Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Zig- Zags 101

"3 minutes strength training, 2 minutes of cardio, 1 minute abs, why? It is the most effective way to burn calories, burn fat and build lean muscle mass." -Jillian Michael's-30 Day shred (OK, I love her, she's tough and she knows her stuff!) These are the "zig- zags" I have used and found success with. I think it is always good to have some helpful ideas, things real people have tried and found their own success with. Again, finding what works best for you is what is most important.

Zig- Zag 1:For a long time, I was just running and running everyday, which is fine, but it wasn't until I added strength training and intervals to the mix that I started getting better results with my fitness goals. Two of my most favorite workout DVD's are Jillian Michael's 30 day shred and Jillian Michael's "No more trouble zones". The great thing about "the 30 day shred"is it is only 20 minutes and there are 3 different level workouts you can do, and I started seeing results with all of them,pretty quick. I did the "30 day shred" for 30 days, combined with cardio and pilates and got to my lowest weight. I have now added "No More Trouble Zones" to the mix 3-4 days a week and I feel like I am getting tighter and more toned all over. It has combination moves that work your abs EVERY TIME-(abs-big problem area, for many of us,and if it isn't, consider yourself extremely lucky!) It is 40 minutes, but you can break it up into individual circuits if you don't have time to do the whole thing. Or I like to mix up the order of the circuits to break it up if it starts to feel monotonous. Most importantly, however, keep at it and not quit. I mean, really, one of my biggest frustrations is when some of those "trouble zones" just don't seem to go away completely no matter what I do. But I will keep at it. I think my next thing to research will be self acceptance and being completely happy with myself. How does one get there? I wish I knew. I want to stop always finding something I don't like about myself. I know I have come a long way, but it is still a struggle for me all the time. Anyway, back to the "No More Trouble Zones" DVD, don't let the first circuit (after the warm up, of course) scare you off, if you can get through that, you can do the rest. It is really hard, I won't lie, but it's worth it. I absolutely love this DVD! I love them both, it's like my own little road map to strength training. Before I found these little gems I didn't know where to start or what exercises to do. It shows you exactly how to do the exercises and what muscles the particular circuits are training. What's even better, you can do this on your own at home! Jillian also constantly reminds you to remember as you are doing it,think about all the things you want for yourself and why you are doing it so that it is something positive and not something you dread doing.

Zig- Zag 2: Cardio Intervals: I have been reading up on why intervals help you lose weight faster and why they are so effective. They help build endurance and burn more calories in a shorter amount of time. Staying at a steady pace is not as effective and it doesn't challenge your body as much. (Although, I do want to add, I still like to do an hour's worth of cardio because I just feel better, and I enjoy running and you will get results that way as well. It's just good to mix it up and give your body a challenge). My sister has a friend that went to a body building contest in Las Vegas and won by running 20 minutes of moderate speeds for (I think) 2 minutes at about 5 mph, then short bursts of a speed as high as you can go, and repeat, and 6 days a week of strength training (but also a very, very strict diet) I have also found some good incline speed interval workouts that are programmed on most treadmills. There are sample interval workouts you can find on the Internet, or sometimes what I have done is just mix it up to what I am feeling up to that day. Unfortunately, the incline hurts my knees too, so I have to watch that one. The great thing here is that it doesn't have to be complicated. We are all capable of pushing ourselves. When Jillian Michaels trains you in cardio, she says she wants you to "feel like you are going to die" then you know it is working!

Zig -Zag 3: The Calorie Zig-zag: If you decide to go the counting calorie route, to lose or even to maintain, an effective tool of you have hit that all too familiar plateau is to zig- zag your calories because it constantly "tricks" your body by constantly changing calories: Here is an example I found on the internet of a 7 day calorie zig-zag for fat loss: Monday-1653 Tuesday:1322 Wednesday:1983 Thursday:1653 Friday: 1488 Saturday: 1818 Sunday: 1653. This one is a good starting point, and you can lessen the calories for a more extreme fat loss.

So, basically, just having a plan,staying with it and mixing it up, will help you get the results you want! Of all the "plans" I have had, this is what has worked the best for me!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Sweet Holiday Temptations

No, this is not the title to a romance novel I am working on, it's something much,much lighter. One thing that I look forward to and also causes me stress around the holidays, are all the treats and family dinners. I enjoy them a lot, but don't want to gain 5 pounds in the process. I looked on the Internet the other night on one of my random searches about ways to avoid gaining weight over the holidays. Jenny Craig's holiday commercial with Valerie Bertinelli talks about how to lose 12 pounds over the holidays. Sure, that's all fine and good if you want to eat prepackaged meals the rest of your life. But I want to learn these things using my own recipes and my own food. I don't think it is realistic or any fun at all to go to holiday functions and not eat anything. So, I found a list of easy ways to prevent holiday weight gain that I really liked because it was just practical,good common sense. I found this on About.com

1. Practice Portion Control: All things in moderation. Keep your serving sizes in check at all times and you really can enjoy your favorite holiday treats without gaining weight.

2. Take a Walk: Stay active during the holidays and those extra pounds won't creep up on you. A 30-minute brisk walk outside, if weather permits, or hitting the mall for a workout before it opens, can do wonders for the waistline.

3. Plan Smarter Meals: Try some new ways to make your holiday meals healthier. Small changes can add up to a big difference. It's as simple as adding a serving of steamed vegetables or just choosing fruit instead of desserts that can save hundreds of calories.

4. Cope With Cravings: Food cravings are part of life. If you can't avoid food cravings, the best way to fight back is to be prepared with an alternative activity to eating.

5. Don't Give Up: The worst thing you can do when it comes to weight management during the holidays is to give into the all-or-nothing thinking and keep making bad choices once you've made a mistake.Don't throw in the towel because of a few slip-ups!

I am all about finding substitutions to the real thing to keep me on track during the week, and then when special holiday occasions come up, I don't over do it. In Lisa Lillien's book: Hungry Girl: Recipes and Survival Strategies for Guilt-Free Eating in the Real World, she includes a Holiday Hot List and a Holiday Not List:

Holiday HOT List!

Choose these guilt-free goodies at your next holiday party. . .

Shrimp cocktail (4 jumbo shrimp w/1 Tbs. cocktail sauce=75 calories and 1g fat)

Candy Canes (1 cane=60 calories and 0g fat)

Chicken or Beef skewers (1 skewer=100 calories and 3g fat)

Raw veggies with salsa (1 cup veggies w/1/4 cup salsa=55 calories and 0.5 g fat)

Holiday NOT List!

Eggnog (1 cup=400 calories and 20g fat!)

Hot cocoa (1 cup w/ whipped cream=200 calories and 10g fat!)

Assorted chocolates (3 pieces=200 calories and 11g fat!)

Cookies (1 chocolate chip cookie=210 calories and 13g fat!)

Cake (1 small slice of chocolate cake=340 calories and 14g fat!)

My own personal feeling is that you simply can't go the whole entire holiday season without having your favorite treats, even when watching your calories. What's the fun in that? Most of the time, just use your common sense and you will be fine. For me, I find it works best if there are a bunch of holiday events coming up, to just pick one or two of them to have dessert, and skip it other times. Or, if I really want the dessert, keep the dinner light. Some holiday treats have special traditional meaning to me, so I save those. Why give those up when I don't have to? I'm sure we all have our favorite traditions that include our favorite treats. For example. I used to go every year with my dad to get a Christmas tree at Fred Parker lots, followed by hot chocolate on the way home. It's one of my favorite Christmas memories. So when I go get my tree this year, I will get me some hot chocolate and when I want hot chocolate other times, I stick to the no sugar added kind, it's only 25-50 calories a cup (depending on what kind you get) and it keeps me on track. Anyway, my point is, I like to substitute when I can, and other times, enjoy having the real thing. I think if you have a good plan, you can stay on track, no matter what the plan is. Another good rule to follow especially during this holiday season is to do what my mom's "He-Woman" aerobics instructor said and that is, if you feel you may have indulged a little too much, just do an extra exercise session in the evening to make up for it. I think my favorite survival tip that Lisa Lillien gives in regards to holiday parties is: Wear fitted party clothes. Doing so will help keep you from shamelessly stuffing too much food down your gullet!

Here are a few holiday recipes from Lisa Lillien that I like:

Freakishly Good Frozen Hot Chocolate

58 calories (entire recipe)


One 25-calorie diet hot cocoa mix

1/4 cup light vanilla soymilk

1/2 ounce sugar-free calorie-free syrup (white chocolate or vanilla)

1 tsp. sugar-free chocolate syrup

2 no-calorie sweetener packets

2 tbs. Fat free Reddi Whip

5 to 8 ice cubes or 1 c. crushed ice


Place hot cocoa mix, chocolate syrup, and sweetener in a glass, and stir in 3 ounces of hot water. Next, add soy milk and sugar-free syrup and stir again. Place a mix in the fridge or freezer for a few minutes or until cool. Pour mix into a blender and add ice. Blend on the highest speed for a bout 45 seconds or until well blended. Pour into a tall mug. Finish off with whipped topping. Makes 1 serving

No-Nonsense Nog

1 cup=98 calories


5 cups light vanilla soy milk

1 small (4-serving) sugar-free fat free vanilla instant pudding mix

6 no-calorie sweetener packets

1 tsp. imitation rum extract

1/2 tsp. nutmeg


Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend on high until mixed thoroughly. Refrigerate for a few hours to allow nog to thicken. Makes 5 servings

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Good,Old-Fashioned Counting Calories

One of my favorite people (although I don't know her personally, ) is Dr. Laura. (Dr. Dora-my daughter calls her, the second I turn it to her show on the radio while I run errands) She gets right to the point. When callers call in and lament about how they have tried to lose weight and haven't succeeded, she says quite bluntly that in order to lose weight you have to eat less and move more. Yes, that is exactly right, but I needed something more specific. I had no idea where to begin. I did a lot of research on the Internet about counting calories. It really does make the most sense to me out of all the diets out there. As I have learned, you have to burn more calories than you take in if you want to lose weight. Well, I think my other attempts had failed because I didn't know how many calories I was taking in. It's time consuming and it takes patience to add them all up and keep track of everything you eat, but it's worth it. If you google BMI, (body mass index)enter your height, weight,desired weight and activity level, it will tell you exactly how many calories you need to eat to lose the exact number of pounds you want to lose. It will also tell you how many calories you need to maintain your current weight if that is what you are looking to do. (shape.com has a great BMI calculator) More tips I learned and liked are to keep your diet simple, overestimate your calories by a few 100 if you are guesstimating the amount. So, I'm just an average girl that found something that worked! So, here are my tiny little pearls of wisdom to dispense, hopefully it helps!

The Basics of Weight Loss
(another gem I found on the Internet, some of them might seem obvious, but the specifics are helpful in making your weight loss plan a success)

1. Choose fruits
2. Choose snacks low in added sugar (lean meats,low fat cottage cheese)
3. Choose snacks high in protein (reduced-fat yogurt,slices of turkey,mozzarella cheese,skim milk with berries,hard boiled eggs, raw almonds)
4. Choose snacks high in fiber/low fat (cherry tomatoes,baby carrots,celery sticks,raw broccoli or cauliflower dipped in fat-free ranch, 2 dill pickles,add dried cranberries to yogurt, scrambled eggs with whole wheat english muffin)
5. Keep portions small

Another nice thing about this method I have found is that you can keep it simple, but you really don't have to just eat celery all day long in order to lose weight. I found a few sample 1200-1300, calorie diets that I have gotten many of my ideas from. The nice thing about these sample meal plans is that they use everyday foods. They are simple, realistic and easy to follow. You don't have to experience burn out by eating the same thing every single day. I started out simple and then later added some different dinner recipes, that fit into however many calories I had left for dinner. The good news is that you really don't have to eat boring stuff for the rest of your life in order to lose or maintain your weight! You can still have choices! I used to think that was the case, and it frustrated me because I knew there was no way I could do that for the rest of my life. Cooking and eating good food is supposed to be fun! I think it's best when you decide to lose weight, not to "feel" like you are on a diet. I tried the deprivation method and I totally sabotaged myself!

Day 1

Breakfast: 1 plain waffle,1 t. maple syrup, 8 oz.water,1 tsp, butter or margarine

Lunch: 1 c. skim milk,1 salad with romaine lettuce, 1/2 c. each carrots,green peppers, cabbage, celery. 1 tbs. light dressing,1 whole grain roll

Afternoon Snack: 1/2 c. sliced strawberries,6 oz. fat-free flavored yogurt

Dinner: 3 oz. sirloin steak, lean only, broiled or grilled w/out added fat. 1 c. rice, 1 tsp.butter or margarine,1/2 c. cooked carrots,1 mixed green salad,2 t. fat-free dressing

Evening Snack: 1 Orange

Day 2

Breakfast: 2 pancakes, 4 "round, 1 t, fruit spread or maple syrup

Morning snack: 1 c. skim milk, 1 peach

Lunch: 1 salad with mixed greens,1 t. fat-free dressing,6 saltine crackers,3 oz, tuna fish-albacore,water packed. 1 apple

Afternoon Snack: 1/2 oz. chocolate (about 4 chocolate kisses)

Dinner: 1 c. cooked pasta, 1/2 c. spaghetti sauce,meatless,1 mixed green salad, 1 t. fat free dressing

Evening Snack: 1 c. skim milk, 1 whole graham cracker

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Give Me A Piece Of That Sweet Potato Pie!

I've heard many times that sweet potatoes were good for you. I know that Oprah endorses them on her show when talking about weight loss. I've always really liked them, ever since I was little and my mom made her traditional Thanksgiving Yam Apple Casserole. So, I decided to just do a little research about why these sweet potatoes are good for you. I found out that they have Vitamin A as well as Vitamin C, which contain antioxidants to eliminate free radicals. What that means is (I think I have ever only heard of free radicals on Neutrogena commercials up until now) free radicals contain chemicals that damage cells and are associated with conditions such as: diabetic heart disease and colon cancer. So, the antioxidants in sweet potatoes, obviously, can help protect against those conditions. Sweet potatoes also contain Vitamin B6 which can help protect against stroke and heart attack. Plus, they taste good and 1 cup is only about 180 calories. Which can be better than that? I started incorporating the idea of sometimes having a Progresso light soup and 1/2 a sweet potato for lunch. (yes, I got the idea when I looked up different celebrity diets, which I sometimes do when I am bored, and Tori Spelling has that for lunch-just an interesting, not that important side note) They are easy to bake in the oven, 350 degrees for about an hour, or what my sister-in-law does is put them in boiling water until they are soft and once they have cooled, she just pulls the peels right off. So, I found a few fun sweet potato recipes I have used for dinner, that I thought maybe some of you out there might like to try! Enjoy!

Sweet Potato Enchiladas

(Yes, even Ron liked these! He thought they sounded a little weird at first, but he was pleasantly surprised. These are actually quite high in calories, so I added a few modifications to help with that)
Serves: 6


5 sweet potatoes
1 8 oz. package cream cheese (I used reduced fat)

4 green onions

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp. ground oregano

1 tsp. dried sage

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

12 (7 inch) corn tortillas

1 can (19 ounce) enchilada sauce

1 (8 oz.) package shredded Monterey Jack cheese (I use fat-free cheese if I can, although it's pretty expensive, so If I use regular I just use half as much


1. Bring a large pot and water to boil over medium heat and boil the sweet potatoes until tender, about 30 minutes. Cool and peel the sweet potatoes.

2. Place the sweet potatoes in a bowl and mash them with the cream cheese,green onions, chili powder,cumin,oregano, salt and pepper until well mixed

3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray 13 x 9 inch baking dish with cooking spray

*This fourth step I skipped to make it lower fat

4. Heat 1/2 c. oil in a skillet over medium heat. fry the tortillas, one at a time, for about 30 seconds per side. Remove tortillas with tongs, and drain on paper towels.

5. Place about 1/3 cup of sweet potato filling down the center of each tortilla,roll it up, and place filling side seam side down in the prepared baking dish. Pour enchilada sauce over the tortillas and sprinkle with Monterey Jack cheese.

(Since I find that corn tortillas are hard to roll up without breaking, I just cut them into strips first and later like you would a lasagna-tortillas,filling,sauce,cheese, repeat)
6. Bake in the preheated oven for 20-30 minutes until the enchiladas are bubbling and the cheese begins to brown

Sweet Potato & Black Bean Chili
2 servings, 2 cups each Calories: 374

2 tsps. extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion
1 small sweet potato,peeled and diced
2 cloves garlic
2 tsps. ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground chipotle chili (I just used regular chipotle seasoning)
1/8 tsp. salt.or to taste
1 1/3 cups water
1 15-ounce can black beans,rinsed and drained
1 cup diced canned tomatoes
2 tsps. lime juice
2 Tbs. chopped fresh cilantro

1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and potato and cook,stirring often, until the onion is slightly softened,about 4 min. Add garlic,chili powder, cumin,chipotle, and salt and cook.stirring constantly until fragrant,about 30 seconds. Add water,bring to a simmer. Cover,reduce heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cook until the potato is tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Add beans,tomatoes and lime juice;Increase heat to high and return to simmer,stirring often. Reduce heat to maintain a simmer and cook until slightly reduced, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in cilantro.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Holding On

Well, I guess it's a little ironic that I jumped on my blog today to vent and whine, especially since my last post was about finding inner strength. I also sound a little like I am giving Meredith's final thought at the end of a Grey's Anatomy episode. In still trying to see the good in the middle of an uphill battle. I was doing great for a while, after a lot of ups and downs and plateaus, I got back to what worked as far as the best diet plan for me. Now, I am not so motivated and I will tell you why. After running away from my fear, I have decided to face it, and be willing to put myself out there. I am referring to being willing to have another baby. Yes, being pregnant again and all the fun that goes with it. No, this is not an announcement, I am simply saying, I think I'm ready to take that leap of faith. My initial fear and biggest factor is what I went through when I was pregnant. I admire mothers so much who go through a tough pregnancy, are so willing to sacrifice again and go out into the unknown. A little less than halfway through my pregnancy when I went to have my first ultrasound, they found a gallstone. I know I have briefly talked about this before and so I won't go too much into it. Afterall, that isn't my main focus as a faithful blogger today. To summarize, it's probably the worst pain I have ever felt, and what was worse, I couldn't do anything about it except try to control it with diet and just breathe, and hold on. I was teaching at the time as well, so let's just say it was a difficult time for me. Even the Lortab that my doctor prescribed didn't help. That should tell you how strong the pain was. (I may have already said that too). Since I didn't want to compromise the safety of my baby I decided to wait until after she was born to have surgery. After labor, whatever good hospital employee, albeit a little of a bonehead, was in charge of scheduling surgery forgot to put me on that list for the next morning, so I had to wait until 3 PM for surgery, with no food or water, aside from a tiny bit right after I had the baby. To make a long story short, I made it through, and I love my daughter with all my heart. I lost my 25 pounds, which was 25 pounds less than I was before I had my baby. I do take it as a learning experience, but not one I want to ever repeat again!
As I have said, I've learned to make weight loss and fitness a hobby I have really enjoyed. I have been doing lots of cardio and strength training every day,counting those calories and feeling pretty good. Well, I am so very afraid that when I do get pregnant again, I will gain all the weight I lost and erase all the hard work I have done. I am scared to feel fat, frumpy and ugly. Or that the weight will be even harder to lose the second time around! I know how horribly selfish that sounds. But, fearing that, I am losing motivation to keep it up. Last week I felt like my efforts were no longer worth it. I totally slacked off on following my weekly food plan and writing it all down, etc. It was like, why do this if I will just gain weight anyway?
On the positive, I had a really good talk with Ron about all this, and I am feeling better. He's pointed out that this next time around, I won't have the gallstone problem so I should still be able to exercise. I also won't be teaching so I will have more time to exercise, but also take it a little more easy. More importantly, he pointed out, the next time around compared to last time, should be a much easier pregnancy. What struck me most of all is when he said that the Lord won't give us anything he knows we can't handle. I know I need to have more faith in that. I've had to ask myself if I am doing all the things I should be doing to exercise that faith. So, I have been trying to go back to the basics and recently re-reading my patriarchal blessing and that has helped me start to feel motivated again. Not only to do those things that I know are right, but continue on doing what I will need to do to be healthy and happy. It's so hard to just say, I have no idea what will happen, but I have to put it in his hands now. Anyway, on a much lighter note, my plan is to continue with my hobby when I am pregnant again and keep the goal in mind of gaining only the amount of weight required to keep my baby healthy, thus adding a whole new chapter of helpful tips to my blog. It should be fun to figure out how many calories I will need and find some new recipes. I know, lame things to be excited about, but as you can tell, I am trying to get positive and stay motivated. I'm determined to stay healthy and focused as best I can whenever it does happen! Of course, the end result of being pregnant, is always worth it!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Physically and Spiritually Fit

I've been thinking lately what my next post should be about, and for some reason, this is what kept coming back to me. This is pretty personal stuff, so bear with me, but I thought it might be of some help to those that are struggling. I got to thinking about the times I struggled with meeting my fitness goals, and in connection, just struggling to find the strength to make things happen and really, to be happy. My sister is such an example to me. It was when she started praying for the strength and discipline to lose weight, that it happened. She prayed for the strength to withstand the temptation to slack off with her diet, and she was able to get past that roadblock. When I started to get stronger spiritually, is when things started changing for me (once again, not to say it's perfect).Praying for needed strength and guidance not only gave me the physical strength, but it gave me the courage to do things I never thought that I could do. It has really got me thinking, how many times do we "run" away from the things that are hard because we think we lack the strength and discipline to do them? In turn, we make excuses and say,"it's just too hard" and so we never try. Or we decide to live a life of ease and comfort rather than do the things we are afraid of? How many of us deep down inside long for that strength and wonder how much better life would be if we had it? If we made an honest effort to do hard things, how much more would we progress and grow? We can do hard things! We all can! We all have the ability to surprise ourselves. I surprised myself. When I was younger, my grandmother used to say,"Rachel, do one hard thing everyday." I would joke and say,"I did, It was getting out of bed."
What connected these things together for me was an experience from when we lived in Boston. (Included above are some pictures of the beautiful Boston Temple). I have never actually wrote about this so I thought this would be a good time. I was faithfully going to the fitness center in our complex every day. There was an older,stalky man that worked there. I wasn't sure where he was from, he didn't speak much English. He cleaned the exercise equipment and mopped the floors in the fitness center as well as vacuuming the floor in the apartment buildings. In fact, he was so dedicated it was hard for some of us not be a little annoyed when he tried to clean the equipment while we were using it! I think that most people would not think twice about him, just being a lonely little janitor that went quietly about his business. I took my baby girl with me to the fitness center and set her on a blanket with toys. He loved saying hello to her and seeing her gaze up and smile at him. He would laugh and say,"Hello baby" and "beautiful." So, while I was there, we started to exchange very brief conversations, mostly because he didn't speak English and I didn't speak his language. I asked him one day where he was from. He was from Brazil. One day, he excitedly told me in broken English that his daughter who was still in Brazil got to come out there to see him. I found out he worked another job as well as this one. He soon told me he was quitting this job because the commute and time between jobs was just too much. I could tell he was just such a good, kind person. Randomly, a few nights later, we had the missionaries over for dinner. Coincidentally, one of the missionaries was from Brazil. When they asked us if we knew anyone they could get in contact with, I was like, "well, actually I do." I told them the story. The Elder from Brazil just happened to have a Portuguese Book of Mormon on him and wrote a note to give to him with the book. I was so nervous I told them I didn't know if I was brave enough to do it. I didn't want to impose too much on him. Being from UT, I never really had many missionary opportunities. Well, a day or two later I saw my friend from Brazil in the parking lot after my workout in the gym. My heart started beating really fast and I thought,"OK, OK it's now or never." So, I ran up to my apartment, wrapped the book and taped the missionaries note on top. I saw him and said."This is for you." "Oh thank you" he said. That was it. I was worried he wouldn't talk to me after that or what he would think. I came back upstairs and called my mom, my heart still racing (I had told her briefly about him earlier). I was so excited to tell her what happened. She answered and I said,"I did it!" It may have seemed like a simple thing, but it filled me with exhilaration, another kind of "high" I had never felt before. I was so happy. I couldn't believe I actually did it. I saw him on his last day and thanked me again. He said he hadn't called the missionaries yet, but he was going to. I decided not to ask, he just told me. I don't know if he has called the missionaries yet or if he will, but at least I won't always wonder about it or feel regret if I hadn't done it. I really do believe proving to myself I could meet my goals in other areas of my life, finding my own physical strength, gave me the courage to do other hard things. It helped me find the courage to do things I never thought I could do. I have learned how important it is not to sell yourself short or underestimate all the things you are capable of. I try to remind myself of this when I am struggling. When we are doing everything we can, all we have to do is ask, and we will get the help we need.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Slimmed down comfort foods

One of the things I have found that keeps me from absolute sabotage, is including in my weekly plan, a few of my favorite treats. It was great for me to discover, I can still have them and stay skinny. I keep them small and it's just enough to keep me on track. The 100 calorie packs you can buy are one of my favorites. Especially, hostess 100 calorie cupcake packs, 100 calorie kettle corn (yes, it is and tastes diet, but close enough to the real thing to work for me) 100 calorie Fudge Stripes and Lorna Doone cookies. They are laughably teeny, but they work for me! Some dieters may disagree and say you should stay away from any of that stuff when trying to lose weight, but I found, it satisfied my craving and kept me on track, as opposed to depriving myself to the point that I can't take it anymore and eating an entire pan of brownies myself. Ok, I haven't ever actually gotten to that point, but I know there are times when we all feel like we could do that.(Speaking of brownies though, I found some all natural fat free ones called No Pudge All natural brownies that I love! You just add yogurt to make a single 120 calorie serving). In addition, one day a week I add a "free meal" to my weekly meals, where one meal, one night a week, I can eat whatever I want. (my sisters also do this, and really like it). I usually save that for the once a week date night. It actually motivates me to be on track for the week ahead.

Another hobby of mine has been finding slimmed down versions of my favorite recipes. One of my favorite recipe books is one by Lisa Lillien called, Hungry Girl:Recipes and Survival Strategies for Guilt-Free Eating in the Real World. On the back of the book it says, "Have your cake, your pizza, your Nachos, and still fit into your jeans." How cute is that? Ok, I like cute things. I say things are cute all the time and my husband is like, "why is that cute?" Anyway, it's a really fun, colorful book with tons of slimmed down recipes. There are even survival sections on how to eat smart when you go out to different types of restaurants (Mexican, Italian, Chinese) and a section on how to snack smart while at the movies. I will include more recipes of hers (she has some great dinner ones!) in more in future blogs to come. Until then, here is one of my favorites, and a fun one for fall!

Caramel Pumpkin Pudding Cupcakes

1 cupcake:108 calories, 2g fat


For Cupcakes

2 cups yellow cake mix (1/2 of an 18.25-ounce box)

1 cup canned pure pumpkin

1/2 c. fat-free liquid egg substitute

2 Tbs. sugar-free maple syrup

2 tsps. cinnamon

2 tsps. Splenda No calorie Sweetener (granulated)

1/8 tsp. salt

For Topping

3 cubes (about 1 ounce) chewy caramel

2 tsps. light vanilla soy milk


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine all cupcake ingredients in a mixing bowl with 1/3 cup water. Whip with a whisk or fork for 2 minutes until well blended.

Spray a 12-cup muffin pan with nonstick spray or line with baking cups. Evenly spoon batter into muffin cups. Place pan in the oven and cook for about 12 minutes (until cupcakes have puffed up but still appear gooey on top).

Once cupcakes are cool enough to handle, arrange them closely on a plate so that the edges are touching.

Place caramel and soy milk in a tall microwave-safe glass or dish (mixture will bubble and rise when heated). Microwave at medium power for 1 1/2 minutes. Stir mixture vigorously until smooth and thoroughly blended. (Return to microwave for 30 seconds at medium heat if caramel has not fully melted). Immediately drizzle caramel sauce over cupcakes.

Makes 12 servings

Saturday, September 26, 2009

A Runner's high (and low)

Well,I am definitely feeling the low, and it's frustrating! However, on the bright side, here are a few tips I have learned for all the runners out there.
Last summer, a few months before we moved back to UT from Boston, I noticed my knees starting to hurt when I would run. It was mostly my left knee, just below my knee cap. But, silly me just kept running on it anyway. I also started to notice a crunching sound from my knees when I would climb up and down stairs. When we moved back to UT, my mom made an appointment to see the chiropractor she goes to in North Orem. He works a lot with athletes and helps treat their injuries. So I started going once or twice a week. He recommended a break from running and doing solely cycling and working out on the elliptical. When he asked me if I was willing to stop running for a while, he said another patient of his was so addicted to running she made her family load up the treadmill on the houseboat at Lake Powell. I laughed because I could almost see myself doing that. I didn't really like cycling because it didn't burn very many calories. (although he said spinning class does!) I thought I would just walk on an incline, but that hurt my knees worse and I ended up with tendinitis in my left knee. He had me bring in my shoes to see if they were good, supportive shoes. They checked out fine. He gave me some knee strengthening exercises to do twice a day and had me ice my knees three times a day for 10 minutes.
So, after a few months of a break, I started running again. My sister has been reading a book by an expert runner. For knee pain, he recommends running 4 minutes and then walking one, repeating that cycle throughout the run. It doesn't effect your overall time and it's better for your knees. So, I tried that, and it seemed to be working really well. I had a pretty good pair of Nikes, but to my dismay, they started giving me blisters on the sides of my feet. Since it was about time to get a new pair anyway, Ron and I went to Finish Line to check out some new running shoes. Although I haven't ever had troubles with Nikes in the past, I was surprised to find out Nikes aren't the best running shoe. Kelsee, a girl that worked at Finish Line, also an avid trail runner, gave me some really good tips for looking for a good running shoe. She said Nikes are mostly for style, and looking cute. She would wear them to work, but never to run in (and she was very firm on that!) She pointed out that having shox on your shoes (like most Nikes do) just elevates your feet, and you don't need that when you are running, because it's better to run on a flat foot. She also set me up with a good pair of insoles (if you keep your receipt, you can trade them in for new ones for free, too!) She also recommended getting running socks to wear as well. I got some and they are a great added support for my feet. I tried on a couple of pairs of shoes, venturing away from Nikes to a new brand. I went with Under Armour brand. They were a little less expensive than the top running shoe they had, but Kelsee said that they were another brand that a lot of people had liked. I've loved them! I also got a band for my knee that helps keep the knee cap in place. The Under Armours are the most comfortable running shoes I have had because they don't squeeze the tops of my feet. So, I decided to cut back the running to 3 times a week. Unfortunately, my chiropractor said there is not a permanent fix for my knee problems and recommended more cross training. I alternated running 5 miles one day, 3 the next time and then 5 again. My husband warned me to be careful, and thought I should just keep it at 3. But, I got a little too overconfident and pushed it further than I should have. After a few times of 6-7 miles at a pretty high speed, my knees started to hurt again. One day this last week, I stepped on the treadmill, only to find that after 2 minutes of running, my right knee really hurt. It's frustrating because I felt I had made so much progress. This is another reason that I am reluctant to run a marathon. I don't want to damage my knees so much that I can't ever run again. This knee pain is something I will just have to deal with the rest of my running life, there's nothing that will fix it. There's a high I get from running that I can't get any other way. It's addicting, and hard to stop once you start. As my chiropractor also said, when it hurts, stop. That's your body's way of telling you it's time to stop. Hmm, what a concept. So, I almost feel like I am back to square one. I will take a break again from running and see what happens. For all you runners out there, just be careful. It's all worth it, but it catches up to you, in one way or another. I guess it's just the price we all pay.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Happy Weight

Happy Weight-this is my reference (also a website given to me by my sis) to finding balance in your life and doing what makes you happy. The thing that came into my mind first was those weight loss commercials we have all seen. These commercials make me laugh because they make it look like all you have to do is take some pill and you will have perfectly toned abs, no "problem areas" or extra skin, or that pooch from being pregnant (not to mention,according to those girls in the commercials, not only will you be skinny, but you will also have a great tan!) This simply is not the case, it is false advertising and most likely, photo shop that gets the credit here. The sad truth is, unless you are blessed with the genetics to be naturally lean and have a high metabolism, (like the Paris Hilton of genetics,being a celebrity because you were born into this fortune and don't have to do really anything to get it) then your general body shape is going to stay the same, pretty much no matter what you do. That doesn't mean you can't look great, it just means, after you have done all you can, you have to learn to accept yourself and love yourself. I went to the gym this morning to workout on the elliptical and saw this very thin girl running on the treadmill. She honestly had no fat on her whatsoever and her waist naturally went in like she was a drawn disney princess. I found myself thinking, "Man! That is so unfair!" I had to catch myself though. I do need to remember all the work I do put it in and give myself some credit. I used to think that once I reached my goal weight, that was it and I was done with the work. But the truth is, once you get to the weight you want to be at, you have to work almost just as hard to maintain it. It's difficult to stick to it all the time, but if I don't, I end up gaining weight back. Ya, I almost always have to be careful about what I eat in order to maintain, but that doesn't mean I have to be perfect at it either. What I have learned is that, I am just happier when I am taking good care of myself and eating healthy. I feel better. I feel out of whack if I don't plan my meals ahead and stick with my fitness and nutrition plan. I also constantly try to keep in mind, every girl's weight fluctuates from time to time. Months ago, I got to about the lowest jean size you can get without being in the negative, but my body doesn't seem to want to stay there. I was there for a few months. Occasionally, they will still fit but only after atleast a week of doing a VERY strict and unrealistic diet. A diet that makes me extremely moody and tired.
It's hard for me not to constantly compare myself to others, and keep wishing I could change the things about my body that I don't like. My sister and I were talking about this a while back and she was saying how once your body is at the weight it should be, it wants to stay there. Listening to your body and what it needs, is a key factor. She told me about a website called "Happy Weight.com" that she found out about. It tells you what your ideal weight range is for your height and what your healthy weight should be. She recommended checking it out. It also helps reinforce all the hard work you have put in and makes you feel better. She said I would probably be even under what my weight range should be. That, of course, does make me feel good! The toughest thing for me is being completely happy with myself. Trust me, my husband and I have this conversation much more than he wants to. I believe I will get there though, slowly but surely, I will become more accepting of myself. I am learning to try and stop beating myself up and not get so obsessed with weight that I lose sight of who I am and how far I have come. I need to also be doing it for the right reasons. Stick with what works, not only to be happy, but to be healthy too! Remember all of the other things in your life that you have been blessed with, and why those things make you happy!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

My Essential Binder of favorite recipes, exercise tips and more. . .

One of the things I did as part of my "weight loss project" was to start a binder. It is something that I use all the time. It sits on a shelf with all my recipe books. If a calorie counting method is something you are interested in, I found some things that really helped. At the beginning of the binder, I put copies of my food journal that I keep every week. Every day and every meal, I put the time (since I have learned it's most effective to eat small meals every 3-4 hours) the food, the calories, and also beverage. (since it is important to drink lots of water) As you open the binder it has a list of quotes given to me by my sister from a talk she gave entitled, Just Livin' the Dream. One of my favorites:"Dreams are renewable. No matter what our age or condition, there are still untapped possibilities within us and new beauty is waiting to be born." -anonymous. On the other side of the quote sheet is a list on "Overcoming the Craving to Eat Mindlessly" which I found on the Internet. I find it is good to refer to on the days I am not so motivated or am feeling burned out. A few highlights: 1. Treat your body with respect: nourish it, move it around, listen to it, and pamper it. Tune into your body to stop emotional eating. 2. Don't deprive yourself of foods you love, just don't overdo it. 3. Deal with your triggers. If you can't cut then from your life entirely, find better ways to cope with your feelings. Eating mindlessly makes things worse. Also in the binder is an "anger cheat sheet" I found in a Weight Watchers magazine: Why do I want to eat this? Is it because I an hungry or because I am angry? If I don't eat this now, will I regret not eating it later? If I do eat it, how will I feel later? Is there a healthier option? Here is a general breakdown of the binder:

Section 1: A calorie chart with most general foods I found on the Internet, for more specific foods, the website The Daily Plate is a good one.
Section 2: Tips for cutting calories, The 7 day calorie zigzag, a chart that provides the amount of calories needed per week, but "tricks" your body by constantly changing daily calories. This is great for plateaus. I found this also on the Internet.
Section 3: sample diets for 7 days of 1200, 1300 and 1400 calorie diets. I have learned that keeping it simple makes this calorie counting method easier, and these sample diets also gave me great ideas.
Section 4: A list I found from Good Housekeeping: The Best 100 calorie snacks and The 2008 healthy food awards Shopping List.
Section 5: Recipes: includes my favorites from the Zone Diet,healthy recipes from allrecipes.com, Free Diet Menu, Food Network: Ellie Krieger's recipes, Flat Belly diet recipes, Biggest Loser recipes, Weight watchers recipes.
Section 6: Fitness tips: treadmill routines, stationary bike routines, toning, Pilates ab routines, interval routines. You can find a lot of these on the website for Fitness magazine.
As you can see, I like to mix and match and use the things I like. Many of the dinner recipes are "slimmed down" versions of my favorites. This works out great for feeding my husband and two year old, because they are easy to adapt. For example a few nights ago,I made a Grilled Chicken Parmesan with pasta. For myself, I made whole wheat pasta and I made some regular pasta for my husband. He also added more cheese to his and this comes in handy because my daughter can't get enough cheese! I will go into more depth about some of these sections of the binder as I add to my blog. I hope you like these recipes and tips as much as I did! Like I said, it's all about finding what you like and what works for you!
Grilled Chicken Parmesan
Serve this with a side of whole wheat pasta and/or a large green salad
4 (4 ounce) trimmed, boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Olive oil in a sprayer (not store bought that contains propellant)
Salt, to taste
Ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 c. low-fat,low-sodium,low sugar marinara sauce, or more to taste (I use Heart Smart sauces by Prego)
6 Tbs. finely shredded low-fat mozarella cheese
2 tsps. grated reduced-fat Parmesan cheese
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Lightly mist both sides of the chicken with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill the chicken, turning once, for 3 to 5 minutes per side, or until it is no longer pink inside and juices run clear. Transfer to a baking dish.
Heat the sauce on low on the microwave until warm, Top each chicken breast with 2 Tbs. marinara sauce, followed by 1 1/2 Tbs, mozarella, and 1/2 tsp. parmesan. Bake the chicken for 3 to 5 minutes, or just until cheese is melted.
Per Serving: 169 calories, 29 grams protein, 5 g carbohydrates, 3 g fat, 1 g fiber

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Crack the Weight Loss Plateaus

Here's the problem. You are doing great with the plan you have set up, and then you reach that point where nothing is happening. In my case, I was doing great, probably at the exact place I should be and thought to myself, "how about 5 more pounds?" Well, it's a fine goal and something you can work towards, however, I made the mistake of straying away from what was working. Instead of being patient and just following the tips I found originally for plateaus, I changed it it and screwed it all up. What worked: staggering your calories up and down, lower than higher, to trick your body a little bit. On Saturdays, I made it a higher calorie day, that incorporated a "free meal" where we could go out and I got whatever I wanted. There are websites you can find out more about the "calorie zigzag". Also, changing your exercise routine, adding to it or switching it up works. I alternated elliptical and running. Another thing, I have to say,I love Jillian Michaels, she knows her stuff! Her whole philsophy on exercise is fantastic! She has a book about conquering plateaus, and it's a good one for when you want to lose 5 pounds fast. The only problem is, there are no cheat meals of any kind for 30 days, which can sabotage you in the end. You can only deprive yourself for so long before disaster strikes! That was the problem with the book, Crack the Fat Loss Code, a book my sister told me about. Yes, the author's whole science behind it is great and I can totally see why it works. However, it starts with a carb deplete cycle the first week, where basically you can eat lean meats, veggies and cottage cheese. Oh, and no starch after 3 PM. That was tough, but I was up for the challenge and made it through, but by Thursday, you start to lose it! Then it starts an 8 week cycle. It eventually gets to where each day you alternate 2 starches before 3 PM one day, 1 starch the next. Then, 2 days a week, are your "carb up" days, the last 2 meals are ones eating things normally forbidden.(pizza, pasta, desserts) Here's the issue with that, when you deprive yourself, those two days come and you think you are home free and start eating anything and everything you want. Most nights for dinner, I was giving my husband steamed broccoli, chicken, and salad, that was pretty much it. It got old fast for him but he was trying to be supportive. There went the joy of cooking out the window for me. He was really sweet and patient about it though. I am pretty sure it was driving him nuts though. In the end of this 8 week cycle, which I repeated,over and over again, I ended up gaining weight. I call this diet, "let's suck every ounce of joy out of our lives that we possibly can." or the, "hey Rach, we are getting a pizza, no I will just have salmon and broccoli tonight, thanks" diet. (Love salmon by the way, but it's too expensive to have all the time) My husband could always tell when it was a "carb down" day because I was in a really bad mood. I also had no energy to work out. My sister tried it, saw the parts of this diet that did work,but also agreed, it just wasn't very realistic. She said her husband asked if she was ever going to eat dinner with them again. She also says she does what she can, but she also needs to live her life. I think that is excellent advice to follow. My husband is so great, and yes, let's face it,he is right 99.99% of the time. He asked when I wanted to try this fat loss code thing, "Why don't you just keep doing what your doing?" Yep, I should have. I've since gone back to the way I did things before, I've lost most of what I gained back. To summarize what I have learned from this is, stick with what works for you, have some patience with yourself and it will keep working!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Finding Myself

"Once you see how strong you are physically, it's gonna trascend into every other facet of your life" -Jillian Michaels.
I was never really one who had a lot of confidence or ever really felt good about myself. I wasn't outgoing, I tried to avoid drawing any attention to myself. I walked with my head down, well you get the picture, I am sure. I didn't know who I was. I wasn't comfortable.But I did know, somewhere inside me was a confident, happy girl, totally at peace with herself. I just didn't know how to find her. I was sad, I started doing things that were self-destructive, looking for attention in the wrong places. I didn't care about myself or have much self-respect, so I let others treat me that way. I look back on that now, and breathe a sigh of relief that I got myself out of that place. I learned that only I could make that choice. I started to look for other ways to get rid of frustration and stress, so I decided to start running, I'd never really tried it or liked it much when I did. I started out small, running around the block once and then it increased slowly. My dad had a treadmill, and I started to like that better because I could pace myself, and know exactly how far I had run. I started getting more confident and feeling better about myself. I think that running and learning to be self-disciplined, helped me to want to eat better and take better care of myself. Since running was working well, I decided to start trying some different diets. I tried a lot of them. I tried "Body for Life" and although it was definately a good starting point, with good healthy guidelines, it didn't work. I took Metabolife and Hydroxycut, those didn't work. All they did was make my stomach hurt, give me a headache and keep me up at night. I didn't really have a specific plan, or make the connection of why it wasn't working or what my real reasons were for doing it. I remember one summer, trying this "one day diet", where every other day, all you ate was fruit and took these things called "sun crystals tabs." It was ridiculous. I was absolutely miserable and wasn't seeing any results. I taught kindergarten for three years, and was still able to keep up some on the running, but not as much as I had been because I was so busy and tired all of the time.Then, during my pregnancy, I got gallstones, which kept me from exercising, and I had to stick to a specific diet to avoid attacks. So, my diet was very strict, not to mention bland. I guess in turn, it was a blessing, because I didn't gain as much baby weight. After I had my baby, we moved to Boston for my husband to attend law school. He got accepted to the night program there. Being in a new place, and not having friends or family closeby, I was at a loss as to what I was going to do. My husband got a job during the day doing paralegal work and went to school at night. So, I started going to the fitness center in our complex every day for an hour, trying to get back into exercising because I knew that was something I'd enjoy. I would take my baby with me, and lay her down on a blanket on the floor. As she got older, I brought toys and she would sit on the blanket and play. Before she woke up, I also started doing Jillian Michael's 30 day shred DVD, and alternated every other day with pilates.I exercised for a total of an hour and 20 minutes every day. For me, I always do better when I have a specific plan to follow. So,I decided to try counting calories. I started out with around 1200 per day, and had two of those meals be Special K, just to get used to this structure. It's great because you can go online and find out exactly how many calories you need to eat to lose weight, according to your height and activity level. Plus, it totally makes sense. You have to burn more calories than you consume. It didn't get any more specific than that. From there, I started finding different recipes to fit into my allowed calories for meals. I kept a daily food journal. I found fun,healthy recipes and slimmed down versions of my favorites. I learned, I could eat what I enjoyed in small amounts, and/or could have more options with healthier choices. It didn't have to be all or nothing. One evening my husband and I had our first date night in several months, and I was even able to include a Twix (my favorite candy bar) into my alloted calories for the day. At night, when my husband was gone, I'd look up recipes, and started putting together a binder of recipes, weight loss tips,and exercise routines. I'd get so wrapped up in that, I would forget about having an evening snack for comfort or just because I was bored. I printed out a calorie chart I found online to put in the binder to help me plan out my meals for the week. I really loved doing it, it was a challenge and it was fun. Then people I'd see in the fitness center or in my ward started saying, " you are just getting skinnier and skinnier." My clothes were getting loser. The whole time I had been doing this. I don't think I once even got on the scale. It became a passion of mine. So, one day I got on the scale, just for fun, and I had lost 25 pounds. It finally dawned on me, the reason nothing worked, is because I didn't enjoy what I was doing. So, therefore, I didn't have any reason to stick with it. I can remember my brother and sister-in-law coming to visit and her telling me how important it was to have something just for yourself, a hobby or a project to do outside of being a mom. I don't sew, I'm not really very crafty. This was it, my project, something just for me. I had finally found it. It was something I loved and weight loss, (yes, great too!) became secondary. I gained more confidence, I was happy and I was more myself than I had ever felt before. Running, learning that self disipline, was the starting point, and incorporating what I learned about good, overall nutrition, into what I enjoyed, brought it all together. Thinking about it now, takes me back to when I used to go with my mom to "He-Woman" aerobics. I was this little 4th grader,I wasn't trying to lose weight, it was just something I liked doing. I wore my cute purple leotard and just had fun. I think the ladies were impressed with my ability in aerobics routines! That was the connection-have fun with it and enjoy doing it, then all the reasons fall into place!
Some people I know have been getting into running marathons. Of course, I think that is a great thing. I started running almost 10 years ago, and I asked my husband if I should be running a marathon. He said, "no don't do it of you don't want to". I realized, that for me, a marathon would not be something I would enjoy. I know why people do it, and I understand the challenge of it, but that doesn't mean I need to do that. I just enjoy running, for myself. I think it would just stress me out to be in that situation. It isn't me, and that's ok. I mean, I could always change my opinion, but for now, doing what makes me happy is what is important.
So, my husband came up with the idea of starting this blog as a way for me to share my own accomplishments and successes. I know I'm not an expert, and I'm not always perfect at it, but I do know I've finally found something that works for me and that makes me happy! So, there you have it! I'm excited to start this blogging thing!