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:

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!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

What we're eating: Better (for you) burgers

Let's be real. There's nothing like a burger. A real, beefy, smothered-in-cheese burger. With fries, of course.

That said, one delicious, restaurant-style meal can wipe out all of my weekly and activity points in one fell swoop. While I don't mind indulging in some cooked cow occasionally, I've accepted that beef burgers aren't the healthiest choice on a regular basis.

In order to fully enjoy grill season but maintain our healthy lifestyle, we've found a few alternatives we enjoy:

  • Jennie-O Turkey Burgers: 4 points each. Kyle will tell you these aren't the same as beef (duh!) but they are still really tasty. We recently tried the seasoned patties in the frozen section (instead of the fresh ones in the meat case), and loved them! BONUS: If you can find the turkey brats, they are to die for! Unfortunately, the store I normally shop at doesn't carry them anymore. 
  • Gardein Veggie Burgers: 3 points each. I've tried several other veggie burger brands in the past and wasn't impressed. But a coworker told me about these burgers, and they are waaaay better than any I've tasted! The only downside is their price, so I'll have to wait until they are BOGO to restock. 
Pictured: Gardein burger wrapped in lettuce, Bush's veggie beans, Suddenly Salad and hungry toddler. 
  • No bun (for smaller buns): Zero points! It wasn't until recently that I made the switch to bunless burgers. Truthfully, it's kind of a pain to carefully peel and arrange lettuce in a good wrap so my toppings don't slop on the table. BUT I'm getting better at it, and I don't miss bread because it didn't really add flavor to my burger anyway. 
  • Bush's Fat Free Vegetarian Baked Beans: 3 points for 1/2 cup. YUM! I heard about these beans at a Weight Watchers meeting when I first started, and I don't think I've bought regular beans since. I've even served them at cookouts and no one seems to notice a difference. The real difference is points - regular baked beans are 5 points per serving. 
  • Suddenly Salad: 5 points for 3/4 cup. This isn't the healthiest of all the options I've discovered, but I love a good pasta salad. We make ours with light Miracle Whip instead of mayo, and I've been known to add fresh tomatoes or extra onion during garden season. 
  • Alexia Waffle Cut Sweet Potato Fries: 4 points for 1 cup. We've searched high and low for the perfect sweet potato fries ... and these are it! My toddler gobbles them up, and they taste great dipped in ketchup or our homemade ranch dressing
  • Sweet corn: 2 points per cob. Sweet corn is a delicious treat that I sometimes forget when I'm planning summer side dishes. We normally boil ours, but it's also great on the grill or baked in the husks. Don't forget to add points for any butter or margarine. 

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Summer 2014: The return of shorts

So, I've always been ashamed/embarrassed of legs/thighs/butt. My mom told me from a young age that I inherited my great-grandma's rear end. And she has family photos to prove it. Thank you, genetics.

In high school, I became very self-conscious whenever I had to wear shorts. It was especially unfortunate for me as an athlete, as I recall needing special-order uniform bottoms several times to accommodate my rear. One year, I think I had to wear grey softball pants when everyone else had white because they didn't have my size to match. It was only for a game or two, until they ordered new ones. But still.

The other girls on my teams could skip around in booty-baring spandex while I struggled with chaffing and what I call "scrunchy crotch syndrome" (not just when running/moving, but all the damn time).

I basically quit wearing shorts in college, with the exception of pajamas. Capri pants became a summer staple, and my legs didn't see the sun (or any exercise) for years. Since I had a choice, I chose to hide my insecurities. In fact, I've had some people say they didn't think I looked very big in pictures when I was at my heaviest. That's because I deleted *almost* any full-length shots. From the waist up, I was more confident. (My boobs are a post for another day, however.)

When I started running, capris were my saving grace. Chafing was eliminated, and my crotch no longer looked like it was eating the material. I swore I would never again wear shorts as long as capris were an option. Why bother?

That's a good question. I really have no idea why a few weeks back I suddenly got the itch to show my gams again. I think it was half curiosity/half jealousy. Part of me wanted to know if shorts would be different now that I am now 30 pounds lighter than when I graduated high school. Part of me was also seriously jealous of the runners who could breeze past in shorts and not have awkward tan lines when they wore dresses or skirts.

So, I went to good old Walmart and bought some cheapies. I figured for starters, I'd just wear them around the house. I was surprised at how comfortable I felt in them. Still, I stared at my legs in the full-length mirror. My calves remain un-proportionally huge and my thighs jiggle with cellulite, stretch marks and loose skin. It's not pretty.

After a few days, I started worrying less and less about how my legs looked, and I thought more about how they felt. Under all those ugly battle scars are some pretty badass muscles, thanks to running. And though my thighs still touch, the rub is not nearly as uncomfortable as it used to be. I've come a long way.

So, with a little encouragement from my husband, I decided I would be brave and run in shorts. Much to my surprise, I loved it! I felt so free and the breeze made me feel light and quick. I did one run, then another, and I still feel the same way. Who knew my legs would see the daylight again?

I felt great until it was time to race. For the RBS 5k, I panicked about running in front of a lot of people. I didn't want to be standing around at the start/finish, wondering if people were staring at my cottage cheese, zebra-striped, flappy legs. So I chickened out and chose some trusty capris.

Baby steps, right? I think it's all part of adjusting to this new body and a new mentality. On the outside, I'm not the woman I used to be. But on the inside, I'm still that girl in the too-tight softball pants, calling myself "thunder thighs" and cracking jokes about my ass so no one else could do it first. (Not that my friends would have said those things ... I was just seriously insecure.)

So here's to a summer of shorts! May we all find the strength to overcome our insecurities and let go of all our fears. A little bit at a time.

Did you think I'd actually show my legs in a full-length photo on the Internet? Baby steps, people. I'll get there.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

What we're eating: Diet Pop Cupcakes

One of the hardest things about changing my eating habits is not eating my emotions. You know what I’m talking about. Happy, sad, mad, lonely, bored – there’s something in our minds that tells us to eat when we're overwhelmed with feelings. 

If you're lucky enough to not struggle with emotional eating. Good for you. I'll eat my doughnuts in jealousy. 

Anyway, when emotions strike, one of three things happens: 
  • I fight the urge and try to deal with my feelings a different way – dance, call a friend, go for a run, clean the house, do a little retail therapy, when I can afford it … and sometimes when I can’t ;)
  • I try to find a healthy alternative to whatever it is I’m craving (I’ll show you one below!)
  • And sometimes, I’ll admit, I just eat whatever I want and deal with the consequences later. I really don’t recommend this option, but it happens to the best of us. 
Last week, we celebrated Kenlee’s third birthday. My emotions were all over the place. 

Sad: “Gah! My baby is a big girl.” 
Happy: “Oh my goodness, I’m so excited for her to see her present.” 
Annoyed: “She’s 3 now – why the heck can’t she poop in the toilet?!”

In addition to preparing a plain, out-of-the-box, traditional yellow cake with chocolate frosting (to share with the grandparents on the evening of her birthday), I made cupcakes for Kenlee to take to the babysitter’s house. I know, I’m a horrible mother and worked on her birthday. (My mommy guilt normally tastes like chips and salsa, but this time I abstained.) 

ANYWAY, I realize a bunch of kids don’t need low-calorie snacks, but I used this recipe because it’s super moist AND super simple. Plus, Kyle and I could enjoy a couple of the “extra” ones when they came out of the oven. Kenlee asked for strawberry cupcakes, but I’ve also seen this done with white, Funfetti or cherry chip cake mix.

Yummy strawberries!
You can see what happens when you frost them before they completely cool. Ooops!

Diet Pop Cupcakes
• 1 box cake mix (strawberry, white, Funfetti or cherry chip have worked well)

• 12 ounces of diet lemon-lime soda, such as Sprite Zero, Diet 7-Up or off-brand (This is equal to one can, but I measure out from a 2 liter because that's cheaper than buying a 12 pack of cans.)

• 1 container of fat free whipped topping (instead of frosting)

• Sliced strawberries for fun!

Directions: Line muffin tin with cupcake liners (or spray with oil if you forgot to buy the liners – like me!). Take the dry cake mix and mix it with the soda. Do NOT add any of the ingredients listed on the cake mix box! This will come out fluffy and fizzy. Spoon the batter into cupcake liners. It should be enough for approximately 16-18 cupcakes. Bake at 350 for 18-20 minutes. Let cool. Top with whipped topping and strawberry slices. NOTE: If you don't serve immediately, freeze or refrigerate them or else the topping will melt! 

Each cupcake is worth 3 points for Weight Watchers, compared to 7 points for a store-bought cupcake with frosting!