01 May 2013

Losing Track of Time

Oh, hello May. Where do you come from?

I don't know about the rest of you, but time has not been on my side lately. We are getting ready to move soon and everything that comes with that is exhausting me physically and mentally. So my apologies on being a bit MIA lately. Unfortunately, I will likely be posting infrequently until things get back to normal(ish) in late June.

But enough of the pity party. Let's talk about time to put things in perspective. This is as much (if not more) for me as it is for anyone reading.

Uncommon Goods. I love this site. They've got some awesome gifts for hard to buy for family and friends.

5 minutes: Go through your closet and pick out 5 things that don't fit well, aren't flattering or that you just don't wear anymore. Put them in a bag to donate and give to a charity of your choice. Or, go through your pantry and pull out cans of food that you are not going to use and donate them to your local food bank or other charity. Just make sure the food you donate it not expired.

10 minutes (or more): Decide how long you want to be outside and just start walking. When you get to the half point of your time period, turn around and head back.

10 minutes: This requires a little bit of planning, but make guacamole. Chop up some red onion (or white or shallots), cilantro, jalapeno and tomato, if you like. Mix it up with some mashed ripe avocado, lime juice and salt and enjoy with tortilla chips or, better yet, carrot, pepper or celery sticks. Avocado has some great nutrients in it and is super yummy! Nothing like veggies dipped in a dip made with more veggies :)

15 minutes: Choose an area that needs a little bit of tidying up, set a timer for 15 minutes and do what you can to declutter it within that time. When the time goes off, you're done. If there's more to do, do 15 more minutes tomorrow.

20 minutes: Do a yoga "workout" from my favorite yoga dvd or one you own. I highly suggest one by Rodney Yee. I seriously love him. His voice is so soothing and his instructions are thorough without being too much. I rarely do yoga at home (the dogs and kids tend to get in the way of the "centering" and "relaxing" part), but every time I pull out this workout dvd, I feel awesome and vow to do it more often, even though I don't...I should work on that.

20 minutes: Take a power nap. Just make sure to get up in 20 minutes (maybe 30 at the most). I always have to set a very loud, annoying alarm. Napping for longer periods of time is generally not as helpful and will mess up your wake/sleep cycle.

Clearly, there is actually time to do things even though it certainly doesn't feel like to me. There are lots of things I want to write about here so I hope that I can find the time to sit down and get my thoughts on paper, er, the blog. I would be totally happy to let someone else write a few "guest posts" in my temporary absense if anyone has some good ideas for topics that would be appropriate. Send me an email using the link on the right side.

P.S. In the 3 months since ran with the crazy idea of starting a blog, this site has more than 1000 views now, from 5 different countries. Wow! That's really exciting to me and I'm so thrilled to have readers :D

18 April 2013


In light of all of the tragedies this week in the US and all the tragedies that go largely unnoticed around the world, I wanted to put out in the universe and the world wide web a little positive energy and message of LOVE. If there is one thing that the world will always need more of, it's LOVE, followed closely by ACCEPTANCE and FORGIVENESS.

Love your kids and tell them every day
Love your parent(s) and tell them regularly
Love your grandparent(s) and great-grandparent(s) if you're lucky to have them around
Love your siblings, best friends, and people you are fortunate to have in your life that genuinely care about you
Love your spouse, girlfriend, boyfriend or committed partner
Love yourself and be willing to forgive yourself
Love your neighbors, people you don't know, people you just met and plain old strangers
Love those people who rub you the wrong way (better yet, pray for them)
Love the folks who try to cut you off in traffic. You have no idea what they're going through and why they are in a hurry.
Love people in other countries who have so much bigger issues than you do even though you'll never meet in person
Love those people you are still holding a grudge against from 5, 10, 20 years ago and forgive them
Love those who have different beliefs than you, that speak a different language than you, that look different than you do, that have more kids or less kids than you do or that belong a religion you know nothing about

I have always loved this quote, credited to Mother Teresa, and written on a wall in her children's home in Calcutta. 

"People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered.
Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.
Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies.
Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you.
Be honest and sincere anyway.
What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight.
Create anyway.
The good you do today, will often be forgotten.
Do good anyway.
Give the best you have, and it will never be enough.
Give your best anyway.
In the final analysis, it is between you and God.
It was never between you and them anyway."

If one person can take this to heart today and it inspires them to do something nice for someone else without expecting anything in return or to forgive one person, I would consider this post a success. 

And one more really inspirational quote to send you on your way today by the incredibly wise Martin Luther King Jr.
"Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that."
I have no connection to the website this came from, I just really liked the image. And I do love you, just the way you are.

16 April 2013

A little more, a little less: Round 2

Much to my surprise and delight, my post talking about doing just a little more or a little less has been viewed often. So often, in fact, that it's looked at almost daily by someone around the world and overall has twice as many views and my next most frequented post!

First of all, I'm amazed that people actually look at the little blog site I've got going here! Thank you for stopping by, seeing what I have to say and making me feel like I know what I'm talking about :) Please feel free to leave a comment at any time or email me using the link on the right side.

Second, I love that this is the most popular post because it really encompasses what this blog is all about. The whole idea of Healthy Living for Real Life is that "being healthy" needs to assimilated into your lifestyle and your habits to be sustainable and that, even though its hard, it's totally worth it (and delicious to boot!). Crash diets don't work long term because you're subjecting yourself to unrealistic and unsustainable conditions. When you educate yourself and learn to start making better, conscious decisions, you really move along on your journey to healthy living. The popularity of one this post further justifies that this thinking has real merit (and that I'm not totally crazy, despite my husband's claims ;) ) and that other people out there are trying to make these small choices every day in their lives, just like I am.

So here are some more ideas for you. Remember, every little thing counts, good or bad. Try to increase your "good"s and decrease your "bad"s a little each day and your new healthy habits will fall into place.

A little more...
  • If you live within a mile from whatever store you're going to and the weather is nice, consider walking or biking there instead of driving. It'll be good for you and good for the environment and you won't have to worry about finding a parking spot. Plus, you'll build up some muscles lugging your purchases home.
  • Try a new vegetable. My sister, who avoided most all vegetables growing up, has declared each of the last few years as the "year of the ____" to force herself to at least be open to trying veggies more often. I think last year was asparagus. This year is the mushroom. A lot of times, childhood associations keep us from eating things that we think we don't like, or that we decided not to like as a child. Try them again and you might be surprised how much you like it now that your palate has changed and matured. This warmer weather is the perfect time to throw some veggies on the grill!
  • Read a book or watch a documentary to educate yourself about healthy living or personal growth. I have Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto, and Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way on my to-read book list, as recommended by some of my favorite bloggers and their viewers.
  • Choose to words carefully. Choose to say "I don't [action you want to avoid]" rather than "I can't [action you want to avoid]". This simple change in syntax turns that thing you want to avoid into a choice rather than a limitation and you're more likely to stick with it! This article has the methods behind the study on this and it's fascinating!
  • Find someone with similar goals and join forces! Or, ask a friend/family member/priest/co-worker/anyone to hold you accountable. You could email/text them daily or weekly with what you have done and not done, ask them to check in with you regularly or even make some sort of penalty if you don't follow through what you've set up to do, like pay $50 every time you miss a workout! This article is really long but has some good points on realizing that willpower is a finite resource and how to help yourself use it better.
A little less...
  • Give yourself permission to stop worrying about things you can't change. By releasing your worries and anxieties, you make room in your life to think about things that really matter and put your energy into them instead.
  • Don't be afraid to say "no" if you are feeling overwhelmed by everything you have committed too. You're better off giving your full time and energy to a few things you really care about rather than a small amount of yourself to many different things. 
  • Use the off button. If you're like me and can't seem to find even 10 minutes of the ever elusive "free time", try to turn off those electronics that are your go to time wasters, like facebook, pinterest, video games, angry bird, etc. Try keeping them powered down and see if you find you actually have more time than you thought you did. The added bonus of not using electronic devices near bedtime is that your body will be more likely to drift off to sleep sooner. The light and stimulation from the electronics disrupts this normal process.
And lastly, in keeping with the adorable animal theme of the original post :)


13 April 2013


I was cleaning up around the house tonight and came across the card my sister sent me for my birthday. It's gorgeous and I wanted to share it with you. I hope you find it as uplifting as I did then, and did again tonight when I reread it.

In the power of wishes, hopes, and hugs.
That small things can be mighty,
And big ideas can be reality.
That anything is possible.
And most of all,
Believe in yourself.
I know I do.

This flower has nothing in particular to do with the card I got, but isn't it beautiful! Source

11 April 2013

On moderation

It might sound a little cliche, but one of my life mottos is "everything in moderation, including moderation".

The opposite of moderation. Source

People tend to go to the extreme when it comes to diet and exercise, as if small changes are insignificant. They aren't! And removing certain foods or food groups isn't necessarily healthy or good for you. Yes, we (Americans) eat too much salt. No, we shouldn't remove salt from everything we cook. I made bread one time and forgot to put the little bit of salt in it (1/2 teaspoon I think) and the bread tasted totally bland. Salt is a flavor enhancer and, used appropriately and in moderation, is not bad for you. Unfortunately, when you are not the one preparing your own food, it is very difficult to moderate things like salt and sugar.

Speaking of sugar...I love reading food blogs when I can, but some of the comments just drive me crazy!

     Got a few minutes? The parody comments on this recipe are hilarious!

Health issues aside, some commenters ask questions about substitutions (especially in place of white sugar) as if the recipe creator had not thought twice about what ingredients they were putting into that recipe. If the food blogger is anything like the ones I read, please respect their opinion and expertise that the amount is the best for that recipe (after various trials and experimenting). Second, white sugar, like salt, is not something that has to be avoided completely. Sure, most people eat way too much of it so there is good reason to scale back, but my opinion is, if you're going to eat dessert, eat dessert. If you are going to treat yourself to something sweet or "unhealthy", then do it in moderation and savor it. I generally don't buy low-fat or sugar-free or reduced-whatever food because the full version is going to taste better so I am likely to eat less of it, and it is also likely to have more of it's health benefits fully intact. The general rule is, the more processed something is, the less nutrition it maintains.

When things are made low-fat or reduced-sugar, a lot of times fillers are added in their place that are significantly worse for you that the original fat or sugar. I encourage you to do some research into the sugar and fat alternatives that food producers use these days to make these low- or reduced-fat/sugar/sodium products. You may be surprised at what you find. This page has some good points about why low-fat food can be bad for you and this one sheds light in to some foods that contain salt that you might not think of. Some things, like salad dressings, are actually easy to make yourself with ingredients you probably.

So what's my advice? Eat healthy, seasonal, local, flavorful food and you'll find you don't need as much of the other stuff anyway (salt, sugar, etc). Eventually, you might find that your tolerance for it has actually lowered. For example, I used to drink Code Red Mountain Dew and Venti Raspberry Mochas all the time back in high school and now, since I hardly ever drink soda, even Sprite is too sweet for me. This isn't to say I don't eat sweets, because I do every day, but I limit my intake and control how much sugar is in them by making most of them myself and being very particular about what I buy when I do purchase them. Eat whatever you want in moderation, choose healthy whole foods when you can, and really allow yourself to savor what you are eating.

And just a few other people's thoughts on the matter :)

Nothing would be more tiresome than eating and drinking if God had not made them a pleasure as well as a necessity. – Voltaire

 It’s difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato. – Lewis Grizzard

Did you ever stop to taste a carrot? Not just eat it, but taste it? You can’t taste the beauty and energy of the earth in a Twinkie. – Astrid Alauda
One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating. – Luciano Pavarotti

03 April 2013

How to eat more vegetables

We don't eat spinach very often but I recently bought a huge bag of spinach from Costco, so you can imagine how much spinach we're talking about. We've had to get a little creative to come up with ways to use up the spinach before it goes bad: puree for the baby, on pizza, with salmon on top, as a salad with walnuts, craisins and mozzarella. In doing so, I've also remembered just how delicious salads can be. I'm one of those crazy people who actually enjoy eating salads and I always run out of lettuce rather than toppings. Weirdo, I know.

But it reminded me that you eat what's available. If we have fruit and veggies, we (our toddler especially) ask for them and eat them more often. I try to keep them around because it forces us to use them up before they go bad since I (and my wallet)  feel bad throwing away produce. Here are my top three ideas of how to eat more vegetables.

Source: iStock

1) Buy them. If you don't have vegetables in your house, you will choose to eat something else. If you don't like eating them raw or dipped in ranch dressing or something similar, try using carrots, celery or bell pepper to dip into hummus, salsa or guacamole instead of pita or tortilla chips. Or cut up tomatoes, get some mozzarella and pour on some balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Or saute they up in teriyaki and soy and serve a stir fry over your favorite grain.
    2) Make them convenient to eat. Most often, the produce that ends up in our trash is still dirty and in the container we bought it in. When we wash grapes, take them off of the stems and place them in a bowl in the fridge, they get eaten within a few days. When they sit unwashed in the plastic bag they came in, that is usually where they stay. Some fruit and veggies shouldn't be washed ahead of time (berries and mushrooms come to mind) but many can be prepped and kept for days or a week or more. Here's a tip: keep celery in a container filled with water. This keeps it crunchy. Even if your celery has reached the rubbery stage, putting it in water in the fridge overnight or for a day will give it back its crunch.
    3) Now that you have veggies at home, plan to make something with them. Lots of people have their go-to veggie heavy dish, but if you don't, try one of these: spring pasta, soup, curry, salad of course, quiche, fried rice, pizza, more pasta, side dishes, chili, you name it. You don't have to have a vegetarian meal, but do try to feature vegetables more than you do currently (and I don't believe in hiding veggies in food). We have meatless mealsa few times a week, sometimes unintentionally, because we like to eat things other than meat, and meat is too expensive to be in our budget everyday. Honestly, we really don't miss it when we don't eat it.

    I'd love to hear some vegetable featured meals that other people make for themselves and their families. We're always looking for new recipes and flavors to bring into our meal rotation. 

    01 April 2013

    Knowing your limits

    This isn't about not pushing yourself too far. The limits I'm talking about are in your head. What thinking is engrained in your head that is keeping you from reaching your potential? Who's voice is actually talking to you? Is it a parent, coach, spouse, younger you, current you? Is your inner voice constantly bringing you down or is it lifting you up? Have you even really listened to it lately or is it just constant background noise?

    If you have a few minutes, this post about 7 destructive thought habits that can hold you back from living a happier life has some really great points, especially number 7. That website has lots of other great self improvement posts as well.

    Want some encouragement to tell off your negative inner voice? Click over here to read a post from one of my favorite bloggers, Lisa-Jo Baker. She's incredibly raw and honest in her writing that it can't help but move you in some way.

    29 March 2013

    Eating locally and seasonally: farmers' markets

    Have you ever noticed that fruit and veggies just taste better when they're in season? Or that they taste better purchased from that little road stand than at the grocery store? For the last few summers I've started a habit of binging on fresh, ripe peaches from May-July when I go to our local farmer's market (If you're in Atlanta, Pearson Farm peaches are the best I've ever eaten and apparently they will deliver out of state!). The produce in both of the examples above have three things going for them: (1) there is significantly less time between it being picked and it getting to you (as compared to the supermarket) so they retain more nutrients, (2) it is grown in its appropriate conditions (opposed to year round greenhouses, etc.) since you are buying food in season, and (3) it is picked when it is ripe rather than being picked early and either ripened in transit or ripened on demand for retail stores.

    According to Wikipedia, there were 5,274 farmers' markets in 2009, up from 4,385 in 2006 and 1,755 in 1994. I'm assuming those numbers have only kept increasing in the last four years. If you live near a major city, I'd guess there is a farmer's market somewhere nearby. I'm not big on networking, but a lot of people like to talk to the farmers and ask them questions about their produce and how the farmers themselves like to prepare it. From my experience, these farmers are some of the nicest down-home people you'll come across these days and they are passionate and knowledgeable about what they do. Personally, I like to admire all of the colors and varieties of produce and people watch.

    If you're interested in finding a farmers' market or CSA near you, you might want to visit http://www.localharvest.org/ as a starting point. You can put in your zip code or city and search for farms, markets, CSAs, etc. Many of the markets in my area have good websites of their own that list the farmers that are attending that day (or regularly) as well as charts to show what produce is in season in your area at different times of the year. Some also have email signups so you can get a notification each week as to which vendors will be attending and any special events, like local musicians or fundraising events, that are happening. This is a really great way to teach your kids (or remind yourself) where the food you eat actually comes from. It's also nice to get out of the house and walk around in the sunshine (hopefully) and enjoy the sights and smells. Winning all around!

    26 March 2013

    Unconscious eating

    Do you snack while you're watching tv (hello March Madness, I'm looking at you)?

    Do you browse through websites or scroll facebook while you're eating lunch or dinner?

    Do you "have to" have a snack before bed (or at 3pm or after lunch) because for some reason you've decided that you "have to"?

    Do you regularly open a bag of girl scout cookies or chips and look down 20 minutes later only to realize you've nearly eaten the whole thing? (please tell me this isn't just me)

    Do you open a soda, gatorade, energy drink or other form of liquid calories and finish it in record time because you're sipping it without thinking? (P.S. If you're that thirsty, you should probably drink more water)

    Do you eat while driving in the car?

    For a lot of people, myself included, a significant amount of calories are consumed unconsciously. I will open a granola bar and then, in what seems like 2 seconds, I reach down for another bite and, not only is the thing gone, but I'm left unsatisfied and 100 calories "fuller". A big part of making yourself and your diet healthier is being honest with yourself about what you eat and drink. I've always been afraid of doing a food journal because it makes me feel guilty about what I am putting in my mouth, even though I try to incorporate many healthy and whole food options into my diet. In a lot of ways, it's really about taking a good look at what you're eating and drinking and more importantly, how much.

    There is a 24 hours news station here in Atlanta that I often listen to on my drive to and from work (while I'm eating my aforementioned granola bar in the car) and I recently heard them mention a study that claimed that "distracted" eaters consume up to 50% more calories than "attentive" eaters. Up to 50% more just from not paying attention! That's crazy to me, and at the same time it makes total sense. This article from Fox News addresses this claim so I think this is what they were referring to. They say that "distracted eaters do not pay close attention to food and are not as aware of how much they have eaten." Duh, right?

    These were the results. They totally make sense, but I found them fascinating.
    On average, eating while distracted increased the amount eaten by about 10 percent, compared to not being distracted. But it also increased the amount a person ate at a later meal by more than 25 percent.

    In contrast, enhancing memories of food consumed at an earlier meal reduced the amount consumed at a subsequent meal by about 10 percent.

    Enhancing awareness of the food being consumed at the current meal did not, however, change how much people ate at that meal.

    Source: http://www.foxnews.com/health/2013/03/18/distracted-eaters-likely-to-take-in-more-calories/#ixzz2OfFkgesS
    So here's the good news from what I understand of the results: thinking about what you ate earlier in the day can actually make you eat about 10% less at your next meal. That's pretty cool, and I think worth a try if you're looking to decrease your calories. And while you're at it, put down the book, turn off the tv and the computer, and savor the pleasure that is eating. :D

    25 March 2013

    It's the little things: Music that pumps me up

    I know everyone prefers different kinds of music, but here are some jams that you can't help but dance around to or sing along with. I usually just use my old school rap pandora station through my smart phone when I'm working out or else listen to the eclectic mix of music that plays at the gym, which includes everything from oldies (like tequila) to current hits (hello pitbull!). When I finally get around to putting together a work out playlist, these will definitely be on there. My guess is that these songs will be more what ladies would like, but there are definitely some dude songs here too. I had so much fun looking these up and listening to them on youtube!

    Disclaimer: some of these have language or lyrics that won't work for everyone.

    Ying Yang Twins: shake
    Ludacris: how low
    Ludacris: number one spot (I had forgotten how awesome this song is until I started "researching" for this post)
    Missy Elliot: get your freak on
    Black Eyed Peas: let's get it started
    Justin Timberlake: sexy back
    LMFAO: sexy and i know it
    Chris Brown ft. Lil Wayne and Busta Rhymes: look at me now
    Nicki Minaj: super bass
    Kanye West: stronger
    Psy: gangnam style
    MC Hammer: u can't touch this (does anyone else always think of the family guy diplomat episode when they hear this song?)
    Michael Jackson: bad
    Michael Jackson: scream
    Michael Jackson: beat it
    Eminem ft. Rhianna: love the way you lie
    Survivor: eye of the tiger (just try not to feel like rocky working out or running to this)
    Ram Jam (or recently redone by Spiderbait): black betty
    System of a Down: b.y.o.b.
    Rammstein: du hast
    Volbeat: a warrior's call
    Volbeat: still counting
    Volbeat: heaven nor hell (can you tell this is one of my new favorite bands? :P) 
    White Rabbits: percussion gun (this one of my favorite songs from a lesser known band)
    Pitbull: i know you want me
    Jay-Z and Alicia Keys: empire state of mind
    Metallica: enter sandman
    Fort Minor: remember the name
    Dr. Dre ft. Snoop Dogg: still d.r.e.
    Busta Rhymes: touch it
    Spice Girls: spice up your life (yea, I went there :D)
    Far East Movement ft.The Cataracs and Dev: like a g6
    The Strokes: reptilia
    Rage Against the Machine: killing in the name of
    Modest Mouse: dashboard
    Skillet: monster
    Avenged Sevenfold: beast and the harlot (one of my favorites from my guitar hero playing days, haha)

    What songs/groups do you like to listen to to get you pumped up? I'd love to add some more to my list!

    20 March 2013

    19 March 2013

    Essential Exercises: Superman variations

    These are great to throw into your floor ab workout to give your abs a break. I'm a big fan of circuit training in the sense of using your "break" between sets to work a different or complementary muscle group. Then you take a "break" from that one and go back to the  first exercise since now that muscle group is sufficiently rested. I actually like to do four different exercises in circuit. For example, I would do a set each of squats, push ups, calf raises and then planks, and do that twice without any rest between each set. That way, I rested my legs during the arm exercises and rested my arms during the leg exercises, and I didn't waste any time.

    Anyway, today I bring you, supermans!
    I'm not talking about this guy, but these are inspired by his flying style. How can wearing an outfit that tight be comfortable? And if that blue thing is a one piece, how does he go to the bathroom? Bet you never thought if that, eh?

    Below is an example of what I'm talking about and there are a few different versions I think you should try. If you're doing core exercises of any sort (i.e. crunches), you need to make sure to work your lower back in addition to your abs in order to stay balanced. Fortunately, a lot of full body exercises like squats, deadlifts, pull-ups, etc. work your abs as well as your back, but it doesn't hurt to add in a few of these too. Like I mentioned above, I like to rollover and do these when my abs get too tired if I'm doing crunches or other floor work. By the time I'm done, my abs have recovered and I can do another set.

    Note: I recommend keeping you head looking at least slight downward, staying in line with your body and not looking up like in the photo. Source
    General movement:

    Lay on your stomach with your arms straight out in front. You want to keep your arms and legs straight and your feet pointed during the entire exercise. From here, you raise your arms and legs simultaneously and bring them down together, stopping just above the ground. Keep going and don't let your arms and legs stop and rest at the bottom. Make sure you moving intentionally and using your muscles rather than just kind of flopping your arms and legs up and down. This general movement isn't shown above, but take the legs of A and the arms of B and put them together. You want to engage your glutes, abs and shoulder blades, although these will mainly use your back. I also suggest keeping your head in line with your body rather than looking up or straight ahead like in the photo above. I usually keep my ears basically between my arms. For all of these, I generally do sets of 25.

    Variation A: Lower body only

    Keeping your upper body still, raise your feet and legs up and down. Really try to keep your upper body from moving and isolate your movement to your lower back and down. I usually have my forehead on the floor/mat when I do these and I keep my chest and arms against the ground.

    Variation B: Upper body only

    Same idea as A except opposite. You keep your lower body in place and work your upper body by raising and lower it. Make sure you keep your arms straight. It's easy to cheat and bend your arms, but this actually makes the exercise easier and you

    Variation C: Supermans

    In this variation you lift alternate arms and legs. So you'd lift your right arm and left leg, then put those down and lift your left arm and right leg.

    Variation D: Flutterkicks

    I call these flutterkicks. There is not a picture for these, but the general idea is like A (lifting your lower body only), but you lift one leg at a time. These are quick so you'll probably find yourself doing about twice as many as any of the other variations.

    18 March 2013

    Getting active: How to get started and stay at it

    There is not one best work out activity and thank goodness for that. Everyone has things they like to do and things they don't. If you told me that the only way I were going to be able to lose weight and get in shape was to do cardio*, I would be so screwed. Honestly, I probably wouldn't even give it a go. I like lifting weights and doing body weight exercises and I hate doing cardio. I always have. The good news is that I'm convinced every person can find something active that the like to do. Whether it's swimming or tennis or frisbee golf or walking their dog or roller skating or skiing or karate or dancing or jumping on a trampoline or playing tag with your kids, there's something for everyone. If you try to force yourself to do something you don't like to do with the goal of getting in shape, you're adding an additional obstacle onto an already difficult task. Find something you like, something you can look forward to doing, and you're more likely to stick with it.

    Another good idea is find someone, rather than something, that motivates you and do some kind of activity with them. It is very beneficial to have someone else around to hold you accountable. Doing something you find dreadful with your best friend (or spouse or sister or kids) all of a sudden becomes enjoyable because you can laugh and chat while you're taking a five mile walk around a lake or hiking a mountain or playing handball. As a personal example, back in college a friend of mine and I used to work out Tuesday and Thursday mornings. Other than spending time with her, an obvious benefit, the thing I remember most fondly about this time was that our exercise strategies complemented each other and we learned from each other. She is a soccer player so she was familiar with lower body, leg and cardio exercises and she introduced me to many of those. I was a gymnast growing up so I focused a lot on upper body, core and full body exercises and I introduced her to those. It was a really great partnership and we had fun and laughed while we pushed each other.

    Other ideas for getting started:
    • Try a group class. Personally, I like to work out alone, but I know a lot of people who are motivated by being around others in a class. My mom is a prime example. You'll never find her lifting weights or on a cardio machine but she will totally rock it in a Zumba or Jazzercise class. While it's not for me, I've also heard great things about spinning classes.
    • Take an intro course to learn the basics, especially if you're taking on something that's new to you. Whether it's "Bike Maintenance 101" or "Geotracking for Dummies", getting familiar with the basics will make your more confident and will likely spur your enthusiasm for learning more about that new thing, which will keep you coming back for more.
    • Tag along with someone. Know someone who goes indoor rock climbing every Thursday? Ask if you can tag along next time they go. I'll bet that they'd be happy to "show the ropes", literally and figuratively, and introduce you to one of their favorite hobbies. Everyone loves to discuss their passions (why do you think I'm writing this blog? :D)

    Find something you like to do or someone you want to exercise with and get started!

    *It's totally not and I don't recommend doing much, if any, cardio just for the sake of doing cardio. Interval training and weight training is a much better way to go, but that's the discussion of a much longer future post. That said, if you actually like to run or bike or you're are training toward a future goal, by all means, go for it!

    14 March 2013

    A little more, a little less

    Just like a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step (proverb, Laozi), sometimes doing little things today can start you on a journey to bigger changes down the road that eventually become healthy habits.

    A little more...

    Here's a personal example - I'm a numbers person, not in an OCD way, but I count things (like when someone else is dealing out cards) and frequently do math in my head (like to approximate a total bill). For some unknown reason, when I'm working out and counting my reps, I subconsciously stop at 10 even though that might not get me to the point of muscle failure (which is the goal). So what I've started doing over the last few years is to do 12 reps in a set. It sounds like a silly little thing, but by doing 2 more reps per set, I'm pushing myself and not allowing myself to be complacent when I'm exercising. It's not a lot, but it makes a difference physically and mentally. The other thing I do sometimes when exercising it so do 10 more reps whenever what I'm doing starts to hurt, like if I'm doing a type of crunch or push ups, for example. For someone else, 10 more might become 5 or 15 or 20 more. For me, 10 works well because I can almost always complete all ten so I don't have to cheat, but I'm definitely pushing myself past the point where I'd like to stop.

    Other ideas for doing a little more:
    • If you want to be more active, park your car a little further away from wherever you're going. You could even make it a habit to park at the far end of a parking lot. This has the added benefit of saving you time from circling the lot looking for that closer spot!
    • Another option is to run/bike/walk 0.1 miles more every (other) day for a month, or even every week.
    • If you struggle to drink enough water, try to drink one more glass of water every day than you usually do. You could even set a reminder.
    • If you're looking to change your eating habits, introduce a vegetarian or vegetable heavy meal into your family's dinner rotation. Fridays (especially if you're Catholic) or Meatless Mondays are popular options, but you could do it any day.
    • If you typically grab a quick, less healthy breakfast, substitute a fruit smoothie one day a week. Here's a tip: You can portion out various pieces of frozen fruit into separate bags or containers so you always have a smoothie starter ready in the freezer. When you want to make one, pick one smoothie starter bag and mix it with a combination of milk/juice, yogurt, banana, fresh fruit, protein powder, chia seeds, or whatever you like to put in yours. Super quick and easy!
    • Commit to taking the stairs whenever you are going less two floors or less. This obviously doesn't work when you have a stroller or if you're wearing high heels.
    • If you're not getting a whole lot at the store, carry a basket instead of pushing a cart.

    A little less...

    Sometimes, though, it's not that we need to do more but rather, we need to do less. In our family, we find the biggest thing we need to scale back on is portion sizes. For a lot of people, I think this is more of a mental obstacle than a physical one. It could be that your parents always told you to clean your plate when you were a kid, or maybe you've just come to accept that what a restaurant calls a "portion" or "serving" is just that, even though it is significantly more than you need. A few tips we have found work well to combat portion sizing are to set aside part of your meal before you dig in and to use smaller plates and bowls. I've always eaten small portion sizes because it works well for the way my body digests food. I've come to view any meal I get out at a restaurant as that meal and at least one more. I generally don't even attempt to finish a whole portion at one sitting, and the times I go against my judgement and try to, I usually regret it a few hours later when I'm overly stuffed and uncomfortable. Crab legs and chipotle burritos (not at the same time because that would be gross) are the two biggest offenders for me. The other thing we do is to use smaller plates and bowls. This is especially important for when we portion out food for our toddler. My husband's idea of a serving size is very different from mine. By using toddler sized plates and bowls, we are able to somewhat standardize how much food we give him and reduce the amount we end up wasting by giving him too much. For ourselves, we try to use smaller bowls when we eat ice cream or other desserts to limit how much we dish out and also our smaller plates for meals so we can start with a small serving and then go back for more if needed.

    Other ideas for doing a little less:
    • If you drink too much coffee every day, try drinking a little less. 1.5 cups instead of 2, for example. Or try trading one of your cups for black tea (My suggestion is to get a good earl gray. Some are downright awful so don't be turned off if you've had it once and hated it. I'd be happy to give suggestions).
    • Same with soda, energy drinks, sweetened juices or teas. Try swapping out a small amount for water, green/white/red/herbal tea or a more natural juice option. You might be surprised to find you like it better that what you're drinking now.
    • If you find yourself spread thin or overwhelmed (I know I do), take 5-30 minutes and just stop doing. Use this time to do whatever centers you and gives you peace. It could be meditating, praying, yoga, stretching, or even just laying down with your eyes closed and letting your senses or smell and hearing take over for awhile. I know I don't do this enough, but when I do I'm usually amazed at the benefits.
    Sometimes I think we should all just stop and be like this kitty

    12 March 2013

    Essential Exercises: The easiest stomach toning exercise ever!

    I want to share with you guys a few easy exercises you can add to your work outs. This one you can actually do anywhere and, as an added benefit, it will not only make you more toned but will also improve your posture! Try this easy little exercise and see what I mean.

    Regardless of if you're sitting down or standing up (or even laying down), pull your belly button in and back toward your spine as if a string is attached to the inside of your navel and being reeled in by your spine. Keep your back straight. By doing this little thing on a regular basis, you are training your stomach to naturally be pulled in. Now, every time you realize that you're letting your stomach just hang out or your back arch, pull your belly button in toward your spine. Over time this will become the norm. Not only will you be slightly toning your stomach by using these muscle regularly, but you will appear more toned as well because your back will strengthen and your stomach will stop just hanging out.

    How easy is that?!

    It's the little things: Stretching

    I'm a big advocate of stretching and I've been using the same stretching "routine" for almost 20 years. You see, I was a competitive gymnast growing up and so stretching was obviously an important part of our warm-up. Like most structured sports practices, our stretching routine followed a certain pattern and eventually everyone knew how it went. I liked how it hit all of the major muscle groups and so, with a little evolution along the way, I still use it today before and after every workout I do. I also find I sleep better when I stretch before I go to bed. It allows my body to relax more fully and not tighten up as much while I'm sleeping.

    So why is stretching important? It allows your body to move like it's meant to! The answer to that question is also pretty obvious if you've ever pulled a muscle. Ouch! Even despite my stretching habits, I've pulled my share but I blame it on pushing myself too hard during high school sports. Let's be honest, telling a competitive teenager to "lay off it" for a few weeks is like talking to a wall. Stretching also allows fluids and to flow through your body more easily. There's a reason they tell you to drink lots of water after you get a massage. By releasing tension points, the toxins and were previously stuck are able to get flushed away and out of your body. Water helps this process along and replenishes what was lost.

    Here's the super important thing that no one tells you - you have to relax your muscles to stretch, not push them. How do you do that? Well, try this. Stand up with your legs together and straight. Reach your arms straight above your head, separate them so their out to your sides and then bend at the hips and reach to the ground. At this point, I'm guessing your back and/or hamstrings are probably doing their best to fight against you. Notice this. Now, instead of fighting them, try to consciously relax your hamstrings. Relax your lower back and try to let it spread wide. Alternately, you can just go limp in your lower back (keep your knees straight) and hang like a rag doll. Relax your neck too. And then stay there for a minute or two. I bet you already increased your flexibility just by doing that.

    First two are front view. Last one is a side view. Man, that is one low budget visual aid! :)

    Well that's great for you but I'm just inflexible! Does that sound like you? It sure sounds like the hubs. For you, stretching is even more important. Humor me and try this experiment: Every day for 30 days, stretch for 5 minutes. This will likely work well if you do it at the same time every day so you don't forget, like when you wake up in the morning, during your lunch, after dinner, or before bed. I promise that after 30 days, you'll be surprised at how much more flexible you have become.

    11 March 2013


    Believe it or not, you have options when it comes to eating healthy. Sure, your tastes will adjust and change as you move your meals to healthy options but if you're like me, there are some foods that you just aren't going to like no matter how they are prepared. My list includes peas, sauerkraut and papaya among a few others. The good news is that, regardless of the health benefits you're looking for, there is almost always another option or an alternative preparation that you might like better. I strongly believe that life is too short to eat food you don't enjoy, even (especially!) if you're eating healthy.

    For example, my husband doesn't like raw carrots but he eats these caramelized cumin roasted carrots like they're candy. They take about 2 minutes to prep when you buy a bag of baby carrots and use ground cumin, which we always have around. I strongly suggest getting the big bag of baby carrots because these will disappear before you know it. We seriously grab one out of the pan every time we walk by it. My two year old loves these also.

    Another example. I think quinoa is disgusting. I know it's trendy right now and it has all sorts of health benefits but I just can't stand the taste or the texture. Neither can my hubby. The thing is, though, part of the benefit of quinoa is to reduce the consumption of nutritionally stripped white rice and pasta by replacing it in recipes. So, instead of white rice and pasta, sometimes we do whole wheat cous cous, which we love, or brown jasmine rice, which we don't totally love so I usually mix with the white jasmine rice. The way I see it, a little good is better than none and every little bit counts. You would try whole wheat or spinach pasta as other alternatives. Try different things until you find one you like!

    I'd love to hear what other healthy foods your family has come to love or which ones you're currently eating for the health benefits but not totally loving. I always find it really interesting to hear what are a person/family's go-to meals or snacks.

    07 March 2013

    Healthy Snacks

    I snack a lot. Seriously, I eat constantly from about 8am-4pm. And on top of that, snacking is my coping mechanism when I'm stressed out or anxious about something (which is basically all the time) . My being aware that I do this, though, is half of the battle. What I've chosen to do is, instead of fighting my natural inclination, I give myself healthy options to choose from. I also eat small meals instead of big ones so that my snacks are instead of meal-food, not in addition to. This way my daily intake is still reasonable. Here are some healthy options I use to satisfy my snack addiction that I've come to love:

    Dried fruit! This is a biggie with me. I put it in oatmeal, on yogurt, in baked goods or most of the time, just eat it plain. It jazzes up so many things and gets you some of those fruit vitamins, minerals and fiber at the same time. Plus, it's just plain delicious! You do have to watch the sugar content with some brands as it can be pretty high. I buy the majority of my dried fruit at Trader Joe's and it is just good ole fruit for the most part.

    Coconut! All varieties - unsweetened shredded (so good in oatmeal), roasted chips (Trader Joe's, also good in oatmeal) or just sweetened coconut flesh. Yes, coconut has a high content of fat but, like avocados, it has good natural fats that your body needs, although it is best consumed in moderation.

    Fresh fruit! As far as I know, no one ever got fat by eating too much fresh fruit. I tend to gorge on fruit when it's in season, especially peaches here in Georgia during the summer. Try to buy locally when you can. You'll be amazed at how much more flavor it has.

    Dark chocolate! Good quality dark chocolate. If I'm craving chocolate, I'm not going to bother with anything less. I generally keep Ghirardelli 60% bittersweet chocolate chips around for baking and so I grab a handful (or three) of those.

    Tortilla chips and salsa! Homemade salsa would make this an even healthier option, but between the time spent chopping veggies and the price of produce, we think it's worth it to buy jarred. Still, eating tortilla chips is a much better option than alternatives - potato chips, chex mix, cheez-its...

    Granola bars! Again, homemade would be better but with the two little ones, we just haven't gotten around to doing it. Still, a 100 calorie granola bar is a much better option than grabbing a candy bar, cookie, etc.

    Nuts! We are partial to pistachios but any handful of nuts is a great snack. Almonds, walnuts, pecans - they're all full of vitamins, minerals, omega-3 fatty acids and also fiber that help fill you up between meals. Like coconut (and really, everything), nuts should be eaten in moderation because of the high calorie content. Obviously a big handful of nuts is good for you. Eating the whole bag likely negates the benefits, despite being delicious :)

    Homemade baked goods! There could be some discussion on this one, but I love to bake and it is a satisfying and peaceful experience to me. There are many days when I am craving something sweet (cookies, brownies, cake...) and so I just make it because I have a pantry that's always stocked with baking supplies. The way I see it, if I make whatever I'm craving rather than ignoring it, I will satisfy my immediate craving with the benefit of knowing what ingredients are in it. If I don't make it, I'll generally search the house for alternatives and end up eating worse things or a larger amount of something to try to satisfy it, and in the end I probably still won't be satisfied. One of the little things I do to make my baking just a touch healthier is to use white whole wheat flour in place of all purpose flour in many recipes. I actually like the flavor of the white whole wheat better (it's not nearly as strongly flavored as regular whole wheat flour, which I don't care for) and it's better for you than all purpose. My local chain grocery store carries King Arthur flour brand (which I highly recommend) and I find it's comparable in price to the others.

    Pretzel thins! These are one of the more processed things that I eat, but I figure at least they're baked rather than fried. Sometimes I just need to eat something crunchy and the dried fruit and granola bars and even cookies don't do it for me. Enter, pretzel thins. Thank goodness Costco carries these - my toddler and I go through them like it's our job. They're good alone, with some kind of cheese or dip or, my favorite, dipped in nutella! The key to the latter option is to portion out a spoonful of nutella in a little bowl and not refill it when it's gone. It's good for those chocolate cravings though, since a spoonful of nutella is probably better than a giant bowl full of ice cream or a handful of cookies. Man, now I have the munchies again...

    06 March 2013

    It's the little things: Take 1

    So here's my attempt at trying something I hope will be a recurring thing around here. I want to share some of the little things that work for me and my family. Hopefully, some of them can be adapted to your situation.

    To start it off, I want to talk about...


    It's not the most exciting thing in the world, but we drink a lot of it in our house. My son, now two and a half, never really did the whole milk thing after he was weaned at eleven months. He liked yogurt so we did that but just gave him water to drink. Now he drinks H20 more or less continuously all day. Even his teachers comment to me that he drinks a lot of water. It's not that we completely restrict other beverages, we just usually offer water first and he goes for it. Before bed, we usually give him the option of a "night night drink", which is warmed vanilla rice milk, or apple juice and he gets about 6-8oz of either but not both. And then asks for more water when he's done. At least we never have to worry about him being dehydrated!

    For me personally, I have found two things that help me drink more fluids throughout the day. The first is to have a water bottle with me at all times that's easy to drink out of. I recommend one with minimal lid flipping or unsnapping and a large enough capacity that you don't have to refill it constantly. My favorite water bottle actually came as a new patient freebie from my dentist and I take it with me all the time, especially when I'm out running errands. If I have a filled water bottle nearby, I unconsciously sip at it during the day. The second thing that helps me stay hydrated is tea. I am kind of a self-proclaimed tea snob. Like food, I don't believe in drinking bad tea when there is so much delicious tea out there. My husband on the other hand, despite being born and raised in the South, hates all kinds of tea. His loss! Anyway, I drink anywhere from 3-6 cups of tea a day at work. I figure the tea, in combination with my water bottle, means that I drink more than enough fluids. It also means I have to step out to the bathroom more often than I'd like, but part of that is also bad genes from my mom and the result of having two kids. I figure being hydrated is worth it and besides that, I like the idea of flushing the junk out my body and letting my body detox naturally that way. To combat getting up during the night, I generally only drink 1-3 cups from the time I leave work until the next morning so by the time I go to bed, I'm hydrated but not overly so, if you know what I mean.

    Don't like water? Try adding berries, citrus or sliced cucumber to your water to give it a little flavor and just refill the water throughout the day, reusing the fruit.

    Need bubbles? I've heard good things about carbonating machines like the Soda Stream, which I have not personally tried. I also like the La Croix Pure when I want a little fizz but they can be expensive so you wouldn't want to drink them all the time.

    05 March 2013


    I'm kind of obsessed with documentaries. A few years ago, if you had asked me to watch a documentary I probably would have groaned and convinced you to watch something I thought would actually be enjoyable. Like The Italian Job. Seriously awesome movie. Anyway, I've been on this documentary kick and watching all of them on Netflix because we haven't had cable since May 2010. It was too expensive at the time and honestly, after the first few months, we really didn't miss it. Have you thought about how many hours (or probably days) of your life you have spent watching really stupid commercials? It's scary.

    Here are some documentaries I've seen that I think are worth watching. Most of them are about food. That's just how I roll.

    Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead
    Exit Through the Gift Shop (this is one of my favorite to date) 
    Jiro Dreams of Sushi
    Forks over Knives
    Food Fight
    Trouble the Water
    Supersize Me (it's been several years. I need to rewatch this to see it from where I am now)
    Food, Inc.
    Beer Wars
    The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia
    The Business of Being Born
    The Tents
    The September Issue
    Paris is Burning

    Here are others on my to-watch list and my Netflix queue. As I was writing this list I realized there are a lot more on my to-watch list than I thought so this is just a small sampling.

    The Thin Blue Line
    Man on Wire
    I'm No Dummy
    666 Revealed
    D-Day: The Total Story
    Hoop Dreams
    The Black Power Mixtape: 1967-1975
    The Weather Underground
    King Corn
    Cool It
    Cave of Forgotten Dreams
    Into the Abyss
    The Lottery
    For the Bible Tells Me So
    Food Matters
    Enemies of the People
    Tying the Knot
    The World without US
    Comic Book Confidential
    Unmistaken Child
    The Sun Behind the Clouds
    Sherman's March
    The Up Series
    Pressure Cooker

    Here are the ones I've seen, but don't recommend, for various reasons.

    Vegucated: This is just way too graphic. Definitely brings up some good and important ideas but this actually scarred me a little.
    Kings of Pastry
    Craigslist Joe: A little too dramatized for my taste. It's an interesting idea and restores one's faith in humanity but, like Kings of Pastry, I didn't really like the main guy.
    Paper Clips
    Grizzly Man

    What other documentaries are out there are worth watching (preferably available on Netflix)? 

    04 March 2013

    Set up for failure

    Have you looked around your grocery store lately? It's really amazing how much junk is crammed into those 8 or 12 or 20 aisles. Maybe I'm just getting a little cynical from watching food documentaries that call out big food corporations and the government for setting up a system that encourages the creation of this aforementioned junk and thus, obesity. Maybe I've just started looking around for the first time in years. I can honestly commend food corporations for finding ways to create and brand slightly unique forms of corn and corn products and the worst part is, we eat it up. Literally.

    So it's no wonder that being healthy is so difficult. We are literally face-to-face with the "enemy" everywhere we go. Unhealthy food is plentiful and unfortunately, less expensive than the good stuff. This might not be an option for everyone, but I found that I have (unintentionally) started doing most of my grocery shopping at Trader Joe's and Whole Foods where I know that my processed, canned and frozen options are at least slightly better than those found at my local grocery store. I'd love to hear what others do to combat this huge disadvantage that has been forced on us consumers.

    28 February 2013


    So this is new. I can honestly say that before this morning I had no interest in starting a blog. So what happened? Well, first I got up and went to the gym, which is a bit of a feat in itself and the topic of another day. Then, when I was finishing my workout I went into the locker room to grab my yoga mat so I could do some ab exercises and stretch and a woman commented on my shoes. I wear the vibram finger shoes (and I LOVE them. Also, the spell check suggested I correct vibram to vibrator...hmm...). Anyway, we talked for 10-15 minutes about many things (which also meant I had to forgo my aforementioned ab workout and stretching) but the one thing that I've been thinking about all morning is what she said about the trainers at the gym. She said they "used" to be good, without explaining anything more. She went on to say to she has lost 21 pounds since July doing it "her way", which I congratulated her for. Since our conversation this morning, I have had a yearning to sit down over coffee (or maybe fro yo?) and ask her about "her way", her struggles and what is working for her. I have so many questions: What was the trainer asking you to do that didn't work for you? Why? Why were they so convinced that their way was the (only) correct way to meet your goals? When did it become no longer about you?

    It has me thinking. Why do we try to fit people into these cookie cutter diets or workout plans? Yes, you will need to make changes, but telling you that you have to completely change your way of living is asking for failure. It's about the little changes - park a little further away from the store so you have to walk a little bit more, take a few flights of stairs instead of the elevator, portion out three oreos and put the rest of them away so you don't eat half of the package without realizing what you're doing (even though they are sooo good and addictive), instead of cream in your coffee, try milk. If one "healthy idea" doesn't work for you, find something that does. Don't be afraid to think out of the box.