Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Chronic...(dieter)



First I just wanted to sat that I am very flattered and humbled to have had Ellen, over at Fat Girl Wearing Thin, link my last blog post to hers.  When I got up yesterday morning and checked there it was...my name on her blog, and let me tell you, her post is a GREAT read and very much in line with what I've been pondering lately.


Frosty morning...calling for SNOW this week!!

You see, as a chronic dieter and fitness pursuer, I have found that no matter what is going on in my life, I am constantly challenging myself to either give something up or add something good to my diet.  Seeing similar posts from people questioning their old habits as they try to determine if their actions are merely residual motions they've 'learned' and cannot give up now, or a true attempt to continue on the life and health improvement path has left me wondering about my own motivation.  It seems as though once I've tackled one challenge (like losing 15 pounds by any means necessary) I move on to the next...like giving up artificial sweeteners, then processed foods, then gluten, and now I am contemplating cutting back on caffeine.  But I now think that my best bet would be to determine WHY I feel the need to do this sort of thing before just jumping in whole-heartedly.



Sure, I could easily say that these are 'healthy' decisions and would most likely improve my well-being (except for giving up caffeine, which may be down-right dangerous) but I am beginning to think that my eating-disorder (whether I look way back to my days with anorexia or full on binge eating) is still hanging around...and may do so forever.  Am I simply testing myself over and over again?  Am I trying to 'prove' to myself that I can be strong enough to deny certain foods even though I now find it impossible to give up eating as I did when I was anorexic?  Is this just another form of extreme dieting and/or depravation?  Or am I pushing myself to find my breaking point...and basically setting myself up for failure?


I have read about people who have gone on plans like Nutrisystem ( a wonderful plan that led to my 15 pound weight loss, in a healthy way), who continue to eat the program foods on a daily basis, even after they reach their goal weight.  They talk about not having eaten a french fry in 5 years.  Obviously this works for them and they are successfully maintaining their goal weight and, by all outward appearances, live a happy life.  Food becomes a no brainer, there's no need to experiment or try new things, no temptations to over-eat because you know the plan and it's all laid out for you...yet it makes me wonder if we are all doomed to be perpetual dieters. I suppose, for these people, it is a healthy way to live because the alternative may mean going back to all of their old, bad habits.  But does dieting foe ME mean that no matter what I learn or how long I remain at my goal weight, I will always be looking for that next diet challenge?


I certainly don't think that eating pre-packaged 'diet' foods for the rest of my life is the answer.  While it may work for some, I KNOW that I want to eat whole, unprocessed foods.  And I don't necessarily want to place so many restrictions on myself that I can't enjoy a glass (or 3) of wine, a bite of homemade cheesecake on occasion, or a couple of french fries (although I'm not a big fry fan).  So why then am I so adamant about randomly restricting other things?

Perhaps I am still in the process of learning balance.  I tend to think of my eating disorder as something that happened to a different me...an out of body experience.  It was so long ago and not something that I could (or would) do again...I can't wrap my brain around the idea of starving myself like that again.  Yet, like I stated in my previous post, I am still struggling with balance...with not doing things to the extreme, trusting myself, and most importantly, accepting myself as I am.  I get stuck in the mindset that with all of my exercising and healthy eating I should look like a fitness model yet all I see is a spare tire and muffin top.  That's when I have to stop and get real, reminding myself that HEALTH is the ultimate goal...not the number on the scale or the size of my jeans.

 
Life is for living and I need to remind myself of that more often.  And while I don't want to have my life revolve around food, I know that for now, it will be a dominating thought.  The key will be to not be critical or extreme.  To take a deep breath, refocus on my goals and see if what I want to persue fits into my ultimate goal of a healthy, happy, productive life...and not merely another way for Lynn to be self-deprecating.  Emotionally, I feel really good, even if there is still some confusion...I know that as my body gets healthier, my mind does too...and vice versa.  I just never realized that there would be such a long learning curve.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Trusting Myself...

Just when I think I have stepped-up my workouts, feeling proud of my resolve, it becomes blindingly apparent that I really have to make more of an effort if I want to lower my body-fat percentage.  I figure it is a combination of things...my love of eating (I like to feel satiated at all times), over-estimating my actual effort, under-estimating my caloric intake, and perhaps some residual metabolic damage from my eating disorder.  
Me getting ready for prom, 1988, about 89 pounds.



For years I have felt that I was simply an observer of my eating disorder...that I had healed/recovered so long ago that it was almost like it happened to another person, not me.  But I still have a few odd habits...the need to feel satiated is one of them.  There were "tricks" I learned to deceive my stomach into feeling like I'd eaten...filling up on warm liquids (coffee, tea, broth), diet soda (sometimes up to a 12 pack of Diet Coke a day), air popped popcorn, plain lettuce, and watering down things to make them stretch (ie adding water to pancake mix and thinning it out so much that is barely held together and then eating these watery crepes with sugar-free syrup).  But, as I sit here now, I realize that I still do a lot of these things.  I have no idea anymore if that is good or bad. What I do know is that my body is no longer changing...I am working our 6 days a week yet seeing no real improvements. It's time to take a deeper look, to be honest, to deal with the issues that are apparently still there.

There is a fine line for me between an acceptable level of dieting and compulsive dieting and working out.  It's frustrating because I feel that had I NOT been anorexic then no matter how hard I work out now, no one would question me or my motivation.  Maybe I am mentally sabotaging myself because I can't accept or deal with this issue.  When you feel like your eating disorder was an out-of-body experience yet you are held to a different 'standard' for fear of slipping back into those habits, it feels like a no win situation...I am constantly guarded, having to explain to family and/or friends that I am NOT starving myself if they find out I've lost 5 pounds.  Or that I am not over doing it because I want to run a marathon.  Self-doubt creeps back in and second guess my own motivation, diet and exercise habits...and basically stay the same.

It's time I regain my confidence and self-esteem.  To trust that I can take care of this body without over-thinking and over-analyzing every little thing I do.  I KNOW the right things to do...proper nutrition, proper training, the need for rest, to not obsess about the scale.  I know to measure my improvement by improved endurance, how my clothes fit, inches lost, body fat percentage, and over-all well-being.  And I need to realize that my family and friends are only concerned because they love me and I don't need to get defensive, assuming they are criticizing my health goals (which then leads me to self-sabotage).  I can see, in my mind's eye, exactly where I want to be and I know how to get there...now I just have to get out of my own way!


Tofu Steak Stir-Fry 

1 pound package of Lite Tofu (extra firm)
4 TBS nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 bunch of bok choy
2 small sweet potatoes, cooked and cut into pieces
2 cups cooked quinoa
1 TBS Bragg Liquid Aminos, 1 TBS water
salt and pepper to taste

1-Drain and press tofu to remove as much water as possible. Slice into 1/4" steaks.
2-Dredge steaks in mixture of yeast and garlic powder.

3-Brown steaks in a pan sprayed with cooking spray. 

4-Stir fry bok choy in sprayed pan til starting to wilt.  

5- Add quinoa, sweet potatoes, Braggs and water, stirring to coat. Add salt and pepper to taste.

6-Carefully combine tofu steaks and heat entire mixture.

Cashew Sauce

1/4 cup roasted cashews
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 tsp tamari
1/4 cup mirin

1-Combine all ingredients in food processor or blender until creamy.
2-Top stir fry with cashew sauce.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Faking it...

Spring is making an appearance in Feb!
I have a vice I need to put an end to if I am going to really embrace this healthy lifestyle.  It's the automatic decision to go with a sugar-free product regardless of the type of 'sweetener' that is involved.  Whether it's a sugar-free vanilla soy latte from Peet's Coffee, Diet Pepsi (on the rare occasion I drink a soda), diet maple-flavored syrup for my oatmeal, or the 3 different flavors of fat-free, sugar-free Jello puddings I have in the cupboard (for mixing in my plain, non-fat Greek yogurts) I can't get over this mental hurdle that it's better to have the extra calories then it is to eat things that have been proven to cause cancer (or head aches or gastric issues, etc.).

A lot of this stems from the whole diet craze, Atkins, low-glycemic diets, low-carb diets, Sugar Blues, and the like...I have become fearful of sugar.  But not just processed white sugar, which I think is wise to avoid, but other natural sweeteners like agave, molasses, fruit juice, raw cane sugar, brown sugar, and honey (which I am avoiding now due to my desire to be vegan).  However, I truly desire to live a cleaner and healthier life, eating whole foods and a plant based diet so it's time to say goodbye to these poisons.  Besides, having worked for a candy store (right out of high school) I learned that sugar-free foods and sodas were designed for diabetics...NOT people wanting to lose weight

One of the first things I am going to do is revamp my Morning After Oatmeal, which I have always used sugar-free maple syrup.  I'm going to try Black strap Molasses instead.  you see, not only is molasses sweeter then sugar, it also has (in one tablespoon):

  • 175 mg of calcium,
  • 3.6 mg of iron,
  • 45 mg of magnesium,
  • 510 mg potassium

I also enjoy the taste of molasses, having had several types of foods prepared by my grandmother, who was a depression era cook (we always had shoofly pie).

I think sometimes, as a chronic dieter and recovered anorexic, that I get in the habit of trying to get MORE for my calories...but instead of more nutrition, I am settling for more food.  So, by eating non-nutritional foods, I can eat vast quantities, never feeling deprived, but sacrificing nutrition and totally sabotaging the idea (and lessons) of portion control.  I think that is a dangerous thing...at least for me.


Do you eat/drink sugar-free products?  Are there any that you feel are "safe" and healthy substitutes?

I'll be working on a tasty Black Strap Molasses Baked Oatmeal recipe.  But in the meantime I am busy working on meatless (and mostly vegan) meals that even my BF will eat.  

Meatless Enchiladas (Inspired by The Engine 2 Diet)

10 corn tortillas
1 small can and 1 large can enchilada sauce
1 large zucchini, diced
2 cups baby portebellos, diced
4 cups fresh spinach
1/2 large sweet onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 TBS cumin
1/2 TBS chili powder
1/2 tsp salt, optional
1 can back beans, rinsed
1 small can diced chillies
20 oz bag of frozen hash browns (no fat added)
12 oz shredded cheese (veggie, or not)

1-Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Saute onion and garlic for about 5 minutes, add mushrooms, zucchini and spinach, cook until spinach is wilted.


2-Cook hash browns according to package.  Add to veggie mixture along with spices, one small can of enchilada sauce, chillies and beans and mix thoroughly. 


3-In a sprayed baking dish (13 X 9) pour 1/2 large can enchilada sauce on bottom of dish.
4-Using kitchen shears, cut the tortillas in half and layer on bottom of dish.
5-Carefully pour and spread veggie mixture over tortillas.
6-Add second layer of tortillas, top with remaining enchilada sauce and grated cheese.
7-Bake at 350 degrees for about 35 minutes.


Friday, February 11, 2011

Taking One for the Team



I sometimes forget things, which is why I have been carrying the Amy Knapp's family planner with me for the past 6 years (although I don't have a "family" per se to keep track of, just ME).  Yet, I still managed to forget that Tuesday was my first Farm Fresh to You CSA delivery.  Instead, I remembered Wednesday morning but was pleased to find that not only was my box delivered and waiting on the front porch, but the weather was reasonable and didn't destroy any of my beautiful veggies by sitting out all night!

The BEST carrots ever!
Even Miso loves her veggies!

Aside from a quick fried rice I made for dinner last night, those veggies will have to wait a few days before I can get creative and utilize all of that goodness.  It's been a busy week for training and Team in Training fundraising activities.  Tuesday night was a buddy run at a local park...and even though it was cold, extremely windy (gusts up to 40 mph!!!), and dark out I managed about 3.4 miles in our 30 minute run.  Then I was home to make dinner for the BF and me (he works swing shift so dinner is about 9:30pm), clean up and catch up on blog stuff (mostly reading).

After work Wednesday, there was a fully body kettlebell workout with Lauren Brook's DVDs (Vol 1 and 2) followed by some light house cleaning and envelope addressing for TNT.  Thursday was a big day of finishing my fundraising letters...addressing and stuffing 150 envelopes!  I had to take a break to run to the court house to get some necessary paperwork to update my passport (Cabo trip in May!!!), grab a late lunch at Chipotle, and go grocery shopping.  Let me tell you, it was very strange to skip the whole produce section at the store since my fridge is full from my CSA delivery!!!


Exactly 150 letters, now give me my t-shirt!

Hmmmm, he looks suspiciously like my BF!
After unloading the groceries I forced myself to do a 31 minute interval run on the treadmill...I really lacked motivation and even resorted to whining a little bit to the BF.  But he didn't fall for it, announcing that it will not be because if his sheer laziness that I fail to accomplish my goal.  Thursdays are a normally scheduled run and will be held as group runs at the track starting next week so I might as well get used to them.  Besides, I feel like I'm no longer running just for me...I have a team now and honorees that I am running for who keep me going when I want to quit.  As a matter of fact, my honoree, Josh, had a chemo treatment on Wednesday...poor little guy.  His reward was to go where ever he wanted for lunch, which was Fresh Choice (most likely for the soft-serve ice cream) so the least I could do was drag my lazy butt on to the treadmill...after all, my struggle would only be for 30 minutes, his has been going on for 2 years so far.


Josh, my honoree!


My Thursday Dreadmill Interval Run:


TimeSpeedIncline
0-56.0.5%
5-106.5.5%
10-157.0.5%
15-207.5.5%
20-306.5.5%
30-318.0.5%
Total:3.5 miles







I'd also like to mention that Life as Kristina is having an AWESOME giveaway with her favorite protein powder, Mung and Black Bean Pasta and chocolates (yes...I said CHOCOLATES).  The drawing will be on Feb. 15.  Check it out here!!



Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Revisiting Goals


I've seen a few other bloggers revisiting their New Year's resolutions to either acknowledge their progress and/or redouble their efforts.  In reading these, I realized that part of my commitment/success problem is that I don't often bother to do this...or, if I do, it is registered mentally which doesn't count (and can be counter-productive).  The problem with that is for some of us, like me, we never really see the great strides we have made in reaching our goals or maintaining that certain behavior pattern that we so desire.  Maybe we are too used to seeing ourselves daily that we don't see the subtle changes taking place.  Or maybe we are so hypercritical that we don't allow ourselves to acknowledge our successes even after struggling to accomplish them.


Sometimes I feel like this poor guy...
So, this year is my year of action.  And I can proudly say that I am still sticking to my guns.  I've completed the 10,000 kettle bell swing challenge in the month of January (and still have massive callouses to prove it), I joined Team in Training and collected $882 toward my goal so far, I've broken down my fundraising into bite sized chunks and tackled those on a regular basis without getting overwhelmed, I've attended every meeting with TNT to date, I entered AND ran a 5K ( the Davis Stampede) to kick off the season, I've cooked several healthy or vegan or vegetarian or gluten free meals, I've blogged more this past month then I have in the last year, and I've made time for friends and family (I can't really comment on the house cleaning though I did managed to steam clean the carpets at least).  

Through the kettle bell challenge I have gotten stronger and my arms and abs are more defined.  And through Team in Training I have had to step outside of my comfort zone by asking friends and family to support the cause, approaching my job for sponsorship, becoming creative with letter writing and social networking, and have actually shown up for training meetings in other towns with people I don't know.  And through blogging I have learned so much about myself, some of you, healthy eating, running, cooking, balance, and support.  It's a wonderful means of expression with such an awesome return.


In the course of this health quest and through the wonderful world of social networking, I came across this recipe from an old high school friend (who got it from Oxygen Magazine)...I made a few modifications to make mine this a vegan meal.

Clean Vegan Pizza




Crust
1/2 cup dry oatmeal
1/4 tsp ground flaxseed
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 oz Gimme Lean

Mix together in a bowl, shape into a ball and flatten into a mini pizza crust on a baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray.
Bake at 350 degrees for 5 minutes, flip over and bake 5 additional minutes.






Topping
1/4 cup pizza sauce or tomato sauce w/a dash of garlic salt
2 TBS vegan cream cheese (original recipe calls for 1/4 cup cottage cheese but I didn't have any)
1 TBS fresh basil, chopped
3/4 cup fresh spinach
1/4 cup arugula
1/4 cup cheese (vegan or your choice)




Mix tomato sauce and cream cheese together.
Add remaining ingredients except cheese in with sauce.
Top with cheese and bake about 13 minutes.






Variations: assorted veggies you have on hand, mushrooms, bell peppers, onion...the choices are endless.




Sunday, February 6, 2011

First Training Run complete with Sound Effects

Yesterday was the first day of training for Team In Training held at Benicia State Recreation Area.  It was a beautiful Saturday morning, perfect for measuring our baseline running pace and cadence (foot stikes per minute~mine was 152, an exceptional athlete is 180+, I've got some work to do).  I completed my first mile in 8:20 minutes and my second mile in 9 minutes.  Not too bad for having been stuck on the treadmill for months.  I guess the incline and sprints have been paying off thanks Iowa Girl).

We also learned a few tips about conserving our energy by keeping out feet close to the ground and hips as level as possible.  Not that it matters a whole lot for a 2 mile run, but multiply that 2 mile run 13 times and every movement will count for or against you.  But it was still something one of my teammates might have wanted to pay attention to before we set out on this short run. 


Yes, he went balls to the wall and every stride he moved forward was matched by an equally impressive, yet unnecessary, vertical movement.  I quickly, as in about 100 yards, caught up to him only to be greeted by his running farts (imagine the "let me introduce you to my little friend" scene from Scarface).  Yes, it was flight or flight, duck and cover, as I quickly found the motivation to pass him.  With a burst of fresh air, I was able to comfortably complete my run with no other distractions save for my confusion on exactly how far that first mile seemed (this is what was going through my head, "surely this must be a mile by now...okay maybe now...seriously, where is the turn around point??  Did I pass it??  What the hell, did they not mark the course??  Oh wait, is that it up there?  This seems WAY more then a mile!").  As for the guy, he was lapped by several other {female} runners and finally crossed the 'finish line about 4 minutes later.

I've been working on eating "clean", vegetarian (sometimes vegan), heart healthy, and gluten-free foods this past week.  The gluten-free part came from a suggestion from Lauren Brooks in her February Fat 
Loss Challenge she set up on Facebook.  It's kind of a test to see if we will feel better and less bloated if we cut out gluten.  So far, so good!


Now I absolutely LOVE Thai Food, it's my number one favorite, followed closely by Cuban and Indian food.  So, when I came across this EASY recipe in the Engine 2 Diet book I had to try it...and it did not disappoint.  I made a few modifications to utilize the ingredients I had on hand and I also doubled (okay, maybe tripled) the red curry sauce because I like it spicy!  Here you go...


Red Curry Tofu & Brown Rice (from The Engine 2 Diet)


1# extra firm tofu frozen, thawed and pressed (cubed into 1" pieces)
Bragg Liquid Amino
2 TBS red curry paste (this is different then curry powder)
24-32 oz Veggie broth
1 onion, diced
2 cups sliced carrots
*1/2 cup potato (cooked, peeled and cut into chunks)
*1/2 cup sweet potato (cooked, peeled and cut into chunks)
2 TBS tamiri (low-sodium)
1 TBS molasses
1 Cup Almond Milk
*1 TBS cornstarch mixed with 1 TBS cold water (for thicker sauce)
juice of 1 lime
3 cups cooked brown rice
sliced green onion
1 cup cilanto leaves (fresh)
(*my add modifications)

1- Toss or spray tofu with Braggs and broil on oiled baking sheet for 20 minutes, turning once to brown both sides.


2- Preheat large skillet or wok until smoking. Stir-fry curry paste in 4 TBS stock, stirring continuously until combined.

3- Add onion and stir to coat.  Add carrots, both types of potatoes (and any other veggies such as snow peas) and cook one minute.


4- Add remaining stock and tofu.

5- Combine tamiri and molasses in small bowl and then stir into skillet.

6- Add almond milk and lime juice.

7- Serve over rice and garnish with cilantro and green onion.


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Quest for Healthy Cooking


As the "head chef" in our the house, I realized the immense power I have over both my, and my boyfriend's, eating habits.  When we first started dating, my boyfriend would visit me at my apartment during his lunch break, which was about 9:30 pm, and basically eat whatever I cooked.  A lot of these meals would be vegetarian or vegan since I was a vegetarian at the time (I have since started eating fish very occasionally).  Rarely did I get a complaint from him, and he tried everything from falafel on pita bread to General Tao's Tofu to "raw" enchiladas (recipe by Natalia Rose).

Falafel!


Now let me get this out there right now...I enjoy cooking. It's relaxing, fun and rewarding.  Cooking for my boyfriend is even more pleasurable because I like to show-off for him and he is always a gracious diner.  It's what I do for him because I want to, and I love it (except, as you will see, when I run out of ideas).

On rare occasions, I would make some kind of meat dish, maybe chicken or a pepperoni pizza (homemade or Trader Joe's organic) but for the most part, he ate healthy and meat-free.  Once I moved in with him, last March, my cooking habits changed.  I guess I felt like a guest or visitor and bowed to what I thought was the norm.  I bought and cooked steaks, boxed mac n' cheese, pre-made orange chicken...stuff I would have never thought to buy before.  But for some reason I felt I had no 'right' to pick what went into his refrigerator.  

Recently, I spoke with my BF about how I was running out of ideas for things to make him for dinner.  I felt that all the meals I was making were boring and not really appetizing.  I'd rotate chicken, rice and green beans with steak, mac n' cheese and salad, throwing in a spaghetti dinner once in a while.  Granted, the BF's idea of helping come up with meals was a note that simply said: meat, starch, veggie, so THAT was a big help! Later we talked about my dilemma...which was really his since I don't even eat the things I cook for him.  He reminded me of how I used to cook for him and that he had never complained about eating vegan or vegetarian.  Sweet!  




With his help I've slowly come to the realization that I can make whatever I want and he can eat it or not.  But I would be doing a diservice to him (and me) if I continued to make things that I knew I didn't want him to eat (at least not ALL the time, and no, I am not a control freak).  I could pretty much regulate how much meat, sodium, cholesterol, fat, sugar, etc. he consumed...and he wouldn't even complain!!



So I am on a quest to find my inner cook again and to use the knowledge I have gained over the years to cook healthier meals for him.  I've also been scouring some blogs, so don't be surprised to see some familiar recipes and references to some awesome bloggers out there.  Below are two resources I will be utilizing to make some healthy meals for my BF and me.  The recipes are pretty simple and delicious.  I also am going to be visiting the Peas and Thank You blog which has a plethora of recipes and Sarah, the writer, has even posted a meal plan for FREE on her blog.  Great stuff and definitely worth checking out! 



Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Reflections on the 10,000 Kettlebell Challenge


 I LOVE kettlebells!!  And there is no denying it.  For Christmas last year, the number one item on my wish list was a 30 pound kettlebell.  So, you can only image how thrilled I was when a few days before Christmas I found a package on the door step. When I lifted it I couldn't help but notice that it was heavy...I mean really HEAVY, like say, ummmm, 30 pounds worth of heavy!  The next day I found that the package was neatly wrapped and placed under our Christmas Palm Tree...yay me!!!


I soon stumbled across a kettlebell challenge on Facebook.  Wooohooo, you KNOW I am going to "Like" almost anything that has to do with KBs on Facebook!  In reading the articles about this challenge I soon learned that is was, well...challenging!  A 10,000 Kettlebell Swing Challenge for the month of January.  Thirty-one days to swing a kettlebell 10,000 times doesn't seem too difficult at first glance, mainly because it's a little difficult to wrap your head around a number that big.  Broken down to a daily (more manageable) number would roughly calculate to 323 swings per day which I could spread through out the day.  What I didn't do was take into consideration a few things like rest and recovery, running days, and all of life's unexpected obstacles.

I had started the new year in Las Vegas (which was a blast) and didn't get back home to even start the challenge until Jan. 3.  Then it was necessary to unpack, do massive loads of laundry, replenish groceries, and get back to work immediately.  Let me tell you, it is HARD to get back into the swing of things after the holidays PLUS 4 days in Vegas.  But I kinda opened my big mouth and announced to a few people (all of my Facebook and Nutrisystem friends) that I was going to kick this challenge's ass.  There was no wussing out now even though I was easily 3 days behind schedule.

I had to start with my 25 pound KB since it had been a few weeks since I had done any sort of exercise.  I did about 25 swings and thought my heart was going to jump out of chest and smack me upside the head. Okay, perhaps I might have underestimated the physicality of this challenge.  And maybe, as my boyfriend likes to point out, I was acting a lot 'harder' then I actually am (What?! You wanna piece of this??).  At any rate, with a lot of breaks, a lot of sweat, and gasping for air life an overweight smoker in a marathon, I managed to pump out 250 swings before my hamstrings locked up and my hands turned to hamburger meat.  Good gawd, what made me think I was ready for a 30 pound kettlebell??

Since this is my year of conquering goals I KNEW I couldn't just give up.  I could only hope that as I kept swinging that bell I would get stronger and either be able to swing everyday or get more reps in allowing for some time off.  350 swings per day didn't seem that daunting of a task until I went skiing.  I had to get up early on that Thursday to do my swings, shower, pack, eat, and be ready to leave the house at 11am.  Believe me, I had contemplated bringing my kettlebell with me but I could just imagine the ridicule that would ensue not only from my BF, but also from our friend who owned the cabin we'd be staying at overnight.  On Friday we were on the mountain 9 am til 3:30 pm and still have a 2-3 hour car ride home.  After burning 1000+ calories skiing, there was no way I would be able to complete any swings that day.  I would have to try to double up on some days to allow for these types of breaks.

Sierra-at-Tahoe view of Lake Tahoe

I watched as my ticker slowly inched (more like 'millimetered') it's way from 0 swings, to 850, to 1500.  As I started to get all impressed with myself I also noticed the "swings to go" part of my ticker...8,500 swings to go.  Holy hell, I wasn't even half way and my calluses were already screaming and threatening to turn my hands into "Man Hands" (Jerry Seinfeld would be appalled).  I did the only thing I could, I stepped things up...400 swing day 3-4 days in a row.  Then 500 swings a day, every other day so I could run on my "off days".  Then 1000 swings per day..WITH the 30 pounder!!!  I soon found myself with a full week left of the challenge and 'only' 3505 swings to go!!
I will admit, I broke down and bought a pair of workout gloves.  My calluses had gotten dangerously close to bleeding and yes, I am slightly vain, but personally, I don't think this means I'm any less tough!

Well, having gotten a bit  'lazy' in the challenge I was swinging the bell every few days at 1000 swings per day.  Then, on Monday, January 31st...after having to work 2.5 hours overtime (unexpectedly) and then going grocery shopping since the cupboards looked like Old Mother Hubbards...my BFF called needing to stop by for 'girl time'.  Soon after, at 9:30pm, the BF came home for "dinner"...after everyone left and I was cleaning up I realized I hadn't completed my last 205 swings...and tonight was the deadline!!!  So, in my skirt and tights, I picked up that 30 pounder and blasted out 205 swings, finishing the challenge!
Some changes I've noticed through the  of this challenge:

~Improved Strength.  There is no doubt I am stronger.

~Improved muscle tone. Especially noticeable in my arms.  My legs have always been very muscular so, although I am sure they benefited, I haven't paid enough attention to them to say for sure.  My butt looks better in my yoga pants +++.  And my abs are definitely tighter.

~Better form.  About half way through the challenge I noticed that I was feeling it more in my abs (including my obliques) and could sense an all over balance that hadn't been there previously.

~Flatter stomach...I can actually see some definition.  This is why I LOVE kettlebells.

~Better endurance.  All I can say is that since about the second week of the challenge I have managed to comfortably run 4-5 miles (even intervals) and have also been able to complete the 5 milers in 45 minutes.  Could be a combined result of HIIT training and goal setting and/or the kettlebells.  Where ever it is coming from, I'll take it!
I wish I would have taken measurements and/or done body composition tests.  Although I didn't really drop any pounds, I feel that there is a change in my body, particularly in my core area. The next time I take on a challenge like this I will be sure to do measurements.

Now that the challenge has ended I will be starting my Team In Training Marathon program and diving right back in to my Lauren Brook's Kettle Bell DVD's and .  She recently released volume 3 which incorporates the TRX system with KB's.  I'll be ordering that one soon and investing in the TRX as soon as I pick up a few more hours at work...or maybe I will ask for one for Valentine's Day.
Here's a quick and super easy recipe you can make ahead of time.  A little comfort food for those chilly winter days.


Lentil Soup with Butternut Squash

4 cups Veggie Broth
1/4 diced onion
3/4 cup dry lentils, rinsed and sorted
2 cups diced butternut squash
1 TBS oregano
1/8 tsp ground white pepper
salt to taste
Super easy...place everything in a large soup pot and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer until lentils are tender.  This can easily be frozen in small containers to make lunch on the go a snap.

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