February challenge

Well, it seems I spoke too soon about this new medication working. I had a terrible day yesterday. It's still only been three weeks since I started taking it, but after this weekend and yesterday, I'm not so sure it's doing anything. I have a follow-up appointment with my doctor on the 9th, so we can figure out what to do then.

It's so weird how much my emotions can swing sometimes. I'm going to ask my doctor about testing my hormones and vitamins and things, too, just to make sure it's not something to do with that. I'm just SO ready to get out of this funk that's been going on since June!

I have managed to stay on track with my eating, though.

Actually, I've done really well! I replaced the batteries in the (newer) scale that I have, and it works again. I had to throw out the old scale, though, and as stupid as this sounds, it was actually kind of emotional. The depression probably had something to do with that, but still... I had that scale for such a long time! (I got it in the early 2000's--maybe 2002?) It saw me at my heaviest and at my lightest. It was sad to throw it away, but there was no fixing it.

Jerry wanted to try to replace the battery for me, even though it wasn't meant to be replaced (it stuns me how long that battery lasted!). He figured out how to take the bottom of the scale apart (I tried this to no avail several times) and then replaced the battery. But, all it would show after that is 888.8. Then I realized that when I had been trying to figure out how to open the backing, I broke two parts inside that were pretty important.

Just to change the battery ;)

It's just a stupid scale, and very replaceable, but I had hope of fixing it. However, after I saw the parts that were broken, I realized that there was no hope left. So, into the trash it went. I think Jerry felt bad he couldn't fix it, because he told me that I should pick out a fancy scale, any scale that I want, to replace it. So, I ordered a nice one on Amazon, and it's supposed to arrive tomorrow. The one I have now is okay, but I've already replaced the batteries three times. The new scale can be plugged in if I want, and I like that idea. Maybe this one will see me back to goal! ;)

Meanwhile, I haven't lost any weight. I'm questioning if this is because of the new medication (antidepressants are notorious for making people gain weight). For the last two weeks, my calories have been great (with the exception of two high-calorie days, but that was never an issue before). I know that it's not my eating that's the problem. I also picked up the running over the last few weeks, so that could have something to do with it (I always tend to gain a little or not lose when I start or increase exercise).

Anyway, I haven't been upset about not losing, but I have been bewildered. I'm going to keep at it, however, because I do feel better about myself when I'm eating well. It would just be nice to drop this weight I've gained! My clothes haven't felt as tight over the last few days, so maybe I'm just retaining water or something. We'll see.

I decided to do a challenge for myself in February. I've been in the mood to eat healthier things lately (more vegetables, less sugar, etc). I still wouldn't call myself a "healthy eater", but my body has been having different sorts of cravings, and I've been listening to it.

For instance, I cannot stand the thought of a "sweet" breakfast. It churns my stomach for some reason, which is very odd. I've always loved having oatmeal or Larabars or something with peanut butter or things like that for breakfast, but now I opt for anything that isn't sweet. I've been eating sourdough toast with coconut oil, which is a delicious combination. Grits with cheese is a favorite, too.

This all started in early November, long before I started the new medication, so I'm kind of stumped as to why--but it's a good thing, I guess! All this to say, next month is going to be about eating vegetables... in the form of a salad every day for lunch. I've never been a salad person, but occasionally I do like to eat one (usually Caesar, which is probably the least healthy of salads, but still counts in my book).

So, February's plan is to eat a salad (of some sort) for lunch every day. My hope is that I will try different salads every day; but if you know me at all, then you know I get in ruts when I find something that I like, and I eat it every day until I get sick of it. (The kids are home from school for a snow day today, so maybe I'll make a list of salads to work from for the month).

I was craving a particular salad in the worst way when I was doing the vegan challenge. For a while a few years ago, I was eating spring mix with balsamic vinegar and olive oil, topped with chicken, tons of black pepper, feta cheese, dried cranberries, and chopped almonds or sunflower seeds. I tired of it, and haven't eaten it since. But it sounds fantastic, so I am going to pick up the ingredients today.

My goal for this challenge is simply to get used to eating more vegetables. I've gotten good at having vegetables with dinner (I like to mix them into casseroles and skillet meals rather than just eat them on the side), so hopefully I can expand that to lunch as well. As a bonus, I'm always at a loss for what to eat for lunch, so this will make the decision easy :)

Today, I finished the first month of my 1SecondEveryday app. I wrote about it before, but it's an app where you record a short video every day and upload just a second of it (or 1.5 seconds, in my case--you can choose to do that if you like) to a calendar. Then the app "stitches" the videos together to give you a glimpse of your month (or year or whatever you like).

Here is my video for January:

There are a couple of days where I wished I'd gotten better videos, but I forgot to do it until shortly before bed, so I had to come up with something on the fly. Anyway, I love this app! It's super fun to see a flashback of my month.

As far as my other long term goals:
  • I read one book this month, which was my goal (I'm a slow, easily-distracted reader). The book was actually for reviewing on my blog, and you can read the review here if you'd like. I am now starting "Run!" by Dean Karnazes for February. 
  • I have been spending more quality time with the kids, and it's been fun! My favorite family time is actually a simple walk around the neighborhood with the kids, Jerry, and Joey. It only takes about 20 minutes, but we don't bring phones or other distractions, and it's nice :)
So, even though I'm still having issues with depression, I'm doing my best to work through them--or at least around them!

Hello, Year 36

In case you haven't noticed, I've finally picked up the posting frequency on my blog--I hope this means that my new antidepressant is working! I haven't felt a huge difference in my mood, but I've definitely felt a subtle, "Huh, I don't feel as sad today" or "I feel kind of energetic today". I've been making more plans, too, which is another sign it may be helping. I still don't feel back to "normal", but also not as bad off as I felt a month ago.

I don't know if my dad will be thrilled about my sharing the following story, but it was so special that I think it needs to be shared...

As you may know from reading my blog, my dad likes to paint scenic landscapes. He taught himself a few years ago by watching Bob Ross of all things! He's gotten pretty good at it, too. I'm super impressed with some of his paintings, and not just because he's self-taught. He gifted my favorite of his paintings to me, and it's hanging in my living room. I love it! He's never sold his paintings--he typically gives them away if someone says they like them (which is how I acquired the one in my living room).

The painting my dad did that is now hanging in my living room. Impressive, right?

Recently, my friend Andrea's car quit running. My dad is an auto mechanic, so I referred her to him to fix the car. Andrea's grandparents drove her to my parents' house and lent her their car to go pick up the auto parts that she needed. My dad had a chance to chat with Andrea's grandfather, who is 90 years old, for a few minutes. Andrea told him that her grandpa's memory isn't very good for short term stuff, but he is a WWII veteran, and his memory is clear as day when he talks about his ship, the USS Hornet. He's extremely proud of his service, as he should be, and he loves to talk about it. My dad is a Vietnam veteran, so they chatted about the military.

After Andrea's grandparents left, my dad thought about their conversation, and decided to paint a picture of the USS Hornet to gift to Andrea's grandpa. He looked up photos of it online and printed them out, and then used those as a reference to work on his painting.

When my dad told me what he was doing, I thought it was awesome! But he is very modest about his work, and he told me he didn't want to bring the painting over to Andrea's grandpa--that he would just give it to me to give to Andrea to give to grandpa. I thought that my dad should be the one to give it to him! So, I told Andrea about it, and she agreed. She said her grandpa would be absolutely thrilled, and that my dad should bring it over.

Last Sunday afternoon, my dad and Andrea brought the painting to her grandpa, and sure enough--he loved it! He told some stories to my dad about the ship, and they hung the painting on the wall right away. They had a nice visit, and my dad ended up being very glad that he went.

I know my dad was embarrassed of the attention (he literally just wanted the man to have a painting of his beloved ship), but I think he left feeling happy that he went. He later said it was one of his favorite things he's ever done for someone. And Andrea's family appreciated it so much, too!

Yesterday was my birthday (I turned 35!), and throughout the day, I kind of regretted not hosting the virtual 5K this year. With my depression being so bad, though, I wasn't in the right state of mind to do the work for it. I'm feeling somewhat better now, so I wish I'd have done it. As it was, though, I had a very relaxing birthday. I spent much of the day organizing photos on the computer (a never ending task).

We "celebrated" my birthday on Tuesday, because that's when Jerry was off work. While the kids were at school, Jerry and I went to a couple of running stores that I'd had gift cards to. I had $150 in gift cards at two different stores. Since I'm all stocked up on running shoes, I decided to use the cards to get new socks. Running socks (good ones) are expensive, and I hate spending money on them--$18 for a pair of socks?! It's crazy. But, honestly, they are worth it.

I love Balega socks, and planned to get mostly those. Surprisingly, one of the stores didn't carry them, so I tried Swiftwick instead. They are AMAZING. So squishy and super warm. I don't always wear running socks for running--I like to wear my really cushy ones on a day-to-day basis. Here is what $150 will get you in the running sock world:

I chose not to go out to dinner for my birthday, both to save on calories and money. Instead, Jerry and the boys cooked me the dinner of my request (gnocchi with pesto cream and garlic toast) on Tuesday. It was delicious, and I don't think I could have had a better meal at a restaurant!

The kids have loved cooking lately, and Noah has actually made several dinners on his own. It's a fun way to spend quality time with the boys. I was curious to see how dinner would turn out with Jerry supervising instead of me, but I didn't need to worry--it was amazing :)

Last night, for my actual birthday, instead of celebrating with cake or something, I decided to have Halo Top ice cream for birthday dinner. Obviously, the family loved this idea ;)  I've been obsessed with Halo Top's new flavors!! My favorites are the Oatmeal Cookie, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, Peanut Butter Cup, and Red Velvet. (Even though I've had an aversion to peanut butter, the Peanut Butter Cup Halo Top is amazing and not too rich).

Last night, we had the Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, and my whole family loved it. I simply cannot believe that an entire pint of it is only 360 calories. It also has a lot of fiber and protein, but you would never know it by the way it tastes.

If you haven't tried the new flavors, definitely keep an eye out for them. Halo Top is life-changing. (I don't work with them as an ambassador or anything, although I would in a heartbeat if they offered, haha). The only downfall is that it's crazy expensive at 5.79 per pint. I decided that if it helps me to stay on track, then it's worth the price tag.

I made the same conclusion with vegetables recently, too. I found that I was wasting them a lot, because they are inconvenient and I never felt like taking the time to prep them. Now, I decided that even though it costs a little more, I'm going to buy veggies that are already prepped where I can, because it will help me to actually eat them.

I don't have any major plans this weekend, but Jerry is off work, so I may not write. When he's off, I prefer to stay off the computer as much as I can so I can spend time with the family. I hope everyone has a fantastic weekend!

Secrets from the Eating Lab (book review)

TLC Book Tours sent me a copy of this book to review, but I am not being paid for this post or anything else. I was just asked to write an honest review in exchange for the book. Thank you, TLC Book Tours, for thinking of me!

Before I get into the review, I just want to say that TLC Book Tours, if you haven't heard of it, is a really great way to read book reviews written by bloggers around the web. There are links to several bloggers' reviews for each book, as well as purchase links and the book description. It's similar to Goodreads, but smaller, more focused, and the reviews are more in-depth (the reviews aren't on the site--just the links to them--which I like, because I enjoy reading more in-depth reviews, particularly about books like this).

If you're a blogger, you can also sign up there to be a "tour host", which is what I am.

RECIPE: Ground Turkey and Cabbage with Spicy Peanut Sauce

I've been kind of obsessed with bagged coleslaw mix lately (it's just shredded cabbage and carrots). It started when I tried making "Egg roll in a bowl". That turned out really good, but had way too much soy sauce, so it was very salty; but, I liked the texture, and cabbage is my favorite vegetable. So, I started playing with it and adding it to other things as well. Surprisingly, my whole family loves it, too!

Yesterday, I made the filling for P.F. Chang's lettuce wraps and then instead of eating it in lettuce wraps, I added a whole bag of the coleslaw mix and we ate it out of bowls. Everyone kept exclaiming how good it was, even my kids!

I have no idea what to call this, so I'm just going to call it what it is: Ground Turkey and Cabbage with Spicy Peanut Sauce. There are tons of copycat P.F. Chang recipes, but here is how I made it (loosely based on this recipe):

1 Tbsp. canola oil (or other flavorless oil)
1 onion, chopped
1 pound lean ground turkey (93/7)
2 tsp. garlic, minced
1 tsp. ginger (I use the squeeze bottle of ginger)
2-1/2 Tbsp. soy sauce
4 tsp. rice vinegar
1 Tbsp. sesame oil
1 Tbsp. smooth peanut butter
1/2 Tbsp. honey
2 tsp. Sriracha
1 bag of coleslaw mix (just cabbage and carrots; no dressing!)
5 green onions, chopped (you may just want to use 3, but I happen to love green onions)
Small can of water chestnuts, chopped (I forgot to add these yesterday--bummer!)
Peanuts for topping

In a small bowl, combine the sauce ingredients: soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, peanut butter, honey, and Sriracha. Microwave it for about 30 seconds to soften the peanut butter, and stir until (mostly) smooth.

Heat the canola oil over medium high heat, and add the onion. Sauté the onion for a couple of minutes, and then add the ground turkey and garlic. Cook, breaking up the turkey, until it's browned and the onion is soft. Add the ginger and coleslaw mix, and continue to sauté until the cabbage just starts to get soft. Add the water chestnuts, green onion, and sauce, and stir well to combine. Heat through until the cabbage is the texture you want (the longer you cook it, the softer it gets, obviously).

Makes about five cups (shown above is one cup). Top each serving with about a tablespoon of peanuts (I didn't include the peanuts in the nutrition info). Nutrition info is for one fifth of the recipe (about one cup).

Ground Turkey & Cabbage with Spicy Peanut Sauce

Hey Friends,

I'm going to try a little test post, and I'm wondering if some of you can give me some feedback. I'd like to eventually switch all of my recipes from my recipes blog over to Runs for Cookies. However, I don't want to fill up your feeds or email inboxes with a ton of recipes posts! So, I'm going to backdate the recipes, and hope that they won't show up on my front page or in your feeds. 

This is my test post. If you subscribe by email, could you let me know if this shows up? Or, if you subscribe by anything else (Bloglovin', etc.) please let me know if it shows up in your feed. 

Thanks so much! I'm curious how this will work out.

The first recipe I'm going to post here is Ground Turkey and Cabbage with Spicy Peanut Sauce. 

Ground Turkey and Cabbage with Spicy Peanut Sauce (recipe)

This is going to be a very long, boring post about my day yesterday. I am posting a recipe at the end, so you can skip down to that if you'd like ;)

Well, it's only been a few days of consciously working on changing my eating habits again, but so far, so good. I have no idea if it's working, because I have no scale right now; but I'm eating on my regular schedule, and I'm tracking my calories.

Yesterday, nothing seemed to be going right, and I was very busy, so it was a stressful day. I had therapy from 10-11 yesterday, and the office is about 25 minutes north. Then, I had to go take a class at the Red Cross to renew my CPR/First Aid certification--all the way in Ann Arbor (another 30 minutes past my therapist's office). That part was no big deal, because it didn't start until 1:30.

The kids had a half-day of school. After I dropped them off at school, I headed straight to the rec center and ran my scheduled four miles. (Let me stop here and just say, running four miles on an indoor track (12 laps per mile) is SO BORING. Don't complain about a treadmill until you've tried running tiny laps.) My pace was 10:08, but I forgot my heart rate monitor again!

After my run, I came home, took a shower and ate breakfast. Right as I was walking out the door, my dad called and asked if he could pick up the kids from school. That worked out great, because of their half day. So, I told him that school dismisses at 10:35, and I that I'd call the school so they could let the kids know, and it was all set.

I got in the car, and realized I had no gas and no money, so I had to go to the ATM and gas station. Meanwhile, I had already been late getting out the door because I was on the phone with my dad. I was feeling stressed. While I was in line at the ATM, I was trying to look up the phone number to the middle school, and I couldn't find it. I found numbers for all the other schools in the district, but not the middle school.

I called Jerry on his cell at work, and told him I didn't have time to keep looking for it, and could he please just call the school and let them know my dad was picking up the kids? He called back and said that it was all set, school would be dismissed at 11:20. When the kids were in elementary school, the early dismissal time was 11:20; but middle school has always been 10:35. I reminded him of this, and he said that the school even reminded him that dismissal was at 11:20. I didn't feel good about that, but I said okay, please let my dad know.

Later, I would get a text from Eli telling me that he didn't see my text about the ride home until after he and Noah had gotten on the bus and were on their way home (they have to keep their phones off at school, so there is a delay when I text him). And school had let out at 10:35! I was mad that the school didn't tell them that their grandpa was picking them up; and that they told Jerry the wrong pick-up time.

Then I started thinking about it... and I asked Jerry if maybe he called the elementary school instead of the middle school. He double checked the numbers, and sure enough, that's what he did! The person in the office probably recognized their names and didn't even realize they didn't go to school there anymore. So, the school told Jerry the correct time, but it was the wrong school! ;) Thankfully, my dad got the kids from the bus stop, and all was good.

Meanwhile, I had a pretty tough session of therapy. The first 40 minutes were typical, but then I brought something up that's been going on lately with my depression, and I had a really hard time even talking about it. C (my therapist) actually kept me there over my allotted hour to talk about it. I did feel better when I left there, though (I always do). She gave me some exercises to work on for the next couple of weeks.

From therapy, I headed up to Ann Arbor. Since I had time to kill, I decided to take the back roads because it's more scenic than I-94 (if you drive I-94, you know what I mean). It was great, until I came across a train that was at a dead stop across the road. So, I just rerouted and made my way to I-94 anyway.

When I was making my way toward the Red Cross, I was looking for a place to grab some lunch. Then I noticed a TCBY (frozen yogurt) and I decided to have that. Not an ideal lunch, but we don't have frozen yogurt places near my house, so I very rarely get it. The last time I ate it was probably a year ago! Anyway, I didn't realize TCBY was self-serve, which is dangerous for me (back in the day, when I went to college up there, TCBY was not self-serve and they didn't have all those toppings--so I figured I'd get a small yogurt with strawberries or something).

I decided to try not to be heavy-handed with the toppings, and to get more yogurt than anything else. I used the smallest cup size, and got mostly vanilla yogurt with a little chocolate on top. Then a small sprinkle of cookie dough bites, a couple of chunks of Reese's Cups, about a teaspoon of crushed Kit Kat, and a small squeeze of hot fudge.

Of course, I wanted to totally load it up... but once I started eating it, I realized it was actually a really good ratio. Since I've had a bit of an aversion to sweets lately (it's so weird!) I think having minimal toppings made it taste really good. And here is a shocker--I actually picked off the Reese's Cups chunks after I took a small bite of one, because I didn't like the peanut butter as a sweet! I have no idea what is going on with my taste buds, but over the last few months, I have not liked peanut butter much and I'm just no that into rich dessert. I never thought I'd see the day.

Anyway, I counted it as 600 calories, which is probably an overestimate, but I guessed my best on My Fitness Pal. Even with the high calorie lunch, my calories were only at about 1400 yesterday! I didn't plan that, but the dinner I made ended up being very low in calories.

I've been kind of obsessed with bagged coleslaw mix lately (it's just shredded cabbage and carrots). It started when I tried making "Egg roll in a bowl". That turned out really good, but had way too much soy sauce, so it was very salty; but, I liked the texture, and cabbage is my favorite vegetable. So, I started playing with it and adding it to other things as well. Surprisingly, my whole family loves it, too!

Yesterday, I made the filling for P.F. Chang's lettuce wraps and then instead of eating it in lettuce wraps, I added a whole bag of the coleslaw mix and we ate it out of bowls. Everyone kept exclaiming how good it was, even my kids!

I have no idea what to call this, so I'm just going to call it what it is: Ground Turkey and Cabbage with Spicy Peanut Sauce. There are tons of copycat P.F. Chang recipes, but here is how I made it (loosely based on this recipe):

1 Tbsp. canola oil (or other flavorless oil)
1 onion, chopped
1 pound lean ground turkey (93/7)
2 tsp. garlic, minced
1 tsp. ginger (I use the squeeze bottle of ginger)
2-1/2 Tbsp. soy sauce
4 tsp. rice vinegar
1 Tbsp. sesame oil
1 Tbsp. smooth peanut butter
1/2 Tbsp. honey
2 tsp. Sriracha
1 bag of coleslaw mix (just cabbage and carrots; no dressing!)
5 green onions, chopped (you may just want to use 3, but I happen to love green onions)
Small can of water chestnuts, chopped (I forgot to add these yesterday--bummer!)
Peanuts for topping

In a small bowl, combine the sauce ingredients: soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, peanut butter, honey, and Sriracha. Microwave it for about 30 seconds to soften the peanut butter, and stir until (mostly) smooth.

Heat the canola oil over medium high heat, and add the onion. Sauté the onion for a couple of minutes, and then add the ground turkey and garlic. Cook, breaking up the turkey, until it's browned and the onion is soft. Add the ginger and coleslaw mix, and continue to sauté until the cabbage just starts to get soft. Add the water chestnuts, green onion, and sauce, and stir well to combine. Heat through until the cabbage is the texture you want (the longer you cook it, the softer it gets, obviously).

Makes about five cups (shown above is one cup). Top each serving with about a tablespoon of peanuts (I didn't include the peanuts in the nutrition info).

This isn't too spicy--Noah despises anything with spice, so I have to use it lightly, but he actually really enjoyed this. I would suggest adding more Sriracha if you like it spicy :)  (It's kind of funny--peanut butter in sweets has been grossing me out, but when eaten with cabbage and ground turkey(!) I actually really liked it).

Now, I've been going through recipes and seeing what I can add a bag of coleslaw mix to. I've always added it to stir-frys, but I never thought to add it to other skillet meals. It's a great (low calorie) way to bulk up meals.

Well, this post was super long, and even more boring than it was long, so I'll end it now. Hopefully, you still have time left to your weekend after reading this thing ;)

A tale of two scales

So, the most ironic thing happened yesterday. I was finally going to start doing Wednesday Weigh-ins again, like I mentioned on a previous post. I don't know if I'll continue them, but for now I really need something to give me a push to stay on track.

When I got on the scale, however, it kept reading 888.8 and then turning off. I know my weight is up, but I'm pretty sure I don't weigh 888 pounds. I got out my trusty old scale that I've had for a million years (or 14) and got on that. It read, "LO". Really?!

Run Your First Mile

I want to preface this post by encouraging you to be open-minded, even if you think you absolutely cannot run. At 253 pounds, I never, in my wildest dreams, could have imagined I would one day run one mile, let alone a whole marathon. Yes, there are people who have health conditions or ailments that prevent them from running, and of course you should listen to your doctor; but, if you have the doctor's go-ahead, then I believe that just about anyone can run a mile.

I only write that because it makes me sad when I hear someone say, "Oh, I could never be a runner." I felt the same way... until I became one ;)

This past summer, I was asked to write a "Run Your First Mile" plan for From Fat to Finish Line (the company that produced the documentary I was in). My teammate Rik had already written a plan for them, but considering the people who will be using it, I thought it would be a good idea to have a second plan option that is different from what they may have tried before. Rik's plan follows the standard "walk-run-walk-run" intervals, which is what most beginner plans do; as I've mentioned several times on my blog, I despised doing intervals when I was learning to run.

August 2011 (still wearing cotton instead
of tech fabric! haha)

The main reason I didn't like running intervals was because I was always dreading the next running portion. I lived for the moments where I got a quick walk break; and then it was back to huffing and puffing during the run parts. Also, intervals are HARD. I had zero confidence in my ability when I was feeling like death after the first interval. I started thinking, "Why do I have to do intervals at all? Why can't I just get all the run portions out of the way in the very beginning, and then I can walk the rest of the time?"

And so my own plan was born--and this was back in 2010, before I knew anything at all about running. I began to do my own thing, and it worked much better for me. Since then, I've run dozens of races, tried several different training plans for various distances, obtained my RRCA running coach certification, and written numerous running plans for others, as well as myself. I still believe that my "Run Your First Mile" plan is a solid one, and a good option for people who may hate intervals like I did.

From Fat to Finish Line ended up using Rik's plan for their needs, but Angela encouraged me to make mine available here in case someone decides intervals just aren't for them. This method is what got me started as a runner, as well as dozens of my readers who used the same method (using my Walk to Run plan). This "Run Your First Mile" is very similar to the Walk to Run plan, but the end target is to run your first mile rather than run for 30 minutes straight.

Here is what the first two weeks look like:

Here is the link to download the whole plan in PDF form. (It's free)

(Edit to add: I accidentally had the privacy settings on the download, but I just corrected it, so it should work now!)

The plan is great for anyone who is capable of walking 30 minutes, 3 times a week; and it will help you to run your first mile anywhere from about Week 5 to Week 8 (depending on your pace).

The number one thing I want anyone to remember when starting to run is this: If it feels too hard, SLOW DOWN. It sounds so simple, and it is--just by slowing your running pace down to the slowest you can possibly run (a slow shuffle is just fine!), you'll be amazed at how much farther you can make yourself go. My brother gave me this advice when I started out, and to this day, it's the best advice I've received about running.

There are some things I wish I knew as a beginner, so I'll share those as well. Here are some random tidbits that may come in handy:

  • Cotton gets very heavy when it gets wet (from sweat, rain, etc). I would definitely recommend getting some moisture-wicking clothing. It doesn't have to be expensive, either! Some of my favorite running clothes actually came from Wal-Mart and cost about $10.
  • Invest in your running shoes. Even for those just beginning, I strongly encourage you to go get fitted for running shoes at a proper running store. These likely will be expensive, but they will last you for about 400 miles of running. And good shoes can prevent injury, make running more enjoyable, and make you feel less sore.
  • It's okay to stop during run--to take a drink, answer an important phone call, chat with a friend you bumped into, pick up a quarter, or anything else. When I first started running, I thought it "didn't count" if I stopped at all, even at a stop light. That's silly! Runners stop all the time for various reasons. Just keep it brief and keep going. It still counts.
  • Likewise, you can still say you "ran a half-marathon" (or whatever distance) if you walked through the water stations. Believe it or not, this is one of the most common questions I am asked.
  • If a friend offers to run with you, don't fear that you are "holding them back" because your pace is slower. Chances are, you friend already knows you're not out to qualify for Boston as you prepare to run your first mile; and they wouldn't have offered to run with you if they didn't want to. I always enjoy running with people who are slower than I am, because it's fun to chat and it makes the time go by fast. If I have speed work or something that must be done, then I just choose a different day to run with a partner.

I don't want to put too much info here, because I don't want anyone to get overwhelmed before they even run their first step! But when the time is right, here are some more posts I've written that beginners may find helpful:

How to Get Started as a Runner
Running Lingo
50 Running Tips
On Starting to Run and Running Faster
Running Motivation (my favorite books and movies about running)
On Fueling For/During a Run

Tips for Training For and Running Your First 5K
Tips for Training For and Running Your First 10K
Tips for Training For and Running Your First Half Marathon
Tips for Training For and Running Your First Marathon

Best of wishes as you run your first mile! xo

A good weekend

All things considered, I had a pretty good weekend! (What a boring blog post title, right? I just couldn't think of one today.) On Friday, I went up to Detroit for a few hours, which is one of my favorite places to be. If it was warmer, I would have loved to walk the Riverwalk (my favorite place to relax and enjoy some free time without an agenda). My friend Andrea has never walked the Riverwalk, so when the weather is nicer, I want to take her there. On Friday night, Jerry and I had a mini date night (we didn't really do anything special, but the kids were with my dad so we had the evening to ourselves).

On Saturday morning, I asked Andrea if she'd want to exercise in the pool after I got done with my run, and she said sure; so, I packed a couple changes of clothes (running and swimming) and went to the rec center.

The parking lot was packed, which was unusual for a Saturday morning. When I went inside, I saw they were having a wrestling tournament, and the rec was closed until 9:00 (it was 8:05). Since I was already dressed to run, I just went home and decided that I would still run and then drive back to the rec to swim.

(On Thursday, I had bumped into Renee at the rec center before my run, so we ended up running three miles together. I had turned off the heart rate alert on my Garmin, because I always tend to run faster with Renee than I would otherwise, and didn't want the alarm going off constantly. I was worried about slowing her down too much, but it was nice to run with her--the time went by so fast!) Anyway... the point is, my heart rate alert was still turned off, so on Saturday, I decided to ignore my heart rate and just run however my legs felt like running.

It was freezing outside! I had been dressed to run inside, and all I did before going outside was throw a light jacket on. I should've grabbed a hat and gloves. But, I ran my three miles at a relatively fast pace (compared to my normal heart rate training, I mean). And it actually felt really good when I was done. 

Immediately when I finished, I grabbed my bag for the rec center and headed back up there to meet Andrea. She showed me some exercises she's been doing in her water aerobics class, so we did some of those, and then put on our Aqua Joggers and went in the deep end. 

While you can certainly make aqua jogging a very intense workout if you want, we usually just stretch or use it to jog lightly while we talk. It's actually a really nice alternative to going out to eat or something when you just want to catch up with a friend but don't want to go out to eat all the time. We stayed in the pool for over an hour, and then warmed up in the sauna. I felt great when I left! The power of exercise and good friends :)

Later that afternoon, Andrea came over and we just hung out at my house all day--the time went by so fast, and we had a lot of fun. Becky (my sister-in-law) ended up stopping by later, too. It's awesome to watch as her belly gets a little bigger each time I see her--nephew baby is getting big! :) Even though the night was low-key, we had a lot of laughs, which was very much needed (for me, anyway).

In the morning yesterday, I was tired and just didn't feel like doing my "long run" (I put that in quotes, because right now in my training, my long run is just four miles). But, it looked sunny outside, and NOT windy, which made me dread it a little less. I got dressed and as I was getting my shoes on, Joey started getting super excited. I have no idea why, because I never mentioned taking him with me, but he was acting as if I'd already told him he could come.
He like, "Wait... did you say you're going for a run?"
(This photo was actually from before and after telling him
that he's a 'good dog')
Taking Joey on a run is not easy--I would take him all the time if he didn't pull on the leash, but he insists on running directly in front of me with a taut leash, and then he zig zags as he sees interesting things. If he stops running, I either accidentally kick him or I trip over him. Haha! However, he absolutely loves to run with me, so I do take him when I'm feeling patient.

When I saw him getting super excited, I didn't have the heart to tell him that he wasn't coming, so I decided to just let him come. I threw out any expectations I had of my run, and just figured I'd make the most of it. As soon as we started running, Joey acted exactly as I had expected--pulling me along (not hard, but enough) and zig-zagging right in front of me.

However, I didn't feel at all irritated. This is the whole reason I'm even going into the this boring story--in a situation where I normally would have gotten frustrated and irritated, I didn't care or let it get to me. Throughout the whole run (four miles), there were so many times I noticed that I just felt content--not giddy or anything, but not down at all. 

It may still be too soon to notice a difference, but I really think that it was the new medication that helped my mood. Like I said--any other time, I would have sworn to myself that I would never take Joey on a run with me again (something I've thought several times in the past! lol)--but instead, I just kind of thought, "It is what it is" and I enjoyed the fact that I was running with my dog and my dog was having a blast. 

That's one of the things I like to tell people who are worried about trying an antidepressant... the medication doesn't make me feel "euphoric", "high", or super happy or anything. It just makes me stop and think one day, "Hm, I haven't feel sad today--that's cool". And maybe a few weeks go by, and then, "Wow, I actually can't even remember the last time I cried..." It doesn't make me walk around with a big goofy smile all the time, but it does make me feel more "normal" and not overreact. It sounds silly, but taking Joey for a run and not getting frustrated was enough to make me notice my mood has improved. I'm very happy with that, so I hope I continue to notice the little improvements here and there.

It's feeling good to get back on a running schedule. It has been VERY difficult to get myself going because of my depression, but if I want to train for Indy, then I don't have a choice. It's interesting, because this is exactly how I started exercising back in 2010. I always hated exercise, and I lost the first 60 pounds without it. And then I signed up for Indy (to walk it with my sister), and I knew I'd have to train for that if I wanted to finish without getting a stress fracture or something. 

I stuck to my schedule, and I think I only missed one walk throughout the entire plan. Somewhere along the way, I actually really started to enjoy the way exercise made me feel, and the reason I continued doing it was for that reason. And this time is no different--I have to make myself do it at first, but I'm already started to enjoy it more and feel the benefits. 

This week, I ran four times:

I also went "swimming" twice at the rec center (I put that in quotes because it was basically floating and talking, and not much swimming, haha). 

Anyway, I feel good about my training from last week, and I'm hopeful that this week will be just as good, if not better. I also feel good about this new medication, and hopeful that things are turning around for the better now :) Hope everyone had a great weekend! 

Facing the gain

Thank you all so much for the kind comments on my last post! I always feel so vulnerable when I write about such personal topics as depression, but it does feel nice to get it out in the open--and you all are so kind. Thank you for that! I also love to read the ideas from others that they have found helpful in treating their own depression. I haven't noticed a change with the new medication yet, but today is only the third day since I started it, so it needs more time.

I have no good pics for this post, so here is a selfie
with a cat mug that Jerry got me for Christmas ;)
I have noticed a big correlation between my weight and my depression. As my depression gets worse, my weight goes up; and as my depression gets better, my weight goes down. This is likely due to comfort eating, as well as lack of motivation to exercise. I wish that I didn't seek comfort in food! I am going to do my best to be more aware of it, though, and hopefully find alternatives that make me feel better. It's something I've been talking with my therapist about.

Anyway, stepping on the scale after the holidays was kind of sobering. I didn't gain any more weight through the fall or even over Christmas, and I was hovering at around 150--I figured that after the holidays, I'd work harder to take it back off. After several get-togethers in late December and early January, my weight has now climbed to 158. That's just two pounds shy of being at my highest weight in six years. Yikes!

I'm not saying this to complain or whine about it, though. Surprisingly, I'm actually not even that torn up about it! It's funny, because until recently, seeing that number would have made me super upset. My main focus right now is treating my depression and anxiety, and I'm hoping that once I have those under control, my weight will follow, so I'm not too worried about it yet. I have been counting calories, and doing pretty well with it, but the weight isn't falling off like it did in 2015 and early 2016. I think my mood has a lot to do with that--I've found that when I'm in a good mood in general, I lose weight much more easily than when I'm feeling depressed.

So, clearly, I have a long road ahead of me in getting back to goal. In some odd way, I'm actually looking forward to the process. Losing the weight in 2015 did wonders for my mood and it was fun to see the scale moving downward each week. I think I may go back to doing formal weigh-ins every Wednesday, too--even though I hated posting them, it does help keep me motivated to stick to my plan.

As far as "my plan", it's actually very simple: count calories (the same way I did before), follow my training plan for Indy, look for opportunities to be more active (something I was always doing when I was feeling my best), and work through my depression. I have 16 weeks until I go to Indy (where I'm meeting up with a lot of readers!) so that will be a big incentive for me to stick with it. I have 25 pounds to lose, so I could potentially be at my goal weight when I go to Indy, but I would be happy to be down even just 10 pounds by then. We'll see! I am willing to work for it.

Right now, I'm just asking myself every day, "What can I do TODAY to help me feel my best?" I have been trying not to even look ahead, because that gets overwhelming. Eventually, I'll be able to string all of the "today's" together, and I'll have a nice streak going.

To answer that question today, my plan is: run three miles; keep calories at a reasonable number; drink lots of water; take time to do my hair and make-up; and do something fun with the kids and Jerry. When I look at it like that, just for today, it seems pretty manageable.

Well, I'd better head to the rec center for a run before I change my mind! ;) Have a great weekend, everyone!

A candid post about depression

A couple of days ago, I started writing a post, and I got a lot of it done, but I saved it to finish it up yesterday. Then, I read it yesterday, and realized it sounded really depressing! I didn't mean for it to sound like that; I'd basically just written about the ups and downs of my depression last year.

depression meme

I still haven't been feeling back to normal, so I went to a new doctor yesterday to try and come up with a plan and possibly switch medication. I really liked the doctor, and he added one medication that should hopefully help me get through this. I don't really enjoy writing about depression, because it's so stigmatized, but I know a lot of people have found it helpful to read (if only so that they don't feel alone in the battle). I also hope by explaining it in-depth, it'll help people to understand what a loved one with depression may be going through.

Depression is a scary beast to deal with. I remember feeling depressed when I was as young as about 9 or 10 years old (although I didn't know that it was called depression then), but I don't think I was officially diagnosed until I was 20. It was never triggered by anything; I think I was just born this way. Antidepressants certainly help, and I've done the natural treatments as well--exercise, mainly, but also psychotherapy. Once I started running in 2010, my depression felt very under control for the most part, other than a few mildly bad days or weeks here and there.

(It literally just occurred to me as I was typing this that maybe my current episode has been so bad because I cut way back on my mileage and haven't been nearly as active as I'd been in the past six years. Now that I'm training for Indy, and picking up mileage, it'll be interesting to see how it helps my mood.)

I've always been pretty good at hiding my depression from friends and/or family, because I don't want to "bring people down". Jerry and my friend Andrea are really the only people who know and understand the full extent of it. Here on my blog, I always try to write a positive spin on things when I talk about it, but even that is hard to do (which is one of the reasons I haven't been writing much through the fall and winter).

Depression is very difficult to describe to someone who has never felt it. As hard as I try to be happy when I'm having a depressed episode, I just feel sad, anxious, hopeless, and pessimistic about life in general. Every little problem that arises in "normal" life feels like a catastrophe--where in a non-depressed person, that little problem is no big deal.

depression meme

There are physical symptoms of depression as well; it's not "all in your head", like some people believe. A few common physical symptoms are: digestive issues (feeling nauseous or upset stomach); sleeping problems (either insomnia or sleeping too much); fatigue, even if you're getting enough sleep; dizziness or lightheadedness; excessive hunger or loss of appetite (unfortunately, I experience the excessive hunger!); memory loss; and lack of concentration. Depression can even weaken the immune system! Remember how I got sick twice in the fall, and it lasted a long time? That never happens to me.

Some people think that when you're depressed, you can just force yourself to be happy, but it doesn't work that way. Sure, you can fake being happy, but you can't actually change your feeling. (Try to imagine that you just won a million dollars and how happy you'd be--and then after you found out you won, someone told you that you have to "just be sad". That would be difficult, if not impossible, to do! It's the same way with trying to "just be happy" when you don't feel that way. Hopefully that makes sense.)

It would be awesome if it was that easy to fix depression! Believe me, depression is definitely NOT something that I want to feel, and I will do just about anything in my power to not feel that way. I really don't think that there is a single person on the planet who would choose to have depression.

Being a mom with depression is even more difficult. I don't want my kids to see me feeling sad, so I do my best to hide it, and to not let it affect their lives. There have been many times where all I wanted to do was lie in bed all day, but having kids forces me to get up and do what's best for them. In that way, the kids are very helpful! I have talked a little bit about depression and anxiety with them so that they at least understand what it is--and if they ever feel that way, they know they can come talk to me about it and I will listen and take them seriously.

I think one of the worst symptoms is feeling guilty. I have a really great life, and so many things to be thankful for. And I AM very grateful! So, I have no "reason" to feel depressed, which is where the guilt comes in. The thing about depression is that it doesn't have to be triggered by something--some people just have a lot of things going on in their brains that can cause it, and the antidepressants can help balance it all out.

My point is that depression a real illness with real symptoms, and it should be treated as such. For some people, exercise is enough to help them through it; others use medication; some use supplements; and still others use psychotherapy ("talk" therapy) as another common treatment (or any combination of these, or other treatments). Unfortunately, some people cope in unhealthy ways, like alcohol, overeating, drugs, excessive shopping, etc. Basically, anything that makes them feel better.

Since my blog is usually categorized as a weight loss blog, I figured I'd write a little about how depression can affect one's weight loss journey as well:

  • Fatigue, even with a lot of sleep, makes it difficult to stay motivated to exercise. 
  • Lack of motivation (just feeling like you really don't care)
  • Medications (many antidepressants are known to cause weight gain)
  • Increased hunger (some people overeat when depressed simply because they feel hungrier than usual.
  • Unhealthy eating ("comfort" foods are called such because they are comforting--a natural choice for someone with depression. Unfortunately, these foods only make us feel better temporarily, and they usually have a ton of calories.)
  • Alcohol (if someone turns to alcohol to feel better, that can obviously affect weight)
  • Cortisol (when we're depressed, we tend to have increased levels of this "stress hormone", which can make it difficult to lose weight)
I'd like to end this post on a positive note, since depression is kind of a downer of a topic! Here are some things that have helped me in the past to get through a bad episode of depression. I'd love to see more ideas, if anyone would like to share. It's a sensitive topic, so I understand if it's not something you want to post online ;)

  • Exercise. It's cliché, but it's true what they say--exercise really does help with depression. Even if it's something as simple as going for a stroll every afternoon, getting outside and doing something physical changes my mood better than comfort food, that's for sure. 
  • Medication. It's not shameful to take antidepressants if your doctor thinks you would benefit from them. 
  • Distraction. Staying busy, and not having a lot of time to really think about it, has helped me quite a bit. I had a very bad day on Tuesday, because I didn't really have anything going on. But yesterday, I was busy non-stop all day, and I actually felt pretty good. The distraction was nice.
  • No alcohol. As much as I love my wine, I do feel better when I don't have anything to drink. 
  • Having a close friend to talk to. My friend Andrea has been a godsend, truly. I feel comfortable telling her anything at all, and she always seems to know just what to do or say to help. 
  • Talk therapy (psychotherapy). If you don't have a close friend to talk to (or even if you do), talk therapy has been very helpful for me. It's really nice to talk to someone who is unbiased and doesn't have any sort of role in your life other than "therapist". 
  • Say yes to events/invitations even when you want to say no. It's easy to stay at home and not see friends, but I know that I always feel better if I go and do things.
  • Healthy eating. I think this one is probably obvious, but when I'm eating well, and not too much, I feel my best.
  • Pets. Pets are a very real form of therapy! My most therapeutic pet is Phoebe. When I'm having a rough time, she just knows. She wants me to hold her while she purrs loudly in my ear. 

Depression is such a heavy topic, but it affects 15 MILLION American adults in any given year (source). Chances are, you or someone you know is affected by it. It's my hope that it becomes more common to talk openly about depression instead of feeling ashamed of it, which is why I decided to write about this (very vulnerable) topic.

To read more about depression, a good place to start is the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) website. You can also find help there if you think you may have depression and would like help seeking treatment.

As for myself, I am feeling hopeful that 2017 is going to be a great year! Instead of being so focused on my weight, I want to really work on my mental health and being the happiest ME I can be--exercising, spending quality time with family and friends, and continuing therapy and medication as needed. I'm looking forward to a good year :)

Baby shower weekend

After a super crazy weekend, I'm so looking forward to a few low-key days.

On Friday, my sister (along with Shawn and her friend Jen) drove here from Illinois. Once they got to the Michigan/Indiana border, the roads were TERRIBLE due to the lake effect snow on the western side of Michigan. So, they had to pull off the road and get a hotel for a few hours while the salt trucks went out. I was really worried they wouldn't be able to get here, but after four hours at the hotel, they were able to get on the road again.

Four year anniversary of Ragnar

Well, it seems that 2017 is off to a decent start :)

The weather was super nice here on Monday, so to take advantage of the weather, the kids and I went to Nike Park. It's a HUGE fenced in park, and whenever we've gone, there hasn't been anyone there--so it's a great place to take Joey off leash. (They really ought to turn this park into a dog park. We don't have any dog parks around here.)

The kids and I played on the playground while Joey ran around sniffing every single blade of grass in the park. One of the things on my list of things to do with the kids this year was to take them to Nike Park, so we crossed that one off right away. A couple of people asked me to see the list, so here is a picture of it. A lot of it isn't really relevant unless you live around here, but there are other ideas as well.

(You'll probably have to click to enlarge it enough to read it)

Eli is 1 of 30 kids in his grade that were selected to compete for a spelling bee (all of the kids were given a spelling test, and the top 30 kids then do a mini spelling bee to select the top 10). Anyway, after Eli's disappointment from not making the Quiz Bowl team in the fall, it was very exciting that he is in the top 30 for this. Even if he doesn't go further than that, it's quite the accomplishment! I'm super proud of him.

Today is the four-year anniversary of when my Ragnar Florida Keys team, From Fat to Finish Line, crossed the finish line in Key West! In some ways, that day feels like it happened a million years ago; in others, it feels like just yesterday. And it will always be unbelievable to me that the whole thing is now a documentary on Netflix!

This is an anniversary video that the producer made on the one-year anniversary. One of my friends shared it on Facebook today, and I had forgotten about it. I love this video! I think it's the song that makes it so emotional for me. My favorite part is when my face lights up as I see John running in for the major exchange between him and I. I don't remember if that's in the actual film or not.

I have a crazy busy weekend ahead of me. Jeanie and Shawn (my sister and brother-in-law) are coming in from Illinois because we're having a baby shower for Becky. Just two more months until I'm an aunt!!

Eli's 11th birthday is on Saturday, which is the same day as the shower, so we're going to celebrate his birthday on Friday. He wants everyone to go out to dinner together--"everyone" being my parents, my siblings, and their spouses. On Saturday, we have the baby shower and then we're going to Brian's for dinner, drinks, and games. On Sunday, Eli is having a birthday party at the bowling alley with some of his school friends.

As I write this, I'm in the middle of making an enormous batch of rice--enough for 40 people!--for the shower. We're having a "Javanese lunch"--I have no idea the origin of this meal, I just remember growing up eating it once in a while (usually at a shower). It's basically a buffet of 10 ingredients: rice, diced chicken or turkey, almonds or peanuts, green onions, celery, pineapple, coconut, cheddar cheese, chow mein noodles, and gravy. You start with the rice, and then add the other stuff on top. It's delicious! The ingredients seem so odd, but they work really well together. Anyway, I am in charge of making the rice, so I'm getting that prepped today.

So, a crazy weekend ahead, but super fun. I love getting to hang out with my brothers and sister! We only all get together about once a year, so I always look forward to it.

Goals for 2017

Happy New Year, Friends! I'm hoping that 2017 is going to be a great one.

We spent NYE at Renee's with her husband and boys
Much like my last post about my end of the year post, I like to spend the beginning of each new year making some goals. I know that "new year's resolutions" are tired and cliché, so I don't really call my goals that--but there is something really special about the beginning of a new year when it comes to setting goals.