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Bringing Your Body Into Balance

My 100+ pound weight loss is what grabs people's attention. However, my weight loss was merely a side effect of finally taking my health and happiness into my own hands and finding that perfect balance. Body, mind, spirit. It all matters.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

What Should You Eat?


I get this question A LOT. People want me to design a menu for them. First, I'm not a nutritionist (yet, heh) and second, I don't know what YOU need. I only know what *I* need! The reason for this is, depending on your genetic predisposition combined with any damage you've done to your body thus far in your life (i.e. insulin resistance, heart disease, type II diabetes, etc.), your ideal diet will vary somewhat from everyone elses. Here is another MAJOR reason that educating yourself is important. You have to find out what works for YOUR BODY because YOUR BODY is different from EVERY OTHER BODY!

A couple GENERAL rules of thumb are to eat as much raw food as you can. I am not a raw food person. In fact, I love a good steak and sweet potato! However, I try very hard to eat at least 50% of my food in the form of raw fruits & veggies. Other than aiding in digestion, filling you up for less calories and making your skin glow, these foods are LIFE GIVING. Where most other cooked foods are, to at least some degree, dead food. When you eat something raw, you are taking LIFE into your body.

Make sure you're drinking enough water. The 64 oz thing is way too "one size fits all". Some say drink half your body weight in ounces (which means, if you're 200 pounds, drink 100 ounces). I can't offer you an exact amount of water you need to drink but you need to make sure you're getting enough which involves trial and error.

Don't be afraid of healthy fats! They are NOT the same as the bad kind (such as partially hydrogenated oils). I will give this one general rule of thumb, if it comes directly from nature (nuts-especially raw, olive oil, etc.) it is more than likely okay. Again, educate yourself. There's too many rules for me to list them all.

Lean meats such as salmon, chicken, etc. are good in the right amounts. I eat approx 3-4 oz servings but this will vary based on your needs. Just keep in mind that meat should (again, in my opinion, based on what I've learned over the years) be a garnish, not the main part of the meal. Other protein sources I rely on are cottage cheese, eggs, almond butter, beans and nuts.

Part of this is eating foods that have a good balance of protein, fat and carbs. I'm not going to give you an ideal balance because that depends on you and you have to take the time to learn this magic number for yourself. Also, I'm not going to give you examples of carbs you should eat because this also varies from one person to another. However, if you are struggling with your weight and cravings, check out this video from Metabolic Effect for suggestions on what carbs you should be eating.

If you're constantly hungry, check out this article on possible reasons why.
One of THE most important things you can do RIGHT NOW is to start writing down what you eat. I'm not saying count calories (I'm not opposed to it, but there's a LOT of variables you need to be aware of if you use this method.) What I'm suggesting is write down everything you eat, what time you ate it & in what amounts and then write down any changes that you have mentally or physically and what time you have them. You will start to notice patterns.

For example, I noticed that when I had my little chocolate squares after lunch, I would feel tired, get a headache, a stuffy nose and get hungry again very soon. I reduced my chocolate intake & moved it to after dinner time and the problem went away!

Another example is when I noticed that on the mornings I had bread with breakfast (even 100% whole wheat) that I would get tired & gassy and feel hungry waaaay sooner than the mornings I had fruit as my carb with breakfast instead. I eliminated wheat and now I cruise right through til lunch with no problems.

These are MY experiences, yours could very well be different. Why? Because YOU are not ME!

Here is a great article from BodyBuilding.com that outlines 10 Nutritional Mistakes You Might Be Making - And How to Fix Them.

One of the very biggest pieces of advice I can give about changing your eating habits is to stop with the all or nothing mentality! If you are eating (and craving) large amounts of fast food and soda day after day and have had trouble kicking the habit in the past, WHAT IN THE WORLD makes you think you can switch to my clean way of eating overnight and make it stick?! I tried this method for most of my life and it obviously didn't work. What finally did work for me was changing one habit at a time. And EVERY SINGLE habit I changed was something I could live with for the rest of my life. So, if you can't imagine living without a certain food or drink, don't swear them off and say you will never consume them again. Realistically ask yourself how much you could reduce that food or drink and still manage okay. Once you have reduced your intake and feel comfortable with the new intake, reduce it again. This is a process not an overnight miracle!



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Your doctor the worst person for fitness advice? | Metabolic Effect Blog

Your doctor the worst person for fitness advice? Metabolic Effect Blog

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Shadow Effect...Acknowledging My Dark Side

I saw a movie last night that I am going to add to my movie recommendation list. It is called The Shadow Effect. I actually saw this same movie quite a few years back but I guess I wasn't ready for the lesson because I really can't even remember watching it. Let me start by saying this is definitely one of those dramatic new age movies which may make those who aren't a fan (I am!) a little uneasy and/or cynical but watch it anyway, find the message, it's totally worth it!

The overall message, if you just wanna save yourself an hour, is that we all have a "dark side". This would consist of all the things about ourselves for which we are ashamed, have been shamed over, resent within ourselves and overall just try to hide from the rest of the world (and very possibly from ourselves as well).

One of my favorite metaphors they gave about these "dark" things within ourselves is what they referred to as "the beach ball effect". Basically, we try to push these things down under the surface of our being and, just like a beach ball that we try to push under water, eventually it is going to pop back up on us.

However, by acknowledging these aspects of ourselves, and incorporating them into who we are, we become a more whole person. We can not have light without darkness. Likewise, we can not fully embrace what is GREAT about us without fully embracing what is NOT great about us. Furthermore, if we can analyze and determine how these perceived negative things actually help us in life, we begin to get a better understanding of who we are and what we are meant to be.

All of this may seem a little abstract so I am going to give my own examples of things that I have always perceived as negative about myself but, after analyzing them, realize they are essential to who I am.

I, at times, have a very hard time staying focused and planning for the future. Sometimes I give up on things. I often don't take deadlines seriously. I've been known to "switch gears" very often and head in a completely different direction than where I seemed to be intensely focused just a moment before. However, this same quality is why I can adapt to change very easily. Whenever something crappy happens in my life, I have an unbelievable knack of switching gears and finding a new and positive direction to head in that matches my new set of circumstances. So, by not taking life as serious as I probably should, I don't freak out and melt down when bad things happen. I have my initial upset, just like anyone, but then I calm down, find the positive in it and move on.

Another perceived flaw is that I'm a bit stingy with my time, energy and resources when it comes to people outside my immediate circle (basically I'm only willing to give this to my family and a very VERY few other people in my life). I especially don't give it to people that I feel are trying to "take" it or those who wouldn't give it in return. I've been called selfish by some and I've felt selfish at times and guilty that I don't give more freely of myself. However, this same "flaw" is what has ensured that a good portion of my time, energy and resources have been focused on ME which means, not only have I avoided being taken advantage of by some, it also has allowed me to make huge improvements upon myself and this has inspired a lot of people that I've come in contact with. And this is one area in which I do give freely. I ALWAYS want to help people improve through sharing my knowledge, experiences and advice with anyone who will listen. So, by being selfish, I have helped others, but only after I helped myself.

They also talk about the classic "we hate in others that which we hate in ourselves". I find this to be so true and have realized this about myself for quite a while now. In fact, the people I can't stand the most, are usually so much like me that it makes me wonder if I hate myself sometimes! When I conciously acknowledge this, I find my resentment toward them fading immediately. So it's not a magic formula, it only takes realizing it for the shift to occur.

When we fully embrace EVERYTHING about ourselves and stop acting perfect, allowing ourselves to just be human, we then allow ourselves to be great. And, in turn, we allow those around us to be great too.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Exercise is Magic


So everyone knows we are supposed to exercise. But, at the same time, if you're just looking at calories burned during a workout its not very motivational to bust your butt and only burn 200 calories. I'm here to tell you, forget everything you've heard about exercise!

I lost a good chunk of the front end of my weight just by making little changes. However, that didn't last long. So I started exercising to create more of a calorie deficit but a couple discouraging things happened. First, I got reeeally hungry after working out and instantly ate, in calories, anything I had just burned, and then some. Also, I worked out every day AND WAS STILL FAT a week later!!! That's the problem with exercise, if we are looking for the immediate external results only, it will never last.

So, here's the TRUTH about exercise.

1. It elevates your mood. This is a HUGE part of staying on track because if you are depressed, you are way more likely to binge and/or sit around depressed and not want to move. The reason I ended up sticking with exercise, after not getting the physical results I wanted, was because of how it started making me feel!

Around this time in my life, I was suffering from post-partum depression in a BIG way. It was hard to get up and get dressed some days. When I would put my son to bed at night, I would just sit alone and that's when the sadness was the worst. I didn't make the concious connection at first but I started being drawn toward working out late at night around this time. After a while I became aware on a concious level that working out would make me feel better and less depressed so it became my "go to drug" every night.

Fast forward a couple years later, I hate having rest days because I feel that exercise (combined with healthy food) is my medicine and, without it, I just don't feel right, mentally or physically for that matter (but more on that in a minute). Keep in mind, I used to think I was the laziest person in the world. I NEVER thought that I would get up at 4:30-5am to work out but now I do pretty much every day without fail because my brain doesn't like it when I don't.

Aside from the boost in your mood, there's something more subtle that's kind of hard to put a finger on but every time you successfully complete a workout, it builds your self-efficacy (the way you perceive yourself). It makes you feel more confident and strong. I truly believe that working out every day can make you successful (for this reason alone) in every other area of your life!

2. It makes your body feel sooooo good! At 34, I notice more and more little aches and kinks here and there that I never used to. Actually, I used to get these in my 20s too but I'm guessing that was more a result of being obese and sedentary. After a really intense workout, my body feels so loose and energized. I tend to have a little neck and back pain (from a car accident I had years ago) but its basically non-existant as long as I'm exercising every day. However, let me go more than one day without working out and things start hurting. When I lay down in bed at night is when I notice it the most. If I've worked out I feel relaxed and comfy, if I haven't I feel stiff and restless. Which is actually part of my next point.

3. It will help you sleep better! I used to suffer from insomnia. I mean, full on, lay in bed awake allll night long insomnia, ever since I was a kid! When I started doing intense (intense is the key here) workouts, my sleep problems completely disappeared!!! A few weeks ago I broke my toe and didn't really a good workout for about a week, I suddenly was having a lot of trouble falling asleep again! One night, after not falling asleep until about 3am, I realized the reason. I got creative and found a way to get an intense workout in the next day and...BAM! In bed snoozin by 9pm that night!

4. Exercise builds muscle. Strength training specifically. In addition to making your bones more dense (due to the pressure strength training puts on them which causes them to thicken as a result), muscle drastically increases your metabolism which means you can eat more and/or lose fat quicker. A lot of people think that strength training is for atheletes (or even just for men). However, no one could probably benefit more from strength training than an overweight person.

The main reason that a person losing weight MUST strength train is because, it is basic science, when you are losing fat, you are also losing muscle!! That's why yo-yo dieting is so horrible. If a woman starts out at 160 then loses 10 pounds, 3 pounds of that could've been muscle. If she gains back up to 160, she now is actually fatter because she has replaced 3 pounds of muscle with 3 pounds of fat. So, you MUST offset the natural muscle loss that occurs during weight loss by constantly working to replace it.

Also, in addition to the metabolism boost, it also makes you look better sooner because muscle gives you a nice shape and fills out all the flab you're still working on. And, ladies, stop thinking you're going to turn into a monster if you work out. Our bodies aren't designed that way. It takes testosterone to build muscle and we don't have much of it. I do pretty intense strength training 4-6 days a week and, as you can tell by my pictures, I am far from a beast so DON'T BE AFRAID TO PUMP SOME IRON! Weights are your friend!

6. "The afterburn effect". I'm just going to link to an awesome site that talks about it because there's no way I can explain it any better than they have. But, I'll just say that the afterburn effect is why you need to dismiss the notion of "I only burned 200 calories during my workout" because your body continues to burn extra calories long after you are finished working out.
The Afterburn Effect

The most effective form of cardio that I have found so far is High Intensity Interval Training, specifically the Peak 8 method. And, BONUS, its only a 20 minute workout! This form of working out also drastically raises your HGH levels (which helps keep you young, healthy & happy) as well as reduces your appetite.

7. USE IT OR LOSE IT! Just as bones strengthen as a result of stress (good stress, from exercise), they weaken from lack of stress. Same goes for the rest of our body. As early as in our 20s, we start to naturally lose muscle. Around 30-35, this speeds up and we can lose an average of 1/2 pound of muscle a year, that's 5 pounds of muscle a decade (which is the main reason our metabolism slows and people start to gain weight in their 30s & 40s). Just to fight the natural progression, we have to build muscle to offset this loss. Our bodies also produce something called HGH when we work out which, among other things, can keep us looking and feeling young. So, as you can see, if we stop moving, we start dying. If you want to stay strong, young and vibrant, exercise is essential. We are made to move!!!

8. In addition to helping relieve depression, exercise can correct a lot of other hormone imbalances as well including, but far from limited to, imbalances caused by menstruation and menopause. A wonderful, WONDERFUL book I recommend is The Spark to learn more about all the chemical effects of exercise. Its simply amazing!

....Oh, I might add, when I do cardio every day, my skin looks soooo much better too....

I'm working on an Exercise Recommendation page but I'd like to go ahead and throw a recommendation out because I think its great for all fitness levels, its inexpensive and highly effective (not to mention under 30 minutes long). It's called 30 Day Shred by Jillian Michaels. She has other DVD's that I like okay but I think this is one of the best (that I've tried so far anyway). She uses cutting edge science to give you a great workout that really heats you up and, if you ARE a beginner, it is a great start for building muscle. Its tough if you do it right but any exercise that's going to create real change is going to be tough by nature. Amazon has this DVD for under $10 I believe. Definitely worth checking out!

If you hate to exercise and the feeling of getting out of breath read my post about Learning to Love Exercise.


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Metabolic Physique Conditioning



Going Wheat Free Worked For Me

For as long as I can remember I have spent my life hungry. I mean HUN-GRY! I would sometimes complain to people, "I swear, the more I eat, the more I WANT to eat!"

Somehow I still managed to lose about 120 pounds with this affliction. I increased my protein, water consumption and ate frequent meals and this definitely helped a lot but I would still get these episodes where I would just be a bottomless pit! And it was keeping me from losing the last few pounds.

I really started to take note of when these times occured. And I started to notice a strange pattern. When I had my breakfast with a piece of fruit for my carb, I stayed full way longer. When I had the same exact breakfast with a piece of organic, 100% whole wheat bread, I was starving an hour later (if that) and would get really sleepy!!!

Now, the idea of not eating my whole grains flew in the face of everything I had read on the subject of nutrition (and, let me just say, I've read a LOT). So I did what every modern American does when they are confused about something....I googled it. What I found has changed my life!

I started out by reading the blog of a body builder who talked about how many body builders have to cut out wheat in the weeks prior to a competition to really "lean out". I followed that blog to another site and on that site I fould a link to the book Wheat Belly.

I immediately downloaded the audiobook for Wheat Belly and listened in disbelief to what I was hearing. What? No wheat? But I kept listening and, as I've said in other blogs, I started to believe it because it made sense and those are the things I tend to believe.

So I thought "what do I have to lose" and decided to go a day without wheat. That was quite a few months ago and I've never looked back. Let me stop here. Some people don't understand what wheat is. Many believe when I say I quit eating wheat that I mean whole wheat. They believe I just starting eating white bread. Basically all bread products are wheat (the ones that are not will be touting this clearly on the package because they are probably specifically a wheat substitute). In fact, you'd be surprised how many products contain wheat when you start reading ingredient labels.

I'm not going to go into all the science behind why wheat negatively affects most of the population (although some have much more severe and adverse reactions--like me), I'll just tell you what eliminating it did for me then you can educate yourself if this interests you.

Since I've eliminated wheat:
  • I have lost the 10 pounds to my goal weight with basically no effort or calorie restriction.
  • My stomach has DRASTICALLY flattened! I mean DRASTICALLY and almost right away!
  • My digestive problems are basically gone! (The only time I experience them now is when I eat sugar--which I will address in my next post.)
  • I am no longer constantly hungry for the first time in my life! And my energy level is much higher (again, except when I eat sugar).
  • My allergy headaches and congestion are very minimal and I used to have horrible allergies.
  • And the one I didn't expect, my knee had been bothering me for about a year and the pain cleared up 100% after only 2 days of being wheat-free!!!
Some people are convinced that I am doing some crazy fad diet in order to look a certain way. They are so completely wrong! Eliminating wheat is one of the hardest and one of the healthiest things I've ever done. Since quitting, I can think, off the top of my head, of 6 other people that have eliminated it from their diet as well when they saw my results. 2 of which have also seen the same dramatic results as me (which, oddly, almost exactly fits the 40% projection I mentioned earlier).

Also, I removed wheat products from my 3 year old son's diet as well and his allergies cleared up overnight! This is after him having perma-snot basically his entire little life. And he was a little chunky before that and he immediately slimmed down to a healthy weight. I will also add, he still eats wheat products at daycare and at his father's house, so this is actually the results of wheat-reduction in his case.

So who most likely should try wheat elimination?
  • People who struggle with being overweight.
  • People who carry a lot of weight around their middle.
  • People with allergies or any other afflictions caused by inflammation (like arthritis)
Like I said, I'm not going to go into the science behind it but its definitely out there. I highly recommend reading (or listening to) Wheat Belly. Or you can start by checking out this blog: Wheat Belly Blog.

 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Letting Go

I recently was faced with a stressful situation in which fears and emotions that had been building up were brought to a head. I verbally lashed out at someone. And they, and their spouse, lashed out in return.

As I lay in bed that night, my head was spinning with all the details of the confrontation. I was sick with anger and resentment. I decided that I HAD to forgive them in order to move on and get some sleep. I've gotten good over the past few years of learning to forgive for my own peace of mind. However, I couldn't let it all go for some reason. Then I remembered something I learned in 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (great book, btw, I highly recommend it). He emphasizes "seek first to understand and then to be understood". Even though I knew I would never reach the "be understood" part of this, I still thought I could apply the first part and maybe that would help me to forgive them. I was surprised to realize, upon "putting myself in their shoes," that I had dealt with my (very legitimate) emotions in completely the wrong way and I was wrong. I had to apologize. Now this was new territory for me. Here I was, angry at two people and I was considering apologizing to them.

This took a combination of swallowing my pride as well as my anger but I eventually was able to and I apologized knowing very well that, not only would my apology not be reciprocated but that it would not even be accepted. But I did it anyway. For myself.

The people I was dealing with were not bad people, they just saw things very differently than I did and I had to make peace with the fact that I would never be able to get them to see my side. Craving peace in my life is also something that is very new to me because I had spent a good portion of my adult life being very unhappy and angry. When you are unhappy you wrap yourself in anger whenever the opportunity arises because it gives you someone to project your unhappiness onto. I was so full of rage in my 20s. I would go off on people in traffic, family members, and really anyone who rubbed me the wrong way. And I would hold grudges for years. It was so unbelievably toxic and it didn't make me feel better, it most definitely made it worse.

It bothered me that they wouldn't forgive me. It bothered me that they couldn't see my side, and apologize in return. At one time in my life I would've lashed out again for their rejection of my apology. But I just wanted peace. And, damn it! I wanted my sleep! I recited to myself over and over again God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I can not change. The strength to change the things I can. And the wisdom to know the difference. I finally fell asleep.

I woke up the next morning feeling the peace that had eluded me the night before. I can not change that they won't forgive me, as much as I might want to. Likewise, I can not change that they will never understand why I was so upset when I lashed out. But I can change what I do and do not hold onto myself. And I will always be stronger for this experience because I've added to an already developing life lesson....

When you're wrong, say you're sorry, even if you are not forgiven, then forgive yourself and let go.
When someone has wronged you, forgive them, even if they are not sorry, then let go.
Either way....LET GO!

Peace is a precious gift. Do not allow anyone (including yourself) to steal it from you. Forgiveness is nothing more than your heart's way of letting go.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

BEFORE & AFTER (side by side)

For more before and after pictures, you can check out my my photo timeline.





BEFORE & AFTER PICS



I've kept a pretty good documentation of my progress through photos. However, a lot of these aren't great quality because I've taken some by myself (in the mirror) but it still gives the overall effect...


PROGRESS PICTURES

approx. 275 pounds

approx 265 pounds

255 pounds

approx 240 pounds

approx 220 pounds

approx 195 pounds

approx 175 pounds

approx 165 pounds

154 pounds

151 pounds

148 pounds

145 pounds



SIDE VIEW

 


BACK VIEW





 CHANGES IN MY FACE







Monday, February 13, 2012

He is NOT My Everything

I've been thinking a lot about what women do in relationships. When we are in a relationship, most often we leave all our friends and sometimes even our families behind and dedicate the larger part of our emotional energy to that one man. Its actually hardwired in our brains to do so for evolutionary reasons. But then when we lose him we quickly scramble to rekindle these relationships so that we don't feel so alone. We call all those single girlfriends who tried for so long to get us to spend time with them only to find that they are now in relationships and are staying in with their new man every night. So we desperately search for another man to fill that empty space the previous has left behind.

BUT when we take the time to build and nurture new (and old) friendships instead of finding the next available half-way (or not even so) decent guy to fill that void, we suddenly don't feel so alone. When our lives are already full of love from multiple sources, we can take our time and look for a guy that just enhances our life instead of completing it. And maybe if we're careful and maintain our friendships when we find said guy, if he leaves us, we won't feel so alone and vulnerable when it happens. I've only recently arrived at the realization of just how important friendships are and just how valuable it is to have people to turn to when I'm sad, lonely, bored, etc. I will never ever take my friendships for granted again because ALL the people in my life contribute to making it full and I never want the scary feeling of one person having the power to walk out of my life and take everything with him.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Educational Material

Movies
Watching movies is a great (and easy/time effective) way to educate and/or inspire yourself, which is a HUGE part of changing your lifestyle.
I would just like to note, I am providing links to some of these movie's website. I am, IN NO WAY, making money off of linking to these movies! I just was so informed and inspired by each of them that I want to spread the word...free of charge. ;-)

Food Matters : "Let thy food be thy medicine."
In a collection of interviews with leading Nutritionists, Naturopaths, Scientists, M.D.'s and Medical Journalists you will discover scientifically verifiable solutions for overcoming illness naturally.
(available on Netflix's "Watch Instantly")

Food, Inc. : You'll never look at dinner the same way.
Documentary about where our food comes from.
(available on Netflix's "Watch Instantly")
Documentary talking up the importance of a plant-based diet. I don't know that I agree that we should be 100% vegetarian, but I do think that over 50% of our diet should be raw/plant based.
(available on Netflix's "Watch Instantly")

Super Size Me
One man decides to start eating McDonalds for every meal for 30 days.
(this link says you can watch the movie for free!)

Hungry For Change
This is an excellent movie that was available for free online when it first came out. After a little time, when it's not stupid expensive like it is now, I think this is a movie worth buying and having around. It's definitely one I want to watch a few more times to absorb everything.

Here are some other, not food-related, movies that I feel have enhanced my life:

The Shadow Effect (documentary, spiritual)
What the Bleep Do We Know (documentary, spiritual)
The Secret (documentary, spiritual)
Eat, Pray, Love (based on a true story)
Waking Life (fiction, cerebral/spiritual)
Stranger Than Fiction (fiction, inspirational)
Yes, Man (fiction, inspirational)
The Shift (documentary, spiritual)
I Heart Huckabees (fiction, cerebral)

Audiobooks

Audiobooks are a great way to educate yourself on the go. Whether it be during your workout or a long commute to work, you turn what you may have considered wasted time into valuable learning time.

Click here to find my list of audiobook recommendations to get you started.

Podcasts

Like audiobooks, podcasts allow you to get smarter (and/or motivated toward your goals) on your morning commute to work. The great thing about podcasts is that you can receive brand new, cutting edge information each day, opposed to audiobooks which can become outdated and obsolete.

Click here to see the list of the podcasts I follow.

Online Videos:

Last Day Dream (less than one minute long)

Symphony of Science
These videos are simply amazing!! Even if you're not a big fan of science, they offer deeper insight into life in general. I've watched them all numerous times and they still give me goosebumps each time.

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