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Posted on Jul 19, 2012 in Dear Diary | 21 comments

Office Gut

Happy Thursday, amigos! Just one more day until the weekend. I can do it, I can do it, I can do it.

So! As most of you are already aware, blogging about the Hunger Games-like trials and tribulations of weight loss (ha!) is not actually my full-time gig. Though believe me, if someone were to offer me a livable salary to take photos of my dogs and write about how frustrating it is to lose the libbies, I would most certainly NOT turn them down! Alas, however, as that is not the case, I have to have a little thing called a day job. I’m sure you’re all familiar with the concept.

My particular breed of day job involves working for a government contractor in our nation’s capital. It is just as interesting and invigorating as it sounds. I spend the majority of my day glued to my desk, staring blankly at my computer monitor. And between my actual job, blogging, being part of the iPhone generation in general, and taking up the hobby of writing a book in my spare time, I’m finding that I’m spending more time than ever seated. And, y’know, computer…ing.

Sure, it’s great that I’ve replaced hours upon hours of TV and gaming time with something productive (ish) like writing, but it’s still time I’m spending literally resting on my laurels. I’m still making it to the gym 2 to 3 times a week, and often oing workout stuff at home in between, but I’m finding that my efforts there still aren’t really enough to fully counteract the 10+ hours a day I spend on my butt. I think I first saw this infographic (fair warning, it’s really long, so feel free to scroll on through although it is fascinating) on Mary’s blog like, forever ago:

Sitting is Killing You
Via: Medical Billing And Coding

I’m pretty sure that after I saw this making the rounds for the first time, I quickly proceeded to ignore it and crawl into a state of denial about my habits. But not anymore! Consider this my official declaration of making an active effort not to spend all my young life in a seated position. As such, I’ve already implemented the following habits:

1. Taking the stairs

Okay, well, this needs a caveat. I work on the 10th floor of my building, so let’s not get crazy: I’m not taking ALL the stairs. But I *am* taking the stairs to and from the parking garage up to the main lobby, and that’s three flights up and three flights down each day. Certainly not groundbreaking, but it’s a start! Maybe one day I’ll start getting brave and tackle the actual stairs up to my office. I’m sure it would give me coworkers great pleasure to see me red-faced and sweaty at 8 AM. 😉

2. Walk through the office

One of the worst things I’m finding is that my efforts to slim down and save money by bringing in my lunches has actually proven detrimental to this whole sitting-all-day-thing. When I bring my lunch, it’s often salads and sandwiches and stuff that doesn’t need to be refrigerated or heated up (or that I’m too lazy to heat up. Oops.) and thus, I just end up spending more time at my desk. I’ve started to force myself to walk back through the office more often, often just to do things like go talk to a coworker about something face-to-face instead of just calling them. Basically, I’m just trying to counteract my natural laziness.

I’m also trying to refocus on my hydration efforts so that I’m more motivated to walk back to the kitchen to get water, which is obviously a healthy effort for multiple reasons.

3. A moderate amount of office-appropriate exercise

At one point, I was really motivated to try and turn my time spent working into time spent working OUT as well. So I tried to turn my desk into a standing desk, and at one point began doing lunges down rows of empty cubicles. In a dress. (It was kind of fun.) Neither turned out to be particularly sustainable, however, since my desk is at the front of our office, and I have high-visibility. Whenever I did need to sit down to work on something, nobody could see me tucked behind my little nook (arguably this wasn’t a bad thing, but you know, the job is as the job does.)

As for the office lunges, well, as amazed as you may be to hear it, even I have a threshold for humiliation. So instead of that, I’m trying to work in movements at my desk that are slightly less attention-drawing, like stretching. It may not be burpees, but it still helps get the blood flowing and that’s something. Before it got ridiculously, outlandishly hot, I was taking fairly frequent walking breaks outside as well, although it’s not particularly motivating to do so with current weather conditions. I know, I know, excuses, excuses. I’m working on it!

So there you have it. Sitting = the enemy. Well, one of the enemies of our computer-driven lives, that is. I’m pretty sure all this typing and computer-based activity is also giving me carpal tunnel, but that’s another whale to tackle at another time, eh? Hahaha… ha.

Anywho, I’d LOVE to hear what you guys to do maintain your sanity and stability while whittling away at your day jobs. One thing I’m sure may occur to you, and that I’ve already thought about, is going to the gym in the AM. I know that if I went and worked out every morning BEFORE work that I’d probably feel less guilty about sitting at my desk all day, but… c’mon. We all know that just won’t happen. It was enough of a struggle just to get myself into the habit of going to the gym AT ALL, and sleeping is just too good, mes amis.

Hopefully these efforts (among others that I will hopefully pick up from you?) will help continue to keep the office gut at bay while I figure out what I’m doing… both with my weight loss, and with my life. You know, until my novel is a national bestseller or something, and then I can pay someone else to figure it out for me. 😉

What are your tips for staying loose and getting some non-sitting movement in at work?

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Posted on Jun 22, 2011 in Food, Weight Loss 101 | 39 comments

Weight Loss 101: Eat Real Food, Not Your Savings

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So lately I’ve been thinking a lot about eating healthy and finances. As in, how do you eat REAL food without going REALLY broke? And then yesterday Ali tweeted at me that she had similar concerns: How do you eat healthy without going bankrupt at the grocery store? Which obviously got me thinking about it even more. I’ll be the first to admit (and I’m sure that my sister will be the second, haha!) that I am not exactly the most frugally minded person. Sure, I can appreciate a good deal as much as the next person, but for the most part I adhere to the mindset that I would rather pay more for better quality, faster service, or convenience, than have to deal with the opposites of those things. Don’t get me wrong, I can appreciate a rockin’ deal as much as the next person, but some things aren’t worth the hassle to me. Hence why it’s more likely you’d find me leisurely perusing the displays at Nordstrom than getting sweaty and harried pawing through the racks at Marshall’s, haha.

That being said, I’m not exactly rolling in it over here. And real food is expensive! Ramen is cheap, produce is not. So while I often ignore my own advice, I do feel like this is an area where saving money really matters. And I feel there are some surefire ways to make sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck when it comes to healthy eating.

Number 1: Eat at home.

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Uh, duh. This should probably go without saying, but I’m gonna say it anyway: If you want to save money, don’t go out to eat. Shop for your own groceries, and prepare your own food. I spent just over $20 at the store yesterday and will be covered for meals for three days. When you break that amount down, you’re talking about something like $2 – $3 a meal!

Number 2: Meal plan.

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I’ve admitted in the past that I’m not very good at creating and following meal plans. I try to pretend it’s because I’m all spontaneous and like to be creative with my meals, but really I’m just lazy and unorganized hahaha. This week I tried to make an exception, however, because I’m taking off for the Fitness & Health Bloggers Conference in Boulder, CO on Friday morning! So going grocery shopping mid-week, while a complete necessity given the state of food options in my house, wasn’t the most ideal situation. I didn’t want to buy things that were just going to spoil when I left! I feel that the biggest money-suck when it comes to eating real food is having it spoil because you weren’t able to utilize it in time. Meal planning is the absolute best way to avoid this.

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Number 3: Make (and stick to!) a grocery list.

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My list yesterday was super short because I was literally only shopping for a few days’ worth of food. But if I hadn’t done up a list, I would have walked out with so much unnecessary, unusable food.

Number 4: Buy generic.

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Stacy’s pita chips are priced at $2.99 a bag. Giant’s Nature’s Promise brand pita chips at priced at $2.49 a bag. Which product should you purchase? Seems like it should be a no-brainer, right? I mean, sure 50 cents might not seem like that much, but it adds up. Fast. And this rule applies across the spectrum: groceries, pharmacy items, etc. People will pay a lot more just for a particular brand slapped on the packaging, when the generic version is just as good (and oftentimes, the same manufacturer makes both products anyway. So you are LITERALLY just choosing between a branded and a generic version of the exact same thing.)

Number 5: Stretch your meat.

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There are lots of creative ways to make the expensive items you buy, like meat, last longer. Cara gave me the tip of adding ~2 cups of mashed chickpeas (which you can snag for about $0.89 a can!) to turkey burgers to bulk ’em up and stretch ’em out. I took that tip as inspiration for my own dinner last night, which involved bulking up my T-burgers with tons of veggies that I already had!

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I chopped up green onion, red onion, button mushrooms, and grated baby carrots and added it all to the mix. Not only did it make for big, thick patties, the mushrooms kept the meat SUPER moist (often a complaint when it comes to turkey burgers — thanks for that tip, Aunt Lynda!), but the meal was healthified with the addition of extra veggies, AND it helped alleviate that whole food-spoilage thing mentioned previously by letting me use up more items that were just waiting to spoil in the fridge! Win-win-win.

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With the addition of asparagus that I subbed the grocery-listed bibb lettuce for because it was a much better deal, and potatoes that I already had lying around, we have a complete meal, with enough leftovers to last me for lunch today AND tomorrow (and would have lasted another dinner, too, if I hadn’t been a piggy and had two patties last night. Whoops! Hahaha.)

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I really need to get on this meal-planning train much more regularly. That way I’ll have more money leftover for the massages I apparently desperately need! 😉

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What are your tips for saving money but still eating healthy? Another thing I should probably look into doing more is deal-shopping (going to different stores for specific items) and couponing, two things I’m terrible at! Any advice on those fronts?

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Posted on May 21, 2011 in Blogging | 23 comments

Becoming a Social Media Superstar

Helloooooooo from Fitbloggin, friends! If you’re visiting for the first time after meeting at the conference, check out my Welcome from Fitbloggin’ post! And if you’re visiting for the first time in general, feel free to read all about meeeee!

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At Whole Foods with Theodora and Tina, NBD.

So I know this is rather misleading, but I really just wanted to quickly share the notes I took from this morning’s presentation by Katy Widrick (@kwidrick) & Jess Milcetich (@jessmilcetich) on how to increase your blog traffic, reach, and just get your name out there! If these notes don’t make much sense to you, or don’t apply to you, feel free to just ignore them. But I wanted to get ’em down for posterity: it was a fascinating session, and I have so many things I want to take action on now!

1. Do a blog assessment first. Where do things stand now?
– Clean design?
– Easy to understand?

2. Start with a mission statement
– What is your blog all about?
– Create a long version & short version

3. Have a clear About page
– Mission statement should be clear on this page
– Include a current photo

4. Make it easy for people to reach out to you
– Include email address and Twitter handle on Contact page

5. Provide category specific links: offer options
– RSS feeds for individual categories, authors, tags, etc.
– Options: Force feed URLS or burn separate feeds in Feedburner
– EVERYONE should be using Feedburner
– Consider a plugin or custom graphic

6. Are you happy with your blog name? URL?
– Change is okay!
– Grab your name across various social networks: NameChk, User Name Check, and Know Em, etc.
– Reserve ANY potential GoDaddy domain names!
– SELF HOST!

7. Create a Blogging Resume/Media Kit
– Can be public or private
– Remember your credentials, set goals and inspire confidence in readers, journalists, advertisers and more
– Years in business
– Areas of expertise
– Press coverage (include screen grabs)
– Ask for references and referrals from other bloggers
– Testimonials
– Statistics/Ad Rates
– Contact information

8. Collaborate

Guest Blogging!
– Reach out to bloggers that cover your topic and offer to write a post for them
– Be very specific about what you plan to write about and why it would benefit the other blogger’s community
– Don’t blast the same email to several bloggers; make sure you know what the blogger you’re pitching covers, and write your email accordingly

Work with reporters
– Offer to be a source to reporters working on stories about your blog topic
– HARO is a great free way to find reporters who are looking sources (http://helpareporter.com)
– ProfNet is a pay service similar to HARO; new ProfNet Connect lets experts set up free profiles that reporters can search to find experts in specific areas (http://profnet.com)

Blogging Buddies
– Reach out for commenting, sharing, etc.
– Buddies support, spread the word and help you find new readers
– Make sure you have a sit that will be sticky!
– Google Groups, Facebook Groups, Email Chains

9. Set up a regular blogging schedule
– Your readers will come up to know when yo expect your posts
– If you write on different topics, you can designate certain days for each
– Having a schedule will help keep you organized
– Utilize Google Calendar; it can send you reminders!

10. Calls to action!
– If you want your readers to do something make it clear what they need to do and how to do it
– If you’re looking for feedback or advice, end your post with a question!
– Use strong words like “subscribe here”, “do this!”
– What plugin to have the sticky “subscribe here” note at the top of posts? (HelloBar)

11. Respond to comments
– Use a comment plugin that allows you to respond by email
– Have your comments emailed to you so you can monitor and respond quickly

12. Manage efficiently
– Publish in more than one place
– Write your content once, publish in lots of places
– Do you have your posts publish to Twitter, Facebook, other social network?
– Life span on Twitter: <1 hour
– Tweetwhen.com
– Visibility on Facebook: <1%
– Repost 2 – 3 times a day; change wording, DON’T SPAM.
– Create a Facebook page for your blog
– Do more than just re-post blog posts
– Make it interactive
– Share photos

13. When to publish
– Specific time of day you publish matters less than publishing on a consistent schedule

14. Dealing with bad press
– No press is bad press?
– React quickly
– Be transparent
– Be definitive (provide all sides and provide a place for safe discussion)
– Have a basic crisis management plan at the ready

*Phew* Glad I got through all that. Don’t worry, I am compiling pictures galore so you will have a real update from the conference (complete with eats and everything) soon. It’s been a lot of information to soak up! More fun to come, hehe.

Update: Check out my fully phototastic Fitbloggin’ recap!

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Posted on Mar 23, 2011 in Dear Diary, Weight Loss, Weight Loss 101 | 17 comments

Weight Loss 101: Where to Begin

Since I’ve started my weight loss journey, I’ve received a lot of questions from friends and family about my methods. Questions about what program I’m on, what miracle diet I must be undertaking, or what magic pill I’m popping (oh goodness how I wish there were a magic pill.) It’s gotten me thinking that rather than solely use this blog as a means to extol my daily activities and meals, I’ll try to be at least somewhat educational as well. I know that I give an overview of my methods on my Goals & Progress page, but it’s not really a place to get information for where to go next if you’re looking to further educate yourself on healthy living.

The other day I received an email from my coworker asking the following question:

“Do you have a website or blog you could recommend on nutrition? I want to be knowledgeable!”

After responding to her email, I decided to use the list of resources I sent her as a basis for this post. These have been proving instrumental to my health and weight-loss success thus far. I’m thinking that I may try to turn this into a kind of Health 101 series if I keep getting questions about things and if people are still interested in hearing it!

*Disclaimer: I am not a professional nutritionist, registered dietician, or medical doctor. All following information is simply based off of my own experience and research in attempting to live a healthier life.

Where to Begin

So the majority of your life has been spent ordering take-out and your best friend is the guy who mans the drive-thru window of your local Wendy’s? You’re in the right place.

So you’re a seasoned dieter who has consisted for years on Diet Dr. Pepper and Lean Cuisine frozen dinners? You’re in the right place.

So you’re a disordered eater, with vague concepts of health and nutrition but feel unable to translate that knowledge into real-world application? You are definitely in the right place.

And even if you’re a health nut, nutrition expert, and just looking to brag about your already rad skillz, you’re in the right place (even if only to elaborate on what I’m trying to say!)

It all begins with your story. How you came to be where you are, and what made you decide to change.

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March 2010

My Story

When I made the decision in August 2010 to lose weight, I was all of the above (save for the whole knowledgeable health nut part of the equation, haha.) I was caught in a vicious cycle of binge eating and deprivation, living off of junk food and processed frozen diet dinners, diet sodas and desserts. I dabbled in bulimia, never exercised, was depressed, unhappy, and unmotivated. I was sitting not-so-pretty at 246 pounds, which even at 5’9″ is way, way, way too much. I was unwilling to admit that I had expanded into wearing size 18 jeans and showed no signs of stopping.

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April 2010

While I did have a specific moment where I finally decided that I was going to, once and for all, get healthy and lose weight, it didn’t come as the result of seeing an unflattering photo (I have many) or a comment from a crude observer or concerned friend (had plenty of those, too.) It was just like one morning, it clicked. I was fat. I was unhealthy. Each day I went on living that way, I was putting myself at risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, joint, muscle, and bone problems, and the list goes on. So, I decided at that very moment that I was going to start this blog so I couldn’t wimp out like I had in all my past diet attempts, and that was that.

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I knew that this time had to be different. I had tried it all, literally: Atkins, South Beach, Slimfast, diet pills, cabbage soup – you name it, I’ve probably tried it. And each time I lost any weight, I gained it all back and more in the end. So I knew that this time just HAD to be different. And while my motivation might have been slightly different, in the beginning my means and methods really weren’t. I still started out with nothing on my mind but calorie counting, which was most easily achieved by buying pre-portioned things like “100 calorie snack-packs and the aforementioned Lean Cuisine frozen meals. I still wasn’t exercising with any regularity (though let’s be honest, I’m still not, hahahaha.) While the weight was coming off regardless, I still wasn’t feeling that much better – physically, emotionally, etc.

So I dove in to trying to figure out what it really meant to try to lose weight “the right way.” And I turned to the following resources in an attempt to broaden my nutritional knowledge and figure out where to start:

Do Your Research

1. http://eatright.org: the website for the American Dietetic Association (ADA).

This website is a wealth of information about healthy living, nutrition, and just how to get started in general. If you’re ever interested in pursuing a career as a nutritionist or dietitian, this is where you want to go as well.

2. http://fannetasticfood.com: the food and fitness blog written by Anne P., my sister’s high school bestie and aspiring registered dietitian.

Anne’s blog was the first healthy living blog I started to read and what ultimately inspired the creation of Honey, I Shrunk the Gretchen! She has tons of easy-to-navigate recipes (including ideas for 5-minute packable lunches that I have found instrumental in making healthy eating at work feasible!)

3. http://caloriecount.about.com, http://calorieking.com, http://dailyburn.com, etc.: a calorie counting website.

While I don’t count calories as strictly anymore (though maybe I should be, since perhaps that’s been a reason I’ve struggled to get through my recent plateau!) in the beginning it was especially crucial for me to really log my specific caloric intake. That way, I knew exactly how to portion out caloric intake throughout the day. There are plenty of great calorie counting websites out there, I just randomly chose Calorie Count and also downloaded their mobile app to my iPhone to help me track calories easily on the go (they also have a great forum to get inspiration from / questions answered!)

On the road again

There are tons more websites and personal blogs dedicated to live lives that are healthy and happy, so I encourage you to also check out my Blogroll and find some other means of encouragement and education out there. Also, if you’re not on my blogroll but would like to be, just let me know! I often forget to update it when I start reading new blogs… this is a good reminder. 🙂

I wish that I had done more research in the beginning of my weight loss journey on proper nutrition and balanced eating, but I’m trying to catch up now. I started off dieting the only way I knew how – with processed, sodium-laden “quick fix” frozen meals that ultimately don’t leave you satisfied. In future posts, I hope to dive into further detail on the components of my diet, how I’ve gone from complete couch potato to 5K completionist (pretty sure that’s not a real word, but I’m rolling with it), and showcasing other resources (including books and movies) that have contributed to me making the diet and lifestyle choices that I currently am.

Where to?

January 2011

I know it may seem overwhelming when you think about overhauling your entire lifestyle in an attempt to get healthier. Which is why the purpose of this series will be to show you that you can take it one step at a time. Do your research first, start educating yourself, and we can slowly begin implementing changes next. 🙂

Hoooo boy! This has been a lot longer than I anticipated. I’ll leave you for now, but if you have any questions or suggestions for specific areas of knowledge that you’re interested in learning more about, please leave a comment and I will get to it in future posts. Like I said before, I’m hoping to turn this information into a series that covers all the how-tos of starting to live a life that’s happy, healthy, and free!

‘Til next time! 🙂

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