Posted in Health and Wellness, Running, Winter Blues

Get Outdoors!

Last week, I got slammed with a case of germ induced cruds: sinus headaches, dizziness, stuffy ears, dripping nose, coughing, and fatigue.  After seven days, I took action, laced up and made myself run, OUTDOORS.

I dreaded it and said so, and Elena, my twelve year old daughter, asked me why I was doing something I didn’t want or have to; I explained that life is filled with doing things we don’t want to but should because they are good for us.  This was my mini-lesson in self-discipline.   

I got out there and found stores of strength that I felt depleted of and was able to go four miles. I am pleased to report that after my run, my energy surged, my week-long headache disappeared, and I found clarity in my head.

Exerted movement is invigorating. Being outdoors can be too. Moving outside is healing, therapeutic, and medicinal. I must always remember this to battle the winter blahs of Northwestern Pennsylvania where snow comes and goes from October to April.

If you are struggling with any health or wellness issues, I swear by a little extra time outdoors. While there: move a bit, listen to some music, play with a pet, walk with your kids, talk to yourself, pray for your soul, restore your health, resurrect your zest, thank nature, keep your senses open, and seek wellness.

May the rest of your winter be filled with days of exuberance, outside painkillers, and thoughts to cheerlead you to personal health and wellbeing.

 

Posted in Health and Wellness, Weight Loss

Slimming Down with Weight Watchers

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In a recent post, I revealed my goal to lose sixteen pounds. This is a continuation from that blog; if you missed it, be sure to check it out before reading this one where I share HOW I got rid of  four sticks of butter, a chihuahua, and a bowling ball:  

https://parttimesunshinesite.wordpress.com/2017/01/16/weight-loss-goal-i-plan-to-lose-four-sticks-of-butter-a-chihuahua-and-a-bowling-ball/

*NOTE — Although this may read like an advertisement for Weight Watchers, I am not being paid or getting perks to write this honest blog.  If I were a blogger with more time, I’m sure I could learn out how to monetize, but for now, I just write because I love to and enjoy sharing with an audience.   If you enjoy reading these posts, please “Follow Me” by sharing your email on the bottom right.  You will then get notifications each time a new Part-Time Sunshine blog is posted.  Thank you and shine on!

And now for the blog: 

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How can I lose weight?  What diet actually works?  What’s safe and convenient?  What’s not going to make me feel deprived?  Is there a meal plan that considers wine a fruit?  What can I do t
o feel healthier?   I asked myself these questions for a long time before trying to answer.  I did NOT want to diet.  Who does?  I would have rather worked out more to shed the pounds, but that no longer worked for me.  

Last fall, when my Body Mass Index (BMI) went from normal to overweight, I vowed to figure it out.  Both my husband, Harry, and I committed to a plan, and we joined Weight Watchers (WW).  We’re both stronger and smaller as a result.  

We subscribed to the online plan for three months.  It was only 45.00 per person, and we each earned a free month for losing ten pounds within two months.  The money we saved by not eating out and buying less wine and treats covered the membership fees and then some.

The online plan was so much easier than I ever imagined.  The website is professional and motivating, jampacked with helpful tips, recipes, incentives, and point values for every food imaginable.  The following details my successful journey with the program.  It took me just ten weeks to hit my goal of losing sixteen pounds, and I’m still maintaining this healthy weight.

After I completed the WW profile of my height, weight, activity level, and goals, the company calculated an allotment of points that should be used daily (30 for me) and extras that can be used weekly (28 for me).  

A typical Weight Watchers day for me looks like this:

Breakfast:

Water — I drink it all day long.  

Cup of brewed green tea (no points)

Cup of coffee (Keurig) with sugar free flavored creamer (no points); If it’s not sugar free then it costs two points.  You get less options this way, but I didn’t want to waste points on creamer.  

Two large eggs (4 points).  I like them over easy.  

NOTE: I pee a lot!  🙂  

Lunch:

**Spinach salad.  My norm is to doctor it up with cherry tomatoes, peppers, cabbage, cucumbers, and celery.  NOTE: All fruits and vegetables are free points (except corn, avocado,  and potatoes).

Shredded cheese ⅛ cup on the salad (2 points)

Salad dressing 2 Tbs  – I prefer Bolthouse Farms brands which are so creamy and delicious. (2 points)

Laughing Cow Spreadable Cheese Wedge – Creamy Swiss Light (1 point) — I like this with sliced cukes, celery, or peppers (no points).  If I want need some extra carbs for energy or salty satiation, I spread the wedge on  six Triscuit Original Crackers (3 points) or fifteen Triscuit Thin Crisps (4 points).  

When I want more pizazz for my salads and don’t mind using extra points, I like to add Nature’s Harvest Wasabi Peas ⅛ cup (1 point), avocado ¼ cup (3 points), or walnuts 1/4 cup (6 points) —  I rarely ate walnuts while trying to lose weight though.  I was surprised by how many points they cost.

** I have been building spinach salads during my faculty lounge lunches for over ten years.  Lunch was not hard for me to stay in a low point range, but I did tweak the amount of salad dressing, cheese, and toppings I added.  

Midday Snack:

Fruit – Usually grapes, an apple or banana (no points)

Cottage Cheese Low Fat, ½ cup (2 points) — I added raspberries, blueberries, or blackberries when they were available.  

Dinner:

Whatever Harry makes.  Since he is an amazing cook, and I am a failure in the kitchen, he cooks every evening.  My girls and I (and our tastebuds) are so lucky and thankful for his culinary skills.  Having a personal Harry made the program much more convenient for me. He measured every dinner ingredient and weighed meats on a scale.  He was honest about his point calculation which usually stayed in the 9-12 point range.  These consisted of a ton of veggies prepared in flavorful ways and a variety of fish, seafood, and chicken.  

Harry played a huge part in the ease of my weight loss success. I’m thankful we could cheer each other on.  It definitely helped to have that support.  I think that’s why so many WW members find that going to actual meetings with others is so beneficial.  

Eating Out – WW has a great catalog of restaurant items and entire dishes.  I looked up menus and point values before heading out.

Evening Snacks (I would have one or some of these most days because I had daily points left over):

Goldfish Crackers Flavor Blasted Crackers, Xtra Cheddar, 51 smiling fish (4 points)

Red Wine, 5 oz (4 points) – Whoa!  I was certainly too generous with my pourings before learning how to moderate.  

Rice Cakes, any flavor, (1 point each) – Sometimes I had two.  This became my go-to snack; upon discovering that my daughter ate the last of the rice cakes, I went nutty.  She was flabbergasted, as I hollered, “Hands off the rice cakes. People are dieting here.  You need to eat the cookies, chips, and ice cream instead!”  Please don’t judge.  In my defense, this was only day six of WW for me, and I looked forward to those flavored circles of cardboard all day.  Actually, I love them and now buy enough rice cakes for the entire family.   

Flavored Seltzer Water (no points) – A can of this stuff makes me feel fuller from the carbonation. Raspberry is my favorite.  If I want to turn it into a spirited drink, I mix the seltzer with a shot of vodka and splash of diet cranberry juice (3 points).   

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For the most part, I stayed in my 30 points a day range.  I used my extra 28 points a week too; I tried to save those for the weekends, holidays, restaurant visits, and special occasions.   

The food point system helped me avoid all the sugary sweets I love so much.  My teacher friends have a second floor donut club on Fridays.  I’ve declined membership since my favorites would add up to an entire meal: glazed (9 points) and cream filled (12 points).   When I baked for Christmas, I limited my intake to three cookies.  I found that it was enough, and I sincerely enjoyed every bite.  
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WW also has an activity tracker.  It even syncs to my Fitbit and calculates the extra points I could use for sweating it out.  As per my other blog, I had been treating myself with too many food-exercise-rewards, so I didn’t use the “Swap my FitPoints” option. Even though I didn’t use FitPoints, seeing them calculated was motivation enough to continue exercising three-six hours a week.   The activity tracker can be a game changer to someone who doesn’t have an exercise routine.  

WW Online has a plethora of reliable and interesting features available. During my four month membership, I used what was most helpful to me.  I loved  “Save Meal” so that I didn’t have to type in what made up my breakfasts and lunches.  The “Quick Add” option allowed me to plug in the point amount for dinners without adding all the ingredients that Harry calculated  on his account.  I love the Weight Feature and the motivational stickers and shout outs.  I actually looked forward to Mondays, the day I chose to weigh in.  Every Monday (except the one after Thanksgiving) was met with success and the website let me know it!  

With WW I made my goal and could have kept going if I wanted to lose more.  I’m happy the way I am though and love fitting into my old “new” clothes.  Besides shedding the pounds, I feel amazing.  I have more energy and stamina and can run longer and faster. My mood has improved with my eating habits. My skin looks younger and more hydrated with all the extra water from fruits and veggies.   I highly recommend Weight Watchers and give it two (thinner) thumbs up!

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Posted in Health and Wellness, Weight Loss

Weight Loss Goal: I plan to lose four sticks of butter, a chihuahua, and a bowling ball.

On October 4th, 2016, I set a goal to lose 16 pounds.  After turning 40, I gained an average of 4 pounds per year, for the past 4 years.  If I were to live another 44 years, at that rate, I would gain 176 more pounds.  I realize that I am throwing a lot of numbers out there, and I prefer words to numbers, but ignoring the math got me into this pudgy-podgy mess.

Even though I am active and exercise 3-6 hours a week, I packed on the pounds, basically gaining one per season.  Exercise is vital to me for aesthetic, mental, and physical reasons, but I was using it as an excuse to indulge; I rewarded myself with way too many treats because I thought I deserved them for my consistent, physical work.  I would run extra miles for a glass of cabernet and a bowl of Goldfish Crackers (my all-time favorite food combo).  Many nights I’d pour more wine and crackers and end up with a bellyfull of fish, a whole school, partying in the red sea.  Double-fisted, glass in my right (pinky up), bowl in my left (Flavor Blasted, Xtra Cheddar), I sabotaged my workouts.

After turning 40,  I could not keep running for food incentives and maintain my weight. My chemistry, hormones, and age had to be factored in, but again, I’m not a numbers person.  I did not want to count calories in or burned.

So, I became thicker and constantly looked bloated.  It was not a miracle that my water weight turned into wine handles, and the flat stomach I crunched to maintain became flabby.  Instead of Sunshine, I could be coined as Puff-Shine. I was untoned and dumpy,  and, although I was not yet fat, I was on my way to a roomier belt buckle.  Who am I kidding?  I hadn’t needed a belt in years.

Last fall, the heavier reality bell rang in with my *151 pounds on my 5’5” frame.  I kept stepping on the scale to make sure it was right. How could this be?  Is the scale broken?  Can I deduct a few pounds for my wet, shampooed hair?  Could the motion of flipping-off the scale promote weight loss?  Could using both middle fingers burn more calories?   That last pound, 1-5-1, changed my BMI (Body Mass Index) from normal to overweight.  (*In the About Me section, I declared my weight loss goal.)

Ever since puberty, with the exception of two pregnancies, I consistently maintained an American medium size 6-8 that I was happy with. (I stress American, because many foreign countries calculate sizes smaller.  I am not China Girl Medium — I know this because the adult-female-medium size Steelers jersey that came from China was just big enough to fit Sports Fan Barbie).

I love my colorful, eccentric, extensive wardrobe, and was not about to replace it with bigger clothes.   When I could barely button or keep the zipper teeth from flying open on my pants, I cried.   When I walked and my bum jiggled with a bowl full of jelly (grape on the left, strawberry on the right),  I cried.  I tried to suck in my cheeks, (face and backside), but all that clenching gave me a headache, so I cried.   Elastic waistbands and dresses were my go-to-garments, but then I got stuck in a denim dress at an Old Navy fitting room; I nearly threw out my back, trying to get free, and I cried. Shedding tears is not like shedding pounds.   Look at the chart.  See for yourself.  There are no waistband perks for eye drops or crying rivers.  I could wade in my own wallow, but it wasn’t gonna get me out of a Levi’s straightjacket.

I needed to shrink into the clothes I already  have. I decided it was time to commit and get smaller before I let one more ounce creep in.  In order to get my skin closer to my bones, I had to control what I put into my mouth.  I needed a plan.  (FYI – Looking for a plan that controls what comes out of my mouth too, but one step at a time 😉

My plan was to join a popular club to help me out.   Read my blog, “Slimming Down…” to find out what happened to my bones, skin, flab, muscles, and all that jazz. (Click “Blog” at top of this page.) Before you do, look at my weight loss goal.  Look at your own, if you need one.  What can you get rid of?  If need be, I know YOU can get rid of a toilet with a  bloodhound on top. We are that strong!!!

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Posted in Dogs, Health and Wellness, Running, Seize the Day!

And I Would Run 500 Miles, and I Would Run 500 More…

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I first composed the barebones of this over four years ago to highlight (and lowlight) the final run of my first year’s electronically recorded miles using the Nike Running App. Each venture out is as unique as the Pennsylvania snowflakes I waltz with each winter.  This last run of the year was certainly a rarity.  Road running is full of excitement, rewards, and surprises with unpredictable weather, terrain, and strength.  NOTE: I avoid treadmills like lima beans and will only touch one if I absolutely need to.  

In September of 2012, I figured out that I could track 500 miles before my one-year “appiversary” on November 30, 2012.  This is a little story about those closing, annual steps.   

Today, using the same app, I calculated 570 runs and 2624 miles. Such a little thing has made all the difference at inspiring and holding me accountable me as a runner.  This morning, I also saw yellow-vest-guy taking his morning stroll (more about him later).  

*** NOVEMBER 29, 2012***

Tomorrow marks an entire year since I invested my best $2 for my iPhone’s Nike Running App. Its accurate record keeping and reliable GPS have motivated me to go faster and further.  The past 364 days granted me various runs with a burn of over 50,000 extra calories, often stemming from Goldfish Crackers swimming in my red wine sips (my favorite food and drink combo ever).    

Today I got up at 5:00 am to snag my 120th run of the year, the one that would get me to mile 500.  I ventured out and kissed the frosty 28 degree November wind with Vaseline slathered lips. The dogs and I were ready to hit the road. I pulled my hat down tight over my ears, placed my headphones atop, and nestled my phone in my armband. I pushed start and listened to the encouraging female app voice countdown, “Three-two-one, beginning workout.”  

img_0309The first two miles were chilly but comfortable.  Both dogs had an extra spring in their paws, like they knew this was a special run for me (Every run to them is always special, like extra bacon on Christmas morning).  Today’s course was our street lit neighborhood where the dogs know the hills, flat parts, and possible cat sightings.

Italia’s aging hips and legs still carry her forward, but to avoid injury she only runs a couple miles.  We needed to clear about five and half, so I dropped her off after two and accidentally “ended” the app workout instead of “pausing”.  Dang, I just wanted today’s final mile to happen during one run, but I couldn’t dwell on it. I just had to track two separate workouts instead of one.  

Louie would finish the final miles with me though.  I used to feel guilty returning Italia while Louie remained,  but he’s still such a rambunctious pup who needs the extra exercise.   He is almost a year old and is both hyperactive and noisy.  He barks at everything with legs, without legs, with wheels, without wheels, with shadows, and without.  He barks at his own echoes of barks.  Louie is the annoying neighborhood barker.   When I can zap some of his energy, it helps mute his squeaky squawk.

Back to the driveway, I hit “start” again waited for the “Three-two-one, beginning workout” signal and sped up the hill.  The sky barely lightened since we started. Thankfully the streetlights shine on, especially during these starless, cloudy mornings.  

The next two miles were smooth and serene.  So far this was a good run.  The randomly shuffled tunes blared out the best motivators for a private race like this.  I fist pumped around the hood to the beats of “Born to Run” (not joking), “Old Time Rock and Roll”, and a Serbian Orthodox chant that helped me pray.  My feet lightened like a gazelle while I dreamily prepped for my finish line and the extra cyber cheers my app would deliver.   

Suddenly, the fuzzy needle scratched over the record album as a street light burnt out while I ran beneath it.  That happened only once before, and that was a very bad day.  Oh oh.  Was that a skunk odor spoiling the refreshing air?   Louie kept pulling to the right, the source of the smell.  I didn’t have time to be jinxed or skunked.  I was too close to the end for these distractions.    

With less than half mile left, I zipped through my final song-length’s-hill.  The finale, the monumental moment was near.  I got back into the groove and danced up Stephen’s Road to Rusted Root’s “Send me on my Way”:

(On my way, on my way) I would like to reach out my hand, I may see you, I may tell you to run (On my way, on my way). You know what they say about the young!

This song reminds me of college when I was twenty-years younger, and a pack-a-day smoker, not a smokin’ runner.   Thankfully, I gave that habit up and picked up this one.

With just one-tenth of a mile left to go, I diverted back into my current reality.  More than ready to flash to the end and grab my imaginary medal, I’d love to report that something like “Chariots of Fire” belted out while I crossed my personal finish line.  “Ch, ch, ch, ch bring in the synthesizer, the piano, the percussion, the strings!  We are here today to honor the legend.  Donna’s gonna do it! Cymbals! Who has the bloody cymbals? With hope in her heart and wings on her heels.”  Instead, the cowbell clanged with absurdities and obscenities.    

Louie tugged at his leash again, this time to the left.  He spied my elderly neighbor taking his early walk. This active old man and I have never spoken to each other during these morning jaunts around the hood, and except for the obligatory wave, I only know that he lives in a well-groomed ranch and wears his reflective fluorescent yellow vest every time he walks.  I’m a chatty neighbor and would love to talk, but he just lifts his hand in a half-mast-wave and keeps a serious stride.  It’s obvious that he doesn’t want my morning chit chat, so I just wag my hand like a puppy’s tail and smile.   

When Louie saw yellow-vest-guy, his need to greet him was strongly intense.  Maybe he thought he could get the quiet man to do a trick and speak.  Louie yelped and whined and bolted toward him with relentless sheltie persistence.  I screamed a bunch of opposing, confusing commands, “Louie!  Stop it! Heal! Come on! Let’s Go! Damnit! Quit it!”   My crazy minion of a canine and I tug-o-warred with his paisley print leash.  Yellow-vest-guy stood like a statue until I got things under control.  I wonder if he thought I was yelling at him or if he realized my dog was obnoxiously trying to jump on him to lick his shiny reflectors.  

When I successfully yanked Louie back, my iPhone came loose from my armband, jetted out, and dove to the earth like an asteroid.  “Sh#@!  My phone!  My miles!”  I quickly sprinted to and picked up my device that luckily landed in the grass instead of the road.  Although it seemed unharmed, I still hadn’t made it to my finish line,  my app cheers, my fake crowd of fans, my self-made trophy, and my triumphant end.  

Yellow-vest-guy stood still, like a mannequin, while I cursed Louie (who now angelically sat by my side like the champion of puppy obedience school).  I swore at my cheap piece of sh%@ armband and shook my phone like an Etch-a-Sketch trying to get it out of screensaver mode.  I stripped off my non-touch screen gloves to get back to the app.  

I needed to record my 500th mile!   There it was, Nike+.  I plugged the headphones back into the phone, and started running towards home with the phone in my hand.  Three-two-one, and in a breath I caught my 500th mile.  Imagine that.  I was only seconds away from my goal that ended with embarrassing expletives, disturbances of the peace, warped facial gestures, and foul dog antics.  

Perhaps my next running year will end on a more victorious step, but, if not, all the footprints that lead up to it will hopefully be as glorious, therapeutic, peaceful, painful, relieving, and  energetic as this one.  img_0310

Posted in Dogs, Health and Wellness, Running

Running App

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I recently hit another mileage goal on the running app that I paid just .99 for nearly five years ago. Let me just say that this has been the best money I’ve spent for extra exercise motivation and accountability as a runner. Less than a buck on my iPhone keeps me moving with goals and fist pumps when I hit them.

Before this I had to find other ways to calculate my runs. I’ve been an adult road runner for the past ten years.  In 2006, I got this playful golden retriever puppy, Italia, and she needed to score some neighborhood walks that she “helped” me turn into runs.

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Back then, my running tracking system included the following: a basic digital watch and pedometer placed on the waistband of my pants (Sadly I drowned many pedometers in toilets when they unknowingly popped off my pants and got flushed away like county fair fish.) To record the mileage, I drove around my “courses” before heading out then estimated how many pedometer steps equaled a mile based on my stride.

I wore a lot of extra devices for those runs and had no room for my Samsung, slide-out touch pad, non-data phone.  My athletic armband secured my iPod instead (Music is a must when I run.) Luckily, I never got lost or needed to call for help on those no-phone runs. Occasionally, I got chased by a trio of wiener dogs, but Italia and I were faster than their dozen of stumpy legs. Italia scoffed at the ankle biter stooges as we sped away.

That was such an old school, clunky way of calculating steps/miles/pace, but it was what worked for me then. I even trained for my first two half marathons using that method and finished strong with expected times. It was certainly cumbersome and less accurate than how I currently track runs.

When I got my first iPhone in 2011, I discovered a more convenient all-in-one system through the *Nike+ Running App. It had everything I needed and more, tracking distance, pace, and time while providing a GPS for my routes. The GPS is pretty reliable and has been a true asset at getting me to venture off the beaten path; switching it up has helped me enjoy new sites and terrain while avoiding traffic, boredom, and road kill.

My power songs can also sync to the app and are only interrupted by the friendly cheerleader voice that lets me know my pace and time every mile. This motivates me to speed up or take a breather when needed.

Now, when I’m ready to run, I just plug in my headphones and put the phone in my SPIbelt (a fancy name for a mini fanny pack that still looks dorky but takes the pressure off a swinging armbanded bicep. Then I hit start on the app, get a 3-2-1 countdown, zip up said dorky fanny pack and go. That’s it.

Since December of 2011, my app has supported me on the past 555 runs in which I travelled 2555 miles. **For the past two months, I wanted these exact numbers to happen, full of 5’s. This forced me to go on many longer runs than usual.

I do whatever it takes to keep me motivated to move, and running is my favorite way to do so (dancing is second). The app is full of the data, technology, and convenience to keep me grooving on the asphalt in my Asics.

I’m much sunnier being a part of our current convenient tracking society.  Two weeks ago I started using the Fitbit Charge HR and joined a new club, Weight Watchers.  Combined with my Nike App, I’m racking up some major health benefits that I’m excited to share in future posts.

I’m a word lover, not a numbers girl, so it’s a true treat to count on technology to count for me.

Good luck to you with all the health and wellness goals you set for yourself.  If you find a great tracking motivator, share what it is.

Shine on!

*The most recent updated version of the app is called Nike+RunClub, and it still has all the features that make it such a useful tool for me as a runner. There have been a number of complaints about the update, but since those features aren’t used by me, I have nothing negative to report. Ten toes and two thumbs up!

**I would have gotten to 555 in September, but I broke my pinky toe in a shopping cart accident at Kohl’s at the end of August. I’m finally healed and ready to keep at it. Besides running in the rain, tracking autumn miles in rural Pennsylvania is truly a gift.