Thursday, August 30, 2012

August Popsugar Bag!

I received a lovely surprise in the mail today: my August Popsugar surprises!

So here they are:
Pretzel Crisps!  These are delicious with hummus or honey mustard!
A conveniently packaged, reusable bag by Baggu in a beautiful purply magenta color- looking forward to popping this baby out at the grocery!

A butt workout DVD by PopPhysique.  Hmm.. I guess Popsugar knew what I need to work on!

Cleanser and exfoliant duo from the wonderful, organic, local-ingredients based company Sprout

Shatterproof, "anywhere" wine glasses by Govino.  Love the way they think!  I want to take these on a picnic now!  They are light and easy to pack; plus, they are recyclable!

Beautiful blotting papers by Tatcha.  These are so gorgeous!  Pulling them out to blot the oil off my face won't be so embarrassing now :)

Snack size packet of granola by  Bear Naked
You better bet I'm taking this baby with me to work tomorrow with a greek yogurt!

Home diffuser in the scent "Isola" by the company Alora.. this has an ultra feminine floral aroma that isn't too heavy but beautifully dresses up your bedroom!

All of the items altogether.  Thanks Popsugar!!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Losing weight is 2nd, Becoming healthy is 1st -PT 2

60 days out from the launch of this pursuit to eliminate chemicals, I feel as though my body chemistry has changed quite a bit.  I shouldn't forget to mention, that while I cleansed myself of chemicals, I also worked out regularly (3-4 hard workouts per week, 3 easy cardio days, 1 day of rest) not just because I wanted to sweat out any toxins, but also because I wanted to increase my muscle mass so as to be stronger and to increase my basal metabolic rate.  However, I should note that I have always been pretty fit cardiovascularly (working out 3-5 days/week). 

I knew I coulldn't maintain a giant overhaul of my diet so I only removed the I can't believe it's not butter spray and all sweeteners (including diet coke).  Still, I experienced several major side effects/consequences from this change:

1st physical consequence of the 'cleanse' (I hate this term because it's extended itself to much more extreme diets in the media, but I'll use it for my purposes) was major breakouts. I mean, little pimples everywhere, all over my face as well as big, gruesome ones that would ooze out its contents when extracted (I know.. gross!).  It was almost 3 weeks before the acne subsided and my skin began clearning up.  I truly think the cause of the break out period was hormones; I've been consuming this crap, in huge volumes, since the start of junior high, and my body was reacting to the sudden withdrawal of them. 

2nd consequence was a 10 day period of sporadice, killer-headaches.  To be honest, this really scared me; until this side effect that I hadn't fully realized the impact of these chemicals on my body. 

3rd consequence was readjustment of my cycle (obviously this applies to just girls), which was further proof that these chemicals had affected my hormones more significantly than I'd been aware of before. 

4th consequence that has endured until today, even 60+ days out, was a change in cravings.  I used to crave sweets like a mad woman.  I would see a candy bar or jelly beans and literally have to steer clear because I knew I'd inhale them otherwise.  I noticed the change in cravings about 2 weeks out from the launch of the cleanse, and it completely threw me off guard.  One example was bread. I used to crave french baguettes, lathered in some sweet spread like jam.  Now, I still crave french baguettes, but now I just want them with some olive oil or by itself. 

After the changes in hormonal chemistry, changes in my dietary cravings, and increase in strength training routines, I have trimmed down about 5 lbs.  It was a sweet complement to my healthier habits, but I should note I did not decrease my caloric intake.  I kept up my 1600-1800 calories/day (some special occasions obviously tipped well above that range), and I never 'dieted.' 

I believe everyone's body chemistry is different and what works for me, may not work for many others, and what I may be able to adjust to, might not be so realistic for another.  It's all very individualized.  Still, after a multitude of trendy diets throughout my 20s, all of which did not last, I am finding dietary changes for health to be far more promising.  Of course there are times where you fall off the proverbial wagon, and have a sip of diet coke or eat way too many sweets, but the good thing about just trying to be 'healthy' is that you refocus on health and balancing out the extra indulgences. 

Having said that, I am aware there are many people who need to lose a large amount of weight for health reasons. I never veered into the obese category, nor have I faced consequences of being a little overweight;  however, my mother has.  She was obese for 20 years! 

When her mother passed away a few yeras ago, she made a concerted decision to become healthy (the internval drive is a nother topic I will discuss at another time).  Numbers-wise, she had to lose 35 lbs.  Some people would just throw up the white flag, and have a burger, but she is a strong woman.  Over the course of a year, she worked out and built a lot of muscle and lost a net of 20 lbs (including muscle gain and fat loss).  She went down almost 6 pant sizes and went from a XXL shirt to a M-L shirt. 

As a medicated diabetic, it isn't easy to take off the weight but she's well on her way to her goal.  How did she do it?  Here are the changes she made to her daily diet:

1. Always make time for breakfast, not just that mug of coffee
2. Eat more protein and veggies, less carbs.
3. Eat from smaller plates/bowls.
4. Monitor your body changes not with a scale but with the fit of your clothes.
5. Set your 'goal clothing item' and try it on weekly, to see how far you've come and how far you've got to go.

Ever since her dietary changes, her diabetes has been much better managed, her energy is up and even her skin is glowing! Go mom!

Back to me now.. haha.  I'm really proud of my dietary changes (changing 17 year-old habits is no easy feat!), and my weight loss, but now I'm setting 2 new goals, in addition to the ones I've accomplished:

1. Have one carb-free meal/day
2. Lower calorie intake to 1300-1500 calories/day. 

One not-so-great side effect of dietary changes or 'dieting' can be the cramp on your social life.  A lot of socializing centers on drinking or eating out, but those things aren't exactly conducive to weight loss.  Particularly if you are trying to parcel out your food intake to smaller portions throughout your day, you're not going to feel like you 'can' go out for a meal.  Many dieticians and nutritionists are huge proponents of snacking or eating 5-6 times a day, but just a handful at a time.  This style of eating can help your body adjust to burning more of your food instead of storing it, which is what it does when it thinks you will starve it later.  I have many friends who are overweight for this reason; they find themselves so busy that they don't eat all day, and only eat a regular size dinner in the evening.  Then they wonder why they are putting on weight despite the very-limited intake.  The answer is twofold: first, the dinner they are eating is either calorie-dense or too big in volume; second (and most significantly), their bodies are storing everything they eat, because their bodies will be starved for another 24 hours. For these types of people, I can't stress enough the importance of feeding their bodies more regularly and changing their metabolism.  However, once their bodies start recognizing that they'll be fed regularly and don't need to store everything, I'm a proponent of the school of thought on meals.  Yes, snacking can be helpful, but small snacks, like a tablespoon of peanut butter or an apple.  However, meals are where it's at.  They allow you to have the social life as well as enjoy a full meal.  A 'lifestyle' of 5-6 joyless snacks per a day isn't going to last very long.  However if cherish your meals, on your own or with others, you're going to feel less deprived and value the 'saving your appetite' a lot more. 

Another huge factor that is not to be discounted is the emotional side of dieting.  Whatever the drive is, vanity or health, it's not easy to maintain a lifestyle change, unless there is regular reward.  Physical changes in body size or shape aren't guaranteed rewards because sometimes your body plateaus or you're under a lot of stress, and it holds onto the weight; however, rewards like regularly enjoying healthy meals with friends and family can make the process a whole lot easier and less isolating.  I will not dismiss the issue of dietary isolation; when you're the only one changing your diet amongst all of your friends, even if your friends are being supportive, you will feel alone and like you're missing something.  This is another reason why I'm a proponent of meals-based dietary changes.  Feeling alone will only cause you stress and greater likelihood that you'll pig out on stuff later on.  My point is, changing your life style to a healthier one, entails taking care of your emotional health, just as much as of your physical health.  This means, maintaining a social life, not being too hard on yourself when you fall off the wagon, and rewarding yourself. 

Obviously, there is so much more I could say about healthy life style changes but this is just a start. I don't think I have any readers yet, but if there are, please comment! I'd really appreciate it :)

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Losing weight is 2nd, Becoming healthy is 1st - PT 1

Losing weight is not only a popular topic, but also a very contentious one.  Everyone has their two cents and every other person has a reactionary opinion about each other's two cents.  I think losing weight is a highly personal journey. One diet, workout-routine, lifestyle, or whatever, isn't one-size-fits-all.  When done correctly (by 'correctly,' I mean to exclude disordered eating), it is a journey that takes time, experimentation and patience (i.e. frustration is inevitable).  Everyone has a different body chemistry & homeostasis; everyone has a different biological history. It's what makes the spectrum of lives so interesting but also what can make it trying. 

My personal history with losing weight is dotted with periods of trendy-diet eating, unintentional and intentional life style changes, and both major & minor body image issues.  When I turned 29 in July, I decided that I want to make small steps towards a healthier life by the time I hit 30. Standing at approximately 10-15 lbs over my 'ideal' weight, of course I wanted 'healthier' to mean losing that extra stuff, but I made a conscious effort to make it about something else. 

I've been drinking Diet coke & mixing splenda or equal into my coffee since I was about 12 or 13 years old (I was born in Belgium, so drinking caffeine that early wasn't exactly shocking in my house), and I knew that in some capacity, it was detrimental to my body.  My mother who was prediabetic at the time, thought it'd be a good preventitive measure against diabetes for me. Of course, she didn't know what a heavy habit it would become for me.  Let me note here that I was drinking at a minimum 2 cans of diet coke and mixing in at least a half dozen packets of sweetener to my coffees every day. 

Although the science behind the headline-making news linking diet soft drinks to heart disease this year, isn't the completely sound (in my opinion), I knew there was nothing beneficial to my heavy aspartame intake.  Aspartame wasn't the only chemical I was a total junky for.  I loved my protein bars, vending machine snacks, and most disgusting: I can't believe it's not butter spray.  The last thing was the grossest because I got to the point where I was pouring the spray liquid, not even spraying it.  It was so chemically that when I poured it on a hot english muffin, it wouldn't even melt or move!  I used to pour the spray liquid on a hot english muffin and then sprinkle that with splenda. I know.. gross!  Even then, I knew there was nothing attractive about this sort of eating, but I was addicted! I loved the junky salt taste from the butter spray and the artificial sweetness from the splenda.  At the time, I couldn't imagine not having it! 

It suffices to say, I was in need of a major diet detox & overhaul.  I knew I couldn't quit coffee but I the chemicals I could try to quit.  During the first week, I was a b!$&#.  Oh, I was so cranky..  for the first 10 days or so, I craved back the bubbly tingle of a cold diet coke, and the artificial junky tastes.  Drinking coffee with just milk and no splenda, was the weirdest.  At first, I couldn't enjoy the coffee, but as I kept at it, I started to learn what coffee tasted like.  A few weeks in, I really started to enjoy coffee with milk. It's been 60+ days now, and although there are times that I desire that sweet coffee taste, I still prefer the pure taste of coffee.  Plus, knowing that I'm not putting sweetener chemicals into my body is rewarding! 

OK, this post is getting long, so I will continue this in my next post. 

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Happy Saturday Everybody

Happy Saturday!

Wow, I slept really well last night- just like a rock for seven hours!  Mind you, I usually sleep five hours so seven is really a huge indulgence.   I woke up without an alarm, surprised to feel so refreshed. Today's going to be a full day: This morning, I'll be dropping off my 6.5 lb Yorkie at the groomer, Pawsh (honestly, they are the best!), while I grab a mani/pedi and a 2 hour workout at Life in Synergy.  I haven't been there in a while so I'm looking forward to a rockin workout: I'll be hitting them up for 2 classes.  This afternoon, I'll be visiting a girlfriend who just had twins and bringing them a few baby outfits (so excited!)

I started this morning with an interesting oatmeal. I say 'interesting' because it was sort of sticky, like Japanese mochi- I guess I know what I'll be making when I'm craving that!  The recipe looked like this:

1/2 cup Instant Oats
1 tablespoon Ground Psyillium husk
1 tablespoon Ground Flax seed

Mix that all up in a big bowl.  Add enough water to cover everything.  Pop it in the Micro for ~2:15 min.  Voila! Mochi-style oats! (?)

I topped it with 2 spoons of sliced almonds and a sprinkle of dried cranberries.  Normally I'd add a little sugar but I'm trying to slim down :P

I'm not sure that anyone is reading this blog yet but have a wonderful day!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Handling Big Goals

Sometimes there are big things we need to complete or accomplish -either because it's required by others or because we need to do it for ourselves.  When the task at hand is dauntingly big however, the pressure can escalate and can often be a bigger hindrance than a motivation to 'get-it-done.'  I am guilty of this on many occasions.  I can quickly get overwhelmed by the pressure I myself have put on this particular goal, and I instinctively run away from it.  Talk about counterproductive! 

Lately, I've noticed myself doing this over and over again- only to be further stressed by my procrastination.  (It's really a vicious cycle!)  I know I'm not the only one who gets this way, so I think it'd be a good idea to discuss different ways to handle these bigger, frequently seemingly-overwhelming, goals without getting drowned in the stress of it. 

Here are some steps:

1. List everything you have to do! 
Although this list might seem like it just further aggravates your stress, remember: we have to start somewhere. Unravelling the nervous bundle of 'things-to-do' that's snowballing in your head, is a great place to start.
2. Prioritize.  Which one is most pressing and important? Reorder accordingly.
3. Break down each goal.  Let's go through an example:
Example i) Goal: Complete application.
So, let's break it down: Start with dividing the application into parts.  Just focus on  completing just that ONE part at a time. Forget about the remaining sections while you're working on that one section.
4. Give yourself rewards.  At the completion of each goal, give yourself a reward.  They don't need to be expensive or time-consuming.  Examples include: A relaxing bubble bath while reading your magazines, a nap, a relaxing 20 min yoga video from iTunes, baking your favorite kind of cookies for yourself, or giving yourself a manicure/pedicure.
5. Cross each task off your "to-do list" as you go along.

Lastly, if you can't finish everything you want to today, don't beat yourself over it.  Just focus on each task at hand- not the whole list.  After all, life is not a short-distance race, it's a marathon!