Tag Archives: Health

Going vegetarian: the motivating factor (for me)

One of my goals for the month is to go vegetarian. Since I announced this particular feat on my 30 before 30 list I’ve gotten a lot of questions about why this is a goal of mine. Usually the questions come from my judgey, meatatarian friends and family (whom I love and adore) making statements like, “But, it’s grilling season, what are you thinking!?” and, “We are visiting in a month, we want to eat meat!”

While most everyone’s first inclination is to think going vegetarian is about animal rights and environmental benefits, for me it’s really only about the health benefits and the opportunity to discover new flavors/experiment in the kitchen. Research shows a diet filled with veggies, fruits, grains and nuts tends to be lower in saturated fat than a meat-based diet and higher in fiber and antioxidants as well. In fact, the American Dietetic Association released a position paper that said appropriately planned vegetarian diets are “healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases.” I think there are a lot of different motivations for going vegetarian (all of them valid points) but the motivating factor varies depending on the individual. For me, it’s the holistic nutrition element that piques my interest.

There are quite a few different kinds of vegetarian diets out there. I am erring on the less extreme side and opting to only cut meat, poultry, and fish from my diet. That means I still plan on eating dairy products and eggs to ensure I don’t miss out on essential nutrients. The official name is a lacto-ovo vegetarian and I think the majority of people who are vegetarian fall into this category.

Armed with a list of good sources of nutrients from a plant-based diet, a vegetarian cookbook (I can still participate in grilling season!), and new cooking utensils I’m ready to get started. Who knows, it could be a complete lifestyle change for me as well but I’ll be sure to chronicle my adventures (and perhaps misadventures) on going vegetarian here.

 

 

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June: Health

While May was a whirlwind, exciting month I feel like my overall health took a beating. Really, I blame Sonic’s half-price milk shakes (which I am obsessed with) and my lack of control for the downward spiral but hey, you only live once! It’s a new month now and that means it’s time to regroup and refocus my efforts on health.

After a blah health regimen for the past two months, my mind and body are begging for some much-needed attention. I can feel the constant lethargy, lack of motivation, and poor digestion on a daily basis now which is especially disappointing after treating those ailments through diet (and ultimately succeeding). If I’ve learned anything this past year it’s that health and fitness are hard  and falling back into old routines happens often if you don’t make the relationship with your body a priority. But it does get easier and I’m especially looking forward to my June goals to get my butt back in gear!

Go vegetarian for the month. This particular goal is on my 30 before 30 list. Since I’ve mentioned it, I’ve gotten a lot of questions about why I’m choosing to go vegetarian. For the sake of brevity in this particular post though, I’ll just say my decision is purely based on the health benefits of a vegetarian diet and not about the mistreatment of animals. Although, if you’re interested in the latter part, the book Animal Liberation by Peter Singer is what first inspired me to try vegetarianism when I was 18. Disclaimer: it’s kind of graphic.

Keep a food journal. I’ve always been a firm believer that what you eat directly affects how you feel. With my interest in holistic nutrition, I wanted to keep a food journal to document my bodies reactions to various foods. I got the idea after returning from my trip to El Salvador. While there, I didn’t eat any dairy products yet when I returned home, my body reacted adversely. I think especially with going vegetarian for the month, I’ll be trying a host of new foods and spices so the journal will come in handy in building that relationship with my body and understanding what works for me and what doesn’t. Instead of having another hand-written journal I decided to use the MyFitnessPal app. While its intention is to track calories for weight loss, I plan to use it more for recording foods, my bodily reactions, and to track exercise routines. Counting calories is not a priority for me and really, I get kind of bothered that the app counts calories for fruit and veggies. I don’t care how many calories an apple has – EAT IT! I’ll get off my soap box though.

Schedule and complete all of my outstanding health exams. For being health conscious, I tend to always put off my yearly health exams in part because I don’t have dental or vision insurance and in part because health care (even when you have health insurance) is just plain expensive. While I originally planned to use the small amount of money left over from my student loans to travel I am instead choosing to be responsible. In addition to getting my teeth cleaned and eyes checked, I also need to get my ear canals cleaned (I’m prone to ear infections) and schedule my last follow-up exam to a colposcopy I had a year and a half ago (my biopsies came back normal the last two visits, so one more and I’m a free bird!!!).

Set up my retirement account. Financial health is equally important to my overall well-being so I’m reaching out to a local financial advisor to set up my retirement account, a goal which also happens to be on my 30 before 30 list. It’s really not all that exciting, but a task I need to stop putting off!

Beef up the exercise routine. I still maintain at least 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise a day (and then some) but my regimen isn’t all that exciting anymore. I used to have a healthy balance between running, walking, Zumba, and hot yoga but for the past couple of months, I’ve stuck mainly to brisk one hour walks a day with Miley or trail hiking. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy my walks/hikes (that won’t go away) but I could use a little more excitement so it’s not so monotonous. This month, I’m aiming to take a hip hop Latin dance class, ride my bike more, and get back into Zumba and hot yoga classes.

I could come up with a hundred more health goals, but these are my top priorities for the month as I try to defeat my impending sluggish-ness. Bring it on, June!

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The feel happy workout

This week I decided to switch up the workout routine and join Liz at a Zumba class. Not only does it combine my love of latin culture with my love for booty shaking, but it also turned out to be the perfect activity to lift my spirits.

The workout is pretty basic and easy to follow. The moves are repeated often enough that you catch on pretty quickly. Since the class is designed to shift between fast and slow beats you get a pretty good aerobic exercise without actually feeling like you’re working out. And while physical activity is a part of my daily routine, I haven’t really focused much on toning the body. In this fun atmosphere you’re not only burning 500-800 calories on average but you’re sculpting the body too. In fact, my back and legs are actually sore today (although that could just be because I got a tad bit carried away with the hip swinging and booty shaking).

Perhaps what I loved most about the class is that my mind went completely blank for an hour. All I was focused on was learning the moves. With the amount of stress and drama in my work and personal life, it felt good to clear the mind, lose myself in the dance moves, and just have fun. I came out feeling refreshed and rejuvenated and like I couldn’t wait to get back in the studio. Which means I’ll most likely be cancelling my current gym membership and checking into the new Zumba studio being built. I think I just tapped into one of my new favorite activities and it’s pretty exciting!

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It’s race day!

Today was race day for the Heart of Missouri Girls on the Run program. I had a blast running in my first 5k race and even though I’m slow, I’m happy to report I didn’t finish dead last! I ran 3.2 miles in 32:51 and placed 15th, so not too shabby!

This whole experience has been really humbling. I feel incredibly accomplished and proud of myself for reaching the fitness milestones I set a few months back. Setting a goal and working towards accomplishing it, all without skipping a day or cheating on run times, is something to be proud of. What makes the day even sweeter is I also reached my prime goal weight. About five months ago I joined Weight Watchers with the intention of improving my overall health and changing my eating habits. Since that time, I’ve lost 15 pounds and I did it all the healthy way! I’ve reached an overall lifestyle change and I give myself a pat on the back for taking the time to care for myself in both mind and body. What better way is there to love yourself than that!?

I’ve learned two valuable lessons through this experience as well. I now think about my body in terms of what it can do instead of how it looks. Accomplishing my 5k, reaching my weekly goal weights – they helped to foster confidence in my body and improve my overall self-image. Not that I had a horrible self-image beforehand but I did have stomach/digestive issues and now I’ve resolved them by changing my eating habits and exercising. Which leads me to the second valuable lesson: taking care of myself is my responsibility. No one else can do it for me. If I want to prevent any health complications in the future – diabetes, heart issues – and be a role model for my future children, then that’s on me. If you want to change, you have to work at it! Accountability is key in meeting fitness/weight loss goals and sticking to your plan is on you, not the people around you.

Perhaps the most rewarding aspect of meeting my fitness and weight loss goals is getting to share them with family and friends and seeing it inspire them to set and meet their own goals. I love being a source of inspiration for others and if you’re one of those I’ve chatted with recently, you know I’ll be in your corner cheering you on!

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5k accomplished!

This morning, I ran my first 5k. I didn’t actually compete or run in a race but I did do it on my own. After 8 weeks of training, I feel incredibly accomplished and so proud of myself for sticking to the routine.

Looking back, I can remember how daunting 3.2 miles seemed to me. I wondered if I would be able to finish or run that long without stopping. I can think back to the first weeks of training and remember the exact spots where I thought I couldn’t go any further. But I pushed on and I never stopped running. After awhile, you get into a groove and settle into a pace. You work through the side cramps and then all of a sudden you hit your high and everything settles. Your breathing gets easier, you enjoy the sound of your feet hitting the pavement, and you realize all of a sudden that you’re actually doing it. I always thought it’d be cool to be a runner and now I am one!

What I’ve learned through the training process is that training really is so important to me. I’ve come to understand the limitations of my body. When I started, I was not a runner. I was not fit and I had no stamina. I could not even run a mile. Starting slow and adding just a few minutes of running each week broke a large daunting goal down into small manageable pieces. I  realized that even when you don’t think you can go any further, you can. Each week I pushed myself by adding anywhere between 2-5 minutes of run time, gradually decreasing my walk time. I can’t tell you how many times in the last two weeks where I had to keep pushing forward. I’m not a fast runner and by pushing myself, my feet kept moving and I accomplished my goals each week. The most rewarding aspect of training – I realized I’m capable of pushing through even when I think I can’t. I feel empowered. And now that I’m officially a “runner” I feel motivated to set out on the next step: 5k to 10k!

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Feeling kick ass

I’m on week three of training for my 5k and all is well. Since I started getting up twenty minutes earlier three days a week, I’ve felt much more energized and less lethargic throughout the day. It really is a great way to jump-start my morning and to be quite honest, I find it a lot more enjoyable running at a time of day when hardly anyone is awake. I haven’t put headphones on once in the three weeks I’ve been training. I love the sound of my shoes hitting the pavement, Miley running alongside me, the birds just waking up, the slight breeze, and a solid 30 minutes of being inside my own head with no interruptions. I’ve even found myself looking forward to my running days.

While I’ve been on a healthy eating kick the past few months, I feel like the activity has had more of an impact on my decision-making in dishes I cook, how much alcohol I drink, and what I order when I eat out. I’ve lost three pounds since I started running again and I’m still maintaining my healthy eating habits. My goal is to lose 5 more pounds and then maintain my weight from there. One of my biggest pet-peeves about diet fads and weight loss pills are the fact that they don’t emphasize that losing weight and maintaining that weight loss is really about making a lifestyle change, where healthy eating habits and exercise have to become a part of your daily routine. Lifestyle changes like that don’t happen overnight. You can’t be on a limited diet, lose 20 lbs, go back to your old eating habits, and expect to maintain the weight loss. With what I’m doing now – the old-fashioned exercise and make healthier choices in food thing – well, it’s a plan I feel is sustainable.

And, my healthy eating habits still include all of the foods I love. I haven’t cut one thing out. I’m in love with starchy foods like pastas, grains, and potatoes. I could never cut them out of my diet so I’ve learned that I can still make all the dishes I love but learn to make them in new ways. Normally it’s just cutting out the “extra” ingredients and using natural flavors. Plus, portion control.

This week I attempted a pasta primavera dish which makes for excellent leftovers. The recipe was pretty plain and boring so I spiced it up with some extra veggies like bell peppers, carrots, and a little sweet onion to add some extra flavor. And, because I feel like olive oil is too plain for a pasta sauce, I ended up making my own blend (still light). I used lemon juice, lemon zest, and a combination of random spices in my pantry. With some parmesan on top, it tasted absolutely delicious. And, I love how colorful it is! Also, as a side note, Pinot Grigio was a great wine paring with this dish.

Tonight I’m feeling full and content after such a hearty meal. I’m loving all my kick ass cooking ventures!

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Quiet but productive

Today was a mostly noisy day. I came home from work with one of the worst headaches I’ve had in a while. Any small noise was making me cringe. While all I wanted to do was curl up on the couch and read when I got home, I challenged myself to get up and moving. I’d been sitting all day and with the migraine I had brewing, I really didn’t want to end up in a melancholy mood just sitting around the house doing nothing. So, I decided to make tonight a quiet but productive one.

Since I’m the only one in the house I normally keep the TV on in the background on low. Sometimes just the drown of the TV makes me feel less alone but the first thing I did when I walked through the door was turn that sucker off. I hadn’t taken Miley to exercise since Sunday so I knew I needed to get her out of the house to run her energy off. I marked the dog park off the list more so because since I’m a regular there, all the other regulars want to chat and catch up on life. However, there is a two-mile trail that starts at the dog park and goes back through the woods along a creek. We walked the entire two-mile trail just as the night was starting to cool off. The water flowing down the creek bed and the bugs humming and chirping immediately released some of the tension in my body. I instantly felt more at ease; the woods are my sanctuary. My headache started to ease up and by the time we made it back to the parking lot, it was gone.

I felt so rejuvenated after our little hike that I ventured outside for a quick run around the neighborhood. I’ve been slacking on training for my 5k mostly because (let’s be honest here) I’ve lacked the motivation to do so. When I get home from work it’s the last thing I even want to do plus the heat is a good deterrent (read: excuse) too. Tonight was cooler though and with a slight breeze it really didn’t feel too bad. I’ve decided to try getting up 20 minutes earlier in the morning on my three run days during the week. It’ll be cooler and I think it will make me feel less guilty not having taken Miley to the dog park in the afternoon. She isn’t a great running partner but I need to start taking the time to train her a little more (another thing on the to-do list). You never know, maybe her little attitude will simmer down a bit although I won’t count on it.

I spent the rest of the evening working on some smaller projects around the home. Next on my long to-do list for a minimalist home was cleaning out my bathroom. The great thing about this room is that I don’t have to really sort anything. I could absolutely start from scratch since it is such a small area. It took me all of 30 minutes and I purged an entire trash bag of bathroom items. While in other areas of the home I’ve had to sort items into trash, treasure, transfer piles and then put stuff away I really only had to use one rule for this room. If you use it, keep it; if you don’t get rid of it. Unlike the doom of tackling my basement, I felt the bathroom was much more manageable. If I can keep getting the small stuff done around the house I think it will eventually make me ready to tackle the bigger projects. At least we hope.

After a hearty meal I feel tired and a little bit sore but my headache is gone, it’s finally raining here (yeah!), and I feel much more at peace. Time to curl up with a good book, some hot tea, and my cuddly dog. A quiet night is the perfect end to a noisy day.

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