Thank you, Susan Branch!

I have been a fan of Susan Branch for years and years!  That makes her sound old (lol), but she isn't - - she's just a really talented artist, author, and cook and general lover of vintage materials and kitchenware and all the same kind of things that I love.

Susan's "Heart of the Home" cookbook is often what I give at bridal showers and my own copy was so well worn and splotched up with kitchen ingredients that I recently replaced it.  :)  I give her calendars as holiday gifts and they adorn my own  home, my "A little birdie told me" pen is my favorite pen to journal with (you know, the old fashioned journal... pen to paper!).  So, yup! I'm a bonafide Susan Branch fan.

A few years ago I began to follow her on Twitter and discovered she is every bit as sweet tweeting as I knew she would be. So... imagine my delight when I found out last month that this blog was included in Susan's website's "Inspiration" Blog Roll.  I was like a wide-eyed kid who'd just been told by their heroine (again, she's not much older than me! lol) that she'd "done well"! :)   THANK YOU, SUSAN, for all the happiness you bring into my life through your artwork and your books and sundries and for honoring me by including me in your list.  There are so many incredible blogs and sites on this list... I encourage everyone to make a nice mug of tea or pour yourself a glass of wine and peruse the sites, linger over them and enjoy Susan Branch's site as well as all of those on her list! :)

Signed... *beaming with happiness*
A devoted fan

PS: All the artwork in this post is, of course, the delightful work of Susan Branch! Isn't she great?! :)

Back to Basics: Measuring & Water Guzzling :)

I'm a boring breakfast person 90 percent of the time because I tend to eat what I know is 1) good for me 2) works in my daily calories and fat gram plan and 3) is EASY!  So... voila... this morning I actually measured out my 2/3 cup of fat free Vanilla yogurt (I like Dannons Light & Fit), 10 fresh raspberries, and 1/4 cup of Kashi's GoLean Crunch.  And, since I was working from home today, I mixed and ate it right from the measuring cup! *grin*

Food scales don't need to be expensive. But they ARE important!  I've had my handy little food scale that cost less than $10 for a couple of years and it works wonderfully!  It has a 'zero out' button that allows me to put a bowl on the scale, hit the 'zero out' and then add the food so I don't have to worry about subtracting the bowl's weight from the total.  Who needs to be doing math more than counting calories? lol   An example of how I use it was for today's soup & sandwich lunch... I measured out 2.5 oz of lean ham to add to my 100 calorie Flatout Bread Rosemary & Olive Oil Foldit.  Have you tried these yet? Oh good heavens they are 100 calories of delicious!  I'm going to try to get the company to send us some coupons to giveaway! ;) 

I've been running up and down my stairs today at home doing the 100 oz of water. I'm usually at the office and the ladies room is right down the hall!  For me, I use the half your body weight rule when drinking water.  So if you weight 220 lbs., try to get in 110 oz of water.  That's a lot of water and you're going to be seeing your ladies room often, but it is worth it. If you weigh 110 lbs, though, you should aim for 64 oz daily, that's the standard.

Also, take a close look at your water bottles and take the time to measure your different sizes of water glasses.  I thought, for the longest time, that the glass in this photo held 1/2 cup of water.  It holds 8 oz. A full cup.  Whoops.  And the water bottle in my photo when filled to the top is 32 oz even though the measurement on the side shows 24 ounces of water.  So know your 'vessels'! :)  Also, I keep my Brita water bottle filled and on the counter rather than in the frig.  Makes it easier to grab and a great visual reminder to Drink Up! :)

Not too late to join the March Back to Basic Challenge, friends... just let me know if you're "in"! Thanks for everyone joining through comments and on Twitter and Facebook! : )

Here's to our health!
Jan / HealthyLoserGal 

Let's Get Back to Basics!

I have an admission to make... I have been slacking since December.  "Slacking" as in I've only been exercising sporadically, I've barely logged my food, and my walking is way way down from where it should be.  What's my excuse?  Oh, ya know... I have plenty of them that I feed my own self-criticism.  "I've been so busy with moving!", "I've been sick all winter and the prednisone is adding water weight.", "There has been so much tragedy in my family this winter"... and on and on.  And, yup - they're all valid if I want to be someone who can't even be honest with my own self and needs to make excuses.  But that is BULL!  I am dedicated to reclaiming myself and being the best I can be.  I slipped off track for a few months.  Now I'm back and feel the commitment again and am ready to get back at it by building on the basics of weight loss and fitness that I *KNOW* work for me.

I'm going to have another challenge this month and I'd like to have you join me.  Back to Basics Challenge.  That is it. Nothing fancy. No gimmicks. No weight loss pills or magic potions.  Just dedication.  Dedication to 1) self-discipline, 2) planning your food to equal the calories you want to consume daily  3) measuring and weighing your food  4) journaling each and every bite you take 5) drinking 1/2 your body weight in water daily 6) 20 minutes of exercise 4x week (and, for me... walking daily at least two miles and more when and if I can).

I'll repeat the challenge parts:

Self-discipline.  If I say I'm going to get up at 7am to walk, I'm not going to let myself down and turn over in bed.  Self-discipline is the key to leading a successful life.  As a morbidly obese person I was also so incredibly lacking in self-discipline it wasn't even funny.  It was pathetic. I was pathetic.  I refuse to be that any longer because of how horrible it made me feel about myself.  Now, when I make a promise to myself, I'm going to keep it.  So... number one and the most important part of the Back to Basics challenge is:  Self Discipline

Plan out your calories and your daily food.  If you cannot plan ahead for the week, at least plan out your day at the beginning so when the office surprise party at 4pm happens, you know whether or not you have the calories left to have that one cookie for 200 calories.  You don't have to be perfect every single day and you shouldn't feel like you're depriving yourself, but you do need to stay close to what you set as the right calories for trying to lose weight.  Remember, as the Vtrim Online program finally taught me a few years ago... 3500 calories = 1 lb.  If I want to lose 2 lbs per week, I'm going to have to cut out or exercise off 7000 calories. (It is easier than it may sound!)

You're going to be surprised at what one serving is if you haven't measured food before.  My guess is the majority of us are doubling our portion sizes and thinking it equals one serving size or one portion.  That bottle of iced tea you're picking up at the convenient store on your way to pick up the kids at soccer... the one you glanced at the nutritional label and saw it said 180 and you thought "oh, that's not too bad"?  That bottle is 2 and 1/2 servings and you just drank about a third of your daily calories. Ut oh!  That piece of skinless chicken you're about to toss on the grill and are feeling all proud about?  That's not 6oz of lean white meat... that is 10 oz and you just nearly doubled what you thought your evening calories were.  Back to basics: buy a small food scale (they're inexpensive) and get out your measuring cups, read every nutritional label and check calories and fat grams... measure & weigh your food.

Journal (write down wherever is convenient for you) and log every bite you eat as quickly as you can.  This is so easy to do in our tech driven lives.  iPhones, Androids, online journals, a pad of paper, apps on the internet, Twitter, Facebook.... doesn't matter where.  Just keep track because as the day goes on and it gets to be 11pm at night and you're just THEN logging your food for the day, if you're like me, you're going to forget that you had that banana at mid-day or that hot chocolate in the morning.

Here are two of my favorite online sites for logging and food planning: FitDay and MyPlate.  If you could share your favorites with everyone in the comments, that would be terrific.  I also journal my exercise because it makes my self-esteem rise daily when I see my exercise increasing.  I make comments, too, about how I'm feeling because I've found it helpful to go back and read how I was at a specific time of the month or a year later.  (November, I have found, is a great month for me... January is historically for me just awful!)

Water intake is key to every part of your body.  By the time you are thirsty, you're already dehydrated. When you're on a weight loss journey, think of water as your best friend.  I try to drink 1/2 my body weight in water daily.  I don't always get there, but I often do.  I make this easy for myself by keeping four water bottles: one in my car, one at my office, one in my kitchen, one in my bedroom.  The car water bottle goes to the gym or on walks with me.  The office water bottle is the one I use the most.  I was given a couple of great water bottles through blogging events but I highly suggest you invest in a water bottle or two that you will like and use.  Two of mine have designs that I love and the other two are plain.  DRINK WATER = you can't get any more basic than that! : )

My Yoga Online co-founder Michelle Trantina, courtesy of My Yoga Online

Exercise 20 minutes four times a week.  That is the challenge bar to try to attain.  Twenty minutes a day of SOME SORT OF MOVEMENT!  Take the stairs, try online yoga, do a Chris Freytag DVD, WiiFit routine, riding your bike, walking your dog at a brisk pace... it doesn't matter.  Just get moving to the point where you begin to be aware of your heart beat increasing and you're breaking or about to break a sweat. That's when the magic begins to happen. You HAVE to move it to lose it.  There is no magic pill.  There is no "Wishing Away the Pounds" diet out there.  This is all about healthy, long term, lifestyle change.  I'm going to do the 20 minutes three times a week, too, and will be posting here on the blog during March what I'm doing - even with pictures of my own red face when getting my workout on! : )  For me, the big thing is to begin walking again - daily walking.  And that starts tomorrow morning.  No excuses.  If you want to walk along with me this month, I would love that!  Try to get 20 days of exercise in during March and take only 11 days off.  I *know* you can do that even if you're morbidly obese. Start slow and gradually work up to 20 minutes all at once. Wait until you do 20 minutes all at the same time... you're going to feel so good about yourself! ; )

The month of March can be YOUR month!  It is going to be mine, so let's make it "our month"!  The month when you exercise your self-discipline muscle and commit to yourself to begin (or continue on) the journey to reclaim your health and wellness.  I *know* you can do this if I can do this.  Together we will support each other all month.  Someone on Twitter asked me if I'd be willing to talk with them on the phone or on Skype if they began to get discouraged.  Easy answer:  Yes.  If you guys would like to do a Skype call all together or get into a chat on Twitter all together one evening, of course we can do that!

We're worth this effort.  We're going to be SO proud of ourselves this month.  We're going to go into March like a LION and end March like a LION.  Back to basics, baby!  Who is "in"?  Leave me a comment and let me know! : )

Dream. Believe. Achieve!
Jan / HealthyLoserGal