So You’re Afraid To Go To The Gym

Me at Gold's Gym Colonnade in Birmingham lifting weights near the dudes.

Me at Gold’s Gym Colonnade in Birmingham lifting weights near the dudes.

When you walk into the gym, what do you expect to see? Huge, muscular dudes grunting as they lift weights? Tiny girls in Lycra shorts and tank tops bopping away on the Stairmaster? Buff trainers yelling at their clients to give them 10 more?

And there’s you. Ten pounds, 50 pounds, 100 pounds overweight. Not sure where to start. Not sure where everything’s located. But really, really sure you want to be anywhere but where you are.

I’m here to tell you something: None of those people notice you. Most of the people at the gym are so into their own workout, whatever’s on the TV screen in front of them or, let’s face it, themselves, that they barely notice you. Trust me. You are just another person at the gym to them.

I completely understand how going to the gym can be daunting to someone who isn’t familiar with the layout or who feels out of place because they’re out of shape. You don’t want to embarrass yourself. You don’t want to be a sweaty, red, huffing and puffing mess in front of others.

But let me tell you. You’ll get over it. Fast.

Once you get in there and find things you like to do — run, walk, elliptical, spinning, dance aerobics, swimming — you will find people who give you a little nod, a little smile, and you’ll start to feel more comfortable. Whether you start out simply walking for 30 min., or you try something more strenuous like kickboxing, the point is that you’re there and you’re trying. You’ll be surprised how quickly you start to feel proud of yourself for just making the effort. And that pride? It will give you courage.

Here are some reminders to keep in mind if you’re a gym newbie, or you’re trying to work up the courage to get back to the gym:

1. Come prepared. Bring a towel and a water bottle and appropriate attire and shoes. Most people wear earbuds so they can listen to their own music.
2. Be courteous of others by wiping down the machines. Yeah, not everyone does it. But you should be one of the gym-goers that does.
3. Don’t be afraid to ask the staff to give you a tour on your first visit (they usually will do this automatically) or explain a piece of equipment that you’re unfamiliar with. That’s what they’re there for! Not just to swipe your key card.
4. Start slow. No one expects you to run like Flo Jo or lift like a Stallone right away! On the treadmill, work on your speed or incline or length of time/distance in increments. With weights, check out videos on YouTube or search moves to do on Pinterest and take your phone with you so you can get a reminder of how to do them properly. And with classes, most instructors provide alternatives so you can kick the intensity up a notch, or keep it at a lower level as you get used to the moves.
5. Find a gym buddy. If you’re always at the gym at a certain time, or you always take Zumba at 6 p.m. on Tuesdays, say hello to someone. That person will most likely turn into someone you chat with once in a while, and he or she will notice if you’re not there — in other words, hold you accountable if you miss class. This will keep you going back, and you may even meet someone with who you can try a new class with or ask questions.
6. If you’re a woman, take advantage of the female-only area if your gym has one. You may feel more comfortable starting out here at first, where you can lift weights and do cardio without the bros around. But, honestly, venturing into the larger weight room is pretty empowering. Girls can lift, too!

These are just some basic tips if you are trying to get back into the groove at a gym or trying one out for the first time. While I understand the intimidation factor, sometimes you just have to suck it up and say: “I’m doing this for me, for my health, so be damned with everyone else!”

Have you ever felt intimidated at the gym? What other questions do you have about using a gym’s facilities or gym etiquette?

Posted in Acceptance, Accountability, Confidence, exercise, Fitness, Health, Weight lifting, Workouts | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Pity Party & Finding My Way

pity-party

The past two weeks have had ups and downs for me concerning my fitness and health efforts. At first, giving up counting calories seemed empowering, and I enjoyed the freedom from tracking everything I ate.

But technically, I still tracked, in my head. I came up with a few breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack ideas and stuck to those pretty well so that I already knew roughly what my calorie count would be each day (1,600-1,800), even without actually tracking them.

And then last weekend came, and I fell off the wagon big time. Thankfully, I picked myself back up on Monday and began again. Needless to say, I didn’t see the scale move until, finally, at the end of this second week, I was down about 1.2 pounds.

That did not excite me, though, because I felt it was very poor progress, scale-wise, though I was feeling a lot better — healthier, more fit. I was working out almost every day — running, walking, cross-training with burpees, push-ups, etc. I attended two weight-lifting classes and one dance aerobics class in that time period, too. So while I was happy to see the scale move a little, I got down … really down … about only losing that 1.2.

I lost track of the fact that I was becoming healthier, even if the scale wasn’t responding. Then, these three things became very apparent:

1. I can’t do this alone. I need the support of the people around me — at home and at work — to help me make wise decisions, especially on the weekends. I also need the support of my physician, who I visited on Friday. We’re working on some things to help put me on a good path, and I’m happy for his input.
2. Weekends count, too. I used to be able to lose 1 to 2 lbs. a week and eat almost anything I wanted on the weekends, while eating better during the week. That’s not the case anymore. ONE treat meal is one thing, but an entire weekend won’t cut it anymore.
3. Exercise is great, but what I eat is the biggest factor. This one is tough for me because I like to work out, but I don’t necessarily like giving up eating my favorite foods whenever I want. But, just as I trained myself to enjoy exercise, I am finding that I am enjoying eating healthier more than I thought I would. I simply feel better when I eat more fruits and veg. So, I know I can make eating healthfully fun, when I put my mind to it.

And, I admitted to myself that while I will probably always want to measure how well I’m doing with the scale, to some extent, the main focus of my success needs to be in outside factors: Have I done my best? What is my energy level like? How do I feel in my clothes, in my body? Am I happy?

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So although I was feeling pretty down earlier last week, I’m grateful for my husband and friends who helped pick me out of the funk and not only pointed out how proud I should be for trying to eat better and for all the work outs I’ve been doing over the last few months, but also that I can do this if I put my mind to it — and they’ll be right there to support me.

In case you’re curious, here are two sample days of what I ate like this week:

photo (3)

 

Do you struggle with only finding success on the scale? What other factors do you focus on to keep you going on your health and fitness journey?

Posted in Body Image, Confidence, Fitness, Health, Healthy Eating, Weight-loss | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Healthy Reads & Inspiration

Ah! You thought I had forgotten about our new Sunday tradition, had you? Well, I admit, I slept in today, had a lazy Sunday morning making breakfast and running errands. But now it’s Sunday afternoon and a wee bit cloudy here in Birmingham, so what better time to settle in and read some articles?

But first, some funny inspiration. I had to share this hilarious video from Mindy Kaling and other popular actresses on the funny things fans or media say to them that no one would EVER say to a friend!

I found a few articles on a website I had never read, http://www.care2.com, to share this week:
7 Foods That Keep Us Fat
6 Foods That Make You Hungrier
5 Myths About Healthy Eating

I really liked what this author learned after trying to listen to her body first and foremost when it came to eating:
Lessons From 30 Days Of Mindful Eating

And this article from the NYTimes.com about whether to do cardio or lift weights first. It was a good reminder that sometimes we hear these “rules” and think we’ll see more progress if we follow them, but really, they’re probably not as important as just doing it.
Ask Well: Weights Before Cardio?

Did you read anything interesting related to health, fitness, body image or weight-loss this week?

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What I want {Beauty Edition} + Giveaway!

First, thank you to all the readers who read Monday’s post — well, thank you to everyone who reads my blog anytime! But I appreciate y’all participating in the eMeals giveaway.

I’m happy to announce that reader Kandice won the drawing! I think you’ll really enjoy using eMeals; I know it’s going to help me come up with a variety of healthy meals, too.

For anyone who is interested in trying eMeals, they have a great 20% off discount right now! Just use the code SCHOOL when you purchase your plan.

Now, I have to take a second to apologize for my lack of knowledge about WordPress/widgets/JavaScript, etc. I wanted to use a service that could appear on my blog so y’all could easily enter the giveaway instead of having to follow a link. Apparently WordPress.com doesn’t go for that kind of thing, so my apologies. I hope to do more things like this in the future, and I plan to make it easier by switching to WordPress.org, which gives me a little more freedom.

Now, enough with the technicalities. Let’s move on to why you really opened this post — beauty products!

I’m so loyal to the products I use that I rarely try new things. But when I do, I have to tell you about them.

First up, though, is something I know I’ve written about before, but since I need a new compact I thought I’d sing the praises of Mac’s Studio Fix one more time. It’s that good. No need for liquid foundation, just slap this on in the a.m. and you’re good all day. I rarely have to reapply or do touch-ups. And while it’s a little pricey ($27), one compact lasts for months.

NC25

Second, Bumble and bumble Dryspun Finish. I mean, for a girl with usually flat, thin hair, this just doesn’t get any better. Somehow it magically adds volume — and I’m not talking just a little volume. We’re talking sequins-bedazzled country singer or ’80s pop star kind of volume — all without the teasing. Again, pricey at $29 for 4 ounces, but so, so worth it.

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You may or may not know that pink lips are trendy right now. And I mean pink lips. Luckily, I just so happened to find this lovely shade of satin lipgloss at Sephora — electric fuschia — and I think it will look pretty on a lot of skin tones. The trick to wearing lips this bright? Minimal eye makeup.

satin electric fuchsia

 

If you’re like me and you’re not patient enough to wait for your nails to dry, or you hate when they chip too easily, then nail stickers are your friends. You can find Essie Sleek Sticks at CVS for just $10.25. The package comes with enough for two applications.

sleek_sticks_stickers_and_stones10

Finally, it’s fall, which means the temps are getting cooler. Which means your skin may start getting drier. Which means you need Johnson Baby Oil Gel. I may have written about this before too, because it’s something I’ve used for a while. I use a little on my legs and arms right after I shower, before toweling off. Or mix a dab with your regular lotion to add more moisturizing power.

oil6What beauty products are you in the market for? Do you have any old favorites that you still turn to again and again?

 

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Weeknight Meals & eMeals Giveaway

I’ll admit it: the meals I cook on weeknights have become boring. Predictable. Repetitive. And I need help!

I tend to buy lean ground beef and chicken breasts … rarely any other kind of meat. So that’s probably problem No. 1. But even just starting there, I have very few recipes in my back pocket for chicken — cranberry chicken, seasoned baked chicken breasts and barbecue chicken in the crockpot are my three go-tos.

Needless to say, I could use some inspiration! Last year, my coworker told me about eMeals, and I’m so glad she did! {Just so y’all know, I am not being compensated for this article; I wanted to tell you about a tool that I’ve been using to come up with low-calorie meal ideas, and eMeals graciously offered a fantastic giveaway so one lucky reader can give the service a try — for free! Check out the giveaway below.} The way it works for me is, each week I receive seven meal ideas. I can delete ones I don’t think I’ll cook and just keep those I like the sound of on-hand. Then, I can print out a grocery list — I usually highlight the ingredients I need for the dishes I want to prepare.

grocery list

This coming week I was happy to see two chicken ideas: Parmesan Chicken with Lemon-Caper Sauce (a noodle dish that I’ll probably try to make sans noodles) and Grilled Rosemary Chicken Thighs (which I may make with chicken breasts because I’m not too savvy with other cuts of chicken).

The great part about these meal ideas is that recipes for sides are included — roasted butternut squash, pan-seared brussel sprouts, lemon-marinated carrots. You can swap things around that you think you and your loved ones will like, same with the main dish itself. For me, it’s simply the idea on how to cook something, with a different sauce or seasoning than my usual go-tos.

Check out some images of dishes from the eMeals Pinterest account:

Chicken Penne Alfredo from The Kitchen Is My Playground/eMeals

Chicken Penne Alfredo from The Kitchen Is My Playground/eMeals

General Tso's Chicken from Carlsbad Cravings/eMeals

General Tso’s Chicken from Carlsbad Cravings/eMeals

Here’s a graphic that explains how eMeals works:

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I’m looking forward to trying these new recipes this week and incorporating more eMeals ideas into my repertoire.

And if you want to try eMeals, click here to see how you can win a 3-month dinner subscription.

Posted in Food, Healthy Eating, meal planning, Recipes | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Healthy Reads & Inspiration

This week, I only have a couple articles for you because I have a lot to say about both of them. So, let’s get started.

NYTimes.com: Artificial Sweeteners May Disrupt Body’s Blood Sugar Controls
Well, shit. This is what certain people have been telling me for a long, long time: Diet Coke is the devil. I’m still trying to kick this habit (again), and I probably won’t ever give it up forever. I’ll always want one now and then. But by and large, it really is time to recognize the damage artificial sweeteners seem to do to our bodies. I will admit that I do feel hungrier on days that I’ve had Diet Coke … that desire for an afternoon snack is much, much more pronounced. But this study that shows that mice that consumed artifical sweeteners “developed marked intolerance to glucose,” that actually scares me. And then there’s the study they did on humans: “For 381 nondiabetic participants in the study, the researchers found a correlation between the reported use of any kind of artificial sweeteners and signs of glucose intolerance.” The danger with glucose intolerance is that it, as the article states, “may disrupt the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar, causing metabolic changes that can be a precursor to diabetes.”Wow. Well, there’s the only reason you need to stay away from artificial sweeteners! To find out that consuming artificial sweeteners — which are/were supposed to be better for us than real sugar —contributes to something that can cause diabetes is aggravating because I’m sure we all thought we were doing something better for ourselves than drinking real Coke. But this is definitely an eye-opener.

no-diet-soda

WashingtonPost.com: Women’s greatest threat isn’t misogyny, it’s counting calories
I’m not sure how I missed this article, which was published a couple of weeks ago, but I’m sure glad I found it. The author’s story of how she battled her own eating disorder is really touching, and her point that women spend more time thinking about how they look as opposed to, say, saving the world, is startingly accurate, in my opinion. I myself spend too much time thinking about my weight, calories, exercise, etc., when I could be working on my career or doing something good for others. But forget my trivial brain, Vanessa Garcia makes a much more compelling and important argument that not only are we spending too much brain power on counting calories, we’re actually losing women to this plight. As Garcia states in the article:

In a 2008 survey by SELF magazine and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 75 percent of women reported disordered eating patterns, 37 percent regularly skipped meals to lose weight, and 26 percent cut out entire food groups.

It saddens me that we would feel so strongly, or that society has made us feel this strongly, about our own appearance that we’ve developed these unhealthy attitudes about food and our bodies, so much so that it’s holding us back in our lives. As Garcia points out:

We can’t close gender gaps when we spend endless hours counting calories instead of cracking glass ceilings.

quote_stellar fashion

What did you think about these articles? Anything interesting that you read this week?

Posted in Acceptance, Body Image, Confidence, Fitness, Health, Healthy Eating, Weight-loss | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

Where I’m At: First Week, No Counting Calories

About four days ago I decided to stop counting calories and venture into the world of “mindful eating.” Some of you are probably wondering how I did and, I’m happy to say, it’s been a great week!

First, right off the bat, let me tell you that I haven’t weighed myself yet. And I may not for another week or so. Why? Well, partly because of the time of the month we’re in and partly because I don’t really care what the scale says. And let me tell you why: I feel good. I know I’ve made good eating choices this week, and I’ve exercised a ton, so rather than let that number confirm or dispel those good feelings, I just want to let them be. And, honestly, I want to enjoy it. It’s not very often that I feel confident in the choices I’ve made for my body and my health, but this week, I do.

Let’s start with the eating, since that’s always the hardest for me. Some of you may have seen the photo on Instagram of my first day of not counting calories. This is pretty much what my entire week looked like: Special K breakfast sammie, yogurt with berries and ground flaxseed, some form of taco salad for lunch, an apple with Nutella for a snack, and a light dinner, followed by a Skinny Cow treat for dessert.

photo food

Now, what can I do better? Lunches, for sure. I’m happy with the Chipotle salad bowl because it’s filling and satisfied me until my late-afternoon snack. But I had two lunches this week that were too carb-y, so I need to work on that. The other thing is my after-dinner snack. I had these Skinny Cow treats and, since mama doesn’t have a money tree in her backyard, I went with them this week. I plan to have a healthier, less-processed snack on-hand for next week. I may still have my Skinny Cows now and then, just not every night.

The other thing I can work on: more water. This seems to be an ongoing thing with me. It’s not that I don’t drink a TON of water, because I do! But my body seems to always crave more! I can feel it. And it’s probably from the working out … which leads me to …

I kicked ASS this week!

Now, this is my kind of ass kicking. It may not be as tough or as intense as some of your workouts, but it was just a good, solid week of doing something every day that I felt good about.

Monday: 4-mile walk/run on Lakeshore
Tuesday: 5:45 a.m. high-intensity workout with my friend at the gym (more on this in an upcoming post!)
Wednesday: 2-mile walk around my neighborhood
Thursday: 2-mile walk around Highlands neighborhood prior to a deadlifting class at Inspire Fitness (which was awesome! I am totally feeling it today, in a good way!)

So that was my week. I can honestly say that, while I still have some hesitation about not counting calories, and I find myself calculating them in my head some, I am feeling good about this. It’s like somehow I am more conscious of  what I’m eating, and how much, and not just overly consumed by the number of calories. That is what I wanted — to focus more on whole foods, healthy proteins and veggies and fruit.

Here’s a prime example. Yesterday I had run out of apples. I had spent all.dang.day. in our photo archive room moving files from one cabinet to another (much more physically active than my normal day!), and all I could think about was a crunchy, yummy apple and with that mini packet of Nutella as an afternoon snack. The thought that I could just eat one of my Graze snacks (which I did later before weightlifting, anyway), or that I could poach a coworker’s crackers or something had no appeal to me whatsoever. I  wanted that apple.

Conclusion? Maybe I’m starting to crave things that are better for me! Granted, this is day five. I’m under no illusions that I’ve changed my appetite completely or anything. But I was proud of myself for getting those apples at lunchtime and preparing ahead for that afternoon snack in a healthy way!

What strides did you make this week to eat healthier and exercise more? How do you feel about operating off of how you feel, versus the number on the scale?

Posted in exercise, Fitness, Food, Health, Healthy Eating, Weight-loss | 2 Comments