Archive for the ‘health & fitness’ Category

The kids and I are eating dinner at Chick-fil-a tonight, which is not noteworthy since my husband works there and any employee who has been there for more than a month recognizes us when we walk in the door.

What IS new about this is that it’s the first time I’m ordering off the menu while trying to stick to a new eating plan. (Notice I didn’t say “diet.” That’s a dirty word for me.)

See, about three weeks ago, I was diagnosed with high blood pressure. It’s always ridiculously high in the office because I get nervous about doctor’s appointments, but it was so high that my nurse practitioner decided medicine was the best next step. I hate that it’s come to that, but I’m grateful for health coverage and an easy fix. In the meantime, I’m getting to know my new provider really well. I’ve been back several times to check my blood pressure and the medication’s effectiveness, and while it still isn’t where it needs to be, it’s getting better.

That’s a lot of back story for a blog post. Moving on.

While the medicine does its job, I’m trying to do mine by paying better attention to what I’m eating and how much I’m eating and how much exercise I’m getting. You know, the normal stuff I’m supposed to be paying attention to but haven’t been.

And because I’m not a terribly disciplined person, I’ve had to take some actions that lead me toward a more disciplined life. (Just so you know, even typing the word “discipline” makes me uncomfortable. It sounds so structured and binding, and not fun.)

Earlier this year, at the recommendation of my mother, I started using an app called MyFitnessPal to track my calories and activity. Since I’m not a terribly active person right now, either, it helped me set my calories at a level that would help me lose weight.

Then somewhere in the middle of the year, I stopped using it, even after seeing results of 5-7 pounds lost in a couple of months. Nothing drastic, but slow and steady, just the way it should be. I stopped using the app and I stopped caring about what I ate.

By Brian Jimenez | Creative Commons

By Brian Jimenez | Creative Commons

So, when I finally went to the doctor late last month, it was no surprise, really, that my weight was up and my BP was high. Without help, I don’t always take the best care of myself. So, I’m back to using the app, and I’m reading labels, and I’m learning all kinds of things. Like there is a ridiculous amount of sodium in stuff that I normally buy. That calories don’t add up very fast when I’m eating fruits and vegetables. And I can learn to like unsweetened iced tea because drinking all those calories in sweet tea is a bad idea.

And surprisingly, it’s not as scary as I thought it might be. Sure, it’s hard. But there are a couple of things I’m learning that make it easier.

So, whether you’re trying to watch what you eat or be more disciplined about other things in your life, maybe you’ll find this helpful, too.

First, I try not to say “no” completely to anything. I could not eat when we go to Chick-fil-a tonight, but I’d probably be a little sad about it. Yes, it’s just food, but it’s also hard for me to resist a temptation right in front of me. So, if my kids were eating it and wandered away, I’d be likely to steal a waffle fry or ten. So, I wasn’t interested in avoiding eating out at all. The same was true last week when I met a friend at Panera. Normally I’d just get a cinnamon crunch bagel with cream cheese. Instead of defaulting, I ordered a breakfast sandwich with avocado, spinach and egg white. It was delicious.

Related to that, I’m trying to plan ahead, too. So, earlier today I researched the nutrition information for various menu items, and now I can order with confidence without totally blowing my eating plan. Making a plan before I’m in a situation is helpful in a lot of circumstances, not just for eating. This helps me feel like I have some control, not like I’m being denied something by an outside force. That would make me miserable.

Third, I’m trying to set myself up for success. That means buying the good stuff from the grocery store. If I have fruits and vegetables and hummus and lower sodium choices in the house, then I will eat them. If I don’t, I will resort to junk or whatever is convenient.

This is not perfect by any means, nor do I follow it perfectly all the time. I have days where I fail or make decisions that are not the best but I start over the next day and try to do better.

I still don’t like to think of it as discipline, but it’s become necessary for my health, and I’m not hating it.

That’s a win, right?

Is discipline easy or hard for you? How do you stick with a plan?

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I woke up feeling unwell in body and spirit. A challenging sermon on holiness at church yesterday and the onset of a cold that’s making its way through our family have left me drained before I’ve even started today. That, and the need to do EVERYTHING ALL AT ONCE IMMEDIATELY.

Tell me your Mondays are like this.

With piles of laundry mocking you as a failure.

With kitchen counters covered in dirty dishes singing “You’re no good, you’re no good, baby you’re no good.”

Back to school. Back to a sometimes routine. The first full week of a new year.

And I’m blowing it already.

While it’s true I no longer make resolutions, I still feel the need to make changes in my life every time the calendar turns another year. Maybe I’m not calling them resolutions, but I’m still taking the opportunity to change.

And there’s plenty of opportunity for change.

As the first of the year dawned, I pledged to myself (again, for the third time) that this would be the year I finish my novel.

Last year, I felt mostly bland about my writing. Frustrated. Discouraged. Sure that I’d never make anything of myself. I chipped away at the story, adding words here and there without regularity.

Give up. Give up. Give up. The voices told me lies, but I wanted to listen.

Nevermind that my husband switched jobs and we moved and our daughter started school. Transition upon transition.

And when I dared to look at how much writing I’d actually done, I was surprised to learn that in all of 2013, I added 20,000 words to my novel.

It felt small and like nothing when it was happening. But at the end, it had amounted to much more.

I tried on three outfits before church yesterday because I’m having a love-hate with my body. I have some clothes I’d like to wear, to rediscover, and they.don’t.fit. Curse them.

I had a plan for Christmas Eve, to wear this purple dress I love and got on sale and haven’t worn in two years. It looked awful, which in my mind means I feel like I look awful.

But Christmas is full of holidays and eating so I allowed myself the feast, knowing that there would be a season of less come January. On December 31, I started a new plan. I would get up early. I would exercise. I would intentionally eat healthier. Oatmeal instead of a bagel. More fruit. More salad. I love all those things but they take more time to prepare. More effort. And, of course, I have to have them in the house in the first place.

As of today, I’ve worked out four times in the last week, which is four times more than all of fall, I think.

Yet I feel like a failure because there are no results.

It’s only been a week.

Time. Discipline. It won’t happen overnight.

(And for the record, I’m not aiming for a weight or a size but a healthier lifestyle overall. The older I get the better care I want to take of myself so I can enjoy my kids and life as a whole.)

A few months ago while sorting through some old newspaper clippings of columns I’d written back in my mid-20s, I had the urge to wad them all up. Or burn them. Something destructive.

Because the girl who wrote those words has changed in ways I couldn’t have imagined. Some of it was her choice. Some of it wasn’t. But she’s different. I feel like that girl barely exists in my memory. I wanted to shake her. Or punch her in the face. And tell her that she had no idea what she was talking about.

Life wasn’t like she thought. Faith wasn’t what she thought.

It was like looking in a mirror and seeing a reflection of me 10 years ago. And I saw not only how I looked on the outside but what I thought on the inside.

The urge to destroy passed, and now I’m grateful for the look into the past.

Because change has happened. It has taken years. But the differences are obvious to me. Ten years seems like a long time, but with those clippings in my hands, I felt like no time had passed at all.

A week is not a worthwhile measure for change.

It is good to want to change. It is good to have a plan. It is good to pursue what is better and whole.

It is not good to expect immediate change. But oh, how I want a quick fix for everything.

It is not good to expect perfection. But oh, how I want to do it right the first time.

It is not good to give up after only a week. But oh, how I want to say “forget it” to all my plans and intentions.

Here is what I am learning. Slowly, but I’m learning.

Change can’t happen alone. I need community.

Part of my writing plan was to join a group for word count accountability. Nothing happens if I don’t meet my goal, but I can be encouraged by what others are writing and knowing I’m not the only one struggling.

As for the other areas where I want to change and need to change: community applies there too. But that’s hard. I can’t go to a gym right now. But I can let someone else know my plans.

Invitation is a key to transformation. I have to let people in, and that starts with talking about my failings. Then it moves to sharing my plans. It continues with commitment. And it doesn’t end with failure.

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I started using vinegar (and baking soda) as a cleaner a few years ago when money was tight and we didn’t have extra funds to spend on cleaning products. Until then, I’d heard that there were natural, non-toxic, non-chemical alternatives, but I didn’t give them much thought.

Then I started using them. And learning more. And the more I learn, the more I find there is to learn.

Enter the Green Grandma, aka Hana Haatainen Caye, blogger, writer, and overall inspiring woman. Her blog is a wealth of information about green alternatives, lessening our harmful environmental impact, and healthy living. I met Hana at a one-day writers’ conference a few years ago when I was still a bit skeptical and uninformed about all this green living stuff. Over time, her words, the information she’s shared, have contributed to some gradual changes in my family’s life.

vinegarOne of the past features on Hana’s blog was Vinegar Fridays. She’d share a tip about how to use vinegar for cleaning, health or beauty. It was here I learned that I could use it as a fabric softener instead of the liquid stuff, especially when hanging my clothes out on the clothesline. She compiled these tips into a book, Vinegar Fridays, and holy cow! If I wasn’t already impressed with vinegar, I would be after reading this book. (Disclaimer: I received a free copy of Vinegar Fridays from the author in exchange for my review.)

Did you know that vinegar can help relieve sunburn? Or work as a fabric refresher to dispel odors? Or can repel bugs?

Maybe you did know that. And I don’t want to reveal all of Hana’s amazing tips, so let me just say this:

Reading Vinegar Fridays made me want to clean my whole house.

Want to. I almost never want to clean my house. But Hana makes it sound fun and safe and effective. And if all you need is a jug of vinegar, and occasionally some baking soda, then there’s no lugging around a bucket of cleaners that leave you woozy from the smell.

Vinegar Fridays offers tips for more than just cleaning. Facial masks. No-pooing (in place of shampooing). Salad dressings (of course!) And other health-related remedies.

Seriously. I feel like I’ve been missing a valuable resource for my home. I can’t wait to stock up on spray bottles and start trying out some of these tips all over the house.

And guess what? I’ve got an extra copy of the book to give away! Hana graciously gave  me a second copy for one of you. To enter to win it, just leave a comment here, on this blog, telling me something you’ve learned about vinegar over the years, or why you’d like to give vinegar a try. I’ll keep the contest open till Monday, November 4, when I’ll choose a winner and send you the book.

In the meantime, check out Hana’s blog, Facebook and Twitter accounts. Lots of fun, informative and challenging information.

Don’t forget to leave a comment below for a chance to win! You can check out the book here.


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I went running this morning.

starting line

Not earth-shattering, headline-making news, but for me, it was significant.

Four months ago, my mom bought me a new pair of running shoes because I asked her to and because the desire was in me to pick up a habit I’d neglected for too long.

And for four months, I’ve made excuses.

Too cold. Too dark. Husband’s new schedule. I’m sick. Too tired. Too many other more important things.

Today, my husband had the day off. And my pants have been fitting too tight. And I ate some delicious food this weekend, and too much of it, so I had fewer excuses.

I’m not sorry I ate the food or that I prioritize other things.

But I am sorry that I have broken a promise.

A promise I made on this blog and then slowly let slip out of my “important” pile.

Less than three years ago, I took up running, training to run a 5K (my first ever) with my husband. And I found out I liked it. I didn’t lose a ton of weight by doing it, but I felt good. I had more energy, and my body was in better shape than it had been.

So when the 5K was over, I kept running occasionally, not as often as when we were training. And I had this idea. I would pay better attention to what I ate. I would exercise. And when the pounds dropped off, I would donate money to a worthy cause. I gave myself six months.

And I failed miserably.

Now, almost a year and a half later, I haven’t lost as much weight as I’d hoped and I haven’t given any money to that worthy cause.

And I could spend a lot of time beating myself up about that or I could do what I did today.

Lace up the shoes.

Stretch out the legs.

And start over. In the rain, no less.

But in a way, I was grateful for the rain as I completed day 1 of the Couch-to-5K plan.

Because starting something good won’t always wait for the right conditions.

Sometimes you have to splash in the puddles and be drenched in the downpour on the way to your goal.

I won’t lie: I didn’t feel great when I finished.

My body ached. I wanted to go back to bed. I was soaked. And all day I’ve felt reminders of what I did in my calves and hips.

But the pain will pass.

And discipline is always hard. Training your body–or your mind or your spirit, for that matter–to do something it doesn’t normally do is hard and takes work and perseverance.

But it is worth it.

I can’t make any promises this time. I won’t tell you that in six months I hope to give $100 to women and children in Liberia or that I’ll be running a half-marathon by the fall.

All I know is today, I ran.

And I will run again.

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This is a bit of a departure for me, reviewing a product that isn’t a book, but I couldn’t pass up the chance to try and then review Woolzies Dryer Balls.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen the box came in the mail, I actually found an excuse to do laundry because I couldn’t wait to test these out. I was almost giddy with excitement. Over the past year, I’ve been slowly greening my laundry habits. Last summer, I washed clothes only when I was sure the sun would shine for most of the day so I could hang them out to dry, and I switched from liquid fabric softener to vinegar. This winter, though, I continued using dryer sheets, something I don’t really think much about, but as I’m learning more about environmental hazards to our bodies, I’m rethinking the products in my house.

So, when an alternative presented itself, I couldn’t resist.

What’s great about these dryer balls?

Well, for starters, they’re 100 percent wool. No chemicals. No dyes. Just hand-spun New Zealand wool.

Second, they’re guaranteed for 1,000 loads of laundry. I don’t even want to keep track of how many days/weeks/months/years that is.

Third, if you buy a box for $34.95, you’re spending like 3 cents per load to dry your clothes and you don’t have to feel guilty about what’s rubbing off on your clothes.

Fourth, my clothes are drying faster. The first load I tested with these, I set the dryer for 50 minutes for a load that would usually take 70 minutes or more. When I pulled the clothes out and they were dry, I declared to my husband: “We are never buying anything else ever again.” I set a load for 40 minutes to see just how low I could go, but that didn’t quite get them dry. I’m averaging 50-60 minutes per load depending on what’s in there, but never more than 70 minutes, which was the minimum for most of our loads before the Woolzies entered our life.

Fifth, you can juggle them. Okay, not really, but they are fun to look at. I sometimes have to dig around in the basket for them, but as long as I see six of them in the dryer when I’m done, I’m a happy launderer.

Are there drawbacks? Sometimes our clothes have a little static in them, but not enough to complain or stop using them.

Seriously, the dryer balls are the best part of doing laundry for me right now.

But you don’t have to take my word for it.

Woolzies wants to give you a free box, too!

Here’s how you can win:

Leave a comment on this blog and tell me why you’d want to try Woolzies Dryer Balls. That’ll get you one entry.

“Like” Woolzies Dryer Balls on Facebook (and let me know) and you’ll get another entry.

Follow Woolzies on Twitter (again let me know you did) and you’ll get another entry.

Share about this giveaway (Facebook, Twitter, e-mail, whatever and tell me you did) and you’ll get another entry. Click to Tweet.

Four chances to win. I’ll close the contest on Sunday, March 10, and pick a winner in the evening. If you win, I’ll need your mailing address to pass along to Woolzies, who will send you your prize. Sound like fun?

It’s a ball!

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In lieu of the usual Saturday smiles post, I’m asking you to pray for this family.

My uncle Lewie was critically injured in a motorcycle accident on Thursday. His body is fighting to recover. His family is waiting for news. In the meantime, their youngest daughter, Abby (the one in the middle) is on dialysis and waiting for a kidney.

Hold them in prayer.

Updates are here.

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Today, I’m pleased to feature another guest post. While Monday’s post challenged us to look around at our world for opportunities to help those in need, today’s post challenges us, especially women, to look at ourselves the way God sees us — no matter our perceived imperfections. Teasi Cannon has struggled with weight issues and self-esteem issues. She’s not what the world would call a perfect 10 but she’s learned that in God’s eyes, she is just as she should be and she can be thankful in all things, even for a big bottom.

I’m not making that last part up. She’s so secure in her standing with God, she wrote a book and called it My Big Bottom Blessing. This book is a joy from start to finish. Teasi’s story will make you laugh and cry and hurt in all the right ways. She is refreshingly honest about body image, diets and self-worth, and she’s passionate about the God who can silence the lies of self and society. At the end of each chapter, Teasi includes questions for self-reflection.  I’m eager to revisit the journaling sections to discover the roots of my own body image issues and how God can speak into those.

Read on and hear from Teasi herself, and check out a sample chapter from the book.

Also find out how you can win a copy!

Now, without further delay, here’s Teasi!

Thankful for a Big Rear
by Teasi Cannon

One day not long ago I was sweeping my kitchen floor in the near trance-like state of La La Land, when I was jolted to my senses by the precious voice of my 4-year-old nephew saying, “Aunt Teasi, you have a vahwee (very) big butt.” 

I set my broom aside, smoothed my shirt, and calmly turned to face him.  Bright-eyed and curly-haired, he stood – completely oblivious to the fact that he had said the words no woman ever wants to hear.  And then I let him have it.  I bent down, coming only inches away from his little round face, and said, “Why…thank you!”  Then I smiled big, stood to grab my broom, and returned unscathed to the task at hand.

A few years ago those innocently spoken words would have completely obliterated me, and rather than a thank you, might have actually incited an immature come-back such as: “Oh, yeah?  Well, you’re short and you talk funny.”

But now, to the glory of God, moments like that are reminders to me that the miraculous has happened: I no longer hate my body (especially my back side); in fact, it has become one of the biggest blessings in my life.

Like most women (really every woman I’ve ever met), I lived years literally disgusted with what I saw in the mirror.  The territory between my ears felt like nothing short of a war zone, with battles being fought everywhere: the bathroom, the grocery store, the bedroom, even church.  I could never silence the ambush-ready community of inner critics (those hurtful thoughts we all think) that called my head home.  And I missed out on so much: parties I refused to attend because my pants were too tight, dates with my husband because of a few gained pounds, quality time with my kids.  I know I’m not alone in this.

We women have been lied to for years.  We’ve been told that our value – our very right to be seen and celebrated – is determined by our waist-to-hip ratio or the proportions of our facial features, and that’s just not true.  Our value is determined by the only One who really knows it: our God.

After hitting my head hard on the floor of my personal pit of despair, I slowly began my journey toward believing that.  One inch at a time of healing, truth, and righteous anger led me to a life-saving realization: All those years I was desperate to change how I looked, God was desperate to change how I see.  And He did.

Truth is, if God can make a prostitute the great-grandmother of the Messiah, turn water into wine, and make blind men see; don’t you think He can turn a big bottom – or a big nose – or bird-thin legs – or whatever it is you hate – into a blessing.  He did it for me, and I’m so ridiculously happy about the journey that I wrote a book about it.



WANT TO WIN YOUR OWN COPY? Leave me a comment here on the blog about why you’d like to read this book. I’ll announce the winner next Wednesday. For EXTRA chances to win, share this giveaway on Facebook or Twitter (and leave another comment here that you did that for up to two more extra entries), follow me on Twitter (and leave a comment that you did/do for another entry) and/or subscribe to or follow this blog (one total entry). So, that’s up five chances to win a great book!


In exchange for this blog post, I received a free copy of the book.

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