Month: August 2013

Making Your Goals Attainable: A Real-Life Example of an Action Plan

On a previous post, I shared how I walk clients through the process of creating a SMART Action Plan.  To read that post, CLICK HERE.

Goals Concept

So many times we make promises to ourselves:

  • “I need to lose weight.”
  • “I want to start eating healthier.”
  • “I need to get organized.”
  • “I need a new job.”

The problem is that we fail to be specific enough or assign a timeline for getting things accomplished.  A perfect example of putting something off because of lack of an action plan is my desire to obtain my Personal Training certification.  I have been thinking about getting this certification for at least 5 or 6 years, and yet, here I sit with no certification.  I even bought the study books and materials for a nationally accredited certification about 4 years ago, and I think I made it about 6 pages into the manual before I tossed it aside.

My failure to achieve my goal boils down to a lack of a SMART Action Plan, the most important step being that I didn’t assign a timeline.  “One day” is not a specific timeline.  In order to achieve your goals, you have to have a realistic, specific timeline to achieve those goals.  I decided it was time to give myself a taste of my own medicine and put an Action Plan in place!

GOAL:  Obtain Personal Training certification
DEADLINE:  By Thanksgiving  (November 28)
START DATE: August 28
*13 weeks to achieve goal*

STEPS:
1.  Study
Personal Trainer Manual and Workbook  (18 chapters; 2 chapters per week for 9 weeks)
Program Design Handbook  (4 sections; 2 sections per week for 2 weeks)
Anatomy Workbook  (1 week)
2.  Practice Test and Re-visit problem areas  (1 week)
3.  CPR certification  (deadline:  November 1)
4.  Take Final Exam for certification  (may take place in December, depending on test dates available; absolute deadline of January 1st)

By assigning deadlines and dates, as well as being specific about the steps to achieve my goal, I can now hold myself accountable and keep myself on track to meet that goal.  Reaching the goal is no longer a “one day” type of goal, but should be attained by the end of the year.

Given that I am already working on a goal of losing weight (and I’m a third of the way to my goal on my progress), a second goal of achieving this certification is probably my limit for now.  Another reason folks tend to get frustrated and give up on goals is because they overwhelm themselves by trying to accomplish too many things at one time.  In order to be successful in achieving your goals, you should only start one action plan at a time, and limit yourself to 2-3 major goals at one time.  Because I have already been working on losing weight for about 6 weeks and am successfully sticking to my action plan, I feel confident in adding another goal at this time.  However, deciding to work on this certification at the same time that I was starting my action plan for losing weight would not have been a smart choice, as I probably would have abandoned one (or both) goals.

I have put my action plan out there for two reasons: 1) to show that, even I as the Coach, need to practice what I preach (and yes, I make mistakes too), and 2) to hold myself more accountable by putting it in writing (not to mention putting it out there for an audience who can also keep me accountable).  Additionally, I have written out these steps and posted them in a location in my house where I will see the Action Plan every day (it’s harder to play “out of sight, out of mind” when it’s staring you right in the face on a regular basis).

What goals have you not achieved because you failed to be specific and assign a timeline?

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HOW TO: Stretch Your Groceries and Plan Family Meals

I don’t claim to be an expert who has “the” answers, as I recognize that there are many people out there with lots of great ideas.  Just check Pinterest to see all the crafty moms out there with beautifully decorated homes who still find time to make ornate food that looks like it should be on display somewhere versus being eaten by their families.  I am not that mom/wife.  Our baby’s room is a hodgepodge of themes, wall hangings, and furniture – all of them very practical, but not worthy of being posted on Pinterest.  The food I prepare tastes good (or so I am told), but is not Top Chef worthy, nor am I crafty enough to make cute displays that look like little animals or my daughter’s favorite Bubble Guppy.

What I can offer, however, is practicality and frugality.  My forte is organization that makes sense in a world that is busy.  I don’t have the time or energy to comb over coupons or sale ads for hours on end, nor am I crafty enough to make cute charts that look like that belong in a teacher’s elementary school classroom.  My husband and I are pretty simple people.  What I bring to you are tips from our simple, frugal life that I hope you will find helpful.

Today, I bring you tips on stretching your dollars in your family meals.  I do “big” grocery shopping twice per month, with some smaller trips in between to get fresh produce or other small items that may pop up.  We do have a monthly allotment budgeted for our grocery items, and I work very hard to stick to that.  If I happen to have coupons (and remember to take them), I will use them, but most of the time I do NOT have coupons.  If you have time and enjoy sifting through coupons, more power to you – extra savings, woohoo!  My version of couponing is checking my local grocer’s ad for the meat and produce specials and planning my meals around those.  I then get my other goods – boxed items, household goods, etc – from WalMart or Sam’s Club.  I know the average prices of my regular items, and I watch for them to be on sale.  When they are on a good special, I stock up.

Here are some of my little tricks for stretching our groceries:

1.  Based on the meat specials at the grocery store, make a list of what meals you will make with those meats.
I list out first which meats I will buy, and then think of what I can do with those meats.  For example, this week I may plan to get a roast, cubed steak, chicken breasts, ground beef, and pork chops.  From there, I may decide to do a roast with potatoes and carrots, cubed steak with mashed potatoes, chicken casserole with the chicken breasts, sloppy joes with tater tots with the ground beef, and BBQ baked pork chops with some veggies.

2.  Complete the grocery list with sides, other needed ingredients, snacks, and lunch and breakfast items.
It should be noted here that I keep a running grocery list on my fridge, where I list items that are running low (or in some cases, have run out) as I discover them.  I HATE to run completely out of anything, so I usually add it to my list when it gets low.  If it is an item that goes quickly, I add it when it gets about halfway used, but if it’s an item that goes more slowly, I wait until there is maybe a quarter of it left.  So when I get ready to do my grocery shopping, I already have a list started.  I add the meats on special, then the sides to go with those, and then any special ingredients I may need (e.g. cream of chicken soup, BBQ sauce, tortillas, etc).  I finish off my list with snacks, lunch items (e.g. lunch meat, cheese, bread, Hot Pockets, soups, salad stuff, etc), and breakfast items (we eat cereal or oatmeal most mornings during the week, but I prepare a big breakfast on the weekends).  The most important takeaway here is that EVERYTHING goes on the list.  Sure, there may be an item or two that you forgot about and remember it when you get to the store, but otherwise stick to the list.  NO IMPULSE PURCHASES.
SIDE NOTE:  Plan for the unexpected.  Have 2 or 3 meal options that are easy but flexible for those “just in case” nights.  One of our go-to meals is tuna salad with mac and cheese.  It’s quick and easy, but also keeps on the shelf, so we pull it out if we need something fast, or if other meals have run out.  It’s also a good go-to if you have a night where you maybe have plans to go out the next night, and therefore will not be eating leftovers (you can make just enough for that night’s dinner, or eat any leftover tuna for the next day’s lunch).

3.  Learn to love leftovers.
I love to cook, but I don’t love to cook everyday.  Our rules for meals are as follows: each meal lasts for two dinners, and after two days, you may then – and only then – eat those leftovers for a lunch.  When planning my meals, I keep this in mind, so I buy enough ingredients to make a large meal to last two days.  Sometimes that means doubling or even tripling a recipe.  It also means observing portion control (which will also be good for your waistline).  I always remember my mom saying things like, “It’s a shame that I spend all this time in the kitchen for everyone to eat and be done in 20 minutes”.  I guess I don’t feel it has to be that way.  If you really enjoy a meal, why not enjoy it two or three times?  To me, it makes it more worth my effort to be able to enjoy a meal for longer than 20 minutes.  It also gives me two or three nights a week where I don’t have to stress about cooking – winning!  Extra bonus: it’s typically cheaper to make a larger batch of one meal than to make two separate meals.

4.  Make a meals list, and cross them off as you make/use them.     015
Once home from the store, I make a list of all the meals I’ve acquired.  I don’t like to assign them to specific days.  I know some people do meal assignments for the week or even the month, and that’s cool.  I just personally prefer to have more flexibility in my choices.  Sometimes things come up and I need a quicker meal.  Other times I feel like being a gourmet chef and spending a couple of hours in the kitchen.  I like options.  So I make a list of what all I have – just go down and say “#1 – Roast with potatoes & carrots, #2 – Sloppy joes with tater tots” and so on.  At the bottom, I make another small list of all of the sides I have on hand – corn, broccoli, salad stuff, mixed vegetables, etc.  Again, I like options, so this allows me to see what all I have – at a glance, and without digging through the freezer – and I can just pick which sides/veggies I want to have with each meal.  I buy a variety of veggies when I do my grocery shopping – both fresh and frozen – and I try to have at least one vegetable with each meal, sometimes two.
RULE OF THUMB – When choosing which meal to make, choose the ones with fresher ingredients FIRST, so that you don’t get stuck with produce and such that is going bad.  Once you have worked through all the ones requiring fresh produce/ingredients, you can move onto your frozen or boxed options.

Using the tips above, I am usually able to make our groceries last for about 2-2 1/2 weeks.  Again, I may have to make a weekly quick run to refresh produce or grab an ingredient I forgot, but the bulk of our groceries lasts from major trip to major trip.  Not only does it save time not having to go to the store all the time, but it saves money because I am sticking to a plan versus making impulse purchases.

What tips/tricks have you found to help make your groceries stretch?

A Mother’s Challenge: Fourth Time’s a Charm!

So…as you probably noticed, I fell off the wagon.  For those struggling to get started, you should know that I had three starts and fails before I FINALLY began to stick with it.  I tried to start with the Les Mills Combat program (from Beachbody) at the beginning of May – lasted about a week.  Tried to get it going again in mid-May – failed again.  Made my own program with a calendar and everything in June – fell off after about 2 weeks.  Then we got married and went on vacation, and, well, you know how that goes (can we say “pig out”).

FINALLY, my husband (that’s still so weird to say) and I got serious around July 10.  We had a weigh-in, and we posted our respective weights on the calendar that we keep on the fridge.  It took a couple of days to really get in gear, but I’d say what really helped was using an app on my phone to track our food intake and exercise.  Though I know that tracking is what has given me success before, I think I was reluctant because I wasn’t sure how to figure in breastfeeding (well, pumping, in my case), and I didn’t want my supply to suffer.  But after two months of failing to stick to a plan, I decided to bite the bullet and start tracking.  (I should also mention here that Bella turned 6 months old on July 10, and due to finally sleeping through the night as of July 1, she was down to only 5 feedings a day.  I was pumping almost twice what she needed in a day, so I was freezing 6-12 ounces per day.  Additionally, I had a deep freezer full of milk should my supply suffer, so I became less concerned about supply issues.)  Just in case, through research I found out how, indeed, to add in breastfeeding to allow for more calories each day.

For the first couple of weeks, I ran in the mornings before Blaine went to work, so that he could be at home with Bella.  Getting my body used to counting calories was rough, as I had been just eating whenever I got hungry all through my pregnancy and had probably even increased how much I was eating as I was nursing and pumping.  But I was down to pumping only 4 times a day (and has decreased to 3 times a day within the past couple of weeks or so, soon to be down to only two times per day), so I probably didn’t need as many calories as I once did.  Tracking food, exercise, and pumping via MyFitnessPal helped tremendously in staying on track.  It was also helpful that Blaine was tracking his food and exercise, as well.  It’s always easier with a buddy!

In the past couple of weeks or so, I changed up my routine a little.  Instead of leaving Bella at home while I went running, I started taking Bella and Paisley (our Shih Tzu) with me on a power walk for 45-60 minutes.  Once back from the power walk, I started doing about 15-20 minutes of strength training exercises: squats, arms with dumbbells, crunches, etc.  I have noticed the biggest difference in weight loss, energy, and controlling my appetite since changing up my routine.  I have now lost a total of 4.5 lbs since July 10, and about a half inch each from my waist, hips, and thighs!

Here are pics of my progress thus far.  The changes are subtle, but overall I can that I’ve gone from having “rolls” to just being a little flabby.  The biggest noticeable difference is that my stomach is finally shrinking – yay!

May 2013 vs August 2013

For those still struggling out there, just don’t give up.  Just because you pooped out once doesn’t mean you’ll poop out every time.  Sometimes it just takes some practice before you really get serious.    😉

Portion Control: Size It Up

choosemyplate logo

Portions have become greatly distorted in American culture.  In fact, many would argue that oversized portions are the root cause of our obesity epidemic.  Not only are we as a society more overweight than ever, we are now facing alarmingly increasing prevalence in diabetes, heart disease, and other lifestyle-related diseases.  If portion sizes are truly a causing factor, then we must attack the weight management issue with portion control.  But what is a “portion” anyway?

A “portion” is the amount of food you put on your plate.  Unfortunately, most Americans fill large plates with extra large portions.  Instead, we should be following standard dietary guidelines for serving sizes.  Recommended serving sizes are as follows:

  • MEAT – 3 ounces, or about the size of a deck of cards or palm of your hand
  • GRAINS – 1 cup, or about the size of your fist
  • FRUITS AND VEGETABLES – ½ cup (size of a lightbulb) to 1 cup (size of a baseball)
  • FATS AND SWEETS – sparingly, or about the size of a poker chip or small pack of dental floss

(for additional info on standard serving sizes, visit WebMD.com or MayoClinic.com)

 Knowing about serving sizes is a start, but that knowledge is not always practical and is often forgotten in everyday life.  So here are some additional tips to help you in your efforts to reign in your portion sizes:

1. Read labels.

You may be surprised to find out that a serving size of your favorite chips or crackers is only about 16 pieces (which, let’s face it, is about a handful).  When preparing your meals and snacks, only put on your plate or in your bowl the recommended serving size on the package…and then put it away.  Once your bowl or plate is empty, stop eating.  Learn your serving sizes and stick to them.

2. Use smaller plates, especially when eating pasta.
Keeping in mind that a serving size of pasta is about the size of your fist, think about how many portions you are piling onto a typical American dinner plate.  Yikes!  So next time you have pasta for dinner, downsize to those smaller plates that are probably just taking up space in your cabinet.  Though you are eating a smaller portion, the plate will still look full, and therefore will deceive your eyes (and your stomach) into thinking you are eating more than you actually are.

3. Rearrange your plate.
Try this approach to filling your plate: ½ vegetables, ¼ meat, ¼ grains.  Unfortunately, we as Americans probably do 1/3 of each of the above – or, even worse, skip the vegetables altogether.  By rearranging your plate, you will be more apt to get those 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day, while also getting closer to the lower recommended serving sizes for meats and grains.

4. Prepare more meals at home.
People tend to eat less when they prepare meals at home versus eating out.  You will also likely prepare the meals in a healthier fashion.  Either way, you will be consuming less calories than fast food or even restaurant food.

5. Separate your leftovers into mini meals.
One of the main excuses for grabbing lunch or dinner on-the-go is convenience.  So once you finish dinner at home, go ahead and separate the leftovers into smaller containers – little mini meals ready to grab and take to work (or throw in the microwave for dinner the next night).

6. When eating out, cut it in half.
If you must eat out, remember that the portions are going to be very large and full of extra calories.  When your food arrives at the table, go ahead and request a to-go box.  Divide your meal at least in half – eat half now, take the rest home.  Not only will you not feel so stuffed that you later regret it, but you automatically have your next lunch or dinner ready to grab and go the next day.

Weight management can be as simple as starting with better portion control.  As with anything new, this process will take some practice before mastering, but it is easy enough for anyone to try – anytime, anywhere.   Portion control is really just being mindful of the amount you put on your plate, and has nothing to do with starving yourself or restricting calories; simply reprogram yourself to the recommended servings for each food group.  Also know that, when it comes to fruits and vegetables, you can really never go wrong, so eat up!  The key to your size is in your portion sizes.

PREVIEW: Bristol Baby

double positive test

What a difference a year makes!

On August 3rd last year, Blaine and I discovered that I was pregnant.  Little did we know what all was in store for us over the coming months – twins, pre-eclampsia, NICU – what a year!

I have always enjoyed writing, and it has always been a dream of mine to write a book.  At one point when I was young – maybe around 4th grade or so – I actually aspired to be an author when I grew up.  Almost thirty years later, I am finally trying to make that happen.  I am currently working on writing our story.  I thought it fitting to share with you the very rough draft of the start of Chapter 1, given that it is about how we found out I was pregnant and today is the one year anniversary.

Because we were so secretive for the first 15 weeks (well, and I didn’t even find out until I was about 5 or 6 weeks along), many of you may not even know the whole story about how we found out.  I hope you enjoy our story…

Click here to read the exerpt: Chapter 1 – Finding Out