Saturday, December 15, 2012

One moment

I spent the better part of last week engrossed in a mundane task...painting out entryway. The walls were highly textured, and there was a variety of trim that made the whole process slooooow. Anytime I have a mundane task that requires minimal attention but maximal time I always find my mind wandering. During this particular project I found myself contemplating matters such as my hair color, the Christmas letter I need to write, and "if the world really does end on 12-21-12 the time I spent painting was really quite silly" (which is why I haven't written my Christmas letter...if we're all still here on 12-22 I'll write it, and it will be late like usual). I also had a specific contemplative thought..."what type of news could I receive right now that would make me drop this paint and leave the job unfinished?" Something life changing that happens to nearly everyone at some point. An accident. A diagnosis. A tragedy. Luckily my mind did not dwell there. I did not yet know of the horror that was playing out in an elementary school.

As soon as the last swipe of paint was on the wall I checked my facebook newsfeed. And there it was. At the time the reports were that the shooting had taken place in a kindergarten classroom. Kindergarten. My daughter. And for that moment I had that wave of panic. But the reality was not mine. And as I took a breath there was deep down inside that groan all of us experienced..."No. Just no." Grief. Disbelief. Before there is a thought of a political rant about gun control or religion or mental illness there was that moment that is filled with anguished silent wailing.

I wanted to race to the school to get my daughter. I wanted to embrace her. I wanted her to know how important she is to me. But instead of causing her panic by pulling her out of school I went to the store and bought a frame to display a picture she had drawn of me drinking a large cup of coffee. I had been wanting to do it, and I decided I didn't want another day to go by without her having another tangible way for me to show her I love her.

When the time did come to pick her up from school I wanted to hug her, but I knew my tears would start again. So I took her little hand in mine like I usually do, a little tighter this time, and asked her about her day. She was sad about not having time to finish a project at school. I wanted that innocence back for the children of Newtown, Conneticut, that the worst part of their day would have been not completing a project. That the parents would have to deal with telling a child to use their inside voice rather than face the silence.

On Monday morning I'll be sure to give her an extra hug. If she wants to cuddle a little extra this weekend I'll be sure to take the time. And I pray that I never again take for granted each day God has given us as a family.


Friday, November 2, 2012

Singing Those Post-Halloween Candy Blues

Two days ago we bundled up our little Samurai and Fairy-Butterly-Princess for the yearly walk for candy. Although we only went trick or treating for about an hour, the kids both brought home quite a haul. Snickers. Reese's. Icky pink bubblegum. Kit Kats. Twix. Are you picking up what I'm putting down? Plenty of temptation and naughtiness for anyone (or any family) trying not to indulge their sweet tooth too much.

Maybe you fell prey the first night to "checking" your kids' candy bags, for their safety of course;) And along the way, a Snicker here or a Hershey's there just had to be sampled. And what kid is going to eat an Almond Joy, so you had that too (and by you I mean me). Suddenly you found yourself in a guilt-induced panic and shoved all the wrappers to the bottom of the garbage, because then the calories just don't count.

Determined to do better, you told yourself no more candy. And that lasted until 10am and you grabbed another Snickers because it really does satisfy. And then a Reese's because surely you burned it off somehow. And by the end of day you once again felt like you failed the post-Halloween candy test.

Day are you doing?

I'm a firm believer in a few things:
1. Chocolate (or select goodie of your choice) in small amounts is good for morale. A fun size bar is around 100 calories. That's like walking or jogging a mile, give or take. So one is probably going to be okay if the rest of your eating is healthy. More than that you are going to have to work off or pay the consequences. And note: it is much easier to consume 300 calories worth of fun size is much harder to get those 3 miles in.

2. If you are really, really trying to lose weight at the moment, it's best to steer clear completely. I am one that much too easily thinks one little bite won't hurt...and then it becomes 10. Or thinking that my morning workout burned way more calories than what it actually did. If you are trying to see the scale go down, for me it really did work best to cut out all the goodies for a time and slowly add them back in at a much smaller dosage once you hit your goal.

So how can you deal with temptation if it's lurking in a fake jackolantern basket?
1. Out of sight, out of mind. Put those puppies where you can't see them or easily reach them.

2. Set limits and follow them. In our house, that means one treat a day for everyone. We're trying to teach the kids neither to fear food nor be given to gluttony. That's about 100 calories or less per person.

3. If the limits aren't working (or if you are really serious about winning the losing battle)...flee, flee, flee temptation. Get it out of your sight. Get it out of the house if you need to. I  had to do this last year since I started my weight loss plan on Nov. 1. Not a bite. Not ever until I hit my goal.

Add caption
4. If your whole family needs to steer clear of the sweets, consider enlisting the help of a "switch witch" (or other clever name you come up with). Leave the candy out for the "witch", the next day the candy will be gone but a non-food prize will be there. Note: the candy must go directly in the outside garbage and throw the nastiest thing you can on it so you don't dumpster dive in a moment of chocolate craving. IT SHOULD NOT GO TO YOUR SECRET CANDY DRAWER.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Being okay with less than perfect

A few weeks ago I drove an hour to see the weight loss counselor I had previously only met through the phone for weekly weigh in and accountability. The accountability and her encouragement was a big part of why I was able to lose the weight. I had a free day so I decided to go and meet her, hoping it would be a totally encouraging experience. And the first thing she did was put me on a scale, which also measured body fat. According that those calculations I "should" lose another 10-15 pounds. I told her I was actually quite happy with where I was. I feel like this is a weight I can maintain with healthy eating (but still room for chocolate) and moderate exercise.

But then my guilt kicked in. Maybe I should lose the 10-15 pounds. Maybe I would look better or feel even better or it would make me a better person. So I tried for a few days to get back on a more restricted eating plan to lose the weight...and I just couldn't do it. I was crabby. I was tired. And more guilt set in. Why couldn't I do this for another 10 pounds? I think the biggest reason was, well, not really having a reason. I was being motivated by guilt of what someone else thought I should weigh. And having guilt as motivation is both unhealthy and not much motivation.

So I decided to be happy with my current weight. Where I am. Right now. This really is the place where I have a sustainable, healthy eating pattern that includes veggies and chocolate. I am able to exercise for enjoyment without being motivated by guilt (you have to do this) or fear (if I don't run I will regain the weight). This is the weight that is right for me for the time.

At any time life or health circumstances may change causing my weight to climb up or down the scale. Or I may have a change in mindset and want to (for me) lose a few more pounds. But it can't be out of guilt. Or fear. Or the misconception that if the scale goes down all of my problems will go away too. Most of them are still there whether I'm 153 pounds or 223 pounds. And it's really up to me and only me what weight is most appropriate for me.

Yes, deep down I may want to look like a fitness model (how can you not when we are constantly bombarded by marketing images that tell us what we should look like), but I know the extremely strict eating and excessive exercise it would take for me to get there...sacrificing things that are more important than getting into a bikini (it's never gonna happen!) I'd rather be available for my husband, kids, family, and friends. I want to be there to celebrate the joys and cry at the heartaches. That would be hard to do if I was always striving for the perfect body. But at the same time I'm working on being the healthiest I can be so that I'm around for as many laughs and cry fests as I can.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The heaviest day of my life

On October 23, 2006 I waddled into my doctor's office for my last check up before my daughter was born. I stepped on the scale to see a number I never thought I would see...223. At 5'5" (and that's in shoes and with a little positive thinking), 223 was quite the strain on this body. I had spent a majority of my life in the overweight to obese category and gaining 45+ pounds with my first pregnancy did not help my health.

About 14 hours later I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl...who weighed just over 6 pounds, not 45. Sigh.

That was my heaviest day. October 23, 2006. 223 pounds.

Six years later I am 70 pounds lighter. 153. And my knees and body thanked me by compelling me to go out for an unscheduled run.

Am I a better person 70 pounds lighter? Not in any of the ways that truly matter in life. In fact, I probably struggle with body image more now than I ever did when I was on the wrong side of the 200's. Am I superior to someone who is obese (or inferior to someone who graces the cover of a fitness magazine?) Heavens no on both accounts (phew!) The number on the scale will always be just one piece of an infinitely intricate puzzle that makes up who we are. It makes me healthier than I was six years ago. It has given me a confidence that I can accomplish goals I never imagined possible. It is one part of who I am but does not define who I am.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Eating my way through the holidays

Ah, the endless holiday season is upon us. The stores are filled with goodies and decorations for the upcoming celebrations: Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas. And while I can walk right past a cute autumn wreath, I'm drawn like a moth to a flame to the bags of candy, the boxes of cookies, and the ingredients to make all my own goodies. It was about a year ago I finally decided to get serious and lose some of my excess weight. November 1 was the day I started. Yes, the day after Halloween I gave up all sweets and candy and excess breads and excess dairy. I didn't sneak a single candy bar out of my kids' bags. I didn't have a nibble of pumpkin pie. I had one, count it ONE (okay, maybe two, but no more than two) Christmas cookies the whole season. From November 1 to January 1 I lost a little over 15 pounds. It wasn't fun just having turkey and veggies on Thanksgiving, but it helped me reach my goal. And I told myself "there's always next year."

So it's next year. And already I'm worried about how I'm going to navigate all the festivities (not to mention a move to a new house). I don't want to be as restrictive as I was last year, but I also don't want to get to 2013 and be busting out of my pants. I'm not exactly sure how it will work, but here is my plan at this point. I'd be interested to hear other ideas of how you stay healthy yet sane during the endless festivities.

For now, I'm entering my food into to keep track of my calories. I have it set at a range that I "should" lose 1 pound a week. I actually stopped my weight loss a few pounds before I reached my goal, so I've decided to finish it out and hit my goal. Hopefully by Thanksgiving I'll hit that goal without too much struggle. Then I plan to continue the same eating through the rest of the year, but allow myself on the actual holidays to enjoy the spread. Note the emphasis on the day. Not Thanksgiving week or Christmas month, but the day of a family celebration to celebrate. And the rest of the days focus on eating a healthier calorie range.

It's easier said than done. I have a bag of pumpkin kisses in my freezer just begging me to be polished off while watching season 3 of Glee. And right now my real feelings toward losing are something like "it would be really nice if that happened" versus last year's "I'm just going to put my head down, plow through, and do this."

I'd like to hear other thoughts on how people navigate food culture during celebrations.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

What creeps in

It starts like a trickle. Little compromises. A nibble of cookie at the office. A little extra helping of supper. A latte just because. And "suddenly" our weight and habits are right back to where we started, and we are left wondering "how did I gain this weight back?"

Why do 95% of dieters gain back the weight? I think it starts one compromise at a time. I can't count the number of times I told myself "one little bite won't hurt" or "this brownie doesn't really make a difference." But it does. And when I finally lost the weight I really grasped that concept. That was one of the keys for me when it came to losing the weight. To realize that each bite really did matter AND that I had to be honest about what I was eating. The calories in that handful of chocolate chips count whether I write it down in my journal or not.

Recently I found those old thought patterns creeping back in. "This handful of chocolate chips won't make a difference." And honestly, if I include them in my daily calorie count and balance it with exercise, I can have some treats. But if I start absentmindedly nibbling on chocolate and chips or other snacky things without accounting for them in my overall calorie count, I'm going to be shopping for bigger pants.

So it's taking the discipline to include each indulgence in my food journal...and to be able to say "no" to excessive intake of chocolate.

Besides chocolate, the other goodie that started creeping in come in liquid form. It's so easy to ignore the calories in a latte or Gatorade because it is liquid. In fact, the country's waist lines have been expanding in large part due to the increase in size and variety of caloric beverages. And I find myself (especially as the cold sets in) wanting to have a coffee type beverage several times a day. Coffee itself is calorie free and relatively harmless. But add in some whole milk, sugar, and flavoring and it goes from non-harmful to "show me the elastic band pants". My goal is to say no to the drinks most of the time and ask myself "is that really worth 360 calories and $5??"

Eleven months after my weight loss journey began and six months after reaching my goal my scale is staying in my maintenance zone. It still takes consistency and vigilance, but it is worth it.

Sunday, September 9, 2012


Today my facebook newsfeed was filled with pictures of friends who had conquered various races: mud runs, triathalons, several different half marathon races. And it made me jealous. Jealous? Me who hated running or any physical activity that didn't have the specific purpose of winning a game? Yes, me. Jealous.

I often ask myself why it bothers me so much that my body doesn't allow me to run much anymore. There are still a host of activities I can do without joint pain: walking, biking, swimming, yoga, pilates, cleaning (yuck!). Why is it that I want to hold onto the running shoes so tightly? My facebook feed gave me the answer: synergy.

Synergy: two or more things functioning together to produce a result not independently obtainable. (from the ultimate source in reliability: wikipedia)

The pictures and stories of other runners spur me on to want to set and meet another goal. On my own I probably would not stay so motivated to hit the pavement or lift a weight. It's the positive peer pressure of others excited about physical activity...especially from those of us who were never so blessed as to have a host of athletic skills or natural physical ability. There's a camaraderie with  runners that seems to accept all levels of skill (I'm usually at the back of the pack) and encourages continued personal achievement, even if that achievement is just making it around the block for the first time.

Even though most of my workouts these days are not running workouts (and those that are look more like a penguin shuffle), I am going to claim my "runner" status as long as I can. And allow that jealous feeling of "I wish I had just paid someone to let me swim, bike and run all while trying not to die so I could feel awesome and eat a guilt free meal at the Grand Traverse Pie company" motivate me to continue to be as active as my body will let me.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Today was my someday

It all started with an email. A daily article from with tips on how to cut the clutter in our homes. For weeks I'd been staring at my closet thinking it was time to do a bit of purging. But I kept waiting for "someday." So I made today someday. I went through my closet and got rid of clothes that just didn't look right or frankly that I didn't like. I went through totes in the basement...mainly clothing that fit me a year ago but now is too big. I'd gotten rid of most of my larger sized clothing, but I was holding onto a few nice pieces "just in case..." I decided it was time to fully part with that part of my life. To truly say good-bye to my old self. So a large garbage bag of clothes (don't even get me started on letting go of my t-shirt collection) headed out the door. I did what you should do when you do a closet purge...take all the items directly to the car and as quickly as possible take them to their new "home". All too often I try to clear the closet, then the bags and boxes sit and I get sentimental about a t-shirt or pair of pants. (For a long time I kept the shirts Andrew and I wore on our first date.) C'mon, they were just shirts! And it feels refreshing. Empty totes. Decluttered closet.

But I didn't stop there. I decided to take on another of my procrastination I want to try. Some of you are great at seeing a new recipe on pinterest and trying it almost immediately. I have email folders and pinterest boards and word documents filled with recipes to try "someday," yet continue to make the same old recipes. I decided for once to try a new recipe. So first I whipped up a recipe that came in my email today: Easy Whole Wheat Flatbread. I'd recently tried "Hungry Girl Flat Out Flatbreads: Olive Oil and Rosemary" and fell in love. The problem? They were expensive and most definitely highly processed (though highly yummy). I didn't think you could actually make your own flatbread without a culinary degree, but this flatbread recipe looked easy enough. So I tried it. Not too shabby. The only change I'd make next time is to use white whole wheat flour. I used true stone ground whole wheat flour which I liked, but the kids probably wouldn't eat them. I also may try to use the whole recipe for a pizza crust. It probably wouldn't be as good as my favorite honey whole wheat pizza crust in the bread machine, but it would be quick and easy.

But wait! There's more! And oh it so worth it. I'd been seeing these "no bake energy bites" on facebook and pinterest. They contained some of my favorite ingredients: chocolate chips, peanut butter, chocolate chips, coconut, chocolate chips, honey, chocolate chips, flax, chocolate chips, and oatmeal...YUM! And depending on what actual forms of the ingredients you use, they'd be a fairly non-processed treat. But you also have to use caution. Almost every ingredient is calorie dense...meaning each bite carries a whole lot of calories. (They could equally be called "no bake calorie bites, but I digress). For me, this recipe is definitely more of a "treat" recipe than a daily snack, but when it comes to treats I personally prefer to have whole food based treats over processed treats that may be lower calories but void of any nutrition or taste.  I loved the energy bite (yes, I just had one). Instead of making them into balls I placed it all in an 8x8 pan and cut them into 16 pieces. At that ratio, each "bite" was about 150 calories. For a normal granola bar sized piece you'd be looking at 300 calories. That's why I know I have to exercise caution even with this "healthy whole food."  I could have easily eaten the whole pan (3200 calories worth) but armed with knowledge I stuck to just one for today.

Most likely tomorrow will be highly unproductive, but for today I feel strangely energized by getting a few things off of my "someday" list. Now for the other 100 ideas waiting on my pinterest boards...

Sunday, August 26, 2012

It's not FAIR

Sometimes I get into a funk when I just want to give up trying to be healthy. The inner me starts throwing temper tantrums that would put my children to shame. "I want the #2! Why can't I have the #2? Why do I have to eat boring chicken? That guy's having the #2...and he looks healthy." And by that guy, I mean my husband who eats anything and everything and stays thin. I get into a boo hoo mode where it frankly ticks me off that in some way, shape, or form I'll have to plan and track what I eat for most of my life. Not necessarily calories (I actually don't count calories most of the time), just tracking to see that I'm getting enough vegetables and not too much chocolate. And there's a part of me that wants to go back to that careless way of eating...ordering the #2 without having a moment of guilt. Having a milkshake because I can. Or frankly, even just eating animal cookies by the handful.

Why do some people a) not have to watch what they eat and b) have a healthy relationship with food where they neither under consume or over consume, they just consume? They feed their bodies but without any kind of bondage or baggage. And why can't I be that person? I was under the very mistaken assumption that once I lost the weight I would automatically be that person. That I would always pick healthy and never be tempted by Dr. Pepper or Snickers. I thought I'd enjoy treats on special occasions but didn't anticipate that I would struggle so much with wanting things that aren't healthy for me. CHOCOLATE: GO! WALK OUT THE DOOR. JUST TURN AROUND NOW, YOU'RE NOT WELCOME ANYMORE. (I take it back. I didn't mean it. Chocolate, can't we talk this out??)

No, I'm not that person who just thinks about meals at meal times. I'm not that person who can walk by the candy aisle and not want to break down in tears (I just avoid it because crying over candy is public is silly). Food is still my go to when I'm feeling lonely or sad or stressed or happy or when I need an escape.

No, I'm not that person, but I'm closer now than I was 6 months ago. I now have chicken and spinach salad several times a week for lunch...and love it. I automatically prepare a vegetable for every meal...and without the help of cream of mushroom soup. I know I can survive without copious amounts of sugar. And I know that health is a lifetime journey, not just something that is achieved once and for all once the scale reaches a certain number. And that if my healthier self gets tired of hearing my inner child whine about donuts on a particularly trying day, all is not lost on one bad choice. The key is to put on the big girl undies and move on to the next healthy choice.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Revenge of the birthday cake

It's been a few days since my near major meltdown over chocolate cravings. So how did I fare? Not bad...but not perfect. At the end of Thursday night I did enjoy a mini cupcake for my son's birthday...and I'm not gonna lie, it was goooood. And then I went for a run. Not as punishment, I was scheduled to run anyhow. It just also made me feel a bit better.

And then the cravings were over. Back to unencumbered, healthy eating. Until someone put a cake in my fridge (thanks, Grandma Rhoda:)). And that highly colored yummy looking frosting was calling to me. So I paired a little bit of frosting with my frozen yogurt and let the family finish the rest. House once again cleared of unhealthy suspects.

My recent craving and cake confrontations taught me a few things about winning the losing battle:

1. Environment is everything. If cake isn't here, 99% of the time I won't think about or crave cake. Same with chocolate. Or cookies. Sure, 1% of the time I will still get crazy cravings out of nowhere that I'll have to deal with. But if I can minimize the temptation I can minimize the chance that I'll even make a bad choice in the first place. Leave a chocolate cake sitting on the counter? Eventually it will win. Leave a chocolate cake sitting at the store? I'll forget about it.

2. Small, occasional indulgences just may keep me sane (or at least what sanity I can still claim as my own). While I was losing the weight I did not indulge, pretty much ever. Not through Thanksgiving (that day sucked), only a cookie at Christmas, not through New Years or the Super Bowl or Thanksgiving. And let's be honest: that isn't feasible for me for a lifetime. I don't want to be Grumpy Gina sitting in the corner mad she can't eat pie. I want to enjoy the special days. Not to the point of gluttony. And not everyday is a reason for indulging. But when the urge or occasion hits, I need to remember a small portion won't set me back, especially if I make adjustments to the rest of my week in terms of food and exercise. Healthy, with just enough sugar to be fun.

3. Plan ahead. Today we went to the zoo. I planned ahead what I would eat for the whole day so that I had the right food with me, and I didn't fall prey to whatever caught my eye on the food carts (they had Magnum Ice Cream bars, need I say more?) I stuck with my plan (woot!). Everyday that I plan ahead I'm so much more likely to eat healthy. And I tend to have a healthier relationship with food all around when I plan my "treats" removes the guilt, and I'm less likely to gorge myself.

I'll probably learn these lessons over and over again. I may get overconfident and think I can keep Reese's in the freezer...until a few days later I realize I've polished off the bag. Then I'll learn my lesson again. But for today I'm learning to accept this whole healthy weight thing is a life long process, and I will never be 100% perfect (and if I am, I probably won't have friends anymore).

Thursday, August 16, 2012

I lost the weight...trying not to let it find me again.

It's been about 5 months since I hit my goal weight. And I'm happy to say that thus far, I've stayed in the 5 pound range I set for myself. Now honestly, 5 months is not a long time when it comes to weight maintenance. The one and two year marks are big milestones...a majority of "losers" gain the weight back in the first year. There are sooooo many reasons, but I think one of the biggest ones is simply that it is HARD to keep the weight off. It seems everything: our biology, psychology, environment, societal pressures, and cupcakes all seem to be working against us. Today I'm battling a big one...CRAVINGS.

Not just "hmmm, chocolate sounds good" kind of craving. The "I literally could cry because I want something rich, decadent, and chocolately" kind of craving.

It came out of nowhere. After a recent vacation where I found myself at the top of my "healthy" weight range, so I'm back to eating a more regulated eating plan until I get a handle on the indulgences of summer. And I'd been doing quite well. The pants are loosening, the veggies are plentiful, and my energy levels are great. And the cravings were gone.

Until today.

Chalk it up to the stormy weather, hormones, stress, and Pinterest. (Darn you, pinterest!)

Usually I would go outside and be active to occupy my time. My fear of lightning keeps me inside. So I decided to clean. Unfortunately the kitchen was what needed to be cleaned. Which is where the graham crackers found me. I had one and realized if I did not step away I would eat the whole box. And they aren't even that good. It took some positive self talk. "I'm not going to eat that because I chose to eat healthier." Luckily I don't keep much in the house in terms of the rich junk food I'm craving...except for the birthday cupcakes in the fridge for Aaron's birthday. But when I got them (yes, I bought them, so I didn't have the temptation of licking the bowl), I looked at them and said "I will not eat you." The fellow shoppers at Walmart may have thought it crazy, but then again, it was Walmart.

Setting up an environment that does not easily lend itself to unhealthy eating is key to weight loss and weight maintenance (Dr. Phil was right on at least one thing).

So I haven't given in. And I won't. And it will pass. (or you may find me in a chocolate coma, equally plausible).

I feel like weight maintenance is a game of hide and seek from my former pounds. It's about finding a good hiding spot...staying away from overeating triggers and situations, planning meals, and sometimes literally running (or rather, shuffling). But even in my best fortress, some days old habits pop up and say "boo!" And part of me wants to give in to the wreckless abandon of eating a whole pan of brownies. But the better part of me knows the end product of staying the course is worth it.

That doesn't mean I'll never mess up. And it doesn't mean I won't ever purposely indulge in some heavenly chocolate birthday is in two weeks and I fully intend on having SOMETHING yummaliciuos. But I do know that if I really want to maintain a healthy weight, I need to chose right over want 95% of the time.

So hide your eyes and count, former weight...I'll be running to my next hiding spot!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

How to clean a ceiling fan

Yes, I'm going to blog about something I said I would never blog But this is too good to pass up. I'm really not a good cleaner, but messy-ness does tend to bother me more than it used to. And now with our house up for sale I notice much more every little dust mite and grass blade that makes its way into the house. About a week ago I noticed our ceiling fans were sporting a good amount of dust (and I even purchased the ones with "dust armor" much for that). So in fear that a potential buyer would be turned off by the dust rhinos on the fan, I decided to use a cleaning tip I found on I've broken it down into 6 easy steps, with step #2 being the most important if you like to clean as much as I do.

1. Locate an old pillowcase.

2. Hand pillowcase to someone else.

3. Instruct them to put the case over the fan blade, then wipe the fan blade from center to end, keeping all of the dust in the pillowcase. Ask them to repeat until all the blades are clean.

4. Watch as they carry out your instructions.

5. Throw pillowcase in laundry basket.

Step #2, the most important. Especially if that someone is taller than you.
6. Enjoy clean fan.

Friday, July 6, 2012

How I made $3000 yesterday

It's been hot. Really hot. And apparently the heat removes all of my common sense when it comes to money. As in during a hot, uncomfortable moment I'd probably pay $100 for a Popsicle that was half eaten. And yesterday was one of those days. I started thinking about our van and the lack of rear air. As the driver it doesn't affect me. I can generally always have a cool flow of air blowing right on me, only to look back at my two little ones who are hot, hot, hot. And the extreme heat had me ready to throw out all debt free-ness to get some wheels that provided everyone with air conditioning. (And while we were at it, a few other luxuries as well). 

Then I grabbed a bit of common sense (only a nibble) and looked at vehicles online that we could pay cash for if traded in our vehicle. Best case scenario, we would have had to pay about $3000 for the upgrade. I was ready to take money out or savings and buy, buy, buy...knowing nothing of the history of the vehicle. And as you know from yesterday's post, we are trying to save up cash to move. So I was totally torn. I could easily justify the spending. Luckily the little voice in my head (along with texts from my husband) reminded me we had other goals in mind and needed to find another solution.

Instead of going for the newer vehicle, I went to our local StuffMart and got two clip on auto fans to blow on the kids. Yes, if there was any doubt before as to our redneck status, I think this makes it official.

$24 cooling system

The kids think they are awesome. And by practicing restraint I made $3000.

Think how easy it would have been for me to go test drive, finance, and drive away a brand new vehicle. Probably less time consuming than buying and opening our debt free cooling system. That is one of the sad parts about our debt culture. It takes almost no time or thought to suddenly find yourself in chains.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

House lust

I've spent the last few weeks oogling local houses for sale. Why? I don't know. Maybe boredom. Maybe indigestion. Definitely some kind of restlessness. Our home really is the perfect home for us right now...with two exceptions. The first is a total first world problem...we'd really like a second bathroom. I know the few generations before us lived with one bathroom, and it wasn't that many generations ago that outhouses and the like were the norm. But I would enjoy being able to use the biffy without a little one deciding they need to use it at the exact same time. Again, I know it's totally a problem of an affluent world. A matter of convenience, not necessity.
Maybe we'll just add a bathroom...

The other issue is the street we live on. When people find out where we live they have one of two responses. Response one: "Oh, the street with no stop signs so you can drive fast." (Sidenote, there are also no sidewalks but lots of pedestrian traffic). Response two: "You live WHERE??" Apparently our neighborhood doesn't have the best reputation. I can honestly say we haven't experienced any "problems", but with a large number of rental units in the area the neighbors can change quickly.

So I think I've let issue #2 get to me way too much. Like I said, we've had no problems, but we also feel the desire to move to a less busy street. And, if I'm honest, a more aesthetically pleasing area. When we bought this house apparently we ignored the #1 rule of real estate...location, location, location.

Our home in 2008. Isn't she cute?

For about two weeks we've been looking at houses. And we have two main things on our list: a second bathroom and a better location. But then as we began to look at home the unspoken expectations came with it: a nice kitchen, a big backyard, a sunroom, plenty of space for all of us to do our own thing...and then I realize how much the conspicuous consumption of our culture has influenced our wants and needs. The average size of family home has grown along with the number of amenities...and so many of them feel like needs. We NEED a bathroom and bedroom for each person. We NEED a three car attached garage. We NEED ample green space outside. We NEED...the only real need is a roof over our head, locks on the door, and a decent heating and cooling system. Everything else falls into want. And trust me, I fall prey to being consumed by a lot of wants.

Even though we know most of our desire to move falls into the "want" category, we decided to put our house up for sale. If it sells, great. We have several houses in mind that would be within our price range (don't worry, we aren't going McMansion just because we are debt free in all other areas). All of them meet our primary objectives...a safer neighborhood and a second potty. Many of them even meet many of our wants. If our house doesn't sell, we really are content to stay here and are blessed beyond measure regardless of where we live. Above all we want a home that is safe and loving for our kids, open and inviting for guests, and a place to make memories. I know all of the important things have a lot more to do with the hearts of the people in the house and not the contents within the four walls or the name of the street outside.

Blessed beyond measure

Last night the four of us were snuggling on the couch watching some cartoon. I had a gloriously content moment of "this is all I need".

Monday, July 2, 2012

Kitchen intimidation

The kitchen. Some people love to spend hours and hours in the kitchen creating culinary delights (and messes). For others, the kitchen is a place of necessary drudgery and nothing more. I fall somewhere in between. I don't mind cooking and baking and at times even enjoy it. But I do not, repeat DO NOT like to spend a large amount of time in the kitchen everyday. That starts to feel like culinary bondage. A large kitchen session once or twice a week (especially if it ends with some great food)? Count me in.

As I was attempting to feed the family only non-processed foods that also involved large amounts of time in the kitchen making bread, muffins, preparing meat, and cutting veggies. It made me realize just how much processed bread-like products we consume in massive quantities: bread, tortillas, muffins, crackers, poptarts, cereals, get the idea. And like I said before, homemade bread is an experience all in itself. A slice of freshly baked bread with a little butter or jam (or both) brings a joy that store bought bread will never come close to matching. But even with a bread machine (my BFF for a few weeks), it takes time. Time most of us either don't have or it's not how we prefer to spend our hours.

One blog that I've loved consulting is "100 days of real food" by Lisa Leake. She makes all kinds of crazy things from scratch, including poptarts. While I've been inspired by her, I've also felt overwhelmed. If you read about all her kitchen time and emphasis on everything being unprocessed it frankly is a little hard to measure up. Recently she kept track of her time in the kitchen: Long story short, she spends lots of time. 2.5-3 hours a day. And as she admits, she loves it and the quality of food is worth it. But I know for me not only is that not often practical. I also don't enjoy that much time in the kitchen.

So here's the question: do you have to be able to spend lots of time in the kitchen to eat healthy? Well, yes and no. Depends on what you want to eat. Most fruits take little or no time to prep. Same with many raw veggies. It's a matter of finding quick prep, healthy foods. Also making foods in larger quantities when you are in the kitchen and using the leftovers later. Summer is a perfect time to eat healthy and save time in the kitchen. Grilling meats and veggies takes very little time compared to making your own poptarts.

As for me, I'll stick mainly with the quicker prep whole foods...eggs, fruits, veggies, cooking meat in bulk and freezing, and grilling. When I do feel the whim to prepare some bread or muffins or other longer prep recipes in the kitchen, I'll try to make in bulk and freeze so future meals can be quick as well. Even when I have the time, I don't want to spend that much time in the kitchen (there, I said it). And I'll do my best not to be intimidated by the men and women who find joy spending hours in the kitchen making things I've never dreamed possible.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Reflecitons on whole food month

July 1. Welcome back coffee creamer. And diet soda. And poptarts (for the kids).

Did we make it the whole month...well, not 100%, but we really did eat whole foods 80% of the time, which is actually quite an accomplishment when you really look at all that we consider "food", but it's actually a highly processed food like substance (some of which I love dearly). A few thoughts I have after our experiment:

1. Store bought bread is simply a way to eat the toppings. Homemade bread is an experience all its own. Yes, I made my own bread...several times. And after a few so-so loaves I found a recipe I really liked and didn't take much time. But for now we are going back to store bought bread...mainly because we are trying to sell our house so the extra mess and equipment is a bit too much.

2. Eating healthier generally takes more time...prepping veggies, fruits, and other parts of a meal takes longer than opening a bag of chips or fruit snacks. And for the nutritional and taste benefit, the time is worth it. But I do empathize with busy families that have a hard time finding the time to prepare meals from whole foods. My best advice is to find nutritional whole food recipes and preparation techniques that are quick and tasty. Set aside an hour once a week to wash and cut fruits and veggies for quick use.

3. All or nothing thinking is my enemy. I talked about this in my last post, but it is still true. The last two days of the month were again highly processed food days due to poor planning on my part. I felt discouraged and thought I may as well throw up my hands and go stock up on fruit snacks, corn dogs, and oreos. It would be easier. But then my five year old said "mom, I want to eat mostly healthy foods so I can be healthy for kindergarten." Success. We've emphasized healthy foods while also not demonizing foods that are not nutritious. They are sometime foods. Special treats. But they are not evil. I think often when a person adopts a certain dietary plan based on nutrition, moral beliefs, or other reason they start to demonize certain foods...judging others who eat that food or associating guilt with the forbidden food. For me, forbidding certain kinds of foods only makes me want them more and furthers the distorted relationship I have with food.

So where are we going from here? I'm still going to try to keep a majority of our foods unprocessed, but I'm also not going to feel guilty when the kids eat a poptart. But highly processed foods with little nutritional value are going to be reserved for special occassions. Fruit snacks...I'm sorry to tell you that you will only be invited on long car rides and won't be available for daily consumption. Real fruit, you can stay. Cereal Sunday night...sugary cereals will be replaced with Kashi and oatmeal a majority of the time.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Un-whole-y foods

Over the weekend I spent two days completely off the whole foods bandwagon. I can't recall exactly what I ate on Friday and Saturday, but somewhere in my processed foods bender I had food I hadn't eaten in nine months...a frosty, a doughnut, a fish sandwich, french fries (2 x!), Subway turkey bacon sub, and part of a box of Girl Scout Samoas (a personal Warrior Dash tradition). I knew what I was doing: using the Warrior Dash as a reason to eat pretty cruddy. It illustrated perfectly my problems in trying to lose weight and stay healthy.

1. I often try to exercise my way out of my bad calories. Or I use my exercise as a reason to overeat. That's what I was doing this weekend. The race itself only took about 45 minutes, so it's not like I was running a marathon, but I certainly ate like I was going to run a marathon. You cannot out exercise a bad diet.

2. I would always do really good for a few days then totally blow it for a day or two. I could only really see and acknowledge the good days, not realizing the effect eating out several times a weekend had on my scale. I would think "I'm eating healthy and it's not doing any good, may as well eat junk." In my mind I was eating healthy 80% of the time, when in actuality it was more like 50% of the time. Even now with committing to eating mainly whole foods, I probably fall somewhere in the 80-90% healthy range, and that's with a lot of planning and cooking at home.

3. All or nothing attitude. Saturday after the race I kept debating on whether I should just call it quits with the whole foods challenge with the family. It was just easier to buy our own bread and bagels and snacks than to make them ourselves. I started thinking if we couldn't eat everything non-processed maybe we should go back to the way we used to eat. But I have to admit, I know it is healthier for the kids to be snacking on real fruit rather than fruit snacks (they haven't asked for any in over a week). I did decide it was easier on all of us if I kept buying my husband poptarts...much as I have good intentions I don't like getting up in time to make him something and he likes poptarts. He's an adult, if he wants poptarts, well...but he keeps them in his car since the kids aren't eating them now.

Even during my food explosion I knew my plan was to get right back to eating whole foods (and cut back on portions/frequency) starting Sunday. And it hasn't been as hard as I thought it would. The kids are now more accustomed to eating fresher foods. The big thing is that it takes planning. Tonight we are having pizza...from crust I made from scratch, cheese I shredded, fresh peppers, and minimally processed pizza sauce (I could have made my own, but I was afraid then I wouldn't actually follow through...trying to stay away from the all or nothing thinking). It took time to plan ahead and get the dough rising early enough and a few minutes of shredding...more of a thought process than popping a frozen pizza onto the pizzazz, but I'm guessing the taste and nutritional content is much better (the timer just beeped beckoning the family to dine). That doesn't mean we're never going to eat frozen pizzas again, but I now know I can make a pizza from scratch.

Learning that it's not about all or nothing (i.e. you're either eating whole foods or eating junk food), it's about making the most nutritional choice every chance you get...and letting the occasional Girl Scout cookie pass your lips.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Salute your shorts

During the early 90's I spent many hours sitting on the couch watching doubt a big contribution to my weight issues. One of my favorite shows was "Salute Your Shorts", a show about summer camp. Later I would live the dream and worked at camp for three glorious summers. Right now we are en route to the warrior dash and I feel the need to salute one of the most loyal shorts. A black pair of Adidas shorts that have been my companion for almost nine years. They have sustained me for countless workouts. They have accepted me at every number on the scale. At the height of my pregnancies they expanded to hug my belly. At my new weight they are slightly too big...but going to give them one more run at the warrior dash...just like last year. Except for a hem that is coming out they look as good as the day I first wore them. Loyal to me as any golden retriever. I almost chose a different pair out of vanity this morning because the size is less flattering, but I decided to stay as loyal to them as they have been to me. Sustaining. Accepting. Durable. Loyal. Kinda describes the guy right next to me. Saluting my shorts (and my man) on this warrior dash day.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Warrior Dash Week

Prerace 2011. Clean and ready to go.

In just five days I'll be running the Warrior Dash for the second year in a row. If you haven't heard of the Warrior Dash it's a 3+ mile run with 10ish obstacles including jumping over fire and crawling through a mud pit. It was some of the most fun that I've had running...pretty much ever. I loved that I did things I never thought I could climb up and over large walls. It was like boot camp, without anyone yelling at me.

Post-race...he'll have 35 fewer pounds to lift this year!

I love the experiences and people I have met through running. Races (in which I'm not actually racing, just running) give me a chance for camaraderie with like minded people. I also love seeing others sign up for a first time race then get hooked on the feeling running gives them. The feeling of knowing they accomplished something they didn't think they could do...and the Warrior Dash is definitely one of those races. I really like to run for myself. It's something that I really got interested in after college. While I am super, super slow, I also know I'm doing something most people never expected me to do. I love the feeling of an early morning Saturday run. I feel free. I feel empowered. But lately I also feel pain.

What every Warrior needs...a turkey leg

Not just normal running aches. But my knees and hip have been reminding me with each run that I have the joints of someone much older. My joints give up long before my lungs do. I so badly want to keep running, but I know I at least need it break. It may last a few weeks, it may last a lifetime. But a quick reminder of my past should help me from getting too discouraged.

When I was diagnosed with arthritis in 2009 I couldn't even go for a 10 minute walk without a lot of pain. The doctor made it sound like I'd be limited to yoga, pilates, and water exercise the rest of my life. So I did what I could. Slowly adding more until I could walk for 20 minutes. Then 30. Then 60. Then a one minute jog here and there. Over time I was able to start running. I've had to learn to accept that to keep my knees happy I have to keep a slow pace and not run much farther than 3 miles.

Last year's Warriors.

When I was diagnosed I remember thinking "I wish I could have just one more good run." So this Saturday I'll get in one super fun run, knowing it may be my last. It's part of accepting who I am and how I am made.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Berry delicious

Thursday the kids and I, along with a friend, headed to "Mary's Berries" in Momence, IL. Mary's is a u-pick strawberry patch. Mmmm...strawberries. Freshly picked. Sweet. Juicy. Yummy.

Well, the haul of berries wasn't as good as we had anticipated. The strawberries had been perfect about a week prior, meaning the u-picks were pretty well picked over. But we did get about a gallon worth of fresh berries, picked with love. They were small but mighty.

Getting ready for some baking
Of course we enjoyed some as nature intended. But particularly because they were small, it wasn't so easy to eat them. And with the relatively small amount we picked, I didn't end up freezing any. So I cut the berries and made two yummy recipes. The first was a strawberry pie...Mary's own recipe. I gave it a was good (I mean, how can strawberry pie not be good?) but the crust (a non-roll homemade recipe) was a bit thick and didn't stay together. Because it was a B, I won't share the recipe. I did also successfully make homemade whipped topping.
The kids enjoying the strawberry can see it didn't hold together
Berry recipe #2...whole wheat strawberry muffins. I give this one an A! I adapted the recipe from the "ChangeOne Diet" book. I doubled the recipe to make sure we had plenty for breakfasts. The great thing about the recipe is you can change the add ins* to make all different kinds of muffins. One thing I appreciated about picking the berries and making the recipes is just how much work goes into creating from scratch recipes, and in some ways how disconnected we've become from how our meals become these lovely creations. When I sit down to a Little Debbie muffin, I don't think about much at all. When I sit down to my muffin I think "man, these are good. And oh the memories of picking berries."

Berry Muffins (makes 24 muffins)
2 cups milk
4 eggs
1/2 cup butter (I may try using half applesauce next time)
2/3 cup yogurt (I used plain fat free greek yogurt, but any kind will do)
4 tsp vanilla extract
Blend and set aside

2 cups white flour
2 cups wheat flour
1 tsp. salt
1 cup sugar (or equivalent other sweetener if so desired, I used sugar)
Mix together-make well in center of mixture, then add milk mixture

Stir in milk mixture with fork until just blended. Do not overmix. Fold in two cups berries (any kind, I've also used raspberries). Spoon batter into muffin tins. Sprinkle muffins with another 1 cup berries. (I also sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar). Bake at 400 for 20 minutes. Cool & enjoy.

*Add in ideas (beyond berries)
Instead of 3 cups of berries try:
Banana nut: 2 cups banana slices, 1 cup walnuts
Apple nut: 2 cups diced apples, 1 cup pecans (I'd probably throw in some cinnamon as well)
Pumpkin: 2 cups pumpkin, 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice

Thursday, June 7, 2012

If at first you don't succeed...

Moving the family to a less processed menu has proven to be somewhat challenging. Mainly because we haven't had much experience eating that way, at least not the whole family for long periods of time. Parts of a meal, yes. Whole meals for whole days on whole foods...not so much. (Is it really only June 6??) So to avoid the boredom of eating a pretty small array of unprocessed foods we were familiar with, I've been trying to expand my food prep and make some of our favorites from scratch. I'm about 2-3 in this department (2 successes, 3 failures). The successes: baked banana oatmeal (to replace sugar cereal Sunday night) and whole wheat banana chocolate chip muffins (to replace poptarts...I think Andrew still has a few packages of those stashed away). Both recipes can be found on my pinterest board "whole foods I've tried."

Now for the failures, they are way more entertaining. You may learn more from these stories...

1. Yogurt...we have a yogurt obsession. I'll have a whole post about this, probably next week, but I first wanted to try to buy plain yogurt and flavor/sweeten it myself rather than the who-knows-what they put in the gogurt. This probably would have went okay, except I put the strawberries in the blender with the yogurt rather than stir it in...which makes more of a milk consistency than a spoonable yogurt. Nobody liked the soupy yogurt...including Andrew who eats anything. But I put the mixture into the freezer pop molds...salvaged the mess up. Next up, I'm making my own yogurt. Andrew is truly terrified.

2. Stevia...I've been using some generic stevia (which ends up not really being stevia at all). I had read on a blog about using a stevia leaf in your coffee to sweeten it. Imagine my joy when I found someone selling stevia leaves at the farmers market! She said one leaf was often too sweet, so you could use half. I went home and with a little apprehension, placed one leaf in my coffee. Nothing. Two leaves. Nothing. Three leaves. Ugh, nothing. So I tried option 2, drying the leaves then crunching them up and using them just like sugar (she assured me the only difference between store stevia and doing that was that they bleached the store stevia so it wasn't green). Day 2 I put my stevia crunched leaves in my coffee...yuk! I couldn't get past the green floaties and texture on the top of my coffee. So today instead I bought some "stevia in the raw", which is less processed stevia than I had been using. (Note: the leaves are sweet if you eat them, I was brave enough to try that).

3. Limeade...this recipe is also on my "whole recipes I've tried" board. The recipe itself is fine, it was all the execution. It calls for 1 1/2 cup berries and the juice of 4 limes (or about 1/2 c lime juice). I wasn't sure how to juice a lime, so the first one I cut in half and dug out with my fingers. The second one I thought, "hey, I'll just peel it and put in the fruit". Have you ever tried to peel a lime? Impossible. And then it left huge pulp in my limeade. Third fruit I again tried to squeeze/dig with my hands. By this point I'm 10 minutes into trying to make a carbonated beverage, so I left out the 4th lime. Blended it all up using stevia instead of agave nectar (the store bought stuff, not the green leaves). It was waaaaay too sour, even with leaving out one lime. It was also grossly pulpy. But I drank it...I'd really been craving a soda and this was the closest I could get while still abiding by my own self-imposed rules. It did quench my soda craving. But when I added the cost ($2.50 for the recipe) and time, I decided I would not make it again unless I just bought lime juice in the little plastic lime.

So I've not had the greatest luck, but I'm continuing onward. Tomorrow I'm going to try making homemade yogurt and strawberry pie with homemade whipped topping. Some people do the whole food thing without sugar...while I try not to get much sugar, I figure my family is still getting less if I am making the items myself...and I still want them to like me.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Making concessions

During the school year I work at sporting events most evenings from just before suppertime until 9 or 10 at night. When I first started in the field I made a decision that I would not allow the concession stand to become my second kitchen. Think about it, you CAN find something passable for healthy almost anywhere...except a concession stand. In junior high I used to love taking my dollar and getting a 8 oz fountain pop and candy bar (yes, back in the day). Oh, I loved concession stands. Ball games. Roller skating. Softball practice. So I knew in my adult life that because I would be surrounded almost nightly with this unhealthy option, I needed to stay away. And even though I've struggled with a lot of unhealthy eating, I've pretty much stuck to my "rule" that I won't eat from a concession stand. Sure, there are exceptions, but I would guess it has been less than 5 times the past year, and those were usually due to thirst.

But my kids...that's another story. They quite quickly caught on to the fact that a ball game = a candy/popcorn store on site. And while I don't want them to have too much junk, I also know that popcorn will keep a three year old occupied for about half of a basketball game. My kids are even so keenly aware of the sport/concession stand connection that they were both disappointed to learn that there is not a concession stand open during practice.

Tomorrow night we start a new era in our life. Annika (5) has her first softball game. We have entered the world of sports (or at least a different type of involvement). Which also means we've entered a world where kids are given credit at the concession stand after the game. I have to say from a health standpoint, this concept just befuddles me. We have rising rates of childhood obesity due in part to sedentary lifestyles. Organized sports is a way children can actually be active, but then we "reward" them with candy or soda of which the caloric content is greater than the calories actually expended on the field. It just makes me uncomfortable. Like our dentist giving kids sugary gumballs after their checkup (true story).

So am I going to be the mean parent and not let my kid get candy? No. Even though I've said this month we're eating only whole foods, I'll let them get something from the concession stand. And maybe because they're eating about 80-90% whole foods I won't feel so guilty. But I do know if we continue in the world of sports, I will try to be the one that always brings water and healthy food so our family doesn't have supper at "Restaurante de Concession."

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Day 3: Challenges

Midway through day 3 of TRYING to remove processed foods from our family menu. And to say I underestimated the influence of processed foods in our life would be an understatement. It's actually very similar to how I've been eating, with the exception of having to cut out my diet soda (I'm trying not to think about that) and artificial sweeteners for my yogurt and coffee. But my family is a completely different story. While they all eat fruits and vegetables, I'm realizing just how much we relied on processed foods for the convenience and cost for a big part of the family menu. It definitely takes more time and effort to have fresh items for breakfast and snacking. Here are the biggest challenges we've had:

Social situations. Day 1 we had a wedding (although I loved that they had fresh veggies, cheese, and fruit as part of the menu...but we also enjoyed the turtle cake). Day 2 we had lunch with family. I never, ever, ever, ever want to become a food snob...where people feel like they have to make sure they cater to the way I prefer to eat (or, at least that I'm convincing myself that I prefer to eat that way). And I also don't want to pack my own meal, although in a potluck situation I'd be sure to bring something fresh.

A picky 3 year old. My five year old will try most foods and will fully embrace almost anything. She's adventurous. She's willing to try what's in front of her. My three year old on the other hand seems to know only one word at the dinner table...YUK! It almost doesn't matter what it is or if he's had it before, he takes some coaxing to try things, even things he's eaten and enjoyed before. So he's been much more of a challenge. On day 1 he even refused to eat the yogurt popsicle that prior to that he loved. I'm not giving up on him, but it does take a little extra effort to make sure that I have things he'll eat...boiled eggs instead of the omlettes we had for lunch, individual raw veggies versus a salad, etc.

The items still lurking about. I didn't totally clear out the cupboards. Some of the things I am letting everyone else finish and then just won't buy them again (at least for June). Some things I put away for the month. But somehow the kids quickly sniffed out the fruit snacks and graham crackers. But slowly these items are also dwindling and the grocery shopper of the family won't be replacing them, at least not until July 1. (I have to be honest, walking home from church today I had a moment of "what are we doing? It would be so much easier to just eat the way we used to." But I know that I feel better, so we're sticking with it.

Today is the first day that I've been fully on non-processed foods (social situations got me the other two days). I wish I could report that everything wrong in my life and body has improved, but that would be an utter lie. I do feel better in terms of my digestive health and just an overall feeling of well-being (i.e. I'm not bloated or lethargic).
Breakfast the past 2 days: local free range eggs, local berries, non-local (but yummy) kiwi

I did have a great day yesterday of hitting the local farmers market yesterday and also going to Riverfront Berry Farm where I found they sell free range eggs. They were more expensive than the store, but they made for some seriously good omlettes. As my 5 year old said, "the yolks are almost orange." Andrew and I finally watched "Food, Inc." last night and Andrew's first comment was "when do we get to order more beef?" (We get grass fed beef and pastured pork from Meadow Oaks Angus...their yummy bacon accompanied our fabulous eggs at lunch). Although I do have my moments of doubt, I'm happy that we're trying to have not just more whole foods, but foods that are raised locally. But because I also love kiwi, bananas, and coffee, I could not be a complete locavore.

I would say if you are thinking about cutting out processed foods, take a really good look at how many processed foods or restaurant foods you are eating. Pick one area to change first. Start slow so you don't get discouraged or go crazy. But do start. 

Friday, June 1, 2012

Step 1 & 2 : Clean out the cupboards and make lists

Day 1. One meal down. But my preparations began about a week or so ago when determining that I REALLY wanted to serve my family mainly (or even solely) whole foods. I did two big steps in preparing for this experiment.

Step 1: Remove the temptation

The first thing I did when I was still trying to convince myself that removing processed foods from our daily eating would be beneficial was to clear out our cupboards of processed foods. Mostly I moved it all to our basement shelves (just in case I changed my mind). The items that are unopened will go to the food pantry at the end of the month if we are going to continue eating mainly whole foods. The opened items will either be tossed or held onto for special occasions. There were a few items like flavored yogurt and cocoa wheats that the family will finish up in the next few days, and then I just won't buy them again. I know you see the dramatic TV shows where a personal trainer or nutritionist goes through a family's cupboards tossing anything processed or sugary into the garbage. I'm too frugal and practical to make such a bold move.

Step 2: Make a list of things you (and your family) will actually eat

One of the scary things when changing to any eating plan is seeing food lists that are filled with things I've never heard of or don't like. When I started my healthy eating plan last November, I highlighted the items I liked and planned my meals around those foods. Along the way I tried some new items, but at the beginning I stuck with what I knew. Now that I'm working on making a change for our whole family, I started making lists of non-processed foods that the kids will eat. I classify them by meal. That way I know to have those items on hand. For example, the kids like raw spinach, tomatoes, carrots, and cucumbers, so I'll be sure to have those on hand and ready for meals (along with ranch dip made with yogurt). Most of us rely on processed foods because they are easy and quick. If I'm going to have my family eat whole foods I need to make them easy and quick as well (although that requires preparation on my part, but I've been doing that kind of prep for myself for six months now, I just have to increase the volume). Here's a list of snack ideas that my kids like (I hope to expand the list):

1. Fruit & yogurt smoothies and parfaits (leftover smoothies can be frozen in popsicle molds)
2. Apples with peanut butter
3. Almost any fruit you throw at them
4. Cheese (I quit buying the imitation processed complaints from the kids)
5. Air popped popcorn

I currently have several lists going. I'm working on a way to organize them for myself to help with meal planning and grocery shopping. I also want some kind of a teaching tool where my kids can choose from different options to learn how to make their own healthy choices.

I do want to say that when we are guests at another person's house, I don't expect them to prepare only whole foods. I expect that when the kids are with either grandma, she will indulge them with goodies they haven't been eating at home. I don't expect to NEVER eat processed foods, I'm just trying to remove them from our everyday eating.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Finding my WHY #2: Whole foods

My WHYs for debt were somewhat easy. We'd been moving toward debt freedom and debt free living for most of our 9 years of marriage. But the next ones I've been working on haven't been so easy. I never want to be a hypocrite, so I want to make sure that what I am able to walk the walk after I talk the talk. I knew that even though sometimes I want to, I wasn't going to go out and get a car loan. That exercise in expressing WHY we want to stay out of debt was an affirmation of several years of decisions. The next WHY is a newer road. And I'm hesitant to share it, not because I'm not convinced that it's the right path, but because I don't want to proclaim my intentions only to fall off the wagon a week from now. But because I'm making a challenge for myself starting tomorrow, I thought it would add a little accountability if I shared.

For the month of June, our family is going to (try to) eat only (or mostly) whole foods. Definition for us: foods that are either in their natural state or contain 5 or fewer ingredients.** If you research plans for whole food eating there are several variations. Some are called clean eating. Others will not only eat whole foods but also limit certain foods (like grains, dairy, or sugar). Other variations would include a vegetarian or vegan or even raw vegan diet. I've spent some time researching many different "rules" or plans, and decided for now to leave it at foods in their natural state or with 5 or fewer ingredients. For me, this won't be so hard...except for my diet soda and coffee creamer and bagel thins and...okay, it isn't going to be easy.

1. I FEEL BETTER WHEN EATING WHOLE FOODS: I ate mostly whole foods while losing weight. Only recently I started eating more processed foods, and it wasn't helping me. I wasn't grabbing oreos, but I was snacking a bit too much on the kids' goldfish, pretzels or my own weight watchers ice cream sandwiches. And they were all making me feel blah!

2. IT IS EASIER TO MAINTAIN MY WEIGHT LOSS WHEN STICKING WITH WHOLE FOODS: I've pretty much stayed in the same 3-4 pound range since hitting my weight loss goal back in March. But what I've realized is that it is the processed junk (even if it is considered "healthy") that causes me to overeat and/or crave other foods that aren't so good.

3. I FEEL SATISFIED ON WHOLE FOODS: That feeling of satisfaction doesn't seem to happen when I have more processed foods in my diet. I can consume pretty much equal calories of a processed meal and a whole foods meal, but the whole food meal generally leaves me feeling energetic and content. Processed foods leave me wanting more.

4. WE WERE CREATED FOR MORE: We were created for more than cheetos and spongy white bread. I've been teaching Exercise Physiology for a few years now and every semester I'm blown away by a different aspect of our body that can adapt and keep us alive no matter what fuel we place in it. But we also function better (or at least I do) when the foods are closer to their own created state versus a manufactured state.

5. I DON'T WANT MY KIDS TO DEAL WITH THE SAME FOOD/WEIGHT ISSUES I DID: I don't want either of my kids to fear food, but I also don't want them to find their comfort in a frozen burrito the way I did. My hope and prayer is that if whole foods are their main source of nutrition, and I take time to teach them about nutrition and food preparation, they'll be less likely to develop weight issues...whether it be an eating disorder or obesity. I want them to appreciate that food is nourishment and yes, even enjoyment, but not our source of hope and joy.

I mentioned my kids. Yes, I'm going to do my best to have the whole family eating mainly non-processed foods. There may be some crying and pouting at the beginning, and that's just Andrew. I promised I'd still buy his Mountain Dew, but PopTarts were going to be exiled. Because I do most of the food preparation and shopping, what mama says, goes. But I also recognize that there will be times that the family will eat processed foods, and I promise not to freak out. If offered s'mores, what will we do? I'll probably pass (and look away), the family will eat them.

I'll keep you updated on the journey through June. The good, the bad, and the ugly. I'll also share a few more WHYs I'm working on: why I exercise (and why I won't buy P90X) and why I want to maintain my weight loss.

**This is not to be confused with a hole foods diet which would include doughnuts, bagels, doughnut holes, and swiss cheese. That kind of eating left me obese for most of my life.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Finding my WHY #1: debt

We've officially been out of debt for four months now. And even know I have to remind myself WHY we want to stay out of debt. Most forms of debt no longer tempt me. But two temptations always seem to be lurking just beneath the surface of my tough "no debt" exterior: a newer car and a nicer house.

We drive two aging beauties...10 year old cars with just over 100,000 miles each. Low mileage for the age of the cars. And they (knock on wood) haven't given us much trouble except that we seem to be pretty hard on the brakes. They serve us well for the one true purpose they serve: transportation. Safe. Reliable. But I'd be lying if I said I never felt the siren call of a nicer, newer, shinier form of transportation. I can't even really let myself look at car lots because I'm prone to new car fever. So I have to remind myself WHY we are going to save for a car rather than borrow for one.

Same-ish situation with our house. It is the perfect perfect for us. We actually do carry a mortgage, but it is well below what we "should" be paying in relation to our income. Yet one of my favorite weekend pasttimes is to drive past houses that are for sale and dream about moving up in house. A more aesthetic neighborhood. A second bathroom. A sunroom. Well, the list is long. But it is all just stuff. Not needs. Wants. And to move up in want, we'd be taking on a bigger mortgage, which would decrease the amount of money we have to help stay out of other debt.

So I have to remind myself WHY. WHY I'm going to keep driving my van until we can afford a newer one with cash. WHY we're going to stay in this house until God moves us.

And I thought I'd share the reasons. You may have similar reasons for wanting to become (or stay) debt free. But you also should have your own.

1. We truly believe Proverbs 22:7: "The borrower is slave to the lender." We don't want to be in bondage any longer.

2. Living debt-free helps us focus on being content. It helps us to see that material possessions are fleeting. We aren't consumed with trying to accumulate when we are trying to stay within a budge and pay cash. "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Matthew 6:21

3. Living debt free has made our marriage stronger. We disagree about a lot of things: politics, Santa Claus, how clean the bathroom should be, etc. But the one thing we always agree on is our goal of living debt free. It guides our budget. It guides each purchase even when the other spouse isn't there. It has saved us a lot of fighting, and I truly feel it has made us closer. Not perfect. Definitely not perfect.

4. It allows us to give more freely. Even when we were in debt we felt strongly that we were to continue to be givers to help keep our treasure in the right place. Now without debt it frees us up even more to be able to give as there is opportunity.

5. It allows us to save for the future. We have no idea what the future holds. We can guess and plan and may still face a situation we haven't saved for...or saved enough. But the more we can anticipate and plan, the more we are able to have money for car repairs, medical bills, and kid expenses. (Hint: start saving now for the back to school expenses. You know they're coming, don't wait until August and then wonder how you are going to pay for it. Save now. Same with Christmas. And my birthday. It falls in August as well).

6. It allows us to spend some money to make memories. That's one of our favorite guiding principles on the spending side of our budget. We really don't want to accumulate "stuff" so much as we want to have the opportunity to make memories through special trips. Some are very inexpensive like a camping weekend at the grandparents' land. Others in the future may cost more, but we never want the memory to become a nightmare of debt.

Ah, that helps me. My list. My WHY list for why I want to stay out of debt. WHY I need to turn my head the other way when I see a schnazzy silver, rust free mini van that probably has rear air and a DVD player. Or a house with a sun room.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Knowing your why

Most people fail at their attempts to lose weight or keep it off. Statistics vary by source, but something like 75-95% of people that attempt to lose weight either don't lose it or fail to maintain the loss. I've never seen approximations of how many people fail at their financial goals, but I would guess it to be quite high as well.


I think most of us don't really define our WHY. Why do you want to lose weight? Why do you want to keep it off? Why do you want to get out of debt? Why do you want your family to eat healthier? Why do you want your family to be more active?

I know I've often given myself a mom's answer: "Because I said so." Or "Because I should."

I said so's and shoulds don't get you through the tough days. A should is not more powerful than a brownie. I said so does not generally get people out of bed to exercise.

A strong "why" does. When you know why, really know WHY, you really want to do something, it makes the how of getting there much more bearable.

Think of weight loss. Most of us can come up with some good "whys" for losing. But we really have to define and believe those whys. If you say you want to lose weight for your health, you really have to believe down in your gut that losing weight will have positive health benefits. If it's just a vague idea, you probably won't stay very motivated. If you've had a health scare, the why is looking you right in the face. If you know that excess weight can increase your risk for breast cancer and have a close family member that was just diagnosed with breast cancer, you'd have strong motivation to make changes in your won life.

So let's say you lose the weight (or pay off the debt or eliminate processed foods from your diet). You have to readdress the "why." I think that's an important step that's often neglected. I'm at that step in a few different areas of my life. And I need to ask myself, down in my gut, WHY I want to maintain my weight loss and WHY it is important for us to stay out of debt. I'm also wanting to improve the eating habits of our household...but I need to know WHY before I define a plan. If I don't have a good WHY, the extra time and effort of changing our eating habits won't feel worth it after about 2 days.

I'm thinking of making some more changes to our dinner table. I plan on giving myself a challenge in June, but first I need to define my why. Then define the challenge. Then share it with you to hold myself accountable.

Friday, May 18, 2012

My next challenge

I claim to be an expert in nothing, and I'm sticking with that claim. But if I come close to being an expert on anything I guess it would be childhood obesity. Reason 1: I've been there, done that, have the pictures to prove it (I just found a picture from before the homecoming game my senior year of high school. Oh. My. Goodness.). Reason 2: my academic studies are in the field of health and sociology. Reason 3: my personal interest in the topic have caused me to do a lot of reading and researching...and not just reading some Joe Shmoe's blog or opinion (well, I do that, too), but also looking at the science that is out there. So I guess if I'm going to claim I have some kind of knowledge somewhere, obesity would probably be it.

So when one of my readers asked me to address issues of family health I was a little hesitant, but the more I thought about it, the more I felt up to the challenge.

And here's the big challenge: how do we encourage healthy living in our homes while not placing too much emphasis on body image?

Move to a remote self-sustaining farm where you raise your own chickens and cows for eggs and milk and meat. You grow your own huge garden and become an expert in canning, freezing, and drying. You'd also have to eliminate all contact with the media and outside world in general. Then you can grow your own healthy foods and not have the influence of anyone else telling your family what beauty is. Trust me, I've thought about the above plan. But I'm afraid of chickens.

So aside from that, I don't know how to complete the challenge. Not fully.

Why? Because there is not a one size fits all plan or step by step process that is going to fit every family. Every family is going to have a different definition of healthy living based on their circumstances, religious practices, and medical issues. All of us are influenced in some way by others telling us how we should look, and we all feel like we fail. And we don't want that for our kids.

But I do know there are some ways I can help make my family live a healthier life. I know there are ways I can promote positive body image in my kids. And so I'm going to start to share them. The same way I shared about our finances and my own weight losses, I'm going to share what we've been doing and changes we continue to make. I'm not going to tell you what you should do, I'm going to share our own journey. If it helps spark some ideas and actions for how your household can make healthier choices, I will count that as success.

So stay tuned. I have lots of ideas brewing in my head. And none of them involve me raising my own chickens.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

How to marry a guy in 6 weeks

Andrew and I knew each other for about 6 weeks when he asked me to marry him. We had fallen into something like love (in retrospect, it was more like infatuation). In our reasoning, we'd both lived single long enough to know what kind of mate we wanted. Yes, at the old age of 23 we thought we had all kinds of wisdom. It is so, so, so laughable now. We even talk about how if either of our kids ever fall into a whirlwind romance we will definitely have words with them. We honestly didn't really know each other. And it could have ended poorly.

We had plenty of people question if we really knew what we were doing (we thought we did, but we didn't). We thankfully spent many of our Saturday mornings in premarital counseling. Do you know what our pastor said on the last day of our counseling? "I think you two will [long, long pause] be [another pause] okay." Not a big vote of confidence.

And we've been okay. I'd venture to say that on most days we exceed okay. Life isn't all rainbows and gummy bears, but I certainly don't feel like I deserve someone who has been so accepting of me as Andrew. He puts up with me, warts and all. I quote my ultimate heroine Maria VonTrapp "But here you are, standing there loving me. Whether or not you should. So somewhere in my youth, or childhood, I must have done something good."

And my husband's love for me carries over to our kids. I was snuggling with 3 year old Aaron the other morning and he pointed to our wedding photo and said "Mommy, you looked beautiful when you got married." (He frequently tells me "mommy, you're so pretty"...again, something I don't deserve).

We have a pretty "traditional" family. Husband, wife, two kids, two cars, two coffee pots, one big pile of laundry. But I don't think all marriages or families need to look like ours. I've been so blessed to have in our world many marriages and families that look nothing like what is considered traditional or normal. I kind of revolt when someone tells me what we "should" do to have a successful marriage or family, and I try my darnedest not to do that to others.

Sometimes if people think we're going to be [pause] okay, we're probably going to be better than okay. On most days anyhow.

Rewording an Indigo Girls song..."The less I force my family into perfection, the closer I am to fine."

(Their version is much better-my apologies)

Sunday, May 13, 2012

You are enough

It's been a few days since the controversial TIME magazine cover asked us "Are you MOM ENOUGH?" (emphasis theirs). And without getting into the debate about the cover or the article on attachment parenting, I wanted to say "YOU are enough." All of us carry enough guilt and worry without having someone else ask us if we are enough. If you're like me, you constantly feel like you are never enough...and that you don't fit into the "mold" of how the media or society portrays mothers.

And obviously the TIME article was run purposely to coincide with Mother's Day. Oh, Mother's Day. Like Valentine's Day, I have a fair amount of cynicism to accompany this day. First, we are guilted into card buying and gift giving...and not guilt because we don't love our moms...but all my mom ever really wanted was for us to get along and not fight (please say I'm not the only one that got this request...and mom, we get along now. Wish granted.) But guilt that we don't give good enough gifts or get our card in the mail at the right time (guilty...again.) Second, on the mom side of things, because of marketing we are often EXPECTING a great day, when often it ends up being just a plain old day (which is just fine with me), but leaves some disappointed due to the expectations (see the correlation with Valentine's Day??) Third, for many people Mother's Day can be a painful reminder of the loss of a loved one, a poor relationship, or the reminder that you want so badly to be a Mom but for whatever reason the crib is still empty.

So as a completely inadequate's letting you know YOU are enough.

If your world has been turned completely upside down by the addition of a new life and you are severely lacking are enough

If you were excited for the plans you had for raising your child, only to have life step in and totally change your plans due to illness, disability, or life are enough

If you worry about the food you feed your child, the activities they are in, the school they attend, the friends they keep, or 10,000,000 other are enough

If you want to take the place of a child that is experiencing hurt in their own life from illness or consequences of poor choices but know all you can do is walk beside that are enough

If your nest has long been empty, but you always worry about your child and the decisions they are enough

If you never carried your child in your womb, but you carry that child in your heart and your home and you are just as much mom as someone who gave birth...and you are enough

If you had to say good-bye to your child here on earth, leaving empty arms way before you were are enough

If the most loving thing you did for your child was to give life and allow someone else the blessing of being part of that child's life through are enough

If God has not blessed you with a child of your own, but you still have that ache to nurture another are enough

If you realize that raising a child is a complex, imperfect, beautiful are enough

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The other side

I almost didn't share my weight loss story.

Not because I was afraid to admit I ever had a weight problem. Not because people will be watching to see if I gain it back. Not because it meant I really should share how much I have weighed through the years. Not because I think there are 100 other character qualities more important than what a scale says.

Those were all reasons, but they weren't the #1 reason.

My #1 reason for reluctance was that even though 66ish% of our population is overweight or obese, there is a much smaller population that deals with the other side of the unhealthy eating coin.

Those that no matter how small they get, they will always see themselves as fat.

Those that no matter what the number on the scale, they will always feel that they need to go smaller.

Those that no matter how few calories they consumed in a day, they will always feel it was too many.

Those that no matter how many miles they run in a day, it will never feel like enough.

Those that are more scared of body weight than they are of death itself.

And for those people, I almost didn't share my story. I knew that even though my high weight was unhealthy, and I took healthy steps to get to a healthy weight, that discussion of weight loss may trigger others into a downward spiral of unhealthy habits. Start reciting a script in their head that they aren't good enough. That they need to try harder. Restrict more. Exercise longer. I know, because I've heard their stories of how they may have started with healthy changes until it became an obsession. A jail.

And now, at moments, I can feel the same pull. I can look in the mirror and see so much imperfection, probably moreso now than I did 35 pounds ago. I have conversations in my head that I would rather not repeat (since they aren't true), but that leave me feeling exhausted, unworthy. I get sucked in when I see ads for the newest exercise or food that promises to leave me sculpted. Perfect.

But I refuse to give in to those thoughts. I call them out. I recognize them for what they are. Lies. I have reached healthy, I don't need to see a lower number. I don't need to see a six pack, my imperfect stomach will help keep me modest. I point an accusing finger at weight loss ads that never would have caught my eye before but now promise me paradise. Promise me never ending happiness.

But thinness doesn't fill the soul anymore than a a huge bowl of ice cream.

We were created for more.