Hanging In There

1 Feb

Hey folks!  Soo I need to confess a few things.

I haven’t been eating as well as I should be.  I ate a cupcake tonight, made sugar cookies yesterday, and have definitely purchased one or two chocolate bars over the past week.

Being unemployed is really rough, and I go through a lot of ups and downs.  I don’t want to focus too much on the negative, but I just want to explain that you go through periods of disappointment, rejection, frustration, boredom, and then also periods of refreshment, striving to push forward with applications, pepping one’s self up, etc.  Sometimes the days drag on, which is why I honestly couldn’t believe that my last post was only 11 days ago!  So much has changed since then.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  Having lots of emotions is really no reason to go crying to sugary sweets.  However, at the moment, the self-deprivation that comes along with January dieting is a little too much for me to handle.  My mind is already very overoccupied while trying to stay focused on my job search.  Therefore, I’ve decided to give myself a bit of a break.

Does this mean I’m going to go off the deep end and happily surrender my body to a world of harm and unhealthy living?  Definitely not,  because I need to take care of myself in order to feel good – both mentally and physically.  Rather, I’m going to focus on not overeating and/or emotional eating – which is a challenge all by itself!

But mostly I’m going to try to relax as much as possible, get enough sleep, and try to devote a little bit of attention to my overall health and well being each day.

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A Balanced Day

20 Jan

I did stuff today!  Here’s a recap:

The last few days, I’ve been pretty strict with my diet to balance out my, er, unstrict eating habits over the last few weeks.  In the morning, I wake up and drink some juice or have some fruit.  I’m outta bananas, so I had this Odwalla juice instead.

One day I’m going to find out where my roomie’s blender is hidden and make my own smoothies, but this juice is awesome because it’s ready-made and it contains a variety of fruit!  It’s real tasty and gives me a lot of energy.  Here’s the back – you can see what’s in it!

 

 

A little later on, I felt like I could go for a snacky snack.  I’ve been pretty good at prepping my veggies when I get back from the grocery store.  I find that when my celery is washed, chopped, and ready to eat in advance, I’m more likely to eat it.  So I stored it in tupper ware containers with some water.  I opted for carrots, celery and almond butter.

 

It was very good… very, very good.

As you can see, I do not object to playing with food.  Although this pic just demonstrates that I had way too much almond butter on my plate.  Shame on me for not measuring!

I also took this picture.  Don’t ask me why there is a wind thing in our backyard.

 

The weather was insanely gorgeous outside today, so I decided to take advantage of it and get some Vitamin D.  Before I left, I made this delicious veggie stir fry.  My ingredients are as follows:  1 bag of frozen broccoli stir fry mix, 1 package of Uncle Ben’s whole grain rice, olive oil for the pan, soy sauce, cayenne pepper, cumin, ginger, garlic, salt and peppa!

 

It came out delicious!  I packed it in two tupper ware containers:  one to bring with me for after the park since I knew I’d be hungry, and one for tomorrow’s leftovers!

 

 

I changed into a t-shirt and went on my way.  I haven’t exercised in a while, so I figured a long walk on a pretty day would be the perfect way to ease back into it.

Don’t you just think of this exact picture when you think of going to the park?  So peaceful.

 

I went in a new direction on the walking trail and I discovered a way to walk from Shoal Creek Trail to Town Lake, which is the main park here in Austin.  I also passed a skate park, which I didn’t even know existed.  It was exciting to make new discoveries about the city.

My walk ended up being about 45 minutes, and I was sweaty by the end of it.  Going back to the gym next week is going to be mighty interesting!  Here’s a picture of red-faced me on my walk!

At night, I went to an old favorite café of mine to apply to jobs.  I was there for four hours and submitted 14 applications within that period!  Here’s the proof: A list of jobs I applied to!

All in all, today was a really great day.  Time with nature, healthy food, productivity…  I got so much done today, but at the same time my day was very laid back.  I suppose it is all about balance!  Let’s hope tomorrow is just as great!

What do you do to achieve balance throughout the day?

Dealing with Defeat

18 Jan

Hey folks!  Long time, no bloggy post.  I’m going to get better at this, I swear.

I spent all day looking for jobs.  I wish I could say that I spent all day *applying* for jobs, but alas, there are so few jobs available to apply for (booo economy), that I only ended up applying to one.  So sad.

As the hours wore on and I was met with less and less success, I realized that I have some pretty big issues when it comes to dealing with defeat.  I find myself going through several stages, the first of which is ‘let’s feel sorry for myself’ mode.  A frown takes over my face and I ‘poor me’ myself to death.  This stage of course leads to the following, which is the ‘how do I soothe myself’ phase.  I think to myself, ‘okay, take a break, relax for five minutes, then keep going.’  Well, I never end up actually relaxing because stage two quickly turns into stage three, which is the ‘what do I eat?’ phase.  “Chips sound good, or maybe I’ll splurge and go for the cake.  Or I’ll just get a diet soda. No I shouldn’t do that.  But I want to eat something!”

Now, this is where one of two things happen:  either I’ll comfort eat, or I’ll go back into the first stage of feeling sorry for myself, and the loop continues.

My number one problem is that I don’t know how to deal with negative emotions, especially the feeling of being unsuccessful.  I find myself faced with this urgent necessity to comfort myself, and food was always the easiest way to do that.  But the truth is, the behavior of comfort eating is self-destructive, and only leads to additional feelings of defeat.

I’ve decided to make a serious commitment to myself.  I am not going to continue to hurt myself by engaging in emotional eating.  This means I’m going to have to practice a whole new level of self-awareness.  I’m going to have to find constructive, positive ways to cope with my emotions, particularly the feeling of disappointment.  I don’t really know how to do this yet, so I’m calling out to my urban apple readers to offer your splendid valuable suggestions!

 

It’s going to be a rocky road, but I’m looking forward to learning from all this and being a better person because of it!

Happy New Year!

5 Jan

…And welcome, 2012!  I cannot believe that I have abandoned my blog for an entire month… er, or maybe I can believe it.  I had a really wonderful, five-week trip to New York for Thanksgiving and Christmas.  I spent lots of time in the city, enjoying meals with old friends from college, visiting holiday hot spots, hitting up the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and I even finally saw the Rockettes.  I might just start doing kicklines by myself… sure to be a hilarious way to burn some serious calories.  I also spent some quality time with family – my niece and nephews, all currently under the age of two, are so sweet, cute, and fun, and I was way overdue for some one-on-one time with them.  I also fit in a few mother-daughter playdates, including a spa pedicure and trip to the Chinese buffet.

Speaking of food, my trip also included holiday celebrations.  Thanksgiving was at my parents’ house, and while I feel like I should probably recount my food choices and lay them all out for you in this post, you know, since I write a health/food blog and all, I honestly cannot remember what I ate that day.  All I can remember are the fun activities we played with the family and the fun and special moments of the day, like my niece pointing to the sky and asking if she could reach up and touch a star.  Thanks to Pinterest, I found some Thanksgiving-related games to play, like one that required everyone to write their own personal list of things they are thankful from A-Z, one item per letter.  The game became funny for the more difficult letters, so my brother’s response to the letter V being “vagina” sent my 80-year-old grandmother for a loop – hilarious!

Christmas was also fantastic… a little stressful this year, because I had 18 people on my list, and being unemployed meant that I had a VERY limited budget.  I ended up making a lot of my gifts this year – collages, stationary sets, etc. – some went well, others not so well.  But I did my best.  Foodwise, Christmas was a killer.  As anticipated, the food in New York was soooo good.  I cannot resist make-your-own cannolis.  I just can’t.  I tried.  I stared at them, they stared back, and it was over.  I also couldn’t resist the other desserts and opportunities to enjoy the Italian food that I missed so much.

So you’re probably wondering by now what happened to my diet, and it pretty much went out the window for a month.  I gained back the weight I lost, and to be honest, I’m okay with that.  I had a really great month off with my family and friends.  I wasn’t focused on my weight at all, but I was happy because I was enjoying fun time with people I love.

Being that it’s early January right now, I can’t help but feel a little nostalgic for all those times I made a resolution to ‘really lose the weight this time!’  Seeing that I gained back the weight that I lost in the Fall, it would be really easy for me to make a weight-related resolution, but I’m not going to, because I’m not “starting over,”  I’m continuing my journey.  I don’t want to scratch off or erase the past and start over, but rather I want to use the past as a learning experience and just keep going.

This year, I have three resolutions.  Number one is to get a job (obvi).  Number two is to make a better effort at keeping in touch with faraway friends, because I have a lot of them and I’ve gotten into the habit of living in Colleen-land and not returning calls when I should be.  Number three is to keep up with my foreign languages.  Let me tell you, it feels REALLY liberating to make a New Years resolution that ISN’T weight-related.  YAY!

That’s not to say that I’m not going to keep going with my quest to be healthy.  Oh no.  Just watch me.

Updates + Doctor Visit

30 Nov

Hey Everybody!

Time for a rambly update from yours truly.  It’s only rambly because we have several topics to cover, seeing as I’ve been absent for, er, a week or so.

First things first!  Thanksgiving update:  So Thanksgiving wasn’t too bad food-wise.  I let myself enjoy the holiday without overdoing it.  I got some exercise in, went easy on the appetizers, but enjoyed my food and my day.  I definitely went overboard on the desserts…like I sat down at the table, looked at my sister-in-law and ordered, “don’t judge me,” because I was a bit embarrassed by the mound of sugar on my plate.  I said it was okay for one day, but as predicted, it hasn’t been just one day of overdoing it.  I definitely have been hangin’ out on the pie and chocolate wagon for way too long.  I need to learn how to say ‘no’ to those sweeties and say ‘yes’ to the stack of fitness dvds that have been hanging out collecting dust next to the TV for the past week.

Lame excuse for being absent from blogging: I’ve been sick, which makes crisp salad unappetizing and exercise unappealing.  I haven’t slept through the night in almost a week, which means I have very little energy to do anything else.  Still, I really should at least try to move more.  Maybe if I get my blood flowing and sweat a little, my body will expel some of its germs.  (Okay, that sounded way grosser than I thought it would.

Which leads to…Today’s doctor visit:  All week I’ve been feeling sick and tired of feeling sick and tired.  My mom finally urged me to go to the doctor, so we went to an urgent care medical clinic since I couldn’t get an appointment to see the family doc.  I never received a clear diagnosis from the doc at the clinic, but she told me to keep taking my allergy medicine + sudafed + the meds she’d be prescribing, which treat sinus infections.  So between all three of those, hopefully the meds will wipe out those pesky bacteria critters that are making me sick.  Remember that time I wrote about how diet coke is a chemical shit storm?  Well, now you know how much I love the idea of taking three medicines at once.

I’m going to be better at blogging, I promise.  I’m also NOT going to be one of those bloggers who constantly apologizes for not updating.  That’s just so lame.  Time for change, change, change!

Survival Tips for Staying Healthy on Thanksgiving

24 Nov

Big holidays like Thanksgiving scare me.  In the past, I took the ‘all-or-nothing’ approach to Thanksgiving and throw away the whole week as far as healthy eating goes.  I figured, why waste a perfect opportunity to eat loads of leftover pie when I ruined my diet in a single day?  I realize that this kind of thought pattern isn’t rational, since eating healthy every other day of the week could minimize the damage of weight gain, but awareness of this fact does not keep me from using bad eating on a big holiday as a perfect excuse to pig out.

So let’s talk about ways to enjoy the holiday and feel satisfied, without breaking the calorie bank.

Know what to expect.  Thanksgiving is one of those holidays that tends to be traditional.  Therefore, the same foods pop up on the table every year.  Out of all the holidays, Thanksgiving is the best dinner to execute pre-planning.  I know that stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, cranberries, and turkey are going to be served, so before I even arrive that day, I know what foods I will be putting on my plate.

Prioritize.  Because I know what to expect at dinner, I know that the foods I look forward to will be there, and so will the foods that are available at the grocery store every week.  I’m not crazy about sweet potatoes so I can pass those up, but I need that real, ooey-gooey turkey stuffing.  I also know that my family will have a lovely spread of heavy cheeses, dips and chips before dinner, which I will be choosing to skip.

Portion Control.  Doesn’t really need any explanation.  Don’t overeat.  Who wants to feel sick to their stomach on a holiday?  Stuff the turkey, not yourself.

Load up on veggies.  The good thing about Thanksgiving dinner is that vegetables like steamed carrots, corn, and broccoli are always available.  If I can get 50% of my plate to be veggies, I’ll consider the meal a major win.

Bring something.  My mom is making Thanksgiving dinner this year, but my Nana used to be the one to do all the cooking.  Bringing a healthy dish to share is the best way to make sure there will be a healthy option to indulge in.  I will be asking for veggies and a low fat dip as an appetizer, and possibly a healthy dessert.

Exercise ahead of time.  When I put the effort into burning lots of calories, I’m somehow less likely to overeat like a pig that day.  Even if I do overeat on Thanksgiving, the calorie surplus would not be as detrimental as if I had done zero exercise that day.

Watch those liquid calories.  This is a biggie if your family is into beer drinking on turkey day.  I tend to overdo it on regular sodas or mixed drinks on holidays, but this year I am drinking water and tea.  Look up the calorie values for your holiday drink of choice, and budget how many you are going to have.

Aim high when estimating calorie values.  If you’ve been calorie counting like me, estimating high for your calorie values is a good idea, especially if you didn’t see how the food was prepared.  I’m going to need to account for invisible butter on my vegetables and estimate how much dressing is pre-tossed with my salad.

Enjoy the meal.  When I think back to previous Thanksgiving dinners, I remember loading my plate with food to the point that there was no more room for anything else… and then going back for seconds.  I’m pretty sure the reason I went back for another serving is because I ate everything so quick that I didn’t even enjoy it.  This year, I’m slowing down, enjoying conversation, and concentrating less on the food.

Give away those leftovers.  This is an important step for making sure that the entire week isn’t ruined after one day of heavy eating.  If you can’t get rid of them, put them in a disposable tupperware and donate them to a local homeless person or lonely college student.  I know that my mom will be keeping a lot of those leftovers, but I will focus on using the healthy veggies and lean turkey as components for new, healthy meals throughout the week.

Last but not least, have a Happy Thanksgiving!!

Strategies for Going Home

19 Nov

On Monday, I’m flying to New York and staying for a month.  I’ll be celebrating Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas with my family.  While I am super excited to have a great visit, I also need to be realistic about the fact that eating healthy and finding time to exercise is going to be much harder around my family.  Last time I went home for a weekend trip, I totally fell off track.  I really can’t let myself lose sight of my goals for an entire month, so I think it’s important to brainstorm some strategies for handling some of the situations I anticipate.

When I go home, I usually have very little control over the food options available in the house.  My mom does all the shopping, and my dad has frequent special requests for dinner, usually along the meat and potatoes track.  I’m going to ask mom if I can make dinner two or three times each week.  Everybody wins, because I can make sure that my dinner will be healthy, and my mom gets a few nights off from cooking.  I’m also going to ask my mom to keep the freezer stocked with some of my favorite frozen meals in case my dad asks for something I don’t want to eat, like hamburgers or fries.

Another challenge that I face when I go home is getting enough water.  The tap water isn’t safe to drink, so I need to depend on bottled water.  When everyone in the house is dependent on a limited supply, getting the necessary 64 oz. is a challenge.  So in order to drink plenty of water, I’m going to try keeping my own hidden stock of water jugs, and also drink lots of tea.

Whenever I go back to New York, I am faced with lots and lots of delicious food!  Especially carbs… bagels, rolls, pizza, pasta, and Italian food in general.  I have a hard time saying ‘no’ because I know that yummy goodness isn’t available in Texas.  I really need to learn how to control portions, especially for foods that, historically, I can’t resist.  From now on, I won’t even look at a carb without thinking about the proper amount of food for one serving.

Know which foods to avoid completely.  There are certain foods existing in this world that I simply cannot eat without overdoing it.  Most of them are sugar-based, like ice cream, cheesecake, and chocolate.  Chocolate, especially around the holidays, is my downfall, because it is everywhere and it is unavoidable.  Every canister on every table and counter top is filled with M&Ms or chocolate mints.  Every stocking is stuffed with assorted mini chocolate bars.  Every dinner is followed up by a chocolate cake.  I don’t need that stuff, and although time will tell, I’d like to believe that I have enough will power to resist all of it happily.

Easier said than done, but I need to find ways to exercise regularly.  Without a car, I usually have to yield to my parents’ schedule, waiting for a time when I can sneak away with their Toyota.  I think I might be able to get to the gym a few times a week, but I’m looking forward to taking advantage of some of my old workout DVDs at home.  My yoga mat, sneakers, and workout clothes are coming with me.

It will be interesting to see how well I am able to stick to these goals while at home.  I really hope that I can stick to my guns and use these methods for avoiding holiday bulge.  That being said, I’d love to hear your point of view on this topic!  What are some of the obstacles that you face when you visit family for extended periods of time?  What are your strategies for overcoming them?

Colleen’s Rocking Good Salad

18 Nov

I went to my friend Virginia’s house for dinner the other day, and she made a delicious main course of polenta and I made a salad to go with it.  I selected ingredients by wandering around the grocery store, picking out random things to put in it.  Totally by accident, the salad turned out to be delicious!  Luckily, I had lots of leftovers to take home and make more for dinner tonight.  This salad is a great dinner or side salad, and bound to get high marks at parties or gatherings.

Here’s how I made my salad.  I made a huge serving tonight because I was way under my calorie intake today, but this amount of salad could easily serve two people.  Here are the ingredients, without the fancy and proper recipe language that I probably should be using.

Colleen’s Rocking Good Salad

Baby Spring Mix (however much you want)

1/2 Green bell pepper, sliced or diced

1/8 Red onion, diced

5 or 6 Grape tomatoes, halved

1/2 Avocado, cut into chunks

1/2 of small can of Olives, sliced

1/2 of 15 oz. can of Chickpeas, drained and washed

Handful of croutons (I recommend seasoned Texas Toast)

2 Tbsp. Walnuts

2 Tbsp. Bleu cheese crumbles

As I’m sure you can tell, once you have the ingredients for this salad, you can make it over and over again.  And voila, here’s what ya get!

As for dressings, I have two recommendations…well, actually three, but I have no idea how to make garlic salad dressing, which is what Virginia had at her house.  (I know, it sounds like it would be gross, but it was one of the best salad dressings I’ve ever had.)  Tonight, I tried this salad with a lemon vinaigrette, and I used a recipe from food.com, but I will list it here for you.

Lemon Vinaigrette Dressing

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

2 teaspoons oregano

2 garlic cloves

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper (or to taste)

1/8 teaspoon salt (or to taste)

I also highly recommend honey-balsamic vinaigrette dressing, and this recipe from allrecipes.com is great – tested and approved by me!

Honey-Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup honey

1/4 cup olive oil

1 teaspoon soy sauce

Let me know if you try it!  I’d love to hear if you enjoyed it as much as me!

Food with Friends

18 Nov

On Tuesday, I visited with my good friend Virginia (the same gal who suggested I try quinoa) and we spent some excellent bonding time in the kitchen together.  Using some recipes from Martha Stewart Living magazine, we made chocolate mint crackles, sparkly lemon cookies, and chocolate pralines.  They were so much fun to make, and they were delicious too!

  Chocolate Mint Crackles, also known as Reverse Giraffe Cookies

I also ticked one more box on my list of foods to try, since we made polenta.  Now, I have a little story about polenta.

Once upon a time, Colleen wanted to make polenta, but she did not know the proper methods for cooking it.  Following an internet recipe, she stirred polenta in a pot with 2 cups of milk and 2 cups of chicken broth before pouring it into a pan and baking it with spaghetti sauce.  Despite following cooking instructions verbatim, Colleen’s polenta turned out like soupy mush.  Being the heroine that she is (heh heh), Colleen vanquished the spoiled entrée by tossing it in the garbage can.  Moral of the story:  Do not cook something without guidance when you have no idea how it is supposed to look or taste.  The End.

I wasn’t satisfied with my polenta experience.  I felt like something went wrong and I wanted to give it another shot before marking polenta on my “do-not-buy” list.  Virginia prepared her polenta by lightly frying it in some olive oil and topping the polenta squares with mushrooms and roasted tomatoes.  It was heavenly!  I was also happy to have an opportunity to observe her technique, so I can make polenta on my own next time.

Today, I went to lunch with another dear friend of mine, Elizabeth.  We were quite close to hitting up a Mexican restaurant, and I immediately thought ‘taco salad’ upon pondering what few healthy options would be open to me.  Instead, we opted for a classy soup, salad and sandwich place.  I ordered the house special salad, which included mixed greens, grilled chicken breast, gorgonzola cheese, dried cranberries, grapes, artichoke hearts, pecans and croutons tossed with sherry vinaigrette.

It was totally out of my comfort zone, particularly because I was abject to adding sweet stuff (such as dried cranberries and grapes) to my salad, but I enjoyed trying something different.  I ate the whole thing.


These experiences make me wonder why it’s so easy for me to eat healthy and mindfully around friends, as opposed to when I am with my family.  When I’m with family, all bets are off.  Making the change to make better food choices is going to be difficult during this upcoming trip to New York (I leave on Monday).  I’m going to have to brainstorm a few strategies.  Any tips?

Picking Up Where I Left Off

17 Nov

I really lost sight of my goals this week, and the week before.  I don’t really have an explanation for it.  This past week, I revisited some of those old, nasty habits that I was trying to abandon, like drinking diet soda and eating chocolate.  Even though I recognized my body’s poor response to the soda and I didn’t feel well after consuming it, I still found myself wanting it.  What is up with that?

I also had a few food obstacles this week.  On Sunday, I went to my boyfriend’s brother’s house for dinner.  While it was lovely to visit him and his family, the enchilada casserole they served was mindblowingly fattening.  I don’t blame them at all.  I’m sure if they had known we would be staying for dinner, they might have chosen something more healthy.  I just haven’t quite mastered how to handle situations where I have little control over what kind of food is served and therefore, what I put in my body.

I also found myself in a situation where I did have control over my food choices, but I didn’t make a great decision.  I went out to dinner with my boyfriend, and I ordered a portabella mushroom sandwich loaded with oily pesto, and a side of sweet potato fries with chipotle mayo for dipping.  I couldn’t be bothered to take a picture (my taste buds were calling to me louder than my camera).  When I ordered it, I thought I was making a slightly more healthy choice than some other options on the menu, but I should have asked for whole wheat bread, no mayo, and maybe veggies instead of the fries.  Alas, ya live, ya learn.

The thing is, I get lazy.  I find myself feeling like I don’t want to stop everything I’m doing at night to get up and go to the gym.  Or, I don’t want to eat a salad at a restaurant that has so much more to offer.  Finding a balance between leading a satisfying, casual life and maintaining discipline when it comes to going to the gym and eating healthy is a much greater obstacle than I anticipated.

Image Source: Tumblr

One important thing I need to remember: when I stop drinking tea, going to the gym, eating my veggies, and so on, I stop feeling good.  I get depressed and stop feeling good about myself.  It’s no surprise that I gained back 1.5 pounds this week, allowing the self-criticisms and a day of feeling rotten to ensue.  Luckily, it took only one day of bitterness to realize the important role that eating well and keeping active now plays in my life.  When I take care of myself consistently, I become a better and happier person.

Now, looking back at the goals I posted from my October Check-In, I think I need to do some reevaluating.  Here are my new goals for the remainder of this month:

  • Log 10 gym hours.  It’s a lot to accomplish in two weeks, but I think it’s doable.
  • Continue counting calories and food journaling.
  • Keep exercising, eating mindfully, and drinking tea while I’m in New York.
  • Blog more.  Seriously.  This once-a-week thing isn’t cutting it.
  • Try a new physical activity.