Author: Jenny K. Brown

Anyone can find success and happiness, but most of us can't seem to get around the obstacles and roadblocks that are keeping us from reaching our goals. Sometimes we just have trouble seeing the big picture and drawing out that SMART Action Plan. Together, we can create your SMART Action Plan - whether you need to get in shape, find a new job, get better control of your finances, or finally get that house organized. I will be your coach and mentor, uncovering those obstacles that are keeping you from your goals, and coaching you through strategies to overcome them. My sessions are both interactive and hands-on, allowing you to discover the root of your obstacles and to find personalized solutions that work for you.

Journey to Gratitude: Day 2

Today, I am thankful for….leftovers! While I do enjoy cooking to an extent, I do not enjoy doing it daily. Plus, I’m the type of person who feels that, if I’m going to put that much effort into something, I want to be able to enjoy it for a while. So when I cook, I make double or triple batches of things so that we can eat on it for at least two dinners, with possibly enough leftover after that for a lunch or two.

So tonight, I enjoy being able to spend more time with my family because all I have to do is reheat leftovers for dinner. ūüôā

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On the menu tonight, homemade beef enchiladas with black beans and corn.

Journey to Gratitude: Day 1

Not much in my life has been easy. In fact, my journey has been so difficult that I thought I had really seen it all and that nothing could knock me down again, because what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Then Dec 2012 happened; I got pre-eclampsia at 25 weeks with my twin girls, and ended up delivering them 3 weeks later. But the knocks kept coming: 9 weeks of a roller coaster I n NICU, loss of Bristol, Blaine’s stepmom was diagnosed with lung cancer, my mom had a tragic fall and subsequently passed, and then Blaine’s stepmom lost her battle with the lung cancer.

My spirit is beaten and bruised, and my soul is beyond sad.

In an effort to heal and move onward again, I have decided to challenge myself to a Journey to Gratitude: 365 Days of Gratitude. When you are faced with so much grief and sorrow, it is easy to get swept up in a downward spiral of negativity. Meanwhile, life is passing you by and you are missing the gems that life has to offer. This journey is my attempt to pull myself out of the sorrow and take note of the good things around me.

Today on Day One, I am ever-so-thankful for my little family. They are my everything. When you have no parents or grandparents left, you cling to those who are still left. I am so blessed to have a supportive husband and partner (who is also an amazing father), a beautiful and smart child who has already beat so many odds in her two short years on earth, and two of the best lap dogs anyone could ask for.

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Not only am I challenging myself to post at least one thing I am thankful for on a daily basis for a year, but I am challenging myself to not post the same thing twice – which will force me to find things that I might not otherwise notice. Here’s to my 2015 Journey to Gratitude!

So You Think You Need a Change (Job Change, That Is)

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As 2014 draws to a close and 2015 begins to peek from around the corner, many folks begin contemplating their New Year’s Resolutions. Among those thoughts of resolutions is often a feeling of restlessness about one’s job. Maybe you feel unappreciated. Maybe you’re bored. Or maybe you’re just ready for a new challenge.

Before you start dusting off that resume and crafting your letter of resignation,or worse yet, making rash decisions about going back to school of some kind (which can cost thousands of dollars), take some time to think about why you are restless. Most employees fall out of love with their job because they don’t feel engaged and challenged, and they don’t feel engaged and challenged because their employer is not leveraging their strengths. But what does that mean?

We are all naturally good at certain things. Sometimes it is a matter of being able to perform certain tasks with ease, and other times it is a matter of how you handle life in general. For example, some folks are naturally good at organizing things, while others may be generally kind and generous. So what are YOUR strengths? CLICK HERE to take a test that will rank your top 24 character strengths.

Another great personality test to find out your strengths and limitations is the Color Code test, which assigns one of four colors to your personality. Based on your personality color, you have some natural strengths, but also some natural limitations (or as some would say, weaknesses). CLICK HERE to take the Color Code test.

So now you’re armed with an idea of your natural strengths. Now what? My Career Discovery Questionnaire will walk you through your next steps, including what jobs may utilize these strengths.

CLICK HERE to download my Career Discovery Questionnaire

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Did you learn anything new about yourself? Did you find some new career choices that you may not have known existed? Better yet, is there a way to incorporate these strengths into your current job to give your job new life?

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What are your next steps? A Coach can help you map out an action plan to achieve fulfillment in your job, which can also provide better overall life satisfaction and fulfillment. Contact Jenny today for your FREE Discovery Session to find out if coaching can help improve your life! Start winning YOUR life TODAY!

Getting in the Holiday Spirit

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The Holidays are meant to be ‚Äúthe most wonderful time of the year,‚ÄĚ but all of the events, shopping, and bustling around can also make the Holidays quite stressful. Add to that all of the sinful food temptations and consequential weight gain, fewer daylight hours, and cold, bitter weather, and people can find themselves absolutely miserable by the New Year. But this year can be different by going into the season with a game plan. Plan to take care of your body and spirit this year and avoid the winter blues.
1. Don’t graze at the food table; fill a plate and walk away.
One of the biggest mistakes people make is grazing at the food table. You may think you are eating less because you are only eating a bite at a time, but those bites can add up to be more than if you would have just filled a plate. This year, make a vow to fill a plate, walk away, and be done with the food. Limit yourself to two plates maximum: one with appetizers and main/side items, and one for a sampling of dessert. Wanna really push the envelope? Challenge yourself to fill half of your plate with a sampling from the fresh fruit and veggie trays.
2. Walk.
Don’t stress about making time for the gym. Instead, make those small choices everyday to walk. Park at the back of the mall parking lot instead of trying to find the close parking spot. Take the stairs or walk up the escalator instead of taking the elevator. Walk daily with your dogs, spouse, and/or children. Not only will you feel better for making the active choice, a daily walk with friends and/or family will make your soul feel good, as walks are a great time for meaningful conversation.
holiday-eating-caution-sign3. Leave the goodies at work…and SHARE.
I know you want to keep all those cookies for yourself, but don’t be a Grinch this season. Instead of taking all those baked goods and gifted flavored popcorn canisters home, leave them at work and share with your co-workers. In the long run, you will eat less and you won’t be beating yourself up later for a growing waistline. In fact, your soul may even feel better for having shared your goodies with others and for spreading the Holiday cheer.
4. Take time for you.
Yes, the Holidays are crazy, and I know you feel like you barely have time to breathe, let alone do anything pampering for yourself. But find time at least once or twice a week to do something just for you: a luxurious bubble bath, a relaxing massage, 30 minutes with a good book, or just five minutes a day alone to meditate. You will be amazed at the difference a little ‚Äúyou‚ÄĚ time can make in the grand scheme of things. By taking the time to focus on your needs, you will allow your body time to de-stress ‚Äď if only for a few minutes – and prepare for the next round of Holiday Hullabaloo.
5. Do something with your family (or whatever ‚Äúfamily‚ÄĚ means to you).
Have a board game night. Drive through a neighborhood or historic district of town to look at Holiday lights. Go see THE NUTCRACKER. Whatever you do, choose something that is fun or special to this time of year (or that you don‚Äôt normally make time to do), and do it with those you love most. Perhaps you will start a new tradition. Maybe you‚Äôll discover you love something that you‚Äôve never tried before. But the laughing and bonding with loved ones will soothe your spirit (and theirs) ‚Äď a little breath of fresh air amongst the hectic atmosphere of the Season, a rare snapshot in time where everyone is happy and stress is forgotten.
Holidays should be a joyful, happy time, but we are often caught off-guard as the Holidays seem to come earlier and earlier each year. This year, approach the Holidays with a different outlook and a game plan to use those smaller moments to make the overall experience more enjoyable. Staying healthy during the Holidays is more than watching what you eat or hitting the gym even harder; don’t forget to feed your soul this Holiday Season. This Season, remember that the essence of the Season is to share the experience with others and create memories worth repeating. Get in the Holiday Spirit and have a Happy, Healthy Holiday Season!

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INITIATIVE: Leading Action

Initiative and Drive

When I was still a budding, young leader in the business world, I had a supervisor who was very much a mentor to me. ¬†However, being young and prideful, I didn’t always learn the lessons he was trying to teach until after the fact. ¬†One such lesson was the day he told me, “Don’t bring me problems; bring me SOLUTIONS.” ¬†(If you are familiar with Ken Blanchard’s ONE MINUTE MANAGER, this may sound familiar.)

At the time, that phrase frustrated me. ¬†“If I had the solution, I wouldn’t be going to you!” ¬†I would think to myself. ¬†I wasn’t sure if my supervisor just didn’t have time for me, thought I was a nuisance, or just didn’t have the answer himself. ¬†We would go round and round as I would go to him with issues, and he would turn me away to go find solutions before approaching him again.

Now that I am a seasoned leader who is beginning to teach other budding, new leaders, I get it. ¬†What my supervisor had been trying to teach me was INITIATIVE. ¬†It wasn’t so much that I needed to have the RIGHT solution when I approached him, but that I had SUGGESTIONS for solutions at all. ¬†He was teaching me to think for myself – to begin the process of solving my own problems without relying on someone else to always tell me the right move to make. ¬†Why is that so important? ¬†Because – if you are truly a leader – you will continue to climb the ladder. ¬†As you continue to climb , one day¬†YOU will be THE leader that everyone comes to……and there won’t be someone else to turn to for the answers. ¬†So somewhere along the way, you have to make that switch from always looking to someone else for the answers to finding the answers within yourself (or your team). ¬†If you can’t make that switch, you won’t be able to gain respect from a following of team members, and you will cease to progress in your leadership journey.

Let me put this into perspective: ¬†Let’s say you¬†need to have some dental work done. ¬†Your regular dentist¬†is out, so you are seeing a new dentist that you’ve not seen before. ¬†As he begins to work on your mouth,¬†he keeps having to leave the room to consult with someone else, because he is uncertain of what to do. ¬†Would you continue to allow that dentist to work on your mouth?

How about putting your faith in a hair stylist to put chemicals on your hair if she has to keep asking other stylists how to mix or use those chemicals?  Or would you put your life in the hands of a new driver on the freeway, if he/she is still asking how to operate the car?

The bottom line is we only trust those who seem confident in what they are doing.  When we have to constantly step away to ask others for the answers, our followers lose confidence in our ability to lead.  That confidence to make decisions (right or wrong) and find solutions within yourself or within your team is what will ultimately set you apart from other aspiring leaders.  The sooner you can make that switch to show initiative, the faster you will win the race to the top.

What is “initiative” anyway? ¬†Merriam-Webster defines it as “the power or opportunity to do something before others do; the energy and desire that is needed to do something; an introductory step.” ¬†Dictionary.com has another powerful definition: “leading action.” ¬†What illustrative words! ¬†“Power”…”energy and desire”…”LEADING ACTION”. ¬†YES!

If you are early in your journey to being a leader, take these words to heart and LEAD ACTION!  Your mentors understand that you still need guidance, and from time to time will still need feedback or input on the course you have decided to take.  But your mentor would rather refine a course you have chosen, than to have to paint the path for you.  It is easier to promote those who are already LEADING ACTION, than to have to drag someone along or spur someone into action.  The bottom line and food for thought: voicing concerns without suggestions for solutions is just complaining.  And complaining just compounds the problem.  So be part of the solution, not part of the problem.  Show initiative, and LEAD ACTION!

 

A Mother’s Memory

To meet me now, you would never know that I have just been through one of the toughest years of my life. ¬†I have a beautiful, healthy 8-month-old daughter, an amazing husband and life partner, a nice house, a great dog, and – as of last week – a great job. ¬†No, to meet me now, you would think I have the perfect life. ¬†And I do…..now. ¬†But just six months ago today, we had to say goodbye to our baby girl.

I may never know why we had to go through all that we did. ¬†Why are there so many babies born to families that don’t want them? ¬†Why are healthy babies born to ladies who smoke or drink – or worse? ¬†Why did my body reject my precious babies when I did everything right? ¬†I don’t know. ¬†I may never know. ¬†But I am thankful that we got to have 9 weeks with our precious baby – enough time to make memories to last a lifetime. ¬†In fact, when choosing the words for her headstone, we wanted to capture that sentiment. ¬†After reading countless phrases, we finally found the perfect one:

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Bristol touched so many people in her short time. ¬†Her story is one that will be remembered and told for years to come. ¬†She was so tough and so brave. ¬†I have no doubt that she would have been sassy and spunky just like her sister. ¬†The Lord surely got “the best” when He called her back home. ¬†This poem gave us great comfort when we were grieving:

God saw you getting tired and a cure was not to be,
So He put His arms around you and whispered, “Come to me”.
With tearful eyes we watched you and saw you pass away,
And although we love you dearly we could not make you stay.
A golden heart stopped beating, hardworking hands at rest,
God broke our hearts to prove to us He only takes the best.
—-Unknown

The other poem that spoke to us during that time:

When God calls little children to dwell with Him above,
We mortals sometimes question the wisdom of His love.
For no heartache compares with the death of one small child,
Who does so much to make our world seem wonderful and mild.
Perhaps God tires of calling the aged to His fold,
So He picks a rosebud before it can grow old.
God knows how much we need them and so He takes but a few,
To make the land of Heaven more beautiful to view.
Believing this is difficult, still somehow we must try.
The saddest word mankind knows will always be “Goodbye”.
So when a child departs, we who are left behind,
Must realize God loves children.
Angels are hard to find.
—-Unknown

Finally, for those unable to make Bristol’s memorial service, I wanted to share the letter I wrote for her:

letter to Bristol

We are so very lucky to have such an amazing angel watching over us!  We miss you, baby girl!

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?

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. ¬† ¬†ūüėČ

Portion Control: Size It Up

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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 ‚Äúportion‚ÄĚ anyway?

A ‚Äúportion‚ÄĚ 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 ‚Äď 3 ounces, or about the size of a deck of cards or palm of your hand
  • GRAINS ‚Äď 1 cup, or about the size of your fist
  • FRUITS AND VEGETABLES ‚Äď ¬Ĺ cup (size of a lightbulb) to 1 cup (size of a baseball)
  • FATS AND SWEETS ‚Äď 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: ¬Ĺ vegetables, ¬ľ meat, ¬ľ grains.¬† Unfortunately, we as Americans probably do 1/3 of each of the above ‚Äď 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 Рlittle 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 ‚Äď 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 Рanytime, 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.