Strong is the New Skinny

I shot this quick video last night when I got home from Dance2Fit. This is real, y’all – sweaty, no makeup, hair pushed back in one of my daughter’s soccer headwraps to keep the sweat from dripping into my face.

I’d gotten home after a 75-minute workout, during which time I’d downed about 20 ounces of water.  I wasn’t perfect; I missed steps and kicked right when everyone else was kicking left.  Two things happened last night, though, that really fired off some pride and humility in me.  First, the instructor praised how low my squat was – right after praising this other lady who was also killing the held squat.  The cool part is, I admire and respect that other lady’s fitness level and how she does the class.  She’s been doing Dance2Fit for years and really has the routines down.  The humbling part came after a grueling 3-4 minute arm workout.  I was walking around my spot and stretching out my arms when I happened to notice a new lady to the class was copying my stretches.  Just like I watch the lady I admire, this lady was watching me.  You can bet I was a lot more attentive to how I moved after that!

Genetics and a life of not making the best choices both ensure that I’ll never be skinny – not without some really dangerous behaviors or extensive and expensive surgery.  And that’s OK.  I’m getting stronger with every workout, be it high-impact aerobics, weight-lifting, cardio, or yoga.

For ages, society has equated skinny with healthy, and in some cases, that is certainly true.  However, skinny isn’t the only shape healthy takes.  While far from skinny, I’m in the best health of my life, not just judging by strength, but also by the numbers – blood pressure, cholesterol, resting heart rate, and glucose.  I celebrate my healthiness and my strength, even while I continue to slim down my silhouette.

How are you building strength, whatever stage in life you’re finding yourself?  Drop your response in the comments below so we can celebrate and encourage you.

Mindfulness Flow

In this video, I share with you tips for living life more mindfully to reduce stress, lose weight, and increase creativity.  Whether you think of mindfulness as a habit or a discipline, practice truly does make perfect.  You’re not going to get it completely right the first time, and that’s OK.  Give yourself the grace to mess up and to embrace the fresh opportunity to start over with the next day.  Start with one minute and go from there.  Remember, we’re flowing like water.

If you have questions about the effects of our emotions on our bodies’ chemicals and what that has to do with health, feel free to ask them in the comments.

Did you try it?  How was it?  I still have to work to bring my mind back to the now or to keep it from straying to the then.  How do you feel after practicing this mindfulness exercise for a few minutes?  Please let me know in the comments below.

Springtime Salad

Spring means fresh fruits and the beginning whispers of fresh vegetables (asparagus, anyone?).  As the temperatures warm up, we’re outside more which means different dinner menus.  Our fare has gone from hearty and filling to lighter and filling.

Last weekend, our family went to a dinner party at a friend’s house.  Our contribution was a large, fabulous salad that was a huge hit.  It was fancy by our standards, and I guess it was a fantasy salad by everyone else’s standards, too.  Maybe they also grab a bag of greens and toss salad dressing on them?

This salad was so refreshing and delicious that I just knew I had to share it with you.  Best yet, it is super-easy to make.

Spring Salad from Sara Nesbitt on Vimeo.

So, getting to the skinny on how to make this…

5 ounces of spring mix greens (or any green of your choosing)

1/2 cup of cheese (bleu cheese crumbles or shredded cheese)

1/3 cup candied pecans*

1/2 – 3/4 cup sliced strawberries

1/2 cup sliced mushrooms

Salad dressing to taste (I used 2 ounces of Balsamic with Honey Dressing)

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well.

*To make the candied pecans… Melt a tablespoon of butter in a small pan.  Add a tablespoon of light brown sugar and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon.  Mix together.  Toss in 1/3 cup chopped pecans and stir to coat.  Let cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.  Remove from pan and set on wax paper until cool.

We served this salad as a side, but it is also wonderful with chicken for a main course.

Throw this together for a mid-week dinner and let me know in the comments what you think.

Just Eat the Damn Dessert Already!

It’s been one of those days.  Shoot, it’s been one of those WEEKS!  My daughters are taking turns being the conductor and the engineer of the crazy train, I’m working, school is taking forever to complete because of their misbehavior, and some crazy evil spirit has possessed my usually angelic younger child, a spirit that can’t be exercised exorcised because her soccer practices have been cancelled all week due to rain.

After a particularly trying day today, I was ready for a 2″ tall chocolate cupcake “lightly” frosted with 4″ of buttercream icing.  Upon hearing that, my teen – God bless her! – started tossing dark chocolate Doves at me.  That got us through inverse logarithms.  But dang, I still was having lustful urges towards cupcakes or these new espresso brownies our local coffee shop posted to their Instagram feed yesterday.  You know, when things are going to crap, you just want some comfort food, and my comfort comes in the form of chocolate.

Español: chocolate en piezas
Español: chocolate en piezas (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yet, comfort food isn’t exactly good for the waist, nor is it good when one is trying to live the healthy coastal lifestyle.  So what’s a person to do?  Easy!  Just eat the damn dessert already!  When the spirit is drained, the head is pounding, and you just want to crawl up and have a good cry, just eat the blasted sweets!  Take comfort where you can.  Tomorrow you can get back to pounding the pavement.

And total psychological recovery requires both.  Don’t deprive yourself of the treat, but also don’t beat yourself up for indulging in it.  When you go to bed, the day is over, and when you awaken the next morning, it’s the perfect opportunity to start all over fresh.  It’s also the perfect time to lace up the sneakers and get outside.  Take a walk or a jog.  The important part here is to get fresh air, clear your mind, and get some exercise.  Follow that with some mindful stretching, yoga, perhaps.  Fuel up for the day, and swing right back into the healthy coastal lifestyle.

How do you recover after a particularly stressful day?  Comment below.

The Healthy Coastal Lifestyle Continues

A couple of weeks ago, I shared how my journey toward the healthy coastal lifestyle began with exercise.  As I began this journey, I determined to keep a food journal in my phone.  This helped me see what I was eating, how much I was eating, and how healthily I was eating.  After sweating through my first months of exercise, I decided to start getting serious about eating healthily.  If I was doing all this work, I definitely wanted to make sure I wasn’t sabotaging my efforts.

Now, for my caveat…  I don’t have any dietary restrictions or health conditions that prevent me from eating whatever I want.  I do have a genetic predisposition towards high cholesterol, which often sucks, given how much I like eggs, shrimp, and liver pudding, so I do limit myself on these foods.  If you have questions or concerns about how to adjust your diet, talk to your doctor first.  These tricks are what have worked for me.

Things to be aware of…  Sugar is the basic source of energy for us people.  Our bodies burn off simple sugars first – sucrose, fructose, glucose.  Then they go to carbohydrates, converting carbs into sugars.  Once our bodies don’t have any carbohydrates to consume as energy, they start attacking fat, converting fat into sugars for its use.  Keep that in mind, as it is very important for how you eat.

The food journal/diary is very important.  It’s an old trick, it’s fairly simple with today’s technology, but it’s still important.  You can go old school and write down what you eat with pen and paper.  There are computer programs and device apps that keep track of your meals, your calorie and nutrient intake, and whatever else you could want.  Mine also keeps up with my nutrient score and rewards me with a badge when I hit 80 or above (the closer to 100, the better).

Focus on carbs earlier in the day.  This gives your body time to burn it off throughout the day.  Shoot for absolutely no carbs after 5 p.m. (way easier said than done!).  Each gram of carbs is worth 4 calories, so remember that when you’re ready to dive into that Cinnabon.  I hit another plateau in my weight loss, so I started cutting back on carbohydrates, forcing my body into fat-burning mode with the twice-weekly aerobics classes and thrice-weekly walk/jogs.

Working, exercising, straining muscles need protein.  Proteins help repair muscles after workouts, though a protein hit an hour before your workout will boost you gloriously through it.  I grab milk, peanuts, a protein bar, or a cheese stick.  Proteins will also help you feel fuller for longer, so you won’t be as tempted to snack.

We can’t forget the fats, though.  It’s gratifying seeing that I truly am cutting carbs, but it’s also disheartening to see the fat grams stacking up.  Our bodies need fat, though.  It’s essential to the metabolism of vitamins A, D, E, and K.  Keep it lean as much as humanly possible, though, avoiding saturated fats and embracing unsaturated.

I honestly deny myself nothing.  If I want dessert, I eat dessert – but only if I’ve kept the eating limited throughout the day.  When I know I’m going to be eating heavily, such as at special dinners, I just go with some lean protein for lunch.  I learned several years ago that when I crave something, I should enjoy it in moderation and get rid of the craving.  Otherwise, that craving becomes an obsession.  At the same time, I listen to my body’s cravings, because usually it craves foods with nutrients it needs.

Working out paired with dietary changes has made a huge difference in how I’ve felt and in my healthy lifestyle journey.  I had to make a wardrobe transition, donating too-big clothes and buying new clothes that are already feeling loose.  But it’s all good, because I see the changes in my body, both in the mirror and when I feel the new muscle tone in my back, arms, abs, and thighs.  And just Sunday, a friend/aerobics instructor said she could see in my face that I’ve lost weight.  When I washed my face last night, I could see my cheekbones have reemerged – those lovely cheekbones that bely my Cherokee heritage.  It’s so good seeing them again!

What steps will you make towards embracing the healthy coastal lifestyle?  Here we are, early in the year with New Year’s resolutions and Super Bowl junk foodin’ behind us.  It’s a great time to get serious!  We’ve got this!

 

The Healthy Coastal Lifestyle Begins With Exercise

For me, it began with exercise.

This week has included celebration as a bunch of a friend’s friends and I celebrated her 10-pound weight loss in the last month.  That’s tremendous, because she owns the fact that all she’s done is hit the treadmill.  Yet, she’s not seeing results as she’s expecting.

Thinking about Kim’s success made me think back over my health journey and what I would tell someone who’s just starting out – what’s worked, what hasn’t, what my obstacles and frustrations have been.  For me, it started with a decision.

There’s what I stated publicly – very specific, measurable goals.

Screen shot of Facebook post
My publicly stated goals

But then I also had some powerful internal motivations, as well.  My husband has a seizure disorder, and nothing makes me feel more powerless than seeing him on the floor and not having the upper body strength to even come close to helping him up.  I’m an only child of parents that are getting older.  When they get older and not able to take care of themselves, I’ll need to take care of them.  I also have an aunt who doesn’t have children and therefore, no one but me to take care of her when she reaches her advanced years.  I’ll own that I haven’t always been in good physical shape, so I want to make sure that I’m healthy enough to ease the burden on my own family should I need them to care for me at some point.  Basically, a large part of my motivation is to be in shape to care for others.

Caveat:  What I’m describing is what has worked for me.  Every single body is different with different needs for different daily activities.  I’ll cover my dietary restrictions – or lack thereof – in a future post.

On 1 October 2016, after months of high-level stressors including the loss of a once-cherished friend, I frankly got tired of being fat and feeling unhealthy.  I was tired of not looking good in my clothes, despite the slight strengthening I’d felt in my legs from months of rehab and in my arms from some light weightlifting.  So, I girled up and stepped on the scales.  After all, I had to learn where I was before I could determine where I needed to go.

It had begun with rehab the January before.  Doing one set each of exercises in the beginning was all well and good, but as the number of sets increased, I had to have something to do in those rest periods besides twiddle my thumbs and peruse Facebook.  So, I grabbed a pair of 2-pound weights and started doing arm exercises.  It was good, but not enough.

One of the key factors I had to take into consideration was the strength and durability of my knees, my recovering right one, especially.  I began to walk.  And walk.  And walk.  I found I really loved walking outside and would do so every chance I had.  We live in a safe neighborhood, and our town boasts a lovely, well-maintained pedestrian/bike trail that circles the historic downtown area.  I’d walk throughout the neighborhood 2-3 days a week – it’s 2.6 miles twice around – then I’d walk around downtown while my teen was in her weekly dance class.

And on the other days, I did strength training – squats, lunges, bridge lifts, crunches (soooo many crunches!), bicep curls, lateral lifts, and tricep curls.  I also began to keep a food journal in my phone; the Samsung Health app includes all this.  I was feeling great!  I was disciplined, and nothing was going to keep me from achieving my goals.

I was three months in.  My clothes were getting loose, and unseasonably warm temps meant I was outside a LOT.  Time to step on the scales for the first time after the holidays.  I’d lost… 3 pounds.  THREE.  Not 13.  Not 30.  3.  At that point, I decided to start looking at measurements instead of weight.  That was much more delightful to track, because while I was burning fat, I was also building muscle.  Often, my losses and my gains canceled each other out.  But imagine a pound of feathers.  Pretty bulky and voluptuous, right?  Now imagine a pound of brick.  It still weighs the same as the feathers, but it’s compact.  That’s what was going on in my body.  The fat has more volume than the muscle, so it takes up more space.

I kept at it, adding biking when the weather warmed up and swimming when things got really hot.  I walked still and ran up and down the field with my soccer teams.  The pounds and inches kept disappearing, the clothes got baggier and baggier.  Last fall, I got tired of the plateau I’d hit and kicked things up with low-impact aerobics.  That lasted just a few weeks before winter break, so I found a Dance2Fit class offered for free just a couple of miles from home.  That’s seriously high intensity that leaves me pouring sweat by the time I’m done.  It’s great!

Throughout all these exercises, some things changed on my inside.  First, if I exercise in the second half of the day, I sleep much better at night.  Exercising that strenuously has also been a good way to increase my water intake.  As I resumed walking last month, yet another change became apparent.  The dancing and aerobics have strengthened my heart muscle (yes, the heart is technically a muscle), and what used to feel “strenuous” is now easy to me.  My rate of speed has increased by a half mile per hour in the last year and I’ve even been able to jog some.  Yet, my heartrate stays comfortably on target or even a little below.  It looks like my challenge will be to kick things up a little bit more.

That’s the cardio side of things, but what about the strength training?  I’ve gotten heavier weights that I’ve been using, and the results are becoming more and more apparent.  For the first time since I was six, I’m able to wear an off-the-shoulder blouse, because I have the sexy shoulders to pull it off.

Woohoo! Sexy shoulders!

The gain has been worth the pain, that’s for sure!  My core is stronger, giving me a stronger back and better posture.  My arms and legs have new contours and sleeker appearances, and both are stronger, able to do more, lift more, live more.

When it comes to living the healthy coastal lifestyle, exercise will come easier to some people, while eating right will be easier for others.  I liked starting with exercise, because I was adding something positive to my life.  When that friendship I mentioned above blew up, suddenly I had lots more time in my days to devote to taking care of myself.  Eating the right way inevitably means taking out something we like.  Maybe it’s that bit of sweet after dinner or the cold PopTarts breakfast as we run out the door.  Working out and beginning to feel those results – while also keeping a food journal – served as great motivation to change my eating habits, which I’ll discuss in the next post.

We’re one month into the New Year.  How are those resolutions coming?  Is your gym membership card or that new piece of exercise equipment starting to collect dust?  Time to dust it off.  Don’t let a week or two of slackness derail your goals.  You’ve got this!