Simply beautiful - wild flowers from the buttercup family. If you're like me, exercise is more like work than fun. Today I share a way you can enjoy walking - by focusing on nature and beauty.

A Little Slice of Heaven

If you’re like me, exercise is more like work than fun. Today I share a way you can enjoy walking – by focusing on nature and beauty. In the past few months I’ve created a new habit – taking a walk with our husky, Olaf, after our children get on the bus. Although most of the quarter is rented out, we have plenty of room to walk through our hay field, beside our garden area, and through a scenic woodland area. I’ve been thankful I’ve had my iPhone with me many days. Not for the phone, but for the handy camera.

First wild strawberries of the season!
First wild strawberries of the season! This year the ground is white with blossoms.

 

Simply beautiful - wild flowers from the buttercup family.
Simply beautiful – wild flowers from the buttercup family.

 

Life from death
Life from death

 

I know the dandelion is not a popular flower, but I see beauty in the perfect oval and am amazed by the design that enables dandelions to go to seed and multiply.
I know the dandelion is not a popular flower, but I see beauty in the perfect oval and am amazed by the design that enables dandelions to go to seed and multiply.

 

Wild rose and bud
The wild rose is Alberta’s provincial flower

I’m thankful the natural beauty around me – my little slice of Heaven.

What is beautiful to you? How do you share your joy with others?

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Pitfalls on the trail to healthy living & Five Minute Friday

Pitfalls

As some of you know, I’ve been working on changing some of my habits. I’m thankful for the success I’ve had – becoming more active and losing some weight. However, I still have a ways to go. I was doing very well until summer hit. I lost 25 pounds and was exercising regularly. Then I reverted back to some of my bad habits and gained 15 pounds back. Now I’m almost back to my pre-summer weight.

As I thought about why I struggled over the summer, I came up with eight pitfalls that tend to trip me up:

Stress

If I’m not careful, my healthy living plan disappears when I experience stress. We all live with stress, but there are times when life throws it’s worst at us. If we don’t choose otherwise, we can get tripped up.

Possible Solution: Watch for signs of stress and acknowledge it. Humor is a great stress reliever. Put together movies, jokes, etc. that make you laugh and have them ready when you need them.

Pre-packaged Food

We live in a frenetic world. It’s easy to rely on frozen pizza or mac and cheese instead of spending the time to cook healthy meals. I’m not saying we should never eat these foods, but they should be the exception. Recently I was reminded that sometimes we need to retrain our taste buds. We crave what we eat.

Possible Solution: Make sure you keep your kitchen stocked with the ingredients you need to cook homemade meals. If you need some inspiration, try out a new recipe. (I’ve started collecting new recipes using Pinterest.) Retrain your taste buds to enjoy food that is good for you.

Not enough Sleep

This is a contentious issue for some people. I don’t think there is a magic number for this, but if you are waking up tired on a regular basis you’re probably not getting enough sleep. I find that when I’m tired, I tend to eat more. Not a good plan!

Possible Solution: Look at your schedule and see if there are things you need to intentionally cut out. Be more conscious of when you are tired. Every once in a while allow yourself to go to bed early.

Emotional Eating

This is a big stumbling block for me, and I wasn’t even aware of it until lately. When I’m stressed, or lonely, or sad or … I can easily fall into the trap of eating to try to make myself feel better. The problem is that food can’t satisfy us emotionally.

Possible Solution: I’ve found it helps to wait for ten minutes or so when I want to snack. This gives me time to evaluate whether I’m actually hungry or if I’m struggling emotionally. I’ve also found time with friends, doing something I enjoy, and spending time reading my Bible help me deal with the real issues.

Lack of Vegetables

Have you ever stopped to think about how many servings of vegetables you eat? (Check out this visual of the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables we should be eating each day.) Vegetables have many benefits including providing vitamins and minerals, adding fiber, and satisfying us without adding a lot of calories.

Possible Solution: For me, the first step was becoming aware of how few vegetables I was eating. Then I had to make sure my grocery list included a variety of vegetables. Now I’m trying to teach myself to reach for vegetables when I want a snack.

Grabbing what’s Quick

This is something most of us do – grab something that’s quick. We live busy lives. Sometimes we don’t have time to make a meal, so we grab something on the run. Usually what we grab is not the best choice because it’s usually something sweet, or salty, or loaded with calories.

Possible Solution: Have healthy food on hand, like vegetables and fruit or things you need to make yourself a wrap. If you need to eat out, do your homework ahead of time and pick some healthy options. Most restaurants and fast food places have nutrition guides available.

Lack of Accountability

If I don’t make a conscious effort to pay attention to what I eat, it’s easy for me to get tripped up and fall back into my bad habits (like eating desserts regularly). Accountability helps us pay attention to what we’re doing, provides support, and gets us through the rough times we’ll all have.

Possible Solution: Find an accountability partner who will check in with you regularly. If you find that difficult, try tracking your eating and exercise in a journal or with an app. (My Fitness Pal is available on the web or as an App on iTunes)

Inactivity

I don’t know about you, but I find that I spend a lot of time at my desk. Unless I consciously make myself move, I sit. Our bodies are made to move. Exercise improves our memory, posture, and confidence. It also helps relieve stress, sleep better, and have more energy. (Check out Top Ten Reasons to Exercise Regularly.)

Possible Solution: I tend to find excuses not to exercise, so I had to find something I could do regularly at home. A treadmill and some DVDs help get me moving. Listening to inspiring music or podcasts while I exercise helps too.

What about you? What pitfalls have you encountered and how do you avoid them?

Dear

Dear Reader,

Thank you for taking the time to stop by my blog and read. I hope you found encouragement, humor, and some helpful information.

I don’t take you for granted. We live in a frenetic world. You could choose to use your time for many things other than visiting my website.

Thank you for taking time to leave a comment. This lets me know if content is helpful and engaging.

I hope that this Advent and Christmas season you will take time to reflect and spend time with those who are dear to you. Take time to thank God for the many blessings in your life.

I also invite you to read and share what I’ve written – both on my blog and in e-book or printed form (Note: Helping Hands Press is offering 30% off until December 18th. Enter code: THANKYOU):

  • Cecile’s Christmas Miracle
  • Shadows and Sunshine
  • Life Lessons
  • Uplifting Devotionals for Parents

If you have suggestions for blog topics, let me know.

Thanks for being you!

Five Minute Friday provides an opportunity to write about a one word prompt for five minutes and then link in to Kate’s blog. Come join the fun 🙂


Fitness journey check-in, recipe, and tips

Salad with no dressing 290 calories

Some of you have asked how my fitness and healthy living journey is going. I’m encouraged by the progress I’m making. (If you’re not interested, you can skip down to the recipe.)

  • I’m seeing my endurance increase. It’s no longer a challenge to walk at 3 miles an hour. Most days I’m walking at a speed of 3.5 mph with sprints up to 4.5 mph. The incline on my treadmill is usually between 6% to 10%.
  • I’ve lost 24 pounds. My goal is to lose a pound a week, for a total of 52 pounds this year. This is week 18 of my journey, so I’m ahead of my target.
  • I’m losing inches. My clothes are getting loose. Soon I’ll be able to go shopping for a different size 🙂
  • I’m eating healthier. Yesterday I made a salad for my lunch and shared the picture on Facebook. People were asking for the recipe, so here it is:

290 Calorie Salad

1 cup Romaine lettuce, cut or shredded

1 medium tomato, diced

1/2 large yellow bell pepper, sliced

1 hard-boiled egg, sliced

48g (3 slices) Maple Leaf Deli Express Ham, sliced

41 g (3 slices) Maple Leaf Deli Express Chicken, sliced

2 Tbsp (10 g) Kraft Grated Cheddar Cheese

I enjoyed my salad without any dressing because of all the flavours of the vegetables, egg, and meat.

Caloric and nutrition information provided by MyFitnessPal

The MyFitnessPal app (pictured above) has been extremely helpful in making me aware of serving sizes and helping me track my eating and exercising. There are some days I still have to choose to drink water or eat an apple to help myself feel full, but most of the time I feel very satisfied and have ample energy.

One surprise discovery I’ve made is that I need to allow myself a “cheat day” every week. I lost 10 pounds quite quickly and then for weeks nothing changed even though I was exercising consistently and eating well. One week I had a day where I was out for a special event and I knew I ate way more than I usually did. The next week when I checked my weight, I had lost several pounds. One post I read said that we should eat up to 1,000 extra calories on our cheat day, because it “resets” our body. If we always cut back on calories, our body tends to go into “starvation mode” and we don’t lose any weight. By having a cheat day once a week and then going right back to exercising and reducing the number of calories, our body is assured everything is okay and the pounds come off.

Do you have any recipes or tips to share? I look forward to hearing from you.


Encouragement to Persevere

Encouragement to Persevere
Encouragement to Persevere http://ruthlsnyder.com

This is week 5 in our Made to Crave Action Plan study.

Here are some great quotes from Lysa Terkeurst:

“Our goal is not a number on the scale. Our goal is to be absolutely at peace—emotionally, physicallyand spiritually.”

“Our scale can measure what our body weighs, but it can never measure our worth as a woman.”

“Between every trial and every blessing that comes from that trial is a path that we must walk. . .and the path is perseverance.”

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” (James 1:2-5 NIV from http://www.biblegateway.com)

6 Summary Tips from Dr. Ski Chilton:

“Food was made to nourish us . . . when we come to manipulate it, it comes to destroy us.”

  1. Calories in; Calories out – Start your day with 16 oz of water. (This will help you reduce the number of calories you eat throughout the day by as much as 20%.)
  2. Fiber (25 grams/day for women or 30 grams/day for men) will help you feel full.
  3. Exercise to lose inches, not weight (30 minutes 5 days/week).
  4. Omega 3’s will reduce risk of heart attacks and decrease the speed of aging. The ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3 in our diet should be 2:1.
  5. Eating 5-7 servings of fruits and vegetables (To reap the benefits of Polyphenols)
  6. Have a positive attitude!

For more details, check out The 7 Ingredients for Healthy Weight Loss

I find the item I struggle with the most is eating 5-7 servings of fruits and vegetables. Some ways I’ve found that help are:

  • Add a piece of fruit to breakfast
  • Add a salad at lunch time
  • Eat wraps instead of sandwiches, especially when you’re eating out. However, you have to be careful. Tim Horton’s snack wraps only have 190 calories, but Swiss Chalet wraps have 710 calories!
  • Have an apple or banana for a snack
  • Have a salad and two or three other vegetables with your dinner entree

What tips do you have to share?


Embracing the Equation for Weight Loss

Equation for weight loss. Exercise plus reducing calories equals weight loss

This week in our Made to Crave Action Plan journey, the theme was: “Embrace the equation: Exercise AND Reduce Calories”. Since the beginning of January I have been very intentional about getting exercise. However, I haven’t been as intentional about reducing calories, other than making sure I drink water, eat 25 grams of fiber, and am intentional about my eating. This is because my main goal has been to get in shape.

I decided to focus a bit on the reducing calories side this week. Ironically, at the beginning of the week I ended up with the flu. This made it extremely easy for me to reduce caloric intake since I didn’t feel like eating anything. (It also made it almost impossible to exercise!) While I was not well I decided to check out apps that would be helpful in keeping the weight loss equation balanced. I typed “fitness” into the search, and found several apps, mostly free. The one I chose to download is called My Fitness Pal.

My Fitness Pal is free. When you open the app you’re able to enter your current weight, your target weight, and the amount of weight you’d like to lose per week. Once those are entered, My Fitness Pal calculates the number of calories you should consume each day to reach your target. Here’s a quick overview from the app menu:

  • Home: a summary overview of the day including how many calories are remaining on your daily “allowance” as well as a pie chart of the nutrients in the food you’ve consumed.
  • Food Diary: where you enter the food you eat. A search feature makes it easy to look for the specific foods you’ve consumed. Once you enter foods, they come up on the menu every time you need to make a new entry.
  • Exercise Diary: a place to enter cardio exercise, strength exercise, and notes
  • Nutrition: gives you a visual breakdown of carbs, fat, and protein in the foods you’ve consumed, as well as target percentages for each day.
  • Progress: a visual of where you started, where you’re at currently, the number of lbs or kgs you’ve lost, and the percentage of weight you’ve lost.
  • Friends: an opportunity for you to invite friends along to keep you accountable.
  • Messages: I haven’t used this feature
  • Apps & Devices: a link to the app store
  • Reminders: a place to set reminders for yourself
  • Settings: a place to make changes/updates to your profile, diary settings, fitness goals, sharing & privacy, foods & exercise, weekly nutrition settings, or logout.
  • Help

Step One Accomplished; Moving Forward

I’m now in week nine of my journey to fitness. Last week I accomplished my first goal – doing the whole iFit level 1 walking program. I did it! I’ve also noticed that exercising is not such a chore for me any more. In fact I look forward to it every morning—it leaves me feeling energized and in a good mood.

Thumb

Time to reassess and set a new goal. I noticed that when I switched from walking 6 days a week to walking 3 days and doing 10-20 minutes of high intensity interval training 3 days, my weight loss stopped. As I sat in a waiting room with my son last week, the February 2014 Real Simple magazine caught my eye. One of the articles was on walking. Included in the article were two walking programs designed for treadmills. Here’s a summary:

Heart-Health Walk (30 minutes)

  1. picture of a stop watch and treadmill5 minutes at 2.5 – 3 miles/hour
  2. 5 minutes at 3 – 3.6 miles/hour
  3. 4 Intervals in the next 10 minutes: 30 seconds as fast as you can walk (4.5 miles/hour or faster) followed by 2 minutes at 3 – 3.6 miles/hour, repeat. (Increase the number of intervals as this gets easier for your body)
  4. 5 minutes at 3 – 3.2 miles/hour
  5. 5 minutes at 2.5 – 3 miles/hour

Weight-Loss Walk (40-45 minutes)

  1. Warm-up: start at 3.7 miles/hour and increase the speed every 30 seconds until you reach 4.1 miles/hour.
  2. 10 minutes walking as fast as you can WITHOUT jogging
  3. Stop walking. On the ground, hold a plank position for one minute, then do 10 push-ups, and 20 forward lunges on each leg.
  4. 10 minutes walking as fast as you can
  5. Stop walking. On the ground do 10 push-ups with your arms placed outside your shoulders, then do 40 crunches
  6. 10 minutes walking as fast as you can
  7. Stop walking. Use a bench or chair to do dips where you lift your rear end off the seat, walking your feet forward but keeping your buttocks as close to the seat as possible. Then, bend your elbows and lower your body in a “dip”. Hold each one for 2 seconds. Repeat 10 times. Finish with 10 lunges on each leg and another plank hold for 1 minute.

(For more exercise ideas, go to www.realsimple.com and search “workouts”)

I started the heart-health walk this week. Currently I’m only able to do the fast walking at 4.3 miles/hour, but in another week or two I should be up to the recommended 4.5 miles/hour. I’ve chosen to do the walk at a 4% incline for the first 20 minutes and then 6-10% incline for the next 15 minutes. I was pleased to see that my weight was down 3 pounds after the first 3 days. Hopefully this trend will continue.

What about you? Have you reached any health goals lately? Have you found any helpful walking plans? I’d love to hear from you.


3 Essentials on the journey to fitness

The road to fitness and eating well has many potholes that can easily trip us, make us detour from our original plans, or even make us totally give up. Some weeks the numbers on the scale will mock us. Some days our schedule will squeeze out our time for exercise. What will keep us moving towards our goals? How will we continue to make those difficult but healthy choices?

tiredturtle_tns

1. Choose your focus carefully

“Focusing only on what we’re giving up will make us feel constantly deprived. And deprivation leads to desperation, frustration, and failure. Instead we have to focus on everything we’re gaining through this process. And see the gains as more valuable than the losses.” – Lysa Terkeurst in Made to Crave

  • Focus on how you’re able to walk or run further without getting winded
  • Focus on the extra energy you have because you’re fueling your body with healthy food
  • Focus on the freedom you have to walk away from junk food
  • Focus on the discipline you’re developing by exercising regularly

2. When you “trip,” get up and continue on the journey

“Failures are finger posts on the road to achievement.” C.S. Lewis

We need to accept that we are going to fail sometimes. That’s okay. Failure doesn’t have to be permanent. If you missed a day, or even a week, of exercise that doesn’t mean you have to give up. Start again . . . now (not tomorrow!). If you gave in to your cravings and ate way more than you should have, that doesn’t mean you are a failure. Figure out if there’s something you can do differently next time. Learn from your mistakes and carry on.

“Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure . . . than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt

3. Figure out what makes the journey “worth it” for you

“Wanting something is not enough. You must hunger for it. Your motivation must be absolutely compelling in order to overcome the obstacles that will invariably come your way.” – Les Brown

We are all motivated by different things. Find out what works for you. What will keep you going when you encounter those obstacles? Who will cheer you on when you’re down? What messages do you need to encourage you to keep going?

“A champion needs a motivation above and beyond winning.” – Pat Riley

If we tackle these three essentials, we’ll be able to celebrate our successes in the long run and change our “want to” to “I did”!

pursuingWhat helps you to keep going? I’d love to hear from you.


Dealing with stress in a healthy way

I’m starting week 7 of my journey to fitness. The excitement has worn off and some days exercising is just plain hard work. I’ve seen progress, especially in the first few weeks — I’m down ten pounds and five inches. I’ve hit the first plateau, where my body is saying, “Hey, wait a minute. Let’s not starve ourselves here.” The good news is I’m being consistent with my eating and exercising. The bad news is the numbers haven’t changed lately and sometimes it’s easy to be discouraged.

stressed_out_133274_tns

I’ve been thinking about how I arrived at the place where I weighed more than I ever had before. For me it was about stress and unhealthy responses to stress in my life. Here are things I find stressful:

  • Balancing everything – being a wife, parenting, writing, teaching music, household tasks, community involvement, etc. Quite often I find myself feeling guilty – I should have done more, made myself available, etc.
  • Relationship issues – By nature I’m a people pleaser. It makes me feel good when I am able to help others. It makes me feel bad when there’s conflict between me and somebody else.
  • Home renovations – Kendall and I have been married for over 20 years. We’ve been doing some sort of renovations for over 18 years. I’m the type of person that likes a place for everything and everything in its place. I’ve learned to be more flexible with my children. However, it still bothers me when I constantly feel like I’m living “out of a suitcase”.

I know that I will always have stress in my life. Some things I’ll be able to change, and with other things I’ll have to choose to cope. I find that identifying the things which stress me out is the first step to dealing with them in a healthy way. When I feel stressed, I often crave my comfort foods – chocolate, sweetened yogurt, cheesecake, and other sweet things. In the past few weeks I’ve started training myself to slow down and think before I eat. Here are some things I’ve found helpful:

  • Drinking water – often I’m thirsty rather than hungry
  • Choosing healthy snacks – vegetables or protein
  • Allowing myself an occasional treat
  • Choosing an activity to get my mind off eating and onto something else
  • Paying attention to serving sizes
  • Chewing slowly and enjoying the taste of my food
  • Praying
  • Filling my mind with healthy thoughts

What about you? What stresses you out and how do you handle it?