Monday, April 21, 2014
I won't say I gave up refined carbs for Lent, since I am not Catholic, but I will say that I gave them up for approximately the 6 weeks before Easter in an effort to become more of what I believe God created me to be.
I'm a firm believer that God calls me to be a good steward of this body He has entrusted me with. The truth is that I hadn't been doing a good enough job of that in the eating department. I didn't particularly like the idea of giving up refined carbs (white flour, sugar, white rice, etc.), but I really did feel that to do so would do nothing but good things for my health, so I relented and committed.
I found myself surprised by a bunch of things in the process, and have arrived at a conclusion as a result. (You will probably guess the conclusion, but I'll save it for the end of this blog, anyhow.)
Surprise #1- Giving up refined carbs was not as hard as I thought it would be. I was anticipating/dreading horrible cravings and withdrawal-type symptoms. Really, these were minimal. This was a relief.
Surprise #2- I lost NO weight in the process. Some of you may recall that I'd started a "Journey to Size 6" blog series at the beginning of the year. In case you noticed it dropped off (only 1 person mentioned it), I stopped the series because a.) I was stuck at a plateau and I saw no reason to report the same results every week, and b.) I was giving up sugar and I didn't want to advertise it. To sound like a holy roller for just a minute, I wanted this to be between me and God, not something I used as a point in a blog. So I shut my yap and put my nose to the grindstone. Still, I thought by giving up such non-nutritive food I might have a weight loss to report, and I do not. I am EXACTLY the same weight that I was at the beginning of the 6-week period. Turns out, you can get ample calories without processed carbs. Imagine that!
Surprise #3- My joints didn't hurt as much. I have arthritis in a knee, and some aches and pains in my upper right side due to past injuries. (These have nothing to do with weight lifting, by the way. I always hurt myself by doing normal stuff like walking down the street or talking on the phone.) Anyhow, I started noticing about a week into my "no refined carbs" period that I wasn't aching as bad. It never went away entirely, since the arthritis and injuries will always be there, but dang! Did it get a LOT better! I started doing some research and turns out that arthritis is a inflammatory condition. As a matter of fact, most prior injuries are aggravated by inflammation. Refined carbs are inflammatory foods. So it makes perfect sense that my condition improved.
Surprise #4- There is sugar in all sorts of stuff I normally eat and consider healthy. Case in point: I was munching away on the organic whole-grain bread I always buy. Suddenly it occurred to me that it takes some kind of sugar, whether white or molasses, to feed yeast so that it can rise. I took a look at the bag and, sure enough, "Organic Cane Sugar" was listed in the ingredients. Dang. This meant that bread also exited my diet.
Surprise #5- Sugar-free "treats" (i.e. candy) give me gas. Not worth it. 'Nuff said.
Surprise #6- Fried foods don't necessarily contain refined carbs. I had pretty much given up fried foods prior to my "no refined carbs" implementation, but suddenly I found myself gleefully filling in the carb gap with french fries. Thankfully I was able to identify this as problematic and knock it off in fairly short order, but I can see where that could have caused me to emerge from this whole thing with diminished health and a higher body fat percentage.
If you are paying attention, you have noted that in addition to the refined carbs, I also wound up giving up bread, sugar-free "treats" (which really left me nowhere to go at the movies but water, since I also don't drink soda), and fried foods. My very satisfying consolation was that I knew none of these "sacrifices" were bad for me.
Surprise #7- My sleep improved. A LOT. I have often had issues with waking up in the middle of the night and not being able to get back to sleep for an hour or more. The only bonus to this is that I got a lot of recreational reading done. A few days into giving up refined carbs I was sleeping like a baby every night, not needing naps during the day (I used to nap like I was 85), and loving it! You know how much more you can get done when you aren't staggering through the day and have an entire extra hour in the afternoon to accomplish things? I didn't associate this with sugar until last night, which I will explain in the next paragraph.......
So, on Easter I allowed myself to eat refined carbs again. It actually kinda started the day before, because I was baking for Easter dinner and took a few licks and tastes. I could feel I was starting to mentally "let go", knowing that the next day I could eat whatever I wanted. That night I wasn't sleeping as soundly as usual and woke up several times aching where those old injuries are. I didn't make the connection until last night. I'd eaten plenty of goodies over Easter Sunday. My upper body was aching so bad that I went to bed thinking maybe I should have taken a Tylenol PM. I slept fitfully and finally woke up for real at 1:30am KNOWING I should have taken a Tylenol PM. The pain was easily twice what it had been the night before, and I was simply NOT sleepy. I read for at least an hour before I was able to go back to sleep.
And, turns out that when you haven't had refined carbs for a while they cause gas, too. I am certain that didn't help my sleep state, either.
So now I sit here, aching as I type, occasionally stopping to rub out or rotate my shoulder. I was hurting so bad when I woke up this morning that I foam rolled first thing. I almost lost my cookies when I lifted weights this morning, and all I had to eat for breakfast was the smallest bowl of oatmeal imaginable. I'm pretty sure that this is my digestive system continuing it's rebellion.
Obvious conclusion? I'm going back to my "no refined carbs" rule. I've always been able to reason myself out of things like drug use and bulimia (neither of which I have ever done) because I could see nothing truly good that would come of it other than momentarily pleasure or relief. The negatives far outweighed the benefits. And now I see the same applies to refined carbs.
Now, I'm not going to go checking Organic whole grain bread labels. But when it comes to things like desserts and white bread, it will do nothing but benefit me to cut them out of my diet almost completely. If something is new, or it's a holiday and I know I won't see this food for another year, I'll try taking just a bite or two so I have have a taste (I can't imagine not having tried the fabulous German chocolate our exchange student's family sent). Honestly, I could have done that yesterday and been just as happy and a lot less miserable.
My point is not that everyone should give up refined carbs. We each have our own fitness path. But maybe my experience can give someone else an "aha" moment and help them to avoid pain, too.
Tuesday, April 01, 2014
When doing ab curls on a stability ball (the big ones full of air), make sure you extend back over the curve of the ball, and only come up to where your head is just barely above parallel with the ground.
I see so many people start with their torso parallel with to ground (or higher!) and wind up almost sitting up on the ball at the top of the movement This pretty much negates the advantage of having a ball. You'd get a more intense ab contraction if you did regular ab curls on the ground.
Additionally, keep in mind that the closer together the legs are, the harder the move is. So legs together from heel all the way to upper inner thigh is the most advanced method of doing stability ball crunches.
Also, as with any ab exercise, keep the abs tight and engaged throughout the movement. When you don't let momentum take over and instead actively use muscle all the way through, the exercise becomes both more challenging and more effective.
Sunday, March 02, 2014
Most days I work out at the gym, but on Friday I was doing my "Strong Curves" workout at home. I have a rather unconventional set-up to make it work, and thought I'd take some pictures to show that you don't need extensive equipment or copious amounts of space to get a good workout in.
My exercise equipment has migrated it's way into my son's room. (Looks better in a boys room, as I am a very aesthetic person.) We have a "no shoes on the carpet" rule at our house that I try to follow. This wasn't a problem, since I rarely worked out at home.
When I started the "Strong Curves" program earlier this year it occurred to me that many of the workouts could be done at home. This was a savings in both the time and gas money departments. The only problem was, how was I going to manage without walking on the carpet much in my workout shoes?
Finally it hit me: The entry way! We have a pretty large entry, and it's accessible to my son's room though French doors. (His room is technically a "study".) Moving the weights (which only go up to 30 lbs, but can be a real hassle when I have to tote them), out to the entry isn't much work at all. For floor work where I need some "cush" under my upper body I lay on the carpet and put my feet on the hard floor. To keep the bench from scooting in moves that would push it around, like bench push-ups, I put it on the carpet. Additionally, there is a mirror in the entry that helps with checking my form.
Here's my "workout room" on Friday. Note the exercise ball peeking out from behind the hall table:
And here is the view from the entry into my son's bedroom, where you can see the positioning of my weight rack and it's adjacency to my "workout room":
And lastly, his room re-assembled with the bench holding his "stuff" and the weights all in place. The ball is kept in the closet:
With the glass panel in our front door I feel sorry for the UPS guy if he ever shows up while I'm lifting........
This is not my dream home-workout set-up. I'd like to have dumbbells through 75's, a barbell, weight plates, and a classic bench-press bench, at least. Oh, heck... The fact is that I wish I had an entire basement to set up a complete home gym with all kinds of equipment. Dream on, eh? But it's what we have space for, so I make it work.
The point is that you don't have to have an "ideal" set up to get fit. Maybe you don't have a space this big. I haven't always. In my house in Ohio, which was 1200 square feet with four bedrooms (yes, you read that right), I only had weights through 10 lbs and a very small living room. I scooted the coffee table out of the way and got busy exercising in that very limited space. Before I had weights, I worked out with cans from the cupboard.
Did you know that rear lunges, push-ups, and bicycle crunches makes a full-body workout in a 3x6-foot space? Try doing a circuit of those, 10 per set, 5 or 6 times and tell me you didn't get a great workout!
Here are a couple of blogs I did years ago about getting started with a home workout, if you want more:
This one is on Equipment To Start An At-Home Exercise Program:
And here is one on Getting Stared Lifting Weights:
You don't HAVE to have formal weights, a bench, and an exercise ball to get a good workout. You DO have to have a little ingenuity and determination. Look at it as a game. "How do I make this work?" instead of "This just can't work!".
As my fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Ladd, used to say. "Can't means won't".
Will you? Or won't you?
Thursday, February 27, 2014
Sooooo...... I just did a SparkPeople Radio interview and said I would put a template in for my grocery list. Well, it just figures that SparkBlogs don't let you upload documents. So I've done the next best thing and copied and pasted my grocery list here. Now the whole world gets to see our menu for this month. :-)
A few things to note:
1. Yes, I'm uber-organized. Call me OCD, if you'd like, but this makes menu planning and getting in and out of the store as quick and easy as possible for me.
2. My grocery list consists of two pages with two columns each. I need it this big, since I only do my "big shopping" once a month. I've indicated below what goes on which column.
3. In the radio interview I said that I shopped every 2 weeks. That was then, this is now. There used to be 9 people in our household and we got paid in the beginning and middle of the month. Now there are, on average, 4 people in the household and I get my portion of the household budget once a month. I'd rather just get it over in one fell swoop. (Side note- When I was shopping twice a month for 9 people, the grocery portion of the list was still about this same size. Can you imagine doing this every-other week?)
4. This is not the ONLY grocery buying I do. It's the stuff I can foresee needing at this point. We run out of fruit, milk, eggs, etc, and I have to run back to the store for them throughout the month.
5. You will note there are 15 meals planned. We typically go out for both lunch on Sundays after church, and pick my son (who is a mentally handicapped adult) up for dinner on Wednesdays (fast-food someplace where I can get a salad) before church. This leaves 22 nights in a 30 day month unaccounted for. But I've found that when I plan for every night I think we will be at home I always over-buy. It never fails: Not everyone is home, or we wind up going out for some reason, or there's a big "odds and ends" night (or two) to clear out perfectly good foods that aren't enough for a meal. (I heat it all up, set it out buffet-style, and we all dive for whatever we want before someone else gets it. Whatever doesn't get eaten gets pitched for once and for all. I've done this for years) 15 meals insures I don't overspend.
6. This list is for our local commissary. You will note I have what is on the aisle after the aisle number. After years of trying to recall which aisle the canned milk was on on, this made it easier for me to put the needed items in the right place and not be correcting my list in the store.
7. Yes, I plan on having "leftover" nights. I make enough to get us through 2 nights and then reheat the next night.
8. The numbers you'll see at the bottoms of the columns are the items in that column. I've found if I triple this, it gives me a rough estimate of how much the grocery list will cost.
9.This menu is NOT absolute! Anything is subject to change if I get to the store and see a really good deal on a healthy food. I'll scratch out something on the list and sub the better deal in.
10. Obviously, a pen comes with me and I cross items out as I put them in the cart. This makes sure I get it all. (I hate running back to the store for something I forgot!)
11. Yes, we have a pantry and a deep freeze. Without them, this much shopping would never work: The list would be shorter, and the shopping more frequent.
And now, without further ado:
Page 1 Column 1:
1.) Baked potato Bar w/
2.) Tuna Spaghetti w/ Angel hair and Kalamata Olives
3.) Honey Soy Marinated Tilapia
Creamy Avocado Pasta (x2)
4.) Southwest Turkey Meatballs (to try- use canned corn and tomatoes, parsley instead of cilantro)
5.) Pizza (Frozen- Yes, I let the kids have this once a month!)
6. 7.) Taco’s (2 ground beef, 2 cheese)
8.) Bean soup with ham and noodles
Bread machine wheat bread
9. 10.) Make-ahead Lasagna
Bread Machine Bread
11.) Broiled Tilapia Parmesan
White Beans, Spinach and tomatoes over linguini (to try folder)
13.) Bourbon St CP chicken (to try folder-x2)
14.) Easy Sweet & Sour chicken
Chow Mein noodles
15.) Sandy’s Casserole (To try folder)
Page 1 Column 2:
2 parmesan cheese
4 baking potato
10 ounce bag spinach
Aisle 2- (baking, sauces)
Peanut Butter- Girls
Smart balance mayo
Baking coconut oil
My coconut oil
8 ounce bottle Russian dressing
Large sliced olives
Aisle 3- (soup, fruits, veggies, meat, Italian, milk)
Pears in fruit cups
1 jar spaghetti sauce
Angel hair pasta
12 ounces linguini
9 ¼ ounce tuna
2 cans diced tomatoes w/basil, garlic & oreg
2 cans white beans
Onion soup mix
Small Whole-Grain Elbow macaroni
2 large cans chicken
2 cream chicken soup
Can sliced mushrooms
2 large evaporated skim milk
Page 2 Column 1:
Aisle 4- (Ethnic, milk, rice, beans, coffee, candy, toppings)
Bag white beans
Chow mein noodles
Aisle 5- (breakfast, juice)
Small apple juice
Aisle 6- (crackers, cookies, bars, soda, popcorn)
Aisle 7- (Snacks, chips, water, batteries, light bulbs)
3 pounds lean ground beef (1, 2)
2 1/2-3 lbs boneless skinless chicken breast
1 ground turkey breast
12 boneless chicken thighs
Aisle 8- H&B aids-
Aisle 9-(Baby, TP/paper towels, tape, dish)
12 Toilet Paper
Regular dish detergent
Page 2 Column 2:
Aisle 10 (laundry, cleaning, paper, pet treats)
Aisle 11- (deli, dog food)
Ham for soup
Back wall dairy-
15 ounce ricotta
Organic half and half
1 gal milk
Side wall dairy-
6 greek Yogurt
1 String cheese
1 Cheddar sticks
5 C shredded cheddar (1,2, 2)
4 C shredded mozzarella (4)
Tilapia- 2 nights
Easter basket Stuff
I hope this is found helpful!
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