I’m in the midst of a health reboot. Those pesky few pounds I want to lose just aren’t coming off as fast as they used to, my sleep hasn’t been the best and I’m feeling less energy than I used to. Not only does that make me cranky during the day and make it hard to finish my runs, but it can kill your motivation for furthering a fitness program, right?
I run to burn calories and keep my heart healthy and blood pressure down. I lift weights and do Pilates and Yoga so I can stay toned and flexible and I eat as good as I can to keep my calorie intake low. I also like to eat good food and I have to test my cupcakes, so exercising isn’t an option. Sometimes though, even the best of routines stop working or need to be changed, but what do you do? It can feel daunting, kind of a “where do I start?” moment and if we get stuck on that too long, we don’t make the changes we need to make to move forward.
Everyone’s different, and recent studies have shown that not all calories are alike — despite the ‘calories in, calories out’ mantra that’s been pushed for years. (Read this NYTimes article for more on how calories aren’t all the same. Very interesting!) What works for me won’t necessarily work for you, but I’ll let you in on my routine anyway. It works for me, since I don’t have a gym membership and I exercise around my work/business/family time. (I do schedule it in though!)
First change: really take a good look at my habits, starting with food. Spend a few days tracking it and see what food mistakes you’re making that you may not even know. SparkPeople.com is my recommendation; they tell you not only calories, but it breaks down all the nutritional values. Very illuminating. I also track my workout minutes and set goals, so I have to be accountable to more than just myself. I’ve also found if I tell people “I’m doing C25K for eight weeks,” I am stuck doing it; I hate being a quitter! For example, I stupidly never realized the amount of calories in tequila! We made margaritas last night, and when I put it in my Daily Tracker, I choked for a quick second. So.Many.Calories. Tasty calories, don’t get me wrong, but they definitely did not help me stay within my daily limit in order to lose weight safely.
Second change: increase the veggies. My husband loves meat, but since I don’t eat red meat, we usually eat pork, chicken and safe fish. I have heard “I hate Meatless Mondays” more than once, but there’s a middle-ground that’s working. (Sorry, Honey!) Meat doesn’t need to be your main course; you can still get the benefits of protein without having a whole chicken breast, a steak or a regular pork chop. Last night’s dinner, pictured below, is a good example. Red meat’s fantastic but can stay in your system for weeks (eww, right?) and slow you down. It’s avoidable. Ground turkey is a great replacement for ground beef, for starters.
Third change: increase the fruit. Look at ways to add it to your regular meals. Have a nectarine in place of something else with your breakfast and an apple for a snack in the afternoon instead of a power bar. I replaced dried cranberries in my salad, which were higher in calories than I’d like and processed with sugar, with dried apricots. They still have natural sugar and can be higher in calories so stick to just a few, chopped up. We also love to throw it on the grill, where the sugar caramelizes on its own without having to add any sweeteners, meaning almost everyone will like it.
Fourth change: change up my workouts. Do more, do different — but talk to your doctor first to get medical advice before any change in routine. Your body becomes complacent and used to certain things, and starts to work more efficiently. Normally a walker? Try jogging, even in small sprints. Look up “tabata” and see if it’s something you can do! Slow, fast, slow, fast, etc. It has been shown to increase your metabolism and calorie burn. Adding in weights can put your muscles to work differently, and studies show that lifting is a critical component to weight loss via working out. The more you use your biggest muscles, the more calories you burn, but lighting weights isn’t just about the pounds. Toning and tightening and remaining flexible can help a world of things, including back pain and posture.
Fifth change: hydration. It’s another critical step. You can go overboard, but I generally try to drink half my weight in ounces daily. Water bores me, but I make infusions. A simple infusion ball from Amazon costs $5-6 and you can put in sliced cucumbers, grated ginger, sliced citrus, berries — the list goes on. I also make decaf organic tea. It’s not as good as water but I change it up and make sure I’m getting my fill regardless.
Sixth change: read labels I had ignored prior. I don’t know how I missed it, but my favorite low-sugar and low-fat salad dressing has high fructose corn syrup in it! If I can’t pronounce, I try not to buy it.
My reboot is recent, but I’m already down four pounds. I think water retention has a lot to do with it. Drinking a lot of water can help flush water out. I also added in magnesium citrate and probiotics for a healthy digestive system. I love salads for lunch but have made changes to what they include. I replaced feta cheese sprinkles with tofu, coated only in a little corn starch to crisp it up in a quick pan fry with a tiny dobble of olive oil. Protein and less calories in one shot!
Green salad with crispy tofu, chopped apricots and ginger-balsamic dressing. Iced Passion Tazo Tea. Yum.
Dinner last night was so good. I made whole wheat flat bread and put Del Real’s carnitas on top, with a small sprinkling of cheddar (gotta have some dairy in your diet) and cilantro. I served it with fresh corn on the cob and a tomato-mozz-basil salad. With three courses to the meal, no one went crazy eating too much of anything. Small doses — just like my whole blog is about, indulgences aren’t bad, they just need to be in moderation. Our diet should be both healthy and enjoyable…hence the fried pork in small portions. Realistic and reasonable is what works for us. (And I stayed within my daily recommended limit to lose weight!)
All these healthy ingredients got turned into this yummy meal!
Rebooting your health and fitness routine takes some planning — you need to make sure your pantry contains all the things you need so you don’t make something else less healthy for convenience’ sake, and you want to have plenty of recipes available — but it doesn’t need to be intimidating. It’s do-able and it feels good. If you’re in a slump, maybe it’s just what you need!
Are you considering a health and fitness reboot?