My Vision Board

Over the past eight weeks, I’ve worked hard to recommit myself to a healthy lifestyle, and my new vision board has been a key to my success. What is a vision board? A collage of words and images that helps you visualize your goals and dreams so you can move closer to making them reality.

I actually consider mine more of an “inspiration” or “motivation” board, as the pictures and graphics provide a daily reminder of the reasons I am rededicating myself to a healthy lifestyle, including clean eating and regular exercise. Mine consists of a large Post-It cork board placed on the wall at the foot of my bed, a place that I can’t help but see it every morning and every night. I especially love the bold graphics that grab me from a distance.

Vision Board

I happened to love the large self-stick cork board, but your vision board doesn’t have to be as fancy; you can create it on any size bulletin board, poster paper or even online. The important thing is that you use images that motivate you and accurately picture your goals and/or dreams.

Here are a few great online resources to help you create a vision board:

Vision Board Basics

Using Online Tools to Create a Vision Board (I used Picasa to create a vision board screen saver!)

Ten Steps to Creating an Inspiring Vision Board

 Do you have a vision board? If so, how has it helped you? Describe your vision board, and please share any helpful links about creating one. If you don’t have a vision board, is it something you’d like to do?

House of Cards Fitness Program

You read it right! I’ve had two great weeks in a row at the gym, and I have Frank Underwood to thank for it.

(If you’ve lived under a rock the past year, House of Cards is an American political drama television series that is available via Netflix. Set in present-day Washington, D.C., House of Cards is the story of Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey), a Democrat from South Carolina’s 5th Congressional District and House Majority Whip who, after getting passed over for appointment as Secretary of State, decides to exact his revenge on those who betrayed him. And it is phenomenal.)

House of Cards Board

A recent House of Cards challenge, which I met by the way. (I haven’t missed one yet; Frank Underwood is a strong motivation!)

I was late coming to House of Cards, but finally jumped in a few weeks ago. One episode in the doctor’s waiting room, and I was hooked. I binge-watched nine episodes the following weekend  and decided to use my obsession with the show to my advantage. That Sunday night, I wrote a challenge on my closet white board: Make Monday morning’s strength training to watch the next episode of House of Cards Monday night. And for the first time in several weeks, I made Monday morning’s training!

For the past two weeks now, I’ve used watching the next House of Cards episode as my incentive for completing a weekday fitness goal. The first week, it was simply to make it to the gym every morning. The next week, I upped the ante by also adding an additional challenge, such as eating breakfast at the kitchen table instead of back in bed or not turning on my iPhone until after my morning workout.

Not only has the incentive of watching helped motivate me, but watching an episode at night has also helped me settle down a little earlier, which is key to a 4:17 a.m. wake up call. After getting home, I do the usual things around the house, then start getting ready for bed around 7:30 a.m. I crawl in and watch House of Cards in bed on my laptop, and when it’s over, I’m ready to settle in for the night. If I don’t get on my iPhone or start playing on my laptop, I’m usually asleep by 9 p.m.

The trouble with this House of Cards fitness plan is that I only have six more episodes to watch before I finish Season Two. (And Season Three doesn’t start until February, 2015.) Hopefully by the time I finish Season Two, I’ll be back in the habit of full-on early morning fitness.

Since this has worked so well, I am hoping to find another series that catches my attention like House of Cards and use it in a similar manner. I’m thinking perhaps Downton Abbey or Scandal, but I’m still looking. Any suggestions?

 

February 2014 Non-Scale Victories

  1. Bought a rice cooker.
  2. Tried two new recipes, one of which involved black beans.
  3. Was in Kroger this a.m. and saw someone who knows my story. I didn’t recognize her, but she approached me and told me how good I looked and how proud she was of me. Nice to hear on a Monday morning.
  4. Instead of my usual 10-15 minute cardio workout before strength training, I did 30 minutes.
  5. Someone who hadn’t seen the thinner me in person saw me and said that my body finally matched my personality.
  6. My dentist wants to set me up with someone. No one ever mentioned setting the heavy me up with anyone.
  7. Resisted the very serious lure of Chocolate Cookie Quarry frozen yogurt at Publix.
  8. Tried something new: balsamic vinegar on fruit. Delightful new taste.
  9. Tried something new: flavored white balsamic vinegar (honey-ginger). Really upgraded the taste of my Glazed Tofu.
  10. Reduced artificial sweetener in my morning oatmeal from one to two, not because I’m trying to cut back on it, but because it was just too much. Getting used to less sweet things, I suppose.
  11. Took my own food when I worked the City’s Emergency Operation Center.
  12. I am repulsed by the thought of processed deli meat. Absolutely no desire, even when it is what is for a free lunch.
  13. Resisted buying one of my favorite ice creams, even though it is hard to find these days.
  14. Didn’t buy the “healthy” chips from Whole Foods because 1) I knew they weren’t really healthy, just healthier than regular chips; and 2) I knew I likely wouldn’t stop at a handful
  15. Threw out something tempting instead of eating it. (It was given to me, so I didn’t feel too bad doing it!)
  16. Didn’t even go down the aisle of 50% off Valentine’s Day candy.
  17. Made my first Monday a.m. training in a week.
  18. Didn’t turn on iPhone this morning. And that is HUGE.
  19. Two workouts in a row – this week is looking up!
  20. 40 minutes on the AMT for the first time in several months.
  21. Woke up quite sore, and almost used that as an excuse to sleep in. I figured, though, it would help to move. I not only made it to the gym, but did 40 minutes on the AMT.
  22. Worked out all five days of the work week. And can I ever tell; I feel so good.
  23. For the first time in a while, I feel really confident that I can really lose the 30 lbs. I’ve gained.
  24. Threw away a Whole Foods cupcake of Sister’s that she hadn’t eaten. And it was a Whole Foods cupcake, my favorite.
  25. Second Monday a.m. training in the books.
  26. Made appointment for therapeutic hip massage
  27. 45 minutes on the AMT
  28. Second full week of doing workouts every weekday

 

Why I Just Say No to Deli Meats

Of all of the changes I’ve made in the last few years, one of the most hard-and-fast is banishing deli meat from my diet. Not only is it not a healthy option, but it truly turns my stomach. I have to be pretty darn hungry with no other option to even consider it.

 I wanted to share this information about deli meat from Fooducate. I usually prefer to link directly to the article, but I couldn’t find it anywhere on their site. (It was sent in an email this morning.)

Deli Meats – Making the Right Choice

In many a lunchtime sandwich across the nation, deli meats are a standard. Subway has built its fortune on the sale of deli meat sandwiches. And Oscar Mayer has been a beloved namesake for generation of lunch packing moms. There’??s no doubt Americans love their bologna. Can these meats be a part of a healthy diet?

The term “deli meat” refers to meats preserved by smoking, curing, salting or adding preservatives. In most cases, red meat is used – pork and beef. As tasty as they are, deli meats are not a health food. Multiple studies have shown that increased consumption may lead to heart disease and cancer.

Among the problems associated with these cold cuts are high levels of unhealthy fats, high levels of sodium, nitrates, and other additives.

Saturated Fats. Not all fats are created equal. The saturated fats in processed meats may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Sodium. Salt is a natural preservative that has been used for ages to preserve meat. Unfortunately, the average American consumes almost twice as much salt as prescribed by national health guidelines. This can result in high blood pressure.

Nitrates. Sodium Nitrite and its closely related Sodium Nitrate are food preservatives that help preserve the pinkish red color of the meat, which would otherwise look unappetizingly gray. Unfortunately, when cooked or broken down in the stomach, nitrites form nitrosamines (also called N-Nitroso Compound), which can cause cancer in young children and pregnant women. Adding ascorbic acid (vitamin C) to the food product greatly reduces the formation of nitrosamines. USDA Meat Inspection Regulations have limited the use of nitrite to 200 part per million. Nitrates are naturally present in spinach, beets, lettuce, celery, parsley, and cabbage. Don’t stop eating these veggies, many of them also contain vitamin C, naturally limiting the formation of the toxic nitrosamines.

Other additives. Lunch meats are made from low quality meat cuts. Often they taste bland and look unappealing. The role of the additives is to mask these inherent problems.

Here is an example of a poor choice. Oscar Mayer Bologna lists these ingredients: Mechanically Separated Chicken, Pork, Water, Corn Syrup, Contains Less Than 2% of Salt, Sodium Lactate, Flavor, Sodium Phosphates, Autolyzed Yeast, Sodium Diacetate, Sodium Ascorbate, Sodium Nitrite, Dextrose, Extractives of Paprika, Potassium Phosphate, Sugar, Potassium Chloride

A better choice would be Applegate Roasted Turkey Breast: Turkey Breast (Turkey Never Administered Antibiotics or Animal By-Products. Vegetarian Grain-Fed), Water, Contains Less than 2% of the Following: Sodium Lactate (from Beets), Salt, Carrageenan (from Seaweed)

Bottom Line
Deli meats are not a healthy option for daily consumption.

Supermarket tips
  • When possible choose chicken or turkey meats instead of pork or beef.
  • Try non-meat options such as tuna or hummus.
  • Make your own. Roast a whole turkey breast and slice it up for sandwiches.

How to Clean Your Blender

In the “why didn’t I think of this” category, PureWow shows how to clean your blender. Ingenious; I’ll try it after making tomorrow morning’s smoothie.

January 2014 Non-Scale Victories

  1. No “already blown it” or “I’ll just start over tomorrow” slip ups in over a week.
  2. Paid off my Lowe’s credit card!
  3. Ate a couple of mini Reese’s PNB cups without totally pigging out the rest of the day
  4. Accidentally bought diced tomatoes instead of petite diced tomatoes, but used them anyway. May not seem like a big deal, but it is for me. I like my veggies in small, small bites.
  5. First green smoothie for the first time in quite a while.
  6. Two servings of green veggies for the first time in a while.
  7. Cooked dried beans in the crock pot. Less expensive and SOOOO much tastier!
  8. First day back at the gym since 12/20.
  9. Did evening cardio since I overslept this a.m.
  10. Did some pre-cooking prep tonight.
  11. Cooked something new with beans today.
  12. Cooked all day, including several new recipes.
  13. Made it to my first Monday a.m. strength training of 2014. (Monday mornings are always tough, but especially after the holidays.)
  14. Chose low-salt nuts over a processed energy bar for an afternoon snack.
  15. Only had one diet drink today, and it was one of those “mini” cans.
  16. Threw away some ice cream that was tempting me
  17. Wearing a size smaller ring size today, not necessarily from weight loss, but eating cleaner has reduced water retention.
  18. Set up automatic payments to “house account” and personal savings account today.
  19. Set up automatic payments for a bill I always seem to forget about.
  20. Started back on MyFitnessPal. It is much easier than writing it or even using my iPhone data base. I just need to be mindful not to get too caught up in the calories.
  21. Took time to enjoy a movie with Mom and Beth; I decided that making soup could wait one more day. I’m really trying to work on 1) getting out more, and 2) giving myself more space in terms of my stringent to do list. A majority of stresses and deadlines are self-imposed; I can control them.
  22. This
  23. Cooked and prepped meals to take to the SC Environmental Justice Forum in Georgetown.
  24. Took my meals and snacks to the Forum, where I was never tempted to stray for conference food.
  25. Because it was 12 degrees, nearly everyone at the forum drove from the cabin to the conference center, an easy distance that we all usually walk. Knowing that I would be sitting most of the day, driving the rest, I walked over.
  26. Also walked outside during our longer breaks (and thank goodness it was warmer).
  27. My kale chips caused quite a stir at the Forum, and many people tried them.
  28. Instigated a group yoga class for our next Forum in March.
  29. Missed morning workout due to headache, but got up and made soup so I wouldn’t have an excuse not to do evening cardio. I made it to evening cardio AND had soup for dinner.
  30. Got a group together to go to a benefit dinner at a healthy restaurant.
  31. That healthy restaurant was one that I’d never been to, but turned out loving! Good to get out of my box and have a new place to eat!

How to Collar Even the Craftiest Cat

Cats. I love ‘em. We have two, both rescues. Baghera is a three year old black cat who literally picked ME out from the City of Columbia Animal Services Division. Mowgli is a beautiful tabby kitten we got from our vet’s office, Four Paws Animal Clinic, in May. Both are adorable, loving cats, but we haven’t been able to keep a collar on either of them, until we discovered Beastie Bands, a modern day miracle.

Both Mowgli and Baghera are indoor cats. They like to lounge on our screened-in back porch, where they watch birds and catch lizards, but their home is inside. Ideally, they don’t even need collars. But Baghera once reigned over a mobile home park, and she occasionally likes to slip out the back door and experience life in the wild again. To be on the safe side, I bought tags and collars for both cats.

I’ve tried many a collar on these two, and nothing stays on more than 24 hours. Not only do they get the collars off, they hide them so well that they are never to be seen again.  Both cats are micro chipped, and while I would prefer them to have a collar, I eventually resigned myself to having collarless cats.

Bag_Beastie

Baghera is finally collared! She looks beautiful, and I’ll feel better if she happens to slip out.

As is so often the case, once I quit fighting the issue, it resolved itself. While picking up the cats from boarding at The Cat Clinic, I noticed some thin, colorful collars called Beastie Bands. Made from thin Neoprene similar to a Koozie, I saw that the Beastie Bands were quite light and attached with Velcro instead of a buckle or clip. They were pretty inexpensive, less than $6 each, so I decided to give them a try. And four weeks later, both cats are still sporting their Beastie Bands.

According to the manufacturer, Beastie Bands are designed exclusively for cats. Soft and comfortable, the collars stretch along their entire length for safety and are so soft and lightweight that they stay on virtually all cats. Beastie Bands unique cut-to-fit feature allows them to fit any cat – from a kitten to the biggest tomcat! They also feature a grommet for easy id tag attachment.

The only downside that I’ve found with Beastie Bands? Choosing one! They come in a wide variety of colors and designs, so it’s hard to decide which one to get. I finally settled on Tribal Tattoo for Baghera and Devil Cat for Mowgli.

In closing, please know that as a blogger, I generally don’t do product reviews. But after finally finding a collar that I could keep on our cats, I thought some of you may be interested in my experience. I haven’t received any compensation from Beastie Bands; I just love their product. If you have a cat that’s hard to collar, I suggest that you give it a try. It was a game changer for the Baldauf cats!

I Gained Weight, But I’m Celebrating

This morning, I weighed today for the first time in a while. The number was up. I am five pounds further away from my “goal weight” than I was a couple weeks before Christmas. (I’m trying not to obsess too much on the numbers, but the gain now puts me 32 lbs. away from what I’ve chosen as an idea weight.)

My initial thought was to crawl up under the covers and have a huge pity party with two special guests, Ben and Jerry. And I must admit, I DID crawl back under the covers. I was up early for cardio, but the weigh-in created a paralyzing panic that could only be relieved by an extra hour and a half of sleep. But when I woke up, I took a deep breath and decided to re-boot. And on the way in, I even bought myself flowers to celebrate.

I celebrated with this beautiful bouquet from Trader Joe's.

I celebrated with this beautiful bouquet from Trader Joe’s.

“Celebrate?” you might say. Yep, celebrate. Because while my weight is up from Christmas and my initial loss of nearly 100 lbs., I still have a lot of reasons to celebrate:

  • My blood pressure is down. Significantly.
  • My good cholesterol is up, and my bad cholesterol is down.
  • I now choose stairs over elevators, and when I take them, I no longer nearly fall out at the top of them.
  • I basically eat clean, whole and healthy foods. I have a few processed indulgences, including ice cream and chocolate, but I rarely shop the inside aisles of the grocery store.
  • Whole grains and agave nectar have taken the place of white flour and sugar.
  • I can’t tell you the last time I’ve been to a fast food joint.
  • Some weeks are better than others, but I regularly work out. I strength train. I do cardio. And I am generally much more active.
  • Except for an occasional pizza, ice cream or Greek yogurt, I am essentially dairy-free. I have totally switched over to almond and soy milk, and I rarely have cheese.
  • I eat much, much less meat. And except for an occasional craving for a good steak, meat has become an addition to a meal, such as a soup,instead of the main course. And in most cases, I choose ground turkey breast over ground beef, and always buy the leanest cuts.
  • I not only know how to pronounce quinoa, but I eat it on a regular basis.
  • Cooking is no longer a chore that I dread, but almost enjoy. I usually cook for the week ahead on Sunday, so there are always quick, healthy options available. And I always get excited to add a great new recipe to the rotation.
  • I plan ahead, consider obstacles and work around them. When traveling,I make arrangements to purchase healthy food and/or take my own. It isn’t always easy, and sometimes I feel like the odd woman out, but I still do it.
  • When I first started working with a nutrition counselor, the only way I could get my water intake in was to add Crystal Light. Now I prefer my water plain and cold, or I add fruit for flavor.
  • I have finally found a sweet spot for grocery shopping. I have healthy staples in the pantry, including nutritional yeast, and I have a setshopping list for the store.
  • My spice rack is now quite extensive and well-stocked.
  • I have actual muscle definition, and I’m especially proud of the strengthand toning I see in my legs.
  • I am now cooking dry beans instead of using those from a can. It’s healthier and less expensive.
  • I can do all kinds of things in the gym that I couldn’t do before, but the one that stands out the most is the elliptical trainer. When I started three years ago, I couldn’t do more than two minutes at the lowest level. Now I regularly do 30 minutes, and the lower level is just a quick warm up.

Today, instead of berating myself for “failing,” I dusted myself off and prepared for a new day. I didn’t drown my sorrows in ice cream, but had some of my favorite healthy foods, including fresh pineapple and strawberries for lunch. And after finishing this post, I’m going to lay out my clothes for tomorrow’s strength training, turn in early and read.

celebrate3And those 32 lbs.? I hope they enjoyed today’s celebration, because tomorrow, they’re history. I may not be able to physically lose them overnight, but I’m not going to let them bring me down or define me either. Instead, I’ll use them to re-energize me on my journey to good health, clean eating and physical fitness.

The Secret to the Perfect Smoothie? 650 Watts

Despite my best attempts to eat vegetables, it’s still easier for me to drink them in smoothies. And after three years of dealing with chunks of ice in the bottom of my smoothies, I recently decided to upgrade my blender to one that processes ice.

If you’re flush with funds, buying a blender isn’t hard at all; there are a lot of powerful blenders out there that promise icy smoothies. Being a budget shopper, however, I was a little concerned about finding something that worked well for my under $100 (and the more under, the better) price range.

I did a lot of research via Google, and somewhere, I saw a great tip: to best process ice, buy a blender with at a motor of at least 650 watts.

Armed with this information, I found a Black and Decker BL2500S 12-speed blender, complete with a 700 watt motor blender, for $39.99. I read the box. I checked it out. I compared it to the pricier, sexier models. And reluctantly, I purchased it. I really doubted this blender would work. I’ve heard so much about Breville and Vitamix that I couldn’t imagine a plain Jane blender doing the job.

Imagine my surprise when I put my $39.99 blender to the test, and it worked like a champ! My post-workout smoothies are now like milk shakes. They’re more filling, colder and don’t have ice chunks in the bottom. And even better, I didn’t have to spend a fortune.

In closing, I’ll share my favorite smoothie, one I call the ChocoNanaSpin.

ChocoNanaSpin
Serves Two

Ingredients

  • 2.5 cups fresh spinach
  • 1 medium banana
  • 3/4 cup milk (skim, light almond or light soy – your choice)
  • 1 -2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • Six to eight ice cubes

Put all ingredients except ice into blender and blend. Add ice and blend until smooth.

Subscription Boxes: Like Your Birthday, Every Single Month

Like to try new products, but don’t have time to walk the aisles of your favorite stores? Do you sigh in disappointment with each trip to the mailbox brings only bills and solicitations? Do you like to treat yourself every once in a while? If you answered “yes, please” to at least one of these questions, you’ll want to check out subscription boxes, the greatest thing since sliced bread.

Subscription boxes contain an assortment of products usually related to a common theme or interest. They are typically sent out once a month, and prices generally range from $10 to $40 per box. Most boxes provide full-sized sample products, not usually the small freebies you get at the counter. The number of products in each box varies with each subscription box service, but the most feature four to seven products per box.

parcelI recently joined the subscription box scene with Parcel, a box from the people at Greatist: the leading, trusted source for all things fitness, health, and happiness.  Parcel is like Greatist all wrapped into a neat little package and delivered to my doorstep monthly for only $20 a month. Instead of spending hours and tons of money searching through products at health and fitness stores, I open my Parcel box and BAM – it’s like my birthday. Every. Single. Month.

Resolve to treat yourself with a subscription box service is the New Year! These days, there’s a subscription box for just about everyone, from dog lovers and health nuts to make-up mavens and fitness fanatics. Your perfect subscription box is just a Google search away.

If subscription boxes are a new concept to you, what questions do you have? Currently subscribe to a box? Share which one(s) you get and why you love receiving it. If you could design a box just for you, what types of products would it include?