Category Archives: Health

Halfway There

January 12, 2016
January 12

A couple of weeks ago, I reached the halfway point on my weight loss goal.

I started at 252 pounds in March, and now weigh 191 pounds.

When you have 112 pounds to lose to get to a healthy weight, even halfway is a big deal (pun intended).

If I had to pick up 56 pounds and carry them around all day, I’d struggle.

23 pounds down, May 17
23 pounds down, May 17

 

Reaching this milestone has had me in a reflective mood. Here are a few of those thoughts:

1. I now fit where I didn’t before.

While at a Royals game with my brother and niece, I realized I fit quite comfortably in a seat that would have been a tighter fit a few months ago.

I also overestimate how much space I need to get around someone/something (which helps my general klutziness).

 

30 pounds down, June 3
30 pounds down, June 3

 

 

2. Self-control isn’t so hard when you have already decided the answer is no.

Key for me has been to make a decision about food choices before the choices have been placed before me.

3. Fruit tastes so much better now.

Prior to four months ago, I rarely ate fruit. I had a doctor tell me one time that I should only eat fruit if I replace another carb…and I’d never replace bread or pasta with fruit.

40 pounds down, June 28
40 pounds down, June 28

 

Now, I eat fruit as a special dessert on hiking days and really look forward to it.

4. You can still eat according to your pleasure, even on a 1200-calorie diet.

I have craved Mexican, pizza, rice and pasta, and have allowed myself those options every time.

Since I’m making my own food, I’m choosing to alter those meals in ways that promote health by upping the veggies, using whole grains or using Greek yogurt as a creamy substitute.

 

50 pounds down, July 21
50 pounds down, July 21

 

5. But I still crave junk sometimes.

Thankfully, it’s never tempting while I’m at the store (again, making the decisions about what I’m going to buy before I set foot in the store), but sometimes when I have no access to the junk, the cravings come.

From past experience, I know that giving in to these cravings will not be as satisfying as I imagine.

6. Weight loss is more about diet than it is about exercise.

I suppose I could have upped my activity by 1300 calories a day instead of lowering how much I’m eating by that amount, but that requires more time than I have.

57 pounds down, August 15
57 pounds down, August 15

In 3-4 hours a week, I can shop for and prepare all the food I need from scratch, compared to multiple hours of exercise a day.

7. It’s been easier than I thought.

Of course, weight loss isn’t easy for everyone: there are so many variables. For me, I had no idea it would be this easy.

I kinda just fell into it, and staying in good habits once established was easier than doing something else.

I’m on track to hit my end goal sometime in the first quarter of 2017.

I’m excited to see how the next five months go.

 

Spill-Over Discipline

Working on my eating habits over the last two-and-a-half months has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. It was saying “no” to myself in an area that I just haven’t really done to that extent before.

I’m thankful that this was an area that had some immediate effects. Even the stomach growls as I transitioned into eating half (or probably less, honestly) the calories I was previously eating was a reminder that I was on the right path.

As I continued making the right choices, the shrinking of the waist and the extra energy were also nice side effects, but the benefits of disciplined eating have gone beyond these things.

overflowing cupI’ve noticed that any time that I focus on one discipline, it has had positive ramifications on other disciplines. Since I’ve focused on eating according to what my body truly needs, I’ve had a cleaner house and have been better in how I use my time.

Part of it, I’m sure, is that it has the same root cause (focusing on my life plan), but I don’t think that is the whole story. I’ve noticed this in my past as well: If I am being “good” in one thing, I’m less tempted to be “bad” in another area. It just feels good to keep doing the things that I know will help me in the long-term.

Ultimately, that’s all discipline is: working towards long-term goals instead of for short-term pleasures. I’m by no means perfect in this. I feel like I’m no where near where I should be at the age of 33, but I’m thankful for the progress that I have made.

I probably will regress in one or more areas, as I have before. But these last couple of months have shown me that this is something that I can do.

And that is a lesson well worth learning.

Photo by Vladimer Shioshvili

Eating for Weight Loss on a Budget

Quick update: I’m now down 28 pounds. A quarter of the way to my goal!

I mentioned when I talked about losing weight on a budget that I am not spending more on food than I was previously. It’s a little early to tell, but I actually think I might end up spending less.

I’m sharing this today not because I think that everyone can follow what I do, but hopefully to give you some ideas of what you might be able to do yourself.

I don’t buy diet foods. Almost everything I eat, I make from scratch. This is absolutely how I can control the ingredients and keep the calories within the range I need to eat.

I no longer am eating for pleasure (though I do enjoy what I eat). I’m eating for fuel, and I believe that these are the choices that are not only going to help me lose weight, but also stay healthy.

Might be eating healthier if all but one thing from today’s grocery shop needs fridge/freezer.

A photo posted by Ronnica Rothe (@ronnicaz) on

Breakfast

I work evenings, so my “breakfast” is at noon. As it is my only meal at home, I make a smoothie with my Nutribullet.

Ronnica’s smoothie recipe
1 cup no-fat Greek yogurt
3/4 cup frozen fruit
1 cup spinach
1 small piece of kale
1/3 medium carrot
1/4 cup oat bran
1 tablespoon chia seed
1 tablespoon flax seed
1/2 cup water

I’ve had these every day (travel excluded) for the past 6 weeks, and I’ve not gotten bored. I vary the fruit according to my fancy. I will probably also start varying the veggies some, too.

To keep costs down, I’ll be shopping around for good deals on fruit this summer and freeze them.

To keep the spinach and kale fresh for a few weeks, I wash it, dry it, then place it in paper towel lined plastic containers. (I really need to invest in tea towels!).

Lunch

My 4:00 “lunch” at work is always muffins. I make my own, usually with a fruit or veggie in it. I make a week’s worth of muffins on my cooking day (currently Saturday). This has my only added sugar for the day: 1 tablespoon of sugar per day.

Dinner

Dinner varies from week to week, but it is the same every day in any given week, as I make a batch of it on my cooking day. I’ve made carrot-infused turkey meatloaf, mini quiches and stews with various spices. My favorite has been Mexican-flavored stew with a little bit of chicken and a lot of veggies. At one large chicken breast per week, this is all the meat I usually eat.

Snacks

If I have not reached my calorie count for the day, I’ll end my day with a snack. So far, I’ve been eating up the snacks I already had, but I’ll probably lean towards snacks of nuts or cheeses.

I’ll also be adding in more fresh veggies as the growing season allows. The great thing about veggies is that they allow you to feel full without adding in a lot of calories.

Weekends

Weekends I start my day with a smoothie, but tend to vary my evening meal. Lately, I’ve  gotten on a cheese bread kick (made with homemade, whole-wheat dough which I freeze). Though this is more calories than I eat in one meal any other time in the week, I usually replace both lunch and dinner with it.

What healthy, from-scratch meals do you make?

Losing Weight on a Budget

Last week I shared why I wanted to lose weight. Initially, I planned on putting today’s post in with it, but as you read, I had a lot to say about motivation.

Now that I’ve covered my motivation, here’s the tools I’m using to lose weight:

IMG_27341. Apps – Fitbit and My Fitness Pal

I’ve had a Fitbit One for over 2 years now, and it’s been one of the best birthday presents I’ve ever received. I’m motivated by competing against others and against myself. I like that it also tracks the number of floors I climb. I sneak in steps wherever I can to make my 10,000 step goal at least 6 days a week.

I only recently started using My Fitness Pal. I like the ease in which I can log food from my computer or app. I’ve logged food in the past, but I’ve forgotten how much it helps in eating within my designated calorie range. Tracking food takes me only a couple of minutes a day, but it’s a huge tool in losing the weight.

2. Accountability

I haven’t needed accountability to remain on track…yet. I know that won’t always be the case. I recently asked 3 friends to hold me accountable to my eating and exercise goals. While it’s not their job to keep me on track, I will be encouraged to stay on track knowing that they that they will be asking me about it.

3. Food

What I eat is the biggest change I made 6 weeks ago. I’m not following a formal plan,  I’m simply eating the way that I know I should.

Half of what I eat now is now veggies (and a little fruit). I eat very little processed food and on most days, eat less than a serving of meat. When I’m eating what I make (which is most of the time), my bread products are almost exclusively whole grain, though I don’t eat a lot of it. I eat a tablespoon or less of added sugar a day, only allowing myself to cheat this on special occasions.

And oh yeah, I’m eating a whole lot less than I used to. By eating so much less, I am spending no more than I used to, though now most of what I am buying is real, unprocessed food.

4. Supplements

I’m not using any weight-loss “supplements” or plans. However, I have found a supplement (called inositol) that aides my PCOS symptoms, including my intense craving for sugar. I had no idea that my craving was medically-driven, but I’m thankful to have now identified it.

I don’t know what medical factors may be contributing to your own health issues, but I strongly encourage you to seek a doctor for guidance as you begin your own health journey.

5. Exercise

I’ve listed this last, because it’s been the smallest factor in my weight loss thus far. I have been walking 10,000 steps most days for a couple of months now, but it wasn’t until I added the diet changes that I started to see major health changes. In addition to the steps, I’ve added strength exercises once a week.

I would like to add in strength exercises an additional day a week and to start swimming laps again at some point, but for now, I’m happy with the amount of activity I am getting in.

Next week in the 3rd part of this 3 part series, I’ll be sharing more about how I have changed my diet.

I received no compensation for mentioning a few specific products in this post. After all, veggies don’t have a big promotional budget.

Motivation for Losing Weight

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I’ve been motivated lately to work daily towards my newly-defined life goals. One of these over-arching goals is “to honor my body as the temple of the Holy Spirit.” The big area where I was not doing that is with my weight, particularly with what I ate.

Next week I’ll be sharing how I’m losing weight on a budget, but I want to spend time this week talking about my motivations first. While this is not and will not be a weight loss blog, I very much believe that being a good steward covers using our bodies properly.

In March of this year, I weighed 252 pounds. At 5’3″, a healthy weight would be under 140 pounds, so I was 112 pounds overweight.

Taken in January, I'll consider this my before pic.
Taken in January, I’ll consider this my before pic.

How did I get here?

Weight is something that I have struggled with–or should have, when I wasn’t resigned to it–my whole adult life. In college thanks to a Dr Pepper habit and “free” access to every form or fast food or junk food I could want, I gained the stereotypical freshman 15…and a sophomore 15, junior 15 and senior 15. When I left college, I continued to gain weight.

I’m very thankful that I’ve always been encouraged to have a positive body image by my family and friends, but I’ve abused that to enable my overeating habits. I felt little motivation to forego the immediate satisfaction of a bowl of chocolate chip ice cream for a smaller waist, let alone long-term health.

Where am I now?

Since March, I have lost 22 pounds, most of that in the last month. I’ve been here before. There have been several periods of time that I have made better choices and worked backwards, losing up to 20 pounds at a time. But something would happen, or I’d get busy, and that weight would sneak back on.

Motivation for the long term

Anyone who has struggled with weight understands that it is truly a struggle. Currently, the burden seems light, but I know that it will not always be so. In order to keep going down the narrow path, I will need to keep reminding myself of my motivations to walk this way:

1. To honor my body as the temple of the Holy Spirit (from 1 Corinthians 6:19). First Corinthians 9:27 has been a huge motivator for me in this as well: “but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.” I cannot worship the idol of food (comfort) and God.

2. To have the energy and flexibility to do the things I need and want to do. Ten years ago I suffered a lower back injury (slipped disc) that has plagued me since. While I’ll never have full movement, the less excess weight I carry decreases the likelihood of complications from this back injury.

Bad knees also run in my family. If I do not take care of my weight now, I will have pain and mobility issues.

3. To be a good witness to others. If I truly believe that God is better than anything else, why do I so often reach for that piece of junk food?

These are all things that I have spelled out in the life plan I read regularly. Reading it regularly helps me to remember the why behind what I know that I need to do.

Next week, I’ll talk about what I have been doing to get healthy without spending outside my budget.

Health Care and Finances

6722544475_524a721154_bA few weeks ago, Riley and I sat down to discuss his company’s annual open enrollment–the time of year when employees pick and choose what insurance and other benefits they would like for the coming year.

While we didn’t change much as far as plans are concerned, this and other events of the last few months got me to thinking about health care and finances.

Do you know how incredibly easy it is to go into debt because of medical expenses?  I feel like not a day goes by that I don’t read or hear something about the increasing costs of health care.  Even with insurance, things are expensive.  Insurance itself can be expensive.  What’s more, not every procedure or expense is “optional”–for some, it is life-altering or life-saving, and therefore absolutely necessary.

If going into debt is not the greatest option out there, but the alternative is to not receive the medical care one needs…then what options are left?

Obviously this is a difficult question that far too many people struggle to answer.  Each case is unique, and each family comes with their own set of priorities, so I’m not going to pretend to hold an answer on this.  I will, however, share a few things that have proven helpful to our family as we navigate the often-complicated world of healthcare and finances.

1.  Prevention is key.  No-brainer here.  Eating a healthy diet, exercising, and reducing stress are emphasized as preventative measures everyone should take in order to stay healthy.  But what if the medical issue at hand is not preventable?  What if the person in question is experiencing issues outside their control–a congenital condition, accident, etc.?  The next tip may be helpful in such instances.

2.  Look into insurance plans and a Health Savings Account.  While many plans can be expensive, they also tend to be cheaper than paying out of pocket medical expenses.  There are many options for choosing insurance; check out what may be available to you.

Also helpful are Health Savings Accounts (HSAs).  These tax-free accounts can aid in paying for deductibles, co-pays, and many other medical costs.  Many employers will contribute funds to them, too.

3.  Get on the phone.  This isn’t a fun option for most, but it is so vital to get a price check on potentially costly procedures, so you can make sure you have an idea of what you may be facing, financially-speaking.  Oftentimes this starts with a call to your health provider to get the medical codes for the procedure or exam in question, and then you call your insurance provider with those codes to see what exactly is going to be covered.

If you find the procedure or exam to be out of your financial realm, then that brings us to the next tip…

4.  See what may be free or negotiable.  There are a wealth of services that may be available to you (see this post for a sampling) at little or no charge.  It also is helpful to contact the financial services department of your health provider to see if there is any assistance that may be available–for example, some hospitals may provide a discount to those who pay in cash, or others have funds for those who are under-insured.  Still others are willing to work with patients in various ways if funds are limited.

Although these tips have proven helpful for us, this is certainly not an exhaustive list, and since each situation is different these tips may not apply to you.  What tips would you add?

Photo by 401kcalculator.org

There’s Sugar in WHAT?

Awhile back, I mentioned how our family tries to eat as healthy as possible.

Okay, so maybe it’s more of a “mention”–it’s something I’m pretty passionate about as a wife and mother. Striving to be a good steward of one’s body is a whole lot easier than it looks, though.

One of the sneakier culprits that regularly unrails our healthy eating efforts: sugar.

This increasingly common ingredient tastes delicious, is addicting, goes by many different names (witness: dextrose, maltodextrin, glucose, etc.), and is rampant. It is in so many different things that you would never think of sugar to be in. (I am referring here to added sugar, not to natural sugars found in nutrient-rich foods such as fruit.)

1. Peanut Butter
I kid you not. Ingredient #2 on the ingredient list is sugar.

unnamed (36)

How we solved that: Buying all natural peanut butter, with no sugar included. Just peanuts and salt. I will warn you that such peanut butter has a different consistency than the sugar-laden variety, but we have found storing it in the refrigerator helps alleviate any issues.  It is just as delicious as the typical variety.

2. Bread
Did you know some brands actually have several different kinds of sugar included in their breads? Crazy!

How we solved that:  We buy sprouted grain breads, or make our own to control the sugar involved. The former is a bit on the costly side, but it’s worth it to me. The latter requires time, but the kids enjoy helping out. (Side note:  Next month, I will talk about my foray into making sourdough bread…stay tuned!)

3. “Healthy” frozen dinners
Awhile back, I bought into the theory that if a frozen food product is marketed as both simple to prepare and healthy, that automatically makes it a legitimate claim. Not so. While there are some brands that truly are both easy to make and healthy, you have to look out for the “cane syrup” and “dextrose” that is oh-so common.

How we solved that:  Bulk-cook meals ahead of time. This requires more time up-front, but in the long run is both cheaper AND sugar-free.

If you think I am a food purist, think again!  Next week, I will talk about my food splurges.  Going sugar-free is definitely a work in progress!

Eggs: Delicious, Nutritious, and Cheap

unnamedI was 27 before I got to experience first-hand where eggs come from.  Thanks to a friend who raised chickens in her backyard, I learned that eggs usually have to be washed before eating (because chickens don’t care where they relieve themselves), that eggs were not always white (coloring varies depending on the chicken breed), that some eggs have double yolks (!), and that they can even have different flavors (!!).

Eggs are an oft-maligned or overlooked kitchen staple that are also delicious, highly nutritious, easy to implement into recipes and-best of all-are relatively inexpensive. Eggs are the perfect food wrapped up in a neat shell package!

Since money was tight at times growing up, I have many memories of eggs of every kind–even microwaved scrambled eggs for a high-protein (read:  filling) bedtime snack.  Yet for a few years, the cholesterol levels of eggs (among other things) was highlighted, and turned many off of this wonder food.

Not our family though.  We don’t have any health issues (like allergies) that would rule out the use of eggs, so we use a relatively high number of eggs in between grocery shopping trips.  My personal preference is vegetarian-fed, free-range eggs (surprise surprise), but any egg will get you a good dose of protein, lutein, and antioxidants.

The only eggy struggle we have come up against is getting picky Bean to eat scrambled eggs; it’s a work in progress, as is most anything with a picky toddler!  Otherwise we eat them hard boiled (a great snack!), scrambled, in omelets, and use them in recipes often.  Eggs are a great option for those trying to be better stewards not only of their finances, but also of their bodies.

How do you like your eggs?

Healthy Snacking

Full disclosure:  it’s tough for me to snack healthy.

This flies in the face of my own personal conviction that healthy eating is the ideal, especially in a family with young children.  I have found it possible (if challenging) to do healthy meals on a budget, and with a bit of preparation and planning is fairly easy to implement.

Meals are easy.

Snacking?  Not so much.  For example, I don’t know what it is about naptime and bedtime that makes me crave sugar (honestly, it’s probably a good indicator I’m tired), but that seems to be the time I cave into my unhealthy yearnings the most.  I also love to bake–another strike in the healthy eating endeavor.

I’m trying to make eating healthy snacks more of a priority for me, so have been keeping my eyes out for healthy snack recipes.  The requirements are pretty basic:  healthy, cheap, and easy to make…in that order.

To that end, I wanted to share my two secret weapons in this battle:  avocados* and Greek yogurt.  Put in any recipe (or eaten by themselves) and you have a winner.

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I found this recipe recently in the free magazine Eating Well and knew I had to share.  Paired with raw veggies like baby carrots, it is the perfect snack (or small meal!).

Avocado-Yogurt Dip

1 ripe peeled pitted avocado

1/2 cup nonfat plain yogurt (I use plain Greek yogurt)

2 tablespoons chopped onion

1/3 cup packed fresh cilantro (I don’t use this much–personal preference)

1 tablespoon lime juice

1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper

Combine all ingredients in a food processor.  Process until smooth.  Season with hot sauce to taste, if desired.  Serve with crunchy vegetables, pita chips or pretzels or use as a sandwich spread.  Serves 8.

As a final note, I need more healthy (and cheap) snack ideas.  Got any?  Please send them my way!

*If you are new to the healthy eating game, I wanted to give you a tip I wish I’d had when it comes to avocados.  Avocados defy logic in that you’d think you want a firm, green one with which to cook, but that’s not the case.  Ripe avocados can be a dull green, and should be soft, rather than firm.  

A Year of Vegetables

assortment of vegetablesI have a not-so-secret interest in “a year of…” books and have probably read at least a half dozen. If I haven’t read it, chances are Amanda has (or one of us have it on our to-be-read list). There’s just something fascinating about watching someone commit to something and sharing the lessons they’ve learned.

For some time now I have tried to figure out my own “year of” project. So many good ones have been done, but I finally figured it out. And my project starts today.

A year of vegetables.

I’ve been wanting to eat more vegetables anyway, so this seems like a great way to kick start. Plus, it’s almost gardening time, so I’m going to have lots of fresh vegetables at my finger tips.

During my Buy Little Month, I learned that I really can make myself eat what I don’t want to. I’m going to put that knowledge to good use and revamp my diet.

So until March 31, 2016, I’m going to eat vegetables and herbs exclusively. Taking a look at this list from Wikipedia, and it’s clear that I’ll have plenty of variety of this next year. I’m sure I’ll be tempted to fall into new eating ruts, but I’m going to attempt to try every vegetable on that list that I can get my hands on.

I anticipate eating a lot of vegetable smoothies, salads and roasted vegetables. I can’t wait!

When I add in all the vegetables I’ll be able to grow, I’ll be able to shave $100 a month off my grocery budget (even more in the summer). I’ll also be able to eliminate my eating out budget…that’s $140/month I’ll be able to put towards my student loans (and soon, straight into savings)!

Have any vegetable recipes you like? Please share…I’m going to need them!

Or, you know, Happy April Fool’s!

Photo by thebittenword.com