Thursday, March 27, 2008

Sign 'O The Season - Fresh Produce!

Spring is here!  Well, at least that's what I'm told, because it's just rainy and blah here in the Midwest.  Still waiting for gloriously sunny days and blooming flowers and trees!
Either way, now is the time to acquaint yourself with a local produce stand.  Having fresh fruit and veggies in the house is the number one way to make sure that you eat fresh fruit and veggies everyday!  Plus, produce typically needs to be bought more often than your other grocery items, so finding a quick-stop stand close by will help keep your produce bins stocked.  

With the start of spring, the local produce stands are beginning to fill their shelves with some of our favorites.  Now's a good time to find a few in your area to check out and figure out which one your most likely to shop on a regular basis.  Local produce stands will typically sell more-locally grown foods than the typical supermarket, and are usually cheaper to boot!  Not to mention the satisfaction of keeping your money in your community and supporting your mom & pop shops!  Since it might mean an extra shop in your weekly grocery route, I find the most convenient location wins over almost anything else for this busy mom!

Not sure where to start in your search?
On, search for Fruit & Vegetable Markets in your area code.
On Yahoo Yellowpages, I found it a bit harder, but searching for "Food and dining produce" got the best results.  
On MSN Yellowpages, I got great results with a simple "produce" search in my zip code.  
(Why they have to be unique and difficult is beyond me!)

And don't forget for old fashioned word of mouth - ask neighbors, friends, family where they like to shop locally.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Jumpin' With My Baby?

I'm learning quickly that living with a toddler is the best form of exercise!  We've been dancing, strollercizing in the yard, and this morning...learning to Jump!  I started with squat kicks out to the front, and my son started imitating me, running around, kicking his leg out to the front.  Then we squat jumped - and then the fun really began.  He's not quite two years old, so he can't actually get air under both his feet.  All the more reason to keep practicing!  But ten minutes of squat kicks and squat jumps was enough to get me winded, him laughing, and ensure many more jumping sessions ahead!

Monday, March 24, 2008


Easter is second only to Halloween when it comes to candy overload.  My son ate more candy yesterday on Easter than he has in his entire (albeit short) life!  So what to do on the day after?
First, I emptied out all the candy.  All wrapped candy went into a large Ziploc (or more than one if necessary!), and the lose candy (random M&M's, Jelly Beans, Malted Egg Balls, etc) went into another.  All candy in one place, no secret stashes!

What to do next depends on the age of the kids in your home.  
If you only have young children who don't really understand that the candy fairy dumped pounds of candy on them yesterday...
Decide how much candy you want your little one to have - there is no right or wrong answer, and none is OK, too!  My son also has a small hallow bunny, so I decided on one piece of wrapped candy per day for this week.  I have set that aside in a baggie with his name - one piece per day, perhaps for a mid-morning snack.  Enough time to let the sugar burn off!

If you have older children who are very aware of the candy in the house....
Decide how much candy you really want them to have each day, and let them pick out what they want to keep.  One to three pieces a day is reasonable.  The amount is not negotiable, but which pieces to keep is their decision.  You'll quickly learn what their favorites are!

So how much for you and the hubby?  Again, this is your decision.  For us, that bag of loose candy that we have is more than enough for this week.  (Four plastic eggs full of M&Ms and a handful of malted egg balls.)  Plus helping our son eat his hallow bunny! If we didn't have the loose candy, I'm thinking no more than two pieces a day for the week is plenty - again, you have to decide how this candy fits into your 80/20 rule!  

Now what do you do with all that extra Easter Candy?  For the wrapped candy.....
  • Send it to work with your hubby!  It really doesn't matter where your husband works, surely there are adults without children there who did not have the Candy Fairy, er, Easter Bunny visit this weekend!
  • Bless your neighbors!  If you have any childless-neighbors, divvy up your remaining wrapped candy into smaller Ziplocs and be a belated Easter Bunny for them.  Maybe they want it, maybe they don't, but it's the gesture that counts.  And it's out of your house!
  • Craigslist or Freecycle!  If you live in any community of size, you may very well have a Craigslist or Freecycle that serves you.  Check out their sites, and post a FREE ad!  Give away your candy to the first person willing to drive to your house.  Worried about the stranger pick-up?  Place your candy in a tied-up grocery sack and leave it on the front porch with that person's name.  
  • Donate it!  I'm not sure candy is the reason food banks were set up, but find a place in town that services the needy.  Food banks, churches, shelters, etc.  Throw in a canned good or two, and I'm sure they'd be happy to take your candy!
  • Throw it away!  As drastic as this may be, if all the options above don't work for you, just throw it away.  The tree-hugger in me doesn't like this idea so much, but honestly, it's candy - there's no nutrition, someone else isn't necessarily better off because they have it instead of you!  
As for the unwrapped, loose candy you may have left over, just throw it away, too.  Children in China are just fine without all that extra candy!

And Next Year?  Plead with your family to give a little less candy and a little more love!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Stroller your Yard!

There's nothing better than discovering new ways to workout that are fun and easy - and I made such a discovery just yesterday!  After all this gloom and doom weather we've been having in Missouri, yesterday was in the sixties and we had...Sunshine!  Rather than sit inside and enjoy the glorious sun from the confines of my comfy couch, the hubby and I decided to clean up the garage a bit.  
We had the jogging stroller (on loan from FitMomma Colleen!) out and set up for cleaning, and my son was rather adamant about going for a ride.  So I strapped him in, and we ended up running around our front yard in a figure eight - and within a minute or two I realized what a good workout I was getting while entertaining my kid!  WooHoo!  My hubby, and probably my neighbors, thought I was a fruit loop, but the kid was laughing his head off, and I was working hard!  

These are the little gems that can be found - if any of you have any great workout ideas that aren't really workouts, let me know!  And I think I need to come up with a term for this - any ideas?  Fakeouts?  Funexercise?  Ugh, I'm drawing a blank!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

You Don't Have To Be Perfect

To achieve the model or celebrity bodies that we crave, most of us would have to achieve perfection of our diet and exercise first - and most of us are even aiming for this perfection!  We know what we need to eat, we know what we need to do physically, so there's no reason for us not to just be perfect at all times.  Right?  EH, not even close!  

So let's just get this out there right now, and admit to yourself - say it out loud - I do not have to be perfect!  There is no such thing.  Those who try to achieve perfection lead incredibly unfulfilled lives, because perfection cannot (and really, should not!) be attained!  While it is possible that we could live our lives like drill sergeants, eating just so, maximizing every minute of our day to attain perfect bodies, the fact is that we're human, we're moms and our days on this earth are numbered - so we should make the best of them!

Think about what you want to attain, set your goals, set a plan in action - and then give yourself room to be human.  Rather than focus on how you failed in your diet today, focus on how well you did do, and how much you enjoyed and savored that dalliance in your diet!  Keep in mind that most of us seeking a fit and healthy lifestyle are eating better than the average American - so your bad day is likely better than most people's good day!  And you're probably eating better than you have in your life.

If you're looking for some practical info in this post, I found a great gauge for living a fit and healthy lifestyle - the 80/20 Rule.  Do what you're supposed to do 80% of the time, and don't beat yourself up about the other 20.  This is not an Amy-ism, I found this little nugget from Pamela Peeke and the Body For Life For Women.  Eat what you know you should, workout like you know you should, and then let the other 20% of the time go.   This rule stuck with me, and I have found that I'm less stressed about my overall health by keeping this in mind and forgiving myself for not being perfect.  Being less stressed in and of itself will aide in your health - so give yourself a break.  

Monday, March 17, 2008

The Importance of Water

I like to describe myself as someone who likes to go with the flow - take things in stride, let things roll off my shoulder, run with things rather than fight them.  But the flow I'm talking about today is not about being laid back, but about water.  Agua.  Eau.
To be truly fit and healthy, we all need to embrace the miracle of water.  It is the wonder drug of being healthy, so put those diet pills away and read on.  What can water do for you?
*Give you energy
*Is a natural appetite suppressant (so drink a glass before each meal!)
*Boost your metabolism (are you saying Woo-Hoo yet?)
*Rid your body of toxins, i.e. random crap floating around in your body
*Make your skin glow (save money on all those beauty products)
*Keep headaches at bay
*Keep your digestive system running....smoothly

What I'm afraid is that you already know this, and yet you still aren't drinking all you should.  Or, worse, you're sabotaging your intake.  What to do?

~Well, first, be aware that for every cup of coffee, soda or alcohol, you need to drink an extra cup of water.  Alcohol and caffiene rid your body of water, so you need to replenish that.

~You also need to make sure you drink extra water when working out to replace all you lose when you sweat.

~If you don't love the taste of water, try one of these two suggestions.
First, add some citrus.  Buy some fresh lemons, limes or oranges, cut into wedges and give a squeeze to each cup.  
Secondly, give Crystal Light (or whatever generic you like) at try.  Be aware of the fake sweetener in this stuff, and go easy on how much you use.  I use those single serving packets, and one packet gets me through 2-3 bottles of water.  
Edited to add:  FitMomma Jodi suggested sliced up cucumbers as well!

~There are many schools of thought on how much you should drink, but I find the most reasonable gauge is to drink in ounces half of your body weight.  So, if you're 140 pounds, shoot for 70 ounces of water.  Does that sound CRAZY?  Well, small bottles of water are 16.9, and those sport tops are usually 24 ounces.  Three 24oz bottles, with a bit of citrus or Crystal Light if you need the flavor, and you're golden.

~Get it out of your head that drinking more water will cause you to gain water weight.  If anything, not drinking enough will cause you gain water weight, as your body starts storing it (not unlike a water buffalo) when it thinks it's going to run out.  The more you drink, the better your kidneys work, and the more you'll be a-peein'.  Which gets me to....

~Just come to terms with the fact that as you increase your water intake, you will be in the bathroom constantly as your body adjusts.  It's like your 9th month of pregnancy, but not as uncomfortable.

~Feelin' sluggish?  A bit out of sorts?  Like you're swimming in mud?  You're probably dehydrated.  Drink your water.  This is your mother talking.  OK, this is a mother talking, but still.  Make the commitment to drink more water, carry it with you, drink it instead of soda, and you'll be stunned at how much better you feel after a few days.  And if I'm wrong...well, you're mother told you so.  

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Importance of Cardio, Strength Training AND Flexibility

There are only so many hours in the day, and some movement is better than no movement. So do not let this post stress you out, and give you an excuse to sit on the couch and eat ice cream. Though that is one of my favorite things to do!  But I digress...

While getting up and moving any which way you can is the first step to a fit and healthy lifestyle, I wanted to take the time to explain why the kind of movement is also important.  I won't go into depth on each of these right now, but here's an overview on the three types of movement you want to strive for each week....

This shouldn't be news to you, but cardio burns fat.  Period.  Do you want more than that?  Well, it boosts metabolism, strengthens your heart, helps you sleep, regulates your mood....I could go on.  Cardio is the foundation of most people's workout routines, and it's pretty easy to work it in.  Walking, running, aerobics, dancin' with your baby, even housework qualifies.  If it gets your heart rate up into your target heart rate, it's cardio, and it's good.  Aim for 45-60 minutes of moderate Cardio or 20-30 of intense Cardio at least 3x a week.  

Strength Training
Cardio helps you burn fat in the few hours after your workout.  Toned Muscle burns fat while you sleep.  Seriously, did you read that last sentence.  Burn Fat While You Sleep!  That's freakin' ingenious!  This is also why when you and your hubby start a weight loss program together, he loses more right away - he has that toned muscle working for him while he sleeps while you...well...don't.  That's where strength training comes in.  A set of 3lb and 5lb weights is all it takes to get you started.  Again, I'll post more later, but here's a good place to start for some basic information.  And please note - you will not become a beheamoth by working your muscles.  Think buff, not bulge!  Shoot for 20-30 minutes 2x per week.

Stretching and Flexibility
You weren't expecting this, were you?  Well, dedicated stretching workouts, like Yoga or Pilates, do wonders for your body - alleviate back pain, tone long, lean muscles, and find a sense of relaxation and peace through the breathing exercises that accompany the movements.  Your whole demeanor will change once you add Yoga or Pilates to your routine - you'll feel lighter...and you'll look lighter!  Here's a beginner's site, but I really like this Yoga for Beginners book.  Aim for 30-45 minutes at least twice a week - more if you can.  If we all did daily yoga, there'd be a little more love in the world!

So while there's plenty more to say about each of these subjects - and don't worry, I will - this is hopefully an explanation on the importance of a little diversity in your workout routine.  Now I'll get working on that one move that incorporates all three at the same time - to save all us momma's time, right?  

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Dancin' with my baby

This past week has been incredibly stressful, and tomorrow AM will be the first time I workout in a week. But I've found that I can still get a lot of activity in by doing something so simple and fun with my toddler....shakin' our groove thang! Between family and friend stress, this past week just hasn't allowed for me to workout for an hour or even 30 minutes. But with the little one, I turn on the radio, and we both just dance! Dance in place, dance around the house, I chase him, he chases me! And it's fun! And it wears me out!

Is your little one still too little dance on his or her own? There's no reason you can't hold your lil' bebe and dance together - they'll love the motion and you'll burn a few more calories lugging the extra weight.

Need some inspiring music? Well, almost any station on the radio works, or try some kid-friendly selections. My little guy LOVES the Backyardigans, and we frequently play their Groove to the Music CD. A FitMomma recently turned me onto Laurie Berkner for some fun, kid friendly tunes that won't have you wanting to stick a fork in your eye. You may have heard Laurie's band if you watch Jack's Big Music Show on Noggin'.

No matter what melody you choose to shake your booty to, dancin' with your baby not only gets your heart rate up and burns calories - it's an amazing way to play and bond with your kiddo!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

In need of a little inspiration?

I received an email today from a very good friend, and not a friend who tends to get sappy! So when Renee says here's something amazing, I know it really must be!

You may ask what this has to do with being a FitMomma? Well, I believe being fit and healthy is not only a physical thing, but a mental thing as well. We have to work on both the outside and the inside.

This may be the most inspirational thing I've ever seen. If you are a regular Oprah watcher, you have probably already seen this.

NOTE: This is 11 1/2 minutes long. Set aside the time to watch - it is worth it.
Randy Pausch reprising his "Last Lecture"

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Looking for the Best Workout Video?

If you like to workout at home using exercise videos....well, I'm not much help in that department because I pretty much suck at working out to videos at home. We're cleaning out the basement right now, and today I came across my stash of workout tapes...that I never use! Buns of Steel, Abs of Steel, Tae Bo, Windsor Pilates, The Firm.....ugh, the money I have spent!

However.....I know that there are those of you who LOVE workout tapes, who, in fact, thrive on working out in the privacy of your own home, without anyone else passing judgement on either your form or those workout pants. And I applaud you. So here is my gift to you...

Collage Video is the single best source for those who use workout videos at home. They don't just SELL videos, they DO them. And if the workouts SUCK, they don't sell them just to make a buck! The descriptions are written by those professionals who've done the workouts, so there's no hype. Their online search will get you exactly what you're looking for, or you can peruse their paper catalog by category. I can't vouch for their prices, but their expertise and independent reviews are unmatched.

I expect their check in the mail any day. In the meantime, enjoy that gift...from me to you.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

How to Eat Better Everyday

I think we all get that we're supposed to move more and eat better.  We tend to be an all-or-nothing society, however, and most of us will decide to go on a diet and radically change what we're used to doing everyday.  And then we won't stick with it and we beat ourselves up and give up.  And then we do it all again when the next fad diet comes out.

However, a great way to get started on eating better is to just change a few things every day.  Let's not start off by drastically changing everything we know about Food.  Let's start with little things.  Here are some basic ideas for eating better everyday.  They've been gathered from books, magazines, FitMommas readers and general experience.  Please feel free to post more!

Follow the 80% rule.  Eat what you should 80% of the time, and use the 20% to enjoy what you're craving.  A piece of cake at a party.  A piece of chocolate after dinner.  A margarita.  A small cup of ice cream from Dairy Queen.

Don't deprive yourself.  Eat an alternative snack first.  If you still can't stand it, and need that chocolate or fried food or whatever your vice is, then eat it!  Eat it slowly, savor every bite.  Chalk it up to your 20%.  Then Move On.

Do NOT buy junk food.  If it's not in the house, you can't eat it!  Tell your hubby and kids to get over it.  I did it to my husband - no soda or chips in the house!  If you're going to someone's house and you don't know what crap food they may have out, bring your own snack.  It may or may not work, but at least you tried!

Keep LOTS of healthy options readily at hand.  If I had to prepare each snack, I wouldn't eat it.  It's easy to open a bag of chips - it's also easy to grab an apple, orange or banana.  So have those in the house at all times!  ALL TIMES!  And even in the winter, you can find fresh fruit at the grocery stores.
Other snack ideas:
  • A small bowl or Dixie cup full of dried or freeze dried fruit.
  • An apple with string cheese or tablespoon of natural peanut butter.
  • Mix lo-fat cottage cheese with berries (this is heavenly and will sometimes curb my craving for ice cream.)
  • Buy and eat l0-fat yogurt.  The benefits of yogurt are amazing.  You can buy Activia in bulk at Costco!
  • A handful of almonds or walnuts.
  • Lo-fat and lo-sugar granola bars.
  • Whole wheat crackers and lo-fat cheese
  • Any combo of healthy-for-you carb with lo-fat protein - the protein keeps you satisfied longer than carbs alone!
Make the bad stuff better.  Pick off the pepperoni and sausage and pat the grease off of the pizza.  Use lo-fat ingredients in traditional recipes.  Order a burger, but hold the cheese and mayo.  Rethink those "bad" foods and see if you can reinvent them.  And don't forget to tell us your new creations!

Pile on the Veggies.  Make your dinner plate 50% vegetables.  Fresh, frozen, canned - whatever works to get them on your plate.  A salad with a lo-fat dressing and some sunflower seeds works great too!  Do you prefer to douse them in butter?  Then.....

Give a few fake foods a try.  For the most part, I don't endorse "diet" foods.  I tend to think that the chemicals that make them lo-fat or lo-sugar are worse than just eating the fat or sugar!  But there are a handful of things I take advantage of, and one of those things is Spray Butter!  I'm a huge fan, use it on everything.  I LOVE butter, and a few spritz's of the zero calorie/zero fat fake butter does wonders for the veggies.  Sometimes I still use a pat of real butter, as to limit the fake food in my life.  Sometimes I'll do a little of each, when I really want a butter-overload flavor!

Embrace the glory of the No-Sugar-Added Fudgscicle.  Whomever invented these should get a Nobel Prize.  You can buy them anywhere, but I recommend the Aldi version.  Cheaper than dirt, always in stock and just as yummy.

Go grocery shopping at least once a week.  You can't have healthy, fresh food on hand if you only go shopping once in a blue moon.  Schedule it as an appointment the same day every week if you need to.  And be sure to have a nice, full belly when you go.  Everything seems like a need when you're starving!

Buy or Create Your Own snack packs.  You can eat your Oreos and lose weight, too!  OK, you can eat your Oreo crisps and pay a pretty penny, but still, the idea is good!  Either stock up on the store-bought packs at Costco or Sams.  Or, even better, Create Your Own!  Take some of your favorite snacks and some small, sealable sandwich bags.  Take a look at the nutritional panel to what their serving is, and then create your own snack packs.  The key here is not to eat 10 packs in one sitting!

Stay Out of the Drive Thru!  I know you're hungry and Mickey D's is right there.  But you know you can't resist the sweet smell of their sugar and salt covered fried potatoes!  If you're frequently in need of a quick fix on the road, keep some of those easy snacks in the car.  Weather will dictate what you can tote around, but in general, granola bars, your homemade snack packs, nuts - all good items on the go!  Just keep the string cheese at home in the middle of the summer!

Get your family and friends on board.  Even if they aren't going to participate, make sure those people you spend lots of time with and eat with know that you're making an effort to eat healthier.  Do Not tell them you're on a diet.  Very few people take the word "diet" very seriously.  Let them know that this is a lifestyle change, rather than a get-skinny-quick scheme, and they may be more willing to offer up healthier options.  And if they see how happy and not deprived you are, they may even join you!  But also don't be surprised if they don't!

Edited to add (Thanks JaLisa!):
Eat until you're not hungry anymore.  All we heard growing up was that children in China were starving, so clean your plate!  Somehow that made it better for the kids in China.  But what it actually taught us was to overeat.  Put less food on your plate, slow down and only eat until you're full.   Set aside at least half of your portion at a restaurant, even ask for the to-go box up front if you need to.  A serving size is about the size of your palm - makes you realize how huge that Red Robin burger really is!