balance

Life being Lifey

Life is being extra lifey these days. War, weather, mental stresses, financial hardships, on and on and on. It’s everywhere. My work life, my personal life, family friends colleagues acquaintances are all full of it. People are messy in their best times. Now, their messiness is more like a shambles that spills out and spreads all over.

Assume people will get sick, have issues and set backs and not be able to execute. Assume extra tasks, jobs, and responsibilities are coming as a result of the balls that others will drop. It’s just how things are right now. How can I thrive, survive, persist, stay sane in light of these times?

Here’s how I am hanging on for this bumpy ride:

Eat well. There are certain things I don’t farm out to anyone. Nutrition is number one. I own every step of that process from planning it to shopping for it to cooking it to packing it up. I don’t like being off plan and I don’t always make great decisions when it’s left to the last minute, whatever I can get my hands on. I know that eating well makes me feel better and do better. End of story.

Exercise first thing in the morning. The only possible exception is Sundays. Exercise helps me manage stress and gives me a sense of accomplishment and strength right off the bat. Extra boost if I see my friends and get the social sweat aspect of life first thing as well, but this isn’t always possible. Movement always is!

Stay ahead on things, knowing curveballs are coming. Busy season is about to kick up. When I have an idle moment, I try to think about what task I can push one step (or more steps) forward. Throw the laundry in. Clean something. Stock the pantry with two instead of one. Hopefully, when deadlines come or something is needed, I am ready instead of behind the eight ball trying to juggle and patch things together. Being ahead on what I can eases my stress.

Sundays. Sundays are my reset and ready-for-the-week day. I try to protect this if at all possible. It is often the only day I start with an extended coffee time at home. I write. I pull out clothes for the week. I make lists. I try really hard not to drive anywhere further away than 10-15 minutes unless it is a soul-serving adventure. Looking ahead on the calendar, keeping Sundays “sacred” will get harder and harder as fall’s busy-ness kicks in. Even as I write this, my Saturday and Sunday has flipped for this weekend. But I still try to keep one day with fewer commitments. Go-go-go all the time wears me out.

Notice nature. Get out and immerse myself in nature as often as possible, even for a few minutes a day. Flower farming has been amazing for this. I have a couple of hours a week in our field, just cutting flowers, watching bees and butterflies, soaking up the fresh air. I keep our flowers with me at work and home so I see them many times a day. They always make me take a small mental pause and smile.

What could I add? I need to write more often. I need to stretch. I need to meditate. These fall too low on the to-do list right now and I know each of them would help. This paragraph is a challenge to myself!

These last few weeks have been a lot, at times bordering on “too much, I can’t handle it, get me out of here.” There have been times I’ve considered drinking alcohol, which I don’t do. I’ve considered massive carb-and-cheese-laden meals of things I don’t typically eat. These things float through my mind, I notice them, then remind myself what works for me.

“Self care” has been a buzzword over the last couple of years. It comes with these challenging times. Life being lifey just beats many of us down and we need to take care of ourselves. I am a firm believer that you can’t pour from an empty cup, meaning you have to keep yourself cared for before you can care for others. Self care looks different for everyone. For some, it means doing whatever you want, regardless of the craving and what it costs. For me, self care does not mean self indulgence. Sometimes it means reminding myself what my goals are and what makes me feel healthy. A cocktail isn’t self care for me. Or a piece of chocolate cake. Might feel good for a moment, but then I’m left dealing with the fallout from my own impulsiveness.

In the end, I can only try to control my own decisions, my time, and my attention. I have to redirect myself when the decisions others make upset me. Boundaries are ok to set and adhere to. I only have to explain myself to those select few people who warrant it. But for most people, “no” can absolutely be a complete sentence.

fitness and nutrition, healthy hacks

Ahoy There!

Ahoy there! Chips Ahoy! flavored protein from Ghost is simply amazing. This might actually be my most favorite protein of all time and I really don’t even like most protein powders. 

For starters, most days I struggle to fuel my body with its needed protein level. I know I’m not alone either. Many struggle in this area but it’s a critical piece of my recovery and meal planning. In order to hit my defined goals, I have to use protein to supplement meals. Specialty flavors or hiding protein in something like orange juice helps me a lot.

I’ve added protein to shakes. I’ve added protein to coffee. I’ve purchased salted caramel to watermelon to vanilla and so on. Some taste better than others that’s for sure. I’ve shared protein samples with friends to test out new flavors so I don’t end up with a tub of blah protein. Sometimes I’m lucky sometimes I’m not.

Today I feel like I hit the jackpot. I feel like I’m having cookies and milk but I’m really just having protein and water. It’s a fair compromise since I smell chocolate chips and it even had some grit to its texture. Served over ice makes it smooth.

Just thought I’d write a quick blog about this protein hack in case it can help somebody manage their macros or just offer a new spin on Chips Ahoy! and milk. A much healthier option for sure.
As I sign off, I’m wishing you a happy and healthy day. Hats off to chips ahoy protein makers.

challenges

Fries With That?

Pulled up to the speaker. Ordered a burger. Sat for a minute. Then it appeared sort of by magic, sometimes even on roller skates. It used to be simple.

Then came the combo meal. Would you like fries and a drink with that? You’ll save 10 cents. Then it was super size. Sweet potato fries. All kinds of extras. A brilliant invention for marketing and calories. Who can resist? Save a dime, get a whole big bag of food and a soda. Combos are brilliant! Seems like a great deal, right?

But…

What if the combo isn’t what I want? If I don’t really like fries? What if they’re not good for me? What if it keeps me from reaching my goals?

When is a combo deal not so great?

Maybe it’s the big packages of yogurts or energy drinks at Costco or Sam’s club. A 12-pack of Chobani costs less than a buck a piece, but I know good and well no one is going to eat the blueberry. The lemon-lime gatorade will collect dust in the bottom of my pantry long after the red and blue are gone.

I have grown more comfortable with passing up things I don’t need just because they come as a part of a combo. I will pay more for just the nuggets because the waffle fries aren’t worth it. I’ll pass on the coke unless it’s a special occasion. Yes, I know I can save money. Yes, I am sure. By the same token, I will also pay more to get the super premium salad as a side if it is best for me. Maybe it’s a luxury I can afford, but goals are goals. I try to stick to what works for me.

Sometimes this is easier said than done. For example, what happens when people are the package deal? If you’re having a party and want to invite a friend, but you know that friend probably won’t come without their obnoxious or otherwise unsavory partner. Do you ask them to leave the person at home? If so, how? Do you risk missing out on the parts you like by refusing the pieces you don’t?

Family ties may make this even more complicated. If you want to visit family, spend time with them, or connect with them, but they come as a package deal with someone else you don’t like, what do you do? Can you just order the nuggets and be done with it, or are you stuck with the fries and just try to ignore them? Do you just skip that restaurant and not eat there anymore? Does knowing that choices involve a side of junk make you avoid the things you love, too?

A few thoughts about food, friends and family to start this day. Are there things in life that come as a combo that you’d rather have some of than all of?

challenges, fitness and nutrition, health

The Verdict

I’ve shared a bit about a recent health challenge I participated in. It was multifaceted, but I mainly focused on cleaning up my nutrition.

After 4 weeks of retooling and refocusing, here’s the verdict.

Balancing my plate:

There were a lot of different choices in this challenge. You decide for yourself what goals and approaches would be worthwhile. For nutrition, I chose what was called the “balanced plate” approach. Every time I ate, I had a protein, a carb, a fat, and a vegetable. And yes, there was a detailed list for each category.

What was different: no more grabbing a handful of almonds over and over again throughout the day. Same with beef jerky. And cheese. All meals were actually meals. This took planning, but I am used to meal prep. Just shopping a bit differently and making sure I had all four components ready to mix and match. I didn’t really attempt recipes combining them. Bags of rice, boiled eggs, cooked chicken or ground turkey with seasoning, lots of veggies both raw and roasted, fruits, bags of nuts or avocado. All pretty simple stuff.

There was a “leveled up” approach where you weigh and measure food but I just didn’t want to get bogged down with that. Making sure I had all four and tipping the balance toward veggies and proteins seemed manageable for this transition. I ate rice or certain kinds of bread almost every day which felt strange as these were carbs I hardly ever chose in my macro-counting heyday (I’d rather have Pringles or Captain Crunch.) I usually only had rice or bread once a day but technically I could have them at every meal.

Honestly, this was a really satisfying way to eat. It was a busy month so I did end up eating while working which in some ways is bad, but on the other hand it meant I was eating more slowly. By the time I was done eating, I often felt full and fine. Plus, three boiled eggs with cucumbers, almonds, and blueberries is a lot more than a 90-calorie low fat yogurt. It felt like I had the fuel I needed so I wasn’t grabbing for snacks in between.

Sometimes this 4-element eating made for some strange bedfellows. I generally ate three meals and a smaller Greek yogurt bowl at night. I learned from the community that frozen riced cauliflower mixed with plain Greek yogurt was largely unnoticeable except for a little crunch. Add some fresh fruit and almond butter and that was maybe the strangest thing I ate on this challenge, but I enjoyed it every day.

Bye bye, friends:

There were some things in this challenge that I knew were going to be hard to give up. First, all added sugar and artificial sugar. When I first read this rule about sugars, I was really unsure how much I could do. And, like the plate approach above, I could be as serious as I chose to be about it. Some people just reduced one or two sweetened items from their diets. I decided to go big on this one and see how much I could get rid of.

Telescoping back and getting a sense of the sugars in my diet was eye-opening. From that 90-calorie yogurt in the morning to my dark chocolate chips each night, both regular and artificial sweeteners were a staple in my daily habits. Diet Cokes had crept in a couple of times a week, or coffees with sugar free creamer. I had a pretty ridiculous (and kind of nasty) sugar-free gum habit, chomping on piece after piece every day. Of course now I had to read labels in the grocery store and cabinet and realized that even my flavored almonds and Greek chicken seasoning had sweeteners hidden inside. I knew sugar was everywhere but seeing new places where it was hiding was eye-opening. Going from the macro breakdown to the ingredient list made a big difference. This month, most of what I ate didn’t have an ingredient list at all.

Dairy was going to be another hard thing to give up. The only dairy items permitted were heavy cream and fat free Greek yogurt.

I’m taking a moment to just honor my love of cheese. Cheese is a way of life for me. It’s almost like a hobby or a lifelong friend. An entire food group. I eat cheese all the time! But life went on without it. In a big salad, avocado and egg gave me the creaminess I needed. Seasonings took the place of a pinch of parmesan (ok, I usually had many pinches, often eclipsing the vegetables it was supposed to add flavor to.) While many in this challenge enjoyed a few drinks the day before saying a temporary farewell to alcohol, I went out of my way to eat a lot of cheese. At the other side of the challenge, there were several times I missed it. But, life went on without it.

And how did it all turn out?

In my workouts, I honestly didn’t have some of the power I feel I often do. My energy was different. I noticed I felt tired or had to take breaks. But like an engine that is switching to a new kind of fuel, I don’t think it’s uncommon to have some sputters. I also dropped quite a bit of weight this month, (over 13 pounds) so I had to remind myself that I was at a calorie deficit. It shouldn’t surprise me to be a little tired. Overall, though, I felt better throughout the day. My gut was a lot happier.

I am pleased with the changes I can see in the mirror. I am definitely fitting better in my clothes. Less bloating and fluff. I didn’t take pictures but of course I wish I had. (This is a broken record story). A friend told me she could tell the difference. I wonder if others notice, but as I was reminded recently, it may not be good to comment on other people’s body changes unless you know what they are up to. Maybe it’s illness or something else going on that isn’t necessarily needing a compliment. In the end it only really matters what I think, anyway.

I think I will retain a lot of what I have learned. I can do without things that seem hard to give up. I can pick and choose what to indulge in. I need to eat vegetables a LOT. And carbs aren’t the enemy, but I do better when I am focusing on less processed, less sweetened stuff. I have a lot of travel in the coming weeks, so that will present some challenges and opportunities to eat some amazing things that I don’t want to miss. With that in mind, I don’t plan to be strict with this way of eating going forward, but an 80/20 balance would be good. It takes a lot of the guesswork out of most of my meals. Now the challenge is to learn how to prepare differently and on the go.

All in all, a successful challenge. Lots of learning and a step forward.

challenges, fitness and nutrition, health

A Million Little Pieces

I wrote recently about being part of a challenge where I’m cleaning out the clutter in my diet. In addition, there are many other little daily requirements in this challenge that aim to improve healthy habits. Every one had points associated with it. Here are some of the little things that I had to attend to throughout this month.

-Complete at least 4 workouts a week. This included a tester workout at the beginning and end of the challenge. I workout pretty much daily so this was not a big deal to achieve. I improved my score by quite a bit from beginning to end.

-Drink 80 ounces of water per day. Only 12 ounces can be unsweetened seltzer water.

This required more effort than the workouts. Filling up insulated cups daily, cutting fruits into the water to infuse them, it all helped. It’s paying attention and planning, just like the food part. I also set up a water reminder app but I don’t think that part encouraged me much. Just a buzz saying “it’s time to drink water” was too easy to ignore. I need to look into something with different sayings.

-Stretch / do yoga for 20 minutes per week

I embrace working out but stretching is something I do wayyyy too little of. And as a “woman of a certain age” I know stretching would help me in multiple ways. I usually broke this into 2 sessions after morning home workouts.

-Follow a sleep routine every night

There were many of these to choose from – drink herbal tea, meditate, turn off your screens an hour before bed, etc. You just had to pick one and do it daily. I chose reading before bed. I generally read something pretty mindless like a magazine. This was a switch from my usual scrolling of social media. I don’t have trouble falling asleep. Staying asleep doesn’t always happen.

-Limit or eliminate alcohol

As I discussed recently, this was already a part of my life. I will admit there were a few temptations with the stressful end of school chaos as well as more celebrations than usual with a lot of friends drinking. I still just refrained.

-Monitor and log progress

Logging points every week was a task to manage. With a bunch of little checkoffs, I wasn’t always diligent daily. But, I kept up. And I still weigh myself every day. The thing I still stumble over is photos. Why do I hate before and after shots so much? I always wish I took the time to do it but still don’t.

-Work on mindfulness

We had little exercises to think about our goals and our why. I knew cleaning up my act was a big motivator.

-Participate in other goofy activities along the way that keep the mood light and community connected

In the few challenges I’ve done before these are often things I ignore. But I did a couple this time just to stay in the game. One was to bite down on a wedge of lime while doing a farmer’s carry for two minutes to practice breathing through my nose. I’m not quite sure what this taught me but I know for sure that proper breathing is something I need to give more attention to.

Health isn’t just eating or just working out. It’s a whole collection of habits, practices, and choices. There were a million little pieces to this challenge. Many of them are things I know I should be doing but I just don’t. The water and stretching were probably what I needed to work on most aside from the nutrition piece.

So, how did it all turn out? Results to follow soon.