Happy New Year!
This is yet another one of my "Keeping It Real" posts when I share my trials and tribulations as I navigate my way through life with transparency for my readers.
This time I have a question for you!
So, with the new year and all the New Year's aspirations to improve health and fitness, I'm taking feedback on what small change you have made in your lifestyle that has made the biggest positive impact on your health?
Over the years I have tried different strategies to improve our health and wellbeing and these are a few small changes that I have tried to incorporate (and either failed miserably or flailed inconsistently for the most part) but many I am still working at adapting. I have given myself a report card style "rating" on how we are doing and what I want to improve upon in the coming year.
1. Decreasing red meats. Personally, I have never been a huge fan of red meats but again, help me out here people, but I am raising teenagers who LOVE steak! What does one do? I honestly was considering purchasing a cow from a 4-H kid that worked hard all year to show their cow at the state fair and sell it at the auction because I need to buy that much red meat! I know it's bad and believe me, we eat a ton of chicken, fish and even incorporate many meatless meals, but for this chapter of my life, eliminating red meats is next to impossible. - Epic fail for 2014.
2. Decreasing the number of sweets I eat. I'm sure you all know that I am a sweet tooth by the number of dessert recipes I share here. I have cut back my consumption of desserts considerably over the last year and I have almost eliminated ice cream (honestly, only because it doesn't like me) but this year I want to try limiting desserts strictly to weekends and eating fruits for dessert during the week. We'll see how that pans out. Of course that means that when I do allow myself desserts, they must be the "best"! My uncle recently spoiled me with Dorie Greenspan's Baking Chez Moi: Recipes from My Paris Home to Your Home Anywhere cookbook and I am still squealing with delight and salivating at all the mouth-watering sweet concoctions. This means more dessert recipe testing plans to come! - Needs improvement.
3. Increasing dark, leafy greens. My mom would be proud to read this one. We eat quite a bit of spinach but I want to eat a wider variety of dark, leafy greens more consistently. When the Hubs was first on the scene, I served steamed spinach, with nothing on it for dinner. Bella had her serving, then asked for seconds and then thirds. Todd's face was stunned when again, she asked for more spinach and then cried when we told her it was all gone! Our Favorite Green Smoothie recipe really helps increase our spinach and kale consumption. - Growing improvement.
4. Eating breakfast (more) consistently. I know how important breakfast is and I preach it to my teens every morning. I have one kid who consistently eats breakfast and another who scoffs at it although she will down a healthy smoothie as she bolts for the door. -Continued Improvement.
5. Drinking a healthy smoothie to start the day. I think I have finally mastered this one. Even when fruit is out of season here in the winter months, I keep fruit stocked in my freezer and usually have spinach and kale at the ready for a quick whir through the blender. - Success.
6. Increased water consumption. I default back to the difference between a prune and a plum and this post about drinking more water. I always need to improve in this area. I am so inconsistent. I will have to admit that when the Hubs bought us all Hydroflasks, I did increase my water intake more consistently. I love the fact that ice cubes are still frozen after a long hot day. Without sounding like an infomercial, the Hydroflasks have truly made a difference for my whole family in the amount of water everyone drinks. - Shows improvement.
7. Tracking what I eat. The only time I successfully did this the right way was when I was pregnant. This was so time-consuming and difficult for me to track on. It was very helpful in pointing out what I was craving and perhaps what I was missing in my diet at the time. I had strong cravings for grapefruit juice, red meat and (I hate to admit it) french fries or Cheetos! Supposedly there is an "app" for tracking your food intake. - Lifetime fail minus 9 months x 2 babies.
8. Elimination of soda from our household. This post tells you the backstory on my previous love of soda and how I came to eliminate it from my diet. I will be honest, I still get cravings for a good swig of soda in the summer or a sip of rootbeer with a slice of pizza but I can say that for the most part, soda and I have severed our relationship and I will NEVER drink diet soda again. - Success.
9. Substituting sugar with Stevia. I would like to try incorporating Stevia as a sugar substitute, as per my Uncle Harlan's well-researched encouragement. Stevia, a plant from South America that has been used as a sweetener and for medicicinal purposes in South America for over 1,500 years is a calorie-free sugar substitute that does not affect blood sugar levels. A little Stevia goes a long way as it is 200 times sweeter than sugar, which helps keeps calorie counts down. An upcoming guest post will share my uncle's findings on Stevia (SweetLeaf brand is the 100% natural sweetener) as well as some tested recipes from several cookbooks he gifted me recently. - Promising and adaptable new change for 2015.
10. Eating on smaller plates. We still practice this and I am a big believer in the small plate club that encourages us to take smaller portions vs. filling a large plate. - Success.
11. Eat a rainbow of colors. I really strive to ensure that our plates have a multitude of colors but I will be honest that I struggle with representing every color of the rainbow, year-round. - Needs improvement during the winter months.
Image from KSPS: Fit Kids Healthy for Life
12. Increased exercise by finding a workout that I love. I absolutely love a dance class that is taught at the gym that I "should" be frequenting. This last year's work schedule took a huge toll on my fitness regime. It became almost non-existent and I probably crossed the threshold of my gym a handful of times over the past 12-months and I am upset that I let that part of my life go. I get so much out of a workout and goodness knows the health benefits from cardio exercise and lowering stress but I just could not fit it into the schedule. That is changing in 2015. It's critical that this 46-year old body gets a workout more than once per month! - 2014 Epic fail but trying again for 2015.
13. Having a workout goal to shoot for. The year that I was training for a Triathalon, I had a reason and finish line envisioned that I needed to work towards. However, when I knew that we were hiking Mt. St. Helen's, I did not train enough at all. Nor did I practice wearing my hiking boots even one short jaunt to help break them in. You can imagine how that ended. Perhaps a trip to a warm-destination and the need to wear a bathing suit in the winter would be incentive enough? I think so! -Mixed track record. Know what to do to fix this struggle!
14. Having a workout accountability partner or someone to meet at the gym at a specific time. When the Hubs is off for his three days/week, it's so much easier to get to the gym. When athletic schedules and picking up kids from their evening sports was not an issue, we were able to plan to meet at the gym once a week for our "date night". I miss that and hope to reinstate that when we have our first official teen driver in just one short month away. - Past success but failed miserably for 2014. Trying again in 2015.
15. Going to bed earlier. Okay guys. If you knew how late I write these posts and how I long to be up when my whole family is snoozing as I get into a great writing streak when the clock strikes midnight, you would know that I am a bonafide night owl. However, I'm a night owl that is forced to go to bed EARLY (10:00 P.M.) in order to get my kids to school at the crack of dawn each day. Sigh. I know sleep is directly correlated to our health and wellness so this one gets moved up on the list of priorities for the new year. - Epic fail in the past.
16. Getting outside...every day, rain or shine. In the Pacific Northwest there are some incredible gloomy, wet days when the wind is whipping the rain and the hair slaps against the face as your fingers go numb from wiping the hair out of your eyes and before you know it, you've stepped in a mud hole. We don't use umbrellas here because, more often than not, they get turned inside out from the wind and then you spend more time trying to unbend the spokes and pop it back into place. But I love being outside. Lately the ground has been frozen and temperatures have dipped below 30 degrees but the sun is shining brightly and while most people complain about the cold, I am delighted that it is dry. Don't get me wrong, most days the rain doesn't even phase me and we go about our business with getting wet and there was that one time when that boy that I married hugged me after our second date while standing in the pouring rain and it was the most romantic thing ever. So that goal above about getting outside is totally attainable...when it's "shining" but a real push when it's cloudy, damp and pouring - however, I really want to change this. -Seasonal Success/Winter Failure but ready for improvement.
17. Understanding what foods affect my body, my moods, my energy. When my two seasonal allergy-prone family members were encouraged to try reducing dairy in their diet, I followed suit, only using dairy sparingly when cooking or baking. I was never a big milk drinker but noticed a huge change in bloating, runny noses and my milder seasonal allergies. Then when I tried to consume ice cream after a long-period of eliminating it from my diet, I had an adverse reaction! Aha! With Bella's allergies to peanuts and all tree-nuts I have read books and research on how food affects us. One of my favorite books was What's Eating Your Child? The Hidden Connection Between Food and Childhood Aliments by Kelly Dorfman (also very applicable for adults). I am very interested in learning more in the coming year. - Notable improvement but still needs work.
18. Drinking green tea. Although I don't drink tea daily, I really notice a difference in my day. I am much more peaceful and able to navigate stressful situations. Green tea has a high concentration of antioxidants that help combat free radicals by neutralizing the substances that cause cancer and other diseases along with premature aging, lowering cholesterol, oxidizing fat while increasing energy, improving bone health, among many other benefits. - Improving.
19. Drinking kombucha. I am still learning about kombucha's benefits but the fact that it aids in cancer prevention, arthritis and improves digestion - all issues my family tree has battled - makes me sign-up on the dotted line. I was a skeptic at first as the first version I tasted was more similar to vinegar but I loved learning that Kombucha "gives your body what it needs to heal itself bu aiding your liver in removing harmful substances; promoting balance in your digestive system and being rich in antixoidants and health-promoting vitamins, enzymes and acids to boost immunse system" via the Food Renegade. I realized that I may not be able to experience immediate results but that I could trust that there were long-term benefits just like my mom's "encouragment"/nagging to always eat our broccoli while growing up. We don't experience the immediate benefits of broccoli (or any vegetable/fruit for that matter) but science tells us they benefit our system like the better oils we put into our car to help it run smoother. I want to learn how to make my own via fermentation in 2015 and I have friends who tell me that it is very easy to "grow". - Promising addition.
20. Introducing the moringa plant with Moringa Oleifera, (the 2008 - Plant of the Year) along with 90 vitamins, minerals proteins, antioxidants and omega oils. I "Drink Life In" with Zija's Moringa Mix every morning when I wake up with one packet of Extreme Moringa mix and 8 ounces of water, and consume another 8 ounces in the afternoon. I may go out on a limb and say that this has been the most successful change that I have made to my lifestyle. I believe I have avoided the colds and bugs that fly around our household since consuming Moringa Oleifera's nutrient dense leaves, seeds and fruit daily. I have had more energy, elevated moods, less back aches, and feel as if I can accomplish more each day. - Great success in 2014.
I really want to hear from you.
What has worked for you successfully and impacted your health?
Am I missing other small changes I can incorporate into our lifestyle?
I am open to your suggestions and would love to know what small changes have helped you stay motivated to workout, consume healthy foods, drink more water, and to stay healthy.