Sunday, August 17, 2014

Lose It App: Review of Week Six - Kissed 2 More Pounds Goodbye

Previous week reviews full of important notes to check out first if you haven't seen them - week one, week two, week three, week four and week five.

Well, another week has come and gone.  After struggling on a difficult plateau for awhile - plus several days of entertaining that threw off the calorie count - I seem to be dropping regularly again. This week it was 2 pounds which is the goal I had chosen.  As always, I hit a new low and then it bounces slightly up and down for a few days, but each low is followed by a new one. I had lost 5 pounds before I started and have now lost 10-1/2 pounds in my 6 weeks on Lose It - so 15-1/2 pounds since February.

Over this journey, I want to remind readers that this is my body's own unique way of losing weight. No two people will ever have exactly the same experience, so it's always an exploration of what works best for you.  For women, there are many outside issues that can have an affect (links to articles included for more info) - hormones, menopause, thyroid and adrenal, and for both sexes, stress and insomnia.  So give yourself a pat on the back for following a program day-by-day no matter how slowly it comes off. Every time I get discouraged I pull up a mental picture of what a one pound block of butter looks like in the dairy aisle at the grocery store.  Every pound lost is one of those blocks being carved off your body.

My eating habits definitely did need polishing and being accountable for every bite that goes in my mouth certainly has helped.  That said, I had explored a lot in this area including food intolerances (none) and had lost 5 pounds before I started - then totally stalled out.  So what do I feel is the biggest difference?  It's the daily hour and ten minute bike ride I started doing.

Looking at all the possible ways to exercise, this one seemed to fit in with my life the best and burned the most calories per minute - way more than walking which is what I used to do. Seeing Lose It add the calories burned on that ride to the calories I could consume that day was a huge motivation and just what I needed to stay on track.  I have no idea what I will do when the weather changes as the gym just isn't as appealing.

My notes -

1. Pick a reasonable goal. I chose 20 pounds ABOVE my weight when I was married - approximately what I weighed after 3 pregnancies and a bit of aging.  It is not realistic for most of us to reach and maintain what we weighed in high school. After I reach this goal I will re-evaluate whether to stay here or go a little lower. Life is for enjoying, so set a goal that will fit in with how you want to live. Include joy in the equation.

2. Give daily exercise a chance to work it's magic. Over time it helps to raise your metabolism. This doesn't happen in a week or two.  I was feeling a difference by week two in less stress, better sleep and more, but it's week six where I seemed to break the plateau I had been on and the nights I missed my goals didn't seem to have as big an effect on the weigh in the next morning.

3.  Drink lots of water. I can't stress this enough.  I offered a link to an article in week five that talks about the importance of water in losing weight. If you didn't read it, I would suggest you take a moment. Try to aim for half your bodyweight in ounces each day - 150 pounds means 75 fluid ounces.

4.  This is not about dieting.  What calories you chose to consume are up to you. The app is simply calories in, calories out. I still have my beer every afternoon with my feet up. BUT not all calories are equal and most treats of any kind are high in calories and fat. Try to make sure 90-95% of those daily calories are wise choices that allow you to eat more or this will be just another failed attempt at finding that healthy body again.

5.  Unless you have a food intolerance, don't worry about specific foods. It's all about moderation. No one food is bad, just higher and lower in calories and fat.

For inspiration this week I copied the getting started tips below The final advice at the end is in particular something you need to hear. Your body is unique - your journey to a healthy goal will be unique.

Getting started with healthy weight loss

While there is no “one size fits all” solution to permanent healthy weight loss, the following guidelines are a great place to start:
  • Think lifestyle change, not short-term diet. Permanent weight loss is not something that a “quick-fix” diet can achieve. Instead, think about weight loss as a permanent lifestyle change—a commitment to your health for life. Various popular diets can help jumpstart your weight loss, but permanent changes in your lifestyle and food choices are what will work in the long run.
  • Find a cheering section. Social support means a lot. Programs like Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers use group support to impact weight loss and lifelong healthy eating. Seek out support—whether in the form of family, friends, or a support group—to get the encouragement you need.
  • Slow and steady wins the race. Aim to lose one to two pounds a week to ensure healthy weight loss. Losing weight too fast can take a toll on your mind and body, making you feel sluggish, drained, and sick. When you drop a lot of weight quickly, you’re actually losing mostly water and muscle, rather than fat.
  • Set goals to keep you motivated. Short-term goals, like wanting to fit into a bikini for the summer, usually don’t work as well as wanting to feel more confident or become healthier for your children’s sakes. When frustration and temptation strike, concentrate on the many benefits you will reap from being healthier and leaner.
  • Use tools that help you track your progress. Keep a food journal and weigh yourself regularly, keeping track of each pound and inch you lose. By keeping track of your weight loss efforts, you’ll see the results in black and white, which will help you stay motivated.
Keep in mind it may take some experimenting to find the right diet for your individual body. It’s important that you feel satisfied so that you can stick with it on a long-term basis. If one diet plan doesn't work, then try another one. There are many ways to lose weight. The key is to find what works for you.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Chocolate and Vanilla Vegan Puddings with Chia Seeds

Where do new recipes and ideas come from?  So many places. I have very few I invented myself from scratch - but always have my eyes open as I peruse our daily newspapers, magazines at the store and what friends are posting on Facebook. I do have to admit - most I use more as starting points to adapt in some way, but some get used exactly as posted.

Vancouver fashion designer Carlie Wong is one who is always sharing the most interesting dishes. I have been inspired by her tasty creations several times. All of us watch daily for the beautiful pictures she puts online of unique, healthy dishes that make our mouth water.  Several have suggested she should follow this calling, create a cookbook or at the very least, adopt and feed us.

Two days ago she mentioned the basics of Chia Seed puddings. I was instantly intrigued as I have several friends who avoid dairy and gluten so am always looking for unique desserts ideas.  What also interested me was that these are made without nuts. Yes, I actually have a Vegan friend who is allergic to nuts.  So a recipe like this would be a great addition to my cooking arsenal

It didn't take long in an internet search to come up with a couple of options.  The first is the very standard version - Unsweetened Rice Milk or Almond Milk, Chia Seeds, Vanilla and natural sweetener. The recipe I used as a basis was from The Chic Life.  I think this version is best with fresh fruit added and after trying it - I actually think it makes a great breakfast, but not a dessert-y as the second option. Mix it up throw it in the fridge and it's ready in the morning.

The second recipe ended up being more of a dessert in my opinion as it's much more decadent. But it is also higher in calories and fat. The recipe is from The Roasted Root and originally said 10-14 servings.  Maybe, but those would be very small servings.  So I have adjusted it down to 8-10. Other than that I left the recipe pretty much in it's original form.

Before I share the two recipes I tried, I want to offer you a link to a Huffington Post article where they offer a whopping 17 versions to explore -  Chia Pudding: 17 Easy Chia Seed Recipes.

Vanilla Chia Seed Pudding with Fruit
Serves 2 - 4

2 c          Unsweetened Rice Milk (could use unsweetened                                Almond Milk)
1/2 c       Chia seeds (White Chia Seeds if you want a less gray                         colour)
2 T         Honey or for Vegan - Agave or Maple Syrup
1/2 tsp    Vanilla extract
I chose Kiwi, Cantelope and Blackberries (or strawberries,                        or raspberries, etc.)
Place rice milk, chia seeds, sweetener and vanilla in bowl or mason jar and stir. Cover and set in refrigerator.  Take out 20 minutes later and stir again to make sure the seeds don't clump.  Recover and put back in the refrigerator for 6 hours or overnight. Dice fruit into fairly small pieces. Layer in a glass bowl alternating fruit and pudding OR you can layer in individual glasses like in the picture to the right, one per guest.

Vegan Chocolate Chia Seed Pudding
Serves 8-10

1           14-ounce can full fat canned coconut milk
2 C        Unsweetened almond milk
2/3 C     Raw cacao powder
2/3 C     Pure maple syrup
1 tsp      Instant coffee grinds
1 C        Chia seeds - I would use the dark ones here
1 tsp      Vanilla extract
1/2 tsp    Salt
Note - I tucked in 2/3 cup raw cacao nibs at the start just for fun.

Additional topping to offer when Serving:
Chopped pecans
Coconut milk (didn't offer this one)
Shredded coconut
Vegan dark chocolate chips

In a saucepan, heat the coconut milk, almond milk, and raw cacao powder over medium heat. Whisk well until all of the cacao powder have smoothed out and you have a smooth, uniform consistency. This will take a little elbow grease, since cacao powder is stubborn and doesn't like to mix. Remove from heat, add the maple syrup, coffee grinds, vanilla extract, and salt and whisk to combine. Allow this mixture to cool to room temperature.

In a large 2-quart mason jar or bowl, add the chia seeds and chocolate mixture. Stir well with a long wooden spoon.Seal the container and place it in the refrigerator overnight, or at least 6 hours.
Serve with chopped nuts, coconut milk, dark chocolate chips and shredded coconut.

Note - I ended up adding the Chia Seeds before the first mixture was cooled all the way and it still came out great.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Soul Mates

By Christa Leigh Meister

Much has been written on soul mates and though many have tried to explain and describe what they are, it’s still a relatively difficult thing to put into words. In folklore, the story goes that when a soul descends to earth, it splits into two – each half of the soul inhabiting a separate body. These two people are forever ‘soul mates’ and will spend their lives seeking one another.

Do soul mates really exist? Many, including myself, would hazard to say yes. So other than what folk legends describe, how is a soul mate defined? A soul mate is a person with whom you have an immediate connection so strong and indescribable that you know you have never felt anything like it before. As the connection grows over time you experience a love so complex, strong and profound, you begin to question if you've ever truly loved anyone before they came along.

Soul mates are the key to your lock, while possessing the lock to the key that you yourself hold. It’s an unexplained draw… a feeling that you have met a piece of your own heart; the person you were bound by destiny to find and with whom to merge your life. When you meet it’s as though you’ve met before…the connection is instant and easy. You just get each other. The connection is also usually incredibly intense; a feeling like you’ve come home.

The soul mate bond is difficult to break, even during tough times, because you both love each other exactly as you each are and can accept (and even love) one another’s flaws and shortcomings, and you actually embrace them. You feel a deep sense of love and respect for each other and don’t feel a need (nor a pressure) to change for the other person. The energetic connection between soul mates is incredibly strong and they often feel so linked together that they’re able to intuit one another’s emotions, moods and thoughts. It could be said that soul mates are mentally inseparable, not unlike twins. They usually also feel like they can face anything life throws at them as long as they have the other by their side in the journey. 

Soul mates relationships are deeply cerebral and spiritual sanctuaries where one feels a deep sense of protection, security and unity, making it incomprehensible to imagine life without them. A soul mate is someone worth fighting for - someone for whom you would do anything. They are the love of your life and your best friend. They feel like an extension of you. A soul mate is someone who lights up our insides, challenges us and helps us to see our hidden gifts and potential, often at times when we are unable to see it within ourselves.

So are soul mates born or cultivated? I believe in both. By deepening the connection you have with your partner through (mutual) personal growth and commitment to one another and your relationship, you can build a solid foundation with a unified goal of overcoming any challenges that present themselves, together. This is the sign of a true partnership, and with this type of bond comes a deepening of trust, love, intuition and soul connection. You are able to understand and connect in every way and on every level, bringing about a sense of peace, calmness and happiness when you are around them – and even when you are apart.

Being open to signs, people and energies around us allows us to connect with the magic of heart and soul connections waiting to find us and be found. Loving another with every cell of your being can be one of the roughest roads to journey down, but also one of the most fulfilling, and can lead to the most beautiful of places – found both within ourselves and with our partners.

= = = = = =
Christa Leigh Meister is an advocate for health, wellness and personal development while continuously pushing herself towards constant evolution. She is an Academic Instructor with Lasalle College International, her freelance projects have included Co Publishing the 2012 CRAVE Vancouver Guide, and re-branding the Langara Holistic Image Consulting Program, she currently has multiple writing projects in development! Christa believes in building solid long-term partnerships that effectively enrich the lives of those involved and the way to her heart is coffee, cookies and clothing!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Lose It App: Review of Week Five - The Journey Continues!

Links to previous reviews of my journey with the Lose It App come first as always. Each contains important tips -
Week One - Week Two - Week Three - Week Four.

It gets a little harder each week to figure out what to share. This week was rocking in that I hit a great new low by the middle - really exciting. Then had a couple days of not hitting the mark. So the weight bounced up a bit.  But I don't get discouraged.  I have discovered every time I hit a new low, as soon as I refocus, that number quickly reappears soon followed by a new low.

Friday was a momentous day as I finally finished the rough draft of my very first book - Life Outside The Box - but that meant hours at the computer and on the phone. The bike ride didn't happen which meant a lower number of calories allowed that day and then I didn't cook, just went with convenience food. Honestly, it was worth it to finally finish a project I had been working on for a year. Then I headed out to my friend fashion designer Trish Petrovich's launch of her newest Tastemaker Collection - #savethebees (not up on her website yet - but the promo video is below). There was wine and food.  Between the 2, the day did not hit the mark. I was way over.

This was followed by a Saturday group bike ride and picnic with my husband's company - Tour De Ladner this year. The bike ride was great, but not the length or speed I normally put in.  BBQ picnic includes those high caloric salads, fruit and meat in sauces.  Did my best and stayed right around my goal, but it wasn't the really clean follow up day I needed and had hoped for.  Today we have a family dinner.  Doing my best, but I have to accept I'm ending this week on a low note.  No worries, it's back to achieving on Monday.

Overall I have lost 13 pounds since February (8 on Lose-It and 5 before).  I keep envisioning those one pound blocks of butter or margarine at the store and what that means.  The weight is down far enough now that people are starting to notice when I go out and make encouraging remarks.  Talk about motivation. I'm in my 50's, so these kind of compliments just send me over the moon.

No new tips this week - just a short, sweet repeat.

1.  Exercise!  It means you can consume more calories, raises your metabolism, reduces stress and helps you sleep better. Bike riding has proved the ticket for me as it burns a lot more calories than walking and I don't have to go into a sweaty gym. I'm fortunate to live in Richmond where I can bicycle along the dike, enjoying the fresh air.

2. If I take my bike ride mid to late afternoon it seems to help me more with my weight loss goals.  Any caloric foods or alcohol are indulged in before my ride.

3. Drink lots of water - both for health and weight loss.  The current research says half your body weight in ounces (ex. - 150 lbs = 75 ounces of water).  I know it's a lot but it will make a big difference.

Here is an article on the importance of water consumption in dieting for those who would like to know more - Why Drinking Water Is Important for Weight Loss. It also has a different take on how much, but doesn't really offer much guidance on figuring out that number.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Lose It App: Review of Week Four - Down a Bit More!

Rather than repeat too much of the same information, I always start with links to previous weeks.  If you have no experience with this app - best to check these out first -  Week ONE, TWO and THREE.

What is most surprising this week is I am actually down another pound.  Why?  Because this was a long weekend in Vancouver, British Columbia, and that means lots of get-togethers with great food. We had a family visiting from out of town 2 nights and then a barbeque with four friends on another.  Drinks and dessert are always a challenge when you're trying lose weight.  

A few things saved me. First was that I lost the pound before the period of feasting began. Then I worked hard to keep my calories very low during the day to free up as many as possible for supper. I was only over calories on the very last day. Finally, I made sure I had an extra long bike ride each day - one hour and fifteen to twenty minutes. Still, it was with a sigh of relief I weighed myself this morning to see I had held steady and that pound was still gone, as the night before I was definitely well over the daily limit.  I have now lost 12 pounds since February - five before I started Lose-It and seven more in the four weeks I've been using the app. 

Now on to week five. What will be my goals?

1. This week I am back to staying under each day with more balanced calories throughout the day and smaller dinners. This is a healthier way to feed your engine - keeping it regularly stoked with smaller meals - a lifetime pattern to embrace.

2. One change I made this week that seemed to really help was to move my bike ride from the morning to sometime in the mid to late afternoon. I like the cooler morning and it's a great stress reducer before I head into the day's writing, but it seems to have more impact when I schedule it later. We are having an amazingly beautiful summer this year, so riding my bike is a pleasure I have come to enjoy.

3. Any treat you include - alcohol, a sweet or something fried or fatty - is best consumed earlier in the day BEFORE you do your exercise.  Keep them limited and make sure whatever the small delight you just have to have doesn't put you over your calorie count.  

4. No food after 8 p.m.  I've said this before, but it's hit home again how really important this is.

5. Lots of water. We're having a warm summer, so this has become really easy as long as I keep ice around. It's always harder for me to remember when it's cold outside.  But whether warm or cold, you should be drinking half your bodyweight in ounces of water each day.  140 pounds = 70 ounces (8-3/4 cups). It's a lot more than you think, but super important for both your health and your weight loss goals.

That's it for week four - nice and short. I'm glad to be back on track for the next 7 days with no gatherings to attend. Hopefully that will help me realize the 2 pounds per week goal I set at the start. But for this week - I'm just happy to be able to say I am down another pound. And for anyone postmenopausal like myself - it is a struggle, but your goals can be achieved. Just allow more time than what they say as our bodies can really be slow to respond.

Note - don't think 12 pounds is much? Go to the store and try and hold 12 one pound blocks of butter - not the little 1/2 cup ones for baking, the big solid blocks - and think of it wrapped around your body!!! It's a great visual.