Wednesday, July 31, 2013

DDP Yoga: The Next Big thing?

If you have had the pleasure of encountering this video online, you know how inspiring it is. I know it certainly made me tear up when I first watched it, and even know, I never get tired of watching, and get a little misty at the end.

I researched this, and discovered this workout is basically a sort of power yoga with some tai chi thrown in. The reviews are universally positive, and the various transformations are compelling indeed.

I'm not one to be suckered by a moving video, though. Even a really moving video.

It took me the better part of a year to decide this is what I wanted to do. I have a gym membership languishing in my credit card account, but I need something regular. I took yoga there for several months before they cancelled it, and I was amazed at how it made me feel.

I checked out a few reviews:

I Tried: DDP Yoga!
A Review of DDP Yoga... and an Apology to Diamond Dallas Page

The clincher for ordering this was the fact that this is a workout my husband wouldn't feel ashamed to do. He is NOT a healthy man, and is painfully sedentary. The only time he moves is when he goes out on the back porch to smoke.

So for my birthday, I ordered the program.

I've had some trouble getting into it regularly, but I've done several workouts, and LOVE how it makes me feel. I'm shaking at the end, and sweating. My muscles are sore and shaky.

I'm not crazy about the eating plan; it's a gluten-free, dairy-free plan. I really don't buy into the anti-gluten hype, although I'm honestly willing to try something- what I'm doing damn sure isn't working as well as it did in the first place. I can't go dairy-free, though; I love my cheese too much. ;)

But the physical stuff? Feels good. I'm more limber, breathing more easily, (after just a week!) and this is really about more than just getting bendy; DDP (Diamond Dallas Page) is a motivating guy, and he wants you to change your whole life.

Will it change mine? I don't know. I've only done the workout three or four times. But I WANT it to. And I think that's half the battle.

And if nothing else? Maybe I'll finally get to touch my toes.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Final verdict: Standing desk, and where I am right now.

So I've been trying the standing desk for a month, and today, I decided to dismantle it and go back to my regular desk.


Well, I gave this thing a herculean try, but I found it was just driving me away from my desk and into the living room, instead of encouraging me to stand more. As it turns out... my feet HATED it. My legs and back felt great, but I felt the beginning of arch pain that I could NOT risk turning into plantar fasciitis.

Most importantly? I missed my cat.

You see, I have a fat, 11-year-old cat who is my work partner and lap buddy. Since I switched to the standing desk, I haven't had him.

Overall, I didn't feel like the benefits outweighed the negatives, for me. Was it a fun experiment? Absolutely! I think that I may try again in the future when I can afford to get a little more equipment, like proper shoes and a mat to stand on.

Where am I, right now?

I'm in limbo. No, I don't mean my physical location. ;) I'm still in Georgia, and there's a nice, vigorous rainstorm going on at the moment.

No, I'm talking about my weight loss routine. I'm stagnant. I'm paying for a gym membership that I can't get out of, and haven't used, in months, although honestly I would love to... I just can't get the motivation to go.

I did go by a bike shop today to inquire about bike rides they do weekly; they do regular 25 mile rides several times a week.

I need to get my head in the right place. I'm not even tracking my food, and making terrible choices. I've gained about 5 lbs.

This is unacceptable.

My goal for this week and next: To get in three weight training sessions. The other things will follow.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Standing up for myself!

Recent studies have been quite clear: sitting on your ass can kill you. Not just a matter of if, either; the more you sit, the more you raise your risk of dropping dead from a whole host of issues. Even if you're active, and hit the gym regularly, you undo all your hard work by sitting on your bum for 8+ hours a day.

I'm the world's worst about this.  I sit so much my butt starts to hurt, and my back aches.

When I started digging around on the internet for options, I learned much to my horror that entry level standing desks start at $400, and if you want something adjustable, you're going to be shelling out at least $800, and good models run in the thousands.

Errr, no. I'm a poor person. I can't afford that.

Then, I found a $22 Ikea standing desk hack. I started browsing the internet, finding inspiration, pinning my finds on Pinterest, but kept coming back to this. Not only is it cheap, but it would use my existing desk, a beloved desk that was owned by my father and is older than I am.

So, I bit the bullet, pulled out my credit card, and got what I needed. An Ikea lack table, some brackets, and a shelf.

Two days ago, my parts arrived. My dear husband did the dirty job of drilling things (I suck at that) and we put the whole shebang together quickly and easily. I also got an extra shelf and some Capita legs to increase the height of the monitor, but I figure out that in fact, I didn't need it! The height's perfect.

So, here's the end result.

This is the back view. From what I understand, red Scotch electrical tape also matches the color of the shelf perfectly, so I can tape that up and make it all pretty, since this part faces the rest of the house.

This is the view I see. Man, it occurs to me I need to clean my computer!

This entire blog was composed standing up at my new standing desk. I have to say,  I already feel more alert and together, although that could be the placebo effect. I'll report as time wears on. I'm planning on going to the flea market to find some bar stools or such for when I need to sit, since I'm sure I'll need to get used to standing for long periods of time again.

Some fun benefits. The package from Ikea also came with some green bubble wrap that you can't pop like the usual stuff. As it just so  happens, it's REALLY comfortable to stand on! So I'm using that as a mat until I can get a good, new anti-fatigue mat.

And Noodles has discovered that in fact, he can sit in my chair behind me, since I'm not using it. I suppose he approves of the standing desk!

So yay for another step towards good health!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

How I learned to use coupons, and save $30-$70 a trip

This is a bit off topic for my blog, but well, this was asked by a friend, and this was the easiest way to share the info, so I figured I'd post it here. I like to use coupons, because in my opinion, not doing so is like throwing money away, and if you're smart, you can save quite a bit. I average between $30-70, and that's with some very half-ass focus and I could probably save a lot more if I tried harder.

I'm no extreme couponer, but I've been known to save a bit here and there. There's a couple of things you need:


Unless you like tracking sales papers, spreadsheets, and such, you don't want to keep up with prices. I'm lazy. ;) I use Southern Savers for my tracking needs. It's got all the local stores for us in the southeast (including Food Lion, although that's been closed here now), but there's a number of large ones out there! I like Southern Savers because it also has printable shopping lists and does all the matchups for me. With careful planning, doubling, match, you can save a huge quantity of cash.


There are several ways of getting them. Newspapers, of course; a weekly subscription is the cheapest way. Some people pay for multiple subscriptions, but honestly I don't have room for huge stockpiles, so one subscription is plenty. Make sure you're on your store's mailing list; I regularly get mailings from Kroger and Publix. I signed up for the Publix stocking spree even though I don't have one, because we're getting one eventually, and I can trade them online if I should need to. (Yes, you can trade coupons. It's fun!)  There are also hundreds and hundreds of dollars worth of printable coupons. With a bit of ink and a decent printer, you can save tons of cash with printables. Be careful where you get them from, though; some sites take advantage of the coupon craziness and will put out scam coupons.

I use either Southern Savers for  my links, or I use my MyPoints account to print coupons. The best part about MyPoints is I also get 10 points per coupon printed and redeemed, and I can save up points (doing other things on the site, too) for gift cards. I won't spam you or anything, but if you think that's something you'd like to do, let me know and I'll refer you. That's a complete tangent, though, and not relevant. Depending on where you get your cards, the odds are it comes from - most sites get paid for referrals, but that's usually the source. You'll need to install a browser plugin to use the printer, because there are limits to printing. Most coupons can be printed twice, and that's it for that computer. YOu can, however, get squirrelly and print from multiple computers. The really dedicated couponers have as many as 5 or more... that's 10 prints per coupon. I'm... not that dedicated.

You can also visit online sites and get eCoupons for many stores., for example, has a bunch that you just point, click, and load to your card, and it comes off automatically at the register. No clipping, no sorting, just saving. I find it hard to remember which is which sometimes, though.

CVS is a magical land of savings. With some planning, you can abuse the hell out of their ExtraCare Bucks system and stop paying for things like toothpaste, shampoo, etc. I use the ECB system to get a good chunk of my kids' Christmas gifts for free. (This will of course end as they get old and care abouts things like brand names, but hey, right now? CVS brand dump truck is enough to keep them thrilled.)


As you can imagine, juggling coupons is annoying. I don't cut them all out; there's a few ways of doing this. I like the accordion file method, where I file the inserts whole, and only clip as I need to. Some people like to do the baseball card sleeve method, where they use a three ring binder and sort them. I find this tedious and can't be bothered. LOL. I do all my planning before I leave, paperclip my coupons together, and hand them to the cashier at once. I can't stand trying to flip through a binder in the store. Plus you look like a lunatic. Everyone's different, though, so try different methods to see what works for you.

Getting the Money!

The trick to getting the best deals are to save the coupons up, and match them up to the sales and price cycles. you see, as you've no doubt noticed, prices are rarely the same at the store. There's actually a method to the madness! There are cycles, and the price of a given item will rise and fall to a max and minimum price. Your goal is to buy things (preferably with coupons) at the lowest point in the cycle whenever possible. Even without coupons, it's going to save you a bundle; after all, which is better, buying split chicken breast at $3.99 a pound, or $.99 a pound? Even without a coupon, that's going to save you some serious cash.

Don't buy things you don't need; I refuse to be wasteful, and it's not a deal if it's not something you would have normally bought anyway. Sure, you can save $2.50 on $5.00 worth of bear asses, (50% off!) but if you didn't need any bear asses, you've wasted $2.50 that you weren't going to spend.

Now, I'm lazy, and I don't give a rat's behind about sales cycles and such, so I let someone else do the hard work for me. Why reinvent the wheel? I check the Southern Savers website, get my printable list, add the things I need, print and/or clip the coupons I need, and go. They do most of the work, and you can find an even more detailed walkthrough written by an actual expert who does this sort of thing for a living.

Now, you can get super crazy with this, spend hours and hours a week, and end up on a TV show like Extreme Couponers, have a hoarder-style stockpile, and whatever. I honestly am not that dedicated nor do I care that much. I have the time, but not the willpower. ;)  At most, I spend an hour or two a week poring over a website, printing, clipping and preparing. But that pays off! Today, I made a trip to Kroger, bought $230 worth of groceries, including some much-needed meats and veggies, and paid $160. That's $70, for the math impaired. $70 of free groceries, for two hours worth of work. That's $35 an hour.

I'll take that.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

I should have been at my goal weight by now

When I started on this journey, more than a year ago, by this point I thought I would be at my goal weight. I thought I'd shed off the pounds, be fit as a fiddle, and running around at my high school weight. I didn't figure I'd wear a bikini or anything, (pregnancy made sure that the trainwreck that is my stomach is something I'm not comfortable showing to the world) but I thought for sure I'd at least be in a size 10 by now.

But I'm not.


Well, it comes down to a few things. Life. Stress. Lack of self control. Having a husband who is profoundly overweight. I could point my fingers everywhere. What it comes down to is that I didn't do what needed to be done.

But I don't consider myself a failure. In fact, I think I'm pretty successful, for all I still have 30 lbs  or so to go.

I have kept the weight off. What I've lost, I've kept off. I haven't gone back to old habits.

Over the last year, I've learned to be healthy. I am not dieting or anything like that, and all those babysteps have added up to the point where I'm no longer afraid of maintenance. Heck, I maintained a steady weight for 6 months without even trying, when I fell off the wagon the last time.

So I'm losing slowly. I don't mind that. This has been a journey of education, of self-discovery. Of learning that I like being healthy, that I enjoy being fit. I'm fitter now than I have been since college, for all I'm still overweight. I'm not obese anymore. I'm proud of that progress. I'm wearing clothes that I look good in, I have self confidence, and most importantly, I haven't given up. I haven't done as so many people do and start, and then quit after a few months. I am not on the yoyo train, I haven't had to shed the same 10 lbs over and over again.

I think I'm doing well.

This feels like a turning point for me. I'm almost zen about it; I just feel philosophical. I've been fat for a long time. I've felt fat for a long time. I don't feel fat anymore. I still glare at my gut, and wish it would go away, but I don't frown or avoid the mirror, and I've caught myself checking out my butt a time or two.

So if it feels like your progress is achingly slow, look at the big picture. What matters isn't that you shed the weight to look good in a wedding dress, or for a reunion, or whatever special event you want to reach. It's not about fitting a bikini, or any of that. This is a journey of healthy living for life.

And suppose that I didn't lose a single other pound. I stayed right here, at 184, for the rest of my life.

You know what? I'm okay with that. It's not ideal, and I could be healthier, but as long as I stay active, eat right, I think I would be okay with whatever my weight is. As long as I can outrun my children, play with my dog, lift weights, and enjoy a very tasty slice of whole wheat toast with peanut butter... who cares what that stupid scale says?

I have to love me, no matter what my weight. What if I reach my goal weight, but I'm not happy with my body? It happens all the time. People somehow link a certain scale number with happiness, and they reach it, and discover that happiness doesn't magically fall from the sky.

To be successful in this journey, I think you have to do more than just lose weight. I think you have to work on the inside. Focus on that brain. If your brain isn't ready and able to cope with the journey, you won't make it to the end. And even if you do, you won't stay there. I think the reason so many people gain the weight back is because they never go their mind together.

So think about it. What can you do to get your brain in order? How can you change your mindset to be less about the scale?

Photo courtesy of ddddaniel.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

My New Secret Weapon... revealed!

Okay, I've been hinting at my new secret plan, and today, I finally get to reveal what it is.

I was privileged enough to receive an advance review copy of Sparkpeople's new book, "The Spark Solution: A Complete Two-Week Diet Program to Fast-Track Weight Loss and Total Body Health."

 I've been stalled for a while, mostly because of self-control issues, and when I was offered a chance to check it out, well, who am I do say no?

The plan has been absolutely fantastic. The food is good (as anyone who has tried one of Chef Meg's recipes can tell you) and the plan is easy to follow; it's about education. It's a "diet" book, I suppose, because it provides you with specific foods to eat, but what it really does is teach you how to make smarter choices. It provides specific foods you might eat, and then provides an alternate option that is better, and teaches you how to make clever substitutions that lower calorie count and boost nutrition. I'm sticking white cannelini beans in the weirdest stuff now, and I'm amazed at how much bulk I'm getting as a result. ;) Seriously, who would have thought to stick kidney beans in an enchilada?

Overall, I have really enjoyed this book. It's written in the upbeat, positive style that is Sparkpeople's unique voice, and includes tons of helpful tips that when applied, can result in big changes.

I will admit I didn't do much in the way of the exercises; I have an exercise plan I follow, and prefer more advanced strength training moves. But I have been following the plan, and have been thrilled. In the first week, I lost two pounds. I'm down 4, total! Given that my weight hasn't moved in months, that's what makes me happiest. The best part is how I am not hungry; these plans provide perfect nutrition to stave off cravings, and I find I don't even miss the stuff I'm skipping.

Now, you may ask, why in the world should you get this book? Well, for starters, the freebies that come with preordering (3 months of SparkCoach, a bucket of sparkpoints, and some DVDs) are well worth the cover price anyway.

But if you're just starting out on your journey, or are stuck and bored with the plan you have... I seriously think you should consider this. I mean, come on, a diet plan that includes cookies for breakfast? Seriously? (I'm not kidding. There are breakfast cookies.)

This isn't a diet like other diets. It doesn't promise to shed pounds with little effort, or "burn fat" more than others. It's about teaching you to make healthy choices for life. Teaching you to think about what you're putting in your body, and eat for energy. It's about mindfulness. None of these recipes are "diet food" - my favorite is the curried tuna salad sandwich. I used to make my tuna sandwiches with tuna, a splotch of light mayo, and a slice of cheese. This recipe uses curry powder, cucumbers, cranberries, and a bit of greek yogurt, and it's served warm. I added a little bit of shredded mozzarella for a cheesy addition. Stuffed into a sandwich round, it was honestly the best tuna sandwich I'd ever had. :)

Nearly every recipe includes veggies. Even things that you wouldn't expect to find veggies (like the aforementioned enchiladas) have added vegetable content in ways that aren't intrusive. It doesn't feel like you're sneaking them in, but it DOES make it much easier to get those vegetable servings in each meal.

Now, there were a couple of recipes that I got a bit frustrated with. Some of this may have been my lack of sleep, but one or two were too complicated for my liking. I couldn't afford a big trip to the grocery store for some of the ingredients. However, thanks to the information in the book, I felt comfortable swapping out things in the recipe for stuff I had on hand (no cucumbers? Dice some bell peppers instead!) because that's kinda the whole point.

Best of all, this is a two week plan, but the subtitle is very misleading. This isn't just a two-week diet plan. This is a handholding introduction to healthy living, and after you finish the plan, it arms you with the tools and resources to keep moving forward. One thing any of you who have seen or read anything I write now, I don't diet. I don't deny myself, I don't skip things I enjoy, and I refuse to disallow myself any food.

That didn't change following this plan.  I averaged around 1600 calories a day (a little more than the plan recommends, but necessary for me) and still had days where I had takeout pizza, or even a bowl of ramen noodles. But I did stick primarily with the plan, and will continue to follow it for a while. I stopped for about a week, and found myself immediately feeling rough again... not tracking and ignoring the things I learned caused me to pay a price. I'm planning on doing it again starting this week.

This is a plan I like. And the cheesy chicken pouch? Dear lord, that thing is a sin, and no one who is "dieting" should ever eat it. At least, it tastes like you shouldn't.  But that's what I love about the Spark Solution... you can have it, and eat it, too. Guilt free.

So please, if you're looking for a change in your routine, just getting started, or are plateaued and want a change, preorder the Spark Solution. If you do this plan, you won't regret it.

Besides, it's just two weeks. How long have you been fat? Two weeks is nothing. You have that kind of time. Try it. :)

Full disclosure! I received an advance copy of this book for free from SparkPeople and did not receive any form of payment for my review.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

When did I start eating low-carb?

Anyone who knows me knows how I feel about low-carb diets. I don't like them, I don't support them, and while I know that they work for some people, they're not a good choice for me. I really don't feel like people need to eliminate entire food groups from their diet to succeed.

You see, I LIKE carbs. I love pasta. I adore pizza. I really do love it!

But over the past year or so, I've been making healthier choices, and have started choosing complex carbs over simple carbs. I eat a lot more veggies. Instead of pasta four times a week, I might have it one. I skip my morning breakfast biscuits more often than not, now.

I have been noticing on my nutrition reports, though, that I'm usually under the minimum ranges for carbs, and I'm not sure how that happened. (Click to expand.)

The green range is where I'm supposed to be.

Here's my graph from the first couple of months I used Sparkpeople. (very low points are likely days I didn't track accurately.)

Now, I don't really see this as a problem; the carbs I do get are high-quality. I don't avoid bread, I eat whole wheat. I like my pasta, but I mix it half-and-half. I'm more likely to skip the tortillas, but I still enjoy a good fajita bowl.

It's just weird; I didn't choose this, it just happened. I don't stress about it, and believe me, on the days I work out, I make sure I get enough (you can tell what days those are, they're the ones in the green ranges.)

Strange how habits change.