Finding the Motivation to Exercise- Not an Easy Task, If You Ask Me!

As explained in my last post, I kind of hit rock bottom when it comes to feeling comfortable and healthy. It took a while to get there, and it’s not like I didn’t try to get things under control before, but I tend to lack two things when it comes to nutrition and exercise- self-control and motivation.

So, how have I worked on the motivation issue? Well, as a self-proclaimed gym hater, for the longest time it was finding things that weren’t boring. For me, that usually means falling back on an old stand-by, dance. I started dancing when I was two, and didn’t stop doing it regularly until I was about 22 or 23. I firmly believe this helped me stay fit and trim for a long time. It’s amazing what muscles you never knew were there pop up when dancing!

When my heart issues started to create some major life issues, I stopped dancing regularly, mostly because I was afraid it would kill me, or send me to the hospital (both very real possibilities). Once I got my ICD, I didn’t really have an excuse anymore, but fear and anxiety kept me back. I got out of shape, and it got even harder to get to dance class. That, and it costs money, which is not always plentiful.

In turn, my figure and my skills started to dwindle in ways I didn’t like, but was both too lazy and/or afraid to deal with it.

What turned things around, you ask?

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This beautiful Labrador-Pointer rescue! She has a lot of energy, and when we rescued her from our local humane society two months ago, I knew she would need to exercise. Boy, was I right. What was awesome was that I no longer had an excuse NOT to get outside and get walking– she HAD to go out for walks. No more choice on my part. i had to get home from work and walk the dog, instead of sitting on the couch. This has been my biggest motivator- a big, beautiful dog. One of the best decisions I ever made, by far. She challenges me in ways I never expected.

With that said, everybody has to find what works for them. For me, it is my dog and the need to feel comfortable in my own skin again. Of course, now I’ve added things like the elliptical, strength training, and interval training to our twice-daily walks, but it was my pup who started giving me more confidence.

How about you? What motivates you to get moving regularly?

Easy Strawberry Dessert (Low Cal!) and Some Candid Thoughts on My Weight

Guess what I just did?

I ate almost a whole pound of strawberries and some chocolate, and I don’t feel guilty at all! I’ll share the easy-peasy recipe below.

So, I know I forgot to update after my last entry, but I will say that I have been on track with my health and weight loss goals since then, which, for me, is saying a whole heck of a lot.

The elliptical every day for at least 25-40 minutes, walking the dog for at least 30 minutes, and more all-around activity has been keeping me from my usual summer sloth-fest. I even started lifting weights and doing crunches– weird!

I’ve been feeling pretty good about it, too. Usually, hate sets in around the second day, but I’ve been going strong for almost a week! This is pretty big news for a gym-hater like myself. It helps that the gym is free in my apartment complex, is air conditioned (a relief in this 95+ degree heat), and I haven’t run across any creepy or obnoxious gym folk as of yet. All positive!

Now, it’s about watching what I eat. I don’t have a good history of abstaining or moderating my food, so I started using the MyFitnessPal app to help me understand what I’m putting in my body. I tried this months ago, with little success, as I just became obsessed with my eating and if I went over on calories, I just basically said “Screw this!” and ate…and ate…and ate. Then I felt bad about it. The big thing was I wasn’t keyed in on exercising and being healthy overall.

What changed? Well, I went athletic shoe shopping with my mom, which, of course, turned into clothes shopping as well. Awesome, right? Not so awesome when I realized that the only clothes I felt comfortable in were the spandex blend exercise clothes. Every pair of cute jeans I tried on did not fit. Dresses didn’t fit. Some shirts didn’t even fit! I was in tears in the fitting room, realizing that I had officially gone from larger-ish to what the clothing industry considers “plus size.” Not okay.

Hey, I know the clothes-sizing industry isn’t fair and/or realistic, but to be fair, I have gained about 30 pounds since my wedding three years ago. Between an increase in life and job stresses, new medications, and unhealthy habits, my body has gone from comfortable to not.

Many of you who have known me a long time might be thinking a variety of things about this. Yes, for years I was pretty skinny without having to do a lot to be that way, but I also had some major size distortion when it came to clothing, which I blame on being tall and growing up in the 90’s, when it was fashionable to be “baggy” (what were we thinking?!). Basically, I realized about five years ago after a shopping trip that I was buying clothing two to four sizes too big. Crazy, but true!

When I started gaining weight and actually became those sizes, I felt pretty comfortable. After all, I wore those sizes for years, unknowingly! The sizes have been creeping up and up for a while now, and when my bra size went up a whole cup size, it was pretty cool. But then stuff started not fitting right, and my clothes started becoming uncomfortable to wear. I would see things I liked on the rack, but wouldn’t be able to wear them. However, the clothes trying-on incident from last week was the last straw.

Also, I have a pretty big family history of obesity and heart disease. With my heart problems, I became scared to exercise, but now I realize more than ever that I’m not getting any younger, or healthier, sitting on my butt and pretending nothing is different. Life changes are in order. And I am tired of feeling bad about myself and my health.

So, in a roundabout way, this brings me to the tasty summer treat I was craving earlier. Since I’ve been doing well with my exercise and diet goals, it has almost become a contest for me, like a game. When I started craving sweetness, I tried to think of a relatively healthy way to both beat the heat and stay within my goals. Hence, Organic Strawberries with Melted Chocolate!

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Alas, not the best picture, but super tasty and easy! One pound of fresh strawberries is 145 calories. I used semisweet chocolate chips from Costco (Kirkland brand), which is 70 calories per 30 pieces of chocolate. What that equals is deliciousness at under 300 calories, depending how many strawberries and/or chocolate you want to eat. Me, I ate the whole pound and about a serving and a half of the chocolate! Perfect!

Ingredients:

1 lb fresh, organic strawberries, hulled and quartered
Semisweet (at least 50% cacao) chocolate chips, 30 to 60 pieces

Wash, hull, and quarter the strawberries. Place chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave in increments of 15-20 seconds, stop, and stir, until chips are melted. Dip strawberries into melted chocolate and enjoy! If you aren’t worried about calories, top with some whipped cream!

Finding Balance in an Un-Balanced Life

I’m not perfect.

Ten years ago, saying that would have been like blasphemy to me. My perfectionist ways would not be able to handle that statement!

I’ve learned a lot in ten years- First and foremost, life happens. Change happens, whether you want it or not. You’ve got to pick your battles.

Unfortunately, little cliches aren’t always helpful when it comes to picking yourself up and moving forward.

I’ve discovered that finding balance in my crazy life is one of the hardest things that I’ve tried to do, and I haven’t been very successful at it in the past. Well, there’s no time like the present! I’m going to use this blog to help me be accountable for bringing some balance into my life so I can be healthy and relatively happy, and not drive my family and friends crazy.

I’m going to try a little exercise here to help put my goals in realistic, attainable terms so I can reach some balance in my life. I think this is a good thing for anyone to do, but can be especially good if you tend to be a perfectionist who sets unrealistic expectations for his/herself.

I’m going to start with where my brain usually goes- perfection. First, I will list out some IDEALISTIC goals I have (keeping in mind my perfectionist nature, I probably won’t be able to attain many of these at this point).
1. Lose weight, 30 lbs- exercise, eat right
2. Get a hold on finances- save money for a house
3. Find balance
4. Be happy
5. Find pleasure in teaching or find something new to do
6. Create instead of consume

All of these are good goals in theory, but they are pretty overwhelming in nature. This is where my brain spins out of control and gets crazy about how any of this could be possible, so “I’d be better off quitting before I start than to fail miserably.” There is no plan here, just arbitrary goals.

I need to break these down into parts that are attainable. Action versus dwelling on inaction leads to depression and circular thinking- not good for finding balance.

So, I need to work these into short-term goals that I can actually achieve. For me, success leads to better motivation.

1. Lose 10 pounds in July.
Tips For Success:
— Exercise daily, focusing on pushing myself to sweat each time.
— Sweets okay twice a week.
— Make food at home.
— Be mindful of portions and snacks. Ask, “Am I still hungry?”
— No more using food as rewards, bored eating, or emotional eating.
— Eat food that is nutritious and beneficial to my body…less processed food.

Notice I figured out my key issues- I walk with the dog each day, but not always enough or pushing to sweat. I eat too many sweets, and tend to use them as rewards in a bad way. I love food, so I will devour multiple portions before I know what hit me. Loosing ten pounds is also more realistic than trying for 30 right away.

Now I’m noticing I’m already getting overwhelmed, and when I do that, I panic and quit. So, I’m going to ruminate on that goal for today, and restore some balance by waiting to do the other goals until tomorrow!

To end on a positive note, today I created (this blog), exercised until the sweat was pouring off, and did the dishes! Yay!

Introducing the Holocaust to 8th Graders

It’s my first time using the Haiku Deck App, and I have to say, it’s pretty awesome. Definitely an engaging and fun app. I’m using it to introduce the Holocaust and our unit on The Diary of Anne Frank (the play). We are going to explore the use of dramatic writing to bring the story to life, as well as how the story is brought to life on screen.

By using Haiku Deck, I’m hoping to make this a more personal, relevant experience for these students. Most of them are so far removed from the horrors of the Holocaust and desensitized by violence that I’m hoping to invoke some empathy by putting them in the mindset of someone who experienced it.

I remember learning about the Holocaust in 6th grade, then again freshman year when we read Night, by Eli Weisel. I met a survivor during that unit as well, and I have to say, it was one of the most eye-opening, emotional, interesting, and memorable units of my school career.

I’m hoping to do the same for my end-of-the-year, burnt out 8th graders. We’ll see how it goes!

http://www.haikudeck.com/p/86f74grmGo

Cheesy Chicken Bacon Ranch Potato Casserole

New recipe made from mixing other recipes together!

1 bag shredded frozen potatoes
1 half of a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken, meat shredded or chunked
Sharp cheddar cheese, as much as you want. I used probably 3 cups or so.
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 cup non fat plain Greek yogurt
1 can cream of mushroom soup, plus .5 cup of water from can
2 cups sliced mushrooms
.5 cup bacon bits
Johnny’s seasoning salt, to taste
.5 cup prepared ranch dressing

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix all ingredients together and put into a 9×13 greased baking dish. Bake, uncovered, for 45-50 minutes.

Crockpot Fiesta Chicken

New recipe I created/adapted:
Crockpot Fiesta Chicken

Raw or frozen chicken breasts or tenders
Taco seasoning, to taste
1 can chopped tomatoes
.5 can diced chiles
1 jar salsa verde
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained

Rinse chicken breasts and dredge in taco seasoning. Place in bottom of crockpot.

On top of chicken, add .5 can of diced chiles, tomatoes, salsa verde and beans. Stir a bit, making sure chicken stays on bottom of pot.

Set on high 4-6 hours. Take two forks and shred chicken in pot, stir with sauce. Keep on warm until ready to serve. Add cheese, sour cream, lettuce, or any other fixings.

Extracurriculars

I coach dance team after school. It’s a blast, but the school doesn’t have a sound system for me to use. I’ve lugged boom boxes to and fro quite a bit, and, frankly, it’s a pain in the butt. Or arm. Or both.

I had the brilliant idea to use my iPad as my stereo, I got a cheap speaker system on sale and have downloaded songs to my iTunes. This solves many problems, and I love how light and portable it is! I’d love it even more if our MPR had Internet access. Then I could use the Pandora app or other radio apps to supplement my music selection.