Friday Free-For-All – 03/18/16

FFFA (1)

Tomorrow is my younger twin sisters’ birthday! Haley lives in Michigan now, so I won’t get to see her, but her present should be arriving on her doorstep today. I’m hoping I’ll see Hilary at some point tomorrow to deliver her card and present. I’m really proud of myself for finding fart-themed birthday cards for both of them. I’m such a sweet, caring sister 😉

My diet overhaul is going well. Eating well and not being hungry all the time requires a lot of prep work, but I’m getting there. My sugar consumption is down, my overall calorie consumption is down, and I’m eating more fruits and veggies. The best part, though, is that when I actually follow through and eat right, the overwhelming runger is gone. I actually haven’t been eating my usual afternoon or pre-dinner/pre-run snack in the evenings because I’m… not hungry. Crazy! I’m excited to see how things progress over the next couple of weeks. Although I’m a bit worried I might turn orange from all the sweet potatoes and carrots I’m consuming…

Ben and I still haven’t done our taxes. I’m starting to feel really anxious about it, because this weekend is pretty much my last free weekend until April 15. Logically of course, I know it will get done, but I’m still stressing about it. I’m also not sure whether or not we’ll actually get a refund this year. We’ve never owed anything on our taxes before, but that would seriously blow.

I went to a comedy improv show last night. The Vermont Comedy Club is a recent addition to the culture scene here in Burlington. This was my second time going, and I have to say, it was a blast! It’s such a great alternative to the typical bar scene, and it’s usually a relatively cheap, super fun night out. If you’ve never seen improv comedy before, I highly recommend it. I really admire how quick-witted the performers are, and they were all so open and in the moment, it was very impressive to me as a fellow performer. They also offer classes in stand-up, improv, and sketch comedy, and I have to admit I’m tempted. But only if I can get a buddy to sign up with me!

Have you ever been to an improv comedy show?

Have you done your taxes yet?

 

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Minimalist Meal Planning

Unless you’re new around here (in which case, HI!! Thanks for stopping by!), you know that I’ve been super busy lately. On Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings and Sunday afternoons, I have rehearsal for anywhere from 3 to 4 hours. And the timing is such that I don’t have enough time to go home between work and rehearsal during the week. I usually end up going to the gym instead.

This means that most of my meals are eaten away from home, which is generally a recipe for unhealthy eating and/or paying out the wazoo for convenience foods. And being so busy leaves me very little time for traditional meal planning and prep–I don’t have 5 hours on Sunday afternoon to peel, chop, cook etc. I have pared down my weekly meal prep to the bare minimum, and so far it’s working for me. In case you’re curious or looking to develop a system of your own, here’s what I do.

Shopping List:

  • Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk
  • 2 lbs green beans
  • 1 lb carrots
  • Bananas
  • 4 or 5 medium sweet potatoes
  • Boneless, skinless chicken breasts or tender fillets
  • Quick oats
  • All natural nut butter (my favorite is sunflower seed butter)
  • Plain Greek yogurt
  • Granola or some variation of Kashi cereal
  • Nuts (usually cashews or almonds)
  • Sometimes I buy Lara bars or Kind bars for portable snacks, but only if they’re on sale

On Sunday evening when I get home from rehearsal, I dump the chicken in my crockpot with some salsa and a bit of water. No, I don’t measure anything. I cook the chicken on high for about 4 hours, or until it’s done.

While the chicken is doing its thing, I’ll peel and chop the sweet potatoes, season them with olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and paprika, and roast them at 350 for about an hour, or until they’re cooked through. I’ll also peel and chop carrots and put them in a container filled with water to keep them fresh. This way I can just grab a handful and put them in a baggie or container for easy, healthy snacking.

Next, I sautee the green beans in olive oil with garlic, salt and pepper. I like my beans crispy, so I don’t cook them very long. Once the chicken, sweet taters, and beans are all done, I divide them up into 5 equal portions for lunches during the week. Friday’s portion usually ends up being dinner because I have a standing lunch date with a friend. For dinners on Monday or Wednesday nights, I’ll try to snag leftovers from dinners at home, or hit up the Shaw’s salad bar.

Every night, I’ll prep a batch of overnight oats in a mason jar to bring to work for breakfast in the morning. 1/2 cup quick oats + 3/4 cup almond milk + a ripe banana + 2 tbsp of nut butter = creamy, sweet breakfast with no added sugar. Just microwave for 60 seconds before serving. Yum!

Snacks at work are usually Greek yogurt with granola or cereal in the morning, and nuts in the afternoon. I’ll occasionally have a Lara bar or Kind bar before an evening workout, just for a bit of extra energy and to keep Hangry Rae at bay.

So there you have it. My bare bones weekly meal prep. Once I have more time again, I’d like to be more thorough and try to cover all of my meals during the week, but for now, it’s good enough.

Do you do a weekly meal plan/prep session?

Sweet potatoes, love ’em or hate ’em? I obviously love them.

A Reflection on Holiday Eating

A few weeks ago, I made some very bold statements regarding the holidays.  About how I wasn’t going to let the holiday season be an excuse to make bad food choices and pack on the pounds.  About how my accountabilibuddies would be the push I needed to say no to the eggnog, cookies, and dips.  And while I can’t say with total honesty that I was successful, I was better than I could have been, and for me, that’s a win.

I’ve decided that rather than focusing on the negative (I gained about 3 pounds), I will focus on the things I did right, the things that worked, the things I did comparatively well this year compared to years gone by.  I hope that by celebrating my achievements instead of focusing on my failures, I can inspire myself to do even better next year.

I didn’t stuff myself on Thanksgiving.  I truly think this is the first time in memory that I didn’t eat myself uncomfortable on Thanksgiving.  I had a little bit of everything, including pie, but I didn’t force it.  I wasn’t overfull, I was happy.  This is a huge accomplishment for me, and one I think I can repeat next year.

I backed off the eggnog, big time.  One of my favorite things about the holiday season has long been a big ole eggnog cocktail.  I used to do rum, but these days, it’s bourbon.  Something about that sweet, rich eggnog, combined with the bite of the bourbon, with a dusting of freshly grated nutmeg on top…  I’m actually salivating just thinking about it.  And usually, I give myself “permission” to drink as many of these as I want, because it’s a “special,” seasonal treat that I can only have a few weeks out of the year, even though an 8 oz glass of eggnog contains 223 calories, 20 g of sugar, and 11 g of fat!  This year, I’m pretty sure I only had three.  One on Thanksgiving, and two in the days around Christmas.

On more than one occasion, I took a taste of a treat (cookie, sweet, etc), and when it wasn’t exactly what I wanted, I stopped eating it.  I have a weird thing with sweets, where if I take something, and it’s not as tasty as I thought it would be, I eat the whole thing anyway because it’s a treat and I should like it.  I don’t know why, but it’s true.  Even if a cookie is too sweet, or too dry, or tastes a little off, I will still eat the whole thing.  This year, I tried really hard to focus in on what I was eating, and if it wasn’t just right, to stop.  This may not seem like much, but for me, it’s huge.  If I could completely break myself of this habit, I’d be a lot healthier.

I got my veggies in.  This will always be an accomplishment for me, because I didn’t start eating most vegetables until I was an adult.  But I made sure that if vegetables were available at a meal, I took a nice big serving and ate them first.  I almost always eat the vegetable portion of my meals first these days because it helps me feel more full and ultimately, eat less of everything else.

Of course, none of this changes the fact that I was pretty much binge-drinking Ketel One and club soda, eating from sunup to sundown, and generally making poor nutrition choices for two straight weeks, but like I said, for me, these are all small victories that added up to a less disastrous-than-usual holiday eating season.

How did you fare with holiday eating/weight gain?

What’s your favorite holiday treat you just can’t turn down?

Here I Go Again (Not) On My Own

Weight is a subject that I’ve touched on several times over the last few months.  To sum up, I’ve gained some weight and some inches over the last year or so, and I’m not happy about it.  Summer of 2013, I was fit, confident and happy.  I was running moderate distances 2-3 times per week, and hitting up 1-2 strength/bootcamp type classes per week.  I was eating generally well, keeping the booze consumption under control, and feeling pretty good about myself.

Fall of 2013, Ben and I tore up our Massachusetts roots and headed back to our home state of Vermont.  The transition went well in most ways, except in the diet and exercise department.  I fell off the wagon, hard, and have been running behind and trying unsuccessfully to climb back on ever since.  Now, we’re entering a time of year that is pretty much synonymous with excess–pies, cakes, cookies, eggnog and more, all trotted out on a daily basis, begging to be eaten.  Coworkers will bring in their leftover treats from home, there will be parties galore, and lots of seasonal delicacies that only emerge between mid-November and January.  I usually end up overindulging and feeling crappy about myself, and of course there’s the oft-made (and oft-broken) New Year’s Resolution to “lose weight!” or “get in shape!” that never actually happens and leaves me feeling like a failure, until the next year when I do it all over again.

This year I’m saying “no.”  Not again.  No more.  No more eating to the point of illness.  No more, “But it’s Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Years, don’t hold back!”  No more packing on the pounds and feeling sorry for myself.  And I know I (and many others) say this every year, but this time is different.  This time, I’ve got help–my accountabilibuddies (Kim, Lisa, Kellie and Nicole) are back on the case, and we’re going to stop being enablers and get tough on each other.  We check in daily, we encourage each other to be active, and say things like “Back away from the donut box.”

This will likely be even more challenging due to my current non-running status, but I know for a fact that diet is 90% of the problem for me anyway.  This means it’s more important than ever to really focus on eating nutritious foods, cutting back on the sugar and booze, and getting a handle on portion sizes.

I probably won’t be doing regular check-ins on this, but I’ll be sure to do a wrap up after the holidays.

How do you combat holiday weight gain?

#Chewsday Challenge Wrap-Up

A few weeks ago, I recommitted myself to the #Chewsday Challenge.  As discussed, my original plan was perhaps a little too ambitious, so this time around I decided to add in one challenge at a time, with the goal of slowly and realistically building toward overall healthier eating.  The challenge for Week 1 was no booze on work nights.  Week 2, I added in fruits and/or veggies with every meal.  Week 3, I started only one serving of treat per day.  And last week, I added in protein with every meal.  I’ve now been at this for a solid month (more, if you count my first, half-hearted attempt), and I’m ready to let go of #Chewsday (and I’m sure you’re all tired of hearing about my eating challenges).  So, I’ve done one final assessment of what worked, what didn’t, and how I plan to move forward.

How did it go?

  • No booze on work nights has become pretty much habit.  I may have a beer here or a glass of wine there, but on the whole, I’m not really drinking on week nights anymore, and that’s probably the way it will stay.  I don’t need the extra calories and I don’t need any more trouble sleeping than I already have.
  • Fruits or veggies with every meal will likely always be a challenge for me.  I’m worlds better than I used to be, but I still struggle.  I have a few more tricks in my arsenal, and I am eating some veggies that I used to despise, so I’ll take that as a win.  I will do my best to continue to incorporate more fruits and veg, but I’m not going to beat myself up if I have a veggie-less meal.
  • One serving of treat per day is easier some days than others.  I really like having my bag of chocolate covered sunflower seeds in my desk.  They’re a satisfying treat on multiple levels, and I feel like I don’t eat as many of them as I would other sweet options.  On the whole, I think I’m more mindful about reaching for treats than I used to be, but this will definitely also always be a struggle.
  • Protein with every meal is not as easy as I’d hoped.  It requires planning ahead (is the chicken thawed? are the beans soaking?), which Ben and I are not always great at.  However, on the days I followed through with this, I noticed that I ate less overall and definitely did less snacking, so I plan to at least attempt to keep up with this.

So that’s it for the #Chewsday Challenge, at least for me.  I won’t be posting any more weekly updates or issuing any more challenges.  But I will DEFINITELY continue to work on these four points above, because they are working for me.  And of course, I’ll be doing periodic check-ins with my accountabilibuddies, cause they’re hilarious and awesome.

What’s your number one healthy eating tip/trick?

#Chewsday Reboot Week 4

A few weeks ago, I recommitted myself to the #Chewsday Challenge.  As discussed, my original plan was perhaps a little too ambitious, so this time around I’ve decided to add in one challenge at a time, with the goal of slowly and realistically building toward overall healthier eating.  The challenge for Week 1 was no booze on work nights.  Week two, I added in fruits and/or veggies with every meal.  Last week, I started only one serving of treat per day.

How is it going?

  • No booze on work nights.  This is still going fairly well.  I did have one beer on Tuesday night, but I thought about it long and hard before making a conscious decision to indulge.  It was one single, lonely beer sitting in the fridge, and I put it out of its misery 🙂
  • Fruits and/or veggies with every meal.  This is also going surprisingly well.  Even if I don’t have produce with a particular meal, I usually end up having fruit as a between meals snack, which I feel sort of evens things out.  Yes, some days are better than others, but on the whole, I’m eating more fruit and veg, which is a good thing.
  • Only one serving of treat per day.  This is still sometimes a challenge.  Obviously, this weekend was tough because of the wedding and dinner party.  I slipped up on Saturday and had some chocolate covered sunflower seeds in the afternoon, and then had the Dacquoise at the dinner party, but on the whole, it wasn’t as bad as it could have been.  I’m trying to be more conscious of the treats I have and when I have them, and that’s what matters.

This week’s challenge:  protein at every meal.  I don’t think I eat enough protein during the day–particularly at lunch, which usually leads to excessive snacking and eating way too effing much at dinner.  If I eat more protein all throughout the day, I’m hoping that overall, I’ll take in less calories and less junk.  Graze has been pretty good getting me yummy snacks, but I plan to also buy some bulk almonds to keep in my desk at work for protein power on days when the runger strikes.  AND I’m going to pick up some chocolate covered sunflower seeds so that when I can’t resist the craving for sweets, at least I’m getting some protein too.

I found this awesome protein chart on Pinterest (where else?), so I’m hoping it will be a helpful guide for all of us.

protein2

If you’d like to join in on the #Chewsday Challenge, come find me and my accountabilibuddies on Twitter.  Tweet us your eats, triumphs, challenges and questions and use the #Chewsday hashtag.  I promise, we’re a good time.  Especially if you like cupcakes.  And Disney.

@RaeisaDarlin (me)

@PrincessRunners (Lisa)

@KellieEbe (Kellie)

@paradeinpink (Nicole)

@Vixen1267 (Kimberly)

What’s your favorite form of protein?

 

#Chewsday Reboot Week 3

A few weeks ago, I recommitted myself to the #Chewsday Challenge.  As discussed, my original plan was perhaps a little too ambitious, so this time around I’ve decided to add in one challenge at a time, with the goal of slowly and realistically building toward overall healthier eating.  The challenge for Week 1 was no booze on work nights.  Last week, I added in fruits and/or veggies with every meal.

How’s it going?

Pretty dang well!  Not having alcohol on week nights only gets easier as time goes on.  I had one cheat this past week, when Ben and I went out for our date night.  But I only had one margarita, and it was totally worth it.  I definitely have been falling asleep better and staying asleep better on nights that I don’t drink, so I think this is a win, and something I will try to always keep up with going forward.

On the fruits and veggies front, there have really only been one or two meals that were misses–I’ve been having veggie omelettes for breakfast every day, and having a side salad at lunch, and then a serving of veggies with dinner.  I also usually have apples or bananas as a snack during the day, so I’m doing very well.  I plan to keep this up as much as possible, because I stay full noticeably longer, and am much more satisfied all around with my meals.

This week’s challenge:  only one serving of “treat” per day.  I’ve been feeling pretty smug about my success in the current challenges I’ve got going, which has led to a state of permissiveness as far as treats go.  I’ve been having a lot of sweets lately, sometimes multiple times per day, and usually more than one serving at a time.  I need to cut back on the sugary treats big time.  This can be challenging, because we do Friday breakfasts at work, which often star muffins, cakes etc.  We also have an office treat fairy who bakes several times a week and brings her extras in and leaves them in the kitchen–so tempting!  I’d like to be more mindful about the treats I’m having, and try to really enjoy them, rather than mindlessly fulfilling a sugar craving.

Click for Source

Click for Source

As I’ve mentioned before, I have some fantastic accountabilibuddies, and we encourage each other to make better choices (when we’re not enabling each others’ sugar habits) with daily check-ins on Twitter using the #Chewsday hashtag.  My accountabilibuddies are actually all attempting to go 100% no treats at all this week, which is totally crazy.  I’m going more moderate with my “only one treat per day” goal.  Can we keep it up?  Follow along on Twitter to find out!

@RaeisaDarlin (me)

@PrincessRunners (Lisa)

@KellieEbe (Kellie)

@paradeinpink (Nicole)

@Vixen1267 (Kimberly)

What’s your favorite way to satisfy a sugar craving?