Tag Archives: healthy-living

When 50% is a Good Thing

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If you don’t already know, I’m a school teacher. I spend a lot of my time marking and grading. When I was a kid, if you got 50% on a test, it was a bad thing (I can’t remember, but I seem to think it earned you a “D”) Nowadays, a 50% is a C- (which means “not yet meeting expectations”). Grades are a big thing for me – not only professionally, but personally. I have spent pretty much all of my life around this idea of being graded. In elementary and secondary school, I brought home decent enough grades to keep my parents happy without having to do too much work. Now that my own children are entering high school, we talk about the importance of a good GPA as it pertains to getting into post-secondary programs.  As a music student, I took Royal Conservatory Exams, and remember the thrill of getting a “First Class Honours with Distinction” on a few theory exams…. and, I remember the devastation of failing my grade 10 practical exam the first time I took it (a pass, in that instance, was 70%). When I recently returned to university, I decided that this was my time to shine, and I pushed myself to get straight As. Each essay I got back with a lovely red “A” on the last page brought me joy. Those A+s were cause for celebration. When I was doing my teaching practicum, which was a pass/fail program, a friend and I resolved to give each other As at the end of the term, because we were both so driven by letter grades.  And, I’ve been known to brag about graduation from my B.Ed program with straight A+s. Grades are omnipresent in my life.

Today, however, I realized something very important: 50% is good enough.

Wow – I could hear my friends gasping at reading me say that!!! But, it’s true.

This week, I started following the Eat-Clean Diet (which isn’t really a diet as much as it is a lifestyle change for me). Typically, when I start a new “diet” it’s an all-or-nothing thing for me. If I couldn’t give myself a grade of “A” (or better) after a couple of days, I’d get so discouraged, and quit. Which would often lead to me feeling depressed and thereby eating more (usually in the form of chocolate).

Last Friday, during my counselling appointment, my counsellor had me set some goals. I decided that I’d eat clean for breakfast and lunch, which, a few days later, turned into “eat clean for two meals/snacks per day.” I know it sounds like a simple goal, but for me to not strive for perfection is very, very difficult.

You know what? It’s working! In striving for this partial goal, this ‘not-quite-perfect’ goal, I am actually feeling successful!! Sure, I’ve had a few “dirty meals” (um, Burger King isn’t ‘clean eating’ last time I checked), but, because my goal is two meals/day clean, I’m not beating myself up when I have one unhealthy meal. Ok, so I had that piece of cake and a can of pop at lunch today… who cares?!? It was one meal, and I didn’t let it ruin my day! I had a very healthy breakfast, and my dinner was really clean…. and tonight, when I was having a major sugar craving, I waited it out, reminding myself that this is just my body’s way of getting used to a new lifestyle, one that doesn’t depend on refined sugars for energy.

How cool is that?!?!

Even though yesterday I had Burger King for lunch, and today I splurged a bit, I don’t feel like a failure. I am able to focus on my success because I met my goal. And I can do it again tomorrow, and the day after that. Then, once I get used to eating 50% clean, I can increase it to 75% clean.

When I went to search for an image for this post, the first thing I typed into the search engine was “50%.” Do you know what came up? A bunch of 50% Off sale signs. That made me chuckle… maybe this 50% approach will help me take pounds off!!

I’ve never been one for baby steps. No siree. I’ve always been an ‘all or nothing’ type gal. However, I’m learning to be kinder to myself, to love myself, and to forgive myself. I’ve said it before that we treat our pets better than we treat ourselves. As I get ready to embark on a new year of teaching (and grading!) I need to remember something very, very important:

I am a great teacher who treats her students with love, compassion, empathy, kindness, respect and dignity (as every good teacher does): it’s time I started treating myself as well as I treat my students.

When a student fails a spelling test, I don’t tell them they should just quit school! When a student feels discouraged by an assignment that seems too difficult, I help them work through it, step by step. My goal as an educator is to help my students believe in themselves and feel proud of a job well done. I have come to learn that one student’s amazing achievement may be another student’s worst work; I work hard to help my kids recognize their strengths and improve their weaknesses. I encourage them to keep trying, over and over again, until they learn.

Why should I be any different with myself? Why can’t I encourage myself to keep trying and trying until I learn a new way of living? Because, really, it isn’t about the grade. Ask any teacher: grades are not as important as the lessons learned.

I am learning. I am learning a new way of being. It won’t always come easy, but as long as I try my best, I will succeed.

So, yeah, 50% is a good thing!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oven Roasted Brown Rice Pilaf

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I took this recipe and modified it, as I didn’t have tomatoes on hand.

Ingredients

  • 3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 red pepper, finely chopped
  • 1/3 – 1/2 c finely chopped mushrooms
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped.
  • 2 cups brown basmati rice
  • 1 Tbsp fresh oregano or thyme
  • 4 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth, heated (you can use vegetable broth to make it a vegetarian dish)
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste.

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F
  2. Heat oil in a Dutch oven or large, heavy ovenproof saucepan with a lid. Add the onion & garlic and sauté until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and red pepper, saute until soft.
  3. Add rice and chopped oregano. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until the rice is shiny, about 3 minutes.
  5. Stir in hot stock. Cover pot and bring to a boil.
  6. Transfer to oven and continue to cook, covered, until liquid is absorbed – about 40 to 45 minutes.
  7. Remove the rice from the oven and fluff with a fork. Transfer to a warmed serving bowl.

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The original recipe called for 4 1/4 cups of broth, but I misread the recipe while making it and used 4 1/2 cups – the rice was nice and soft. All three boys said they liked it – and they don’t normally eat brown rice.

Eating Clean

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Today, I am starting something new: Clean Eating. It’s a term I’ve been hearing over and over again since starting this journey. The way I see it is that if the universe keeps presenting you with an idea, perhaps you should listen. There are hundreds and hundreds of diet books, programs, pills, magic potions, on which you can spend money. Those of you who have been following my blog know that I’m trying to become fit and healthy without giving into the propaganda of the diet industry (and without giving them a ton of money!)

Well, I have to admit, I gave in the other day and bought a “diet book”. Actually, I bought three diet books, costing me a total of $33. Which really isn’t that bad.

What books, you ask?

From the research I’ve been doing, this approach seems to make sense to me. Eat more of the healthy stuff – protein, complex carbs, healthy oils; Eat less of the unhealthy stuff – sugars, refined foods, calorie-dense/nutrient poor, prepackaged foods. Sure, I could probably figure this out all on my own, but I love learning, and knowledge is power, right?

Tosca Reno, the author, states that our physiques are 10% genetics, 10% training and 80% nutrition.  I cannot control genetics (which, in reality, I’ve been somewhat blessed with! My dad is a very trim man. From my mother, I am blessed with amazing skin!). The thought of training freaks me out – I still don’t see myself as a ‘exerciser’. But I love to eat. And, I can control food!! And if 80% of how I look is determined by what I eat, that means I can control how I look! That’s great news.

This past week, I have felt tired, depressed, unmotivated, lazy, listless, and have sat around on the couch like a blob.  I’m not surprised: I’ve been filling up on simple carbs and sugary food. I really don’t recall eating much fruit and veggies in the last week. And once you feel that way, it is really hard to be motived out of it.

Fortunately, I have help. My darling friend Jenn and I went grocery shopping together this morning. She’s doing the Eat-Clean thing too (albeit for slightly different reasons than I). She’s helping me with grocery lists and menu plans, which is a godsend. It was nice to go shopping with someone else – I felt far less tempted to buy junky stuff (although, I did buy some not-so-healthy choices for my kids, but it’s things that I generally don’t eat, so I’m not tempted to eat it).

I had my first Eat-Clean lunch today:

2 pc. sprout grain bread

1/2 avocado

1 tomato slice

1 oz. reduced fat cheese

A bit of sprouts

1 c. strawberries

I am SO full, and feel great. I am looking forward to seeing what heath benefits I can notice in the next few days. I’m a bit worried that it will be hard to give up sugar entirely, wondering what type of withdrawal symptoms I may experience. I am looking forward to having more energy, feeling more clear-headed and emotionally stable (less mood swings), having healthier looking skin and, of course, losing weight.

I was reading in Tosca’s book that you can expect to lose 3 lbs a week. I’m not sure if that will happen to me, because I’m not focusing on going “all or nothing” with this. I know myself well enough to know that if I do go all gung-ho on this, and try my best to follow it perfectly, the minute I mess up, I’ll give up. I’m trying to see this as a lifestyle change, taking it one day at a time. I was talking with my therapist yesterday, and she was helping me set some  goals. This week’s goal that I came up with in counselling is to eat clean for breakfast and lunch.  I think I’m going to tweak that a bit: Aim to eat clean for two main meals and snacks/day. I have menu plans and a fully stocked fridge with healthy food. I think I can do this!

 

Winning Streak

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Ok, my friends who know me well are probably thinking “What the heck?! Why does she have a picture of the Canucks on her blog? She is the farthest thing from a hockey fan I know!!”  But, hear me out… there’s a reason I have a picture of the hometown favourites on my blog.

Anyone who follows the Canucks (and let me tell you: Canucks fans are pretty loyal!) will tell you how excited people get when the Canucks get on a winning streak. The last few years have been an emotional roller coaster with this team. Leading up to the play-offs, every new winning streak brings on more hopes for the elusive prize: the Stanley Cup. And, lately, the ‘Nucks have royally failed to bring it home. Yet the fans keep coming back for more.

Personally, I haven’t really understood the emotional roller coaster of being a hockey fan. Yay! They’re winning! Boo! The Canucks suck. OOOOhhhhhh, we’re totally going to win the cup this year. Man, this bites! We lost in game 7.  And people pay a lot of money for this?

But they keep coming back, time and time again. Even though their beloved team has let them down once again and caused city-wide riots, come the start of a new season, Rogers Arena is filled to capacity with cheering fans.

I never really understood that until today. No, I haven’t had a change of heart and become the world’s biggest hockey fan. But, I am having a winning streak.

And it feels good.

For the past three days, I have made a concerted effort to get out and exercise. As I alluded to recently, I fell off the wagon big time over the past two weeks. I haven’t stepped on the scale out of fear. I was feeling defeated.

I’m not sure what made me get out and go for a walk on Sunday night, but I did. And then again last night (mind you, that time, my friend Jenn texted me and gently nagged me, which I think helped a bit). Tonight, I spent over 90 minutes exercising, and it felt fantastic!! I even made an effort to smile at the cute guys I met along with way. Some of them even smiled back.

So, that’s a three day winning streak. Pretty cool.  I just checked a hockey stat (oh my, what is the world coming to?!?!) The longest winning streak the Canucks have ever been on was 10 games, back in 2002. Ten. That’s not a very big number.  And that was over a three week period. That’s one game every two days.

I wonder if I could beat that record? Exercise at least 10 times in a three week period?  When I started to think about this whole idea of a winning streak, I got really excited… “I wonder how many days in a row I can exercise, without missing a day?” But really, how realistic is that for a girl who is just beginning her road to fitness.

Here’s the plan: work out at least 10 times in 21 days. If I can do that, my winning streak is just as good as the Canucks. Maybe I’ll beat that record!

If you count the last three days (which I am totally doing), I basically have to work out seven more times before the end of the month.  Oh yeah, I am totally going to beat the Canucks.

And, if I lose? That’s ok. The Canucks lose all the time. Their longest winless streak was in 1973. In the span of one month, they had 10 losses and three ties. But, they came back. And they keep coming back, time and time again. Even after the loss is a colossal one, like losing to Boston in the 7th game of the Stanley Cup finals (see, I do pay attention – I didn’t even have to google that one!). Even though they sometimes lose, their fans keep cheering them on.

And you know what?

That’s what this blog is like for me. Facing my failures (hard for a perfectionist with an anxiety disorder!), owning up to them, and picking myself back up. But the best part? The cheering section! You know who you are…. the friends I’ve known for years, the new friends I’ve met only recently, and the virtual friends I’m making through this blog: you all cheer me on. And that means a lot.

Maybe that’s what keeps the Canucks going – showing up for their fans. Sure, they lose a game every now and then (and you know what? They’re really good at losing!), but they keep coming back time and time again to an arena full of fans proudly cheering them on.

I can do this. I can win this fight. I will be successful. The great thing is, my success isn’t measured by winning a big fancy trophy. And, now that I think about it, it’s not even measured by reaching my goal weight. It’s measured in days: having days in which I make healthy choices and make positive changes towards improved fitness. The “Stanley Cup” for me – reaching my goal weight – is just the icing on the cake. Oooohhhh. I wonder if I’ll get to my goal weight before the Canucks win the cup. Chances are I will, seeing as how the Canucks are pretty good at dropping the ball.

Well, I’ll be… I done gone and motivated myself!

Pick Yourself Up

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Well, I’m here. I’m back. I fell off the proverbial wagon, but here I am. In the past 4 or 5 days, I’ve had two close friends ask me how my progress is going, and I honestly told them what was going on in my life, and why I had fallen off the wagon. I faced my failure, and haven’t given up. And for that, I am proud of myself. I am learning, growing in my abilities and dedication to my goal, and discovering that I am truly not alone – which is astonishing! In the last few days, I’ve come to discover that I am not the only one who struggles with many of the issues I address in this blog. One of those issues is body image…

This past Saturday, I went out with a wonderful bunch of ladies for dinner. After dinner, we were walking down the street (in a very trendy neighbourhood in Vancouver) to grab a coffee. As we walked past a restaurant/bar with an outdoor patio, one of the ladies said to me, “Did you see him checking you out. His eyes went head to toe and back up again!” I laughed it off, and, honestly? didn’t really believe her.  Why would a man look at me like that?

The next day, I was talking to my friend Jenn, and we were talking about body image. I expressed my disbelief that someone would see a full-body picture of me and still be interested in dating. She said to me, “Do you really hate your body that much that you cannot accept that a man may actually like you for you?” I said, “Yes,” with a surety that I think kind of shocked her.

Later that evening, I chatted with a friend from high school, and brought up some of these issues. When she told me that she, too, had body image issues, frankly, I was shocked. I have always seen her as a beautiful woman with a great figure (of which, frankly, I’m somewhat jealous!).

It was then that I realized that pretty much everyone has some type of issue with their body. It doesn’t matter what shape you’re in, it’s easy to find something wrong with your body. Which is crazy, isn’t it? And, I think it speaks to unrealistic expectations placed on us by the media to look a certain way.

While I went for my walk today (my 2nd big long walk in as many days – yay me!) I was listening to some personal growth podcasts. There are a few things that really stuck with me….

A computer, without electricity is simply just a useless object. It doesn’t matter how fast the processors are, how many amazing programs are installed, and what operating system its running if there is no power to the unit. We are like that too – our bodies are simply an object. Our knowledge – everything we’ve learned – are like the programs installed in the computer. But our emotional/spiritual self, well, that’s the electricity that brings life to everything.

I really liked that metaphor. I have been focusing so much on my physical body lately, that I’ve forgotten that this body is not who I am.  When I identify myself primarily through my body (an “object” which, as I’ve already owned up to, don’t like all that much), it is damaging to my emotional well being. When I look in the mirror and don’t like what I see, I beat myself up, and make myself feel terrible.

But, I am SO much more than that! As a wise kindergarten teacher once said, “Karen is awesome.” (btw – JP: I don’t think I’ll ever forget that speech you gave on the last day of school!).  It still feels weird that people could look at  me and not see me the way I do, but I am beginning to understand that people do see me for who I am and not what I look like.

Don’t you think it’s time that I started seeing myself that way?

Not AWOL

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I’m here. Really I am.

Sort of.

I haven’t written in  a week. And, truth be told, I haven’t really been doing anything towards this goal in that time. Granted, I spent the entire week enjoying life with my 12 year old as his older brothers were away at summer camp. In an effort to focus on the positives: we did a lot of walking around; I bought a new bathing suit and actually wore it at the beach; we went to the sports court at the end of our block and hit around the tennis ball (and it was fun! I actually worked up a sweat); and I got to spend one on one time with an amazing kid 🙂

Now it’s time to get back into the swing of things.

Why is motivation so elusive for me? Why are some people more motivated than others? Why is it that I get on a roll, have a good week or two, then get derailed?

I actually know part of the answer to these questions, at least for me. Some of it has to do with my own health struggles. When I don’t take care of my health, when I’m not super diligent about it, at first, I feel fine. But slowly and surely, my health starts to deteriorate, and then all of a sudden, I’m not well again. Anyone who has struggled with mental health issues understands what this is like. (And, to be completely honest: at first, I didn’t want to bring this up, to talk about my depression and anxiety, but thanks to The Bloggess  and her courage to openly talk about her struggles of this sort, I have a bit more courage).

I am learning that I thrive on routines. When my life is somewhat scheduled, things go well. I take my medication when I’m supposed to; I exercise regularly (anyone remember 5am yoga? Yep, it’s gone now that I’m on break); I eat healthy (it’s easy to pack a salad the night before!); I do much, much better with my health.

Don’t get me wrong: I love the laid back pace of summer vacation. But the routines have gone straight out the window, and I feel a bit lost. I know part of that is I haven’t been taking my medication regularly, which is pretty important. However, I have recognized that this time, I haven’t completely stopped taking it because I feel better and don’t think I need it (I’ve learned that lesson the hard way!)… it’s just that my routine is completely gone.

Summer vacation is half over. I still have time to implement a good daily routine to see to self care, which includes eating right, tracking my food, exercising, taking my medication, and drinking lots of water.

See, I’m not dumb. I know that when I do those things, my over all health, including my mental health, is much, MUCH better. I feel more clear-headed, stronger, more focused and, well, more alive. I miss feeling that way. I don’t like the way I feel now.

Well, I suppose tomorrow is a new day.

That’s ok

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So the past 36 hours or so haven’t been the greatest. I’ve eaten too much, most of which has been junk. But, that’s ok. I’m not going to beat myself up about it. Today is a new day, and I’m being more careful with what I put in my body.

The last few days have been a bit on the emotional side. On Thursday night, we had a picnic in the park and a good friend joined me. It was a lovely evening, and I enjoyed myself thoroughly. Sure, I didn’t exactly eat the healthiest stuff, and I didn’t track my food that night, but spending time with my children and one of my dearest friends was just so darn good for the soul. I needed that. I also needed to give myself permission to not be perfect.

Yesterday, I messed up. I ate poorly, made terrible choices, and succumbed to a bit of emotional eating. But, it was just one day. I have forgiven myself, and put it in the past.  I also know that right now is that time when I am more likely to engage in mindless eating to appease that carb craving that visits every so often. I am trying to figure out how best to deal with this regular occurrence… allow myself to self-medicate with chocolate, knowing I can’t stop at one? Try desperately to avoid the craving, only to fall horribly later? Not quite sure what to do.