A Love Letter to 5:30 a.m.

I woke up with you yesterday and while I may have groaned and dreaded your arrival, I was actually happy to see you. As I got out of bed and pulled on my Lycra pants and tied my sneakers, I took a deep breath and shook the sleepiness off, preparing for the work we were about to do.

A quick drink of water and slice of bread later, and we were out the door. That first step outside with you is always interesting. What will we find? Heat and suffocating humidity? Slightly cool and thick with fog is how we were greeted yesterday. We took off in a different direction, changing up our usual routine to keep us fresh, motivated.

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As my legs warmed up and I started to run, I realized that this is why I deal with you as often as I can, 5:30 a.m. For this feeling of strength. For starting my day in the healthiest way that I can. For the time I get to breathe, to go over my to-do list and think, “This is OK. I can handle this. I can handle this life.”

That time alone with you is something I’ve come to treasure. As much as your piercing alarm can make me want to punch someone, I know you’re only looking out for me. I know you want what’s best — and that’s to focus on myself for that time before the world fully wakes up. You give me that time to myself to think through what’s bothering me, to laugh and remember good times, to be grateful for all I have.

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So I want to thank you, 5:30 a.m., for helping me become a healthier person. For letting me run/walk and improve my fitness, while working through the clutter in my mind. While I may fight you at times, I promise to never take you granted.

You’re mine, 5:30 a.m. And I’m yours.

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Ups And Downs

The past week or two has been a roller coaster, eating- and exercise-wise.

During the weekdays, I’m generally pretty good with my meals. Take tonight, for instance. I made a quick barbecue chicken, which I ate on one slider bun (100 calories) with a side of sweet potato fries (baked) and broccoli (no butter!). I had a portion-controlled dessert and lots of water.

Dinner Wednesday night

Dinner Wednesday night

Of course yesterday, during a happy hour for my company, I enjoyed a three fried raviolis, a quesadilla wedge, a couple nacho chips … generally, food that didn’t keep me full for long and was high in calories/fat. Now, once in a while, I can let this slide. My problem is that the once-a-week treat has become twice-a-week … or three-times-a-week …

While I really can keep myself motivated to say no or control my portions some times, other times all that flies out the window. It’s almost like I’m in defiance — I’m annoyed that I can’t just eat what I want and not gain weight. I get stubborn, wanting to prove that I can eat things in moderation and still lose weight … when maybe I really need to be more strict with myself.

The same goes with exercise. Last week I ran/walked three or four days, while this week I’ve only gone out twice so far (Tues. and today).

Clearly my major issue right now is consistency. If I could keep a steady pace (pun intended) going with my workouts, I would probably see more progress not only in my weight loss, but also in being able to run faster and farther. If I could hold true to the 90-10 rule — eat well 90% of the time with a treat 10% of the time — I could lose weight and not gain it all back with my one (or two) too many treats.

So this is what I’m struggling with right now: consistency. I firmly believe that I will see the number on the scale go down if I can just be more faithful to the things I know will work.

How do you stay on track when you’re tempted to veer off path? What are some tricks you’ve learned to see continuous progress in your weight loss or maintenance?

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Sweet Tooth Calling

It never fails. Just after finishing a meal, no matter how full I may be, I start to crave something sweet. All manner of goodies run through my head: cookies (chocolate chip or peanut butter), ice cream, candy, cupcakes. You name it, I want it.

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I tend to indulge in what I would call big treats, like cake, on special occasions only, like having dessert after dinner once in a while if I’m at a restaurant. After lunch during the week, I can usually satisfy the craving with one or two Dove chocolate squares. But sometimes sweets get the better of me and if someone brings donuts to the office, or if the Dreamcakes cupcake truck is nearby, I may have a hard time resisting.

The real culprit, though, is after dinner and my craving often gets me into trouble. This is when I want a dish of ice cream. And I don’t mean a measured 1/2 cup, as is a single serving. No I want a bowl. A big bowl. And I want it to be rich, usually chocolate, with creamy fudge or crunchy candy.

So what’s a girl who’s trying to lose weight and watch her portions to do?

Well, individual portions help. Skinny Cow or Weight Watcher treats have come to my rescue many a time. But I know these aren’t always the healthiest option … nor are they very friendly on my wallet.

I recently wrote an article about healthy, cold desserts that are perfect for summer. You can check them out on HellaWella.com here.

This week I’m going to make a concerted effort to make yogurt parfaits with frozen raspberries and maybe a few chocolate chips. Or my old standby — Cool Whip between two chocolate graham cracker squares, frozen — instant low-calorie ice cream sandwich!

When does your sweet tooth most often attack? How do you stave off cravings while still enjoying a little treat?

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Finding Healthy Inspiration

I find it pretty interesting what people will repin or like on Pinterest. If I pin a photo of a cute midi skirt, it might get a repin or two. But surprisingly, or not so surprisingly, one of my most repinned items is this:

Plus-size model Tara Lynn

photo by Bob Wolfenson

This photo of plus-size model Tara Lynn has earned 364 repins and 113 likes. When I originally posted this pin, I wrote this comment underneath: “She looks like a healthy woman to me. THAT’S what matters!” And someone repinned: “I am trying to lose weight and this is the goal weight I could live with. I think she looks just right.”

Me too!

I think what resonates with so many women is that Tara looks real. She looks sexy, curvy … attainable. Sometimes we see photos of celebrities or models and we think, “I wish I could look like that.” But so often the bodies we’re wishing for are a product of crazy good genes, or hours of exercise a day, or a combination of personal training + cardio + personal chef + lighting + strategically placed makeup. Not to mention PhotoShop!

This photo, however, seems actually possible. It feels like with some exercise and healthy eating, with a great piece of lingerie and a little hair tossle, we could achieve this level of hot. And it is so much easier to look at Tara and say, “that’s sexy, and actually healthy looking,” as opposed to so many women who may be the technical definition of healthy but just look too … too thin, or too chiseled or too tan, even!

There’s no point in pinning items that will make you feel bad about yourself. The so-called #thinspiration that was so prevalent on Pinterest still exists. But it’s because you (I/we) pin it. If we start pinning real, healthy-looking women as our inspiration, our outlook on what is sexy, what is beautiful, will become more realistic and more healthy for our own self-esteem.

I’m grateful that so many other women out there repinned this photo because it shows that so many of us want to aspire to a healthy body, one that’s curvy and sexy. It shows we want to be inspired by attainable bodies — ones that are actually possible for us.

Here are a few more pins that other women have repinned/liked that follow along this line of thinking. So remember, next time you get to pinning, search for inspiration that’s real!

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The Importance Of Being Honest

Being honest with others in one thing. Being honest with yourself, well, that seems to be even harder.

I’ve been reading a few other blogs lately and it seems I’m not the only “weight-loss blogger” out there who is having a hard time not just losing weight, but also struggling with the real purpose of it all. I put the term “weight-loss blogger” in quote marks because a lot of the problem for myself, and it seems for others, is that we feel we can’t call ourselves this if we’re not actually losing weight.

If I am honest with myself, I don’t think this blog is about losing weight at all. And I don’t think my journey is about that either. I think it’s more about finding a way to be comfortable with myself. And yes, for me, that means losing some weight because I’m not happy with myself at my present weight. But I don’t know if that means I will ever be one of those “success stories” that you see on the cover of People magazine. And if I’m honest, I’m OK with that.

The more and more I do to try and be an overall healthier person — and to me that means eating healthier and more consciously, exercising regularly, and learning to accept myself inside and out — the more I realize that the actual numbers, the actual concrete statistics about me, don’t really mean anything. I’m 5’7″. I weight approximately 250 (I haven’t been on the scale in a couple of weeks!). I wear a size 20-22. My feet are a size 10.

But what do those numbers mean? Do they reflect that I’ve stayed within my calorie limit for the past 7 days, with the exception of one day? Do they show the sweat after covering 3 miles Monday and this morning, plus spinning last night? Do they display the smile I have when I feel good in my clothes or confident walking down the hallway?

No. Those numbers don’t capture all that. They don’t show the whole picture. And, again, if I’m honest with myself, it’s that whole picture that I’m most concerned with.

Now, I won’t deny that it would feel great to strut my stuff in a body-conscious red dress, or to run a half-marathon faster. There are certain feelings that fitness and health produce, and I do want to continue to work toward those goals.

But they don’t define me.

Let me repeat that: The numbers, the weight, the pace of my runs — they don’t define me.

And they don’t define you. If you are taking care of yourself, and you feel good about yourself, then you are a success story. Period.

Striving to feel like a success story is what this journey is all about for me. But it’s my story — it’s my words and chapters that make up my book. It’s not for others to say how that book should be filled.

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Friday Five (a day early)

1. Not to pat myself on the back, but I’m proud of a couple of the meals I cooked this week. I challenged myself, after returning from my honeymoon, to mix it up in the kitchen a little bit. I finally started using the Pinterest board I created called “Meals for next week.” I had intended to pin new recipes that I wanted to try, creating a menu of sorts for the following week. And then the board sat there. But this week I made variations on the following dishes: baked tilapia, roasted potatoes, crock pot BBQ chicken and brown sugar roasted sweet potatoes. I tried to cut down on any butter or oil in the recipes, and I only used spices that I had on hand. Thankfully, everything turned out yummy!

The tilapia and roasted potatoes, served with corn.

The tilapia and roasted potatoes, served with corn.

2. I’ve been using MyFitnessPal to track calories for some time now, and I’m finding it very useful. I had two days last weekend  when I went waaaay over my daily allotment (1,620), so this week I really tried to reign it in and, I’m happy to report that I’ve been under the rest of this week! I did eat some calories back after getting my walking/running in on some days, but I’m working on making that less and less so my total calorie deficit is greater at the end of each week.

3. I got my first Graze box in the mail at work this week! Have you heard of this company? They send you four snacks each week, for $6 total, and everything is natural and healthy. You can even choose a low-calorie option, which I did. I heard about it from my friend Tyler, and she passed on a code that I used to get my first and fifth box free. And I have a code now for you! If you sign up, just use this code: QYDCC29LP And let me know what you think of your snacks!

This snack was in my first box, and I loved it! The strawberries eaten with the bananas — yum!

This snack was in my first box, and I loved it! The strawberries eaten with the bananas — yum!

4. Next week, I’m flying home to New Jersey to visit with my Dad’s side of the family at a little yearly get-together we lovingly call Domefest. This year, 19 of us (yes, NINETEEN) are heading to Sesame Place for the day. For those of you who don’t know, this is a Sesame Street-themed waterpark, and it’s fabulous. I will, however, look like a total nerd wearing these lovely swim shoes.

As unfashionable as they are, I'd still rather wear these than walk barefoot around a waterpark! Ew!

As unfashionable as they are, I’d still rather wear these than walk barefoot around a waterpark! Ew!

5. I’m happy to report that so far I have 6 miles completed for my #stellarmiles July challenge. I walked two days this week, and ran a third. I plan to get more miles in this weekend! And hopefully I’ll deviate from making this unfortunate shape with my routes.

routeHappy Fourth of July, everyone!

 

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I’m A Copy Cat

Sometimes when you’re on a weight-loss journey that stretches on for a long time, like I am, you turn to others for inspiration. You need ideas for healthy meals, satisfying snacks and new workouts to try. I know I enjoy a challenge, to fuel my interest and motivation. Luckily for me, I have several friends who are always training for an upcoming race or willing to push me forward when I need it.

That's Katie and me up top, after a run, and Javacia and me on the bottom.

That’s Katie and me up top, after a run, and Javacia and me on the bottom.

Two of those friends are Katie and Javacia. Whether they realize it or not, their commitment to fitness has given me new spurts of determinedness time and time again. And today is no exception. Yesterday, Katie posted on Instagram that she had gone over her monthly challenge to run 54 miles in June by completing 68! And Javacia completed a GirlTrek challenge to walk 100 miles in one month — 100 miles! I am so proud of both of them for taking on the various fitness challenges that they do … and it’s rubbing off on me. For which I can’t thank them enough!

So, in their honor, I’m going to embark on my own fitness challenge for the month of July. I’m going to start slow by planning to walk/run 40 miles this month. That could be 2 miles five times a week, or more miles on fewer days. And this won’t include any spinning classes or weight training that I will try to do as well.

My goal is to: 1.) Use this time while I’m experiencing my anti-gym feeling to still challenge myself more than I have been of late, and 2.) Keep a physical, fitness-oriented goal in mind that while hopefully helping me lose weight, has nothing specifically to do with the number on the scale. Walking (or running, as I may choose to do) is simply good for my health. And the more I do, the better!

If you want to keep tabs on my mileage this month, please do so by following me on Instagram or Twitter. I will use the hashtag #stellarmiles as I embark on this July challenge.

And a big thanks to Katie, Javacia and everyone else who helps motivate me! I swear, I’m not stalking you … just your fitness ideas!

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