A Lesson on Balance & Comfort – Brought to you by my crockpot.

For a while now I’ve been using my crockpot as storage. The most action it’s gotten in the past few months have been the bottom of miscellaneous stacked bowls. This also goes for my gym membership. For awhile, my $39.99 membership mine as well had been cash I dropped on the ground. I wasn’t going. I couldn’t get myself up to go before work, and couldn’t get myself to go after. I had been a morning person before, so I knew, eventually, I’d be back at it. But it took time. I am four months into my first big girl job and I have finally nailed down my schedule and daily routines. As I continue to get used to my new schedule, I’m slowly learning how to balance my time in order to keep a balanced diet and a balanced social life. I wasn’t really sure what clicked. It could have been seeing the dust on my crock pot, realizing that I don’t cook anymore. It could have been that I work for a denim company, and that denim was getting a little tighter as the holidays drew closer. It also could have been my swollen face from taking in way too much sodium, which made me realize I didn’t have to participate in every happy hour special, no matter how good $5 beers and half off nachos tasted. I realized I was missing this little thing called moderation, self discipline and general comfort in my clothing. In the past few years, I’ve gradually graduated from the phase of wanting to be a size 4, to focusing on comfort and overall health and happiness.

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So – I’ve laced up my shoes, given in to my alarm clocks, and made a few moderate changes that have gone a long way. My energy has already improved a long with my attitude. Results take time, but I feel them coming (I know, just in time for me to have four helpings of eggplant parmesan on Christmas). Sundays, for me, are crucial. As are my weekends. I have started to make the best out of my Sundays. I make sure to make a trip to the gym, whether it’s a good or bad workout, it’s a workout, and I always feel great after it. I make sure to not binge on fried food and carbs, and allow myself to eat something I love, in moderation, like the sushi roll and gluten free cookie I had yesterday. I grocery shop, make sure I’m outside even if it’s just a walk to the gym or store, and cook up some food for the week. The only thing I let myself binge on is Netflix. It is Sunday, after all.

I have been using my crock pot a lot recently. Meal prepping for the week has me in the kitchen like a spazz and using the crockpot has really calmed down the process. I throw a few different ingredients into my crockpot – leave it for a few hours – and there I have it. Dinner or lunch for every day of the week.

Chicken Chili Soup

Don’t worry – it tastes better than it looks. Confession – this wasn’t supposed to be a soup. I decided to wing it and threw the below ingredients into my crock pot. Though I was hoping for a chili, it turned out a bit soupy. (Is soupy a word?) It could have easily thickened over night / throughout the course of the day but for now – I’ll call it a soup. Update: It was perfect. Absolutely perfect. 

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1 lb. Chicken Breast
1 cup Chicken Broth (low sodium)
1 can Refried Black Beans
1/2 bag mixed veggies (carrots, peas, corn)

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Makes about 4 servings.

1 serving:
326 calories
6 g Fat
28 g Carbohydrates
38 g Protein
(6 g Fiber , 5 g Sugar)

Chicken & Vegetable Soup (with or without Rice)

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3/4 lb Chicken Breast
2 Cup Chicken Broth (low sodium)
1 bag mixed vegetables (cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, corn)

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Makes 3-4 servings.

1 Serving:
254 Calories
3 g Fat
10 g Carb
35 g Protein

Optional: Make your soup into 4 servings and add rice. I cooked quinoa and brown rice and mixed it together – switching it up every now and then is important! (Recommended serving size – 1/2 cup cooked rice)

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IIFYM, Eat Clean, Paleo – What’s Next?

I recently got a little made fun of for my “Clean Eating” mantra, which inspired me to briefly go over what it means to #eatclean. So there are a million different ways of eating out there, and I’ve tried a few of them.

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I started dieting with an IIFYM approach. At the time, I had no idea that I was even following this fad. For those of you who are out of the loop, IIFYM stands for If It Fits Your Macros. I don’t like to get all scientific, but this ones science. You need a caloric deficit, Calories in, calories out, yadda yadda… “science”. Anyways, IIFYM promotes flexible dieting. It is a GREAT approach for beginner dieters, and those who are just starting their journey towards awesomeness.  IIFYM was the main reason I was so successful with my weightloss journey. I counted my calories on an app called My Net Diary. In my About Me, I listed a few foods I ate that helped me get in the groove and drop a few pounds. Because I wasn’t completely restricted to chicken and broccoli, dieting became fun. I have undiagnosed OCD, and my diet was something I had complete control over, and I liked that. I fit Special K cereal into my diet, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and a healthy serving of pasta and chicken for dinner, all as long as it fit into my available macronutrients! I was not limiting myself, but I was controlling my portions and measuring serving sizes to make sure I was on track. Paleo people cringe at the thought of IIFYM. That’s because it technically allows processed foods, dairy, gluten, anything and everything. If you really wanted, you could have a pop tart for dinner. If it fits your macros. Fitness competitors also use IIFYM to make “gains” in their off season. From my research (brought to you by Instagram, Twitter, etc), IIFYM seems to be commonly used by those with an already fast metabolism and those who are just discovering the calorie counting process and benefits of changing your diet. It seems that many people start with IIFYM, and move on to a cleaner diet eventually when they want to reach some serious goals. Though IIFYM is often abused, I have no negative thing to say about this diet strategy because it is all about what works for you. If Pop Tarts and Reeses get you to where you need to be, so be it.

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And this is where my thoughts collide. I’ve recently been trying to find a balance in my diet and mind about food. As I said before, I started with an IIFYM approach. Now, I often find myself cringing at the thought of processed foods. Not to mention, I am gluten and dairy intolerant, so IIFYM would make me just as limited. So yeah, you’re following science. You might be eating chicken and veggies for lunch, but Reeses and ice cream for dinner. Ah! Filling your body with chemicals you can’t even pronounce? You might be fitting in your calories, but your insides are not thanking you. There is actual research that proves that these foods are poisonous to your body. They are also very addictive, as well as chemically made. Not real food.

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So you opt for a bowl of cereal instead of a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast. Yeah, they might have the same macronutrients, but there are more cons than pros. One including, those processed foods increase your serotonin levels (I’m talkin’ science, people). Serotonin causes you to be drowsy, tired, and lazy. When I follow my #eatclean way of eating, which is as close to Paleo as possible, everything gets better. And yeah, I mean everything. I feel energized. My skin shines, my hair looks healthier, my thoughts are positive and clear, and my body just feels right. But also, who the hell can eat one serving of Reeses cereal without going for round two? Not me. Reeses are the bomb dot com. Anyways, what I was trying to mention in the top of this paragraph was that I’m trying not to be so gosh darn anal about what I put in  my body. Yes, it’ll help me in the long run, but sometimes you have to throw your chicken and broccoli out the window and stop at Taco Bell. Also, nobody wants to go out to eat with someone who isn’t going to eat. For example, Friday night we went to a Burlesque show at one of my favorite local restaurants, Jackie O’s. They have an unbelievable gluten free menu. I was wondering all week about what I was going to eat there, because I am really trying to follow my plan! There’s a difference between a healthy lifestyle and trying to lose weight. When you’re trying to lose weight, you can’t throw out your chicken and broccoli for Taco Bell. It is important to follow your diet to the best of your ability, your body will thank you later.

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I thought maybe I would just eat dinner before we went, but then I thought about how not fun it would be watching everybody chow down on pizza. They have burgers, so I ordered the morning burger, which is a burger with an egg on top! No bun, no cheese. And yeah, I ate the chips, thanks Chardonnay.

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Okay, back to clean eating. Clean eating doesn’t mean you spray your food with windex. Clean eating means you opt for food with as little ingredients as possible.

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I started getting into the #eatclean fad when Instagram became more popular. Sophomore year I would follow all these profiles with great clean eating recipes that looked delicious. I was in the dorms, so I started #eatingclean with the best of my ability. Our market at school sucked. There were no fresh fruits, veggies, or meats. So I bought what I could at the market and the rest at the grocery store. When I went to the dining hall, which wasn’t that often, I would get a salad or a deli sandwich on wheat bread. I was lucky if they had chicken and brown rice. In my dorm room I would have oatmeal for breakfast, or Smart Start cereal with added FiberOne cereal and fruit. I also got egg beaters and microwaved them with broccoli and would make sandwiches with those Whole Wheat Flat Out wraps and thins.  I was obsessed with Wasa Crackers and the Laughing Cow Cheese wedges. I would spread those on the Wasa crackers with some Deli Turkey meat and have a baggie of carrots and broccoli for lunch. My snacks were apples, veggies, bananas, or granola bars. I was trying to follow a low-fat diet at the time, so I didn’t have peanut butter as much. But when I did I would make peanut butter and banana sandwiches. For dinner I would have the One Minute Ready Rice cups, with microwavable chicken and veggies. I steamed my veggies by putting them in a microwavable bowl with water for about five minutes.

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My body slowly started craving more fresh foods, and by junior year I was in full force with my clean eating lifestyle. Not to mention, I actually had a kitchen to cook in. Perks. So I started really cooking for myself my junior year. Breakfast was omelets, with Feta cheese! (Oh how I miss cheese sometimes) Sometimes I just had oatmeal or yogurt with granola. That was before I got into putting protein in almost every meal. For instance, sometimes for dinner I’d have soup and salad. Sometimes the salad would have a protein in it, sometimes it wouldn’t. I still would enjoy a nice sandwich every now and then (I may or  may not have just started drooling because I really want a sandwich now, it’s the little things).  My junior year is also when I started getting a lot more into Crossfit and lifting. I was gaining a little muscle and getting stronger without even realizing it. I started researching how to eat for performance, and started eating like an athlete. For instance, I started making protein and vegetables my main focus, and keeping carbs involved for performance and recovery.

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Once I started noticing the gains I was making from Crossfit, I couldn’t stop! And that’s how I got into Paleo. Somehow, Crossfit and Paleo are paired up. After my research (also brought to you by Instagram, Twitter, etc) I now realize that most crossfit athletes don’t even eat a Paleo diet. Anyways, I grew a girl-crush on Juli Baurer’s PaleOMG website, and really thought Paleo would help me lose weight!

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You figure if you’re eating meats and veggies, nuts and seeds, fruit and fish, and healthy fats, you would lose weight, fast! Well I didn’t exactly lose weight. I’ve heard of many successful weightloss stories from the Paleo diet, but my results were not consistent and I learned that it was not for me. My body changed though. I realized what it actually felt like to be happy, mentally and physically. My physique changed. My booty lifted, my shoulders broadened. I started to actually look like I at least worked out from time to time. (Which is all why my diet is still mostly Paleo, anyway) Any fitness nerd has that goal in mind. You want everyone to see how hard you work, and your body is a reflection of that. I think that’s my biggest frustration with my body. I kill my workouts, but my stubborn body is not giving me the results I KNOW I can get. Hence my recent diet change. I’m putting everything I know that has worked together. Lifting, HIIT, Cardio, a clean diet, a meal plan, counting calories, and a few moderate treat meals here and there! I know that I have accomplished a lot, and I am more than proud of myself for doing so! I’m hopefully on the road to the body that I have worked so hard for.

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I know I’ve mentioned this a million times throughout my blog, but I can’t stress this enough. It’s not what you’re friends are doing, not what your instagram idol is doing, and sometimes… it’s not even 100% what your nutritionist is telling you to do. It’s what works for you. You have to be well rounded. You aren’t going to get anywhere by depriving yourself, but you also aren’t going to get anywhere by constantly rewarding yourself with food. I’ve shot and missed a million times, and eventually you start knowing your body better than any advice column can tell you.

Yours Truly,

Stef