Categories
Food Weight Loss

“Don’t Reward Yourself With Food: You Aren’t a Dog.” (Or are you?)

I could point fingers any number of directions, but I most blame my tendency to reward myself with food on Pizza Hut’s early 90s BOOK IT! reading program.

My fellow Millennials know the drill: you’d read five non-homework books a month, have an adult drive you to your local Pizza Hut franchise and collect a personal pan pizza to reward your extracurricular scholarship.

Of course, this wasn’t the only place I was rewarded for good behavior with delicious, pepperoni-topped calories. From infancy through college, I was subconsciously taught food is an appropriate payment for a job well-done, and I bet you were too:

  • Finish your dinner, get dessert
  • Visit the doctor, get a lollipop
  • Win the canned food drive, get a pizza party
  • Perform a successful Christmas concert as first-chair clarinet, go out for ice cream with your dad because first-chair clarinetists tended to have very few friends

(I’m just kidding. Even nerds have friends!)

Old habits die hard, and I find I still reach for consumables as reward well into my 30s. Made it through a tough workday? That calls for take-out. Took a hard yoga class? I deserve a bagel. Raced a 10k? Let’s get softserve.

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(To be fair, this was an ice-cream themed race, so they kind of forced it on it.)

Food-based rewards make sense when you’re training, say, your Bernese mountain dog to use stairs, but they aren’t the healthiest choice for someone trying to cut calories, rein in mindless eating or — mostly importantly for me — rewire an emotional attachment to food.

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Lu’s favorite reward: coffee, two sugars.

So this summer, I tried an experiment. I’ve been trying to break my 2 p.m. dark chocolate addiction for months years ever, but after six hours at my desk, I always feel I’ve “earned” my sugary (antioxidant-filled!) treat. So I hit up the bulk food section at my office, inhale a half cup of almondy goodness and then find myself wondering the rest of the workday whether that was really the best use of my calorie deficiency.

Looking to break the chains (#redrising) of sugar addiction, I decided to see if anything could overpower the pull of food as a reward. So I went to Runners World’s website, found a cool tank top I’d been eyeing for months, and ordered it for myself. And when it arrived in the mail, I did the unthinkable: I didn’t open it.

Instead, I told myself I could have the shirt if I went all June long without touching the almonds. And you know what? I did it! And it wasn’t even that hard. Knowing I had a reward — a non-food one — waiting for me if I pulled through, I was able to beat the craving and make it through the month. (Of course, July marked a massive backslide, but baby steps.)

A running shirt worked for me, but it might be a different non-food reward that inspires you to make a change. Maybe you promise yourself a massage after a month of marathon training, or a manicure if you eat all your veggies this week, or you buy yourself a bouquet of flowers for taking the stairs, or treat yourself to a bubble bath for a day without sugar. Find what works for you, and give it a try.

Who know? You might break a habit once and for all. And if you don’t, at least you’ll have a cool new tank!

 

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Running IS a natural high! Thanks, shirt!

How do you reward yourself without reaching for a New York slice?

Categories
Food Weight Loss

Whole30: The Final Day

It’s late May, and that means lots of things are coming to an end. School years. NBA finals. Allergy season. My patience in hearing “No Anne, let’s wait a little longer before we get a dog.”

Today marks the end of something else, too: my Whole30 adventure. (Though, to be fair, I now enter a 10-day reintroduction period that’s essentially another week and a half of the same, but I guess Whole40 didn’t have the same marketing ring to it.)
 
I know there’s nothing worse than hearing someone else talk about their diet, but indulge me just a little longer here: this diet was amazing. I’ve been following the rules and not weighing myself until day 31, so I don’t yet know if I lost any weight, but that wasn’t the point: the point was to reset my relationship with food, be more mindful in my choices, focus on whole products and learn that passing up free food isn’t the be-all-end-all I’d once thought it to be.

Of course, just because it was amazing doesn’t mean it wasn’t hard. Some days were more challenging than others, but with enough planning and my token unwavering stubbornness, I was able to pull through. And here’s what I learned when I did:

  • There is a real difference between belly hunger and head hunger, and you can teach yourself to tell them apart. If you ask yourself “am I hungry enough to eat this steamed fish and spinach?” and you aren’t, then you aren’t hungry. You’re bored.
  • Once you cut added sugars from your diet, you realize some things you take for granted are amazingly sweet. I’m not just talking apples and pineapples, though those certainly are. I’m talking carrots and parsnips and even some cuts of meat. Before starting Whole30, I added honey to my Greek yogurt daily without question. I’m excited to see whether the plain stuff by itself is enough for me now.
  • It’s OK to turn food down, it’s OK to go out with friends and not get a drink, and it’s OK to leave some food on your plate. I’m known around my apartment as “Depression Era Annie” who can’t help but consume everything she’s offered, but I learned this month that I’ll feel much better for much longer if I can muster the strength for one second to say no. No real friend is ever going to get angry that you got a sparkling water to toast their wine, or that you declined their homemade cookies.
  • Preparation is key to any healthy routine. Roll into work without breakfast in tow and you’ll end up sugar loading on cereals and snacks. Plan ahead, and you can dine on roasted butternut squash, avocado and homemade breakfast sausage, keeping you full ’til lunch. Seriously, some days I wasn’t hungry for lunch until 2 p.m. eating these big, protein and veggie-laden breakfasts. That has literally never happened to me before in my entire life.
  • I realized also that preparation time is a luxury, and one that the chronically over-worked and parents of small children in particular don’t necessarily have. I appreciate the extravagance of free time more than ever before after this process.
  • Speaking of breakfast sausage, it is extremely easy to make. Sauté some diced onions/garlic in olive oil, mix them into a pound of ground meat (I tried it with both pork and dark meat turkey), add a diced apple, a teaspoon of sage and salt/pepper. Form small patties and cook in olive oil or coconut oil until browned and cooked through. Cool on a paper-towel-covered plate. Easy peasy, and no weird additives.
  • Watch for weird additives. Most canned tuna contains soy. Most cured bacon contains sugar. Most conventional almond milk has an ingredient section longer than the list of minorities Donald Trump has offended. 

I have two more meals to get through today — including a lunch with some of my oldest friends that sadly can’t include a glass of rosé because goddamnit I’m finishing this thing to the end! — and then I begin the reintroduction phase, where I try one banned food every three days to find out what effect it has on me. I’m thinking of starting with dairy, because my black coffee is getting very old indeed, but I’m also considering starting with wine. Because, you know, these girls are in town. (At least a solid quorum of them.)


Thirty days ago, how many of you thought I was crazy to embark on this thing? Anyone inspired to follow in my paleo footsteps?

Categories
Training Weight Loss

The Resolution Will Be Televised

People in this world tend to fall clearly into one of two camps. They’re either morning people or late-night people. They either love olives or hate them. They’re dog or cat fans, introverts or extroverts, team Chris or Liam Hemsworth, and appalled by the GOP front runners or not paying attention.

They either believe in the value of New Year’s resolutions or they don’t, and they either feel Jan. 9 is too late to publish a resolution-themed post or they forgive me for living an insanely busy first two weeks of 2016.

If you’re already resolutioned-out, best to skip this post entirely and scroll directly to the wet goldendoodle photo I promise to paste at the end of this entry, because, that’s right folks, today we’re talking about New Year’s resolutions, deadlines be damned. So what if it’s already Epiphany?

Let’s start with those of you who fall into the “no resolutions for me” camp. Believe me, you’re in good company. About 50 percent of the population doesn’t make resolutions on Jan. 1, and, sure, I can understand some of the arguments why. It’s an arbitrary day to make a massive life change. It’s also a day many Americans wake up hungover and aren’t itching to get to the gym or eat anything other than a fried egg sandwich. Most of all, it can be demoralizing to set a goal, particularly a dramatic one, and see it fail in a matter of days when it was supposed to last 365. For those of you swimming against the resolution tide, you think it’s better to maintain an even keel than try to blow it out of the water during the coldest, darkest time of the year, and a part of me can totally understand that.

Heck, I kept successfully resolution free for the first 25 years of my life, and for the most part, life was good. I had great fun, I had great friends, I had a great bowl-shaped haircut that practically guaranteed I wasn’t going to get a boyfriend until college.

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I’m that feminine angel in the blue.

But in December 2010, after seeing dozens of unflattering photos of myself at one of my closest friend’s weddings, I finally decided it was time to rip off the no-resolutions band aid and dive head first into the new year. I decided that starting Jan. 1, I was going to count my calories, I was going to lose 30 pounds, I was going to run the 10-mile Broad Street Run in Philadelphia in May, and I was going to get my 20s back on track. And  — humblebrag, or maybe just regular brag — I did.

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I also learned how to use illustrator programs more sophisticated that Microsoft Paint. Just kidding!

Coming off of my successful 2011 resolution, I set another lofty set of 2012 resolutions: start this blog, run a marathon, and floss. And I did that, too. (True story: Almost every night before bed, I try to negotiate my way out of flossing, and then I remind myself that if I ran a four-hour long road race four times, I can surely muster the strength to run a piece of plastic against my gums. But I don’t care what Dan Savage says about flossing: it never gets better.)

But in the years since those dynamite back-to-back years of successful resolutions, I’ve fallen back off the bandwagon. In 2013, I kind of resolved to cook more meals at home and rediscover yoga, which I kind of did, but not to any degree that is memorable. In 2014, I kind of resolved to train smarter, with at least one tempo run, one long run, and one speed workout each week, and I kind of did that too, but only when I was officially training for an event. By 2015, I was so disillusioned by those unsatisfactory performances that I returned to my pre-2010 ways: I didn’t make a resolution at all.

So this year, this was the great debate: make a new year’s resolution that might yet again go semi-unfulfilled, or skip the practice altogether?

Turns out, I compromised. I set two big goals for myself at the start of the year — attend BodyPump weight lifting class at least once a week and stay off Facebook when I’m laying in bed trying to go to sleep — and sure enough, one of these goals has already been annihilated. (I don’t even LIKE facebook anymore, but it won’t release me from its meme-filled clutches!) But I refuse to give up so easily on my second goal, and so far, I haven’t — it’s only Jan. 9, and I’ve already taken two BodyPump classes in 2016. Sure, this goal could still go by the wayside, but given my stubborn refusal to fail on both fronts this year, something tells me I’m going to pump my way through all of 2016.

Besides, my arms have to look good in a wedding dress in short order. Wouldn’t want Keira to be disappointed in me.

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I told you I’d deliver.

Did you make a resolution this year? How is it going so far?

Categories
Running Weight Loss

Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

I’m no behavioral psychologist – or any psychologist for that matter – but spend a few minutes observing mankind and it becomes rapidly apparent that we are hardwired to resist change.

And why wouldn’t we be? Our species’ history is rife with evidence that change doesn’t always work out so well. Build the world’s largest passenger liner? Hit an iceberg. Invite your new neighbors to Thanksgiving? Catch smallpox.  Add apples to your diet? Get expelled from paradise.

It’s no wonder fiscal conservatives coast to coast are pushing to drop from circulation the U.S. penny: when it comes to change, most of us would simply rather go without. (Punny enough for you?)

There’s indubitably a good evolutionary reason behind human beings’ tendency to resist change: enter a situation with a tested outcome and your survival rate is bound to skyrocket; venture into uncharted territory and you could be eaten by a saber-tooth. Even today. They’re rampant in Brooklyn.

But while I have no doubt natural selection is the driving force behind our inherent fear of the unknown, a refusal to leave one’s comfort zone can also have disastrous effects. How many times have you witnessed a friend stay in a floundering relationship far too long because he was afraid to start over? How many times have you watched someone remain in an unfulfilling career because she didn’t want to begin again from scratch? How many times have you re-watched Jumanji on TBS, commercial breaks and all, instead of starting Breaking Bad like everyone tells you to? I rest my case.

Rarely is our resistance to change more apparent than in the realm of weight loss and fitness, where our bodies literally fight back against change at all cost. Run three miles after a month of idleness and your quadriceps will hate you. Swap out real dessert for fruit salad and you’ll go to bed feeling downright deprived. Push back dinner so you can go to the gym and your stomach will growl louder than those bulky bros in free weights. Our hominid bodies were wired back in our nomad days to retain calories and build energy stores, and when it comes to corporal memory, old habits die hard.

But sometimes it’s the hardest things in life that are the most worth doing. I’m not going to lie – changing my lifestyle between January 2011 and today was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. In order to lose 30+ pounds and keep it off, I had to change practically everything I knew and loved: my snacking habits, my love of calorie-laden craft beer, my indolent lifestyle, my lackadaisical gym routine. And once I got my weight down and started training for the Marine Corps Marathon last fall, I had to shake up my routine further yet, sacrificing prime Friday night real estate for Saturday long runs and swapping Wednesday happy hours for mid-week hill sprints. It was change and it was hard, but when I crossed that finish line at 3:51 and immediately started planning for my next marathon, I knew it was worth it.

I still fight change – to do so is in my very nature as a human – but I’ve learned in recent years that sometimes a little change-up is worth embracing. That’s certainly the case in fitness, but the same can be said of most things in life, from date night destinations to professional advancement, the latter of which has been very much on my mind as I begin my new job at a new company in a new part of town.

I’ve just finished day four, and I’d be lying if I said it hasn’t been strange forging a familiar work environment for something  totally new and different. In fact, as I walked into my new building Monday, my nervous self could have used a little reminder that change is usually a good thing.

And what do you know? It got one.

As I picked up my visitor’s badge on day one, the welcome desk opted to use a stored headshot of me from a guest visit to the building in 2009, rather than snapping a new photo. They printed my temporary ID badge with this flattering photo:

photo 1 (16)

A few hours later, I went to pick up my new, permanent ID with an up-to-date headshot, and this is what I found:

photo 2 (18)

Nothing like a little pictorial evidence to drive the point home: despite our born and bred resistance to it, change is more-often-than-not a very good thing. Perhaps it’s time we all changed our attitude about it.

How are you embracing change this summer?

 

Categories
Running Training Weight Loss

Spice of Life

I eat oatmeal for breakfast nearly every morning, a home-packed salad for lunch nearly every noon*, greek yogurt for snack every afternoon and some version of the same 10 dishes every evening come suppertime.

*Confession: More like 10:30 a.m. This impatient girl’s lunch has never once survived to see the elusive p.m. hours.

Even when dining out, I tend to gravitate toward the same options over and over again. Salmon, asparagus and lentil puree? Yes, please. Arugula, beet and goat cheese salad? I’ll take two. Multi-grain pancakes with a side of turkey bacon? Your restaurant menu has just made me the happiest bruncher in all of Gotham.

It’s true: When it comes to my culinary decisions, if variety is the spice of life, then I’m not going to be winning a James Beard award any time soon.

But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Although oft-repeated anecdotes recommend diversifying your diet to keep your taste bubs interested during weight loss, actual science suggests quite the opposite. According to the National Weight Control Registry, which studies why it’s calculably harder to maintain weight loss than lose the pounds in the first place (oh, cruel world), those who successfully beat the odds and do, in fact, maintain significant weight loss for an extended period of time have a number of factors in common:

  • They eat breakfast every day.
  • They watch less than 10 hours of television per week.
  • They exercise, on average, about 1 hour per day.
  • They consume a diet with less food group variety.

That’s not to say they have to eat the same exact foods day in and day out like some people I know.

People = puppy in my lexicon, but you knew that.
People = puppy in my lexicon, but you knew that.

To be fair, I do mix it up, but only in the details. Today it was oatmeal with banana. Tomorrow, it will be oatmeal with almonds and strawberries. In the future, it might be oatmeal and metallic robot food. Who knows what the future might bring?

But while extreme variety is largely discouraged when it comes to food selection and weight control, the same can’t be said of exercise. Run the same five-mile loop at the same pace every morning and you may be fit and consistent and content. But run the same loop over and over again and there’s one thing you aren’t going to be: improving.

I’ve heard for years that a variety of workouts – intervals, long runs, cross training, hills – is crucial for overcoming fitness plateaus, but as I spent the last year ignoring that advice and logging PR after PR regardless, I couldn’t be bothered to shake up my routine. Fast forward to last Saturday’s brutal performance at the Healthy Kidney 10K that saw me cross the finish line a whopping 5 minutes slower than my distance record and it became painfully clear that a few easy reservoir loops at the same pace each week does not a competitor make.

Funny how much less miserable I looked before the race began.
Funny how much less miserable I looked before the race began.

So in the spirit of overcoming my current fitness stagnation, I’ve decided to do the unthinkable: I’m going to sign up for a sprint triathlon. That’s right: a quarter-mile swim, an 11-mile bike and a 3.1-mile run await me this July in an attempt to break up my routine and push through this athletic plateau. This will be my second sprint triathlon to date, having completed one excruciating attempt during my nonathletic (and non-Saved by the Bell) college years, and I’m definitely out of my comfort zone here.

Fortunately, while the concept of a triathlon is fairly new to me, my race partner and I go way back. In fact, we’ve even swum together in the same open water before.

Thanks for the awesome haircut, Mom, Dad and the 1990s in general.
Thanks for the awesome haircut, Mom, Dad and the 1990s in general.

I’m not going to lie: the notion of lap lanes and weight training and spinning classes scare me more than 1982 classic Poltergeist*, but I think it’s time to get out of my rut and think outside the Bridle Path.

*Just kidding. Nothing scares me more than Poltergeist.

So here goes nothing. Crabman Triathlon or bust!

How are you planning to push yourself this summer?

Categories
Food Running Weight Loss

No Day But Today and Other Overused Phrases

Sometimes you attend a Seder dinner and sample all 12 kinds of unleavened cookies in solidarity with the Israelites. Sometimes you opt for the lobster roll and chips in lieu of the salad once you learn your Oyster Bar dinner is being expensed. Sometimes you spend a winter weekend in beautiful New Hampshire with access to unlimited cupcakes, mayonnaise and red wine, stuff yourself silly and then roll your way to the fireplace to capture what I can only imagine is a 1980s propaganda poster for Mormonism.

terry

Sometimes all those things happen in the course of a single week. Sometimes you awake on Friday morning to find your favorite skinny jeans don’t fit. And sometimes you have to break free from a familiar sentence structure and just stand up and say it:

Hi, I’m Anne, and I have a moderation problem.

I feel like a fraud: I’ve been touting the merits of moderation in this space for well over a year. Don’t believe me? I have the MLA-style bibliography to prove it.

“As (I would have said Winston Churchill, not google says Petronius) once said: Moderation in all things, including moderation. That, and always eat two lobsters at the seafood buffet.”

Source: ‘New York City Weight Loss.’ Web. 31 Jan. 2012.

“I’ve said before and I’ll say again: Just like you have to make some sacrifices in your life to be a great runner, you also sometimes have to make sacrifices in your running to have a great life. Moderation in all things, including moderation.”

Source: ‘We Can’t All Win Trophies, Baltimore.’ Web. 4 Feb. 2013.

“As I always say, moderation in all things. Except crepe cake.”

Source: ‘Marathon Weight Gain.’ Web. 14 Nov. 2012.

(But seriously, MLA, do we really still need to write “Web” in our citations of online information? Might be worth revisiting. Just saying.)

I know deep down inside that moderation is paramount when it comes to healthy eating as well as running, and I preach its merits every time a friend asks me how she, too, can turn her unhealthy life around. “Portion control,” I say. “Calculated caloric intake.” “Picking a running schedule and sticking to it.”

Every word of that’s true, but when it comes to my actual life, maintaining moderation is still a struggle. Every. Single. Day. I wake up each morning with the best of dietary intentions: oatmeal for breakfast, a homemade lunch, a reasonable dinner with friends, topping it all off with at least 30 minutes of exercise and 7 hours of sleep. But then a co-worker leaves cookies in the kitchen, or my reasonable dinner turns into alcohol-fueled karaoke, or I forgo my Friday morning 4-miler to sit at my laptop in a towel and write this blog post. I mean, hypothetically, on that last point.

It’s time we all admit it: maintaining a healthy lifestyle every day is HARD work. And it never stops being hard work. Losing 30 pounds in 2011 was difficult, but working every day to maintain my new weight two years out when all I really want is another co-worker cookie is a constant battle. There’s a reason two-thirds of U.S. adults are overweight or obese: it’s easier than maintaining perpetual moderation, especially when there appears to be sugar lurking around every corner.

Courtesy of my mother, the accidental crafter.
Courtesy of my mother, the accidental crafter.

But while repeatedly falling off the wagon can be frustrating, the wonderful thing about signing on to be healthy for life – not just from now until beach season like some fad-diets would suggest – is that you can always get back on. I used to go on flash diets, mess up one night with a late night slice, and then throw in the towel and revert to my old ways. But when you’re thinking long term (i.e. forever), it’s a lot easier to forgive yourself for your occasional (alright, frequent) nutritional indiscretion, because you know the next day is always a new day. You can’t maintain weight loss by ordering a basket of fries at every post-workout brunch, but you also can’t harbor guilt for days on end every time you slip up and do.

I recently found myself forgetting this key ingredient in weight maintenance – self-forgiveness – but an old family friend sent me an email to set me straight. He wrote:

“Heed your own advice: ‘All things in moderation, including moderation.’ Don’t be afraid to get in touch with your inner slacker every once in a while. And never forget that while the early bird gets the worm, it’s the second mouse who gets the cheese.”

Thanks, Vaughan. I may have skipped my morning run – meaning I already slipped up and it’s not even 9 a.m. – but at least I didn’t get crushed up death. And when it comes to a lifetime of fitness, every small victory is one worth celebrating.

Happy Easter, everyone! How are you planning to maintain moderation this holiday weekend? (“Poorly” would be the answer I’m looking for.)

Categories
Food Weight Loss

Guest Post: RiledUpRunner + InspiredByMollie = Skinny Success

Note from the real RiledUpRunner:

Below is a guest post from my college friend, Tara, whose simultaneous appreciation for delicious food and healthy ingredients makes for some awesome recipes that are impossible to pass up. Tara is just two months away from her big wedding date (what up, Mike? Let’s meet someday, fo’ real.) and three-and-a-half months out from our five-year college reunion. Start gathering your favorite 80s gear now! (More for the latter event, but you never know…) Enjoy her post, and check out her blog for more recipes. 

———-

There are so many diet gimmicks out there – pills, shakes, drinks, juices, superstitions, tricks – and the list goes on. However, losing weight isn’t magic (unless you use Photoshop) – it’s a science, or a simple mathematical equation: calories in < calories out = weight loss.  For those of you who hate math, let me rephrase: eat less than you burn and you will lose weight.

Unfortunately, no matter how many math or science courses we took at college, they did not teach us this equation. What they did teach, however, was how amazingly delicious calorie-packed food can be. Anne and my small liberal arts college was ranked No. 1 nationally for food, and with an all-you-can-eat dining hall, we indulged – a lot. Between the delicious meals, intense studying and a lack of physical activity save for dance parties, we were eating more than we were burning for four whole years, which meant we quickly packed on the freshman 15 (or in my case, 50).

Before shot.
Before shot.

So when graduation came and we entered the real world where sweatsuits were no longer acceptable everyday attire, it was time to drop the freshman 15 (or 50). And instead of giving in to gimmicks, Anne and I each separately decided to do it the good old fashioned way (and the only way proven to work): we resorted to healthy eating and exercise, or calories in < calories out. While running became a passion for Anne, my passion became cooking and eating healthy food.

After shot! Woo!
After shot! Woo!

Two years (and negative 50 pounds) after making the switch to healthy food, I decided to start sharing my recipes with the world, and my blog InspiredbyMollie.com was born.

The philosophies I follow in my blog – and life – are as follows:

Use healthy ingredients. This means incorporating ingredients that are packed with nutrition so the calories that are consumed are beneficial to your body, including vegetables, protein, fruit, whole grains and healthy fats.  At the same time, it’s important to avoid empty calories, or foods that are high in calories but low in nutrition (e.g. processed white bread). Also, you can typically find low-calorie nutritious substitutes for high calorie favorites (e.g. spaghetti squash for traditional spaghetti or fat free Greek yogurt for sour cream).  Here are a couple of my recipes that are packed with healthy ingredients and incorporate such substitutions:

Mediterranean Chicken Meatballs

Greek Yogurt and Chive Mashed Potatoes

Light and Healthy Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Make this. And send it to Anne for taste-testing, please.
Make this. And send it to Anne for taste-testing, please.

Exercise portion control. This is especially important when eating rich foods or treats. It’s simple: if something is higher in calories, eat less of it. And if you are anything like me, and you don’t have self-control, use portion-sized bowls and plates to help you. Also, if you just need a “big” meal, increase the volume of your meal by adding a bed of lettuce or a ton of low calorie vegetables.  Here are some of my portion-controlled favorites:

Mini – Crust less Mediterranean Quiches

Mini Chicken Pot Pies

Mac, Cheese and Veggie Cupcakes

Yum.
Yum.

Indulge! Sometimes. Just because you are watching what you eat does not mean you have to deprive yourself of flavor or fun.  Use low-calorie flavors like spices and herbs to enhance the flavors of your healthy food without destroying their nutritional value.  Just beware of salt, as it causes water retention and thus apparent weight gain. And if you’re a sweets person, don’t skip dessert!  It’s OK to eat a small treat once a day. Just remember – portion control is key. Here are some great portion-controlled desserts that won’t break the bank:

Mini Blueberry Cobblers

Mini Crust-Less Pumpkin Pies

Mini Pink Peppermint Chocolate Cupcakes

Yes, please.
Yes, please.

Plan and prepare. Plan ahead and prepare your own food. This allows you to make good decisions, rather than impulsive hungry decisions AND it also allows you to control what you are putting in your mouth.  I try to avoid eating out more than once or twice a week and when I do eat out, I look at the online menu ahead of time and make my selection when I am not hungry. I know this could be considered a bit OCD, but if it allows me to order the beet salad (which I love) instead of the mile-high nachos, it is worth it. Also, if you are really busy and thinking to yourself you don’t have time to make your own food, think again. Make healthy food in bulk on a day when you have time and freeze individual portions for a healthy meal when you are pressed for time.  Here are some freezer friendly recipes:

Veggie Lovers Vegetarian Chili

Chicken Soup

Slow Cooked Bolognese

Heat up before eating, idiots.
Heat up before eating, idiots. ❤

Drink water. Lots and lots of water. This is very important when you are running and working out and also when trying to lose weight. It helps flush your body and also helps fill your stomach – and it’s calorie free!  Sick of water? Add some sliced fresh fruit to a pitcher of ice water for flavor. Lemon, limes, strawberries, watermelon and cucumber are all delicious options!

Of course, I do not always stick to these rules perfectly, but I do my best to make one good decision at a time. Like training for a race, you can get derailed and face challenges or temptation.  But overall, if you stick with the training and healthy eating, you will find success, just like Anne and I did.

For more information on my recipes and cooking, please follow my blog (www.inspiredbymollie.com) and like me on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/InspiredByMollie). 

Categories
Running Weight Loss

Back on Track, Again

As I walked in on my brother’s dog polishing off an entire crockpot of gravy suspiciously left at mutt-level during post-Thanksgiving clean-up, it became immediately clear that she and I are related.

Just call me MaryKate.

Sure, I might not down a gallon of turkey grease in one fell swoop if left unsupervised in the garage,* but without constant monitoring and self-regulation and a little public accountability, I’m just about as disciplined as an eight-month-old goldendoodle when it comes to my nutrition and exercise goals.

*Who am I kidding? I totally would.

Tomorrow, it will have been a full month since I ran the Marine Corps Marathon, and I have a confession to make: in the four weeks since crossing that finish line, I have yet to run a single 15+ mile week.

Also, I ate half a pie for breakfast on Black Friday. Whew. Feels good to get that off my chest. If only getting that off my hips were as easy.

Fortunately, I’ve learned a thing or two about myself these last 27 years, and I know the best way for me to get back on track is to lay out a specific target to work toward achieving. On October 28, I attained my 2012 New Year’s Resolution of running a marathon, but with five weeks left in the waning year, there’s no reason I can’t lay out some small, supplemental goals to sustain me until January 1 rolls around. So here goes:

  • Achieve a new PR. After much metaphorical dragging of feet, I’ve signed on to run NYRR’s Join the Voices 5M this Sunday and NYRR’s Ted Corbitt Classic 15K on December 15. Despite having raced more 10Ks than I can count (because I can apparently only count to five), I’ve only run one timed 5M and one timed 15K since first lacing up my racing shoes in early 2011, meaning a new year-end personal record may actually be in the cards.
  • Eat more homemade food. I love New York, but if I’m not careful, whole weeks go by without my kitchen seeing any action. It’s not only difficult to get five fruits/veggies a day when I’m sourcing all my meals from falafel peddlers and burger shacks; it’s also downright expensive. I just spent all my disposable income on a plane ticket to India (more on that development later), so I’m back to bagged lunches for the time being.
  • Steal this dog.
Come now, readers. You didn’t really think I was going to spend three full days with my niece this holiday season and only include one photo of her, did you? 

How have your 2012 resolutions fared, and what are you targeting for these five final weeks? Let’s all go out with a bang. And possibly a dognapping misdemeanor.

Categories
Running Training Weight Loss

Marathon Weight Gain

There are plenty of good reasons to run a marathon: the sense of personal achievement, raising money for a cause, offending a bear on a 26.1-mile-long chain.

There’s also at least one bad reason to run one: to lose weight.

As counterintuitive as it may seem, signing on to run a four-hour-long road race is not a sure-fire path to watching the pounds melt off. In fact, if my statistically sound survey of one respondent tells me anything, it’s that 100-percent of runners actually gain weight during marathon training and the subsequent recovery process. (Note: I may or may not know the definition of “statistically sound.”)

But you just spent an entire summer running more miles each week than most Americans run in their entire lives! How is marathon weight gain even possible?

A lot of things don’t make sense in this world, dear reader, and marathon weight gain is one of them. Also, cats.

Any coach will tell you some modest weight gain during marathon training is normal, since you’re amping up your muscle density and keeping more hydrated than ever before. And when you really start carbo-loading in the final week of your taper, you can expect to see the scale spike as much as four pounds, this Runner’s World article says, since your body’s retaining three extra grams of water for every gram of carbohydrates stored. As you make your way to the finish line, those extra pounds of water weight will quickly melt away.

Try to spot me! Also, try to find Waldo’s binoculars.

Unfortunately, the other weight gained during marathon training – the real, tangible weight – is a lot harder to get rid of. And how did those extra pounds get added in the first place? Well, let’s do some simple math:

Conservative estimates tell you a runner burns about 100 calories per mile, meaning a would-be marathoner on a 40-mile peak weak is burning an additional 4,000 calories every seven days. Sounds like a get-out-of-vegetables free card to me. But when you break it down, spread over the course of a week, that’s only an additional 571.4 calories a day, or 83% of a basket of ShakeShack cheese fries. Add in your voracious marathon runner’s appetite and you’ll shift from a calorie deficit to a calorie surplus faster than ConEd restored power to the Rockaways.

What’s that, you say? Rockaways homeowners are still without power 15 days after the hurricane? Oh. Awkward. Hey, let’s all take a page from New York Road Runners and donate to the very-much-still-ongoing recovery efforts. Cool? Cool.

But beyond keeping tabs on your fueling during marathon training, it’s even more important to step back and re-evaluate your nutrition and exercise routines after the race comes to a close. Not for the first 72 hours, mind you – those days are unquestionably meant to be spent cramming your face with bacon cheeseburgers – but in the weeks that follow, you’ll need to reteach your suddenly less-active self to once again ignore the caloric cravings your high-intensity marathon training had allowed you to indulge. Once the post-race aches and pains subside, you’ll also need to reintroduce moderate movement into your daily routine. Burning 300 calories on the elliptical doesn’t give you free reign to, say, butter your cheese curls (that’s what she said), but it will help you get back on track now that your 26.2-mile achievement is a thing of the past.

Pysche! I wasn’t even in that first photo! But I’m in this one, I promise.

Of course, if you do find yourself needing to shed a few pounds post-marathon, the most important thing to remember is this: be kind to yourself. You didn’t train your body to run a freaking marathon in a week, so don’t expect to get back to your goal weight in a blink-of-an-eye, either. Drastically cutting down to a 1,400 calorie diet is not going to help you maintain all that lean muscle you built over the course of your training, and there’s no greater crime than skipping the cake(-flavored vodka) at your 27th birthday party this Saturday.

As I always say, moderation in all things. Except crepe cake.

Here’s your damned shout out, Keirnan.

How do you keep your weight under control during or after a big race? 

Categories
Food Running Weight Loss

Back on Track

Sometimes the temperature grazes 80° for the first time this calendar year and your mom offers to buy you an ice-cream cone. Sometimes you go to a gorgeous Southern wedding and you can’t pass up the mounds of barbeque beef brisket vying for space on your plate. Sometimes your little (grown-up) brother doesn’t want to share his box of Cheez-Its, which – in proper sibling fashion – only makes you want them more.

Sometimes all these things happen the same weekend. Or perhaps I should rephrase: Sometimes you return home to New York from an excursion to Maryland to find you’ve gained three pounds in as many days.

In years past, whenever I’d go on a “healthy eating spree,” one weekend of caloric debauchery was enough to see me throw in the towel and revert back to my earlier ways. I’ve already ruined my diet – I’d say – so I might as well test that all 6 burger options at Shake Shack have the same meat-to-bun ratio. You know, for science.

That kind of thinking didn’t get me anywhere (or more accurately, it got me here) because it was fatalistic, short-sighted and – pardon my French – le dumb.

But now that I’ve finally given up on short-term fixes in favor of what I hope will be a lifetime of nutrition and fitness, a weekend off the wagon no longer carries the same weight. I ate both the chocolate and the vanilla wedding cake on Saturday night – I said to my slightly hung-over self the following morning – so I’ll just stick to oatmeal and coffee at the hotel breakfast buffet, even though they have all the free sausage a carnivore could hope for. When you’re thinking long-term, it’s easier to bounce back from a few days of bad habits, Episcopal guilt and all.

That said, I’m still using this weekend’s free-for-all as an opportunity to revisit my goals and recommit to some of the healthy practices that helped me drop 30+ pounds by this time last year. For example, I’m taking a page from my girl Tara’s book and trying to pack my own lunch four out of five days this week. I’m also recording everything I eat over the next few days in a drive for mindfulness. And I’m not sneaking any more rest days than Coach Hal allows as I enter Week 8 before my most important race of the season.  I even upped my Monday 3-miler to a 6-miler just for good form. Who knows? If I sneak in one extra, unscheduled mile by Sunday, this may even be my first ever 30+ mile week.

And that kind of accomplish warrants an ice-cream cone.

How do you get back on track nutritiously/fitnessly/navigationally after straying?