The Game Plan: Act II, Part I

Wow. I can honestly say I am blown away by the supportive comments that I received on yesterday’s post. I’ll admit, I was having a semi-hyperventilation experience after pressing the “publish” button, but I should know better by now than to expect anything but amazingness from you all. Thank you so much.

All right, so now that the official declaration (and subsequent confession of weight gain) is out of the way, let’s talk specifics. Obviously, I’m not going to get back into weight loss mode by simply talking (er, writing?) about it (though how I wish I could!). I find myself in an interesting position right now, actually, because yes, the fact of the matter is that I’ve already done this.

So technically, you would think that I already know everything I need to do, right?

Well, here’s hoping.

See, I do know some of the things that I need to start doing. I definitely need to start actively tracking my calories again (which I’ve already started, thanks to my handy-dandy calorie counting iPhone app). I definitely need to get back into some form of cardio, since I’ve been pushing it to the wayside at the gym lately in favor of strength training (which I don’t intend to STOP, I just need to find a better balance between the two). But I am a little worried that doing all of the things I was doing before — snacking throughout the day, pretty much only tracking calories and not other nutritional stats, etc. — won’t be quite as effective this time around (for Act II, as we are calling it). After all, I was still doing those things during the entire time that my weight loss had stalled, and the lack of results got very frustrating for me. I think this was a big part of the reason why I let so many of those good habits slide during “intermission”, and thus why I gained 16 pounds back.

So this time, I want to make sure, like Samantha said in her comment yesterday, that I’m really establishing sustainable, long-term, habits that won’t mean weight gain the minute I stop actively counting my calories. Because I swear, if I have am destined for a life of recording every morsel of food that I put in my mouth and tabulating my calories every single day for the rest of my life, I would rather just be fat.

So over the next couple of weeks I’ll be detailing all of the weight-loss-focused elements that I’m working back into my diet and exercise regimen.

Part I: Eat a GOOD breakfast.

I will admit right upfront that I got incredibly lazy about eating breakfast. In fact, it was one of the first things to go. I started falling back into a pattern of skipping breakfast altogether, and in the rare instance that I did chow something down pre-lunch, it was never what I would consider super nutritionally balanced: just cereal, toast, or fruit. So, all carbs, basically. Not that eating carbs is bad, of course. You know I don’t ascribe to that mentality. It’s just that eating ONLY carbs is not good, and certainly not satiating enough for my first meal of the day. I need protein, and I need fat, and thankfully both of those things are delicious.

In fact, and this is a bit of a digression but bear with me, I think that one of the key elements of my weight re-gain was not that I was eating that many extra calories, but rather that my diet because extremely carb-centric. I mean, of course it did. Carbs are freaking delicious. But the unfortunate thing is that I’m really not active enough to be able to use up all of the extra glucose that comes with them. And what happens to unused excess glucose? Exactly. It’s stored for later use… as fat. I will tell you one thing though: I am going to be SUCH a survivor when the zombie apocalypse happens and food supply starts to run low. I’ve got a pioneer’s metabolism. I’ll starve those zombies out!

Anyway, back to the matter at hand. Here’s a snapshot of this AM’s b-fast:

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A whole wheat Sandwich Thin (100 calories) with strawberry preserves on one side (5 calories), a 2-egg patty (140 calories), and 2 thin slices of roasted turkey breast (30 calories). Also, a cup of blueberries (80 calories). I am incredibly stuffed now, and for 355 calories. Score! And with all the protein from the egg & turkey, I’m pretty sure this will last me until lunch.

Of course, it’s not always feasible for me to throw together a pretty little breakfast sammy in the morning. I know how lazy that sounds, but I’m just being honest with myself. I am a notorious sleeper-inner. I’m a wake-up-15-minutes-before-I-have-to-be-out-the-door kind of gal. So it’s important for me to have other options. In the past, this has always pretty much meant the box of instant oatmeal that I keep at my desk. However, my Maple & Brown Sugar Quaker hardly fits into this whole “less carbs, more protein/fat” breakfast ideal. So, the search for solutions there is still on. My friend Darcy recently told me about a recipe for pre-made smoothie you can make, which I definitely will have to try. I always like the idea of having a green monster for breakfast but I cannot stomach the idea of having to both use and, subsequently, clean a blender before work (this is the same reason that juicing in the mornings stopped working out for me). I mean, if someone wants to buy me a Vitamix I’m sure I’ll be motivated to both use AND clean it with frequency. Until that day comes though… 😉

Luckily, for now I do still have a few of the yummy bars that my new friend Kate from Kate Bakes gave me to try (she’s local to DC, and the sunflower butter raisin is the BOMB. You can order them through her website!) With 220 calories, 7 grams of protein and 4.5 grams of fiber in each bar (plus they’re vegan and gluten-free and all that jazz, but that doesn’t really matter as much for me), these are the kind of quick-fix breakfasts that actually last.

Finding solutions for everyday breakfasts is definitely one element of my previous weight-losing action plan that I need to reintegrate post-haste. So far I’m doing so good, so here’s hoping that old habits really do die hard!

Also, just for funsies (and since my last few posts have been just a tad on the wordy side, hehe), here’s a pretty gosh-darned adorable picture of Daxter that my brother Ben took with his new zillion-dollar camera:

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Kthxbai.

Weight Loss 101: Eat Real Food, Not Your Savings

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So lately I’ve been thinking a lot about eating healthy and finances. As in, how do you eat REAL food without going REALLY broke? And then yesterday Ali tweeted at me that she had similar concerns: How do you eat healthy without going bankrupt at the grocery store? Which obviously got me thinking about it even more. I’ll be the first to admit (and I’m sure that my sister will be the second, haha!) that I am not exactly the most frugally minded person. Sure, I can appreciate a good deal as much as the next person, but for the most part I adhere to the mindset that I would rather pay more for better quality, faster service, or convenience, than have to deal with the opposites of those things. Don’t get me wrong, I can appreciate a rockin’ deal as much as the next person, but some things aren’t worth the hassle to me. Hence why it’s more likely you’d find me leisurely perusing the displays at Nordstrom than getting sweaty and harried pawing through the racks at Marshall’s, haha.

That being said, I’m not exactly rolling in it over here. And real food is expensive! Ramen is cheap, produce is not. So while I often ignore my own advice, I do feel like this is an area where saving money really matters. And I feel there are some surefire ways to make sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck when it comes to healthy eating.

Number 1: Eat at home.

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Uh, duh. This should probably go without saying, but I’m gonna say it anyway: If you want to save money, don’t go out to eat. Shop for your own groceries, and prepare your own food. I spent just over $20 at the store yesterday and will be covered for meals for three days. When you break that amount down, you’re talking about something like $2 – $3 a meal!

Number 2: Meal plan.

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I’ve admitted in the past that I’m not very good at creating and following meal plans. I try to pretend it’s because I’m all spontaneous and like to be creative with my meals, but really I’m just lazy and unorganized hahaha. This week I tried to make an exception, however, because I’m taking off for the Fitness & Health Bloggers Conference in Boulder, CO on Friday morning! So going grocery shopping mid-week, while a complete necessity given the state of food options in my house, wasn’t the most ideal situation. I didn’t want to buy things that were just going to spoil when I left! I feel that the biggest money-suck when it comes to eating real food is having it spoil because you weren’t able to utilize it in time. Meal planning is the absolute best way to avoid this.

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Number 3: Make (and stick to!) a grocery list.

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My list yesterday was super short because I was literally only shopping for a few days’ worth of food. But if I hadn’t done up a list, I would have walked out with so much unnecessary, unusable food.

Number 4: Buy generic.

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Stacy’s pita chips are priced at $2.99 a bag. Giant’s Nature’s Promise brand pita chips at priced at $2.49 a bag. Which product should you purchase? Seems like it should be a no-brainer, right? I mean, sure 50 cents might not seem like that much, but it adds up. Fast. And this rule applies across the spectrum: groceries, pharmacy items, etc. People will pay a lot more just for a particular brand slapped on the packaging, when the generic version is just as good (and oftentimes, the same manufacturer makes both products anyway. So you are LITERALLY just choosing between a branded and a generic version of the exact same thing.)

Number 5: Stretch your meat.

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There are lots of creative ways to make the expensive items you buy, like meat, last longer. Cara gave me the tip of adding ~2 cups of mashed chickpeas (which you can snag for about $0.89 a can!) to turkey burgers to bulk ’em up and stretch ’em out. I took that tip as inspiration for my own dinner last night, which involved bulking up my T-burgers with tons of veggies that I already had!

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I chopped up green onion, red onion, button mushrooms, and grated baby carrots and added it all to the mix. Not only did it make for big, thick patties, the mushrooms kept the meat SUPER moist (often a complaint when it comes to turkey burgers — thanks for that tip, Aunt Lynda!), but the meal was healthified with the addition of extra veggies, AND it helped alleviate that whole food-spoilage thing mentioned previously by letting me use up more items that were just waiting to spoil in the fridge! Win-win-win.

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With the addition of asparagus that I subbed the grocery-listed bibb lettuce for because it was a much better deal, and potatoes that I already had lying around, we have a complete meal, with enough leftovers to last me for lunch today AND tomorrow (and would have lasted another dinner, too, if I hadn’t been a piggy and had two patties last night. Whoops! Hahaha.)

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I really need to get on this meal-planning train much more regularly. That way I’ll have more money leftover for the massages I apparently desperately need! 😉

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What are your tips for saving money but still eating healthy? Another thing I should probably look into doing more is deal-shopping (going to different stores for specific items) and couponing, two things I’m terrible at! Any advice on those fronts?