Category Archives: dieting

Wildcard Wednesday: Back at the gym

I am finally recovered enough from my concussion that I can get back to the gym. I’m pretty excited about this.

I tried to go back to the gym three weeks ago, but after 30 minutes on the treadmill I was dizzy and my head hurt, so I figured I needed to rest a bit more.

Two weeks ago was finals and I was so busy with work that there was no chance to get to the gym.

Last week I was on vacation with my best friend in Georgia and although we spent lots of time outdoors at parks and botanical gardens, as well as walking my bestie’s dog, nothing we really did counts as exercise.

So, I was a little nervous about getting back into the gym on Monday. I figured I’d better start small–it had been two months since I’d been able to go and although I was making mad progress before the accident, I’d been fairly lazy during my recovery, and that last workout dizzy spell left me nervous.

I hopped on the Arc trainer, typed in 30 minutes and started clipping along.

When I finished, I was tired and sweaty, but no dizziness or headache, so I took it as a win.

Yesterday I was able to spend 40 minutes on the Arc trainer and afterwards I took my kids to the indoor pool at the gym. I didn’t really get to do any swimming as my daughter is not the world’s best swimmer, so I had to stick close to her the entire time. I mostly floated and threw a ball around with my kids while in the water. I got splashed a lot, but wouldn’t count any of it as exercise. Still, it was fun.

I was hoping to get back into my cycling class, but I’m not sure I’m quite back up to that level yet (it’s a pretty intense class). Maybe next week.

Even though I have a LOT of grading to do, since I am on break, I figure I need to take advantage of my gym flexibility while I can. My kids like the play area at our gym and they are just starting to get on each other’s nerves enough that I think it’s time to head out for a change of scenery!

This time I think I’ll jump on the elliptical for a bit.

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Wildcard Wednesday: Blaze Pizza

Blaze PizzaI’ve been pretty diligent about this whole diet and exercise thing. I actually started it in August. Between August and October I managed to lose about 10 pounds, which while far from my goal, was a nice start. Then, I went on vacation to see my best friend, which meant a lot of eating out at our favorite places. Then I got back to work and had a lot of work to day and got myself stressed, which meant a bit more eating and less working out. While I only gained two pounds back, I was not keeping track of my calories and was hardly making it to the gym.

When my husband got a new job and a free membership to Life Time Fitness, I decided to check it out. I really liked it, especially since it has two amazing pools and childcare included in the membership cost. So, by mid-December, I was back in the gym. Of the 24 days of December that I was trying out/a member of the gym, I made it in 12 times, which I thought was pretty good.

About a week before the end of the year, I decided that exercise alone was not going to cut it, so I also cut back on calories. I logged back into My Fitness Pal and started tracking. I was giving this thing my all.

So far in the 17 days of January, I’ve been to the gym 13 times and I’ve yet to go over my 1400 calorie limit. I’m down four pounds and feeling pretty good about life.

As part of this new routine, I’ve been cooking a lot more, which is really important since I have total control over ingredients and therefore calories. However, every now and then I need a break from the kitchen.

This past weekend we were out running a bunch of errands and found ourselves a bit far from our house at lunch time. Looking around, I noticed a Blaze Pizza and decided it would be a great option for lunch. We’ve been to Blaze several times and really like it. If you’ve never been, it’s sort of the Subway of pizza joints. My kids love being able to custom build their own pizzas, even if it sometimes means some questionable combinations. When given the chance at unlimited toppings, my son goes a bit mad with power. My daughter sticks more to the basics: cheese pizza.

Aside from liking the actual taste of Blaze Pizza, I really like that I can control what goes on it and make sensible choices. As much as I like ooey-gooey, super fatty cheesy pepperoni pizza, I can also appreciate a healthier option. I also really love that Blaze has a great nutrition calculator so I can see what my toppings will cost me.

For my most recent Blaze creation, I started with the standard, fairly thin crust, which has 420 calories for the entire pizza. I added the red sauce, which is another 30 calories for the entire pizza. I topped it with goat cheese instead of the standard mozzarella. This adds only 100 calories instead of 220. I skipped meat to avoid extra fat and calories and instead loaded it with veggies. I stacked on spinach, onions, garlic, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, artichokes and roasted squash. All together, each piece had about 95 calories, so 3 pieces was not only filling, but also under 300 calories (and only 6 grams of fat). Not at all bad for lunch, right?

Most importantly, it tasted fantastic and since each pizza has 6 slices, I have another healthy lunch for tomorrow. Everyone in the family was satisfied and I didn’t have to spend any extra time on the Arc trainer (although I did).

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Wildcard Wednesday: Cycling classes

As part of my newish gym membership, I have not only been going fairly religiously, but I’ve branched out from my usual treadmill, elliptical, and Arc trainer routines. I’ve even added more than just my occasional weight machines. Unlike Planet Fitness, Life Time Fitness has lots of classes.

Last week, I decided to try my hand at my first class: EDG cycling. I’ve never been to any sort of cycling or spin class before. Aside from the Zumba class I go to once a week, which is taught by one of my co-workers in the foods lab at our school, I haven’t attended any type of exercise class since I was in my mid-20’s and I went to Curves gym.

When my husband and I first started dating, we spent a lot of time riding our bikes down the local bike trail. Sometimes we would ride for hours. It was a lot of fun and after I got a super comfy gel seat, it didn’t even hurt much. But that bike has gotten little use over the last few years. In fact it’s actually gotten more than a bit rusted and bent out of shape over the years. And it’s been almost three decades since I’ve ridden a stationary bike of any kind. And back then, the bike didn’t have fancy digital equipment.

This new fangled bike was fancy and a bit confusing. It didn’t help that I couldn’t find the studio at first so I came to the class right as it was starting. Luckily one of the class regulars was kind enough to help me set up my bike and get me started. Granted, I had no idea what the instructor was talking about when she said to turn the dial to take the resistance up. I still don’t quite get what she meant by working out in zones 1, 2, 3 or 4, but I rode that bike. I even added tons of resistance by actually hitting the lever that knocks the resistance up by rather large leaps rather than gradually dialing it up. Oops!

I was definitely sweating by the end of those 45 minutes. I was also exhausted. And man oh man, did my rear end hurt. Those seats are not even remotely padded or comfortable.

But, despite my cluelessness and my sore derriere, I went back for another cycling class a few days later. This time I figured out the knob to slowly add resistance. I was also able to make it through all the “out of the saddle” portions of the class, which I’ll admit I could not do the first go around.

By my third class, I felt a bit like an old pro. I could add more resistance, even using that little power lever when I didn’t have to. And not only did I make it through all the stand up parts, during the last song when we had the choice to focus on speed, strength or stamina, I took a turn at all three, spending about a third of the song off my rear and standing as I peddled when I didn’t even have to.

And yes, my butt is still a bit sore from those horrid seats, but I’m already looking at the schedule for my next cycling class.

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Chocolate Monday: Halo Top Light Ice Cream

halo openOk, let’s be honest, it’s not exactly ice cream. Not in a traditional, super creamy, super indulgent, super delicious sort of way. Then again, anyone who expects to get all that creamy, fatty goodness for only 250 calories per pint is obviously living in an alternate universe.

Although Halo Top has been out for a lot longer than I realized (2012), it’s only been in the last year or so that it has skyrocketed to popularity. According to Wikipedia, in July of 2016, it became the best selling ice cream in supermarkets, even beating out Ben & Jerry’s, which I’ll admit I found hard to believe. While I like Halo Top, if given the choice, I would reach for Ben & Jerry’s over it every single time.

Once you get passed the fact that Halo Top is not going to taste like its full fat cousins, it’s actually pretty good. Especially considering that an entire pint ranges from about 240-360 calories. Considering that the same calorie content for Ben & Jerry’s or Haagen-Daz or most other ice creams is only about 1/4 of a pint, it suddenly explains the appeal.

halo 3I’ve only tried five flavors of Halo Top so far and just like with real ice cream, I’ve had varying degrees of happiness with them. My absolute favorite flavor so far has been the oatmeal cookie one. It legitimately tastes like a frozen oatmeal cookie. It reminds me a bit of the now defunct Dreamery Ice Cream flavor I used to love called Grandma’s Cookie Jar. It had several different bits of cookie dough in it, but my favorite were the bits of oatmeal raisin cookie dough. This particular pint of Halo Top has only 280 calories. I love the sweet oatiness of it, however, I will admit that while the bits of oats mixed in the ice cream definitely give it an authenticity, I’m not a fan of the texture of them. They taste like uncooked oats. There may not be enough of them to make the ice cream chewy, but they do give it a fibrous texture that I wish it didn’t have. Still the taste and low calorie count are enough for me to overlook it.

The chocolate almond ice cream reminds me of a Wendy’s Frosty, especially if you let it get just a tad bit melty. It’s not as rich and creamy as a Frosty. The texture is also not quite right for one, but it has that same chocolatey flavor of one. Plus, only 320 calories for the entire pint, which is less than one large Frosty.

Birthday cake is good, but really, really sweet. It reminds me a bit more of birthday cake frosting than of the actual cake. When I first tried it, I only ate a few bites and thought I might give it to my kids to finish off. They are far less picky about anything sweet and are always just as happy with a Hershey bar as they are gourmet truffles, so whenever I come across a type of chocolate (or ice cream) I don’t like, I pawn it off on them and they are thrilled. Before I got to give it to them, I found myself craving something sweet, so I tried it again. This time I found it more palatable. Still, there is no way I could eat an entire pint of it the way I could the oatmeal cookie version. I ended up breaking this one (and chocolate almond) into thirds. If you are a fan of the overly sweet vanilla cake frosting grocery store bakeries put on top of their cakes (the type that is slightly grainy), this is probably a flavor that you’ll love.

Chocolate chip cookie dough had a lot more vanilla and a lot less bits of actual cookie dough in it, which was a bit of a let down. But again, considering the entire pint only has 360 calories in it, there would have to be less cookie dough. It actually tastes fairly similar to it’s fattier cousins, but it’s not as creamy and the sweetness it has tastes just a bit more artificial.

The only flavor I absolutely despised, and this is not a term I use lightly, was the mint chocolate chip. This was such a HUGE upset to me as mint chocolate chip ice cream is one of my absolute joys in life. I even love mint chocolate chip frozen yogurt. From my earliest experiences of York Peppermint patties, to my absolute adoration of Andes mints to my local Baskin Robbins, mint chocolate chip is always a go to for me. This one though…I got through three bites and had to stop. I put it away and hoped against hope that I would grow to like it as I had birthday cake. But alas, it was not to be. The mint in his was so overpowering that it felt like I was drinking straight peppermint oil. It actually reminded me of the peppermint oil one of my students used to use every day in class to help calm her down and keep her from having panic attacks. It did not seem like a mint that was meant to be eaten, but rather one that should be used as part of a soothing massage. I didn’t even give it to my kids because it was so artificial tasting and so gross.

Despite that bad experience, I know that since I have rededicated myself to eating healthier and exercising more, I will be back to grabbing pints of Halo Top to help satisfy my sweet tooth. There are still several varieties I’d like to try. My hope is that mint chocolate chip will be a fluke.

Overall:

Taste: 6/10
Value: 6/10
Appearance: 7/10

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Wildcard Wednesday: Lifetime Fitness

As part of my husband’s new job, he got a membership to Lifetime Fitness. As long as he goes at least 7 times a month, his membership is free. Not long after he found out about this new benefit, he headed over to check it out.

In the 15 years I have known him, my husband has not had a gym membership. He did have a small workout room with some free weights and a few cardio machines at his old job, so he’d often go in on his lunch hour or right after work to sneak in a quick workout. He didn’t do this with any sort of regularity, but he’d get on streaks where he’d pop in 3 or 4 days a week and come home quite proud of himself.

I’ve been a member of Planet Fitness for five or six years now. Although there have been moments in my life where I have been more dedicated than others, for the most part I go at least once a week and often two or three times a week. For the money, PF is a pretty good deal. Sure, there are no classes, no pool, no childcare and it’s hard to get any sort of trainer to set up a routine for you, but considering that mostly I just wanted to do cardio or circuit training, that was fine with me.

However, when my husband got his membership to Lifetime, he also got me and our kids a trial membership. It was basically love at first sight. The gym is ENORMOUS! Seriously, it is huge. They have a rock wall, three pools (one outdoor for nice weather) with water slides, a full basketball court, tons of cardio and weight machines, a cafe, a spa, a sauna and all sorts of classes. What’s more, they have a childcare facility, so instead of waiting until my kids are in bed and then slipping out on my own to work out, we can take our kids to the gym with us and they can play while we work out. We can also take our kids to the pool or to the rock wall, which they love.

The only downside to this new gym is that it is a bit more expensive than PF. For myself and our kids, it’s actually about 7 times my current no frills basic PF membership. That gave me more than a few minutes of pause. Is a gym membership really worth that expense?

Well, as it turns out, my daughter’s swim lessons are even more than that. So, by canceling her lessons and signing up at the gym where we have constant access to the pool, we actually save about $14 a month. Sure, it means I have to work with my daughter to help her strengthen her swimming skills, but that just means I get to spend time in the pool. Plus, as great as her swim lessons have been for her, they are only 30 minutes once a week. We can replace that with gym time AND my son will get to practice his swimming as well. Plus, we’ll be able to add a whole other activity to our weekly schedule this summer. Unlike our current swim school where we can only take advantage of open swim M-Th from 12-1, this coming summer we’ll be able to swim all day, every day if we want to.

While I’ve only technically been a member of the gym for three days now, I did take advantage of that trial membership as well. I’ve gotten in four really solid workouts and it’s been great. My hope is that since it is a rather substantial expense compared to PF, I won’t feel like I can blow it off the same way I did working out at PF. I also hope having fun activities for the kid will help my entire family become more active.

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Wildcard Wednesday: Brussel Bytes

Brussiel BytesAfter my workout I stopped in Fresh Thyme to get my daughter some of the vegetarian jerky she likes. It’s been over three weeks now and her desire to be a vegetarian does not seem to be wavering in the least. Her pediatrician is fine with this experiment as long as she gets enough protein and fruits and vegetables and doesn’t become a “carbotarian,” so I’m trying to get as many alternate meat choices as possible.

While I was looking at potential snack foods for her, I spotted one that peaked my interest: Brussel Bytes.

Unlike kale chips, which seem to be the new health food craze, I love Brussels sprouts. They are one of my favorite vegetables, whereas kale is something I only eat if forced to and even then not unless it is flavored into submission. I tried kale chips and could not stomach them. But Brussels sprout chips? That had me intrigued. And even though the ingredient list included kale (along with cashews, carrots, red pepper, coconut nectar and spices), I figured I’d risk it.

I grabbed the cheezy herb flavor, figuring even if I hated them it would be a fun experiment. But I didn’t hate them. Not at all. I actually really like them.

They are made from sprout “leaves” and coated with a a cheesy Italiany herb mix of basil, garlic, rosemary and salt. They have a great crunch to them and somehow remind me of spinach, my absolute favorite vegetable. They don’t have any of the bitterness that is often both Brussels sprouts and kale have, which is delightful.

Despite what the package claims, no chips will be moving over. They aren’t replacing potato chips in my heart and my brain has no illusions that I am actually eating chips. However, the entire package only has 160 calories, 4 grams of fat, 9 carbs, 3 grams of fiber and 4 grams of protein, so I don’t feel bad eating the entire bag in one sitting. They may not have tasted as good as a single serving of salt and vinegar chips, but I felt a heck of a lot better about myself after eating them.

I haven’t tried to entice my kids to eat them yet, but they both actually like sprouts, so there is a chance they’ll at least try them. They may even like them.

I definitely want to try chili pumpkin seed flavored ones I saw as well, so I guess another trip to Fresh Thyme will be in order soon.

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Wildcard Wednesday: Fitbit Charge 2

fitbit charge2I’m not quite sure how long I’ve had a Fitbit in my life. Even before I upgraded to the super fancy digital version, I’ve had some sort of pedometer strapped to my body for at least a decade now.

Although I would never call myself a health nut (I’m eating Lays bacon wrapped jalapeno chips as I type this), I do make an honest effort to get in a minimum of 10,000 steps each day, in large part so that I can eat things like bacon wrapped jalapeno chips.

As much as I loved my old school red pedometer I bought at Target, which clicked every time I took a step, it was highly unreliable. I’m a pretty animated talker and sometimes I’d be in the middle of an intense conversation with nothing but my arms flailing, and I’d hear the “tink, tink, tink” of my pedometer. Other times I’d be sitting at my desk nervously jostling my leg and I’d once again hear, “tink, tink, tink.” And don’t even get me started on how inaccurate it was on the rare occasions I decided to jog. Still, it was a good start for me and even though the “tink, tink, tink” drove me nuts at times, it was was still comforting.

About five years ago I decided to take a real leap forward and buy a Fitbit. When I bought my first Fitbit, there wasn’t much in the way of variety. I had a choice of one that could hook onto my clothes, which was only a tiny step up from my Target version or the Fitbit Flex which offered to not only count my steps more accurately, but also to help me track my weight, caloric and water intake, sleep patterns and gently wake me up vibrating alarms. I doled out the big bucks for the Flex.

For the most part I was pretty happy with my Flex. Since I work on the second floor and my house has a basement, I was a bit annoyed it didn’t count steps. I also didn’t like the fact that unless I logged on to the computer (and later my smart phone), I couldn’t see the exact number of steps I’d taken. Sure, if I tapped it, little dots would light up and flash to help me estimate to the nearest 1,000 steps how many I’d taken, and while that may have made me feel a bit like a Cylon, it also left me frustrated.

Even though there were elements of my Flex I was not fond of, when it fell off in the Kroger parking lot (because I’d ordered cute knock off bands with inferior clasps) and was run over by a car, I still decided to replace it with another Flex.

Fast forward to last month. While I was still wearing my Flex religiously (this time without the knock off bands), I was getting frustrated with it. It wasn’t holding a charge for long and I often had trouble getting it to charge at all, despite leaving it in the charger for 8 hours. I think something in the connection was just failing. I definitely wanted an upgrade. After trying a knock off fitness tracker I bought at Target, I decided I needed a new tracker, but this time I wanted one with a few more features. I definitely wanted to be able to see the exact number of steps I’d taken, I wanted a watch function, a heart rate monitor and an alarm function. I’d grown very accustomed to ditching the alarm clock for my Fitbit.

After a ton of research, which included quite a lot of feedback from my friends, I decided on a Fitbit Charge 2 because it was the only tracker I found that met all my other guidelines and had the alarm option.

I LOVE IT!

I love that I can see the time and date as well as every little step I take, including the ones I take when I’m pushing the cart around at the grocery store, something my Flex never did. I love that it tracks my stairs–so far only 3 today, but some days I do as many as 11 flights. I love that I can track specific times for my exercise routines and that it has a variety of routines to pick from. I love that I can see my active and inactive alarms so that I can make sure an alarm is actually set without having to get on my phone or my computer. I can also enable or disable my alarms from my Charge, which is fantastic! I like that it gives me little reminders to move every hour so that I’m at least taking 250 steps an hour. I even like the guided, meditative breathing function it has. It’s amazingly relaxing, which I know is the point.

When I had my Flex, I was sometimes really pushing it to get in all 10,000 steps. Some days I’d felt like I’d walked all over creation and it was still barely registering 8,000. Since I’ve had my new Charge 2, the only days I haven’t hit my minimum are days I’ve been on vacation. I’m actually averaging closer to 12,000 each day. I don’t know if it’s the added accuracy or just a burst of new pep in my step thanks to my new tracker.

fitbit bandsPlus, unlike my Flex, I’ve been able to order cheap, knock off bands for my Charge 2 and they are amazing! Thanks to the design, there is no way my Charge 2 will just fall off of my wrist. They are high quality and 12 of them only cost me $15. I actually just ordered another band that has adorable owls on it for only $8.

Unfortunately I did not think that the face of the Charge 2 needs a bit more protection than the Flex did. I have a tiny scuff on it, so I also found myself ordering protectors on Amazon today. Once they get here, I have a feeling my Charge 2 will be the perfect accessory.

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