Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Love my cozy bed..

Sometimes when you're talking about general health and well-being we forget one of the most important tools our bodies have for self-healing. Sleep!

Life is hectic and crazy and often we deal with that by skimping on the sleep. Did you know though, that skimping on the sleep is one of the easiest ways to block your weight loss efforts?

I could get all scientific and talk about the studies done that show how people who got fewer than 7 hours of sleep a night ate an average of 500 extra calories during the day after (7 days of that equals 1 pound gained)... or throw around words like leptin (hormone that signals satiety) and ghrelin (hormone that stimulates the appetite) but I won't. Anymore.

The truth is that in my own experiences over the last 5 months, I've made sleep a priority. I can tell you that when I get less than 7-8 hours a night, I have a much harder time curbing my mindless eating. You know that the kind I'm talking about. Grabbing a handful of chocolate chips here, and a scoop of peanut butter there, when you're not even really hungry. The truth is, no matter how healthy and clean you're eating, when your goal is weight loss. calories in should always be less than calories out. So extra snacks, especially when you're not hungry can really derail your efforts.

So look, I know. Grey's Anatomy is on. You're out of milk and you need to run to the store. Your 10 year old has a project due tomorrow and she didn't tell you until today. Yeah, those days happen. I get it.

In general though, trying to make sure you get at least 8 hours a night is really going to pay off in the end.

Here are some things I do to make sure that I maximize the sleep I do get, especially if I know I'm not getting to bed as early as I'd like;

- Cover or remove all unnecessary lights in your room. I even tape a tiny piece of paper over my fire alarm (yes, we test and check it often to make sure it's not a safety hazard). I lay my cell phone face down so those random push notifications don't disturb me in the middle of the night. I close my curtains tight so the annoying street light doesn't makes it's way in. If you can't do that, and can stand to have it, try getting one of those little masks. I'd rather have the room as dark as possible than wear one of those, but to each his own.

-Exercise!! It sure does sound counter-productive but I get my best sleep on days when I make sure I get lots of movement in! By the way, if you exercise a lot then sleep is that much more important for you. It's when your muscle fibers do the most of their repair work.

-No clocks! No checking your cell when you get up to go to the bathroom. Looking at the clock will just trigger all sorts of "to do" lists in your mind. Starting with whatever you have to do first thing in the morning. It all starts with "oh no, only 4 hours left until I have to get up". Before you know it, it's an hour later and you're still laying there staring at the clock.

-When trying to fall asleep, relax your jaw and make sure your tongue is laying at the bottom of your mouth and not clenched at the roof of your mouth. Try it tonight, you'll see what I'm talking about. Make sure your breathing is slow and even, and try making sure your arms are relaxed. I know it sounds crazy, but try it. You'd be surprised how often you lay there with a clenched jaw and tensed arms. Like the stress of the day is trying to keep you awake.

-Try not to watch tv right before bed. It's tempting I know. I have a tv in my bedroom and I really wish I didn't. I'm not guilty of that so much as my hubby is. I like to have some quiet while I stretch out my bedtime routine. I find it helps to shut my mind down and prepare for sleep.

- Which brings me to routine. Brush teeth, wash face, moisturize, stretch, yoga, bath, tea, etc. Whatever you do at night before bed, trying making it a routine. We are not that different from babies. Remember when your little one was learning to sleep at night? Routine is huge! Our bodies will learn from these motions that bedtime is near! I'm not nearly as good at this as I should be. It's definitely something I need to get better about. Often though, I find myself going to bed a few minutes later than I should and so I rush through flossing and brushing and then I am still too awake when I finally lay down.

-Strive for consistency. Going to bed at the same time every night will sort of set your body clock. I know this isn't always possible though with shift work and parents who have lots going on and whatnot. I think in this case you can still be consistent, just do the best you can.

-I guzzle water. All day long. I swear I drink about 100 oz a day. I wouldn't have it any different. That all shuts off when I put the girls to bed though. I take the last of my supplements and medications around 8pm and that's it. That helps cut down on the times I need to get up to use the bathroom.

-White noise. Definitely makes those random noises less obvious. Especially the spouse snoring next to you.

- Take medications at the same time every day. I made the mistake of accidentally skipping a med last night. :(  I spent the night having super vivid crazy dreams and this morning I felt like I hadn't slept at all (hence this post).

I think that about covers it. I'm sure I missed some great tips though. What do you do to make the best of the sleep you get?

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


I ate two pieces of homemade bread this morning. I was just too excited about each of the two loaves that I made yesterday and I couldn't decide. To round it out, I had some egg whites with veggies, and some fresh fruit. The star of the show was the bread though.

That got me thinking about the last 5 months and how I've approached 'weight loss' in the past. I've always tried to keep my intake of grains very low. Sometimes it's hard to get past things you hear over and over and over again. Carbs = bad.

The truth is that carbs aren't good or bad. It's not that cut and dried. First we have to talk about the different types of carbohydrates and what carbohydrates really are and how to separate the good from the bad.

So think of carbohydrates in terms of fuel. It acts as a source of energy for the body. Like in the fuels we use in the world, there are slow-burning fuels and fast-burning fuels. Otherwise known as simple carbohydrates and complex carbohydrates.

Simple carbohydrates are absorbed, broken down and burned off in our bodies faster. The reason this is  'bad' is that you're not getting the most energy possible from it. Sort of like burning a piece of paper. It burns up super quickly and then you're left with smoldering ashes. Then poof! It's out and you're suffering from a post-lunch energy slump.

Pasta, bread, cereals, and baked goods made with white flour, sugar, candy, process foods (just about everything from fast food restaurants and the cookie/cracker aisle at the grocery store), soda, fruit juice and most syrups, milk products, white rice and others are examples of simple carbohydrates and should be eaten in small amounts or not at all, especially if the goal is weight loss.

Complex carbohydrates are closer to the idea of burning a log or a candle (when comparing it to that burning piece of paper). Most complex carbohydrates have more fiber and the reason this is important is that it slows down the absorption of these carbohydrates in your body. This helps in two ways: you will stay full longer, and you will have more energy to 'burn' from that food. This can help keep you satisfied and less likely to snack throughout the day. When you're talking about weight loss, that is a big deal.

Vegetables, whole grains, fruits, legumes (chickpeas, lentils, soybeans, etc), and pastas/breads/cereals made with whole grains (look for the stamp below when looking for whole grains because the wording can get confusing on the ingredients list) are examples of complex carbohydrates.

Now, I'm not an expert. This is just basic information and I'm sharing it because I'm still surprised at how little we seem to pay attention to what goes into our bodies. Maybe you already know all this and if so, great!

Here is some more information on the subject. 

Anyway, back to me. ;)

When I set about trying to become healthier the one thing I really wanted to do was not have to deprive myself of something that I loved. I was determined to be successful and depriving myself was not going to aid me in that. So I kept breads and grains in my diet. I made sure that they were made from whole grains and I tried to make sure I kept them at a reasonable percentage in my daily intake (with the majority of my complex carbs coming from fruits and veggies). I tend to stick with grains that are WHOLE when I buy them (brown rice, oatmeal, quinoa, etc) and to that I also enjoy whole grain and whole wheat bread. Pasta isn't as much of a favorite as oatmeal and bread so I don't eat it. In other words, I'd rather have bread. I pick my battles. We also don't limit ourselves to whole wheat flour when I bake. I use quinoa, oat flour, etc. They all work well in many recipes and give us a lot of variety.

And yes, I know that low-carb is all the rage but this works for me. I honestly don't believe I would have been as successful as I would have if I had said "okay, low carb it is".

Do you limit your carb intake? How do you limit it and what carbs do you tend to favor?

Monday, January 28, 2013

Picky Kid- homemade crackers, part two

I was so excited by my successful batch of crackers earlier, and all the new things I learned that I decided to also try the graham crackers again. So good!

So I shared in my earlier post that I loved this recipe for graham crackers. I have actually had some poor results with one or two other recipes, but that is probably more because I messed them up trying to make them low sugar and lower in fat. Each of those attempts failed horribly. I really think trying to get them so low in sugar was the problem.

With this attempt I didn't lower them much at all. Why? I've been making so much from scratch that we've pretty much eliminated all home-based refined sugars and excess fat. Not that my girls never eat a cookie at school (I swear, it's like they have birthdays every week with cupcakes and things), but on a day to day basis there is very little added sugar at all. What we do use is much less refined than standard white sugar. On a daily basis we tend to use honey (now local honey,, and another brand available at Power Road Farmers Market), coconut palm sugar, agave nectar, and turbinado sugar. We don't use all of them everyday though, they all work well in different things. I like coconut palm sugar especially in place of brown sugar. I do still have brown sugar and cane sugar too, but I use them very little.

Anyhow, back to the crackers. I'm going to share her ingredients list, just to comment on my measurements. Follow the link above for her method and additional information.


1½ cups all-purpose flour
1 & 1/3 cups graham flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons honey

Okay, so I used 1/2 cup of butter (one stick), 1/4 cup of coconut oil and 1/4 cup of applesauce. This was as much as I was willing to 'sub' out for fat because other attempts to go lower did not work. I replaced all the dark brown sugar with coconut palm sugar and used local orange blossom honey. I rolled them out directly on my counter top. 

I also cut them more like individual squares you might see in a sheet of graham crackers bought at the store. I wanted them to sort of look like them (so they'd appeal a little more to little A), but obviously these have none of the extra preservatives and whatnot. 

In my oven, I used the convection setting. I highly recommend using it if your oven has one. 

(are you wowed by my photography skills?)

This recipe made 75 of these rectangles. Two rectangles have roughly 67 calories, 3 grams of fat, and 5 grams of sugar. Now if you compare it to a popular brand of graham crackers, two of their boring rectangles contain 33 calories and 1 gram of fat and 2 grams of sugar. However, when you add in that these homemade versions don't have the added ingredients of the storebought brand 


I definitely chose the homemade ones. 

Hey, just sayin...

(I linked back to Nabisco, which is where I found the list for their graham cracker brand).

Picky Kid Seal of Approval- homemade crackers

I've learned a lot about making crackers of the past couple months. I've learned that different flour combinations can really change the flavors. I've learned that in order to make them thin enough to get crispy (and not just hard) I need to roll them directly out on my counters with lots of flour.

Crackers also tend to go from "done" to "whoops, but these still taste good" to "uh oh, toss 'em" pretty quickly, so you have to watch them.

The biggest thing I've learned though, is that there are a million recipes out there on the web that promise to be like Cheez-its or Wheat Thins but that doesn't mean your kids will actually eat them.

I gave up for a few weeks because we got busy, and actually we've gotten sort of used to just not having crackers and pretzels around. I have been meaning to get back to it, because while I have no issues with sending the girls to school without that stuff, it sure makes packing snacks easier since they can't have nuts for snack time. While I have been trying to keep it all as lightly processed as possible, I will admit that I have super picky eaters. So I'm guilty of wanting to take the easy way out sometimes to get a little variety for them. For me, in this case, these crackers are the easy way out.

Anyway, on Saturday I mixed up some dough and stuck it in the fridge to wait until I had some time to rolle them out. It took just a few minutes in my food processor (that includes grating the cheese from the large block of cheese I had). In the future, btw, I think I'd use a sharper cheddar as opposed to the colby-jack mix I used. The colby-jack gave it a very cheesy flavor but I think the sharper tang of a sharp cheddar would make them even more like their processed counterparts. Otherwise this dough came together super easy and before I knew it, I had a flat disc of dough wrapped in the fridge and was washing the few dishes I used for it.

(please excuse my poor photography skills)

The best thing about these is that my two older daughters loved them (those of you who know us personally know that this is a Big Deal. The next best thing is that even though these are slightly higher in fat than the boxed ones, it's from REAL cheese and REAL butter. Obviously, you should still be observing proper portioning because even homemade snacks are still just that, snacks). Finally, the recipe makes just about the same amount as what comes in the box. 

If you attempt these at home, here are some tips:

Don't try to make them perfectly, it won't happen. Poke holes in them, I forgot on one batch and while they still tasted great, they were a little puffier. I used all whole wheat flour, but I'm sure you could play with that some if trying your own versions at home and if you try a gluten free version, I'd love to hear about it!****

Try to rotate out several cookie sheets because you will want to use cooled cookie sheets for each batch since they are so thin. I feel this is a great excuse for me to be able to buy some new ones, plus a few more silicone mats, right?

The biggest thing is to make sure you get them thin thin thin. I rolled them so thin I could see the dark of my countertops underneath (yes, I did it right on a clean countertop). This was the biggest change between this recipe and the past tests. I did NOT get those other ones thin enough. In the future I'll revisit a Wheat Thin copycat recipe and see if I can get it thinner. I'm also working on graham crackers (right now, my favorite is this one)

*** If you are interested,  here are some links to a gluten free recipe I Googled.
My field of Green - Gluten Free "Cheez-Its" - and FYI- that blog is adorable! She uses a rice flour and adds some xanthan gum and corn starch.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

What I had for lunch

You know you're curious. How does she really eat?

This is sort of a typical lunch for me these days. I will eat little bites of lots of things based on what I'm feeling like and if I feel like having small bites of many things I do just that. I tend to do it 'salad style' on a bed of greens, depending on what sort of greens we have. My favorite are baby greens with kale and spinach. Baby greens just have such a mild flavor, and can easily be swapped for regular boring iceberg and romaine lettuce. Plus you've just upped your nutritional intake by quite a bit. Note: I typically tend to add the more mature greens like regular kale and spinach to cooked recipes, since their flavor seems to bit a bit stronger to me.

So, in the bowl above this is what I have for today:
- Mixed greens with spinach
- avocado mixed with Fage 0% plain yogurt, red onion, cilantro and lemon juice (avocados are so yummy and pretty cheap right now so this is something we've been doing a lot lately!)
-homemade roasted red pepper hummus
-leftover quinoa, cooked with vegetable broth
-raw zucchini, tomatoes, bell peppers, carrots, and sugar snap peas (cut extras of these to have on hand, as I talked about here)
-on the side, in the pink bag I have half a red grapefruit and I am also having a tiny serving of reduced salt potato chips (not a normal purchase for us, but an occasional 'ok' type of thing, as long as the ingredient list is reduced to something like 'potatoes, safflower oil and salt')
- to drink I have water

What are you having for lunch today?

Tip of the Day: Dealing with Cravings

Cravings are something we pretty much all deal with. Men and women. Don't pretend you're immune to the pull of that bacon cheeseburger you've been thinking about. Or that piece of cheesecake that's been calling your name. Just admit it, everyone has them.

The question is always pretty simple: give in or not to give in? I don't know about you, but I give in. In fact, it's been a pretty key tool in my succeeding this time around with my healthier goals. I've never been very good at restricting my eating. Low carb? Forget that. No sugar? No thanks. I just can't tell myself there is any food that is OFF LIMITS. The minute I do, there is a big red OPEN sign over anything I've tried to restrict.

I tried to go gluten free a few summers ago, something my doctor suggested to aid in weight loss when dealing with a bum thyroid. I think I lasted 3 weeks, got past the detox and was feeling pretty good but I just couldn't deal with all the 'no-no' foods.  I realize there are many reasons people just have to do dietary restrictions. It can be required for all sorts of health issues. I think for some of us though, it can spell disaster when trying to over-restrict.

The lucky thing today is that there are so many ways around a lot of those restrictions, if you're willing to put in the work at home. If you can't find some finger-lickin' chicken strips that cater to the celiac crowd, you can make them at home, probably tastier than at your favorite restaurant. By the way, I've done this with Bob's Gluten Free All Purpose Flour and they were fantastic.

The point is, you can have your cake and eat it too. And you should eat it, if it's something you've been thinking about. Better to eat a reasonable piece now, than the whole cake later.

I think that for me, the trick is to make sure I'm not setting myself up for failure. I buy just one peanut butter cup (or a twin pack to share) as opposed to a bag of miniature ones. Heck, that would set my whole family up. Also, many of the foods we tend to crave, I make at home instead of eating out, using healthy ingredients. Pizza is no longer a bad word in this house. It's a great way for me to deliver a healthy dose of veggies to my kids. We eat it several times a week, actually.

What was your last craving and how did you handle it? Me? I wanted a chocolate croissant. My compromise? I stuffed some whole grain french toast with low-fat cream cheese and Justin's Hazelnut chocolate butter. So good and it was exactly the melty chocolate-y filling that I wanted. Dusted with a little 'powdered sugar' (raw cane sugar ground up in my coffee grinder) and a little melted butter and it really hit the spot.

Friday, January 25, 2013

The Clumsy Housewife Tip of the Day

Here is a great tip to keep snacks and makings for healthy meals on hand all the time. When you are already preparing vegetables for meals, cut up extra to have on hand for snacking. 

I know that we are much more likely to reach for carrots if they are already peeled and cut up. My kids and I don't care for the baby carrots. Something about the flavor and texture of them. The whole carrots just seem sweeter to us, but they are more work to prepare. 

This works for whatever veggies you prepare, whether it's zucchini or yellow squash (pretty yummy when eaten raw and dipped in ranch or hummus), cucumber, carrots and peppers.. all kinds of things. Plus, if I have to cut onion tonight I'd rather cut the entire onion (or two) up and have them ready to go if I know I need them again tomorrow. Actually, we're enjoying the avocados available right now, so having pre-cut onions for a quick guacamole is super convenient and easy. 

That also puts them within reach to make quick salads and lunches to go. 

This might seem like a really no-brainer. However, sometimes I go for weeks without doing it at home and I always notice I snack on vegetables less during that time. 

Is there something you do to simplify your routine for making meals and snacks? 

Get on your feet..

So I've written a lot about nutrition so far but I haven't really touched on exercise at all. Considering that for me, this is probably the biggest change I've made, perhaps it should have been the first thing I wrote about.

I have thyroid disease. In the past I've always complained about not being able to lose weight because of it. I'm not always super active, but in the past I've had some commitment to working out 3-4 times a week with cardio and strength training. When I don't lose weight doing that, and eating healthy I assume it's my thyroid wreaking havoc on my metabolism. This causes me to get frustrated and just give up.

So when I first bought the Fitbit, which really motivated me to get that step number as high as possible everyday, imagine my surprise when Ah ha!! It worked! One thing I realized is that I wasn't as active as a mom as I thought. Don't get me wrong, I'm on the go a lot. Eh, but it's a lot of standing and cooking or driving here and there. Or sitting and doing homework, reading, doing puzzles, playing legos. Even laundry is sort of standing and folding. Which doesn't exactly get the heart rate going.

This is when I started my early morning walks, which turned out to be quite therapeutic for me. I also started parking as far out as I could whenever I did have to drive anywhere. I'm still pretty amazed at the changes I started seeing. I had more energy, and I was sleeping so much better at night! No more laying around for 20-30 minutes+ while I tried to fall asleep. I also found that I had no interest anymore to sit and watch tv. I am always too antsy to get moving.

I also started adding in some cardio at the gym. I tend to stick with the elliptical because I have trust issues with my knees. Once I did some research I realized that it wasn't my knees I needed to have a conversation with, it was my hips and the muscles around my knees. So a quick search on the interwebs and I had some exercises I could do that added in some strength training and core training.

Before I knew it, that 60 days and 10lbs were long gone and I was ready to head to Jamaica. Feeling great, full of energy and excited about where I was at. Not to mention that it was fun to get the girls involved. Having dance parties and bowling challenges on the wii and xbox, and going for long walks to visit some of the other play structures in our neighborhood have been a lot of fun for all of us. Grace gets a kick out of asking me how long it's been since I had soda (for awhile we were tracking it in weeks but now it's months).

In some ways, it was really hard. It was hard to give up soda. That first week was a killer. It was hard cutting back on coffee, but now my one a day is like a serious treat. I still pass by fast food places and think how good that might taste. In other ways though, it was really easy. Once I saw how great I was feeling and how strong I was getting, it made it that much easier to drive past the coffee and fast food drive thru. Plus, when I do indulge I often don't feel so hot the next day.

Now, I know that everyone is different. Not everyone can do the same things and get the same results.

What are some goals you set and reached that have really excited you? Did you set new ones once you reached them?

Now that I've reached my goal weight, the next step for me is to try running. I'm also going to try CrossFit. I bought a groupon for a local place here for 5 classes. We'll see how I feel at the end of that 5 and then I'll decide if I want to keep doing it.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Clumsy Housewife Tip of the Day

I missed yesterday. I wanted so badly to post everyday in these early days of this blog but I assure you I wasn't just out having fun without you. I was sleeping. I woke up feeling 'off'. I didn't even drink my daily iced coffee. Yes, I felt that bad.

Whatever the issue, I felt well enough to post this morning so here I am! I was making myself breakfast this morning, trying to get some basic foods that wouldn't upset my stomach. I chose the stand-bys. Scrambled eggs, a piece of toast and a half a grapefruit (vitamin c!). Now if you *really* knew me you would know what is off about that breakfast. I don't eat grapefruit. What? Seriously though, I have always hated grapefruit. I thought. I mean, I sort of don't like them. I mean, ok, so I haven't even tried one. Probably ever. I really don't like them though. Or do I?

How many of you are guilty of that!! "I don't like that". Are you sure? Maybe it's time to give it another try.

As adults we all have foods we don't like. Spinach, cauliflower, cottage cheese, oatmeal, whatever. It could be anything. You had to eat salmon once as a child and you gagged on it and threw up so you don't like it now. Have you even tried it once since then?

So here is my tip of the day. If you're missing out on some really healthy variety because you 'don't like' certain foods, challenge yourself to try them again. Perhaps you don't like poached salmon. So try seared salmon. Maybe you 'hate' instant oatmeal. So try steel cut, and try it with some fun toppings (and if you can't think of any fun toppings, ask me!). Maybe you hate asparagus but your mom used to boil the heck out of them and they always ended up gray and mushy. Hey, whatever. I'm going to share some of my new tries. And yes, they don't always stick.

In the last two weeks, I've tried beets, turnips, grapefruit and sunflower butter (like peanut butter but with sunflower seeds, great source of protein). Two of these things turned out to be things that I really like. I still need to go back to the drawing boards with beets and turnips. Grapefruits and sunflower butter will probably become regular parts of my diet though.

SO there you go. Sometimes you might surprise yourself. Some of my favorite foods now are foods I swore I didn't like before. Just don't give up on a food. Remember what they tell us with our kids. It takes several tries to start liking a new food. That goes for us too, sometimes.

Clean eating can be a lot easier if you are willing to expand your choices for healthy foods.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Clumsy Housewife Chit Chat

I'm not perfect. I wish I was. Maybe that would be too boring though. Isn't that what they say? I probably would be boring if I didn't do things like let A eat pomegranate arils on the carpet. It wouldn't be nearly as exciting if I had all the laundry folded and put away and clean. What would I do with that extra 10 minutes every morning that I don't spend rifling through piles to get the girls clothes for school?

One thing I really would like to be a little less imperfect in is meal planning. I don't do it. At all. I'm pretty bad about waiting until 3 or 4pm before I really settle on dinner. I have a general idea of things I'd like to make during the course of the week, but I don't really have a schedule I keep.

We do ok, my fall back is lots and lots of veggies. I would love to get more organized with that though.  I think maybe I'll start small. Plan out 3 days in advance. Then once I get the hang of it, I'll go by the week. Maybe I'll get a little crazy and do some food prep on Sundays. Luckily, I think Pinterest is a great place to find ideas for meals.

Do you meal plan? What helps you stick to your plans?

Tip of the day

One thing I'd really like to do with this space is share some tips that have helped me stay on track, not only in my weight loss but in eating clean. I feel like there is always room to learn more, so feel free to share yours with me as well!

So here you go! My very first tip of the day!

When you make grains to eat at dinner, or any meal, make extra to store cooked in the freezer and fridge. Tossing some quinoa, barley or rice onto salads or sautéing with some veggies can make for a super quick and healthy meal. One of the biggest challenges I hear is not having enough time for healthy eating, and boy do I understand that. So keeping extra cooked grains on hand really saves time. Especially since you can use them for so much!

As a new vegetarian, this is especially important for me and my family as they are a good source of protein.

To further demonstrate the versatility this tip has, I'm sharing with you a link to a recipe that I'm enjoying for breakfast this morning. I made extra barley with our dinner last night, and now I'm having it for breakfast!

Cardamom Lemon Pear barley. Sort of a porridge, definitely delicious. The sky is the limits here though, as you can pretty much eat any grain the same way you would enjoy oatmeal.

My photography skills are lacking. No joke, but I promise to get better for you. I omitted the raisins and added a small scoop of walnuts instead. Don't like cardamom? Sub out some cinnamon! So good.

What did you have for breakfast this morning?

Monday, January 21, 2013

Making your bread and eating it too..

One of the hugest changes I've made over the last 5 months is the packaged foods we've stopped buying. Before, you would always find things like pretzels, Wheat Thins, Goldfish crackers and graham crackers. Not terrible when you're eating them in moderation but if they are around, my kids definitely have trouble sticking with proper portioning on them. Plus, even the basic choices have tons of added preservatives and are still very refined.

In some of the research I've done over the past few months, I've learned that actually a natural potato chip (something where the basic ingredients are something like a healthy oil, salt and potatoes) are better than ALL those other snacks. However, I don't want to start a habit of potato chips either.

So I just stopped buying those things altogether. It was a slow process, and I would forget that I had made that decision sometimes. I won't say either, that they never get that stuff anymore. I'm guilty of letting them grab Pirates Booty or Cliff Kids Z bars from the gym. In the end though, the amounts of those things that we're all eating has gone way down.

I struggled with buying bread as well. I remember asking a friend about it, wondering which breads she buys because I'm a label reader, but I still couldn't decipher the processed label to find the one that was best for us. She mentioned Great Harvest Bread Co., which is a fantastic company! I adore every product from there that I have ever purchased. I still remember buying bread from there right after Grace was born and stopping at their Camelback location after pediatrician visits. The truth is though, it *is* expensive. Great quality for sure! Better than you can buy at most stores definitely. However, $6 a loaf for bread when bread is something most families with kids use so much of is just not practical.

Perhaps baking your own bread isn't either. Or is it? I have very little experience with yeast-based breads. I've got a ton of experience baking muffins and cookies and all kinds of things. Yeast? Intimidates me. I'll be honest.

Another friend though, has been doing one of the no-knead methods you can find out there right now. Artisan Breads in 5 minutes a Day and Healthy Bread in 5 minutes a Day. Have you heard of this? They have a great YouTube video you can watch that showcases their method. She's been doing it for awhile and loving it. Eh, I thought. Not for me though.

As I was going through these internal conflicts of obtaining healthy bread, and spent $21 on three (3!!) loafs of bread from that great bakery (it really was delicious though!) I decided to give it a try. I bought the Healthy Breads book for kindle from Amazon, but I wish I had bought a hard copy. I did buy the Artisan Breads book in a hard copy, but I don't use as many of those recipes (though I have bookmarked many to try).

I've been really amazed at how much we enjoy it! However, it's gone through some stages. Early stages were full on 100% whole wheat that my kids wouldn't touch! We've progressed to more of a multi-grain with some unbleached organic white flour that still offers up some fiber and protein without added sugar, fat and preservatives. Each time I make it, I tweak it a little. We're still working on a sandwich-sized loaf too. I wish I had taken pictures of some of the short loafs! The toast is incredible though and we've gotten creative with how we slice it! The girls enjoy their odd-sized pb&j's also. So far we're getting somewhere.

I don't have a recipe to share since I'm still working it out. If you're interested though, check out the youtube video or their book. I think you can even check your local library to browse through it first. I know there are other methods of this no-knead type of baking as well, I just only have experience with the one and we like it a lot.

Have you ever tried making bread? What has your experience been like?

Helpful Tools

I talked about the goals I set in my last post. In the long run though, you can talk about goals until you're blue in the face but it won't really work until you've talked about the tools you have to reach your goals.

This is true no matter what your goals are! These tools don't have to cost a million dollars or even $1. For example, if you want to workout and don't have a gym membership, there are many workouts floating around the internet that just use your own body weight as resistance. Sometimes a tool is just having a support system around you in the form of friends and family.

In my case, I definitely had that! My beautiful cheerleaders and my husband who is game for just about anything stood behind me the whole way, and they continue to do so! I had some other tools too though.

I mentioned in a previous post about my Fitbit. I really believe that this was a major player in my life the last 5 months. I'm a pretty competitive person, so having that reminder to get up and move was pretty challenging.

If you're not familiar with fitbits or other tools like them, head over to and check it out. No, I'm not affiliated with them. I paid for my fitbit completely with my own money. Walked right into Best Buy to purchase it. I put all my own effort into using it and I would do it again in a heartbeat. There are other tools like these, but I had some reasons for choosing Fitbit over these. One is that there was one price to buy this fancy pedometer, but no monthly fee after this to use their website and apps. Another reason is how small and inconspicuous it is. I can where it securely and privately and not have to answer questions about what it is. I had a bodybugg briefly but I was somewhat large and I had to wear it on my upper arm. It was sort of uncomfortable and people stared. So I wore it about a week and gave up.

What this tool does is measures your step counts and stairs climbed for the day. It uses this information in addition to your weight, age and height to calculate what you should be eating in order to reach your goal (whether that goal is to lose weight, gain weight or maintain current weight). I have found that it's pretty accurate for me. In fact, unless I come within a 100 calories of my goal at the end of the day I'm starving by the middle of the night.

It also pairs you up with your fitbit user friends for a list of who's who in the steps ranking. I find that really motivates me! Did I mention I'm a little competitive? It has a few other cool features too, but I'll let you check it out if you're interested. Another cool thing about fitbit is that I was able to sync it up and use it in conjunction with my next tool.

I also mentioned that I used and it's smart phone app to track calories. Now, I'm getting ready to wean off that now that I'm getting so close to my goal weight. However, in my effort to lose that weight, I wanted a user-friendly app to help track things. I've used a few different programs but I found MFP to be the easiest to use, which of course meant I was more likely to keep it up. In my experience, even if I tracked the not-so-healthy things, I felt I was more likely to stay committed if I knew I was going to write it and track it. This included all the days I ate a few too many Christmas cookies. You might not feel comfortable with tracking every calorie, but if you're trying to lose weight at all, sometimes having a journal to look at will help you locate areas you could improve your diet in. Maybe you're having a little too much wine with dinner (5oz or so = around 100 calories), or that pasta serving is bigger than you thought (about the size of the palm of your hand cooked = around 200 calories). It adds up, and it can really help you pinpoint which changes might help you reach your goals.

The thing I learned that was most helpful? How to eyeball a serving of nut butters. I LOVE peanut, almond, sunflower, coconut butters, etc. It can get pretty out of control though when you don't keep an eye on your portion size. It's healthy fat, especially if you're chosing a brand that is void of extra sugars and preservatives but calories are calories and each serving of these types of foods is around 200 calories for 2 tablespoons. So for me, that was a big eye opener.

The last two tools I want to mention are major roles but people don't often think of them that way. One is my water bottle. One of the first things I did was buy some reusable water bottles so I was always able to keep a full bottle with me. I notice right away when I am not drinking enough water, and now I even start sipping as soon as I wake up in the morning. It's one of the first things I tell people when they ask for tips. I even made sure to get all 5 of us a bottle (plus an extra) so that when we're all in the car, we all have enough to drink. Especially one the days that we're super active, or when it's really hot.

The second is to NOT ignore my sweet tooth. Ignoring a craving is one of the easiest ways to lose track. If you feel like you can't keep a supply of something in the house, a single-serve something is better than nothing. For me, it's dark chocolate. Luckily I love the stuff and I can be healthy when it's a good quality product and eaten in moderation. I also make sure to eat it slowly and really taste it. However, I've even had not-so-healthy things like Sour Punch Straws and 3 Musketeers. I know not to buy huge bags of those things, but the occasional indulgence makes it much easier for me to stay on the right track.

I'm sure there are other tools I could mention here, but those are the ones I felt most like getting into.

What tools help you during your day?

2013 Goals

I have never been a big fan of New Years' Resolutions. After all, most of them are forgotten by the time the Super Bowl rolls around. I noticed it at my gym this past 3 weeks. The first week of January was packed, no matter the time of day. The second week was a little less so. Now it's just about back to normal.

Setting these resolutions seems to set us up for failure. I think perhaps it's the mindset. We put too much pressure on ourselves. Then we beat ourselves up when we have the first hiccup. Sometimes that causes the second one. You know the one I'm talking about.

"Well, I ate that bag of peanut butter M&M's yesterday so I might as well have an extra piece of that cake my co-worker brought in"

"I haven't been to the gym since Monday. Now it's Saturday. Might as well just forget about it, I've already failed".

Those are pretty powerful words. Failed. Failure. I suck. I'm terrible at this. I just ate my body weight in sugar. Blech.

Seldom do we get back up, dust ourselves off and keep pushing. The mind is a powerful thing, especially when it's beating the crap out of our self-worth.

However, I think goals are very important. Especially when they are set up to be attainable. Looking back to August (which really has come to be known as a significant time for me), I did set those goals up and I realize now that I set them up so that I wouldn't feel bogged down in impossible dreams. I don't know if I realized that I was doing it at the time. I was so desperate to succeed though, and I knew that in the past that I've not succeeded so I wanted to try something different. Something I hadn't done before.

One thing was that I wanted to lose 8 pounds in 60 days, which is just over 8 weeks. Jamaica was my big motivator there. I had to wear a bathing suit and I wanted to feel comfortable in one and I knew that I didn't at the time.

The second goal was giving up soda. I told myself that if I made it through the first 7 days, and I wanted one that I could have one.

The third goal was to try and cut back on packaged and processed foods.

My last goal was a big one. I really really wanted to be a good role model for my girls. How could I tell them NOT to drink soda if I was drinking it? How could I explain why fast food is bad for them while I was eating it myself?

Then I looked at these goals and told myself to take them one day at a time. It wasn't easy. In the beginning I found that I wanted to give up pretty early on in the day. So I realized that I needed a way to ground myself before my busy day with the kids began. I would put out some clothes at night, plus my shoes and some socks and a bottle for water right on my dresser. Before anyone else would wake up in the morning, I would head out with my iPod and a bottle of water. I walked. I sorted out my goals in my head. I would think about the previous day and how I wanted to improve upon the things that I ate. I would clear my head and watch the sunrise. I hadn't really watched a sunrise in years.

Mostly I would think about my kids, and the example I was setting for them. My resolve would reset for the day and I would come home feeling strong and ready to face the challenges of the day.

I think if I were really honest, I'd have to say that these walks were what got me through those early weeks of junk-food detoxing. I'm so thankful to my husband for being supportive of that routine, even on the weekends when that meant he would have to get up with the girls while I finished walking.

I haven't been on an early morning walk in awhile. Mostly because I'm chicken of the cold. To this day though, a good solitary walk really helps to ground myself when I'm having a rough day.

By the way, I never did drink another soda.

I have set some new goals for the next 6 months or so. I plan to use some of the tricks and tips I have found work for me to attain those.

- Start running. I've been really working on strengthening my hip and leg muscles so that my knees will have a better support system. My knees have always been my excuse for not running in the past.

- Learn my way around my newly vegetarian kitchen. Rely on dairy and cheese less and less as I learn about alternative protein sources

- Try to help other people learn more about healthy, clean eating.

- Try my hand at gardening.

- Continue to rely less and less on packaged foods for my family, involving the girls in this process.

Have you set up any goals for the year? How are you doing on them, and what are your steps for reaching them?

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Telling the kids

I have 3 beautiful girls. They are my best achievements in my life. As a parent, one of the biggest worries I have is making sure they grow up to have healthy body images. It's tough, as outside influences can sneak in through television, billboards, magazines, friends, books, etc.

We've always had some rules in our house that might seem a bit odd to other families. I feel for us, they were the right rules. One is that I'm never modest about my body with them. I don't shy away if they walk in on me in the bathroom. I never want them to think I'm ashamed of my body. I've answered their questions as honestly as possible. "Mommy, what are those lines and why is your stomach so lose?" and others. I don't get defensive and I let them know that they can always come to me with those questions.

So in the early stages of my changes I wanted to have some conversations with them about these things and I wanted to make sure that I handled it delicately. Here are some phrases that I never ever use at all:

"I'm too fat"

"I need to lose weight"

"I can't eat that, it's too fattening" (or insert any other word like sugar, 'bad for me', etc)

"I hate the way I look"

"this outfit makes me look fat"

Or pretty much any other thing that was self-deprecating. When I fielded questions about things I explained in a way that focused on what was healthy versus what isn't. I also focused on the idea that there are things that aren't healthy, that doesn't mean we can't ever eat them. It only means that we should not eat them everyday. There were exceptions to this, I explained, that I was going to follow for me. One being NO soda. The other was to cut out refined sweeteners, weaning down what we already had in our house and replacing them with natural versions. I also explained what it means to be a refined sweetener and processed food vs. a whole or clean food.

On the flip side, I often talk about feeling healthy and having energy and then silly things like feeling pretty.

"I feel great today!"

"I love that I had a healthy breakfast this morning, it makes me feel ready to tackle the day"

"Mommy feels really pretty in this sweater"

and sometimes teasingly

"Doesn't this apron make mommy look beautiful?"

I feel like taking the focus OFF the actual weight is the best thing in the long run. I have heard young girls as young as 6 or 7 making comments about mayo being too fattening and needing to be thin and it just breaks my heart.

Of course we have had some challenges. "Mommy, why are your pants so baggy"..

In that case, I explain that in my quest to be healthier with the foods I chose and the exercise I do, my body is changing as it lets go of some of the fat I don't need anymore; that I HAVE fat, but I am NOT fat. As I gain muscle from exercising, I am getting healthier and that muscle is healthier, but smaller. That has been more awkward to explain in a way that makes it sound like a 'healthy side effect'. So far though, they seem to get it. It helps that they seem to learn a lot about their bodies at school. So for example, they were both fully supportive of my accomplishments when I gave up soda because they had heard at school just how bad it is and how full of refined sugar it is.

I also make sure that I praise their healthy choices as well. When they chose to join me for walks, or chose fruit for a snack. Of course, I let them know that it's ok to have a treat sometimes as long as it's in small amounts every now and then. This is of course just the tip of the iceberg when raising healthy kids. I feel like I'm making a good start though.

The best part is that I have the greatest cheerleaders! I know that will enable me to be their biggest cheerleader in life also.

Small Changes

Going back to August, when the "Big Change" as it's come to be known in our house occured, I'd like to go into some of the smaller changes that brought about the big ones.

First off, I need to address depression. We could do a whole other post or many of them on depression in this country. This however is just how it affected me. I've suffered from it off and on for what I now realize is probably for the last 14 years or so. Perhaps if you believe that one is what they eat, then I just wasn't taking the best care of myself. Whatever caused it, I suffered mentally and emotionally in some way for more than the last decade. Even if it was just being very down on myself all the time. I still remember meeting my husband and wondering what it was he saw in me.

Through three pregnancies things got a bit worse. I had what I would finally call 'depression' after C was born. When I finally realized this is what it was, I then realized that I must have been depressed after my oldest, G, was born as well. I went on a medication and while I immediately felt in a better mood, I also felt very numb. Bad things would happen and I would feel very "whatever" about it. Which is great, but on the same level when something good would happen I was very "whatever" as well.

I weaned off this medication, which was a horrible experience, to get pregnant with A. I was fine during the pregnancy. I think that I was born to be pregnant. As soon as she was born, I went back on that medication. This time, post-partem depression wasn't going to get me. It didn't, and life went on for more than a year. I weaned off it again, by myself and once again had a horrible experience with it. I swore I would never go back on any anti-depressant. I wanted to try to treat the symptoms, not just medicate them.

Over the next year, my husband and I tried to fix some of the things we felt were adding to my stress and we really nailed a lot of things. The one thing we couldn't do anything about though was a huge area of stress. It was just not in our power to change it at the time (and still isn't really). It isn't an option for me to see a counselor right now given our insurance situation (another subject worthy of an entire series of posts all it's own). So I took myself to my general practitioner and fell on her mercy. She calmly discussed all the things about the previous medication that I liked and what I didn't like. She asked if I would be willing to try another medication or if I had definitely ruled that out. She told me about another new medication (which, I'll admit was a huge red flag for me) but she said that it was having some great results with patients who had previously not liked the other medication. I decided to take a chance and try it.

Now, whether you feel for or against this type of thing is not up for debate here on this page. I'm not looking for validation or judgement. I'm simply explaining how I came to be on that last week of August when I finally decided to take my health into my own hands and do something about it.

The first 3-4 weeks was miserable. Luckily, I had done some research and found that this was not unusual for this drug. I was having trouble sleeping at night, but I could barely stay awake during the day. I craved carbs much more than usual. I had some horrible GI trouble. However, I felt better. There were so many positive changes I just can't even begin to describe them. I felt more affectionate towards my husband. I've never been very good at initiating physical contact. I always feel awkward and maybe a little scared of rejection. Even after 10 year of marriage. I think my husband had gotten used to it and knew that, but I do think it bothered him some. After about 3 weeks, for the first time I felt comfortable initiating things and even feeling desire for that contact. Get your head out of the gutters people, I'm just talking about hugs, and kissing and whatnot. That is still huge though, and has made a big change for the two of us.

My enjoyment with my kids grew by leaps and bounds. Not that I have unlimited patience, but I found that I was just in love with them.

So once those nasty side effects lessened (just like my doc had said they would) I started feeling this desire to get moving more. We had this big vacation planned for our 10 year anniversary and I sort of jokingly said that maybe I should start taking care of myself so I wouldn't hate being in a bathing suit for the whole week we were there. This was Labor day weekend, 2012. I did the whole "I'll start on Tuesday, right after the holiday". Isn't that always the way? It's like you can't start healthy eating on a weekend.

I've done this before. Often, in fact. Friday I'll say "I'll start on Monday". It always feels so forced and without any meaning behind it. I told myself though, that I have roughly 60 days before Jamaica and that I wanted to create some new habits by then.

Tuesday dawned and I felt very committed. I asked around for the best website for journaling your calorie intake. I felt that this was a necessary step as I re-taught myself all the proper portioning for things. A serving of chicken breast isn't the one giant breast that comes in the frozen bag. A serving of fruit isn't the entire giant apple. So I needed to break some of those habits. More than one friend suggested (and their smart phone app) so I checked it out and found it very user-friendly and started right away.

That wasn't the only change I wanted to make though. I wanted to start eating very clean. I wanted to cut out all the things I knew I shouldn't be eating. Even those things that are advertised as though they are healthy additions to your diet. Things like Wheat Thins and flavored yogurts and whatnot. Plus, my Dr. Pepper habit was out of control! My coffee habit was what I'll now admit was disgusting. Huge frappuccinos loaded with fat and sugar and whipped cream with more fat and more sugar. So my goal wasn't just to lose weight. That was a big goal, but the even bigger one was going clean. I knew that if I did that, the weight would come off. I also knew that if it didn't, I would still be healthier for it.

The second thing I did was buy a FitBit. I felt like I needed help in how much to eat. Now matter how healthy you eat, your calories in should at least equal your calories out. For weight loss, they should be less than calories out. At least, this is what all the experts will tell you. I was skeptical, I felt like my metabolism was very low due to my thyroid disease. I was willing to give it a shot though. If you're not familiar with Fitbits, head over to sometime and check it out. I'll probably do a whole separate post about it. For now, I'll just state that I wasn't nearly as active as I previously thought I was.

Pretty big changes for one week. I was committed though, and had 60 days to make it stick. Stay tuned.

Why the name?

I felt the need to explain to my husband where I came up with The Clumsy Housewife. I felt a little silly because I always feel like I'm not very good at coming up for names for things. I'd be terrible in advertising. Tide would be called Blue Chemical Liquid Clothes Cleaner if it were up to me.

As a mom and wife I'm pretty good at most of the jobs I have. I'm a decent chauffeur, a great cheerleader, awesome chef and nurse. There are other things I'm horrible at. I can't do hair. I keep mine short and the most creative hairstyle my kids get are pigtails (called piggies here at home). Most of the time my house is kept in a state of 'neat clutter'. I have to do dishes probably 3-4 times a day because I'm not very skilled at the 'clean as you go' thing. My daughters' clean clothes never gets hung up or ironed and half the time they don't even match. Yesterday I didn't even brush their hair before leaving the house. My car is a pigsty pretty much all the time. However, at least the last 5 months there are no junk food wrappers in there. Now it's just all empty reusable water bottles, orange peels, various clothing items and magazines/junk mail. So I have that going for me. Still, a pigsty nonetheless.

So most days I fumble through trying to get things done and stay somewhere near the top of the to-do pile. I feel clumsy. This probably has something to do with my perception of other women, those I see at the gym and grocery store who are wearing makeup and have children who seem to behave in public and seem to have things together. I feel like I'm lucky if my clothes match when I get out the door and my hair isn't sticking up in the back.

Still, I do my best everyday and what more can I ask of myself? My husband and children love me and I know I'm the force that keeps our family together and running. Anyway, that is where I came up with the name.
Here I go again. Starting another new blog that I hope people will read. I feel like I have some important things to say though, so I'll give it a shot.

There are a million blogs about healthy living, clean eating and cutting back on processed foods. Especially from women with children who are trying to make sure they're raising their kids as healthy as possible. So while this type of blog might be a dime a dozen, we still have a long way to go regarding the huge issues we face today. Diabetes, obesity, heart-disease and cancer to name a few. Plus the other big issues like GMO's and getting access to fresh local organic food. Additionally, don't even get me started on the current state of things regarding our access to healthy, sustainable meat and dairy.

I'm a stay-at-home mom for now. I had a job at one point, but it was nothing I was super interested in. So when my first daughter was born it was a pretty easy transition to not working, and thankfully financially it sort of work out. Now it's been nearly 8 years and I have changed such a great deal in that time. For several years my main interest has shifted over to nutrition, health and physical fitness. Not that I've always walked the walk, but I could certainly talk the talk.

I ended this past summer though, mom to 3 girls ranging in age from 7 down to 2, twenty pounds overweight and very unhappy with the way I was eating. Unhappy with the way we were eating as a family. Too much takeout, way too much sugar and too little moving. Not that I wasn't still conscious of how I was feeding the girls. They don't drink soda and very little juice and other heavily processed snack foods and cookies etc. However, there were still too many trips to McDonalds and too many boxes of crackers and things.

Personally, I was heavily drinking too much soda and stopping for coffee way too much. At home, we ate pretty healthy. However, on the go hitting the drive-thru was not only super common but actually expected. Running late? Hit the drive-thru. Oh, you're hungry? Hit the drive-thru. I'm almost ashamed to write that.

So there I was in late August, turning 34 and pretty unhappy with the way I was feeling (tired, sluggish, wishing I felt more confident with my body, etc) and facing a trip to Jamaica with my husband at the end of October. Maybe that was jump I needed. The jump to go from living the way I *knew* was bad for me and horrible for my husband and children to the way I *knew* was the right way for us.

So fast forward to the present. It's now January, 5 months later. We've had a very big Fall and Winter. We went to Jamaica, I lost 15 pounds, and the Holiday season has come and gone. We also said good bye to my wonderful mother-in-law. I'll miss her everyday. Her passing from cancer has fueled my fire and made it that much more important to eat as whole and clean as possible.

So having said all that, my goal with this blog is to share my story. How we took a step back, evaluated our habits and changed them slowly. Also my personal journey, which has been bigger than anyone could ever know. I'll try to include recipes (though my photograph skills are seriously lacking), tips, stories from current events that involve nutrition and just try to answer questions. How to do this on a budget, how to deal with picky eaters (mine are as picky as they come and it's a daily struggle with them), how to fit in exercise when you're on the go constantly. I'll try to get some feedback from working moms and dads also, because really I think that is where some of the biggest challenges parents face and I'm in awe of every working mom and dad I know. I'm so lucky that not only do I get to be at home with girls, but that because I want to be at home with them, we have been able to do that. I'm also lucky because my husband works from home and while it can sometimes be overwhelming, on the whole it's been awesome. It probably won't last forever, but for now it's working for us. Having said this, I know that we are in a much different position from the average dual-working parent household or single-working parent household. So we'll try to cover things from all angles.

So I hope that I find some readers and that you enjoy the things you read here and more importantly that I can share my interest in a positive way that will help make good changes. Come back soon!