Category Archives: Health

Learning to be healthy (and losing 18 pounds along the way)

gym selfie

Most of my adult life I’ve weighed about the same amount (give or take a few pounds) until a couple of years ago when I started a new medication that messed with my hormones. I gained 10 pounds in a very short period of time. And as I changed medications and tried different things, I found myself continuing to slooowly gain weight even thought my diet and exercise habits weren’t changing. Until the point that I just couldn’t handle it anymore. In December of 2015 I was officially up 18 pounds from my previous “normal” weight. My clothes didn’t fit and I felt sluggish. I realized that if I didn’t take control of this, I would only continue to slowly gain more weight and not feel healthy.

To be clear: I was always in a healthy weight bracket, but that doesn’t always mean that I FELT healthy. I think there is a misconception that if someone is in the right BMI weight bracket, that they are healthy. For me, I have found that not to be necessarily true.

So in December of 2015 I decided to make some serious changes.

Fitbit & Commitment to the Gym

First of all, I got a Fitbit for Christmas 2015. A tangible way to track my exercise. I committed to myself that I would go to the gym every weekday for at least an hour and that I would shoot to still get close to 10,000 steps on the weekend if possible. And so I did it. I allowed no excuses to get in the way. The gym was a priority.

My Fitness Pal & Honesty

I also started using My Fitness Pal in December of 2015 and made myself be 100% honest with it. So that meant that there were lots of days at first that I went over my allotted number of calories. But now I could SEE the proof. Those bites of something here and there really added up. I learned to measure out my food and my portions so I could be honest with myself about how much I was actually eating.

My Fitness Pal & the Fitbit app connect on my smartphone so as I worked out, I got extra calories to eat which was fun. I also would get a weekly report from Fitbit telling me exactly how many calories I had eaten over the past week, how many calories I had burned in the past week, and what my deficit was. It’s just a big math problem, you guys. Calories in, calories out. That’s weight loss.

Quality of Food

Weight loss may be calories in, calories out. But there are some calories that are far more helpful to us than others. I started really gearing my diet toward high protein foods to help keep me full longer. I also started taking my carb-distributed diet more seriously which  meant smaller meals and lots of snacks. And I started eating TONS more veggies and fruits.

Snacks

I mentioned this before, but I started snacking all throughout the day. Last year I shared with you guys some of my favorite snacks so feel free to check that post out here.

Meals & Portion Control

For the most part we have always eaten healthy foods at home, but I have not always been good about portion control. So one of the biggest things I had to learn was what ONE serving of food truly looked like. And if I chose to eat two servings, that was okay – I just needed to be honest with my calorie tracker and put it in there. This helped me realize how often I eat seconds just out of habit and not truly out of hunger. And knowing that I will be eating a snack again two hours after eating breakfast, lunch, or dinner, made it easier to stick to one portion of food. For a list of our favorite healthy dinners, see this post.

Water

I have always been bad about drinking enough water. So I decided that if I was taking my health seriously (not just trying to lose weight, but trying to FEEL healthy again), that I needed to learn to hydrate myself. So in January of 2016 I bought a cute water bottle, brought it with me EVERYWHERE, and started tracking the amount of water I drank on my Fitbit app. Once I was in a good habit of drinking water all throughout the day I stopped tracking the exact amount and just made sure I was refilling the bottle at least twice a day. This made a HUGE difference in how I felt. Hydration is awesome. 🙂

Yoga

In August of 2016 I decided to incorporate yoga into my routine. I wrote about my experiences with yoga here for those of you curious. I found that it continued to tone my muscles and has helped with my incredible inflexibility. 😉

My Goal & Timeline

My initial goal was to lose 7 pounds. I didn’t think it was possible to be at my previous weight while on these medications, but I wanted to at least fit into my clothes. I hit that goal within 2 months. I continued to do what I had been doing and found that without working any harder, I was still losing weight. By the end of April of 2016, I had lost 17 pounds. At this point I was a little concerned about losing too much weight so I upped my calories to keep up with the work out routine that I had discovered I loved so much. I considered cutting back on gym time, but I realized that I loved how STRONG and FIT I felt. I was toned and just my overall health felt GREAT so I didn’t want to give up my gym time if I didn’t need to. I still lost one more pound over summer just from being so active, but I have stayed steady at 18 pounds lost since then.

How I Feel

Last summer I told Christopher that I have never felt so healthy in my entire life. I was even smaller weight-wise in college (by another 5-10 pounds depending on what part of college we’re talking about), but I never felt as healthy as I do now. Eating a healthy diet, staying hydrated, and spending time at the gym strengthening your body does wonders for your health. It wasn’t just about losing weight (though I did want to lose at least enough to fit into my clothes again), but about feeling better again. And friends, 2016 was the year I really kicked off awesome habits.

Also, I felt like a champ being able to lose weight while working against medication that was messing with my hormones. There were times that my calories-in-vs-calories-out equation showed that I should be losing more weight than was actually showing up on the scale and I think that was probably the medication I was working against. But with dedication and hard work, I still lost that weight and took control of my over all health.

Before & After Photos

There are no before-and-after photos in this post because I don’t believe that I looked bad 18 pounds heavier than I am now. Of course if you are curious, this is a blog… it’s super easy to find photos of me from December 2015. But it’s not about how much better I look, but about how much better I feel. About how much healthier I feel. About how my body is hydrated, nourished, fit, and toned.

Disclaimer

Many people say that this sort of hitting-it-hard approach of adding several new things to your life all at once is not sustainable. For me and my personality, it worked and has continued for a year now. I know other people may need a slower approach of adding one new healthy habit (starting a gym routine, starting a healthy diet, starting to drink water, etc) per month or even per quarter. For me, it worked well to just do a total overhaul all at once. So if you need to take it slower, that’s not a bad thing. I think that’s actually what many people recommend.

Closing Thoughts

I really struggled with whether or not to share this post here because I don’t talk about weight loss in general. I don’t like the way that our culture pushes this idea of weight loss and being skinny all of the time. It breaks my heart hearing young girls talking about dieting and wanting to lose weight. But at the same time, I want to show that it can be done in a healthy and safe way focusing on BEING HEALTHY and not necessarily just losing weight. It takes hard work, commitment, and honesty with yourself, but it can be done. I’m proof. 🙂

Love Rach

 

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18 Favorite Go-To Healthy Recipes

A couple of years ago we found out that I need to control the number of carbohydrates I eat at a time. To be clear, it’s not a carb-restricted diet, it’s a carb-distributed diet. Meaning that I can still eat carbohydrates, I just need to limit how many I eat at a time. Which for the girl who loves giant piles of spaghetti and could put away a pizza by herself… this was difficult news. But in the long run it has actually been awesome for me. Once I started eating the way my body needs (carb-distributed, higher protein, and every 2-3 hours!) with good quality calories, I noticed a HUGE difference in how I felt overall. So today I want to share my favorite go-to healthy recipes that I’ve loved over the past couple of years.

18-favorite-healthy-meals

SALADS:

healthier taco salad

A Healthier Taco Salad

greek-salad-2

Greek Salad

cobb salad (2)

Cobb Salad

kielbasa and cabbage

Kielbasa & Cabbage Skillet (not really a salad, but I didn’t have another category for this to go in, ha!)

SANDWICH:

prosciutto and rocket sandwiches (2)

Prosciutto & Rocket Sandwiches (I’m generally not a big sandwich person, but I LOVE this one we discovered while in Italy!)

SOUPS:

Chicken Enchilada Soup (3)

Chicken Enchilada Soup

our chili

Chili (can also be used for Chili Stuffed Sweet Potatoes)

veggie soup

Vegetable Soup

taco soup

Taco Soup

minestrone soup

Minestrone Soup

CHICKEN:

cayenne rubbed chicken with avocado salsa3

Cayenne Rubbed Chicken with Avocado Salsa

chicken broccoli bake

Chicken Broccoli Bake

chicken stir fry

Chicken Stirfry

SWEET POTATOES:

buffalo-chicken-stuffed-sweet-potatoes-3

Buffalo Chicken Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

enchilada-stuffed-sweet-potatoes-2

Enchilada Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

sweet-potato-shepherds-pie-3

Shepherd’s Pie with Sweet Potato Topping

SEAFOOD:

DSC_0779

Shrimp Fajitas

baked salmon (2)

Baked Salmon

Tell me, what are some of your favorite go-to healthy meals?

Love Rach

Kielbasa and Cabbage Skillet {low carb dinner}

Since last October we have incorporated a lot of lower cholesterol meals into our routine to help lower Christopher’s cholesterol. It was going along quite swimmingly until about March when I finally made it to the doctor and got all my blood work done and found out that I had an insulin resistance {for those who know about IR and are concerned – they also tested for diabetes and I’m in the clear there for now}. So with an insulin resistance that means my body doesn’t know what to do with all the insulin it produces when I eat certain things… like carbs. You know, pasta. My fav. I can still eat carbs, but I have to eat them spread out through the day (so fewer giant bowls of pasta or cereal). So now cooking a meal for the two of us is kind of hysterical.

We joke that if we make something he can eat that it’s going to be full of carbs (like fish over rice or chicken and pasta) or if we make something I can eat then it’s going to be full of cholesterol (like the recipe I’m sharing with you today). So what ends up happening is that we just do a little of both. Sometimes our meals are ones that are great for both of us (like last night when we made our healthier taco salad recipe) and sometimes they are going to lean one direction or the other. The recipe I’m sharing with you today is definitely one that leans more toward my side of the spectrum.

kielbasa and caggage

Kielbasa & Cabbage Skillet

Ingredients:

2 lbs fully cooked polka kielbasa, cut in half lengthwise, then cut into 2″ pieces {I actually subbed in turkey kielbasa because it was a little lower in saturated fat & cholesterol, but I’m sure the real stuff would be awesome in this recipe too!}
1 tbsp olive oil
1 head cabbage, coarsely chopped
1 large sweet onion, coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 tsp rice wine vinegar
1 1/2 tsp dijon mustard

Directions:

1. Heat olive oil in large nonstick saute pan over medium high heat. Add kielbasa and cook without stirring for 1 minute. Then stir occasionally for about 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate with a slotted spoon.

2. In the same pan with some of the rendered kielbasa fat, add the cabbage, onion, garlic, sugar, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3. Mix in the vinegar and mustard; add the sausage back to the pan and cook for another 2 minutes to heat through. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary.

4. Serve immediately

kielbasa and cabbageOriginal recipe found here at Very Culinary

So simple and so delicious! And yes, all the meat in this meal falls more on my spectrum of can-eat foods, but we choose turkey kielbasa because it had less cholesterol & saturated fat and it was easy for Christopher to eat more of the cabbage and less of the sausage. Don’t get me wrong, he still occasionally eats red meat, but it’s just not like before. And I still eat carbs (I’m about to have a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast right now in fact), but I just eat fewer at a time. We’re trying to figure out this whole eating-for-your-specific-health-needs thing. Low carb & low cholesterol doesn’t have to mean no tasty food. 🙂

Do you have any suggestions for meal ideas that aren’t particularly high in cholesterol or carbohydrates? 

Have you had to change eating habits because of a health concern?
Love Rach

Bone Broth in the Slow Cooker

Before I forget to mention it yet again… the winners of the Thai Pants are Kelsi (blue) and Jayda (black)! Hooray! You’ll be receiving them from me soon! 🙂

Earlier this week I mentioned how Casey and I sat together chatting while drinking our bone broth. A couple of you asked me to share more about that. I had thought I would see if I stick with drinking it daily for awhile before posting about it, but since you guys asked, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to go ahead and share. 🙂

Bone Broth (4)(Not coffee! Nope, that’s my mug of reheated bone broth that I drank today. I add a pinch of salt, pepper, and garlic and it’s perfect!)

Several years ago my sister, Melissa, sent me her favorite method of making chicken broth. I added it to my list of things to try and then just never got around to it (I had no idea how simple it was – I kept thinking it was easier just to grab chicken broth from the store). Fast forward several years to last spring when we went to visit Casey’s family. While we were there Casey shared with me what she had been learning about gut health. And one of the big things is making homemade bone broth and drinking it daily.

Basically bone broth is made by simmering bones in water for a long time. It extracts all the minerals and goodness inside the bones and puts it into the broth. {more on the specifics at the end}

Bone Broth (1)

I came home and did some of my own research and thought “I should try that!” But then summer came with all its craziness and then it was the holidays and then I forgot. Until April. When my doctor told me that I needed to change some dietary things (long story for another day). So I decided to try my hand at making bone broth (which is the same as my sister’s method of making chicken broth). And decided to try drinking it every day.

I haven’t been doing this long enough to say “oh yes! I will make bone broth weekly and drink it daily forever! And the health benefits are awesome!” But I have been making it long enough to know that it is so much easier than I expected. And that I did feel awesome during the two weeks I drank it daily (of course I made several dietary changes during that time so it could’ve been any number of things that made me feel so great). About three weeks ago I had a week where I wasn’t feeling great so I ate pretty much nothing but carbs (hello comfort food). And then I got out of the habit of making my bone broth. But the weekend with Casey has jump started me again.

My bone broth broth recipe comes from Wellness Mama. If you are interested in the benefits of bone broth, read her post about it! She goes into a lot more detail than I did here.

Bone Broth (3)

Bone Broth

-2 lbs of high quality bones (I’ve only used chicken bones so far because that’s what I make most often – in fact the carcass from that roasted chicken recipe that I shared with you guys became bone broth!)
-1 onion, roughly chopped
-2 carrots, roughly chopped
-2 tbsp apple cider vinegar (to help draw out the goodness from the bones)
-enough filtered water to just cover the bones & veggies in your slow cooker

Add all ingredients to your slow cooker. Turn on low and let cook for 24 hours. After cooking time has passed pour bone broth through a strainer to remove the bones, veggies, and tiny gritty pieces. Store in fridge up to 5 days or freeze in silicone muffin molds for individual portions. Let broth freeze in silicone muffin mold then pop each one out and place in large freezer bag.

Bone Broth (5)

Like I said before, I don’t know that I will continue to drink it daily forever. But I do know that it is better than any chicken broth I have ever bought from a store. So if nothing else, I will continue to make it just to have chicken broth on hand. And if it continues to make me feel great, I might just keep drinking my bone broth every day forever.  🙂

Have you ever made bone broth? Or chicken broth? Or any homemade broth?

Would you try drinking bone broth or does this gross you out? Christopher thinks it’s weird to just drink straight broth. But to me, it’s like sipping on the broth from soup (which I love!). So it’s no hardship. 🙂

Love Rach

Three delicious fish recipes!

Remember that one time when I told you guys that we were going to start eating more fish to help out with Christopher’s borderline high cholesterol? Well, we did. Start eating lots more fish that is. And now I am finally getting around to sharing some of the recipes.

tilapia

baked tilapia with dill sauce{click recipe card to see larger}

This tilapia recipe originally came from AllRecipes and we love it. All of the recipes I’m about to share are delicious, but this one is probably our favorite. We’ve made this so many times over the past couple of months. I definitely recommend it!

tuna steak

marinated tuna steaks{click recipe card to see larger}

I never knew that I liked baked tuna until eating this. I knew I liked spicy tuna rolls (sushi) and I knew that I liked tuna salad. But I’d never had a tuna steak. But oh my are these delicious! Thanks to AllRecipes again! 🙂

fish tacos

fish tacos{click recipe card to see larger}

One of our favorite things to eat while on vacation at the beach is fish tacos. They are SO delicious! And now I finally can make them at home thanks to this recipe from Centsational Girl. It’s a little more involved than the first two recipes, but it’s not too complicated. And the flavors make it so worth it! Definitely so good!

It has been fun to broaden my cooking skill set by adding fish to my repertoire. Until the past few months I’ve always been nervous about cooking fish just because it’s new to me. I worried about over cooking or under cooking or using the wrong seasonings because I wasn’t sure which flavors go with which fish… and yet it really isn’t that difficult at all. These recipes are definitely all winners and super simple. So whether you’re like my husband and you need to watch your cholesterol or whether you just want to eat a healthy dinner… try one of these recipes! 🙂

Does fish have a place in your frequent meal rotation?
Love Rach