Tag Archives: weight loss

My New Year’s resolution for 2010 — focus on the positive

Every New Year, I’ve thought long and hard about how to improve myself, and I come up with resolutions that will make me a better person. I tell myself, “You didn’t work out enough this year,” or “You need to lose weight,” or “You need to do this and that to be better.” But you know what? This type of thinking doesn’t motivate me. It just leaves me feeling like I’ve failed in the past, and sets me up for failure and more negative thinking in the future.

This year, I’m spending the New Year looking ahead with excitement and reminding myself of my accomplishments. Instead of dwelling on what I could do better in the coming year, I’m reveling in the joy of all the great things I accomplished in 2009 and the rewards that will follow in 2010.

My New Year’s resolutions are positive reinforcements of my strengths instead of reminders of how I’ve failed. I’m training to run a half marathon to remind myself that I’m capable of anything I set my mind to, and I’m making a promise to myself to focus on my strengths instead of my weaknesses this year.

I want the coming year to be one of happiness and positivity. Here are some other reasons that I’m proud of us, and why I’m so excited for 2010.

  • We’re starting the year credit card debt free, and our emergency fund is complete.
  • We’re finally moving back home to the Midwest.
  • We’re going on our dream vacation to Europe in May.
  • I’m writing a book! (That’s all I can say about that, but I’ll have more details to come, I promise!)
  • My best friend and sister-in-law are both getting married in October.
  • I’m training to run a half marathon in November.

What’s your New Year’s resolution? Are you focusing on your strengths or dwelling on your weaknesses?

Photo by maxblogbits

Sometimes you just need a cookie

cookiesI stuck to my new healthy eating plan faithfully last week. I diligently completed my 5K training schedule every day. I even lost 2 pounds.

But yesterday was just one of those days. Work was a struggle. I was grouchy. And as much as I wish I could be one of those people who sweats out my stress at the gym (most of the time I am), the last thing I wanted was to work out. All I wanted was my slippers and a chocolate chip cookie.

So I came home, put on my slippers, and sent my wonderful husband out in search of ready-to-bake chocolate chip cookies. And they were absolutely worth the calories.

Sometimes you just have to say eff it and give in to temptation. For me, it was a chocolate chip cookie (or two). For you it may be a restaurant meal or a night at the movies. It’s not possible to be on your best behavior all the time. But it’s important to set limits even for the times you fall off the wagon.

Sure, what I wanted was to drown my sorrows in a whole box of cookies, and I knew I was in danger of doing just that. That’s why I went with the ready-to-bake instead of a whole box of cookies. I knew I could bake the two that I wanted, refrigerate the rest, and limit myself to a reasonable amount.

The same is true for your budget. When you feel like your head might explode if you don’t indulge, find a way to do it without causing too much damage to your goals — and your accomplishments.

Take a night off, do something fun for yourself. Just know that there are consequences. I’ll pay for my cookies and my missed work out today. I’ll have to be extra careful with my diet and put in some extra time at the gym this evening. If you take a night off from your budget, be prepared to make up for it for the rest of the month by being extra frugal.

It’s also important to make sure your occasional indulgences don’t become the norm. After all, being good most of the time makes giving into temptation every once in a while that much sweeter.

Photo by ghirson

If at first you don’t succeed, try a new approach

marathonI feel like a broken record. Remember the first time I vowed to get in shape? What about last January when I joined a gym?

Well, the good news is my gym membership really has paid off — sort of. I’ve been pretty faithfully working out at least 3-4 time a week since January when I signed up. I’m in the best aerobic shape of my life. The bad news is I’ve gained weight since last January. Bummer, right? I’m exercising more than I ever have, but I can’t seem to get back down to my wedding weight.

Clearly, what I’m doing isn’t working. So I’ve decided to try something new. Focusing on weight loss is frustrating when you’re not losing weight. While weight loss remains my ultimate goal, I decided to change things up to keep myself motivated and give myself a new focus. Instead of swearing to lose weight, I’ve decided to run a half marathon.

The training process will turn the intensity of my work outs up a notch, and the new goal has really improved my motivation. To avoid doing too much too soon, I’m setting smaller goals along the way. My first goal is a 5K in March. That gives me about 14 weeks to prepare myself for the 3-mile run.

The good news is, I’m not starting at zero. After a year of daily cardio, my endurance is pretty good. However, I’ve never been a fan of the treadmill, so I need to condition my body to long-distance running. I’m following this 5K training guide, which will gradually increase my running endurance over the course of 8 weeks. Once I’m able to run 3 miles straight, I’ll work on improving my time and increasing my distance.

As part of my plan, I’m committing myself to healthier eating again. Tony and I already eat pretty healthy, but I struggle with portion sizes. I’m using The Daily Plate to track my calorie consumption and help keep me on track. Since my ultimate goal is weight loss, I’m tracking my progress in my side bar. The progress bar on the right represents the percentage of pounds I’ve lost in relation to my goal.

I’m tentatively planning on running my half marathon in November 2010, which means I have almost a year to work my way up to 13-mile runs. My hope is that by getting started on my New Year’s resolution a little early, I’ll be able to stay on track through the holiday season. Fortunately, we’re staying home for the holidays this year, so we’ll have control over what we eat and how much at Christmas.

Do you know what your New Year’s resolution is? Why not get a head start?

Photo by cdm

Stop making excuses & start making progress

weight lossI used to be the queen of excuses and procrastination. Whether I wanted to lose 10 pounds, start saving, or accomplish a lifelong goal, today was never the right day for it. I always made lofty plans for the future, but I didn’t realize that when it comes to accomplishing your goals, tomorrow is no good. The only way to make progress is to start today.

Constantly making excuses for why tomorrow is better is a good way to prevent yourself from ever making progress at all. The day I realized that my temporary delays were holding me back, and setting a goal for tomorrow results in a never-ending delay, I discovered the key to achieving all of my goals.

Here’s how to get motivated if you’re battling excuses:

Tell yourself enough is enough.

Have you been talking about losing that last 10 pounds (or 50) for the past two years, but always have good reason to wait? “My diet starts after this weekend,” or “As of January 1, I am on a diet,” were my mantras for years. One day I finally said enough is enough. My diet started that minute, and 6 months later I was 40 pounds thinner. Enough is enough. It’s time to get started, because there will always be a reason to wait.

Visualize your goal.

Now that you’ve gotten started, you’re at the hardest part: you know what you want, but you haven’t started to see the motivating results. Now is the time when you need to remind yourself of how sweet it will be when you’ve accomplished your goal. It helps me to remind myself with a little symbol for what I want. Whether it’s your wedding photo from when you were at your ideal weight or a picture of the dream house you’re saving to buy, give yourself a reason to push through the tough part before you start seeing your progress.

Track your progress.

Once you do start to see progress, it’s essential that you do whatever it takes to maintain your motivation. When I was losing weight, I weighed myself daily and took pictures in my bathing suit so I could compare and see the changes. If you’re saving money or paying off debt, tally your total saved or paid every week and figure out a percentage for your progress. Seeing that percentage increase with every dollar will keep you going.

Good luck achieving your goals, and remember, the only way you’re going to get there is if you get started right now!

Photo credit: nataliej

Don’t waste your money on individual snack-sized treats

Every afternoon around 4 pm, I start craving something sweet. There are always treats hanging around my office, but none that I want to eat since I’ve been trying to lose weight.

At the grocery store over the weekend, I decided it might be nice to bring sugar-free Jello snack packs. They’re sweet, and at only 10 calories they wouldn’t add on to my calorie count for the day. When I saw the price on the snack packs, though, I couldn’t bring myself to pick them up. Almost $4 for six little half-cup snack packs? Ridiculous considering the cost of a package of Jello.

So I decided to make my own snack packs. I have little half-cup Tupperware that we use for condiments and snacks. I bought a package of sugar-free Jello for 89 cents, poured it into the individual serving-size cups, and voila! Snack packs for 1/4 the cost!

If you pack your own lunch for work or your kids’ school lunches, then you’re all too familiar with the high cost of individual serving sizes. Instead, invest in some good snack-sized Tupperware (or reuse plastic baggies) and make your own snack-sized treats.

Snacks like chips, crackers, Jello, and pudding are cheaper in bulk. Split them up into individual serving sizes for convenient lunch snacks or just to control your portions. You’ll eat less and spend a lot less on snacks, and that works for me.

Am I sticking to it because it’s costing me?

photo by ario_j

It’s been almost three months since I joined a gym. Initially, I was concerned about the 12-month commitment. If my enthusiasm didn’t stick, I might end up stuck with a monthly fee for a gym membership that I wasn’t using.

The good news is, that hasn’t happened. When going to the gym after work became too much of a struggle, I switched to a morning schedule. I’m tired earlier in the evening now, but I love getting my workout out of the way first thing in the morning. I start the day with extra energy, and I don’t have to dread working out after a long day at the office.

This is the most consistent I’ve ever been with a workout regimen. I typically controlled my weight through portion control and healthy eating, but my fitness habits have always been lacking. This is the first time in my life that I’ve worked out every single day for longer than a couple weeks.

I can’t help but wonder if it’s directly related to the $20 being withdrawn from my bank account every month. In the past, I’ve worked out for free either outdoors, in a campus gym, or in an apartment complex gym. This is the first time I’ve paid a monthly fee to work out. Every other time I started out with a lot of enthusiasm, but eventually I started going fewer times per week until I finally stopped going at all.

This time I’ve made it a point to work the gym into my schedule every day. I know I’m paying for it whether I use it or not, and I can’t bear the thought of wasting that money every month.

Tony offered a different theory. My frugality and financial organization have made me more goal-oriented and regimented, he says, which in turn have led me to follow those same principles when it comes to fitness.

I don’t recommend joining a gym just to motivate yourself to work out. If you’re not truly committed from the beginning, all the gym membership will do is add to your expenses. But if you’re like me — strict about money and lax about fitness — and you’re truly committed to a healthier lifestyle, paying for your workouts might just strengthen your resolve.

Losing weight can save you money

Yesterday’s post on how spring cleaning can save you money helped me feel so motivated that I thought I’d try something similar with my other recent goal — losing weight and getting into shape.

I understand the importance of a healthy weight, regular exercise, and a good diet. But I don’t always make the right choices, despite the fact that I’ve been working to lose the weight I gained since my wedding. I’ve only managed to lose 4 pounds in 2 months. :(

Hopefully viewing weight loss from the perspective of how it affects my finances will motivate me to make better choices. So I’ve come up with a few ways that losing weight might help me save money.

Eating healthier can lower your grocery bills.

While healthier foods often carry a higher price than convenience foods, cutting unhealthy snack foods from your budget can drastically lower costs. I don’t go out to dinner a lot anyway, but cutting restaurant meals in an effort to lose weight will also dramatically lower food costs.

Exercise is a cheap hobby.

If you make exercise fun, it can replace expensive activities like movies, shopping, or going out to eat. Instead of spending money to have fun, take a hike, go for a swim, or bike a trail.

Better health can lead to lower medical costs.

There’s a long list of ailments that can be caused or complicated by excess weight — diabetes, heart disease, joint pain, even cancer. Maintaining a healthy weight can reduce your risk for these problems. You might not reap the financial benefits today or tomorrow, but in the long run your health care could cost considerably less if you maintain a healthy weight now.

Anyone else have any ideas? Leave them in the comments. I’d love to hear them!

I’ve got a new attitude

This morning, like every other morning, my alarm went off at 6 a.m. Since daylight saving time began, my morning wake up call happens before the sun rises. Some mornings, it feels like I’m waking up in the middle of the night.

I’ve been getting up at 6 a.m. for the past couple weeks to work out for 30 minutes, but I don’t have to be at work until 8:30. I lay in bed for a few minutes, and I found myself considering staying there for another hour.

What finally motivated me was a compromise. The thought of getting through my whole workout was overwhelming, but that didn’t mean I should skip it entirely. I made a bargain with myself — in exchange for getting up and making it to the gym, I’d shave 10 minutes off my normal workout.

My first thought this morning was that it had to be all or nothing. Either I’d get out of bed and make it through my whole workout, or skip it and stay in bed until 7 a.m. It didn’t occur to me right away that it’s okay to compromise, and it’s okay to do only what you can do right now.

As I pushed myself through my workout, I started thinking about how often the all or nothing mentality interferes with my diet and exercise — and my finances. When a surprise expense forces me to set aside money in the budget that normally goes to something else, it feels like my goals are shot for the month. If I can’t send the usual amount to savings and debt, then I’ve failed.

When I convince myself I’ve failed, then I start to lose the motivation to do it at all.

If I didn’t make it through a 30-minute workout this morning, then I failed. When I start thinking that way, why even push myself to get out of bed at all? If I’m failing either way, I might as well get an extra hour of sleep.

Instead of all or nothing, I’m going to start just giving my all. If a surprise expense reduces the amount that I can send to debt and savings, then I’m going to happily send what I can and praise myself for coming this far. If I can only make it through 20 minutes on the treadmill, then I’m going to be proud that I still got out of bed an hour early and made it to the gym.

Goals are important, and I’m going to continue setting them for myself and striving to reach them. But I think I’ve been missing the point for some time now. Instead of setting a hard and fast rule and beating myself up if I can’t reach it, I’m going to set broader goals and work to do a little more each time.

I’ve realized that my rigid goals are limiting me. If I’m just pushing myself to save a certain amount every month or make it through 30 minutes at the gym, then I’m less likely to do more than that.

Instead of setting a goal to work out for 30 minutes every single day, my new goal is to go to the gym every morning and work out as long as I can. Instead of saving the same amount every month, I’m going to look at my budget, set a number based on my expenses for the month, and make sure I’m saving as much as possible.

Hopefully, this new positive attitude will motivate me to exceed my previous goals. Most importantly, I won’t feel like a failure every time I hit a setback.

Healthy frugal meals for work

Since I’m still working on losing a few pounds I’ve gained since I started by desk job, work lunches are an obstacle for me. Most of the people in my office go out for lunch every day. Since I’m frugal, I obviously bring my lunch.

I often bring leftovers from the night before. Many of our recipes make enough for 4 to 6 people, so there are plenty of leftovers for both of us to eat some for lunch the next day.

Sometimes, though, we don’t have any leftovers. Last night, for instance, we roasted a chicken for dinner. There was plenty of leftover chicken, but it will be used for chicken and dumplings on Wednesday.

I’ve struggled to find healthy frugal meals to take to work on these days. I want something tasty so I’m not tempted to join my co-workers at a restaurant.

For a while, we bought Romaine every week, and I threw together a salad in the morning. Romaine, tomato, a little cheese, and some turkey or chicken with low-fat salad dressing. I brought that every single time we didn’t have leftovers (usually 2-3 times per week) for weeks. Finally, I was so bored with salads that I couldn’t look at them anymore let alone eat them.

I found a solution in last month’s Real Simple that works for me, so I want to share it.

The magazine suggested buying a pound of whole wheat pasta, cooking it up on Sunday night, and then using the plain pasta to make a different pasta dish every day for lunch.

The magazine offers some great pasta salad recipes that I won’t copy here, but I’ve found some other good ones that I’ll share.

It takes no time to cook the pasta, and because each recipe is a little different I don’t feel like I’m eating the same thing every day. If you buy whole wheat pasta and keep your portions to about a cup, it’s a healthy, satisfying lunch option.

Here are some of the recipes I’ve tried. I just use the recipe as a guide and cut down ingredients based on how much pasta I’m actually using for that day (anywhere from 1 to 2 cups depending on whether Tony wants some):

Artichoke pasta salad
Pasta with meatless marinara
Pasta with spinach and tomato
Spinach pesto pasta (Spinach pesto is a much cheaper alternative to traditional basil pesto. Use regular parmesan cheese instead of Romano to cut costs.)
Antipasto salad

Some of these recipes seem expensive and difficult, but the most expensive ingredients can often by omitted. With some creativity you can usually find a frugal substitute for pricey ingredients without changing the flavor of the dish too much.

If you’re worried about adapting full recipes to one serving size and you don’t mind eating the same thing several times in one week, you could always make the whole recipe and try a new dish each week.

I haven’t experimented too much with it yet, but I’d imagine it would also be easy to make a full batch of pasta dishes or sauces like pesto and marinara and freeze or refrigerate them to use the following week. I hope this works for you, too!