Month: March 2013

Healthy Lunch Strategies

I am excited to report that yesterday’s presentation went REALLY well. It was supposed to be about 45 minutes but ended up being a little over an hour because everyone was really engaged, asking lots of questions, and contributing ideas. I ran it very much like a Weight Watchers meeting – asking lots of questions, moving around the room, and facilitating more than giving a presentation. I thought I’d share a little overview of what we discussed and see if you guys have any additional ideas to contribute.

Best Bet: Bringing Your Own

It’s only when you make and pack your own food that you truly know what goes into it. A lot of people struggle with having (or making) the time to pack lunch and meal plan, so we came up with a list of ideas to make that easier and streamline the process.

    • Make time to plan your meals on the weekend before you go grocery shopping, or whenever it works for you to fit in.
    • Cook big batches of food and separate into single serving containers right away so you can just grab and go.
    • If you’re making a casserole or soup, double the recipe. Cooking twice as much of the same thing does not take twice the time with prep.
    • Freeze extras that you can’t eat within time (or you might get bored of) so that you have a quick option down the road for a day when you don’t have something in mind.
    • Pack lunch the night before while you’re putting away or making dinner rather than trying to make time to do it during a hectic morning.
    • Bring a lot of food in on a Monday or early in the week if you have a fridge to use. This way you don’t have to bring things in every day and you have a few options to choose from.
    • Make simple foods that you can use in a lot of ways throughout the week. Some examples are a big batch of whole grains, plain grilled chicken, or a pot of beans. If I grill a pound of chicken, I can use it for salads, sandwiches, chicken salad, burritos, tacos, or quesadillas throughout the week so I’m not eating the same thing every day.

Restaurant Surprises

Any idea how many calories are in the tortilla at Chipotle (JUST the wrap)? 290! And 9 grams of fat. So you save almost 300 calories for opting for a burrito bowl over a burrito.

A standard chicken burrito with white rice, black beans, tomato salsa, corn salsa, cheese, sour cream, and lettuce rings in at 1055 calories and 40 grams of fat! If you just hold back on the cheese, sour cream, and tortilla, plus switch the rice from white to brown, you knock it down to 535 calories and 12 grams of fat – almost half! And that’s even having steak instead of chicken.

Another option right by my office is Chop’t, which is one of my favorite places to go. The honey wheat wrap there has even more calories than the one at Chipotle – 300 calories and 8 grams of fat, which is crazy because a lot of people assume that since it’s whole wheat it’s good for you. If you go with a Cobb Salad Wrap with Ranch Dressing there, you’re looking at 1110 calories and 65 grams of fat. If you opt for the Palm Beach Salad with Spa Sesame Dressing, which has avocado, shrimp, and hearts of palm, you’re only looking at 270 calories, 12.5 grams of fat, and a really delicious and healthy lunch.

One other thing that came up is that a lot of people tend to steer towards the vegetarian options on the menu, which can be really good options. But at Potbelly, the vegetarian sandwich is the second worst sandwich for you (after the PB&J) because it has three kinds of cheese plus mushrooms and sauce, so it also isn’t that filling. A lot of times restaurants will load up on cheese and other heavy additions to make up for the lack of meat in those options, so it’s just important to be careful.

Tips for Eating Out for Lunch

    • Look at the menu for the restaurant before you go and pick out what you want.
    • Choose a restaurant that you know has healthy options.
    • Have a few go-to options around you that you know are safe bets. Make sure there’s a variety so you have different ideas when you’re craving different things.
    • Stay hydrated throughout the day so you are eating because you’re hungry and not thirsty.
    • Don’t let yourself get ravenous, because then you’re more likely to overeat and make a worse choice.
    • Realize that not every time we eat out in a celebration. Sometimes it’s just a regular meal. Pick your indulgences wisely.
    • Bring healthy snacks from home to supplement what you buy out – think fruits and veggies!
    • Ask for heavy items on the side so you can control how much goes on them (think cheese, dressings, sour cream, etc)
    • Better yet, bring some condiments you like from home and keep them in your fridge at work if you have one.

The other big takeaway is that lunch is just one meal. I think sometimes we put a ton of pressure on ourselves and feel really disappointed if we overdo it on a meal or get carried away if we’re dining with others, and one meal is NOT going to break your day or your week. If you make a bad choice, just get back on track as soon as you can, and it’ll be alright.

What’s your biggest tip for making sure you bring lunch to work? If you’re not a lunch packer, what’s your biggest tip for making healthy choices while you’re out?

Random Confessional

1.) Last week, I flushed an entire stick of deodorant down my toilet.

I knocked it in from the back of the toilet while I was flushing and didn’t think it would go down, but long story short, it did. The culprit:

deodorant

It’s out now, at least.

2.) I am giving a presentation at the all staff meeting at my day job today about healthy lunches, and I’m really nervous.

I don’t normally mix my weight loss/healthy living world with my regular job, and especially do not talk about my personal weight loss story that openly (until today, that is). On top of that, I also just found out yesterday it is a 45 minute presentation instead of the 15 minutes I was expecting. Oy.

3.) This weekend my parents are coming into town and I’m hosting Easter brunch.

It’s my first time ever hosting a holiday, and I am nervous even though my mom is going to help me cook.

4.) Last week, I didn’t meal plan AT ALL for the first time in a long time.

I ate out for almost every meal with the exception of a few english muffins and soft boiled eggs here and there. It was not kind to my wallet, but it felt pretty freeing and made me excited to get back to a plan this week.

5.) Despite claiming that being active is a nonnegotiable part of healthy living for me, I took two full weeks off from working out sort of unintentionally.

One day fed into the next and into the next, and then all of a sudden it had been two full weeks. I broke that streak yesterday with 5 miles on the treadmill, and it was, as should be expected, really, really hard.

breakthestreak

I felt like a million bucks afterwards, though.

6.) Last week for the first time in ages, I didn’t track my food at all.

I ate what I wanted when I was hungry, and it was really liberating in a way. I ate a lot of things I’d been craving and tried to balance it out with fruit and veggies, but didn’t count points at all. I was excited to see that I was down a few pounds yesterday despite that – I think my body and my mind both needed the break.

Tell me one thing you want to get off your chest!

In His Words: Matthew’s Redemption Marathon Story

In case you missed them, check out Matthew’s other guest posts:

The Chicago Marathon was the most fulfilling day of my life. It was the culmination of years of hard work and dedication to changing my life and being healthy.  But truth be told, I was disappointed in myself after that race.

Minutes after crossing the finish line, I knew I could have done better.  Both the physical and mental breakdown I had during that race were a product of my lack of training.  Granted, I had some setbacks along the way, but I knew in my heart I was under trained.  I decided I wanted another shot at the marathon to redeem myself, which came in the form of the Rock n Roll USA Marathon this past weekend.

To prepare for this race, I decided to use a significantly different training plan than I did for Chicago.  It had me running six days a week and included weekly speed training sessions and tempo runs.  I knew it would be difficult, but I was up to the task.  Starting on November 15, I spent 18 weeks training my butt off.  Over that time I ran a total of 622 miles, dropped 23 pounds and 4% body fat, and saw my average pace drop by 45 seconds per mile.

side by side

Race weekend came and, once again, my mother was here to support me.  She has been there for all of the most significant moments in my life and she did not want to miss this one either. We both awoke at 4:30am on race day morning and got everything we needed together.  I had a light breakfast, got dressed and collected all of the gear I had packed the night before.  We set out at 5:30am to catch the metro to the start area, which was right by the Washington Monument.

RNR2

I had never felt so calm before a race.  Despite knowing I was about to run 26.2 miles, I felt so good about the shape I was in and the training I had done that nothing made me nervous.  My running buddy Rachel met us outside of my corral about 10 minutes before race time.  I hugged them both and went into my corral, and twenty minutes later I was off and officially running my second marathon!

Start to 10k

After crossing the start line, I immediately felt a tad emotional.  I had to make sure not to start off too fast, so I kept checking my Garmin to make sure I wasn’t overdoing it.  After my usual three miles to feel fully warmed up, I really started to feel good.  I ran with a fluidity that I hadn’t experienced in the past.  I was smiling, taking in the sites of the city, and actually having fun.  The hill just before we hit Mile 6 looked to kill most of the other runners, so I just put my head down and charged right up it, my quads burning the whole time.  I knew my Mom and Rachel would meet me around this part of the course, but we missed each other.  I didn’t let it deter me and hit the 10k mark at 60:43.  I was pumped.

10k to Half Marathon

This was my favorite part of the run and I was now keep a comfortable pace of 9:30.  To say I was in a zone would be a complete understatement.  During this stretch I knew I had a couple groups of friends who were cheering on runners.  I saw my friend Caroline around Mile 7 and then a group of friends at the water station near Mile 9.5.  I was so pumped to see them I actually ran UP their stairs to give them all a high five.  Here I was running a full marathon and I did some steps along the way.

RNR7

Ten miles is my favorite distance to run and when I passed the 10 mile marker I looked at my watch and saw that I had PRed!  I then picked up the pace a little more and charged toward the halfway point. The marathoners split off from the half marathoners and the road became like a barren wasteland.  I saw my Mom and Rachel for the first time on the course, gave them a high five, said “Gotta go!” and hit the half marathon marker at yet another PR of 2:05:54.  I was on a roll!

Half Marathon to Mile 20

During my first marathon, I had a physical breakdown just after passing the half marathon mark.  This time was so much different.  I continued to barrel through at a 9:30 pace and just felt like I could do anything.  13, 14, 15, 16, the mile markers just kept ticking away.  However, there comes a time during the course of running 26.2 miles where your body just runs out of energy and that time finally came for me at Mile 17.  I had run without stopping for seventeen miles in a time of 2:43:34.  At that point I knew that I was already a shoe-in to beat my Chicago time, the thought now became “by how much?”.  Over the next 3 miles I took a GU and walked a short portion.  I knew a person in the band at Mile 20 and he gave me a high five as I passed.  I then saw my Mom and Rachel for an embrace and another pair of high fives.  20 miles down in 3:16:54.

RNR8

Mile 20 to the Finish

This was the most difficult portion of the race for me.  My pace slowed significantly but I still did not let that break me.  I ran the majority of the way and took a GU at Mile 21 to give me the extra energy I needed to finish strong.  I dug so deep to keep pushing forward.  There seemed to be more hills during this portion of the race than the rest of it.  That seemed so unfair!  With less than a mile to go I came into what seemed like a straight away portion of the highway.  I saw RFK Stadium in the distance and knew it was only a matter of time before I would cross the finish line.  I ran as hard and as fast as I could the rest of the way, never stopping.  I managed a 9:00 minute pace the last half mile and burst across the finish line giving it every last ounce of energy I had to give.  For the second time, I became a marathoner.

second time

I was winded, I was hurting, but nothing could have dampened just how good I felt about what I had just done.  I collected my medal and gave it a big kiss.  I had earned that piece of hardware and it felt so good to feel it around my neck.  I walked very slowly through the finish area festivities, seeing all of the elated runners along the way.  I knew many of them had to be feeling as amazing as I did.  As I met up with my Mom and Rachel, finally, we all embraced in a moment I will never forget.

RNR1

They were both so proud of me and it felt good to know that I had that kind of support, not just for that day, but in my life in general.  My mother’s presence in my life has allowed me to grow into the person I have become and without her support I really don’t know where I would have ended up in life.  I certainly would not be a two-time marathon finisher without her that is for sure.

RNR3

Having had some time to process the entire experience I came away with a few thoughts. First, no matter how hard you train, running a marathon is hard.  There is no getting around it, but completing it will change your life forever.  Second, the marathon is so much like our lives.  You have ups and you have downs, but you ultimately learn how to get through all of those times to come out better when all is said and done.  Lastly, and most importantly, it taught me that I am STILL capable of so much more than even I think I am.  That applies to all of you reading this too.  It is so important to always believe in yourself and never sell yourself short. Ever.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read another of my stories for you.  I truly appreciate all of the comments and support.  In closing, I will let the numbers speak for themselves:

  • Chicago Marathon – 5:24:45
  • Rock N Roll USA Marathon – 4:24:03

Redemption at last.

The Half Marathon that Wasn’t

So, spoiler alert if you didn’t pick it up from the title of this post, but I didn’t run the half marathon this past Saturday. And you know what? I’m actually feeling pretty good about my decision not to.

I first started running almost four years ago. I wrote a post about How I Started Running, and it remains one of my favorites to this day. I know it sounds super cliché, but I honestly never in a million years would have imagined myself being able to run, much less enjoying it. When I first started, I was impressed with myself with each extra minute I could keep going. The constant sense of accomplishment I felt with each new obstacle was fulfilling in a way I hadn’t experienced before. Running became a huge passion and an outlet, and it made me really happy.

I vividly remember running my first 5k, moving onto my first 10k, and then my first double digit race – The Cherry Blossom 10 Miler. After that, I tackled my first half marathon, and the feeling of crossing that finish line was beyond anything I’d ever felt before. Once I had one under my belt, I wanted to do them stronger and faster, and ended up running 4 more, and knocking 11 minutes and 10 seconds off the time of my first over those two years. During that time, I also decided it would be a good idea to try to train for a full marathon, but after working up to running 16 miles, I decided it wasn’t a good time for me and to drop out of the marathon.

Lately, I’ve been feeling in a very similar place to when I quit training for the marathon and my heart just hasn’t been in it. This past weekend would have been my sixth, and there were many times during the training cycle that I tried really hard to psych myself up. Sometimes when you’re in a rut you just have to give yourself a good pep talk and you can snap out of it. But not this time.

I stayed up with being active, but the long runs were something I was literally DREADING. I know long runs are often a runners least favorite part of training, but I was in a place where thinking about having to do the run would cause me so much anxiety and dread that it just put a dark cloud over my days. So I often skipped them, which caused more negative feelings associated with running and the guilt that often followed.

As this race was approaching, I had a really uneasy feeling about the whole thing. I did a lot of thinking and then realized I just didn’t WANT to run a half right now. And then I had to ask myself, well why am I running it then? I had been trying to make myself do something that I wasn’t dedicated to, and it was causing me to resent running in general.

Sometimes it’s really easy to get caught up in something you think you should do, and I think that running so many races has caused me to constantly be looking for the next big thing. Not that that is bad at all, but I feel like this constant searching has caused me to feel like running races is more of an obligation than a choice. It’s like I can’t be happy to just keep doing what I’m doing, and have to always been looking for, and working towards, something bigger.

I do love the feeling of crossing the finish line, and the sense of accomplishment that comes with completing such a big task that I’ve dedicated myself to. But what I don’t love is not being able to identify WHY I’m doing it and feeling like I’m being forced into it. Because if I don’t want to, and it’s making me dread a sport that I’d grown to love (in smaller doses), then really, what’s the reason?

I do strongly believe that being active is a nonnegotiable part of healthy living for me, but I don’t believe running half marathons all the time has to be. There are many, many other ways to stay and be active and to continue to dedicate myself to a healthy life. I’m not saying I won’t be running races anymore – in fact, I have the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler coming up on April 7, which will be my fourth time in a row running it. But what I am saying is that I think I’m going to take a break from distance running after that for a bit, until I find myself back in a place where I am doing it because I want to, and not because I feel like I have to.

A Sisterly Visit

I always love it when people come to visit me in DC because not only do I get to spend quality time with my visitors, I also get to play tourist in my own city. This rang especially true this past weekend when my sister Wendy and her family came to visit me. They live in Philly now, which is most of the reason that I am there so frequently, but they actually lived in DC when I moved here in 2002 while Wendy went to law school. Crazy that they left almost 9 years ago, and I’m still here!

Remember this little guy?

harper and lincoln

The little man on the bottom is my nephew Harper, who is doing AWESOME if you’ve been following my blog for a while and know the backstory there.

We started the day on Saturday in fullout tourist mode, with a walk around the World War II Memorial, the Lincoln, and the Washington Monument.

washington monument

It was a little chilly in the morning since Harper is up and at ‘em early, but the entire weekend turned out to be perfect weather so we got really lucky!

After walking around the monuments, we headed to the Air and Space Museum since Harper is super into planes, but it was a little disappointing for him since everything was covered with plexiglass and he couldn’t actually touch much. Good luck explaining to a two year old why you can’t “open” all the barriers that were up! The one part he did really like was this exhibit that simulated what it was like to ride a plane way back when. You pushed a button and the ground vibrated and shook, which thank God is not the way planes fly anymore.

After the busy morning, it was family nap time for them, and I actually went out for a really great run since the weather was so awesome. Despite the fact that I should have run 8 or 10 miles, it was better to do 4.5 hilly ones than not go at all!

photo (1)

After showering and visiting the playground close to my apartment, we headed for dinner to Rasika where I literally had one of the best meals of my life. I wasn’t sure how Harper would do, and while it was touch and go for a minute there, we ended up being able to enjoy our meal immensely while he was distracted with not one, but two iPhones. Highlights of the meal included (besides everything we ate. literally.) Palak Chaat, which is deep fried baby spinach leaves with yogurt and date chutney and Sev Batata Puri.

rasika

That dish actually made the list of 40 dishes Washingtonians shouldn’t live without this year and it was AMAZING. I honestly can barely explain it, but it was similar to a cracker on the bottom with chopped potatoes, mango, a crispy garnish, and such a complex sauce on it that I could barely get over how good it was. I have been thinking about that meal nonstop ever since it ended!

After dinner, Wendy and I went out and got a drink with some of my girlfriends, which was fun.

Beth and Wendy

Sunday was a blur of a day since Harper didn’t realize he should sleep in, but we did manage to make it to the zoo in the morning.

KKs at the zoo

It was so funny that the animal Harper took to the most to was a random black crow in a cage off to the side, rather than the lions, zebras, pandas, and other picturesque animals. The crow was cawing (is that a word?) really loud, and each time he did Harper would caw back and just laugh and laugh and laugh. It was so adorable to watch and it made me want them to stay even more! But Harper’s nap time is around noon, so they got on the road back to Philly around then so he could sleep in the car. Weekends always go by waaaaay too fast!

Do you have any siblings? How often do you get to see them?

I have two older sisters and we all live within a 4 hour drive of each other, so I do get to see them quite a bit, but not enough.

March Menu Plan #1

Why not get started plugging away at March goals straight away, right? I know when I put a weekly meal plan in place, it helps me tremendously to stay on track and to spend less money eating out. I actually went grocery shopping on Saturday this past weekend since my fridge was so bare after my Philly trip, and then spent a little time on Sunday preparing some things for the week. Breaking these tasks up definitely made it feel less daunting and only took a little time out of each day of the weekend.

Prep on Sunday involved making Pulled Salsa Chicken in the crockpot:

Salsa Chicken

1 medium chopped onion, 1.5 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs, and 1 cup of salsa on high for 3 hours. After 3 hours is up, take the chicken out, shred it with two forks, and then throw it back into the crockpot with the lid off for 30 minutes or so until the liquid dissolves. This made 5 servings that were just under a cup each for 4 PP per serving. I ate one serving on Sunday and then 4 left to use throughout the week. I made this at least every month, sometimes more.

I also sautéed up some fajita veggies:

fajita veggies

1 red onion, 1 yellow pepper, and 1 orange pepper.

And then I made a batch of plain steel cut oatmeal for the week. I use the heat and eat method, where you put the oats with a 1:4 ratio oats:water, bring them to a boil for 2 minutes, and then remove the pot from the heat, cover it, and leave it on the stove overnight. In the morning just mix it up and all the water will be dissolved and the oats are ready to heat and eat. I do that almost every single Sunday and it’s a lifesaver. And now I’ve managed to make myself unable to cook steel cut oats any other way because I always burn them to the bottom of the pan otherwise!

That little bit of prep went a long way for this week’s menu plan since the only active thing was the fajita veggies, and those took about 20 minutes.

Breakfast Lunch Dinner Snacks
Monday savory oatmeal w/spinach + cheese Fajita Salad w/Salsa Chicken, fajita veggies, corn, w/salsa + greek yogurt dressing Soft boiled eggs w/english muffin + smashed avocado red peppers + cottage cheese
Tuesday oatmeal w/banana + peanut butter Chicken soft tacos w/fajita veggies Big salad w/black beans, corn, avocado, cilantro, tortilla strips vanilla greek yogurt w/frozen cherries
Wednesday savory oatmeal w/spinach + cheese Fajita Salad w/Salsa Chicken, fajita veggies, corn, w/salsa + greek yogurt dressing Dinner out at Thai Xing (!!) string cheese + grapes
Thursday Egg sandwich w/cheese + avocado Chicken burrito w/fajita veggies, black beans, corn, and guac Roasted Chickpeas and sweet potato fries green smoothie
Friday Egg white omelet w/veggies + cheese Leftover Roasted Chickpeas and sweet potatoes over greens Takeout with my sister! cottage cheese w/frozen mango

Can we just talk about last night’s dinner for a second? I tend to hate cooking extravagant meals during weeknights (read: anything that takes over 20 minutes to prepare), so eggs are one of my go-to weeknight dinners when it’s just me. This one was so simple, but SO delicious and satisfying.

Eggs   Avocado

2 soft boiled eggs (using this method), a toasted english muffin, and 30 grams of avocado mashed with a little sea salt for 8 PP total. The eggs were peeeeerfectly runny.

Runny Egg

Yum. And the second best part was I threw together my breakfast and lunch for today while the eggs were cooking and the english muffin toasting, which took no time at all since everything was prepped! Two birds.

Are you a fan of eggs? Do you like the yolks runny or cooked through?

Also, random throwback, here’s what I was doing one year ago today!

February Review and March Goals

Happy Monday!! Last week in Philly was CRAZY busy. My goal was to workout twice while I was there, and I only ran once on Tuesday morning. It was just over 6 miles and felt great, but I literally didn’t have a second after that. Even though I didn’t work out, I was moving so much and walking a ton around the convention center, and I managed to earn between 5 and 6 activity points every day I was there!

Also, today marks the start of the Beth’s Journey Dietbet! I am so excited that I created the game because it made me snap right back into healthy mode when I got back from Philly on Friday night. OK, I didn’t snap out of it until Saturday morning, but still. I was SHOCKED to see how many people signed up for the game! As of this morning, the pot was at $7,725, which means 309 people have signed up already!! And it’s not too late to join if you are interested in participating! Good luck!!!

Soooo the month of February didn’t go as well as I had hoped in terms of my goals, but let’s take a look anyway.

February Goals

1.) Work up to running 10 miles.

Check! I managed to get one 10 miler in last month. That said, I wish I had gotten more long runs in during the month.

2.) Go on a cash-only spending policy.

Nope. Didn’t even get this one started, but the funny thing is I had a few people in my real life tell me they saw this goal and implemented it for themselves, so it’s not a total loss haha.

3.) Limit meals out to twice a week maximum.

I did OK with this one. Obviously last week in Philly I ate 100% of my meals out, but when I was in DC I did limit eating out quite a bit.

4.) Weigh in at least three Tuesdays this month.

Yup. I weighed in the first three Tuesdays of the month and managed to lose about 3 pounds during the month. That was, before my Philly trip…

5.) Keep up with studying Spanish.

Totally slacked on this one too. I probably used the app I’ve been doing once or twice during the month. Need to re-dedicate myself to this!

6.) Read at least two books.

Nope. I did read Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and watched the movie, and then started the next one in the series but am not quite half way through it.

7.) Keep the TV of at least two nights during the week.

Yes! This one I actually accomplished. I still watched a good amount of TV but I managed to keep the TV off at least two nights during the week for the whole month.

So let’s hope March goes better…

March Goals

 

1.) Run a half marathon.

March 16, 2013 – half marathon #6 here I come!

2.) Win the Dietbet

I need to lose everything I gained in Philly and then some to meet the 4%, but I am committed to making this happen. It’s going to be hard because March is such a crazy month for me but I know if I stay focused I can do it.

3.) Keep up with studying Spanish.

Let’s give this one another goal and set a more concrete goal. I am on Day 13 right now of my Spanish app, so my goal is to be through at least day 30 by the end of the month.

4.) Post a meal plan at least twice this month.

I love doing them and people seem to like ‘em, so it’s a win-win.

What was the best thing you did in February?