Creating checkpoints

For being a short week it felt incredibly long. As predicted, the newness of the year has worn off and I was reminded of why I selected “create” as my word in the first place.

Thankfully I think the four changes I’ve talked about thus far have made a small difference. I’ll admit that what’s been frustrating is that I think the tool that would help me the most (passion planner) is the one that’s been the most difficult to fully incorporate, though I recognize that’s primarily on me.

I’ve made a concerted effort to sit down on Sunday nights and look at my work week. I like picking out what I want the focus of at least three days to be, somewhat based on meetings and deadlines. Unfortunately it’s been hard to hold true to that. My weeks often end up being more reactive than proactive, and that’s where the tension starts.

To say I get pulled in a lot of directions in a given week is an understatement. My position is responsible for evaluating eight interventions, partnerships and team structure for two grants. How do I better prioritize and balance those areas? What committees and workgroups best align with our work? Which meetings are truly essential for me to attend?

One of my goals this year is creating opportunities for better focus and natural energy. Typically at the end of the day, I’m exhausted. One day this week I had six hours worth of meetings. In a row. On any given day I could have to focus on school health, self-management programs, medicaid data matching and health disparities. How do I minimize the mental drain and more effectively tackle my work?

It’s something I know I have to continue working on, which is why I think the passion planner could really help. I might need to take some time this weekend to figure out how to better utilize the planner to approach my weeks (a true evaluator!).

On the plus side, the passion planner is responsible for one great change. One of my personal goals for the month was to try BodyFlow at the gym. Part of creating the life I’d like is diversifying some of my workouts. Not only did I get to BodyPump this week, but the middle and I gave BodyFlow a shot (it helped that my regular spin instructor had a sub…).

I’ve fallen in love with BodyFlow. It’s a mix of yoga, pilates and meditation. My body is really stiff and tight with all my cardio efforts, so this should be just what I need. Plus I walked out of there feeling like a million bucks. Definitely a way to have more natural energy and better focus.

I’ll also mention that it’s helped quite a bit to scale back on my cooking. It’s really simplified things to plan on a soup, salad and/or sandwich for lunch each day, and surprisingly I haven’t grown tired of it yet. Plus I don’t have the dreaded task each weekend of trying to find new recipes to try. My meal planning time has essentially been cut in half.

Although I did try a new recipe this week — deep dish pizza casserole. It was a quick process and reheating it the oven for leftovers made it fantastic. Next time I might make my own crust, though it was nice that I could roll it out and it fit the casserole dish perfectly. And I’d likely get more creative with my toppings. I added in black olives, mushrooms and turkey pepperoni. I really wish I would have though to pick up pineapples as well, but there’s always next time.

deep dish pizza

I was also proud of myself for sending a new recipe to the middle that I knew I shouldn’t make just for myself. Half of it would get thrown out because I’m not great at eating leftovers, especially when it comes to soup (at least when it’s a new recipe and I’m not sure how much I’ll like it).

Thankfully on Tuesday night while I was at a board meeting (hopefully an exciting update on that next month!), the middle made chicken gnocchi soup. Particularly with the cold temps and snow, it really hit the spot.

Chicken gnocchi

I’ve only tried a bite or two of the gnocchi soup at Olive Garden, but other than being a bit creamier than this recipe, the middle and her boyfriend said it’s pretty comparable. It almost reminded me of a chicken and dumpling soup. Definitely something to have on my radar for a good winter dish.

Although this week was a bit trying for me, I’m also proud that I’ve been taking time to check in with myself so I can readjust (which I think is where the Day One app really comes in handy — and I’ve officially journaled for 22 days now!). I’m getting better at recognizing the triggers that formed the habits and patterns I’m trying to break so that I can have better balance and energy in life. Even though it’ll take work, I’m not ready to throw in the towel on my new year’s goals and perspectives. As we say on our team, onward and upward!

But first I’m going to hit up a BodyCombat and BodyFlow class to get me in the right headspace. 😉 When all else fails, there’s always a good workout and cuddle time with the pup.

Creating the first week

I think I’m in the honeymoon phase, if you will, of the new year (and not just because I finally have a functional laptop!). I actually think Brene Brown described it perfectly on facebook the other day:

brene

This week I’ve been slowly getting back into the routine while incorporating my new habits. I love using the Day One app each evening and I think my nightly routine may pay off over time. Thinking back, there was only one evening where the alarm had to prompt me to start gearing down for bed (and I was so proud for wrapping up what I was doing and actually getting ready for bed).

I’ve become more conscious of the time and have found myself starting the process much earlier. Monday night right after dinner, for example, I curled up on the couch with Hurley and Brene Brown’s book while a fireplace Netflix video played on my television. Way more enjoyable than trying to be productive!

Tuesday night

Even better is that I’ve been in bed by 10:15 every night this week. That’s huge for me.

I’ve also made another change in the new year in an attempt to simplify my life a bit. For lunches, instead of bringing leftovers, I’m aiming to stick to salads, soups and/or sandwiches. I’ll admit I’ve resisted this kind of approach for quite some time. I worried (and to some degree still do) that I’ll tire of it quickly. How am I going to stick with the same types of food day in and day out?

By having variety, that’s hopefully how. I decided to start off with a bang this week, which may or may not work in my favor with this new habit.

On Sunday evening I got everything ready — hoagie buns and avocados along with Tupperware for cracked pepper turkey, spicy mustard, cabbage and black olives for sandwiches. I prepped the salad as much as I could with lettuce, mandarin oranges and a hardboiled egg, then used Tupperware for my homemade dressing (purchased a blueberry vinegar and it’s fan-freakin’-tastic) and sunflower seeds.

It took some time, but I had everything ready for nearly the whole week’s worth of lunches. And what I really love is that everything seems so fresh when it comes time for lunch. It only takes a couple minutes to get everything put together, and I’m way more excited about this lunch than I ever was for a majority of my leftovers.

lunches

What’s also nice is that it’s cut down on how much I’m cooking, which certainly adds to my evenings. Last night, for example, I made a turkey taco casserole. It took probably 20 minutes to throw together before it baked (I added in the kidney beans).

Taco casserole

Taco casserole dinner

Even though I started cooking right when I got home from spin class, I didn’t sit down to eat dinner until shortly after 8. By the time I’ve eaten and cleaned up, I barely have any evening left to enjoy. That’s partially how I end up burning the midnight oil, since it’s not until nearly 8:30 or 9 that I can start cramming in my non-cooking tasks for the evening.

That also brings up an affiliated goal. For each new recipe I try, I want to make something (or ideal a few things to have a better ratio) I already know. I’ve already created a list of 10 meals that don’t require me to look at any recipe — pasta dishes, tacos, homemade pizza, etc.  This week, for example, I made the spaghetti and turkey meatballs recipe I tried a couple weeks ago. Made it on Sunday and used the leftovers for dinner this week.

I really went back and forth on whether this was something I wanted to do. As much as I love cooking and trying new recipes, it’s not necessarily conducive to my lifestyle anymore. I got into the habit of trying two new recipes a week when I lived in Columbia. At that time, though, I didn’t have a dog and the only gym classes I went to were on Sundays, Tuesday mornings and Wednesday evenings.

Life now is very different, particularly in terms of my schedule. I want time in the evenings to be with Hurley and there’s a specific class at the gym I could, if I wanted to, attend each day of the week (and I make a point to get to the classes Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evenings). That puts more restrictions on how much time I have to actually cook. And quite frankly, I’m tired of eating at 8 or 8:30 in the evenings. With leftovers for dinner instead of lunch, I’m eating by 7:15. It adds almost a whole hour to my evening (which I think Hurley already appreciates given he’s not thrilled mama is back to work).

Like I said, I could just be in the honeymoon phase of the new year. Regardless, though, I’m already enjoying the new habits that are freeing up my time and helping me feel a bit more balanced. I’d consider that a success for week one!

Beauty in Books 8 and the secret of life

I couldn’t entirely decide which direction to take this post, so I can’t promise it will be cohesive or flow well (and it definitely won’t be short). But it’s something that I’m slowly connecting the dots on in my own mind and wanted to share.

About a week ago the middle and I were watching Girl Meets World (you can laugh, but the show is surprisingly good and very reminiscent of our TGIF days). One of the episodes focused on discovering the secret of life, which Cory Matthews claims is simply that “People change people.”

In some ways that’s very true. I couldn’t even begin to count how many people have shaped and influenced me, whether they’re family members, teachers, colleagues or even dogs. Throughout my entire life, people have absolutely changed me.

I’d argue, though, that another big secret of life (and one I think we often forget) is that you can change yourself.

A few years ago, when I was probably 40 pounds heavier and hadn’t fallen in love with group fitness classes, I asked the middle if she could ever see me, honestly and realistically, running a 5K. After a few moments passed, she said no. I can’t remember her exact explanation, but it essentially boiled down to the fact that while I probably physically could someday, I didn’t seem to have the gumption to actually train and accomplish it. And she was right. At my size, I honestly didn’t believe I could.

Liz

(As a total side note, I sent this to the middle and the little about two years ago as part of our Woof Wednesday health motivation emails. The little replied with a “From what corner of hell are you dragging these out?” Reading it still cracks me up! And I should probably apologize for now making it public…)

Flash forward to yesterday, where the middle and I ran a 5K together. It’s my second one, though this one had far less training on my part but surprisingly a much faster time. That’s change, my friends.

Kolor Run

I firmly believe you can change yourself, but I think it’s important to know yourself first. A co-worker and fellow life chatter of mine has a quote on her desk that we often reflect on that, in some ways, applies here — to be a good leader, you have to know people. To know people, you have to know yourself.

In comes Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin. It essentially outlines a range of research about building and sustaining habits, in part based on your personality. This is a succinct version, but I was struck by the four tendencies she outlines at the beginning of the book. Not surprisingly, I’m an obliger. (The middle is likely a rebel, which is why she did a whopping two runs before showing up for the 5K yet still kicked butt.)

That’s when things started clicking for me. A little more than a year ago I posted about my weightloss journey and mentioned a big part of my success has been because of group fitness classes. Finding physical activity I love to do did make a big difference. But do you know what I think made a bigger difference? Having that external accountability from the instructor and others in the class.

“Because Obligers resist inner expectations, it’s difficult for them to self-motivate — to work on a PhD thesis, to attend networking events, to get their car serviced. Obligers depend on external accountability, with consequences such a deadlines, late fees, or the fear of letting other people down. … Obligers need external accountability even for activities that they want to do.” (pg. 22)

Even though I love kickboxing and spin, a huge motivator for me is knowing I’ve got instructors who will ask where I’ve been if I’ve missed one too many classes. Heck, I love that my old kickboxing instructor in Columbia “likes” all the activities I log on MyFitnessPal. It’s why I religiously track my workouts in Excel and love my FitBit. I need that external accountability. In the case of the 5K, it was having a specific date for the run and knowing the middle was counting on me.  That’s what works for me (though knowing this years ago likely would have saved me a lot of time and energy…).

There’s another concept within the book that really resonated with me as well. It’s this notion that often our habits and behavior are in line with what others think of us and what we think of ourselves.

“Research shows that we tend to believe what we hear ourselves say, and the way we describe ourselves influences our view of our identify, and from there, our habits. If I say, ‘I’m lazy,’ ‘I can’t resist a sale,’ ‘I’ll try anything once,’ ‘I never start work until the last minute,’ or ‘I’m lucky,’ those ideas become part of my identity, which in turn influences my actions.” (pg. 239)

Just a few sentences later I had another a-ha moment: “For years, I thought of myself as someone who ‘hates exercise,’ but at some point I realized that I hated sports. … Thinking of myself as someone who ‘enjoys exercise’ allowed me to change the way I viewed my nature, and that helped me to become a regular exerciser.” (pg. 240)

That’s exactly how I was. It required a mindset shift on my part. Just because I disliked sports and gym class growing up didn’t mean I had to dislike all exercise for the rest of my life. Hell, I’ve reached a point where I almost identify myself as a jogger (and I say jogger because running still seems a bit too intense and implies that I’m fast, which is again an identity thing). It almost reminds me of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Continually tell yourself you’re not able to do a 5K and, chances are, you’re not going to be able to.

It’s all incredibly fascinating to me, but the thing I always want to keep in mind is that it’s still up to me to make that change. I show up. I push myself. I make it part of my life. I’ve had and still have people supporting and motivating me, but ultimately it was me that had to change. And I think that’s why Rubin’s book resonated with me so much. It’s about recognizing your preferences, identifying potential pitfalls and barriers, then finding ways to work around it so that you can create an environment and lifestyle that’s consistent with your goals.

Perhaps knowing that you can change yourself isn’t such a big secret to life. Maybe it’s just that we need a few tricks up our sleeve and reminders of our amazing capability to do so. And I definitely had a good reminder of that yesterday.

Technology bust

I picked probably one of the worst weekends to go technology free. What I thought would be a relaxing experience ended with me angrily throwing in the towel and cursing the entire situation (namely my stubbornness and stupidity). But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Last Wednesday I decided I was going to unplug for the weekend. Part of me wanted to be able to cross it off my 30 Before 30 List, but mostly I was looking forward to a break. My brain was on professional and personal overload for most of January, and I hated that I felt so glued to my phone and laptop between the whole house-hunting process and deadlines at work. A break from all the screens and keyboards is just what I needed.

(I should mention that while I went technology free, I still used my Roku to stream movies and Pandora. Primarily I wanted to get away from the constant information overload the false sense of productivity I typically get just for keeping up with emails. Plus the thought of not having any music or noise in the house for an entire weekend creeped me out a bit.)

At 5:40 p.m. on Friday, I shut my phone off and shoved it into a drawer. And up until about Saturday afternoon, I felt really great about not using that or my computer. I didn’t feel as rushed and suddenly my to-do list seemed a lot smaller since I couldn’t use my laptop. Time that would have been spent on pinterest was instead spent reading with Hurley curled up right next to me. Even playing with Hurley was better since I wasn’t texting or refreshing my facebook feed in the other hand.

But imagine my surprise when it started snowing around 9:30 on Saturday morning and by 3 p.m. was still going. Last I’d checked my weather app, there was only a small chance of snow flurries on Sunday. Imagine my bigger surprise when the cashier at HyVee later that afternoon said we were supposed to get 4-5 inches.

Sure enough, I woke up to 7.5 inches of wet, heavy snow on Sunday morning. I dug myself out (slowly and painfully) with plenty of time to get ready for BodyCombat. And that’s when I lost it.

After braving the slick streets, I got to the gym only to find out all classes had been cancelled — except for a special two-hour BodyCombat session being held so two new instructors could tape a class for their certification process. Naturally that was wrapping up in 30 minutes. It goes without saying that I wasn’t amused as the gym manager told me all of this. “Didn’t you get the email or see our update on facebook?”

Under normal circumstances, yes, I would have. I would have been at the two hour class. Or I would have nixed it entirely had I known how crappy the roads and weather were. But I wasn’t about to go into my whole “I’m technology free this weekend!” spiel with this poor guy. At that moment, I’d had enough.

In the end, I did make it a full 48 hours without a computer and I was just a few hours shy of reaching that point with my phone. But at what cost?

It’s one thing to take a break from the constant consumption. That part I didn’t mind. What I didn’t like, though, was feeling in the dark when it came to my safety and schedule. The power went off twice on Saturday night. We were in a winter storm warning and then a wind advisory. The interstate was closed, meaning the middle’s volleyball tournament in Omaha was cancelled. And I knew none of this because I wouldn’t let myself cave and turn on my damn phone. In this particular instance, ignorance was not bliss. It was annoying frustrating and, frankly, just not smart.

Perhaps once the weather and crappy roads aren’t a thorn in my side (which probably won’t be until next weekend…) I won’t feel as bitter about my technology free weekend experience. I mean, the first part of the weekend was quite successful. It was nice to prioritize my time and attention in a different way (which I know Hurley loved). There was certainly some value in unplugging and giving myself that break.

If nothing else, I’ve learned a valuable lesson (don’t screw with Nebraska winter weather) while gaining insights about how I use technology in my everyday life. I feel better knowing that, at least with my phone, it’s moreso about meal planning, grocery shopping lists, checking weather and making plans with people. The time suck that is my laptop could use some work, but I know that’s something I can be more intentional about this year.

For now, though, I’m off to use the wonderful thing that is technology to see if my spin class is still going to be held tonight. Imagine that!

Go big before going home?

I often joke that I workout so that I can be more a little (or in some cases, a lot) more flexible with what I eat. This week is certainly proof of that, even before the Thanksgiving holiday hits. Thankfully (or perhaps not) this morning officially kicked off the “we’re going to work you extra hard because it’s Thanksgiving” instructor punishment at the gym. Woof.

Initially I’d planned to make this dish last week but ended up eating out more than I thought thanks to a two-day work training. Not wanting to throw out perfectly good vegetables, I decided to make a skinny chicken and broccoli casserole for lunch. And to think I would have missed out on this recipe!

I did make one minor addition in that I added green peas to it and only had unsweetened almond milk. One of the potential downsides (though it could be an error on my end, especially given the type of milk I used) is that it turned out somewhat soupy for me. But it wasn’t anything a little brown rice couldn’t fix. It’d be really good with pasta, actually, but I didn’t want to push my limits…

casserole

I kept my portion small knowing what I had in store for dinner: crockpot bacon cheeseburger soup. Don’t ask. I found it on pinterest a couple days ago and figured this was as good a time as any to give it a shot. Plus it meant I could use up the potatoes and carrots that I still had from the beef stew I made last weekend. I did use turkey bacon and Italian ground turkey, though that probably doesn’t make it that much healthier…

cheeseburger soup

I know what some of you may be thinking. Pickles? In soup? Really? But it was surprisingly good. Almost like adding banana peppers to nachos or a taco. The soup was better than I anticipated, and I’m really digging my crockpot capabilities now that I’ve got a larger one. Now let’s hope I can practice some moderation and keep pushing myself in gym classes before I really indulge on Thanksgiving…

Challenging thoughts

I’ve been playing Devil’s advocate with myself the last day or two, so naturally I thought it warranted a blog post.

This all started when I joined Instagram for the #100fitdays challenge. One of the perks is that I now have slightly better photo editing capabilities right at my fingertips. And really that only matters for my photos of Hurley.

Hurley

I’m having mixed thoughts about the #100fitdays challenge itself. Initially I liked the idea of finding one health “success” each day so that I didn’t take an all-or-nothing approach (I love that this article dispels that “comply or die” health mentality). It seemed like a good way to start changing my mindset so that I can be more holistic with my health. The little things — good or bad — add up over time. Why not focus on incorporating more good, whether it’s drinking water or getting more sleep, into each day?

As I’m finishing up Day 11, though, I’m less convinced it’s helping me gain a better mindset.

For starters, I don’t know that I’ve necessarily made healthier options or choices, though that could be because it’s still early on in the challenge. I’d be going to the yoga and BodyCombat classes regardless of whether I had this challenge. The only difference is now I’m documenting it with some public accountability. That alone almost makes me feel like a bit of a poser. I went to yoga, which is great, but what people don’t get to see is that before and after class, I parked it on the couch for an episode of The West Wing.

Where I really struggled, though, is that life gets in the way yet there’s now an added pressure, even if it’s self-imposed. Last night Hurley hurt himself in a very dramatic fashion (and all for a squirrel…). I called the middle to get a second opinion about whether he needed to be rushed to the vet. Even though it didn’t warrant that type of emergency, I didn’t want to leave him home alone.

But what did that mean for my #100fitday challenge? I’d been planning to go to the gym that evening and all the sudden I had a choice to make. And you can bet I chose Hurley.

That situation seemed timely given just the day before I read this article about how, in some ways, these types of social media challenges can have a negative impact for that very reason:

Her thoughts were dominated by all of the numbers she entered into her phone: Did I run enough miles? Did I run them fast enough? Did I eat too many calories today? “There were just too many numbers in my head,” Lyonnais said. “I didn’t want to look at an egg as being 70 calories. I needed to look at it as something that’s nourishing and good for my body.”

What’s tough is that the number fixation is already there for me. I track my FitBit numbers. I track what I’m eating. I track my physical activity not only in an Excel document but also MyFitnessPal so that it syncs with my FitBit. Now don’t get me wrong, I love having data and being able to look at trends… but when is it too much when it comes to your personal health?

I can’t say I have a solution to this conundrum. I’ll continue with the #100fitdays challenge with the understanding that it’s not going to make or break me. Sometimes the healthy choice is to stay home and do what you need to do for your own sanity. I think just having an awareness helps so that I don’t let the numbers rule my life. Hurley already does that. ❤

New challenge

From the moment my old kickboxing/spinning instructor posted this link for #100fitdays on facebook, I knew I had to commit. How could I not?

The question was which venue. I didn’t want to constantly be posting on Facebook and I didn’t necessarily want a public Twitter account (I feel like I get a ton of spam follower requests there).

In came Instagram. I’d already been toying with the idea of getting it since one of my co-workers raves about it. Why not test the waters with the app with this challenge?

What primarily attracted me to #100fitdays is that it’s focused on making one healthy choice each day. Often times I feel like I get overwhelmed when I think about living a healthy lifestyle — avoid too much Diet Coke, make sure to get in a hard/good workout, eat three healthy meals, drink plenty of water. The list can be never-ending for a Type A overachiever like myself. It’s exhausting and somewhat defeating.

And not that I won’t strive to do most of those things on a daily basis, but I think the beauty (at least for me) is that with this challenge, I can focus on one “win” each day. Maybe I get in eight full hours of sleep on a work night. Perhaps I try a new workout class or a super healthy recipe. The little successes add up, and I also think it helps build momentum to keep making those healthy choices day in and day out.

It may get redundant to post a photo each day, but I’m hoping that’s an accountability piece that I don’t necessary have right now. And if nothing else, it’ll be a good venue to post even more photos of my yellow labrador and his BFFL (best friends for life) Mocha. They’re just too cute!

H&M

Feel free to follow along my #100fitdays journey with the icon below. Or just check out the dog photos. He already helped me with Day 1.

Instagram

Thankful Thursday #13

I’ve been meaning to get the Thankful Thursday posts going again, but it’s felt a little overwhelming with everything I’ve been thankful for as of late. I can’t even really explain how lucky I’ve been, especially with how well and quickly things came together this year. Suffice it to say I’m still eternally grateful about being a doggie mama who’s seven minutes away from the middle and has the job she’d described as her dream/ideal position for the last five years. Rarely do I forget to count my blessings.

Phew. All that being said, I can get back to the simplicity of this series.

Today I’m thankful for something relatively small. And I literally mean small: my FitBit.

There are certainly pros and cons to it. It’s a product that’s gotten a lot of hype and there’s a lot of chatter about which brands/products are better and if it’s really worth it. I wasn’t even aware of it until my dad put it on his Christmas wish-list, at which point I immediately put it on mine.

I’ll be the first to admit that it’s not for everyone. I do know that it does wonders for me, though. As someone who loves data and setting goals (especially when it comes to health and self-improvement), this little device is perfect. It allows me to track my amount of physical activity (or lack thereof) and sleep (or again, my lack thereof) on a consistent basis to see how I’m doing.

I wrote earlier this year about what an eye-opener my FitBit was in those first few weeks. I’m all about health and consistently get to the gym. But that doesn’t do me a whole lot of good when the rest of the day I sit. And sit. And sit some more. I wasn’t leading quite the active lifestyle I thought I was, and that became very apparent.

That’s when lap-walking at the office became a thing. A few times a day, myself and whoever was feeling up to it would walk laps around the board room (I would not at all be surprised if we wore a path down on the rug…). It’s a habit that continues for me even now. Right around mid-morning each day, my new counterpart (also another L name, which makes me chuckle a bit) and I lace up our tennis shoes and walk laps in the basement of our building. Beyond just getting in those extra steps (and believe me, they add up), it’s also a great time for brainstorming, de-stressing and just chatting. And that change helps with my overall health, not just the physical activity.

When I got my weekly stats email just a few days ago, I couldn’t help but be thankful that my dad got me a FitBit for the holidays. Granted, my higher numbers are also impacted by the nicer (on some days, anyway) weather, having to park in a parking garage two blocks from the office and having Hurley as a walking buddy. But even so, it’s pretty great progress that I attribute in large part to my FitBit. We’re talking double and triple some amounts compared to my first week.

Jan fitbit

 

fitbit

I’d like to think the lap walking and concentrated effort to walk more (and throughout the day instead of just relying on one workout) would continue without the FitBit. But I can almost guarantee that if I didn’t have it, I wouldn’t be as committed. There’s something about seeing those numbers and getting that weekly email that keeps me motivated. (Now if only I would be more goal-oriented with my amount of sleep…)

Coincidentally enough, on the day I decided to blog about my FitBit, I got an email about a new red FitBit Flex. Not only am I obsessed with the color, but some of the proceeds (albeit small) go to the American Heart Association (heart disease prevention is one of my areas of interest in public health). To say I’m tempted is an understatement, in part because I want to see if I like it better than the FitBit One I currently have. Today I convinced myself to be thankful for what I have and not buy the new FitBit. But tomorrow is a new day…

Regardless of the brand or specific product, though, I’m thankful I’ve got this little gadget. While I can’t say it’s translated into weight-loss, it definitely makes me more aware of my overall health and helps me improve it. It might not be for everyone, but it’s definitely a great tool for me.

Canceling that workout…

Can I just mention briefly that I really enjoy my commute (or lack thereof) to work? In the morning I’m five minutes away from the office.

The afternoon/evening is a bit slower with all the traffic. Even then, though, I’m home in time to throw something in the crockpot, run to the gym (I’m converting the middle to love group fitness classes!) and return to a wonderful smelling house (and at a reasonable time, no less).

Last night’s fare was slow cooker beef and broccoli. The prep time literally took ten minutes, which was incredibly convenient. It was a little tricky with timing in that my crock-pot only has one setting (which I assume is high) but all in all it worked out well. I thought about steaming the broccoli so it would look a little more green, but that seemed like a lot of extra effort and the broccoli turned out perfectly anyway.

Beef and broccoli

The final result, even after adding the corn starch, was a bit soupy. But let me tell you, I can handle that better in this dish than I can a casserole. Plus I was able to save some extra juice, if you will, in case the leftovers dry out a bit.

The double perk is that I also have pad thai noodles from when I made pad thai my first week here. Should be a fun way to mix up the leftovers so it’s not just rice. I’d surprisingly make this recipe again — and you know that’s the true seal of approval from me.

Old stomping grounds

What. A. Week.

It’s been a good week, mind you, but it’s exhausting to acclimate to a new job, new building (where my cousin apparently works, as I found out when we ran into each other Wednesday morning), new gym and new community.

Given my brain overload, my creativity in the kitchen has been minimal. I’ve made old favorites to at least have leftovers for lunch, but nothing hit the spot. After three nights of cereal for dinner, though, I decided enough was enough. Plus I get restless when I don’t get to try new recipes.

I’m not ashamed to admit (primarily because it was pre-pinterest days when I didn’t really have income) that I used to be a pro at Hamburger Helper. I hadn’t thought about it, much less made it, for quite some time. Yet for some reason when I came across the homemade cheeseburger helper recipe on pinterest, I couldn’t resist.

I should throw in the caveat that the original blogger did — this isn’t healthy Hamburger Helper. It’s just a bit heathier. Thankfully my kickboxing class tonight helped me feel a little less guilty about the indulgence.

The recipe is really straightforward. Just based on my own preferences, I used a bit more milk and noodles to have a more balanced noodle-to-meat ratio. I’d also decided to only use a bit of the cheese. I’m normally not a fan of pasta leftovers since the sauce generally dries up, so my solution is to minimize cheese in the initial recipe so I can use a bit extra on the leftovers.

Helper

It was what I remember, but therein lies the downfall. The first few bites were good and then it started to lose it’s appeal. Part of that is because (at least in my opinion) the noodles are rinsed, making the dish seem a little too starchy for me.

But it was a new recipe and was much-needed comfort food after a long week. There’s always next week to try something a tad bit healthier…

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