Saturday, April 19, 2014

Frozen Bananas | Faux Real Frosty

When I first began to eliminate sugar/artificial sweeteners from my diet, the transition was a little
challenging. First there are the cravings. Then there is the struggle with trying to find foods without sugar. And then there are more cravings. Frozen bananas were a mainstay in those initial days. For years, we have always thrown the over-ripe bananas in the freezer to make banana bread, but since I was not doing that regularly, they quickly became a constant ingredient in my green smoothies.
There is no need for any mad kitchen skills when it comes to storing overripe bananas in the freezer. If I am too lazy to peel them, I throw them in whole and when I want to use them I let them sit on the counter for 3-5 min to soften, then cut off the skins with a paring knife. The handy way to do it is to simply peel the bananas and put them in a freezer bag and pop them in the freezer. Try not to pack your bag too tight so the bananas do not mush together. When they are frozen, you can shift them around in the bag to loosen them and take them out as you need.
I'd love to tell you that I have this great long list of green smoothie recipes, however, it simply isn't so. Most of the time, whatever is in the fridge gets added. If it is strawberry season, those get added, if it is melon season, then I go that direction. I try not to get too stuck on any one variety because I shop according to what is in season at the time. Oh, and price... that is a huge factor. In any case, I always add a handful of kale or spinach (yes, it turns green, but no, you cannot taste it). The micronutrients are so good for you, and it is one way to get in a veggie serving without really trying.
For those nights when only the creamy texture of a soft-serve ice cream will do, this yummy treat can save the day! Faux REAL! You will be so amazed that you will kiss Wendy's good-bye forever...
Keep an eye out at the grocers or at the market for discounted bananas that are overripe. When I see them at Winn Dixie, I buy whatever I can because they will last a good 6 months or more.
Leftover fruit from a fruit tray, or overripe fruit make great items to freeze for later. Once they are frozen they can be added to smoothies or oatmeal for a naturally sweet treat. Don't be surprised if you find yourself nom-nomming on the frozen bananas straight out of the bag... super yum!

Friday, April 18, 2014

My Journey to Better Health!

If reading real life experiences help you, then this is for you... Three vital points to my journey can be found in the previous posts regarding the Spiritual, Emotional and Physical aspects of health and weight loss. There is an abundance of information here!
Good, healthy food was never a foreign substance for me.  I believe my mother was the seed of the original health nut. I remember some of my youngest years being part of a mostly vegetarian household.  There wasn’t a plant product that I was foreign to me. So how did I allow myself to rollercoaster through every weight on the scale between 138 and 220? Quite simply: lack of focus and discipline.
There have been seasons when I held fast to a diet and other seasons when I have banished the scale like somehow IT was the problem. I always cooked with elements of the healthy background from which I came; I also allowed too much of the unhealthy non-food in as well. Sometimes I would say, “Oh, you only live once.” Other times I would say, “It is cheaper to buy the boxed stuff.” I could look around at all of the other people, eating what they want and staying slim, and being completely oblivious to their inner health and think, “There must be something wrong with ME.” 
Now I see things completely different. The fact that my body showed the weight that I gained as a result of eating poorly was actually a GIFT! How many times have we come across someone who we think is getting away with something that is really not good for them (physically, mentally, emotionally), only to find out that their misdeeds catch up with them all at once, with vengeance?  That is exactly what happens inside our bodies when we neglect to nourish ourselves as we were intended. Some of us can get away with eating junk for years with no external signs of trauma, but then suddenly, with very little or no warning, a diagnosis of a preventable illness or disease! The fact that my body was my “tattle-tale” helped me to see that what I was doing was poisoning instead of strengthening this vessel that I’ve been given.
My eye-opening, about-face, get-serious-about-being-a-healthy-adult moment came in May of 2011. I was too embarrassed to step on the scale and admit how far out of control that I allowed myself to get. My best guess is that I was about 195 lbs. I was talking to my sister, who is a physician, and a healthy lady herself, about what in the world could be hindering my weight loss. I was praying that there may be a safe pill or a wave of a magical wand that could solve my problems. Without specifically saying it, she helped me see that there were 2 things hindering me: my fork and my couch.  She suggested that I check out I dug in and read all kinds of articles. I set up a profile and began tracking every morsel that went into my body.
The first realization was that I was consuming way too much of the wrong kinds of foods, and my activity level left too many calories at the end of the day that had not been burned.
I reduced my allowable carbs and increased my proteins primarily because I understand enough about my body to know that the carbs stick with me too long and the proteins help me stay full when I reduce the carbs. Something that I always kept in mind though is that vegetables and fruits have carbs, but I treated those carbs different than I treated grain and potato carbs. I ignored the carbs from veggies and fruits in effort to persuade myself to eat at least 5 of them a day. I never wanted the fear of their carbs to prevent me from eating those fresh foods. Another trick that I implemented was one that my grandmother (who was a little bitty lady) used with great success. On Friday nights, I would allow myself to eat anything that I wanted, without any guilt. A strange thing happened though. While I would indulge in chips and salsa, I no long desired the fatty, fried, super sweet stuff that I was once drawn to.
Making this simple change created some momentum in the weight loss area. I began implementing some exercise in here and there and reading about how some people who were never runners were able to successfully begin a Couch to 5k program. Me? A runner? Never! I was the girl in school who always went to the nurse’s office if we had to run mile in gym! But something bit me…I suddenly wanted to conquer this! Perhaps it was the encouragement of a bit of weight loss, or maybe seeing others who were older than me, and perhaps even heavier than me do this without backing down.  So in June of 2011, I downloaded the Couch 2 5k app on my iPhone and set out to “run” my first workout.  I think I prayed the entire running portion that I would not die on the pavement and some stranger would have to call my family and tell them. I imagined the look on my children’s faces when they heard the news that their mother croaked on the last leg of a 30 second run interval. Then to my surprise, the workout was done and I in fact had completed the first day of the program.
The weirdest thing happened.
I came home and wanted to do the 2nd day right then. OMYGOODNESS. My 7th grade gym teacher would be so proud!  For the next few weeks I stuck to the schedule and progressed through the program to run (without stopping!) a full 5k on September 4, 2011 (happy early birthday to me!). Running gave me the biggest bang for the smallest time investment. At this point, I was happy to see my scale hit around 168 lbs. That means, in 4 months I had shed almost 30 lbs, fair and square. No pills, not gimmicks, just breaking the magnetic pull from the couch and changing my food choices a bit. Next goal was to conquer the 10k, which was met by January 1st, 2012.
Somewhere in this time I discovered the SparkStreak theory: choose a new habit that you would like to begin and each day in a row you do it counts towards your streak. If you skip a day you begin at 1 again. So I began my first fitness streak in August of 2011. My first streak was 120 days in a row. It was so exciting to keep it going. My friend Shaneka was my buddy and we cheered each other on. My next streak lasted over 100 days. And currently, my friend Angel and I have a 728 day fitness streak going. The best part of the streak is that it is motivating to others as well! That is the whole idea: to SPARK someone into changing their life too!
All of this created a newfound confidence. I had been feeling the nudging to go back to school, but never felt that I could muster the energy required to maintain a household of 3 teenagers, a struggling business and college. Even so, in October of 2011, I jumped in with both feet.  Success with maintaining discipline in body trickled over to success in maintaining discipline in the mind. In the spring, my biology professor (who held a bachelor’s in nutrition, among other things) helped me put together some missing pieces in my weight gain/loss mystery. He went into great detail of the impact of sugar and manufactured products on the cells in our body. He challenged the class with a 30 day sugar/artificial sweetener fast. He promised that there would be weight loss and a reduced bloating, along with increased energy. He explained that there are so many toxins in the manufactured foods which actually CREATE food cravings. It is like how tobacco companies manipulate the nicotine in cigarettes to ensure future customers.  I took the challenge, and saw great success! Within the first month I lost approximately 10 lbs and saw a difference in my waistline. Additionally, food tasted so much better and I no longer craved the treats that I had been allowing myself sparingly.
This set me in the direction to visit the idea of a lifelong love of food and nutrition. Instantly, I knew the direction I should go with my education and I began to turn my attention to the field of dietetics. It was like I had been reunited with an old friend.  The more I refreshed myself with the healthful attributes of God-given foods, the more I began to remove processed foods out of my diet, and saw even more weight come off without much effort.
Consciously adding natural foods into our diet does so much more for the body than just the circumference of our waistline. It is the most effective way to build our innate ability to fight off sickness and disease. A strong immune system is to the body as the Coast Guard is to our shores. Invaders may attempt to invade, but when we build the cellular response to attack the foreigners, the result is as we were divinely designed.
Today, my weight rests somewhere in the upper 130’s. My body is stronger from the inside out than it was 36 months ago. More than anything, my spirit, my body and my mind all come together in a balance of a disciplined lifestyle that can better reflect the life that the Lord desires for me to live.
The key components of my current lifestyle are comprised of:
·        Morning quiet time praying and reading The Word each day. A life built on Jesus is the core of a balanced life.
·        Drink my first glass of water for the day while my coffee is perking and eat something small shortly after awakening (whole wheat toast with natural peanut butter most days)
·        At least 10 minutes of exercise each day (sometimes it is an hour run, sometimes it is 10 min of yoga/stretching)
·        ALWAYS eat at least 5 vegetables/fruits each day (less hungry when these are eaten)
·        5-6 mini meals or 3 moderate meals w/2 snacks
·        Have a protein source at each meal/snack. Chicken, turkey, lean pork or red meat, tuna, nuts, beans, tofu, cheese (small amount), Greek yogurt.
·        Drink at least 3 liters of water per day
·        If sweetener is needed, honey, or pure stevia or raw sugar. This is used very sparingly as it creates cravings. Zero white sugar, zero sugar substitutes.
·        Choose whole grain, brown rice, quinoa, and whole oats. Zero white flour.
·        Read labels, and choose items that have food closest to its original form. Frozen vegetables are a more stable form than canned. Look for items with no additives, starches or syrups. Check things that you would not suspect. Dry roasted peanuts can contain sugar and starch. Canned beans sometimes are packed in corn syrup.
·       Stick to “Clean Eating” methods of food choices and preparation
This story is mine, but it is not anything that anyone else could not experience with a hearty portion of stick-to-it-tiveness... I hope this helps you find it! You can do it!

*Disclaimer: Please consult your physician before beginning any weight loss or exercise regimen. This information is offered as suggestions and encouragement.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Physical Side of Weight Loss

Part III of III

Those of us that seek to lose weight come at it from varying perspectives. Some have struggled with weight for as long as they can remember, while others have noticed their weight creep up in their middle years, or after a major life change, or even a health emergency. We also approach a new healthy lifestyle with many different experiences in activity and exercise. This makes everyone’s starting line a little different.

Let’s pretend that each and every one of us have begun at square 1, no prior physical activity experience, and hate to sweat. This is a very real position for many! This is not a judgment, this is a recognition. But our bodies were made for activity. Centurions (those who live to 100) have been studied to find their secret, and regular activity/exercise is a common thread that ties them together. We were created with the ability to tend to crops, care for children, and draw water from the stream. Today, we get our food from the grocer (in the air condition), the kids are in school and our water is pumped into our homes. Believe me, I love technology and the modern day conveniences, however, we cannot neglect the body’s need for movement.

I have to tell you something, but you need to promise that you will not stop reading once you see it.
Are you ready? Ok, here it is.
Exercise is HARD.
Especially in the beginning.
Especially if you don’t like to sweat.
Especially if you do not have much coordination
(I fall into this category, no pun intended).

It is hard mentally. It is hard emotionally. It is hard physically. The path of least resistance is not your freeway to success. It is the off-ramp to health misfortune. You have to prepare yourself for the battle that will go on in your mind and your body once you make up your mind to get healthy and lose weight. You have to remind yourself that you are making deposits in YOUR LONGEVITY ACCOUNT! Think about a year from now, 5 years, 10 years. If the Lord tarries, what sort of milestones will you pass? Will you be married? Will you start a family? Will your children be school-age? Will your nest be empty? Do you want to be an active participant in your life, or a spectator? This thought should stay with you, always. It is worth all of the “hard” that you will face. And one day, it will not be so hard. You will be thankful that you chose to kill the hill rather than go around it!
The best way to start from scratch is to lace up your athletic shoes and head out the door before your mind can talk you out of it. Set a timer on your phone for 10 minutes and walk. Every. Single. Day. For the first week.  If you have a smart phone, download an app like MapMyFitness, create a profile and track your activity. They offer challenges with a chance to win prizes as well! Each day, look at your pace and gauge how you feel after your walk. Try to do this as early as you can in the morning. This will get your happy endorphins going for the rest of the day, and you know that you have begun the day with a purposeful decision to get healthy. Not only that, but if the rest of your day gets carried away into the unknown, you have gotten it out of the way!

This is a great time to talk about the Fitness Streak that I mentioned in part II of this series. The idea of the Fitness Streak is from the free diet tracking website I used this site to get the mojo going in my efforts to be healthier and lose weight. The basic idea of the Fitness Streak is to commit to exercise no less than 10 minutes per day, starting at day 1. Each consecutive day that you exercise at least 10 minutes counts toward your streak. If you skip a day, you start back at day 1. You would not believe the fantastic incentive it offers once you have made it past 14 days, then a month, and then a year. Currently, I am on my 3rd Fitness Streak. During the first two, I made it well past 100 days, and the current Streak I am teamed up with a great partner, my friend Angel. We are on day 726 today. We do not see each other daily, as we live in different cities, however, we post our daily activities on a Facebook group that helps to keep us accountable to one another. There have been some days when life is crazy and I realize after I have snuggled into bed that I forgot to put my 10 minutes of exercise in, and I will peel my sleepy self out of bed to do a 10 minute exercise video or yoga. My flesh hates it, but the next morning I am glad that my Streak is still intact! Having a partner who is depending on you to keep your joint Streak going is a really good incentive!

After the first week, increase your time by at least 5-10 minutes, 3-5 times per week, (continuing at least 10 minutes on the remaining days) until you are able to walk comfortably for at least 30-45 minutes. Research shows that during the first 15-20 minutes of exercise, we use stored glucagon (fuel), but after that we begin to tap into our fat reserves. Something else begins to happen as this daily habit develops; your muscles begin to develop strength and your stature is a little more upright. You may begin feeling winded quite quickly, but with time you can easily manage to even have a conversation during exercise.

This all may sound basic and elementary, but it is so important to speak right at the intimidation that we encounter when we begin this new active lifestyle. There may be times that you experience discomfort in limbs or areas of your body due to the new movement. Listen carefully to your body to determine if it is discomfort or pain. One may be from uncharacteristic use and the other may indicate an injury.

You may always enjoy walking, and that may be your primary form of exercise; keep in mind that strength training will help to maintain bone density and build muscle to support your frame. As you become stronger, consider using small weights for arm exercises, or use your own body weight as resistance as you do wall-pushes.
If you are anything like me, you may look for exercises that will have the largest amount of impact on your weight loss for the shortest amount of time invested. This, in fact, was the reason that I started running. Before you tune me out, listen; I, Tasha Brickhouse, was the girl in school who, when asked to complete the physical fitness test and run the mile quickly became ill and asked to go to the nurse. Every. Single. Time. Running ranked right up there with dissecting frogs in Biology. They both left me breathless and ready to hurl. For some reason, while I was on the website reading all of these middle-aged people beginning a Couch-2-5k program, I was like, “Game ON!” I had already been walking up to 3 miles regularly, so I didn’t exactly start on the couch, but, I had zero previous running experience. Somewhere in my determination to get healthy, I made up my mind that I would conquer this fear of running head on! And I did!

The first step was to download the Ease into 5K app. It started with a walking warm up, then a cycle of short run then walk intervals. The first day, I was exhilarated and exasperated. It was hard to breath, and I prayed for the prompt to walk at the end of every interval. The day that I ran 3 minutes straight, you would have thought that I completed the Boston Marathon, because to me, I was crashing down walls with every step. The app really made the transition to running my first 5K in November 2011 possible. I was not speedy, but I ran the entire race and it was such a personal milestone!

Running became an opportunity to learn more about endurance. It taught me how to breathe deeply and slowly through the tough spots (in life, as in running).  It has taught me that discipline trumps desire. It has shown me that I can be tougher than I thought I am, especially when I am strengthened with prayer. The repetitive motion of running brought order to my thoughts, established a designated quiet time when the Lord could help me work out a difficult situation. I listened to Podcasts, encouraging music, or sometimes just the breeze in the trees. I’ve seen more sunrises, watched the fog lift and seen the dew glisten on the trees. These simple things are missed so easily.
There are many other forms of exercise that are worth a try. One of my favorite is Barre. It is a combination of yoga, Pilates and ballet. The techniques are great for increasing balance, poise, and muscle tone.

I began using this YouTube video, and you can also go to the Barre3 website to sign up for an online membership that gives you access to a library of videos. Barre studios are cropping up all over the place, and some may enjoy a class setting. For my on-the-go schedule, it works better for me to do them at home.
We have a weight machine and resistance bands that I use for cross-training days. I mentioned yoga earlier, and I believe the techniques used in yoga exercise are very beneficial for the body. Personally, I do not participate in the spiritual aspects of some yoga practices, however, the act of breath control in exercise can eliminate toxins from the body, and offer needed relaxation and strengthening to our physique. Look on Google or Pinterest under Fitness Challenge to find many month long challenges.

Additionally, I ride my bike several times per month, between 10-15 miles each ride. This activity compliments running very well because it uses slightly different muscle groups that support the running activity. I highly recommend using a bicycle as a supplementary activity. In the beginning, it may be harder than you remembered as a kid! We don’t forget how to ride, but suddenly it isn’t as easy as it once was! Start small, and build up! You can track your ride on MapMyFitness as well.

Pick your pleasure. There is a great big world out there of options to begin your active lifestyle. The health benefits are vast, beginning with strengthening your heart, removing toxins from your body, improving digestion, increasing circulation to all of the limbs, and elevating mood by way of endorphins. All of these are in addition to building muscle and strengthening your bones.

Lots of love and sweat to you! xoxo
Tasha Brickhouse

*Disclaimer: Please consult your physician before beginning any exercise regimen. This information is offered as suggestions and encouragement.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Staying On Track While You Are On The Fly!

The alarm goes off before the sun, feet hit the floor and go until we collapse into bed at night. Many of our meals get eaten absentmindedly, while checking emails or behind the steering wheel. Guilty, guilty, guilty of this, almost on a daily basis. So how is a trying-to-stay-healthy-gal supposed to survive this may-I-take-your-order culture? Planning, re-routing and packing.
For years, the kids’ activities have kept us on the go. In effort to stay on budget, we have become accustomed to packing coolers for the day. Occasionally, we have to get things while we are out, so it is important to know what could be good options on the go. I will try to offer some options for you!

If I had only 10 minutes to go grab some food for the family, rather than drive-thru, think about what you can grab at the grocery store.

First, hit the produce section. Having a water bottle on hand can serve as an emergency produce wash.
  • Apples
  • Oranges
  • Bananas
  • Precut pineapple and melons
  • Plums/nectarines/peaches
  • Berries
  • Washed and de-stemmed green beans or sugar snap peas
  • Carrots
  • Peppers (red, green, yellow, orange)
  • Celery
  • Pouchables (Pureed fruits and vegetables are a good option in a pinch, but are ingested quickly, and you may not realize you are full and continue to eat unnecessarily)

In the produce section, many carry mixed nuts in bulk containers. Look for ones that are not roasted in oil, sweetened or coated. For my family, I buy the big bags of roasted peanuts in the shell. Nuts in the shell are great for portion control, because the shells show you how many you are eating. Plus, you cannot just throw the nuts in your mouth by the handfuls!
Dried fruit and/or trail mixes are not likely to be your best choice unless you are very careful to select the type that has not been sweetened. Raisins are good, most dates are good, and apricots. Most other dried fruits are coated with dextrose or some other type of sugar. Trail mix was designed to offer a significant amount of energy for those back-packing/trail-trekking folks. If you are not doing that sort of activity, chances are you will just be storing all that extra energy, aka: putting on the pounds. Granola is the same sort of a beast. To make it tasty, it is sweetened with a variety of additives.

Ok, move on to the deli. There are some grab-and-go items in most deli sections such as:
  • Rotisserie chicken (high in sodium, but a decent option if you are on the go) If needed, see if the associate can cut up the chicken for you.
  • Hummus is great to dip the carrots, raw green beans, peppers and raw sugar snap peas.
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Whole wheat pitas, mini or regular size to use for sandwiches or dippers
  • Natural peanut butter (Publix has fresh ground peanut butter in the deli section. To. Die. For.)

Now for the dairy section. I am VERY brand/ingredient selective in the dairy case. So many of the yogurts and cheeses have way too many additives in them, which work against your weight loss process. Many of them include starches and stabilizers to lengthen the shelf life.  
  • String cheese- Look for the ingredients to list milk, cultures, salt. Simple ingredients
  • Greek yogurt- I am going to camp here for a minute. Greek yogurt is a protein powerhouse, when it is the actual traditional Greek variety. This means that the yogurt has been strained to release additional whey liquid and the consistency of the yogurt is much thicker. This allows for a denser amount of protein per ounce. Read the ingredient label carefully. The best brands will only contain milk, live and active cultures (must say this or it does not contain the needed good bacteria). Many brands will add whey protein powder, potato starch, guar gum or other fillers.  Good brands are Fage, Chobani, and even the Winn Dixie brand is good. For weight loss, it is better to select the plain yogurt and add your own fruit, crushed pineapple, honey, or a tsp of Polaner (unsweetened) All-Fruit spread. Most fruit-flavored yogurts use high fructose corn syrup in addition to sugar. These will work against you in weight loss.
  • Cottage cheese- As stated above, several varieties contain unnecessary fillers. Daisy cottage cheese is a good, clean variety that you can trust.
Lastly, there are some select items in the isles of the store that are good choices:
  • Pickles (the dill variety)
  • Snyder’s pretzel sticks is one of the better brands, containing no high fructose corn syrup, however, they are made with enriched flour (not whole grain), and so these are on my “occasional” list.
  • Barbara's Bakery Fig Bars, Multigrain may not be sold in all stores, but you can find them here. Traditional fig bars consist of a large amount of high fructose corn syrup, but Barbara’s are sweetened with pineapple juice and are made of whole grains.
  • Popcorn kernels for homemade microwave popcorn. (1/4 cup of kernels in a brown paper bag, fold the top down 2 times. I use the popcorn button on my microwave and it comes out perfect every time. Pour the popcorn in a large bowl, spray lightly with olive oil cooking spray and dust with sea salt, cayenne pepper, garlic, or parmesan cheese). Allow it to cool completely and put it in an airtight container for on the go.
  • Unsweetened applesauce is good, but READ THE LABEL. Most of them are sweetened.
Keeping fresh foods ready to eat in BPA Free Plastic Containers help to make busy days easier.  Do you have any other great ideas that you use?

*This post contains affiliate links to products that I love!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Quick Start Healthy Challenge

You may be eager to jump into a healthier lifestyle, but you have no idea where to start. Or maybe you have been doing a pretty good job, but have hit a plateau and cannot get through. Save this picture to your phone lock screen and look at it from time to time throughout the day. You may even want to use your reminders to set specific times for snacks/mini meals and exercise. Often when we set out to eat better and be more active we can either: a) not be specific about goals that we want to reach, or, b) set goals that are far too high in the beginning.

We may have really big goals, like to lose 100+ lbs, but that is a long-term goal, and we need to master several small goals to get to the big ones. These 5 basic items are the framework for success. Along the way, you will learn more about the health benefits of different foods, and how to incorporate new activities.

Our bodies are made of up to 60% water. Adequate water intake ensures that all of our cells are properly hydrated, mucous membranes, and joints are lubricated, and carries oxygen to every area in the body. Water also helps to regulate the feeling of hunger. Many times when we think we are hungry, we are actually in need of water. Shoot for no less than 8 cups per day.

Moving away from the standard "3 squares per day," especially during weight loss, it is more effective to eat 5-6 mini meals, or 3 moderate meals and 2 snacks. This prevents your body from becoming too hungry between meals, and then overeating. Another thing this does is even out your blood sugar, and prevents the spike and plummet in insulin, which can leave you fatigued and hungry sooner.

Be sure to match a protein and a carbohydrate form at each "meal." This could be in several forms: carrots & hummus, eggs with spinach and sundried tomatoes, natural peanut butter and banana, cottage cheese and salsa. Notice, I do not have a huge emphasis on grain. Whole grains are great: brown rice, whole wheat, whole oats, quinoa. However, it is important to choose items that are not made with undesirable items such as sugar high fructose corn syrup, MSG and processed, bleached grains.  Being an avid label reader should be on your goal list. Do not rely on the manufacturers to serve you the most healthy options; they are partly to blame for our growing waistlines!

Hit at least 5 servings of vegetables and fruits per day. Focus more on vegetables than fruit. They will contain a good amount of fiber, micronutrients and can fill you up very well. Fruit is not a no-no, however, the natural sugar in the fruit may cause you to crave sweet items in the beginning of your transition into healthy eating. Pay attention to your reactions and make adjustments as needed. When you feel hungry and frustrated (as you may experience) remind yourself that there is no limit to the amount of vegetables that you can eat. These can be roasted, steamed baked or raw. Challenge yourself to look for new veggies that you have never eaten before and get creative!

And lastly, get yourself moving at least 10 minutes per day. Put on your shoes and walk the block, look on YouTube for a 10 min workout video. Just 10 minute per day is a minimum, however, you will see more success when you reach toward 30-45 minutes per day. Start small, but be consistent. Begin a fitness streak (created by and ask a friend to join you! Each consecutive day that you exercise a minimum of 10 minutes, you add to your total. See if you can reach 14 days, then 30 days, and keep going! Your enthusiasm might just spark someone else to get fit!

Consistency is the key! If you ever drop the ball, pick it back up and carry on!

*Disclaimer: This information is offered as encouragement and should not be substituted as advice offered from trained medical providers.

Friday, April 11, 2014

The Emotional Side of Health and Weight Loss

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Part II of III

The initial days and weeks of my health journey were filled with intention, motivation and even discouragement. Human nature fails at times, and it is vital to have an anchor on the goals to keep from drifting away during the first storm. Our emotions are all over the board, and the purpose will hold you firm. When your purpose is resting squarely on improving your health for longevity and vitality, you are focused on the right direction.

In an initial assessment, ask yourself an important question:

Do I have the ability to improve my health,
or do I feel like outside forces influence my ability to lose weight?

Of course, as a Christian, I believe that Jesus is in control when I ask Him to fulfill His will in my life, but we play a huge role in the success of our lives based on the choices that we make. This simple question identifies what is called your locus of control. It describes who we mentally put in the driver’s seat of our lives. Do we have excuses like, “I cannot afford to eat healthy,” “My work keeps me too busy to exercise,” or “My kids take all of my energy”? The daily excuses (though I say this with all the love in my soul) keeps us trapped in a “victim of my fat genes” mentality. Believe me, I wore them (in every size and color availableJ). I recognize that it is very inconvenient to work hard for weight loss to develop a healthy lifestyle, but so is the emotional toll that diabetes, cancer, and heart disease can take on you and your loved ones. You may hate me now for saying this, but on the other side of your success, you may love me. Even when we experience issues with our health, there are always actions that we can take that would be more positive or more negative to our condition. When we commit to take an active role in the outcome of our health and weight loss, we are positioned for a breakthrough.
When we are in pursuit of weight loss, it would be impossible to not give some attention to the scale. It is one of the ways that we benchmark our progress, however, it is not the only way. The numbers on the scale can serve as our momentary statistic to reflect the work you are investing in your health, BUT, it should not be used to discourage you on your journey.

Believe me, I fully understand the emotional trauma that the scale can bring. We can avoid mirrors, cut the tags out of our clothes, and blame the shrinking clothes on the drier, but the scale brings us face to face with the effort, or lack thereof in the area of nutrition and activity. During the years that I weighed the most, I avoided the scale like the plague. It was a reminder of all of the things that I was not doing to correct the problem and only brought about guilt and shame.

On the journey to greater health, my personal opinion of the scale is that it should be used as a method to learn more about your body. For myself, I check my weight at least 5 times per week. This has done several things for me: it allows me to recognize how my body will react to certain foods, levels of activity, and even check my monthly cycle; additionally, if I allow myself to have a cheat meal, or day, it becomes easier to jump back on the clean-eating wagon before the train leaves the station. In the beginning of weight loss, sometimes I got discouraged when I did not see the scale move as quickly as I thought it should, but I worked diligently to press out the negative emotions of discouragement and focus on the fact that I already lost ____ amount of weight since the beginning of my journey, and I was still a work in progress.

I want to talk about the emotional battle with food. From the moment that we are born, there is a deep seated pleasure that is gained surrounding our nourishment. As a baby, we were likely cuddled and cooed on as we filled our tummies. As we grew, we recognize that celebrations were surrounded with food and treats. Sometimes, well-meaning loved ones would reward us with food for getting good grades, or being good in the grocery store. Often, we become those well-meaning adults who listen to the begging of our children for the Little Debbie’s and the cycle continues. There is nothing inherently wrong with feasting for special occasions (the Bible refers to many such joyous occasions), however, the reason that they were so greatly enjoyed was because it was a special occurrence, and they were treasured as designated times to celebrate.

Today, if we are stressed, we reach for the chocolate. If we are sad, we reach for the potato chips. When we are happy, we indulge in extra desert. If we are sick, it could be hot cocoa and marshmallows. We have an indulgence for any emotion in the psyche. However, we can turn this emotional crutch into a positive experience when we begin to make choices that promote our healthy lifestyle. When we recognize that every forkful of whole foods is actually strengthening, and healing our body, an amazing thing happens in our minds. Eating beautifully colorful vegetables and fruits send a message to our brains that promote a message of wellness in our minds. If you think I am lying, ask anyone who commits to eating whole foods for more than 30 days and they will tell you, the mental feedback that they receive from their brain when they sit down to eat a healthy meal reinforces their good habits and encourages to maintain those healthy choices. After a certain point in time, when I have allowed myself to indulge in a cheat meal or dessert, I tend to be very selective. It has to really taste good, or it simply has no appeal to me. This has not always been the case. Before, I could not understand if someone said that a dessert was too sweet; I wondered if there was even such a thing! We can retrain our brains and our emotions to reflect a healthy relationship with food!

Milestones and goals are supremely important during the weight loss process. We can get bored, lose focus, and become discouraged so easily. Building new habits require daily effort and devotion. Everyone who knows me, knows that I am a huge advocate of the most positive incentive I have ever come across: the Spark Streak! In the beginning of my journey, I used the website Sparkpeople, where the Spark Streak comes from. In essence, you set a goal (like drink 8 glasses of water per day, or exercise at least 10 minutes per day) and each consecutive day that you meet your goal, you continue your streak. This physically builds a new habit, but it also develops a significant emotional boost when you are able to maintain this new habit. With every passing day that you are able to check off on your streak, you are casting off defeat, and claiming a brand new handful of triumph! There is an almost magical effect that occurs once you make it passed the first 2 weeks, and then a month, 6 months, a year. You become more willing to take on new challenges and start to understand that every journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. In fact, I will go into this more when I discuss the physical side of weight loss, but using some form of diet and fitness tracking (like myfitnesspal and mapmyfitness) will encourage you to reach monthly goals. Seeing the miles stack up and the days that you have met your calorie intake goal without splurging will prove to yourself that, yes indeed, you are capable of creating new habits.

One emotional aspect of weight loss is our personal self-image. We may look in the mirror and see one person, but the actual physical attributes we hold may be very different. As we lose weight and we begin to replace our wardrobe, we have to remind ourselves to select a different size. It may shock us as we try on new styles that we have never worn before. Becoming aware of the changes in our physique is an ongoing process, and just remember to love the skin you are in every single day. Be thankful for the working limbs, organs and tissues that house your soul and allow you to love your people daily. You may find that you have a kinder self-image, and that is a great thing!

Warning: once you begin setting and attaining new goals, expect a newfound boldness to success in other areas of life. For me, five months after I set out on my journey, I gained the courage to go back to school. At the time, I thought I was going back to finish my degree in business. Within the 2nd semester, I feel like God directed me to pursue a degree in nutrition and dietetics. This was in complete opposition of my former path, which meant I would have to spend almost 2 full years completing the science prerequisites for the program. Always being afraid of any form of science in school, I knew that it was a God thing, and somehow, coupled with the success that I gained in improving my health, He would see me through the process. Today, I have completed the perquisites, and have been accepted in the competitive distance Coordinated Program in Dietetics through Eastern Michigan University. I am telling you right here and now, there was a direct connection between the emotional strength gained on my journey and the path that I am beginning this fall in the program. This journey that began as a personal one has now become a passion to assist others in rebuilding their health.

If this has encouraged you, leave me a comment! I would love to hear from you!

Tasha Brickhouse

 *Disclaimer: This information is offered as encouragement and should not be substituted from advice offered from trained medical providers.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Yummy Inside-Out Eggrolls

Sometimes I want a taste of Chinese food, without the guilt! The truth of it is, most original Oriental food is vegetable based, however when American-ized, we turn it into some deep-fried concoction.

This super fast concoction can serve as a side dish, or a main dish, depending on what you add. I will give you the framework for it, and you can do the rest...

If you are short on time, you can begin with a package of shredded cole slaw mix found in the salad area of the produce section, but honestly, you can make way more if you buy a head of cabbage.

1/2 half of a head of cabbage
3 medium-large carrots
1 onion (I used purple, but you can use a yellow onion)
2 stalks of celery
1 crown of broccoli
Soy Sauce or Bragg Liquid Aminos,a much better alternative)
1/8 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
Sea Salt
Extra virgin olive oil
(optional) 2 eggs
(optional) shrimp, chicken, pork
(optional) water chestnuts
(optional) bean sprouts

Using a like this Victorinox Fibrox 8-Inch Chef's Knifeshred the cabbage.

One of my favorite kitchen tools is this julienne tool (and it the peeler is the sharpest thing I've ever seen).
It is easy to use and so versatile. It makes beautiful carrot strips for stir fry and can be used to make zucchini noodles. Use this to julienne the carrots.

Finely chop the celery, onion and broccoli with a knife, chopper, or throw it in the Ninjafood processor for quick work!

On a Electric Griddle orGrill/Griddle,turn the heat to medium. Place the red pepper flakes in the pan and begin to toast. Add 1 tsp of EVOO and add enough of  the vegetable mixture to the pan to cover the surface without  piling it too deep. You want to sauté the mixture, but not steam it. If you add too much, you may not get the yummy carmelization that tastes so good.

As the mixture becomes slightly translucent, you may decide if you want to add the egg or seafood/meat additions. The meat should be cooked about 90% before added to the veg mixture, because you do not want to overcook the veggies. During the last 3 or so minutes of cooking, add the soy sauce and sea salt to taste. Depending on how much vegetable mixture you have, you can determine the amount needed.

You can add brown rice to this dish and make it a complete meal containing plenty of vegetables, protein and whole grains!

*This post contains affiliate links. These products are items that I enjoy and recommend!