And Vice Versa

I’m sure there is science out there somewhere to back up the things I am about to say, but all of this is just from my own personal experience. And movies.

Making good decisions – decisions you can be proud of – for your body makes you feel good about yourself. Even before you lose any weight or look any thinner or more muscular, you feel better because you are proud of the decisions you’re making and hopeful for the future. I had probably lost about 8 pounds when I asked Will if he thought I looked any thinner. He said he wasn’t sure if I actually looked thinner yet, but that I was carrying myself more confidently, which made me look healthier. And even though I had only been exercising and eating better for a couple of weeks, I definitely felt healthier, which made me want to continue making healthy choices. Thus, the cycle continued. Good decisions => positive feelings and positive self-talk => feeling confident and looking healthy => feeling healthy => more good decisions.

In that cycle, I mentioned positive self-talk, which I think is really important. When you do good things for your body, you are training yourself to love it. I think people have the idea that loving their bodies comes with weight loss and looking thinner, but I don’t think that’s the right conclusion to draw from that correlation. I think they happen at the same time and get mistaken for cause and effect, but what’s really happening is that you are treating your body well, and the more you treat something well, the more you realize how much you appreciate it. It’s the same with any relationship. You don’t always feel the warm-and-fuzzies for people, but when you choose to show them love and kindness anyway, the good feelings come back around. Showing love and kindness actually makes you feel loving and kind. It works for your body too. If you do kind things for your body, it makes you feel the love you have for your body. And the more you do it, the more natural and authentic it becomes. Also, you come to appreciate your body for what it can do, which I really need right now. Healthy choices => authentic appreciation of the body => love of the body => desire to treat the body well => more healthy choices.

And then there are endorphins, which make you feel better when you hate your aerobics instructor for being such a sadist (or when you hate yourself for being such a masochist because you’re working out with a DVD at home and no one is there to make you feel guilty about just turning it off). Oh, and endorphins make you not a murderer, which I’m sure my husband appreciates as a nice side-effect of all my exercising.

legallyblonde

So exercise => endorphins => happiness => not shooting my husband => happy husband => husband supporting my healthy choices => more exercise??

I don’t know about that last full circle, but I do know that feeling better physically makes you feel better emotionally, which makes you want to feel even better physically. And so on, and so forth, and vice versa.

75 Creative Ways to Get Active

I think most of us can agree that exercising sucks. I would much rather watch a movie or read a book on a porch in the mountains. Also, I feel gross when I sweat. I know a lot of people love “getting their sweat on,” but I have curly hair, which isn’t really compatible with humidity, and sweating just creates my own little humidity cloud, which in turn frizzes my hair. So I’d rather not.

However, I can trick myself into exercising every now and then if it doesn’t feel so much like exercise and/or if I’m having too much fun to notice or care that I’m sweating. I absolutely do not do all of these things, but if you’re looking for fresh ideas, here you go:

75 Creative Ways to Get Active

  1. Work in your yard/garden.
  2. Clean your house (with music).
  3. Reorganize a room, and get rid of things you don’t need/want.
  4. Listen to music and dance while you’re getting ready in the morning.
  5. Family dance party!
  6. Use a bathroom on a different floor (at home or work). Drink a lot of water so you have to pee often. Take the stairs every time.
  7. Go to a playground and play. Seriously, do it.
  8. Join a silly sports league like dodgeball or kickball or hide and seek.
  9. Join a for real sports league like soccer or hockey.
  10. Climb a tree.
  11. Rearrange your furniture.
  12. Go swimming.
  13. Go kayaking (Lake Johnson will rent you a kayak for $5/hour).
  14. Go dancing! Try a kind of dance that’s new for you – shag, swing, salsa, square, contra. Hooboy contra dancing is a GREAT workout!
  15. Take advantage of your local hiking/walking trails. If you live in the Raleigh area, there are TONS to choose from.
  16. Stand up on public transportation. Try not to hold on (germs). Your muscles will have to work to keep you balanced and stable.
  17. Get off of public transportation a stop or two early and walk the rest of the way.
  18. Try martial arts!
  19. Try yoga!
  20. Try rock/wall climbing!
  21. Try Zumba!
  22. Try aerobic pole dancing! It’s seriously a thing, and it’s seriously a workout. It’s also seriously awkward, but if it sounds like fun to you, go for it!
  23. TRAMPOLINE!!
  24. Organize an elementary-school-style field day for your friends and neighbors. Include all the classics: 3-legged race, over/under, potato sack race, egg toss, etc.
  25. Play Duck Duck Goose
  26. Play Follow the Leader.
  27. Play Red Rover.
  28. Play any kind of tag.
  29. Play dodgeball.
  30. Play kickball.
  31. Arm wrestle.
  32. Leg wrestle.
  33. Stretch while you’re watching TV or talking on the phone.
  34. Do silly walks.
  35. Play tennis.
  36. Play in the sprinkler.
  37. Play Capture the Flag.
  38. Walk around the mall.
  39. Walk a dog.
  40. Toss a frisbee.
  41. Fly a kite.
  42. Go for a walk with a friend instead of going for coffee.
  43. Bring back the hacky sack!
  44. Play catch.
  45. Play Hopscotch.
  46. Play Foursquare.
  47. Play Simon Says.
  48. Sidewalk chalk someone’s driveway in the wee hours of the morning.
  49. Go for a romantic moonlit walk.
  50. Come back home and let one thing lead to another.
  51. Visit a museum. Look at everything. You’ll be walking around AND learning! Bonus!!
  52. Park in a central location when running errands that aren’t far apart, and walk to do each one.
  53. If you can see your destination from where you are, walk, don’t drive to it.
  54. Play charades.
  55. Jump rope.
  56. Photo scavenger hunt.
  57. Choreograph a dance to a song. Do it every time you hear that song.
  58. Hula hoop.
  59. Ping pong.
  60. Go roller skating.
  61. Play laser tag!
  62. Wash your car.
  63. “Walk to another city.” There are about 2,000 steps in a mile. Pick a “destination,” and figure out how many steps it would take you to walk there (literally). For example, it would take me about a million steps (2,000 steps x 500 miles) to get from my house to New York. Get a pedometer, and when you’ve walked enough steps to have reached your destination city, plan a real trip there!
  64. Pillow fight!
  65. Tickle fight!
  66. Play active video games like Wii Sports or Just Dance.
  67. Car dance.
  68. Clean out your garage, attic, or storage closet.
  69. Build a fort.
  70. Play putt-putt.
  71. Go to a zoo.
  72. Ride a horse.
  73. Get a pedometer for everyone in the house and see who can take the most steps each day.
  74. Act out your favorite scenes from books (including comic books) and movies. Make costumes and scenery and everything.
  75. Do a puppet show. Build the stage and make the puppets.

What else should we add to the list?

Spicy Greek Yogurt Cauliflower Recipe

You asked for it, and I’m going to give it to you! You can find this recipe in a bunch of different places on the internet, but I’m not exactly sure where it came from originally. I saw it on Facebook. I’ll give you the original recipe and then tell you how we did it slightly differently.

Ingredients

cauliflower
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 head cauliflower
  • 1½ cups plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 lime, zested and juiced
  • 2 tablespoons chile powder
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400° and lightly grease a small baking sheet with vegetable oil. Set aside.
  2. Trim the base of the cauliflower to remove any green leaves and the woody stem.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine the yogurt with the lime zest and juice, chile powder, cumin, garlic powder, curry powder, salt and pepper.
  4. Dunk the cauliflower into the bowl and use a brush or your hands to smear the marinade evenly over its surface. (Excess marinade can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to three days and used with meat, fish or other veggies.)
  5. Place the cauliflower on the prepared baking sheet and roast until the surface is dry and lightly browned, 30 to 40 minutes. The marinade will make a crust on the surface of the cauliflower.
  6. Let the cauliflower cool for 10 minutes before cutting it into wedges and serving alongside a big green salad.

Modifications

As you can see, the recipe tells you to dunk the whole head of cauliflower in the yogurt mixture and roast it. I thought this sounded entirely too delicious to let the whole inside of the cauliflower miss out (and I hate chopping cauliflower because it’s so crumbly), so we bought pre-cut cauliflower and dunked EVERY SINGLE PIECE into the yogurt. We spread the pieces out in a baking dish and roasted them that way.

We also made this Mujadara recipe (to which we added caramelized onions, which made angels sing in my mouth). It required a much lower baking temperature, but since it also needed an hour of baking time, we thought we’d try just throwing the cauliflower in there at the same temperature for the same length of time. We crossed our fingers and hoped for the best.

After about half an hour, we pulled the cauliflower out and turned the pieces over. They had started to get a nice brown crust on top, but the bottoms were still kind of gooey. We put it back in with the Mujadara and waited another half an hour.

With both dishes in the oven at once at 325, we ended up baking both for just over an hour, and that was about perfect. They were delicious. Highly recommend.

Fuel

One of the vocabulary words we’re practicing in class this week is “purchase.” Today, my students were doing an exercise where they had to choose all the correct answers (out of 4 possibilities) to a question. One of the questions was, “Which of the following could you purchase?” And one of the possible answers was “energy.” We decided that might work because you purchase gas and electric services for your home, and then we also talked about how food provides energy for our bodies. We don’t purchase energy directly, but we purchase the food we consume (another vocab word this week), which our bodies then use for energy. It’s an interesting little exercise, and it creates a lot of opportunities for conversation about words and their usage, which is nice.

Anyhoe, this whole thing made me start thinking about the food I eat and how my body uses it, especially now that I’m trying to be more active. When I want my body to do more, I need to give it what it needs so that it can perform. The body doesn’t need much just to sit around watching Netflix all day, but it needs a little more if I’m going to be standing up teaching, and it needs even more than that if I’m going to exercise. My problem until recently has been that I thought all calories were the same.

I guess if I had taken the time to really think about it, I would have realized that that’s dumb, but I didn’t. I thought of food as the reward you get at the END of the workout, not the fuel you need to do the workout in the first place. And with that mindset, I was eating foods after my workouts that were totally undoing all the hard work I’d just done. And then I was still hungry because the foods I ate filled up my calorie quota without filling my stomach or meeting my body’s nutritional needs. Gah! No wonder the whole thing sucked! (Y’all just witnessed that epiphany. That JUST happened. Just now. Jazz hands.)

One thing I’ve noticed, though, with the program I’ve been doing recently is that I’m not all that hungry because I’m eating at least 5 times a day. And the workouts aren’t so bad because I’m eating foods that are helping me get through them instead of trying to jog with a body full of chocolate cereal and Starbursts. (Incidentally, Starbursts are not good for your body in any way. I have a poop story to prove it, but I won’t subject you to it. You’ll just have to trust me on this one.)

So there you have it. I don’t understand or particularly care to know the science behind it, but from my own personal experience, I can tell you that what you eat absolutely has a direct impact on how your body is able to perform. Feed it well.

Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day

I’m supposed to write today about my favorite and least favorite kinds of exercise, but I’m honestly not really feeling up to trying to make it interesting. I like walking, dancing, yoga, and Pilates. I kind of hate everything else. The end.

What’s really on my mind is that today is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, and while I am having a really hard week, several friends’ due dates are either here or coming soon. These are the friends I was pregnant with. Even though I was a bit behind them, we were all in it together. Now we’re not.

Now I’m in a different kind of club – one people don’t like to talk or hear about, one that people apologize for accidentally reminding you you’re in, one you wish no one ever had to be in at all. But lots and lots of people are.

I promise you, if you know any women, you probably know at least one who’s lost a baby. If you know women currently of childbearing age, you probably know someone who has lost a baby this year. When we lost Ella, at least half a dozen women sent me private messages telling me that they too had recently experienced a miscarriage. If any of your loved ones have shared their heartbreak with you, please reach out to them this week. They are likely already thinking about the baby they don’t have in their arms or wombs; you won’t be reminding them of it. You will only be giving them the love and encouragement they desperately need.

It Takes a Village (Fitness Edition)

I don’t like working out around other people. Even when I’m at home and my husband decides to take a day off from exercising, he’s not allowed to stay in the room with me while I do it. I REALLY don’t like going to the gym where strangers can see my fat jiggle when I run. I feel very self-conscious exercising in public, and I would prefer to do it in the privacy of my own home.

However, it is VERY important for me not to make major life changes alone. I need the support and help of family and friends, and yes, even strangers who are in the same boat as I am. Family and friends are great because they love you and support you, and you can text them how much weight you’ve lost and get something like this in return:

Yes, I call my sister "Buck Buck Number Two." Is that weird?

Yes, I call my sister “Buck Buck Number Two.” Is that weird?

Strangers, on the other hand, are wonderful because you can tell them your exact measurements and not give a flying flip what they think of it because you’ll probably never meet them, and even if you do, you’ve been through something together by then that makes you happy to finally meet them, still not caring that they’ve seen your measurements because they were right there with you.

I have both of these groups, and hooboy is it necessary for me. I have my sweet husband telling me I’m beautiful regardless of my weight but that he’s also SO proud of me for all the hard work I’m doing. I have my sister cheering me on with every weight loss update. I have my coworkers commenting on how they’re starting to see the changes. And I have a group of mostly strangers on Facebook who are all working on healthier goals together. We can post links to recipes, we can complain about how hard our workout was, we can encourage each other to keep it up anyway or get back on the wagon, and we can give each other big cyber-fives on a job well done.

I work out alone or only with my husband (who doesn’t count as “people”), and I prefer it to the gym or to a group class, but it really does take a village to help me stay on track and make good choices. So to all of you who have read and posted or texted me encouraging comments, THANK YOU. I need you. I can’t do this without you. I’m thankful that I don’t have to.

3 Ways to Improve Your Workouts

I’ve been working out consistently for just over a month now. That’s a month of my whole life, so I don’t have much experience to draw from unless I also pull from way back in my childhood when working out was not a thing I did, but playing was. As an adult, I have been a terrible role model thus far and definitely no one you should trust for fitness advice. However, I’ve learned a couple things recently that I would like to share with you, and I am also going to pull from way back in my childhood.

1. Eat a healthy diet.

nawlinsDo you want to know why working out sucks SO bad and you hate it all the time always and hate everything that exists in the world while you’re exercising? It’s because the food you’re putting in your body is not fueling your body properly so that it can work out. At least that was true for me. I barely had the energy to change into workout clothes, but I forced myself to work out because I knew I should. And I kept waiting for the day when I would look forward to it, when I’d feel sluggish if I missed a run, not if I went on one. That day never, ever came, and eventually I gave up. Even when I didn’t give up (remember that time Amaris and I did a half marathon?), I didn’t lose a single pound because I didn’t change my eating habits. They may, in fact, have gotten worse. I lacked the energy I needed to train, but I trained anyway. Then to get the energy back that I needed to finish out the day, I would eat a ginormous plate of pasta because dangit I had EARNED it.

Some of you are shaking (or smacking) your heads at me right now, and you are correct to do so. Looking back, I know it didn’t make sense, but I didn’t know any better. Now I do, and y’all, I am not kidding when I tell you that I didn’t get to work out yesterday, and I was disappointed. If you give your body what it needs, it will return the favor. Get rid of the sugar and fried foods and as much of the refined and processed foods as possible. Eat your veggies. Limit your grains (not to the extreme, but probably half as much as you would like). Report back to me on your workouts.

2. Make a plan to change things up.

I get bored pretty easily, so doing a different workout every day helps me to keep it up. But I also need structure. I hated going to the gym because I would walk in, look around, wonder what I should do, not have any good ideas, and end up doing the same thing. Planning what you’re going to do, though, allows you to feel in control and ready for your workout while also preventing you from getting bored with it. It’s the same with diet. If you plan to eat different things every week, you’ll get to eat new things but also not find yourself in the kitchen staring into the fridge wondering if you’re actually hungry.

3. Play!

I have workouts that I do with a DVD throughout the week, and they are not the most fun, but I do them because I must, because they’re different every day (which keeps me from zoning out), because they’re planned for me (structure), and because doing them is FAR healthier than watching an episode of How I Met Your Mother on Netflix. But on Sundays, I’m going to a Zumba class up the street, and that is FUN. I look forward to it. It makes me excited about exercise (most weeks) because it doesn’t feel like exercise. When I was a kid, I was in great shape because I was on a competitive jump rope team. Have you tried jumping rope lately? Good luck going for more than a minute. It is no joke. But when I was a kid, I didn’t think about it as exercise. I just loved doing it. What do you love doing that gets your heart rate up, makes you sweat, and works your muscles (keep it clean, kids)? Dance (Zumba, swing, contra (!!), Just Dance), play a sport, jump rope, run as fast as you can down a hill, ride a bike, play in the ocean, walk/hike with friends, go to a playground and climb on the jungle gym, get some buddies together and play tag (or any other childhood game that won’t make you feel like the fat kid in gym class). HAVE FUN!

Oh, and if you are giant nerd and you know it (you know it), I just found this. Enjoy!

Easy Dijon Vinaigrette Recipe

I promised you the other day that I would give you a good vinaigrette recipe if you wanted it, and since I usually deliver on my promises, here you go!

The 21-Day Fix eating plan booklet has several salad dressing recipes in it. This is the only one I’ve tried so far, but the others look good too. I just made this one because I happened to have all the ingredients, and my salad was naked. In a jar (I used an empty salsa jar, washed out), combine:

  • 3 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice
  • 3 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 6 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

Put the lid on the jar and shake. This will make you 8-10 servings of dressing. If you think that doesn’t seem like a lot of dressing for a big salad, trust me. The Dijon is so strong, plus the lemon and the vinegar. You really don’t need a lot of this to get a great flavor throughout your salad.

Pop the lid on your jar and store in the fridge until it’s gone. One warning: Sometimes, the oil can sort of harden in the fridge. I took mine out yesterday, and all the oil, mustard, and garlic had formed a glob in the middle of the lemon juice and vinegar. I tried to stir it with a fork, but that didn’t help, so I just let it sit out on the counter for half an hour or so while we went for a walk, and when we came back, it was fine again.

Enjoy!

Meaty vs. Veggie

I went to look at my prompt for today and immediately got “Ebony and Ivory” stuck in my head for some reason. And it’s funny that today’s prompt is what it is because my students asked me this exact question in class today: How do an herbivore and an omnivore cook together?

It comes up a lot when people find out I’m a vegetarian. One of the first questions they ask (after wondering what I eat and how I get enough protein) is, “Is your husband a vegetarian too?” No. No, he is most definitely not. That always invites the follow-up question, “Sooooooo…how does that work?”

It’s honestly not that complicated. I’ve been meatless for seven years, and I’ve known my husband for about seven and a half years, maybe eight, so for the vast majority of the time he’s known me, I’ve been a vegetarian. And we didn’t get together until two years ago, so we both knew exactly what we were getting into before we ever got together. Also, cooking together became a pretty normal thing when we started dating, so we had a good bit of practice before we got married.

Usually, it goes like this…

On Saturday, we decide what we want to make for the following week’s dinners. We pull from a lot of different sources, including a weekly meal-planning service we got cheap with a Groupon (emeals), but my favorites are Forks over Knives, Thug Kitchen (pardon the language if you visit the site), Food Network, and All Recipes. We also have several cookbooks and a recipe box full of vegetarian slow cooker ideas. We both have to agree that we either really want or are willing to try a recipe before we add it to the week’s list. If we’re both on board, I print out the recipe.

Doesn't the mullet magnet guy look like Sir Paul McCartney?

Doesn’t the mullet magnet guy look like Sir Paul McCartney?

Once we’ve picked our poisons, if you will (though you really shouldn’t), we make a grocery list based on what each recipe calls for and what we already happen to have. If we haven’t been very inspired by the recipes we’ve found and only have a few, we’ll make a stirfry one night or just sautee some veggies and pair them with pasta. ORRRR we’ll have “lazy night,” where we go out to eat or order Chinese or something. We put the meal schedule on a white board on the fridge so that whoever is home when it’s time to cook can see what’s on the menu and get it started. We stick all the printed-out recipes on the side of the fridge so they are visible while standing in front of the stove.

Most of the time, Will just eats a vegetarian dinner and has something meaty for lunch, and most of the time, he says he doesn’t feel like the meal is lacking anything, but bless him, he loves me a lot, so he may just not be saying it, though we definitely do have some recipes that he REALLY likes as they are (including our risotto and our tortilla soup). However, there are a lot of times when he says, “It’s good. But it would be a lot better with chicken.” We now have a bag of chicken in the freezer if he ever wants to cook some and add it to his meal. When we make stirfry, he might cook some chicken separately, and I might cook some tofu, and then we’ll just add our own protein to our own bowls.

Last night, we made pasta. We cooked a skillet of veggies for me and a skillet of peppers, onions, garlic, and sausage for him. He then added tomato sauce to his skillet, and I had plain sauce. He now has a jar full of meat sauce that he can use over the next couple of weeks. Making all of that at once was a little hectic, but now when he wants meat sauce with his pasta again, he’s all set.

That’s pretty much it. I usually eat the leftovers for lunch the following day, and that’s planned into my week on purpose, so we make sure we have enough for me to do that. He usually eats whatever he feels like eating for lunch, and we do our own breakfast things too because we have different morning routines and tastes. He doesn’t get as much steak as he’d like in his life, but he gets WAY more veggies than he was getting when he was single, and he recognizes that this is a good thing. I don’t mind him cooking meat, but if it’s beef, we have to set up an elaborate ventilation system so I can’t smell it.

Oh, and eating out or getting take-out is easy, and if he’s like dying for some meat or something, we figure it out. It’s really not so hard.