Have Chocolate, Will Bake

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Chocolate has some pretty amazing qualities. It is rich and satisfying, while containing anti-oxidants and flavonoids, and is said to even help reduce stress. As we pass the bakery, the whiff of baked chocolate tickles our noses and sends us to a happy place where we imagine ourselves sitting in a quiet place indulging in our heavenly bites. Suddenly everything in our dreamland is perfect and everyone is behaved. Then the voice of numerical value wakes us up as we recall the high calorie cost of even sniffing. Quickly we bat away the image and like a dream it came and went, like so many other good thoughts.

The healthful benefits have been well touted over the past several years. Though we know the healthful benefits, we tend to associate chocolate with high calories. Most calorie-counters avoid the temptation of taste indulgence. Understanding most chocolate desserts have lots of butter and sugar, we know that if it has “Double Chocolate” in the title we must run the other way. Before you throw those running shoes on and dash away, maybe there is something we can do about this…

It has been a long day and you are running around the grocery store feeling rushed and maybe overwhelmed as you consider the day and recalling everything you needed. Then you approach the store’s Bakery. Deep down you know that your grandmother’s recipe is much better than the store’s, but the store has it all ready for you to take home now. Whispering inside of you is a small voice giving a list of reasons why you NEED or DESERVE this treat. The attractive decorations and trays seem almost irresistible. One of two things tend to happen. One you choose to heed the confectionery calling. Two you run away, pretending to not have even noticed its existence. After all, the numbers just don’t add up for you. The results tend to be a feeling of guilt or deprivation. Neither leaves you with a positive relationship with food or self image. Sure you can feel good about resisting temptation, but it lasts for a moment and becomes a negative reinforcement with the goods of culinary life.

Food should not be the emotional crutch we rely on to get us through life. However, to deny its ability to influence our mood, success, or relationships is a mistake. Our relationship with food can be powerful. It can be a means to cope reliably, it can be our mortal enemy (for various reasons), it can be a means to communicate love, or even a venue to enjoy a bit of good in this world. Healthy relationships with food come from moderation and balance. This relationship can be key to overall wellness. I am sure you know, especially in the tone written, which are healthy ways to relate to food and which are not. You even know from personal experience. Guilt can lower your worth and feeling deprived can make you distant. Finding balance can be difficult, but I have a few ways to help you find that balance for yourself.

Ten years ago I was the worst baker ever….EVER! Nothing that was supposed to rise rose. Everything that was supposed to be crisp was fluffy. My pie crust was dry and hard. It was a nightmare. I began to accept that I may be a cook, but definitely not a baker. It upset me because Grandma was known as the best pie maker around. I lived in her kitchen and found that place to be one of my favorites. Here I am messing up everything I tried. She passed away a few years after I got married. Sad and missing her, I asked for her zucchini bread recipe, hoping to have the kitchen smell familiar. My mother gave me the recipe. Nervously I tended to each step. Because of my metabolic condition, I had to substitute a few ingredients and that made me even more nervous. If I could not bake from a book, what business do I have substituting?! In the oven it went and as it baked, the smells of Grandma’s kitchen found me. After the 45 minutes were up, and much to my surprise, the loaf was beautiful. I cut a slice out quickly and tasted it…Mmmmm! Grandma would have been so proud.

The point of that side story is to illustrate that it takes time, but you could learn to bake. It could be your relaxing time. Baking takes planning (though can be done spontaneously), consciousness, and time. Similarly to exercise, at least for me, baking becomes a time-out from the chaos from day-to-day living. The family perks up, because they know Mommy has made something special for them. When you bake you can control the ingredients to make them healthy or one-up the local bakery. Some tips for substituting: Reducing sugar? Use 1/2 sugar and 1/2 Splenda. Need more fiber or want to avoid the “sugar crash?” Use 1/2 Whole Wheat Pastry Flour and 1/2 White Flour. Some recipes can use all whole wheat and some only can handle a smaller fraction. You can play with it. These are just a few ideas.

If you really do not like to bake or honestly are at a stage of life that seems overwhelming for your schedule, do not fret. I have other tips to share. One tip would be to keep seasonal fruit around. Sometimes simply melting some dark chocolate and dipping strawberries into them can be very satisfying. You could also toss some vanilla bean frozen yogurt and peaches together and top with sweetened and roasted nuts. You can also look for reduced-sugar sweets in your frozen sweets isle. Frozen organic fruit can make for a fantastic creamy smoothie on a hot summer day. There have been times where I have used chocolate rice cakes as base for an ice cream sandwich alternative in a pinch. These may seem limited, but that is why I firmly believe in taking the leap to baking at home.

If you want more variety and success, you have to be willing to take the time and risk. I know, I know. Time is valuable and in short supply. Maybe your self esteem is limited as well. Understand you don’t have to be the next Ina. This is your kitchen, where you work alone. No one has to know if you try something and screw it up. You can get better with practice. Next thing you know, you may even invent your own creation. It is worth the time, because quite frankly this is living. The small challenges you accept everyday to work at becoming healthier so you can give to those you love. That is the measure of success; efforts made toward health one decision at a time.

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Fighting the Good Fight of PCOS

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Things have been pretty crazy around my place lately. This senior year workload has kept me pretty busy, along with having a 9 month-old and a 2 year-old! Sorry if it seems I have been absent. This week I won a big battle in my fight against PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome). I sat in the waiting room in excitement to speak with my doctor. 5 years ago I was in that office and she diagnosed me with the disorder. At 209lbs and struggling to find something that worked for me, it was nice to put a face on my opponent. From that moment on I was determined to do something about it and to help others as well. I knew she would be proud of the progress i made. She has been there as I have struggled over and over again, watching me feel hopeless. She has also watched me succeed.

I understand what it feels like to be frustrated, cranky, hungry, and overwhelmed in weight-loss battles. I have since lost the weight, have 2 children, and ran my best time. As of that office visit, I am officially off my Metformin medication! That is right. You can get healthy and get off some of your medications by changing your lifestyle. In this economy, who couldn’t afford to have their doctor drop a prescription or two? Think of all the pages of side-effects from medications you are on. There are a lot of medications your doctor could eliminate by your change in lifestyle. Less chemicals entering and running through your body. You take control back from the medications by becoming disciplined. Obviously you should NEVER attempt to go off a medication without your doctor’s orders. This is simply a goal you can set for yourself to motivate you for healthier living.  

You have to first understand that you are worth the time and effort. Your loved ones deserve the best you possible. Life has battles great and small. We have to have the courage and gumption to face them head on. We cannot control everything that happens to us. We can choose how to deal with them and do our best to prevent damage. Respond. Do not let life keep you juggling with symptoms health-related or in general. Use what power you do have to make the best decisions you can. I personally believe that God will handle the rest. At the end of the day, come what may, I want to know I did what I could and didn’t sit idle. What battles have you won? Please share and encourage others to keep pushing! Feel free to comment or share a story below!! 

Moment of Greatness

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   School has started at Miami University in Oxford. I have to say how excited I am at the prospect of graduating in the Spring! Someone once told me that the world of people who need help is just waiting on me to graduate. Though I doubt my influence will be so great, my care for people is pretty huge. Sometimes I feel like a Leslie Knope of health and fitness at heart. Though I may not be able to reach the whole world, I think it could still feel like a moment of greatness for me.

 Think of some favorite moments in your life. Think of what you see, how you felt, the smells, and who you were with. To me, great moments in my life involved great food, great company, and sharing a special moment. We can create more positive moments in our life by changing perspective and by setting the stage. It may not always work, but the effort in the end pays off.

What is the last great meal you ate? I mean a meal that made you utter unintelligible words. It may have been a while, or you may not have had that chance. When you use that standard and compare it to what you have been eating, you see there have been a lot of wasted bites. If budget or time tends to of concern, plan it out and work on your confidence in the kitchen. Practice using proper utensils and following basic recipes. Otherwise, keep an ear out for some great places and try new things, maybe once a week or so. Make food an adventure. 

How does the discovery of being down a size in a store’s fitting room make you feel? Embarrassingly, I dance and jump about. Maybe you experienced being able to move around better than you used to. How does it make you feel to do more with less effort? These things come with moderation in eating and exercise. We know this, but the discipline to keep at a lifestyle of it can seem daunting. Even if your goal is to maintain, keep a goal to keep motivated. 

Putting in the effort can help you create great moments like this. Moments you can reflect on later as moments of greatness. You don’t have to invent something or lead a group of people to achieve greatness. You just simply have to do the most you can with what you have.  I am sure when I graduate it will feel like a moment of greatness, simply because I will have worked so hard to get there. Your moments of greatness did not end and neither will have mine, unless we choose to not change or press forward. Allowing moments to be great and being great in a moment might seem unrelated, but they both involve effort and standard you set for yourself. So get out there and have a great day!

 

P90X2 Phase 3: Performance (Final Phase)

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I have come to the end of the series with a new mindset, body, and attitude towards straight forward fitness routines. The amount of time it would take to get these results at a gym would be twice as long. It cuts through the time wasters and acknowledges that people have little time to dedicate. The intensity is high and the energy you gain is great. Once again I did not use supplements or Shakeology pushed by Tony Horton.

Ending Phase 2 Stats: weight: 134lbs Waist:28 Total inches: 162
Ending stats for phase 3: weight: 127 waist: 27.5 Total inches: 157″
Pre-P90X2 Stats: weight: 145 Waist:30.5 Total inches: 168.5″
Ending results: Loss of 18 pounds, 3 inches off my waist, and 11.5 total inches lost.

Phase 3 Training Schedule: Day1: P.A.P. Lower Day2: P.A.P. Upper Day3: X2 Yoga Day4: Rest or Recovery + Mobility Day5: P.A.P. Lower Day6: P.A.P. Upper Day7: Rest or Recovery + Mobility

Equipment Needed to Perform:
-Again P90X2 does offer versions of exercises without much equipment. These usually still require different band resistances.
-Balance/Stability ball -up to 2 Medicine balls -Chin up and pull up bar -Resistance bands -Plyobox/ sturdy chair -Hand weights -Yoga mat – Door Hook Anchor for resistance bands – hand towels

This system really works. My body has changed and molded and I am in the best shape of my life. I can run faster, jump higher, dance longer, do a proper push-up, perform modified pull-ups, and balance on a tight rope! Well, the last one has yet to happen, but I do have pretty incredible balance now. Talk about flexibility skills. If you have tight muscles, everything from Neuro-integrated stretching to good-old-fashioned yoga will increase your range of motion.

This level of fitness in phase 3 is really for those who have performance-based goals. This is beyond being healthy and fit. This is about being able to run the best time of your life. I ran a 5k, Color Me Rad, at my best time ever. My time was 20:30, something I thought was impossible for me. I have always been slow and steady. I got that time with a foot that had been “R.I.C.E.-ing” all night, the night before the race. (R.I.C.E.= Rest. Ice. Compression. Elevation.) Heck my goal was to be under 30 minutes! It is also about being able to have incredible agility for sports like basketball, tennis, football, dance, racquetball, etc. The training for a combination of cardiovascular endurance, and power gains is very scientific and Tony Horton nails it.

The overall drawbacks to this system are few but important to me to share. Obviously I do not support the idea of supplements without consulting a nutritional professional. Here Tony really pushes his Shakeology. One reason you don’t want to get nutrition from shakes is that you are not really learning how to eat well. You are fooling yourself into thinking it is a meal. Then when you are done, either you have to continue with shakes for the rest of your life or you can teach yourself to eat well. Another issue I had with the system was the nutritional suggestions. The first bit is quite restrictive and not helpful for healthy change. When you make drastic changes and severely restrict yourself, most people cannot sustain it and gain weight back plus some.The best way to counter this is to listen to your body. If you are hungry, eat! Then choose to eat well. Replace some ingredients in your food with healthier options. Slow and steady wins the race of weight-loss. Your body has to have time to catch up with your changes.

This system is recommended for those who have a solid base of fitness. You can definitely improve where you are and build upon it for a while. Once you get a feel for the routine, you can increase repetitions, push yourself to move faster, and hold those difficult poses longer. If you buy this system and put in the time, you cannot help but see results! Money well spent. If cost is something that would keep you from buying it, check out ebay. Sometimes you can catch a good deal. You could also get a buddy involved and go half way on it and have accountability!

Phase 3 Rating: 10/10
P90X2 Overall Rating: 9/10

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