Saturday, July 31, 2010


If you haven't noticed, I've made a few snazzy changes to the blog page.  Being that more people are starting to read - and I thank you! - I've decided to make things a little easier to find.  You'll now notice there's a tab with some new pages.  Late last night, I decided to add a few pages that help point you in the direction you want to go - if you don't feel like reading through everything.

Getting to Know the Mad, Fat Woman - This is my "about me" page.  It shares a little about who I am, and why I'm doing what I'm doing.

Living the Lifestyle - I've gotten quite a few questions in regards to what it is that I'm doing to help me lose weight and get in shape.  This page gives you the quick version, with links to the pages that lay it out in detail.

Index Page - This is pretty much self explanatory.  I've taken the posts that relate to specific categories and put them in an easy to find format.

I'm getting excited about "Smack in the Face" week.  I've been collecting some info, and preparing for what I'm going to cover.  I'm not getting as much feedback as I'd hoped for in regards to the questions - so I may have to "wing it" in regards to what I cover.

If you visit my blog via Twitter or some other source - please come visit my Facebook page:  Diary of a Mad, Fat Woman... there I share tips, encourage discussions, and am doing what I can to make the page more of a community. 

Tomorrow I'm going to break down "Smack in the Face" week in more detail - to give a heads up on what topics you can expect to hear about.

Today's Question of the Day:  What are the reasons you find it hard to eat healthy?

Till next time.  ;)

Friday, July 30, 2010

My Social (Networking) Life

Hello, my name is Joanna, and I'm addicted to Facebook and Twitter.  That's right, I'm not afraid to admit it...I have an addiction to Facebook and Twitter.  They say that admitting the addiction is the first step to recovery - but this is one addiction that is actually helping me rather than hurting that possible?? Sure it is. 

I'm not going to say that Facebook and Twitter are the main ingredients in my life in terms of losing weight and getting fitter...but they are high up on the list of parties responsible for giving me my motivation.  Who would of thought that using social networking sites would help me lose weight and get fit? Crazy, but so true.  If it wasn't for Facebook, I wouldn't of been able to set up my Diary of a Mad, Fat Woman page - and wouldn't have the people on there that support me and counting on my support to help them.  Every day that I log on and see another person has joined the page, I get a little more spark in my fire to succeed.  Every time that someone on the page interacts and answers a question of the day or shares a comment it gives me a rush of adrenaline that tells me "yes, people are watching...people are looking for answers"...and I feel even more blessed that I'm one of the people they are turning to for those answers.

Then, there's Twitter.  Twitter is my site of support.  99.9% of the people I follow on Twitter are doing the same thing I'm doing...losing weight, getting fit, or offering words and blogs of advice on how to do so.  I've met some amazing people there with amazing stories - and they are adding more fuel to my fire to be a success.  I have added about 20 blogs to my blog roll that I visit each day from people just like me, doing things similar to me, and sharing their story with everyone. 

Being that it's summer, I've gotten used to spending about 2+ hours a day online.  I have Facebook and Twitter open in my browser ALWAYS and now with the wonderful capability of iPhone apps - I'm able to stay in touch with everyone ALL day EVERY day.  Things will have to change a bit once my crazy schedule starts up in a couple of weeks - but I know that I will always have time to check up on what's going on.  I know that I will continue to update my FB page, interact with people on Twitter, and update my blog do I know?  Because it's what I do to motivate myself every day. 

So, who would of thought that social networking sites helping people lose weight?  Crazy, huh?

Well, that's my rambling for today....this switching to shorter posts is going to take some getting used to - but I promise you that the content will get better. 

Today's Question of the Day:
How long do you spend visiting social networking sites such as Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, etc. a day, which sites are your favorite, and why?

Till next time.  ;)

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Get Ready for a Good Smack in the Face

Before we get started on today's post - wanted to share the link to my interview that aired this morning on my local news station.  Joanna Hill's Tale -

OK - now let's get down to business.  I have two weeks left of my summer break before it's back to the grind of full-time work/school.  That being the case, I need to start condensing my daily blog posts so that I will have enough time to still blog every day.  To get into that routine, I'm going to start shortening my posts as of today...and going to start having different weekly themes that I will focus on.

Starting next Monday, the theme of the week is going to be "Smack in the Face".  It's going to be a week of no holds barred, in your face reality checks.  Between now and Sunday, I will be posting a different question of the day on my Facebook and Twitter pages - and will post them here too.  The questions will focus on reasons people don't exercise or eat healthy.  Then, next week, after compiling the results of the questions I will focus on how to change your way of thinking so that your reasons no longer stand in the way.

This is a forewarning that there will be NO sugar coating. I won't be holding back - telling you like it is - and letting my "you go girl" attitude show through. The intent is NOT to offend anyone - just give you cold hard truths and facts that will hopefully change your way of thinking. My intent is to take the road blocks out of your way - and get you on the road to a healthier you.

PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE respond to my they will be my inspirations for the topics I choose to focus on.  If you're struggling - this is your time to tell me why..and let me help you deal with those struggles. 

So, that's it for today....let's get started with the first question:
What's a reason you don't like or find you can't exercise? 

Please respond as many times as you like, with as many reasons as you have.

Till next time.  :)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Finding Cures for the Cravings

One of the biggest struggles people face when trying to lose weight is the constant temptations of naughty cravings.  Maybe you have a sweet tooth, maybe it's a salty one - maybe it's a combination of both.  It's taken a long time, but I've finally found ways to satisfy those cravings - without having to feel guilty.  Today I'm going to share some of the replacement foods I've found that satisfy the temptation bug.

First, having a free day each week allows me to indulge in the real thing... ice-cream, pizza, maybe a chocolate bar.  I limit myself to one meal a week, or one treat a week.  99% of the time, I find that I prefer to use my "free card" on dinner.  As a family, we really make a big deal out of my Sunday Funday.  We order a pizza or Chinese take-out and watch a movie, or we eat a sensible dinner and then enjoy ice-cream for dessert.  Once in a while, we'll go out for dinner - and I don't have to dissect the menu looking for the healthiest option.  Whatever we decide to do, I take that opportunity to enjoy the food without regrets, guilt, or the feeling of failure. 

So, I have one day a week that satisfies the unhealthy taste buds in my mouth - but what about the rest of the week?  Do you know how many nights I think "man, sure would love some potato chips right now" or "it's so hot, a bowl of ice-cream sure would hit the spot".  Some evenings, I'm in the mood to eat fried chicken, pizza, or french fries. Telling myself I just have to wait until Sunday - especially if it's Monday or Tuesday - just won't cut it.  So, what's a healthy eater to do?  You get creative, and find healthy alternatives...ta da!!

Don't worry, I'm going to get you started with my favorite craving fixes.  I'm not saying that my list is the only way to replace the cravings - it's a guide.  If you get creative, you may find your own replacements that you prefer....when that happens, why don't you share - we're always looking for more options, right?

Here goes...

1.  Ice-Cream.  Because it's been so darn hot around here lately, this has been a constant craving.  I'm not usually an ice-cream person, but this summer it's just been something I've wanted - and a lot of.  I've found the best replacement is fat-free or low-fat frozen yogurt.  In regards to this item, I actually PREFER the frozen yogurt to regular ice-cream.  There are so many great flavors available: blueberry, strawberry, apple pie, butter pecan...YUM!!  Just be sure to limit your serving to 1/2 cup - because even though there is hardly any fat in frozen yogurt, there's still quite a large helping of carbs.

2.  Potato Chips.  I LOVE potato chips.  These and cookies are my biggest temptations.  To this day, if there's chips in my house - there's a strong possibility that I'm going to have a few.  I no longer buy chips for that reason. Even though the chips aren't there - I still get that craving.  Now, when the monster starts messing with my belly, I run to the fridge and grab a cucumber.  Yep, a cucumber...mostly water, no calories.  I slice up some cucumber and then sprinkle some salt over the slices.  Great crunch, salty flavor...almost as good as the real thing.  If you love flavored chips - try using some spices on your cucumber.  Dried Ranch dressing, garlic powder, onion powder, maybe some chili powder - all work great on some cucumber slices. 

3.  Cheesecake/ Creme Pie.  Luckily, I don't crave a slice of cheesecake or creme pie very often...hardly ever.  However, all it takes is someone telling me a story of how wonderful the cheesecake was that they had with dinner the previous night to perk up my taste buds.  I've found that there's two great options when it comes to these cravings:  Fat-free pudding mix and fat-free yogurt.  If you're really wanting the texture and real taste of a cheesecake or creme pie, I suggest going with the fat-free pudding.  You can make up a package with some fat-free or 1% milk, crush up a graham cracker, and WA have your very own cheesecake or creme pie.  If you just like the flavor, there are some great yogurt options available.  The Yoplait line of yogurts offer favorites like Boston Creme Pie, Key Lime Pie, Banana Creme Pie, and Cherry Cheesecake...all satisfying to the palate.

4.  Cake.  I'm very lucky when it comes to cake - because I don't care for it.  I'll have a small slither at birthday parties and what not, but I never just have an urge to eat cake.  The best fix for cake is Angel Food Cake.  A small slice contains few calories and fat - but beware the carbs.  Eaten occasionally, though, a small slice of Angel Food cake is a much better alternative to regular cake. 

5.  Mashed Potatoes.  Mmmmm, the soft, buttery flavor of mashed potatoes.  So good for the taste buds - so bad for your behind!!  Mashed potatoes are LOADED with butter and milk....not a healthy choice.  So, what's a mash lover to do?  I've found two ways to squash this craving monster.  The first way to make regular mashed potatoes healthier is switching out the butter and milk and replacing with fat-free sour cream.  I use about a cup of the sour cream and use a mixer to get the fluffy texture.  When I serve the mash, I spray a few sprays of zero calorie butter spray on my serving.  That way, I get the buttery taste, the fluffy texture - over half less the calories.  If I'm being especially good, I replace the whole thing with mashed cauliflower....don't knock it until you've tried it.  Mashed cauliflower has a very similar texture to real mashed potatoes.  For a real treat, I sprinkle some fat-free cheddar over the cauliflower.

6  Pizza.  I have tons of healthy pizza recipes - but sometimes I just don't feel like making pizza crust from's time consuming.  Sure, I can buy pre-made crusts from the store..but have you seen the nutritional info from those things?  If not, don't even waste your time.  If I've got a hankering for a slice of pizza I grab a Joseph's Pita Bread, tomato sauce, fat-free cheddar, and a slice or two of fat-free turkey or 98% fat free deli ham.  Put all the ingredients on the flat bread, pop it in the oven for a few minutes and I'm enjoying my own healthy pizza.  The Joseph's Flat Breads and Pitas are very low in calories, high in protein, and high in fiber - a much healthier choice than pizza dough.  My kids also love this quick fix for lunch quite often - as do I.

7.  Fried Chicken and Fish.  Yeah, yeah, KFC now has grilled chicken - but if you've tasted it, I'm sorry.  It basically tastes like rubber - and the flavor is worse.  Let's not forget, that it's still loaded with fat!   I much prefer to make my own chicken - and the best way to do that just takes a box of cereal.  Cornflakes are the best alternative (taste wise) to the yummy fried coating found on chicken and fish.  Just coat your chicken breasts or fish fillets with some egg white and roll in some crushed cornflakes - cook in the oven and you have the next best thing to fried chicken and fish....yes, it's that easy.

8.  French Fries.  Cooking fries in the oven is the healthiest method - but they sure don't taste the same.  If you're anything like me, maybe you like the oily taste that a good fried french fry gives.  There's a healthier way to get that too!!  Before cooking your fries (I prefer homemade, but frozen works too) put them in a bowl with 2 tbsp of Olive Oil.  Shake the bowl to coat the fries.  Cook the fries in the oven, and when they're done they have a fresh from the fryer taste...YUMMY!!  This is one of those things I wouldn't recommend doing too often - but once in a while won't hurt ya.

9.  Chocolate.  Ah, chocolate, my sweet friend (or should I say enemy in disguise).  The majority of people I've asked about cravings seem to say chocolate more than anything else.  This one can be the easiest, or hardest craving to satisfy.  There are a bazillion ways that chocolate cravings can be cured - but it really depends if the imitation is good enough for you.  Some people won't take anything but the real deal - and to those takes time, but it can be conquered.  I was a chocoholic when starting my journey - now, chocolate doesn't tempt me at all.  I've found that every protein bar and protein shake are offered in a chocolate variety - and those are the ones I opted for.  They are definitely not as good as the real thing, but after eating or drinking one every day for the past 3 months - I really have no desire to eat chocolate anymore.  If you're not taking supplements, the fat-free pudding can help here, too.  Want the bar texture?  Then I suggest Fiber One's 100 calorie bars.  They have the yummiest chocolate flavor - and are still good for you. 

10.  Cookies.  This is another forbidden food in regards to being allowed in my home.  Just not having them in my house makes it easier not to give in to the temptation of not eating them - but some days I still want one or three.  That's when I grab my Guilt Free cookbook and make up a batch of healthy cookies.  If I can't be bothered to do that, then I opt for a 100 calorie snack pack.  The homemade cookies are far better for you.  Even though the 100 calorie packs are only 100 calories- they're still pretty high on the carb scale. 

There you go - ten replacements.  Now, with all things, moderation is the key.  Still check nutrition info - try to limit yourself so you're not grabbing something every couple of hours.  If you're eating your 6 meals a day, you will find that your cravings start decreasing - because you're always full.  My cravings went from one a day to maybe once or twice a week now - if that.  I try to incorporate things into my meal plan that will help curb cravings before they happen.  I add meals like hummus and flatbread crackers for my salty cravings, my protein shakes for my sweet cravings, and apples and natural peanut butter that combine sweet and salty flavors.  Every day I try to schedule a sweet meal, a salty meal, and some kind of cheesy meal (cottage cheese and crackers or string cheese with a slice of whole grain bread)- that cures all my cravings. 

Hopefully this will get you started on curbing those cravings.  If you have other suggestions - please share them!!

That's it for today...just a reminder to my local readers: Be sure to watch KNWA Today at 6am or 10pm tomorrow as I will be on there!!  My interview airs tomorrow, so set your DVR's or get up early!!  For my non local readers, I will post the link as soon as I get it.

Till next time.  ;)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

There IS Such a Thing as Easy Exercise!

The past week, I've covered food A LOT.  Today, I want to focus more on exercise - specifically cardio - more specifically walking and running.

One of the easiest, most effective, cheapest, and one of the lowest impact cardio exercises you can do is walk.  I'm not talking about a leisurely stroll in the park, either.  When I say walking, I mean at a pace that raises your heart rate and gets the blood pumping through your veins.  The best way to gauge your walking is to use music.  If you have access to an iPod, MP3 player or an equivalent - now is the perfect time to put it to use.  Download a selection of fast tempo music.  I use the Biggest Loser Work-Out Mix, which is available on iTunes for $9.99.  It has twelve remixes of popular songs that each last about 5 minutes.  What I like about the music is that the beat on each song is very easy to hear and walk to.  You don't have to use it - any fast beat, high-tempo music will do.  Try to opt for selections where it's easy to hear the beat so it's easy to walk to.

Now, you have two options when walking.  If you own a treadmill then you can walk from the comfort of your home, if not then you can walk at a local track.  One thing to keep in mind - try to find a place to walk that has a flat surface.  It's not good for your knees or ankles to be walking on rocky, uneven terrain.  A walking/running track at a local park or school will be perfect.  I started out mixing my walks between the house and the park.  If I was unable to get my work-out in during daylight hours or there was bad weather, then I'd walk on the treadmill later at night.  Now, I do what I can to fit my walks in either early in the morning or in the late evening before it gets dark.  I find it so much more enjoyable to be outside.  I'm not sure if it's the fresh air, or the fact that I have no interruptions, or maybe it's the scenery.  I don't know - but I do know that walking outside not only helps me get a great work-out, but also really helps with my stress. I find that if I've had a bad day or an extremely busy day, going to the track for a walk makes all of my worries disappear.  Being out there clears my head, allows me to think more clearly, and then take on the challenges that lay ahead in a more productive way.  Now that I'm able to, I've moved away from walking and pushed myself on to jogging and running.  There are still days where I mix some walking in - because it's still an effective work-out and a relaxing one - but for the most part, I now stick to jogging and running.

Walking was pretty difficult in the beginning, so it was such a joy to make the jump from walking to slight jogging.  By just adding a little bounce to my step, I was burning more calories - and making a giant leap towards actually being able to run.  After that, I started jogging for longer intervals.  If you're starting out the way I did, the most effective way to working up to jogging is by timing yourself.  The best way to time yourself is to invest in a cheap stopwatch. I wrap it around my wrist, and then I can monitor how long I'm jogging for.  There's a routine out there called Couch 2 5K.  It's a work-out program that focuses on walking/running timed intervals.  I used a similar approach with my walking - but didn't follow the C25K program.  Being that jogging really was such a challenge for me, I started out with 30 seconds of jogging with 2 minutes of walking.    At first, that was tough.  Just going 30 seconds was extremely difficult for me.  After a week or two, I found that I was finally able to do the 30 seconds.  Once that happened, I upped the jogging to 1 minute and kept the 2 minute of walking.  Then I moved up to equal ratios.  During bootcamp, I was able to get to the point where I could do a slow jog (a bounce to my walk) for up to 30 minutes without walking.  That's only because of the strength training I was doing - so it may be easier for you to just keep increasing your intervals.  Once I reached the point of being able to jog for long periods of time, I decided I would try running.

Running has been something I've been working on for the past several months. I started out with a mission before bootcamp started to run a mile in less than ten minutes. Well, even though I'm still not at that point, I'm well on my way. Just seven weeks ago, I made it through a mile in just under 15 minutes doing mostly walking. Six weeks later, I finished a mile - jogging the whole time - in just 14 minutes. Now, a week later, I'm running a mile (with jogging intervals) in just under 13 minutes. Could it be that by the time I finish bootcamp for the second time, I'll be able to reach my goal of the 10 minute mile? It sure is looking that way.  Now, I'm still using a jogging to run ratio with my running - because I'm still not to the point where I can run hard for a full mile.  My ratio is now 2 minutes of running to 1 minute of slow jogging.  I find that with that 1 minute of jogging, I'm able to run a lot faster during my run time.  Of course, I want to be able to run the whole mile - and I will get there. 

If you're starting out in similar circumstances as I did - barely able to walk a few feet without being out of breath - then there really isn't a more effective way to change things.  I credit my first 20lbs of weight loss to my walking every day.  Yes, the eating played a big part of that - but you can't lose weight in a healthy way without burning calories by exercise.  If you've been reading my blog thinking "I can't do all of that", then don't....just start out slow.  If you can, walk every day for 15-20 minutes.  Even if you don't get any work in with weights - some exercise is better than no exercise.  You'll soon see after a couple of weeks that things get easier.  Just DON'T GIVE UP!!  Even if you are only able to walk for 10 minutes...try to push yourself to walk for a few more minutes.  The key is to push through the pain - that's the key to progress.  You'll find that after you've pushed through the pain, you get second burst of energy - and that will carry you through to get the job done.

That's if for today.  Tomorrow, I'm going to share some ideas on how to deal with cravings.  If you're a person that gets those pangs for chips, ice-cream, or're in luck.  I've found delicious and healthy substitutions that will keep your crave monster happy - while keeping your body happy as well.

Till next time.  ;)

Monday, July 26, 2010

Exciting Stuff!!

Today, I'm stepping back into my "reflection" days - and posting about a story about what happened THIS MORNING!  If you've been reading via Facebook or Twitter, you are already aware that I was contacted Friday by my local news station, KNWA, to do a story about my blog and my weight loss progress.  I was so excited, and of course, immediately agreed to do it.  The reporter gave me a call, we discussed a few things, and then he told me he wanted to interview me Monday morning at 9am...that would be today.

This morning I was a mess.  I'm not a shy person - obviously being that I share my life with the world - but being in front of a camera is a very nerve racking experience.  My stomach was doing flip-flops, my palms were sweating, I rearranged and re-cleaned my office/ home gym a bazillion times before he got here...and then it was 9am. Tom Yazwinski, the KNWA reporter (he's the guy in the middle of the pic), arrived promptly.  He took a few minutes to discuss his plans, set up the camera, hooked me up to a mic - and off we went.

Once we started talking, my nerves began to calm.  It was great to be able to share my story, and explain the things that keep me going.  Not sure how much of our 15 minute conversation will make it to the 5 minute segment - but guess I will have to wait and see.  Then it was time to do some taping of me working out.  He had me do some work with the weights.  I had no idea how much I'd have to do....all I can say is that my arms are good and worked out from the constant curls and presses I did for about 5 minutes.  He then got some tape of me blogging, my Facebook page, and my Twitter account.  If you've posted on my Facebook recently, you might see your comment on the TV when your story airs!!  Same goes for the people that follow me on Twitter.  So, after we wrapped all the shooting indoors - it was time to head to the track to get some footage of me running.  Even though it was close to 90 degrees when we got to the track, and I forgot my water bottle - I managed to get a good amount of running in.  The sweat was dripping by the time I was done.  Who knew that getting interviewed would give me such a great workout??

So, the interview is over - I feel it went great.  The story is airing on Thursday morning on the 6am news, and again Thursday night on the 10pm news.  For my local readers - be sure to check it out.  If not, I will post the link to the video that will be online as soon as I get it. 

Short post today - just wanted to share my excitement. I haven't had a chance to plan for my blog this week - planning on doing it today.  So, not sure what tomorrow's post will be about.  Guess you'll have to tune in to find out. 

Till next time.  ;)

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Tracking the Changes....Scales vs. Tape

It's been a little over a week since I finished my first round of bootcamp.  I came out of it with some pretty impressive changes to my stats.  Today, I'm going to see if there has been any changes to those stats in a week - and discuss when and how to track your progress.

I have always been the kind of person that can never stay off the scale for a long amount of time.  I'm always curious to see what it says - however, I have become accustomed to the fact that my weight can fluctuate up to 2lbs daily - so I don't really take the result to heart.  In the beginning, I would weigh-in once a week, and measure myself with measuring tape - to determine if I'd lost any inches.  Doing that each week was OK, but I realized I was always a little disappointed if I didn't see better results.  I would squeeze the measuring tape as tight as I could to get a little more bang for my buck.  Then a major disappoint came when I was being measured during the last week of bootcamp.  Because of my constant squeezing, and altering the tape to make it say what I wanted it to say - I had to face the fact that I really hadn't lost as much as I thought I had.  So, after that, I decided that I would lengthen the time I would test my stats.  I am going to weigh-in and measure today - even though it's been a week since I last did them, but it's mostly for the purpose to talk about measurements for this post. 

OK, so let's get down to business.  I'm going to post my stats with the changes, and then I will share how to correctly measure - for accurate results.

All of the "previous" measurements are from July 14th.
Previous Weight:  220lbs     Today's Weight:  218lbs (-2lbs)
Previous Neck:       14"               Now:  14" (no change)
Previous Arm:        16 1/4"          Now:  16 1/4" (no change)
Previous Forearm:  12"               Now:  12" (no change)
Waist:                     41 1/2"          Now:   41 1/2" (no change)
Hips:                       49"                Now:  48" (-1")
Thigh:                      28"               Now:  27 1/2" (-1/2")
Calf:                        17 1/2"          Now:  17 1/2" (no change)

As you can see, not really a lot of change after a week. 

When measuring, there are certain things you should keep in mind - in order to get the most accurate results.

1.  Measure yourself on bare skin.  You don't want clothes adding to the numbers.
2.  When measuring your neck, measure around the center of your neck.
3.  When measuring your waist, measure just above the belly button. 
4.  When measuring the thigh, measure 6" above the knee.
5.  When measuring the forearm, measure just below the elbow.
6.  When measuring the calf, measure around the center of the calf. 
7.  Do not pull the tape as tight as you can, just allow for a natural fit
8.  Don't get discouraged if you don't see drastic changes each time you measure.

Remember, the best type of weight loss is slow and steady.  There may be weeks that you lose a few pounds, but don't see any changes to the inches lost.  There may be weeks you don't lose any weight, but notice an inch gone from your waist.  It's totally natural, and just your body adjusting to the new you.

While in bootcamp, I only lost 5lbs in 6 weeks - talk about disheartening.  There I was busting my rear harder than I've ever done before - and to end with only a 5lb loss was so confusing.  Then, the wonderful instructors assured me that what I was experiencing was totally normal.  During my time in bootcamp, I was focusing on strength and endurance training - meaning, my body was building muscle.  I was burning fat, but my muscles were getting bigger and stronger at the same time.  In the end, I saw an improvement in the inches I lost, and I lost 4% of my body fat percentage.  Once I realized that I needed to really work my muscles to burn fat - I was OK with what the scale was telling me.  Now, I've been out of bootcamp a week, and lost 2lbs.  It's because I'm keeping the momentum of bootcamp going - and now I'm starting to see the results of my fat loss.

So, when should you measure?  That's a personal decision - there's no magic time that's better.  If I could offer my suggestion, I would tell you to at least go 2 weeks in between measuring.  In an ideal world, if you could handle it - I'd push for 3 to 4 weeks.  There's nothing wrong with stepping on the scale to get an idea of weight loss - but try not to do that every day.  Maybe weigh yourself once a week, and measure every 3-4 weeks.  Doing it that way, you more likely to see bigger results...and that's a lot more motivating. 

I will be getting measured again on August 2nd, when my second round of bootcamp starts.  I won't measure again until then.  The camp lasts 4 weeks, so I won't measure during the entire time I'm at bootcamp - so I can really see the results on the last day. 

Whenever you decide to measure and weigh - just keep in mind that even though you may not see the change in numbers you were hoping for...they will come.  It's been 6 months since I began this journey, and my total weight loss is 45lbs.  Some people may think "big whoop, that's less than 10lbs a month".  Well, it's a big whoop to me.  Doctors advise that a healthy weight loss is 1-2lbs a week.  I've been going at this a little over 24 weeks - so I'm right where I should be.  It means I'm losing weight in a healthy way - and that more than doubles my chances of keeping the weight off.  Sure, I could take pills or replace my meals with shakes and lose 10lbs a week...but I can't do that stuff forever.  That means, as soon as I stop taking them, I have to start eating "real" food.  You know what that means?  The weight starts coming thank you!!

It's not just the changes on the outside I've noticed, either, but the changes on the inside.  I feel healthier than I've ever felt.  It was nothing for me to go to bed at 10PM and then sleep until noon the next day...then I'd get up, and feel exhausted.  Now, I can get in 6-7 hours of sleep and feel well rested and full of energy when I wake up.  I find that I WANT to eat healthy.  Sure, I enjoy my free day every week - but I often find that if I eat too much of something I shouldn't, I end up regretting it.  I feel bloated, sometimes miserable.  Lastly, and the most recent change, I actually WANT to work-out.  My exercise really makes me feel great - gives me energy, releases my stress, and tells me that I'm getting stronger and healthier.  These are all great benefits that you, too, will feel - if you just give it a chance.  Don't give up - it's worth the wait.  In no time, you might be able to look at pics like the ones I'm about to share, and see what a little hard work and dedication can do.  Also, if you're one of those people reading and saying "45lbs in 6 months, is that it?" Look at these pics and say that.

Here's a pic of me taken about this time just one year ago:

Now, check out the pic taken of me last weekend at a ball's amazing what 6 months of hard work can do. 

Tomorrow is going to be an exciting day!!  At 9am in the morning, KNWA (my local news station) will be in my home interviewing me about the blog and my progress!!  My blog will be later than usual, but I will be blogging while they are here.  I'll let you know everything that happens..

Till next time.  ;)

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Let's Plan!! The Whats, Wheres, Whens, and Hows to Your MealPlan

On Monday, I gave you the information you needed in regards to eating.  I discussed eating 6 times a day, and I touched on what to eat and how to plan.  Even though there was a lot of information in that post, there was still room for more detail...that's where today comes in.  I'm going to talk you step by step in creating your meal plan and better help you understand the foods that make up your six meals a day.

My usual planning day is Sunday.  I deliberately decided to do this post today, so that you can put this into action starting tomorrow.  If Sunday will work for you, then you'll be ready to get started.  If another day works better for your planning - then just adjust accordingly.  Here we go:

If you like working on a computer, the best tool to use for your planning is Excel.  If you're not familiar with Excel, you can use Word and create a chart.  If what I just said makes absolutely no sense at all to you - then you may be better off writing your plans in a journal or creating a plan on paper.  Whatever you decide is up to you - and neither way is better than the other.  I use Excel because I am very comfortable with computers - and doing it that way is the easiest for me.  Whatever you decide, it's best to create something that you can refer to often - so try to create something that can be placed on the refrigerator or another place that you can use for easy reference.

You need to create a chart with Monday - Sunday down one side.  On the top, you need six boxes.  Rather than naming your meals "breakfast, lunch" etc.  Use the times that you will eat your meals.  Each week, you may have to adjust the times - but there's nothing wrong with that.  The times I use are:  8AM, 10:30AM, 12:30PM, 3PM, 5:30PM, and 7:30PM.  If you get up early, and like to eat breakfast at 6:30AM, then start your times then.  The key is to eat every 2 - 2 1/2 hours. 

I told you on Monday that I start out by first planning dinners, or the 5:30 meal, because that's the "big" meal of the day.  I gave you some recipe ideas on Wednesday that would be great to start out with.  Maybe you have some recipes of your own that you want to try..that's great!  Just remember to shoot for eating 1 pork and beef dish each week, and fill the rest of the days with chicken, fish, or turkey.  I'm not going to provide a list of dinners, because that's basically what I did on Wednesday, although if you find you do need some help - don't hesitate to ask.

Before I move on, I need to mention more about "free day".  Sunday is my free day, you can chose whatever day is best for you.  This week, I moved my free day to Friday after receiving an invite to eat dinner at a friend's house on that night.  I knew that I would end up eating things I shouldn't - so I just switched the two days.  On my meal planner, I had filled in the 5:30PM spot on Sunday as "FREE DAY!"  Once I made the switch, the meal I had planned for Friday is now on for Sunday.  When planning my free day, it's hard to know in advance what I'm going to do.  The point is to only allow yourself one meal to be "free".  I always put it on my planner to be the 5:30PM meal - because the majority of the time that's the the meal that I will use.  If I use another meal - such as cooking breakfast for the family, or going out to eat lunch, then I eat what I had planned for me to eat for those meals at the 5:30PM meal.  Just requires a little switching around - and that's totally fine.  Just remember even though I call it free DAY, it's really more of free MEAL.  You get one meal to splurge on, one day a week.  You can decide which meal, what you're going to eat...just make sure that you keep to your schedule for the rest of the meals and that you keep 7 days between your free days.

OK, that's one meal out of the way...just 5 more to go.  I realized very early on that trying to come up with 42 different meals each week is downright impossible -  maybe not impossible, but close enough!  I can come up with 6 different dinners (free day I don't plan for in advance).  That leaves 35 meals that I still have to plan...still too much.  Also, if you go to the grocery store to buy foods for 42 completely different meals each week - you'll find you'll have one heck of a grocery bill waiting for you at check-out.  What do you do?  Eat, skip, repeat!  The best way to do it is by finding 2 or 3 (I would start out with 2) meals that you like - and then repeat them every other day.  I'll use my 8AM meal as an example:

Monday:  Kashi Go Lean cereal and 1% milk
Tuesday:  2 eggs (substitute), 2 slices whole-grain toast
Wednesday:  Kashi Go Lean cereal and 1% milk
Thursday:  2 eggs (substitute), 2 slices whole-grain toast
Friday:  Kashi Go Lean cereal and 1% milk
Saturday:  2 eggs (substitute), 2 slices whole-grain toast
Sunday:  Kashi Go Lean cereal and 1% milk

With the handy-dandy copy+paste feature, my meal plan for the 8AM meal is complete in about 30 seconds.  Then I move on to the 12:30PM meal (I use 3 varieties for this):

Monday:  Tuna salad sandwich (made with fat-free mayo, pickles, and banana peppers)
Tuesday:  Healthy Choice steam bowl
Wednesday:  Ham and cheese pita wrap (use whole grain pita and fat-free cheese)
Thursday: Healthy Choice steam bowl
Friday:  Tuna salad sandwich (made with fat-free mayo, pickles, and banana peppers)

Saturday:  Healthy Choice steam bowl
Sunday:  Ham and cheese pita wrap (use whole grain pita and fat-free cheese)

That's 14 meals done - just 21 left...and those are the "in-betweens".  Not only do I repeat my in-between snacks each week, but I usually stick to the same 4 "snacks" every week for a few weeks.  You don't have to do this, I will give you some options for other things but my snacks are:  apple slices with natural peanut butter, 1/2 cup of cottage cheese and 6 Flatbread crackers, a Myoplex Lite shake, or a homemade protein bar.  That's it.  I randomly place those 4 meals on the open spots left on my meal planner.  If those snacks don't really appeal to you, you could use things like homemade protein shakes (use protein powder and mix it into 1% milk and add some frozen berries), 1oz of peanuts or almonds, hummus and flatbread crackers, protein pudding (mix a scoop of protein powder into your favorite fat-free pudding mix) with mixed fruit, ham slices and string cheese.  There are lots of options - you can get as creative or as simple as you like.  Just be sure you're eating protein and carbs with each meal.  Just eating an apple or another piece of fruit won't suffice, because there is no protein in apples. 

There you have it - all meals COMPLETE!!  You have now created your first meal plan - it only gets easier from here.  Once the first plan is created, the weeks that follow you will find much easier.  There are many weeks that I leave the entire meal plan the same, except for the dinners.  Some weeks, I change my breakfasts and add something like protein oatmeal (oatmeal with 1/2 scoop of protein powder) to the line-up.  Some weeks, instead of eating Health Choice steam bowls, I'll stick to eating sandwiches all week or eat ham slices with steamed veggies or maybe turkey slices with 2 string cheeses.  It all comes down to what variety you want.  Remember, this is a life change, so it's highly unlikely that you'll keep the same food plan for long - but once you get used to the foods that you can eat, you'll find it much easier to rearrange the meal planner to your liking. 

Now it's time to make your shopping list.  Now, if you have an iPhone - then you MUST download the app ShopShop.  It's a tool that lets you create shopping lists - as many as you like.  Then, while you're in the store you just touch the item, and it marks it off for you.  If you don't have an iPhone, there's nothing wrong with a regular shopping list.  Now, how you create your list is entirely up to you.  I like to categorize my items by areas of the store.  I'm pretty familiar with my local Wal-Mart layout, so I can design my list so that I'm not going back and forth from the front to the back of the store to find items.  I have separate lists for extras (things not found in the food section like my supplements), dairy, deli, center aisles, meat, frozen, and produce.  I create my shopping list the same as I create my meal plan - I start with dinners, then on to breakfast, then lunch, then in-between meals.  Write down all of the ingredients you need (checking as you go to make sure it's stuff you don't already have).  If you're making the foods for the entire family, be sure that you write down how much you're going to need.  I will say that there's nothing wrong with buying the "family size" meats.  They are usually cheaper in regards to dollar per pound, and you can separate the meat once you get home into Ziploc bags to use the following week.  You will find, after you get through your first initial week that your list may be smaller the following week - that's because you still have stuff left over from the previous week.  My regular items, things I buy each week, are usually the meats, milk, bread, frozen items (like veggies and Healthy Choice meals), and produce.  I often find that items such as cheese, cereal, crackers, spices, etc. last 2 weeks - if not more.  When you go to the grocery store - ONLY BUY WHAT'S ON THE LIST!! I don't know how I can convey how important this is.  There's nothing wrong with buying things you know you've forgotten - like laundry soap or toilet paper - but when it comes to food, if it's not on the list - DON'T BUY IT!!  That bag of cookies may look delicious, or you really think you need a couple boxes of mac & cheese for "just in case" - but you DON'T!!  When preparing your shopping list, consider items that you might need for the rest of the family - BUT DO NOT, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES BUY THEM JUNK!!!  If you want snacks for your kids - opt for healthy snacks.  You don't want the lure of temptation reeling you in.

To end, I just want to re-emphasize that you shouldn't be concerned about the costs of healthy eating.  Many people believe that they can't eat healthy, because it's too expensive.  It's true that some healthier items are more expensive than the junk versions - but when you take into consideration how much you spend on junk food each week and then apply that to shopping more healthy, you may be very shocked to hear that your groceries cost less each week.  Also, with the constant craze of healthier eating, many companies now offer their "fat-free" or "lite" options at the same price as the regular items.  I notice this when I buy my dairy products.  A 1/2 gallon of 1% milk costs the same as 1/2 gallon of whole milk.  My fat-free shredded cheddar costs the same as full-fat shredded cheddar, fat-free cottage cheese is the same as regualar cottage cheese, and so on.  There are some items that cost a little more.  I used to buy the $1 white bread.  I now buy the Sara Lee 45 Calorie Whole-Grain bread for $2.38.  I no longer buy the $2.50 bag of chips each week - so that takes care of that.  I now opt for spending an extra $1 - $2 on natural peanut butter over the regular peanut butter and the Kashi cereal over the sugared bagged stuff.  I don't buy a 12 pack of coke costing $3.98 - so money issue solved.  You will start to see that omitting the bad stuff and replacing with good stuff is much more valuable - not only to your checking account, but to your health.  Think about how much it costs to go to the doctor!!  Still not willing to pay that extra $1 for the healthier option? You might want to consider it.

That's it for today.  Tomorrow, I'm going to share this week's weigh-in results and measurements and talk to you about weighing in.  Is the scale really a great idea?  Guess you'll have to find out tomorrow.

Till next time.  ;)

Friday, July 23, 2010

I'll Take an Order of Dedication with a Large Side of Motivation, Please

Today's going to be a long one.  There's a lot involved with dedication and motivation, and I don't want to leave anything out - especially after how much information I've provided all week.  Technically, I should of started the week out talking about dedication and motivation.  That's because without dedication and motivation, everything else I've said doesn't really mean anything.  If, however, you have read the posts this week - and still really want to lose weight and live healthier...then you've already shown that there's some dedication there.

Just having some dedication, though, won't be enough.  I will tell you that for 10 years I have been dedicated.  I've always wanted to lose weight, I've tried more times than I can count - but it would last a week or two, sometimes a month, and then I would slowly fall back into my old habits.  So, what's different this time?  My large helping of motivation and my realization that diets don't work - I needed to change my life, that's what. 

If you actually started reading this blog when I first started writing it over a year ago, you'd see the problems that I had.  I was dedicated, I was somewhat motivated - but the crazy things I was doing just wasn't something I could spend my whole life doing.  I would eat bad one day and then BAM - I'd give up, because I thought once I'd made a mistake - it was over.  I finally gave up, and then this past New Years I did something I'd never done before.  I made the decision that I WASN'T going to make the resolution to lose weight.  Every year for 10 years, I've made that stupid weight loss resolution - and for 10 years I've never kept it.  I decided that this year, I wasn't messing with it.  I thought I was destined to be fat forever, and that I wasn't going to upset myself anymore by trying to change it.  Then something strange happened my first week into January.  A saw a friend of mine that I hadn't seen in a long time.  She had struggled with her weight for as long, if not longer, than I had - and she was skinny!!  I was happy for her - really happy - but something inside of me flared.  All I could think about the days after was "if she can lose all that weight, why the heck can't I?"  It was at that point that I decided I couldn't give up - I had to do what I had to do.

I started out with trying weight loss pills.  I am NOT a fan of weight loss pills.  I will admit, they worked for me for a while, but I just couldn't limit myself to what the pills required.  I needed a change - something had to change in my lifestyle, something I could do for the rest of my life so I knew I wouldn't be playing this yo-yo game forever.  That's when the new healthy me started to emerge.  I started to really think about what I could do to help me lose weight, but something I could do forever.  My dedication had finally reached it's level of success.

I'm not going to share what's happened over the past 6 months to get me where I am today - you can read my blog posts for that..LOL  What I am going to share today are what drives me every day to continue, what I do when I falter, and what happens once you get to "the happy place".

Let's start with what drives me every day.  When I first started out, I decided to take a photo of what I looked like.  My original plan was to create an album full of my progress photos.  That way, I would be able to look back and see my changes.  That's still what I'm doing - but when I saw that first photo of me, it made me realize that there would be much more use for that photo than just putting it into an album.  Here's what I saw that first day:

When I looked at that picture, I broke into tears.  I hated that person, couldn't believe I'd let myself get that way.  So, I immediately uploaded the photo, made a few copies...and made sure that the person in that picture haunted me wherever I went.  I posted a pic in front of my treadmill and on my fridge.  When I got on the treadmill, having that person watching me made me work harder - I had to get rid of that person!!  When I felt the urge to eat something I shouldn't...she was there reminding me of what my binge eating had created... I couldn't let her win.  Even though I've made drastic changes since I took that photo 6 months ago, I still keep that photo up.  It helps me, now, by never wanting to be that person again.

In addition to having to look at that photo, I realized I had to make drastic changes to my family's lifestyle.  Making changes in my diet and adding exercise was great - but what about the rest of my family?  It's a pain in the rear to buy food for me, and then buy junk food for the rest of the family.  Do you know how hard it is to eat healthy when your whole family is chowing down on pizza, fried foods, or snacking on chips and cookies? Damn near impossible!  I decided if I was going to eat healthy - then so were they.  Now, I know that this is easier said than done for a lot of people.  I'm actually quite lucky in the fact that I have a fiance that doesn't mind eating healthier.  He likes to cook, and cooking with fresh ingredients is a plus for him.  Rather than completely take away all of the things they loved, I designated a day that I wouldn't be home in the evenings as their "junk day".  Being that I wasn't there - they could eat something unhealthy for dinner one night a week.  That way, they were eating healthy when I was around, but I wasn't depriving them of enjoying something unhealthy one day a week.  I started making my meal plans every week - and even though, in the beginning, it took a while to get everything all planned...I enjoyed having some structure in knowing what we were eating and when.  I stuck to my shopping list, and found that the temptation to "cheat" never occurred - because there was never anything in the house that gave me the option.  Now that I have my eating completely under control, I enjoy a "junk day" once a week.  I don't eat bad all day - but I do treat myself to something..maybe it's pizza for dinner, maybe the family eats out, or maybe it's a dessert...just something that I can enjoy.  I didn't start out doing that, because I really had to limit my failures - but now I can do it with confidence without feeling guilty.

So, I found a way to get my eating under control, but what about exercise?  I will admit, I was NOT a fan of exercise.  I bought DVDs, I spent tons of money equipping myself with a Wii Fit and all the extras to go with it, I bought a treadmill, I bought a home gym...and at the end of the day, after spending hundreds of dollars, all I had was a bunch of exercise equipment that hardly got used.  I started doing the Wii Fit - that lasted about 2 weeks and I got bored of it.  Then I moved on to the DVDs - they were too hard.  I started walking on the treadmill - not too bad, probably the best thing I had invested in - especially with "Fat Joanna" keeping me company from the wall in front of me.  I realized, I could handle walking - so I bought another DVD called Leslie Sansone's Walk Away the Fat.  It's basically an entire workout of walking, with some extra exercises thrown in.  Finally, I'd found a DVD that I enjoyed doing, wasn't too hard, and added some variety to just walking on the treadmill.  I started using the DVD 3 or 4 times a week - but after about a month of that...the 5 mile work-out became easy, and so I was back to being bored.  By this time, spring was in the air.  I decided, I really enjoyed walking inside - it was time to take it outside.  I started going to the local track early in the mornings on the weekends - and LOVED it.  The air, the peaceful.  It was time to step up my game, and my difficulty level - and so I started jogging.  I was able to jog for about 10 seconds at a time...not great, but better than just walking.  I then got the urge for a challenge.  I heard about the Susan G. Koman Race for the Cure that was happening in April (by this time, it was early March).  I thought - I should do that.  So, having that challenge on my brain - I started working.  After I completed the 5K, my drive started to dwindle away.  I didn't have that challenge on my mind - nothing was driving me anymore...I had to find a new challenge.  That's when I stumbled across an ad for the World Gym bootcamp. I signed up, and knowing that I was going to get my butt kicked while in bootcamp - I started working out again to get myself ready for the challenge of bootcamp.  That's when my "aha!" moment hit.  I needed something to motivate me, to challenge me, in order to really make me work-out.  While in bootcamp, I did another 5K.  After bootcamp ended, I signed up for another round that begins in August.  I have finally - after 6 long months - got to the point where I enjoy working out...especially running.  Yes, I said running.  I can't run for a long time - but when I'm not running, I'm jogging. 

Has everything been a bed of roses the past 6 months? Not at all.  I have had several days where I've eaten things I shouldn't.  It was how I dealt with those "set backs" that really made me realize that I'd changed.  Instead of feeling like a failure, I just didn't let it bother me.  I'd enjoy my "bad food choice" and then the next day I'd make a deal with myself that I'd do better and work-out a little harder to make up for it.  There have been intervals where my exercise hasn't exactly been consistent.  I found that when I'm not being challenged with my exercise - I have no desire to do it.  Now, I keep myself constantly challenged.  If it's not a 5K, it's bootcamp.  I have already planned my challenge for once the second bootcamp is over - I've made arrangements to have a professional photo shoot done at the end of September.  I want to show the changes I've made - and do something I've never wanted to do...have some great photos taken. 

Just recently - I'd say only since bootcamp ended last week - I have reached what I call "my happy place".  What I mean by that, is that I've finally gotten to the point where I no longer feel the threat of failure lurking around every corner.  I do my work-outs without feeling like it's a chore that I'll do anything to get out of.  Actually, yesterday - for the first time, ever - I actually WANTED to work-out, even though I wasn't scheduled for one.  I got out of bed yesterday and thought - I want to work on the weights...and I did.  I went for a run last night (that was scheduled) and rather than jogging around for 30 minutes, I decided I really wanted to run HARD.  I warmed up by walking for a mile, and then decided to give it everything I had.  I took off running.  I decided to time myself, because I really want to start the next round of bootcamp running a mile faster than the 14 mins I ended the last bootcamp with (my current challenge).  I ran the first half a mile pretty fast, had to slow the pace down by the second half a mile.  I looked at the watch just as I was turning the last corner and decided to sprint to the end.....this is what I saw when I crossed the starting point:

Lastly, I owe most of my motivation to this blog and my Facebook page.  Having people follow what I'm doing, supporting me with words of encouragement, and having the notion that there may be one person out there that's counting on my success in order to achieve their own drives me more than anything else I do.  I started this blog over a year ago with that in mind - but I didn't have the whole package to make it work.  I couldn't just count on people reading my blog to motivate me - I had to succeed and share my successes in order for the blog to work.  Last night, I finally reached 100 "likes" to my Facebook page - and felt such a sense of joy.  Knowing that there are 100 people out there - from literally all over the world - watching everything I do holds me accountable.  I'd like to say it's not about the attention - cause at the end of the day, it is.  I will admit, I like attention - but that's what moves me, motivates me...helps me reach my goal.  Again, I will say if there's just one person out there reading my blog that decides "I can do what she's doing" and does it - my blog is a success.  I really want to help people - I've always had that nature - and if this is how I can do that...I have to give it everything I've got.

It's little accomplishments like this that drives me everyday.  I can't say that my tools of success will be your tools of success - but hopefully, my tools can steer you in the right direction.  If you take anything from this blog, and I hope you do, then you will also see your accomplishments start to stand out.  If I had to give a list of the motivational tools that I think would work for everyone it would be these:

1.  Post your "before" pic everywhere that you need it.
2.  PLAN, PLAN, PLAN!!  Meal and work-outs.
3.  Challenge yourself with your exercise - even if the challenge is as small as going from walking to running.
4.  Tell everyone that you know that you're changing your lifestyle - hold yourself accountable for your plans.
5.  Track your progress.  Take photos of yourself every couple of weeks.  You may not see changes at first - but it's the greatest feeling in the world when you can look back at that first photo and see how far you've come.

That's it.  Just try these five simple steps -and hopefully you'll find the motivation and dedication you need to succeed.

Hopefully you've found some useful information this past week has offered.  I've shared everything that I'm doing in 5 hopefully you're thinking about giving it a try.  Maybe you decide that everything I'm doing isn't for you - but there's some things you'd like to try..GREAT!  Tomorrow, we start putting the plan into action.  Would you like more information on planning your meals?  OK, then that's what we'll do tomorrow.  I will explain EXACTLY what I do to plan, give you a couple of examples, and prepare you for heading to the grocery store.

Till next time.  ;)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

What's All This About Supplements?

This week I have bombarded you all with information - and today will be no exception.  Today, I want to share my recently discovered knowledge about supplements.

I must post this disclaimer - just to protect myself:  If you are unsure about supplements, or selecting the correct supplements, please speak to a professional.  I am NOT a professional.  I will share the information that has been passed on to me - but that in no way, shape or form means that what works for me will work for you.  A professional such as doctor, personal trainer or nutritionist will be able to provide you more information for the types of supplements that are recommended for your nutritional needs. 

OK, before I attended bootcamp, supplements were not something I considered or knew much about.  I thought supplements were strictly for the athletically elite - not really a healthy living product.  I also thought supplements were pills - something I refuse to put into my body.  I was wrong on both accounts.

So, what are supplements?  Well, supplements come in many shapes and forms.  The only supplements I am going to talk about today are protein and meal-replacements supplements.  Now, don't get all excited...meal replacement shakes aren't the same as some of the fad diets that have you drink 2 shakes a day and then eat a sensible dinner - supplemental shakes are different.  Supplements can be used up to 3 times a day, but that's about it.  You should still be eating three "regular" meals each day.  There are supplements designed for all aspects of weight loss, body toning, overall health of joints and bones.  Knowing which supplements you need will ultimately depend on your nutritional goals.  If you just want to eat healthier, but are at a healthy weight - then you may opt for basic supplements to use as one of your meals.  Many people don't use supplements - and that's totally fine too.  If you are trying to lose weight, then the supplements I use will be great for you to use.  You don't have to use supplements to lose weight or live a healthy lifestyle.  They are completely a personal choice - and you should never feel like you have to use supplements to achieve your nutritional goals.  I am going to share information ONLY about the supplements that I use.  There are THOUSANDS of supplements available, so it's worth looking into before you jump into a decision to use them.

Being that I started out with shakes - that seems to be a good place to start.  Meal replacement shakes are designed to provide the right amount of nutrition to satisfy the requirement of a meal.  They should have the plenty of protein, a sensible amounts of carbs, a small amount of fat, vitamins, and that's about it.  Shakes should NOT be loaded with sugar.  This is also one area where you may want to pay attention to the amount of calories that are included.  Most shakes offer a "lite" version that are lower in calories and sugar - and are a better choice if you are trying to lose weight.  What do I use?  I use Myoplex Lite shakes made by EAS.  They are about $7 at Wal-Mart for 4 shakes and come in Chocolate Fudge and French Vanilla flavors.  They are packed with 20g of protein, 20g of carbs, 2g of fat, and each shake is 170 calories.  They taste good, too, which is always a bonus.  Now, I do have to mention that there is a consumer report stating that EAS products (mainly the Myoplex shakes) contain high levels of bad stuff...such as arsenic.  After reading the reports, myself, the levels were read after consuming 3 shakes - which is higher than EAS recommends to drink.  The levels were also detected in several other supplements.  I only drink one shake a day, and the levels that one shake has is WAY below the level of concern.  The report stated that consuming 1-2 shakes a day (as EAS recommends) does not pose any threat.  Wow, I'm just full of disclaimers today, but I had to throw that in for Bob - he's not a fan of the EAS products, and I don't need him riding me after reading this.  Like I said, I drink one shake a day - and not every day - usually about 5 days a week.  I use a shake as one of my "in between" meals, usually between breakfast and lunch. 

Another version of meal replacement supplements are protein bars.  These bars, again, come in many varieties.  I used to use the Zone Meal bars; however I was given a recipe for my own protein bars - and so I opt to make my own instead of spending the money on the bars.  Which ever you chose to use, if any at all, are up to you.  Be sure to follow the same guidelines as the shakes - check the protein, carbs, fats, sugars, and calories.  I will post the recipe for the homemade bars at the end of the post.

The benefits of using shakes and bars really comes down to convenience.  It's very possible to live a very healthy lifestyle without ever consuming a supplement.  I really like them because the shakes and bars are great "on the go" options.  They don't require any preparation (unless you're making the bars yourself, but that only requires prepping once a week) and can be grabbed as you're walking out the door.  Again, I have to stress that they should not be used more than 2-3 times a day.  If I'm going to be home all day, then I will usually only use one or the other - usually after I've worked out.  If I have a busy day scheduled, then I will use a shake and a bar for my "in between" breakfast and lunch and lunch and dinner.  I don't use more than that.  There are other meals that are pretty quick to make such as apples with peanut butter or fat-free cottage cheese and crackers.  Both are just as good as a supplement. 

There is one other supplement that I use, and that's whey protein powder.  The best thing about the powder is that you can add it to foods to add an extra kick of protein.  You can also use the powder to make your own shakes and protein bars.  That means, if you're on a tight budget - you can opt to just buy the powder and prepare your own shakes by adding fruit and milk or use it in the bars that I will give you the recipe for in a moment.  I buy the huge tub of Body Fortress whey protein, vanilla flavored, that you can get at Wal-Mart for about $16.  It's a 2lb tub, and lasts a long time.  What I like about the powder is the ability to use it for so many things.  I add 1/2 a scoop to my oatmeal for breakfast and add a scoop to fat-free pudding to make a great dessert.  There are so many options when it comes to using the powder, especially to foods that are higher in carbs and lacking the protein. 

You may have noticed that the supplements tend to focus on protein.  That's because it's very easy to find carbs...they're in pretty much everything.  The only other source of protein as good is meat - and who really wants to eat a portion of meat 6 times a day?  That may sound great, but do you have the money or time to prepare meat that many times a day?  I love meat, but I sure couldn't handle eating it six times a day.  On top of that, eating meat six times a day would really add up on the fat grams scale - not so good.  My supplements help me get my protein in a sweeter way - something I'm all about.  If I get a chocolaty craving, the chocolate fudge shakes helps without interfering with my goals. 

What are the health benefits?  I touched a lot on the convenience factor, but didn't really mention much about the health benefit.  The supplements add extra protein to my diet - but why do I need to add so much?  Well, I want strong muscles.  The protein helps my body repair and build my muscles.  Each time I break down my muscles during a work-out, my body fixes the damage and then makes the muscles bigger each time.  The protein is what does this.  The stronger my muscles become, the faster I blast fat.  Bigger muscles equals less fat - now we're talking!!  You can't really ask for a better benefit than that!

Lastly, there is one other supplement that your body DOES need at least 6 times a day.  It should be added to every meal, and more.  The best thing, it's totally free!!  That would be water.  I know, I know, water isn't a supplement - but it is very important to your health, so I figured this would be a great place to throw it in.  If there was a rule book for living healthy, the first rule would be: DRINK LOTS OF WATER!  Every single diet plan, doctor, nutritionist, and trainer will tell you that water is vital to a healthy body - and they're right.  It really is the easiest thing any person can do, yet it seems to be the one people find most difficult.  If you think that your body is getting enough fluid because you drink coffee, soda, or tea all day - you are very sadly mistaken.  Your actually dehydrating your body by drinking those things.  You need water to hydrate, and caffeine reverses the effect.  Now, I'm one person that thinks there's nothing wrong with a cup or two of coffee each morning, a diet soda occasionally, I even opt for diet citrus tea once in a blue moon - but when I drink these things, I know that my body needs twice as much water to reverse the dehydrating effects.  During the summer months, especially if you're working out, you should try to drink about 100ozs of water a day.  I know, that's a lot of water - and I will admit that some days I only manage to get in about 80 - but shoot for that amount if you can.  The easiest way to get your water is to add water to every meal.  You can drink a cup before and after a meal, or you can do what I do and just drink 16ozs of water after each meal.  16ozs of water with six meals a day gives you 96ozs of water!!  That doesn't include the 24ozs of water I usually guzzle down while I'm working out - so you can see that it can be a lot easier than you think to get the water in. 

Drinking a lot of water doesn't just hydrate you - which is the most important aspect.  Drinking plenty of water, especially with each meal, will help keep you fuller longer.  It will also flush your body of wastes - it's a natural, daily detox for your system.  I know that my body is getting plenty of water each day by the amount of time I spend using the bathroom, and the amount of sweat I produce...ewww, right??  WRONG!!  Going to the bathroom and sweating are the ways that the water gets rid of the waste.  I know that when I work out, I want to sweat.  The sweat shows me that I'm working hard.  The more water I drink, the more I the better I feel about my work-outs.  Don't let the easiest thing to do be the hardest for you to accomplish.  So, you don't like just drinking plain water? Well, not a problem.  There are things you can do to help, if you really just can't stand drinking plain water.  Try adding a couple of tablespoons of lemon juice to your water.  Lemon helps with the detox process, so it's a great additive for your water.  Not a fan of lemon?  OK, look for the zero calorie water flavorings you can buy.  Just make sure they don't contain caffeine and aren't loaded with sugar - or you'll just defy the purpose.  Crystal Lite is a great water flavoring - and comes in great flavors.  There's really no excuses, you should be able to drink plenty of water.

I think that's about it for today.  Again, if you have questions please post them.  If I can't answer them, I'm lucky enough to know some great professionals that can - and will be happy to find the answers for you. 

Here's the recipe for the homemade protein bars, they are super yummy - so you should give them a try.  I have to thank my Jillian for this recipe - definitely a keeper.

No-Bake Protein Bars
  • 2 cups of oats (I use old fashioned oats)
  • 1/2 cup natural peanut butter
  • 4 scoops vanilla protein powder
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tbsp ground flaxseed
Line a small square pan with wax paper.  Be sure to prepare the pan first, as the mixture will need to be placed on the pan immediately.  Mix together ingredients - start by mixing dry ingredients, then add peanut butter, and then add water.  Spread mixture onto pan, using a spatula.  Place pan in freezer for 30 minutes.  Cut into 16 squares. Individually wrap each square using wax paper or Ziploc bags and store in the fridge. 


Tomorrow, we move away from the "how tos" and focus on motivation and dedication.  I will share some of my stories of how I overcome some common obstacles, and how I motivate myself every day to continue.

Till next time.  ;)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

What's For Dinner?

Monday, I shared my tips for healthy eating.  Today, I'm going to share some of my favorite dinner recipes - to get you going in the right direction, and show you that healthy eating can be fun, easy, and DELICIOUS!!  Now, there will be other days where I share recipes - but today is devoted to DINNER!! 

Dinner is the one meal that my entire family eats every day together.  Each week, I come up with something different to eat every day - and my kids LOVE the meals that are prepared for them.  So, let's get to it.  All recipes will make enough to serve 4 people.  You will need to adjust for more or less people.

We'll start with chicken, because this is probably the most eaten meat in my house:

Honey Mustard Chicken
  • 4 (4ozs) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 tbsp mustard
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 2 tsp orange zest (I use the store bought zest)
  • 1/2 tsp grated ginger
Combine last 4 ingredients in a small bowl, and stir into a paste.  Brush or rub mixture onto chicken breasts.  Place chicken into a small baking dish.  Place in fridge and marinate for one hour.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Cook chicken in the oven until completely cooked (approx. 15 minutes).  Broil for 1-2 minutes to brown chicken.  Serve with brown rice and/or steamed veggies.
This chicken is also great to cook on the grill.

Cheesy Lemon Chicken and Rice
  • 4 (4ozs) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 tbsp Canola oil
  • 1 can 98% fat-free broccoli cheese soup
  • 1/4 cup fat-free or 1% milk
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 2 cups brown rice
  • 2 cups fat free chicken broth
  • 2 tbsp lemon-pepper seasoning
Prep (Chicken):
In large, nonstick skillet, cook chicken in oil until browned on both sides (about 10 mins). Drain.  In a large bowl, combine soup, milk, juice, and pepper.  Pour mixture over chicken.  Reduce heat.  Cover and simmer chicken until chicken juices run clear (about 5 mins).
Prep (Rice):
If you have a rice cooker, place rice, chicken broth and lemon-pepper seasoning in the rice cooker and cook.  On the stove, cook rice in chicken broth instead of water and add lemon-pepper seasoning before allowing to simmer.
Place rice on plate, top with chicken breast, and spoon sauce over chicken.

Salsa Chicken Skillet
  • 1lb boneless, skinless chicken breast chopped into bite-size pieces
  • 2 tsp canola oil
  • 1/2 pound fresh mushrooms
  • 1 medium green pepper, diced
  • 3/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1 garlic clove, minced (I use pre-minced garlic)
  • 2 cups salsa
  • 2 cups hot, cooked brown rice
  • 1/2 cup fat-free shredded Cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup fat-free sour cream
In a large skillet, saute chicken in canola oil until no longer pink.  Drain and set aside.  Coat skillet with cooking spray.  Saute mushrooms, green pepper, onion and garlic until veggies are tender.  Add salsa and chicken.  Heat for 5 mins.  Serve over hot rice and top with cheese and sour cream.

OK, lets move on to pork.  Pork is a fattier meat, so try to limit your pork meals to once a week.

Korean Pork Chops and "Healthy" Fried Rice
  • 4 boneless pork loin chops
  • 1/2 cup reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tsp. sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds
  • 1 tbsp onion powder
  • 2 tbsp reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp hoisin sauce
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups cooked, brown rice
  • cooking spray
Place chops in large Ziploc bag.  Combine remaining ingredients in a bowl.  Pour mixture into the bag with the chops.  Marinate the chops for 6 hours.  Then grill or broil until cooked.

For rice, spray skillet with cooking spray.  Heat skillet over medium heat and add eggs.  Cook eggs until lightly scrambled.  Add cooked rice, soy sauce, and hoisin sauce.  Stir for 1-2 minutes.  Serve with chops.

Hot Pepper Pulled Pork Sandwiches
  • 1 - 2lb boneless pork shoulder roast (extra pound can be used for lunch the following day)
  • 2 tsp fajita seasoning
  • 2 10oz cans enchilada sauce
  • 2 fresh jalapenos (seeded if desired, or green or red pepper can be used to replace)
  • 4 whole-grain hamburger buns
Trim fat from roast.  Place roast into slow cooker.  Sprinkle roast with fajita seasoning and add enchilada sauce and chopped pepper.  Cover and cook on low-heat for 8-10 hours or high heat for 4-5 hours.  Remove roast from cooker.  Using 2 forks, shred the meat.  Once meat is shredded, stir in 1 cup of cooking mixture.  Serve on whole grain buns. 

Margarita-Glazed Pork Chops
  • 4 boneless pork loin chops
  • 1/3 cup low-sugar orange marmalade
  • 1 fresh jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp Tequila or lime juice (I use Tequila, of course)
  • 1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger or 1/4 tsp of ground ginger
Trim any fat from pork chops.  In a small bowl, stir together marmalade, jalapeno, tequila, and ginger.  Place chops on a charcoal grill and grill for 7-9 minutes or until no longer pink.  Glaze chops with mixture during the last 2 minutes of cooking.  Serve with grilled or steamed veggies of your choice. 

Let's move on to the other unhealthier meat: beef.  Again, try to limit beef to once per week.

Zippy Burgers
  • 1/4 cup beef broth
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1lb lean ground beef (I use the 97/3 hamburger meat)
  • 4 whole grain hamburger buns
In a bowl, combine the first 7 ingredients.  Crumble beef over mixture and mix well (I use my hands to combine meat and mixture).  Shape into 4 even patties.  Hamburgers can be grilled on a grill rack coated with cooking spray or cooked under the broiler.  Cook for approx. 6-8 minutes per side.  Serve on buns.

Sesame Orange Beef
  • 8ozs fresh green beans, trimmed and halved crosswise
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 2 tbsp reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp orange zest
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 1/2 cup green onion
  • 1 tbsp grated fresh ginger or 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 tsp canola oil
  • 12 ozs boneless beef sirloin steak, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups hot, cooked brown rice
  • 2 tsp toasted sesame seeds
  • 2 oranges, peeled and thinly sliced
In a covered saucepan, cook green beans in a small amount of boiling water for 6-8 minutes or until crisp-tender.  Drain.  In a small bowl combine orange juice, soy sauce, sesame oil, cornstarch, and orange zest.  Set aside.  Coat an unheated skillet with nonstick spray.  Heat over medium-high heat.  Add green onion, ginger and garlic to hot skillet; cook and stir for 1 min.  Add green beans; cook and stir for 2 mins.  Remove vegetables from skillet.  Carefully add canola oil to hot skillet.  Add beef and cook until desired doneness.  Remove from skillet.  Stir sauce and add to skillet.  Cook and stir until sauce thickened and bubbly; cook and stir an additional 2 mins.  Add meat and vegetables to skillet and stir coating with the sauce.  Serve over rice.  Sprinkle with sesame seeds.  Add orange slices to top of dish.

Zesty Beef Tenderloin Steaks
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 4 (4ozs) beef tenderloin steaks
  • 2 tsp olive oil
Combine first 6 ingredients in a small bowl.  Brush steaks with olive oil and then rub with mixture.  Marinate in refrigerator for 1 hour.  Cook on the grill until done.  Serve with baked potatoes or grilled veggies.

Last, but not least, we finish up with fish.  This is another staple in our weekly menu.  Fish, as well as chicken, should be eaten more than the other meats.

Broiled BBQ-Spiced Rubbed Salmon
  • 4 (4ozs) fresh or frozen skinless, boneless salmon fillets  (thaw if using frozen)
  • 2 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano, crushed
  • Nonstick cooking spray
Preheat broiler.  Rinse fish, pat dry with paper towels.  In a small bowl combine paprika, chili powder, garlic powder, pepper, salt, cumin, and oregano.  Transfer spice mixture to a piece of wax paper.  Gently roll fish fillets in spice mixture to coat.  Coat a baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.  Place fish on baking pan.  Coat fish with cooking spray.  Broil fish 4" from heat for 4-6 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork.  Carefully turn once halfway through broiling.  Serve with brown rice or steamed veggies.

Fish Taco Wraps
  • 1lb fresh or frozen skinless halibut fillets (halibut is expensive, so can substitute cod or another firm white fish)
  • Olive oil cooking spray
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/4 cup fat free sour cream
  • 1/2 cup fruit salsa (such as mango, peach or mango-peach)
  • 2 cups coleslaw mix
  • 4 8" whole grain tortillas
Thaw fish, if frozen.  Preheat broiler.  Rinse fish and pat dry with paper towels.  Lightly coat a broiler pan with cooking spray.  Place fish on rack.  Sprinkle with chili powder.  Broil 4" from heat for 4-6 mins or until flakes easily with a fork.  Cool fish slightly.  Flake fish into bite sized pieces using a fork.  In a medium bowl, stir together sour cream and salsa.  Add coleslaw mix, and toss to coat.  Divide coleslaw mixture between tortillas.  Top with fish.  Roll up tortillas.

Salmon with Tropical Rice
  • 4 (4oz) fresh or frozen skinless salmon fillets
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp packed brown sugar
  • 1 tsp lemon-pepper seasoning
  • 2 cups hot cooked brown rice
  • 1/2 cup mango salsa (or other fruit salsa)
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
Thaw salmon, if frozen.  Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Coat a shallow baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.  Rinse fish, and pat dry with paper towels.  Place fish in prepared baking pan.  In a small bowl combine sesame seeds, cumin, brown sugar, and lemon-pepper seasoning.  Sprinkle fish evenly with mixture, use fingers to slightly press mixture into fish.  Bake for approximately 6 minutes, or until easily flakes with a fork.  Meanwhile, in a bowl stir together cooked rice, salsa, and lemon peel.  Serve fish with rice.

So, there you have 12 amazing recipes to add some pizazz into your dinners.  I wish I could take the credit for these awesome recipes, but I can't.  I found all of them in my two FAVORITE cookbooks.  I own a lot of healthy cookbooks, but these two books are, by far, the most often used:

Taste of Home Guilt Free Cooking  Available at Wal-Mart for about $13, this book is loaded with 356 easy to prepare healthy recipes.

Better Homes and Gardens: Eat Well, Lose Weight  This book I bought at Borders for $21.95.  I love this book because it's loaded with over 500 recipes and has sections like "Restaurant meals", "Holiday meals", and "short-cut recipes".  It provides replacement options for TONS of family favorites like pizzas, burgers, cakes, breads....all stuff that should be avoided, but given in a healthy version. 

I haven't made anything from these two books that my family didn't love.  Both books offer replacements options for things like expensive meats, spices, etc. so you're never reading and thinking "what the heck is that?" 

Hopefully, you'll try some of these recipes.  They are easy, delicious, and HEALTHY!!  Please post a comment if you do decide to try one, and let me know what you think.

Tomorrow, I'm going to talk about supplements.  I want to clear up some common myths, discuss healthy supplements, and explain what they're used for.  Supplements are a great way to get the nutrition you need easily. 

Till next time.  ;)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Time To Get Your Body Moving!!

Yesterday, I shared A LOT of information about food.  What you put into your body plays a huge part in losing weight - but it also has to be paired with exercise to really get the pounds and fat to melt away.

Exercise is another one of those words that make most people say..UGH!!  There are very few overweight people I know that enjoy doing exercise.  I know that I was one of them.  I could barely walk from my car into the grocery store without being out of breath - why on earth would I want to do exercise?  Well, the out of breath thing was the reason.  I couldn't play with my kids, my knees would constantly hurt if I tried to push myself to do anything like walking around the mall, and forget about playing in a playground with 27 first graders!! As a mother and future teacher - these things are really important to me.  I want to be able to take my kids to the park and play tag or soccer.  I want to be able to take my students outside and have a good time with them on the playground....but how was I going to get myself to be able to do that?  One simple word:  exercise.

To effectively lose weight, you have to exercise.  The best case scenario is to work out 6 days a week.  You have to combine cardio (exercise that increases your heart-rate) and weight training in order to burn fat, and build muscle.  Cardio increases your heart rate and gives your heart and lungs a good work-out.  You increase air flow, oxygen levels, and burn lots of calories.  Working with weights is what builds the muscle that is hiding somewhere under the layers of fat that have accumulated.  As you increase the intensity of the weight training, you break down your muscles, and then the muscles repair themselves...each time getting bigger.  As the muscles get bigger, the fat melts away. 

Now, let's dispel some common myths: 

Fat turns into muscle.  That's ridiculous if you think about it.  Fat is fat, muscle is muscle.  One doesn't magically turn in to the other.  As your body increases it's muscle mass, it burns fat at a higher rate.  So muscle REPLACES fat.

Muscle weighs more than fat.  Urm, how much does 5lbs of muscle weigh?  How much does 5lbs of fat weigh?  They both weigh the same!!  Now, 5lbs of muscle takes up much less space than 5lbs of fat.  So, as I've dealt with the past 6 weeks, there may be a plateau of how much weight you lose.  That's because fat is burning away and muscle size is increasing - so the weight of the fat is being replaced with the weight of the muscle.  I have still lost inches even though I wasn't seeing a difference on the scale - that's because the muscle takes up much less space than the fat that was previously occupying it.

Working with weights will make you look like a body builder.  No, it won't - if you don't want it to.  Weight training is imperative in gaining strength and muscle - and is the BEST way at blasting fat.  Yes, your muscles are going to bulk up - but wouldn't you rather see the contours of the muscle replace the curves of the fat?  I know I wouldn't mind seeing a 6 pack over the keg that I'm currently displaying.  The more muscle you build, the faster your body burns fat.  Healthier people burn fat at a higher rate, because they have a higher metabolism.  Working with weights will help increase you need to do it.

So, what do you do every day?  Well, just like I do for my meals - I make a work-out planner each week.  I do 3 days of weight work and 3 days of cardio.  I also do yoga 3 times a week, on the days that I do weight work - so I'm actually getting a little cardio in 6 days a week.  Here's this week's schedule to give you an idea:

Monday:  7am- Yoga / PM: Weight work Upper body
Tuesday:  PM: Cardio: Run @ Track
Wednesday:  7am - Yoga/ PM:  Weight work Lower body
Thursday:  PM:  Cardio Blast DVD
Friday:  7am - Yoga/ PM: Weight work Upper body
Saturday:  PM:  Cardio: Run @ Track
Sunday:  Rest day

Next week, I will rotate the weight days so that I do 2 days of lower body.  I will also change my cardio and do the treadmill, stair stepper...or some other DVD.

Upper body weight work means I work my arms, shoulders, and chest.  Lower body means legs, chest (technically not lower body, but I do this work-out with my lower body because it's easier on me) and abs.  I alternate between days so that my muscles have plenty of time to rest and rebuild before they are broken down again.  I use free weights and a home gym to perform all of my weight work.  I start out doing a 2 sets of approximately 12-15 reps on a lowish weight to warm up (meaning a weight that is easy for me to knock out about 30 reps, but this is just to warm up).  I then add weight enough to be challenging to do 12-15 reps.  I then do as many reps as it takes until I can't lift anymore.  I then decrease the weight, and do another set, and so on.  I rest for one minute between each set.  One thing to remember:  don't limit yourself to a certain amount of repetitions.  If you tell yourself that you're only going to do 12 reps per set - then that's all you'll do, even though you could do more.  The point is to get to muscle failure - meaning you can't lift any more on that weight.  You can count, but don't limit.  If you are able to knock out 30 reps on a weight - then it's too low of a weight.  You should have a hard time getting to 15..then you know it's the right weight.  You start out with the heaviest weight you can manage, then slowly decrease each sure to rest for 1 minute between sets.  Depending on what you have to use will depend on what exercises are best.  Some of the best are bicep curls (holding the weight in your hand and lifting your arm up towards you), dead lifts (having the weight on the ground and slowly lifting the weight up toward you), and side lateral raises (holding the weight and lifting your arms out to the side). 

If you don't have weights - don't worry!!  There are lots of exercises that you can do that use your body weight.  Exercises such as sit-ups, push-ups, lunges, etc. all use your body for resistance - and help build muscle.  If you have any questions, or need ideas on exercises - PLEASE POST A COMMENT!!  It's hard for me to go into too much detail, as each person will have different equipment to use. 

Cardio exercise is any exercise that increases your heart rate.  Running, swimming, jogging, and walking are all forms of cardio.  If you're starting out like I did, then the perfect exercise to get you started is walking.  Yep, that's it, walking.  Now, I don't mean stroll around like you're out enjoying the scenery - I mean putting everything you have (no matter how much you don't think you can) and power walking.  What I did was go to the local track - it's about a 1/4 of a mile track (a little less, but close enough).  I took my iPod, loaded it with fast paced tunes, and walked for about 20 minutes as fast as I could.  In the beginning, that wasn't very fast.  By the first lap, I was extremely out of breath and sweat was pouring off me.  I didn't let myself quit, though, I just pushed myself.  The number one thing to remember with exercise: PUSH THROUGH THE PAIN!!  I would come home and feel so tired, my knees would hurt...but I felt a sense of pride that I had accomplished something I didn't think I could do.  That was 6 months ago - and if you've read my blog, now you know what I'm capable of doing.  If you haven't read it - then I'll get to that in a little while. 

OK - so how long should you work out?  That's going to also depend on your fitness level.  Six months ago, I started out with 20 minutes of cardio three times a week.  I really didn't do much weight work back then, but that's only because I wasn't properly informed about weights.  If I had of been, I would of been doing them.  Once I got to the point where walking for 20 minutes became easier, I increased it to 30 minutes, then 45 minutes, and then an hour.  The key is not doing the length of time that's easy for you.  You have to gauge a level that gets you to the point where you feel like you can't do anything else - and then add 5 minutes.  Now, I try not to time myself - I just go until I can't do anymore...and then push myself that little bit more.

Oh, I hear it already... "I just don't have time to fit that much exercise in each week!"  Yeah, I said the same thing.  I get up at 6am, have to be out of the door by 7am.  I would work all day or be in school all day and not get home until 5pm - then I have dinner, help the kids with their homework, do my own homework....who on earth has time to fit more stuff into that schedule?  YOU DO!!  I come back to my favorite words:  routine and schedule.  I never had time to work out, but I always seemed to have 30 minutes to an hour in the evening to watch TV...weird, huh?  If you really don't watch TV in the evenings - then guess have time in the morning.  In three short weeks, I will be going back to a schedule that literally has me up at 5:30am, out until about 5pm, and then I will have homework, kids, all that jazz on top of it.  How am I going to do it?  Get up at 4am!!  WHAT?? AM I CRAZY?? Maybe - but I gotta do what I gotta do.  There is always time to work-out.  If you are thinking "there's no way I can get up that early"...that's only because it's not your routine - and it's another excuse.  If you don't want to get up that early, then stay up an hour later at night.  YOU HAVE TO BE IN CONTROL!!!  Remember me talking about the motivation and dedication you need?  This is where it comes into play more than anything else. 

That's it folks - your introduction to exercise.  Want to hear how much it's made a difference in my life? 
I started out barely being able to walk 20 minutes.  Now, I am able to jog for 30+ minutes.  I have participated in two 5K races since starting my journey.  My first, I had to walk to whole way and was in pain for 2 days after the the point where I couldn't get off of the couch.  The second one I did two months later.  I was able to jog more than half of it, and when I was done - I felt like a million bucks!!  I spent the rest of the day after the race walking around shopping.  I had no knee pain, no leg pain - I felt great!!  Six weeks ago, I started a bootcamp workout class.  Starting the class I couldn't do a single push-up, could barely knock out 10 sit-ups...and hardly had any strength.  Six weeks later, I'm able to knock out 9 push-ups in a minute, 23 sit-ups in a minute, and knocked a minute off of my time of running a mile.  I don't remember the last time I've had to ice my knee or felt any kind of knee pain.  My knees were ALWAYS hurting...not any more!! Now that I've taken some of the extra load off of them - they are thanking me everyday.  Exercise WORKS!!  Not only does it burn fat and help you lose weight - it builds muscle, makes you stronger...and will help you live longer!!

Remember - every little bit counts.  So, you might not start out doing 6 days a week...that's OK.  Just do SOMETHING.  Walk, do an exercise DVD, get on the treadmill for a while - something is better than nothing.  If you have questions - ask them!!  If you post a comment, and don't want other people to see it - just let me know.  I moderate all the comments before they're posted - so you can ask me in confidence, if you choose. 

Tomorrow, we'll take a break from "information overload".  I will post some of my favorite recipes - to help get you on track with the types of foods you can, and should be eating.  On Thursday, I will discuss suppliments - and how they can help.

Till next time.  ;)