Post-Workout Foods: The Good, The Bad and The Easy

Working out goes hand-in-hand with dieting/healthy eating – you all know that. But what you may not realize is that, if you don’t eat properly after your workout, you’re missing out on a lot of solid calorie-burning. If you want to capitalize on your workout and fuel your body in a way that will help target those fatty bits that you wish would just disappear, let’s figure out what you should be putting in your mouth post-workout. Also, for the sake of this post, “working out” is only referring to cardio (no offense to other workouts!).

First, make sure you eat within two hours of working out. Now, two hours is the longest you can wait to refuel your body if you want to utilize your workout; honestly, it’s best to eat within the first 30-60 minutes. If you’re working out at an awkward time during the day and don’t want to eat a full meal, go for an easy snack. If you are eating a full meal afterwards, just be cautious not to overdo it. Either way, though, you want to eat some combination of protein and carbohydrates.

I know what you’re thinking: “Wait a second. Carbs? Is this a joke? You clearly have no idea what you’re talking about.”

False. (Okay, sometimes I definitely have no idea what I’m talking about… But now is not one of those times!) Carbohydrates – in moderation – are absolutely necessary for your body. Especially post-workout. When you refuel with carbs, you’ll give your body what it needs to release insulin and help with muscle recovery. Obviously, you don’t want to overdo it on carbs just because you worked out – in other words, don’t go and eat an entire baguette and call it good.

So, what are some good snack ideas?

  • Greek yogurt (Not a fan of the flavor? Try adding some fresh fruit or granola.)
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Hummus and whole grain pita/crackers

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  • Apples and peanut butter
  • Whole wheat toast and peanut butter
  • (Maybe just.. peanut butter?)
  • Blueberries

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  • Trail mix
  • Tuna or salmon (Try getting the little 70 calorie packs at your local grocery store – super convenient + packed with protein. As you can see below, I like to throw onions and avocados in mine!)

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  • Eggs
  • Bananas
  • WATER :)

Remember: the food that you put into your body after your workout is just as important (if not more!) than the food you eat before your workout. I typically workout after work but before eating supper. That way, when I get back from my workout, I can eat a grilled chicken breast or a salmon filet instead of just snacking because I burned all those calories.

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When the going gets tough….

Losing weight is hard. Sure, I was prepared to feel challenged and I started this journey with the knowledge that it would not be easy. But man, is it difficult.

This past week, I’ve been feeling especially frustrated. Although I started out strong and have lost a little over 12 pounds so far (woohoo!), I’m feeling overwhelmed by the remaining weight that I still want to lose. I don’t want to cut myself off from all the delicious foods in the world and I certainly don’t want to alienate myself in terms of friends and family by eating completely separate foods or avoiding social engagements but, after spending the last two weekends in a row at the lake, my weight has plateaued. Thankfully I haven’t gained weight, but I haven’t lost any additional weight either. Plus, seeing all the gorgeous, tiny waists prancing around doesn’t help. You feel me.

Long story short, I realized that frustration and negativity will get me nowhere. I haven’t been exercising much (despite the fact that I know it’s necessary to maintain weight loss ) so, today, I went for a 2(ish) mile walk/run. I not only burned around 300 calories, but I felt so proud of myself for getting my butt out there.

RunKeeper

If you’re looking to start walking/running, my fiance told me about this awesome (free) app called Runkeeper. I used it tonight and was definitely impressed. Not only does it track your run via GPS so you can pull up the same route in the future, but it can also sync with Spotify Premium or iTunes (music is such a good motivator!). Every five or ten minutes, a little voice updates you on how far you’ve run and how much time has passed, which also motivated me. Overall, stellar app (and I swear I’m not getting paid to say that). As an additional motivator, I required myself to sprint to the next checkpoint (sometimes a tree or a trash can) every time I thought something negative about myself. Trust me, it helped (and was also torture because I am so not a runner).

So, going for a brief walk/run helped me regain a little bit of momentum. My main goal now is to work on that awful negative self-talk (even if it means I have to sprint for the entirety of my walk/run… Which I probably wouldn’t survive). If you’re also struggling, here are a few things that you can do to keep moving forward:

  • Switch up your menu. I have had a few moments in the last couple of weeks during which I wanted to kick and scream and throw my plate of veggies at the wall (I work with toddlers and it might be affecting me…). I wanted to drink wine and eat bread and cheese and not care about the calories. I didn’t, mind you, but I really freakin’ wanted to. If you’re struggling with your healthy menu and getting bored of eating the same old stuff every day, switch it up. Experiment with new foods – try a new fruit, mix different veggies together or just try cooking your protein a different way. It can make a world of difference.
  • Watch some inspirational videos. It sounds silly, I know. But there are certain videos and songs that really get me back on track. This song, for example, always makes me look at my situation in a different light. I also come across videos on YouTube (usually via Facebook friends, to be honest) that inspire me to keep moving forward and to keep trying. Plus, sometimes, you need to hear things in a different way to truly understand them.

  • Talk about it. I don’t like stressing my fiance out and I don’t want to be “that girl” that talks about her weight all the time. However, last night, he could tell that there was something on my mind and that I wasn’t exactly myself. After a little coaxing, the floodgates opened and I just vented – about how I can’t stop comparing myself to other people, about how I genuinely hate the way I look, etc etc. It’s stuff that you probably feel on a regular basis, too. And guess what? I felt so, so much better. Talk to a friend or significant other or parent or whoever – just talk to someone.
  • Create a visual system. If it feels like you can’t see any changes in your body, try creating some form of visual weight loss system. Maybe it means investing in a bag of those little mancala beads and transferring them from one mason jar to another for each pound you lose. It’s easy, cheap and helps you see your progress even when you can’t see the changes.

There are a million other tips and tricks that can help you stay motivated, but I’m a busy person and so are you, so I’m going to end this here. How do you find inspiration when your motivation is dwindling?

KeepGoing

Negativity Just Plain Sucks

If you’re not one for moody, personal blog posts, stop right now. Just stop reading and come back tomorrow for a clever, helpful post on foods or something.

Why? Because today’s post is all about negative self-talk and just how shitty we make ourselves feel.

Reason behind this post: I went to the county fair last night and was literally surrounded by tiny, tan girls wearing crop tops and shorts (which were so short that I’m actually pretty sure they were underwear). Their perfection genuinely made me want to throw up all the fair food I was dreaming about eating.

One thing that I struggle with a LOT – and I’m pretty confident that I’m not the only one – is negative self-talk. You know, that little voice in your head that says, “You’re not worth it and you never will be. You’ll never compare to them, with their perfect tiny stomachs and nonexistent thighs. You’re basically a fat pile of lard.”

Ugh. Hate that voice. I mean, what a bitch, right?!

We would never say things like that to a friend who’s uncomfortable with the way he or she looks. So what makes it okay to talk to ourselves that way?

Basically, losing weight is challenging enough without that awful voice inside your head breaking you down at each and every turn. So, let’s try to find ways to conquer negativity – together. Everything’s easier when you’ve got someone by your side, after all. 

In a nutshell, negative self-talk is the crappy (usually unfounded and untrue!) stuff we say to ourselves. A lot of us – especially those who don’t like their bodies – beat ourselves down when we really need to be doing the opposite. Although positivity is important in every day life, it’s especially important when you’re trying to change something – be it the way you look, the way you eat or simply the way you live your life.

But, because negative self-talk can be so ingrained in us, it can be a very difficult habit to break. So where do we start?

Step One: Admit you have a problem. It’s the most important step in almost any step-based program, right? It’s easy to just believe the things we’re thinking because, after all, why would we lie to ourselves? Shockingly, though, we do. Recognizing that many of the negative things you’re telling yourself are not true is crucial, seeing as you can’t change a behavior that you don’t think exists.

Step Two: Let yourself be positive! I know that I, for one, find it a lot easier to tell myself I suck than to commend myself for anything. However, I’ve been making a LOT of difficult life changes lately and I’ve already lost seven pounds! In my head, it’s easy to say, “Really? You’re going to be excited about seven little pounds? You know your jeans still don’t fit, right?” But you know what? I am excited. I am so proud of those seven little pounds, and I have every right to be. Don’t beat yourself up because you could be doing more or losing more. If you’re trying your best and working at it every day, celebrate the little victories. Just, you know, not with a loaf of bread or something.

Step Three: STOP COMPARING. There will always be someone skinnier than you, leaner than you, better looking than you, etc etc. And, after years of wasting time wishing I could look like someone else, I’m here to tell you that it isn’t going to happen. You’re born with what you’ve got, so you might as well make it work! It’s hard for me to see all these gorgeous women and not feel like my fiancé is looking at them, wishing I looked more like them. That’s what I’m wishing, after all, so why wouldn’t he? Take a minute to see it on the flip side. Do I see a good looking guy and wish my fiancé looked like him? Nope. Not for a second. Sorry for the TMI, but I think my fiancé is the most handsome guy around. So it would be unfair of me to doubt his affection, unless I want him doubting mine. There are a million beautiful people in the world – don’t let yourself forget that you are one of them.

Step Four: Just learn to love yourself. It’s so, so much easier than it sounds, I know. I could name a dozen things I hate about myself without batting an eye, but it would probably take me some solid time to come up with three things I love about myself. Which, if you think about it, is a really sad way to live.

So, what are we going to do about it? Let’s agree to focus on positive vibes for the rest of this month. No more negative self-talk. No more beating ourselves down. We are working our asses off (literally, am I right?) and we deserve to feel proud of that. Take baby steps, make little changes and pat yourself on the back now and then.
Bonus: Make a list of three things you love about yourself and tape it to the mirror at home. I guarantee you’re beautiful – you just need to let yourself see it.

Buy this for insta-results! (*gag*)

Yeah, right. I’ll believe it when I see it.

Everyone keeps trying to sell me magical weight-loss products – wraps, shakes, pills, supplements. The list goes on and on. I appreciate (as I’ve said before) that these products work for some people. However, I have a family – including a 6-year-old child. Have you ever tried to base your supper on shakes when you have a 6-year-old running around?! Impossible.

One thing that’s incredibly important to me is eating supper with my family. I know, it seems archaic – the idea of sitting around the dinner table every night. Who does that?

Either way, it’s a value that I’m not ready to sacrifice. No matter how long my day is and how packed our evening schedule is, I know that I’ll have a small, 30-min window to spend time with my family. However, if I were to base my meal plan on shakes and supplements, I’d be sitting at the table with an empty spot in front of me.

It’s much more realistic for me to create a meal plan based on what will work for my whole family. That being said, eating healthy and losing weight is a little more work. But it’s also so much more rewarding

Some of the foods that we keep fully stocked are:

  • Salmon
  • Tuna
  • Frozen veggie packets
  • Avocados
  • Eggs
  • Whole grain bread
  • Peanut butter
  • Carrots

These foods are easy to prepare, plus they’re packed with healthy calories and yummy nutrients. If you want a sample of how I eat, check out my virtual food diary.

The easiest way to create a meal plan for your family is to look at what’s convenient, affordable and healthy. It’s simple to make a dinner with a salmon fillet and some broccoli from a freezer packet, and it’s going to be more effective in the long run than pills and supplements.

Thoughts?

Reflections: Two Weeks Down

It’s been about two weeks since I officially cracked down on losing weight and making healthier choices. In that time, I’ve lost 6 pounds, which is pretty cool. It’s not as much as I hoped I would lose and it’s a drop in the long-term bucket – but a drop is still a drop. The biggest changes that I’ve made are:

  • Cutting out (most) processed carbs
  • Eating protein packed breakfasts
  • Limiting the amount of alcohol, soda and other “liquid calories” in my diet
  • Choosing fruits and veggies to snack on vs junk food
  • Tracking my calories so I’m aware of what I’m actually putting into my body

It hasn’t been easy, but it has been easier than I thought it would be. My fiance is doing this “lifestyle change” with me, which has definitely made it easier. It’s nice having someone to bounce ideas off of and to keep me on track when all I really want to do is drink wine and eat bread (because we all know that wine and bread are delicious and wonderful… just admit it). I think the most difficult things so far have been as follows:

  • Realizing that change doesn’t happen overnight. After seeing so many posts about diets and fads promising to drop your weight by 10 pounds in a week, it’s difficult to see that I’ve only lost 6 pounds all month. However, when you look at things realistically, losing 6 pounds in a month is a good thing! It means that I’m not putting my body into starvation mode, and it means that I’ll be more likely to keep the weight off. When you do a fad diet and lose ten pounds in a week, you’ll probably gain most of that back the following week – and that is definitely not what I want.
  • Not being able to see results. Although I’ve lost a little bit of weight and feel better physically after eating clean for two weeks, I can’t see results. My tummy is still too flubby and my jeans still don’t fit right. It can be discouraging to look and the mirror and still dislike yourself, even after working so hard for almost a month. Obviously, I didn’t expect to be a super model after a month, but it would’ve been nice to see some results, right? On the plus side, my fiance said that my face looks thinner, which was pretty cool to hear (even though he may have just been being nice…). So, keep in mind that, just because you don’t see results, doesn’t mean that they aren’t starting to show. Don’t give up just because you’re not a size zero overnight.
  • Finding affordable, healthy alternatives. Healthy food is expensive and, because money is (always) tight, it can be hard to justify spending most of our budget on groceries. Look at the options in your local grocery store and realistically compare how each option fits into your budget. In the end, choosing frozen chicken breasts and salmon filets over fresh ones helps save money and allows you to purchase more food at one time. Likewise, you may need to snack on sunflower seeds instead of almonds and drink skim milk instead of soy. However, it is absolutely possible to eat healthy foods without breaking the bank; it just takes a bit of intentional shopping.
  • Surviving the weekend. Weekends mean relaxed, lazy days full of friends, drinks and (junk) food. I don’t know about you but, after a long, 40-hour work week, I know that I don’t feel like spending my weekend cooking. Plus, sitting around watching television or socializing with friends just isn’t the same without snacking (and I’m a perpetual snacker). It’s been a challenge to find healthy things to snack on and to avoid over-eating in my spare time on the weekends, but a few things that have worked really well for me are radishes (crunchy and extremely low-cal), sunflower seeds (salty and filling) and mixed fruit (for your sweet tooth).
  • Not letting it overwhelm me. It’s so easy to get obsessed with counting calories, limiting carbs, etc. when you’re determined to lose weight (I know that it’s driven my fiance a little bit crazy standing with me while I check nutrition labels in the grocery store). This is going to be a slow, long journey, and limiting myself that much is just going to cause me to burn out; it’s important to allow yourself a little bit of leeway and to remember that you’re changing your life, one healthy choice at a time.

Overall, I’m pretty proud of myself for what I’ve accomplished this month. I feel like I’ve finally found a weight loss process that works for me and for my life, instead of trying to force myself to eat cabbage soup or forgoing supper with my family for a protein shake. I have a long way to go, but I have 9 more months to do it. Here’s to one month down – cheers.

– M

 

Fats: Facts vs Myths

I find the whole “fats” class of nutrients incredibly confusing. Who’s with me?

Every single article I read says something different. Some say that saturated fats are good while others say that unsaturated fats are the good fats. Some say that you should simply avoid eating all fats. Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

I think that the biggest problem with many current weight loss blogs and articles is that they are not backed by research. Someone read an infographic on Pinterest, interpreted the information and made a blog post based on it. Hence, the wealth of incorrect and contradicting facts out there in the world wide web.

Let’s delve into the world of fats and figure it out together, deal? Because this confusing mess of information is just not working for me.

Fats

First, let’s debunk some fatty myths and look at the actual hard facts put out by nutritionists, the CDC, ChooseMyPlate, etc. (in other words, sources that are a tad bit more credible than some random Pinterest blogger).

  • MYTH: All fats are bad. This couldn’t be further from the truth! We need fats to accomplish essential daily tasks. Our bodies use fats to deliver fat-soluble vitamins and for energy, among other things. So, if you’ve been under the impression that any food containing fats is bad, it’s time to reevaluate. In fact, according to the US Dept of Agriculture, adults need to get between 20 and 35 percent of their calories from fats.
  • MYTH: Fats are only found in unhealthy, processed foods. So not true. Yes, the foods that come to mind when you think of typical unhealthy choices (i.e. fast food, processed food) contain “bad” fats that you want to avoid. Food that is extremely healthy and beneficial to your body also contains fats, though! Avocados and eggs, for example, are high-fat foods that are crazy good for you.
  • FACT: There are good fats and bad fats. There are definitely good fats – the kind you find in foods like salmon – and bad fats – the kind you find in French fries. We’ll talk about these categories more in a minute.
  •  FACT: Fats are very dense. It is true that calories from fats are dense in nature. That being said, having a diet rich in fatty foods will absolutely make you gain weight – the more fats you eat, the more calories you eat. However, we need some of these dense calories to fuel our bodies, so don’t shy away from fats yet

So, what is the difference between a “good fat” and a “bad fat”?

“Good fats” are fats that can help lower cholesterol, decrease the risk of diseases and provide your body with necessary nutrients. In contrast, “bad fats” are fats that do the opposite; they can raise cholesterol, increase the risk of disease and clog your body’s arteries.

Now that you have a little bit of background on what fats are and why we really do need them in our diets, it’s time to announce the winners of the Good Fat vs Bad Fat battle…

Unsaturated fats!

Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are considered the “good fats” in this ongoing debate. Both fats (when eaten in moderation, obviously) can help your body do all of those good things listed above. Examples of good fats, then, are:

  • Seeds and nuts (walnuts, almonds, flaxseed)
  • Unprocessed oils (olive, sunflower, peanut)
  • Fatty fish (tuna, salmon, sardines)
  • Avocados

On the flip side, saturated and trans fats can clog your arteries and increase your risk for diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. Saturated fats should be limited and trans fats should really be avoided as much as possible. (Note that there is a small amount of natural trans fat found in some meat and dairy products, which isn’t something to worry about; the kind of trans fats that you should avoid are the processed, artificial ones.)

Saturated fats are found in foods like:

  • High-fat dairy products (whole milks/cheeses)
  • Animal fat (beef, pork, chicken)
  • Butter
  • “Tropical” oils (coconut, palm)

Trans fats (the truly nasty kind, not the natural kind) are found in foods that you probably already know are bad for you, such as:

  • Partially hydrogenated oils (vegetable)
  • Most margarines
  • Processed snack foods (crackers, microwave popcorn, chips)
  • Baked goods (cookies, cakes, pies)
  • Fried foods (donuts, french fries, fast food)

In conclusion, then, it’s important to maintain a balanced diet – including fats! Unsaturated fats like the kind found in fish, nuts and unprocessed oils are good – and necessary – for your body. Like anything else, though, make sure you eat these foods in moderation. Meanwhile, limit your intake of saturated fats (try choosing low-fat/skim dairy options) and avoid trans fats as much as possible. Will you eat a donut or some french fries on occasion? Yup. And that’s okay. Just limit your intake of trans fats and give your heart (and your muffin top) a chance.

Summer Solutions for Social Events

Eating healthy and socializing don’t exactly go hand-in-hand. It’s difficult to make good food choices when you’re surrounded by people drinking heavy beers and eating potato chips. It’s even more difficult to make good food choices because beer and chips are both delicious.

Summer is full of social events. From backyard barbecues to holidays like Father’s Day and Independence Day, summer is host to dozens of cal-heavy days.

Today, my fiancé and I chose to head to the park with his daughter in celebration of Father’s Day. We met up with a few friends and fired up the grill. However, since I’m trying this whole healthy thing, I was nervous about throwing patties on the grill and stuffing my face with trans fatty chips. I could just see my 1200 cal allotment dwindling.

So, instead of grabbing the usual barbecue fixings, we stood in the aisles of our local grocery store comparing nutrition labels. Seriously. And my meal ended up being about 480 calories, which isn’t so bad. Here’s what I went with:

Summer Alternatives

And here’s the calorie breakdown:

  • One turkey burger (250 but with 25 g of protein!)
  • One whole wheat hamburger bun (140)
  • One hot dog (90 – okay, I was still a little bit hungry, so I ate a little Oscar Meyer hot dog… Oops!)

Also, instead of eating the wavy/barbecue/delicious potato chips that everyone else ate, I indulged in sourdough crips and organic thai coconut curry hummus (found at Natural Grocers and super tasty, for the record). This added an extra 102 calories, but was way healthier than filling my body with trans fats and way more satisfying that watching everyone eat but being unable to crunch on something.

Now, I was about 100 calories away from my 1200-cal goal for the day. And, because I had prepared by Googling “low calorie beer,” I was able to enjoy a couple of beers. Granted, it was Budweiser’s Select 55, which is a very light beer. If you can get used to the taste of light beer, though, you can’t go wrong with this one, which has only 55 calories and only 1.4 g of carbs per 12 oz.

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One of the most important things for me is to keep in mind that losing weight doesn’t equate to being miserable. Today, I was able to enjoy a sunny afternoon grilling out and drinking with my friends and family – and I only went over my 1200 calories by 18 because I was conscious of the choices I was making. Instead of gorging on caloric beer and chips, I was able to take a step back and make healthy decisions that won’t leave me with a guilt hangover (or a real one) tomorrow.

To see my full entry for today, check out my (virtual) food diary here.

– M