Cheating is Good for You

So I have some good news for you today. It turns out, when it comes to healthy eating, cheating is good for you.

Wow, y’all. I can feel your skeptical looks from here.

Do I still have your attention?

Okay. First of all, the entire premise of this argument is that the cheat day is good for you as long as you don’t abuse it. This means cheating by ways of a cheeseburger and fries, not an entire pizza, breadsticks and a case of beer (guilty).cheat day!

A cheat day or meal is a planned splurge, a reward even. But the important part is that you do plan it. Don’t slip up and say to yourself, oh well, I guess that was my cheat meal because then you do not get the full benefit of it. If you slip up, recognize that and move on.

There a couple areas of healthy eating that the cheat day targets, and as long as you are eating clean through the week, having a cheat day or meal once in seven days will not derail you. I’ve been eating clean since April, doing one cheat meal a week, and it hasn’t stopped me. If anything, it’s helped me keep going.

Disclaimer: I do not pretend to be a dietitian or expert on nutrition. These are just my thoughts and what I have found to be true for me. I have, however, had my good friend (and former college roommate) Liz Kowalsky, who is a dietitian, read over this blog post and make sure that my logic is sound.

The way I see it, cheat meals serve one goal, but accomplish this goal in two different ways. The goal is simple: to indulge. Give yourself a break. Relieve some stress. Let loose. Have fun. These things are important.

  1. First, let’s talk about the physical benefits. Studies have shown that temporarily upping your calorie intake can increase your leptin production, boosting your metabolism for a short period of time. Leptin is the hormone responsible for maintaining energy levels, controlling hunger and may contribute to increased levels of dopamine production as well, which we all know puts us in a good mood. It also helps prevent stagnation. It’s the same reason you don’t do the exact same workout every time you go to the gym. By switching things up, you throw your body for a loop, thus making it work harder to do the same job it was doing before.
  2. There are also obvious psychological benefits. Getting one meal a week to indulge allows you to satisfy any cravings you may be having, as well as helping you develop a healthy relationship with food. Instead of assigning food into categories (as we are all so used to doing) like “good” and “bad”, it helps you relearn food’s role in your life. Instead of not allowing yourself to have a certain food because it’s “bad” for you, you can reassign it as a treat, or a once in a while food. Over time, this will help you keep those little slip-ups (we all have them) into a major derailing.

The purpose of cheating is not to have a free for all with your food. That’s not healthy. The idea is to treat yourself for your hard work all week. By satisfying a craving, indulging and not over-doing it, you can actually maintain a diet plan for a longer period of time if you schedule these cheat meals.

The important thing to remember is this: when I say that cheat meals work for me and might work for you, that is not me saying that they definitely will. Everyone is different, and having a cheat meal once a week might not work for you. If not, that’s fine. If it does work, that’s fine too.

What do you think? Do you use a cheat meal? Does it work?

Food is Fuel

During college, I would get really frustrated with my fitness routine, because I never saw any results from those hours I spent at the campus rec center. I know now why I never saw any results. I was your typical college student, surviving off of Kraft Macaroni n Cheese, Cousin Vinny’s pepperoni pizza, massive amounts of coffee and probably equally massive amounts of beer. (#sorrynotsorry)

My favorite breakfast: non-fat greek yogurt with whole grain granola and honey

My favorite breakfast: non-fat greek yogurt with whole grain granola and honey

This frustration continued immediately after college, after I moved home to my mother’s amazing cooking skills. I still worked out almost every day, but again, with no results, only stagnation.

At the time I figured it was because that’s how the world works, and I would probably never see myself lose weight.

I now know why. I was fueling my body with – let’s call it what it was – crap. Delicious, wonderful crap, but still crap.

It wasn’t until I joined Texas Fit Chicks last spring that I realized the importance of what I put in my body. Sure, WeightWatchers taught me the importance of vegetables and portion sizes, but TFC is where I learned the hard way that what I eat will directly impact the way my body performs.

As part of joining TFC I was put on a high protein, high fiber, low sugar, low sodium diet, and only then is when I started seeing a change in my body. Suddenly I was not only getting smaller, but I was getting stronger, faster and better at my workouts.

Nice story, Julia. But what’s your point?

My point is that the food you eat is fuel. I allow myself one cheat day a week, usually Saturday or Sunday, to eat the foods I really want to eat. Other than that, I am pumping my body full of good things like yogurt, spinach, eggs, chicken, lots of veggies, peppers, carrots and all other kinds of real food – fuel – that I need. And I can feel the difference.

Home-made chicken tortilla soup. With home made tortilla chips because sodium is bad.

Home-made chicken tortilla soup. With home made tortilla chips because sodium is bad.

Very little of what I eat now comes out of a box. I cook at home a lot more, I read labels on everything I eat and I rarely eat out at restaurants. We’re talking once every two weeks, maybe. I monitor what I eat and how it effects my body very closely. If I don’t like how I feel after I eat something, I throw it out. I don’t need anything in my diet that makes me feel any less than amazing. I don’t keep crap food in my pantry any more. If it’s not there, I won’t eat it.

My body takes a lot. I work out 6 days a week and even one off day of eating will impact how I perform when it counts. This is why my meal prep time on Sundays is so important to me. It is during that time on Sundays when I lock myself in my kitchen and make not only Sunday night dinner, but usually 2 other full dinners for the freezer to ensure my success during the week.

If by chance I do end up going to boot camp or out for a run after eating like crap for a day, I can tell. It’s not only that I simply don’t have as much energy as I’m used to, but I can feel it in every part of me. My muscles refuse to loosen up, and when they do, they tire much more easily. I get winded quickly, and it takes longer to catch my breath and control my heart rate. In some cases I will feel nauseated and light-headed. This is why I know the importance of food. Because I have experienced what it feels like to try and push yourself when your body is running on pizza and cokes or Chinese food and decadent desserts.

A fresh take on chicken salad: chicken, tomatoes, parsley, artichoke hearts dressed with white wine vinegar and olive oil.

A fresh take on chicken salad: chicken, tomatoes, parsley, artichoke hearts dressed with white wine vinegar and olive oil.

Now I’m not saying don’t eat the foods you love. But be more aware of how these foods effect your body. Eat the crap out of spinach and tomatoes, eggs with low fat feta and green peppers, whole wheat pasta and veggie sauce. Fuel your body with real food, and you’ll feel the difference I’m talking about. Trust me on this one.

I really am not trying to sound superior or anything. Just trying to show you how switching my mindset from food being an indulgence to food being fuel has changed everything.

Hello There!

Wow, hi strangers. Sorry about the radio silence. I would say that life has been crazy busy, but I’m trying to stop using that as an excuse so I’ll be honest – I just haven’t had the motivation to write.

Quick Recap:

This summer was fun. I went to the lake with my family, got a nice sunburn (and subsequent tan), ate and had way too much fun in the process and then took up running.

Like how I stuck that in there? Yep, you heard me right. I have started running.

Well. I’ve started pretending to run. I signed up for a 5K in November. I’m hoping the fact that it’s the Shiner Beer Run will help motivate me to get ready for it. I have been really trying to get out to a nearby park to run in the evenings when it’s not too hot, but I never realized how many factors during your day could affect a run. It’s definitely a lot harder than I thought, but I feel really good afterwards.

Right now my PR for distance is 2.39 and my best average pace has been a 13:38/miles. Oddly enough, those occurred on the same run early in July.

julia prior will run for beer

Pretty much, yeah.

Let’s see, what else has been going on. 

I joined back up with my boot camp this week. My second class is tonight and I am -still- sore from Tuesday. Guess I needed to get back to it more than I thought. Woops.

And for posterity, here are a couple “before” pictures and my starting measurements.

Arms: 13.5 inches
Chest: 42.5 inches
Waist: 39 inches
Hips/Butt: 45 inches
Thighs: 23.25 inches

Raise your hand if you were surprised my chest wasn’t the largest. –raises hand–

before texas fit chicks

My session will last through February, so for once I’m actually not really concerned about gaining weight during the holidays.

In the meantime, I am hoping to start posting on a more regular basis. More of the same things as before. Personal stories, recipes, random motivational pictures. You know, the usual, with my own spin on it.

I hope you enjoy!

Ending a Year-Long Relationship

So, in the interest of full disclosure, I feel the need to be honest with y’all.

On Friday afternoon, I canceled my WeightWatchers account.

Between boot camp, the new exercises I’m doing, and the meal plans, I just wasn’t using the tools anymore and I finally decided it was time to stop paying for them.

I did not stop using WeightWatchers because it didn’t work. WeightWatchers taught me about portion control, and gave me a huge step in the right direction when I was ready for a change in my life but didn’t know where to start. Now that I have the ball rolling, I don’t feel the need for the monthly service anymore.

So there’s that. WeightWatchers got me to start cooking my own food, and to start caring what was in the food I put in my body, and how it effected my body.

For that, I’ll always recommend WeightWatchers to people who are looking for a place to start their weight loss journey.

Boot Camp: Not-So-Final Results

So my boot camp ended a few weeks ago, but I’m still sticking to their meal plan and work out schedule as best I can. It’s a lot harder when I don’t have that amazing group of women (and of course my trainer) expecting me at class three times a week.

But here are my results.

I lost 1 inch in my bust, 2 inches from my hips and 3 inches from my waist.

I still feel fantastic (even after the junk-food-fest that was my Memorial Day and then Free Press Summer Fest weekends).

I did gain 2 pounds, but I’m convinced that that’s because I gained a ton of muscle over the past 2 months. I feel stronger, more capable and more confident. I no longer look at those fitness challenges on Pinterest and laugh, in fact, this month (June) I am doing a 30 day squat challenge. By the end of the month I will be able to do 250 squats.

But you’ll notice I’ve very conspicuously avoided calling these my “Final Results”. I’ve rediscovered my love of working out. I’m going to keep going. And I’m going to be putting my pennies in a jar in the hopes of signing up for boot camp on a recurring basis. Because as much as I hated doing burpees, hill runs and tabatas, I miss the way it made me feel – strong.

And if you live in Houston, San Antonio or Dallas, and are looking for a great boot camp experience. I cannot recommend Texas Fit Chicks enough. They are encouraging, supportive and still know how to push you to be your best, all while holding you accountable to your personal goals.

Happy Monday! Oh and here’s a few more pictures from last weekend because I am still recovering. 🙂

FPSF is held in the shadow of downtown Houston. I can never get enough of this skyline.

FPSF is held in the shadow of downtown Houston. I can never get enough of this skyline.

With Adam's sister Allison. Because sweaty music festival pictures are always in style.

With Adam’s sister Allison. Because sweaty music festival pictures are always in style.

4/5ths of the group on day 2.

4/5ths of the group on day 2.

Recipe Spotlight: Marinated Shrimp

This is a really easy weeknight meal that tastes delicious. Seriously, it took me less than an hour from the moment I took the shrimp out of the freezer to the moment I put it on the plate.

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You’ll need:

  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon onion powder
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic, pressed
  • 1 tablespoon ancho chili powder (you could also substitute this with 1/2 tablespoon of regular chili powder if you can’t find ancho, but you should be able to find it in the spice aisle at Kroger.)
  • Brown Rice (optional)
  • Jerk BBQ Sauce (optional)

Okay. So here we go.

  1. To thaw the shrimp, put the amount you want in a Ziploc bag and place in a sink of lukewarm water.
  2. Mix together the olive oil, pressed garlic, ancho chili powder and onion powder in a large bowl.
  3. Peel the thawed shrimp and put them in the bowl with the marinade. Incorporate the shrimp thoroughly with the marinade, and let sit for 10-20 minutes.
  4. (At this point, I threw a bag of partly cooked brown rice in the microwave in a casserole dish of water).
  5. Once the shrimp is fully marinated, take a little of the oil from the marinade and throw it in a medium skillet. Put the head on medium high.
  6. Once the oil is bubbling slightly, place the shrimp in it. (I drained off the excess oil and marinade, but you can definitely use it to make a yummy sauce for when you are done).
  7. Cook the shrimp thoroughly, mixing with a wooden spoon constantly.
  8. Serve over the brown rice, or with veggies or even a salad. I topped it with a spicy and sweet jerk bbq sauce I found at my local farmer’s market a few months ago.

Enjoy!

How Did I Get Here?

It’s National Women’s Health Week, so I’ll be posting a couple of articles about my views on health, weight loss and fitness.

First off, I want to give you a brief history of myself and what I’ve been through with my body, because that colors how we view these issues so dramatically. So here it is, the scary truth.

(Yes, this post will contain a lot of photos. Deal with it.)

Disclaimer: I was really lucky to grow up with a group of friends where our weight and body type was not a giant concern for us. At least we didn’t think it was. Looking back, however, it was always there. At least it was for me.

Here I am in my senior year of high school, weighing in at 150 pounds and standing 5 feet, 4 inches tall.

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Not too bad, right? Most people always guessed my weight at around 135 or 140, but that’s because I was strong. I played basketball, ran, went to the gym, all of that. I had broad shoulders (still do) that held a ton of muscle. I could squat around 90 pounds and lift two cases of raw chicken at once. (I used to work at a Boston Market, okay? A case of raw chicken weighed about 10-15 pounds on average.)

Here’s a front shot, taken on the same day, wearing the same clothes. (disregard the ridiculous sunglasses, they were  a gag gift because I was moving to Ohio).

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I was strong. And I hated it. It came from years of playing soccer, basketball, horseback riding, and pretty much any other organized sport you can think of. I was always told that I was built like my father, which in my head translated to: You are built like a boy.

So that is what I looked like when I left for college in the fall of 2006. Desperate for a new physical activity, I joined rowing. And gained 8 pounds of pure muscle.

Honestly? I was horrified. In my mind, I was already a hulking beast of a girl, who could squat more than most of the guys I hung out with. (Church boys and nerd boys, amiright?) And don’t get me started on the girls. I was surrounded by what seemed to me to be the smallest girls who looked just like what the world wanted out of a woman’s body.

This was taken during Thanksgiving break, 2006, after 4 months of being a NCAA Division 1 athlete.

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I was 160 pounds of muscle and 20-30 hours/week of work outs. That’s the life of a D1 athlete, if you didn’t know. Rowing is one of those sports where a 3 hour training session will burn between 1500-3000 calories. So basically I ate whatever, whenever and how ever much I wanted. I didn’t hate my build as much then, mostly because it helped me win races. But I still wasn’t 100% accepting of it.

But then I quit rowing. But I kept eating. And I quickly ballooned (yes, that is the proper term) to around 170 pounds.

By the summer of 2007, I was like this.

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I started hiding behind my clothes. Layers, long shorts and wide straps.

Then I looked back at my pictures from the previous semester. I was appalled. I had gone from a normal sized girl who was strong and happy, to someone who hid under layers, avoided cameras, and untagged any photos that weren’t from exactly the right angle, or showed anything below the waist. Seriously, try and find pictures on my Facebook of the spring of 2007. They’re gone.

I had been 160 pounds of muscle, but in the span of 5 months, my lack of exercise and my horrible diet had turned the majority of that muscle into fat, and landed me in the doctor’s office for high cholesterol. 

I began running, and became frustrated when I wasn’t seeing any difference on the scale. I know now that it was because I kept eating like crap, and would continue to do so through college.

So once I got my cholesterol under control, I became complacent. I figured this was my body and I’ll just have to deal with it.

It got to the point that I didn’t even notice the weight come back until 2012, when I went to the doctors office and weighed in at 185, with high cholesterol and a vitamin D deficiency.

2010, college graduation. I really like that this angle doesn't show my multiple chins.

2010, college graduation. I really like that this angle doesn’t show my multiple chins.

2011, the year I realized I was letting myself go.

2011, the year I realized I was letting myself go.

At first I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want to bulk up, but I was so unhappy with my body that it started affecting other parts of my life as well. I was working 2 jobs and freelancing as well as doing some volunteer work at my Church. I stopped working out because I didn’t have the time anymore.

Things didn’t get better. When 2012 came around and it began to sink in that this wouldn’t change unless I did, that’s when I took action and joined WeightWatchers.

The rest is chronicled on this blog for your reading pleasure, but I’ll sum up the changes I’ve made that have taken me from the cusp of wearing a size 16 jean to swimming in my size 10 jeans in just a year.

  • You are what you eat. Seriously, about 80% of your body is what you put in it. The rest is your activity level. You can run all day long, but if you’re fueling your body with crap, you won’t see results.
  • Diet can only take you so far. I lost 10 pounds using just diet in the past year. Unfortunately, since I wasn’t pairing it with adequate exercise, I gained most of it back.
  • Honestly? Throw out the scale. I am convinced it is a deranged torture device used to keep women from focusing on the issues that really matter. Use your measurements as a guide. Use your energy level. Use the number of squats you can do in a row. Anything else, really.
  • You don’t have to eat food you hate to be healthy. Seriously. My meal plan calls for tofu, and mushrooms and other things I will not touch. (ahem, tofu). Talk to your doctor, your trainer, the internet and find an alternative. If not, throw it in the blender with some fruit and milk and drink up. Eating healthy is delicious.
  • Most importantly: you do not need to look like the girls on TV or in magazines to be beautiful. Be strong, be healthy, be who you are. If your body naturally leads you to be small and petite, that’s awesome. If you are naturally muscular and curvy, that’s awesome too. Love your body, love yourself, love your passions.

A big milestone for me was in the past few weeks when I learned that it is good to be strong. It is awesome to be able to squat 90 pounds at the age of 16. I have a new found sense of awe at the power of my body, and I can’t wait to see what else it can do.

I’m not ashamed of being strong anymore.

And that’s the whole truth, nothing but the truth, so help me God.

(and just in case you were curious, the biggest change I have seen has been in the past few weeks during boot camp. See below.)

April 1, 2013

April 1, 2013

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May 10, 2013

Weigh Ins, Boot Camp and Schedules, Oh my!

Hello, my beautiful (albeit neglected) blog people. I didn’t forget about you!

Work has been insane lately, and my free time in the evenings has now been consumed by boot camp. (Which is AMAZING, by the way)

I just wanted to let you know that I am not dead, this blog is not abandoned, and I didn’t forget about you!

Quick updates:

  • I’m halfway through boot camp, and I feel fantastic. I feel smaller and leaner and actually look forward to my thrice weekly ass-kicking of a workout.
  • I lost 2.6 pounds in the last two weeks. Hooray!
  • Eating clean is hard. Pretty much all of my favorite foods have ridiculous amounts of sodium in them and that makes me very sad.
  • My 5k is only 3 weeks away! May 11 at Fair Park. Woooo!
  • May is getting crazy busy already, so I really apologize if I fall off the face of the map again. Between my 5k, alumni events, getting my car fixed, (hopefully) squeezing in a trip to Austin, and then Free Press Summer Fest, I’m all booked as far as weekends go. Crazy how that happens.

Basically, my point is, I am doing fantastic, I am crazy busy, but loving every second of it. And don’t worry, I am making sure to take time to relax after work and on the weekends, as well as getting enough sleep. I know how that can sabotage any chances I have of getting healthier.

Hope y’all are enjoying the warmer weather!

Until next time…

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Recipe Spotlight: Turkey Chipotle Chili

Absolutely perfect for a cold and damp day. Which lasted all last weekend and most of this past week.

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If you’re a Weight Watchers member, you can find the recipe and Points Plus breakdown here.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 pound(s) uncooked ground turkey breast
  • 2 large uncooked onion(s), chopped.
  • 3 Tbsp chili powder
  • 2 Tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 2 Tbsp canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce  (If you don’t like spicy food, you can simply substitute fresh chipotles, but remember to remove the seeds, and I would recommend grilling or sautéing them before adding to the chili).
  • 2 Tbsp store-bought adobo sauce
  • 1 tsp table salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 3 cup(s) water
  • 1/2 cup(s) cilantro, chopped.

It’s pretty easy after that.

In a heavy skillet or Dutch oven, heat the oil and sauté the meat and onions until the turkey is cooked. I used a large skillet with tall sides.

Add the chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, chipotle and adobo sauce and cook for a few more minutes.

Add the water, salt, pepper, and half the cilantro and cook on low for an hour and half, adding water as needed.

In the last 15 minutes of cooking, add the remaining cilantro and adjust the seasoning to taste.

Serves 5. Serve with veggies or brown rice.

Final Points Plus total: 9 per serving, but don’t worry, each serving is pretty filling. You can also add really any vegetable you like, as you can see I added corn, but celery would be tasty as well.

Weekly Weigh In: Biggest Loser Family Style

Only one week left in the Biggest Loser competition! (I’m in 3rd place.)

So after completely, totally, unequivocally recommitting myself to Weight Watchers, I was actually really excited to weigh myself this weekend.

I lost 3.1 pounds!

Hooray for me! But I can’t let myself get too complacent, because Easter is this weekend and we all know I love my holidays. I’ll be contributing a tasty vegetable side dish to my family’s dinner, and will be sure to post the recipe when I decide what I am going to make.

I feel great though, and I’m excited to keep going. I really needed a fresh start and I’m glad I got that this week. I’m going to spend this week keeping focused on tracking, and hopefully I’ll get back out for a run at least once before my family comes into town on Saturday.

(I’ll also be attending the Sweet Sixteen games at Cowboys Stadium on Friday night, so I’m really excited about that too.)

My big challenge will be the Gaylord Texan Easter Brunch Buffet that waits for me on Sunday.  Because I’m still working on that little thing called self control.