Two a Healthy Life

One couple on a mission to become healthy


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Habit Loops

Breakfast in Atrani Italy Summer 2009

Breakfast in Atrani Italy Summer 2009

To use vocabulary from The Power of Habit– I developed a habit loop.

I already drank Starbucks in High School but during my first three years of college I had a really long commute and nearly every morning I would go to starbucks, buy a drink and a pastry (full of carbs, sugar and fat) and eat it before class started.

I was easily putting down 700 calories before lunch and hungry before noon ever approached.

I’d get hungry when I didn’t eat a real breakfast, pick-up coffee and a pastry because I was in a hurry, indulge in delicious sugar that made my brain happy with all those awesome calories… rinse and repeat.

You couldn’t physically eat 7 apples for breakfast but that’s the caloric equivalent of what I was doing but without any vitamins or protein.

As I started traveling the habit loop was repeated everyday (although not at Starbucks). I’d wake up in the morning, roll out of my hostel bed and head out the door with my backpack. On the way to a museum or the train station I’d grab a cappuccino and pastry on the street corners of Rome, Barcelona, London or Paris.

Breakfast in New York City Spring 2010

Breakfast in New York City Spring 2010

Do that everyday for months at a time and the habit gets into your DNA. I would then spend all day on my feet so I actually lost weight but when I came back to college in the fall I continued the pattern minus the exercise.

Even after a year of TwoAHealthyLife I can’t go to Starbucks without eyeing the pastry case. I especially love the mini vanilla scones… So recently I’ve been avoiding my pastry-buying triggers.

I know what I am going to have for breakfast everyday M-F (yogurt). I have a piece of fruit at 11, lunch around 12:30 and more fruit at 3:00 pm and 5:00 pm.

In addition to my food plan I am trying to cultivate the habit of making tea before I go to work so that I won’t be put in a situation where I am in a line internally bargaining and arguing with myself about eating or not eating something that shouldn’t be considered food. Part of what I crave in the morning isn’t necessarily “coffee” but a hot beverage I like the taste of.

A side effect of this new habit is that I should save at least $500 a year NOT buying coffee before work.

Nathaniel found The Power of Habit and encouraged me to read it and I am really enjoying it so far. I encourage anyone trying to change his or her lifestyle (for whatever reason) to pick it up.

For us dieters this book can help you identify how to tackle key habits that you want to get rid of or avoid and come up with helpful strategies to reach your goals.


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The Big Push

Lunch

Lunch

Last night I announced to Nathaniel that I am in the midst of a big push to lose my next 7 lbs. I’ve been bouncing back and forth between 50 lbs. of weight loss and 53 lbs. of weight loss for what seems like a really really long time. I blame at least part of this on the automatic M&M dispenser at work but also preparing less of your meals at home or making more complicated meals at home increases the difficulty of gauging your caloric intake.

Wired (the publication I work for) had a really interesting article about how calories are sometimes too flexible as a unit of measurement. I agree with the article but I also think that if steaming your vegetables instead of eating them raw is enough to throw your weight loss program off… you are probably not cutting your calories enough to begin with.

Basically I have to go back to being really really strict with my calories (those M&M’ are a slippery slope) and running 5-6 days a week. My BMR is all out of wack right now and if I eat 1,000-1,200 calories a day without running I don’t lose weight.

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185 lbs. represents 50 lbs. of weight loss since January of 2012. My body mass index as of this morning is 26.1 which makes me still medically speaking overweight. For me to have a healthy BMI of 25 or lower I need to be at least 174 lbs. which I fully intend to celebrate at my favorite burger place.

I expect this push to make me crazy and cranky for the next month. An occasional strip of bacon should keep me sane.


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Edge of the World

Nathaniel and I had a great weekend full of activity and healthy foods!

Getting up Saturday morning we loaded up my SUV with Nathaniel’s sufboard and headed to Pacifica. While Nathaniel spent time in the water I went for a run along the coast and saw some spectacular scenery. 

Pacifica is a great place to run and I can’t wait to go back and explore the trails along the coast more in the future. 

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I turned off of highway 1 and ran down this path towards the beach.

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Intensely beautiful views everywhere.

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Runner or not I am still clumsy and I fell running up this staircase.

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Nathaniel rinsing off after about an hour in the ocean.

I was a little late getting back to the beach to meet Nathaniel (and he was a little annoyed) but the run was amazing. At certain points you are running along a sheer cliff and feel as if you are on the edge of the planet… although you are (obviously) on the edge of a continent. 

It is a crazy feeling of freedom.

It was my favorite run so far.


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Office Temptation

ImageToday I instagrammed my lunch.

I’ve purposefully tried to stay away from instagramming food because the light is rarely good enough to bother doing it with a phone and because I’d like to keep myself out of the cute kitties and food rut some people get sucked into.

However – today I made an exception because I was really really hungry and very thankful I had stocked up on steamfresh veggies this morning. I discovered these a few weeks ago and have been routinely eating a bag of veggies with a tofurkey patty and an egg for dinner. The meal comes out to around 300 calories and it is LOVELY to be able to make a hot and healthy meal in under 10 minutes although I think I am going to stop eating the tofurkey (too processed).

I decided I wanted the soup Nathaniel and I made this week for dinner instead of lunch so I went to Target before work and bought some steamfresh bags to hide in the freezer at my work. Interestingly enough the fridge at my work looks like a science experiment inside but the freezer is nearly bare.

I just wanted to share this lunch cheat with our TwoAHealthyLife readers. Even the more calorically dense steamfresh bags are under 250 calories which is pretty fantastic. I don’t buy the ones that come with sauces inside because I want to avoid that much sodium in one meal.

Eating healthy at work is really hard- there seems to be temptation everywhere. The snack machine in the hall is full of things high in fat, sugar and salt. This trinity is responsible for us craving all the things we should eat less of.
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Our primal EAT alarm goes off when things are balanced with these flavors – something Nathaniel and I can talk more about at a later time. But- there is a reason foods we would normally consider “savory” get sugar added to them. Hamburger buns for example have quite a bit of sugar in them… a lot of bread does. Sugar makes you crave that burger more.

My biggest challenge at work arrived shortly after Christmas. One of the editors was given an automated M&M dispenser by his mother and he brought it to work… It is now constantly filled with M&M’s and I have to walk pass it nearly every time I leave the office. It’s on my way BACK from the bathroom.

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I told Nathaniel this morning I would consider it a personal victory if I didn’t eat any M&M’s today (5 calories each) and so far I haven’t…

T-minus 45 minutes.


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Salad Day at Work!

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Yesterday the kitchen staff at my office sent out a e-mail at 12:30 (when they usually do) saying that lunch was ready. Usually – I sadly read the delicious things they’ve made before getting up to heat up the soup Nathaniel and I made for the workweek.

Today the e-mail declared it was salad day and listed all the fun stuff that would be offered to top our lettuce – I was super excited.

I gave myself a huge pile of lettuce and then tried to use restraint with the toppings but I still ended up having to journal the meal at 500 calories. But, it kept me feeling full the rest of the day and I didn’t feel any guilt from the smoked trout or bacon bits I put on it in measured amounts.

Apparently the kitchen used to do salad days all the time but the carnivores were not appreciative so they cut back on it. Hoping to combat this I sent the kitchen staff an e-mail saying how much I appreciated it.

Last week my weight finally started dropping again but this week its going to be hard to get back into the swing of things – we have so many delicious leftovers from Super Bowl Sunday that I can only hope that Nathaniel will binge and eat them all before I get home tonight.

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The Truth About Diets

The above video is a serious blog by the comedic youtube personality Jenna Marbles. Besides being occasionally hilarious she is in really great shape and after continuously being asked how she stays fit she answered her fans very seriously in this video.

When I first saw this video (probably over a year ago) I remember thinking that her diet was absurd, impossible and that if eating her diet 6 days a week was what it took to look like her then it wasn’t worth it. I still believe the last part but the first two have flown out the window.

I actually don’t like the smoothies every morning idea because it’s whole lot of sugar (although admittedly the good kind) but salads for lunch and large amounts of vegetable soup are what Nathaniel and I do on top of a lot of cardio. This diet seems completely reasonable now if you are trying to lose weight but there is not a chance I’d go vegan to look like her – looking like that is not a goal of mine and I love animal products.

I also don’t think you NEED to eat like her to stay fit once you have gotten your weight under control. Once you’ve accomplished your goals “maintaining” should be a lot easier emotionally. Because, the truth about diets is that they are exhausting both emotionally and physically and the more weight you are trying to lose the more exhausting they are.

People ask Nathaniel and I what we’ve done to lose weight and we often get the feeling they don’t like our answers.

Yes – I still eat chocolate but I am aware of the calories in every ounce I eat.

Yes – I eat bacon at least once a week but I also run.

Yes – sometimes I will have a burger for dinner on a saturday but I probably didn’t eat more than 500 calories all day before I decided I could.

People don’t want to hear that the answer to their question really is: diet and exercise.

When I seriously answer people’s questions I usually get a response like: I hate running, I don’t like feeling hungry, I could never count calories.

If you hate running do something else. If you never feel hungry you’re probably never going to lose weight and if you aren’t at least seriously aware of what you are putting into your body you’re also probably never going to lose weight.

The only way you lose weight is to burn more calories than you eat.

Counting calories, seriously comparing all of your food options, being hungry and exercising on top of a caloric deficit is not fun. It sucks. Actually – it really sucks.

You just have to decide for yourself if it’s worth it.


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Losing the Lbs. in San Francisco

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On New Year’s Day my friend Lauren and I went hiking while her husband Michael and Nathaniel went surfing.

Yesterday my blog post kind of sucked but today I actually have something to write about.

Today on Sfgate.com I read an article about the 10 best and worst cities to attempt to lose weight in.  Good news for us – San Francisco is apparently THE BEST place in the United States to attempt to lose weight!

The Worst? Las Vegas Nevada.

I can see more than a few reasons for this.

San Francisco has a really mild climate – it’s “cold” and foggy a lot but really our day time temperatures don’t fluctuate by more than 20-30 degrees year round. We also have a crazy number of gyms, outdoor activities and healthy restaurants to choose from.

Las Vegas gets snow in the winter AND routinely faces temperatures in the triple digits. Nevada also allows smoking indoors and we all know how fantastic that is for you.

What is really interesting about these lists is the median price per square foot of living space is 3-4 times higher in the healthy cities than in the unhealthy cities.

San Francisco’s median price per square foot is $459 – the highest on the list. Las Vegas comes in at a shocking $70 per square foot and it is the lowest on the list.

According to Men’s Health Magazine 30.6% of San Franciscans eat veggies 5+ times a day.  Today I’ve eaten four servings of fruit/ veggies and I haven’t had dinner yet so that number doesn’t seem unreasonably high.

It makes me sad when numbers come out like this highlighting the class discrepancy between the healthy and the overweight.  Yes, there are plenty of well educated, well paid overweight people and plenty of thin people living in impoverished neighborhoods BUT percentages don’t lie.

You are far more likely to be overweight if you have a lower income for a variety of reasons that we can go into in future blogs. In the meantime – if you live in the Bay Area take advantage and get outside!


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The “Shortcut”

Today I’d like to share with you all something funny that happened to me this morning as I ran before work.

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I started my run leaving work and heading to AT&T Park, from there I started up the Embarcadero running underneath the Bay Bridge, past The Ferry Building and Pier 39.

It’s a really nice run but it has started to get a little tedious. Near the 3 mile mark I started thinking I might be running out of time to run back along the water so I decided to take a “shortcut” through North Beach and Chinatown.

The improvised route only cut about 1/4 of a mile off of my entire run and added some hills to it so it didn’t turn out to be much of a shortcut although I laughed when I saw my final distance on my phone.

The hill on powell wasn’t super steep by San Francisco standards but after three miles it had me cursing a little under my breath – the best part of the run was how good I felt doing it.

If I hadn’t needed to go to work by 9:30 I might have added another two miles to the thing because it was just one of those days you feel really REALLY good out there moving.

It’s so awesome to look back on how far we’ve come in (almost) one year! I am really proud of both of us.


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Simple Breakfast?

breakfast

Have you ever read one of those statistical findings that say we make something like 500 choices a day in regards to what we eat? Well, we don’t always make the BEST decisions but by making better ones we can lose weight, get healthy and still feel like a sane human being.

(Right now I’d like you to guess how many calories are in the above meal – I did not add sugar to my cappuccino and the english muffin only has jam on it.)

The above photo is what I would consider  a “splurge” breakfast for the middle of the week but I want to walk you through my decisions and how I arrived to order a small cappuccino and a toasted english muffin with a tablespoon of strawberry jam.

First of all many of you might consider this an absurdly small breakfast and it would be if I wasn’t planning on eating again until lunch. My ‘meals’ are really more like a series of snacks throughout the day.

I started at 9am with this meal at a local café as I flipped through a magazine. Around 10:30 I will crack open a spicy hot V8 Juice and around 12 I might have an apple. At about 1pm I will have a hearty bowl of lentil soup (350 calories) and have a few more pieces of fruit before I leave work at 6. Throughout the day I will have tea, water and maybe a diet coke which will prevent me from feeling hungry.

By 7pm I should be at the gym – I will run 3 miles, lift weights and go home to a nice protein filled dinner although it will be low in fat… possibly an egg white omelete or scramble.

On days I get really really hungry I will also eat a small salad with my soup.

Back to breakfast – the above meal is roughly 245 calories. My calorie goal each day is 1,300 so committing to 1/5 of my daily food at 9am is why I consider it a splurge. Usually I would have an 80 calorie yogurt and a black coffee (85 calories total) and eat more fruit during the day.

I decided that if I was going to go off my pattern I would have to choose something I actually wanted (full fat cappuccino which has less calories than a latte) and not go crazy (no oatmeal).

My favorite thing to order at this cafe is an oatmeal with brown sugar and raisins.

1 cup of oatmeal has about 250-300 calories. 1 little box of raisins has 100 calories and a tablespoon of brown sugar has about 33. I always round up in my calorie estimations when I can’t prepare my own food so a simple cup of oatmeal at a café could be 433 calories BEFORE I drink anything.

Once you are counting calories long enough doing this in your head will be as easy as saying the alphabet- very fast and efficient.

I know roughly that an average serving of bread is 100 calories, jam has no fat in it and I really wanted a cappuccino to linger over.

One the subject of butter – one tablespoon has 100 calories and I can barely taste it when I put jam on my bread anyway.

Next time you go out to eat really think about what is going into the food you are ordering and it should help you achieve your goals in the long run.

I love how the Livestrong Ap breaks down my nutrients for me!

(this is the breakdown of JUST breakfast)

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ZELLA OMFG

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Some of you may remember that I recommended a champion sports bra to our female readers – I now have a pant recommendation for you as well!

I had been looking for a new pair of running pants because my Adidas weren’t fitting well and it is aggravating beyond belief to spend the first mile or so of a run yanking up your pants (muffin top – just say no!).

I tried on Nike (a past addiction), Adidas and Under Armour and just wasn’t happy with the fits I was finding. For pants I prefer black so some of the INSANE running pants Nike offers aren’t that appealing.

In frustration I decided to try the Zella brand at Nordstrom (not my first choice for an athletic gear retailer) and I was pleasantly surprised. Even the best running pants require a tug once in a while to keep them over your bum but Zellas are the least fussy pants I’ve ever owned.

When I tried on some brands at Nordstrom I could hear a slight a ”rip” sound on the delicate waistband seams when I pulled them up. That sound is a bad omen when you figure on a long run if pants don’t fit well you could be tug them a few hundred times!

As soon as I tried on the Zellas I knew I was in love. I am not quite brave enough for the “tight” ones (yet) but the Zella ‘Booty’ Reversible Pants are amazing. BONUS- they come in sizes 0-14 in both regular and long.

I wore them during the Las Vegas half marathon in December and didn’t experience any discomfort even after running in them for nearly three hours.

If you are looking for some new gym pants I strongly recommend these.