Sometimes Life Is Like A Country Western Song

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Well, hello there.  Long time, no blog.

As you may have noticed, I disappeared in the last month or so.  There was a major snowstorm in our area which resulted in our home losing power and heat for a week, as well as a small tree falling against our neighbor’s house.  Hubby and I tried to stick it out at home, but it was freakin’ cold, so we shuffled around hotels.  When the power came back on, the furnace didn’t work, and it took a few days to get it to work.  And, oh yeah, I hurt my back shoveling snow.

After the snowstorm debacle, we left town for a pre-booked, much-needed vacation.  It was a whirlwind trip as we flew around visiting friends and family, then finally spent a couple of glorious days at a warm, sunny corner of the world.  When we returned to town, I thought I would also return to my normal routine.

Instead, I lost my job.  At least the boss waited until after my birthday.  Happy Thanksgiving!

It’s been a hell of a year.  It would be easy to give up, to tuck myself into bed and not get out for the rest of the year.  In fact, the day I lost my job, I sat in my car in the driveway thinking, “Do I really want to tempt fate by going to the grocery store?  With the way things are going, I’ll get into a fender bender on the way there!”

I tempted fate, and I continue to tempt it.  I get out of bed early each morning and I stay busy all day.  I view this time in my life as an opportunity to refocus and reorganize, literally and figuratively.  I’ve used the last couple of weeks to clear my head, to clean out and organize my house, and to do things I haven’t had time or energy to do in, oh, years.  I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the overwhelming support I’ve received from friends and family, as well as colleagues in my field.  Their love and support has reminded me that there is so much more to life, and my life, then a job.  (Hopefully I’ll remember that as the bills come due!)

Finally, I’ve returned to a steady diet and exercise routine.  I’m doing yoga again, and I’m back at the gym several days per week.  In fact, yesterday I did my best time ever on the treadmill–a mile in 10:34!  And I’ve lost a total of 23 pounds since mid-July!  I’m totally gonna turn into one of those “ladies who lunch” who spends all day in a velour tracksuit, going to the gym and flirting with the trainer.  Just kidding.

Have you ever had a period of your life where it seemed like everything went wrong, or you had a big, unexpected shake up?  How did you handle it?  What’s your advice for other people going through a rough period or a major life change?

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When It Rains, It Pours. When It Snows, It Blows.

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Hi, folks.  As you’ve seen (yet again), I’ve disappeared (yet again).  And (yet again), I wish I could say it was because I was on vacation.  Nope.  Thanks to Mother Nature, I have been temporarily displaced and wandering like a nomad, living out of a suitcase.  As you can imagine, my diet and exercise regime has been totally disrupted, but I’m just glad to have heat, hot water, and electricity as I roam.  Hopefully, I will check in again soon.

Fourteen Weeks Way-In

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As you may have noticed, I pretty much disappeared in the last week.  I’d like to say I was on vacation, or kidnapped by aliens or something interesting, but the truth is I was just busy.  I had a bunch of after-work events I had to attend, then I had relatives visiting from out-of-state for a few days (who noticed my physical fitness!), followed by more after-work events.  I didn’t blog, I rarely made it to the gym or the trails, and my eating habits suffered.  The weird thing is that I finally broke my weight-loss plateau, at least for a few days.  Maybe after I get back into the groove this week, I’ll see some more weight loss and muscle toning?  Maybe my body needed a shake-up in the wrong direction?  One can dream.

So, the goal for this week is just to get back to normal.  I gotta exercise at least five days this week.  (Monday was already an off day, and Wednesday will be, too, thanks to after-hours, work-related events I’m compelled to attend.)  I gotta drink a lot of water.  I gotta eat lots of fruits and vegetables.  I’ve scheduled a physical for this week which will be shortly followed-up by blood tests, meaning the dreaded cholesterol test.  I’m crossing my fingers that my doctor finds improvement in my health and that I continue to avoid cholesterol medication which I’ve been dodging for, oh, 16 years.

What are your goals for the week?

No Free Lunch

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Are you willing to spend more money to purchase better quality food?  Do you find a difference in quality of food at organic/health stores (i.e., Whole Foods) versus your local chain grocery store (i.e., Pathmark, ShopRite, Kroger, Ralph’s, Safeway)?

Thirteen Weeks Way-In

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If you’ve ever seen Mame, then you’re familiar with the joke about Upson Downs.  I think I’m going to rename my life Upson Downs.

I’m still at a weight loss plateau.  I think I’m going on, oh, up to three weeks of a plateau.     I suppose I need to be a bit more vigilant about what I eat, and how, to make sure I haven’t become complacent with that aspect of my lifestyle.  Plus, I have several after-work events coming up in the next couple of weeks, so I should make an extra effort to eat healthy when I can to prepare for those events where it’s not so easy.  (Breaded chicken cutlets and pasta seem to be very popular at these kind of events.)

I should also mix up my exercise.  Case in point:  I didn’t do any yoga last week.  Zip.  Zilch.  I miss it.  I need to do it.

Speaking of mixing up workouts, Sundays have become my de facto day to shake it up.  Yesterday, I ran the trails instead of the treadmill.  I purposefully did interval training.  I have no idea how many miles I ran, but I was on the trails for an hour.  At one point, I really ran.  I mean knees-pumping-feet-pounding-the-ground-sprinting-flying ran.  It only lasted a minute (if that), but it felt great.  As for the treadmill, I averaged about 11:52 per mile.  On Wednesday, I ran 2 miles in 22:57 (or about 11:29 per mile).  Now that I know I can run on the treadmill for a mile or two, I feel like I should mix it up and spend some time doing interval training on the treadmill.  Maybe that will break my plateau.

How was your week?  What are your goals for this week?

Shatter the Plateau

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I want to achieve stability, but not total flatness.  Call me mesa, though, ‘cause I’ve hit a weight loss plateau.  That’s frustrating in itself, but I wonder if it means everything else is stalling, too.  Have I flatlined on toning up?  Is my cholesterol level staying the same instead of dropping?  How do I break the plateau?

I did a little research, and it seems like there are 3 major causes for plateaus:

1.  Not eating enough.  Yeah, I was surprised, too.  However, if you’re not taking in enough calories, then your body may go into starvation mode and try to store everything rather than burn it off.  So those carrots could go straight to your waist if you’re not eating anything else or not eating a balanced diet.

2.  Eating mindlessly.  If you’re dining in front of the television or computer, you may not realize what you’re putting in your mouth, or how much.  A handful of almonds may be a healthy snack, but you may be eating five handfuls if your hand’s in the bag and your eyes are on the TV.

3.  Workout ruts.  If we’re working out on a regular basis, we feel great about ourselves–and we should.  However, the same workout–every day, week to week–makes a more efficient body, meaning you burn fewer calories.  In other words, your body is used to the workout and needs a change.  Mix it up to burn more calories.

So it looks like mindfully eating a balanced diet and mixing up workouts will help break fitness plateaus.  Have you ever hit a plateau?  What did you do to break it?

Guideline #10: Drink Water

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The human body is primarily composed of water.  We lose water constantly through sweating, breathing, and urinating, and we lose lots of water when we exercise.  Water helps flush out toxins in our system, so it’s a good idea to follow Guideline #10:  Drink Lots of Water.

But how much?  The Institute of Medicine and the Mayo Clinic agree that men should drink approximately 13 cups (3 liters) of fluids per day, and women should drink about 9 cups (2.2 liters) per day.  You’ve likely heard the adage to drink 8 8-ounce cups of water per day.  The Mayo Clinic is inclined to agree, as you get some of that remaining water from other beverages and foods.  However, you’ve gotta bump that up if you’re engaging in intense exercise, you’re ill or pregnant, or you’re in a hot or humid environment.

Personally, I like to use a 32-ounce bottle with a built-in straw to get my daily water.  Remember how, in college, everybody said you could get drunk faster with a straw?  Yeah, well, it works with water, too.  I like to throw in a few slices of lime or lemon to lightly flavor the water.  I usually zip through 64 ounces in any given work day although I admit I’m not so good about drinking that much water on the weekends.  I still enjoy coffee and tea on a daily basis, but I haven’t had soda in months.

How do you get your daily water intake?  What keeps you thirsting for more instead of tossing it aside in favor of sodas, coffee, or other drinks?

Random Thought

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I’m in the midst of my weight loss journey.  Some day I will wear a bikini.  It’ll show surgery scars on my stomach, cellulite on my thighs, and boobs that have sagged a bit since my teen years.  But I won’t care, ’cause I literally worked my ass off to get to where I felt okay wearing a bikini, and that’s enough for me.

Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal

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Ahhhh, autumn.  Pumpkins and squash and apples, oh my.

I borrowed an idea from Mixxedtape for an oatmeal add-in this morning.  I sautéed an apple with a little bit of olive oil and a lot of cinnamon, stirred some honey into my oatmeal, and mixed the apples in with my morning bowl of oatmeal.

I poured myself a cup of ambition, and enjoyed a yummy, comforting breakfast.

Twelve Weeks Way-In

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I’m twelve weeks way into my new healthy lifestyle.  The past week feels like a big fail.  I took not one, not two, but three days off from exercising.  Three.  No yoga, no running, no nothing for three days.  On Tuesday, I took the day off because I didn’t feel well.  Okay, I can give myself a pass for that.  On Friday, I skipped morning yoga, then went out after work and didn’t get home until late at night, so I didn’t do anything.  Okay, I could maybe–maybe–give myself a pass for that.  But Saturday?  I slept late, puttered about for a few hours, then hubby and I went out for the rest of the day and got home late.  I could’ve done something in the morning.  I could’ve, at least, done some yoga.  But no, I was a total lazy slob.

The good news is that I didn’t gain any weight, despite my laziness.  Also, when I did get on the treadmill, my pace improved to an average of 11:54 per mile.  And, my mood has been relatively stable.

The bad news is I haven’t lost any weight in two weeks and I’ve hit a plateau.  Weight loss is not my primary goal but, I’ll admit, it’s a goal and a measure of my health.  And, of course, I was lazy.  Remember when I ran 2 miles on the treadmill?  Yep, hasn’t happened again.  Today I made it about 1.85 miles, but I walked it after 1.5.

So, what now?  Time to refocus!  I figure I’ve been at this for almost 3 months now.  I’m in a new season and a new quarter, so why not set some goals for the next quarter?  Here goes:

1.  Try a new activity or sport, and do it at least twice.

2.  Run 2 miles at a time, at least once per week.

3.  Lose 10 pounds.

What are your goals for the next 3 months?

What’s That You Say?

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Shake Your Booty Off

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Music can change my mood in a second.  It can make me weepy or it can make me energized.  I’ve tried running both without and with my iPod (RIP, Steve Jobs), and I’ve found that the right kind of music really gets me revving on my runs.  (I also discovered that my running pace apparently has the same beats per minute as Billy Idol’s “Dancing With Myself” and Kenny Loggins’ “Footloose”!)  Here are some of my favorite workout tunes:

Body Movin’ – Beastie Boys
Sure Shot – Beastie Boys
Get Up I Feel Like Being A Sex Machine – James Brown
Just Can’t Get Enough – Depeche Mode
Survivor – Destiny’s Child
Ya Mama – Fatboy Slim
We Got The Beat – The Go-Go’s
Dancing With Myself – Billy Idol
Footloose – Kenny Loggins
Maniac (Flashdance) – Michael Sembello
She Works Hard for the Money – Donna Summer
Stronger – Kanye West

What are your favorite workout songs?

Adventures in Pumpkin

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The local grocery stores have been sold out of canned pumpkin for weeks so, when I finally spotted some yesterday, I loaded up with at least eight cans of the stuff.  I was anxious to use some right away and decided to experiment with pumpkin soup.  I browned a tablespoon of diced yellow onion in a tablespoon of olive oil.

I poured in 3.5 cups (a 29-ounce can) of pumpkin.

I mixed in half a cup of unsweetened applesauce.  I thought it might add some natural sweetness but balance out the pumpkin.

I poured in 1.5 cups of vegetable stock, added a dash of nutmeg, and dumped probably a tablespoon of cinnamon in it.  (I love cinnamon.)  I mixed everything up and let it simmer, covered, on low heat.  (Please–cover, cover, cover your pumpkin or you will quickly have a pumpkin-colored kitchen!)  There was no need to use a blender–I just poured a bit into a bowl and garnished it with roasted pumpkin seeds.

It was…okay.  It wasn’t bad, but I wasn’t knocked out by it.  I definitely should’ve chopped up the onions a little finer.  Other than that, I’m not sure what I should’ve done to give it more flavor.  Left out the applesauce?  Added a tablespoon of maple syrup?  Added cream?  I don’t know.

What do you use in your pumpkin soup?