Category Archives: Healthy Living

R-Evolution Fitness Launches

As some of you may already know, Zach and I started working on a project known as R-Evolution Fitness some time ago (2, maybe 3 years?) with the intention of not only sharing valuable information from the both of us, but to eventually launch Zach’s career in the world of fitness & training. Clearly it has been a little slow to start, but I am excited to say that we have officially created the new R-Evolution Fitness blog online, which will be a featured part of the main website once that is up and running.

Since Zach has a lot of really great information to share in regards to strength training, and fitness in general, AND the fact that the dieting posts on my blog have been getting a great deal of attention (even from perfect strangers…), we will now focus all of our energy on posting relevant information on this new blog. My dieting and exercise information will no longer be updated on Abby’s Mental Note, although I won’t be deleting the current information either.

For those of you who are interested, the new blog can be fount at http://revolutionfitnessblog.wordpress.com – it’s not officially up and running (YET!) but will be soon – you’re welcomed to check it out at any time.

♥ Abby

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Liquids!

While on the subject of dieting, or even living a healthy lifestyle, I feel it is important to mention the importance of liquids in your diet.

First and foremost – WATER

While this may seem like common sense, it is surprising to me how many people fail at proper water intake during their reduced calorie diet.  I’m not innocent of this either – yesterday I hardly made it through 96oz (my excuse? The A/C at work is too cold… hard to drink water when I’m cold…lol). I have a CamelBak waterbottle that I simply love. Yes, it is ridiculously priced, but if it gets me to drink more water I’ll shell out the dough in an instant. Plus it has markings on the side that  helps me keep track of how many ounces I drink per day.

I weigh myself every morning. Perhaps this is overboard, but it keeps me motivated so I do it anyway. I can attest to the importance of water intake from the numbers on the scale alone – in one days time I can gain a pound or more if I fail to drink an adequate amount of water. Similarly, if I drink a lot of water not only do I feel fuller during the day but I am well hydrated, which makes it easier for your body to lose weight (additionally, if you drink enough water, any sodium  consumption will not as greatly affect your weight as you won’t retain as much water).

I would recommend that you try to drink 120oz of water per day (5 CamelBak Waterbottles). Once you start getting used to drinking water, it becomes a bit easier – start slow and you’ll get there.

Also, I should mention, if water starts to taste horrible to you (which seems to happen mid-diet for me), Crystal Light makes zero calorie packets you can add to your water to make it taste like lemonade or oranges or whatever. Don’t use this as a  crutch, or even use more than one a day, but occasionally it is fine (one box has lasted me 6 months though – to give you an idea of how rarely I use these).

 

Second – COFFEE

My life source. Coffee can stunt your metabolism OR make it extremely difficult to stick to a diet. If I have my usual amount of coffee in the morning, I could easily make it well past noon before I even acknowledge the fact that I haven’t yet eaten. Not good for healthy dieting!

Furthermore, if you are having trouble with a plateau or want to jump start a new diet, give up coffee. If you are an addict like me, start of reducing your coffee to avoid those horrible caffeine-deprived headaches.

 

Third – ALCOHOL  

Perhaps I am not the one to talk about this, seeing as how I very rarely consume alcohol, but in general any diet is going to fail if you regularly consume alcohol. To put this into perspective for you:

1 glass of wine (175ml) has approximately 120 calories
1 serving of gin (25ml) has approximately 60 calories
1 Vodka & Coke has 120 calories
Bacardi & Coke has 130 calories
1 single BudLight has 130 calories
(etc…)

The above are empty calories, as in these are calories consumed that are doing absolutely nothing beneficial for your body aside from giving you a headache the next day and probably spiking your carb intake.

I’m not saying give up your social life, I’m suggesting that you take the above into consideration before your next binge drinking adventure and consider the potential outcome (and reversal of your diet).

 

Diets: Part III-2

This evening my dear husband pointed out that my Dieting posts 1 and 3 are a bit contradictory to one another, and after reviewing I want to apologize for causing confusion since I have, in fact, mislead you. My dieting experience has, in the last 2-3 years, been a crazy roller coaster of various diets, exercise plans and failed attempts. While I have tried pretty much everything in the book, the diet that hands down worked best for me in terms of weight loss AND living a much healthier lifestyle is what I had described in Part I as the “Joseph Diet.”

That being said, the information in Part III  (posted earlier today) does not really fit into the Joseph Plan. I contemplated deleting Part III entirely, but it looks as though I’ve already had over 50 views on that page, so I’d hate to remove any reference materials for those looking for a bit of help.

I’d like to take this opportunity to provide you with Diets: Part III – 2

In the Joseph Plan, it is absolutely essential that you eat breakfast, lunch and dinner plus snacks in between. Your three primary meals MUST contain a balanced consumption of lean proteins, carbohydrates (from vegetables) and healthy fats. This is why I highly recommended the use of My Plate on Livestrong.com, as that pie chart will prove to be an invaluable tool to you.

The tips I provided earlier today in Part III can still be applied – doubling your lunch & dinner will make everything so much easier for you. BUT, you CANNOT skip breakfast! Even coffee-addicts like myself can find a happy balance in here.

Here are some ideas for a Joseph Plan meal plan for 1 day (please note that you must measure the food to ensure you are within your caloric intake limit and that you are balancing 1/3 protein, 1/3 carbs, 1/3 fats):

Breakfast:
hardboiled egg (if you eat the whites & the yolk this will count as fat & protein)
Carrots or another sweet veggie (carbs)

Snack: apples (apples are your best friend – weighing in at approximately 100 calories they make out to be the perfect snack)

Lunch:
Salad: lettuce, cucumbers, radishes, etc. Load up on the veggies here – most are very low in calories and will fill you up with healthy carbs.  (Carbs)
Grilled meats (chicken is always preferable as it is the lowest in fat, however, you will get tired of chicken every day so try tuna or lean thin steaks) (Protein)
Make your own salad dressing with only 1 tablespoon of olive oil (fats) – this will help you control the fat intake (as compared to using store-bought dressings) and good olive oil is yummy!
If you’re ok with oil-free dressings (ie. Balsalmic vinegar & lemon juice is great with some salt & pepper) try adding in ½ an avocado on top of your salad (healthy fats there!)

Snack: crunchy veggies were always my fav, and from time to time I would use a small amount of hummus to dip it in (again, you need to measure this to avoid high fat intake)

Dinner:
I usually want something hot for dinner, so the grill is my best friend (everything tastes great on the grill!!)
Grilled chicken or another lean meat (be careful with your marinades if you use them – many are full of sugars and other unnecessary ingredients) (Protein)
Grilled vegetables (anything on the grill is amazing)
IF you use olive oil, measure it first – that will help you with your grilled veggies too

Dessert:
Hahaha… just kidding 😉 have an apple if you must

 

This is just an example of course, once you start getting used to the balanced meals it will all get a lot easier. I apologize again for the confusion I may have caused and will ensure that future posts are only about the Joseph Diet as that is what I encourage everyone to follow.

Roasted Spicy Brussel Sprouts

I had some questions about roasting veggies without oil this afternoon. My favorite recipe I have made up recently is my spicy roasted brussels sprouts. It’s super simple – you will need:
Brussels sprouts
Siracha
Garlic powder
Salt & pepper
Tamari
Ancho chili powder

Step 1: prepare the brussel sprouts (I cut the bottoms off mine & slice them in half)

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Step 2: Steam them in salted, boiling water. Less than 5 minutes here – the point is more to get some water through them rather than actually cook them.

Step 3: In a bowl, mix all of the other ingredients together to make a thick marinade. There are no real measurements, you can adjust the heat level by using more/less Siracha or Ancho Chili Powder. However, I use (approxmately):

1/4 cup Siracha
1/4 cup Tamari
2tbsp Garlic powder
2tbsp chili powder (Ancho is my fav, but its sometimes hard to find, so anything spicy would do just fine)
Salt & pepper to taste (approx 1 tsp of each)

If you use less Siracha/Tamari, add in a splash of veggie stock to make it a bit more “liquidy”.

Step 4: Drain the brussel sprouts and immediately put them into the bowl (the steam will help them to soak up the flavors, so do this quickly)

Step 5: In a preheated oven (400 degrees), roast the veggies on a non-stick baking sheet for approximately 15 minute. If you do not have a non-stick sheet, line a regular one with parchment paper (since there is no oil in this recipe, you have to be careful to keep them from sticking).

Step 6: Enjoy 🙂

Diets: Part III

I’m flattered at how many of you have found inspiration in my dieting success, and I’m even more flattered that the information I’m able to share with you is helping in your own weight loss goals. I will continue to share information as it comes to mind, but if you have questions please do let me know, as that is what will help me put together even more detailed information for all of you.

I was preparing a post about preparing meals and, as luck would have it, my wonderful friend Rebecca asked about meal ideas for lunch & dinner! Perfect timing I suppose. The information here is not set in stone by any means, but will hopefully help you to start making your weekly meal plans in a diet-friendly manner. I’ve heard from so many of my friends how difficult it is to have a family AND diet – you can give your family “diet food”… but I beg to differ. While there have certainly been many nights where Zach & I prepare our separate meals, for the most part we are able to overlap the larger pieces of a meal in order to simplify the entire process. The information below is presented in two parts – your meal and your family’s meal. However, the information below is also under the assumption that

1) Your mornings are busy like mine (you work full time, go to school in the mornings, etc.)

2) Dinner is usually your only “combined family meal” during the week days

3) Lunch is anything you can successfully reheat in a microwave (or not heat up at all)

 

BREAKFAST

There are many studies that show the benefits of eating breakfast, and if you are a morning eater by all means feel free to eat a diet-friendly breakfast to start your day off right. However, I personally tend to skip breakfast and start my day off with delicious coffee.

A word to the wise: creamer has a ton of calories, as do many sweeteners. I can’t even describe the joy I get from a hot vanilla latte from Starbucks (320 calories, btw), even the 15g of protein in that venti deliciousness can’t justify the caloric intake. I have switched entirely to Truvia – its an all natural, zero calorie sweetener. That is now all I put in my coffee & now lets me enjoy my favorite beverage at a cost of less than 50 calories daily.

DINNER

I have intentionally skipped lunch here, and I will tell you why – dinner leftovers are the easiest way to stay on track and avoid the lengthy food prep time in the morning (more time to spend actually doing your hair or seeing your family for more than 5 minutes). Some quick ideas for lunch:

  • Make 2 dinners for yourself, saving one for thenext day
  • Use part of dinner to prepare your lunch in advance (for example, if you grill chicken for dinner, grill some extra to cut up and put on your salad)
  • Mix it up – maybe choose to have raw tomatoes at lunch with some left over meat so you don’t get burned out on the same foods.

Today I have brought left over (lean) grilled steak and cut up some fresh tomatoes with fresh basil for lunch. The steak was from dinner & the tomatoes I cut up quickly this morning. Delicious!

  • Lettuce is your friend… how much easier does it get to throw together a fast salad? Use oil-free dressings to save on calories as well (only 2Tbsp of Olive Oil contains about 250 calories!!).
  • PROTEIN IS A MUSTif you have questions please refer to “Diets Part I” for reference – every single meal should include a lean protein. Just so you know, a can of white albacore tuna, packed in water (NOT OIL) is a great source of protein, tastes great on a salad, and requires ZERO preparation.
  • Utilize the grill in your back yard – there is no food on this planet that doesn’t taste amazing grilled, and your entire meal can be prepared on the grill.

As I mentioned above, here are some meal ideas for you and your family:

  • For you: Grilled chicken & steamed asparagusWhen you steam veggies, typically you’d pull them out & dress with olive oil, however, if you pull them out of the water and immediately season (I really like simple garlic salt or Mrs Dash) you don’t need to have any oil
    since the veggies are still moist & will allow the seasoning to stick.

    Try marinating your meats ahead of time so they can soak up some flavor. Don’t use premade marinades since they are packed full of sodium & artificiality – make your own, if you need something liquidy to bring it all together, try Tamari sauce (in small quantities) or vegetable/chicken stock.

    For your family: you can grill ANYTHING super easily, you’re already throwing the chicken on the grill so why not toss in some potato packets for the family? (slice the potatoes into “disks”, season & put inside foil packets. They don’t take long to grill at all).

  • For you AND the family: make a roast! Pork roasts are the most delicious thing, and are so easy to make. I have an amazing recipe too – just email me!
  • For you: Steak & roasted veggies – make sure you cut all of the fat off of the steak before you grill it – you don’t need those extra calories.Roasting veggies without using oil is challenging, but I’ve come up with a solution recently that seems to work quite well. It’s a little time consuming, but if you roast enough for multiple meals its well worth the time spent. First, steam the veggies for a couple of minutes (for Brussels sprouts I do 5min) and then immediately take them out of the water and into your seasoning/marinade (again, the water will make it stick, you don’t need  oil). I always use a splash of vegetable stock so keep everything moist since there is no oil used. Roast on 400 degrees until done (time depends on what time of veggie).

    For the family: since you’re already using the oven, try making some sweet potato fries, a baked potato or even roasting some extra vegetables?

  • For you and the family: Fajitas!! That’s right, I said fajitas. Skip the “add-on’s” for you though (guac is delicious, I know, but avocados have a ton of calories & fat) – no cheese or anything. Pico type salsas are fine. Wrap up in boston head lettuce rather than tortillas to save on the calories & fat. You don’t have to skimp for your family though – make a fajita bar so they can make their own fajitas. Again, use stock instead of oil when making the meat (your family won’t notice the difference).

In conclusion, dieting doesn’t have to be a monotonous nightmare –  you can simplify the food prep for you and your family and make lunches a breeze. I have a lot more ideas too, things I do in our house on a regular basis, I’ll post recipes as I come up with new things (especially now that I’m starting to transition into a more lenient diet, but still healthy!), but for the sake of trying to keep this post as short as possible (lol) I’ll end here.

I’m always happy to answer questions though – please post a comment so everyone can benefit!

Diets: Part II

One of the hardest things about dieting (aside from the restricted eating I suppose) is going to the grocery store each week and inevitably passing by all of the foods that look so delicious you find yourself standing dead-center in the aisle, drooling at a package of Macaroni & Cheese. Well my friend, today I’m going to spare you that embarrassment with a brief tutorial on how to navigate the grocery store.

Whether you shop at King Soopers or Safeway or whatever, the vast majority of super markets these days are set up basically the same (with the exception of Whole Foods – but, lets be frank here, if you’re shopping at whole foods you’re probably already limiting the items that you put in your cart to keep the tab down to only 75% of your paycheck). The aisles are all located in the center of the store, with the specialty counters located on the outsides.

Let’s recap for a moment a list of acceptable dieting foods:

  • Fresh fruits & veggies
  • Fresh lean meats
  • Low fat/fat free diary

So, when navigating the grocery store, take the following path to avoid those embarrassing out-of-body experiences while daydreaming about that Butterfinger:

You will notice a number of things about this diagram:

1)      My skills in Paint totally rock

2)      I have skipped the Deli counter – deli meats are full of sodium – skip the deli & head straight for the meat section

3)      You’re making a pit stop at the front of the dairy section – the “back” of the dairy section often contains ice creams, butter, cheeses, etc… do not go there! Keep your eyes on the prize: fat free yogurt, low fat cottage cheese…. Period.

4)      Frozen foods are your enemy – you don’t want anything there, keep walking. Besides, opening those doors and having them get all covered in frost is annoying anyway.

5)      I have completely skipped the checkout lines… RUN!

 

These are my words of wisdom when it comes to grocery shopping. Its rough I know, and even harder if you’re feeding someone other than yourself, but trust me – it CAN be done. And your family will thank you for it.

Happy dieting!

Diets (Ugh): Part I

To my dear friend Rachel – dieting stinks…
However, after receiving multiple emails from people I am happy to share anything and everything to help my friends succeed in their weight loss goals. It isn’t really possible for me to sum up everything in a single post (well, I suppose I COULD, but it would be a long one!) so I’ll break it up into a few over the next day or two.
My experience with dieting did not begin with our Biggest Loser competition. In fact, I didn’t even want to do the competition because I was a “happy” camper sitting at my desk with a good ol’ bag of chips. Having succeeded, failed, given up and joyously celebrated over diets in the past, I am no fool when it comes to this topic anymore. I have tried multiple things (including many fad diets), and while there are a couple of different methods I used to achieve my current weight loss there is one specific “diet plan” that I will continue to follow for the rest of my life.
We will call this the Joseph Plan, in dedication to my old personal trainer who endlessly drilled the importance of a proper diet into my brain day in and day out. I assure you, it works (for everyone).
Step 1 in the Joseph Plan – sign up for a free account at Livestrong.com (specifically due to the free account you will also receive at the Daily Plate, aka MyPlate). YES, there are other websites that track calories, NO I do not believe they are as helpful or as successful (for your reference, the Daily Plate is also available via the Livestrong App for iPhones).
Step 2 Do not rely on the foods that other people have entered – create your own. I always used my name so it was easy to find the next time (i.e. Abby’s Apple). I would gather nutritional data directly from the FDA whenever possible to ensure accuracy (or off labels if available).
Step 3 If you are able to do so, buy a food scale. You can find inexpensive ones very easily, although I do recommend a digital scale as the manual read ones tend to be a pain in the butt.
Step 4 Start tracking your calories – make sure you are on a calorie restricted diet (1300-1500 to start) and are eating healthy foods. This is where the Joseph Diet differs from standard “common sense” diets… you want to balance your caloric intake by 1/3 protein, 1/3 carbs and 1/3 fat.
Please allow me to explain – by carbs I do NOT mean pastas, breads or a Krispy Kreme doughnut… I mean veggies (vegetables are a great sources of healthy carbohydrates). I would also highly recommend cutting out grains for the duration of this diet (all grains, including rice).
By fats I do NOT mean ice creams, deep fried foods or a delicious Taco Bell burrito (…yummm….), I mean healthy fats like small amounts of olive oil and avocados (be aware… in tablespoon of olive oil has approximately 100 calories and a large sum of your daily allowance of fat).
Step 5 Balance your meals – have, at a bare minimum, three solid meals per day (breakfast, lunch & dinner) and in each meal, have one protein one fat and one carbohydrate. This will help keep you balanced throughout the day.
Familiarize yourself with the Daily Nutrition Breakdown pie chart on My Plate, which can be found on the right hand side of your My Plate screen:
This is a day from my own My Plate account – it isn’t ideal, but its close. You want to, ideally, have all percentages be around 33%.
Step 6 If you are a regular coffee drinker, stop. Yes, this is incredibly painful and if you are anything like me it will result in many many headaches for the first few days while your body goes through withdrawal. However, the caffeine in coffee can and will affect your metabolism – by cutting that out of the equation it will make your dieting experience much more positive. Caffeine free tea can be a decent replacement in the mornings just to make it a bit easier on  yourself.
Step 7 Don’t eat the same foods/meals over and over and over again. Yes, a good salad can contain a protein, carb and fat… but I would not recommend having a salad every day for lunch because after one week you’ll probably be ready to quit all together. Mix it up, have veggies that you enjoy. Be cautious of fruits. In fact, other than apples & grapefruits I would advise against any fruit consumption as they are all very high in sugars and can spike your carb intake.
These tips are enough to get you started, but are just the tip of the ice berg. Dieting really is a science, but its like that class in Highschool that you’d really rather just sleep through or pretend to listen while you’re texting your friends. I will post Part II, III…IV, V… etc. soon, but if you have questions as we go please ask.
I’m no expert, but I do have a lot of experience. This isn’t the only diet I’ve tried, even recently or currently, but it is by far the most successful and healthy diet that I am aware of.

Happy Dieting 🙂

Goodbye FAT :)

Today was our final weigh in for the Biggest Loser competition at work. Finally! After 7 months of dieting the contest is OVER (please note I’m saying *contest* and not diet…). Its been fun though, seeing all of us try and win and watching everyone shrink 🙂

I was the lucky winner (hooray!) – losing a total of 61.2lbs and 12.62% of my body fat. Here’s a before picture from early this year and an after picture this morning:

(photos compliments of Bethany O’Donnell Photography 🙂 )
Please don’t ask what I’m doing in that before picture – that’s a whole story in itself…
So, I suppose now that there is no financial or competitive motivation involved, the rest of my dieting will be solely for the purpose of being healthy. While being on a diet for 7 months has absolutely been terrible, it was very worth it – the energy I have alone is worth all of the crankiness, horrible cravings, ups and downs and the weak moments.  I don’t really want to lose too much more weight, but I do want to get in shape now. What I would really love to do is get better at riding my bike, and maybe enter in a race next summer (not to win, just to finish! lol).
In closing, I want to send out a very special thank you to my amazing husband who has been there to knock the Cheetos out of my hand while giving me an encouraging hug and kiss at the same time – thank you honey, I love you.