Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Nutrition: Snack Time!

Oh, how I love to snack!

As a child, I would snack on simple things that we had lying around. Carrots, cheese, apples, peanut butter, sometimes chips, popcorn, maybe a piece of candy.

Then I grew up.

I nearly starved one semester in college, eating peanut butter sandwiches, corn, pop tarts, and spaghetti. I didn't have money for treats that semester. I walked to class a lot that year. I was underweight. Fortunately, I took a daily vitamin.

After I got a job money was still an issue and what to cook and pack in lunches was top priority. Dollar microwave meals full of sodium, granola bars high in sugar, and bottled drinks full of high fructose corn syrup were the cheapest route. Snacks came in convenient packages, or boxes of crackers that could be divvied up into sandwich baggies.

Snacks can be my downfall. I find myself eating the most snacks as I watch TV right before bed. I get "the munchies" and want to fill up my stomach for the night's hibernation.

What is a healthy snack?

Here is what to look for in a good healthy snack:

  • Under 200 calories
  • 10 grams of protein
  • 5 grams of fiber
  • Apple and glass of milk
  • Pita chips and hummus
  • dried berries and nuts
  • crackers and tuna
  • toast with chopped pears, cottage cheese, and crushed walnuts in a spread (haven't tried this)

I like to eat apples with peanut butter, carrots with hummus, and a banana with a cheese stick.

These snacks remind me of what I ate as a child. Why did I stop eating like this? 

I guess, I learned how to find the cheap food, the sweet, fattening, pre-packaged things that grocery stores put right out there at eye-level. It was cheaper, easier. They then made 100 calorie packs, to make me feel better about packing my lunch.

But they are still unhealthy.

I got married and times were still tough. Food that was not as healthy was cheaper. Flavorings, corn syrups, preservatives, things that make food processing fast and bulky also made it cheaper to produce and sell. We tried all kinds of microwave meals, pre-packaged foods, and things that would keep for a long time so we could buy in bulk. My husband and I had limited knowledge of recipes to cook from. We had to expand our cooking repertoire. We had to learn to read labels, study, and find out the hard way that we were not eating the things our bodies needed.

Then we had kids. 

The time is ripe to teach them good eating and healthy snacking skills. If we don't buy it, they can't eat it.

So I am going back to snacking like a kid. For myself, for my kids, and for the future. No kool-aid for them, no cookies, no artificially flavored juices, no sugary fruit snacks, no pop tarts, no snack cakes, no microwave meals. Rarely, we do buy some of these things, but the goal is to teach them to eat the good things more than the bad.

The foods I ate as a kid are good enough for my own kids and they continue to be the best choices for me.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Nutrition: Overeating

Do you know what correct portion size is?

WebMD has a little guide for you of the recommended portion size. Health Magazine does too. What I like are the size comparisons. Now when I eat meat, I think of a deck of cards.

Nuts, peanut butter, or cheese = golfball
Meat = deck of cards
Fruits and veggies = tennis or baseball
Grains or potatoes = computer mouse
Fats = game die

Here is a video of tips to cut down on overeating. SCIENCE!
(Note: I do have some red bowls, and I tend not to use them as much. Hmm..)

Other Tips:

  • Don't skip meals so you are starving and want to fill your stomach with easy to grab snacks.
  • Eat breakfast. Eat protein at breakfast.
  • Eat veggies first. 
  • Eat foods higher in fiber, protein, and water to fill you up with fewer calories. Especially snacks. The ideal snack has less than 200 calories, 10 grams of protein, and 5 grams of fiber.
  • Try to avoid using food as comfort for a stressful day. (I like a fun size chocolate if I craving it, not a full size bar. Exercise is the best for stress!)
  • Only eat when you are hungry. Don't reach for that snack just because it is there and the TV is on.
  • The brain feels full at 20 minutes. If you slow down, you will eat less and feel satisfied. Learn to know when you feel satisfied so you aren't uncomfortable afterwards.
  • Ask for dressing on the side.
  • Dip your pancakes in syrup instead of pouring it on. This goes for gravy and dressing too.

I once worked in a group home taking care of some gentlemen with special needs. One of them had diabetes. In order to care for him, we had to measure and weigh his food. We had a list of foods he could eat, whether they counted as starches or vegetables, the amounts of each he was allowed to have, and the correct ratio of vegetables to proteins to grains and fruits.

When I first saw this, I found it daunting. I certainly did not measure MY food. I was terrible at planning my own meals. How was I going to do this for that man?

He complained the entire time that he wasn't getting enough food. His portions were visually smaller than those of his roommates. He would rant that he was starving an hour later. He would try to sneak snacks.

Do any of these sound like the excuses you would make? :)

His meals were planned, his food weighed, and he was not starving. We should all eat like this. (What we should have done was also feed his roommates the same way, but allow them seconds.)

Once my family was seated next to a family of 4 adults of very large size at Texas Roadhouse. Two of them had chairs at the end of an extra table because they couldn't fit in the bench seats. They each ordered an appetizer, a full entree and dessert. Every plate was empty on the table when they finished. Then they explained that they had to sit for 30 minutes after eating because they would get acid reflux.

I thought, "Well, if you fill up your esophagus, where is the gas and stomach acid gonna go when you move?"

One lesson learned here is, of course, portion control. You don't need appetizers, and entrees can be split, and extra food can go home so it will not be wasted.

My husband saw this family consume and heard them complain about the food coming back up, and he decided right then and there he did not want to live like them. I had already made that decision. We began splitting entrees, ordering waters to drink, and skipping appetizers and desserts altogether, unless it was part of a meal deal we could also split. We took extra food home, too. And yes, even with two of us eating from the same meal, we have leftovers! Serving size at restaurants is more than enough.

It helps to have a partner in healthy eating. Had he not made that decision, it would be harder for me to stop reaching for the snacks he offers me, or to not order a full entree because he had ordered one.

When we used to shop for groceries together, and I wanted a bunch of fruits and vegetables, but he had already filled the cart with boxes of crackers, chocolate cookies, and ice cream, the added expense of healthy foods weighed on my conscious enough to make me put some of it back. I was going to snack on the cookies anyway, simply because they were there.

With his help, I now no longer feel guilty about loading up on healthy snacks that may cost a dollar more. We read labels for high fructose corn syrup, white flour, grams of protein, or added preservatives. We buy fresher things. We buy healthier things. I turn down extra snacks, reminding him that I have healthy alternatives, or that I am not hungry.

Not overeating as a practice, is a step towards a healthier me. And you.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Finding Myself: The Purpose

"The purpose isn't the destination, but the journey." - Allison Vesterbelt

I have spent so much time, years, into answering the question "Who am I?". The answer is always that I am still becoming, still changing, still yearning to fill the wanderlust inside that is chasing my dreams. I grasp at what I long to be. I see a personality trait I wish I had more of. I hear about an adventure I want to take. I see someone having success in an area I want to have success in. I find a fault in my personality I want to correct.

Who Am I?

Even if I take off on a trip to see and experience things I really want to see or experience, while I am on the trip and when I get back, I am still carrying around ME. I can't escape from myself, my quirks, my problems. They will still be there. Going off to 'find myself' isn't a means to an end.

The journey itself can be revelatory.

Life is made up of experiences. Sometimes they are planned, and sometimes they are a surprise.

Every time something interrupts your normal routine; your car breaks down, there is a snow day, you get the flu, how do you react to it? It's part of your journey. Your reactions can be actions. Actions show who we are.

In the reaction, action, or inaction lies the revelation. Who are you? Do you run and hide or stay and fight? Can you handle what life throws at you or do you need to learn to ask for help? Do you stop and smell the roses or pass them by?

When we plan a trip, we often include sights to see and people to visit.

I hardly plan my daily humdrum to include sights to see or people to visit. Do you? It's work, work, work.

What can you plan to give yourself a mental, sensory, or emotional break each week?

Who do you need to plan more time with?

I know I need to plan on ways to spend time with my family and friends. I also need to find ways to have mental breaks in my days so I don't come home and unleash a torrent of misdirected frustration on my family. I also know I need to plan for exercise so I can safely give my body an outlet for stress.

My journey needs to include toleration for the surprise side trips, as well as being able to enjoy the nice surprises and appreciation for when things progress smoothly. Just like flexibility in a good road trip or vacation, my life cannot be so rigid as to avoid opportunities.

The purpose of life is to enjoy the journey.

Finding Myself: Heart of Fear to Heart of Focus

I watched "The Middle", the episode where Brick is very worried about all the bad things in the world. It was exaggerated, as all sitcoms are, but at the heart of his dilemma was the fear of not being in control.

This is probably the heart of my fears as well. All the posts about my fears before; the car accidents, the stinging insects, the natural disasters, are all things I cannot control. Just like Brick's fear of a kidnapper or break-in.

I was inspired by what he found to be a solution. His parents didn't understand it, but I did. He said he imagined the extreme; that his house was burnt down and his family were dead and he had nothing left but himself. Then he found a Buddhist quote that he didn't need to worry about things being broken or lost or stolen, because he needed to change his thinking. Things can be imagined broken in the first place. Then, if it happens, it seems like it was meant to be.

At the heart of it all was his life.

At the heart of it all is MY life.


Everything will fall and break at some point in our lives. We will fight with our spouse, have a bad day at work, get in a car accident, or lose our wallet. We can have back-up keys, jot down the numbers to call for identity theft or to get your ID and social security cards re-issued, and be insured so that accidents don't cost us extra and we can get a rental car or know from whom to borrow one. We can check the oven and door locks 6 times before leaving.If something happens, it was not our fault.

As long as I do what I can to keep myself safe, healthy, and happy, then no matter what comes, good and bad, I have done well. I can have pride in myself. I can stop worrying about the material things in my life, but instead focus on being as prepared as possible for tragedy to feel safe. This may not be courage, or bravery, but it is comforting.

That doesn't mean I give up. That doesn't give me a pass to not be my best. It means that I accept that my best is good enough, as good as I can do at the time, and if the goal is not reached, I keep trying. Because those crazy fears about losing things or not being good enough can consume me and sap the energy I need to push myself in all venues of my life. This could be teaching, parenting, working out, or being a good wife. I can't do it all at once, but I can do it all in turns.

I can celebrate the successes I do have, not matter how small. I can count my blessings.

I can focus on the things I can control like:
  • Quality of your work/job performance
  • Relationships with friends and family
  • Household chores
  • Income level
  • Involvement in your community
While many of you have stopped thinking about your resolutions by now, I find I am still reviewing and rewriting, editing and adding short-term goal steps into mine. Being the best ME I can be includes a shift of focus sometimes.

My 6 year old learned that word, 'focus' this year in school. He says it often to remind himself to do so. Perhaps this is the year of focus for all of us.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Finding Myself: Knowing My Limitations

I think the definition of wisdom, in decision making, but also in life, is knowing your limitations. It's knowing your own personal boundaries. It's knowing your strengths and weaknesses, too.

To focus on your strengths, you have to know what they are. Just as importantly, what they aren't. Be honest with yourself. Be self-aware. Listen to your body. Listen to your heart.

When faced with a decision, you weigh your options. Sometimes you have time to ask others for advice. Sometimes you have to choose something immediately. You make the best choice, given what you know.

Perhaps you overestimate yourself. What's the worst that could happen? You lose, you get hurt, you fail. 

In the past, this would have emotionally torn me to pieces. It would take days and weeks to recover a broken heart. I never tried and failed at physical tasks, so I'm not sure how long it would take to heal a broken bone. In this economy, it may take months to find a new job if that was the risk.

Perhaps, instead, you underestimated yourself. What if you succeeded, with such flying colors, that you received special accolades. You'd feel proud of myself, elated, and worth something. 
Knowing your limitations comes from trying things and either falling, or succeeding. I am not at the place where I have tried everything and can judge whether it will fail or succeed.

So I guess I keep trying. 

I will either fall on my butt, keep banging my head against the wall, find an alternate route, or succeed surprised and happy. I mean, that’s life, right? You can't just sit back and wait to see if it works for someone else first every time. Sometimes you have to take a leap of faith.

I also have personal boundaries, where the answer is always "no". I don't smoke, for one. I don't cheat on my husband. I don't steal. But these kinds of boundaries often are not the ones you are asked to cross. You may have vowed to never eat fast food, have sex before your married, never give away your grandmother's antique sewing machine, or that you will never get naked in public. All of these are healthy, logical boundaries.

What if you are asked to cross them?

There might be an opportunity for you to experience another culture, to travel, or to fulfill a lifelong dream. But you realize that in order to achieve it, you have to cross one of your boundaries. Do you go, or stay home?

Home is our comfort zone. Home has boundaries, walls that may be flimsy, but they are safe. 

Opportunities are risks.

Sometimes we are buried under the stuff we pack around us. That stuff can be boundaries, memories, regret, promises, a career choice we feel obligated to have, a house full of life that feels stuffy instead of comfortable. We invest ourselves and root ourselves so deeply into a life of obligations, that we forget to, well, Live.

There is a limit to how much we can do in one life without getting burnt out, too.


To be happy, you need to find a balance between living and existing to get by. Some days you have to simply exist and let the current of life carry you. Other days, you have to make a choice to do something to break free of the mundane. You have to list your priorities, your boundaries, your dreams, your goals, and what it takes to reach them. You have to decide what has to go and what can stay.

Do you go or do you stay?

Is this opportunity worth crossing the boundary you set? 

Who Am I? What are my strengths and weaknesses? 

I am a writer, a teacher, an optimist, a mother. I am a wife. 
I love nature, quiet moments, observing, but I also sometimes don't know when to stop talking. 
I am Christian. I love people. All people. I work with the disabled. 
I am good at figuring out what people are trying to communicate and empathizing in such a way as to get into their world for a bit and help them join in with others. I am a decent mediator. 
I am creative. 
I love fall. 
I am a terrible hostess. I am not that great at cooking. 
I am healthy. I am not a runner. 
I get really red in the face when I am stressed, good or bad. Not having the answers, the back up plans, stresses me out. 
I like to chat with people. 
I like to read. I do not like to write research papers or read long articles. I prefer creative writing to academic. I like dystopian novels. I like movies that make me feel good. 
I do not fit in with people who have fancy lives. I do not wear makeup; I don't know how. 
I love the woods. I love trees.

Find your Wisdom, Find Yourself.

My Friend posted on facebook a long comment that fits perfectly with this post and says better than I have what exactly I mean:
If I can do a five mile run thorough Christ who strengthens me then in Him, in His power I can do other things as well. Other things that make me uncomfortable . Other things that seem impossible for me. That ARE impossible for me. But not for Him. I am guilty of spending way too much time in my comfort zone in life. Relying on my own strength and shying away from things I feel called to do because it's beyond me. But not this year.           -Renee
 She felt her limitations were at 2 miles. But she found the strength to keep going. She ended up with that 'That wasn't so bad. I am proud of myself" feeling. And she found time and space to see herself in the grand scheme of God's plan once again.

That's what I took away from Packing Light. That's the lesson I keep finding and hearing and listening to over and over again this week.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Finding Myself: Wishy-Washy Me

I have been a wishy-washy person. Many of the posts I have deleted over the years have been embarrassingly wishy-washy. I would whine, rant, and suggest things, but never tell if I did them. It was a place to put my thoughts down. Later, I went through them and saw a desperate, blind, wishy-washy girl.

My blog posts don't have to be this way. Maybe that is a good goal for me this year. Especially if I want to create a platform. I need to find myself a solid piece of ground, a gumption, an attitude, a voice, and stick to it.

Part of living to your potential is making decisions. These can be based on goals you are trying to accomplish, logic, gut feelings, or even snap, rash and emotional, but they are decisions that shape your life's direction. You can mull over them, or be forced to make them, but they still influence your path.

So maybe this year's Resolution actually looks like this:

Live To My Potential

  • Don't write wishy-washy blog posts
  • Make decisions with more conviction
  • Push myself past my fears and insecurities. Be willing to try for "That wasn't so bad."
  • Trust myself / Trust God in myself
  • Try something new (from last year's resolution, but still applicable)
  • Know when to say, "No, I need to focus on me"
  • Take care of my body (exercise and water, mental health, emotional health)
I like it.

I may have to rename myself the Mistress of Decision Making.. O.o

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Finding Myself: Live to My Potential

I just finished an inspiring book, perfect for a New Year, full of revelations and encouragement and phrased in a very down to earth and a very Christian in the real world way. It's called Packing Light by Allison Vesterfelt.

 After reading it, I pulled out an old journal I wrote only inspirational things in. I found some quotes I wrote down from some forward-thinking doctoral business student. I bet he is doing awesome things right now. In trying to find my source, I have come up empty, but when I find it, I will link it.

In this non-fiction book, the author shares a dream with her friend. Her friend shares her dream back and sees a way to combine them and says, "why not do this?" They decide to go on a road trip to all 50 states and one will sing and get her talent known, and one will write a book about it. They made a list of what things would have to go to make this happen, like their apartments, their jobs, and one car. They decided to sell some stuff, make arrangements, tell people what they were doing, and make it happen.

They followed this quote:
When you talk about something, it's a dream.
When you envision it, it's exciting.
When you plan it, it's possible.
When you schedule it, it's reality.

They do stuff, they rely on the kindness of strangers, they see some iconic sights and do some neat things. They fight, they fall in love, they break up, they make up, they ponder what the meaning of everything is, or at least the author does. She questions God, herself, her motives, her place in the universe. 

This book is about learning that:
Who I am is greater than anything that could happen to me.

But mostly, it's that being who you are to the fullest extent is worship, is living out your purpose, and it is fulfilling. Taking a road trip, doing things, doesn't change the feelings you have of home, of emptiness, of wanderlust, or of seeking purpose. What fills that hole inside you is allowing yourself to be yourself.

Our life is made up of little moments, little decisions, little actions or inactions.

If we focus on holding onto everything, we clutter our lives and create chaos. If we focus on letting everything go, we float off into emptiness and despair. Some things are worth holding onto. Some things are worth letting go of.

The only constant we have is that we are comprised of a wealth of inherent talents and traits and strengths that can be used to make the world and our lives a happy place where what we do changes us and those around us for the better. When we do what we love, or are made for, we glow. That glow is a beacon for others. Living our potential. My potential.

Are there tough times? Sure.

Is there always an easy way out? Nope.

But when we are fulfilling our destiny, we are in the Kingdom of Heaven, or in commune or worship with God. We are exactly where we need to be and who we really are. That just feels good. We are living to our potential.

Here's the Author's blog post about 5 Lies That Prevent You From Chasing Your Dream which I feel sums up the main ideas from the book pretty well. She addressed each of them in her own journey in the book.