Health and Fitness Update

sweat

You may be wondering what is going on in the health and fitness department around here, as I haven’t posted about my progress or lack thereof for a few weeks now.  The last time I posted, I was still juicing a few times a day, working out every day, and making a goal to get to bed at a decent time.

Right.  So, here’s the thing.  I am still juicing twice a day.  I have a green juice every morning and a carrot/tomato/celery juice in the afternoon.  I have, for the most part, been eating healthy lunches and dinners full of veggies and protein.  However, a cup of coffee or two has been sneaking its way back into my diet.  I drink it black, making it pretty much calorie free, but I was amazed at how quickly my body slipped back into “needing” coffee.  My head tells me that the juices and healthy diet should be enough for energy, but past, well-ingrained habits say otherwise.  I had my last cup of coffee this morning and put the Keurig machine away.  I have also found the “need” for desserts arising more frequently, especially at night time.  It started a few weekends ago, when my husband and I decided to go on an impromptu overnight trip to the coast for our ninth anniversary.  As we drove out to Cannon Beach that Friday afternoon, we decided that we weren’t going to stick to eating healthy while on our little trip.  I figured a few sweets and happy drinks wouldn’t hurt anything.  After dinner at a fabulous seafood restaurant there, we strolled the boardwalk and ended up inside the candy store.  Every time I’ve been to the coast, I always get myself a few pieces of sea foam candy as a treat.  If you’re not familiar, sea foam is made by boiling water, vinegar, sugar, and corn syrup together and then adding baking soda to make it light and airy.  Of course, it is also dipped in a chocolate coating.  Anyway, we purchased the sea foam and some cheesecake pops and quite a bit of salt water taffy in an alarming array of neon colors.  Back at the resort, Chris brought out some ingredients he had packed to make some celebratory drinks, and between those sugary beverages and the candy, we thought we had it made.  Not so much – the candy tasted gross (hello, artificial everything – hadn’t tasted you in a long time!) and the drinks made me sick.  The next day, we raided the local grocery store to buy some green juice to help us feel better on the road.

You would think that would have cured me of sweets for a while.  But the taste of sugar fueled my desire for more.  Over the next two weeks, I found myself making lots of excuses to have a sweet treat here or there.  They were all-natural, homemade desserts, but the point is that they were not in moderation.  At all.  And today I find myself desiring something sweet again and telling myself the handful of raspberries and almonds for a snack is enough.  I know it will be difficult to train myself away from those sugar cravings again.

As for exercise, I have been doing pretty well in regards to actually doing it.  I turn on the Wii almost every day and sweat my way through increasingly harder workouts.  I also have been making more of an effort to “exercise” with the kids – running around the yard, dancing in the living room, etc.  Still, when I honestly looked at what I’ve been doing the past couple of weeks, I realized that I am not good at pushing myself.  I do just enough to get through the workout and check off my exercise box for the day, but I don’t try to see if I can get through two workouts or if I can push myself deeper with every squat and lunge.  I don’t run a few laps and then push myself to run more when my body says no.  I do what feels comfortable and not much beyond that.  I think that I am not as motivated any more.  I have about ten more pounds or so to lose, and these are always the pounds that have refused to move in the past.  I feel “okay” with where I am, and therefore I don’t feel the need to push myself harder. It’s time to up the pressure on myself.  I’m going to find a goal to push towards – running a 5K, perhaps – and then write out a list of steps that it will take for me to get to that goal.

The sleep factor is still the most difficult thing for me right now.  I cannot seem to get myself into bed before midnight, and I usually lay there for at least a half hour more with my mind racing with all the things I need to do the next day.  Little Hosanna is usually the first to awaken, many times at 6:30 am.  That doesn’t make for much sleep for mama.  This leads to crankiness and a much more overwhelming desire to reach for that coffee, not to mention a tiredness during workouts.  I need my husband’s help with this.  He is a complete night owl, and I think that if he made the effort to get to bed earlier also, it would help me.  Any suggestions on how I can bribe him to do so? (no sugary rewards! haha)  Seriously, though, I have to have a plan (and a lot of self-discipline, too!) for consistent earlier bedtime and a wind-down time before bed.  What do you do to relax before sleeping?

I have not weighed myself in a few weeks, but clothes are still a little loose.  Last week, we were invited to a pool party for one of the children’s friends, and I was delighted to find that I needed to buy a new (smaller!) swimsuit.  The progress continues, then, and I find I am learning so much about myself along the way.  Here’s to another week of health and happiness!

 

 

Organizing Produce

With all the juicing and the attempting to eat a fruit-and-veggie-filled diet around here, the produce content of the refrigerator has increased dramatically.  Most days, there is a variety of kale, spinach, broccoli, romaine lettuce, tomatoes, peas, strawberries, red beets, and more stuffed somewhere in the depths of the fridge.  Of course, they are competing with the milk, yogurt, cheese, eggs, water pitcher, and leftovers for space.

Today I took Hosanna to check out the farmers’ market in our area for the first time since we moved here.  We loaded up the stroller with beautiful strawberries, enticing bundles of asparagus, a bag full of greens, and some sugar snap peas.  When I brought them home, however, I realized that I had no place left to shove them in the refrigerator.  And truth be told, I was getting a little tired of shoving anyway.  Not only did it make it hard to find what vegetable I wanted, it also was causing produce to spoil more quickly or lay forgotten in the back corner.  I needed (desperately!) to organize my refrigerator.  (Okay, I probably needed to clean it too.  And face the scary containers of leftovers hanging out in the back…)

What’s the first rule of organizing anything?  Everything has to have a place, right?  I had seen some made-for-your-fridge bins that were supposed to help corral all the inhabitants of the refrigerator.  I loved the idea but not the price.  At $12 each, it would cost way more to organize it than it would to fill it with healthy goodies!  I headed to the dollar store to see what containers they might have to fill my need.  I found that all of their clear bins were a little too small for my plans, but then I discovered these rectangular plastic baskets. (You can see them in the photo below.)  And so the organizing began.

week one June

Here’s a little break-down of how I accomplished that “after” picture.

1.  First, I took everything out of the refrigerator.  Everything!  I lined up all the “keep” stuff on the kitchen counter, threw out the moldy stuff, and tossed a bunch of weeks-old leftover containers into the sink to be cleaned out.

2.  Next, I scrubbed down the inside of the fridge and washed out all the drawers.  Dish soap worked perfectly fine for this task.

3.  Then, I arranged and rearranged the plastic baskets on the shelves until I had something that worked.  I put the eggs, cheeses, milks, yogurts, and peanut butter back in first in the spaces around the baskets.

4.  Then, I set to filling the baskets.  I had purchased one smaller bin that had a convenient handle for easy access.  This one became home to my berries as well as a small ziploc bag of ginger root.

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5. I transferred all the rest of the produce to gallon-size ziploc bags.  Most produce should be sealed up, unwashed, to help it last longer.

6.  The baskets on the top shelf became home to spinach, romaine lettuce, and cucumbers.

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7.  I put kale in the basket on the middle shelf next to the berry bin.

8.  The bottom shelf had two baskets, one of which held carrots, parsley, and cilantro, and the other held tomatoes, celery, and asparagus.

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9.  Finally, I filled the crisper drawers at the very bottom.  I set the vegetable drawer to high humidity and put our lesser used veggies in there – avocados, red beets, cabbage, bell peppers, and sugar snap peas.  The fruit drawer (set to low humidity) held some lemons, kiwi fruits, and a mango.

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Of course, the contents of each basket will change from time to time, depending on the season.  I do store some produce on the shelves in my dining room.  Right now, there are apples, bananas, a pineapple, pears, potatoes, garlic, and shallots on those shelves.  They don’t need to be refrigerated.  Bonus – the kids tend to grab them more often for snacks since they are so accessible.

And tonight, when I opened the fridge to gather some veggies to make a juice, I may have closed and opened the fridge door a few more times just to stare at its organized, happiness-inducing goodness.  (and snacked on a few sugar snap peas – who can resist those??)

Weeks Three and Four of our Juice Cleanse

juicyjuice

It’s time for an update on the whole juice cleanse thing.  You can read about why we decided to do a juice cleanse here, how the first week went here, and how we changed it all up the second week here.

 

Week Three was supposed to be the week that I added some moderate exercise back in.  I was excited to implement this change as I have always enjoyed exercising.  I like the surge of endorphins that comes after a good cardio workout.  Also, I hoped that exercise would help kick the weight loss back up into turbo mode.  We planned to continue the juicing throughout the morning and afternoon as we had the previous week.  Monday morning, I searched frantically for appropriate workout clothing and decided to start off the week with a Wii Fit workout.  The batteries in the Wii Fit board were dead;  I spent another fifteen minutes hunting down fresh batteries and replacing the old ones in the board.  Where was the Wii Fit disc?  I couldn’t find it anywhere – this could be perhaps to my not-so-awesome organizational skills – and was about to give up on the whole idea when I discovered the Gold’s Gym for Wii disc.  Oh yeah, I dimly remembered.  This is pretty fast-paced and involves a lot of boxing.  I put the disc in and got to work.

 

Yeah, so maybe working out was not as fun as I remembered.  My muscles cried out after months of not being used.  Still, I persevered through the first set of roundhouses and uppercuts.  After all, my children were watching me.  All of them.  And they were screeching with excitement, saying such encouraging things as, “Why don’t you go faster, Momma?” and “I don’t think you’re doing it like the lady on the tv!”  Halfway through the second set, as I bobbed and ducked punches, I felt a sudden, oh-this-is-not-good pain shoot through my lower back.  I grimaced and fell to my knees.  “What’s wrong, Momma?”  Gabi asked, genuinely concerned.  “Is the exercise too hard for you?”  I reassured her that I was fine, when indeed I was not.  I struggled to my feet, and like the stubborn idiot I am, I somehow finished the rest of the workout.  Including reverse crunches.  I know!

 

I turned off the disc and tried to walk to the kitchen to refill my water bottle.  At every step, jarring pain in my lower back took my breath away.  I couldn’t stand up straight and could barely move without intense pain.  I texted my husband of my plight, and thankfully he was able to leave work early and come home.  He has a history of back pain and knew what to do.  He set me up in our bedroom with a strange assortment of pillows shoved under my knees and a icy cold pack on my back.  It was me, my Ipad, and  my woefully boring-looking bedroom for the next day and a half.  Chris took care of the kids while working from home while I muttered things like “It figures.  As soon as I start something good like exercising, something comes in to screw it up.”

 

I wish I could say that I was really good with the juicing and eating during this time.  Nope, not really.  I did have some juice but mostly I snacked on little things all day.  They were mostly good things – veggies, fruits, whole-grain chips, etc. – but a bowl or two of ice cream may have sneaked in there.  And when I finally convinced Chris he could go back to work (who seriously could get any work done at home with four unusually energetic children racing around?!), I knew that it would be a few more days before I could attempt to exercise again.  So much for beginning exercise that week!

 

The next week, I was determined to try again.  This time, I set my alarm clock for 6:00 am in preparation to go for a good brisk walk in the morning.  Without kids.  That part is important, obviously, because kids always throw wrenches into your plans for having a great, unobserved workout.  Monday morning, I was up with the birds and walking around my new neighborhood, which I discovered has NO sidewalks.  None.  It’s also apparently very busy early in the morning; so I spent that walk mostly dodging oncoming cars and pretending I didn’t care when passing vehicles splashed up muddy water on me.  I researched and found out that there was a little nature trail at the library not far from me.  That trail became my go-to path for the next two days.  Life was awesome.  Then I was reminded that I live in the land of liquid sunshine for the rest of the week.  It poured down cold rain for five days straight.  I don’t mind walking in rain – it’s kind of a requirement around here – but this was the stuff that made me wish for windshield wipers on my glasses and about six more layers of warm clothes.

 

Chris came through by running to Game Stop and purchasing EA Sports Active for the Wii.  I spent the remainder of the week trying out this new (to me anyway) game instead of freezing on my walks outside.  I liked that it was customizable, that the workouts changed daily, and that it hurt.  And I must have been doing all right, since the scales at the end of the fourth week indicated that I was down another three pounds.

 

This coming week, barring all ridiculous injuries or intense rain scenarios, I plan on doing my walks in the early morning and then doing the EA Sports Active later in the day.  Because I am upping my exercise time, I don’t think it’s wise to just have juice throughout the morning in afternoon.  I’m going to continue to start off my days with green juice and then have one more veggie juice later in the day.  In between, I plan on eating some good protein (think oatmeal with peanut butter) and some healthy fats as well. (like avocados)  I guess with these changes, I should probably not refer to it as a juice cleanse anymore.

 

Oh and I have one more goal this week.  I need to get more sleep! I am a terrible night owl, and it is affecting me getting up early to go walking.  My plan is to be in bed by 10:30 or 11:00 pm at the latest.  This will require great fortitude and strength of will.  It will also require me to finish this post, now!  I need to go to bed.

 

Week Two of Our Juice Cleanse

juicyjuice

(To read about why my husband and I started a juice cleanse, click here.  To find out how our first week went, click here.)

 

We finished off our first week of drinking only fresh vegetable/fruit juice and water, and as I mentioned in a previous post, I felt great!  I had lost weight and gained a ton of energy.  At the end of that first week, Chris and I sat down to evaluate how everything had gone so far and if we wanted to continue.  Inspired by my success so far, I wanted to keep going.  Chris had a different idea.  He was bothered by the fact that we all sat down at the dinner table, us parents with our juices and the kids with their meats and veggies.  He felt like it wasn’t very easy to encourage the kids to eat their vegetables when we weren’t doing the same.  I agreed – it just wasn’t the same time of bonding and family fellowship when we didn’t eat with the kids.  After a lot of discussion, we decided to continue the juice cleanse for the mornings and afternoons and then eat a meal of lean proteins and veggies for dinner with the family.

 

So that’s what we did.  The first evening, we had grilled chicken and salad, and that night, I had a lot of stomach cramps. Chis felt fine, but apparently my body needed a little more time to adjust to this change.  We continued with our new plan, and I was pleased to discover that I still had a high amount of energy as well.  I had such a craving for chocolate cake one evening that I gave in and made a previous favorite of ours, Two-Minute Chocolate Mug Cake.  I split the recipe between us, and although it briefly satisfied the taste buds, it didn’t have the desired effect.  I was also getting a little tired of the juicing process by this point.  I liked drinking the juice, but I wasn’t as fond of all the washing, peeling, and chopping of the veggies and fruits and especially the cleaning of the juicer.  It also was a big time suck – I found myself getting up earlier to get enough juices ready for Chris to take to work with him.  (And of course, this process was constantly interrupted by kids clamoring for breakfast and diaper changes and use of the tv remote).  I decided that for my own sanity and for continued momentum in this process, I would make juices the night before.  I know that fresh juice is best straight out of the juicer and that the longer it sits, the more nutrients it loses.  But I did my best to preserve the nutrients by adding a little lemon to each juice and by filling my mason jars completely to the top before sealing the lids tightly and putting them in the fridge.

 

I learned a few new things this second week of juicing.  First, I realized that my thought process has been much clearer since we started the juice cleanse.  I can focus on a project to completion (the housework rejoices!), and my creativity has greatly increased.  Secondly, I learned that I need to figure out how to listen to my body better.  That night that I wanted chocolate cake so badly, my body was really telling me that it was thirsty.  Plain and simple.  The next time I wanted something sugary  and sweet, I drank a glass of water and found that my body was satiated.  We also discovered that listening to our bodies meant not always sticking entirely to the “rules.”  One morning, I felt the need for something with more staying power than just juice.  A handful of almonds did the trick.  Chris had a day at work when he was having a lot of trouble focusing and getting anything done.  A small turkey sandwich on whole-wheat bread made all the difference.

 

By the end of the second week of juicing, I had lost just one pound.  My body hit a bit of a plateau in the weight loss department, although I noticed that my jeans were still getting looser. 🙂  Energy levels and patience levels (what?!) were high.  Encouraged by these results, we made a commitment to continue juicing during the day and eating healthy, balanced meals in the evening.  I determined also that this next week would be the week that I would start doing some moderate, intentional exercise.

 

And next week, I’ll share how that week went.  (Hint – somebody ended up flat on their back in bed for two days and the kids ended up watching a LOT of tv.)  For now, I’ll leave you with another favorite juice recipe.

 

Red Sparkler Juice

1 medium red beet, washed well

4 carrots

2 oranges, peeled

1 bunch of cilantro

 

Week One of Our Juice Cleanse

juicyjuice     When Chris and I first decided to make positive, healthy changes to our lifestyle, we knew that we needed to focus on nutrition first before exercise.  Exercise has always been the easier part of the equation for us – eating healthy, vitamin-rich foods and avoiding the crappy, sugar-filled foods have always been a battle for us.  I have heard that the key to a long-lasting, healthy life is 70% nutrition and 30% exercise.  My obstacle was going to be conquering my coffee addiction;  Chris had to face giving up his beloved Pepsi and sugary energy drinks.

 

In yesterday’s post, I talked about our decision to go on a juice cleanse.  We purchased a juicer, loaded up the fridge and counter tops with fruits and vegetables, and planned out how we were going to make this work.  We started on a Saturday so we could get used to it before the busyness of work and homeschooling hit on Monday.  The plan was to drink five to six juices (16 ounces) throughout the day as well as plenty of water in between.  Meanwhile, I would make healthy, balanced meals for the kids as well as offer them juice if they wanted it, too.

 

Day One of the cleanse was interesting.  We happened to score a great deal on an outdoor playhouse from Craigslist, and Chris spent the first day of the cleanse dismantling the playhouse at the previous owners’ house and then rebuilding it in our backyard.  That was a lot of sweat and labor for a diet of just juice.  However, we both made it through the day successfully, giving me hope that I would be able to continue.  The second and third day of the cleanse were not as kind to me.  I felt sick, achy, extremely tired, and cranky.  I worried that I wasn’t doing it right, but after a little reading I realized I was just experiencing the detox effect.  I knew if I could just push through it I would be feeling great soon.  On Day Four, I woke up BEFORE my alarm clock and quite literally jumped out of bed.  I was shocked at the high energy I had all day.  For the rest of the week, I was intoxicated with my energy level and with how I just felt so good.  Chris had the same experiences – getting up earlier in the morning and being cheerful to boot.

 

I did miss coffee terribly that first week.  It was such an ingrained habit that just a whiff of coffee (hello, I live in the land of a Starbucks-on-every-corner) would make me miss it and desire it so much.  After the first few days however, I found that I obviously did not need the caffeine!  Our other struggle that week was attending a barbecue on Friday night.  It was strange and a little awkward to be standing there, sipping our fresh juices, while everyone else indulged in homemade mac’n’cheese, hot dogs, and hamburgers.  I discovered that I didn’t really desire the barbecue food at all.

 

If you’re thinking of starting  a juice cleanse, whether it be for three days or a week or even longer, let me share a few tips with you that I learned our first week.

1.  First, be prepared.  Have the fruits and veggies on hand that you need so you won’t be tempted to give up.  I ended up making a whole lot of juice in the mornings – maybe three or four different varieties – and putting it into tightly sealed mason jars in the fridge.  Chris took four jars to work with him, and then I also had a lot of juice to get me through the day, especially as I was making the kids’ meals.

2.  Secondly, make sure that you use a variety of fruits and vegetables in your juices every day.  It’s important to get different vitamins and other nutrients into your body, as that will be the only nutrition your body gets during the cleanse.

3.  Use more veggies than fruits.  Most of my juices are full of vegetables with a little fruit to sweeten them up.

4.  If you can, start your cleanse on a day when you don’t have to be anywhere or do anything too strenuous.  Give yourself time to relax and and rest throughout the day, but do try to stay busy so you don’t think so much about the fact that you’re not getting to eat anything.

5.  Juicing is amazing because all the vitamins in the juice digest quickly and get into your bloodstream within fifteen minutes of drinking it.  However, it also eliminates all of the fiber.  This is a good thing during a cleanse, as it gives your body a chance to rest and not have to work so hard at digestion.  But it can make you a little “backed-up,” if you know what I mean. 😉  I bought some “Get Regular” tea and used it when I needed a little help.

 

When we got to the end of our first week, I felt better than I have ever felt in my entire life.  I had loads of energy, and my skin had cleared up dramatically.  The best part was that I lost eight pounds!  We were so excited about these new changes in our lives that we decided to continue the juice cleanse, but to switch it up a little.  I’ll let you know how that went in a future post.

Here are two of my favorite juice recipes.  The Big Green one I drink every morning to start off my day, and the Sweet Potato Splash is a nice pick-me-up in the afternoon.

 

Big Green:

1 cup kale, loosely chopped

1 cup spinach

1 cup broccoli

1 cup romaine lettuce

1/2 cucumber

1 Granny Smith apple

1/2 lemon

small piece of ginger

 

Sweet Potato Splash

one small sweet potato, peeled

2 large carrots

2 apples

1 spear pineapple

small piece of ginger

 

Enjoy!

 

Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired

 

 

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It was nearing three’o’clock in the afternoon, and I was wiped out.  I felt tired and sluggish, and my mind seemed to have no ability to focus on any one task to completion.  I sighed heavily, dragged myself to the kitchen to make myself yet another cup of coffee in hopes it would get me through the rest of the day.  This had become a pattern for me – at least two cups of coffee in the morning, maybe three if homeschooling was driving me crazy.  Another two or three cups in the afternoon, and still I was exhausted, grumpy, and mentally fuzzy.  I was tired of being tired.  I was sick of feeling sick and of never having enough energy to keep up with my kids, my marriage, and the housework.

 

So how did I handle it?  Well, I had a meltdown, of course!  My body couldn’t take it anymore, and one day my husband came home to find me furiously cleaning the house while sobbing the whole time.  The concerned kids told him that mommy had been like this all day.  We talked a lot that day and tried to get to the bottom of my fatigue.  My husband said that he, too, had been feeling like crap for a while, and as we continued to sort things out, we realized that we were both barely holding our heads above the water.  We prayed for peace and answers, and the next day, the answers came.

 

I had put the kids to bed and sat down on the couch to recover from the day.  I scrolled through the new choices on Netflix and on a whim, I chose to watch the documentary Food Matters.  At first, I only partly paid attention to it as I played some word games on my phone, but I was soon mesmerized by the information the doctors and others interviewed in the film were sharing.  “Chris, it’s my fault! It’s my fault!”  I suddenly blurted out.  He came into the room and stared at me.  “My body!  I’ve been treating it terribly; so of course I feel terrible all the time.”  He sat with me, and we watched the rest of the film in silence.  Afterwards came a flurry of words.  “We have to change our ways for the sake of our family.  I want more energy – I want to feel good.  I have to fill my body with good things if that is going to happen.”

 

The next day, we bought a juicer.  I wasn’t exactly sure how this was going to fit in to a new healthy lifestyle, but I knew my mom had been juicing for years to help with her cancer.  I was eager to see if it would help me feel better and more energetic.  We tried some juice recipes.  Chris, also known as the pickiest eater in the entire world, surprisingly drank every one – including the “Big Green” one, full of broccoli, kale, spinach, romaine lettuce, and cucumbers.  Meanwhile, we started focusing our meals down to lean proteins and lots of veggies and fruits.  But we both had a desire to up the ante.

 

I had heard that Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead was a good documentary to watch if you were trying to live a healthier lifestyle, especially one that included juicing.  So we watched it.  At the end, Chris said, “I want to do that.  I want to go on a juice cleanse.”  We discussed how long would we do this.  What about the kids?  How would we work it out with our daily schedules?  What were our goals in all of this?  And it was settled, that the coming weekend, we would begin our juice fast together.  A juice fast, in case you aren’t familiar, consists of drinking only fresh fruit and vegetable juice and lots of water over a set period of days.  I didn’t set a certain number of days, because frankly, I wasn’t sure I would be able to make it past one day.  Chris thought maybe he would like to try going sixty days, like the man in the documentary.

 

So we began our juicing cleanse journey.  It certainly was not without its ups and downs.  I will share some of the things we went through as well as some amazing juice recipes in tomorrow’s post.