Monday, May 30, 2016

(A Non Traditional) Graduate!

I'm sitting in my living room as I write this on Memorial Day (it's raining outside), while my husband puts away the last of our folding chairs. We celebrated my graduation yesterday with my siblings, niece, nephew and parents. The last time I sat and wrote something (outside of a college paper) was May of 2015. Since then I've had little snippets of time to share tweets or post recipes on Pinterest.

A lot has happened since May of 2015. We just about gave up hope of finding a puppy and after our first rescue experience swore off of getting another rescue. Since then we went to looking for a purebred puppy (insert a couple thousand dollars here!) and then discovered we could actually rescue a puppy! We found a dog named James Bone who was being fostered in Road Island and originally came from South Carolina. The second we met him we knew he was a match! He is an amazing dog and I wouldn't trade him for the world! He's so loving and loves people and other dogs. The only negative is he doesn't understand how big he is sometimes and can knock little ones over. His DNA: labrador retriever, red bone coon hound, welsh corgi and ? Horse perhaps? We are happy we took a risk and found him through Save A Lab Rescue! If you have an inkling to rescue a dog or purchase one from a breeder don't underestimate the amount of time and money they require. Just as with children and illness, anything can happen and the cost of medical care isn't inexpensive. The process for rescuing a dog takes longer than purchasing from a breeder or a dreaded pet store. References are required and even a home visit may be required. The application that needs to be filled out can be tedious as well. However some of these dogs have been traumatized and it's the mission of the rescue organization to do their best to find the best match or home for the dog/puppy. When we rescued James he was 6 months old and was found in S. Carolina at 5 months old covered in ticks. He is an amazing dog and we are beyond fortunate to have him as part of our family.

James Bone - I wonder what he's dreaming about? :-)
In May of last year at the end of the spring semester, I was accepted to an undergraduate research program and the topic was healthy communities. The program was for approximately 6 weeks and was 5 days a week and 8 hours a day.  I spent time listening to lectures and sitting a lot! Unfortunately, this lead to my back hurting again and I had to stop running once again. I then started physical therapy and since then I've been working with a personal trainer to keep myself on track. Unfortunately, when I'm feeling well I will push myself a little too hard at the gym. My trainer helps keep me in check and safe. Unfortunately since my back surgeries I've battled with my weight loss. Some of the extra weight was due to not being able to work out like I used to and a million other reasons including the demands of being a mom, student, and coach. Weight loss is very difficult. Once something happens in my life and a new stressor pops up it can through me off balance. I then will stop tracking my food intake and the pounds come back on. Even though this happens I have not and will not give up on being healthy and active.

My journey of weight loss has lead me to many opportunities and to my academics in Health and Exercise Science. I've been going to community college part-time for the last four years to learn the science behind how the human body fuels itself during exercise through fats, carbohydrates, proteins, and micronutrients. My course work has also included risk factors for diseases such as heart disease and cancer. Exercise prescription and risk factors were the foundation in my course work along with coaching, working with special populations and sports nutrition. What I've learned is anything and everything can be adapted to a person's situation. This spring semester I had an internship at an elementary school for PE. I loved my experience and especially helping the kids who had learning disabilities, emotional issues or autism. I loved seeing the spark in their eye and the smile on their face when they accomplished a task that they originally thought impossible. In some ways, it felt like I was coaching or helping a younger version of myself. When I was in elementary school I wasn't very confident so I could relate to the kids that felt out of place. Now I am a graduate with an Associates in Health and Exercise Science with a Fitness Specialist Certificate and I'm working on starting my own business. I want to help people reach their optimal health, lifestyle, and fitness goals through exercise and a healthy diet. When people feel better about themselves it impacts their life in many ways for the better. Exercise = power for positive change.

Just one of my professors that I benefitted greatly from!

Note: If you want to change your life you can. It may not happen in a matter of months but years. Just keeping moving forward one small step at a time. Make a plan and NEVER give up! No matter what!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Sugar!

The house is quiet as the boys are at baseball and I'm taking a study break right now. I've been missing writing so I'm indulging. Life has been interesting lately. Some things have been good, some things have been bad, and some things just plain ugly.

First The Ugly.......
Sadly we had to surrender our newest family member Bo (the dog we adopted from Arkansas). He bit the back of a little girl in our home (unprovoked). Thankfully the girl is OK and things didn't turn out more serious. There were marks on her back from Bo's canine teeth and thankfully no blood. We were heart broken as we love Bo but we couldn't have a dog in our home that bites children. While dogs and children together should always be supervised I can't live with a constant fear that my dog may bite a child. I want a home for my children to be able to have friends over and not worry about weather or not our dog is going to bite.  I'm confident the rescue agency will have Bo placed in a home that's most appropriate (one without children).

So that brings us to our search for a puppy and fingers crossed we may have found a good fit for our family. Stay tuned...


Note: Surprisingly I got lots of interesting comments on my FB page about our decision to give up Bo. Some people only are looking at the situation from the side of Bo (that I shouldn't be giving him up) and thought by me sharing my experience I was giving rescue dogs a bad name and hurting the chances of other dogs being rescued. My opinion is people should know the facts about something before making any decisions. My experiences are my experiences and no one elses. I have many friends who have successfully rescued and I know of other people who have had bad experiences. In addition to that I know of many friends who have successfully raised a puppy and others who had bad experiences (FYI stay away from puppy mills).



Next the bad.....
Nothing is really bad just that I'm exhausted between assistant coaching the boys baseball teams, school and training for a marathon relay - and it will be my slowest 6 miles ever! -
I'm trying not to beat myself up about that. It's really hard when in my mind I know what it feels like to run fast (fast for me) and I'm running really slow. The extra weight I have isn't helping and losing weight is taking forever. But I have to remind myself this is for a lifetime. Slow and steady wins the race!



Finally the good.....
I watched a movie with my sons and my husband last night. It's called Fed Up and we watched it on Netflix. My almost 10 yr old and 6 yr old sat through the entire movie and it really struck a cord with my 10 yr old.

The movie focuses on sugar and how our brain reacts to it, insulin increase and how sugar is in everything. One of the key points of the movie is how children are marketed to via advertising or product placement in the grocery store. Sugary food advertising is compared to smoking advertising in the 50's/60's. Regulations on advertising cigarettes eventually phased advertising cigarettes on TV. The argument is being made that if we know cigarettes are bad and therefor aren't allowed to be advertised why are we allowing companies to advertise sugary products to our children? Children are facing diabetes more than ever (it used to be unheard of for a child to get diabetes) which then leads to heart disease and a myriad of complications.

After watching the film we decided to try a challenge and cut out the products with added sugar. I then went into the kitchen and read all the labels. WOW!! There are 4 grams of sugar in a serving of the Kashi crackers I bought. That equals almost 1 tsp of sugar. What I've found is that if we stick to whole foods we don't have to worry about sugar (nothing processed). I'm not sure we will be able to completely cut things out but for dinner tonight I made a black bean and rice casserole with onion, spices, topped with broccoli and cheddar cheese. Served with avocado and salsa (had sugar), and a side of edamame. For dessert I made a giant fruit salad. For the first time in a long while I saw my 10 year old dive into dinner and loved every bite. I think something clicked for him. I hope :-) I highly recommend watching Fed Up!

https://youtu.be/aCUbvOwwfWM 


Sunday, April 19, 2015

Vacation Weight Gain and Strategy

A little update since my last post.........

Currently taking a few courses: Sports Nutrition, Principle of Coaching, ACSM exam prep course, Adventure Based Dynamics.

Now I'm Red Cross certified for CPR AED. 

This past winter I purchased a Verilux "Happy Light". It made such a huge difference! This winter in New England was very long. I hadn't seen this much snow in a long time and the grey days don't exactly lift a persons mood. 20 minutes every morning and it lifted my spirits! 

Ran my first 5k in ?1?1? Two years??
My slowest one yet but I'm able to run!






I have a new running partner named Bo :-) He's a rescue from Arkansas.



-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Now back to the topic of 'vacation weight gain'. It happens to just about everyone who goes on vacation. My vacation was a cruise with my family. As many know there is an overabundance of food on a ship. You can get food anywhere, anytime! 

It took me about mid cruise to figure out a strategy that helped me. For lunch I ordered room service so I couldn't be tempted by the never ending dessert station in the buffet.

I also ordered room service for breakfast or went to the dinning room to avoid the buffet. 

If my options are limited and I give myself distance from temptation then it it's not so difficult to avoid. Did I eat anything sweet or fattening? Of course! I also had some frozen drinks. :-)

Now it's back to reality and back to eating 'normal' to feel and look lighter. No regrets. One step at a time!



 

Friday, December 5, 2014

Exercise vs. Depression

Exercise vs. depression is like a tug of war.

When a person is depressed (speaking from experience) it can be hard getting out of bed never mind getting dressed for a workout. It's hard for most people to get the motivation to workout even when they aren't depressed. Self care can be difficult. The desire to 'look nice' isn't there and my outfit of choice is yoga pants/sweat pants and a T-shirt. As for my mood my husband would say I'm 'irritable'. My brain/thought capacity and short term memory is somewhat lacking at times. It becomes mentally harder to process things. My appetite is non existent due to the anxiety that also accompanies the depression. Not having an appetite for me means not having the fuel I need for my workouts. That however doesn't stop me as I force myself to eat. I remind myself how good I will feel during my workouts/exercise and then I try to find the healthiest most palatable food that will help me in my next workout. I don't want anything to get in the way of my natural medicine or self care - exercise! If exercise wasn't already incorporated into my life I can't imagine I could be efficient at following a workout routine. Walking perhaps but nothing beyond that.  

The irony with lack of motivation with depression is the most effective treatment for depression is exercise. When I was first diagnosed with depression a few years ago the only time I felt 100% normal/mentally healthy was when I was running with my friends. Ever since then I've read many articles on the topic and my psychiatrist at the time also recommended cardio exercise as an effective tool for combating depression.

I'm not sure why but for some reason my depression and anxiety are coming back even while on medication. My life seemed to be going great and I was thinking to myself how well I was doing. After Halloween I then started to not feel well to my dismay. Sleep has been difficult so I've been taking prescribed medication so I can sleep through the night. I live in New England, and it's that time of year where the days are cold, gray and short with not a lot of sunlight compared to spring and summer. I'm thinking a light box may be on the horizon for me to try.

As I write this I'm still feeling nauseous. It's a feeling I've had for several days. I have my professionals at hand to help me and a great support system. Something so key in combating this illness.

Early this morning (5:30 am) I dragged myself out of bed and to the gym. I did weight training for about 45 minutes. It was hard getting going at first in the beginning of my routine and then I got into a grove and was feeling powerful, strong and just plain great!

One of the exercises in my workout this morning. 

After getting home I got my 9 year old up for school and we went for a run outside.  Again I felt great during and after my workout for some time. For breakfast I could stomach a yogurt, banana, vitamins and my medication. As the endorphins started to ware off I started to feel nauseous again. If I could exercise 24 hours a day I would! I then spent the rest of the day running errands with a friend (the sun was shinning). By the middle of the day I actually felt really hungry for the first time in days. We went to Chipotle for lunch and I had an awesome burrito bowl (brown rice, peppers, onions, chicken, mild salsa and guacamole) I ate the entire bowl!! It felt good to want to eat in that moment. It's kind of ironic that I'm trying to get in shape and lose weight (post back surgery) and my depression/anxiety is doing a great job of helping me not eat! A dieters dream perhaps? As a test I even baked a pan of brownies for my boys this evening. I ate one brownie and I didn't get any pleasure out of it (normally I would probably lose all self control and probably eat about half the pan). All I can do is take it one day at a time right now. I will get better. It's just a matter of time and treatment.

Thank you for reading my post - it helps me mentally to write and hopefully give those a window into my world. Depression/anxiety unfortunately isn't something a person can just snap out of. It's a biological condition in the brain that can be improved with medication, therapy, sleep and exercise of course! Mental illness is 'taboo' or the big white elephant in society. I hope this post helps someone out there to not feel so alone.

As for exercise I am thankful I have the physical ability to do so. Right now that's my 'happy and relaxed pill'.

Note: If any of this post doesn't make sense please understand :-) I've proof read my writing however my brain feels like it did when I was pregnant many years ago. Somewhat disorganized at times and 'slow'. To those who are afflicted with this illness I wish you much healing and lots of support.

For more information on Depressionhttp://psychcentral.com/disorders/depression/

Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Rhythm Of Weight Loss

I have a million topics and ideas to write about along with the pulls of school, being a mom, a wife and taking care of my body (my #1 priority). Right now my boys are out of the house with my husband and I'm taking a study break. I'm working on a research paper about Juicing. I haven't decided what direction I'm going to go with on the topic but the subject is very interesting!

As of today I weigh 188.2 lbs and I'm 5' 2" :-( On the upside I'm doing something about it and I've lost 5 lbs this past month. :-) 

Non food based reward! - pedicure
A pedicure instead of a food reward for losing 5 lbs
Statistics show that the majority of people who lose weight gain it back. I feel like the poster child for that statement and I want to beat the statistics. I'm learning a lot of strategies in my course work when it comes to weight loss maintenance success. One thing I've realized is that weight loss doesn't ever have a finish line. It takes a lot of hard work to lose the pounds and just as much work keeping the pounds off. 

Lately my biggest struggle has been balancing my calorie intake with my calorie burn. No matter what my body needs a calorie deficit in order to lose weight. To lose 1 lb in a week I have to have a deficit of 3,500 calories in a week. My current calorie target level for eating to lose 2 lbs per
Polar HR Monitor Watch - Track Calories Burned!
Love my Polar HR Watch! A must have to keep
track of how many calories I burn in my workouts!
week is set to 1,231 calories per day. When I exercise I can eat more than 1,231 calories but I don't consume all of the extra calories I burn. To eat every calorie burned during my workout doesn't speed up my weight loss efforts. For example if I eat 1,200 calories in a day and burn 350 calories that same day I may eat an extra 150 - 200 calories to compensate for the calories I burned during exercise (1,350 - 1,400). If I'm really hungry or don't feel satiated I'll consume all of the extra calories burned. 

Braggberry Dressing!
A Great New Dressing I love!
Braggberry Dressing!

The tricky part about counting calories is making sure I get the right amount of carbohydrates, fats, proteins. I've found for example if I don't eat enough fat I don't feel satiated and I feel hungry. The same goes for protein. Protein takes a long time for the stomach to break down hence feeling fuller longer however if I don't have a little bit of fat I don't feel satiated even though I'm full. On the subject of bulk it's all about veggies and fruit (Fiber)! Balancing out food groups and discovering what works for my body can be difficult. I've found as a rule that if I stick to whole foods and avoid processed foods I feel full and satisfied. 

For tracking my calories I've been using the Lose It AP. I've also been participating in DeitBet.com to help keep me focused in the right direction. I survived Halloween and allowed myself some of my sons candy on Halloween. After Halloween I made sure the candy was put away and out of sight. Out of sight = out of mind!

Thanksgiving is coming up and we are going out to dinner so no left overs :-) I may purchase some rotisserie turkey breast at the grocery store if I feel the need for left over turkey. 

My current workout routine has been ramping up slowly over the many weeks/months. On the weeks I don't increase my workout time I increase my workout intensity. 

My current workout routine looks like this:

Sunday = Day Off
Monday = Zumba 
Tuesday = Weights and 30 min Slow Run/Walk
Wednesday = Zumba
Thursday = Weights and 30 min Slow Run/Walk
Friday = Spin, Strength/conditioning class 
Saturday = Circuit Training

My goal is to get another day of run/walking to make it 3x a week. My goal is to run a 5k in the Spring with one of my sons. 

Think about what works for you. For me it seems to be an ever changing process as life happens and things get thrown into the mix!


PS Since my back surgery in June I haven't had any back issues or problems! I'm continuing to do lots of core strengthening exercises and strengthening my back muscles :-)

Monday, September 29, 2014

Change your mind about carbohydrates!

I hear in different conversations that carbs/carbohydrates are bad for us and and pack on the pounds.

Guess what..... Not true!

While I don't know absolutely everything (no one does) what I do know is carbohydrates aren't bad for us. There are diets out there that seem to have some variation on eating fewer carbs or low/no carbs.

First I would like to say that not all carbohydrates are the same. Our body reacts differently to simple carbs vs. complex carbs.

For example if I were to eat a cookie that was 120 calories vs. 120 calories worth of brown rice or 120 calories of apple slices my body would react differently to the cookie vs. the brown rice or apple.

Complex Carbohydrates:

Apple = Aprox 4.5 grams fiber, natural sugars (fructose), Potassium,  Iron, Magnesium, Manganese, Phosphorus, Sodium, Zinc, B1, B6, B1, E, C, A

Brown Rice = 1.8 grams fiber, 2.32 grams protein, Calcium, iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Sodium, Zinc, Vitamin C, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Folate, B6,


Simple Carbohydrates:

Cookies typically contain = very little if any fiber,  white flour, sugar and butter or hydrogenated oils/fats


If I were to eat brown rice or an apple I would be satiated as these foods have fiber in them and or protein. Fiber and protein helps me feel full and slows down the emptying of my stomach. This leads to me feeling fuller longer and helps with stabilizing blood sugar vs. giving my body a sugar high and then a crash. If I were to eat a cookie that was 120 calories I would still be hungry which would lead to a few more cookies and a lot more fat, sugar and calories to only be hungry again a short time later after the sugar crash.

An excess amount of calories = weight gain.

I've found through my many years of experience with weight loss and weight gain that whole foods work!  Whole foods keep me satiated and fuller longer than simple carbs like: white bread, muffins, white rice, cookies.... (all the things I love!)


What are carbohydrates good for?

1. Carbohydrates are an energy source for our body. Carbohydrates are stored in our muscles as glycogen and in our cells as glucose. Any excess glucose in our body is stored as fat (importance of watching our calorie intake). Glycogen/glucose is what powers our muscles during activity both anaerobically (jumping) and aerobically (long slow distance).

2. Protein sparer. Carbohydrates preserve our muscle tissue protiens. The job of protein is to help maintain muscle tissue, repair and grow. If there aren't enough carbohydrates muscle tissue and fat is used for fuel through glyconeogenesis (the breakdown of protein and fat to be converted to glucose).

Glyconeogenesis occurs under these conditions:
a. Dietary Restriction - consuming little or no carbohydrates - not enough calories.
b. Prolonged Exercise - glycogen/glucose stores are depleted during the activity without any additional fuel.
c. Intense training - repeatedly.

3. Metablolic Primer. Carbohydrates serve as a primer for fat to be used as energy. The byproducts of carbohydrate breaking down is what serves as a primer to burn fat for energy. The body can not have a sustained high level of activity (aerobic) from fat only (less intense of a workout = fewer calories burned). The body needs carbohydrates.

4. Central Nervous System (brain and spinal cord). Our brain relies on carbohydrates exclusively to function. The brain gets the carbohydrates in the form of blood glucose. The brain doesn't have the capability of creating a storage of glucose to be used later (like our muscles do). During intense exercise our muscles use what glycogen and blood glucose is available. Blood glucose eventually decreases below normal and the body can have mild symptoms of hypoglycemia (weakness, hunger, dizziness). Exercise performance decreases and fatigue sets in.

Summary
Are carbohydrates bad? No!

There are valuable micro and macro nutrients that we could be missing if we avoid foods that contain carbohydrates.

Eat whole foods and you will be eating complex carbohydrates = fiber, protein, vitamins, minerals, glycogen and glucose for your brain and muscles. Stay away from as much processed food as you can.

Weight Loss = our bodies using up more calories than we consume.

Cheers!



Sources:

Essentials of Exercise Physiology - fourth edition - Victor Katch, William McArdle, Frank Katch
Pg 36 -38

USDA




Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Time To Take A Breath

Time To Take A Breath.
I tell myself after my children get on the school bus.
Another summer vacation has passed and the school year is starting for my boys and I.

The healthy bagged lunches are packed and I'm interested to find out how much of it my boys ate. It was standard fare: pbj, apple, carrots, multigrain quinoa chips and bottled water.

I feel a little bit of sadness that my youngest is now in kindergarten and my oldest is experiencing his last year in elementary school. I go inside and look around my house. It looks like a tornado went through it. Towards the end of summer I started to lose my steam. I couldn't do it all and the last few weeks I sort of gave up on the house. Before my surgery and post recovery I tried to pack in as many trips to the beach as I could and activities for my boys. I felt like I was a whirling dervish during the day and went to bed each day exhausted. I figured if my house looked like a bomb went off it was OK as long as my boys where fed, clean, loved, and happy. On any given day there are about 3 loads of laundry yet to be folded and that's ok. I tell myself as I take a breath.

Thankfully I'm sending my children to some amazing yet underpaid teachers. And my husband said this morning: "It's like an early Christmas! Santa is sending us a bus to take our children!". He says this with a smile (my husband has a home office so a quiet house makes for a quiet office).

Santa's Sl.... I mean the freedom bu. I mean The School Bus

After getting the kids on the bus I went to not one, not two, not three but four different places in silence! One of those stops was the grocery store. It was a very happy moment for me. As I walked up to the grocery store I took a deep breath. Ahhh I can read labels and think without any distractions. I never thought I could be that happy in a grocery store! I wanted to skip down the isles and I didn't even look at a list. I made it a challenge to see if I could leave the store without forgetting anything. I felt somewhat giddy. I would have actually skipped down the isle but I thought I might get a few stares. The store mainly had the demographics: elders, and moms with young children. As I saw a few children in the store it brought me back to the days of when my guys where little (under the age of 3). There's a small part of me that misses when my boys where that young and then there's a part of me that wanted to jump up an down in the store and yell I'm free! I'm free! Look I have two hands and no one nagging me to buy this or that! I can even stop and read the ingredients on a label! Wait this can't be for real?! Wait a minute am I on vacation? Time to take a breath.

It's 3:29 and my boys will be home soon. Time to take a breath and brace myself for the tornados. But first to attack the pile of laundry, then dinner and baseball. And tomorrow morning? An early morning workout! No matter what! School for me starts tomorrow!! Time to take a deep breath!