Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Meal Planning: Breakfast

Well, my original idea had been to actually plan meals for the week. But, as I said before, this just doesn't come natural to me, and, in fact, I just can't get myself to do it right now. I know, it sounds silly...

I enjoyed putting my list of healthy snacks together yesterday. So, to not overwhelm myself, I'll just put together a list of healthy breakfast choices today. I have eaten all the items on the list in the past; I should probably add some new choices some day.... Maybe once I have all the lists (breakfast, lunch, dinner & snacks) together, the meal planning thing won't seem so daunting anymore... So here is my breakfast list:
  • Oatmeal with granola & blueberries OR dried fruit
  • Greek-style yogurt (nonfat), granola & blueberries
  • Greek-style yogurt (nonfat), banana, walnuts & a little sugar
  • Crisp bread, laughing cow cheese (low fat) & tomato
  • Crisp bread, laughing cow cheese (low fat) & sliced hard-boiled egg
  • Bean & cheese burrito (frozen)
  • Whole wheat toast with peanut butter and a banana
  • Whole wheat English muffin with a poached egg, tomato on the side
  • Scrambled eggs with sauteed mushrooms on whole wheat toast
Be well,

Monday, March 30, 2009

First Step to Meal Planning: Healthy Snacks

Okay, while it seems daunting since I am really not a big "planner" when it comes to food, I think I really have to start planning. In particular, I should do the following:
  • Plan meals for the week.
  • Write a shopping list when I go grocery shopping. Too many times I forget some key ingredients and the missing items prevent me from cooking what I want.
  • Stock up on healthy snacks. It's also important that I mix things up as I get easily bored.
Well, I will try to get around to meal planning later this week I hope. For now, I'll just write a list of healthy snacks that I can pick up at the store. This list is based on items I have actually eaten as snacks in the past (but some of them I have forgotten about, so it's nice to remind myself here....). I will also try to add new ideas as I come across them. But this is my snack list for now:

  • Almonds
  • String cheese (low fat)
  • Cottage cheese (low fat)
  • Yogurt (low fat)
  • Fruit (I don't love fruit. But I hope that if I buy interesting fruits and plan my snacks ahead of time, I'll eat more fruits.)
  • One hard boiled egg and one slice of multigrain bread
  • Multigrain bread, laughing cow cheese wedge, topped with a sliced tomato
  • Raw veggies (carrots, bell peppers, mushrooms, radishes, etc.) and fat free Greek-style yogurt seasoned with salt, pepper, lemon juice and herbs for dipping - I haven't had this in ages, but it's SOOOO good and so satisfying...
  • Small baked potato with fat free Greek-style yogurt seasoned with salt and pepper
  • Fat free or low fat milk and 1 Graham cracker - I ate this a lot when I was nursing. I reminds me of such happy times... :)
  • Edamame - I like to buy the ones I need to peel. They keep me busy longer...
  • Popcorn
  • Beef jerky
  • Low fat chocolate or vanilla pudding
  • Fruit salad (I love watermelon mixed with blueberries; it's so pretty)
  • Skinny cow ice cream sandwich
Alright, now I just have to write down/print out the list and buy the items at the store!

Be well,

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Why Should I Plan Meals and Snacks?

I enjoy healthy food. Truly. Honestly. I much rather eat a nice, fresh salad than some less than fresh fast food or other not so healthy meal. However, I have learned more than once that I have to actually plan our meals to make sure they are healthy. Otherwise, several things that aren't good happen:

  • I get too hungry and eat anything in sight - this goes right back to my portion control issues
  • I don't eat well-balanced meals; usually, if I don't plan meals, I end up eating too many carbs and not enough protein
  • I opt for fast food because there is nothing to eat in the house - I really try to avoid this option, but it happens...
  • If I don't eat well, I don't feel well. When I don't feel well, I don't eat well. - Yes, it's a vicious cycle...
Now planning meals doesn't sound that hard. I know millions of people do it all the time. But for me it's a big step since I just have never gotten into the habit to consistently plan meals and snacks.

So that's my big "to do" item for the week: start planning meals and snacks. We'll see how it goes.

Be well,

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Energizing Nature Hike

As planned, hubby and I went for a challenging hike yesterday. It was so beautiful! A good part of the hike is uphill, and it was nice to notice that the hours at the gym have paid off. The uphill sections of the hike, which have been quite difficult in the past, didn't seem so bad at all! I was really proud of myself.

The best part of the hike was however being out in nature. I was a beautiful day, and hubby and I also had a chance to catch up. The hike really helped our bodies and souls... :) I wish we could go for another hike today, but baby is sick, so probably not...:(

Even though we may not be able to get a hike in today, we'll definitely try to get outside today. Even just walking around the neighborhood several times a day makes me feel so good. I think switching up my exercise routine by doing more cardio outside will really motivate me to get to the next level! And to get out of my rut...

Be well,

Thursday, March 26, 2009

In a Rut?

As I mentioned before, I think I may be in a bit of a rut when it comes to my gym routine. In particular, it is getting harder and harder to push myself through my cardio routine. I try to do a 45 minute cardio session most times of the week. If I am doing a lot of strength training, I am okay with 30 minutes. Even though our gym has great cardio machines with personal TV's, I am really getting BORED...

I haven't taken my workout outside for a long time. (Partially, because taking Korey to the gym's play care is just so convenient.) However, I think this weekend, I really want to work out outside. I have a challenging, very hilly hike in mind. While the hike can be unpleasant at times, there is just nothing that beats the feeling when you stand on the top of the mountain and enjoy the amazing view. I just have to keep that picture in mind to motivate myself! Now I just have to convince hubby to come along!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Who Can Eat Just One Chip?

Isn't there a famous commercial for chips that implies that no one can eat just one? I forgot which chip it is for or what it exactly says, but I think it's true!!! I ended up eating way too many chips today. Tortilla chips to be exact. First I ate some with spicy, fresh salsa. Then I ate more with spicy bean dip. How many did I eat? I have no idea (once again) because I didn't bother to pay attention... I just kept eating because they tasted so good. And soon the bag was almost empty (luckily my husband and son had had their share yesterday. So at least I didn't eat the entire bag).

Portion Control Action Plan (Take 2999)
It would have been a much better idea to take a few chips out of the bag, after confirming the number of chips in one serving on the bag, and eating only that number and then stopping. Well, there is always tomorrow... :)

Be well,

Monday, March 23, 2009

Should Personal Trainers Give Unsolicited Fitness Advice at the Gym?

As I wrote yesterday, I have recently been thinking about hiring a personal trainer. As I stated before, one of the reasons is that I am constantly surrounded by personal trainers and their clients at the gym and that my workouts seem boring and routine compared to what some of the trainers have their clients do.

However, in observing the trainers and their clients, I have also noticed one trainer who appears to want to drum up business. When he doesn't have a client, he usually positions himself somewhere in the weight area where he can observe the entire area. From his vantage point, he looks for people, as far as I can tell only women, he can give unsolicited advice to about their workout. I have now overheard several of his conversations, and they all go something like this:

Trainer: What part of your body are you trying to target right now?
Potential Client: [Says body part she is trying to target.]
Trainer: Well, let me tell you how to work this body part better.
Potential Client: Thank you.
Trainer: Well, if you hire me as your personal trainer, I'll show you many more exercises and you'll get into really good shape. I charge $____ per hour, and we should schedule at least three sessions (the number of sessions he suggests varies).

I am always stunned when I overhear and/or observe this conversation. To me, the trainer's approach is so wrong for so many reasons:
  1. No one asked him for advice!
  2. He is trying to "sell" his personal training sessions, which I am pretty sure is against the policies and rules of our gym.
  3. He makes me (and I am almost certain others) uncomfortable because I feel constantly "watched" when he is around.
  4. I always try to mentally "brace" myself for his advice. However, I am still not sure how I'd respond... I am quite meek at times...
  5. Some of his advice, especially the nutrition advice, sounds a bit questionable to me...
  6. And back to No. 1: No one asked him for advice!
Okay, so am I off base? Or is he just inappropriate????

Be well,

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Should I Hire a Personal Trainer?

Benefits of Regular Exercise
I have been working out for many years and at this point in my life I am in pretty good shape (for someone my age...:o). I have been able to control my high blood pressure through regular and increased exercise, which has been a huge accomplishment. The health benefits, both physical and mental, are the reason I exercise so consistently. Exercise is my medicine in more ways than one.

My Current Routine
My current routine consists of the elliptical machine for about 45 minutes and lifting a decent amount of weight with both my upper and lower body. My core is decent, and I have been working more on my flexibility (thanks to my hubby who has been stretching like crazy - sometimes I think he spends so much time stretching to avoid the "real" workout...:o).

What the Trainers Do
But when I am at the gym, I always see all these trainers around me, pushing their clients, making them do exercises I have never seen before. I, on the other hand, do pretty much the same thing every time I go to the gym, which is almost every day. I alternate exercises of course, focusing on cardio one day and strength training the next. I also try to incorporate new moves and machines into my routine once in a while; actually, to be honest, I haven't done this for a LONG while...

My Concerns
So I have been wondering whether I should hire a personal trainer to shake up my routine a bit. I have never hired a personal trainer before, and I am a bit scared. What if the trainer figures out that my core really isn't that strong? What if he/she notices some areas of my body I have been neglecting? What if he/she makes me work really hard? Well, I guess my concerns are exactly the reasons I should hire a trainer!

"Ulterior" Motives?
Now, my hubby may think my "sudden" interest in personal training is due to the new, hot trainer at our gym. But that's not entirely true; I have been thinking about hiring a personal trainer for a while. Honest.

Well, we'll see what I decide.

Be well,

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Being Kind to Myself

One thing I have learned over the years is when to push myself and when to be kind to myself when it comes to physical activity. I used to work out "no matter what." I set goals and "had to achieve them."

Years ago, I had decided to run a 10 k but a few weeks into the training I re-injured a bad ankle. Instead of giving the ankle the rest it demanded and needed, I started using massive amounts of Ibuprofen and just worked through the pain. I was left with a seriously injured ankle and weeks of no weight bearing activity. Unfortunately, there have been many more examples like this over the years...

However, a few months ago I noticed that I am much nicer to myself these days! If my ankle doesn't feel good (the numerous injuries it sustained have unfortunately never completely healed), I give it a day off and focus on upper body work and stretching. If I am very tired because I was up with the baby (now toddler) all night, I go for a brisk walk rather than dragging myself to the gym and suffering through a workout.

Yesterday I went to the gym, but I didn't feel well. I took it easy by doing some weights, stretching, ab work and 20 minutes of cardio. I would have never done this a couple years ago but pushed through my regular routine. After I got home from the gym, my throat started hurting. I was glad that I hadn't pushed myself too hard earlier in the day so that I could make it through the rest of the day.

I am glad that I have finally learned to be kind to myself!

Be well,

Friday, March 20, 2009

Confessions of a "Non-Athletic" Child

I still remember the day as it was yesterday. The "incident' happened in 2nd grade during P.E. The activity was rope climbing. There were ropes hanging from the ceiling and we were supposed to climb up on them. I was not very successful, and my teacher said to me, for everyone to hear: "You are just not athletic."

This comment has stuck with me until this day even though it's not something I usually talk about. Over the years during P.E. in school I was reminded of this comment numerous times: when I ran the 100 meter dash way to slowly, when I couldn't balance, jump, etc. on the balance beam... There were just so many times that I felt that I wasn't athletic and every time I heard the words of my 2nd grade teacher in my head. I figured she must have been right...

It's not that I didn't do athletics while being in school. I was on the crew team; I played basketball in an after school program; I played tennis. I felt okay when I did these activities, but when it came to school sports, I felt self-conscious. While most of my classmates looked forward to P.E., I dreaded it. I always feared there would be another moment for me to show how non-athletic I was.

My fear of school P.E. became almost a self fulfilling prophecy. I think I could have probably run a lot faster, balanced better, etc. had I not been so self-conscious. I wish I could tell my 2nd grade teacher how much she affected my self image when it came to sports.

Luckily, sports and physical activity has been a great enjoyment in my life ever since I left school. I am physically active most days of the week and enjoy hiking and working out at the gym. While I live far away from my childhood friends, I have noticed over the years that some of the "athletic" children are not so athletic anymore.

My point I guess is that we should be very careful and never label children. It can truly affect a child for a long time. I am glad that I have overcome the "non-athletic" label for the most part and have made physical well being a big part of my life.

Be well,

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Can Good Childcare at the Gym Motivate You to Work Out?

The other day I overheard a mom as she was dropping off her child at the gym's child care center. She said: "I have never worked out as consistently in my life. I just HAVE to drop of my son every day to get a minute to myself. I am finally in the shape I want to be AFTER having a kid. I thought I would never get there."

While I have missed workouts since Korey was born due to sickness (his and mine), missed naps, etc., knowing that he enjoys himself and gets rid of some of his energy is a great motivator to work out! When we work out, all of us just have a better day. He is tired and takes a nap without fuss, and I feel good and can handle the afternoon meltdown (if one happens) a lot better. It's truly a great motivator to work out as much as possible!

Thank you gym child care!

Be well,

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Do the First Few Bites Really Taste the Best?

Well, inspired by yesterday's post, I tried to be really conscious of my portion size, and it actually sort of worked! I think one key was to make sure that I ate consistently throughout the day and didn't go for too long a stretch without eating anything. I also thought about something that I have heard a lot when people talk about portion control: The first couple bites taste the best. Well, I am actually not sure I completely agree with that one. The fifth bite and beyond actually tastes darn good to me! BUT, if I ask myself if I am truly hungry and consciously put a small amount on my plate in the first place, I can be satisfied with a lot less (but still a lot more than 3-4 bites!). We'll see how it goes today... :)

Be well,

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

What's a Portion?

Well, thinking about living well, brought my number one downfall to the surface again: portion control. I just can't do it very well. The other day I was watching T.V. at the gym and Bethenny Frankel (from "Real Housewives of New York City") was on promoting her new "skinny girl something" book. She was asked what the key to being skinny was and, surprise surprise, she said it was portion control. She actually said you can eat anything as long as you stop after 3 or 4 bites. 3 or 4 bites???? She actually gave the example of eating only 3 or 4 bites of a hamburger. Can anyone really do that? I don't eat hamburgers, etc. very often, but when I do, I can never stop after 3 bites.

A Recent Portion Control "Incident"
The other day my husband and toddler went out to lunch at a brewery. We each (well except the toddler) had a beer (my other calorie downfall - alcohol), and we shared a mushroom cheeseburger with fries and a seared ahi tuna salad. Well, technically my husband ordered the burger, and I ordered the salad. But I made it VERY clear from the beginning that we were sharing. I had almost all of the tuna, most of the salad, some of the burger and TONS of fries. According to Bethenny, I should have probably stopped after 3 or 4 fries. How many did I have? I honestly have no idea, but I think it could have easily been between 20 and 40. Wow! That seems insane.

Portion Control Action Plan
So what have I learned? I guess one plan could be to become more aware of how much I am eating. I am pretty good about awareness at home (most times and when I am not too hungry). But when I go out and am hungry (like I was the other day because the "lunch" took place around 3:30), I truly lose control.

So I guess next time, I can put a few fries on a separate plate and eat them rather than picking off the giant mountain of fries and ending up eating most of them. We'll see how it goes... :) I am sure there are many more portion control posts in my future...

Be well,

Monday, March 16, 2009

To-Do List for March 16

Well, I realize that being well and living your best possible life requires some planning, and there are some things that I need to take care of. (I first was introduced to the "to-do list" by my husband. After we were dating for a while, I found a stack of "to-do" lists, and on one of them I found myself: "Take Andrea to Lunch" was the to-do item. Well, I guess the rest is history...)

Anyhow, here are my to-do items for now:
  • buy new sneakers (make sure they are not only cute but also fit well)
  • research an online activity tracker and an online calorie tracker (I don't plan on using the calorie tracker all the time but only once in a while to see how I am doing)
  • book a massage (I haven't gotten one in about two years or so due to a rather traumatizing experience a few years back)
  • go for a long hike (I have been working out in the gym WAY too much)
Well, that's it for now. I plan on creating a new to-do list maybe every two weeks or so. We'll see how it goes.

Be well,

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Journaling Experiences

The last time I tried to keep an exercise and food record of some sorts was when my younger son was about three months old. I desperately wanted to lose the remaining 20 lbs that I still had to lose after my second pregnancy, which had occurred well into my 30s. Losing all of the exactly 50 lbs that I had gained proved to be A LOT harder than 16 years earlier after my first child was born.

Losing Weight Now and Then
Then, the weight had literally melted off without me doing much. I exercised and ate reasonably well, but I didn't do anything special. This time I did everything and nothing happened. That is, I went for at least an hour walk EVERY day since the baby was 10 days old. In addition, I worked out with weights and did cardio at the gym at least 4-5 days per week. I watched what I ate. Since nothing happened, I decided to write down what I did. I bought a pretty journal and started writing in it with a pretty pen. I added up hours of physical activity and calories consumed. (That's quite a task when done manually. I really have to look for an electronic way to keep track of physical activities and calories.) I noticed that I was eating A LOT more calories than I had realized. After all, my metabolism had been slowing down for years, so my calorie intake should have been slowing down as well. But looking at the numbers in the journal made it clear that I wasn't slowing down (and that was after giving myself a 500 calorie allowance for breastfeeding.)

Detour to Weight Loss
After a few weeks, I took on three new, demanding teaching assignments at once and the journal "got lost." While I decided not to tackle the extra weight right then and there, the journal helped me to see where my problem was and a year later, when the baby was about 14 months old, I was finally back at my pre-pregnancy weight. (I had come across the journal numerous times and, each time I picked it up, it reminded me that I should watch more carefully what I ate.)

Well, I can't wait to tackle some of the issues that prevent me from being truly well. I also hope that I can't so conveniently "forget" or "lose" this blog... More soon.

Be well,

Saturday, March 14, 2009

A Record of Living My Best Life

[Updated: 09/11]

Hello and welcome to my blog, Andrea's Wellness Notes, where I've been collecting tips and sharing experiences and ideas on how to live well since March 2009.

Germany was home for my first twenty years, and I've been living in the San Francisco Bay Area now just as long. As a mother of two, one son in college and the other in preschool, I currently work as a part-time college instructor. What I eat, how I exercise, and figuring out what makes and keeps me and my family happy, all play big parts in living well and living my best possible life.

I have a thirst for learning and sharing new things and post on average three times per week. If this is your first time visiting my blog, please check out some of the following posts to get a quicker feel for the overall vibe of this blog: 

Food (food is the focus of the majority of my posts)
Eating Of course, I'd like to "meet" you as well. So please leave a comment on my posts so that I can check out your blog (if you have one) as well.

To subscribe to my blog, click here.

And for those who want to keep updated on the restaurant scene in San Jose, I'm the Examiner writer for San Jose restaurant news.

Thank you for checking out my blog.

Be well,