BlogBlogs

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Training for No. 2

Race week is upon us! Sunday, I will head out for 13.1 miles of fun at the Glass City Half Marathon in Toledo. It's my second half marathon, and I think I'm twice as excited. There's a lot less pressure this time, since I already know I can do it.

Before I head down the Turnpike, let's compare my training for this half marathon to my first. 

                                          First Time                   This time
Weeks of training                   16                              12* 
                                                                  
Total miles run                       284                            250

Longest run                         12 miles                  13.1 miles

Double-digit runs                     2                                4
Average pace                     11:00/mile                 9:30/mile

*Really 11 because I got sick the first week

Confident (and exhausted) after my 13.1-mile training run
As the numbers show, this training cycle is completely different from the last one. I'm faster, stronger and more confident in my abilities. 

I attribute my improvement to running All. Damn. Winter. despite the obstacles Mother Nature threw my way. One blogger, Jess, inspired me when she posted, "Spring PRs are made in the dead of winter." Her free Winter Miles Challenge really gave me motivation to keep going between training cycles. It was so nice to know I wasn't alone!

Though I told myself I wasn't going to set a real time goal, I do have one in my head. We'll see how I feel come race day though. No matter what, I KNOW I can beat my first time of 2:35:59, unless something crazy happens. 

My REAL goal will be to just finish strong. And, of course, have a lot of fun. Once again, my awesome siblings will be joining me for the race. Even though we likely won't run together, it will be AWESOME to see them at the finish line and celebrate each other's victories ... and drink our free beers. 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

What we're eating: Brinner, Weight Watchers Style

So this isn't a recipe. It's a meal idea, essentially, and it's also a little insight into making Weight Watchers work for you. I often try to explain to people that losing weight isn't about finding new foods. In the beginning, you have to find ways to make the foods you already enjoy work for you. This meal is a good example of that concept.


Brinner (breakfast for dinner) has always been one of my favorite meals. Kyle loves it, too. So when we started Weight Watchers together, it had to stay a part of our meal plan.
At first, we just watched our portions. We didn't use to count the slices of bacon or measure our hash browns - but Weight Watchers taught us to be mindful of what we were eating. Simple portion control really helped.

Slowly, as our points allowance decreased with our weights, we've had to modify the pieces of the meal. We substituted made simple substitutions and we don't feel we've lost any flavor. (OK, Kyle says he still craves real bacon every now and again, but mostly it all tastes the same.)

Brinner, Weight Watchers Style (12 points total)


1 cup hash browns: 2 points

3 slices turkey bacon: 2 points

1/2 cup Egg Beaters: 2 points

1/4 cup 2% shredded cheese (scrambled with Egg Beaters): 2 points

2 slices Hillbilly Old Fashioned bread: 3 points

1 tbsp. Country Crock Light: 1 point

P.S. This is also one of Kenlee's favorite meals! It's something the whole family can enjoy. 

Friday, April 11, 2014

GOOOOOOAAALLLLLL!!!

OK, so I didn't shout like a soccer commentator, but I did do a little bit of dancing in the meeting room. Today, unexpectedly, I hit my Weight Watchers goal.

I knew I would be close, but because these last few pounds have been rough I didn't think I would make the cut this week. Plus, it was hard to tell how I would weigh in at the meeting -- arou
nd noon, fully clothed -- compared to when I weighed myself at home in the morning.

But when that official scale read precisely 164.0, I threw my hands in the air in victory. The meeting receptionist, who knew I was close based on our previous conversations, was so caught up in a computer problem that she didn't even notice what just happened and handed back my card and booklet like any other week.

That's OK, I spoke up. "Ummm ... I just hit goal," I told her. She felt so bad for not realizing, and quickly congratulated me and told me I needed to share at the end of the meeting. Of course, I'm not shy, so I did. I've only been going to this meeting for about five weeks, but I was so proud to announce my accomplishment to the group.

The leader, who also knew I was close to making goal, was so happy for me and asked me to share how much I'd lost. I was so proud to FINALLY be able to say "105 pounds!" I still can't believe it, to be honest. When I started this whole thing, my "big" goal was to reach 200 pounds again. That's what I weighed when I graduated high school.

Back when I started Weight Watchers, I distinctly remember looking up my BMI and thinking a "normal" one wasn't physically possible. When I passed the obesity mark around 190, however, I realized a healthy weight wasn't out of reach. That's right, I'm considered in a healthy weight range for the FIRST TIME EVER. That's just ... just, wow.

My new Goal charm, next to my Activity charm

The leaders also asked me to share the one thing that helped me get to this point. Of course, that one thing would be my husband. It's so fitting that Kyle texted me just yesterday, "Did you know I started Weight Watchers exactly two years ago?"

Yep. He joined with me on April 10, 2012. And from there, we've changed our lives and our family. Having him counting points and trying new foods with me made all the difference in this journey. He gets it, and he's there for me when I need the extra support. I couldn't have gotten here without him, and I'm so proud of all the accomplishments he's made as well.

BUT it's not over. Now that I've reached my goal weight, I have to stay within 2 pounds (up or down) for the next six weeks. If I am successful, I get to graduate into Lifetime membership with Weight Watchers. What does Lifetime mean? It means I'll get to continue using the program for maintenance, and I'll get all the meetings and eTools for FREE. Wooohooo!!

I know this part of the journey will be hard, but it's going to be so worth it. I can keep the weight off and continuing to live the life I've created ... as long as I'm willing to work.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

What We're Eating: Crock-Pot Chicken Fajitas

I love Mexican food. Wait, that’s an understatement.

I LOVE MEXICAN FOOD. That’s better.

I also love my Crock-Pot, so this recipe combines my loves into one delicious meal.

Because of our work schedules, we use our Crock-Pot several times a week. When I walk in the door around 6 p.m., it’s so nice to know dinner is nearly ready. One of our favorite recipes is Crock-Pot Chicken Fajitas. I adopted our version from one I found on Pinterest.

Crock-Pot Chicken Fajitas (Approx. 6 points per serving)

Place the following in the Crock-Pot, in order:

2 Tbsp. light butter or margarine (We use Country Crock Light)

2 green peppers, sliced

1 small onion, sliced

3 chicken breasts

1 Pack of taco seasoning (I prefer Ortega)

½ Cup taco sauce (We like Ortega medium)

Cook on low for eight hours. Shred the chicken with a fork and mix it all together. Drain the mixture (it will be REALLY juicy and runny), then spoon servings of about ½ cup into SMALL tortillas. Top with 2 percent shredded cheese and fat-free sour cream (and any other toppings you like – I like grape tomatoes).

The points breakdown on this isn’t exact science. But I estimate each serving to be worth ABOUT 6 points. When I have two fajitas, it adds up to about 13 points total:

Filling – 6 points (3 each)

Tortillas – 4 points (2 each)

Cheese – 2 points (I spread ¼ cup between the two)

Sour cream – 1 point (Again, I use a ¼ cup between the two)

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The work is what matters

It’s hard to believe that in less than three weeks I will have a SECOND half marathon under my belt. Yeah, I’m still letting that sink in.

I haven’t written about my training much this time around, mostly because I wasn’t sure if people wanted to hear more of the same. Or really, I wasn’t sure if it was nearly as interesting this time.

While I have been a lot faster and stronger this cycle, I think training has lost a little bit of its sparkle. Don’t get me wrong – I still love running! But with my first training plan, every long run was my longest ever. Every piece of gear I bought was new and fascinating. Every trail was new territory. EVERYTHING WAS AWESOME!

Feeling STRONG after an 11-miler
This time, things are more familiar and less fascinating. Before I started officially “training” for this race, I had moved beyond the apprehension and intimidation of signing up. I knew I could do it because I had already done it once before. Plus, training through the WORST. WINTER. EVER. presented more challenges than excitement. (Everyone was sick of the snow, so who really wanted to read a blog about running in it? Not me.)

But despite the cold, dark mornings and the frigid, lonely weekend runs, I survived. I’m actually starting to look forward to race day instead of merely praying it would come and release me from the obligation of getting up at 4 a.m.  – or earlier – two or three times a week. (Who am I kidding ... I'll probably still get up for workouts after the race.)

Mentally, I’m trying to keep my expectations low. I know a faster time is possible, if not probable, but I don’t want to set a time goal and disappoint myself. My only objective is to finish STRONG. In Cleveland, the wheels fell off the bus after mile 10, and I did more walking than running in the last stretch of the course (I blame the damn hills). This time, I want to run strong and steady the entire way through. I want to focus on my form and my body, and I want to finish knowing I gave my best effort. (BONUS: It's a flat course, so hills won't be an issue.)

I love this little guy!
At my Weight Watchers meeting Friday, I got a charm for completing a four-week activity challenge. My goal was to get in all my training runs – no skipping or cutting. I didn’t care if I went fast or slow, or if I had to rearrange my schedule to fit them all in. What mattered to me was sticking to the plan and truly preparing my body for another race.

Everyone at our meeting had a different goal, and I was happy to see other members reach their milestones. Running, walking, biking, lifting – whatever it was, we all set a goal and found a way to get there. I think that’s the beauty to be found in any fitness plan. Sometimes we focus too much on the goal, or the end result, because that's ultimately what we want to achieve. But the WORK, the sacrifice, the time between the start and finish – THAT'S WHAT MATTERS.

When we challenge ourselves and push ourselves to change, that's where the magic happens.

So all goals aside, it won't matter what happens when I cross the finish line in Toledo. The 12 weeks prior to that will be what prepared me and pushed me to new limits. Despite all the scheduling conflicts, the relentless weather and my general lack of sparkle, I will have made it to the starting line feeling strong and ready. And that's really all I can ask for.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

What we're eating: Buffalo Chicken Salad with Homemade Ranch Dressing

As promised, I’m FINALLY going to start sharing "What We're Eating" on Weight Watchers. And I need to say we, not I, because Kyle and Kenlee have been on this journey alongside me, and we generally eat the same things. Some meals and portions are different, but we eat dinner together as a family nearly every day.

Without further ado … One of our favorite go-to meals is this Buffalo Chicken Salad. Kyle and I sort of accidentally put it together one day as our homemade version of the same meal you can order at many restaurants. Of course, we think ours is a lot healthier. Kenlee doesn’t eat salad, but she sure does enjoy our Homemade Ranch Dressing – she’ll dip nearly anything in it!


Homemade Ranch Dressing – 1 point per serving
  • 16 32! oz. container of plain, non-fat greek yogurt (make sure it’s PLAIN and not vanilla … trust me)
  • 1 packet of dry ranch mix (we prefer the Kraft DIP mix because it has more flavor)
  • Splash of fat-free milk (add more for a thinner “dressing” or less for a thicker “dip”)
Mix all the ingredients together in a container with a lid or seal. We constantly have a batch made up in a plastic container in our fridge. We use it throughout the week for salad dressing, any recipes that call for ranch, or as a dip for veggies or other foods. A serving of ¼ cup equals 1 point.


Buffalo chicken salad – 10 points total
  • 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast – grilled or boiled (3 points)
  • ¼ to ½ cup of Frank’s Buffalo sauce (depends on how well you handle spice!) (0 points)
  • ¼ cup shredded Colby (or cheddar) cheese made with 2% milk (2 points)
  • 1 hard boiled egg, sliced or chopped (2 points)
  • Fat-free packaged croutons (14 croutons are 1 point)
  • ½ cup of Homemade Ranch Dressing (2 points)
  • Lettuce, or other greens (0 poin
  • Other veggies, as desired
Cook your chicken breast and cut it into bite size chunks. Then put the chunks in a bag or container with the buffalo sauce and shake to coat. Let the chicken “marinate” for a few minutes in the container. We usually prepare the rest of our salad and toppings while it sits, then toss the chicken on top. Or, if you let it soak overnight in the fridge, the chicken will be super spicy for lunch or dinner the next day! 

In addition to the lettuce, cheese, croutons, egg and dressing, I like to add tomatoes, onions, steak-cut mushrooms and yellow pepper rings to my salad. All the extra veggies are “free” points, so why not?! You could easily add/remove other zero-point veggies as you like. Kyle prefers a simpler salad without all the extras, and it’s still just as yummy.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

My not-so-secret lessons in nutrition

Here's the secret of my weight loss: There is no secret!

Everyone seems to think there is some sort of magic pill, workout or food that helped me lose 100+ pounds. But I swear on my life, all I did was eat well and move more. No one really wants to hear that, however, because it's hard to listen to the advice we've heard from medical professionals over and over again.

And, it's just HARD.

It's HARD to stay active and it's HARD eat right - especially when everything in our society is focused on making life easy.

As promised, I'm going to start sharing more about eating well part of my success. But before I start posting recipes and meal ideas, I think it's necessary to tell you the lessons I've learned about nutrition so far.

  • I'm not on a diet. The D-word makes me cringe. It implies that the change is temporary, and restrictive. I truly committed to a LIFESTYLE CHANGE instead. It happened slowly, with small changes made over time, and I believe I'm on track to keep those changes intact for the long haul. Hence the reason I'm pursuing Lifetime status with Weight Watchers. It focuses on maintenance after weight loss, which is so important to me. 
  • I eat whatever I want. My favorite part of Weight Watchers is that you can literally eat ANYTHING you want - as long as you track it! The old theory of "everything in moderation" really works when you focus on eating more good foods than bad. Yes, I still eat pizza, ice cream, nachos and cheeseburgers. I just eat them a whole lot less, and I plan ahead so they fit in my allotted points for the week. Someone recently told me they follow the 80/20 rule - 80 percent good food and 20 percent not-so-good food - and I think that probably describes my approach as well.
  • I load up on fruits and vegetables. When Weight Watchers changed to the PointsPlus system, the best part, in my opinion, was that most fruits and vegetables became zero points. I admit it's totally just a mind game, but once I could eat all the fruits and veggies I wanted for "free" I started adding them to everything. They provide filling and flavor for almost any dish we create. 
  • I don't have a clue about calories. Many people think the idea of Weight Watchers points is a sham, but I think they're great. Points are calculated based on fat, carbs, fiber and protein. Over time, I learned the value in those nutritional measures. More protein means I'll stay satisfied longer, more carbs mean more energy, etc. Calories don't mean a whole lot, in my opinion. Think about it: 100 calories of ice cream doesn't compare to 100 calories of carrots. 
  • I'm not perfect. As I said before, I don't restrict myself from any foods. And while I try to plan ahead, sometimes I just can't avoid temptation. Yes, I have gone several days without tracking because I've been ashamed of what I've eaten. Yes, I have gained and lost the same 5 or 10 pounds over and over because of holidays, birthdays and emotional baggage. But that doesn't mean I threw in the towel and gave up healthy eating forever. I'm still learning, I'm still changing. So I accept the fact I'm not perfect, and I'm NEVER going to be. But as long as I strive for progress - more good days than bad - then I'm going to be OK. 

DISCLAIMER: These lessons have been formed primarily from my membership with Weight Watchers, but also from other resources and my own experiences. Please remember that I am not a medical professional or certified specialist of any kind. This is what worked for me and my body, and it may not be what works for you. Simply put: talk to your doctor, not a blogger, about what you should be eating. 


Monday, March 24, 2014

My Weight Watchers story

When I talk to people about my weight loss, the first thing they want to know is "How did you do it?"

The answer is Weight Watchers and running. Since I've obviously written more than enough about running, I'd like to share more of my Weight Watchers story in the hopes that it will help someone else who tries the program. To date, I've lost 103 pounds with the program, and I lost the first 50 before I started running.

It took a long time to go from 269 lbs. to 166 lbs. 
My Weight Watchers story started just a few months after I was married, in the summer of 2009. Before that first meeting, I hadn't stepped on a scale in probably a year, but I knew my weight was getting out of control. I weighed in at 269.2 pounds — the highest weight I would ever see outside of pregnancy.

My first few months were OK. I dropped down to 255 before the holidays hit that year, and then I gave up. I tried again a few months later, but I decided I just "didn't have time" to focus on my weight. I didn't step foot on a scale again until I found out I was pregnant with Kenlee. At my first appointment, the scale read 269 again. The doctor told me in no uncertain terms that my obesity was a risk factor and I should aim to gain no more than 5 pounds during my pregnancy. I gained 15, which was good, but not the best.

When Kenlee was 5 months old, I joined Weight Watchers again. But even with the extra points for nursing, I struggled. I still hadn't figured out what a healthy diet looked like, and when I ate within my points value, I saw my milk supply drop. Looking back, I think I wasn't eating enough fruits and vegetables. I also didn't eat enough snacks during the day to sustain my milk production and hunger. Either way, I chose to focus on nursing and pumping and I gave up Weight Watchers again.

My third attempt was different. In April 2012, Kenlee was 11 months old and starting to eat more table food. The doctor said after her first birthday she could really eat whatever Kyle and I were eating. But when I looked at what we were eating, I suddenly felt disgusted. There was no way I could feed her the same crap. I spent so much time nursing and pumping and buying organic baby food to give her the best start possible — was it all a waste?

I shared my concern with Kyle and convinced him to join Weight Watchers with me this time. I wanted to be eating the same meals and measuring the same servings. I wanted to make a change for our family, one that was for life and not just for a few months.

This time, it was different. We could no longer attend meetings with our crazy schedules, but we used the online resources Weight Watchers had to offer. The tracker on our smartphones become a lifeline.  We also used each other for support and encouragement — it was like having a meeting at home every day!

Of course, we've had our ups and downs since then, but we've never given up completely. When I look at our plates now, I'm no longer ashamed. We changed our lives, and our health, for good. Though I am technically in a health weight range for the first time in my life, my Weight Watchers story isn't over.

I am just 2 pounds away from achieving "Lifetime" status with Weight Watchers. The number is based on a healthy BMI, and though I have weighed in under that number (164) on the scale at home before, I have not done so at a meeting. The challenge for me has been dropping below that number and STAYING there, which is why I decided a few weeks ago to return to meetings. Not only will I be able to officially achieve Lifetime status (and finally get my membership for FREE!), but I will also continue to get the support and information I know I still need.

You might be asking yourself why all this matters, and I suppose maybe it doesn't. But lately I've felt a need to talk more about the nutrition side of my weight loss journey, and Weight Watchers has obviously been a big part of that. I want people to know it truly is about making a lifetime change, not a temporary one, and that sometimes you have to fail and start again. I'll admit I don't follow the program perfectly, but with my third try finally figured out how to make it work for me.

Next week, I want to share some tips and advice for people interested in Weight Watchers. What questions do you have? What would you like to know?

(Disclaimer: I am not compensated in any way by Weight Watchers - I still pay a full membership fee! I just really love this program and what it's done for my family, so I'm going to be sharing a lot of advice, and hopefully some recipes.) 


Thursday, March 20, 2014

Avoiding the excuses, staying on track

When we were growing up, my siblings used to joke that I was the queen of excuses. If I didn’t want to do something, I could find every reason to avoid it at all costs. 

Laundry to fold? I needed to go to the bathroom. Or suddenly I recycling to sort, or some homework to do. Food I didn’t want to eat? I was full. Or I was allergic, or I still had more homework to do. I could come up with excuse after excuse, hoping that someone else would pick up the slack in my absence, or just throw away the things I didn’t want to deal with. (Or in one instance, hunt me down in the clubhouse where I was hiding and force me to finish my chicken nuggets. Thanks, Scott.)

As an adult, I’m still REALLY good at finding excuses. But I’ve found the only way to move past them is to avoid them altogether. When it comes down it, I play to my organizational strengths and plan, plan, plan. This has been especially helpful in the last six weeks or so. 

When I started my new job, I realized I’d have to find a new routine, a new plan as you will. It was easy to find lots of excuses, however. 
  • I’m too busy
  • I’m too tired 
  • It’s too cold 
  • I’m too stressed
I realized I needed to cut myself some slack during this transition in my life, but I also didn’t want to lose all the progress I’d made in transitioning to a healthy lifestyle. The solution? Plan, plan, plan. 

It may seem obsessive to some, but each week I make a game plan. My runs are scheduled around my husband’s work week, and sometimes around the availability of a grandparent to watch Kenlee. Our dinners are planned around our schedules, with slow cooker recipes on the nights when no one will be home until after 6 p.m. I also had to change my lunch packing routine because I ran out of time to get everything around at 5 a.m. Now after dinner each night, I pack all my food for the next day so I can just grab and go in the morning. I even track all my Weight Watchers points when I pack my lunch, so I know in advance how many I'll have left for breakfast and dinner.

Time to dust this thing off and put it to use!
Speaking of Weight Watchers, I stopped avoiding the meetings I know I need. I've been just a few pounds from Lifetime for a couple of months, but I can't seem to keep the last 5 pounds off for more than a week or two at a time. So last week, I gave in and found a meeting center near my office. They have a meeting at noon on Fridays, so I can easily go on my lunch hour. Before I could make an excuse, I headed out the door.

The receptionists and meeting leader were all very nice and welcoming. I shared my story and explained I needed some extra support to take off these last 5 pounds and KEEP THEM OFF. I want to reach maintenance mode, and I know I'll need guidance to stay there. To keep myself accountable, when I got back to work I set a meeting reminder in my calendar for every Friday. It's just another plan to help me stay on track! 

I know I am stronger than my excuses, and I know there are plenty of people out there with REAL excuses and struggles who are still conquering their battles and doing amazing things. I also know sometimes even the best laid plans are thrown off track, but without my plans I have no track to follow!

I'm even working on a plan to keep this blog on track - because nearly two months between posts is unacceptable to me. I know blogging my journey provides me with a higher level of accountability, and I also love knowing I provide people with ideas and inspiration. Soon, I hope to start sharing some of my meal ideas and recipes, as well as some advice for first-time runners and Weight Watchers.

I'm curious to know what my readers do to stay on track - I love reading other people's ideas! How do you plan ahead to avoid the excuses? 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Winter running: I'm over it

I can only be badass for so long. Winter running, I'm so over you.

When I started Couch to 5K on March 1 last year, it wasn't exactly in ideal weather conditions. I distinctly remember taking Kenlee out in the jogging stroller (bundled and covered) for a run on sleet covered streets around the beginning of April. It sucked, but I was proud I didn't let Mother Nature stop me. I've since taken on rain, wind and extreme heat as well. I usually feel pretty awesome when I finish a run despite the elements.

But this winter has been my first running in the worst our Midwest weather has to offer. When I took on the Runner's World Run Streak challenge from Thanksgiving to New Year's, it toughened me up, so to speak. I only had a handful of days where I limited myself to 1 mile due to the weather. And even those handful weren't so awful looking back.

Because now that I've survived January's polar vortex — TWICE — December looks downright sunny.

When the first major snow storm and extreme temperatures hit us at the beginning of the month, I didn't have the option to go outside. As a paramedic, Kyle is essential personnel and had to report to work while Kenlee and I were trapped at home during a two-day snow emergency. So I made the best of things and popped in a Jillian Michaels DVD a few times. You see, I figure if I shouldn't be driving then I shouldn't be running either. Once the temperatures were back above zero and the snow emergency was lifted, I was back out on the road.

Lucky for me, only half the residents of our village had decided to shovel their sidewalks after we received something like 14 inches of snow (Insert eye roll here). BUT I can understand that not everyone has the time or capabilities to get things cleaned up right away, so I have (carefully) been on the street as much as possible. I refuse to do high knees on a un-shoveled sidewalk and pray that I don't fall on my face in snow bank. I tried it a few times, but the workout just isn't for me.

So basically, I sucked it up and accepted several things about winter running:
• Slow and steady is key — I can't be trying to set PR's on the ice and snow.
• Layers are essential. For any days below 20 degrees, I wear two pairs of tights, a long sleeve shirt, a fleece jacket, tall socks and hat and gloves. For days in the single digits, I add another layer on top, a thicker hat and an extra pair of gloves.
• Below zero runs aren't worth it. It's too hard to breathe and my face goes numb. I have my limits.

When the polar vortex returned this week, a combination of scheduling conflicts and the weather kept me from running for four whole days. This may seem fine to the average person, but for me it was nearly torturous. Since I have no treadmill at home, I decided to cash in a free day pass to the local Y today. Lunch runs aren't ideal, but at least I can get a good sweat. I'm hoping Mother Nature decides to play nice soon though, because I can only watch so much Price Is Right before I get bored with my workout.

Seriously, is it spring yet?