Planning is Key

PlansOne of the things that continually throws me for a loop is unexpected things that happen in life. It’s the mundane, unplanned, and necessary things. Unplanned child pickups, work running later, emergencies, these are the things that can screw up your plans for the day. It’s ok to miss a workout here and there, but for me, I need to stay focused. My old track record is a series of events like this; getting sick or injured, being busy at work, or a busy home life. These are things that have traditionally derailed my success in the gym.

Now I’m trying to not allow these type of small setbacks be an excuse for failure. It all goes to where I’m at mentally. I have to realize that life happens, and I need to try to make sure I keep focused, and don’t let these things allow me to create an excuse for failure. So when I’m planning to hit the gym after work, and I have to do some unplanned thing, I’ll often try to go later at night when things have calmed down, or work out at home doing some sort of cardio.

Time isn’t the only thing you have to plan. Planning what you eat is crucially important too. There’s been days where I forget to bring my (calorie planned) lunch to work, and I just assume that I’ll go to Subway, or get some grilled chicken, or a salad. But days get hectic, and before you know it, lunch has passed, and the day is closing. Now I’m hungry, and not thinking clearly. These are the times when I make poor decisions. Decisions based on emotion.

It’s important to plan for these type of things. I usually try to keep some protein bars or other “quick-grab” things to eat. Where I work we have a little vending area that has the ubiquitous selection of chips, frozen pizza, candy, and other unhealthy options. If I don’t have anything to eat at my desk, I’ll go down and try to grab a yogurt, or some fruit – something. I look for a balance of satisfaction, measured calories, and something that’s better than fast food.

Remember, life doesn’t always go as planned, make sure you think about things in a way that you will ultimately be successful. If you have an “all or nothing” mentality (like I tend to) make sure that you approach situations realistically, with a plan, and a mindset that shit happens. Just make the best of what you can.

About a week ago, I had several (3-4) days of weight gain, not a ton, 1/2 a pound here, 1/2 a pound there, but I was wondering if I was going to hit the dreaded “plateau”. I was mentally prepared for this, but it was a bitter thought. I was doing everything right, eating right, exercising, so I was a bit confused. I realized a couple things, I had slacked a little here and there on a handful of cheerios, or a small amount of corn chips. I had almost started slipping back into old habits. I went back to my regimen, and over the next few days started to see the predictable weight loss I had been experiencing. I also realized that some sort of wall is coming, and I don’t know when it is. Several days of no weight loss, or even weight gain, are very normal in this process, just stick to what has been working for you.

If you encounter more than a week or two of a stalled plan, you may have to start changing things up. I don’t think I’m at that point yet, but I feel like I could be getting close. I’m so close to my first goal, a goal I’ve set many times and never achieved. But this time I will achieve it, failure is not an option.

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Going to the Movies

MoviesI went to the movies the other night, and realized how much I used to love sitting there eating popcorn and drinking soda. I don’t even want to figure out how many calories I would eat sitting at a two hour movie, I’m sure it’s mind blowing. I decided that I wanted to snack on something. My girlfriend and I were out at Target, so we hit the candy aisle. I started looking at the $2 bags of candy, for something that would be satisfying, fun to have during a movie, and not insane calorie-wise.

It was downright depressing. Almost all of the bagged candy was about 140 calories (or more) per serving, with 5-10 servings per bag. I knew that if I chose a bag, opened it, and tried to just have a serving, it would be two, then three, then I’d say screw it, and eat the entire bag. I looked at bagged popcorn, it was just as bad. Licorice wasn’t the answer either, the reality of calories and sticking to a budget set in once again.

I was getting bummed out, and then decided to go look at granola bars and fruit leather/snacks, they were lower in calories, and smaller portioned, but still wasn’t what I wanted. I finally ended up with a moderate sized bag of beef jerky, 3 servings at 80 calories each. Yes, I ate it all, and while red meat is not the greatest for you (or the sodium), I think it was better than the 1000+ calorie mistake I was about to make. I also got a bottled water, awesome, no calories, and a total of 240 calories for my movie snack. I left room in my daily calorie budget, it was high protein, and a decent amount of calories in comparison to candy, popcorn, or nachos!

Some other ideas are granola bars, generally 110 – 200 calories per bar, fruit leather (natural) around 80 – 160 calories depending on serving size. If you’re at home, you can air pop popcorn with no butter, and light salt for about 15 calories per cup! You need someone with a decent sized purse to smuggle it into the theater. The best thing to do is go with a plan in mind. If you like to snack during a movie, don’t deprive yourself, just make a better decision than the last minute popcorn/nacho/candy purchase, your scale will thank you, AND you’ll save a TON of money too. I think a medium popcorn and large drink tops $12 here in Portland. You can buy two packs of beef jerky (not the cheapest snack) and two bottled waters for that much!

Losing Weight and Eating Right While Traveling

Airplane landingWhen you’re traveling for work, or vacation, there’s so many difficult things to deal with if you’re trying to eat healthy and lose weight. It’s especially hard when you’re doing it for work because your meals are typically paid for by your company or client; all of a sudden almost anything you want to eat is an option. Often work trips or vacations include more alcohol than you would normally drink on your dime.

While it’s hard, it’s sure not impossible. There’s several things to remember when you’re away from home, and you’re roving from restaurant to restaurant.

Know how your food is prepared – Remember that you’re in control of what your put into your body. When you’re at an eating establishment that you’re unfamiliar with, ask questions. How is the meat prepared? What kind of oil do you use? Is it grilled? You have every right as a consumer to know what you’re eating.

Stay away from fried foods – I’ve found that almost every place I’ve ever eaten on the road usually has fried food. Even when you’re in places like this, there are generally healthier options. Look for grilled foods, look for “lighter fare” portions. So many places are now offering healthier options, sometimes you just have to dig deeper and look.

Ask for calorie/nutrition information – A lot of restaurant chains are starting to publish their calorie information in their menus. Pay attention to this. Sometimes things I’ve thought are healthier, have more calories and fat that a burger and fries! Ask how many calories are in the food that you’re ordering, sometimes it’s just not something printed in the menu, but most places have this information available.

Stick to what you know – If you see places you know, and you’re familiar with healthy options they have, stick to those places! Do what works for you. When you frequent places that you know from home, you’ll be a step ahead, and using this approach can save you time and stress dealing with restaurant staff.

Breakfast – Breakfast is one of my favorite meals. I used to love getting a big plate of eggs, hash browns, toast, and meat. It’s an awful way to start the day, tons of fat and sodium. Try sticking to yogurt, a whole grain cereal, or just some eggs. A lot of the places I’ve stayed in have free continental breakfasts that offer a lot of great options, like yogurt, fruit, and oatmeal.

Lunch – Lunch is one of those meals when you’re traveling that you may be eating with other co-workers, clients, or if you’re on vacation, looking to indulge. One of the things I’ve done when I’ve traveled is found local grocery stores, and bought fresh salad by the pound, a bunch of spinach, some chicken breast, a little egg and balsamic vinegar, it’s a delicious lunch, and you can take it back to where you’re working, or eat it at the store. I love Whole Foods’ readily available foods.

Dinner – Dinner can be perceived as one of the meals that if you’re not paying for it, you should splurge. I say, challenge yourself to spend less, pretend like it’s your money. I try to eat a smaller portion of steak or chicken, maybe a potato and a small salad with the dressing on the side. They KEY with restaurant salads is to make sure to ask of the dressing on the side, and then use as little as possible. One of the things I like about balsamic dressing is that it’s low in fat and calories. Use a ton of it!

Subway sandwiches is a great place to go because they focus on low calorie sandwiches, and they are EVERYWHERE. They’re in just about every major city across the US. They also publish and make readily available all of their calorie and nutrition information. They also have gluten free options available and are very conscious about cross contamination, although they say they can’t guarantee 100% gluten free dining.

Airports can be brutal. Sometimes you have VERY limited choices. That’s why I always carry some good snacks with me. I have almonds, cashews, beef jerky, and other snacks that I can dig into if there are only fast food places available. If you don’t plan ahead, and you’re forced to eat fast food, be sure to stay away from “King” or “Super sizes”, order grilled white meats instead of red meats or fried items. A lot of fast food places now even ofter salads and things like yogurt. Just be aware of the portions and calorie counts of what you’re eating, and make good decisions despite the fact that you might not be eating at your first choice of restaurant.

Just remember, that YOU are ultimately in control of what happens. Everyone slips once in a while, everyone indulges, just make sure that you’re not making that the norm. Don’t let being away from home create an excuse to sabotage the work that you’ve done. When you do decide to stray from your course, remember to get at it strong the next day, and don’t let your faulty step become a habit.

Ask Your Restaurant What Portion Size They’re Serving You

When I do eat out, I’m careful about portion sizes, and what I think can be healthy. I frequent a local Asian rice and noodle joint called Nice Rice. I’ve gotten to know the owners, a couple of brothers, but one of the brothers moved to Texas and went back to corporate life. Chu, the current owner, knows I typically order one of two things, and knows how I like it.

After I started tracking my calories and started towards my weight loss goal, I wondered just how much I was really eating. I was able to take a pretty good guess at it, but I decided to ask. Chu was totally cool about it, and told me that the chicken I was getting was breast meat, very low in fat, and was two small breasts in what I typically ordered. He even went on to tell me there were on average about 3.5 oz. per breast. Cool, so now I knew that I was eating 7 oz. of grilled chicken breast.

When it comes to rice, I could eat it all day long. But what I do at Nice Rice is two things, I get brown rice, which is a complex carbohydrate, and better for you than white rice, and I ask for half the portion of what they normally serve. It’s about 1/2 – 2/3 a cup of cooked rice. I have a small amount of sauce, and it works out to about a 430 – 500 calorie lunch. I only do it maybe once a week or so, but it’s nice to know the amount of calories that I’m taking in.

I’d encourage you to do the same. If you’re eating out somewhere, and you’re tracking your caloric intake, ask your server, or the manager, or the chef how much are your portion sizes? It’s a totally legitimate question to ask, and they should be able to tell you. Couple that information with your calorie tracking technique or application, and you’ll know for sure what spending calorie-wise.

Drink No Calories

Calories galore.

Sticking to a calorie budget each day to lose weight is challenging with food alone, but pay attention to what you’re drinking. Soda, liquor, juice, even some of the drinks that are coffee related can be packed with calories and fat.

I’m trying to stick to drinking no calories. I just don’t want to consume them in place of food that I could be having. I do like my occasional Starbucks coffee though, and I think I’ve got it down to a reasonable amount of calories. I order a Venti Iced Americano with three pumps (instead of six) of vanilla syrup and a ton of ice. It’s about 85 calories, and it lasts me almost all day long. I probably get one or two per week.

The syrup flavoring at Starbucks is 40 calories for two pumps. So my drink the way that Starbucks sells it is 120 calories in syrup, and about 25 for the espresso. Make sure to stay away from extra sugar and cream! Some of the dessert drinks at Starbucks can contain over 700 calories! That’s just a drink! I’m having meals right now that are less than that. Make sure to educate yourself, and find out what you’re consuming, you may be shocked to find out.

Beer is good, but not the belly.

The other tough area for people can be alcohol. I love beer, a lot. But I’ve cut that way back (to almost zero) because some of the beer I was drinking had almost 300 calories per pint. A few pints of beer can equate to several slices of bread, there’s a ton of carbohydrates. You can opt for a light beer that’s about 1/3 of the calories, and way less in carbohydrates, you’re sacrificing taste and alcohol content, but getting to have beer that’s less caloric.

I also have a penchant for red wine, especially merlot. Generally red wine contains about 25 calories per ounce. Red wine in moderation is generally thought to have some health benefits due to antioxidants, and is supposed to be ‘heart healthy’, the key is moderation. When I have wine, I try to pour a 6 oz. or so glass, especially if I have calories left in my budget for the day.

Orange Juice Calories

Non diet soda is something that isn’t a big deal to me, there’s just too much sugar in it. I do like to have Diet Pepsi  and where I work it’s on tap, fo free, as much as you want. Again, moderation is key, and I try to limit myself to one (sometimes two) per day. I’m not sure why, but it helps with the stress at work. I know that it’s not healthy or good for me, but I can’t cut every single thing out of my life at once.  Watch out for juice too. It’s full of (usually) natural sugars, and sometimes good things like Vitamins, B and C, low in fat, but can be ultra high in calories. An 8 oz. glass of 100% pure orange juice has over 100 calories. I absolutely love orange juice and miss it. So I try to eat an orange instead, still getting some of the natural juices, and it’s a good health snack compared to chips, crackers, or other breads and grains.

What I’m trying to drink a lot of is water. Tons of water when I’m working out, water with meals, water throughout the day, and even when I’m hungry and don’t want to eat. Water is key.

Dining Out – It’s Inevitable

No matter how dedicated you are, no matter how much you plan, no matter how much you may want to avoid it, at some point you will have to dine out. I used to eat out for lunch almost every day of the work week, and at least once or twice over the weekend. The amount of money I was spending for the convenience of not having to do a small amount of planning and kitchen work pales in comparison to the amount of calories I was consuming.

But I have to be realistic. It’s unrealistic to think I’m never going to eat out again. There will be birthdays, parties, date nights, times out with friends, the list goes on and on. So what I need to remember are two things; 1. Portion control and sizing, and 2. Better choices. Instead of a burger and fries, maybe a chicken sandwich and side salad. Instead of half a pizza, a slice or two. I used to love going to Chipotle and Qdoba. I was SHOCKED to find out how much the burrito, chips and salsa cost me in calories.

This is what I used to order for lunch. Oh my goodness, I had no clue.

 

 

 

So I’ve made some adjustments, I’m not a huge vegetable eater (maybe I’ll get better with that) so cutting just the chips, and the burrito shell was a huge help. The chips and burrito shell alone are a 900 calorie cut and a whopping 37 grams of fat. I don’t go to Chipotle much any more, but occasionally it will look more like this.

1000 calories less? Seriously? I don’t miss anything either.

What a difference. I love it too, there’s nothing I feel like I’m missing. 1000 calories is almost two thirds the amount of my total daily calorie budget of 1600 calories! 400 calories for a great lunch out makes me happy? Yes. Check out the places you frequent for information online. Qdoba has almost an identical interface that allows you to build exactly what you want in your meal so you can understand every nutritional aspect of what you’re going to consume  You can even then create a custom food in Lose It, so that when you go back, you don’t have to enter all the ingredients, you can just pick a food called “Chipotle Burrito Bowl”.

Using the “Lose It” iPhone application you can also look up information for many mainstream eating establishments. It’s especially useful for those times where you have no choice in where you’re eating. You can look up food for most of the places you’re going to eat, and stick to your calorie budget, even though you may not get much to eat because of how restaurants prepare their food.