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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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!

Lunch1

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.

lunch3


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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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A habit breakthrough

Yesterday I had a breakthrough at work.

I was sitting at my desk after eating my lunch (I know you’re not supposed to eat lunch at your desk, and I often don’t as I try to walk at lunch) and I realized I was still hungry and wanted to go up the hill for something sweet from the grocery store.  The thing was, I knew that I wasn’t actually hungry anymore, I was bored.

I was bored because I was at work, and the internet is locked, and I was listening to an audio book that I had listened to before (Born to run, highly suggested) so I already knew what was going to happen.  I acknowledged to myself that I was bored and that I need something to do.

So I downloaded a new audio book and started to listen to it.  Instantly I was engrossed in the book, and as a little time went by I was not hungry anymore as I started to digest my lunch and my body knew it didn’t need anything more.  The breakthrough was controlling the urge to eat more and forming a new habit to actively analyzing why I thought I was still hungry.

I might not be able to do this all the time, but as we try to watch what we eat or stick to those resolution diets, we need to be vigilant for those queues that are telling us we are hungry, because most of the time you’re not hungry, you’re bored, or thirsty, or simply in a habit of eating.  Looking at these eating habits will aid you in your efforts to continue to be healthy.

Onward!


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ZELLA OMFG

zella

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.


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Mr. Miyagi Yourself

A lot of the weight loss process comes down to pulling a Mr. Miyagi on yourself.

For example, I used to always run up a hill before crossing to the other side of the street and conveniently enough I always found a reason to stop at the top of the hill. The excuse was usually a car coming regardless of how far off it was and then one day I realized I’d be more likely to keep going if I crossed the street at the bottom of the hill before going up it and I was totally right.

To be fair – the last part of the hill is intense for new runner but I haven’t stopped at the top since I had this revelation back in the summer.

Another strange psychological aspect to my weight loss is that I am more likely to eat fewer calories on the days I exercise. The more I exercise the easier it is for me to be really strict on my diet although biologically I need more food.

Part of the reason for this is I know how many calories I can eat a day without gaining weight (give or take a few hundred). Anything I eat under that means I am theoretically losing weight even if it is more slowly (at least this is what I am telling myself).

So – if I don’t do anything but eat less than 1,200 or 1,000 I can still avoid a guilty feeling at the end of the day. Theoretically I should be able to eat 2,500 without gaining weight although my BMR is altered as a result of my weight loss.

 On the days I run it is way easier for me to say no to cream in my coffee, chocolate, cheese, extra salad dressing and carbs because I visualize that as canceling out 10 minutes of running or a half hour of running as I tally the calories in my head.

One piece of Tiramisu at Il Fornaio is equal to about 45 minutes of running at Alex speed. KNOWING how hard I worked and how it will be erased by treats helps me stick to my plan throughout the day.

Other things I’ve learned about myself:

If I tell myself I will run after work it will usually not happen but I am infinitely better at running before work.

Once I have decided to not eat sweets for a specific period of time saying ‘no’ is a lot easier and treats don’t trigger the ‘to eat or to not eat anxiety’… which is something discussed in The End of Overeating. Saying you are trying to ‘cut back’ is way too vague of a goal.

Thanks for reading, onward!


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Oh Sugar Sugar…

Sugar sugar you’ve got me wanting you…

As we’ve talked about in previous blogs Nathaniel and I do not crave the same kinds of foods. He’d like to demolish a cake and what I’d really like to snack on is bacon.

Unfortunately candy and soda are all too available to us (as a civilization) all-of-the-time. They are EVERYWHERE and sadly bacon is not.

Seeing the candy for sale near the checkout counter at your local grocery store is one thing but you can buy candy and snacks nearly everywhere: bookstores, best buy, gas stations… Then you’ve got Girl Scouts hitting you up on street corners like all too brazen drug dealers, co-workers shaming you into supporting their kids’ fundraisers and office candy bowls winking at you with jewel like luster.

Eating hundreds of calories more per-day than you think you are, is really easy to do. Especially when most people underestimate how many calories they are consuming by over 25%.

I’ve just eaten a s’mores inspired sea salt sprinkled chocolate (33 calories) and I intend to make it my last “gratuitous” piece of sugar until I hit the -60 lb. mark.

This means no more random pieces of sweet throughout my day until I hit my next milestone. Thanksgiving pie I do not consider “gratuitous” because it is a traditional part of the meal and Thanksgiving is a day you should really just forget you are on a diet. (We will be blogging about that later.)

By swearing off sugars I hope to achieve my goal more quickly and be even healthier.


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Pinteresting Away

Over the past several months I have been pinning things on Pinterest related to weight loss…

I have my healthy foods board.

My clothes I want to be able to wear someday board.

And my obligatory inspirational quotes and photographs board.

After a while and after reading a certain number of news articles about looking shallow on Pinterest I deleted a few boards because I didn’t want to seem vapid. Luckily Pinterest has launched the “secret” setting and I can now pin things without fear or favor!

What I haven’t done yet is ‘shared’ a board with someone yet. I can see how it would be cool for friends to share secret boards if they are both trying to lose weight and collaborate on motivational pins and recipes.

So- if you are interested in visually organizing your efforts you might want to check out Pinterest for this purpose if you haven’t yet.