Clean Eating Challenge

Back towards the beginning of May, a friend I CrossFit with, knowing I’m in the process of launching my own personal training business, asked if she could tell me about the clean eating program that got her on the road to health and feeling better, something I may be able to share with clients.  I have to say, even with my nursing background, when it comes to nutrition and how to guide someone into making the best decisions for weight loss, I just feel overwhelmed.  Anyone else feel like that?  There’s so much seemingly contradictory information out there.  And here’s the thing:  nutrition is THE most important part of weight loss.  Exercise all you want, but you can’t out exercise a bad diet.

On top of that, I found myself stuck in a bit of a food rut.  Terrified of gaining weight again, I’d basically been eating the same foods I’d eaten during my weight loss process.  But having gained a few pounds in the last 6 months, I found that even following that routine, my weight wasn’t budging.

So I said, “Sure.  I’d love to learn about that.”

Now, my friend is an Arbonne consultant and the program recommends using Arbonne supplements.  But before you tune me out, let me just say, regardless of your feelings about Arbonne, supplementation, and the like, what I learned about clean eating was worth the money for the starter kit.  And no, this is not a post about Arbonne.  I just want to tell you about my adventure into clean eating.

So the challenge consists of 30 days of no sugar, no dairy, no peanuts, no wheat, gluten or soy.  And the only fruit I was supposed to eat was green apples and berries.  Yeah.  When I looked at that, I asked myself the same question I heard from a gazillion people who heard what I was doing:  “What do you eat?”

I mean seriously, what was I going to eat?  I usually had yogurt and peanut butter every day.  Seriously, every day.  And I often ate whole wheat tortillas and bananas.  Would I be able to run without a banana to fuel me?  And no chocolate covered almonds?  I could almost feel myself twitching at the thought.  But I was also intrigued.  Could one eat tasty food that eliminated so many products?

In a word, YES!  If you think about it, really all the program did was eliminate highly processed foods.  The basis of clean eating is eating foods that are as close to the way God created them as possible–cage free eggs, grass-fed beef, organic fruits and vegetables, brown rice, nuts (aside from peanuts).  It emphasizes the quality of the food.

And the idea behind eliminating certain foods is to help identify how your body reacts to them.  The program is commonly referred to as a “detox”.  Now, I tend to think that if your liver and kidneys are in good working order, the body naturally detoxifies itself, but I was intrigued by the idea that some of these highly processed foods may be affecting me without my knowledge.  I wondered what would happen if I eliminated them.

Thankfully, the program provided recipes.  So I would pick one or two dishes to make for the week, buy the groceries for those meals, and choose one day to meal prep (which usually took about 1 hour).  These are some of the things I ate:

001Apple slices with almond butter

 

 

 

 

 

004Spaghetti squash with homemade sauce

 

 

 

 

 

003Grilled salmon, cilantro lime quinoa, salad with homemade ranch dressing (it’s amazing what you can do with cashews!)

 

 

 

 

002Blackened chicken with a spinach and raw veggie/black bean salad

 

 

 

 

 

And these are just SOME of my meals!  I learned about cooking with fresh herbs, combining spices to make the most delicious flavorings for salmon and chicken, the wonder of fresh lemons and limes.  I discovered a whole new way of cooking!

But the bottom line, as I’m sure you’re dying to know, did I lose weight?

Let me tell you what the challenge did for me:

  1.  I lost 4.4 pounds.  It doesn’t sound like much, but at my size losing anything over about a half pound per week is a LOT of weight.  And I lost a little over a pound a week without trying.  I ate good food, and I ate when I was hungry and until I was full.
  2. I lost an inch around my waist at my bellybutton, 4 inches (I know!  Couldn’t believe it!) around my lower belly where that stubborn fat roll just wouldn’t budge, and an inch off my hips.
  3. I went from having nearly daily headaches requiring some kind of pain aid to 2 headaches in the entire 4 weeks.
  4. I lost that sluggish feeling that I thought was just normal for a night shift worker.  I still feel tired frequently because my sleep schedule is totally out of whack, but even when I’m tired I don’t have that brain fog going on.  Anyone know what I mean?  And I’m finding I have more energy overnight at work.
  5. Nearly all my sugar cravings are gone.  I thought I would have a hard time with giving up sugar, but I felt so satisfied with the food I was eating, I didn’t really miss it.  A couple of times I had a rather strong chocolate craving, but I felt way more in control and was able to resist the temptation.

So now the challenge is over, and I have to decide what to do.  Will I incorporate those eliminated foods back in or not?  There’s a part of me that doesn’t want to because I feel amazing, but I also want to be able to eat with my friends and not stress out about what I’m eating.  I think I’ll probably wind up doing what most people do after the challenge–follow clean eating habits at least 80% of the time.

I’m excited to continue to incorporate this new way of eating/cooking into my life!  I’m experimenting with baking with almond and coconut flour, and I can’t wait to try arrowroot.  I’m also anxious to pull out my favorite recipes and see how I can “clean” them up.  Eating has become an adventure, and I’m loving the ride!

Talk to me:

What makes eating healthy hard for you?

What are you eating these days?

What’s your thought on clean eating?

 

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What I’m Eating These Days

So how’s your eating going?  Are you making healthy choices?  It’s hard.  I know.  Believe me, I know!  But I thought today I’d tell you about some of the foods that have made choosing healthy a bit easier for me lately.

  1.  Tomato Basil rice cakes.  I discovered rice cakes early on in my weight loss process.  I know a lot of people turn up their noses at them, but I like IMG_1484them.  Plain rice cakes aren’t all that tasty alone, but use them in place of bread and they’re wonderful!  Throw some tuna, turkey and lettuce, or even peanut butter on a rice cake, and you’ve got a quick, low-calorie meal, and the crunch of the rice cake satisfies the part of my appetite that needs crunch as well.  But these tomato basil rice cakes are amazing!  They taste great alone which makes them perfect for when I’m craving something crunchy and salty.  They also work great as a base for turkey and gives tuna an extra zing.
  2. Powdered peanut butter.  Who knew there was such a thing?!  I LOVE peanut butter!  No day in my world is complete without it, and running out of peanut butter nearly constitutes an emergency.  Seriously.  I have IMG_1483gone to the store for nothing expect peanut butter.  True story!  But I try to be careful with how much peanut butter I eat because it does add a lot of calories and fat to my diet.  What I like about this powdered peanut butter is that I get the taste of peanut butter without the fat and with significantly fewer calories.  My experience with it is limited to use in smoothies, but I’m anxious to try it just mixed with a little almond milk in place of the real deal.IMG_1522
  3. Zucchini.  I love all kinds of squash.  Butternut squash soup is one of my favs!  I love roasting summer and zucchini squash.  But lately I’ve sauteed zucchini, mushrooms, and onions in a pan sprayed with olive oil cooking spray.  When the vegetables are almost done, I toss in some chicken.  Holy cow!  So good.  That’s been my dinner several times this past week.
  4. Blackberries.  I’ve never been a big fan of berries aside from blueberries and strawberries.  The crazy thing is that I was in the store recently, saw blackberries, and thought they just looked so good.  Why is that when I’ve never really cared for them before?  Anyway, I picked some up and had some for a snack later.  Well, I am a reformed berry hater.  They are IMG_1523so good!  And they’re really good for you too–lots of antioxidants to fight cell damage.  I just have to be careful to eat them in moderation because, as with all fruit, blackberries are sugar.  You know how your body stores excess sugar?  As fat.  Yep.

So who says healthy eating has to be boring?!  Who needs pizza when you can eat squash?!

 

Talk to me:

What are your favorite foods/meals at the moment?

Care to share a favorite healthy recipe?  Leave it in the comments for all to enjoy.

Having Christmas and Eating Too

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas around here.  See?  img_1356Everything’s brown, a sure sign of winter in Oklahoma.  But a wreath on the door helps to make all that brown feel a bit more festive.img_1357

We’ve officially entered the holiday season; I just attended my first Christmas party, and I find my thoughts turning to Christmas of 2013.  It was the img_1361first holiday season I’d encountered on my weight loss journey.  I thought about all the Christmas parties with all their delectable treats that only come around once a year but have enough calories to choke a horse.  I thought about Christmas dinner.  Everything tastes so amazingly good, but if Christmas dinner is anything like Thanksgiving dinner, every food is either brown or yellow, not the best choices for healthy eating.  I had been consistently losing weight.  I was motivated to make healthy changes, and I was terrified of gaining weight.  How was I going to be sociable at the parties and Christmas gatherings without gaining back all that weight I’d lost? It was like going into a final exam.  I had to put to the test everything I’d learned about healthy eating and losing weight.  Could I do it?  Maybe this could be the year that Santa skipped Christmas?  Please…?

Maybe you find yourself in that pickle this year.  You’ve made some healthy choices, maybe even lost some weight, but the thought of all the holiday food threatens to derail all your good choices.  With the holiday season in full swing, I thought I’d give you some tips that have carried me through 3 holiday seasons now with no weight gain.

  1.  Have realistic goals.  Being realistic in weight loss goals is probably one of the most important things I did to lose weight, and when it comes to the holidays, being realistic is even more important.  My goal every year is not to lose weight between Thanksgiving and New Year but to just MAINTAIN my weight.  Realistically, I’m going to want to eat at parties and Christmas dinner.  But if I can manage to somehow avoid the weight gain that seems inevitable this time of year, I’ll be happy.
  2. Remember that you are empowered.  YOU control what you put in your mouth.  That second slice of pumpkin pie piled high with whipped cream may be calling your name, but it has NO control over you.  You alone decide if you’re going to eat it or not.
  3. Ration your calories.  When I know that I’m going to a party or have a holiday meal coming up, I eat wisely during the rest of the day.  I think of my calories as a bank account of sorts.  I have a predetermined number of calories to use for the day.  I know at that Christmas party or dinner that I will probably be using up more calories than normal, so to make sure I don’t “overdraw” my account, or eat more calories than I need, I choose very low calorie foods for the rest of the day, like salads and fresh fruits and vegetables.  And don’t forget to drink your water!
  4. Make the best choices possible.  When it comes to what you’re going to eat at that holiday gathering, make the best choices possible.  Is there a salad or a green vegetable?  Opt for larger portions of that over sweet potatoes swimming in brown sugar and marshmallows.  Do you have a choice of turkey or ham?  Go for white meat turkey.  It has a lower fat content.  Think about portion size.  Small amounts of the things you love but know are bad for you, AKA those sweet potatoes loaded with sugar, may be just enough to satisfy your taste without totally wrecking your health plan.
  5. Skip the gravy and whipped cream.  It’s easy for me to say “skip the gravy”since I’m not a big fan of gravy, but gravy is loaded with calories.  Whipped cream is a bit tougher to say no to, but when I think about how delicious my dessert tastes even without that pile of calories masquerading as total yumminess, I’ll let it go in a heartbeat.
  6. Get some kind of physical activity every day.  Even during Christmas, you ask?  YES!  Even during Christmas!  Go for a walk.  It’s a great way to enjoy your neighbors’ outdoor Christmas decorations.  You don’t have to spend an hour in the gym, but keep yourself moving.  Believe me, you’ll feel better for it.
  7. Enjoy yourself!  Last but not least, enjoy the holiday gatherings.  Don’t get so hung up on watching calories and your weight that you totally miss out on the fun.  Be sensible.  Make healthy choices.  Eat in moderation.  Be active.  But at the end of the day, if you find that you’ve eaten more than you intended or had things that you know are not good for you, remember that this does not mean the end of your health plan.  Tomorrow’s a new day.  Be determined to make good choices.  Stay away from holiday leftovers, remember your goals, and keep on going.  You can do it!

Here’s to a happy and healthy Christmas!

Talk to me:

What Christmas traditions do you have?

What will you do to make healthy choices this holiday season?

When You Just Gotta Have Pizza!

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I just need really want a slice of pizza.  You know?  All that cheesy goodness and pepperoni.  Yum!  Yep, I love a good pizza!

But when I became conscious of exactly what I was eating, I decided that maybe all that yumminess wasn’t really worth it.  If you’ve been following my weight loss story, you know that I live by the rule of “I choose NOT to have it.”  I can have it if I want, but I’m choosing NOT do.  Big difference between that and I CAN’T have it.  I mean, all that grease will just make me feel sluggish and gross not to mention all the work it will take to rid my body of those calories.  I did a quick internet search on how many calories are in a slice of pizza.  I found estimates ranging from 230 calories per slice to over 400 calories–per slice!  And I don’t know about you, but I usually want at least 2 slices of pizza, right?  Holy cow!  Those 2 slices of pizza would take up almost half of my daily calorie budget right there!  And let’s not even talk about the fat and sodium content…yikes!

So sometimes I decide to spend my calories on pizza, but most of the time it’s not worth it to me.  But, I still love the taste of pizza!  That’s why I invented a way to have my pizza and eat it too–Pizza Quesadilla!

What you need:

Whole wheat flour tortillas (I like low carb tortillas)

Pizza sauce003

Turkey pepperoni (or you could use turkey sausage, chicken, whatever pizza toppings you like)

Cheese

Onions, mushrooms, peppers, etc.

Here’s what you do:

  1.  Place a tortilla in a non-stick skillet over medium heat.
  2. Spread pizza sauce on half the tortilla.  It will only take about 2 teaspoons.004
  3. Place toppings on top of the pizza sauce.
  4.  Sprinkle with a small amount of cheese.006
  5.  Fold the tortilla so that the “clean” half of the tortilla covers the toppings.007
  6. Let the quesadilla brown.  Flip and brown on the other side.008
  7. Voila!  Pizza for about 150 calories and 6 grams of fat (depending on toppings).009

So there you go.  Let me know what you think.  Could this be a potential substitute for pizza for you?

Talk to me:

What other ways have you tried to “healthy up” pizza?

What’s a recipe you invented?

 

Staying the Course

Confession’s good for the soul, right?  Hopefully, it’s also good for the waist line.  Yup, I have a confession to make.  Well, kind of a confession.  I haven’t murdered anyone, or anything like that, so just relax.

Sometimes I use my cat as a pillow.

001Just kidding.  That’s not my confession.

Ok, seriously.  Here goes.  I have been craving chocolate and junk food like crazy lately…and battling like crazy to not give in.  What gives?  I thought I had this licked.

It takes me back to the point of being within 5 or 10 pounds of my goal weight a couple of years ago.  Seeing the number on the scale go down was huge motivation for me to make those healthy choices, and for the most part, I could choose healthy without too much trouble.

But when I got closer to my goal weight, I began to feel myself wanting to return to my old habits of snacking on things that weren’t good for me.  It was like I began to relax.  I’d reached my goal; now I could let things get back to normal.

But then I remembered.  Healthy IS the new normal!  Yes, my goal was weight loss, but more than that, my goal was PERMANENT weight loss and health.  I didn’t want to lose the weight only to gain it back.  That had been my MO for so many years, and I was done with it.  I realized that the choices I’d made–forgoing donuts and potato chips for apples and salad and trading in my couch potato status for that of runner–were not just temporary choices to reach a temporary goal.  I was in this for the long haul.  These are lifestyle choices, meant to continue from now until the cows come home.

So I’m a little frustrated that I’m battling these unhealthy cravings at the moment.  But I’m also encouraged that while I have had some chocolate, I have not fully given in to my cravings.  These last few years have given me the tools I need to stay the course.

I’m back in that spot of identifying my triggers.  What’s happening that’s causing me to want junk food, especially when I know how yucky it will make me feel?  The big trigger right now is fatigue.  Working night shift takes a toll on me because I don’t sleep well during the day, so after working a couple of consecutive shifts, it takes a while to get caught back up on my sleep.  I know that being tired makes me want bad-for-me things.  So knowing that, I’ve just been telling myself, “Girl [yes, I really call myself “girl”!], you’re just tired.  That’s why you want to eat everything in sight.  You don’t need it.  It’s not good for you.”  And strangely, that gives me strength to pass it by.

Because ultimately, I know that the choices I’ve made are part of a lifestyle I’m able to live with and that I WANT to live out.  I don’t want to go back to junk food and feeling sluggish.  I like being active and energetic and finding adventure in life.  That’s what helps me stay the course.

So to those cravings of chocolate and Cheetos…so long!  Who needs you?  I’ve got my hands over my ears, and I’m not listening to you.

009

Talk to me:

What are you craving at the moment?

How do you deal with cravings?

Mashed Potato Substitute

I love potatoes.  No, I don’t just love potatoes.  I LOOOOVE them!  I don’t think I’ve met a potato yet that I don’t like.  I love mashed potatoes, baked potatoes, french fried potatoes, sweet potatoes (as long as they’re not covered in brown sugar and marshmallows.  Yuck!), hash browned potatoes.  I love them all…and I’d be happy eating them every single day.

The good news about potatoes is they are high in fiber and potassium.  But…the bad news about potatoes is that they’re very starchy.  They provide a lot of carbohydrates which equals more calories.  And what’s the secret to weight loss?  Calories!  Yep, burning more calories than you take in.

So when I began my weight loss journey, I discovered that my diet was starchy carb heavy, adding greatly to my overabundance of daily calories.  So I began to find lower calorie carbohydrates to replace those starchy carbs (potatoes, corn, white bread, pasta, pastries, etc.) with.  Did you know that if you eat a salad with greens and fresh vegetables or an apple that you’re still eating carbs?  Truth!  If it’s not a protein or a fat, it’s a carb!  The key for me to eating carbs is to go easy on the starchy carbs (except when I have a big race coming up!) and to concentrate on those low calorie carbohydrates–broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, lettuce, cucumber, etc.

But I also like to find ways that I can have my cake and eat it too, so to speak.  I choose not to have mashed potatoes very often because I would rather spread out my calories instead of eating a good chunk of them at one meal.  It was a happy day when I discovered Mashed Cauliflower!

Mashed Cauliflower is a great substitute for mashed potatoes.  It has a mild flavor and is low in calories.  An entire head of cauliflower has about 147 calories!  Compare that to 110 calories for 1 potato and this does not include the butter, sour cream, or other toppings commonly found on top of potatoes.  A cup of mashed potatoes made with whole milk and margarine has 237 calories!

Here’s how I make Mashed Cauliflower:

  1.  Chop a head of cauliflower into flowerets.010
  2. Steam the cauliflower until it’s soft.  I steam it a little longer than I would to just serve steamed cauliflower.  A fork should pierce it easily.  I like to steam my veggies in my microwave steamer.
  3. Use a blender or food processor to “mash” up the steamed cauliflower.  (I don’t know where my head was.  I used a beater instead of my blender which did not get the cauliflower as fine as I like it.)
  4. Add salt to taste.011
  5. Add milk to get the right consistency.  I like to use almond milk; it has fewer carbs and calories.
  6. If you decide to add butter, use real butter sparingly and not that evil, fake margarine!
  7. Serve as you would mashed potatoes.012

Talk to me:

Have you ever tried mashed cauliflower?  Would you?

What other ways have you eaten cauliflower?

Eating Healthy at Work

So, I’ve been kind of MIA this week.  It wasn’t intentional; just call it working 60 plus hours inside of 6 days.  Yeah, crazy nurse hours.  But it got me thinking about the challenge of eating healthy when work gets in the way.

If your work place is anything like mine, there are always yummy goodies lying around.  I work night shift at a hospital, and I promise you, day shift can find any excuse to have a potluck lunch.  And what’s left over, hangs out in the breakroom for us night critters.  Cookies, cupcakes, candy, doughnuts…When I get tired at about 3 a.m., I start craving sugar, and those sugar laden treats start calling my name.  Not a good combo.

And should I mention that the cafeteria is only open for a short time offering all kinds of delectable meals like grilled cheese sandwiches, french fries, chicken fingers…Or I could take my chances with the vending machines.  Neither is really a good option.

Plus, like most people, work tires me out.  And if you’re like me, when you’re tired, it’s just easier to run through the drive through or pick up some kind of pre-made meal that probably isn’t the healthiest, either.

On a side note, I wish I could sleep like this during the day!

010So what’s a girl to do?  How do you survive the challenges of work and fatigue and still manage a healthy diet?

I go about it like this:

  1.  Prepare food in advance and put it in serving size containers. I usually take a few hours one day and prepare some foods that I can do lots of different things with and that will stay good in the refrigerator for most of the week.  Baked chicken is a staple in my refrigerator.  It’s great in salads, in a wrap or sandwich, or alongside steamed or roasted veggies. Make salads ahead of time by chopping the veggies.  Keep frozen veggies on hand that you can quickly steam in the microwave while you shower or blow dry your hair.  Or put leftovers of whatever you’ve cooked into serving size containers. Having things that I can quickly assemble (10 minutes or less) or just toss into my lunch bag makes it much easier to take a lunch to work or make a quick, healthy meal when I get home.
  2. Bring quick, healthy snacks.  Maybe your work is like mine, and finding time to actually sit down and eat the lunch you brought just doesn’t happen.  That’s why I always have 2 or 3 snacks in my bag.  I toss in 008protein bars, Larabars, a baggie of raw almonds, or a banana–things that provide quite a few mostly healthy calories that I can eat quickly.  When all that’s available to me are the healthy things I brought, I have no choice but to eat that.
  3. Tell your co-workers what you’re doing.  Recently, I decided to see how long I could go without chocolate.  I LOVE chocolate, and for all my healthy habits, I have not yet been able to kick the chocolate habit.  I’m working on it, but I still find it hard to go more than 2 weeks without something chocolate!  When a nurse at work offered me a Kit Kat from her permanent stash of Kit Kats (seriously, she always has a baggie of Kit Kats in her bag!) I declined, telling her I’m trying to go a month without chocolate.  It’s a little thing, but when the people you work with know that you’re working towards a particular goal, they are less likely to tempt you with whatever it is you are trying to avoid.  My co-workers also know I generally don’t eat fast food.  They almost always ask me if I want to order Chinese or pizza with them, but they usually preface it with, “I know you don’t eat this stuff, but…”  I appreciate being asked and included, but I’m also thankful that they know my eating habits and that there’s no pressure to join in.
  4. Chew gum.  When I’m tired and craving something sweet, sometimes I 007reach for a stick of gum.  It keeps my mouth busy and satisfies that sweet tooth.  Plus, with the minty freshness of the gum I chew, I feel like I’ve brushed my teeth which also takes away the desire to eat sweets!
  5. Keep an easy to drink from container of water within reach.  Keeping water handy 009makes me drink more water, and drinking more water helps to ward off hunger pains.  I try to drink half my body weight in water every day.  For example, I just round my weight to 120 pounds and shoot for 60 ounces of water every day.  I keep a cup with a straw in it in a convenient place at work, and as often as possible, I run in and take a few big swigs.  It keeps me going!
  6. Remember that you are empowered to make healthy choices.  Food has NO power over you.  That sinfully delicious looking chocolate chip cookie is an inanimate object.  YOU get to decide if you eat it or not.
  7. Be determined to only eat what you brought!  Decide the food  you brought with you will be the food you eat at work, and stick to it.  The more often you choose healthy, the easier it becomes.

So there you go.  Hopefully there’s a tidbit or two there to help you choose healthy when chocolate doughnuts are calling to you from the break room.

Talk to me:

What challenges do you face in trying to eat healthy at work?

What’s your favorite lunch to take to work?

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