Stepping into 2016

I don’t know about you, but for me 2015 was one of the most difficult years I’ve had. There are issues I’m still working through which I can’t comment on, but in December my future was looking too dark for my comfort. I’m thankful that a few things happened in December to turn things around.

*I was able to get some extra sleep

*Some understanding friends helped me have fun and relax

*I spent a few days reading my Bible, reading some books, praying, and thinking about what I want to accomplish in 2016 

*I worked through some exercises in the workbook which accompanies The Art of Work by Jeff Goins

*Shelley Hitz of Author Audience Academy offered members Plan it Day: The World is Waiting, a helpful series of videos and worksheets

As a result, I was able to step into 2016 with a renewed perspective. 

My key word for 2016 is HOPE!

2016 Hope

Some of my goals this year:

*Memorize & meditate on verses from Ephesians (I have a group of friends who have agreed to cheer me on and hold me accountable in this area.)

*Be more mindful of what I’m eating and why (I’ve been reading Women, Food, and Desire by Alexandra Jamieson. Although I don’t agree with her worldview, I’m finding a lot of helpful information to help me conquer my bad eating habits.)

*Exercise at least 2x/week (I have a treadmill to use.)

*De clutter our house (I’m trying out DeClutter 365: Daily 15 Minute Missions )

*Write, record, publish, and market a book with imbedded MP3s on Hope (This project has been on my mind for months. Stay tuned for more details.)

As you step into 2016, what are your goals or aspirations? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below.


The road to change: Excuses or Honesty?

I know I shouldn't eat this cake, butI stepped on the scale today for my weekly weigh-in and discovered the numbers are getting bigger instead of smaller. The increase is only a few pounds; I’m not discouraged, just motivated to get back on track and make better choices. In the last week, I’ve used a lot of excuses to make choices I shouldn’t have made: I’m tired, I’m stressed-out, I’ve been good and deserve a reward, It’s only a small Frosty. You get the idea. As a result, I’ve eaten too many calories, and often the wrong kind of calories. Now I’ve earned the natural consequences – gaining weight.

I’ve been working with one of my sons on making a change in his life. He’s a real master at excuses. There’s always a reason he couldn’t do what he should have, and it’s never his fault. I keep telling him that change won’t happen if he continues to use excuses. Hmmm. I guess it’s time for me to take my own advice 🙂

I’m still discovering what works for me, but here are the changes I’m enforcing this week:

  • Stay within my calorie limit for the day. If I go over, it shouldn’t be because of junk food
  • Focus on eating healthy foods that are packed with nutrition. If I have a choice between a piece of chocolate and a handful of nuts, the nuts should be an obvious choice.
  • No more snacking after supper. I find it too easy to keep eating once I start. Maybe someday I’ll get to the place I can handle one healthy snack after supper, but until I can, I really don’t need a snack after supper.
  • Make sure I drink enough water. Especially now that it’s getting warmer outside, I need to make sure I stay hydrated.

What about you? Are you being honest with yourself or making excuses?


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

Sorting through the time crunch

Weekly CalendarToday’s assignment in the Balanced Challenge is one that I know I’ll have to keep coming back to. I don’t know about you, but for me it’s often a challenge to figure out how I’m going to make the best use of each 24 hour segment God gives me. There just isn’t enough time to do everything.

Tricia Goyer shares one way to sort through the time crunch: Sit down and make a list with four categories.

  1. Things I have to do (non-negotiable items like work or feeding and clothing your family)
  2. Things I should do (no one will die if these things aren’t done, but they are very important. e.g. reading the Bible)
  3. Things I want to do (those things that bring me joy and make me feel more alive e.g. my work with InScribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship)
  4. Things I’m doing to “look good” or doing out of guilt (usually volunteer activities that are good, but may be zapping our energy)

Tricia then challenges us to cut ALL the items listed under #4 and schedule the rest of the items into some sort of calender. I’ve shared the beginning of my calendar at the top of this post. It still needs some work – my husband and I plan to compare notes and calendars.

This exercise has been an important reminder to me that I can’t be everything to everybody. Some things have to give. Tricia reminds us that there are different seasons in life and sometimes we have to wait to do things until a different season.

How do you plan your schedule? What do you struggle with the most? I’d love to hear from you in the comment section.

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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.

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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.


5 Reasons I’ve added High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) to my routine

I’m into week 5 of my quest for fitness. I’ve been faithfully using the treadmill six days a week with a couple exceptions. When I started the iFit walking program, I was able to alternate between increasing the incline (on iFit days) and increasing the speed/length of the workout. Now that I’ve been walking for five weeks, I regularly walk at an incline of between 4-10%, and I walk for 30 minutes at speeds between 3.2 – 3.6 miles/hour. The variety has decreased.

HIIT DVDIn the e-mails that flood my inbox, I started reading about High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). Here are five reasons I’ve added HIIT to my routine. (Three days a week I still use the iFit walking program and three days a week I’m doing the HIIT):

  1. Effectiveness – A 2011 study presented to the American College of Sports Medicine stated that the aerobic capacity developed by 2 weeks of HIIT was equivalent to 6-8 weeks of endurance training.
  2. Efficiency – There are a variety of HIIT programs available, but they are all relatively short, lasting anywhere from 4-10 minutes. This makes it easier to fit into a busy schedule. Some days I find it hard to squeeze the 30 minute walk in, especially if I want to do it before I need to leave in the morning. No more excuses for me!
  3. Variety – The DVD program I’ve started has 5 different 10 minute HIIT routines I can choose from: a general introductory segment, one that focuses on the abs, another one that works the upper body, one that introduces plyometrics, and the final one that works the lower body. Currently I only use one of the five a day. However, as my body adjusts, the DVD program gives me the flexibility to combine two or more segments into a personalized routine.
  4. Portability – I’m able to take (and do) the HIIT routines anywhere. All I need is my DVD, my laptop, and a 2 x 2 metre space and I can do my exercises. (At home I use my TV and DVD player.)
  5. Cost – I spent less than $10 on the DVD. I do want to invest in a good quality mat as well. However, for less than $50 I have a program that’s easy to use, fun, motivating, and inexpensive.

Pushing through the Breakpoint

footprintsMy journey to fitness hit a wall this week. It happened on Wednesday, January 29th. In the morning, while I was on the treadmill, it seemed like thirty minutes lasted for hours. Often I feel tired around the fifteen minute mark. On Wednesday it hit me seven minutes into the routine. I had to push myself, pray, remind myself why I was doing this, and ultimately just keep taking one step at a time. Most of the day I felt like I couldn’t go on. My cravings kicked in – I wanted sugar. More self-talk, more prayer, distracting myself with other things, continuing to take one step at a time. When I reached the end of the day and looked back, I celebrated. I made it!

Breakpoint: According to Wikipedia, there are many different types of breakpoints. In computer programing, it refers to “an execution stop point in the code of a computer program.” In commercial leases, a breakpoint is “the gross sales amount that triggers payment of percentage rent.” In meteorology, breakpoint refers to “a location referred to when issuing watches, warnings, or advisories for specific areas.”

I hit my first fitness breakpoint on Wednesday – the critical time when victory was possible, but defeat was nipping at my heels. The i-fitness instructor on my walking program says it this way, “Come on, push through. I know it’s hard, but you can do it.”

There are several things that helped me “push through”:

  • Remembering my goals
  • Reminding myself I was doing this for myself and for God
  • Taking one step at a time
  • Focusing on my successes, not on how much further I had to go
  • Praying and asking God for strength I didn’t have

Since Wednesday, the journey has been easier. The good, healthy choices seem more automatic. It’s like I’ve crested a hill and am on the downward slope. I know there are more hills, maybe even mountains, ahead. But now that I’ve pushed through this one, I know I can do it again.

What about you? What keeps you going? What helps you push through those times when your goal looks impossible?


Ups and Downs on the Road to Fitness

Caution SignIt has been 3 weeks since I started down the road of healthier choices with a view to becoming more fit. I’ve had some encouraging victories:

  • Cutting out snacks  – I no longer crave food in the evening. During the day I have felt hungry a few times between meals, but I’ve been able to satisfy that by drinking water and putting my attention elsewhere.
  • Eating more mindfully – Just the act of paying more attention to what I’m eating and when has made a difference. I consciously slow myself down and enjoy the flavor and texture of my food. I have been amazed at how I feel satiated even though I’m eating smaller portions.
  • Birthday HatAllowing myself some treats – Somehow this decision has freed me from craving “forbidden” food. If I want a treat, I allow myself to have one, but pay more attention to the serving size than I used to. I also try to eat my treat along with a meal so that my blood sugar level is not affected so drastically. Finally, I don’t sweat it if I’m invited out. This week I celebrated my birthday and thoroughly enjoyed my black forest cake with a generous helping of homemade ice cream.
  • Consistently using the treadmill – Up front I decided I would use the treadmill 6 days out of 7, giving myself Sundays off. In the past 3 weeks, I have only missed 1 day and that was because I left home at 6:15 in the morning and didn’t get home until 8:00 at night. The i-fit routines continue to challenge me – I’m now up to 30 minutes at a speed of 3.4 miles/hour and an incline between 5-10%.
  • Losing some weight and becoming more fit – I am down 7 pounds from where I started. I know the first pounds are the easiest to lose. This past week I only lost 1 pound, but at least I’m still heading in the right direction. And weight aside, I’m getting more fit. The other day I only had 20 minutes to spend on the treadmill. I challenged myself to walk at speeds between 3.5 – 3.8 miles/hour at an incline of 2%, and barely broke a sweat. This is a huge contrast to three weeks ago when I huffed and puffed my way through 20 minutes at speeds between 3.0 – 3.3 miles/hour.
  • BibleMemorizing scripture and learning – While I’m on the treadmill I alternate between Scripture memorization and watching videos on my iPad. (TedTalks is one of my favourite apps on my iPad.) In the past 3 weeks, I’ve memorized 5 verses; not a lot, but more than 0.

Last Saturday was one of the “downs” in my road to fitness. It’s the day I left early in the morning and arrived home in the evening. I wasn’t able to spend time walking. I did eat breakfast before I left home, which I was very thankful for later in the day. After breakfast, I spent 3 hours driving and arrived in Edmonton just in time for a meeting to start. The meeting lasted just over 3 hours and then a few of us chatted for another hour or so. During our visit I ate a gluten free cookie and some cheese. About 3:30 that afternoon I was feeling light-headed, so I stopped for a Wendy’s hamburger and some water. Then I went shopping. That’s when the craving kicked in. I was tired, I hadn’t eaten well, and I had another 3 hours of driving ahead of me. I gave in and bought chips, chocolate chip cookies, and some chocolate. Not healthy choices at all!

When I had time to reflect, I decided I should have planned ahead a little better and taken some healthy snacks with me, like carrot sticks, nuts, etc. If I had snacked during the meeting, my energy levels and blood sugar would have remained more stable. However, I was able to move past this “downer” and the next day I was back on track again.

What tips and tricks do you use to keep yourself going when you “fail”?