Thursday, October 27, 2016

Fast Forward

It's getting to the time of year that I want to just press fast forward. Not that I want to wish time away, but with less than 2 weeks until Election Day, my Facebook newsfeed is in political high gear. I despise politics and the conflict and confrontation that inherently go hand and hand with them. I've been urged to vote Hilary, to vote Trump, to vote party lines and definitely not 3rd party (unless I want to waste my vote), to vote for a 3rd party, (that it is NOT throwing my vote away).... I've read articles about past scandals and new wiki-leaks, about candidates track records and how their proposed policies will affect our future....

It is all so overwhelming.  

And yes, I know it is my duty as a citizen to vote - although I do agree with Mike Rowe's commentary on it being a right, not a duty - and I plan to do so, but admittedly I feel like my vote doesn't even "count" anyway when I am a member of a state that has a party affiliation that goes back to the Great Depression (outside of a few select elections between then and now).  

The best, albeit oversimplified, perspective I've heard about this year's election came from a customer sitting at the bar in the restaurant I serve at. This gentlemen said if you like how we are sitting now as a nation and the direction in which we are headed, there probably won't be much change by voting Hilary. If you don't like our current status as a nation or where we are heading, there probably will be a shift with a Trump presidency.

All this to say that I'm taking a break from social media until all this election hoopla is done. I've never taken a defined break, but hear it does wonders for the soul! And when all I continue to see as the time to vote draws nearer is heated debates bordering on knock-down, drag-out fights, I can't think of a better time to try it out!

**As a quick follow up, I'm sure that I have somehow offended someone in writing how I am personally feeling this election season.  To clarify, you can feel free to continue to post political articles and opinions and discuss your thoughts in each other's comment threads to your heart's content. I am not passing judgment on you so please don't get defensive. I am simply excusing myself from that conversation.  Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Getting Beasty: My Weight Loss Journey Pt. 2

The first part to this post left off in July of 2016, so I will pick up where I left off!  I was 10 months postpartum and was down about 35 pounds from my full-term weight. I felt good, but wanted to push through my 4 month plateau and tone up. I had done a little running, a little spin bike, and was doing some targeted free weight workouts I had pinned on Pinterest, but was not seeing much for results.  Enter Sagi Kalev and the Body Beast program.

Body Beast is a weightlifting program with a macro-nutrient based meal plan.  A friend who is a Beachbody coach gifted it to me (shameless plug for her - visit Sam and Josh here on Facebook) and it sat on my shelf for about 4 months before I finally bit the bullet to commit. The program kit comes with a variety of workouts on DVD, a workout schedule, and a guidebook to walk you through it, including the accompanying meal plan.

I usually don't like to follow meal plans... I don't know if it's because I'm too much of a control freak or just a bit of a rebel... but this time around I committed to following the meal plan as closely as possible.

You can choose between the "ripped" or "mass" calorie plan, with the former being more geared to getting lean and the latter to bulking up.  There is a calculation based on your gender, weight, activity level, and body fat percentage that determines how many calories you will be allotted.

I chose the ripped calorie plan and was allowed 2200 calories a day for the first 8 weeks of the program. First off, can I just say, "Hallelujah", because that number is about 1000 calories more than what many other programs would have given me!

Each calorie plan is divided into six food categories and you are assigned the number of servings for each category. For me this was:  Starches - 5, Legumes - 3, Vegetables - 5, Fruits - 5, Proteins - 10, and Fats - 5.  There are also a few supplements that they recommend included in every plan, but I did not take any supplements.

There are a number of things I liked about the Body Beast meal plan. A few of my top favorites were:
1. Counting categories was easier for me than counting calories

2. By counting categories instead of calories, I was eating a more balanced diet.

3. By planning ahead, I was able to eat most of what I wanted.

4. Did I mention 2200 calories!?  I didn't feel deprived on this plan and was not hungry.

It took a little getting used to, but counting categories was soon second nature. I started by food journaling, transitioned to logging on a spreadsheet on my phone, and eventually didn't need to food log at all.

I do better when I have less options, so my typical breakfast was usually one of the following:
  • 1 cup steel cut oats with honey, cinnamon, and fruit 
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt with honey, cinnamon, and fruit
  • Egg scramble (because I suck at making omelettes!) with 1 egg plus 3 egg whites, cheese, and veggies with a slice of toast
*I read something once that talked about the benefits of consuming cinnamon and honey together on a daily basis and took it as the gospel truth.  Now I'm just addicted to the combo!* 

For lunch, I typically had one of the following:
"Sweet Tooth Salad" - Mixed greens, apples, Craisins, raisins, cucumber, cheese, candied pecans, and a homemade balsamic dressing

Burrito Bowl - Brown rice, black beans, corn, sauteed peppers and onions, chicken, salsa, and plain Greek yogurt

3 Pickle Roll-ups (piece of lunch meat wrapped around half a cheese stick and a pickle) with veggies and hummus, fruit, and cottage cheese

*I swapped out sour cream for plain Greek yogurt because they literally taste the exact same and I could count it as a protein instead of a fat.  Also Hidden Valley sells ranch dip packets that you mix with Greek yogurt and it is amaze-balls.  I used it for veggie dip or on my salad - again counting it as a protein instead of a fat* 

And for supper, I had whatever I was making for supper with my family.  It is really important to me that my kids don't gain a warped view on what is "healthy" due to me eating differently than them.  It's one thing to have a different breakfast or lunch, my kids just chalk that up to mommy loving salad, but at dinner we all sit down together so I wanted to eat with them.  I exercised portion control where necessary, but pretty much ate everything that was served.

Depending on how my daily menu worked out, I had 1-3 snacks.  I rarely snacked between breakfast and lunch because we eat lunch at 11 so there isn't much time!  I always snacked between lunch and supper because let's get real, 6+ hours is a long stretch without food! And I had an after supper snack about 50% of the time.  Snacks were filling up the categories I hadn't yet maxed out on, so they were often fruit, veggies, or protein, but some of my favorite go to's were:
  • "Trail Mix" - peanuts, craisins/raisins, and mini M&Ms
  • Banana ice cream - Frozen bananas blended with cocoa powder and mini M&Ms
  • Fruit with Greek yogurt dip - Greek yogurt, peanut butter, honey, and cinnamon
Clearly, I am a bit of sweet tooth, and no, M&Ms were not on the meal plan.  However, I find that a little goes a long way with the mini version and it satisfied my sweet tooth cravings. I sometimes counted them as a starch but usually just allowed it as a freebie.  Other freebies I didn't count were honey, pickles, mustard, spices, balsamic, garlic, and the candy coating on my pecans!   Also peanuts were not listed in the guidebook as legumes, but I counted them as that since that is technically what they are.  Like I said, I'm kind of a rebel. :)

The meal plan changed to a low carb/high protein diet after the first 8 weeks of the program.  The workouts changed at the same time to incorporate more cardio.  This is because the last four weeks, or the "Beast Phase", is designed around cutting and is "where you'll shred your last vestiges of body fat and get ready to pose down".  I clearly was not preparing for a body building competition, but wanted to follow the program so I switched over.  

Truth be told, this girl is not made for a low carb diet.  I had zero issues with the first part of the meal plan and plan to stick to it for the rest of my life because it is just that maintainable.  However, the last part of the meal plan was more challenging.  I got through it, but will probably not do it again.

To be fair, when I say I had zero issues with the first part, that is not to say I didn't cheat!  I had a designated cheat meal each week, which sometimes turned into a cheat day.  I also cheated on non-cheat days at times!  I refuse to eat light when I go out to eat, because I do it so rarely.  I also was not about to miss out on fair food!  Plus, I camped for 2 weeks at a campground that boasts the best hard ice cream in homemade waffle cones, so clearly I got one at least every other day!  But the thing about lifting weights is, as long as I didn't fall of the healthy eating wagon too long and continued working out regardless of my diet status, it didn't affect my progress!

I had already purchased 3 sets of free weights - 3#, 5#, and 8#, and my hubby had a weight bench and resistance band, so I was pretty much set to go.  I eventually got an exercise ball when my hubby started doing the workouts with me and moved up into his weights when my weak little muscles got a little stronger.  

Like the meal plan, the weightlifting program had two options, "Lean Beast" or "Huge Beast".  I went with the former.  Throughout the program, you exercise 6 days a week, with one rest day.  The first 3 weeks of the program is called "BUILD" and you focus on different body part combinations each day - Back/Bis, Chest/Tris, Shoulders, Legs, and Cardio/Abs.  The videos are 38-50 minutes in length and include 9-11 exercises that you usually do 15, 12, and 8 reps of, increasing your weight as the reps go down.  Sometimes you would combine two or three exercises into a "Super Set" or "Giant Set", sometimes you would add on a "drop-set" of 8 more reps at a lower weight.  

After the first three weeks, you transition into the "BULK" phase which lasts 5 weeks.  The workouts for this phase are singularly focused - Arms, Back, Chest, Shoulders, Legs, and the same Cardio/Abs as before.  The length shortened a little with videos lasting 29-41 minutes and the number of exercises per workout reduced to 7-8.  The reps were similar to before with the addition of a "Progressive Set" which has you start like usual (15 reps - light weight, 12 reps - medium weight, 8 reps - heavy weight) and then reverse it, decreasing weight and increasing reps back to the beginning.  There was also a force set, 5 sets of 5 reps, added.  

The final "BEAST" phase of the workout program changes in conjunction with the meal plan switching to low carb/high protein.  These last four weeks incorporate more cardio and switch between the workout videos used in the first two phases.

Overall, I really liked the workouts.  Something about weight-lifting feels easier than other workouts to me. Not to say it isn't challenging physically, but mentally it is easier to do 3 sets of reps of an exercise and then move on, versus a high intensity plyo workout.  Not to say the latter isn't needed, it is incorporated into the cardio workout to a degree, but I just found myself less likely to dread a workout and more excited to check it off my list of things to do.

I didn't miss a single workout for the first 8 or 9 weeks, despite camping for 3 of them.  I was able to print off the workout list that you are supposed to record your weights on and do the workouts in my camper.  In the final 3 weeks, I had started two new jobs and missed at least one workout each week. It bothered me to not stick to it 100%, but I just couldn't swing it!  

With this program you are supposed to take photos and mark down your measurements and weight before beginning and after completing the program.  I also took weight and measurements after each phase, and intended to take photos as well, but didn't take any after the BUILD phase.

Although I saw a ton of change in the definition of my upper body, my measurements did not change for my arms or chest.  The area that needed the most toning up was my lower half and that is where I DID lose inches. 

On July 11th, I weighed 145.4.  Measurements - Waist-29", Hips-40", Thigh-23.75" each
On Aug. 1st, I weighed 142.0.   Measurements - Waist-28", Hips-40", Thigh-23" each
On Sept. 5th, I weighed 138.6.  Measurements - Waist-27.5", Hips-38.5", Thigh-23" each
On Oct. 3rd, I weighed 133.2.   Measurements - Waist-27", Hips-37.5", Thigh-22.5" each

In 12 weeks, overall weight lost = 12.2 lbs.  Total inches lost = 7".  My BMI started at 22.1 and ended at 20.5

I am super excited about what this program was able to accomplish in 12 weeks and I intend to do another round of the program.  My goal this time around is to maintain my weight, but continue toning up - specifically the lower half!  I will stay in the original meal plan for the duration of the program, and have called upon the wisdom of my Beachbody Coach friend, Sam to design a workout schedule that incorporates a little more cardio and rotates between the BUILD and BULK workout videos.  She is also my go to person when I start to lose motivation or need some extra encouragement, because not all of your friends want to hear about your diet and exercise successes and shortcomings!  I highly recommend her to you if you are looking for a coach, or even if you just want to learn more!

A friend on Instagram did a side by side of her before and after picture and I thought it was really cool to see her progress in this way.  My journey started over a year ago so the photo on the left is my 1 month postpartum photo where I weighed in at 164.4.  The photo on the right was my final photo after completing Body Beast where I weighed in at 132.2.

I also tried to layer my after photo over my before photo to get a visual of how the weight loss was distributed across my body.  The shadow you see is my before photo.

Thanks for letting me share my journey with you and get some accountability in the process!!

Monday, October 10, 2016

...The Rest of the Story: My Weight Loss Journey Pt. 1

I recently completed a 12-week diet and exercise program and shared my before and after pics on social media. I have received a lot of questions and private messages asking me for more details on the program so I thought I would elaborate here vs a 47 page long post on Facebook!

I started Body Beast in July of 2016, but I have to flashback to September of 2015 to give you, as Paul Harvey would say, "...the rest of the story".

I was 9 months pregnant and due any day with my fourth and final baby.  Throughout my pregnancy, I had been mentally planning that after this baby was born, I was going to finally do it.  I was going to lose the baby weight for good and finally rid my closet of the upper tier of my wardrobe.  No more maternity clothes, postpartum clothes, fat clothes, average clothes, skinny clothes (this category was pretty sparse because it had been so long since they fit that they were all out of style!).  I was just going to have one size of clothing and they were all going to fit!  I had been eyeballing the "Capsule Wardrobe" concept on Pinterest and related blogs and really wanted to put it into practice in my own closet.  I had also been seeking out blog posts with titles like "How I Got my Pre-Baby Body Back" and looking at postpartum weight loss journey photos for inspiration.

Everything you read says, "take pictures along the way", and that this visual documentation of your progress is the key to your success.  The thought of taking before pictures would normally induce a sense of dread, but at 39 weeks pregnant, the idea of taking a before photo didn't bother me.  I loved being pregnant and oddly enough had the best self-image when my stomach protruded out like a torpedo. 
So on Sept 7th, a mere 31 hours before I would deliver my little bundle, I pulled on the pair of spandex shorts and a sports bra that I would wear for every picture along the journey and asked my hubby to snap some photos for me.  Here's the thing people.  When you put on something that is at least 3 sizes too small, the end result is not pretty.  I had never understood the stigma that some associate with clothing sizes, where they refuse to buy the next size up and force themselves into the smaller size.  Yes, I hated having to buy the bigger size, but I'd rather have a higher number hiding beneath my waistband than a muffin top erupting over the top!  However, when it comes to before and after pictures, seeing how your body looks at different sizes in the same clothing is kind of the whole point.... but that still didn't make seeing this real-life Play-doh factory any easier!

So fast forward a few days, and my sweet little 6 pound 6 1/2 oz baby girl is now out in the world!  One would think you would lose at least the weight of the baby, after all I lost 16 pounds with my previous baby and she was only 7 and a half pounds!  But alas, this was not the case.  Three days postpartum (PP) and a mere 3.4 lbs down, I donned the same shorts and sports bra and took another photo.  Oof!  Mama's got some work to do!

I came home to a kitchen table covered in pink treats and goodies, homemade caramel rolls, prepared meals, and plenty of snacks to munch on, courtesy of my amazing friends and family!  I allowed myself to indulge over the weekend but vowed to start fresh on my new venture Monday morning.  Because who can be bothered to start a diet on any other day of the week, right?!  I stepped on the scale 1 month PP and was down 15.2 lbs from my full term weight.  Ok, that's a little better.  Now to take the photo.  Hmmmm.... not looking like a lot of progress outside of the swollen postpartum belly deflating a little.  Well, I better get a membership to the gym so once I get the all clear from the doc I can work out. 

Late October and November, I put forth effort on the diet and exercise fronts and even hit the mid-150's (below pre-pregnancy weight!).  But as is often the case, the Thanksgiving holiday bled into the Christmas season and I over-indulged and lost sight of my goals.  I didn't take any photos because I had mentally given up on 2015 and vowed to do better in the New Year.

The New Year came and along with it an annual weight loss competition.  This 8 week competition was set to begin on Monday, January 4th - because again, why would you ever start on a different day.  I started the competition back up at 164 lbs, just a few ounces away from my 1 month PP weight (insert sad face emoji) but apparently money is good motivational tool for me.  With a $350 first prize on the horizon, I was bound and determined to earn it and weighed in at 141.4 on Feb 29th.  I didn't take a final photo, but maintained the weight loss through (mostly) healthy eating and (somewhat) regular exercise until July 2016.   

Left: January 2016; Middle: Feb 2016; Right July 2016

My friend, who is a Beachbody coach, had gifted me a program called Body Beast and it had been collecting dust on the shelf since my failed attempt at starting it in the Spring.  I pulled it out, paged through the guidebook, and noted that it was a 12 week program.  After pulling up my calendar I confirmed that if I started on July 11th (can you take a guess at what day of the week that might have been?!), that I would complete the program on October 3rd, right before my 30th birthday!  I committed to following the exercise program and the accompanying meal plan and started my 12 week journey!

Check back for the 2nd part of this post to learn more about the program and its results!!

Thursday, October 6, 2016


Last night I was relaxing on the couch and enjoying a slice of birthday cake as I scrolled through Facebook, and my Timehop reminded me of four years earlier when I had started this blog.  I reread through a handful of past entries and was inspired by a post from New Year's 2012 to set a few "resolutions" for my 30th year of life.  I pulled out a pencil and paper and began writing goals for the different areas I wanted to focus on improving in my life.  I intended to sit down today and reactivate this blog to share some of my goals and to record my progress and my struggles along the way.

However, when nap time arrived and I sat down to write, I pulled up Facebook out of habit and was confronted with a headline that read "Child Killed in a Bus Stop Accident this Morning".  I clicked into the story that briefly told of a seven year old child in a town not so far away that had been struck by a passing vehicle as he set out to board his school bus.  My mind instantly flashed back to the morning before when I had yelled out my basement window, "get off the road, you are going to get hit by a car" to my 5 and 7 year old who were waiting for the bus to pick them up.  This could have been them.

I tuned into the livestreamed press conference in which more details were shared about the accident. A little boy waiting for the bus with his siblings at 7 o'clock in the morning was hit by a minivan as he crossed the street to board the bus. There were many questions posed to the state troopers and school administrators who were conducting the press conference as to whether the bus had come to a stop, whether he had crossed before his siblings or after, whether there were pending charges on the part of the minivan driver, where exactly did the accident take place, should he have even needed to cross the road, etc... And I understand that all these questions need to be asked and the news stories need to be written, but all I could think was "what does is matter?"  

This little boy died, and no amount of questions, or even answers, can change that.  

My heart instantly broke for his mother and father.  How had their morning gone? Did Anthony wake up on his own, or did his mom gently pull his sleepy body still warm from slumber into her own and wake him with kisses on his forehead and a whispered "good morning"?

Did he tell his dad a funny joke he had heard the day before and gush about the exciting thing he was going to do at school that day?  

Did he sit down with his breakfast and play legos like my little guy does?

Did he kiss and hug his mom and dad and say "I love you" over his shoulder as he headed out to the driveway?

Then my heart began breaking for his siblings.  

As they stood at the end of the driveway, what did they talk about?

Did they lovingly tease each other as they waited?

Were they witness to the accident or were their backs turned? Oh Lord, please say their backs were turned.

That poor school bus driver, did he see the vehicle approaching?  There were 12 kids on the bus... my heart is now in pieces, floating in the puddle of my tears thinking of them and what they experienced.

And the driver of the minivan... their sobriety will be in question, the level of their attentiveness will be challenged... fingers may point and blame may be cast, but nothing will bring this little boy back.  I can't imagine what a walk in this person's shoes would feel like on this cold fall day.

His teacher at school is probably trying to stay strong for the other kiddos when each glimpse of his empty desk threatens to turn her into a sobbing heap on the floor.

His classmates and friends may not fully grasp the gravity of today's events until they get home and question their parents.

Those parents then grieve their child's loss as they explain in as delicate of terms as they can what has happened. 

I could continue for hours down this train of thought and grieve for each person who will be affected by today's events.

Death is ruthless. 

Its reach is broad and its effects are widespread. 

The entire town will mourn the passing of this little boy. An hour an a half away, I am mourning with them.