Driven

Before I get to the driven part…

I have to share this little bit of crazy… My mom, as anyone who knows me and her is well aware, is a bit eccentric… I love her but she’s, well she’s unique… and yesterday she came in for a visit and she was flying high and told me to have a seat because she had gone to see a medium on her way in…

I’m sure my face was priceless…

I’ll give her this – the lady pulled out some stuff that makes you go oooooook maybe this stuff isn’t totally hokey…  Just some weird things about my dad and me… apparently kept telling my mom something about tea and me – well I don’t drink tea – like at all, but a couple months ago I because obsessed with chai lattes which my mom bought on accident thinking they were coffee… a little weird…

And then she asked my mom if my dad had taken his own life… and my mom told the woman no… and I will say I stopped for a minute when my mom told me that because after he died there was major drama – my step mother accused me of trying to help my dad try to commit suicide (which NEVER happened) but it was a huge blow up that I kept pretty quiet because I was 18 and that whole thing was just ridiculous.  I never did even think if the suicide attempt was real… I just knew I had nothing to do with anything of the sort… But seriously that was quite the random factoid…

There were lots of other strange little things that came up too but I guess that final message that came from it all was that supposedly wherever he is, there are still things he is hoping to ease…

Ok so enough of that… and onto how STRONG I feel lately….

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I’ve really made the decision to dedicate myself to this journey this time.  And it’s paying off.  I’ve broken down more times than I’d like to admit.  I’ve cursed myself and my body and the designer of the challenge I joined and everyone and everything in between but I am not stopping.

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Basically the filling of a lettuce wrap over pasta – soooo good

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shopping trip! including what I needed for family dinner night – southwestern chicken “cupcakes” this week made with wonton wrappers.

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premade frozen smoothie kits with frozen greek yogurt cubes and frozen spinach cubes

I’m eating awesome foods (I feel like all I do is eat).

And I push myself until I feel like I might break

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Last night after my hour or so work out when I realized that jumping jacks are not fun and when I made it through all of my planks without dropping out of any of them I ended up on the floor like this….

IMG_5930I keep saying that the last time I devoted myself to something with this much gusto it was to my education and my career and I think that paid off with mighty rewards.  I’ve been really successful I think and I’ve done well for myself… now why can’t I do that same thing with my health and fitness.  My mom watched me workout yesterday and said she was so impressed seeing me push through and not give up.

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I just have to keep reminding myself that when I start to over think things that I have the power to stop it, that I am in control.  I can decide what weight I want to lift and how fast I want to run and I can decide if I want to let other people’s opinions get to me or if I want to be strong and stand up tall on my own.

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I have an amazing life ahead of me. I plan to be fit and in shape so that I can enjoy it.  An hour of sweat and tears and struggle each night followed by being sore the next day is totally worth knowing that I’m getting stronger each day.  That tomorrow walking that flight of stairs won’t put me out of breath, that I will jump at the chance to be out and about for an entire day and that I’ll get excited to put on new clothes…

And it’s not like I’m giving anything up to devote this time to my health – in fact Monday I went and saw and amazing band – The Beauty Slap perform at the first happy hour sponsored by the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust where Pittsburgh Artist and friend of mine Baron Batch was painting.  I had a couple drinks and some nibbles and I came home and did over an hour of leg day… and collapsed afterwards… but damn if I didn’t do what I needed to do..IMG_5912

I’m not going to let things bring me down right now – I didn’t get the Matthew Mayfield house show and you know what that’s ok – his music still inspires me… but I get to write my own story moving forward… I get to write my own album and my own music… I control this destiny… bring it on…

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Challenges make us great

Our lives are really just one big challenge right?  Sure there are days where we are on auto pilot.  We go through the motions and get done what we need to.  There are days that are exciting where we are on the highest of highs but they are often then balanced out by those where we struggle to remember why we started the journeys that we did.

I’ve talked often about getting back on the right path with my weight loss.  I spent some time today looking back on photos from when I was at my highest weight in 2011-2012 and when I was at my lowest recent weight in spring of 2013.  And then the ups and downs since then.  I wondered why, when I looked so happy when I was losing the weight why I couldn’t keep it up, why I stumbled and fell.  I didn’t have an answer.  I don’t remember what happened to make me slip up.

What I do know is that sometimes your tool box is really only half full of all the tools you need to complete the job at hand.  Sometimes you just don’t have all the knowlege you need or you didn’t get all of the parts you needed to build your final project.  Way back in 2008 when I got down to my lowest adult weight I had cut a ton of sodium out of my diet.  I was also working 3 jobs, under extreme stress, probably not eating much period at all and when all of that let up I put all of the weight back on and then some.

But I still know how to look for and avoid high sodium foods if I make the effort, and it impacts my migraines.  Then in 2012 I started working out, focusing on portion control… I was determined to be a runner.  I kept trying to be a running up until last summer when I realized I don’t want to run, it’s not for me, my body isn’t built for it and you know what that’s fine.  And I was hungry… all. of. the. time.  I saw progress but the moment I stop counting I was back up again.  The moment I stopped working out progress slacked.

But I know the basics at the gym, I know how to use equipment and free weights, just not in the most efficient manner.  I have some of the tools for the kitchen just not what was best for my body.

So recently I started using instagram as inspiration and began following Macey Phillips who has lost tremendous weight in less than a year through weight training and HIT and HIIT as well as IIFYM (If it fits your macros) meal plan.  And wouldn’t you know she opened up a fitness challenge that started monday.  I signed up immediately.  She’s put a ton of work into the 8 week program, customizing Macros plans which let me tell you I eat alllllll day. IMG_5760

IMG_5780There are also work out routines that at first glance you’re like I got this, that is until you feel like you’re going to die during circut two of the HIT segment.IMG_5810

3 days in and I’m down 3 lbs… maybe some is water weight but remember I was back on this fitness thing for the last few weeks…. so I’m thinking well maybe this is real progress…

Other things that I’ve been able to find joy in now that I feel like I have control over my life again – because when you feel like you can control yourself you feel like you can control everything…

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More time outside with Minnie – including visitng her friend Carlos down the road

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You can’t tell me that her selfie game isn’t on point!

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Realizing I don’t hate how I look – I can make this work, it can only get better from here if I work for it.

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Getting back to this place in a few weeks… my summer home…

And I just may have applied to host Matthew Mayfield for a house show – though with Minnie, I was lucky to have a good friend offer space at his local establishment for the event… I’m just sitting here freaking out now like a fangirl waiting to hear if I win the bid…

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This is one of those moments when life is good… it’s a snapshot in time but I’ll take it… and I wanted to make sure that I documented it because the next time one of those huge obstacles hits or when I feel like I can’t do it and just am over everything I can reflect on this and realize that nope, the strength is there.  Just have to tap into it and remember when we can flex our muscles and when we control what we can we get to enjoy that which we can’t.

When enough is enough

Since coming home from Tortola over a month ago I’ve been doing a lot of soul searching… like a lot a lot…

I panicked when my knee swelled on vacation and when it flaired up again after getting home I sunk into a pretty massive depression.  Not sure if I was even aware how bad it was.  Between the nasty winter we had in Pittsburgh (can we say sub zero for pretty much ever) and stress at work and the professional organization I am heavily involved in I just think I was cracking and in total denial.

I lost my appetite and that’s new uncharted territory for me.  I am a stress eater – give me all the food, and yet I was forcing myself to eat every day.  I just wanted to sleep.  I feared the worst was going to result from every situation I walked into.

And then little by little change started to creep into my life assisted by a break in the weather and that beautiful thing called daylight savings time.  I met up with some friends for drinks and just vented and oh to not feel so alone felt fabulous.  I saw the doctor and was told that my knee actually looked great from the arthritis standpoint and that time should help the swelling – just be careful and get some more weight off.  And when a friend lost his mom to cancer I remembered that all the crap I was dealing with was really not that bad compared to what 1. others were going through and 2. what I’d already made it through in my past.

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So when those clocked bounced forward this weekend and when we got up to 55 degrees on Monday it was like the angels sang and the lights came on again and all was right again.

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I started following some amazing inspiring people on different social media platforms – I’m joining a spring fitness challenge.  And I’m changing the way I’m looking at this challenge I face.  I’m not going to look at that end goal of how many pounds I have to lose or what size I want to be or any of that stuff that discourages me when I don’t get there quick enough.

I created tracking sheets and every week I’ll be logging weight and 13 measurements.  And I’ll log the change in each for the week and then total from the start.  And as long as there is SOME change – then that is how I will gauge my success.  And eventually that will lead me somewhere.

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I’ve been blessed to have some amazing success professionally and I achieved that because I worked so hard for it.  I didn’t just hope that a paper would write itself or that a project would fall into my lap.  I didn’t assume networking would come to me or that communication was easy.  I worked for it and it paid off.  It was something that daily I motivated myself to improve at.  My health needs to be no different.  Why it’s taken me 30 years to make that correlation I’m not sure.  Sometimes book smarts does not always equate the most common sense!

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One of the biggest things that always held me back from full force going into this journey was what other people would think of me at the gym.  I’m not in shape anymore.  I don’t know what I’m really doing with free weight.  The muscle boys scare me on the squat bars and in the dumbbell area.

And then I realized – well at some point they had to do this for the first time too.  If I walk over with some confidence, if I pick up a weight I know I can handle, if I do an exercise I’ve had experience with – that seems like a good place to start.  So day one I was lucky enough to have my friend Val tag along and do arms with me and then day two I ventured into a leg day on my own.

And when I wanted to fall over during weight pendulum lunges because I left them until last and it took me 5 minutes to complete 10 on my left leg and I thought my god someones got to be looking at me going what is this girl doing – I opened my eyes and looked around and I saw a 50+ year old man grunting so loud as he lifted I could hear him over my head phones, I saw two younger guys lifting weights lighter than mine, I saw a lot of people looking at no one and I thought “ok, there are people in here who are probably just as worried about what people think of them and they are being beasts and doing this anyways and focusing on them and you can do this too” and I finished my set.

I hit the treadmill afterwards and did intervals through the leg cramps and every time I wanted to stop I asked myself why and was it because I was going to be injured if I continued or was it because my brain wasn’t cooperating and the answer was always – your BRAIN.

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I’m average at best but you know what I’m willing to take average right now because consistency got me somewhere once before and it’s going to do it again.

These last few months have been worth it because I don’t think I’ve ever been in such a great head space before.  I’m ready.

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Have salad, will travel

So I’m lazy….

Yep – no doubt about it… the thought of making a salad every single day exhausts me… Maybe I could pull it off the night before but then you risk getting soggy lettuce if the tomatoes get onto the lettuce and you can forget putting dressing anywhere near anything… not to mention plastic containers just don’t keep things very fresh… and morning of? well I’m lucky I get coffee a quick breakfast and matching clothes on before I go out the door…

Then the salad in a jar walked into my life…

Holy cow – how have I not found these before?!

There are tons of pinterest pages on them and over at Organize Yourself Skinny you can find a great tutorial and some fabulous recipes that are easy to get started with.

I promptly ordered myself some 32oz wide mouth mason jars off of amazon – really affordable if you ask me and counted the days until I had time to hit up the grocery store.  Then – Magic…

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Did I mention you can put things like avocado and guacamole into these salads and they keep relatively well? I’m on day 4 of my cajun shrimp salad and just now the guac is turning a bit – not enough to make me say ew though haha… if you pack the jar full of leafy greens at the top and seal it up good there isn’t enough air to do much damage and a little squirt of lemon or lime juice holds off the chemical reactions….

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So here’s the Cajun Shrimp Salad in a jar.

Here are the layers – top down

  • Baby Spinach
  • Romaine Lettuce
  • Cajun Shrimp (sauteed ahead of time and allowed to cool)
  • Homemade Guacamole
  • Sauteed onions and peppers
  • Mexican Salsa (Giant Eagle Brand)
  • 1 tbs (I swear that’s all!) of Nature’s Basket Ranch Dressing

Nothing really wet touches the leafy greens – the onions and peppers almost pickle a bit in the salsa and ranch and ooooooh its like a little fajita in your mouth when you shake it up and eat it.  Next time around I’m going to put in more lettuce and spinach… eek! who I am saying these things!!!

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Still a bit high on the cholesterol and fat but remember there’s avocado in that – good fats if you ask me…

Now – this Chicken Taco Salad

Raw chicken – not the most appealing photo but I was so excited about the flavoring I used….

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I used cumin, chili powder, red pepper flakes, roasted garlic and onion powder but because the roasted garlic doesn’t mix very well I mixed everything with olive oil and basically coated the chicken in it (a light coating don’t worry) and popped it into a hot pan.  The bf said it was pretty perfect when he sampled a bite…

The I started assembly…

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Chicken Taco Salad in a Jar

From the top down:

  • Baby Spinach
  • Romaine Lettuce
  • Diced Chicken Breast – cooked
  • Avocado (with a spritz of lime/lemon juice)
  • Black beans
  • Corn
  • Sauteed Onions and Peppers (one of my jars had raw onion as I ran out of the sauteed ones but I’m guessing this will have that pickling effect in the salsa)
  • Grape tomatoes
  • Plain Greek Yogurt
  • Mexican Salsa – Giant Eagle Brand

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I thought about throwing a couple of tortilla chips on top and might do that next time…

So get creative – there’s a whole world of these out there utilizing quinoa and pastas and really anything you can think of.  But the best part is that I made 8 salads in 45 minutes in one day including cooking the proteins and I’m set for lunch all week and a few dinners too.  Hence now being lazy isn’t too big of an issue.

So tell me – what are some of the things you’d love to see in a grab and go salad like this?  Have you made these before?

Prepping like a boss

Now say that with a little Rick Ross in your voice… 🙂

So as part of this healthy lifestyle change I’m working on embracing some food prep and time saving in the kitchen that I can actually manage… things that don’t involve a lot of leftovers in Tupperware and still give me relatively fresh alternatives.

Breakfast seemed like the easiest thing for me to tackle first… I eat the same thing just about every morning – eggs of some sort, sometimes some sausage some cheese some carb of some sort…

So when I stumbled over these little egg muffins that I could make on Sunday and that would keep for the entire week all I had to do was microwave and go I was PUMPED to try them…

The first time around last week I baked them for too long – but trial and error and this week – home run…

IMG_5005 As you can see I tried to show in stages of building here.  They have a whopping 5 ingredients in them and you can customize these any way that you want…

I chose breakfast sausage (bumped the fat content way up but you can cut this by subbing turkey bacon or a veggie sausage) sauteed onions, roasted red peppers and then just the egg mixture which is just egg and milk with some salt and pepper…  The key is to make sure the muffin tins are greased well otherwise you’ll have a mess when you try to pop these out later…

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don’t those look delish!!! I opt to not put the little topping of cheese on until I’m ready to eat them day off – stale melted cheese is the worst… sometime I’ll toast an english muffin and pop one of these on top for a ready to go sandwhich too…

Here are the nutrition facts below – like I sad fat content high – but easily tweaked and the protein is banging…

recipeTo make these just put you oven at 350 – assemble what you want in your muffin tins putting the egg in last – rule of thumb is 1 egg per every 2 muffin cups so if you only want to make 6 you only need 3 eggs and a 1/4 cup of milk.

Fill the cups 2/3 of the way full and pop into the oven for approx 25 min or until the egg is solid.  Remove, let cool slightly and pull those babies out – store in a ziplock bag and when ready to eat later in the week top with a little sprinkle of cheese and microwave for 45-60 seconds.

Doesn’t get much easier than that!!!!

Get ready – the Salads in a Jar are coming tomorrow – Cajun Shrimp Salad and Chicken Taco Salad….

Step One

Well Step One is just that… Taking the first step… literally…

My post on the 2nd got me so pumped… more so that I think I expected it too… plus the feed back from friends, family and those I network with on sites like Twitter and MyFitnessPal was fantastic…   People admitted that they had noticed a slight weight gain on me and they were glad I too had realized that it was time to change up the tone…

So sorry- I’ve not been snapping many pictures lately because I’ve been so busy finding motivational things to surround myself with – BUT I will have photos next week of some of the food changes I’m making that are helping me out already…

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This has been me after every work out the last few days… tired, sweaty, but summing it up with “Damn right I just pushed myself and I did it”.

I’m out of shape… I’ve lost flexibility, range of motion, strength and endurance over the last 4 months… In one of my circuits I go from modified push ups to a full plank – yep, nope didn’t happen… so I help a modified plank… and said ok next week I’ll get up to the full plank.. not a failure… so I can’t do it today – doesn’t mean I won’t be able to do it tomorrow…

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How often this has been the story of my life… Falling and saying it’s fine I’ll catch up… and instead I basically just head back to the couch… I remain where I fell…  Knowing this definition of failure – I’m determined to not let it happen again… even on the days where I hurt, where I’m sore, where I’m tired – I’ll put on my tennis shoes and walk a mile on the treadmill… It’s SOMETHING… I didn’t stay where I fell…

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Think about it… how often do we go “oooooooh I want to look like so and so..” or “just give me this type of stomach” or “if only my leg’s weren’t so flabby”… guess what… it’s not about perfection… even people we think are “perfect” probably don’t see themselves as perfect… I want to be better in 3 weeks than I am today…

and I get to define what that “better” is.  Is better that I can do 10 military push ups instead of 5… is better that my pants are more comfortable… and what will I do if I don’t reach that “better” mark… will I identify what did actually get better? and will I get honest about why things didn’t get better – you bet…

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I’ve had a couple tests right off of the bat…  Last week I had a double ear infection… New Years Day I didn’t get off the couch… by Saturday I felt good enough to do intervals on the treadmill – so I did… for 3 miles… and then I did nothing the rest of the day and that was ok… then Sunday I walked for six miles… yep – just walked… and that was a-ok with me… what’s wrong with walking… Monday was supposed to be a rest day since I was still recovering from the ear infections but I had energy so I decided I’d walk again – 2.5 miles this time while I did laundry…

Then came the next set of tests… Monday night into Tuesday morning Minnie woke me up at 3am with a seizure in the kitchen… my alarm was set for 5am to do my first morning work out… I got up and sat with her until almost 4… I thought ok well I could go back to sleep until 6 and just make sure I hit the gym this evening… Then I realized I had a late conference call and odds of me carrying through with that were low…

So back to bed for an hour – up at 5am and work out in the books… did I start dragging in the afternoon you bet but I pushed through and crawled into bed at 9 that night..

Next test – Minnie – in her usually day after seizure mental fuzz and not used to mom being asleep so early helped herself to a full trashcan… and then to a sink with dishes that hadn’t been done… at 5am I came down to a kitchen that looked like a tornado had hit it… I was livid… 15 minutes to clean up then she got sick so cleaning up dog vomit (sorry for that mental image) and once again, so tempted to just be like well now I’m running late… but no I know if this new routine is going to sink in with her I have to stick with it…

So work out done… last night I prepped breakfast which made sure I still got out of the door on time this morning… I will not be stopped…

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I have some great role models right now that I can look at and say this about… Eventually we’ll talk all about them but I hope to stand by them eventually… that is my goal – that’s how I’m going to define my success…

I want someone to say you inspired me to take that first step…

I want someone to say you inspired to get up from where I fell and start again…

This has never felt so right before

Let’s Talk Motivation

Do you have it?  Do you lack it?  Is it something that comes and goes?

I tend to have a set amount of motivation and it just depends on the given day what I dedicate that to.  At least that’s how I’ve thought about it in the past.  The problem with that is that when I’ve ended up with one of my chronic migraine fits, all of my energy and motivation goes into “getting better” which means sleep and being lazy and taking medicine.  I’m starting to think that’s not really the way to go.

Also – here’s my warning in this post – I’m about to blow you up with motivational posters – you’re going to have to deal with it. 🙂 Love you guys too!

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So as I spent my new years with a migraine, double ear infection and sinusitis I thought to myself – something has GOT to GIVE.

I’ve used every excuse in the book… 4 knee surgeries, and ankle surgery, wrist surgery, chronic and episodic migraines, history of vitamin d deficiency, two bouts with chronic fatigue synonym, back issues, tendinitis throughout my legs, feet and wrists, degenerative arthritis in my knee, the list goes on… and you know what… there are people who have had it way worse than me and yet they still kick ass EVERY DAY…

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It’s time to suck it up… and be honest… I’m never going to be a marathon runner… I’m never going to be a crossfitter… I’m never going to be a swim suit model… but you know what I don’t have to be in this body… half of those “Excuses” I just listed are fixable and managable through WEIGHT LOSS…

Let’s be honest – I’ll never give up the combo of chocolate and peanut butter… I’ll still enjoy my stout beers and when I go on vacation I’m not going to track everything calorie for calorie but there is no reason to be out of control the way I’ve been lately…

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Ain’t that the truth… When I was exercising I was definitely feeling better – my problem was that I was getting completely defeated because when I couldn’t do a move in an exercise video or I couldn’t run the mile in under 10 minutes or run that second mile without stopping for a walk I felt like a complete failure.  Natalie and failure don’t mesh well together… Like. not. at. all.  So I quit…

There I said it… I quit… I gave up and I quit…

I used my back injury as the excuse to throw in the towel and say I was done… and right now I don’t regret that one bit because it was one hell of a wake up a call…

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I didn’t do this… I lost that loving feeling and I locked up that drawer of workout clothes and I said see ya later let me eat some cookies…

So the past two weeks and especially the last few days I’ve had a bit of a come to jesus talk with myself… If I want to see success I’ve got to make sacrifices… When I graduated top of my class in graduate school it was because I put in the extra hours of group work, it was because I did extra networking because I studied because I went above and beyond… why was I so unwilling to do the same when it came to my health?

So the changes…

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I need to embrace the planner in me…  I schedule everything… I live and die by my planner… it’s a running joke with friends… but it is my life line… I need to make this a part of my schedule a part of my job…

I know the food will be tough for me… so instead of tackling WHAT i’m eating right off the bat… i’m going to tackle how MUCH i’m eating… I binge eat like cookie monster… so let’s cut portions then let’s change what’s in those portions…

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I’m going to start getting up at 5am Tues-Friday.  Even if its for a 30 minute work out and a walk with the dog – it’s something… then if I don’t get to the gym in the afternoon after work it’s not the end of the world… But on that same note… If I don’t get up the gym will not be excusable…

Monday will be a rest day… weekends will be for other activities with the bf… get out and do something… go exploring just DO SOMETHING…

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Surround myself with people who are on board… I’ve had this all along… I belong to myfitnesspal.com and I cleaned up my friends list, keeping those that are awesome motivation and then adding some new people who are hitting the ground running… using my fitbit and jumping on some step challenges… and my friends some of who have tackled some AMAZING weight loss journeys – they are my day to day motivation… my cousin who lost over 100 lbs, my good friend who dropped over 200lbs last year, other friends from social media who have had just transformations that make your jaw drop…

I want to be them… I can be them…

So  my motivation – success… To never be that quitter again… to never fall down and stay down again… to be able to say “see, look, i did this… i overcame… i kicked the ass of all of my demons and in a way that everyone can see”… Success and even more so – realistic success…