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Mindful Weight Loss (with a little help from my friends)

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Mindful Weight Loss.

Every diet out there will work. For about a week. Then our brains, our minds, our thoughts, and all the motivation, inspiration, and good intentions seem to disappear. “It’s too hard. I’m starving. It’s too much work. I stopped losing weight after a week – it’s not working. I can’t do this anymore.” I’ve heard it all. Yes, it’s incredibly hard. Not because there’s a lot of exhausting work, difficult recipes, large amounts of time or money necessarily involved. But, because it requires constant, mindful thinking and planning. Just like when you plan out a speech or how you’re going to tackle a project at home, weight loss requires the same amount of organization and planning. It seems many people don’t want to put in the time. It’s so much easier to sit on the couch, watch TV and eat a big container of ice cream. I get it. It’s true.

A year and a half ago, I started on my own journey. (click here to read about it). 10 years ago, it was easy for me. I was basically obsessed with eating clean, lifting weights, and competing in 5k and obstacle races. After almost 10 solid years my switch went OFF. Life became increasingly busy and exercise went on the back burner. Suddenly, everything that was habit and routine, was hard. I had to practically force myself to go to the gym and then later quit altogether. When I wrote and published several books, I had temporarily found a new obsession. But, it completely destroyed my healthy lifestyle. I became stressed, depressed, and lost hair. I finally stopped writing, and initially made lame attempts to get back in the game. It was easier to do nothing.

They say there’s a switch in all of us. One that goes on and off. If I knew the magic behind it, everyone would lose weight and keep it off. I think it might have to do with hitting rock bottom. Finally being sick of the way you look or the way you feel. Not loving yourself anymore. Who knows. But, the switch is real. When you find it, and switch it ON, your life will change.

Flash back to a year and a half ago. Memorial day weekend, I hit rock bottom. I was tired of the way I looked and felt. I started on my journey to get back in shape. It was a lot harder this time, though. I struggled to get my head back into it. I knew the results would come sooner if I gave it 100%, but it just wasn’t happening. But, I also knew that whatever I did do, was better than nothing. Yes, it would take longer, but it would eventually happen. So I plodded on. I HAD to. Quitting was not an option. I was getting older and it would only get harder. I would only feel worse as time went on. Was I prepared for a future of diseases? What about when menopause hit? Would the weight start piling on? I decided that no matter how long it took, I’d continue to fight.

My goal was to get back in shape before I turned 50. (Last month was my 50th birthday!) I had a year and a half to do it. With all the obstacles thrown at me this past year, would I be able to overcome them and forge on?

Yes!

  

It was a long year, with many pitfalls, but I came pretty close to where I wanted to be. I rejoined a gym and started going on my lunch hour again – which worked for me in the past. This year – not so much. I hated rushing there all the time. I hated rushing in general. In the past I’d go to the gym during huge snow storms, downpours, and freezing temps. Now, if there was a cloud in the sky I’d bail. Then, two co-workers resigned and we were short staffed for 3 months – leaving during lunch was impossible. We bought a puppy after the holidays and it was difficult to go on the weekends due to her schedule. Then, I hurt my back. Twice. It put me out of commission for several weeks each time. I had to first figure out what I was doing wrong, and then reteach myself how to workout, how to sit, how to stand. When I finally recovered I was afraid to give it 100%. Every time I tried to forge forward, something seemed to stand in my way. After the second back injury, I decided to just quit. Quit the gym and just be happy with what I had. Luckily, I had a great support system. They wouldn’t let me quit.

First was my friend Joe.

No matter how many times I wanted to quit, he refused to let me. EVERY morning he’d send me a cheery text to get me motivated, encourage me, and get me re-motivated. He’d even shoot me a funny afternoon text to let me know HE just did 200 push-ups on his lunch hour. It made me feel guilty. I don’t think I could’ve gotten this far without him. Not many friends would take the time out of their busy days to not only check on you, but to push you when you wanted to give up. He’d start every text with “Good Morning!!!! Today is going to be a great day!” Trust me. I wanted to give up. Take the easy road. I didn’t even tell him I hurt my back the first time because I didn’t want to sound like a complainer. But, he never gave up on me. I’d force myself to the gym and then have an amazing workout. I’d wake up early and work out in my home gym in the basement. I started taking my puppy (whom we found out is part Italian greyhound) for long jogs and runs. She loves running! I started to push myself harder and harder. Doing HIIT runs with the puppy. Lifting heavier and heavier weights at the gym. By the summer, I was back in beast-mode and finally seeing results.

I found a happy medium with my eating, too. I stuck to the healthy meals that worked for me in the past (click here for examples). I found ways to cut my portion sizes here and there. But, my main obstacle was chocolate! I tried countless times to give up desserts during my “40 Day Challenge” and various other times during the year, and finally realized my daily cookie or brownie was the only guilty pleasure I had. Instead of giving it up, I knew I just needed to exercise more to burn it off. It worked. I was able to have my treat or two, and it gave me an excuse to work out more or harder. Deal! 

Next was Melissa.

There aren’t that many amazing people like her in this world. Always a kind word. Always finding the positive in everything – even when her life was upside down. Always knowing how to make me laugh when I felt like crying. She has supported me through my Nutrition website, my Author website, and my journey to get in shape by the time I turned 50. (Not to mention all the work, home, and social-life dramas, too. She’s been there through it all. I can’t thank her enough.) She taught me a few things along the way, as well:

  1. Always dress up. Don’t worry about being the most dressed at a function – someone has to be. (I love this and love to dress up now. And, to be the most dressed up!)
  2. Don’t dress like you’re 50. Dress like you feel and what suits your body – no matter your age. (I started to buy frumpy clothes because I thought I was supposed to. I thought someone would yell: “Dress your age!” I realized I didn’t look my age and I had the body to wear pretty much whatever I wanted. It took a while to shake the old feeling, but soon I ‘got it’ and it all made sense.)
  3. Most important: sometimes, even with the best efforts, some things you can’t fix, but you can fight it every step of the way. (Because of Melissa, I embrace my wrinkles and areas of saggy skin. I’ve learned that some people don’t make it to 50. Some don’t have the privilege of ever having a wrinkle. I’m truly blessed, and although I don’t love ’em, I’m happy to have lived this long to have ’em.)

I love you both and can’t thank you enough! My 50th (surprise) birthday celebration was just that: a celebration. Of reaching my goals, of feeling good about myself again, of being healthy and embracing the next 50 years full of adventures! I’m happy and satisfied in all areas of my life. Finally. Work, home, the right friends, and my health are all in perfect harmony. And, it shows. I noticed the difference in my photos. Whenever I was at a low point in my life, no matter how much I glammed up, dressed up, and my hair and makeup came out perfect, pictures of me looked horrible. You can’t fake how you’re feeling on the inside in a photo. The camera knows! I spent the entire summer (every weekend) celebrating life with get-togethers, parties, BBQ’s, concerts, girls-nights & weekend getaways. And, my inner happiness shows. I feel like my old self again.

Yes, it was hard. Yes, there were times it downright sucked. Yes, I wanted to quit a million times. But, even small progresses added up to big changes in the end. It’s difficult to look forward. You only see the negatives. The obstacles. The failures. The long road ahead. Giving up is SO easy. But, don’t. Ever. Maybe I could have reached my goals within 6 months if I gave it 100% all the time. But, looking back now, does it matter if I reached them in 6 months, 1 year, or even 3 years? No. I plan to live another 50 years so what difference does it make if it takes a year or longer? As long as I get there.

(Thanks to my daughter for ‘forcing’ me to buy this dress!)

So, my final word is to have a plan. A good plan. One with short and long term goals. What to do if you have a setback. And, have friends or family around that you can count on for support. Plan out your meals for the day, the week. Schedule in exercise every way you can. Squeeze it all in and keep charging forward. Small changes over time equal big changes in the end. And, remember, I’m always here for you. What are your obstacles? What have you overcome this past year? What worked for you? Do you have someone to help you reach your goals?

I love hearing from you!

CHRISTINE ARDIGO – Author of Cheating to SurviveEvery Five Years & The Bridges Before Us

The greatest compliment you can give me is when you share this with others.
I sincerely appreciate it:

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High Fiber, Healthy & Hearty Meat Sauce

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High Fiber, Healthy & Hearty Meat Sauce

I planned to post this 2 weeks ago when Long Island was hit with that nasty snow storm. It would have been perfect. But, time got away from me and then a week later it was 67 degrees and we were at the beach with our new puppy!

Now that it’s cold again, i decided today would be the best day. A nice, warm, home-cooked meal on a cozy Sunday.

This is my family’s and my favorite tomato sauce for pasta. I originally found it in a Clean Eating Magazine (or maybe it was Oxygen) but it was a clean eating pasta sauce. I had posted it on my Nutrition & Exercise Smoothie Facebook Page  but never got around to making it. My cousin Debbi invited us down for Thanksgiving weekend one year, and was making it!  I was so excited. She said she makes it all the time and her kids love it.  I was equally excited to try it – which we all did and it was indeed delicious.

Since then, I make it, and tell everyone about it. Today I will share the recipe with you.

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This is her original email she sent me almost 7 years ago!  I still have the scrap of paper, although it doesn’t look as shiny & new as this one.

The part that takes me the longest is the chopping up of all the veggies. I don’t have a food processor, and my Mini-Chop it too small. I must admit, the last time I made this, there was a large bag of chopped carrots, celery and onions in the supermarket, just sitting there on the shelf, smiling at me. I did a double take and then snagged the bag off the shelf. It was all there: the 3 ingredients I needed, already chopped and waiting for me. It cut my prep time in half.

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After chopping up all the veggies (or if you’re lucky enough to find a bag like I did) add to a large pot that has olive oil heating up on the bottom of it (I found the cooking spray was too little, but I did use it to coat the entire bottom of the pan, and then added a tiny bit of the olive oil) and then add the turkey breast crumbles. My husband was wary of using turkey chop meat but once he tasted it – with all these wonderful ingredients – he absolutely loved it.

Afterward, I just added the flour, milk, can of crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, and water, with all the seasonings, and stirred. That was really it. I let it simmer for at least a half hour. I used such a large pot because I usually double the recipe above. One time I tripled the recipe! (Of course that was the time I didn’t have that nice bag of chopped up veggies. It took me three times as long to make this!)

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Mmmm. Can you smell it! The whole kitchen smells great. Time for a sauce sandwich! (Anyone know what that is?)

After it cools for a bit, I transferred it all to plastic containers and stored it in my freezer. There’s always sauce ready and cooked in my house. One year, when we had a huge veggie garden, my husband used the plum tomatoes from the garden to make sauce. It took forever but was delicious. Unfortunately several of the glass jars cracked and we had to throw it all out! Now we use plastic and make sure we don’t fill it to the top.

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Healthy, hearty, packed with protein, high in fiber from the veggies, and delicious.

What do you think? Do you have any favorite recipes to share?

I love hearing from you!

CHRISTINE ARDIGO – Author of Cheating to SurviveEvery Five Years & The Bridges Before Us

The greatest compliment you can give me is when you share this with others.
I sincerely appreciate it:

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Healthy (and Delicious) Meal Plans for Weight Loss

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Healthy & Delicious Meal Plans for Weight Loss

I’m often asked: “What do YOU eat every day? What’s a typical day look like in your life?” I decided to take up the task of taking photos of my typical meals. I hope these visuals help you make better choices with your own meals and snacks. I have many people ask me what they need to do to lose weight and when I tell them they grumble. They hope I mention some quick fix. A pill. A fat melter.

Recently, I spent almost 45 minutes giving a coworker advice and examples of some healthy alternatives, even mentioned specific food items that we have in the cafeteria, and then I see her a week later in the cafeteria eating a bacon cheeseburger, french fries, FOUR David’s Cookies and a 20 oz bottle of Coke. I seriously wanted to sit down in front of her with my salad and say “Are you even trying? Thanks for wasting 45 minutes of my time that day.”

I know it’s hard, but when I spend a great deal of my day helping people that I work with (when I should be seeing patients) I expect some degree if “trying.” At least make an attempt, and if you see me in the cafeteria, ask me what would be a good choice. Not say “Screw this, It’s too hard.”

Yes, I’m a tad angry today. Anyway, I am here to show you a few visuals of what I eat and if you have any questions, or suggestions please let me know! 🙂

Breakfast

My standard breakfast when I’m at work is one egg over well, with turkey, tomato, and onions, 8 oz skim milk.

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If I’m off from work, I make a variety of Protein Shakes (Click to see recipes)

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Mid Morning Snack

I’m a creature of habit, and if something works for me, I use it. I’ve tried to just eat a piece or two of fruit, but recently while writing a lecture for COPD patients, I learned certain fruits like apples produce gas, which it turn bloats my stomach and makes it feel like it’s empty and then I just want to eat more! So I stick with my Kashi Go Lean (NOT Crunch) cereal, with 4 oz Skim milk, and some kind of berries: A high-protein, high-fiber snack.

cereal

Lunch

When I’m at work, I usually choose whatever the protein is of the day, with a side salad. If there’s no good protein, I just grab some cold grilled chicken from the salad bar or a hard boiled egg. I drink a large glass of water with it, too. I used to eat that David’s double chocolate cookie every day, but have since given them up. After the holidays, the remodeling of my bathroom, a trip to Disney (with too many desserts) and we just rescued a puppy from a shelter, I am actually sickened by desserts. Yes, me.  I’m not saying I’ll never have them again, but enough was enough. My husband and I came home from Florida and removed the desserts from the house. He’s been eating cereal for breakfast and salads for lunch. Dinner is protein and veggies. He even gave up his rice!

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Dinner

I’m fortunate to have my hubby cook dinner every night and I usually have whatever the meat is, and then add raw fruits or veggies. I don’t eat potatoes, rice, etc, so veggies it usually is.

Salmon and cherry tomatoes:

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Grilled chicken with fresh pears (I split this piece of chicken with my daughter)

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Black Bean Edamame Burger

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Desserts

I havent eaten any desserts since Disney, but before the trip, I tried not to eat anything after dinner, but would occasionally have a small dessert before dinner like a chocolate chip cookie, or something healthier like these desserts (Click link for recipes). Since Disney, I don’t eat desserts at all, and instead I decided to immediately run downstairs to my basement and work out. (Distraction is awesome)! Then I play with the puppy. I take her for a walk around the block when it’s not pouring rain (or a Nor’easter hits us)! When it gets warmer, I plan to go for longer walks and jog with her. I’ve also noticed that since we adopted the puppy, she’s kept us SO busy (just like a toddler) I haven’t had time to even think of eating. Sometimes I just eat a bowl of cereal for dinner!

blueberries

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That’s usually my day. My breakfast and mid morning snack is point on, my lunch varies since I’m never really sure what they’ll have in the cafeteria, and my dinner is usually healthy and small. In the past, when I went off during lunch because something tempted me, I just had a very small dinner to try to counterbalance it. Since Disney though, I’m sticking to the salads with a protein and I’ve been bringing fruit in for my lunch dessert. (Today I had a clementine and yesterday I had a few mango pieces). If I have tea after lunch I’ve been bringing in a Stevia packet to put in, to save calories (and 1 carb) from the 3 packets of sugar I was using. Like I’ve always said: There comes a point in your life when something just “clicks”, and you get sick of the way you feel, the way you’re eating, the lack of exercise. Luckily that happens often for me. Don’t let the setbacks go on for too long, though.

My gym membership ended on November 30th, and I did not renew since I knew it was going to be a stressful month. I have a full gym in the basement though and have been back to my summer routine down there. My husband even started working out, too! Since I NEEDED to put our puppy on a strict time schedule, I decided to do the same for myself.

Meet Princess Leia!

What new techniques have you been trying since the New Year? Remember, it’s always a work in progress. There will always be ups & downs. Theres will always be obstacles.

I love hearing from you!

CHRISTINE ARDIGO – Author of Cheating to SurviveEvery Five Years & The Bridges Before Us

The greatest compliment you can give me is when you share this with others.
I sincerely appreciate it:

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