Friday, March 29, 2013

Workout Song of the Week: The Bravery

Sometimes all you need to get you moving is the thought of some rough sex.  This week's song is the perfect example of that sort of motivation: "Hatefuck" by The Bravery.

Passion and intensity is sometimes all you need to go that last quarter of a mile or lift that last set of weights.  This song is perfect for that since it's quick, upbeat, and to the point.  Overall message: violence can be thrilling and sexy.  The Bravery perfectly captures that lusty, heat of the moment, rough-you-up kind of sexual attitude that we all need once in a while.  In addition to the song's overall sound being great for working out, the lyrics are pretty scandalous, and sometimes thinking about getting sexy can be just as big of a motivator.  It gets your blood pumping and your legs moving, just what you need kick some ass in the gym!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Weekly Tip: Portion Control

I'm a firm believer in the idea that it's not necessarily what you eat that impacts your weight, but how much.  Everything in moderation, right?  A lot of people struggle with portion control, including myself, and no matter how much working out you do, if you're still eating too much you won't be able to achieve your weight loss goals.  Understanding what 1 serving of something actually looks like can really help.  Learning how much food is appropriate to eat in one sitting can be a challenge, and one of my main goals for my weight loss journey was to adjust my concept of portion sizes and what's appropriate, so I've come up with a list of tips on how to train yourself to eat less.
  •  Track your food!  I've said this once and I'll say it again: tracking my food has been the single most helpful change I've made since starting my challenge.  I had no idea how much food I was actually eating until I started recording every bite, and it really opened my eyes to the fact that I was eating way too much.  If you start keeping track of your food intake, you automatically start thinking about your food choices more, which can lead to better eating habits.
  • If you're a visual person, use smaller plates.  You have to trick your brain into thinking that a full, albeit smaller, plate of food is the appropriate amount.  Especially if you feel the need to finish everything that's on your plate, this trick will allow you to do so without overeating.
  • Put your fork down in between each bite.  We all need to slow things down a little when it comes to meal times.  We're always so rushed to shovel all our food into our mouths like it's going to disappear, but guess what: it's not going anywhere.  If you slow down your eating, you give your stomach time to send signals to your brain that you're full, so you end up eating less.
  • Don't put more food in your mouth until you've swallowed your last bite.  Why must we constantly try to fit as much food into our mouths as possible?  Waiting until you've swallowed to take another bite of something works on the same principle as the last trick, it slows you down.
  • Read nutrition labels.  Any food that comes with a label will give you a serving size, and this is what you need to be paying more attention to.  Not only does reading the nutritional information help you get a better idea of what you're putting in your body, but sticking to the serving size listed on the package means you're eating the proper amount.
In order to break bad habits, we have to create new ones to replace them.  These tips will help you retrain yourself into understanding how much food is the right amount to be eating.  Let me know if they work for you!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Corned Beef, Cabbage, and Potatoes

My first ever experience making St. Patrick's Day dinner was a complete success.  The corned beef was juicy and flavorful, and the vegetables were cooked to perfection.  There are only 7 ingredients, and it all went straight into the crock pot, which made for very easy prep.  The hardest part was chopping the veggies!  The original recipe I used is here.

You will need: 
4 large carrots, peeled and cut into matchstick pieces 
10 baby red potatoes, quartered  
1 onion, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
4 cups water 
1 (4 pound) corned beef brisket with spice packet 
6 ounces beer (I didn't have any at the time so I omitted the beer and it still came out fine)
1/2 head cabbage, coarsely chopped

Look at that beautiful hunk of meat!  And what a wonderful job of chopping veggies someone did...

-Place the carrots, potatoes, and onion into the bottom of a slow cooker, pour in the water.
-Place the brisket on top of the vegetables. Pour the beer over the brisket. Sprinkle on the spices from the packet, cover, and set the cooker on High. 
-Cook the brisket for about 8 hours. An hour before serving, stir in the cabbage and cook for 1 more hour. That means total cook time is 9 hours, so be prepared!

Nothing says Irish like corned beef, cabbage, and potatoes

Perfectly cooked corned beef
Delicious veggies

Monday, March 25, 2013

Week 7 Update

Week 7 was my idea of the perfect week.  I stuck to my guns in terms of food and alcohol all week, kept up with my workouts, ate well, and saw awesome results.  Ideally, every week of this challenge would go that way, but we can't have everything.  Or can we? 

Physical Activity:
-3/16/13: ran on the treadmill for 45 minutes
-3/17/13: 30 Day Shred level 2
-3/18/13: ran on the treadmill for 30 minutes, then did 30 Day Shred level 2
-3/19/13: BODYATTACK
-3/20/13: 30 Day Shred level 2
-3/21/13: swam laps freestyle for 30 minutes, 800 meters total

I'm still sticking to the 30 Day Shred 3 times per week plan, which is working out really well.  Incorporating that DVD for the month of March has meant that I've been working out 6 days per week most weeks, which seems like a lot but since the DVD workouts are only 25 minutes it's completely manageable.  I also reached another running milestone; I can now run 2 miles on the treadmill without stopping!  Since I have more time and energy on Saturday mornings as opposed to week nights after working all day, that's the day when I spend a little more time on the treadmill, usually about 45 minutes.  When I first started I would tend to run for a few minutes, then walk for a few minutes, then run again etc.  Now that I've worked my way up to running longer distances at a time, I can run 2 miles on the treadmill, then walk for a few minutes, and then run another mile before cooling down.  I know my progress is somewhat slow, but it's still progress!

Week 7 kicked off with St. Patrick's Day last weekend, which I somehow managed to survive in a completely sober fashion.  I stuck to my 3 drink maximum at a St. Patrick's Day party with my friends.  I was able to have fun and enjoy myself while still respecting the guidelines I had set for myself ahead of time, so I was very proud of myself for that.  I also fell in love with a new snack last week: mixing greek yogurt, berries, and granola.  I know this is not a new concept for a lot of people, but I'm just getting on the parfait train now and I'm loving it.  Altogether it's under 300 calories, so it's a great way to satisfy my sweet tooth without putting my calorie count in danger.

Last weekend I cooked St. Patrick's Day dinner for the first time ever!  Growing up in a half Irish household, I was raised on corned beef, cabbage, and potatoes, but this was the first time I've ever made it.  I did it in the crock pot, and it came out amazing!  At a table of 7 people, the corned beef literally disappeared before our eyes.  I had made A LOT of veggies, so there were leftovers of those for me to have throughout the week.  Yum!

I'm always a happy girl when I can see positive results in number form on the scale at the end of every week.  I also get nervous the night before about not making my 1 pound per week goal, but week 7 was a very successful week in my eyes.  Thanks to my hard work, I lost not 1, but...


This brings my total weight loss to 9 pounds in 7 weeks, and I still have 8 weeks to go to lose the remaining 6 pounds.  I was ecstatic about this progress and can only hope that it continues in the coming weeks.  With dedication and hard work, I'm confident that I can keep seeing results like this.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Workout Song of the Week: Icona Pop

What's not to love about an electro synth pop female anthem with a rebellious spirit and an upbeat tempo?  Nothing.  Icona Pop's "I Don't Care" is one of the best workout songs I've heard lately and that's why it's the workout song of the week!

The beat stays the same throughout pretty much the entire song, which makes it easy to listen to and helps you keep a steady pace.  It's the perfect example of some badass chicks singing about how tiny of a crap they give and that I don't care attitude can give you a huge push during a good cardio session.  For me, good workout songs are usually upbeat, with a powerful sound and motivational lyrics.  This song meets all of those requirements and then some.  Give it a listen and let me know what you think!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Weekly Tip: Have A Plan

Sticking to your fitness and weight loss goals means actually having to set specific goals for yourself to begin with.  Committing to something vague like "I want to lose weight" is almost like committing to nothing at all; it's way too vague and general.  If you don't have specific goals for yourself, you'll never achieve them.  That's why this week's tip is to HAVE A PLAN!

Initially, it's important to set your ultimate goal so you have something to shoot for.  This is what should keep your focused throughout your journey, because making major changes doesn't happen over night.  For example, my goal is to lose 15 pounds in 15 weeks.  I have a set number and a set time frame.  Once you've decided what your ultimate goal is, you need to make a plan to achieve that goal.  In my case, I decided that I wanted to start exercising at least 3-4 times per week and that I would track my food so I would know how many calories I was actually consuming throughout the week.  The blog also doesn't hurt when it comes to keeping me on track.

Once you've decided what specific action you need to take to achieve your goal, it really helps to make a schedule.  That way it's harder to keep pushing off that run to the next day or skipping your strength training session because "you'll do it later."  If you schedule those workouts in ahead of time, you're more likely to complete them.  Example:  "I will do cardio 3 days per week."  Or even more specifically: "I will do cardio on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday."  For me personally, I know that every week on Tuesday I'm going to go to my BODYATTACK class, and that every Saturday morning when I go to the gym for my weigh-in I'm also going to put in some time with the treadmill.  This is also helpful for time management in general since you can stay on track with your fitness commitment and you already know ahead of time when you're free for other activities.

Having a plan in terms of your meals is another huge factor.  I can't say enough how helpful it is to have your breakfasts, lunches, and snacks for the work week planned out ahead of time.  I make sure that I know in advance what I'm going to bring to work the next day so that I don't end up empty handed on my way to work in the morning and trying to decide which fast food chain to hit up for lunch.  Bringing only a certain amount of food with me to work each day also means I can only eat as much as I bring, therefore preventing me from snacking too much and overeating.  Generally I bring my lunch and 2 snacks for mid-morning and mid-afternoon.

Having a plan is useful in all facets of life, but especially when it comes to achieving your health and fitness goals.  Just having a goal is not enough, generating a plan of how exactly you're going to reach that goal is what makes it happen. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Chicken Orzo Salad

As usual, this recipe came to me via Pinterest, you can find the original here.  I followed the original recipe and what I got was a refreshing, light salad that's perfect for the coming spring and summer months.  It was incredibly easy, meaning you literally throw everything into one bowl and stir.  Next time the only thing I might change would be to add slightly more dressing, since it did get a little dry when I ate it for leftovers throughout the week, but besides that, perfection!

You will need:
1 1/4 cups uncooked orzo
3 cups chopped cooked chicken (I used a rotisserie chicken and picked the meat off)
1 1/2 cups trimmed arugula
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/4 cup chopped red onion
2 tbsp chopped fresh basil
1/2 tsp dried oregano
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
6 tbsp goat cheese crumbles
Salad prep!
-Cook pasta according to package directions; drain well.
-Combine pasta, chicken, and the next 6 ingredients (through oregano) in a large bowl; toss well.
-Combine vinegar, oil, salt, and black pepper in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Drizzle vinegar mixture over pasta mixture; toss well to coat. Sprinkle with cheese.
Finished product
 I brought this over to my friend's house for a cookout and it was a big hit.  It's such a fresh, warm weather recipe that's perfect as a side or the main dish.  

Here are the ESTIMATED nutrition facts:  Serves 8, serving size: 1 cup.  Calories 347; fat 16g; saturated fat 5.6g; cholesterol 79.9g; sodium 396.9; carbs 30g; dietary fiber 1.8g; sugars 2.8g; protein 21.9g.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Week 6 Update

Wow, hard to believe it's already been 6 weeks since I started this!  I feel like it's all still so new and I'm still learning so much.  I think under normal circumstances, most people get bored and give up on their resolutions after about a month, so I'm proud that I've stuck with it this far and will keep pushing myself until I reach my goal.  This blog really helps me stay on track, so thank you for reading!

Physical Activity:
-3/9/13: ran on the treadmill for 45 minutes
-3/10/13: ran outside for 30 minutes (I went 2.5 miles total and ran for about 1.75 miles of that)
-3/11/13: used the elliptical for 30 minutes, then did 30 Day Shred level 2
-3/13/13: 30 Day Shred level 2
-3/14/13: ran on the treadmill for 30 minutes
-3/15/13: 30 Day Shred level 2

I'm now doing the 30 Day Shred workout 3 times a week, which is so much easier to handle!  This week I moved up to level 2, which is SO MUCH HARDER than level 1!  I was expecting it to be a little more challenging, but wow.  Jillian Michaels really knows what she's doing.  I can only imagine what level 3 will bring, but thankfully I don't have to worry about that for another week.  Also this week I finally got a chance to run outside!  Spring weather is really making an effort to break through this long winter we're having in DC so last Sunday I took the opportunity to change things up and take my workout outside.  Running outside is completely different than running on the treadmill, and more challenging in many ways, including trying to keep a steady pace, but it's much more enjoyable and the change of scenery made me not hate my run so much that day.  Also I'm still working on being able to run for longer distances at a time, and worked my way up to 1.75 miles without stopping.  I know that doesn't sound like much, but considering that a) I hate running, and b) I'm still a beginner, I think 1.75 is pretty darn good.

One day on the treadmill I tried out a pyramid-style interval workout that I had found online (this is the one I did).  Interval training is great because by constantly changing your intensity you prevent your body from getting used to any one speed, which increases fat burning and prevents plateaus.  The workout I tried was only 30 minutes, but it seriously kicked my butt.  The sprints really take the wind out of you!  I'm definitely going to incorporate more interval training into my workout, especially since I'm 6 weeks into my challenge now and I don't want to get into a slump with my workout routine.

I did very well with food during week 6, but what I really wanted to focus on was my alcohol intake since I had been struggling with that in prior weeks.  I decided to challenge myself to something new that week: to not drink a single alcoholic beverage all weekend.  I stopped consuming alcohol during the week when I started this challenge, so bye-bye went the occasional glass of wine after work or with dinner.  On the weekends though, I found I was having trouble sticking to my 3 drink maximum so I wanted to take a break.  I also think alcohol was a contributing factor to why I gained a pound after week 5, which is why I decided to do a detox for week 6 and see what would happen.  I must admit my social life seriously declined last weekend, since in order to avoid drinking I ended up staying in Friday and Saturday night, but in the end I completed my challenge and I managed to not drink all weekend.  For anyone who knows me or my friends, you understand what a feat that is! 

Thanks to the nice weather in DC last weekend my friends and I were able to have a cookout for family dinner on Sunday.  My contribution was a Chicken Orzo Salad that I had been wanting to try.  It's a fresh, light salad that turned out to the perfect addition to a grill session.  Recipe coming soon.


I had really been stressing out about my weight last week since I gained a pound in week 5.  I know that I'm trying very hard and I'm making a lot of positive changes in my life, and I understand that weight loss is a process and my weight will fluctuate a lot and I won't always lose pounds, but it's still hard to not feel discouraged when you don't see the results you want on the scale.  I managed to use that as motivation in week 6 and it paid off.  Last week I lost:

1 POUND!!!

I'm finally back on track after wavering a little last week and I'm very excited, I just need to stay focused.  All together I'm 7 pounds down and I still have 9 weeks to go.  I can do this!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Workout Song of the Week: Gnarls Barkley

This week my workout song comes as a suggestion from my good friend Shannon.  I'm sure he'll be happy that he FINALLY gets a mention in my blog!  He had recommended this as a workout song a few weeks back, and as soon as I heard it I understood why.  It's so upbeat right from the beginning and really motivates you to get moving.  This week's workout song is: Gnarls Barkley "Run (I'm A Natural Disaster)"

The music video isn't bad either, you should check it out!  If the fact that the song is actually named "Run" isn't enough to convince you that it's great for cardio, the energetic combination of Cee-Lo Green's unique vocals and Danger Mouse's hot beats will surely win you over.  Their soul sound provides a great rhythm for running, and the song is just short enough to be perfect for a quick sprint on the treadmill when you're trying to pick up the pace.  Listen and let me know what you think!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Weekly Tip: Cheat.

I know I've mentioned this in previous posts, but I am definitely a big supporter of the CHEAT DAY!  Taking a cheat day, or even just a cheat meal, once a week is a way to keep your body guessing and give you a break from your (hopefully) normally regimented diet.  Since your body can adjust to pretty much anything, the cheat day allows you to surprise your body and change things up a bit.  It's also a nice chance for you to enjoy some of the foods you wouldn't normally eat as part of your weight loss plan.  I'm not saying healthy foods can't be delicious, but it's hard to get excited about veggies and lean proteins all day, every day, for weeks on end.  Since a cheat day lets you indulge in some of your less healthy preferred eats, it keeps things interesting for you and makes you more likely to stick with your long term plan. 

It's important to remember that you can't use the cheat day as an excuse to eat whatever you want, whenever you want.  For example, a friend invites you out to dinner and you decide, "Sure, I'll spring for the burger with everything on top and the chili cheese fries, this can be my cheat meal!"  Then 2 days later someone brings cupcakes in to work and all of the sudden, you're having another cheat meal, and another, and another.  That kind of thinking can snowball and quickly ruin all your hard work.  You need to plan this ahead of time.  Pick one day a week when you know you're going to be a little more lax with your food choices, and keep it the same day every week.  For me, my cheat day is always on the weekend, since it's easier for me to keep a regimented meal plan during the week on a full time work schedule.  Also, you're more likely to be going out with friends to dinner and drinks etc. on the weekends, which is when you want to loosen up and be more lax about your choices.

Cheat days, while enjoyable, can also be very dangerous for people who don't have the right amount of self-control.  If you're the kind of person with the "once you pop, you just can't stop" mentality, then taking a cheat day might not be the best idea for you.  For some people, once they've cheated it's hard to then go back to their healthy meal plan and they just give it up completely.  If a weekly cheat day is too frequent for you, it might be better to time your cheat day with milestones, like for every x amount of pounds you lose, or once you're able to run x miles.  That way your cheat meal isn't quite as frequent, but you still have something to look forward to along the way.

Also really important: even on your cheat day, always remember that ultimately, you have set weight loss goals for yourself and you can ruin them by making poor food choices.  The cheat day should not be a free pass to go crazy and eat things that will completely undo all your fabulous progress.  Keep your portion sizes in check, and try to still include fruits and veggies along with the more unhealthy things you might be enjoying that day.

Most importantly, do what works best for you.  What works for some does not work for everyone.  Know your limits and stay in control of your food, your choices, and your goals.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Pesto Ranch Crock Pot Chicken

I'm excited to share my first crock pot recipe with everyone!  This recipe that I made during week 5 was so easy and so yummy.  There are only 4 ingredients, which was what initially drew me to the recipe, and using a crock pot just makes everything so much easier in general anyway (original recipe here). 

You will need: 
8 boneless skinless chicken thighs (I used 6 breasts and it worked just fine)
6 ounce jar of pesto 
1 package Ranch Dressing Seasoning Mix 
1/2 cup chicken broth (use the low sodium kind if you can find it!)

Raw chicken, chillen
-Turn crock pot to high setting.
-Place chicken thighs, pesto, ranch dressing and chicken broth into crock pot.
-Stir gently to combine all seasonings.
-Close with lid and cook on high for 3-4 hours or on low for 6-8 hours.

Finished product!
I served the chicken with some rice and it was just so moist and juicy, I got great reviews from my friends/taste testers!

Nutrition info generated from for 6 chicken breasts (the ones I used were about 9 oz each so they were pretty big), per serving: Calories 455, Fat 16.3g, Saturated Fat 2g, Cholesterol 151.7g, Sodium 1257.8g, Carbs 6.8g, Dietary Fiber 0.7g, Sugars 1.4g, Protein 61g.

The sodium content is pretty high thanks to the ranch dressing packet, and if you had a homemade pesto recipe that might also bring down the fat and cholesterol counts.  Important to note also that 9 oz chicken breasts are pretty big so you could really eat a half at a time like I did and that would be plenty.  Let me know if you try out this recipe and what you think!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Week 5 Update

Week 5 was a very interesting week, so let's just get right into it shall we?

Physical Activity:
-3/2/13: ran on the treadmill for 45 minutes, then 30 Day Shred level 1
-3/3/13: 30 Day Shred level 1
-3/4/13: ran on the treadmill for 30 minutes, then 30 Day Shred level 1
-3/6/13: 30 Day Shred level 1
-3/7/13: swam laps freestyle for 30 minutes, 800 meters total
-3/8/13: 30 Day Shred level 1

In honor of March Madness I wanted to kick up my workouts, so I had decided that in addition to the exercise I was already getting, I would start a workout DVD that my friend let me borrow: the Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred.  The DVD focuses on very fast, intense workouts (about 25 minutes including warm up and cool down) consisting of a mix of strength training, cardio, and ab-specific exercises.  My plan was to do the DVD every day for the month of March, and I was going to do each level for 10 days (there are 3 levels), but about 6 days in I found out that you're not actually supposed to do the DVD every single day, you're supposed to include rest days to allow your muscles to rest and repair, which was such a blessing because that DVD was seriously kicking my butt!  So now I'm going to do the DVD 3 days a week and see if that changes anything.  Also, working out every single day for 7 days was so exhausting, and definitely not a maintainable routine, and in the end it wasn't as effective anyway (see weight loss results below), so I'm going to have to tone things down again.  So much for March Madness...

Food and alcohol both became an issue last week, since it was one of my bff's birthdays and the festivities included a nice dinner out, followed by a night of drinking and dancing, as well as a Drag Brunch Buffet the next morning, and then a pasta dinner complete with red velvet cake for dessert that night (If you've never done a drag brunch, you need to!  This is the one we went to).  Needless to say, I was faced with a lot of temptation, and I may not have made the smartest choices.  I broke my 3 drink maximum rule for going out, and I also couldn't resist some of the less healthy food options on the brunch buffet.  My self-control definitely slipped, and unfortunately it had an impact on my results for the week.  I tried to make really healthy choices throughout the rest of the week, but in the end I don't think it balanced out.

This week I decided to break in my new crock pot, and the recipe I made was for Pesto Ranch Chicken that I found, of course, on Pinterest.  It was a bit high in calories and sodium due to the large portions of chicken and the sauce that I used, but it was delicious and I only ended up eating half a serving so it wasn't too bad.  The chicken literally fell apart and was super moist thanks to the long, slow heat of the crock pot.  Recipe to be posted separately later this week.
Raw chicken, yum!
So here it is, the moment of truth.  The results of my weigh-in for week 5 are:

I gained 1 lb!!!

As bad as it made me feel to actually gain weight instead of losing or at least staying the same, I realize that there are a few different factors that went into this.  The first, and the one that I'd really like to think is the biggest, is the fact that I was doing the 30 Day Shred DVD almost every day last week, and that is a very strength-training intensive program.  That means that I was probably building muscle by doing those workouts, which would lead me to gain weight instead of losing.  The trainer that I met with at the gym a few weeks ago recommended 75% cardio and 25% strength in order to lose weight, so I'd like to keep that in mind as the weeks continue.  Another factor might be that I had more drinks than is usually recommended for weight loss when I was out last weekend (Jillian Michaels advises no more than 2 drinks per WEEK when you're trying to lose weight!), and the fact that I ate out a few times and let myself have more of a cheat weekend than just a cheat meal or cheat day.  I'm trying not to get too discouraged, though, and I plan on going back to focusing more on the cardio aspect of things in order to drop the weight I want to.

All in all, I'm now at a total loss of 6 pounds in 5 weeks and 1/3 of the way through my program with 10 weeks to go and 9 more pounds to lose.  I'm still  slightly ahead of the game in terms of my original plan for 1 pound per week, and I am positive that I can get back on track and still reach the goals I originally set for myself.  Now I need to get to work!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Workout Song of the Week: Adema

A lot of great workout songs are upbeat, pop/club tracks that just make you want to dance, but sometimes all you really want is a nice hardcore rock jam that motivates you by triggering your rage.  Had a stressful day at work?  Significant other getting on your nerves?  Feel like punching someone in the face?  Those are the times when you need to have more angry, hateful music that pushes you to let out all your aggression on the gym equipment instead of the people around you.  As a prime example of one of those songs for me personally, this week I'm using Adema's "The Way You Like It"

Some people need more intense, aggressive music to get them through their workouts, and if you're that kind of person, this one's for you.  When this track comes on my iPod while I'm working out my cardio, it puts me in the perfect ass-kicking mood that forces me to pound out my frustration on the treadmill.  I know the song is old, but it's still a great example of a heavy rock tune that's still upbeat enough to keep you moving during a workout.

What are some of the angrier songs that keep you motivated during your workouts?

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Weekly Tip: Drink More!

...water, that is.  I was talking about this with my friends over dinner last night, which inspired me to use it as my weekly tip.  It's one of the most important factors for weight loss, and for your overall health: drinking enough water.  Many of us aren't actually getting as much water as we need, so it's important to keep this in mind at all times, but especially when you're trying to lose weight.

Staying hydrated is important for your health and fitness for gazillions of reasons, but here are just a few:
  • Usually when you first start to lose weight, you lose water weight, so you need to drink enough water to avoid dehydration during this initial stage.
  • Also good to note, dehydration slows down the fat-burning process, therefore the more hydrated you are, the faster your body can trim fat!
  • Burning calories creates toxins, kind of like a car letting out exhaust, and water helps your body flush out those toxins.
  • Drinking water before meals can make you feel full faster, and thus more satisfied with less food.  Many of the times we think we're hungry, we're actually dehydrated.
I know a lot of people aren't big water drinkers like me (I drink at least 8 12 oz. glasses per day), so here are some tips for drinking more water:
  • Add lemon!  This is for the person with a sweet tooth who usually opts for sugary drinks like pop or juice.  Try squeezing some lemon into your water to make it a little more palatable without adding tons of extra sugar.
  • Drink a glass of water first thing when you wake up in the morning.  This will rehydrate your body after hours of sleep with no water.
  •  Drink an entire glass of water before each meal.  This will help you feel full faster, and if you're eating 4-5 small meals a day, this guarantees that you'll drink at least 4-5 glasses of water.
  • ALWAYS drink water during a workout.  ALWAYS.  
This is just one example of an article about drinking enough water.

Doesn't that just look so refreshing?!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Shmammy's Turkey Chili

These are by far the funniest recipe directions I've ever received, so even if you don't make this you should still read through and have a nice laugh!  One of my best friends (Shmammy) sent me this Turkey Chili recipe to try out last week, and it was delicious!  I wanted to share it with everyone before the weather gets too warm for a dish like this, so here you go (you're welcome in advance):
I can practically smell it cooking.

You will need:
1 cup chopped onions
3 cloves garlic (or 3 tbs minced garlic)
1 cup mushrooms
2 tsps cumin
1 tsp oregano
1 tbs chili powder
1 lb lean ground turkey
1 28 oz. can of dice tomatoes
1 15 oz. can kidney beans
1 15 oz. can pinto beans 
1 cup of water (optional)

-Get a big pot!
-Saute 1 cup of chopped onions and 3 cloves of garlic!  (or a few tbs if you have the jarred minced garlic like me!)
-Do that for like 3 min?
-Put the mushroomies in there!  I think the recipe said a cup but I like me some mushrooms so I put in a lot more.
-Let that cook for 5 min!
-Add in 2 tsp of cumin!
-1 tsp of oregano i think? haha
-1 tbs of chili powder!
-Let that get all yummy then add in 1 lb of ground turkey!  Go for the lean!
-Cook that until it's no longer pink and add 1 28 oz. can of diced tomatoes!
-Add 1 can of kidney beans and 1 can of pinto (Add what you like! Black beans? Even corn? Woohoo for southwestern!)
-1 cup of water is optional depending on how thick you want it.
-Let that simmer for 30 min!
-Eat with multigrain crackers!  A yummy baguette!  Goldfishies!  Cheese!  Sour cream!  Put it over brown rice!  Yummmmmmmerooni!

These directions had me cracking up laughing!  I served it over brown rice and sprinkled some low fat cheddar cheese on top...DEEE-LICIOUS! 
The finished product

I put the recipe into my food tracking site ( and it generated the following nutritional data: Yields approx. 8 1 cup servings.  Per serving: Calories 287; Fat 4g; Cholesterol 32.5mg; Sodium 411mg; Carbs 39g; Dietary Fiber 14.6g; Sugars 4.8g; Protein 24.8g.

If you try this out, let me know how it goes!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Week 4 Update

Officially 1 month into my weight loss challenge, I hereby declare Week 4 the Week of the Heart Rate Monitor!  I finally received my new toy and I had so much fun testing it out all week during my different activities.  It's even waterproof so I was able to wear it swimming.  Here's a photo!

Yes, you're reading that correctly, I burned 643 CALORIES in an hour!!!  That's thanks to the super intense BODYATTACK class I take on Tuesdays at my gym.  Speaking of the gym...

Physical Activity:
-2/23/13: ran on the treadmill for 45 minutes
-2/25/13: swam laps freestyle for 30 minutes, 700 meters total
-2/26/13: BODYATTACK
-2/27/13: walked 2.8 miles in 45 minutes (from work to the gym), then walked on the treadmill at a steep incline for 20 minutes
-3/1/13: Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred DVD, level 1

I used my new heart rate monitor during all those activities, and it's so helpful since it tells me exactly how many calories I burn, what my average heart rate was, what my max heart rate was, and how long I had my heart rate in the right zone for maximum effectiveness.  This is one of the best purchases I could have made, especially for calorie tracking purposes.  

I also had a free fitness assessment at my gym on the 27th.  I met with a trainer and we went over my weight loss goals (which she said are totally doable, yay!), she weighed and measured me, and then we had a short personal training session.  She gave me a lot of useful information and now I can do a lot of the exercises she showed me on my own.  Out of all her measurements, one was my body fat percentage (yikes).  I remember having this done when I was in college and worked at a gym, and when I was 20 years old my body fat percentage was around 22%.  Unfortunately, that number has increased since then, and now I'm at 28%!!!  Apparently a healthy range is between 15-20%.  Because of that, I now have another goal to add to my challenge:  decrease my body fat back down to 22% by the time this challenge is over (there are 11 weeks left).  That means I have to undo 5 years of carelessness in 11 weeks.  I can do this!

I don't believe food was really an issue during week 4, but my roommate and I decided to throw a party last weekend, which meant that I had to pay attention to my alcohol intake.  During the first few weeks I have been really good about keeping my alcohol consumption to a minimum, since drinking too much is one of the WORST things you can do when trying to lose weight.  It's such a huge factor!  However, I was actually very well behaved at the party.  I let myself indulge with my friends, but I didn't go overboard and kept good track of how many drinks I had.

My new recipe for Week 4 was a Turkey Chili recipe that one of my best friends sent me.  It was such an easy thing to make, it was super healthy, and I had plenty of leftovers to take to work for lunch throughout the week.  

Here it is, burbling away!

I'll post the recipe separately later on, but this was the perfect thing to eat on a chilly (ha ha!) winter evening.  Chili is also super easy to make, since you just throw everything into one pot and let it cook.  

Another of my recent purchases is a Crock Pot, which is another super simple way to cook, so I'm excited to start experimenting with some Crock Pot recipes in the coming weeks.  Stay on the lookout for those!

I am pleased to report that my good results have not stopped coming, and after week 4 I lost

1 POUND!!!

That means I've lost 7 pounds so far, and I still have 11 weeks left in my challenge.  Who this rate maybe I'll lose more than 15 pounds! 

Friday, March 1, 2013

Workout Song of the Week: The Chevin

The song I'm highlighting this week actually kind of snuck up on me as a workout song.  I wouldn't have thought of it off the top of my head, but when it came on my iPod randomly the other day while I was on the treadmill, it gave me such an incredible boost of energy and once it was over all I could think was, "wow, that was an amazing 3 minutes and 48 seconds!"  So my workout song of the week is: The Chevin "Champion"

This song came to me as the free single of the week on iTunes last year, and while it's a pretty great song in general, it turns out it's also a nice upbeat tune for banging out some cardio!  It keeps a steady, upbeat tempo and is the perfect addition to a nice long jogging playlist.  So go check it out and let me know what you think!