Monday, June 27, 2011

Making Your Dreams a Reality

At lunch yesterday Ryan and I were talking about what it takes to make our dreams/desires a reality. Most of us have a list of things that we'd like to do or accomplish. Some may be far fetched and unrealistic but others are doable if we just "do". The problem is that we have all these desires but we don't "do" anything to make them come true. Now, I'm not saying that we need to act on all our desires and dreams because let's face it, we're human and not all of our desires are God honoring and could be more harmful than helpful. But I'm sure that if you are like me, there are things that you really want out of life but they seem like some distant hope for the future. A sort of, "the stars have to align" in order for that to happen. But how many of those things could be accomplished if we just did something about it. This led me to thinking about losing weight.

If you are new to my blog let me give you a little background on myself. I never had a weight problem until I was in college. I always had a healthy appetite and love for food but I was fairly active in high school so it wasn't a problem. In college I became more sedentary and then two years later, I got married. Married life was like a free for all when it came to eating. My husband and I both shared a love for food and so we ate...A LOT! I began packing on the pounds. I like to say that I went to bed skinny one night and woke up fat the next morning. I know it didn't happen like this but that's how I felt. Anyway, after years of yo-yo dieting, I lost some weight with the help of a diet program that made me drink shakes and take pills. After I dropped a good bit of weight, I got pregnant with Abigail, which was an answer to prayer! But instead of keeping my eating habits the same, I let my pregnancy be an excuse to eat anything I wanted and I pretty much ate everything! Once I had Abigail, I dropped some weight pretty quickly but after dealing with postpartum depression and eventually losing my job just after Abigail's first birthday I turned again to food. Food was my comfort and my friend. My life became all about food. I was an addict. In 2010 we moved to Louisiana. For the first time in my life I was living in a town without any family, mine nor Ryan's and again food became my solace. I packed on even more pounds. I weighed the most I had ever weighed but refused to actually weigh myself. At the beginning of 2011, I realized that I couldn't keep living this way and that my negative food choices were affecting my daughter and I didn't want her to grow up with the same problems with food that I've always dealt with. So we started making better choices, adding fruits and veggies, cutting out most junk food, drinking more water, etc. I lost some weight initially and making better choices became easier but it wasn't until May of this year that I really got it together and started dropping some serious pounds.

How did I do it, you ask? Well, for a long time my desire to lose weight and be certain size was merely a desire, a dream. I could strain my eyes and my mind and look into the future and see the me I wanted to be. But for a long time, it was just that. I had no goals, no plan to get there. That is why I spent years trying this diet and these pills. That's why I joined gyms and started exercise programs. That's why none of those things really worked. Yes, I lost a few pounds here or there but the truth is, if they had REALLY worked, I wouldn't be typing this message to you now. I wouldn't have gained the weight back. If what you are doing now to lose weight isn't something that you can realistically see yourself doing for the rest of your life...IT DOESN'T WORK!!! So again, you ask, how are you doing it and why is it different this time? Well, I'll tell you...

I set some goals and I made a plan. And this time it just wasn't a thought of, "I want to lose 30 pounds. I want to get back into a size 8 jeans. I'm going to go on a diet. I'm going to exercise." While all those thoughts have good intentions behind them, you know that the road to failure is often paved with good intentions. This time, I really put a plan into motion...a specific plan. My goals were to get more sleep, drink more water, complete the C25K running plan, eat more fruits and veggies, etc. And I'm doing all those things. I am on my seventh week of the C25K. It's a nine week plan. I'm going to graduate soon and I've gone from someone who hates running to someone who enjoys it. I used to be someone who went to bed around midnight every night. Now, I'm in my bed around 8:00 p.m. I read for about an hour and then I go to sleep. I get up early three days a week to run and I go for a walk or to the gym on the other days. And I've changed the way I eat. Like I've said before, I used to equate eating better with eating things I did not enjoy which always led to falling off the wagon and a trip to McDonald's. This time, I found ways to eat the things I love but in a healthier way. I'm not saying that I always get it right and I know that some days I eat too many calories but when I make a mistake, instead of saying, "oh well, I've already messed up, I might as well eat something unhealthy," I re-evaluate and start over. But the key to my success so far is making a plan and sticking to it. And when you find out your plan is no longer working as well for you as you like, change it up, take stock of where you are, and make the changes necessary to meet your goal. It really is as simple as that.

It applies to all areas of your life. Whatever your dream or desire might be. I have another dream that has been tormenting me and mocking me for years. I love to read and because of that I developed a love for writing. I always enjoyed writing papers in high school and college and through that love a desire write a book, a novel. But in the same way that I approached weight loss in the past, I approached writing a book. I started out with no real plan so on my computer is an unfinished novel that I started over five years ago. I have this great desire to finish it and write other novels. Truth be told, I have like four novels that I've started. But none of them are finished. I had no follow through. I would get overwhelmed with it and give up. Just like losing weight was something that I REALLY wanted and could squint into my future and see, it's the same with my book. I know I have it in me. I can look really hard into the future and see myself as a published author but how am I ever going to get there? It's going to take the same goal setting, plan making, and discipline that it has required of me to actually change my life and my weight.

I can see myself living this healthier lifestyle for the rest of my life. I enjoy it. I'm not having to swallow magic pills, drink disgusting shakes, go to meetings, or any other stuff that I wouldn't want to do forever. My life and my body is changing because I'm using it as it was designed to be use. I'm putting in healthy fuel, giving it the exercise it needs and deserves, treating it like the temple it is and that is why I feel better and look better. And today was my weigh in day. I'm down three more pounds for a total of  12 pounds down since around the middle of May.

So, whatever your dream or desire, if it honors God, go for it! Don't just sit there wishing for something to happen because more often than not, you'll still be sitting there in the years to come. Sometimes, you just have to make things happen for yourself. Don't just say your going to do it, make a plan, set some goals, and go for it. And find someone or some people, to keep you accountable. For me, it's my husband, my family, and my Facebook and blogger friends.

I've already been making my plan to finish my novel. I don't have all the steps down yet but I'm working on it. Maybe one day in the near future you'll be in your favorite bookstore and look over and see my name on the cover of a book on the shelf. And if you do, I hope you'll pick it up and buy it. And when you look on the back for the picture of the author, you'll see a slimmer more confident me!

Peace, Love, and Healthy Living,


Saturday, June 25, 2011

C25K: Week 6

What can you do for 25 minutes? Watch TV, read a book, work on a project, play outside with your kids...? I can do all those things too PLUS I can run...for 25 minutes! This is a major accomplishment from someone who just months ago wondered about people who ran. I'd always heard about "runner's high" but I couldn't get past the scream of my thighs to get anywhere near a "high". I hated running. But if you've been reading my blogs, you already know this. The Couch to 5K changed the way I feel about running and is changing my life. I am simply amazed.

When I started running six weeks ago, I started on a Sunday afternoon. I continued to stay on the same schedule, running Sunday's, Tuesday's, and Thursday's. That was until I got sick during week five. So instead of completing the week on a Thursday, I finished it on last Sunday evening. I started week six on Tuesday.

Week five ended with a 20 minute run so I assumed that going back to intervals on week six would be a breeze. I was wrong. Day one started off with the five minute walk followed by a 5 minute run, an eight minute run, and another five minute run. The first five minute run was OK. By the time I finished the eight minute run my legs were killing me and I wanted to stop. The last five minutes was TORTURE! I pushed through somehow. Sometimes finishing has everything to do with knowing that I have a group of people who are keeping up with me and encouraging me and I don't want to disappoint. The other part of it is that I've come so far and I owe it to myself!

I woke up late on Thursday which ended up being day two. Day two had two 10 minute runs. Again, I figured that it wasn't much different from day one and a lot shorter than the end of week five so I wouldn't have to much of a problem. Wrong again! And I don't like being wrong! Ha! I've come to believe that running is at least 50% mental if not more. Mind over matter, right? Right! I had also hit the snooze too many times that morning so I got home just before the baby arrived and I was a HOT mess, literally!

Since I'm off schedule, I got up a few minutes after 6:00 a.m. today to finish week six. Yes, on Saturday! I know, I can't believe it either. :) After how hard the previous days were, I had to push my doubts aside and just go for it. And I owned that 25 minute run! I'm not saying that there weren't times that I wish I could have just stopped and walked or when my legs weren't hurting but I finished and I finished well. I really believe what I said about running being mental. On the previous days knowing that I was going to be able to stop after a few minutes kept me looking forward to stopping but knowing ahead of time that I would run almost my entire route, I wasn't constantly listening for the cue to stop, I was enjoying my run and focusing on pushing myself to go just a bit farther. It's such an exhilarating experience to know that you've pushed yourself and that you've conquered something you never thought you could do.

I would like to get back to my normal schedule so I'm hoping to get up early in the morning and start week seven. Only two more weeks to go after this one! I can't believe it! I'm looking forward to running my first 5K with my mom and my uncle!

Oh and before you is what I look like after running for 25 minutes! Sweat never looked so me!'s not the best picture but who cares...I ran for 25 minutes! :)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

When It Rains...

The weather and my mood today were twins. It's been dark and cloudy outside all day. While I can't say that I've been in a bad mood today, I've been in a blah mood.

It all started at 3:00 a.m. this morning...

I had gone to bed early last night since today was my day to run. Around 3:00 a.m. this morning I was awakened by the sound of Abigail's voice saying, "Mommy, I peed in my bed." This has been a reoccurring thing recently. She hasn't worn a diaper or pull-up to bed since April. Ryan has gotten up with her the last couple of times but he had a rough day yesterday and I knew he needed to sleep so I got up with her. Once I got back to bed, I couldn't go back to sleep. I was so frustrated. I needed to get up in a couple of hours to go run and I needed my sleep.

I finally got back to sleep but when my alarm went off, I was not ready to get up. After hitting the snooze a couple of times and then turning it off all together, I overslept. Imagine that! Once I woke up and realized what had happened, I quickly dressed and headed out for my run. While the weather was overcast it was still sort of humid. I'm not sure what my problem has been this week but day one and day two were both difficult. Today I even felt a bit nauseous. I finished and made it home just before the baby I sit for arrived. So guess what that meant....NO SHOWER! Yuck! I did change my clothes since my running clothes were soaked with sweat but I had to go all day feeling yucky.

Later in the day, I finally got around to washing the soiled sheets from last night and some miscellaneous items. Only to find out later that my dryer was kaput! It's been on the fritz for a while now but somehow we've managed to get it working all the other times. Nothing I tried this time worked. Thank God for good friends who let us use their dryer. For now, I guess I'm going to have to do it the old fashion way and hang the clothes up to dry or go to a laundromat.

All of this comes just the day after we found out that Ryan has to have surgery next week on Tuesday. I've already been stressing over him actually having to have surgery, hospital bills, being alone with no family to wait with me while he has surgery, making plans for Abigail on the day of, etc. so to say that today was frustrating is to say the least.

But I know this, God is faithful and He provides! Nothing catches Him by surprise and that He is in control! Without that knowledge and hope I would be an even bigger basket case than I am now.

In the midst of all this, I do have a bit of good news to share. It's nothing earth shattering and it may not even be that exciting to you but it is to me...I barely have any love handles anymore! Ha! But I'm serious. I love looking in the mirror and seeing the changes in my body and today I noticed that I've lost a good bit of fat around my hips and waist. So exciting for me! And I'm loving my legs right now. They aren't perfect but so much better than before!

That is all!

Peace, Love, and Healthy Living,


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Cooking My Way: NO SOUP FOR YOU!

Just kidding! In case you're wondering about the title of my post, I'm referencing one of my favorite Seinfeld episodes. The owner/chef at the soup shop in town is referred to as "The Soup Nazi."  He serves the best soup in town but if you want it you have to follow his orders to get it. There is certain protocol that you must follow while in his shop. If you don't, he yells, "No soup for you!" and you are out of luck.

Thankfully, I am NOT "The Soup Nazi" and on this recipe Wednesday, I am going to share with you two of my favorite and healthy soup recipes. Sadly, I do not have any pictures of either soup so you'll just have to take my word for it. Both recipes come from my granddaddy Strickland who I still believe should have opened a restaurant!

Tomato Basil Soup (Probably my favorite soup EVER)

4 tbs of butter (you can substitute evoo or do half butter and half evoo. I use the whipped version of the Smart Balanced Low-Sodium butter.)
2 cups onion, finely diced
1 cup celery, finely diced
1 cup carrots, finely diced
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 28 oz can of diced tomatoes
1 cup of heavy cream (I believe that Land of Lakes makes a fat free heavy cream)
3 cups low sodium chicken broth
Salt and pepper to taste
Pinch of sugar
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil, divided - use 1/2 in soup and other 1/2 to garnish.

In a stock pot or dutch oven over medium heat, melt the butter. Add onions, celery, and carrots and saute 10-15 minutes or until onions are translucent. Add flour and cook and additional 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly to prevent scorching. Add tomatoes, cream, and broth and bring to a light simmer for 30 minutes. Taste and season with salt, pepper, and sugar if desired. Remove from heat and add 1/3 cup of basil. Use submersion blender to combine (you can also do this in batches in a regular blender). Serve immediately. Garnish with remaining basil.

Cauliflower Soup

1 head of cauliflower, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 limb of celery, chopped
4 cups of low sodium chicken broth
pepper to taste
1 can of fat free evaporated milk

In a stock pot saute onion and celery in a little evoo, about 5-6 minutes until tender. Add chopped cauliflower, chicken broth, and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cover with lid. Simmer for 20 minutes or until cauliflower is tender. Remove from heat and add evaporated milk. Blend until smooth with a submersion blender. *Disclaimer* This is a fairly thin soup so more than likely you'll want to eat it as a side. We like grilled chicken or sandwiches with it.

OK. I know that I said I was going to give you two of my favorite soup recipes but I'll give you one more as a little bonus! :)

I was never a big soup eater growing up. I detested vegetable soup which was a common dish in our house during the winter months. There were only two soups that I actually liked and both were made by my granddaddy Strickland. The first was his homemade chicken noodle soup (I'll give you guys this recipe later but I don't have it on hand right now without spending forever looking for my missing recipe book. Have I ever mentioned how much I hate moving? Ha!) The other was his split pea soup. It was probably my favorite as a kid and he didn't make it often. Back then, before he developed diabetes and became more health conscious, it wasn't very healthy considering it had ham hock in it! Ha ha! But like many of his other "famous" recipes, he tweaked them to make them healthier but no less yummy. It's funny how all of my favorite soups were/are made by him. Most of the men in my family can attest to their love of cooking and their skill at it because of him. Until I was about 15 or so, he worked for the Georgia State Prison. He taught inmates how to build things. He made it home early in the afternoons before my grandma did so he cooked supper almost every night. We ate with them for lunch on Saturday's and even on the weekend, he was the primary cook. I always look forward to going home and eating with my grandparent's. You never know what he's going to make! So without further ado, here is the split pea soup recipe...

Split Pea Soup

1 small onion, chopped
1 1lb bag of split peas
Pepper to taste
2 packs of ham flavored Goya
5 cups of water
1 can fat free evaporated milk

Saute onion in a bit of evoo. Add peas, Goya, water, and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes. Remove from heat and add milk. Blend with submersion blender.

For all three recipes you need a submersion blender. You can blend in batches in a regular blender but it's a pain. Depending on what brand you buy, submersion blenders aren't too expensive and it's a great tool to have.

Hope you enjoy these soups! I am now a soup lover and I don't care what time of year it is, summer or winter, I'll be eating soup! :)

Peace, Love, and Healthy Living,


Sunday, June 19, 2011

C25K: Week 5

What a crazy week this has been. It started off like any other week. I got up last Sunday morning and ran day one of week five of the C25K running plan. Day one started me off with three five minute runs. It went well, if my memory serves me correct. Ha! It truly has felt like two weeks instead of one.

Tuesday was our eight year anniversary. I got up like I normally do on Tuesdays and ran day two which included two eight minute runs. In my last post I confessed that I had eaten a little differently than I normally do but I monitored it and I went back to the gym that night. When I went to bed on Tuesday, I was happy with myself and what I'd accomplished so far and I was actually looking forward to Thursday and my final run of the week.

But on Wednesday afternoon, I noticed that my throat felt a little sore. I hoped that it was just a fluke and that I wasn't actually getting sick. It's not uncommon for my throat to hurt randomly due to sinus stuff. But before church was over on Wednesday night, I could barely swallow. I went on to the gym but decided to hit the treadmill first instead of the circuit training. Walking on the treadmill was torture. I couldn't increase my speed because my whole body ached and my throat was killing me. After 30 minutes I'd had enough.

By the time I got home I knew that I wouldn't be getting up the next morning to run. I was so disappointed. Day three was supposed to be a real test of my endurance...a 20 minute run. I really wanted to see if I could do it. By Thursday morning, my throat was swollen and fire engine red. I ended up a urgent care. Two shots and three prescriptions later, I was home to rest.

I had hoped to be able to get up on Saturday morning and finish week five but my body really needed the extra rest. After grocery shopping for the next week, I took Abigail to a birthday party for a family friend. *Confession Alert* I had a cupcake and a snack-sized bag of Frito's. Later on we went back to our friends house and ate dinner. We had brown rice and chicken. It was a healthy meal. However, later on I was still hungry and I'm not sure if my resolve was down because I had been sick but I was craving a hamburger. So, my friend and I went to Sonic. We split a hamburger and I had another snack-sized bag of chips, Doritos this time. I justified it and went on about my night. But an hour or so after eating it, I had stomach pains and I felt miserable. I ended up staying up really late last night so I didn't get the sleep that my body needed.

I had set my alarm to get up on Sunday morning and finish week 5. I would normally be starting a new week not finishing a week. I was so tired that I just turned my alarm off and went back to sleep. We overslept and luckily we were only a few minutes late to Sunday School. We grabbed some organic granola bars for breakfast as we headed out the door.

As you know, today was Father's day. Ryan wanted to eat at Copeland's which has yummy Cajun-style food. I'm just going to go ahead and say what I have to say. It's like pulling a band-aid off. We ordered a FRIED appetizer and I ordered a calorie loaded pasta dish with a crab cake stuffed eggplant...FRIED! Again, I justified my options even though there were several options to get something much healthier. I will say that I ate much less than I would have a couple of months ago and I left the leftovers at the restaurant so I wouldn't be tempted by them again.

I went home and felt full and guilty. I also felt sluggish. I had finally had enough. Around 6:45, I got my running clothes and shoes on. I left Abigail with Ryan and walked outside. The wind was blowing pretty good so it made it feel cooler out than it was. I was going to do this. I owed it to myself and my body especially after I had given it such poor choices this week. I completed my five minute warm-up walk and I was ready for my run. It felt good. When the lady on my iPod said that I was halfway done, I smiled. I still felt good. I couldn't believe I was doing it. The last 1/4 of the run was tough but I pushed through. If I hadn't felt so wobbly when I transitioned from running to walking, I probably would have broken out into my happy dance right there on the sidewalk. As soon as I got my heart rate down a bit, I called my mom. I had to tell someone that I had finished and she's probably my biggest fan! Thanks mom!

I came home and Ryan and Abigail congratulated me. I sat down on the stairs to cool off and I let out a little victory yell. Yes, they both thought I was acting crazy but I was so happy. After a nice cool shower, I had supper. I wasn't really that hungry so I had half a peanut butter sandwich and some strawberries.

Before I ran, I was thinking about blogging and chalking this week up to a loss. I mean you win some, you lose some, right? But even though I didn't eat the best all week, I'm counting this week as a victory in my book. Being able to run 20 minutes without stopping is something to be proud of and it's an accomplishment.

Here's to next week. I'm not sure what the scale is going to show when I weigh tomorrow but whatever happens, I'm back on track and on my way to being better than ever!

Peace, Love, and Healthy Living,


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Cooking My Way: Grilled Shrimp and Spinach Salad with Lime Dressing

I bet you thought I was going to forget about recipe Wednesday! Nope! I'm just a little behind today, that's all.

Yesterday, Ryan and I celebrated our 8 year anniversary! I wanted to do a blog post designated to our special day but we ended up being gone all day and I just didn't get around to it today. Friends, you can see pics from our outing in New Orleans yesterday over on Facebook.

I feel like there should be some sort of confession about what I ate yesterday. I decided before hand that wherever we went to lunch yesterday, I would get what I wanted and I wouldn't feel guilty about it. It's been a while since I've let myself indulge a bit and I figured it would be better to do it and monitor it than to just totally blow it another day and fall off the wagon all together. So, I had a really yummy ham sandwich at Luke in New Orleans. Luke is one of chef John Besh's restaurants. What's so bad about a ham sandwich you say? Well, consider that it's on some sort of white bread goodness and then it's smothered in a white cheese and they place a fried egg on top and it come with homemade fries! I ate half of the sandwich and a handful of their skinny fries. Abigail ended up eating most of the other half even though we had ordered her chicken fingers. We also stopped for supper in Slidell at The Italian Pie - this is the place next to the gym that smells so good. But I decided that I could eat there and still be guilt free. I opted for a salad and asked them not to bring the bread sticks. I had one small slice of Abigail's kid sized mushroom pizza. Overall, I felt good about the day. We walked a lot in New Orleans, plus I had run day two of week 5 of the C25K that morning and we went to the gym for about 40 minutes that evening. All in all we had a great day!

Now back to the matter at hand. Here is a delicious salad and dressing recipe. I've discovered that homemade dressings taste better and are way better for you than store bought!

Lime Dressing

1 jalapeno, seeded, coarsely chopped
1 clove of garlic
1/4 cup lime juice
1/3 cup honey (I feel like you can reasonably reduce this to 1/4 cup or less depending on how sweet you want it. Plus reducing the quantity reduces your sugar intake for this dish.)
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp salt or to taste
1/4 cup packed cilantro leaves
1/2 cup evoo

Place jalapeno and garlic into blender or food processor. Pulse until finely chopped. Pour in lime juice, honey, vinegar, salt and cilantro. Pulse to blend. Slowly drizzle in evoo on low until incorporated. Taste. Salt if necessary. Place in a container with a lid and place in fridge until ready for use.

*This makes a lot of dressing. It should save for a while in you refrigerator. It's so good, I'm sure you'll want to eat a salad again the next day just to taste the dressing again! :)

Grilled Shrimp and Spinach Salad

25-30 small to medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
5-6 skewers, soaked in water for at least 30 minutes.
Fresh baby spinach leaves
Shredded carrots
Almond slivers
Reduced fat Feta cheese
Lime dressing (see recipe above)

Season shrimp. I think we used salt, pepper, garlic, and smoked paprika. (Ryan seasoned the shrimp so I'm not 100% sure what was on them. Just season to your liking.) Place five shrimp on each skewer. Grill. Shrimp do not take long to cook. You only need to cook for a few minutes on each side.

Divide all other ingredients, except dressing, into three separate bowls. Take shrimp off skewers and divide among bowls. Drizzle with dressing.

*When we made this, Ryan and I had two skewers a piece and Abigail had one. However, she ate several of my shrimp so if feeding three people I would suggest at least 30 shrimp. Of course you can increase or decrease to fit your needs.


Peace, Love, and Healthy Living,


Sunday, June 12, 2011

Sunday Mornings and Black Pants

A few months ago, I stood, staring, at my closet. Tears pricked the corners of my eyes. Sunday's were supposed to be a day of rejoicing and a desire to meet with God's people and worship Him but here I was almost in tears wishing I could just crawl back in bed and stay in the over sized t-shirt and cotton, elastic waistband shorts that I was wearing. Getting dressed was emotionally exhausting and I had only myself to blame for the mess that I was in. With an exasperated sigh, I reached into the drawers in my closet and pulled out a pair of knee length, black, dress pants. I had no idea if they would fit or not. I got them on and buttoned them up, barely. Muffin top is not the word I would use to describe the fat spilling out over the top of these pants, it was much more than that. I don't recall what shirt I wore but I remember having to find something billowy that didn't cling to the mass above the top of my pants and long enough to cover how tight these pants were across my bum. Off to church we went and all the while praying that I wouldn't be noticed by many people. I tried to shut off the thoughts I was having about myself and concentrate on the sermon. All in all, I felt disgusting and disgusted with myself.

Flash back nearly 10 years ago and I was a slim, teen aged girl, and a pageant queen. I had no problem with my self-esteem and I felt great about myself. I wondered how I had gone from that person to the person I was now. On the inside, I still felt like that teen aged girl but the mirror told a different story. I remember being back in my hometown for a visit. I had gone out to eat in the neighboring town with some friends of mine and we ran into a former classmate whom I hadn't seen since graduation. After a brief chat, he congratulated me on my pregnancy! Abigail was around a year old at this time. I laughed it off and said, "no, I'm not pregnant, just fat." I had a smile on my face but on the inside I was dying of embarrassment. Not even that moment was enough for me to get behind my problem and make the changes necessary to fix it.

I can't say that the Sunday in front of my closet and getting ready for church that morning was my defining moment either but it was around that time that I decided I'd had enough. As the months have progressed those black pants have been a measuring stick so to speak on how well I've been doing. I've worn them off and on in the months since then and each time they've fit a little better but they've still been tight. It's been about a month since I've last worn them and today I decided that it was time to pull them out again. As I pulled them on and zipped them up, I sort of hesitated to button them. Would they still feel tight or would they reflect how well I've been doing and all the hard work that I've put in recently? I'm sure you've all heard the expression, "fit like a glove" and they did. They fit perfectly! They actually fit better than they did several years ago when I bought them. I added a button up shirt  that I had bought in April and it fit better too.

For the first time in a long time, I actually felt really great about how I looked on the way to church this morning. My mind wasn't wondering about how people perceived me. Plus, I had run my first day of week 5 of C25K earlier and I was feeling good about running for five minutes, three times!

I do want to clarify that for me, this journey isn't all about how I look and what size clothing I end up wearing. It truly is about being healthier and doing what's best for my body and my family. Looking better and wearing smaller sizes is just part of the reward for living this healthier lifestyle.

Peace, Love, and Healthy Living,


Thursday, June 9, 2011

C25K: Week 4

One of my all time favorite comedian's is Jerry Seinfeld. I had never heard of him until I started watching his TV show, Seinfeld. Something about him reminded me of my cousin David and his sense of  humor. David was more like a brother than a cousin so you can see why it was easy to like Jerry. Majority of his jokes start with "What's the deal with..." A while back, I came across one of his jokes that went something like this, "What's the deal with TGIF? Saturday is clearly the better day!" It was funny because it was true. Most people who say TGIF are thankful that it's the last day of the work week and the weekend is just around the corner. But for those who don't have to work on Saturday, it's the better day. A whole day to do what you want, relax, etc. Lately, I've been saying TGIT...Thank Goodness It's Thursday!

What a strange statement. Why would I be happy that it's Thursday? What's so special about Thursday? I mean, I can understand TGIF but why would you say TGIT? Well for starters, the Bible tells us that, "This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be GLAD in it!" - Psalm 118:24 We should be thankful for everyday that the Lord has given us. Be thankful that you have another day to praise Him on this earth and another day to live out your faith. But for the sake of this blog post, I say TGIT because Thursday's mean the final day of whatever week of The Couch to 5K that I am on. And today meant the final day of week four.

Let me say that again...WEEK 4! I have been training to run a 5K for a month now! That is a long time for me. Especially since I am relying on me, myself, and I. I really have no one holding me accountable...well except you guys. It does help me make the decision to get out of bed early in the morning to go run, knowing that there are several of you out there who are waiting on my next post or wondering how I did this week. Thank you for that! It feels so great to have accomplished this and to know that I only have 5 weeks left!

Here's how week four went...

Last week, I was amazed that I could run for three minutes twice. This week started off with the traditional five minute warm up walk, followed by a three minute run, a 90 second walk, a FIVE minute run, and then a 2 minute walk. This was all followed by a repeat of the three minute run, 90 second walk, FIVE minute run, and then the five minute cool down walk. HOLY COW! I was scared starting out week four. I knew that it was going to require two five minute runs. I did pretty good on the first day. I do have to say that my prayer life increased this week. Especially during those five minute runs. The first day was on Sunday and I felt pretty good.

On Tuesday, I had to wait to run that evening. My husband had to work the morning shift that morning and I didn't want to get Abigail up so early or have to do it with the stroller. So, after a yummy dinner of grilled shrimp and spinach salad with a home made lime dressing, I headed out the door. This time, it was a tiny bit easier, plus during those five minute runs, I tried to think about something else to keep my mind off of the run and how much I wanted to stop and walk. Envisioning myself the way I want to look and feel helped me out a lot.

Today I finished out the week. Normally, days one or two are the hardest but for some reason, day three tried to defeat me. I wouldn't let it! I have been tired all week. I'm not sure why. I have gone to bed a little later a couple of times but I've still been in bed earlier than was the norm for me just a month ago. When my alarm went off, I wanted nothing more than to catch that last hour of sleep before the baby I sit for arrived. But I made myself get up and get ready. I usually have no problem with that first three minute run but it felt hard for some reason. By the last five minute run, I was exhausted, ready to give up, and a tad bit nauseous. I tried the tactic from day two...thinking of something else or envisioning my future self. I was mentally exhausted too. I could get the image but I couldn't keep it. Today's run was definitely a mental battle as well as a physical one. But in the end...I won! I did it! Go me!

I'm not sure how the run next week goes. To be honest, I've been a little afraid to look! But rest assured, come Sunday morning, I'll be out the door and pushing forward towards my goal...running a 5K in July with my mom!

Peace, Love, and Happy Living,


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Cooking My Way: Grilled Turkey Burgers with Guacamole

It's recipe Wednesday! I just love sharing recipes with you all and I love getting and trying new recipes as well. Cooking has been a lifesaver for my healthier lifestyle. In the past, when I tried to "diet" I failed mostly because of what I was eating. I thought eating healthy meant eating stuff that I didn't really like. I even tried doing a program through a local gym once and I had to eat the same things every day and none of them was anything that I looked forward to. So eventually, I would give up and give in and head to the nearest McDonald's for a double cheeseburger, large fry, and a large diet coke! I would then eat every bite and go looking for something sweet to follow it up. I would officially be off the wagon again!

But this time has been different. It started back in January when I decided to clean up my eating. I added fresh fruits and veggies to my diet. Once I got used to eating that instead of chips or fries with a meal, I got a little more courageous in the kitchen. A big help was Jillian Michael's Mastering Your Metabolism Cookbook. She has lots of really great and tasty recipes to try. And like I've said before, my granddaddy Strickland is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to eating healthier and he creates some of the yummiest, healthiest recipes that I know. He was the first person that I ever heard of that ate quinoa and now it's a staple in our home. We eat it at least once a week. Right now, I have Mexican chicken and quinoa cooking in the crock pot. It's sort of a made up recipe that supposed to be similar to Arroz Con Pollo but with quinoa. I sort of took this and that from other recipes and made it my own. Look for that recipe coming soon.

Below you'll find the recipe to the turkey burgers that Ryan and I made last week. It was a meal that I was looking forward to because a cheeseburger is my ultimate go to, comfort food. I was excited to try a healthier version of a favorite meal. Several months ago when I was visiting family, my brother made burgers with fresh guacamole on top. It was so yummy and guacamole is good for you in small portions so we decided to add that to our turkey burgers. It was a delicious and satisfying meal and I'm sure it will be on our meal plan again in the near future.

Here you go:

Grilled Turkey Burgers with Guacamole
(Makes 4 burgers)

1 lb of lean ground turkey
Smoked Paprika
Garlic Powder

2 ripe avocados
1/2 packet of guacamole seasoning
1 jalapeno, seeded and finely diced
Onion, finely diced (I used about a handful but you can use more or less depending on what you want.)
Tomato, diced (I used about a handful but you can use more or less depending on what you want.)
Cilantro, chopped (I used about a handful but you can use more or less depending on what you want.)
1/2 lime, juiced

Reduced Fat Pepper Jack Cheese
Fresh baby spinach leaves
Whole Wheat Sandwich Rounds or hamburger buns (We used the sandwich rounds because they were thinner and had less calories and carbs.)

Mix in salt, pepper, cumin, smoked paprika, and garlic powder with ground turkey. We did not measure the spices. Use to your liking.

Pat out and shape into patties. Because the sandwich rounds are wider than hamburger buns, we made them fairly thin so they would be about the same size as the round.

While the patties are on the grill you can make your guacamole. Cut avocados lengthwise and remove the pit. Using a spoon, scoop out avocado and put into a mixing bowl. Add 1/2 packet of guacamole seasoning, mix together, mashing with fork. Add in jalapeno, onion, tomato, cilantro, and lime juice. Mix well. Cover with plastic wrap and place in fridge until ready to use.

Cilantro and lime are not pictured below. Sorry!
 Abigail loves to help in the kitchen!

Just before your burgers are ready to come off the grill, add a slice of reduced fat pepper jack cheese. Place burger on bun and top with a spoonful of guacamole and fresh spinach leaves. The guacamole is creamy and flavorful so you don't really need any other condiments. Serve with baked sweet potato fries.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

A Look Back: How Being a Camp Counselor Changed My Life

In the summer of 2002, my mom and dad drove me up to Tennessee and left me.

OK. It wasn't as dramatic as that but that's how I felt.

As a youth in church, I loved summertime because summertime meant one thing...youth camp. We tried several camps while I was in the youth department but my favorite one had been Quest Camp which was a part of Inquest Ministries. I knew from the my first camp experience that when I was old enough, I wanted to be a camp counselor. So my final summer as a camper we went to Quest Camp in Brevard, NC. I remember talking to a man who was in charge of the camps at that time and expressing my desire to become a counselor the following summer. After a brief talk, he told me to fill out the application and say that I had talked to him. And eventually, I did.

I was ecstatic to get the phone call in early 2002 that I had been selected as a camp counselor for the 2002 summer of Quest Camp at Hiwassee College in Madisonville, TN. So the time came for my parents to drop me off. I was nervous, excited, and scared. At 19 years old, I had never been away from my family for more than a week or so at the time. I was embarking on a nearly three month long adventure. And an adventure it was! It was an all around great summer. I learned and experience new things, became stronger in my faith and my discernment of spiritual things. But one thing happened to me that summer that changed my life over the next 9 years. I wish that I could say that it was some great spiritual revelation. But it wasn't. That summer started my downward spiral into food addiction and a growing weight problem.

Now, I must confess that I've always had a healthy appetite and a love for food. I can't say that summer was 100% to blame but I can look back at that time and see where the patterns and problems started. First of all, food was my comfort. I was miles and miles away from the people that loved me the most. Ryan and I were dating during this time as well, and I won't even tell you about the astronomical cell phone bill that I racked up!!! While I couldn't possibly be lonely, there were always tons of campers, and on the occasional off day or the few hours between campers leaving and more campers arriving, I was surrounded my some pretty great people...the other counselors. They were (are) a great group of people to spend a summer with. I love that Facebook has given most of us the opportunity to reconnect. But even with the friendships I forged that summer, I still turned to food for comfort. I had a dorm room to myself. Which is some ways was great. But at the end of a very long day, there was no one to talk to. I would call Ryan on the phone and after we hung up, I would feel lonely again. So, I would eat. I always had a good source of snacks in my room. And it was always so cold in there that I didn't need a fridge! Ha ha! But that wasn't the only time I ate.

Secondly, my life that summer was on an unrealistic schedule. I ate when I was hungry but I didn't make wise choices. As you know, I am NOT a morning person. So, I didn't always make it down to breakfast so I ate a granola bar on the way to morning worship. At some point, we had lunch. I have to say that for the most part, the food wasn't great, so it was a lot of chicken fingers, pizza, french fries, and honey mustard for me. Then I led several groups through a low ropes course. Afterwards, I had to grab supper early to have enough time to get a shower before heading to evening worship. Which usually meant supper at 4 p.m. This was usually followed by a snack of some sort during Late Night. My friend Jesse was usually pretty good at supplying me with hot, buttery popcorn during this time. After Late Night we were usually starving again and had things to do before we could start camp the next morning so some of us would make a fast food run. So my last meal would be somewhere around midnight. Just thinking about the fatty, greasy food consumed during those late nights makes me feel ill.

Third, us counselors, especially the girls, bonded over food. I remember two places we frequented often when we had the occasional free time. There was a really great Mexican restaurant that was fairly cheap and had yummy food. I think I have some pictures somewhere with a group of us standing out front. And then there was this other place. I can't remember the name of it. But they had the BEST club sandwiches and honey mustard of anywhere I have ever been. To this day, I still haven't met a club sandwich that came anywhere close to this one. (I even remember as newlyweds on our way up to Pigeon Forge, TN, begging Ryan to make a side-stop for a club sandwich at this place. But we didn't.) We frequented there so often that I remember Lauren and I trying to get one of the guys who worked there to give us some t-shirts.

I distinctly remember the day towards the end of the summer that I tried to wear a pair of jeans that had fit perfectly at the beginning of the summer. They were button flies, my favorite pair. I had grown accustomed to wearing shorts during most of the summer because it was so hot but I had decided to wear these jeans to evening worship. I think that I may have gotten the bottom two buttoned and that was it. I was astonished. How could these jeans possibly not fit? I hadn't even really noticed the weight gain but I had gained a fair amount in just a couple months time.

There was a gym there. Some of us had tried to work out whenever we could. And we were constantly walking everywhere and up hill most of the way. But alas, eating too much had won. I remember looking at some pictures from the last week of camp and thinking how fat I was. But that was only the beginning. I dropped a good bit of the weight when I came home. One from having good home cooked meals and two from no more late night fast food runs. But the habits that I developed there didn't altogether disappear. Even though I was back with my family and my boyfriend, I still turned to food when I was alone or stressed or upset. It didn't stop there. Eventually thoughts of food consumed me. If you remember a previous post, I already told you that I talked about food non-stop during home room my senior year. So, something that was a small thing back then had snowballed into something big in my life. The summer of 2002 just gave it all the momentum it needed.

There is more to this story so stay tuned for the rest of it at a later time.

PS. I wish I had a picture to upload today from camp that summer. But they are all packed up. I may try and get some out and scan them in and add them at a later time. :)

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Buffalo Chicken Chili

I know I said that I was reserving Wednesday's to post recipes but I figured I'd go ahead and post one today. Tomorrow for lunch we are having Buffalo Chicken Chili. This recipe is courtesy of a former boss of mine. I worked for Mrs. Lisa when BCF still had a daycare. It was a great job. Please check out her blog here. Or you can check out more of her recipes here.

After lunch today, I decided to go ahead and put the chili together so that it can sit in the fridge over night. Dishes like chili tend to be more flavorful the next day anyway. Plus, all I'll have to do after church tomorrow is warm it up. So here it is:

Buffalo Chicken Chili

3 Tbs EVOO
2 lbs of boneless skinless chicken breast, boiled and chopped
1 large onion, diced
3 stalks of celery, chopped
1/2 bell pepper, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 15 oz can of tomato sauce
1 15 oz can of diced tomatoes
1 can of light red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed
1 bottle of your favorite buffalo sauce ( I like Texas Pete Buffalo Wing sauce) - use 1/2 to 3/4 bottle depending on how hot you want it.
3 Tbs smoked paprika
1 Tbs cumin
Salt to taste
Blue Cheese crumbles to serve on top

Instructions and pictures below.

Chop all your veggies while your chicken is boiling...

 Saute veggies in EVOO until tender. About 5-7 minutes.

Chop the chicken while your veggies are cooking. Don't forget to stir the veggies a few times as well.

 Drain and rinse your beans.

Once the veggies are tender. Add all other ingredients. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer. I like to let mine cook for about an hour.

 Here's a glimpse at what the finished product looks like. Since I'm uploading this recipe before we eat it. I don't have a picture of it being served. I bought some blue cheese crumbles to add on top when we eat it.

Hope you all enjoy! Thanks again to Mrs. Lisa for the recipe! Let me know if you try it!

Peace, Love, and Healthy Living,


Thursday, June 2, 2011

C25K: Week 3

It's Thursday and do you know what that means?

I FINISHED week three of the Couch to 5K running plan today!

I constantly amaze myself (not in a conceited way). Or maybe I should say that I am amazed at what I can actually do. Last night at the gym I was in the Express Workout (circuit training) area. When we get there on Wednesday nights after church, that area is "coached" meaning that a trainer is in the area and keeps up with your time so you know when to start and stop. Basically you are doing each machine for a minute a piece for as many reps as you can do. Anyway, if you're not quite sure how to use the machine or if they think you can handle a little more weight than you're doing, they'll help you and let you know. They are also a good source of encouragement. Ryan and I do the circuit training at the same time so he's busy with what he's doing so it's nice to have someone else who motivates you to keep going or to do another rep. I have weak arms. They've always been weak and I have to work really hard for them to be strong and as you know, it's been a LONG time since I've worked on them. Unless you count, lifting and carrying Abigail! :) Back to last night...I was on my second round of CT when my arms just didn't want to go anymore. I was struggling to lift the weight and the trainer encouraged to me to push through it and do at least one more rep. And I did! He then said, "see, you're stronger than you think you are." It was a great encouragement and I thought about that again today as I was running. I am stronger than I think I am, otherwise I wouldn't be able to continue each week of C25K. I've already told you that I HATE running and always have. I like the IDEA of running but I don't actually like running. Until now. I'm not to the point where I can say that I LOVE running but I'm enjoying it more and more and I love the sense of accomplishment that I feel when I'm done with each set. It's a great feeling! So, if you are out there thinking about starting C25K or any sort of exercise program or if you just want to start out eating can do it! Listen to me, YOU ARE STRONGER THAN YOU THINK YOU ARE!!!

Now, back to my week 3 of C25K....

I started out on Sunday morning, early. By the time I got dressed and got out the door it was about 6:15 a.m. Let me say this, I AM NOT A MORNING PERSON!!! People who know me well, know that it's not always wise to try and have a conversation with me first thing in the morning. I'm a bear! And the only time, I've ever successfully gotten up early in the morning to exercise was when I was in college and that was thanks to Rebekah Fries Phillips and my mom. And they both can attest to my dislike of mornings! :) But I knew that Ryan had to work on Sunday afternoon and that it would be better to get out there before it was hot. And while I love my running stroller, it does make the days run a little more difficult. So, I crawled out of bed and out the door. I've already told you how unsure I was. But I did it, two 90 second runs and two three minute runs!

Day two for me was on Tuesday. Same thing, I got up early and got my run in. Same thing is true for today, day three. I was out the door about 6:15.

There is no one waiting on me outside to exercise with them. My mom doesn't call me in the mornings and wake me up like she used to when I was still in college. She doesn't come knock on my door. Ryan only grunts when my alarm goes off in the morning. So, who gets me up? Who makes sure I get my run in before it's too hot and before Abigail wakes up and the baby I sit for arrives? I DO! Sometime, I still can't believe the changes that have taken place in my life this year. I want to say that I feel like a different person but truth is, I'm just getting back to feeling like the person I was before I put on all the weight. And I love seeing the changes in the mirror.

I've had several people over this past week tell me that they were starting the C25K plan and that I inspired them to do that! Wow! I never thought I'd see the day where I inspired someone to get active and get healthy! It feels incredible!

Peace, Love, and Happy Living,


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Cooking My Way: Chicken Spaghetti with Spinach Salad

It's recipe Wednesday! Yes, you read that right. I am officially declaring Wednesday's as recipe sharing day on my blog. I am always looking for new, healthy recipes to make for my family and I don't mind sharing with you guys. Thank you to those of you who have shared recipes with me.

The spaghetti recipe today comes from my friend, Rebekah Fries Phillips. She saw my post on Facebook about loving to cook in the crock pot and graciously shared a couple of recipes with me. I followed the recipe exactly and it was so yummy. However, I like to make things my own so, I am going to include what I'm going to do differently next time.

Here we go...

Crock Pot Chicken Spaghetti

1 onion diced
2 boneless, skinless chicken breast
2 cans of Italian diced tomatoes
whole wheat spaghetti noodles

Dice onion and place in bottom of crock pot. Place the chicken breast on top. Pour over the cans of tomatoes. Turn on low and cook on low for at least 4 hours. Cook spaghetti noodles according to package directions. Easy!

*I did add a little kosher salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper to my crock pot after I put in the tomatoes. I do have to say, that while this recipe was really yummy, the sauce was a little thin. So next time, I will add some tomato sauce and a bit of paste just to thicken it up. I will probably cut up a bell pepper or throw a bag of frozen seasoning blend in there next time. Maybe some mushrooms too. The recipe is really versatile. I think you can really make it what you want. That's another reason I love it so much and wanted to share it with you.

On Sunday, I just opened a can of green beans to go with it. Normally, I cook them with a ham flavored Goya pack and some oregano. The oregano gives the beans a great flavor plus it complements the flavors of the spaghetti. But unfortunately I was out of oregano so I decided to use coriander seed powder. It was pretty yummy too.

We had leftovers on Monday and since we had eaten all the green beans on Sunday, I decided to make us a quick salad.

Spinach Salad

Fresh baby spinach leaves
Nuts (I wanted to use pecans or walnuts but what I had of each had gone bad. So, I used almonds)
Goat cheese
Shredded carrots
Pomegranate dressing

I sort of just eyeballed the amounts in the salad. I only made enough for me and Ryan so I took out two bowls, filled each with spinach. I tossed in a handful of nuts, sprinkled some goat cheese and carrots. I made a homemade pomegranate dressing. The dressing recipe is courtesy of Clara via a magazine article she read.

Pomegranate Dressing
(The recipe is for one serving but it's for two cups of spinach. I doubt you'll eat a huge salad like that if you are eating the spaghetti with it. I made it according to the recipe and split the dressing between Ryan and myself. I still think it was a tad too much. It could probably be easily split between three or four people for a small side salad. Or you could always use the dressing on the side method and just dip your fork into the dressing before each bite. Just be sure you pour yourself some and aren't double dipping! ;) )

2 Tbs of 100% pomegranate juice
1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp of Dijon mustard

Place all ingredients in a small bowl and whisk together. YUMMY! :)

Once again, I hope you enjoy these recipes. Let me know if you try them and what changes you make, if any. Also, if there are other recipes that I haven't shared that you are interested in, leave me a comment and let me know.

Peace, Love, and Healthy Living,