Tis the season…

I have been miserably hibernating for the last 5 days, victim to early spring’s war on the immune system. Without fail, every single year. It starts off innocently enough. The weather warms unseasonably, we bask in the warm sunshine with a gentle breeze rolling across our shoulders. The birds start chirping optimistically, and the slightest hints of greens, yellows, and pinks start creeping into view. We brave the outside more, breathing it all in.

And then, our bodies betray us.

What starts off innocently enough as a sniffle, a slight tickle in the throat quickly develops into a full blown case of allergies. And then, after two days of sniffing, the mucus settles in and before you know it you’re in the midst of a full blown sinus infection. I have used more tissues and over the counter drugs in the last week than I have in the last six months. I have somehow narrowly escaped the full blown misery throughout all of the other weak spots throughout the past few months (early fall, and mid-winter in particular) but not this time.

I have no energy, no patience, and more snot than I care to think about. Here’s hoping I continue to feel a little better today because tomorrow it’s back to work again, which means non-stop talking all day long. There’s nothing worse than talking when your ears won’t pop, the whole world sounds distance, and each sound you manage to shove through your vocal chords strikes your brain like a pick-axe.

Hope you’re all beating the early spring sinus woes!

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Lent, spring, and renewals

I know I’ve posted briefly about religion before, but it’s typically not a topic I cover in great detail. It tends to incite both the best and the worst in people, and I prefer to not rock the boat whenever possible. However, I am a Catholic, and tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, so I’m pretty much obligated to talk about Lent, right?

Lent. Growing up, Lent was my least favorite time of year. It meant giving up candy and chocolate and soda. Once in the tenth grade, it even meant giving up the internet (shudder!) As I’ve grown up, I’ve tried some different things, all in the name of a “Lenten promise” and pretending to know God’s greater plan. Arguing theology with anyone who blatantly flaunted their “sacrifices” to me. I’ve refused to make a sacrifice, proclaiming God’s intentions not to be to sacrifice something trivial, but to become a better person. I’ve vowed to add things to my life, like exercise or community service (neither bad things…) asserting that I know better than history, tradition, and religion what exactly the intent of Lent truly is.

As I’ve been exploring my spirituality, my religion, and my relationship with God this year, I’ve started really thinking hard about the spirit of Lent. It hits especially close to home this year not only because of the changes going on in my personal life, but also because my father is currently participating in an RCIA program to become a baptized member of the Catholic church. Lent is all about renewing this baptismal promise, praying to become closer to God, and living a life in Christ’s image.

Lent begins on Ash Wednesday. Catholics all over the world will flood the churches to hear the word of God, repent for our sins, and receive the mark of ashes on our foreheads. Ashes are a traditional symbol of repentance, and a tangible reminder of our own fate to someday return to the dust of the earth. It is an outward symbol of an innate need to know that nothing is permanent, and that by renewing your baptismal promise to God, Jesus, and the church, you are seeking to repent for your sins, and lead a more holy life.

Yes, Lent is also about giving something up, or making a sacrifice, but this doesn’t mean that you have to say goodbye to Mr. Goodbar or Babe Ruth. This sacrifice is about giving up the things that keep you from living a life devoted to Christ. Giving up the sins and transgressions that keep you from him. For many, this may mean giving up foods and treats that they are dependent upon, or that contribute to an unhealthy life. If your body is your temple, by all means treat it as one, and give up the chemicals and unnatural substances that chip away at the temple walls. But understand the meaning behind that sacrifice. That is what I have learned over time. It is not about sacrificing candy so that you can eat an Easter basket full when it is over, it is about making sacrifices and changes to live your life in His image.

Another Lenten tradition (at least in the Catholic church) is to celebrate the scrutinies. And it is not about scrutinizing one another, but being introspective about your own life, and your own relationship with Christ. It’s praying more, listening more, and strengthening your connection to God, just as you do in baptism. It’s alms-giving, and taking notice and care of others in need. It’s fasting, and allowing the hunger within to remind you to remain hungry for God in your life. It is so much more than children believe, and different than the mind of my rebel youth would have you believe.

This year, Lent for me is getting back to the basics, and renewing my relationship with the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. This year I will celebrate Lent by both recognizing Christ’s sacrifice by making sacrifices of my own, as well as by improving my relationship with Him. And, I’ll stick to giving up soda, too.

As part of my journey to a better me, I’m going to enter Lent with renewed vigor to fulfill my promises to myself, and my family. My commitment to making the most out of the mind, body, soul, and life that I have been blessed with.

For Lent, I’m choosing prayer. I’m committing to doing a devotion each day to strengthen my relationship with God, and my understanding of His word.

I’m choosing sacrifice. I’m sacrificing worry any bitterness in exchange for trust in God and forgiveness. I’m sacrificing anger and discouragement for patience and hope. And, just to keep with the mainstream sacrifices, I’m also giving up sodas and sweets because those have definitely crept back into my diet a little bit more than I would like!

I’m choosing to fast. I will commit to abstaining from meat on Ash Wednesday, Fridays during Lent, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday.

Above all else, I’m committed to celebrating the true spirit of Lent: the idea of spring (the meaning of the word, after all) renewing my promises to God and myself, and making positive changes to impact myself and the world. Do you celebrate Lent? What Lenten promises have you made for yourself this year?

Out of the ashes…aka what I’ve been doing for the last 2 weeks

So when we last met I was fresh off of Day 2, Level 1 of the 30 day shred. And then my brother came home from college with some scary, scary experiences. Since then you’ll be happy to know that I have stuck with my healthy eating plan pretty well throughout all of the drama, the fear, the unknown. However, sticking to my February workout intentions were a completely different story.

I am okay with this, though. I know that to be successful this time around, I cannot let myself fall prey to excuses, but, I also think that given the circumstances, and the time that was being spent with my family (basically 24/7 save work,) I think the fact that I did still adhere to my food and water plan just shows how much these things are becoming habits, not just spur of the moment decisions.

Loss has been slow these past couple of weeks, only a couple of pounds, but I have prevented a gain, even without exercise. I want to take a few moments to thank my friends here, and on MyFitnessPal for checking in on me, and making sure that I am okay, and I apologize for falling off the face of the blog-o-sphere, but sometimes there are things at home to take care of, and those things have to come first.

I will share with you some things that I HAVE accomplished in the two weeks I’ve been away (and don’t judge me on some of these things, I do recognize it’s mid February…)

1. ALL Christmas decor is down, and organized in totes! (This is a feat as we had our entire basement covered from floor to ceiling…literally. Table rolls covering the wall, 1500+ snowflakes hung from strings, 3 Christmas trees in all…)

2. ALL of the laundry is done (thanks to a trip to the laundromat this weekend) and I completed spring cleaning in our master bedroom AND guest room. The master bedroom is one craft project, 1 can of spray paint, and two refinished dressers away from total completion, and the guest bedroom is a coat of paint and some framed pictures away from completion!

3. We moved our livingroom successfully from space A to space B (we have two livingrooms in our home and until recently had a roommate occupying the front one). The new livingroom still needs wall decor, another chair or loveseat, new curtains, and something to liven up the space a bit. The old living room needs something…not sure what yet. We’ve decided to keep it a “sitting room” instead of having yet another TV we never turn on and another cable box we pay for but do not use in there, so we definitely need some furniture. Probably at least one more chair, and I really need a couple large pieces of artwork or craft project to cover these super-barren walls. But the mantle has all of it’s non-seasonal decor placed back up, and that room, too, has had it’s spring cleaning!

4. I have begun work on…MY OFFICE! The second guest room, previously occupied by the roommate, is now going to be my very own office space! So far plans for the space include this really amazing chair I fell in love with at IKEA, these curtains that I liked at Walmart, and the conceptual idea of an office space/reading nook to call my very own!

Some other things to note during my absense: my oven broke, my brother and one of his roommates, and his girlfriend all moved back in with my parents in light of the events that happened in Atlanta, I finally got my car registered, and there may be some exciting news on the horizon, but not just yet.

Thank you all again for sticking with me, and I promise I’ll let you know I’m okay next time I forsee such a lengthy absence!

Cheers!

Reality check

I know I’ve made mention of the kind of crap that I used to ingest on a daily basis. I know it is unhealthy for me, and I have still not indulged in anything like that, but I had a pretty scary reality check last night that I just couldn’t keep to myself.

We were visiting with my parents, and my mom made mention of McDonald’s having their southern style biscuits on sale 2/$1.50. She had me plug it in to see the calories. That got us started plugging in all sorts of different fast food meals, and seeing where they stacked up.

When looked at individually, most things measured up more or less as expected, but it still didn’t really sink in. I decided to look not at individual components alone, but really take a hard look at the bigger picture of the things that I was putting in my body. It was easy for me to say “oh, a chicken quesadilla from Taco Bell only has X calories” but when I actually looked at all of the components of my typical meals, it was really kind of shocking.

Based on my height, starting weight, overall weight loss goal, and the rate at which MFP says I can reasonably and healthily lose the weight, my daily caloric intake since January 1st has come in at 1,490 calories daily.

Last night, I plugged in my favorite fast food indulgence: Taco Bell #7. For me to convince Alex to go through a Taco Bell drive through at all is nothing short of a miracle, so on the rare occasion I could get him to do it, I definitely went whole hog (no pun intended.) My typical meal would be the #7 combo: a chicken quesadilla, soft taco supreme, and large Baja Blast Mountain Dew. I never forgot to add my cheesy fiesta potatoes.

Just 34 days into my journey, I have successfully limited my daily caloric intake to 1,490. 1,490. The exact same amount of calories in the one meal that I used to consume.

Scary, isn’t it? What have you put in your body today?

The last chicken recipe you’ll ever need

Okay, maybe the title is a bit ambitious, but I am not lying when I say that this chicken is absolutely to-die-for. The most succulent, flavorful piece of meat you’ll ever eat. Yup, I just said it.

So last week at Publix the Ken’s salad dressings were BOGO, and I had a $1.00 off coupon. So we got a killer deal on the dressings. We picked up a ranch (I do not obsess about salad dressings, by the way. I’m fully aware they’re pretty terrible, but I just make it a point to cut back on sodium and fat with other things) and a lite sun dried tomato dressing. The sun dried tomato is a vinaigrette and is significantly lighter, but still contains a decent amount of sodium so that would be my primary caution. In terms of taste, it is delicious. It is perfectly salty mixed with the sweet tang of the sun dried tomato. It is excellent on salads of course, but so many other things, too!

Tonight I decided to marinate my chicken in the dressing, and pair it with the complementary flavors of sauteed baby spinach and fresh crumbled feta cheese. For sides I included 1/2 a sweet potato, sliced into medallions and partially cooked in the microwave before finishing in a saute pan, and Green Giant frozen steam bag peas. The total meal came in at 480 calories, including the 2 tbsp of I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter I used to saute.

Spinach and feta stuffed chicken with sun dried tomato glaze (serves 2):

1 large chicken breast (about 1/2 lb) pounded thin and cut into two portions

2 tablespoons Ken’s Steakhouse Lite Sun Dried Tomato Vinaigrette dressing

1/4 cup Atheno’s original crumbled feta

3 cups fresh baby spinach (organic is recommended)

Pound and trim chicken, cutting it into two equal portions. Place in ziplock bag with two tablespoons of dressing. Close bag and toss gently, coating all sides of the chicken. Refrigerate for 1-2 hours.

When chicken is almost finished marinating, preheat oven to 350 and heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon of butter or olive oil (I used ICBINB) and add 2-3 cloves of garlic, crushed. Saute for 2-3 minutes until garlic is lightly browned. Add 3 cups baby spinach and continue cooking until spinach is cooked down to desired tenderness. Toss with feta and lightly saute for 30-45 more seconds, until cheese is just melting.

Prepare small baking pan with non-stick cooking spray and place marinated breasts inside. Place generous portion of the spinach and feta (about half) on top of each chicken breast. Roll breast around filling, and secure with toothpicks. Place crushed garlic cloves on top of chicken, and bake at 350 for 15 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through (also depends on how thin you pound your chicken!)

Pair with sauteed sweet potato medallions and green peas for a filling, delicious meal that is the perfect way to end a day!

Chicken Facts:225 calories, 9g carbs, 10g fat, 28g protein, 841mg sodium, 1g fiber.

Whole Meal: 480 calories, 38g carbs, 26g fat, 33g protein, 1,024mg sodium* (this is much higher than I would typically consume in a meal, and is something that you should monitor carefully if you have already consumed significant amounts of sodium, or are on a low-sodium diet,) 6g fiber.

Stronger…than yesterday

Shout out to Britney, bitch. I’ll be honest, the only proof I have that I’m stronger than yesterday is that I very much feel as if I should have been dead today, and yet I am not only still alive, but I made it through day 2 of level one. I am still miserable, I still feel like I may throw up at any moment, but I made it through.

I wanted nothing to do with exercising today, nothing at all. My throat felt all sore and scratchy all day, and I may or may not have had a little bout with the dreaded “d” word. (Just sing the Pepto song, you’ll figure it out real quick) today, so I really was primed and ready to make some excuses. I noticed this early on and tried to pump myself up for the idea of maybe going for a nice walk at Central Park, because it has beautiful walking trails and is only a few minutes from the house. I figured since the thought of Jillian was making me want to cause physical harm to those around me, I could at least be proactive in making sure I did something else.

In the end, I decided to stop letting myself backslide into excuses, and force myself to power through. I am absolutely miserable, but I did it. I feel accomplished and miserable, instead of just miserable which typically leads me down the path of depression, over-eating, loss of self-respect and all of those other horrible habits and emotions that I am working so hard to shake.

Tomorrow is another day, and I’m putting my faith in a crazy, bitchy home workout coach and the big guy upstairs because Lord knows I’m not getting through the next 28 days on my own.

If you’re the praying kind, lift me up if you remember.

Cheers!

Day one, level one

Today marked the beginning of my on again/off again, love/hate relationship with a one Ms. Jillian Michaels. Yes, friends, I have officially begun the 30 day shred. The mere fact that I’m sitting here, at 10:40 p.m, writing this down is nothing shore of a miracle.

My initial plan was to do it in the morning, before work. Unfortunately, Alex failed to prepare everything that I needed him to, and so I had to wait until after work for him to hook up the xbox on the basement TV. A few choice words, and several apologies later, I finally re-determined myself to do it, and completed my first workout this evening.

I have to say, I am thoroughly disappointed. Having started 3ds once before, I knew a little bit about what to expect. I had hoped, though, the since I’ve spent the last 30+ days eating healthy, hydrating, and getting moving a little bit more than normal I wouldn’t completely feel like death. That absolutely didn’t happen. I made it through all of most of it though, and that’s something. Tomorrow will be even worse, because I’ll be repeating her torture circuits on sore and newly-awakened muscles, some in places I didn’t even know had muscles.

But I will power through it. I have made it through worse and come out on top. I’ll show that evil, evil woman who the boss is here. Have any of you fought through Jillian’s cruel and inhumane workout? It would definitely help to know you survived…

Here’s to hoping that I can still move tomorrow! Cheers!