Thursday, January 4, 2018

Healthy New Year Recipe Round Up

Welcome to 2018! If you are like nearly 40 percent of Americans, you set some New Year's resolutions to improve your life in some way this year. Did you know that only 8 percent actually achieve those outcomes outlined in their resolutions? 8 PERCENT!

Striving to live a healthier life is a common resolution set by many. If this includes you, check out these healthy recipes to start the year off on the right foot. Don't forget to add your favorite workouts, enough sleep, and some scheduled downtime to round out your healthy lifestyle.

If losing weight is on your bucket list this year, you've come to the right place. Weight loss is tough. It has been a personal struggle since I was 8 years old. 2017 turned out to not be an ordinary year and with the help of a personal trainer, I lost 30 pounds. It was a complete overhaul of my workouts and the way I eat. I'm not done yet and realize that maintaining the weight loss will be a lifelong adventure.

For tips on losing the weight, check out these posts.
Planning for weight loss
The secret to weight loss
What happens when you get injured
10 Healthy Recipes

Let's talk nutrition - since it is about 80 percent of the weight loss equation. You cannot outrun your fork and there is no one-size-fits-all approach to meal plans since everyone's body responds differently. Try out different things and find something that works for you and your lifestyle to achieve your goals. A tip for everyone: add protein to each meal.

Losing weight is about finding a balance you can live with. Not everything has to be 'clean eating' - although everyone seems to have their own definition of what clean eating is. Balance side dishes with the main course. Portion size is also very important in keeping calories in check. The 80:20 method is a good rule of thumb; eat healthy 80 percent of the time and leave some room for the occasional indulgence. This can help prevent binges on your favorite unhealthy treat.

The trick that worked for me is managing the margin between calories consumed and calories burned. Recording food in the MyFitnessPal app on my phone, which links to and interacts with the FitBit app, makes it very easy to do this daily without much extra effort or thought. You just have to keep yourself accountable. If you eat it, record it. No exceptions. Keeping promises like this to yourself boosts confidence in the fact that you can do this! You can lose the weight. It takes (a lot of) time, patience, and determination. Don't give up if you have an off day - it will happen! - or if you fall off the wagon and certainly don't beat yourself up about it. Just get back on track immediately. You got this.

Here are some recipes from my friends' and my recipe boxes to get you started:

Ham, Potato and Cheddar Quiche
Low Carb Egg Muffins
Southwest Breakfast Casserole
Spinach Tomato Veggie Omelet

Berry Chicken Salad
Chinese Chicken Cabbage Salad with Peanut Sauce
Southwest Fajita Steak Salad
Very Veggie Pizza Pasta Salad

Slimming Vegetable Soup

Garlic Parmesan Roasted Sweet Potatoes
Southern Slow Cooker Green Beans
Pineapple Baked Beans 
Rainbow Fruit Salad
Spicy Roasted Zucchini

Main Courses:
Caramel Apple Pork Chops
Cocoa Chile Pork Tenderloin with Triple Cherry Sauce
Grilled BBQ Chicken
Lemon Pepper Tilapia
Low Carb Salmon Patties
Rosemary Baked Halibut
Sesame Ginger Steak Cabbage Boats
Sweet & Sour Chicken 

Crock Pot:
Chicken Taco Bowls
Crock Pot BBQ Chicken Wings
Crock Pot Beef Brisket
Crock Pot Chicken Fajitas
Slow Cooker Honey Dijon Ham
Slow Cooker Pineapple Chicken 

This post was sponsored by The Glass Barn, which is funded by the Indiana Soybean Checkoff. 

Monday, January 1, 2018

What happens when you get injured

Everything was going so well. You were on point with nutrition and your workouts were going flawlessly - until you got injured. A pulled hamstring or worse can derail the best of goals and intentions.

So what do you do now?

There are two options: (1) throw in the towel and go back to your old ways of eating and not exercising, or (2) modify your approach.

In an effort to up my running game, I joined a running club late this fall. Like-minded people, scheduled runs - it was like a grown up cross country team. Perfect! What wasn't perfect was pulling my hamstring during a 5K holiday lights fun run in early December. Definitely nothing fun about that! Each run in the following days just didn't feel right and I could not figure out why I was in pain.

Here are some steps to take if you find yourself in a similar situation:

  1. Consult a medical professional to assess if it is a minor injury that will have you on the bench for a few weeks or if it is more serious.
  2. Maintain your routine. If you are still able to do other types of physical activity, substitute those for activities that aggravate your injury, which leads to point three...
  3. Modify your workouts. Let's use the hamstring example for simplicity. Running hurt, but short walks, upper body and ab workouts did not. Find ways to move your body that strengthen it without bothering the injured area. Your doctor or a personal trainer can give you some tips on this if you are not sure what you can do.
  4. Continue your nutrition plan. An injury does not have to derail your fitness goals. Nutrition is a major component in the equation. Continue meal planning and eat healthy, nutritious meals. You will feel better.
  5. Start slow. When you get the all clear to start again when your injury heals, start slow. Do not attempt a six mile run on the first day back. This part takes some restraint, but you will thank yourself later

Keep moral high and prevent your mindset from assuming the worst, even if the diagnosis is not good. Find new methods to achieve your goals in the meantime. You might even find new cross training activities you enjoy.

For more weight loss advice, check out these other posts:
Planning for weight loss
The secret to weight loss
10 Healthy Recipes

Planning for weight loss

So you want to lose a few pounds or maybe the number is much higher than that. Congratulations! You are about to embark on a transformation journey that will change your life in every way, from how you eat to your mindset on exercise and even your confidence and how you live your life.

Before we get there, we need a plan. Just like a good road trip, this journey needs a road map.

Plans are great. Planning and dreaming are different, however. Dreaming about how amazing it will feel to be free of all of the extra weight literally dragging us down and the confidence that will radiate from us is inspiration. That alone, however, will not get us there. We need a plan.

How do we start planning for weight loss? Much like you would for a strategic initiative. You need a mission and a vision. Let's start with the big picture. What will your life be like when you reach your weight loss goal? What will you be able to do? This is the dreaming stage, so think big. A mission goes hand in hand with a vision and is more of a purpose statement. What is the purpose of this weight loss journey?

One of the most important areas to think through before embarking on this journey is why you want to lose weight and improve your health. Are you hoping to fit into a smaller dress size for an upcoming event? Are you tired of having no energy and feeling run down? Do you realize that you deserve so much better than how you have treated yourself and your body? There is no wrong answer to this question. Do keep in mind that while it's always great to look great at a particular event, that cannot be the reason why. If it is, it will be very difficult to sustain your weight loss. Been there, done that. That can definitely be a driving factor in the short term, but find a long term motivation as well. This is different for everyone.

Now that we know why we want to change our lives, we need to set some goals. What are you going to do? By when? There can be multiple goals. We want these to be specific. For example, I want to lose 4 percent of my body weight this month. This is specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely. SMART goals are smart for a reason.

How are we accomplishing these goals? What actions will make it happen? This is where you pull out the calendar, schedule your workouts, and plan some meals. Add any other activities that motivate you and assist in accomplishing your goals.

Big goals can be overwhelming. It can help to break the large change into milestones. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Let's revisit the example of losing 4 percent of body weight in a month. The overall goal may be to lose 10 pounds. 10 pounds can seem like a lot when you are struggling during a workout or not used to your healthier meal plan yet. Seeing the light at the end of the tunnel assists with perseverance.

You'll also need a plan for when life gets in the way and things get off course. Since you are planning, it's obvious that you do not want to give up. What can you do to get back on track immediately? How will you be kind to yourself about the slip up? How can you prevent it from happening again?

Accountability. Without it, you may fall off the wagon. Each of us are different and the method of accountability will also vary. A personal trainer is wonderful accountability, but a fitness-minded friend can also fill the role. If you'd rather not check in with anyone, check in daily with yourself in a journal. Did you meet today's goals? What can you improve on tomorrow? You may have to try a few methods before you find the one that clicks with your life.

Enjoy the process!

For other weight loss advice, check out these posts:
The secret to weight loss
What happens when you get injured
10 Healthy Recipes

The secret to weight loss

Losing weight is a roller coaster. Anyone who has gained and lost the same 5 to 10 pounds year after year can attest to that. There has to be a secret to all of this. (There is - keep reading to learn more about it!)

Life is busy and there are so many commitments and people competing for limited hours in the day. How is it possible to fit in healthy meals and exercise and all these healthy habits when there is barely time to sleep?

These are all questions I've asked myself far too many times over the years. I'm too busy. I'll start after the holidays. After this project is over. After the State Fair when I'm not surrounded by delicious treats 24/7.

And my motivation for losing the weight was always different, but always the same. It was usually a milestone or an event. I wanted to look amazing when I ran for national president of a student dairy science organization the summer before my senior year of college. And I did. It didn't take long for the success to unravel later that summer and by the time school started, I was about 10 pounds heavier. Ugh. Why does this keep happening? I was asking this in college and still asking it nearly 10 years later. Why can't I keep it off?

I wanted a quick fix. To lose the weight quickly so that I would look (and hopefully feel) perfect for _____ event (Fill in the blank). Quick fixes don't work. Those drops that require near starvation don't work. Exercising five hours a day quickly leads to injury and burnout. Cutting calories significantly leads to a binge. What gives? Torture to fit into smaller jeans does not work.

What does? A lot of work. Yeah, yeah...we've heard this before. Exercise several times a week and eat healthy foods. Watch portion sizes and get enough sleep. We got it.

My weight has been a struggle and major insecurity since I was 8 years old and I've been looking for the secret to quick and permanent weight loss since 1996. What did I find on this quest?

It took me until this year to figure it out. The secret to weight loss - and most importantly, keeping it off - is believing in yourself. It sounds cliche, but it's not. On the surface it's easy to say that we believe in ourselves and know we can do anything we set our minds to. We can also go to extremes for a short time if needed. That's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about the deep belief that comes from surprising yourself and overcoming challenges you never thought you could. This includes fitness accomplishments and others outside the gym as well.

Extra weight is an insecurity, and also a security blanket. It can be a way to protect yourself from getting too close to anyone and anyone really getting to know you. (I mean, what if they criticize my weight or just don't like me?! Ahh!)

It's critical to get uncomfortable in this process. Push yourself further than you think you can go in your workouts and have the power and strength to tell yourself no. No, you cannot eat all of that pasta, but you can have a serving of it. Workouts get hard and there is some pain as strength is improving. It's so easy to stop or switch to another exercise. However, if there is serious pain, by all means, listen to your body and stop.

Don't always listen to the voice in your head, though. That voice doesn't always like change. That voice may also try to sabotage your progress. That's why it is so important to believe in yourself.

If you aren't sure where to start or don't truly believe in yourself (it's okay - it's a hard thing to do in this process), surround yourself with people that can help you. Hiring a personal trainer was one of the best investments I've ever made. She wouldn't let me stop in the middle of a set just because it was getting hard and I wanted to switch to something else. The accountability was just what I needed.

Weight loss is truly a process and not an easy one. I'm still learning how true this statement is every day. Hitting your goal weight on the scale or fitting into those jeans is cause for celebration, but it is not reason to stop.

Know the reason you want to change your life. For me, it was my confidence. I didn't feel confident in my own skin and it held me back at work and in my personal life. It's okay to want to fit into a smaller dress size, but have a bigger reason in mind. What will keep you going long term? After all, health is a marathon and not a sprint. Speaking of marathons, training starts soon for my spring half marathon.

It's not easy, but it is worth it. I know, this post is full of cliches, but they are true. We are all in this together. If you're in the same boat, share what has helped you lose weight and keep the weight off. Let's create a community and support each other.

For more weight loss advice, check out these posts:
Planning for weight loss
What happens when you get injured
10 Healthy Recipes

Friday, December 29, 2017

Weekly Meal Plan #52


 Happy New Year, friends! We're back at it with another Keeping It Easy Weekly Meal Plan Week 52 - the last plan of 2017!

Friday, December 22, 2017

Weekly Meal Plan #51

Weekly Meal Plan #51

Weekly Meal Plan #51 is going to bring you lots of comfort which is just what we all need as we end 2017.  Simply click on the recipe names and, voila, you will be directed to the page that holds the magic list of ingredients for Weekly Meal Plan #51. Happy cooking and baking!

  Weekly Meal Plan #51 is filled with delicious breakfast, lunch and dinner options. Save room for Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookies, too!
We are starting this week with dessert. Why? Because we can!! People may look at you funny when you tell then you made Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookies but they are going to FLIP once they taste them!

  Fall in love with Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookies but be forewarned - it's very hard not to eat all of these baked goodies when they come out of the oven!
Begin your day with Desserts Required's Berry Brioche Bread Pudding. This may not be your typical breakfast but it sure does make everyone happy!

  Desserts Required's Berry Brioche Bread Pudding with its raspberries and blueberries is perfect for July 4th. The raspberry liqueur sauce is a delicious and easy recipe, too. 
 Kimmi's Dairyland has a meal that is perfect for the chilly night. Kimmi is sharing her friend's BBQ Chicken Chili. It was a winner at her office and is sure to be one in your home.
Marybeth at My Fearless Kitchen has a terrific option for those of us with crazy schedules. Her Stay-or Go Burritos are ready in the freezer when you want them or you simply 'grab' one as you are heading out the door.

Chicken Bacon Gouda Pasta from Raquel at Organized Island is a flavorful dish filled with ingredients that mesh perfectly together. I mean, seriously, don't you see the BACON?!?  

The Shirley Journey is sharing her Tomato & Mozzarella Steak Sandwich with Homemade Basil Mayo which is an ideal choice when you are looking for an easy dinner menu. Best of all, it is very versatile and can be changed to suit your needs. 
The Crumby Kitchen has a decadent idea with her Chorizo Beef Wellington with Cilantro Pesto. This special occasion meal is a fabulous option for New Year's Eve!


Have a terrific week and feel free to swap the meals around to fit your schedule!  

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Family Memories at the Sale Barn

Holidays are a time when families near and far come together to create timeless memories. Many of our timeless memories, however, were not created during the holidays.

One of my favorites involves our Saturday tradition of going to the nearby livestock auction, or the sale as we call it. This was part of Grandpa's Saturday routine for as far back as I can remember.  He would meet some other farmers for lunch and then watch the sale for an hour or so. My brother tagged along from a young age and always wanted to be just like Grandpa. I started attending on a more regular basis in high school.

The sale was more than just the auctioning of cattle and other livestock. It was a time to come together as an agricultural community. Our cows like routine and so do we, and this was a weekend staple. It was a fun way to share our love of cattle and farming, as well as catch up with others at the sale.

Over the last few years, Grandpa's visits to the sale became more and more infrequent, except when I was home and would take him. The last time we went together he was hesitant to go. He said nobody would know him or care that he was there. He was nearing his 93rd birthday and had been part of this community for his entire life. As we were leaving the sale, the auctioneer said, "Goodbye Mr. Johnson!" over the loud speaker. This simple gesture meant the world to a 92-year-old farmer who felt like he was too old to be remembered or involved in anything anymore. It also meant the world to me.

The sale barn created memories for many people in our community, and this was ever so evident when the auctioneer passed away in November of this year. The outpouring of support is what I love about small towns. I am still so thankful for Ron's (the auctioneer) kindness toward Grandpa that day and for our town.

Without realizing it, Grandpa set quite the example for my brother and me and he is the reason we are both involved in farming today. Whether we were helping with hay, feeding cows, walking show cows and getting ready for the next show or anything else, he was always willing to help. 

These days, I'm creating my own memories at the sale barn in Indiana. It's 2,000 miles and a world away from the sale barn back home, but I know Grandpa is still there with me.

What are your favorite family memories?