21 Day Fix: Round 1 (-3.9 pounds, -7 inches)

The program suggests writing down your reasons for wanting to make a lifestyle/health/fitness change. My reason, aside from my overall health (which to date doesn’t seem to be much of a motivator, just something that bounces around in my head), are my nieces and nephew. I need the energy and fitness to keep up with them. I need my health so I am around to witness all their amazing life milestones. And I want to be another good example for them (I’m the ONLY unfit, overweight person in our family).

Back in August I picked up the 21 Day Fix program after hearing great things about it from several friends I trust. I dove right into the eating plan (portion control and “real” foods are the primary focus), but I never really got going with the workouts. Then a friend put together a “challenge” group on Facebook. It’s all about support, encouragement, and the real biggy….accountability. I did it! Successfully even. So here are my thoughts and lessons learned.

First, the program as a whole:

The premise is that it takes 21 days to learn a new habit (better fitness/better eating). I love it. The eating plan isn’t a “diet”. It focuses solely on portion control and types of foods and also helps show you how to spread it out over the course of a day. The idea being that these foods and this plan isn’t something to wean off of or change at the end of the program…it is a lifestyle change to stick with forever. For me, the types of food were easy. I already eat healthful, real foods. It was the balance and portion control I needed to work on (less cheese and spread it out through the day, not all at dinner time).

The workouts are tough, but scalable. 30 minutes, every day (seven days per week). Me being a 110% couch potato could muddle my way through each one, adjusting and modifying as I needed to to accommodate my ability level and some old injuries I need to take care around. And as I got (and continue to get) stronger, I can increase the intensity. Hand weights or resistance bands are the only required equipment. Even I can find 30 minutes in a day, and I’m the Queen of Excuses!

My Round One Results:

Back in August I weighed in at 215.4 lbs and just following the eating plan (which, by the way was MORE food than I had been eating) I lost five pounds. I’d also like to note that while that weight makes me sick to look at, it isn’t the heaviest I’ve been, but seems to be about where I’ve stabilized at for many years now.

The official results for the full 21 day challenge program (starting Aug 31): -3.9 pounds and -7 inches!!!

210.4 to 206.5 lbs, -2 inches in my chest, -4 inches in my waist!!, -1 inch across my hips, and -0.5 inches from my thighs. No measurable change in my arms, but I can SEE and feel the muscles building there.

Lessons Learned:

  • I am stronger than I think I am. Both physically and mentally.
  • I am grateful for my genes and my inherited flexibility…even though I’ve got more to go, I started from a lucky place.
  • I really do need to be careful of a couple old injuries (wrist and ankle), and it is OK if I can’t do all the moves (full planks and push-ups, or moves based from that position, probably won’t ever work for me)…it is OK to find other moves that work!
  • I love rowing – I will be forever grateful to the trainer I went to many years ago who introduced me to rowing.
  • I am worth the effort!
  • I miss cheese and beer…after more progress is made, these will be worked back in in greater quantities! Life is too short to completely give up indulgences you love…within reason.

I feel amazing!!! I still have a long way to go…50 pounds (give or take – I’m not set on an actual “goal” number, but set one as a general target to give me something specific to aim for). I owe a lot of my success to the fabulous women in the challenge group. No judgment. We all had our struggles. And we are all successes.

The next challenge group starts Oct 5th and you can bet I’ll be participating! It’s time to step it up a notch. I’ll be adding 30min of rowing three days a week and three days will include the 10min Abs workout that comes with the 21DF program. I will be working these changes in between now and the 5th…no losing momentum and undoing progress now! I’ll be checking back in toward the end of October with (hopefully) more good results.

Bloody Mary

I have made a concerted effort to cut back on beer. The roadblock with this is that I don’t particularly love wine and I am not much of a hard alcohol drinker. Don’t get me wrong, I will drink most adult beverages in the right setting, but beer has always been my go-to drink of choice. And not that sissy light beer stuff. I love the amber ales. And it goes directly to my belly. How I managed to avoid the “freshman fifteen” in college with my love of beer I will never know, but I wish I had retained that ability!

Recently I discovered I love Bloody Marys. But only when made a certain way. Spicy, but not too spicy and thick. I hate them if they are too watery. And I don’t like them with meals – they are an ‘on their own’ drink. I finally got brave and started making my own and have come up with a recipe that does it for me.

In the perfect sized glass (I have some plastic tumblers I got for the patio that are the perfect mixing size – no idea how much they hold):

  • 5 big dashes of Worcestershire sauce
  • 4 dashes of Tabasco
  • a dollop of horseradish
  • celery salt
  • fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 shots of Absolut Peppar vodka
  • Fill the glass with Harris Teeter’s organic tomato juice
  • garnish with 2 hot okra pickles, or olives stuffed with garlic and jalapeños, or with traditional celery, or pretty much any other pickled vegetable (or if I make it a meal, all of the above!)

Mix well.

Oh and everything going into the glass needs to be nice and cold. Vodka from the freezer, garnishes and juice from the fridge.

The best part is that one drink satisfies me unlike with beer where I would have at least two, maybe more, and I get my vitamin C for the day to boot. We’ll see with time if this helps fight the battle of the belly bulge. Sure, I could just stop drinking all together, but where’s the fun in that?

Um…hello?

Wow. I half expected to see cobwebs hanging off the page and all when I logged into this site today. Needless to say, it’s been a while.

My life exploded.

Nope. That isn’t right. It deflated. Everything that has happened has been a long time coming, but I really wasn’t expecting it to end the way it did (my relationship, that is). Or as suddenly as it did. It was sort of like a bouquet of cut flowers – they are dying from the get-go, but you don’t really notice they are wilting at first. And you can always sort of pick out the early faders to keep the vase looking good. But then one day, you go to add some water to it and wham. All the flowers are dead, petals everywhere and that’s it. It’s done.

Immediately following the sudden deflation of my personal life, I acquired three tiny kittens. They were around three weeks old – eyes open, ears just opening, definitely nowhere near being weaned. My neighbor found them at a job site and they couldn’t be left where they were due to construction. No sign of momma cat and he knew a shelter would have put them down. So, sucker that I am, I said, “Bring them here.” (It didn’t help that he sent me a picture of them – all three solid white fuzzballs).

Rooty (named so because he loved to root around), Patch (named because we thought he might lose an eye; thankfully, he won’t), and The Princess (she just is). Initially we had all sorts of issues. Fleas,eye infections/ulcers, dehydration, and  terrible constipation. The constipation was so extreme that I had to be taught by my vet how to give them kitty enemas at home (don’t ask – thank the skies it is over). Now everyone is healthy with the exception that both Patch and TP are going to need reconstructive eye surgery. They both have eyelid agenesis (coloboma). Essentially they are missing part of their eyelids. If they do not have the surgery they will go blind even with eye drops administered every few hours ever day of their lives. So, for now they get drops every 2-3 hours and three times a day also antibiotic ointment to stave off infections from the irritation from dryness and their fur rubbing against their eyes. In the spring we’ll do the surgery. Now if I can just get TP to wean.

Then there is Moo. The same weekend the kittens showed up, she decided to grab the brand new bottle of her allergy medicine off the kitchen counter and eat it. A 30 day supply. She almost died. Phone calls to the ASPCA animal poison control hotline, a trip to the emergency vet, and a very scary couple days. She is fine now and I am much more careful about putting everything away.

There’s my list of excuses. I have been mentally shutting down the past several months, but this past month in particular has been close to full-on hibernation. I’m working on it. Picking myself back up. Getting into a new routine. Don’t even get me started on my lack of eating and the poor nutrition of the crap I do eat. Maybe tonight I will be able to make myself cook something. Maybe in another few weeks I will even have the energy to think about exercising again. At least the thoughts are there…the actions will follow.

Homemade Pasta Sauce (Tomato based)

Easy peasy lemon squeezy…as the kid in the movie last night said.

The other night I had a craving for pasta, but no sauce in the house. Then I took a second look at what I did have in the cupboards and realized I could throw together my own sauce.

A can of diced tomatoes (sadly there are not enough ripe tomatoes on the plants yet for sauce, but that day is coming quickly!) with the juice, a can of tomato paste, two cans of sliced mushrooms with the juice, and a scoop of minced garlic (to taste – you can use fresh garlic, however I had a had of prepared garlic on hand) – dump it all in a large pan and heat it up. Season with thyme, basil, oregano, etc. Whatever floats your boat in that category…I used an Italian herb mix I had on hand and then tossed in some fresh thyme from the garden. Add water as needed to get the right consistency and voilà! Tomato based pasta sauce.

Next time I am going to add red pepper flakes to it.

To beef up the sauce for a meal I added a zucchini, yellow summer squash, and some chicken andouille sausage. Then I topped it all off with some fresh shaved parmesan Reggiano.

It was darn tasty if I do say so…I need to work on adjusting the seasonings a bit, but that is all personal preference in my book. And it definitely would have been better with garden fresh tomatoes. The major up-side to throwing together your own sauce is the lack of unnecessary additions to the recipe. No oils, no extra fats, no added sugars.

Oh yeah, and it made fabulous left-overs. I might just have the last of it for lunch!

One last thought about food…for now

Read the Label: This always seems like common sense to me, but I realize that I am not always that good about doing this. If you don’t already read labels on packaged foods you might be surprised at what gets crammed into the most innocuous of items. That can of green beans might not be just beans. Most pre-packaged foods need to be preserved for longer shelf-life. That usually means lots of additives, sometimes chemical, sometimes natural, almost always with insane amounts of salt. And then there is the other random garbage that I struggle to understand why the makers thought it belonged in that particular package. Case in point: take a look at what is in those flavored coffee creamers in the grocer’s cooler (or better yet, at what is in the “original” non-flavored ones). And now you know why I stick to plain old organic half and half to put in my morning caffeine fix. I’d rather intake a little more fat from a natural source than drink all the garbage in those creamers just to cut a few fat calories…and with the added sugar in those creamers, I probably still come out ahead with the half and half. Hmmm…now I am going to have to go test that theory. And if I am realllllllly trying to be good and cut the fat, then I use non-fat organic milk.

Ice cream. That’s another one that sneaks in all kinds of crazy stuff. Whatever happened to just freezing some milk, sugar, cream and flavors? Maybe include eggs of it is custard based. Thank goodness Haagen-Dazs has come out with a line called ‘Five‘ – just five ingredients. You don’t get all the crazy fancy flavors, but it is pretty darn good for store-bought ice cream.

And bread…since when does bread need so many ingredients? Call me old-fashioned, but I love me some basic crusty, yeasty bread.

Juices! Check those labels for sure. Especially anything that indicates it is “flavored”. While I don’t prefer juice that comes from concentrate, I am OK with that. It is the ones that only end up having a small amount of real juice in the beverage and then a ton of other stuff.

At any rate, there are some pretty decent pre-packaged food options out there for people like me who have a life where it isn’t always feasible to keep fresh foods on-hand. You just have to read a lot of labels to find them. My goal with pre-packaged foods is to be able to pronounce the majority of the items on the label and understand (at a very high level) what all the items are.

Food Stuff

Recently I have seen lots of random postings and articles about food, eating, dieting…you name it. I overhear conversations about diets folks are on. My trainer even gives me random tid-bits of advice about nutrition. All of it has made me once again take a look at my views on food and nutrition. My journey is an adventure to get healthy. In the process I expect to lose some weight (a lot of weight, actually) and get much, much more fit than I am. But neither of those things is my end goal. My end goal is to feel good and some crazy diet isn’t going to do that for me. So here’s my take on food:

Buy Local: I don’t take this to any extremes, but I do have a small garden. I shop at the local farmer’s market, and I try to buy foods that come from my state/region if not from right down the road. Does this mean I never buy exotic fruits or veggies that don’t grow around here? Heck no! Some of that stuff is mighty, mighty tasty and I want it.

Organic: Let me be clear – I do not think organic foods are more nutritious than traditionally grown foods (this seems to be the basis for many arguments around organic foods which makes absolutely no sense to me). That being said, I try to buy organic foods when possible to avoid ingesting any more chemicals than I already do. With meats and eggs I try to buy free range and grass-fed. This is where the local farmer’s market comes into play – you can talk to the people who raise the food. Find out what their practices are. Just because they are not certified organic does not mean that they don’t have the same or higher standards. Getting certified is expensive and a general pain and many smaller farms simply can’t or don’t want to go through the process.

Eat Real Food: I have heard variations on this in “diet” form that go to some extremes (paleo diets, eating “clean”, biblical diets, etc.). The gist of all of them, though, is to eat real, whole foods and remove processed “fake” foods. The second part to this is don’t kill your food cooking it. Overcooked food loses nutritional value not to mention it just tastes yucky. I try to avoid fried foods. Again, am I always very good at it? I live in the South…eating fried foods is nearly unavoidable, but I try to keep it to a very bare minimum. (I mean seriously, have you ever had a deep-fried Twinkie??? Nutritional value: zero. Taste value: off the charts!)

General Nutrition: I eat red meat. And I don’t just eat it, I love it! But I also eat a lot of fish and chicken and occasionally pork. With all my meats I try to eat lean cuts and trim almost all the excess fat from them. A note about fish (specifically salmon): I will only eat wild-caught Alaskan/pacific salmon. The Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch list’s best choice items are a good, easy way to find sustainable fish and seafood with healthy populations. I also eat a lot of vegetables. I am even growing some of my own this year (squash, tomatoes, cucumbers, several herbs, and I am trying a watermelon and a cantaloupe). I need to cut back on the amount of butter I use. I drink regular old cow milk (organic, but if I could get it, I would drink raw milk without a doubt!). I try to avoid refined sugars and flours. I eat cheese. I drink boat-loads of water.

Moderation: This is key. Every diet on the face of the planet (and I mean “diet” as in the crazy plans people come up with to shed pounds) relies on cutting calories. If you’re already eating real foods and not fast foods or pre-packaged processed stuff, etc. then it all comes down to portion size. Limit your fats and sugars, up your quantities of veggies, and make sure you get enough protein.

Exercise: Food alone will not make you healthy. You’ve gotta move. And I don’t mean any sort of hard-core regimen. Just move. Walk the dogs. Mow the lawn with a push mower. Go play in the park with the kids. Take your significant other out on a hike. But be and stay active.

So there you have it. I don’t have any goals to win body-building championships or medals for finishing first in a marathon. I don’t need (or want) to look like a runway model or some Hollywood superstar. I don’t want to eat just protein shakes or cabbage soup or some other limiting, boring and unsustainable diet only to gain all the pounds back as soon as I return to eating normally. I just want to be healthy and feel good and maybe live a year or two longer because I worked at it a bit.

I feel good!

Sore, but good. I lasted a whole five-and-a-half minutes on the elliptical machine today. What is even more impressive is that I didn’t feel like passing out, falling over from jello legs, or like throwing up when I was done. That’s some serious progress for me.

After that five-plus minutes of hell we moved onto legs, core, and shoulder work.

The garden is growing fast and I’ve already started harvesting some squash and herbs, so that has made preparing dinner more fun (and healthy)! I even got to use my kaffir lime tree leaves in some chicken curry I made the other night (I also used my first zucchini in that dish). Tonight I am trying out a yellow zucchini from my neighbor’s garden. It is not a summer squash, but an actual, yellow zucchini. I’ve never heard of them before so we shall see what it tastes like.

Just two more weeks of travel to finish up my old job responsibilities and then moving on to the new ones. There will be some travel in July and August for training – even so, it will be nice to have a different destination activity for those trips and not the same old thing I’ve done the past seven or so years. In the meantime we have done some marathon interviewing of new candidates for our team and I think have found some strong ones. Fingers crossed that the next level of interviews goes well for them.

My niece turns one on Saturday! I can’t believe it has already been a year and I am really looking forward to seeing her and my nephew in August.

That’s all for now…time to get back to the required online training I have to take now that I am officially a “manager”. *sigh*