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.


Getting Fit – Part 1 – Embracing My *AHA* Moment

photo credit recipes.howstuffworks.com

I’ve read that some don’t believe in *aha* moments. I totally get that. I had made up my mind to get in shape many, many times before and had only the crumpled up gym contracts and way less cash in my bank account to show for it. So, after settling into suburban life, marriage, motherhood, a career and being the same weight for years and accepting it what would make this time different? All I can tell you is something clicked. Something was set on fire inside of me and burned so hot I couldn’t think of anything else.

When we got back from that vacation I was telling you about, I could not read weight loss information fast enough. It was like I had been crawling in the desert for weeks and had just found a fresh stream of water. My appetite for information was insatiable. I was going to do it this time and that was going to be that.

I told anyone who would listen I was going to lose 30 pounds. Some people were like, “oh gosh, you don’t have 30 pounds to lose, are you serious?” (I learned to dress my body very well.) My husband and I were also very “social” and we were known for the amount of beer we could drink and the recipes I could find that included bacon (extra bonus if it included cream cheese and bacon). I got a couple of chuckles from some of our friends. It was one of those, “yeah right, we’ll see how long this lasts” kind of things.

I joined Weight Watchers. I went to one meeting and realized the meeting setting wasn’t for me but I loved tracking my food online. I was holding myself accountable for what I was putting in my body. It was then that I realized I had a major case of portion distortion. I was putting lumber jack portions in my 5’4 frame. (My wedding ring is a size 4 1/2. I seriously have a small frame regardless of how “curvy” I am.) I also realized that I was thinking about seconds before I had even finished my first helping. When something tasted good, I would rush through the first portion just to get to the next one. I didn’t eat to fill some kind of void or to hide from my feelings. I ate because food tasted good!

I began measuring out my food, learned what a real portion looked like, and ate only that. It was very strange at first. I was leaving the dinner table without feeling completely stuffed. It had been a long time since that had happened. I’ll admit I felt a little uncomfortable measuring food in front of my daughters. Having been around eating disorders in my childhood, I didn’t want them seeing anything that might make them associate anything “bad” with food. So, we never said the word *diet* in our house. We didn’t say fat or skinny. We talked about being healthy. We talked about what different foods could do for your body (or to it for that matter). I had to properly educate myself, so I could educate them.

I also willingly (ish) gave up my 2pm vending machine habit. Every single weekday, I had an incredibly crazy strong craving for peanut m&m’s and a diet coke. I succumbed to that craving every day for…well, a really long time. I gave it up cold turkey. Come 2pm, I would just walk around my office thinking about how badly I wanted those damn m&m’s. But how I wanted to meet my goals even more. I made sure I had no access to cash until I was sure this self-sabotaging habit was broken.

I also started walking. I would walk almost every single night. I started walking faster and faster until I thought, “hey, maybe I could try running.” I didn’t play sports in high school (or any other time for that matter). I was never “active”. Honestly, I didn’t even like to sweat. It felt icky. I had tried “running” a few times and I thought my lungs would explode in first 30 seconds. My bra strap would always fall down too and annoy the crap out of me. I didn’t even own a sports bra. But maybe, just maybe I could do this without dying. So I started reading up on running…

Getting Fat – Part 4 – My "AHA" Moment


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.

Getting Fat – Part 3 – My Highest Weight

Okay, where was I? That’s right! I told you about how I was thin when I met my husband but our bad habits caught up with us quickly. I also shared with you how I gained waaaay more weight than I was supposed to when I got pregnant the first time.

Of course, right after I had the baby in 2001 I decided I was totally going to get in shape. When I wasn’t staring at her beautiful little face, which was A LOT, or sitting around watching soap operas I did start walking. We lived in a super hilly neighborhood at the time and I was determined to get the weight off. Breast feeding just wasn’t working fast enough for me (ps, breast feeding didn’t cause me to lose ANY weight). So, I strapped my little girl in her stroller and headed out into the blazing August sun for a walk up those moutainous hills every single day. Until I got crazy sick. I soon learned I had mastitis, which luckily took care of itself. However, by the time I recovered from it, my only concern was being a mommy. I totally didn’t care anymore how I looked. I learned how to dress cute “for my size” and just said screw it. I look “good enough”.

I was obsessed with being a mommy and I despised going back to work. Not that I didn’t have a decent enough job. I just wanted to be home with her. An opportunity came up that allowed me to change jobs and take her to work with me. She was in the same building as me, with a nanny, but I could see her anytime I wanted. I thought this was a decent compromise. Somehow in the early weeks of taking this new job, I got into the habit of going to the gas station next door before I went into the office. Every single morning I would buy a Mountain Dew and a six pack of chocolate donuts. Every.Single.Morning. Couple that with sitting on my butt all day at work and absolutely no exercise and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out I was getting fatter by the day.

I ditched this habit a few (six) months in and started walking with a friend. Then I joined a gym. I went there probably about…ten times. We paid for a year. Those first two years I just honestly wasn’t concerned enough with how I looked (or felt) to do anything about it. I was still in double digit clothing, but as I said before I learned how to dress my body well enough that it wasn’t a big deal to me. I told myself that if I could do what I was doing and look no worse than I already did, then I was satisfied. And what I mean by satisfied is “settling”.

Fast forward to November 2003. We decide to add to our family and I have a positive pregnancy test on New Years Eve 2003. New Years Day I tell my husband this pregnancy is going to be different. I’m not going to let myself gain all that weight again because it was just ridiculous. We even went for a really long walk that day. I weighed 205 pounds the day baby number 2 was born in August 2004, which is even more than I weighed with baby number 1. I think I actually outweighed my husband on that one. Oh, and she was induced one week early.

Right after baby number 2 was born, my mother-in-law lost her battle with cancer. My daughter was 9 days old at the funeral. We were also in the process of selling our house so we could move from Illinois to North Carolina for my job. I didn’t get to participate in the purchase of our new house because I was too pregnant to fly. So, after giving birth at the end of August, dealing with the death of a beloved family member, and selling our house literally the day we left Illinois, we drove up to our new home (which I had never seen) the last week of October 2004. Needless to say, this was a damn stressful time in our lives. Oh, did I mention I also had post-partem depression? Weight loss was so far down on my list of priorities it never even crossed my mind. I did lose most of the baby weight within six months or so. I think more from sheer exhaustion than any effort on my part. But I was still considered overweight. It would be another two years before I would care enough (or have the energy) to do anything about it.

Diet Mishaps – by Michele

A diet rich in soy and whey protein, found in ...

Image via Wikipedia

Diet Mishaps – by Michele

Yes I am a dietitian, but I am not the food police. Ok I am the food police, always with an answer on how to improve any eating habit.  Clients, friends, and family discuss with me at times what they are eating, believing they are eating right but can’t understand why they aren’t reaching their goals. Too often it comes down to mindless eating or healthy but unbalanced.

Most of us know the basics of what foods are good for us and which are not. Although, eating healthy does not mean eating as much as you want. Calories always matter! Many people, most Americans, have no clue about portion control. Restaurants and most convenience items are servings for three not for one. Most dinner plates are 11 inches across, while a few decades ago they were 9. As you may have noticed our waistlines have significantly increased along with the size of our plates and the portions we consume. Try using salad plates instead. Have a filet mignon instead of the entire steak. A serving of rice is the size of your fist not a mountain!

Others go in the opposite direction when attempting to lose weight by taking in too little calories or having only one meal per day thinking this will increase their chances of changing that number on the darn scale. What they may not realize is they are setting themselves up for failure. By consuming less than 1100 calories your body thinks it’s starving itself and holds on to each and every calorie. To lose weight and/or burn calories ,you want your eating habits to help your metabolism. One way is to eat. Yes, eating helps your metabolism, every few hours is best.

If there was such thing as the food police, I would have arrested Dr. Atkins for worst diet created. But he died from surprise, surprise heart disease. The diet was popular and many today still make the error of a diet too low in carbs. Carbs are what your body needs for fuel. Some try to limit their carbs too much and then can’t understand why they want to pig out by the end of the day. For weight loss and so that you don’t want to eat everything that is not nailed down, consume at least 4-5 servings of whole grains per day. Spread these servings throughout the entire day.

There are sometimes social occasions when many of us choose to forget or ignore the calories were consuming. Sorry to bust anyone’s bubble but alcohol has a lot of calories! Alcohol also slows your metabolism and is usually paired with junk food! So next time on your night out remember a glass of wine has 120-140 calories and a regular bottle of beer has 150-170 calories. Have a couple and you have surely blown your calorie budget for the day, not to mention the pretzels, hoagie, or pizza you had to have with it.

Eating out does not have to be an open option to splurge. Those calories will still end up on your hips if you aren’t careful. Every restaurant has a healthy option or somewhat healthy entrée, but that doesn’t mean you can eat out everyday. A couple of simple rules –  avoid desserts, anything that says fried or cream, only get an appetizer if it will be shared among the group, and try to skip the bread basket. A few other caloric-laden no-no’s – fries, potato chips, and mayonnaise laced salads. Restaurants have improved their portions, enough for 2 instead of 3, so you may want to ask for a to-go container.

Eating healthy and within your calorie budget is always doable. Some days things happen and we taken in too many calories but don’t give up. Once in a while is ok, some say beneficial, it is when you continually exceed your caloric allotment that it shows up on the scale. Let’s learn from our mistakes and improve our health!

Kryptonite Ban – What Works For Me Wednesday

Do you have a food kryptonite? That one thing you know you can and will devour in 30 seconds or less given half the chance?

My food kryptonite is powdered donuts. The little Hostess donettes, to be more specific. No matter how stellar my will power is, I will eventually succumb to the deliciousness that is those sweet little calorie bombs. I would take the last one out of my kids’ hand if it came down to it. I eat them so fast they make a paste in my mouth. My face is covered with so much powdered sugar I look like I just stuck my face in a 5 gallon bucket of powdered sugar. (Wait, do they make those?) Oh, I digress.

I don’t bring those suckers in my house. That’s what works for me. In fact, my whole family knows we can’t have them in the house because I can not eat them in moderation.My daughters think it’s funny. The hubby just shakes his head (let’s see how his will power would withstand chicken wings in front of him all the time!).

I love sweets. However, those Hostess donettes are one thing I can’t just have a few of and walk away from. I know I will eat that whole bag. Oh yes. The.Whole.BAG! The chocolate ones? Well, I can just have one or two and be fine. So, all powdered donuts are banned from my house. (Perhaps I was single handedly responsible for their bankruptcy? Yikes!) I may appear to be a super hero(ish) but I do have my kryptonite. Why would I walk right into it? I don’t. No powdered donuts in my house. That’s what works for me.

Getting Fat – Part 2 – We're Having A Baby!

A pregnant woman

Image via Wikipedia

This is part 2 of how I got fat. If you missed the beginning of the story you may want to get caught up.

I was just catching my groove on the whole working out thing. And by “catching my groove” I mean I hadn’t missed an appointment with my personal trainer in two weeks. Maybe three. I’ll give myself the benefit of the doubt here. You may remember this was about the time my husband and I decided to start our family. Much to my surprise, I was pretty damn fertile.

We both really wanted to have a baby and I realize how incredibly fortunate we were to get pregnant pretty much right away. That, however, did not take away from the utter shock of that positive pregnancy test. And the other four that followed (in the next 10 minutes). I made my doctor’s appointment right away and yep, there was in fact a little bun in the oven. Also, according to my doctor, I was a little short for my weight. He told me I’d have to be careful with putting weight on since I was already considered “overweight”. Thankfully it was only by a few pounds (if I remember correctly I was 155 or so and I’m 5’4), but seriously, who wants to hear that crap? And, it’s not like I could start dieting then anyway. But I did decide I would still go to the gym. I vowed to myself that when I delivered I would have really buff arms and perfectly pedicured feet. I went to approximately two aerobics classes and the only sport I did after that was eating. My feet, however, looked fabulous on delivery day!

I left the doctor’s office and headed straight to the first Wendy’s drive thru I could find. I was a hot mess and hadn’t been able to get in touch with my husband. (I think I had paged him. Hello, it was 2000!) I ordered a salad (of the taco variety). Hey, I was eating for two so I was being healthy. (This was before I knew a taco salad wasn’t actually healthy.) I also ordered a large Frosty. For the calcium, of course. (I’m not even sure those are actually milk based to be honest with you.) This was just the beginning of my pregnancy melt down. Oh, and I was approximately five weeks pregnant at this point.

There were many, many binges during this pregnancy. And the food wasn’t just craptastic. I was a freaking maniac and would eat anything I could get my hands on. I remember laying on my bathroom floor crying in shame because I had just eaten five bananas. I was hormonal and clearly unstable. The good news was, my pregnancy was a breeze and I absolutely LOVED being pregnant.

Toward the end of my pregnancy our 15 year old nephew, Chris,  started staying with us to take care of our dogs when I went into the hospital. I had also already began my maternity leave because I was too fat to work. Okay, that’s not really true. But the simple act of blow drying my hair literally winded me. The walk from my car to my office was exhausting. It was summer time and you don’t even want to know about all the sweating. UGH! Plus, there was food to be eaten. I was far too distracted for working. So, instead, my nephew and I went to Golden Corral every day for lunch while my husband worked. We would see who could eat the most. If you have ever seen a 15 year old boy eat, you know how absolutely ridiculous that is. I gained 10 pounds in my 8th month. Yep, ten. Iwas wearing XXL maternity clothes. DOUBLE EXTRA LARGE! Holy fatness!

Two days before I delivered our daughter, I weighed 201 pounds. Two hundred and one pounds. I weighed the same as my husband (who had also gained the required “sympathy weight”). You know that gross, blubbery, snotty cry that people do? Yeah, I totally did that. And then went to lunch at Golden Corral. I fully expected someone to come out of the back and yell, “YOU GO HOME NOW!”. They never did. And we kept eating. And eating!

I told myself after the baby was born it would be on like Donkey Kong. She was born in August 2001….

The Difference Between Losing & Maintaining

This question came from Kelly on facebook:

“I’d be interested to see what your weekly routine/diet was like when you were losing weight and how that’s changed now that you’re maintaining. I know many people kind of go through phases with eating where they grow and change, and same with working out. It’s interesting the things we discover about ourselves on the journey.”

Thank you, Kelly, for this fantastic question because maintenance was definitely not what I expected.

The effort I put in to lose weight and the effort I put in to maintain it are virtually the same. That totally sucks, right? Unfortunately, you have to work just as hard to stay there as you did to get there. If you do it the right way (without the help of pills, fad diets, shots, or any other craziness) it won’t seem like “work” after a while; it will just be part of your lifestyle. I can’t stress this enough. Resist any quick fixes. The reason they don’t work is they are not sustainable forever. Unless you only want to be really hot for a short period of time, you’re totally wasting the effort.

I hit my goal weight in 2005. While it does take the same amount of effort, my exercise and nutrition have definitely evolved over the years as I learned more and really tuned in to my body to find what worked for me.

I lost my weight by running using C25K. Running was very good to me and all the people telling me how bad it was for me (knees and other injuries) fueled me to want to become a marathoner. (I SO hate when people tell me something I’m doing is bad that’s working for me. It makes me want to do it and do it well and be all HA! Take that doubter!) I didn’t become a marathoner. In fact, a 5k is still the only race I’ve ever ran. But, running did what I needed it to do for me at that time. I not only lost weight, but for the first time in my life I felt like an athlete! That was the push I needed to keep going.

I ran 3-4 times a week, usually about 3 miles each time. That was ALL I was doing as far as exercise and that was definitely a mistake. If I had it to do over again, I would most definitely have incorporated strength training. Sure, I was stoked to fit into a size 4, but there was still flab everywhere. Yes, flab! In a size 4 body. What the what? I ran in 20 degree weather and ate 2 pizza slices instead of 6 for this? Oh, hell no!

When I finally started doing strength training, I did what a lot of women do – I went for the small weights. I didn’t have the confidence in myself to reach for anything heavy. Oh, how silly that was! Now, I love to see how much I can lift and I’m totally over the eye rolls I still sometimes get from the guys when I go to the weight rack. I’ve been beside a guy and looked over and was actually lifting MORE than him. I can’t think of a time I felt more kick ass than that! I also like to lift with my hubby who pushes me to go heavier than I could ever imagine. I’m able to push over 200 pounds on the leg press. That’s pretty freaking incredible. I switch up weight routines, but the one thing that never changes is that I lift as heavy as I can. If I don’t leave with my muscles twitching, I don’t feel like I’ve went hard enough. 😉

As far as cardio, I don’t run anymore. I’m just not that into it now. One thing I’ve learned about myself is that if my workout is something I don’t enjoy, I’ll dread it. If I dread it, eventually I’ll skip it. And then skip it again. Next thing you know, I’m riding the couch and I don’t know if you know this, but that doesn’t burn many calories. That’s not cool. My cardio of choice is currently spin. I’ve found it makes a tremendous difference in the shape of my legs. It’s more interval cardio, rather than steady state which is much more beneficial. (You probably already know, but I’ll just throw this out there: interval is bringing your heart rate up, then back down over and over. Your body has to work to recover, then you take it right back up. Steady state is keeping your heart rate steady for a certain period of time, like running on the treadmill at a 6.0 for 30 minutes.) I also like to get to know the instructors. They push the people they know harder. Try having an instructor yell your name out in the middle of  a crowded class. Yeah, you’ll pretty much work your butt off (um, literally)!

As far as food, I knew myself well enough to know that if I forbid any food, I would fail. So I practiced portion control. I was still eating the EXACT same thing I always had, but I was weighing and measuring everything religiously. I had a bad, bad case of portion distortion. I had previously been eating 2 and sometimes 3 servings of something thinking it was only one. Getting that in check was a wake up call and a real challenge. I was the girl who was thinking about a second helping before I even finished the first. That was probably the biggest struggle for me.

I’ve tweaked my diet over the years. I recently stopped eating meat. I eat a lot of fruits and veggies. I still eat pizza and Diet Coke. Portion control really is the biggest thing here. If I catch my weight going up, I track my food very carefully for a couple of weeks to get myself back under control.

It was actually easier to push myself when I was losing weight because I was working toward something. Now I have to work just to be awesome. But, most days it’s totally worth it.