Friday, April 24, 2015

The Weight Loss Challenge: Diet and Exercise Specifics

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I participated in a weight loss challenge at the beginning of the year and ended up learning a lot about myself and about being healthy. I have been sharing my experience with quite a few people as I was so amazed at how well I did (not that I was not super glad when the pressure of competing was over and could relax a little). I'd like to share my experience here on my blog in case people I don't personally know might be able to benefit. This post is going to be about what I ate and how I exercised. To know what I learned from the experience, check out the other post here.

During the challenge I tried to stick with eating three regular meals with an afternoon snack and sometimes dessert in the evenings. Breakfast and lunch were both fairly monotonous which helped as dinner was different nearly every day. My goal for each day was 1450 calories (excluding exercise) in order to lose at least one pound per week.

Breakfasts before the challenge were usually a bowl of cereal with milk (unmeasured for serving size) and a container of yogurt. The cereal did not tend to stick with me until lunch and I often had a snack of some sort.

Breakfasts during the challenge focused on protein and fiber. Calorie count was generally between 275 and 400 calories, mostly less than 350.
*Two eggs scrambled with spinach, onion, green pepper and a tablespoon of cheese (sometimes other/additional vegetables or a little sausage or bacon as well), pear (orange, apple, melon, berries, etc), 16 oz of water
*One egg scrambled, a slice of American cheese, slice of cooked bacon on 1/2 whole wheat English muffin, Kroger carbmaster yogurt, 16 oz water
*1/2 cup oatmeal with 1 tbs raisins, 1tsp brown sugar and 1/4 cup milk, banana, 16 oz water

I either had fruit or yogurt with breakfast. I ate two egg scrambles unless I was having a bread product and then it was just one egg and a little bit of bread. Occasionally (usually on weekends) I would have pancakes or a biscuit with sausage gravy or a cinnamon roll but I recorded it all and tried to moderate the rest of the meals' calorie counts for the day.

Lunch before the challenge was either leftovers from previous dinners or a sandwich with a couple of carrots and hummus and some chips or pretzels. Often lunch was followed by a sugary treat.

Lunch during the challenge was small tweaks to the usual such as using one piece of bread instead of two for sandwiches and half of a piece of cheese, increasing the vegetable portion with more carrots or a salad with reduced calorie dressing, adding a fruit and eliminating the after-lunch dessert. I also tried to keep lunch under 400 calories most days.
*Salad (lettuce, grape tomatoes, cucumber, carrot, spinach, snow pea pods) with grilled chicken, light ranch dressing, honeydew melon, 16 oz of water
*One slice of whole grain bread, 1/2 Tbs miracle whip lite, slice of tomato, lettuce, 1-2 oz turkey (or ham), 1/2 slice American cheese (sandwich), 1 cup of carrots, 1 apple, 16 oz water
*Salad (like above with the addition of corn, black beans and avocado as well as a little barbecue sauce mixed with ranch for a southwest salad), 16 oz water
*3/4 cup sauteed yellow squash and zucchini, 10 spears of grilled asparagus, 3 oz London broil, 1 Tbs steak sauce, 1/2 cup blueberries, 16 oz of water (this was dinner leftovers)

Dinner was different most evenings. The biggest thing for me was inputting all of the items into the app to determine calorie content which I used to decide on serving sizes for everything. I ate pretty normal things - hamburgers, lasagna, steak, barbecue, fish, shrimp. The majority of my meals were prepared at home which helped with regulating ingredients and calorie content. Whenever I ate out for any meal, I tried to look at the menu ahead of time to make wise selections.
*Two chicken soft tacos (homemade), 16 oz of water
*Side salad, light raspberry vinaigrette dressing, green beans with onion and bacon (1/2 cup), pan fried tilapia, 16 oz of water
*Side salad, light Italian dressing, chicken parmesan, sauteed squash, 16 oz of water
*1/2 cup baked beans, 1/4 rack pork spare ribs, 1 yeast roll, side salad, light Italian dressing, 16 oz of water
*Grilled salmon (5oz), roasted sweet potato (1 cup), fettuccine (1 oz), butternut squash pasta sauce (1/2 cup)
*Chicken and andouille sausage jambalaya, 16 oz of water
*1 1/2 cup Turkey barley vegetable soup, 1/2 grilled cheese sandwich, 16 oz of water
*Bacon wrapped dates, rabbit empanada, seared scallops with saffron risotto, chicken confit, French martini (this was date night/cheat night at a tapas restaurant - sooooo yummy!)

Many days I would have a mid-afternoon snack, especially on days when I exercised. It was usually a snack of less than 200 calories.
*Carbmaster yogurt with fresh strawberries
*Fruit (1/2 cup blueberries, banana, apple, orange, pear, plum, etc)
*1 oz almonds
* 3/4 cup Honey Bunches of Oats with 1/4 cup of milk
*Fat free cottage cheese and a cutie orange
*Ants on a log (celery w/ peanut butter and raisins)

On days when I could afford a sweet treat I tried to be reasonable in my portion size.
*Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate Protein Bar (by Kind)
*1/2 cup ice cream
*2 inch lemon bar (homemade)
*1 chocolate chip cookie (homemade)
*Popcorn (1 cup)
*Serving size of packaged candy
*2 inch caramel turtle brownie (homemade)
*1 slice angel food cake (homemade)

As I mentioned in the other post, I had to fit my workouts in during nap time inside my house (usually in my living room but sometimes in the garage. I had max an hour and a half but wanted to allow a little time for cooling down and showering before the kids got out. I alternated between cardio videos, workouts with light weights and the occasional yoga routine. One of my television channels has 25 minute workouts from Radius. It was a fun variety - kickboxing, HIIT routines, boot camp, kettle bells. I had previously done Jillian Michaels' 30-day shred workouts and  added those to my regimen. I found a few longer and more intense workouts by Jillian on YouTube which are fantastic (Banish Fat Boost Metabolism, No More Trouble Zones and 6 Weeks 6-Pack Abs are highly recommended by me). If I was feeling on the sore side on a workout day I might do a cardio-only routine or yoga to help stretch the muscles. Doing such a variety of workouts really helped to keep my body from adjusting and plateauing. Toward the end I added P90X's plyometrics routine to the rotation for a great calorie burn and even more muscle confusion.

The final thing that I think really made a difference was trying to drink enough water to keep my body hydrated. My goal was fourteen 8 oz glasses per day. I have had pretty bad eczema on my hands for several years. My dermatologist said that it was aggravated by continuous hand washing which is hard to avoid with all the dishes from homemade dinner and diapers that need changing throughout the day. I had started wearing gloves to do the dishes but it didn't seem to help a lot even with the super strong ointment. A couple of weeks into drinking more water the dry skin cleared up and my hands looked normal again. I think it also helped to curb food cravings and kept me from wanting to eat too much at meals.

So that's what I did and lost thirteen pounds in nine weeks. Not a biggest loser stat but pretty impressive (I think) considering I didn't have a personal trainer, gym membership or nutritionist. And a lot of the habits have stuck. I used to order the grilled chicken sandwich combo at Chick-Fil-A every time. Now all I order is the grilled market salad with the berry balsamic dressing (it's so good that I don't feel like I'm depriving myself by not getting a sandwich and fries). I'm also sticking to a regular exercise routine. I feel like if I get off track in the future I now have the knowledge and tools to return to a healthy lifestyle.

The Weight Loss Challenge

At the end of 2014 I was offered the opportunity to participate in an eight week (which turned into nine weeks, much to my chagrin) weight loss challenge with a group of people beginning in January. I had fallen victim to the food holidays and gained some weight I was not keen on retaining. I hesitated to sign up because there was an entry fee and I knew the odds of me being the big winner (or loser, as is the case of a weight loss challenge) were very slim. While I needed to lose some weight, it didn't seem like I needed to lose enough to result in a high percentage of weight loss. However, the fee was small enough that I could use it as motivation to stick with the challenge and there was the added benefit of accountability via a Facebook page which would certainly encourage me to stay on track. I am a competitive person so I knew I would at least try to end up in the top half in the standings.
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So on January 4th, the challenge began. I thought I ate pretty healthy to begin with (minus all of the sweets I ate in November and December) so I knew I needed to cut down on high sugar food. I cut out any after lunch treats (which the kids were forlorn about as I made it a family-wide rule to help me stay on track) and decided to try to keep dessert in the evenings to no more than every other night, but hopefully less frequently as my willpower allowed or as the lack of available calories remaining demanded (perhaps you do not have a sweet tooth, but I definitely do). I also saw a segment on the Today show saying that eating our kids' leftovers could lead to a seven pound gain over a year period so I decided to refrain from finishing their meals and only eat what I served myself.

The second week of the challenge I decided to use the My Fitness Pal app to track calories of foods as I was not very knowledgeable about that aspect. The app let me input my current weight, my goal weight and how much I wanted to lose per week. From that info it told me how many calories I ought to consume each day. I ended up using the app to input my exercise as well as water consumption.

I thought I might benefit from drinking the recommended amount of water each day. I knew it would help me to not be as hungry and perhaps I was a little dehydrated. Water was the only beverage I drank throughout the challenge (I did have some milk in my cereal snacks but it wasn't in a glass). I don't drink a lot of other beverages generally but I had gotten into drinking soda several times a week (and I only drink regular soda, not zero calorie) and I knew that could help me save some calories.

As a stay-at-home mom of at least one child who needs constant supervision, I knew that my exercise had to fit in to the hour and a half allotted for nap time (I was already getting up an hour before the kids to pray and read my Bible so I didn't want to get up any earlier and I wanted to be able to relax in the evenings) and take place within my house. I found some exercise videos on YouTube and our NBC Sports channel that ranged in length from 25 minutes to an hour. I decided that my initial goal was three times per week for at minimum 25 minutes each. As I got further in the challenge, I increased to exercising five days per week. Toward the end I chose to do a P90X video for added intensity and chose the lengthier exercise videos. I tried to do a different video each exercise day of a given week. Some I liked more than others so I did them for more weeks (but still just once per week).

I learned a lot through the experience. I became much more informed about the calorie content of food. I learned that getting enough water kept me from being prematurely hungry and that I could survive a few hunger pangs between breakfast and lunch without snacking as well as the pangs as my stomach adjusted to receiving smaller portions of food. I learned that I won't feel deprived if I eat healthier foods and make wiser choices in restaurants. I also learned that a cheat day does not mean "eat all the sweets I can see" unless I also want it to mean "do not lose any weight this week." I learned that being properly hydrated would significantly improve my eczema (hallelujah!). I learned that I can make time for exercise and that, as I'm aging, my body needs a healthy diet in addition to regular exercise to change and improve tone (I used to be able to eat whatever and then exercise well and be fine. Not anymore).

So what was the end result? I ended up in fifth place of about twenty people, missing 13 pounds from my body and about eight percent of my body weight. Not bad, right? I surpassed my personal goal weight which was the exciting part for me.
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It has now been approximately six weeks since the challenge and I have continued a lot of the habits I picked up. I don't eat as many carbs (specifically chips and other prepackaged food), eat more fruits and vegetables, try to drink plenty of water and continue to make exercise part of my weekly routine. I weighed myself a couple of days ago and found I had lost another pound even without using the app to track my calories. I'm hoping this means that I have developed a lifestyle with wise and healthy choices.

If you'd like to learn more about what I ate or the exercise videos I used during the challenge, I have a separate post with that information here. Please feel free to ask me any questions about my experience. I'm more than happy to share!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Being a "Yes" Mommy

I just finished a book called Yes Mommy: The Mayhem and Madness of Not Saying No by Amy Sprenger where the author shares her account of going thirty days without saying "no", "don't" or "stop" to her children. The purpose was to try to lighten up a little in her parenting. She had the normal concerns that her kids would eat nothing but junk, be uncontrollable in public and possibly be injured from lack of boundaries. She did, at times, try to get around her self-imposed limitations by redirection and attempting to persuade them to make a different choice.

I have recently been evaluating my own parenting and trying to figure out how I can be more loving and encouraging to my kids. I am learning to carefully consider the reasons I am saying "no" to my children. Often it is because of my personal preference - I don't want to put in the effort or I might be slightly inconvenienced or I'll have more to clean up. If it isn't a valid health or safety issue or there isn't a time constraint, I am trying to say "yes" and the book helped remind me of the value of being open to my kids by saying "yes" to requests for activities and ideas of how to spend our time together.

My daughter is in preschool and has dressed herself for quite some time. Her fashion style is a bit eclectic, definitely different from my own. For a while I would try to convince her to change some part of her outfit so that she matched better but I realized it was only because I was concerned that others would judge me negatively for my daughter's fashion sense. Really, what does it matter if she wears a plastic pink tiara to preschool most days? As long as her clothes are weather appropriate I'm doing my job. It is one less thing on my morning to-do list and helps her gain independence (and isn't that a major goal of parenting?).

My creative and confident girl
I was an unusual dresser myself as a child. My mom said that she figured if I was teased at school for my outfits by other kids I might change how I dress but it wasn't important enough for her to fight about with me. I have chosen to take this road with my daughter as well. Of course, I still choose outfits for pictures I'm paying for and some special occasion events, but allowing her freedom the rest of the time makes it a non-issue.

More often than not saying "yes" is just about getting over my own preferences and agenda and opening myself up to fun and meaningful experiences with the kids. And being okay with cleaning up art supplies, fake snow, sand and sweaty, dirty, happy children.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Still Struggling

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The day after I wrote my last post, my verses for the day's study were from Titus 2 where it talks about older women training younger women. I felt a pang of disappointment at not having this type of relationship. Even though I am choosing to trust God's timing, it's still difficult and has not removed my longing for this type of relationship. I thought I'd share my devotional for that day so that you can see what my personal study looks like.


Titus 2:3-5
Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, and to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.

Older women are instructed to actively encourage/teach/mentor younger women. Even in my thirties, I am considered an older woman to those in their teens and twenties. My five-year-old daughter is probably watching me to help establish her identity as a girl and learn what it means to be a woman, wife and mother. This means I should be very aware of how I present myself and represent Biblical womanhood.

Even though I can be an example for some, I still desire to have an older, wiser woman help me to be a better wife, mom and Christ-follower. My mother lives far away so it is harder to have this type of mentoring relationship with her. I know that God can develop all of these traits in me on his own, but I desire community and relationships with others and I still struggle.

I think that's the detriment of our mobile society. It's harder to establish and maintain close relationships. Many people live away from their families which removes them from having built-in community and support Humans were made for relationships. It's how we grow and thrive. Family will always be there - you can't get rid of them (good or bad). Friendships tend to be more delicate, vulnerable to time and distance. 

Lord, I am trying to trust you with my needs and relationships. I struggle so much in this area of close relationships. I don't know exactly what I desire but I know that you know what I need. You love me and will provide at the proper time. Amen.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Living Life on Purpose

When my daughter was a toddler, I had a friend who had school aged children and was also a SAHM. She invited me and my daughter to come to her house every other week to let my daughter play with her girls' toys and allow me to talk to her about what was going on in my life. I felt very comfortable with her to share personal issues and to also ask her advice about parenting, marriage and faith. Her kindness was such a blessing to me. I remember while receiving this encouragement and support I thought that it was a ministry I would like to have once my children are older. Many SAHMS desire a welcoming, accepting place to share while embracing their current season as mothers of little ones.

While pregnant with my second child, this amazing woman and her family moved away. It was difficult for me to lose this close connection. My family and in-laws all live in different states from my family so our only local support is from friends we make here. 

I tried for awhile to find a replacement for my friend. I participated in mom groups and sought to deepen friendships with other women. It was nice to have people who could relate, but I still desired someone who could impart wisdom about the future and serve as proof that difficult seasons of parenting will pass. I spent a lot of time praying for an older woman mentor of sorts. 

Finally, at the beginning of this year, I decided I would choose to trust God to provide what I need in terms of relationships and in the meantime seek wisdom on my roles as woman, wife and mother from the source - the Bible. (I think God has really wanted me to seek him for this wisdom on how to live and thrive in these roles all along and it took me awhile to realize this.)

This decision also coincided with me feeling that I was reading my Bible as a checklist item and not really seeking to learn and apply what I was reading each morning. I wanted that to change so I decided to change my methods. Instead of trying to read a chapter each day to get through the entire Bible (my previous plan), I decided to study scriptures about my womanly roles. I chose to start with the illustrious Proverbs 31 woman we hear so much about. 

I am a journaler. Writing is how I process my thoughts. I decided that to truly study God's word and let it sink into my soul, I would take it slow and use my strengths. I began by writing out the verse I wished to study. Then I wrote out what I thought it meant and how I might be able to apply it. I ended with a prayer about the verse. Some verses were tough for me to determine a modern-day application. One particular verse I was so stumped, I did an online search to see what others had gleaned from the verse. I am trying to improve my ability to seek help when I need it. 

Once I was through those verses, I sought out other verses referencing these topics. I am currently focusing on what the Bible says about being a woman and a wife. I have verse references about children and parents for the next part of this dig into the Bible. 

Having used this method for more than two months now, it has not become rote. I think it's the amount of focus needed to write my thoughts. It has been so encouraging and inspiring to me that I am considering turning my pages into a devotional when I am finished. This declaration is a little scary as I struggle with having meaningful thoughts and/or wisdom to share with others. I know that God will work out the details if this is what I am supposed to do with this personal Bible study.

Recently, I received the opportunity to read and complete a Bible study about Biblical womanhood that another woman has written. I do not think it is coincidental that her study topic is what I have been delving into personally for a few months. I am very interested in reading about what she learned from her experience with the Scriptures. 

Now, Dear Reader, I have an opportunity for you as well. The author, Katie May Tramonte, has provided me with an additional copy of her Bible study, Gospel-Centered Womanhood, which I am able to give away to one of you! If you would like a chance to win this study, please leave a comment between now and April 6th. The winner (picked randomly) will be announced on April 7th. Good luck!

P.S. - If you're having trouble leaving a comment, please let me know so I can try to fix the issue!