Better than Nutella?!

I may have found something I love better than Nutella:

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Disclaimer: I won $100 of Justin’s nut butter products thanks to their sponsorship of the weekly #bibchat on Twitter, run by the fine folks at BibRave. I’ll be reviewing my stash over the coming weeks so I wanted to be upfront about the source of my products. If you ever wanted to know what $100 of Justin’s looks like…

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But I digress. So, after unpacking everything into my pantry, organized by expiration date so I could prioritize what to try first, the Chocolate Hazlenut Butter squeeze pack was up first.

I was greeted with this text on the box: “Quick question: Do you eat cake frosting for breakfast? I didn’t think so. Neither do I. Yet some chocolate hazelnut butters have more sugar than cake frosting. Really. You can check. I’ll wait… see? So this is a warning that my chocolate hazelnut butter may not taste like what you’re used to – sugar. What it will taste like is a delicious combination of premium hazelnuts and organic chocolate for an addictive, skip the bread and eat it with a spoon delicacy.”

I was already intrigued! The description is right on though. Of course, I couldn’t get the idea of frosting out of my head as I squeezed my first taste out, as that’s what it looks like. That changed to, “this tastes like healthy frosting” on my first bite. Then halfway through the packet…”duh, Nutella is chocolate hazlenut spread!”

Except this was not as sweet, which was a plus. Because I love Nutella, but it can be too darn sweet sometimes. A quick analysis of nutrition labels clued me in to why: sugar is the top ingredient in Nutella. The hazelnuts are the top ingredients in Justin’s spread. Sugar is #3, and it’s organic cane sugar at that. The oil is farther down on their list than Nutella’s too. Also, Justin’s is gluten free and vegan as it skips the milk of Nutella, so that makes it possible for my friends with those dietary restrictions.

Nurition facts wise, calories and fat are fairly even between the two, and Justin’s has a little more sodium (due to sea salt). But Justin’s is a clear winner with less carbs, more fiber, less sugar and slightly more protein per serving.

One product down and 8 more to try. It’s my goal to try each one solo first, and then on other foods (breads, fruits & veggies, etc., though Justin is right here, you can skip it on this flavor!) … and I’d love to hear your ideas for how you would use each flavor!

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An hour a day

It all started with this article. The concept: working out 450 minutes a week makes a longer life. That’s a little more than an hour a day.

So for May, I challenged my friends to join me in aiming for an hour a day. It was nice to have buddies in the adventure to check in on, so thank you ladies for joining in!!

The beginning of the month was pretty hectic at work with the end of the school year approaching, so most of my minutes were walking Ava. This did make me pretty aware of how much exercise she gets too (25-40 mins a day, depending). She’s gained a few pounds now that she’s living the good life, so this was good for her to get moving!

I never did hit 420 minutes in any one week. I got close twice with 396 and 398. My total: 1678 minutes, an average of 54 a day. But what did I learn?

  1. When I don’t plan to exercise, it probably doesn’t happen.
  2. Walking Ava for 25 minutes is better than absolutely no activity!
  3. I got really sick of tracking how long I walked her every time. I wouldn’t recommend tracking every tiny minute of exercise for longer than a month 🙂
  4. Days that I got closer to a full 60 minutes outside of these walks, I felt better, slept sounder, and weighed less the next day.
  5. No matter how much or little I exercise, if I ate junky, I felt it and saw it on the scale.

So what’s next? I plan to get as close to an hour a day as I can most days this summer. I know some days that will be tough, so if I aim for it most days, I’m probably still doing well overall. And with a more regular work schedule this summer, it’s back to heartier breakfasts, packed lunches and homecooked dinners. That’s the best way to eat as clean as possible 🙂

What’s your summer plan??? I’d love to know!

Rah rah for routines

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about routines. Or more accurately, the lack of one my life seems to have had in the area of nutrition and exercise.

Sure I’ve celebrated my wins in these areas, but it’s just as easy to let life get in the way and get them off track as anyone else.

As a summer approaches life for me tends to get a little more routine, and I’m okay with that. As much as I enjoy being a busybee and on the go, I also like the sense of some structure in my day-to-day life.

I have a list taped to the inside of my medicine cabinet which lists morning and evening routines. This list was created along time ago, before I had a dog and when I still had a fish. Needless to say, for those reasons alone it needs a little revising!

I’ve spent some time pondering which routines have worked for me in the past, and which ones have not, trying to figure out where to go from here. One routine that I revisited yesterday was my Sunday ritual: make sure to get a full night’s sleep, read the paper in the morning, workout at the gym, grocery shop and cook, and of course attend Mass. It was the first time in weeks I had executed all this, and it felt great!

Some other routines I’ve contemplated revisiting include everything from time outdoors on Saturdays, to the really basic concept of putting on workout clothes the minute I get home so I have no excuse but to do something active before I go to bed.

I know I’m more successful the more I can stick to basic routines. Things like making sure I pack snacks for the office, or booking time on my calendar for a workout, make me more successful in putting my health as a priority.

So, which routines work for you, and which would you like to add into your life that you aren’t doing now? I want to hear from you!

When things don’t go according to plan…

I knew my latest 24 Day Challenge was going to be different when, as I was falling asleep at the end of Day 1, I realized I didn’t take the before photos. I did the before measurements, but not the photos. Oops #1.

It would not be the last Oops of this challenge. If you’ve been following my health journey the past year, you know that typically, I lose about 6 pounds over 24 days of eating clean, avoiding processed foods, exercising and taking supplements. You also know that I don’t even take all the supplements suggested by the plan. Since I take synthroid every morning to boost my thyroid gland, I don’t take the thermogenics in the package (in fact, I order my items separately vs. the pre-packaged set)… I don’t need even more tweaking of my gland, thank you very much!

This time around, I lost 3.7 lbs. And I’m pretty darn happy about it.

Why, you ask? (After all, it’s not what I thought I would do!) A few reasons:

  • First, I figure if I wasn’t journaling what I ate during this time, and trying to eat clean for the most part, I likely would have GAINED at least 3 pounds or more.
  • 3.7 lbs loss over 24 days is about a pound a week. It’s well known that anywhere from .5 to 2 lbs a week loss is healthy.
  • I didn’t entirely stick to the plan. There were days I was at an event and allowed myself a glass of wine. There were meals I was served where I didn’t have much choice in the food, so I had to eat white bread or other no-no items for the challenge. And Friday the 13th was just a really stressful day, so there was wine and fried fish that night. And I got right back on track the next day.

I share all this because I know I’ve had other friends do this challenge, or similar challenges, and maybe your results weren’t what you had hoped they would be. But, progress is progress, and I feel learning something through it is the true goal, not the number on the scale. I was reminded journaling keeps me accountable, and going far over the calorie count I’m supposed to attain definitely affects me.

Most importantly, I learned that truly, I should try and stick to this level of eating clean and exercising as much as I can, whether I’m on an official challenge or not. Just like a muscle that weakens without use, nutritional balance can easily go out the window and is trick to get back on course.

So, who’s ready to challenge themselves to a healthier LIFEstyle?

My year with the Fitbit

Technically, I’ve owned my Fitbit Flex (and Aria scale) for 18 months, but 2014 was the first full year I owned it, and I had set out at the beginning of the year to hit 10k steps a day. So, how did I do?

  • # steps: 3,072,942 (I had to estimate the day Fitbit 1 died, resulting in my buying Fitbit 2)
  • Average steps: 8419/day (a little shy of my goal, but still decent)
  • Best month for steps: January (I averaged 10,259 steps/day and hit my 10k 74% of the days this month)
  • Worst month for steps: November (7590 steps/day average. Interesting as this was the month I went to DC and walked a lot but it’s also when my injury flared back up. Interesting to note that I started sliding in July and didn’t bring it back up until December).
  • Peak of my weight loss: August (On 8/23, I was down 12.5 lbs for the year. I ended the year still down 7.1!)
  • Peak of my fat % loss: around my birthday! (Seriously. August 29 had me at 30% fat, down 3.4% for the year. Nice early present! I ended the year down 1.9%)

So, what are my takeaways?

  • It’s nice to have something tracking my stats. The Fitbit often told me what I already knew on days I wasn’t active. And it is encouraging to see the dots light up on a day I can’t make it to the gym but am on the go.
  • Having a goal helped me make more progress in a year than I would have probably made without one. So I didn’t make 10k steps a day, but I did achieve some good fitness!
  • You can make up some for a bad day on a really good day, but even consistency is better. It stinks feeling like you are playing catch up.
  • It’s time to take it to the next level. I’ve already hit 10k on 10 of 24 days this month. I’d like to hit that goal at least 50% of the time.

So if you have a Fitbit or other device, what results are you seeing?

Not what I expected…

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This was not the result I was hoping for when I registered for Sunday’s half marathon last spring. That’s a DNF (did not finish)…or more accurately, a DNS (did not start). If you’ve been following along, you already knew I made the tough choice to sit out the race following my injury flaring back up in November.

I’ve had to work through some emotions during that time, and the past few weeks were pretty tough watching everyone else get excited about their races. It felt like when you got passed up by the cool kids in middle school. I wanted to be happy for all my friends, but I’ll be honest that some days, I had to work at it more than others.

I began to wonder if this was a sign that my days of longer distance running were over. “Maybe I should stick to 5k and 10k races,” I thought. This was the result of having a challenging training season prior to the injury’s re-emergence. I was doing well until October, when I had all the car drama. That took me away from the Houston Fit group on Saturdays as I was consumed with selling the old car and buying a new one. Solo runs on Sunday felt harder. I tried to follow the plan of running without music, but that is hard on your own, and without the neat routes they select for us. By the time I got through that, the injury flare popped up.

And then this weekend happened. Thanks to all the activities I was still a part of due to my Ambassador duties. I felt a part of the running world again. It started with hearing Meb Keflezighi share how hard it was for him to sit out of a race when he was injured, and using that to come back (and then having him tell me personally that I would come back…and to focus on my cross training and what I could while I heal).

Saturday’s EXPO reinforced this. Seeing the joy of so many people gearing up to race the next day began to give me hope that I could be among them. A quick spin around the booths led me to find a race in Galveston in April that not only looks like a lot of fun, but has a 5k option.

So I thought, “Hey, I can do that. Even if I don’t start training in earnest until Charity Ball is done in 3 weeks, that’s about the same amount of time I trained for my very first 5k.” And the bonus? I have running experience I didn’t have 7 years ago. I have the backing of all I learned in physical therapy to improve my form and work to prevent further injuries.

But it was today, race day, which really brought me back to thinking I could do longer distances again. I decided to cheer from the finish line, instead of sitting at home and moping (Thank you Eileen for the pass!) To see the runners crossing the finish line took me back … to my first half here in Houston 3 years ago, and even to my second in Galveston 2 years ago. The sense of accomplishment, mixed with exhaustion and all kinds of other feelings, is just awesome.

And I want to feel that again. And I will.

Church tonight reinforced it. This week’s readings included the ones where we are told our bodies are not our own, and that they are a temple. I felt it was God’s way of telling me that I need to do all I can with the body I have been given, while I’m young and healthy enough to do it!

Other than the 5k in three months, I’m not sure when or where I’ll attempt a half, or maybe even (gasp!) a full. Houston is high on my list…you can’t beat running in your town with friends to cheer you on. But I’ll have to see how my return to running goes. When I’m closer to getting ready, I’ll make a decision … but it would be great to be running one of those distances a year from now.

Sounds like I may have just come up with my first Before 40 bucket list item.