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Thursday, August 14, 2014

7 truths for new Weight Watchers members

Track, track, track! 
1. You’ll quickly feel overwhelmed. From the outside, the program seems simple. Count points, lose weight, right? Not exactly. I think a lot of first timers have trouble sorting out all the “rules,” and sometimes it’s hard to figure out where to even begin. Don’t freak out! Over time, you’ll know the points values of your favorite foods by heart, and IT WILL GET EASIER. (NOTE: If you choose to go to meetings, the leader will always offer a new member orientation after the regular session. Don’t miss it!)

2. There will be food you don’t know how to track. Weight Watchers has a list of millions of foods in its database, but it doesn’t know the recipe for Aunt Susie’s strawberry cheesecake lush – and neither do you. Rather than freak out over calculating the precise points values, find a substitute or make a best guess. Tracking estimated points values – even if you’re wrong – is better than not tracking at all. Don’t sweat it. 

3. All of the Weight Watchers food will be delicious – and expensive. Yes, the free food samples in the meeting rooms are yummy. And yes, those SmartOnes meals are a bargain at the grocery store sometimes. But NO, you don’t need to buy them to lose weight. There are plenty of alternative snacks and meals out there, and they are just as low in points and A WHOLE LOT cheaper. I’m not saying you should avoid the WW products, I’m just saying they’re not necessary for your success. 

4. You'll have bad weeks. Translation: You will gain weight. In a perfect world, we’d lose weight every single week and be successful all the way to our goals. In the real world, however, there are ups and downs. My weight tracker chart looks like it’s doing the wave over the last two years – up, down, up, down. But overall, the trend was more down than up. So don’t get discouraged by a bad week – or two, or three. Use those weeks as learning opportunities and motivation to get back on track.

This is what three Weight Watchers memberships over five years looks like ...

5. You'll have good weeks. Translation: You will lose weight and feel like a rockstar. Those weeks when you hit a magic number or drop more than you expected will make you feel unstoppable. Reflect back and think about what you did that week to make it happen. Then celebrate! Be sure to share with your meeting group, your friends or anyone who will listen! Every bit of weight loss (even when it's tiny) is awesome. 

6. You’ll think you can do it alone. I know countless people (myself included) who have gotten on a roll with the program and decided to do it “on their own” by counting/logging points with a good old notepad and pencil. Great, that *might* work for a while. But the support from meetings or online groups will be GONE, and the accountability of paying for a program will be lost as well.  Even at my goal weight, I’ve found the extra support of my Friday meeting to play a crucial role in my success. I'm not saying it can't be done – it can. I just think paying for a membership has benefits that are well worth the cost.

7. Eventually, you'll understand what they mean by LIFETIME. Yes, when you reach your goal, you are considered a Lifetime member and don't have to pay a membership fee anymore (THANK GOODNESS!). But the BIGGER benefit is that you have learned the strategies you need to make a permanent lifestyle change. No, there's no guarantee you'll keep the weight off, but I truly believe all of the tools and lessons you gain from being a Weight Watchers member are designed for long-term change, not short-term results. Isn't that what most of us are looking for?

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

What we're eating: Zucchini lasagna


Every now and then, I surprise myself. As I've stated before, I'm NOT a regular chef in our house. Most of the meals I make come from the Crock-pot (translation: they don't require much effort). Kyle is definitely the master of the kitchen. 

But last week, my neighbor Matt brought over some zucchini and asked if we wanted some. I instantly said yes because I have been dying to try using zucchini as a substitute for pasta, something I've seen all over Pinterest lately. Veggies = zero points, so it was worth a shot!
Since I DON'T have one of those contraptions that makes spaghetti noodles (not yet at least), I decided to try making lasagna. Now, lasagna isn't easy (with or without noodles) so in my normal fashion, I took a combination of several recipes to create one I thought I could handle. 

The result? A HOMERUN! Kyle, Kenlee and I agreed this was a delicious meal! (OK, Kenlee ate more cheese and turkey than zucchini, but she still cleaned her plate pretty well.) I can't believe I nailed this recipe on the FIRST TRY! 

Zucchini Lasagna | 7 points per serving
  • 1 large zucchini, cut lengthwise into 1/8-inch slices
  • 20-oz. package of Jennie-O extra lean ground turkey, browned
  • 24-oz. jar of Prego Heart Smart traditional Italian sauce
  • 1/4 cup Egg Beaters or egg substitute
  • 15-oz. container of part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup part-skim, shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 package of fresh, steak-cut mushrooms
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil

1. Cut your zucchini into long, thin slices. (These are your replacement for lasagna noodles. I used two layers, so I had 10 or 12 good-sized slices, plus some smaller ones to fill in.) Lay the slices on a cookie sheet and bake at 375 for 5 minutes each side, or until soft. 

2. Make your sauce mixture. When I make spaghetti, I like to sauté mushrooms and onions with a little olive oil, so I did the same with this recipe. Drain the veggies when they're cooked, then mix them in a bowl with the jar of sauce and your browned turkey burger. I also like to add a bit of Italian seasoning and garlic salt for extra flavor. 

3. Make your cheese mixture. Mix the ricotta cheese, parmesan cheese and egg substitute in a bowl. Resist licking the spoon ... 

4. Start layering! I sprayed the pan with vegetable oil, then put down a little bit of the sauce mixture first. Next I laid out a layer of zucchini, then cheese mixture, then sauce mixture. Second layer: more zucchini, cheese and sauce.

5. Top with mozzarella cheese and a sprinkle of Italian seasoning. Cover pan with foil and bake at 375 for 45 minutes. Remove foil and bake an additional 15 minutes, or until the mozzarella is nice and brown. Mine was slightly runny, but it set up after a while. 

6. ENJOY! I cut my 13x9 pan into eight portions, and I calculated just SEVEN points per serving! With one piece of Lite Texas Toast (three points) and a healthy serving of broccoli (zero points), our entire meal was only 10 points. Woohoo! 


Tuesday, August 5, 2014

7 truths for new runners

I get so excited when someone tells me they’ve started running. I wanna hug them and shout, "Welcome to the club!" For me, running is more than an activity – it's a lifestyle. And it's definitely a growing community as more and more people across the country have lined up at a starting line in recent years.

I've written before about how I got started, but now that I've been at it a while, I wanted to reflect back and add some more. So, if you're new to running, here's a list of seven things you'll likely find to be true: 

1. It’s going to suck. At least, it will suck at first. I’ve never heard a story of a new runner who took off and swiftly covered three miles. If you’ve never run before or if it’s been a long time, you’ll want to start off with running/walking intervals to ease into it. I used the Couch to 5k app on my smartphone, and it told me when to walk and run during my workouts over the course of eight weeks.  

Running makes us all a little crazy, but we'll never be alone!
2. You’re going to want to quit. It’s tough to start any new routine, especially a new and challenging workout routine. No one likes panting like a dog and limping around on sore muscles. But in time, you’ll feel like Superman. Don’t give up!

3. The endorphins will keep you coming back for more. Even though you’ll have bad days, there will be lots of good ones, too. Ever heard of runner’s high? That’s the rush of endorphins you’ll get after a good sweat session. It rocks.

4. You’ll want to run too much/too far/too fast. That awesome rush may have you riding a wave, but don’t ride it too far. If you’re tempted to run more than your training plan calls for, be smart. Overtraining can lead to injury, and you could be forced to take a break and start all over. In addition to physical and mental strength, improvement takes TIME. Don’t rush it. 

5. Your friends/family will think you are crazy. Most people will be supportive, but haters are still gonna hate. Their probably just jealous – don’t let them get you down! Invite the Negative Nellies to join you for a local 5k, even if they just walk it. Maybe they’ll catch the bug, too!

6. You’ll start to wonder if you really are crazy. Getting up at o-dark-thirty for workouts? Spending your fun money on new running clothes? Planning your family vacations around races? Yeah, it seems a little insane. But trust me, there’s an entire community of crazies out there who are just like you. 

7. You’ll start to feel like a new person. Finding the runner inside of you is like finding a buried 
treasure. Running has changed me, my marriage and my work – all for the better. It’s given me the confidence to try new things and push myself to new limits. It’s also given me a new joy and appreciation for life. Running transformed me into someone I never knew I could be. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Recap: Montpelier Firefighters Association Bean Days 5k


Reasons the Montpelier Firefighters Association Bean Days 5K was awesome:
  • We raced as a family – I pushed Kenlee in the stroller while Kyle ran solo
  • We both set PRs – My first-ever stroller race came in at 25:48 (non-stroller PR is 25:30), and Kyle blew away his goal of "just finishing" with a 30:57! The great weather and flat course were very helpful. 
  • It was super affordable – $12 per person for pre-registration; $15 for day-of registration
  • It was well organized – Packets with nice bibs and chip timers were ready for us that morning
  • The snacks were amazing – Cookies and "Jump Start" bars from Cookies on Demand, plus bananas, water, Gatorade and some other goodies. (But seriously, the COOKIES ARE THE BEST!)
  • The volunteers were encouraging – Kyle and I both noticed how the people on the course were friendly and cheered us on as we went by (OK, maybe it's because we knew a few of them ... perks of being in a small town!)
  • The post-race activities (Bean Days/Balloon Festival) were a great way to continue the fun. We enjoyed the Rotary pancake breakfast before heading to the fairgrounds for the Balloon Festival. Kenlee loved the FREE bounce house, slide, petting zoo and pony rides. Then she got her face painted for only $3. All this stuff was part of the Balloon Festival, but the balloons weren't up for the morning due to weather. We still had a BLAST, and we figure we can catch the balloons next year. 
Bottom line: This little race is quite the gem in northwest Ohio. The coinciding activities for Kenlee put the cherry on top of an already awesome morning, but even without the Balloon Festival this is a must-run for locals.

Friday, July 18, 2014

What we're eating: Tami's lunch salad

OK, I can’t leave that last post up for long. I need some more positivity in my life this week. Hey, here’s a positive: My FAVORITE lunch salad!

I make this salad at least twice a week, if not more. It’s delicious, low in points and high in nutritional value – compared to other options, at least. I usually chase it with some yummy nonfat Greek yogurt (Dannon brand is my current fav).
Tami’s lunch salad: Just 8 points total!

Lots of zero-point foods: 
  • Spinach/baby green mix – pile this stuff on! Don’t be stingy with your greens!
  • Fresh mushrooms
  • Thin-sliced onions
  • Grape tomatoes
  • Mild yellow peppers 

Lots of low-point foods: 
  • 1 oz. Fat-free feta cheese: 1 point
  • 1 hardboiled egg: 2 points
  • 2 oz. sliced deli turkey (I buy the low-sodium option from the Meijer deli): 1 point
  • ¼ fat-free croutons: 1 point
  • ¼ cup light balsamic vinaigrette dressing: 3 points
Random pointers: When I'm packing my lunch, I put everything in the container EXCEPT the croutons and dressing. The croutons go in a sandwich baggie, and the dressing goes in a separate, smaller container. Toss them on right before you eat! 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Fighting a good fight

A blog from a classmate stopped me in my tracks today. Jamie is a wonderful, wise woman, and her words leapt off the screen and into my heart. She's 100 percent right. She is beautiful. You are beautiful. We are all beautiful. 

For many of us, saying that out loud is not easy. I know it's not easy for me. I likely risk getting hit with tomatoes for saying this, but I want to be honest: I don't love my body. 

I definitely don't love my sagging rear, my flat chest or my flapping upper arms. I hate how my face looks older because the skin has loosened and falls into wrinkles around my eyes and mouth. And obviously, I've expressed my disgust with my legs.

There are definitely days I wish I could have my old body back. I miss the big boobs, full cheeks and sexy hips. Back then, I really did have the confidence to say I was beautiful. I knew it was true, and I had the plus-size swagger to prove it. 

Today, I only WISH I could confidently say what Jamie said. I WISH I loved my body for what it is today and not what I want it to be. I want all my readers to know one thing: I may have won the battle with my scale, but I have not won the battle with my heart. 

So yeah, I lost 105 pounds and a ton of pants sizes, but I didn't lose all of my personal baggage. No amount of "You look great" or "You're so skinny" can fix the issues inside my head. That's not an attempt at fishing for more compliments. That's the raw and unfortunate truth.

I could post a thousand training logs and recipes on this blog, and I still wouldn't have the answers to being a healthy person – inside and out. And I worry about what I say and don't say here because I don't want anyone to think I have all the answers. I want to encourage people who are seeking a healthy lifestyle, but I don't want to discourage anyone from being confident about who they already are. 

I never intended to make anyone else feel bad about themselves. If I have, I'm sorry. Truly. 

When I started blogging more often last year, the goal was to inspire others. But lately, I haven't even been able to inspire myself. Social media's tricky like that – we only show the sides of ourselves that we want others to see. So in the past few months, you've seen me running big races, hitting my goals and feeding my family delicious, nutritious meals. 

What you haven't seen are the struggles. The conflicts in my mind. The emotional bullshit that I can no longer ignore and drown out with desserts. On TV, they like you to think an overweight person identifies their problems, addresses them and then magically loses the weight. They are cured! 

For me, the problems didn't come to the surface until the weight was no longer hiding them. So now what do I do? I'm not sure. But until I feel at peace with my heart, I know I can't feel at peace with my body. I can't feel beautiful outside until I find the beauty inside. 

Jamie's right. We can all be beautiful at any size. It's nothing to do with weight or fitness level or dress sizes. It's a state of mind. An appreciation for what your body is, rather than what society thinks it should be. You can be beautiful at every step and stage of life. Appreciate every curve, every angle, for what it is right now. Don't worry about what could be or might have been. 

Today, you are beautiful. We are beautiful. And we have to keep fighting the good fight to remember it. 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Boogity, boogity, boogity!

In the words of Darrell Waltrip ... Let's go racin'!

While it nice to take a "break" from training for anything specific, I think I've had enough down time. I believe it was it one of the Another Mother Runner books that said something along the lines of "Training without a race is a cake without frosting." So yeah, I'm hungry for more. I know it's still summer, but it's time to get ready for fall racing season.

Once again, I'm sort of winging it when it comes to an actual training plan. While there are hundreds of free plans I could follow, none of them will really accommodate several different races within a few months' time. I suppose I could pay a running coach to map out one for me, but I'm too cheap frugal for something like that. So I'll just take a good, old-fashioned calendar and my own intuition and see where that gets me for now.

Races currently on my radar:

  • July 19 - Montpelier Firefighters Association Bean Days 5k: I'm so excited to run this race as a family. Kyle and I are both registered to run, and I've decided Kenlee will come along with me to see what kind of stroller PR we can set. Afterward, we'll hit up the pancake breakfast and maybe the hot air balloon festival at the fairgrounds. Fun! 
  • Aug. 30 - Parlor City Trot Half Marathon: Blame this one on Kim. She mentioned that she'll be using this race as a training run prior to her goal race in September. After realizing my calendar was clear and registration is only $25, I decided I definitely wanted to join her. BONUS: It appears we run along a river, and I'm a sucker for water scenery. 
  • Sept. 6 - Mini FIT Triathlon: Another family race! Kyle and I have been wanting to try a tri for a while now, but we've been too chicken since neither of us are good swimmers. However, this mini version only requires a 100-yard dip in the pool, so it's a perfect race for beginners. Plus, they are offering free childcare ... No need to get a sitter. BOOM!
  • Sept. 20 - Warrior Dash: Watch out, world ... Team Choda will be back! Kyle, Jan, Scott and I will be taking on our second mud run together. We're hoping this one won't be as painful as last year's, which was located on a ski resort (OMG I still have nightmares about those damn hills). Since Jan moved to Grand Rapids last week, we had the opportunity to run together at Millennium Park and preview the course ... It's got a few hills but nothing like we conquered before. If you didn't see my pictures of this incredible park, check out my Facebook page
  • Oct. 19 - Grand Rapids Half Marathon: This is my chocolate buttercream frosting, my sweet dessert to top off the year. I'm incredibly stoked to run in downtown Grand Rapids (and a bit out in Millennium Park) on what I hope will be a beautiful autumn day in Pure Michigan. I don't have any goals (yet), but just knowing this delicious race is waiting for me is motivation enough to train hard through the end of the summer. (NOTE: I also persuaded Kyle to register for the 10k the day before this race, and I am SO PROUD of him already! This will be his longest race to date, and I know he'll do great. Kenlee and I will be cheering him on. Go, daddy, go!)

That's it ... for now. I realize there's a big hole in late July/early August, but I haven't come across anything that fits in my schedule or really intrigues me at the moment. If you have any recommendations for local events during that time ... or any suggestions for late fall/early winter, let me know! I'm always looking for new races.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

What we're eating: Garlic parmesan chicken

Despite dramatics of reality TV, I'm a big fan of "Extreme Weight Loss" with Chris and Heidi Powell. They seem to spend a lot of time helping people with the emotional and mental side of weight loss, rather than just giving them a diet and exercise plan.

Anyway, this recipe is one I found on Heidi's blog: http://heidipowell.net/2522/whats-for-dinner-garlic-parmesan-chicken/


This is seriously soooo good, and it's easy to make. The meal is a big hit with Kyle and Kenlee, too! I serve ours with garlic noodles (add a little bit of light Country Crock and garlic salt to plain spaghetti noodles). Here's the breakdown:

Garlic Parmesan Chicken: 8 points for a whole breast (Heidi's recipe calls for a 4 oz serving, which is about half a breast)

Garlic noodles: 6 points for 1 cup

Broccoli: ZERO points!

TOTAL: 14 points


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Recent runs, in a nutshell (with bonus selfies!)

So without a race in the near future, I've sort of been in limbo with my running. I'm not following a training plan, so I'm basically running to stay fit and feel good. I do what feels right, and so far, that's been working for me. Here's my recent runs, in a nutshell: 

• I still prefer to run in the mornings, so I get out pretty much every morning that Kyle isn’t working. (I’m guessing CPS would look down on me if I left a toddler alone in the house.) Yes, this means I still get up at 4 a.m. a few days a week … even though I don’t have to. I’m crazy, I know. Because I’m getting my butt up before the sun, I try to get the most out of my time, logging 5-6 miles.

Sunrise: Perk of running in the mornings!

• With the power of the Internet, I managed to find a new BRF (that’s Best Running Friend for those of you who don’t speak Mother Runner). Kim and I have so much in common it’s awesome (and borderline creepy LOL). We’re both alums of the same college, have the same degree, took similar career paths and our toddlers are close in age. Oh yeah, and she also lost more than 100 pounds and runs half marathons (and marathons!) like a badass. Add in a matching pace and similar desire to sweat before dawn, and you’ve got the makings of a perfect running buddy.

We meet up at a Fort Wayne park and run 5 or 6 miles, then I head to the fitness center at work to shower and eat breakfast before heading inside the office. This requires some packing/planning on my part, but the miles fly by when I’m not alone, and Kim’s presences keeps me accountable. I’m so glad we found each other, and I’m looking forward to many more miles with her – as long as she puts up with me!

God bless the Internet for sending me a running buddy.

• To get in some extra mileage (and sometimes to escape my desk), I usually do at least one lunch run (or runch) per week. Normally, I run about 3 miles on the nearby trails. I’m not a huge fan of running midday in the heat, nor am I keen on baby wipe baths, but it’s a nice way to change things up.

Kyle says I look like my brother in this picture. Unfortunately, I agree with him. 

• I’m finally getting serious about cross training (read: strength training or doing any other form of exercise besides to avoid injury). I was doing some basic body-weight circuits on my own for a few weeks, but now Kim’s helping me take it a step further. As a certified trainer, she teaches a boot camp class, and I’ll be able to go one morning a week for the next six weeks. I’m still sore from the first day, but I know it will get better. Besides, we have our Warrior Dash in September, and I’ll need all the strength I can get!
Sweaty + Strong!

• I didn’t do a long run (more than an hour) for six weeks after the Glass City Half. While it was nice to take a break from the pressure of training and needing to fit in the miles, I also missed the freedom and sense of accomplishment that only a long run could bring me. When our schedule finally allowed, I took off on a warm Sunday afternoon – and didn’t look back for 8 whole miles.


Sally the Camelbak, oh how I missed you!

• One of the reasons I took a break from long runs is because I didn’t want to burden our parents with watching Kenlee when Kyle works on weekends. They always say yes, but I want to save those grandparent days for my “real” training, if you know what I mean. Last Saturday, with the weather cooperating and Kenlee in a good mood, I just decided she was coming with me! I’d never run more than 5 miles with the stroller, but I thought I’d try it out. I figured we’d just come home if she got too whiney. Much to my surprise, she did a GREAT job and was happy to be out with me for 8 miles. I’m not sure how often we’ll do this, but it’s nice to know the option’s there.

She'll always be my first BRF.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Planning for success

Everyone has their own "system" when it comes to healthy meal planning, grocery shopping and food preparation. Some people are extreme and have it down to a science, with every meal cooked and ready to go before their week begins. Others have no plans and simply throw together a pile of healthy foods, making up meals and recipes as they go.

Personally, I'm somewhere in the middle. I like to think I plan enough to avoid temptation and save time, yet I remain flexible enough to change my mind whenever I see fit. I'll share my "system" but there might be something better for you and your family. Try some new routines and see what works! The key is to find something that you can sustain for the long haul. Because again, healthy living is about creating a lifestyle. And, in my opinion, your food plans are the base of your success.

1. Meal planning. Each week, Kyle and I look at our schedules and decide how many dinners we'll be eating at home and how many need to be made in the Crock-Pot. Then, we simply brainstorm what sounds good or think about what we have the ingredients for already, and we make a list. We usually don't eat the same meals two weeks in a row, and we often throw in new recipes we want to try. Also, we add a back-up meal or two, just in case I'm late getting to the store the next weekend.

In general, we do NOT assign the meals to particular days of week. We know what nights we'll need the Crock-Pot, but other than that we wait until the week progresses to select what meals we want to make when. Sometimes, we don't even make a planned meal or two because we end up having enough leftovers to get by. (There's the flexibility I mentioned).

2. Grocery shopping. After we make our meal list, I start our grocery list with every item for dinner, then think about our staples for breakfast, lunch and snacks. Then, because I'm a little crazy, I reorganize the list into the order I will find it in the store (starting at the back of the store and making my way to the front). Mapping out my trip may sound OCD, but it really helps me get through the story quickly (and I hate being there longer than I have to!). Plus, I'm not tempted to veer off track and stop in the cookie aisle too long ...

Also, I take a few minutes to clip coupons - paper and digital! Because eating healthy can be pretty freaking expensive (but that's a post for another day!).

3. Food prep. For the most part, I don't do a lot of preparations when it comes to our meals for the week. But today, I spent an hour in the kitchen, dicing a watermelon, cutting up some strawberries, hard-boiling eggs, boiling noodles (for a Crock-Pot recipe I want to make tomorrow) and making a strawberry jello dessert (because it needs to set up overnight - see photo below for recipe). That's a lot for me! Normally, I just find some time to hard boil eggs and maybe chop some fruits and veggies. During garden season, I'll probably spending some time chopping and freezing as our harvest our little crop.

Credit: Recipe board from my Weight Watchers meeting. I love getting new ideas there!

BOOM! Now we're ready for the week to begin! We've saved time by taking out some of the work and most of the thinking. Eating healthy will be easy because we've planned for success.

Do you have any meal planning/grocery shopping/food prep tips? Share below! I'd love to swap ideas because my system isn't perfect, and I know there's ALWAYS room to improve. Also, if you liked my tips, head over to my new Facebook page! That's where I'll be sharing tips, thoughts and motivation between blog posts. Click "Like" to learn more about weight loss, running and creating a healthy lifestyle. We're building a community!