Hummus & Gym Membership

For some reason, I was craving hummus a few days ago. I’m not a fan of store bought hummus so I decided to make my own for the first time. I used this recipe from Inspired Taste, went off to the store and gathered the ingredients but discovered that a 16 ounce jar of Tahini was 9-effing-dollars at Hannaford. No thank you. I googled a substitute and found that peanut butter would work, which was perfect because I always have a jar of natural no sugar added peanut butter on hand. I followed their recipe to a T, except I replaced the 1/4 cup of Tahini for 2-3 tablespoons of that wonderful natural no sugar added peanut butter, and I didn’t add more olive oil for serving. Ugh, the hummus was so good and so easy. Better than any store bought hummus. TRY IT. I also made Quinoa Stuffed Peppers the same day, but I’ll post that recipe tomorrow.

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Now for random thoughts: I’m debating on a gym membership. I’ve never wanted a gym membership because they’re costly and I’ve never had the extra money for one, and I’ve always preferred exercising at home. I’m three weeks into my new full-time job, and I’m struggling to keep up with my exercise regimen. I tried getting up earlier to exercise but I hated it, and I wasn’t giving it 100% because I was so sluggish. I’m doing my best to exercise a lot on my days off and do less on my work days, but all I’ve been doing on my work days is 15-20 minutes of Yoga or Pilates. Yes, it’s at least something, but to me it is definitely not enough. My plan is to get a membership at HealthLinks, and while it’s expensive, I think it would be worth the money. I would go after work on my way home. I need to do more strength training, and the 10-pound dumbbells aren’t cutting it anymore. I don’t want to keep buying a new, heavier set every month. So, I think a gym membership will be worth it. Also, I heard great things about The New Rules of Lifting for Women. I bought the book the other day on amazon.com, and I’ll follow that program.

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And now, since it’s my day off, I better get my ass moving. Today’s workout: Jillian Michaels’ “Banish Fat, Boost Metabolism” followed by strength training and body weight exercises. Maybe Pilates a little later if I’m feeling up to it.

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Day two: A HEALTHY DIET IS NOT EXPENSIVE.

Happy Valentine’s Day! Yesterday my boyfriend sent me flowers. Aren’t they pretty?

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It wasn’t the best Valentine’s Day. We received bad news about my poor kitty at his vet appointment today. His cancer has worsened, and it’s not looking good for him. So upset. This is Baby’s favorite sleeping spot for the night: in his new box with his pink camouflage blankie. I love him.

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Today, I did my best to keep track of how much everything I ate was costing me. Dinner was tough to give an estimate – homemade vegan chili I pulled out of the freezer. Didn’t feel like cooking. But a can of tomatoes, beans and rice, some of the main ingredients, are cheap. So I’m just saying it’s around 99 cents for what I ate (about 1/3 of the batch I made). Good enough.

Cost of breakfast: $0.60
16 ounces of coffee (~2 tablespoons Maxwell House grounds): 30.6 ounces for $6.99 = 6 cents
2 tablespoons of Hannaford half and half: 32 ounces for $1.59 = 6 cents
1 Thomas’ Bagel Thin: 8 for $2.99 = 37 cents
1 tablespoons of Hannaford Natural PB: 16 ounces for $2.99 = 11 cents

Cost of lunch: $2.05
1 Zone bar: 6 for $4.34 = 72 cents (Normally I don’t eat these, but I didn’t have time to make lunch today, so it’s better than nothing.)
1 banana: (~5 oz.) 57 cents per pound: 18 cents
3 ounces Hannaford baby carrots: $1.70 per pound = 32 cents
1/2 red bell pepper: 2 lbs for $5 (~3 peppers) = 83 cents

Cost of snack: 23 cents
2 ounces of Hannaford mozzarella cheese: 16 ounce block for $3.68 = 23 cents

Cost of dinner: 99 cents
Leftover homemade vegan chili that I pulled out of the freezer: 99 cents, give or take.

Total for the day: $3.87. And you say eating healthy is expensive? Maybe if you buy out-of-season organic produce. That can definitely get pricey. I don’t eat a perfect diet, but I would say that 90% of the time, I eat pretty damn healthy, and, AS YOU CAN SEE, it doesn’t cost a lot. Be smart about what you buy – buy what’s in season, what’s on sale, make what you can from scratch, buy in bulk (sometimes it isn’t always cheaper, at least at the grocery stores around here). I promise you, you’ll spend a lot less money when you’re not buying junk food or drive-thru meals!

New before & after photo added

I’m working hard to improve my figure and reduce my body fat percentage. I can no longer measure my progress using the scale (which is fine by me). Reducing body fat and gaining muscle only means weight gain because muscle is more dense than fat. (Muscle does not weigh more than fat. One pound is one pound. Muscle does not take up as much room as fat. Two people may be the same weight, but the person with 15% body fat will look leaner, fitter and smaller than a person with 25% body fat.) I do have a lot to learn about this process. But I know it’s long and difficult, especially for women. So even though the number on the scale will go up, my body fat percentage will slowly, but surely, decrease. Taking new photos and putting together an updated side-by-side comparison helps keep me motivated, so I thought I’d add it to my before & after photos!

Quick tips

I have a few drafts going that are taking longer than usual to write (damn you, procrastination) but I’d like to post at least something. Last semester, my cousin and I did a presentation for our health class about weight loss. We compiled a list of quick tips that I hope some of you will find helpful. I will hopefully elaborate on some of them at a later date. I also posted these as a blog on SparkPeople back in May, so if some of y’all are visiting from SparkPeople, you may have already seen these. Anyway:

THE TRUTH ABOUT WEIGHT LOSS:
– Weight loss = calories out > calories in. Simple, right?
– WRONG. Weight loss is NOT easy.
– You will not see immediate results
– It takes hard work, dedication, and trial and error to find out what works best for you
– Don’t be fooled by certain weight loss products (diet pills, weight loss supplements, other products that basically tell you you can lose weight with little to no effort). If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.

HEALTHY WEIGHT LOSS:
– Not a “diet,” which implies a temporary fix
– It’s a permanent lifestyle change
– Weight loss is 80% nutrition and 20% fitness. You can’t out-exercise an unhealthy diet.

NUTRITION TIPS
1. Identify how many calories your body needs to lose weight (SparkPeople.com, MyFitnessPal.com and LiveStrong.com are free and can recommend how many calories you should consume, as well as how many grams of carbs, fats and proteins you should consume). It’s important to realize that the more you exercise, the more calories your body needs.

2. Eat a balanced diet. Stay within your ranges for carbs, fats and proteins

3. You DON’T have to be hungry all the time. Choose nutrient-dense foods (like fruits and veggies, whole grains, healthy fats, nuts, seeds, etc.) that won’t leave you hungry 30 minutes later.

4. Read nutrition labels and learn how to interpret the information. The most important pieces of information on a nutrition label are the serving size and the amount of servings in the package.

5. Track your calories and fitness minutes ACCURATELY. One reason why people struggle to lose weight is because they overestimate the time they exercised/calories burned, and underestimate their portions of food. As a result, they eat more than what their food tracker says, and didn’t burn as many calories. Solution? MEASURE AND WEIGH YOUR FOOD. Make sure the food entries in your nutrition tracker are the same as what they are on the food label. And don’t always believe the calories burned display on cardio machines, especially when they don’t ask for your weight prior to your workout. That number is hardly ever correct. INVEST IN A HEART RATE MONITOR! A good HRM will give you a better estimate of how many calories you burned.

6. Moderation & Portion Control: You don’t have to eliminate any “bad” foods if you’re able to control your portions. Pay attention to your portion sizes and keep in mind that when you eat at a restaurant, oftentimes you have 3-4 servings of food on your plate. Eat only half of your meal and bring it home with you.

7. Eat small, frequent meals throughout the day. Eat breakfast as it kick starts your metabolism for the day. Eat balanced meals for best results (complex carbs, lean proteins, healthy fats, fruits and veggies). But small, frequent meals is not a good idea for those who struggle with discipline, moderation and portion control as it can lead to overeating.

8. Eat a variety of food to ensure that you meet requirements for both macro- and micronutrients. For fruits and veggies, eat a variety of color.

9. Don’t drink your calories (soda, sweet teas, fancy Starbucks coffee drinks, etc). Limit alcoholic beverages. Eliminate diet soda – recent studies have shown that those who consume diet soda daily have a higher risk of stroke and heart attack.

10. Drink at least 8 8oz. glasses of water DAILY. No matter what!

FITNESS TIPS
1. Aim for 60-minute cardio sessions most days of the week
2. Aim for at least 3 full-body strength training per week
3. Warm up before your workout with light cardio, cool down properly, and save your static stretching for after your workout.
4. Find workouts to enjoy so that you can stick with them
5. If you find that your workout is becoming too easy, then it’s time to increase the intensity or find something new
6. Figure out what motivates you to exercise
7. Make physical activity part of your daily routine. You DO have time for it. If necessary, break your workout up into 10-15 minute sessions throughout the day

STAYING MOTIVATED
1. Set realistic goals: set mini goals in 5-10 pound increments. Give yourself enough time to reach goals. Reward yourself, but not with food. Set other goals that are centered around nutrition, fitness and overall wellness. Take a before photo, and take a progress photos along the way. (Best feeling ever – comparing your before and after photos side by side.)

2. Don’t always trust the scale as it can be very misleading. Use a tape measure to do full body measurements every week or every other week. If possible, measure your body fat percentage.

3. Develop streaks and don’t break them (drinking your water for x amount of days, exercising 5 times a week for x amount of weeks, etc)

4. Never get discouraged! Everyone has a slip up, everyone makes mistakes along the way, but move past it. Don’t dwell on it. Don’t blame others. Come to terms with it and keep moving forward. Don’t be afraid to ask others for help.