On Eating Vegetables

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How do you feel about vegetables? I admit, I used to hate them. I still tend to say I don’t like them very much, but I need to stop saying that because it’s really not true. I actually love most vegetables, and I’ll tell you why.

Last year at about this time, I decided to change my diet. At the time I ate a pretty typical American diet. Over the last few years I’ve greatly reduced my consumption of sugar and processed foods, but I don’t do fad diets or pay much attention to food trends like clean eating, paleo, keto, stuff like that. I like Asian, New Mexican, and Mediterranean flavors, and I hated vegetables.

As I became more passionate about health and fitness, I realized that I was not fueling my body with adequate nutrition. I was working out more, and harder, and running out of energy. I did add supplements like protein powder and BCAAs, but I knew that if I really wanted to be healthier, I’d have to change the way I ate. So I purchased the 2B Mindset, a nutrition program from Beachbody. Because it’s a paid program, I won’t let you in on all the secrets, but I will give you a hint: two big parts of it are drinking more water and eating more vegetables.

Vegetables! Ugh!

I figured I wouldn’t like it. I figured my family wouldn’t like it either. But I also figured it was worth trying. I found more ways to prepare the few kinds of vegetables I did like. Thankfully, I’ve always loved zucchini. It’s such a versatile vegetable, and there are so many delicious possibilities. I really should have planted some this year! Maybe next year. I also found ways to add vegetables into foods I prepared regularly. I discovered cauliflower rice and zoodles. I added red peppers to chili and tomato sauce. I tried brussels sprouts. I don’t like typical salads, but I do like chopped salads, especially with kale. I started taking those to work. I found some really delicious recipes. I blended vegetables into smoothies.

After a few months of begrudgingly adding more vegetables to my diet, I discovered some interesting changes. I felt better. I had more energy. And probably the craziest part, I started really liking vegetables! I’ve gone from liking about five (green beans, asparagus, zucchini, potatoes, and broccoli) to liking nearly every vegetable I try, except for iceberg lettuce and beets.

It’s a weird fact that the more you eat a particular kind food, the more you tend to want it. If you eat a lot of sugar, you want a lot of sugar. If you eat a lot of fast food, you want fast food. If you eat a lot of vegetables, you want vegetables. Adding more vegetables didn’t just change my diet, it changed my life. I eat very differently now than I did a year or two ago, and I enjoy food just as much now as I did then. I just enjoy more kinds of food. And… chips. Somehow when I started eating more vegetables, chips and french fries became my favorite guilty foods, even more than sweets.

I hope you don’t think that just because I like vegetables now, I’ve abandoned my love for all the other foods. Believe me, I love all the foods. Pizza and cupcakes are still my favorite. But I learned that making a shift is possible, and that making healthier food choices can be enjoyable. And that roasted broccoli with butter, garlic, and a squeeze of lemon is just one of the best things in life.

This month in my 30 Day Challenge group, we’re eating more vegetables. I’ll be sharing some of my favorite recipes and tips for adding more veggie goodness into your life, whether you like vegetables or not. I hope you’ll join me!

What’s your favorite vegetable? If you have a good recipe, let me know!

On Drinking Water

Water is essential to life.

We know this, but how many of us don’t drink enough of this essential substance every day? Do we even know how much we’re supposed to drink, or how often? Someone told me this week that you only have to drink when you’re thirsty. I’ve also heard that by the time you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated. I’ve heard eight glasses of water a day, I’ve heard twelve, and I’ve wondered what a glass is. I’ve heard to take your weight, divide it in half, and drink that number of ounces every day. Not too bad if you weigh 130 pounds, but a little more daunting if you weigh 230. I’ve heard the caution about drinking too much water, but I’m not really worried about that. Unless you have a serious health issue or you’re drinking your entire daily intake at once, your chances of “water poisoning” are pretty slim. I’d guess most of us should be much more concerned about not drinking enough water than about drinking too much.

I’m not a doctor or nutritionist or an expert on water intake. I haven’t done much research and I don’t claim to be an expert. I can tell you that I feel better when I’ve had plenty of water during the day and I don’t feel well at all if I don’t. When I don’t have enough water, I’m sluggish, my head hurts, my skin dries out, and my body and brain don’t respond well.

When I do drink enough, I’m more alert, my digestive system works better, I stay awake better during the day, I feel healthy and refreshed and energetic. I drink plenty of coffee too, but I actually find that water in the morning wakes me up even faster than coffee does, and there’s no such thing as a water crash. And as I mentioned in my post on losing weight, increasing my water intake helped me shed several unwanted pounds.

Drinking water has always been a struggle for me. I don’t mind the taste of water. I just forget to drink it. In the past few months, I have gotten better at it, so I have a few tips to share if you’re like me and don’t usually get enough:

  • Drink water when you wake up. I’ve made drinking water part of my morning routine. It’s one of the first things I do after I get out of bed. I pour a glass, usually about 10 ounces, and drink it all. Then I pour another glass and drink it while I make coffee and breakfast. That way, before I eat anything or even drink my coffee, I’ve already had at least 20 ounces of water. That’s a great start for the day.
  • Put fruit or veggies in your water. I drink my morning water with a wedge of lemon. I usually leave that lemon in my glass all day and refill it periodically. If that sounds weird or gross to you, don’t do it. I find that the lemon keeps the water from tasting stale if it sits for a few hours, and the water keeps the lemon from going bad. I’ve also put strawberries in my water, and I’ve seen restaurants that add cucumbers, cranberries, rhubarb, mint, etc. Be inventive. You never know what you might like until you try it. Personally, I think there is minimal nutritional value in infused water, but it tastes pretty cool. I know there are cute little infusers out there, and you can certainly get one of those if you want. Some people put a drop of essential oil in their water, but I’m not convinced of the benefits of ingesting essential oils, so I don’t do it.
  • Drink water before you eat. This is a really useful habit to get into, if you can remember to do it. Try drinking a whole glass of water before you eat even one bite of your meal or take a sip of whatever beverage you’re having with it. I find this helps me feel full faster and not eat as much, in addition to helping me remember to drink more water.
  • Drink only water with meals. I know, right? Boring! This can be hard if you’re like me and feel terrible ordering water at restaurants. I feel so cheap when I do it, but the fact is that soda, sweetened tea, and alcoholic beverages are loaded with calories in addition to costing a lot of money. Maybe skip the soda and order dessert instead. Or a side of fries. Eat your calories, don’t drink them.
  • Monitor your intake. Know how much your favorite glass or water bottle holds, and track what you drink. Write it on a notepad, make a note in your phone, or use an app. Know how much you’re drinking and how that measures up to your goal.
  • Drink with friends. Be accountable. This month in Allie’s 30 Day Challenge on Facebook, we’re drinking water. You don’t have to be in my Facebook group (but you should be!) in order to get a friend or two to join you. We all need water. Let’s drink it together.

What do you think? Let’s talk. Feel free to share any benefits of drinking water that I might have missed, as well as any tips you have for drinking enough of it every day.

On Losing Weight

“Wow, you look great! Are you losing weight? How are you doing it?”

I get this a lot lately. Since June, I’ve lost ten pounds. I’m in the best shape of my life, and obviously it shows enough that people take notice. They want to know my secret. So I thought hey, I have a blog about transformation. I am in the process of transforming my body. It fits. Might as well spill my secret here.

Spoiler alert: There is no secret.

I’m not on a diet, or a magic pill, or an MLM product or service. I am on a journey, which I’ve alluded to in previous posts, but I’ll sum it up for you here.

Four years ago, I was in a funk. I’d had a rough year, gained some weight, dealt with postpartum depression without professional help, and I wasn’t very healthy. I have a chronic disease and an auto-immune disorder, and I just felt bad. I had chronic back pain. Sometimes I would have bouts of digestive problems where it would hurt every time I ate for weeks. I was 34 years old. I didn’t want to keep feeling worse as I got older. I looked at people who were twenty or thirty years older than me who were having trouble with mobility and chronic pain. I didn’t want to be in that position in thirty years. I wanted to be able to move without pain. So I decided to make one change. I decided to exercise.

I had never been into exercise. I’d done a few videos over the years with varying results. I was never disciplined about it and I was pretty outspoken about hating it. I didn’t like being sore. I gave up when it got hard. I was a wimp. But I realized that in order to improve my mobility, I’d have to suck it up and move. I decided to do a one-month daily exercise challenge. It was simple but difficult, and I complained about aching muscles every day. By the end of the month I was starting to see changes in my body, so I decided to stick with it. I got bored and added a few exercises. I found some apps that stretched me further. One of my doctors suggested trying yoga for my back, so I did. At home, with an app. Months passed, and I stuck with it. I gained strength and flexibility. Eventually a friend talked me into taking yoga classes. My back stopped hurting. I had an easier time getting up stairs. I could get through longer and longer workouts, although rarely more than 10-20 minutes. I didn’t lose weight but I looked different. Clothes fit better. I didn’t hate my body. I started being thankful for the way it could support me through my life, and the way I looked in the mirror.

Over the years, I also made small changes in my diet. I saw a round of doctors for the stomach pain, hair loss, and other issues I was experiencing, and they all shrugged and said something was obviously going on, but they couldn’t pinpoint what. Looking back now, I think I just wasn’t healthy. My immune system, which has always been a bit wonky, was trying to respond to fake attacks of stress, sugar, bad diet, bad habits, and who knows what else. One doctor made an offhand suggestion that I try kefir for my stomach pain. I was desperate, and even though I’d tried kefir before and hated it, I tried the brand she suggested in the amount she told me, and a month later, I could eat without pain. A few months more, and my lifelong digestive issues were practically cured. I have never had to deal with that much pain again, and if it starts to pop up, I just drink a shot of kefir every day for a week or so and it goes away again. It’s been amazing.

I like to do research and experiment with different options. Once, just to see how it would go, I went without sugar for a month. I didn’t die, and it really cut my sugar habit by a lot. I added protein supplements and BCAAs to help me power through longer workouts, increase muscle recovery, and reduce soreness. I wanted healthier hair, so I finally agreed to try the Nordic Naturals fish oil my mom kept telling me to take. Small, incremental changes over time led to small, incremental results. I never lost weight, just hovered around the same 150 pounds or so. I’m short, so 150 is technically overweight, but it never bothered me. I just figured that was my adult weight, I’d stay there with my muffin top and my flabby arms forever, and it would be okay.

Then I saw Wonder Woman.

Oh my gosh you guys, that movie is so inspiring. I just love it. It might actually be my favorite movie. She is absolutely my hero. I thought, man, I really want arms like Wonder Woman. I realize I’m about half her height and her arms are probably a foot longer than mine, but I don’t know why, I just thought that level of muscle definition was what I really wanted in my life. I also figured it was impossible. But then a friend of mine, Michelle Mincic, got into a workout routine and started posting pics of her arms and I thought well, if she can do it, maybe I can. So finally, after three years of exercising just because it was a good thing to do and it made me feel good, I had a goal. I wanted those arms. I knew I’d have to work for them, and I decided to do it.

Once I increased my effort, I realized I would have to improve my nutrition. I increased my workout time and started a part time job, and I was struggling with having enough energy to get through the day. At about that time, Robin Coccomo, a Beach Body coach I randomly started following on Facebook, posted about the launch of the 2B Mindset. I decided to check it out. I got my kit and realized, with some embarrassment, that it’s basically a diet. I’ve always refused to go on a diet, except for when I had gestational diabetes and my doctor made me. I don’t believe in fad diets. I do believe in improving my food intake and nutrition, and that does require making changes in my diet, but I still don’t think of myself as being “on a diet.” I didn’t even care if I lost weight. I just wanted to learn how to eat and fuel my body better. I am not the poster child for the 2B Mindset. I read the guide and I follow about half the rules. I don’t track my food. I still haven’t watched all the videos. I still don’t drink enough water or eat enough vegetables. But I drink significantly more water and I eat significantly more vegetables, and I eat less simple carbs and more fiber filled carbs. I eat real food instead of cereal in the morning, to get me through to lunch. I avoid unhealthy snacking. Most of the time, I limit carbs at dinner. The results? Ridiculous. Unexpected. As soon as I changed my diet and started drinking water and weighing myself every day, I started dropping weight. Slowly, but consistently. I also noticed that the more I eat high quality, nutritious food, the more I want to eat it. I’m just as likely to crave vegetables as chips or chocolate.

One more thing: I added cardio. This was painful. I hate cardio so much. I have to get out of the house to do it, and I really don’t like exercising out of my house. I either have to run outside, which I hate, or do cardio machines at the gym, which I also hate. And it hurts. It’s mentally challenging. But I knew I needed to, to increase fat burn and have more visible muscle definition. Because Wonder Woman. So I joined Planet Fitness. When my husband said he was going to start running to train for a 5K, I decided that I would too. That was the final piece. After building a foundation of health for years, changing my diet and adding steady state cardio meant dramatic results. I lost ten pounds in four months. I went from a size 8 at the beginning of the year to a size 4. I had to buy new clothes. And people notice. Frequently. “Dang, girl! You look great!” is something I hear really often now. It’s a little weird, and a little uncomfortable, but I kind of love it. Not because I want to flaunt this fit mama bod I’m rocking these days, but because it proves to me that hard work, commitment, and the ability to make uncomfortable changes really does yield results. In this difficult year of challenges and changes in my life and business goals, it’s good to look in the mirror and see success.

Enough backstory. This is what I’ve been doing to lose weight:

  • I exercise regularly. I try to get in at least 2-3 hours a week. Sometimes I only have time for a 10 minute home workout, sometimes I spend an hour and a half at the gym. I just do whatever works.
  • I drink two glasses of water in the morning when I get up and I try to remember to drink a glass before meals, and sip water throughout the day. My goal is to drink 64-70 ounces a day. I probably hit 40-50 most days. I drink a couple cups of coffee a day and I rarely have soda.
  • I eat some protein and carbs for breakfast; an apple or other high-nutrient snack before lunch; veggies, protein, and carbs at lunch; veggies and protein for dinner. I don’t starve myself or deprive myself of things I like. I eat pizza (sometimes for dinner!), chips, fries, donuts, cookies, candy, and cupcakes. I just eat less of them, less often than I used to. I try to be intentional about loading my diet with fuel food rather than useless calories. I also try to avoid fast food, because I’ve noticed that my body doesn’t seem to recognize it as food for some reason. So unless I really want those empty calories, I just skip them.
  • I supplement with a multivitamin, fish oil, and occasionally protein shakes and BCAAS (I like IdealFit. Here’s a referral link: https://www.idealfit.com/referrals.list?applyCode=ALLISON-RFK)

That’s it. No secret. I just found what works for me, and adjust if it stops working. I really believe that’s the key to weight loss, but more importantly, to good health. Learn your body. Pay attention to what makes it work well and what slows it down. Be willing to make uncomfortable choices and stick with them until you know whether they work or not. I know running works for me, but I don’t like it, so I’m not going to maintain a schedule where I run three times a week. That’s okay. Do what you like, and only do what you don’t if you know there’s a good reason for it. Sometimes that thing you don’t like may become the thing that changes your life, and you might just learn to love it someday.

Transform your mind, transform your body, transform your life.

What about you? What are your fitness favorites? What are your challenges? Let’s have a conversation.

On October’s Challenge

Can you guess what excites me most about October’s challenge?

If you said, “The fact that September’s challenge is almost over,” you’d be right!

I have HATED running! But I’ve stuck with it, and I think I’m a little better at it than I was a month ago. And I’m a little skinnier, too. My co-workers think I’m on a diet, which is hilarious. So far I’ve managed to run about 2 miles without stopping to walk. We’ll see what happens at the 5K I’m supposed to run next week. I’ll probably send an update about that to my email list, so subscribe if you haven’t yet!

Meanwhile, October starts on Monday, if you can believe that. So, without further ado, here is October’s challenge:

Ok, depending where you are in your fitness journey, you might look at that and think it sounds hard, or you might think “it’s a piece of cake and I’d like an actual piece of cake with it, please.” As usual, I let you pick your level, so if you’re more advanced and want to double or even triple the daily workouts, great. If you’re a total beginner and are capable of doing even one squat or lunge, great! If you need a little help with the “how to” of doing these moves, my new buddy Jared at Tone & Tighten has some great videos and instructions for the challenge here. I emailed him to ask about using this challenge and he has been so nice! He even gave me a free 5K training plan and some running stretches. As a bonus, if you check out the products and resources he has available at toneandtightenstore.com, you can get a 50% discount with the code ALLIE30DAY.

This is definitely my favorite kind of exercise challenge. I love squats. They are absolutely my favorite move. Lunges are one of my least favorite, so I especially love the fact that it breaks the moves up into two days. That way, it’s less monotonous than doing the same thing every day, and we only have to do lunges every other day. Also… THERE ARE REST DAYS! I love rest days. I will post daily assignments in my Facebook group, Allie’s 30 Day Challenge, so be sure and join if you haven’t already!

As I mentioned above, I am NOT on a diet. I HATE diets and I refuse to do them. I have subscribed to an “eating plan” that some people might call a diet, but it really just focuses on drinking more water, eating more vegetables, eating less sugar, and avoiding carbs at dinner. I also take a few supplements, like a multivitamin and fish oil. I would love to fully fuel my body with just my diet, and I believe that is possible without adding pills or powders, but I also don’t think those things are harmful in moderation. A year or so ago, I increased my workout load and found that I needed a little extra power to get through it, so I started using protein powder and BCAAs. That really helped out with my energy level, endurance, and muscle recovery (think harder workouts with less soreness the next day – WIN!). If you’re interested in the products I use, there is more info here: idealfit.com. Although I am not an IdealFit affiliate (yet!), this is a referral link, so if you use it you’ll get a discount and I should get a bonus, too.

If you have any questions or concerns about this challenge, you can leave a comment or contact me directly. Let’s rock October!

This post contains affiliate links. If you follow the links and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission. All opinions are my own.

On Monthly Challenges

Try something new.
Make a change.
Be accountable.
I dare you.

Raise your hand if doing new things isn’t your thing. Now smile awkwardly at someone who just saw you raise your hand. Good work. I raised my hand, by the way. I’m at home by myself though, so I didn’t smile at anyone.

I probably should say doing new things wasn’t my thing. I like comfort and routine and I really don’t like change. I do like small, incremental changes like a new hair color or cupcake flavor, but those things are well within my comfort zone. Stepping out of that zone scares me. Uncertainty, pain, loss, and failure live out there, and I fear those things. Always have. I prefer safety, security, and the confident knowledge that comes with doing things I know I’m good at, with people I know and like.

In the last fifteen years or so, I’ve learned some important lessons about my comfort zone. Sure, it feels good to stay safely inside, but when I step out of it and face what I fear, I also find some pretty amazing things that don’t live inside of it. Growth, adventure, and even success all happen outside of my comfort zone. By forcing myself to stretch and try new things, I’ve discovered things I love, new friendships, and new experiences that I would have missed out on if I’d stayed in my safe little cocoon. When I decided to start breaking out of it, I found my wings. Now, doing new things is totally my thing. So much so that now if I catch myself saying “Oh I don’t do that,” about something that’s perfectly acceptable to do, I feel an almost compulsive need to go ahead and do it. I’m sure this drives some people in my life crazy. I’m loving it, and also still kind of hating it at the same time, if I’m being totally honest. But I will say it has changed my life.

And now, I’d like to invite you to join me for the ride.

Okay actually in September I’d like you to join me for the run.

Monthly challenges happened completely by accident. A few years ago, a friend posted an invite to a Facebook group that was doing a 30-day squats, pushups, and leg lifts challenge. I’d been gaining weight pretty steadily and thinking I needed to get more active, so I decided to try it. Secretly. I didn’t even join the group. I checked it out, stole the image, saved it on my phone, and got started without telling anyone. I didn’t even join the group. The fact was, I could barely do squats, I had no idea what leg lifts even were, and I absolutely could not do a pushup. So if I failed horribly, I didn’t want anyone to know. Funny thing was, I didn’t fail. I did remember why I hated exercise. It hurts when you start. If you push your muscles beyond what they’re used to doing, they will protest. Loudly. For days. I wanted to quit, but I wanted to get in better shape, and getting in better shape won, so I didn’t quit. After just a week I started to see a difference. My arms started looking different. I felt different, tired but better, stronger. Two weeks in I actually peaked in the challenge. Almost every day, I was doing 50 squats and leg lifts, and 20 kneeling pushups, and I thought that was a lot so I finished out the 30 days just doing that. I figured no one knew I was doing it anyway, so I could just keep going at that pace for while. I did start letting a couple friends in on the secret of what I was doing, and they encouraged me to keep at it. I started getting bored doing the same thing all the time, so I added some moves. I switched to a classic 7-minute workout for awhile. I started looking into ways to get more out of my workouts, fuel my body better, and keep pushing myself to see how much more I could do. In just a few years I went from a moderately unhealthy person who hated exercise to loving exercise, sometimes being called “one of those fitness people,” and wanting to help people find their own fitness journey. It all started with one decision to try one challenge, on my own in the dark.

This year I’ve been stretching myself outside of my comfort zone again. I’ve written on doing what you can’t and doing what you don’t want to, and I’ve challenged myself to say yes to things I usually say no to. I did planks for a month. I joined a “gym.” Planet Fitness, but it’s close enough and it’s something I swore I’d ever do. Baby steps. And now, tomorrow, I’m going to attempt to run a 5K. Let me be absolutely clear: I HATE running. I’ve always said people who run are crazy (still true) and that no one would ever see me run, unless a bear was chasing me. Even at that, I might have suggested that death by bear mauling might be preferable to running. My husband has run a few 5Ks and he has actually been training (extra points to him!) for this one tomorrow. So last week I said, “Hey, I’ll do that with you.” Then I immediately went to Planet Fitness and got on the treadmill to see if I can even run. I can, but not far or for long, so we’ll see how it goes tomorrow. The next one is in early October, so I’m actually going to train for that one, three days a week. Me. Running. Like a crazy person.

What does all this have to do with monthly challenges? I’m glad you asked. In March, I decided to try planks every day and I asked people to join me. (See how that went here) A couple months later, I went back and did the 30-day challenge I started with, and this time I actually finished it. 100 squats, 100 leg lifts, 40 full pushups, like a boss. I found out it’s fun to do these challenges with other people, moaning and groaning together on the hard days and celebrating successes. While I was working on refreshing this website, I decided to make the challenges a monthly thing. They won’t always be exercise challenges, but they will be designed to stretch our comfort zones. If you like a challenge, come on. Let’s do this.

So… dear reader, I’d love for you to join me September’s 5K Challenge. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never run before, if you do a few minutes of cardio a few times a week, or if you run five miles a day*. For the month of September, let’s run together. I’m giving you three levels to choose from:

Level One (beginner): Pick a Couch to 5K program. There are some great apps out there that tell you exactly what to do. Start at week one and complete four weeks.

Level Two (me): Start at week five of Couch to 5K and complete four weeks.

Level Three (runners): Run 5 kilometers or more three times a week.

Bonus: Run a 5K in October

Join my Facebook Group and check in every time you complete a day of training. I’m prize motivated, so I offer drawings if enough people get through the challenge. I won’t promise it’ll be fun, but it might be. You might surprise yourself and start something you never thought you’d do.

Try something new.
Make a change.
Be accountable.
I dare you.

Comment with any questions! I moderate the Facebook group so if you aren’t one of my friends, please answer the questions and I’ll let you in. Thanks!

*As always when beginning any fitness program, be wise. Don’t injure yourself. Consult a physician if you’re not sure whether or not this kind of exercise is appropriate for you.

 

On the 30 Day Plank Challenge

At the end of February, I tossed out a quick question on Facebook. I said I was thinking of doing one of those 30-Day plank challenges that have been floating around Pinterest and asked if anyone wanted to join me. To my surprise, people did. So I started a group, posted the challenge, got friend to make me some cool images for the daily posts, and invited everyone to comment once they had finished the challenge for the day. Ten people made it halfway through the challenge and three or four made it all the way to the end. I didn’t get to my goal, which was a five minute plank, but I know at least one guy did. Jamie Thurston, you are a plank hero.

Here’s what I learned by planking (almost) every day for a month:

Read moreOn the 30 Day Plank Challenge