Observations As of Late

Hey kids. I know I’ve been pretty MIA lately and I apologize. I have had a very busy and eventful social life lately that has kept me from being able to be alone with my thoughts about healthy living and eating these days. The truth is, it seems my immune system has decided to slow me down lately and I’ve had to take it easy this last week or so. It could be a combination of a cold and new allergens permeating my sinuses but I have had low energy and have needed to rest more than anything. So I’ve been listening to my body and taking her cues and taking it easy. My daily workouts last week were daily walks during my lunch hour and I did manage to get to the gym once and actually ran on the treadmill. Surprisingly, however, I didn’t feel as completely renewed and awesome as I usually do after a workout and that all led to my taking a sick day on Thursday when I woke up feeling horrible.

All of this is to say that I’m doing quite well despite feeling so icky lately. I’m not ignoring the signs my body is sending and today is actually the first day in quite a few where I can say I woke up feeling energized so I’m happy about that. Eating hasn’t been nutritionally great but I have noticed a few things this past week that are sure-fire signs that I’m a changed woman!

1. I don’t feel much like grazing throughout the day anymore: I used to be such a huge snacker but nowadays, I’ve been pretty content with 3 meals a day and nothing in between besides water or tea. That’s a huge change for me compared to where I was last year when I always felt like a bottomless pit without a good excuse to be (read: I wasn’t exercising). This leads me to my next observation:

2. I don’t get hung up on food anymore: Not every meal HAS to be this monumental event of colors, flavors and tastes. Sure, I would love it if every meal was like that but if I’m just having oatmeal today or a sandwich for lunch, I’m cool with it as long as my hunger is satiated and I can keep functioning normally. In other words, eating is no longer an emotional event for me. This. is. huge.

3. My mind has slowed its obsession over my weight: I constantly thought about weight loss. My mind was a run on sentence of “Calories in, calories out. Need to work out. Did I pack enough vegetables? Did I eat enough fruit today? My daughter needs new shoes. Forgot to call the dentist. When will I run again? I hope I lost more weight this week. What will I do if I didn’t lose weight?” It was exhausting and at times, scary obsessive.  I know that weight management and healthy eating is a lifestyle but when you’re in the process of losing a lot of weight before you go into maintenance mode, these thoughts are ever present and they can consume you. Now that I’ve opted for a simpler approach to get to my goals and also, I chose to practice Scale-Less September, I’m feeling less obsessed and more action-oriented. It’s like I’ve crossed over to another realm where I am actively making better choices because I enjoy them not just because I’m trying to lose weight.

So that’s where I’m at right now and I’m feeling pretty good about it. I am going to start getting back into the gym this week, especially since this week on Brooke Not On A Diet’s Back to Basics challenge, we are to focus on incorporating more exercise into our day. Perfect timing since I really need to get my rear in gear again! What are you going to challenge yourself to get back into this week? What have you observed has changed for you throughout your journey to a healthier life?

❤ M.

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Introducing: Scale-Less Septemeber!

If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you might have noticed that I’ve started a new challenge: Brooke Not On A Diet’s Back To Basics Challenge! This challenge, put together by the incredible Brooke Birmingham is meant to get us all back to the very basics of weight loss and fitness. Each week, Brooke will introduce a new topic that will help us focus on getting back to basics. This week, it’s Improving Spaces (a topic borrowed from the Weight Watchers 360 plan). I’m happy to say that I’ve pretty much done all of the steps she includes in her post over the last year or so, especially improving my work space. In case you missed it, here’s a picture of my snack drawer and standing desk!

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Also, I work out at work Monday-Friday every week, so I would say that work is where the magic mostly happens!

For my own personal goals this month, I wanted to work on focusing on my healthy eating and fitness. For this challenge, Brooke set up a private Facebook group and that is where I have outlined my two biggest goals:

1. Get into the next size down in clothes

2. Go SCALE-LESS for all of September and keep track of my progress by taking my measurements instead

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The second goal has been well received in the #WWBTB group! Since I posted my idea to go scale-less this morning, I’ve had 6 others get in on it too. Imagine NOT stepping on a scale for an entire month while still keeping up the same amount of fitness and healthy eating that has helped me be successful! I can’t wait to see what the results will be. And even if the scale doesn’t move much, as long as I’m getting workouts and nutrition in, it will be a successful month either way!

So no more weigh-in’s for the rest of the month! My last one was for this morning to end my Diet Bet. I didn’t win, I was 2 lbs short but the good news is that I lost 7 lbs since the initial weigh-in of the bet so I really can’t complain!

❤ M.

Weekly Weigh-In: What What!

Oh heck yes. I finally hit 40 lbs lost! Not only that, I hit 41.2 lbs lost this week! I have been waiting for this moment since I started this journey last November. I pretty much feel like this guy right now (click on it for the full effect):

kermie1

Hitting this milestone means a lot to me. My current weight is now lower than it was my senior year of college which is also when the slippery slope in my weight gain began. Now that I know that I can hit such a big milestone, I have no other reason to not believe that I can ultimately reach my goal some day. Life may get in the way at times, there will be more parties, barbecues, greasy food cravings and other temptations of the sort but all along, I’ve managed to chug forward and now I’m happy to say I am almost halfway to a personal weight goal.

I know I have never shared my actual weight on my blog and I’m still not ready to do it tonight but I am ready to say that when I reach the number I have in mind, I will have lost 87 lbs. That’s a huge goal and it will be quite the journey but to say that I am just about halfway there is really exciting and I’m taking a moment to celebrate!!

But like I said, each day has it’s struggles. Last night for dinner, I had a burger and sweet potato fries. Normally, I wouldn’t even mention this since everything else I ate yesterday was healthy and on point and not even my dinner put me over my daily calories (because I ate the calories I burned working out) but it was today that was where I really slipped up. I might see a pound or two creep back up after today’s lunch nachos ( I know, I know). I messed up there so I’ll be fighting back with work outs, veggies and water galore the rest of this week. I am just 2 pounds from winning my Diet Bet and I’m determined to get there! Labor Day will be a challenge but mancakes and I are going to focus on making healthier options for the little cook out we’ll be having this weekend.

Here are a few of our go-to grilling out recipes we have grown to love!

Avocado Crostini

Fresh Herb Potato Salad (Warning: This is Thug Kitchen, there’s a LOT of cursing but it’s worth it!)

We marinate chicken with the piccata marinade in this recipe and grill it

Let me know what you think if you try any of these out!

❤ M.

Suggestion Box: Meal Planning

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On occasion, I get questions from readers and Facebook fans asking what I eat and how I plan my meals. If I had to say what has allowed me to be successful with my weight loss, my number 1 answer has been planning ahead.

Like many others who have battled or continue to battle obesity, I used to have a huge problem with feeling like I was in control. I used to believe that poor eating and inactivity was something that happened to me because I didn’t have much time or I was on the road a lot (which was true about my first full time job), or I didn’t have the money for healthy foods or a gym membership or I didn’t think my partner would want to try healthy foods with me.  Well that was all a load of b.s. and when I began this journey last November, I realized that it was because I had no structure to my eating/cooking and fitness that I was unable to control my weight. I wasn’t making intentional choices about what I consumed therefore, I naturally had no sense of control. But to be on a plan like WW, or Paleo, or calorie counting, etc. you have to plan! Otherwise, it won’t work.

So Casa Unfluff did a massive overhaul of the way we planned meals and did our grocery shopping. At first, I had just joined Weight Watchers and I had access to new recipes, resources and a list of Power Foods. We started picking a few recipes a week to focus on and then filling in with snacks and easy to pack lunch options. This brings me to my first tip:

  • Don’t just plan your grocery list around what you’ll cook at home. Also include the food you will consume outside your home. This includes snacks, lunches and beverages. The idea here is that if you have pre-portioned, ready to go foods that are within your points/calories goals, it is much harder to get derailed by making last minute choices to eat out. Also, healthier snacks that keep you full means less grabbing of the office donuts or running next door for a bagel. Investing in items like travel lunch bags or coolers, water bottles and even plates and utensils you’ll leave at the office should be considered too. Here’s a picture of my drawer at work where I store my food related goodies looks like:

    measuring cups for portion sizes, snacks, tea and coffee, and you can’t see it but there’s even a cheap veggie peeler at the bottom for my bag ‘o carrots in the fridge!
  • When it comes to planning out your meals and snacks, think quality over quantity. aim for high protein, high fiber foods. These will keep you fuller longer! Here are my go-to snacks:
        • Hard-boiled eggs
        • Almonds
        • Non-Fat Greek Yogurt
        • Whole wheat toast with Peanut Butter and Banana slices
        • Oatmeal
        • String Cheese
        • Hummus and veggie sticks

Planning meals doesn’t always come easy, though! It takes a bit of coordination.

  • If you are very busy, have kids, or just need help learning more about cooking healthier recipes, consider trying out a meal planning service. Here are a few I like:

Unfluffers, you know I ADORE The Fresh 20 plan. It is the number one viewed post on this blog! Lately, we’ve been on a F20 hiatus because sometimes the meals take a while to cook and mancakes and I are pooped after work and starving and can’t wait until 7 to eat. But after following a gazillion F20 recipes for close to 5 months straight using wholesome ingredients, little to no fat and added sodium, we have been able to carry that on in our normal, day to day cooking. E-Meals is another great option that also gives you the ability to select meal plans for 1-2 people if you’re single or just live with one other person.

We’ve been using SkinnyTaste for all our meals these days. F20 also taught us to try and coordinate our grocery list so we don’t end up with a ton of extra ingredients we won’t use again that week and that’s what we try to do now with all of our meal planning. ST also has a crockpot recipe section on there which is a lifesaver most days when we are too busy to cook after work. If you want to follow a specific plan based on a certain amount of daily caloric intake, SparkPeople.com lets you choose meal plans too and it’s Free!!! So bottom line:

  • If you don’t know how to plan your meals, invest in a meal plan service that will teach you how.

Finally:

  • Set a grocery budget and stick with it

If you haven’t picked up on it yet, the theme of this post is plan, plan, plan! Plan the amount of money you would like to spend because I’ll tell you now it is reeeeally easy to spend a lot of money on groceries! You don’t have to spend a ton of money to eat healthy, but you do need to set a limit so things don’t get out of control. Here are a few ways to save at the register:

  • Plan meals around what’s in season. In-season produce is less expensive! If you can get to a farmer’s market, you’ll save even more money on locally-grown, fresh produce
  • Save money on meats like chicken by buying whole breasts and learn how to de-bone them.
  • When meat goes on sale, stock up, portion servings out and freeze them!
  • Make your own broths and sauces. You’ll know what’s actually in your sauces and broths with less sugar and sodium than the canned/bottled stuff. If you bought the aforementioned bone-in meat, save the bones and scraps to make chicken broth. You can freeze those parts for up to 9 months or until you have enough to make broth. Also, you’ll get way more volume for your buck! A bag of organic carrots at Trader Joe’s is $0.89, an onion $0.50, celery $1.79. Plus water and saved chicken breast parts? You’ll have a gallon of broth for pennies. Here’s a vegetable broth recipe I love: Homemade Vegetable Broth
  • Make recipes in bulk to cover more than one meal throughout the week. I do this with crockpot recipes. One pot of this Santa Fe Chicken will feed a family of 4 at least twice, if not 3 times. I STILL have some in the freezer.
  • That reminds me: freeze your leftovers! Soups, stews, pastas, lasagnas, casseroles. These are all great dishes to freeze. Do this if you know for a fact that you won’t eat all your leftovers. Take them for lunch as needed and they should thaw out in the fridge enough by the time you need to nuke it.

Well, that about covers it for me! What tricks work for you when it comes to meal planning?

Suggestion Box: Getting Started with a Health-Conscience Lifestyle

So lately, I have been getting questions about, well, everything in relation to Project Unfluff. Tips on ways to incorporate better eating into every day, advice on starting Weight Watchers, suggestions on packing snacks and also my list of health and fitness apps I use every day. Soooo, I’ve decided to start-up a series of posts called Suggestion Box. As questions come in (hint hint, ask me stuff yo!), I will be sure to answer you right away but then carry it over to more detailed and organized posts so that they can be a reference to you all.

Real quick though: please keep in mind that I am not an expert! I dont’ have any certifications or training in nutrition or fitness. I’m just a girl trying to lose weight the old-fashioned way: healthy eating + exercise. I will say this though, I don’t believe in quick fixes so meal replacement shakes/bars/overall gimmicks are not my thing and on the flip side, I cannot afford an all-organic, paleo-ish lifestyle. I stick to fresh ingredients whenever possible and whole grains. I track my food and calculate points through weight watchers. I exercise 5 days a week now and all of those things combined have attributed to my success thus far.

Alright, glad I got that out of the way. Now onto my first Suggestion Box!

Tips on Getting Started With a Health-Conscience Lifestyle!

The first step to doing anything about changing your habits is to first acknowledge that you’re ready to change. Willingness to change goes a long way to really pushing through your first few hurdles. It’s not easy to acknowledge that you’ve had bad habits for so long. At first you might feel a mixture of shame, doubt, fear and maybe frustration. If you have a houseful of people who partake in the same lifestyle, these first few steps can be especially hard when they are not on board with you. Hang in there, remember that you gotta start doing these things for you if you really want to change!

1. Start tracking: before you make any dramatic changes, take a few days or even a week to just track what you eat. You can do this by grabbing a blank journal, opening a notebook app on your phone or downloading a tracking tool that can also calculate the calories you consume. I like MyFitnessPal or LoseIt. You will be amazed at how unaware you are about how much you eat, what you eat and how often you eat. And when I say track everything I do mean everything like that do-nut hole you grabbed this morning at work, that fun size bag of m&m’s you popped open after lunch, that large mocha with whip for your afternoon caffeine fix. If you’re tracking calories too, you might see some jaw dropping numbers. It’s ok, don’t be ashamed. The point is that you are becoming more self-aware. In fact after a day or two of tracking, you will more than likely start making better choices now that you’re putting more thought into it.

2. Start doing your research: What makes food nutritious? Why does every health expert want you to chug water and eat fruits and veggies all day long? Why is soda so bad for you? If it’s your first time around the health block, I’m sure you know that there are foods and drinks that are unhealthy but have you ever stopped to find out why? Do you know what a healthy daily intake of fats, sugars, calories, protein and fiber looks like? Do you know the difference between a healthy fat and a bad fat? Do you know how to read nutrition labels and what appropriate portion sizes look like? If not, it’s time you start finding out. Sure grapes are healthier than candy but if you think eating a 2 pound bag of them in one day is a health move, you might want to learn more about the do’s and don’ts of healthy eating. Here are a few websites to get you started:

HelpGuide.org

LiveStrong.com

ChooseMyPlate.org

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Portion Chart Using Your Hands! Cool Stuff.

3. Makeover your pantry and your refrigerator  I cannot stress this enough! Whenever anyone asks me how we got started with healthier eating, I say the same thing: clean out your pantry and your fridge first then restock with fresh and whole foods. We really started doing this when we started the Fresh 20. The plan has a list of pantry staples you always keep in stock like brown rice, whole wheat flour, olive and grapeseed oils (both healthy oils), low-sodium chicken broth, whole wheat pastas, and spices. The rest of the ingredients you get for your recipes are then the 20 fresh ingredients you combine with your pantry staples each week. This is a pretty good model to follow because you can do the same thing like check your grains and switch them out for whole wheat alternatives. Chuck the vegetable oil for canola, olive and grapeseed oil. Get rid of the chips, cookies, sodas, packaged foods and replace them with fresh produce, nuts, non-fat greek yogurt, pretzels and low-fat dips.

4. Eat real food! Look, it’s easy to feel deprived in the beginning. In fact, you will more than likely have symptoms of withdrawal, much in the same way drug addicts experience discomfort when they stop using. If you are coming out of years of eating sweets and drinking sodas, you will get headaches and the shakes from consuming less sugar. Same with  cutting back on caffeine. If you’re used to a very high fat, high sodium diet, you will feel like nothing you eat satisfies your hunger because you’re pulling your body out of an overly indulgent diet that has adapted to rich meals. I’m not saying you can’t have any of those things at all but I am saying that you will need to cut back and fill up on the healthier alternatives until it becomes second nature. It will take a while, but a banana and string cheese as a snack will do the trick once you adapt.

It’s also time to start cooking differently. Not everything has to be pre-packaged, fried or covered in cheese to taste good. Learning how to use spices and herbs to flavor food will help you enjoy your meals without feeling deprived. Learn how to make your favorite things using skinny recipes. I promise you that once you let yourself go through withdrawal  you’ll start to enjoy the taste of fresher, whole foods. Here are a few websites we use on a weekly basis for healthier recipes that have not let us down once:

Skinnytaste

Aggies Kitchen

TheFresh20

HungryGirl (featured on Weight Watchers e-tools)

5. Everything in moderation: If you have a daily soda habit then start small or you really will have a terrible time coming out of it. If you have a soda with every meal then start taking one away a day. One can of regular soda has 39 g of sugar and 140 calories. If you had 7 less sodas your first week, you will cut back on 980 calories and 273 g of sugar that week. That’s almost 2 quarter pounders with cheese or 70 OREOS! The same rule applies with adding exercise into the mix. If you’re truly starting from scratch with a healthy lifestyle, a diet makeover and daily exercise will be too much all at once and will overwhelm you. Get exercise where you can at first like taking the stairs at work or taking a lunch time walk. Over time, start challenging yourself to do more but again, all in moderation! Oh and eat a sweet or consume a glass of wine at list once a week! Indulge, please. You will lose your mind if you go cold turkey and besides, you’ll learn what a real treat is again when you’re having it less.

6. Finally, find a support system! I’m going to tell you something painfully honest right now: you might be the only one in your household that may want to change. Your partner, your kids, your parents, your friends etc. might not be on board right away. This can be really challenging because it makes you feel like you’re trying to swim upstream but you’re doing this for you! So if you don’t have support at home, look for other sources of support. Weight Watchers offers weekly meetings so that you can meet other people in the same boat. Sparkpeople.com is an incredible FREE resource that provides tracking tools, meal plans, exercise videos and a huge online weight loss community. Facebook, twitter and blog sites have been a great source of community and support for me and have kept me so very motivated and has held me accountable. Now in my case, I have always had the support from my partner and my family, but I’m an extravert and I get my energy from people so for me, the more people, the merrier! Since I launched this blog and my Facebook Fan Page, I have found a home where I can share my experiences, look for advice and share information that can help others get started too! We are out here and we are ready to cheer your fluffy butt on!

Here are a few of my favorite blogs I follow:

Brooke Not a Diet

Fit and Free with Emily

Curvy Fit Girl

The Fotographing Fat Kid

Fitblogger

So there you have it! Now WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR!?

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(my mom follows my blog now, sorry about the cursing mom!)

❤ M.

Weekly Weigh-In: Up, Up and Away!

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I don’t have much to say except woo! I’m still losing so I’m going to keep up the C25K action since it is quite apparent that it is just melting the fluff right off! My focus right now is to get my eating back on track so I can keep on losing, losing, losing! I have really started to enjoy adding running into my routine even though I’m not very fast and I have yet to run past 3 minutes straight. But I’ve only been trying it out for a little over 2 weeks and my pace and stamina have already improved so I naturally want to keep going! I look forward to the days when I get outside to run/walk now so this might be a keeper in my life. Additionally, I met someone at my last WW meeting who is also training for her summer 5K’s and she wants to meet up for a run. My first fitness friend? Mayhaps!

Speaking of food, I made some really amahzing banana muffins last night! I was inspired by this recipe from Allrecipes.com but I made quite a few alterations after reading through many of the reviews. Here is my version of the recipe which turned out deeelish!

Project Unfluff’s Super Awesome Banana Nut Muffins!

  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 4 ripe bananas
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • A little under 2 cups whole wheat white flour (I like Trader Joe’s)
  • 2-3 Tbsp ground flax-seed meal
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar + tsp to sprinkle on top
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts + a pinch to sprinkle on top
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease or line 12 muffin cups.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine eggs, vanilla, almond milk and bananas. In a separate bowl, mix together flour, ground flax, salt, cinnamon, brown sugar and baking soda. Stir banana mixture into flour mixture. Fold in nuts if desired. Pour batter into prepared muffin cups. (I filled them almost to the top). Sprinkle muffins with brown sugar and a few pieces of nuts each.
  3. Bake in preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into center of a muffin comes out clean.
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i swear they’re tastier than they look

These are good and a little more moist with the addition of the almond milk. After entering this recipe into my recipe builder, one big ‘ol fluffy muffin came out to 4 points +! Perfect for pre-workout fuel or for dessert, especially if you warm it up a little first.

Last but not least, I am super excited about my feature on Gwynspiration for Weight Loss‘ blog this week! Check out her post about my winning her 5 Week Healthy Habits Challenge and share in my 15 minutes of interweb fame!

Oh one more thing! This:

dinosaur

❤ M.

Living A Healthier Life: Shopping and Cooking

Here’s how you know you’re living a healthier life: when you chase someone down in the grocery store because they accidentally took your shopping cart instead of their own and when they finally look in the cart, the amount of vegetation is jaw-dropping. Seriously folks, this happened today on my weekly trip to the grocery store for our Fresh20 and SkinnyTaste ingredients. One minute, I’m picking out hamburger buns in the bakery section and the next the only shopping cart in my vicinity is one that has nothing but two pies, cookies and ground turkey. Luckily, I brought my own bags and the only way I was able to locate my cart was when I saw a woman pushing one with my bright red grocery bag at the bottom. I flagged her down and told her she had my cart and she looked shocked and said, “You’re right! This cart is too healthy, it CAN’T be mine!”

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My gorgeous, slightly kidnapped shopping cart

4 months ago, my cart would have resembled that woman’s cart more so than the one I had to hunt down today. Now granted, I wasn’t in the habit of bringing home whole pies but cookies? Yes. Only a few fresh ingredients?  Sure. More stuff from the middle aisles (packaged, processed foods) than the outer sections (fresh foods)? More than likely. Today’s little incident was a great reminder that we (my partner and I) really have come a long way when it comes to what we bring home, what we cook and how much time we spend in the kitchen making fresh, healthy food. The amount of dishes we do everyday is another story BUT I’m grateful I have a kitchen full of food to cook everyday so I really can’t complain.

Today, I really had a hankering for a savory, indulgent-esque American meal. I went traveling along the interwebz and came across a couple of new yummies I just had to try. Tonight I made the Buffalo Turkey Burgers from Skinnytaste for dinner. Oh Em Gee. When the hubs loves a dish chock of vegetables, you KNOW you have a winner! There were so many good things about this dish: the turkey patty with shredded carrots and buffalo sauce, the topping made of broccoli slaw mixed with the Skinny Bleu Cheese Dressing (<— so good, I’d put it in my morning coffee.), the Sargento deli thin cheddar slice that was just enough cheese, and  the fluffy, toasted bolillo roll it all sat within. Perfection!

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YERMMEEE

For dessert, (which I just now remembered I needed to make) I made 2 ingredient oatmeal cookies! What a great way to use old bananas! I used Quaker Oat Perfect Portions oatmeal which is my new love because it’s a sack of instant oatmeal that is NOT sweetened. You can make as much or as little as you want and add your own sweetener. I love the Cinnamon flavor and it worked really well with these cookies. What’s great about this recipe is that it’s super fast and you can add whatever mix-ins you want! I added some left over walnuts we had in a weird amount unfit for a formal recipe and mini chocolate chips. So easy and very tasty! Not to mention, it’s clean (sans the chocolate chips) and pure eating.

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How did you celebrate your Sunday, Unfluffers?

Nighty night! ❤ M.