Friday, March 21, 2014

The Meat/Blood Pressure Equation, Fitness Trackers, and a Crazy Workout: Friday Tips, Tricks and Inspiration

Happy Friday Fit Friends!!

It's time for your weekly dose of Tips, Tricks and Inspiration to cheer you into your weekend. How has your week been?

I have had some physical challenges this week and had to employ the strategy of rest to heal up my right foot once again. I am finally fed up with this ongoing right foot issue and have committed to myself to go to the podiatrist the next time it starts acting up. I'm no doctor but my best guess is it's a stress fracture. I am on my feet all day at work so I have to take good care of them. I also finally got fed up with a pair of my work shoes that seem to exacerbate the issue and have ordered replacements. I'm sticking with Reikers, by far the best fitting, most pain-free shoes I've ever owned!

Finding the Right Fitness Tracker

Good equipment is paramount, isn't it? Sometimes it's worth paying a bit more to get the thing that really is a good "fit" for you. My tip this week is to consider purchasing a fitness tracker to help you in your health goals. I personally love my Fitbit One because it not only counts my steps and other activity with it's accelerometer, it also differentiates between light, moderate and "very active" activity. This motivates me to pick it up as the day nears an end. Don't take my word for it though, here is a helpful review of several different fitness products. Not included in this review are the Weight Watcher's ActiveLink product which is surprisingly much lower priced than most of its competitors and can be even used in the pool! Also not included is the BodyMedia armband, offspring of the once-popular BodyBugg, made famous by the show, Biggest Loser. I believe both these last two products do require subscriptions to access their measurements. Check it out for yourself and consider treating yourself to a very useful step up from a simple pedometer.

Why You Might Want to Eat Less Meat

Are you or someone you know suffering from high blood pressure? Here's a simple trick to lower that number In my wellness reading recently I came across this JAMA paper review on Obesity Panacea that shows eating less meat can help lower blood pressure. Having been raised in a rural area, I am from the meat-eater ancestral pool. I have been vegetarian for several months at a time but it is not a way of life that is sustainable for me personally. Nonetheless, "Meatless Monday" and "Fish Friday" have helped me reduce the amount of meat our family eats and we also have meatless lunches at least half our days. Take a look at the article for yourself and see if there are some practical changes you can make.

Bookend Your Weekend Days with Workouts

Finally, a little inspiration for your weekend. If you tend to overdo on the weekends, try book-ending each day with a couple of workouts. Research shows that working out on the weekends makes us more mindful not only of what we are consuming but also of the work it takes to burn off the excess.  I tried out this SparkPeople video recently and it gave me a good run for my money! It's an all-over toning plus cardio piece that runs 28 minutes total. Give it a shot and let me have your thoughts! My commitment for the weekend (Friday through Sunday) is to break my workout into two pieces - morning and evening - so I'm less tempted to overdo on the snacks and alcohol. If you have some other inspiring weekend motivators for us, please share them in the comments.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

PRT Warrior Throw-Down: Half Dead in Texas

 I had my second PRT Warrior training today. Have you started training yet?

I managed to run the whole mile and a half. You are waiting for the "but" right? Yes I ran the whole mile and a half but it took 27 minutes. Oh goodness that is way too much. By way of explanation, I am having some weird heart issues: I am throwing pvcs almost constantly and alternating between (harmless BTW) bradycardia and tachycardia. It plays havoc with my heart monitor so I am not really able to monitor my heart rate much at all. Apparently I really got my heart rate up though because my family kept commenting on my very red face. On several occasions I wondered if I am fighting the fat or the fat is fighting me . . . and winning!

All of that is to say I "got 'er done" people. I did. I did my 2 minutes of sofa back push-ups. I'm going to work up to 20 reps then graduate to sofa arm push-ups. The curl-ups almost did me in, my abs are so sore from Thursday. I got them done but there was a lot of moaning and complaining involved. Thank goodness for my sweet Sunshine who held my feet!

I'm capping off the evening's work with the movie, Rocky. Nothing like a few raw eggs and flights of stairs to brace you for the fight.  Hibernate the computer and get to work now, people. Fight the good fight. You got this!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Shoes and The Old Ways: It's Fit Friday - Tips Tricks and Inspiration!

Hello Co-Warriors!

If you haven't already, please take a minute to read my PRT throw-down challenge posted yesterday. I am looking for some Warriors to join me in this fitness challenge that will finish up on July 31.

Find your "Sole-Mate"

How long has it been since you replaced your exercise shoes?  If your feet, ankles or knees are troubling you more than they used to, turn those shoes over and take a look.  Most running shoes will last about 500 miles as a benchmark. For some tips on determining if your shoes are worn out, I found this article by Mizuna helpful. If you aren't sure what to look for in a shoe, check out these tips by SparkPeople (How to Find Your Sole Mate!). I have already chosen my new shoes and will be hunting them down this weekend.

Good News for Mediterranean Diet Followers

We all know there is no magic to losing weight but some eating plans do seem to do the trick better than others. The Mediterranean diet is rich in fish, nuts, vegetable and fruits, as well as healthy oils. Web MD reported recently on yet another study that shows how helpful this traditional diet truly is. Our family is definitely moving closer to this way of eating but fish is still hard for me to incorporate. Lent is a good springboard for us as we eat fish every Friday and I think I will have a goal of moving to twice-a-week fish beginning Easter. Sometimes the old ways are the best!

Speaking of the Old Ways . . .

I found a very interesting to site for inspiration this week. It's called Old Ways.  Their mission is to "guide people to health through the old ways." This just suits me! It's a combination of "back to basics" and new spins on old favorites. My philosophy is to keep refining my eating and to allow myself to be inspired by other ways of improving health. This site had some wonderful recipes and help on two fronts: 1) Making clear the Mediterranean way of eating and, (2) African Heritage Health forums and recipes. Both of these are well suited to my family so we have several of these recipes and practices coming soon to our table. Have a look at for yourself and let me know your thoughts.

That's all for today folks! Have a fit Friday and a Work-Out (or Work-Outside!) Weekend.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

PRT - Am I Ready? Are YOU?

I'm from a military ancestry. I grew up patriotic, disciplined and yes, obedient. That's not a bad thing, people!

I harbor a natural fascination for all things military. Some time back, I coached a young woman in the Navy Reserves who was worried about passing her annual PRT - Physical Readiness Test. We set up a plan for her to incrementally work toward her goals and face her test with confidence.

I have been thinking about the test ever since. It is "stuck in my craw" as my Grandma would say. It's not because I think the Physical Readiness Test is wrong, not at all. If someone is defending my country, it's nice to know they're physically ready to do so!  No, what bothers me about the test is that I know I couldn't pass it and not just because of my girth. I am not fit, no matter how much the label "fat but fit" is pasted on me.

I am not joining the Armed Forces, fear not. Even they are not ready for the likes of me! But it occurs to me that I have 3 very active [read "normal"] young children at a stage in my life where my friends have grown grandchildren. I want to be "physically ready" to defend them, or at least knock them out of harm's way. So . . . I have decided to prepare for the test.

Yes, this is a little nutty, but it is also a quite revealing.  Today I discovered that while I certainly can run 1.5 miles, I need to run them almost twice as fast as I did today. Twice as fast. That has quite a ring, doesn't it? The Navy expects a woman my age to run 1.5 miles in 16 minutes or faster. Today I ran a mile in 16. Oops.

There are push-ups and curl-ups too. Oh, yes. Guess what? I actually can't do either of these. Yikes. I can do a curl up, but I have to use my arms to get the momentum to leave the floor and I was able to do 26 of these modified curl-ups in 2 minutes, but the Navy says 26-81 regular ones would qualify me. Push-ups? 2 to 30.  I can't do even one, but I did manage a 30 second plank 3 times, so that's where I'm starting. I think if I can build enough strength to plank for 2 minutes, then I will be able to do at least one push up.

There is also a swimming component but I am a fair-weather-friend to swimming, so I am putting that off until June. In case you care, though, I'll need to be able to swim 500 yds in 15:50 or less.  I built up some good swimming skills a couple of years ago so I think this will be my easiest component, followed by running, then sit-ups, and finally push-ups.

I know this sounds a little kooky but it seems like a practical, coach-myself, fitness goal to work toward, don't you think? What do you think, actually? I have quite a few readers on Feedspot and a handful on Facebook and elsewhere but it's so quiet here.

Therefore, I'm issuing a challenge. Below are the links to the tables for the main US Armed Forces Branches. Pick one and join me. Let's set a date, say July 31. Who will be ready to join me in  a PRT on 7/31?  I can't HEAR YOU!  Step up, recruit, and be counted! (In the comments, if you please!)

United States Navy Physical Readiness Test for females and for males

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Braveheart: Fight like Wallace

A year ago I found myself unexpectedly in a hospital bed for many days due to an extremely rapid heart rate the doctors could not get regulated. At that point I weighed roughly what I do right now. That's a sobering fact in itself. The doctors told me two things over and over: 1) I have a healthy heart with a weird rhythm, and (2) I have that healthy heart because of years of regular exercise and a heart-healthy diet. At that time, I had to face the reality that my prolonged effort toward a healthful life had in fact delivered the exact results I desired even though they had not resulted in the weight loss I also wanted. 

Because I have never before had 9 days of bed-rest, I had a lot of time to take a look at my life. A few facts stood out for me:
1) I do not lose weight easily. Not at all. I can follow any program of calorie restriction or reduction and I will lose weight some weeks only to gain it back the next. 
2) No one said it should be easy
3) Therefore, if I want to lose weight and keep it off I must (a) find a way to increase my metabolism and (b) Recognize that all changes to my diet must be ongoing (with no days "off") and permanent.

These were valuable insights but the most important one has come slowly in the last few months: This is a spiritual issue. I start making progress and then get thrown off track by a life-shock or a hard week and I give up. A few poor food choices later and all my hard work is out the window because I gain weight super easily. 

Around New Year's the movie Rocky came to my mind. I have it on my actions step to watch it again. It's the story of kid who wants to become a championship boxer and on his way to fame, he has to grapple with his mind and train himself to fight for what he wants. 

"You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain't about how hard you're hit. It's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That's how winning is done! Now if you know what you're worth then go out and get what you're worth. But ya gotta be willing to take the hits" (Rocky Balboa)

He realizes he has to "go the distance for his self-respect." (IMDB)  I realize this is what I have to do if I want to lose this weight. I have to fight hard every day, every day. I've proven it's not going to be easy. It's time to let go of that once and for all and deal with my spiritual issues. I need that fight in me.

Last week I noticed that Braveheart was coming on t.v. I taped it to watch with the girls because it is a great story. I did not realize it was just the tonic I needed. At one point, William Wallace is accused of being angry. He said that he was in fact angry and he used his anger to fuel his fight for freedom. He did not stop fighting. He saw what he had to do and even when it wasn't how he thought it should be, he kep fighting. In fact, he fought harder.

I am angry too. I think it should be easy. I think a gal who has a healthy heart should also be thin. I don't want to be "fit and fat," I want to be fit looking. I've worked hard for ten years and I should have the body to show for it. I think if I follow my program - or any program - I should lose weight and it shouldn't fly back on by one cheeseburger. So many "shoulds." 

I'm mad. I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it any more. I am going to focus on finding my own brave heart and I am going to fight like Wallace. I'm going to keep fighting until I win this cursed battle because my freedom is worth it. 

Who's in?

Monday, March 3, 2014

Yummy Recipes Compiled on a Soggy Sunday

This is less a menu plan and more a brainstorm. We are still "eating down the larder" and it's easier to go day by day.  That said, we did have some wonderful food last week that I will share to inspire you on your own Menu Plan Monday! (Check out some more ideas on Org Junkie's link-up)

Eating down our larder makes me more creative. Here is one night's meal:

This was bacon (obviously) with creamy polenta topped with ratatouille and fresh bell pepper, and zoodles (zucchini "noodles). Since the ratatouille was from the freezer, the bell pepper perked it up prettily.

We have a lean meatloaf we love. Here is the formula. For the vegetables, I was able to use the leftover ratatouille and zucchini from the night before. The kids don't even notice the vegetables in this yummy meat loaf. Try it this week!

Master Meat Loaf

Serves 8 or more. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2# lean ground beef or lean meat mix
2 eggs
2 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup tomato sauce
2 cups cooked vegetables - almost anything works
2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. Worchestershire sauce

1/2 cup ketchup
1 tsp. chili powder
2 tsp. brown sugar
Pinch salt

Mix all the meatloaf ingredients together. It's faster if you use your hands. Then press them all into a large loaf pan and un-mold onto the rack of a roasting pan. If you don't have a roasting pan, then put a cake rack over a jelly roll or 9x13 pan. It's important to let the drippings drain off to keep the fat down.

 These vegetables all but disappear when you cook it. Not once have any of my kids mentioned the vegetables in the meatloaf.

Mix the sauce ingredients together and slather them on the top.

Bake at 350 degrees for 60-75 minutes until done. I look for it to be 175 degrees in the center.

Slice and serve!

I used to make a rustic, round loaf but it was too hard to turn the leftovers into sandwiches. We love the leftovers.

Blueberry Make-Ahead French Toast

This week I found a yummy sounding recipe on SparkPeople. If you're not familiar with the site, it is an amazing weight loss, calorie tracking and exercise site. It's free. You can't get a better price than that!

So here is the link to the blueberry french toast. I can't wait to try it on my peeps.  Any breakfast I can make the night before is a winner in my book and since they are usually very high on calories, this one looks even better. At 344 calories and only 6 grams of fat, this sounds like a winner! The site claims zero fiber but I'm sure that's because fiber varies by loaf in whole-grain bread. Use your bread label to determine your fiber for this dish. I have whole grain English Muffins in the freezer that are going to form the basis for this dish for us.

Dinner Menus

Fantastic Fish Pie

  • We'll be having Surprise Chili with beans this week because I have lots of beans and a lovely
    chili grind from my grassfed beef; I'm sure some purple coleslaw will be on the menu that day.
  • We'll have homemade bread and navy beans on Wednesday for Ash Wednesday
  • I love beef stew and we are having a spate of cooler weather. We are getting lovely stewing vegetables in our CSA box so beef stew is on the horizon.
  • That sounds like a too soupy week so tonight will be pork loin and quinoa with tiny diced beets and sweet potatoes. We'll be having rainbow chard too.
  • Chicken thighs, cheese grits, collard greens and sweet potatoes sound good!
  • Fantastic Fish Pie with salad or greens is in the works for the first Friday of Lent. (We will subbing in skim milk for most of the cream and not adding much at all to the potatoes when we mash them. Outside of Lent, we love to add chopped dried chorizo to the pie.)

Braised Chicken Thighs
That's a wrap! Have a healthy, fun week!