood how much sugar I was eating over the past couple of months until I removed it from my diet.  I tend to need something sweet to finish off a meal.  I think it is left over from the days when I used to smoke and needed a cigarette after a meal.  My go to sweet is chocolate.  I keep dark chocolate bars and chocolate chips around for times when I need a little something sweet.  But, unlike others who can eat a little piece of chocolate and be done, I tend to eat chocolate steadily throughout the night after I finish my evening meal.  I'm fine during the day, but once I finish dinner, it's as if the chocolate has a magnet attached to it.  First, I eat a piece of the chocolate bar.  Then, as I'm walking through the back of my kitchen to put things away, I grab a handful of chocolate chips out of the bag of chocolate chips.  I didn't typically stop there.  This cycle often continues throughout the evening.  I just can't seem to break it.  Add in all of the other sweet treats that I have indulged in over the summer, and you have a full-fledged sugar addiction.  So, the past two days I have been eating dried fruit (no added sugar) and fresh fruit to quell my sugar cravings.  I think it's helping, but I have to make sure I don't just replace sugar with tons of dried fruit. 

This is what my desk looked liked the past two days:

The other thing that I noticed is how much I mindlessly snack.  I am a snacker by nature, which I actually think is healthy.  However, the amount I have been snacking, and the things I have been eating recently, haven't been that healthy.  The past two days, I caught myself almost finishing the last of the kids' PB & J, or eating a handful of Annie's Bunny Snack Mix as I filled their lunchboxes, or popping a few pieces of cheese into my mouth as I cut up cheese and crackers for them.  I made granola tonight to have for the week, and noticed how I automatically went to eat chunks of it off the pan.  Now, granola is fine, but I wasn't even hungry and if I didn't notice, I would have ended up eating an entire serving of granola without meaning to.  These things add up.  I'm still snacking, but since I have to pay attention to what I'm eating, I'm not mindlessly snacking, and that is making a difference.

Overall, I'm really excited to be doing the challenge again.  I know it's going to be's called a challenge for a reason.  But, it will be so worth it in the end.  After reading through this, I'm sure you're wondering what I actually could/did eat since I have so many limitations.  Suprisingly, I had a variety of delicious foods.

Breakfast:  Overnight oats with almond milk and frozen blueberries

Lunch:  Salad with shredded carrots, shredded beets, shredded apples (I'm getting a lot of use out of my new mandolin), avocado, sunflower seeds and pepitas.  I made a balsamic-tahini vinaigrette to put on it

Dinner: Vegetables with hummus, homemade corn and black bean salad, sweet potato (I ate combinations of these items each night, not all of them at the same time)

Snacks: Dried mango and papaya, apples with almond butter, almonds, raisins, veggies with hummus

Beverages:  I didn't get in all 120 oz. of water each day, but I came close.  I also had one cup of coffee each day with coconut milk, and I drank detox tea throughout the day.

So...two days down, eight to go.  I know I can make it through and I am excited to get myself back on track.  Unfortunately, along with having poor eating habits this summer, I also slacked on my exercise regimen.  I typically exercise 5 - 6 days a week, with at least three of the days as running days.  Over the past few weeks, my schedule has made it difficult for me to get in as much exercise time.  As I go through the Clean Food Challenge, I'm going to make sure I get back on track with exercise.  Stay tuned for that plan...

Monday, September 5, 2011

Fall Cleaning

Since it is the New Year for me, I figure I should start it on the right foot and clean out the junk left behind from the summer.  Even though I try to maintain a healthy lifestyle and follow the 80/20 rule when it comes to my diet, sometimes the scales tip a little too much in the wrong direction.  I had a wonderful summer, full of fun with family and friends.  Unfortunately, I also indulged a bit too much in this

and this

and this

and all of the other random summer fun foods that are wonderful when you are eating them, but aren't great as part of a regular diet.

My summer indulgences, while enjoyable and totally worth it, left me with a few extra pounds and feeling sluggish and bloated.  Since I need all the energy I can get to keep up with my unbelievably busy semester (full-time job, part-time teaching gig, finishing my thesis, taking a graduate education course for work, being a wife and mother, and all of the other daily obligations), I am going to work hard to get myself back on track.  I can't keep going feeling the way I have been feeling lately.

So, I am going to embark on another Clean Food Challenge.  I am planning to do it for a bit longer than a week because I really need more time to get my system back on track.  So, I'm going to do it from 9/6 (tomorrow) through 9/16.  I think ten days will be a good amount of time to get my system cleaned out.  Like last time, I'll report here on my progress.  I'm hoping I feel better at the end, but only time will tell.  I know one thing for sure, though.  It's time for a good fall cleaning.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Happy New Year!

Don't didn't sleep through the last four months of 2011!  It's not January's September 3rd.  However, I work in academia, which means that my entire life functions on a school calendar.  At the end of each August, I find myself reflecting on the past year and making promises about the upcoming one.  I'm sure the fact that my performance evaluation and professional goals follow this schedule.  It may seem strange to the rest of the world, but it is what my life has been like for more years than I care to count.

So, since the new year is starting at the community college where I work, I am using it as an opportunity to set some goals for myself for the upcoming year.  I have a had a great year, both personally and professionally, but there is more I would like to do and efforts I would like to refocus in this upcoming year.  I figure the best way to make sure I actually follow through is by putting my goals out there in the blog world.  Even if I don't get any readers, I will still have this post out there reminding me that I set these goals.  So, here goes:

1) Add strength training to my exercise routine

2) Make sure I exercise 4 - 6 days a week.  If I have to go to the gym (on campus) during my lunch some days, then I have to make myself actually get up from my desk and walk across campus

3) Cook one new recipe and blog about it each week

4) Do more with this blog.  I just started it, but I need to make it prettier and more exciting to read.  I also have to find readers

5) Finish my thesis

6) Add yoga into my exercise routine

7) Take more pictures

8) Learn to knit

9) Train for and complete a triathlon

and most importantly...

10)  Make sure to sit back, relax and enjoy the moments that are whizzing by.  The kids are getting bigger each day, and I don't want to look back on this time someday and realize that I let it slip by too quickly.