What Works For Me Wednesday – Bringing My Lunch

Brown Bag (without staple)

Brown Bag (without staple) (Photo credit: Jeffrey Beall)

Here’s what a day looks like when I rush out of the house because I’m too busy to bring my lunch to work:
I start starving around 10:30 am. Curse myself for not at least bringing a snack to hold myself over until lunch time. Around noon, start trying to get out of my office to pick up something fairly healthy. That’s when everyone needs me. It’s nice to be needed. It’s not cool to be starving to death. Finally get out of my office at 2:00 pm. Barely drag myself to the car, walking zombie like, because I’m weak from not eating.  Hope I don’t pass out at the wheel before I find something to eat. First place I see is Chick-fil-A. I’ll get a grilled chicken sandwich and a fruit cup. It will be healthy and quick. Suddenly hear myself ordering #1 with large fries. I must black out because the next thing I know I’m in the parking lot of my office with an empty fry container in my lap and some ketchup on my shirt. Crumbs everywhere and no memory of eating anything. Suddenly I’m craving chocolate.

Here’s a day when I remember to pack my lunch:
Rushing out the door with my daughter screaming we’re late. Oh crap, I didn’t pack my lunch. I grab the first bag I can find, open the freezer and grab a frozen meal. Not the healthiest, very processed, high in sodium, but it’s a lot better than a french fry coma. Grab some yogurt, string cheese, an apple, and some 100 calorie pack almonds – throw them in the bag. Takes less than 30 seconds. In fact, I think my daughter is still mid-sentence about being late. (Whatevs!) Start getting hungry around 10:30 am. Eat the yogurt. Realize I’m starting to get  a little hungry again around 1:00. Pop my frozen meal in the microwave at work. “How do you get full on that little thing?”, my co-workers always ask. Well, I just had a snack at 10:30 so I’m not starving. Eat the meal and feel satisfied, not stuffed. Around 4:00 eat the almonds and string cheese so I can be fueled for my 5:30 workout.

See how easy that was? And my whole day of eating was less calories than the one super-sized drive thru meal. Oh, and my stomach wasn’t eating itself from the inside out because of hunger. I didn’t feel bloated and crappy from eating so much at one time. I felt satisfied and never starving throughout the whole day. This is good news because once I’m starving, all bets are off. I will go through 2000 calories of craptastic junkiness before I even realize I’m chewing. True story.

Taking 30 seconds to throw a lunch together – that works for me.

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I Don't Know How She Does It

photo credit: nancycooklin.wordpress.com

Well, she doesn’t. Didn’t you read the book? Granted, I read this book probably ten years ago when it first came out so my memory of the details may be a little sketchy. And I didn’t see the movie because I was certain it would suck. The gist of it is this – this woman is a successful corporate type who appears to have it all. Perfect family, marriage, career, etc. Everyone wonders “how she does it”. The truth is, she doesn’t. Her marriage is falling apart. She suffers from major mommy guilt which also affects her ability to do her job as well as she could. Sound familiar?

I have personally been told, “I don’t know how YOU do it.” I kind of look around and wonder who the hell they are talking to. When I realize it’s actually me, I’m like, “huh?” How I do what? Apparently by appearances I seem to have it somewhat together. I have happy, healthy kids. I have a good marriage. I have a job I kick ass at. I have this blog which I try to write on somewhat regularly. And I have a facebook page that has a respectable number of likes. Well, I should start preparing my Oscar speech now because while I am more grateful for those things than you can imagine, they do not define me as “having it together”.

My kids rock. I wonder daily if I’m effing them up. My husband is a saint (mostly). He’s a far better spouse than I am. My job? Well, I do kick ass at that. But sometimes I could probably do better. Couldn’t we all? My blog and facebook page? Honestly, they stress me out. When I post something, I hover. I wait to see if anyone will read or like it. Or comment. If there’s any comment that isn’t absolutely glowing I freak out and take it completely personally. It feels like a kick in the gut and I think I’m not cut out for this. I’m not cut out for any type of feedback other than “I’m awesome”. Which is really stupid and I know that. Duh.

This idea of perfection – where the hell did THAT come from? I hate it. I hate comparing myself to others but can’t seem to stop. “Oh, SHE dyed four dozen Easter eggs with her kids, huh? Damn, I didn’t even make dessert.” “Oh, look at HER abs.” Have you ever walked into a birthday party and it looked like something out of a magazine? Yeah, we throw pizza and water guns at my kids and pray no one gets hurt. Have you ever walked into someone’s house and suddenly yours felt like it was someone’s first apartment? I’m not super mom. I’m not a trophy wife. I’m not a paid writer. I’m not perfect.

I’m embracing my imperfections. I’m not doing it very well, but I AM working on it. If I miss a school function because it slipped my mind, it’s okay. My kids still know I love them. If I skip a workout because I’d rather be on the couch, well, that’s okay (once in a while). I’m working on finding the balance that works for me. The huge list of responsibilities I have mean that I won’t be great at all of them all the time. Maybe I will remember that my kid is getting an award, but the whites have been in the washing machine for three days now. Maybe I will hit the gym five days this week, but I totally forgot to post something super inspirational on facebook.

Perfection is impossible. I’m working really  hard on living that truth. What are you working on?

Getting Fat – Part 4 – My "AHA" Moment

AHA!

If you remember, I was super hot and thin when I met my husband (why yes, the description of myself does get better and better with each part of my story). Then we decided to have a baby. And then another. So here we are in a new home, in a new state, starting a new life. We have no family or friends here. We have a three year old and an infant and we settle into that. We go to work, come home, worship our babies until their bedtime and then fall into exhausted lumps on the couch. Welcome to our 30s. The only thing we were missing was a white picket fence.

Sure, there’s talk of getting in shape. There were even a couple hundred dollars thrown in the general direction of a gym we never went to (again). We just didn’t want that worse than we wanted to lay around on the couch and talk about how fat and tired we were. We were settling. And we really enabled each other with this. I would tell him I was really okay with the way I looked (even though I’m sure I wasn’t deep down) as long as I could keep doing what I was doing. I was willing to trade the drive thru meals for bigger pants, as long as they didn’t get any bigger. My husband would say the same to me. And we would confirm to each other that of course we loved the other just the way we were.

In August 2006 we went back home for vacation. We saw my family and his. We also saw a lot of friends. Some who we had seen fairly recently and some who we hadn’t seen in years. I was shocked to see a lot of these people had also “settled” into their lives. I could see myself in them. They were working parents and just as exhausted as we were. The bigger pants they were wearing was the price they paid, that we all paid, for the life we were “living”. The life where work and kids take over and there’s no time for anything else. The time in your life where you put yourself on the back burner because everything else requires so much attention. These babies aren’t going to take care of themselves! And babies spit up a lot so there’s tons of little laundry. I realized I was more worried about creating a perfect life than I was about enjoying it. That included taking care of myself. Don’t get me wrong. I was NOT judging any of these people. As I said, I saw a reflection of myself in them. I had no room to judge anyone. We were the same.

We also saw some people who looked absolutely amazing. They were also working parents and living their lives, but they fit in taking care of themselves. THAT was when I decided I wanted to change my reflection. I wanted to change what was staring back at me. Oh, sure! I had said that one hundred bazillion times before. But this time? This time is serious! I’m going to do this. I didn’t want to look the way I did anymore. I was no longer willing to accept double digit clothing for an eggroll at the drive thru.  I vowed then and there I would make a change. I didn’t want until “tomorrow”. I didn’t say, “oh, I’ve already screwed today up, I’ll start Monday”. None of that. I decided that moment I would start making better decisions. Seeing myself in those I knew while seeing what I could still be, THAT was my aha moment.

Keep Calm & Carry On

English: British World War II motivational pos...

Image via Wikipedia

What a difference a week makes. This time last week (and the week before that, and the week before that…) I was seriously struggling with my mojo. I didn’t feel like working out. I didn’t care if I ate crappy. And in large quantities. None of it mattered. If you read yesterday’s post, you know it was in part because I had allowed myself to be completely overwhelmed with life. I had just really taken on more than I could handle and the only person I had to blame for that was myself.

I now feel like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders by just letting go of the pressure I put on myself to be everybody’s everything.  I’ve worked out for the last 3 days in a row. I’ve been sore the past two days. (Gosh how I missed that feeling.) I’ve eaten reasonably. And I’ve realized the only expectations for perfection come from myself, not anyone else.

I realize by only posting positive, happy, (hopefully) motivational stuff, I’m presenting an inaccurate picture of myself. One that might seem unrelatable. Well believe me, I’m relatable (sometimes more than I’d care to admit). I struggle with the same things many of you do. On the other hand, I love to research fitness and nutrition stuff and enjoy posting about it or writing posts of motivation when the idea hits me. So if you’re a regular reader, prepare yourself because it’s about to get real up in here. If you’re new to my blog. Welcome. My message for today is no one has magic mojo. We all work for it and we all struggle with it. But when the mojo hits, it’s definitely MAGIC! So, keep calm and carry on.

Valuing Others More Than You Value Yourself

English: Sunrise.
Image via Wikipedia

Remember not so long ago when I vowed to become a morning person? Well, I’m still not a morning person. My alarm goes off early every single morning. And every single morning I turn it off and roll over for the best sleep ever for the next hour and a half. Without fail, I always end up regretting it at some point during the day. Regret typically sets in when my workout time gets blown off because something unexpected came up. By the time I deal with said “unexpected event” I’m “too tired” to work out. How pitiful is that?

Last month because of a work project I had to wake up an hour and a half earlier than normal. Yes, a whole hour and a half. For three days in a row. Guess what? I did it. I didn’t like it. At all. But, I did it. I was on time (mostly) and accomplished what needed to get done. I didn’t die or even kill anyone for that matter. I thought, “wow, I made it. I should totally be able to do this for myself.” Guess what I did the first day the project was over? Sleep in. The next day? You guessed it. I valued my commitment to my job more than I valued my commitment to myself. Wow. Until just now when I wrote that, I didn’t realize how much that totally sucks. Sadly, I know I’m not alone. I hear all the time “I don’t have time to work out”. These are the same people who are at every school function, every game, and every birthday party.

Why do we put everyone around us first? By putting others first, we’re most often putting ourselves last. We can’t continue to do that. Whether it’s working out, finishing a degree, enjoying a hobby, or anything else you’ve put off because your day is filled with doing for others it’s time to commit to yourself. Maybe you’ll have to get up a little earlier (oh Lord, help me). Maybe stay up a little later. Or perhaps even send store-bought cookies instead of home-made (GASP!). Do not value your commitment to others more than you value your commitment to yourself.

What specific commitment will you begin valuing right now?

December Is NOT a Free For All

image via hotfrog.co.uk

“I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’m just going to gain weight during the holidays.”

Uh, say what? I resisted writing this post for a couple of weeks because it’s so cliché. You can find “holiday survival guides” all over the place right now. Unfortunately, the closer we get to Christmas the more often I’m hearing some variation of this. So, I’m chiming in. You’ve probably heard most or all of these tips. But, I promise you, December does not have to be a free for all. Why undo all the work you’ve done this year? Why start in January?

1. Pick your poison. Chances are you don’t LOVE every food that’s being offered. So, be a food snob. Only put the things you love on your plate. Don’t eat it because that’s what you’ve always eaten at a party. If you take a bite of a pig in a blanket and it isn’t absolutely divine to your palate, STOP EATING IT! This is an opportunity to eat fabulous food that you don’t normally get to eat. Don’t waste the room in your belly on crap.

2. Don’t go hungry. For heaven’s sake, don’t think you are “saving up your calories” for the party. Do you know what will happen? You will be famished when you get there. You will pile your plate with a bunch of junk you won’t even taste because you’re wolfing it down so fast. You will end up eating more calories this way and you won’t even taste them. I promise. Trust me on this.

3. Have water between each adult beverage. This will help you save some calories. It will also keep you from getting buzzed and eating 42 cookies and a whole bowl of dip.

4. Don’t stand around the food. It seems like everyone always gravitates toward the food. And just stands there. That makes it easy to grab a chip when there’s a lull in the conversation. Or when someone else is talking. Or when no one is looking. Prepare your plate and step away from the table.

5. Be active! If the kids are playing Wii, play with them. If there isn’t 10 feet of snow outside, grab some people and go for a walk. This may seem awkward, especially if your family isn’t particularly active. But you might be surprised by who will join you. OR who you inspire to get moving who might not have otherwise. Being active also goes for your workout routine. If your schedule is tight do some lunges, squats, push ups, tricep dips and planks at home. You can do these any time you have a little free time. You CAN squeeze activity into your day.

Don’t let December blow all your hard work. You can enjoy all the festivities without regret, guilt, and feeling like crap. Keep your goals in mind and make this the year you become even MORE awesome in December.

Enjoying the Journey

Wagon Queen Family Truckster (5 of 5)Recently I was watching The Today Show and they were doing one of their concert series. A woman video taping the concert was watching it through the camera instead of watching the singer on the stage. I thought to myself, although she’s documenting the concert to watch over and over, she could have just dvr’d it at home and more than likely would have had better footage. Did she really experience the concert while watching it through a camera or was she too busy recording it for later?

That very same day I had a conversation with another very busy mom friend of mine and she said she’s so busy cleaning, working, running, etc that she wonders if she’s missing out on the “journey”. Is it possible we’re so busy on our journey that we’re missing the awesome little things on the way? What if we missed out on a potentially fabulous conversation with our kid because we were too busy worrying if the kitchen counter was clean enough? Did we cut a conversation with our spouse too short because we were so busy trying to get the kids loaded up in the car to be shuffled to their next activity? The conversation with our child or our spouse is the journey. The kitchen counter can wait. You can be a minute or two late to practice. We are so busy doing, we aren’t living. Embrace the moments along the way. Those are the moments it’s all about.

I read a lot of health and fitness blogs and weight loss is often referred to as a “journey”. (I know I’ve done it.)  The thing is a journey has a destination. If you were on a journey to a family vacation to an amusement park, the park is obviously your destination. Most people on the weight loss journey think their destination is a number. Usually a number on a scale or in a pair of designer jeans. If that’s your destination what happens when you arrive? Maintenance is its very own journey. So, your journey is never really over. It’s just a new day on your road trip to Wally World – be glad you’re driving and not Clark Griswold.

It’s time we stop looking at our quest for health as a journey that will end. The journey never ends. “Diet” implies temporary. What? You’re going to eat crappy again when you reach your destination? Your journey should be discovering new, fabulous foods that you enjoy. Deprivation? Well, that doesn’t work. If you have a food you absolutely love, indulge in it. occasionally.

You shouldn’t think you can stop working out when you get to your magic number. You can’t. Not if you want to stay there.  Instead of working out like crazy thinking you can’t WAIT to let up when you reach your goal, think about the muscles you’re working. Enjoy the definition you see in each muscle as a result of the different types of exercise. Discover what YOUR body best responds to. Learn to listen to your body. Discover a new sport you love. You may be surprised to learn that you’re a fantastic runner or a kick ass kick boxer. Trust me, couch potatoes can be transformed into athletes.

Enjoy every day. Enjoy every moment. Don’t cheat yourself out of the “journey”. Stop “doing” and start living. Enjoy the ride, even if you feel like you’ll never get out of that beat up station wagon and poor grandma is tied to the roof.

Transformation into a Morning Person – Day 1

Clock
Image by Dalo_Pix2 via Flickr

I am not a morning person. I have never been a morning person. I either sleep really, really hard or barely at all. Either way, I don’t like to crawl out of my warm cozy bed until I’m darn good and ready. However, because my dang kids have decided to have a life, mine has gotten all jam packed with activities. It has become too common (and easy) to skip evening work outs with all the activities. So it only makes “sense” to start working out in the morning. (I use the term “makes sense” very, very loosely.) I plan to chronicle my journey to becoming a morning person. If you have a problem with cussing, rudeness, and insults, you may just want to skip over any posts that are related to this journey. I will likely have both a foul mouth and a foul mood until I “become” a morning person. You have been warned.

My alarm goes off at 5:30 in the morning. Whoever declared this time of day as “morning”  is a crazy person. This is the middle of the night. Everyone knows the best sleep happens between 4am and 7am. Duh!

My alarm is “harps”. I thought I was being clever when I set my alarm as harps. I thought it would be better than being jarred out of bed with a screeching alarm. Turns out, that wasn’t clever at all. That was annoying. I now know I hate harps. The next time I see a harp I fully intend to drop kick it and anyone near it.

I have asked my husband  (who IS a morning person) to help encourage me out of bed. I quickly realize morning people suck. And I hate the sound of his voice. His encouragement continues incessantly. I shush him, but it doesn’t work. He finally goes downstairs to get the coffee on. Aaaah, sweet silence. I lie in my warm, cozy bed and argue with myself. Eventually (15 minutes later) the logical girl wins and I finally (unwillingly) leave my warm, cozy bed. Have I mentioned I have the best bed ever?

I slowly stomp down the stairs and get on the couch under a nice soft blanket. It’s freezing in our house. Where the heck is my coffee anyway? Oh, there it is. My hubby brings it to me. I hate him a little less. My sweet toy Yorkie climbs up on my lap and we’re both nestled on the couch, under the blanket with a steaming cup of coffee. This isn’t so bad. I come up with a great idea. I tell my husband this could be my “practice” day. I get credit for getting out of bed and then maybe tomorrow I’ll go one step further and actually go to the gym. Mr. Cheery McMorning person says I’m already up and I just need to go and get it over with. I hate him more.

I’m finally in my car at 6:20 headed to the gym. I’ve been “up” since 5:30 AM!!!! You would think I’d be awake by now. But, then you’d be forgetting that tiny little detail…I AM NOT  A MORNING PERSON! I pass a park on my way to the gym. I contemplate pulling in there and hiding and just saying I went to the gym. I don’t do that. Mostly because I missed the entrance.

I go inside the gym and turn on my iPod. The first song is, “My Own Worst Enemy”. I briefly chuckle at the irony and then go right back to being pissy. I sit on the first machine and realize I don’t remember what weight I normally do on this thing. So, I decide to check into facebook instead.  I successfully check in and I’m feeling smug. Hell, if I’m going to be up this early, people should know.

I log out of facebook and realize I still don’t remember what weight I normally do. So I sit there for another minute, wondering if you can get fit by just sitting there. You know, osmosis? I quickly think back to all my personal trainer materials and don’t recall this method, so I put in a weight and start pumping out some reps. I notice a cute blonde girl in pink shorts on the treadmill. She’s going no less than 124 miles per hour on that thing and she looks happy about it. She’s sweating like crazy so she’s probably been there for hours. I immediately hate her. Okay, fine, that’s wrong. I respect and admire her. But, she’s not getting a mental high five from me. Nope. No way. It’s six freaking thirty in the morning!

I do a decent set on legs. Not stellar by any stretch, but definitely more productive than I was on the couch. Now, if you’re waiting for my “aha” moment where I walk out and see the sunrise and I’m all excited and stuff; it doesn’t happen. Not today.  Not on day one. I did have a couple of minor successes, however. I did not punch the body builder looking dude in the throat who gave me a condescending eye roll when I went to the “big boy” weight area. (Seriously, why do guys do that?) I also did not laugh (out loud) at the lady wearing the garbage bag-like sweat suit from the early 90’s designed to make you sweat more. Oh, and I didn’t contact a divorce attorney. But, there’s always tomorrow.

Planning to Save Your Sanity

Vegetables in a grocery store, Paris, France.
Image via Wikipedia

Who knew being a grown up would be so hectic, crazy, chaotic and time-consuming? It seems like our family went from calm evenings with plenty of time to make and eat dinner (together…at the table) to “oh crap, who’s supposed to pick up the kid from swim” practically overnight. Because of that, I had to come up with some strategies to keep my sanity and our health in check.

First, we make a menu. Sounds crazy, right? Oh, I’ve been made fun of plenty for this one. I so don’t care because it’s a life saver for us. And it also prevents the ever dreaded, “what do you want to eat? I don’t care, what do you want to eat? I don’t care but not that” vicious circle we always end up in if we don’t have a plan.

I grocery shop on the same day every week (Sundays works for us). We have a “family meeting” to create the menu. Don’t like what we’re having for dinner? Tomorrow we’re having what you picked, so eat your veggies and be happy. After we consult our calendar to see what days we’ll be home, if we’ll be home late/early, etc, we put foods on the menu that fit our schedule. Busy night? Spaghetti and caesar salad. (Whole wheat spaghetti, low sugar sauce, “lite” caesar dressing.) If I’m coming home early, then a little more elaborate meal will be on the menu. The menu includes the main course and all of our sides. Also, the Crock Pot is your friend. Trust me. There are a bazillion websites featuring healthy Crock Pot recipes that go far beyond pot roast.

After we make the menu, I make my grocery list to buy all the ingredients for each meal (also why the sides are included on the menu). This way, I only go to the grocery store once per week. First of all, I hate the grocery store. I hate spending money at the grocery store. I hate being at the grocery store. Plus, that’s where I always run into people when I don’t have makeup on. Second, it saves us money. We all know if you have to run into the grocery store for milk, you walk out $30 lighter. The less you go in the store, the more money you’ll save. We also keep a notepad on the fridge and if we run out of something throughout the week, we put it on the list.

As soon as I get home from the store, I clean and prep all our fruits and veggies. I spend about 30 minutes cutting up cantaloupe, watermelon, pineapple, cucumbers, etc. I place it in bowls in the fridge at eye level so the first thing we see when we open the fridge is fresh fruit and veggies. YUM!

We also like boiled eggs. While I’m cutting, chopping, and peeling, I boil a dozen or so eggs. Those go in the fridge too and are an easy 70 calorie snack. My kids love them and it’s a lot better than junk food for them.

If this sounds overwhelming, trust me, it’s really not once you get the hang of it. I spent about 35 minutes today prepping our fresh produce for the week. This way it’s ready to eat and easy to grab and go. When I’m making my lunch in the morning, I have several choices I can just put in smaller containers and take to work.

A little planning can go a long way for your sanity. And you might even be able to remember whose turn it is to pick up the kids.

**These sites have awesome ideas:
http://skinnytaste.com/

http://crockpotgirls.com/

Controlled Chaos

I used to look at those parents that run themselves ragged every night of the week carting their children here and there for this activity or that and think, “I would never do that”. I wouldn’t do that to myself or to my kids. I wouldn’t want my life to be that busy and I wouldn’t want my kids to not have any down time.

Now fast forward to reality where I’m actually a parent and I find myself walking in the door at 9pm from a long day of work and swim practice. And here I am….right in the middle of my own suburban chaos. I’ve lost control. I don’t even know if my kids have done their homework. I can’t remember their teacher’s name or if I even packed them lunch for that day. Frankly, I’m too afraid to even ask.

It’s overwhelming at times. I mean, I write about fitness and nutrition. People ask my advice about the right way to eat and how to fit in exercise. And I have ALL the right answers. I know exactly what to eat, when to eat, and how to fit exercise into an impossible schedule. I can also tell you that at 9pm when I’m still wearing high heels, my 10 year old is dripping in chlorine, and nobody has clean underwear because there’s been no time for laundry, we’re eating cereal for dinner and my work out is making it up the stairs to my bed.I feel a lot of pressure to be a “perfect example”. But I’m not perfect. And neither are you.

You know what? That’s okay. I’ve learned to forgive myself and you should too. Okay, I still totally cuss myself out when I slip up. But I’m not pissed at myself  as long as I used to be.  Some days ARE total chaos. Some days you can’t possibly fit in a work out if you were being paid to. (Okay, maybe if you were being PAID to.) Nothing sounds better than a drive thru meal and some crappy reality tv. This should not and CAN NOT deter you from moving forward.

Controlling the chaos means acknowledging some days are just crazy and moving on. It does NOT mean you continue with the bad habits. Hitting the drive thru doesn’t give you permission to also finish off the Oreo’s. It’s a convenient excuse since you’ve already “blown it” but you haven’t actually blown it. You’ve slipped off track. Time to get back on. Forgive yourself and control the chaos. Have some low fat pudding instead of the Oreo’s. If you missed your Zumba class yesterday or didn’t go on the run you planned, it’s okay. Get back on track. Get active now. Walk, run, dance. Just move. Control your chaos.

The more control you have over your chaos, the less chaotic it will feel. Control the chaos. Do NOT let it control you!