Friday, August 29, 2014

Prepping for My Week [mediterranean salad]

I could survive on hummus if necessary. You can't even understand how true this statement is. There is always at least one container of hummus in our fridge at all times! When we moved to Florida and were introduced to the wonderful land of Publix, it got even better. They have their own store brand of hummus and it comes in a bunch of flavors like jalapeno cilantro.

I digress... this post is not about hummus (or is it?).

In prepping for my meals this week, I knew I wanted big ol' salads for lunch and was inspired a while back by Panera's Power Chicken Hummus Bowl. Hummus ON a salad, yes, please.

So here is what I prepped for the salads (or bought):

  • Salad greens (half spinach, half baby greens)
  • Quinoa prepared with Italian herbs
  • Grilled chicken breasts diced up
  • Red peppers diced up
  • Red & yellow grape tomatoes, halved
  • Red Onion, chopped
  • Crumbled feta
  • Hummus (roasted red pepper)

Isn't this salad just the prettiest thing you have ever seen?! I think this is the definition of food porn. I have a lemon vinaigrette in the fridge right now, so that works well on here. Also, if the hummus is a little too thick for your liking, it can make a great salad dressing by simply mixing it with a little olive oil to thin it out.

As you can also see in the first picture, I made muffins for breakfasts and shredded chicken in the crockpot. I followed this recipe for Raspberry Dark Chocolate Banana Bread, and made a few modifications (some whole wheat flour and mini chocolate chips). It made 14 muffins, which are about 270 calories, so not super light! But I found one muffin and some fruit was a perfectly filling breakfast. Next time I make these, I will work to lighten them up!

The pulled chicken couldn't be easier. I've made it this way several times in the crockpot. The general gist is season your chicken breasts however you like, cover with some kind of liquid in the crockpot and cook on low all day. The chicken falls apart with a simple touch! To make it more mexican inspired, I did it with Spicy V8 and for a more Italian twist, use chicken broth and jarred tomato sauce. This chicken was perfect on top of baked sweet potatoes with salsa - that was dinner this week.

A little prep goes a long way. Since all those ingredients were hanging out in the fridge, you can pull together a lot of different combinations. It is Friday and I still have leftovers of all those things in the fridge. It will be nice to have some healthy options awaiting us when we get home from our trip Monday.

Do you also love hummus? Any creative ways you eat it, besides with the classic pita? What food prep did you do to make your week easier?

Fitness Friday

I am a firm believer that you don't need a gym to get a good workout. I am fortunate enough to have a gym in our neighborhood that is actually pretty decent and a membership to the YMCA. But I honestly don't use them that much! I feel like I can better fit a workout into my day when I'm doing it at home. I would say 90% of my workouts are either running outside or at home. I love working out at home, because we can blast whatever music we want on Pandora and our dog is always entertained by us working out in the living room.

Pinterest is a great way to get workout ideas and that's where I find most of my moves. Feel free to follow my Fitness Board on Pinterest and please don't judge me for the amount of pins I have :)

Lately, I have been running 3x week and focusing on toning. I have been reading a lot about how building lean muscle helps boost your metabolism and I'm all for that! The moves below (in no particular order) are pretty much what I have been doing for the last month or so. I think it's a good mix of core, arms and legs. Once I get my arms exhausted with bicep curls for examples, I switch to lunges and work an entirely different muscle group. 

I try to throw in the jumping jacks whenever I feel like I need to get my heart pumping! I forgot all about jumping jacks until I saw a friend post about them on Instagram. They really get the blood pumping! I also like this series because it incorporates standing abs. I have never been a fan of lying down and doing tons of crunches. It's just too boring for me and I never feel like I have the right form.

Here are a few modifications that I sometimes do:
  • Push-ups standing up with your hands on the wall. This is great for me, because I have trouble going all the way down in traditional (or knee-down) push-ups. This really helps me get the whole range of motion, which I think is great for my shoulders.
  • You can always add weights to your lunges (I have small hand-held 5 lb. weights and smaller wrist weights)
  • There are a million variations of squats, but I really like the ballet squat, where you turn your feet out and take a larger stance. This really works different glute muscles.

Sometimes I break this up and only do the standing ab moves or only the lower body workout, depending on what other fitness I am doing that day. But if you do this whole series through with only 1 rep of 15 each, it should take you 20-30 minutes, depending on your pace. When I have more time, it's nice to add additional reps, but I'll take what I can get!

Since I am participating in the 14-Day Sexy Arm Challenge, I've been trying to take it easy on my arms, so they aren't jello by the end of the day! The challenge mostly consists of push-ups, dips and planks. I am the worst at push-ups, so this challenge is helping!

Let me know if your try this out for yourself! I would love to hear your feedback. Any other body weight exercises that you can't live without?


I wanted to share one way I keep on track with my snacking - graze.

I am the first to admit that I have control issues. Both forms (1) I like to be in control of what is happening around me and (2) I have no self control when it comes to chips and snacks of that nature. In the past, if I was home alone and opened a large bag of chips... they might all be gone within an hour. I am trying to get better about this and actually count the serving out in a bowl, so I'm not eating right out of the bag (but $hit happens sometimes).

I first heard about graze through MyFitnessPal and thought it was risk-free enough to give it a try. I see a lot of subscription boxes out there for everything under the sun and have always stayed away from them. But graze seemed different. It's $6 a box, which includes shipping, and you get to try 4 new snacks in each box. I mean, for that price, I don't feel guilty signing up at all.

I have chosen the calorie counter box, to make sure all my snacks would be under 150 calories and you can even put in dietary preferences as well. You can rate snacks when you get started and as you try new snacks, you can adjust your ratings.

I am definitely not being paid to say all this by graze, just wanted to share a great thing I have found! If you're interested in trying it, use my referral link here, you will get your 1st and 5th box free. I mean, why not try it? For a total of $18, you will get 5 boxes of snacks. You can set it up to get deliveries each week or every other week (which I do).

I am absolutely obsessed with the my thai snack below. It is so freaking good and it's only 80 calories!

Sometimes I don't get excited about the dried fruit snacks, but they are actually delicious. And if anything, it's easy to grab these and throw over yogurt or a salad.

I get mine delivered to the office so I can have snacks readily available at work (or because I don't want to share them with J). They come in these convenient little containers and I keep them stacked nearby for when hunger strikes!

Again, graze is not sponsoring this post, I just like them. If people do use my referral link, I get a $1 off my next box, but you get free boxes too, so it's win-win!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Progress [twelve weeks]

Looking at my 6 week progress photos got me thinking about how long it has been since I have made the commitment to living healthy. 12 WEEKS!

So when I looked at those photos and it was hard to see the small changes, I figured it was time to take some new photos. Comparing my June 1st photos to ones I took yesterday was eye-opening for me.

I can really see big changes and it's no wonder I had to clean out clothes from my closet that I had bought this spring. My stomach/belly button looks higher from the front and less "soft" and my gut no longer can pass for pregnant! My back roll looks less pronounced too, but I still have a ways to go there.

My main areas that I want to work on this fall:

  • Outer thighs
  • Arms
  • Shoulders/Back
  • Booty
I know if I continue with my running (and my running, I mean jogging at a 11-12 minute mile) and core work, that my stomach will move in a good direction without having to specifically focus on it. So I feel good there! My goals currently do not include 6-pack abs.

I still have almost a full-closet in the guest room full of clothes that are too tight on me. I have divided them into 2 groups: clothes that almost fit and clothes that are way too tight on me. It will be nice to try on the clothes that almost fit in another month or so. While it was depressing to keep them, I'm glad that I don't have to go out and spend money on a new wardrobe for every stage of this journey (That doesn't mean that I won't be shopping, but I won't have to).

What areas of your body are you focusing on?

Goals [toned arms]

As you may have noticed in yesterday's post, one of my September goals is to focus on toning my arms/shoulders. I thought I would expand upon that goal here, because I know you were dying to hear more!

When I was regularly hitting the gym in my early twenties, my arms weren't too shabby. In fact, I tried for a while and the guy I ended up dating for 6 months that I met on there, said my picture caught his eye, because of my arms. Woot woot! Looking at my pictures below from the last 6 months, my arms just look enormous to me. I guess it's all about perspective, but I feel gross looking at them! The picture in the top right corner was taken on Easter weekend and I thought I looked great that day. It was such a buzz-kill to see this photo later that day.

So I am recommitting myself to toning my arms. Boom, it's out there now! For me, I notice someone's arms long before I notice their abs (unless they're in a bikini), so I want to put my best foot forward to the world.

I have been following Marionberry Style for a while now, it's a great fashion blog. She has been branching out to the fitness world and has a great fitness-themed Facebook page that I check every day. Definitely check it out! She also does challenge groups each month that focus on certain areas. I am currently doing her 14-Day Sexy Arm Challenge and on Day 3. I won't divulge too many details of the challenge, but if you are interested in it, click here to request to join the group. It is all body weight exercises, so no equipment or gym needed!

I'm really excited to stick with this challenge and 2 weeks seems so reasonable. To keep myself motivated, I took some before arm photos yesterday. I can't wait to see the difference this challenge makes!

And just in case I wasn't motivated enough, I've made an inspiration board of some nice toned ladies you might recognize!

Do you have any secret moves for toned arms?

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Goals [mini milestones]

Ground-breaking news everyone: setting smaller goals for yourself makes it easier to achieve your larger goals! (please note my sarcasm and get used to it) You could probably find a million other great articles about this, so I'm not going to pretend to be an expert. I will share with you what I have found to work for me, in case it is helpful!

When I decided I was ready for change (get it?!), I looked at my BMI and historical weight data for myself to guide me in setting my big goal. I used the CDC's website to look up my BMI, I figured they were a pretty reputable source. You can check out their calculator and charts here. My beginning BMI was close to 29, which put me firmly in the overweight category. This scared me, for real. I knew I had weight to lose and was "fluffy", but I guess I was in denial that I was "overweight". For my height, it is suggested that you should be below a 25 BMI to be in a healthy range. So I went from there and determined that I wanted to banish 35 pounds from my overweight body. I'm not opposed to setting new goals once I reach 35, but I had to start somewhere.

35 pounds is a lot! According to this fun little chart I saw on Instagram, that's the weight of a cinder block or mid-size microwave! It wouldn't be fun to walk around with a cinder-block in my arms all day, and that's basically what I have been doing. (It is cool to see that I have already lost a bald eagle)

So I have broken my weight loss goals into 5 pound increments and staying focused on that. You can see my progress in the side bar. I have set a goal of losing a total of 15 pounds my August 31st and I am dangerously close to that goal. I have to remember that when I am at a family BBQ this weekend... will you remind me? K, Thanks.

In addition to my weight goals, I have been leaving little notes for myself on my bathroom mirror to keep me focused. Here are some examples of my quick notes:

I decided moving forward, that I like to look at pretty things, so I made this template for myself to print. You can check out my Free Tools tab for the printable PDF's. Sharing is caring. Your welcome.

Below you can see what my goals are for this week and for September. I tried to focus on my health goals holistically and not just focus on pounds lost. I will try my best to post my weekly goals each Monday and report back on the previous week's successes and failures (hopefully there won't be too many of those, but let's keep it real here). 

Next, I need to determine a "prize" of sorts if I complete all my goals each week. Perhaps something like $5 in the jar for new clothes (in smaller sizes), a mani/pedi or something else entirely. I don't think rewarding myself with food would be a good option :)

What are your big health goals? Do you have/plan to have any mini goals set? How do you reward yourself for reaching goals? I would love to hear your ideas, since we all need fresh ideas and encouragement!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Prepping for My Week [chicken meatballs]

Sunday is an important day of the week for my health. It feels great to prep for the week, so I don't have any excuses for fast food, etc.

Since moving to Florida, I have to admit that I don't have the busiest schedule and I'm lucky. That's because I have worked hard in the past to get where I am now. In Baltimore, I worked full-time where travel was part of the normal schedule and I completed my MBA. A normal week would compromise of 2 normal 9-5 days, 2 days where I worked 9-5 and then went straight to class until 9 p.m., and one day where I was traveling (usually 12 hour days). It was exhausting! I tried to prep as many meals as I could, but I was legit busy, so I wasn't too hard on myself! In North Carolina, my job sucked the life out of me and I often worked long hours and fast food became my friend. Now, I work a full-time job that has great balance and expectations of how much you should work!! I do also work a second part-time job to save money for our wedding, but I have cut back those hours to a reasonable schedule. But BUSY or not, everyone can be a little lazy when they get home from work!

Anyways, back to meal prep.

J and I talk each weekend about what we want to make for the upcoming week. Often times he eats a different breakfast and lunch then me and I have come to the realization that it's ok and he does need more calories than I do! We come up with a game plan, make a grocery trip and go shopping. I try to prep as much as I can for the week, so I can just come home from work a spend about 15 minutes cooking dinner.

Last week we wanted a little Italian (my roots) and so I made chicken meatballs. Sadly, I did not take a photo of the cooked product, but trust me, they were delicious!

These were great and very versatile. The first night I tossed them with pasta, jarred sauce and fresh basil - pretty traditional. I just watched how much pasta was in my serving and made sure to have a big side salad with it. The second night I had them on a salad with grape tomatoes and fresh mozzarella - this might have been my favorite. Later in the week, I had run in the morning and played golf after work, so I was starving! I tossed these with a little bit of pasta and some soft goat cheese and crushed red pepper. The goat cheese got deliciously melty (not a real word apparently) and I tell you, it hit the spot! These meatballs would even make a great snack if you needed more protein in your day. I know that is something I am constantly watching and going to start focusing on.

I decided not to cook these all at once, so each night they would have great fresh flavor. They only took about 10 minutes to cook and were better in a saute pan then they were when I baked them. I input my recipe with exact measurements into MyFitnessPal and here is what I came up with for nutrition:

Not too bad for the calories, in my opinion. Makes me feel less guilty if I want them with some pasta!

What are your favorite go-to recipes? Do you prep your meals for the week?

Progress [six weeks]

So let's just start this off by saying this is a no judgement zone. I've seen blog post comments and people can be nasty! There is only room for positive encouragement here :)

I dread posting these pictures and haven't shared my new blog with many people I know yet. I'll work up to that! Everyone has to start somewhere, so here is where I am starting. This is pretty much the biggest I have ever been and I think the best word to describe me here is "soft":

It's hard to know how much to weight and measure yourself. Sometime it is bad to obsess over it. I decided to take progress pictures about 6 weeks into tracking my food intake and regularly working out. I felt it was time, because my clothes were starting to fit a lot better (isn't that the best feeling?).

It doesn't look like much change at a quick glance, but I knew my clothes were fitting better. I took some measurements to verify and my waist is more defined and my stomach isn't as bloated. I still have a long way to go, but I think it will be amazing to look back 6 months from now at these photos!

I also starting doing a squat challenge that Marionberry Fitness hosted (I didn't finish it sadly, so I need to start again) and it suggested taking before and after photos of your a$$ to see your progress. I naturally will NOT be posting those here, but it brings up a good point. If you are going to focus on an area, it's not a bad idea to take before and afters of that specific area.

Do you take photos to track your progress? Thoughts? Leave some comments and let's get a conversation going!

New Beginnings

Welcome to "Ready For Change"!

I am avid blog reader myself and have considered starting my own for a long time - well that time is now! I have started a journey to get fit and have had success so far the last 3 months and I want to stay motivated to continue. This will keep me accountable and can hopefully help others who are focusing on their health too!

(I'm going to try and not use a million exclamation points in my posts, but I can't promise anything)

A lot of this information that I'm going to share can be found on my About Me page, but I will be fleshing it out more here for my first post. If you're not into reading a ton, just check out my nice timeline I created for your viewing pleasure.

Now for the details:

Growing up, I never had weight issues. I was very active as a teenager, as I was a dancer. I danced for my high school team (and was the captain my senior year) and also danced at a studio. I was had 20+ hours of dance classes and practices each week and loved it. I didn't always love to competitive nature of dancing, but I absolutely had a passion for it. I remember leaving classes and I would be soaking in sweat - it was such a good feeling! I was fortunate enough to have a home-cooked dinner most nights and they were usually well balanced. However, I do remember eating straight junk food for lunch most school days once I was old enough to buy my own lunch. I honestly had a bag of hot fries for lunch each day (so gooood, but so gross at the same time).

I went into college and as most students do, gained weight steadily. I was continuing to eat junk food and not working out regularly. I also adding alcohol into the mix, something I never did in high school. So it wasn't shocking that I gained weight, but I was having a great college experience, so I didn't really care too much. My Mom and sister would make comments to me about gaining weight when I would come home for breaks, which definitely bothered me, but not enough to change my habits. Guys were still into me, so I couldn't have gained that much weight, right? Ahhh the power of alcohol...

College was an emotional experience for me in many ways, but my Mom was also battling colon cancer at the time and passed away in between my sophomore and junior year of college. That honestly rocked my world and I didn't handle it well. I continued to eat and drink more and gained even more weight.

Post college, I was living in Baltimore and still drinking regularly and eating out a lot. The first apartment I lived in was across from a Chipotle... you can guess how that turned out for me. The one good thing about my early twenties, was I did regularly work out and looking back, it showed. I looked more toned and not as bloated. I was fortunate to be working for a college that had a great gym and locker room, so I could workout in the morning and get ready there.

I really thought I needed to lose weight constantly after college, and I did, but looking back at these photos I look skinny to me. I guess I had to gain more to finally do something about it.

I moved to North Carolina after living in Baltimore for 4 years and it was the best decision I have ever made. I was closer to family, had a great job opportunity that taught me a ton and met my the love of my life. We met about a month after I had moved and we got pretty serious pretty fast. We just knew this was it. I didn't have the perfect body and he didn't have the perfect body. We were comfortable around each other and it worked! I would say I worked out 2-3 a week, and attempted to eat healthy. But we got into a bad fast-food rut and it showed. My job really stressed me out and my clothes started fitting me less and less. I definitely wasn't happy about how I looked, but I learned to hide my weight. I was too focused on my relationship and career, that my health wasn't a priority.

Since moving to Florida together we have focused more on our health and are fortunate enough to be outside 95% of the year here to encourage movement. I made the ultimate decision in May to make my health a priority. Looking at the photos below, I had that light-bulb moment, I was sick of feeling and looking like crap! Our upcoming wedding serves as a catalyst, but this is much bigger than looking thin at my wedding. Cancer, diabetes, and heart disease run in my family - and health and diet play a role in them. The more I can do to take care of myself now, the better!

My plan is to not share my actual weight on the blog. People (including me) get so focused on a number and not all the other factors. I constantly compared my height and weight to other women when reading their blogs and it's not healthy to compare! I remember reading a blog post last year and she was trying to lose weight post-baby. She wrote that 9 months pregnant, she weighed less than I currently do now and she was my height. It was just crushing... so I will not be doing that to anyone! I will instead be focusing on pounds lost and occasionally talk about my clothing sizes. Here are my goals below. I will keep updated this in the side bar as I make progress.

I think that is enough writing for one post!