Friday, December 30, 2011

Top 12 in 2012

Happy New Year! It's hard to believe that another year has flown by...When I think about 2011, the word that comes to mind is change. I made a lot of my mind, body and outlook on life.

I cried many times, but I laughed many more times.

Some days I ran so slow that it made me want to give up. Other days I ran so hard that I wanted to throw up.

There were moments, many moments, when I had to pull myself off the couch, brave the cold weather and drive my moody self to the gym.

But on other days, I was so motivated I was bursting at the seams of my soul.

At least 40.3 times, I pulled in a fast food drive thru -only to pull out a few moments later, realizing I didn't need nor want those extra calories. But in even more instances, I fell off the wagon and stuffed my face with burgers and fries. And dipped both of them in ranch.

On the toughest of days, I would break down and scream at Justin; yelling that I never wanted to eat a piece of grilled chicken again. Other weeks, I could eat grilled chicken for every single meal.

In one week, I could lose 5 lbs and then the next week I could gain 7. It was a constant battle. My weight will always be a constant battle.

But through it all, I learned a lot. About weight loss. About running. About fitness. About healthy eating. About myself.

I've had a few special requests for a blog post about my weight loss (and gain) journey in 2011. If you are looking for a blog post that will help you accomplish your new years resolutions, this isn't the right post. Rather, this is a blog post about tips for living a healthy lifestyle- not for a few months or until you hit a certain weight, but for a lifetime! I'm not a pro at this...people are healthier than me...smarter than me...and in better shape than me. But these 12 tips reflect what worked for me over the past year.

Without further adieu, here are my Top 12 Tips for Living a Healthy Lifestyle in 2012

Believe in yourself. This is the most important step of all. Attitude is everything. If you have no faith in yourself and your abilities, you will not not succeed. You must believe you worth it. You must love your body now, and believe it can only get better. Stronger. Healthier. Because if I can go from being a workaholic couch bum with "no time to workout" to someone who dedicates time to fitness and runs three half marathons and three 5ks within 13 months, then I KNOW you can too.

Find inspiration. I am a firm believer in inspiration. It does amazing things. Seek out people, blogs, stories, and events that inspire you. There will be days when you will feel hopeless and lost, and you will want to give up. But if you surround yourself with positive, inspiring people-  you will pick yourself up very quickly when you fall down. People who inspire me include Meggie Dials (@meggiehd) and her husband / my co-worker Josh Dials (@jtdials) - both of them have amazing stories about their running journey. Josh is always asking me how my running is going, what races I have coming up and sending me positive bursts of inspiration - even if he doesn't know it. And he is the healthiest eater I have EVER met in my entire life. Seriously, just walking by his desk and seeing his giant, healthy salad makes me stay on track. And Meggie- holy cow- just met her once and you will FALL in love with her! She is positive, feisty and a ball of inspiration. But stay away from her cake balls, they are as addicting as her fun personality. You can read about her running journey and life here: Another blog that inspires me (and I find myself reading daily is): She is an incredible writer and exposes the ups and downs of weight loss and running. She is beautiful. Follow her journey and get inspired for life.

When you first start running, focus on distance or speed. This is the best advice I ever received from my inspiration queen, Meggie, which is another point...don't be afraid to ask for advice!! I always ask for advice and for people to tell me their stories!! When I first started running, Meggie told me to pick between distance or speed. I picked distance. I would rather go 5 miles at  14 minute pace than run a 7 minute mile. Why? Because at the end of the day I'm working out for a lot longer...pushing my body to new limits. One day I'll hit that 7 minute mile (okay, maybe 8:30 mile) but the meantime, I am getting stronger and faster....and going longer distances. BUT maybe you want to work on your speed, so focus on your time. But for me, 2011 was about not obsessing over a number. So, this was the best advice and best decision I made for becoming a better runner.

Buy new workout clothes and good running shoes. The better you look, the better you feel. The same is true with fitness and working out, the more comfortable you are, the better you perform. On Dec. 26, 2010, I spent all my money from Christmas at Dick's Sporting Goods. I got new running tights, pants and shirts. I looked at it like I was making an investment in my health and my goals.

Drink LOTS of water. I can't stress this enough...when you are working out and running, you are sweating. And if you sweat your ass off in a snow storm like I do, then you will sweat even more when you are working out. You need hydration (water) to stay healthy and last longer in your workouts. Also, you will be less sore and have fewer headaches if you pump your body with water. I drink at every meal, have a glass of water (or 5) by my night stand, and drink it all throughout the day. If only I could give up my diet coke addiction...hey, I am a work in progress. So how much water should you drink each day? The Institute of Medicine determined that an adequate intake (AI) for men is roughly 3 liters (about 13 cups) of total beverages a day. The AI for women is 2.2 liters (about 9 cups) of total beverages a day.

Try to go vegetarian for a few meals each week. There are some really amazing vegetarian meals out there...and I'll be posting a blog soon with a few of my favorite vegetarian recipes. But your body doesn't need all the processed foods and meats. So, try to eat earthy at least once a day (that is only 5 meals a week). A few ways to do this are: fruit for breakfast, veggie stir fry,  veggie sandwiches, (Jimmy Johns Veggie is the BEST!!!), spinach and mushroom etouffee is unbelievable, black bean nachos or tacos, vegetable soup, and nothing beats a good salad! :) If you need some more veggie recipe ideas, ask my great friend Brittany Gerig -she knows a lot of healthy and delicious recipes!

Start slow - you are only racing against yourself! Another friend who inspires me is Melanie Allen (@mel_allen). She gave me the best advice during my first race. "Don't look at other people around you; you are only racing against yourself." People will pass you - just like you will pass other people. Don't compare yourself to other people - you will be miserable. Someone will always be faster, stronger, more talented- but as Maya Angelou once told me and hundreds of other people, "No more is more human than you. You can do anything."  The run never gets easier, you just get better, faster and stronger. Don't be upset if you have slow days, you are still moving your body. I had some days when I would go to the gym and just walk. I wasn't feeling it, but I wanted to put in my time and miles. So I would walk and then run for a few minutes. Just keep moving. Don't give up. No matter how fast you go, you are still miles ahead of everyone on the couch.

Drink black coffee and green tea. I once read that drinking one cup of coffee with sugar and cream everyday will pack on 15 lbs a year. Maybe 10. But either way, that's a lot of weight to gain just from drinking one cup of coffee. And who really drinks ONE cup of coffee? It takes some getting used to, but I drink my coffee black most of the time. Or I'll add sugar free syrup. Americanos from Starbucks are heavenly. I also try to drink green tea in the afternoon or morning (if I don't drink coffee). Green tea has been proven to boast your metabolism! Drink up my friends!

Stop using condiments. When I first learned that I had a lactose sensitivity, I thought my world ended. Cheese makes EVERYTHING better. Burgers, pasta, pizza - it all needs cheese. But look at those items I just listed...most of them are unhealthy. If you are opting for healthier items in your diet, giving up fatty condiments like cheese and mayo won't be that hard. You don't need to pile on cheese and mayo with a veggie stir fry..they simply don't go together. If you want to add some flavor to your grilled chicken, try adding mustard -regular! Honey mustard is often made with take it easy on that...and ketchup is the evil step sister to mayo because it's PACKED with sugar. If you are a ranch addict like me, there is help. Check out yogurt ranch dressing from Bolthouse Farms! It's half of the calories of regular ranch and tastes pretty good! Yes, it's slightly more expensive..but isn't living longer and healthier worth a few extra dollars.

Make commitments. Sign for a race, a gym membership, or start writing about your journey.Your commitments will keep you on track, accountable and inspired. If you want to go a race and are afraid to do it alone, PLEASE email me!! I'll gladly do any race with me (given I'm available) - and it's not like I travel the world for my job. I'd LOVE to do a race with you!!

Start cooking at home and packing your lunch. My good friend Sarah Frey (@sarahfrey6) is great at this! She often cuts up her veggies and fruit for the week on Sunday evening. I'm so inspired by her commitment to eating healthy and cooking new dishes at home! Not only does packing your lunch and cooking at home save you calories, but it saves you money! The Internet is FULL of healthy and fun recipes to try out at home.

Watch your sodium! If you are retaining water, you are probably consuming too much sodium. According to the Mayo Clinic Website, The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend limiting sodium to less than 2,300 mg a day — or 1,500 mg if you're age 51 or older, or if you are black, or if you have high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic kidney disease. Consider that just one teaspoon of table salt has 2,325 milligrams (mg) of sodium. The vast majority of sodium in the typical American diet comes from foods that are processed and prepared. These foods are typically high in salt, which is a combination of sodium and chloride, and in additives that contain sodium. Processed foods include bread, prepared dinners like pasta, meat and egg dishes, pizza, cold cuts and bacon, cheese, soups, and fast foods." So, what should you do? Try to eat fresh as often as possible! Freeze your own veggies and meals

Good luck in 2012!

And remember, whatever your goals are for this year...."Decide that you want it more than you are afraid of it." - Bill Cosby

Much love,

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

My Pics Don't Lie

I was getting depressed when I saw the number on the scale start to slowly climb back up. I had lost 20 lbs and before I knew it, I gained 5 lbs back and then 7 lbs and then 10 lbs. It was not inspiring.

I tried to remind myself that I shouldn't obsess over a number. And as a coworker and friend of mine reminded me last week during a meltdown, I am doing it the healthy way. So I should be proud of myself and accomplishments this year.  Searching for some inspiration, I looked at the pictures I've saved along my weight loss journey this year. I was pretty happy with what I found.

None of the pictures are in the same exact pose, but they definitely show the progress I've made this year.  I'll be posting the official before and after pictures on Jan. 1, 2012. This is just a teaser; I'm excited to see the final results. And while Shakira says her hips don't lie, well -my pics don't lie.

Starting Point = January 2011
This picture is unsettling. For many reason.
But mainly because I see a girl filled with sadness.
Desperate for a change.

February 2011

March 2011
March 2011

April 2011 - the first time I realized I had a belly button! :)

November 2011

November 2011
Tonight = December 21, 2011
While I don't have a six pack, I have a belly button.
And that is more than I can say a year ago.
And now, I'm happy.
I have more pounds to lose.
More miles to run.
But, I am comfortable in my own skin.

Thank you SO much to all of you! I couldn't have done this without the love and kind messages from my family, friends and even complete strangers. Nothing made me happier than receiving personal messages from people relating to my journey.

Or people who found motivation through my story and shared their own stories of personal achievements this year.

Or people who were reaching out to me for advice.

I never dreamed I could inspire so many people...and I an so proud of each and everyone one of you.
I look forward to growing stronger and faster with you all in 2012.

Much love,

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

I am a Runner

My husband has slowly turned into my personal trainer. We got a gym membership together at the YMCA in October, but we never really worked out together. I always focused on cardio while he focused on strength training with some cardio.

But since I am not currently training for a race, I wanted to build strength training back into my workout routine. Often, people assume they should only focus on cardio. But strength training is SO important…sure I want to continue to lose weight. But I also want to say goodbye to my bat wings, saddle bags and love handles.  Hence, I need to start lifting again to tone up! And I also believe with a stronger core, back and leg muscles – I will improve my running posture. 

So last night, Justin and I were doing legs.  We were on the calf raise machine when I first said it. Previously, we were doing sets of 10 – but I was feeling good so I just did a set of 15.

“Did you just do 15?” Justin asked.

I looked over at him with a cocky smirk and said, “Yes, I am a runner.”

I’ve never said that before. Ever. I usually say, "I run." Or, "I try to run!"

To be honest, it’s hard for me to feel like a “runner” because I can’t run for miles and miles without stopping.

But then I found this picture and quote a few weeks ago. 

Yes, I take walking breaks. Yes, I do intervals of walking and running- because for now, that works. For now, that’s what helps me log more miles. So, I might stop for a walking break, but I keep running. I keep running until I finish. Whether I get a personal best or the worst time of my life, I still run

On the next set, I went to lift up and the weight felt increased. Dramatically. It was now at 150 lbs.

“You turd,” I said.  

Justin smirked and gave me this look of “try to do 15 reps now” – so I accepted the challenged. And then some.

I exhaled, and lifted up…doing the most weight I’ve ever done on a calf raise.  

And with confidence in myself and my mental strength on full blast, I did 20 reps.

“You’re a punk,” Justin said.

Well, that might be true.

"I'm a runner," I said back.  It felt amazing to say that twice. Outloud. And I meant it.

"Just wait until arm days," he said. "I'll get you then..."

And he will - the bat wings can't lift heavy duty. YET!

Later that night, I was watching The Biggest Loser. It was the marathon episode, which is MY favorite!

While the makeover episode is amazing to see their physical transformation, this episode makes the contestants shine more than EVER before. You can put make up on anyone, but no new dress or hair cut will ever make someone feel the high of finishing a full marathon. Especially someone, who just five months earlier, was considered morbidly obese… I cried so many happy tears last night!

Those contestants braved the heat of the desert and plowed through sand storms…for 26.2 miles…let’s just say I was beyond inspired! I wanted to be at the finish line hugging and crying with each contestant as they crossed the finish line.
I was also so inspired by Roman’s  confidence.

He went into this race saying, “I am going to win!” 

“Nothing can stop me from winning this race.” 

“I will pass Courtney.”

"I will be in the final 3!"

Those are just a few things Roman said during his interview about the full marathon.

With that attitude and confidence, he won the race. Sure, he was prepared and trained for the race…but that confidence. That attitude…that is what won him the race.

You could have trained your heart out…never missed a day…but if you do not believe in yourself and your abilities…others will quickly pass you by.

Go win your race.

Much love,

Monday, December 5, 2011

December 6, 2008

It was a Saturday. December 6, 2008. Three years ago.

I was sick. Really sick.

I had just chugged some cough medicine when Justin called me outside.

"WHATTT!?" I moaned. "It is SO cold out there!"

"Just come here," Justin said smiling.

He grabbed my hand and started walking me across the yard in the snow.

We were walking away from the car.

Away from his house.

"What are you doing?" I asked. "Where are we going?"

He just smiled. He said nothing, but that smile...I will never forget.

"What, are you going to write your name in the snow with your pee or something?" I asked.

Seriously, I am weird. I have no clue why I thought my boyfriend was going to pee in the snow for me. It's not like that wins me over or anything...I mean it's pretty cool. I certainly can't spell my name in the snow with the pee. Maybe it was the cold meds fueling my imagination.

We walked two houses down. Justin stopped for a minute and then guided me up to the front porch.

"Do you know where we are?" Justin asked.

I looked around. My first thought was "on a front porch of a complete stranger." But before I could even say that...I realized where we were....

"Yes..." I started and then smiled. "This is the house and the porch that we first met at!"

"You're right," Justin said and started to kneel down.

Now on one knee, Justin said, "And this is the house that I want to make sure we begin the rest of our lives at together. Ashley, will you marry me?"

SHUT THE FRONT DOOR! Is this real life?

"Are you for real right now?" I asked.

"OMG, OMG!" I said again without letting him answer.

I was so excited that I stuck out both hands. I didn't know right from I just stuck out both hands and PRAYED that the ring fit...we had never looked at rings together. I never knew what size of ring I wore...the only kind of "carrot" I knew of was an orange vegetable that I hated when it was cooked and only slightly enjoyed raw with LOTS of ranch dressing.

"YES!" I screamed back him.

He slide the ring on my finger and it fit PERFECTLY. And it was so beautiful. I couldn't have picked anything out better myself. 

So there we the snow and kissing on a complete strangers front porch. It's moments like that when the world stops...and the only thing that matters is that moment. That person. That kiss. That emotion. That question he asked. That promised I made. That commitment we made on May 15, 2010. Til' death do us part...

I sealed my promise with a kiss.

Much love,

Sunday, December 4, 2011

My sister is engaged!!!

Finding Out

I was sitting at lunch with my best friend Toni when my phone went off with two text messages back-to-back.

The second text (which was displayed first) was this: " :) :) :) :) :) :)"

Without even reading the first text, I looked up and said to Toni, "OMG- my sister is engaged. That's way too many smiley faces to be anything else."

And with that, I read the first text, "Will just proposed!!!"

I'm so insanely happy for my sister. With two young children, finding a man to love not only her- but her boys was super important. The boys look up to Will so much...and he will be is an amazing father. And equally important, I know he will be my sister's best friend, husband and partner through all walks of life. He doesn't give up or walk away when times are hard. He puts my sister and boys first. Always. What else could a big sister ask for? Well, if his dad was the CEO of Starbucks - that would be cool...But, I digress!

The Proposal

Sarah had to run some errands on Saturday morning. While she was out, Will drove out to my dad's house and asked for his blessing. I don't know how that conversation went, but obviously my dad approved! :)

When Sarah returned home, Will called her into another room.

When she walked in, both Braxen (my oldest nephew -age 4) and Will were down on one knee.

Will was holding the ring and Braxen said, "Mommy, will you marry daddy?"

OMG- I was crying happy tears when she told me her story. How adorable? How special! How thoughtful!

And not only is Will a great guy, he has great taste! :)

Matron of Honor Duty

I got even more excited when Sarah asked me to be her matron of honor! Within 6 hours, I:

  • wrote my matron of honor speech in my head (I'm 75% done and it will make everyone cry. promises)
  • created a Pinterest board called "My Sister's Wedding"
  • found her a wedding invite designer (me), a DJ (Justin), probably a minister (Justin) and a photographer (the talented Ann Semon)
  • confirmed her wedding colors
  • confirmed that Bandit would IN FACT be the best ring bearer EVER! Yes, I found a pillow for him and everything...she hasn't approved this idea yet though...I'm not giving up!
  • found the number for the reception hall
  • suggested the perfect location for the wedding ceremony (our dad and Beth's house!!!!)
Planned for this week is:
  • going to David's Bridal to pick up a catalog of dresses
  • creating a wedding planning binder
  • stalking pinterest for more amazing ideas!
Oh, and a fun fact...Justin proposed to me the first Saturday of December three years ago.

Much love,

Thursday, December 1, 2011

My 146th Street Lover

My husband jokes that I have a secret lover on 146th street, which is the main road I take into work every morning. Before we bought our house, our apartment was only 3 minutes away from my work. Which was FABULOUS! I could roll out of bed at 7:15 a.m., sometimes even 7:30 a.m. and quickly get ready. Thankfully, I am not one of those girls who takes hours to pamper myself.

When we moved, my drive got become ten times longer…taking me at least 30-45 minutes to get to work – depending on the traffic, weather and construction. So my departure time of 7:50 a.m. – quickly turned into 7:15 a.m. Or earlier.

I would leave earlier, sometimes even as earlier as 7:05 a.m. to meet my lover. I actually have two of them. Ronald and Dunkin. I have a hard time resisting Ronald McDonald’s sausage burritos and the rush that Dunkin Donuts gives me is world-class. (Mr. Starbucks is not on an easy path to work).

Obviously, I am admitting that breakfast fast food and sugary coffee were slowing creeping back in my life. Not to mention, I 100% blame McDonald’s Monopoly for sucking me into the game and fast food addiction. You would think being in marketing I would know better. You would think being in marketing I would understand EVERYONE is only one piece away from a million dollars. But once I won a Redbook DVD rental, I was hooked. I thought this year would different. I think this year I would win it all.

But instead, the only thing I won was 10 extra pounds. No, I do not want fries with that….

So, within a month, my pants were tighter. My shirts were snuggier (yes, I think I made up that word). And my motivation was lower than it’s been in months.

I’ve joked about falling off the wagon before, but this time I fell off a jet plane. And it was long, hard fall to the ground.

So, I decided to take action this week. I’m proud to say I didn’t see my 146th lovers this week. I packed my lunch all week (except today I had a lettuce wrap from Jimmy Johns – only 191 calories!) But I did eat a bagel (and a half -- omg I know sooo bad) today from Panera. So I didn’t really save any carbs or calories with my lettuce wrap...Free bagels at work are the death of me. Anyway, I digress. The fact of the matter is I messed up. But that doesn’t make me a failure. It just means I need to try harder. Harder than ever before. Because now…I have 10 lbs to lose just to get back to my original weight loss for the year. And I’d like to say that in 2011 I lost 25 lbs.

So, today marks a new month. A new beginning. It will be SUPER hard with the holidays coming up. But I am determined to kick butt this month. And turn my lovers into long distance, faded friendships.

Much love,