Thursday, December 13, 2012

Healthy Tipping Point

I picked up my latest read a few months ago at Barnes and Noble, and have slowly been able to read through this great book by Caitlin Boyle titled, The Healthy Tipping Point. Boyle provides a refreshing holistic approach to developing long-term health goals.

She provides great insight based on the notions that you have to be in the right frame of mind regarding your health, you can't focus too strongly on your errors or engage in self-sabotage by restricting your diet, giving in to negative self-talk, or use compulsive exercising as atonement.

Think about the diets you may have tried in the past. Did you stick them out? Did you ever feel like you were missing out on something by restricting certain important foods from your diet? Short-term diets and fads don't leave rooms for imperfections. It's really ok to have dessert, bread, and appetizers- but in moderation! Don't choose all three, just choose one.

Popular diet advice that is tossed around the mainstream media frequently focuses on being "perfect"- such rigid thinking is bound to end in disappointment. Being happy doesn't come from physical attributes, it comes from peace within and eating, exercise helps to get us there.

Boyle points out, statistically speaking, the vast majority of diets are failures. The diet mentality can't compare to a long-term, holistic view of health- which is something I've learned within the last few years.

Something that really stuck with me while reading this is to reframe your health goals by changing the way you see, instead of simply changing the way you look. Positive changes begin in the mind. I've come to realize healthy living is about the emotional aspect of life as much as the physical side.

Einstein once famously said, "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is the definition of insanity." If you want to truly change your behavior, you have to change your motivational methods. Remember this when you start feeling yourself slip away from your healthy holistic approach- Believe that small decisions can add up to something amazing.

If you're interested in learning more or just want to keep up with Caitlyn Boyle, check out both of her blogs either here or here

Morning rituals

During my high school days, you could always find me taking part in some kind of physical activity whether it be cheerleading, softball, volleyball, weight training, or doing stadiums at the high school football field.

All of the team activities I participated in, my coaches would always emphasize the importance of stretching before and after physical activity. Even on the days of rest, it was always good to stretch. 

Nowadays, I'll stretch occasionally, but not nearly as much or for as long as I should be. For the past few weeks, I have been trying to rethink my morning routines. Instead of waking up at the last minute and having to jump out of bed in a rush and quickly get going in the mornings, I'm trying to remember to set my alarm about 20 minutes earlier than normal to slowly wake up. Did you know stretching warms up your joints and increases your blood flow while simultaneously awakening your mind?

Stretching in and of itself can actually be a form of exercise. So instead of hitting the snooze button in the morning, take the extra 10-20 minutes to stretch and get the juices going and easy away any stress or tension from the previous day's activity or a funky sleeping position.

You can keep your morning stretches simple without  even leaving the bed! Try these 5 simple stretches tomorrow morning:
  1. Sitting indian style, cross your fingers and raise your arms above your head, palms facing the ceiling. Breath in and out for 10 seconds.
  2. Remain in the indian style, and slowly roll your neck from side to side- loosening the tension and muscles in your neck and shoulders.
  3. While lying on your back, start with your right arm extended out to the side, palm down and bring your right leg across your body to stretch your lower back and gluteous maximus. Hold for 10-20 seconds and rotate, stretching your left side.
  4. Most people are used to stretching their quads while standing up, by standing on one leg and bending your opposite leg (knee facing the ground) while holding onto your foot/ankle behind your back, but it's also something you can do while lying down on your side. To really maximize your quad stretch, squeeze your glut max while engaged in the stretch. Since quads are one of the most overworked muscles in the body, make sure to stretch them every day.
  5. I love a good hamstring stretch! Make sure that when you do this stretch your pelvis is square (keep your hips centered and flat). Think of this stretch as a way to wake up your legs. Circle your ankles a few times in each direction, too to help with circulation, and strengthening. 

ViSalus inspiration

In October, I shared with you some of my favorite protein shake  breakfast options. Usually I like to have my protein shake in the mornings. I'll drink half before a run, and finish the other half for my post-workout snack on most days. Other days I might feel like having something a little heartier and go for a peanut butter and sliced bananas on whole-wheat toast- very satisfying!

Through Facebook I've been following the company ViSalus, which is the supplier of my protein powder. Every day they usually post a new recipe for their Vi-Shakes or something to motivate their readers to adopt a healthy lifestyle.

They've been coming up with some super delicious looking shakes and other protein treats, and I figured I would share some of my favorites with you! Hope you enjoy!

First up is the awesome Pumpkin Pie Shake I tried last month to get me in the Thanksgiving spirit:

  • 2 scoops Vi-Shake mix
  • 8-10 oz almond milk
  • 1/3 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1/8 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/8 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 4 ice cubes

Combine all ingredients except the ice cubes in the blender, and pour into favorite glass over ice.

The Apple Pie Vi-Shake was to die for! It tasted of sweet, cinnamon apples- and while drinking it, I pretended I was indulging in a scoop of my favorite vanilla bean ice cream :)

For all my fellow pineapple lovers, this one's for you! This shake tastes just like the real deal without overindulging in all the calories.

The next three treats will help you get into the Christmas spirit!

In the picture ^^ it's not as much a Christmas time shake, but can you really turn down this Frappuccino shake?

  • 1 1/2 cups crushed ice
  • 8 oz almond milk
  • 2 scoops Vi-Shape protein powder
  • 2-1 oz shots of espresso or use 3/4 cup of double strength (strong) coffee and increase crushed ice amount by 1/4 cup
  • 2 tbsp Splenda
  • Use flavor coffee like caramel
Last, but certainly not least- my favorite December shake, Peppermint Mocha Frappuccino...

  • 2 tbsp sugar free peppermint syrup
  • 1 tbsp coffee (optional)
  • 8 oz almond milk
  • 2 scoops protein powder
  • 1 tbsp Ovaltine malt mix
  • 4-5 ice cubes

Happy Holidays!!

Running With Technology

Through my journey of training for my first 5k, I have come across some useful tools to help me track my workouts. Recently there was a Groupon for a pedometer, so at half off I was able to purchase it to track my daily step counts, the distance I run, and time my strides. Even if I lost myself in a good run and let time slip away the pedometer has a digital clock to help me stay on track with my busy schedule.

My route for running goes from my house, into a near-by park, but I was never sure how far I was running. In order to prepare better for the 5k, I wanted to be able to set weekly running goals and work up my endurance with different walking to running timing intervals. At the beginning of the training the pedometer was just what I was looking for. Until my best friend gave me an early Christmas/birthday present :)

After loosing two iPod's to water incidents, I was lost trying to run without any tunes to motivate me. My dear friend gave me the best gift I've received in a long time, an iPod Nano 7th generation! My other two iPod's were nothing compared to this one.

Now not only can I keep track of all my music, but I can also stay updated on my favorite tv shows, movies, podcasts, and home videos, keep track of my fitness without getting tangled in headphone cords with the new Bluetooth technology, and tune into FM radio.

It seems like the possibilities are almost endless with this device that is about the size of a credit card. But don't let the size fool you, this new nano boasts a new multi-touch screen that's nearly double the size of the previous iPod nano. The best part about the whole thing are all the fun colors the new nano comes in...

You can't forget the case convenient for running and exercise. The purple arm band pictured below is more of a fashion band that can be purchased on Amazon for $12.85.

Or you could go for a sportier version from Belkin found on Amazon and Best Buy for $29.99.

This iPod Nano has been my favorite workout partner so far. It gives me some much needed musical motivation and provides real-time feedback. With the Nike+ support and built-in pedometer, there's no need   to connect a receiver or use a shoe sensor to track my steps, distance, pace, time and calories burned. 

With the Bluetooth technology, I can connect wirelessly to heart rate monitors and headphones- this makes running with my hyper Jack Russell so much easier! And at the end of my workout, I sync my iPod Nano to to track my daily activities and goals, check my NikeFuel, and monitor my fitness progress against my friends.

I have also recently downloaded Endomondo, which is an app for iPhone users which is very similar to the nano. The only difference I've found so far is that the app tracks my path and can provide satellite images of my run to share with my friends. Pretty cool! 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

How to stay on track during the holidays

Excluding the month of September, the other three months ending in "ber" all seem to pose health challenges for me. It starts cooling down outside making me crave stews, chicken and dumplings, and all other cooler weather comfort foods; my closet starts rearranging from shorts and tanks to pants and sweaters, making me less aware of the trouble areas that are hidden by my clothes.

 And to top if all off, with Halloween in October it seems every where I turn there's some kind of candy or chocolate shoved into my face. With all the casseroles, pies, mashed potatoes and gravy, and everything else in between Thanksgiving and Christmas with cookie parties and such- by the time you're into January, no wonder why everyone's New Year's Resolution is losing weight.

But all of this doesn't mean the holidays have to be an unhealthy time of year. In fact, in order to get anywhere with your health goals you have to think long-term goals and try your hardest not to lose track of that, otherwise you'll spend the first few months of the new year trying to just get back to where you started. It's important to keep long-term health goals in mind. Try having a healthy holiday! The first simple and effective step towards that goal is do not use the season as an excuse to splurge.

Just a few simple tools can put you in control and gliding through the holidays with a positive, can-do attitude. Through my subscription to Weight Watchers I received a very helpful email that gave me a brighter outlook on my health options for this holiday season.

Challenge yourself to use these easy tricks:

  1. Always eat a healthy dinner before you go to a holiday party.
  2. Bring healthy foods to potlucks.
  3. At appetizer tables, choose two or three of your favorites and put them on a small plate, or even a napkin. Then, walk away.
  4. When you're done with your food, throw away the napkin or take your plate to the kitchen.
  5. Avoid large plates.
  6. At a buffet, cover most of your plate with veggies and fruits. Then find room for smaller portions of the high-calorie main dishes.
  7. Watch out for times when you feel guilty for overeating. Just because you slipped up at lunch isn't license to overindulge all day. Remember: one meal is one meal. One day is one day.
  8. One the nights you decide to have a drink, limit yourself to one or two. Don't indulge every night, and choose your drinks wisely.
  9. Drink extra water to help flush out the excess sodium you consume during rich meals.
  10. No matter how busy you get, make time for a healthy breakfast. Eating a morning meal will help control cravings later on.
  11. If baked goods are your holiday weakness, consider hosting a cookie party: Ask every guest to bring one batch of his or her favorite cookies, plus the recipe, and share. This way, you and your family get a variety without having to bake loads. You could also challenge your guests to bring low-fat or low-calorie cookies.
  12. Store healthy snacks at the front of your fridge and pantry, and go for them before you treat yourself to the splurge stuff.
  13. On heavy-eating weeks, add some strength training to your routine. Building muscle will help your body continue to burn calories while at rest.
  14. Add health-related gifts to your wish list this year, they could help make for a slimmer, healthier new year.

Land and Sea

Recently, a few friends have been asking for dinner ideas that can fit into their college budgets. For the last six years I've been a college student, and it wasn't always easy to maintain a healthy way of eating on a tight budget. It has taken every bit of those six years to figure out a easy, practical, and affordable way.

In the beginning of my college career, the poor eating habits that I picked up while being away from home for the first time wasn't completely contributed to lack of funds. The main problem stemmed from not having enough time to grocery shop, and cook during the weekdays. It was more convenient between my studies and job to swing by a fast food joint. Or so I thought...

Two years ago this Christmas, my mom gave me a pre-paid Sams membership card which I absolutely love having! That blue and white little piece of plastic has come in handy on so many different occasions. We're even finding some great deals on beer, liquor, and wine for our wedding from Sam's.

Ok, I'm starting to sound like a commercial (at least I could hear my Fiance saying that to me right now!), and Sam's is definitely not paying me to write this post :) But I do recommend a membership. When it came time to renew last year, I believe it cost about $40 for membership renewal.

So for example, last week I took a trip to Sam's, which is less than 15 minutes from where I live, and stocked up on a 3 lb bag of boneless fillets of tilapia, a 2.5 lb skinless salmon fillet, and 5.8 lbs of boneless/skinless chicken breasts.

*Salmon fillet*

This land and sea trio set me back $30, but when considering I purchased the tilapia at $4.26/lb, the salmon at $2.48/lb, and the chicken at $1.77/lb I feel I got a great deal. Especially knowing that will last us for about a month, and if we were to go out to dinner and purchase any of these meats as an entree, we would be spending over $30 every meal out.

Since this only covers part of the meal, you can take my advice from my post in October on saving money at local farmers' markets and produce stands. By shopping locally at produce stands and farmer's markets, your putting more money back into the local economy and supporting your local farmers by allowing them to keep on farming. And as a added bonus, you can spend another $20 on fruits and veggies for accompaniments that will last you about two weeks, or depending on the fruits and veggies ripeness.

*Chicken breasts and salmon fillets*

Now let's recap... $30 for a months worth of meats, and $20 for two weeks of fruits and veggies. If my math serves me correctly, we're looking at $50 for two weeks of eating right, and then another $20 for the other two weeks' supply of fruits and veggies, puts you at $70 for a months worth of healthy meals.

The picture above was taken after I had already cleaned the chicken of fat, cut the tenders off (top left bag), and split the chicken breasts in half. The breasts are so large, one could be just one meal for two people. After prep, label the ziploc bags with the date and freeze the meat for later use.

So far we've created two light and healthy meals with the chicken. We cooked up the chicken tenders on the stove with some Adobo seasoning, and Italian dressing atop a bed of spring mix lettuce, sliced plum tomatoes, cucumber and carrot slices, and chopped walnuts for a crunch all drizzled with Wish Bone's Light Honey Dijon, my new-found favorite dressing.

Another night, we decided we enjoyed the flavor of the chicken so much from the salad, we prepared it in the same seasoning and dressing and cooked the chicken in the oven with the fresh garlic broccoli, and sliced red potatoes.

Hope you enjoy the lighter side of college budgeting and are able to take a few tips from here! 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

WW Slow Cooker Chili... and something for leftovers

Just as the weather began cooling down, my cravings for all of the comfort foods that go along with the fall and winter seasons were right on cue. Fortunately with the subscription to Weight Watchers, I can satisfy these cravings without having to forfeit a high number of points.

This recipe comes from my Weight Watchers mobile app, and is listed under the Featured Recipes tab. With this awesome tool, I have come across several tasty meals that I will be filing into our personal cookbook. This Slow Cooker Three-Bean Chili is a vegetarian dish that is a cinch to prepare. Leftovers are innumerable with this meal, and chili always tastes better on the second day!

Although this can most certainly be a vegetarian dish, in our household we're meat lovers, so we tried it with lean ground sirloin. This recipe has a value of 6 points, serves 10 with a prep time of 15 minutes, and cooking time of 180 minutes.

  • 1 large uncooked onion, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, with chilies (optional)
  • 1 can tomato sauce
  • 1 1/4 oz spiced seasoning mix, chili variety
  • 14 oz frozen corn kernels
  • 1 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, minced
  • Combine onion, garlic, beans, tomatoes, tomato sauce, and seasoning mix in a slow cooker.
  • Cover and cook on high heat for 2-3 hours (or low heat for 4-6 hours).
  • Add frozen corn during the last hour of cooking
  • Stir in lime juice and add cilantro just before serving.
  • Top with fat-free sour cream and shredded cheese, optional.

For lunch the next day, I was able to reuse the leftovers to make a delicious burrito. I stuffed my burritos with lettuce, salsa, sour cream, and cheese. You could also use the leftovers for tacos, too. I've never been a fan of eating leftovers the next day, but after finding my creative side I'm digging the leftovers!