A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

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Taking the next step: Strength-training

Through extensive reading, I am continually learning new concepts. Eighty percent of being fit depends on nutrition. An easy way to measure portion sizes is to remember that one portion of vegetables is a double-handful, a portion of lean meat is the size of your hand, and a portion of nuts is a small, cupped handful.

Another important lesson is that cardio and clean eating will burn fat, but progressive resistance strength training is necesssary to add shape to your body. Building muscle also increases your metabolism, which in turn, burns more fat!

I have learned that the best way to stick with a fitness program is to choose healthy foods that you like and to do exercises that you enjoy doing. By choosing foods that I enjoy, I have been able to stick with the meals plans I laid out. And when I go off track, it’s easier to be motivated to get right back on, because I am not forcing myself to eat things that are unappealing.

In an effort to stay motivated for strength-training, I have decided to apply the same logic. My upper arms are my least-favorite body parts. Even when I am thin, my arms have very little tone and no definition, and I have very little upper body strength. After reviewing several workout options, I have chosen one that hope I can stick with!

Here’s my latest fitness goal:

10 minutes of strength training each day for one week.

Deltoids/Biceps/Triceps (shoulders and arms): 3 days per week

Continue 35 minutes of cardio 7 days per week.


Healthy Meal Plans

When I’m planning my meals for the day, I usually pack lunch and snacks in ready-to-eat individual portions and put them straight in my cooler with an ice pack. This way, I can grab the cooler on my way out the door to work.

On long days, this keeps me from being tempted to grab fast food on the way home. I have an almond bar on the way home from work and have dinner thawed, marinated, and ready to pop in the steamer, so it’s ready within an hour after I come through the front door. Sometimes you have to PLAN not to go off track!

All of the calories are pre-calculated, so I don’t have to think about calorie counts all the time. I stick to the same menu each day, with some variation, so that eating is simple and easy, and I don’t have to put much thought into what I’m going to eat. Choices are made ahead of time, so I don’t have to make food decisions when I’m hungry.

I eat a variety of foods that includes fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats, nuts and grains, and plenty of water. I use the “real deal” sugar, dressing, sour cream, and cheese, in limited amounts. Fat free and artificial just don’t taste good to me.

I would encourage you to make your own food plans. Choose foods that YOU enjoy, look up calorie counts using Google, and adjust portion sizes so that you have 3 meals per day, about 300-400 calories per  meal, and 1 or 2 snacks per day, about 100 calories each.

Typical breakfast: 315 calories

1/2 cup oatmeal (150 calories)

3 tsp. sugar (45 calories)

1/4 cup Blue Diamond unsweetened vanilla almond milk (20 calories)

2 fresh mandarin oranges (100 calories)

organic tea (o calories)

Measure oatmeal before cooking. I use instant oats and prepare in the microwave. Takes one minute, 30 seconds! And yes, I use REAL sugar! I love Tazo tea! Organic Apple Red is my favorite and tastes great unsweetened. I keep hot water in the coffee pot and make tea every chance I get, one cup at a time. Tea acts as a diuretic and also helps curb my appetite.

Typical morning snack/lunch: 515 calories

1/2 cucumber, sliced (45 calories)

20 grape tomatoes (20 calories)

1 T ranch dressing (75 calories)

20 grapes (50 calories each)

1 oz cashews (very small handful) (150)

1 oz Havarti cheese (110 calories)

7 Wheat Thins (65 calories)

Afternoon Snack: 160 calories

Almond bar (160 calories)

Typical dinner: 430 calories

2 flour tortillas (220 calories)

2 T shredded Mexican four cheese (60 calories)

2 T sour cream (60 calories)

1/2 cup Goya black beans (90 calories)

OR  Alternate Dinner: 315 calories

8 oz steamed boneless, skinless chicken breast in Lawry’s lemon pepper marinade; weigh before cooking (240 calories)

10 fresh, steamed baby carrots (50 calories)

1/2 cup fresh, steamed green beans (25 calories)

Almond Bars: http://www.amazon.com/Nature-Valley-Granola-Almond-6-Count/dp/B000EMK4DC

Tazo tea: http://www.amazon.com/Tazo-Organic-Infusion-Caffeine-20-Count/dp/B0017WO2H2

Weight Loss Resources

When I first started trying to lose weight, I found several calorie count apps for the iPhone. I downloaded My Fitness Pal and diligently counted calories. Unfortunately, I also built in regular “cheat” days until every day became a cheat day.

I joined the YMCA near our house and did lots of cardio, while continuing to eat almost anything I wanted. Since January of 2011, I have managed to lose 15 pounds, but I still have a ways to go to reach my goal of 50 pounds lost!

My YMCA membership expired, and I renewed it once and worked out at the gym every day, doing cardio for at least two hours, including the treadmill, the bike, and swimming laps. The second time it expired, I didn’t re-join, because by this time, we had moved, and the gym was quite a hike from our new neighborhood.

After settling in to the house, I again started my quest for weight loss in earnest. I bought a vegetable steamer and planned simple meals that I could prepare for myself while cooking huge, hearty meals for my husband. I set a goal to walk 2 miles each day, in 35 minutes time, approximately 4 miles per hour. I downloaded some fitness music from iTunes and set out with determination. Along the way, I discovered iTreadmill, a pedometer, to track my progress. I really like this app because it allows me to play the iPod in the background, while recording my time and distance.

Over the past year, I have found several resources that have encouraged me, starting with Chantel Hobbs’ book, One Day Way. I used this book as a basis for my new lifestyle plan–eating chicken, shrimp, tuna, and vegetables. Chantel lost over 200 pounds by choosing healthy foods that she enjoyed. I modeled my meal plans after her ideas, choosing things that I enjoyed eating.

I started posting my progress on Facebook, and I’ve had many friends who have encouraged me and have shared additional resources. Two that I like are: CrossFit, a website with various strength-training workouts, and Oxygen, a fitness magazine with tips and workouts for average women, not just those who are into competitive weight-training.

I am currently studying a strength workout for beginners in the current issue of Oxygen and will add the CrossFit routines as I become more advanced.

My Fitness Pal: http://www.myfitnesspal.com/

iTreadmill: http://www.itreadmill.net/iTreadmill/Home.html
Chantel Hobbs’ One Day Way: http://www.amazon.com/One-Day-Way-Today-Time-Weight/dp/0307458784
Chantel Hobbs’ Website: http://www.chantelhobbs.com/
CrossFit: http://www.crossfit.com/
Oxygen: http://www.oxygenmag.com/