Before & Afters: Weight Loss

One of my favorite things in the whole world has always been Before & Afters. I love a good makeover, on me or anyone else. I love to see drastic weight loss or haircuts or Plain Janes transform into Glamor Girls.

When I entered into the retail market many, many years ago as a means to support myself as an actress, I sought out cosmetic stores so I could get paid to do makeovers and make people look their best. I loved it…well, the makeover part at least. The selling, restocking, cleaning, etc…I could have done without.

I also ventured into wedding makeup, turning my husband’s future step-mother, in addition to a good friend of ours, into blushing brides with flawless makeup.

But mostly, I just like to make myself over. I love to play with makeup, different colors, different looks. I don’t have as much time to do that these days, but it’s always fun when I do. And when I go to get my hair cut, I always take before and after photos, sometimes stopping off at Sephora to make the transformation even more dramatic…

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See? The uglier the before, the better, right?? 🙂

But the biggest transformations I’ve undergone in my life have always been in the field of weight loss. I’ve yo-yo’d since I was a young girl, the fat girl in me always fighting the healthy, fit girl in me. Then I got pregnant and gained 35lbs, lost the 35, gained 15 back, and now I’ve lost 12 of that. So I’m *almost* back to where I started. Though I still have another 10-15 I’d like to lose, I’m really happy where I am, but most of all, I’m happy with the major overhaul my diet has undergone. No more processed foods in this house! We eat gluten free most of the time, mostly organic and local (when we can), and we strive to fill our bodies with good, wholesome foods. That’s probably been the biggest challenge this time around. In the past, I’ve lost weight by switching to diet soda, splenda, eating 100 Calorie Snack Packs, and other “diet” foods. But learning to eat REAL foods has been eye opening! Not to mention, I’m the healthiest I’ve ever been in my life! No headaches, no blood sugar crashes, no anxiety or depression (yes, diet plays a HUGE role in those things!)

And I have to give a big shout out to the makers of MyFitnessPal, without which, I wouldn’t know how much of the real foods I could eat! Ha! So, without further ado, here I am…in my swimsuits…before (February) and after (April)…

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And yes, I’ve had to cut out those giant, fruity island drinks to achieve the look on the right. But I still enjoy wine and beer here and there (clearly, I didn’t cut out ALL booze! lol), and I almost always leave room for something sweet, like dark chocolate or a few bites of cheesecake.

How about you? Do you love makeovers like I do? Have you undergone any major transformations in your own life? I’d love to hear about it!

The Healthy Writer: Snack Recipes

Okay, they’re not recipes, per se, but I thought I’d share with you some of my favorite lo-cal, REAL FOOD snacks.

Snacks have always been my downfall. It’s easy to unzip my daughter’s backpack when I pick her up from school and shove a handful of cheddar bunnies into my face. They’re organic, so they’re good for me, right?!? Well, they aren’t bad for me — they’re at least made with all natural ingredients that my body recognizes. Unfortunately, they’re not made without calories. And while they may not have a lot of calories, they add up! Oh, and look she didn’t eat the rest of her all natural, organic Animal Crackers. Ooh! Or her organic version of Lucky Charms! Score for my mouth! But not for my waist 😦

MyFitnessPal to the rescue!

Recording every little thing I put in my mouth has made me realize there’s no room in my diet for my daughter’s leftovers (BOO!!!) And yesterday I touched on the fact that some really good-for-you grown-up snacks, like Kind Bars, are filled with more calories than I’d like to eat some afternoons. So I’ve begun the search for high quality, low cal foods that will not only tide me over until my next meal, but that won’t break the proverbial calorie bank.

So what are some of my favorites? Let’s start with my highest calorie snack first…

download-6Greek Yogurt (200 calories)

This snack really packs a punch, so I have this when I know it’s going to be a while before my next meal and I can afford the 200 calories. I start with a 1/2 cup of plain, non-fat Greek yogurt, then I top it with a handful of frozen blueberries, a couple teaspoons of sliced almonds, 1/4 teaspoon sunflower seeds, and finally, a drizzle of local honey.

The good news is, you can tailor Greek yogurt however you want to raise or lower the calorie count. Leave off the almonds, add more fruit, use agave instead of honey. The world is your oyster!

Hummus (130 calories)download-7

I’ve recently discovered the joys of Chia Seeds. If you’re not familiar, these little miracle seeds are an ancient Aztec superfood. They are full of protein AND fiber, so they fill you up and give you tons of energy. Not to mention, they have no taste, so you can add them to just about anything (including Greek yogurt!)

I like to add them to my hummus, so that it packs a little extra punch. So, for a low cal, satisfying and savory snack: 2 tablespoons garlic hummus, 1 teaspoon Chia seeds, 8 brown rice snaps (cheddar flavor) Of course, carrots, celery and cucumber slices are great accompaniments to hummus too!

 

But sometimes, I don’t have time to throw these elaborate snacks together — I need something on the go — and my new favorite bar (which is also my daughter’s new favorite. Grrr!) is…

download-8Flavor & Fiber Blondie Bars (140 calories)

This one little bar has a whopping 12g of fiber — almost half the recommended daily intake for women — and only 4g of fat. So if you’re on the run and need something to tide you over, grab one of these yummy bars from Gnu Foods.

So there you have it. My three favorite go-to snacks. I’m sure I’ll discover more as I go along — I always do — but for now, these are fitting the bill. What are your favorite lo-cal, REAL FOOD snacks to get you through the morning or afternoon??

 

The Healthy Writer

I’m sure I’ve covered this subject before, or if not, many, many other authors have definitely covered it. But I still think it bears repeating, especially since I tend to fall back into unhealthy habits sometimes. I’m sure we all do, but here’s a little bit about my journey recently. Because, oddly enough, I didn’t fall into any unhealthy habits! Rather, I fell into very healthy ones. Unfortunately, “healthy” rarely means “low calorie.”

Smoothies/Juices:

I LOVE my green drinks! Smoothies with kale, spinach and a little fruit? YUM! Green juices that taste a little like dirt? Bring it on! Not only do I love the taste, but they’re a shot of life, I tell you! After a green juice, I can feel the blood coursing through my veins. My eyes dilate and feel so big and round, like I’m a vampire with super vision. All my sense are heightened, it’s almost like a drug. But a drug that’s good for me! A drug that, when taken, repairs the cells in my body and brings me closer to my natural state. How could I NOT love these miracle drinks?

However, there’s a downside here. Green drinks/smoothies still have calories. And sugar. Though naturally occurring sugar, it’s still sugar. And if you’re trying to lose weight, you need to be very aware of this. I’m almost always trying to lose weight, and I went a couple months drinking my fill of smoothies/juices, trying to figure out why I wasn’t losing. In fact, I was gaining!

Enter MyFitnessPal.com…

You’re telling me that my 24oz green drink with spinach, carrots, ginger and apples is 150 calories? It may not seem like a lot, but when you’re supposed to be on a net-1200 calorie diet, it is. That counts for a hearty snack just on its own. But it’s not always filling, so I was having other snacks alongside it. Which leads me to the next section…

Snacks:

Now, we, as a family, have cut out almost all processed foods. We eat mostly organic and/or local when we can get it. So the days of the Nabisco 100 Calorie snack packs are long gone. No more chemicals, fillers, GMOs, etc… for us. No way! We’re too educated about food now to want to put that stuff into our bodies.

So we turned to things like nuts, seeds, or a combination of both in the form of Kind Bars. All natural, gluten free, made of nuts, seeds, dried fruits and cane sugar, they are a delicious afternoon snack.

But here we go again…obviously, these little snack bars are going to be loaded with calories! 180, to be exact (although the chocolate ones are a little more) And it’s easy to say, “Oh, I had a juice and a bar for my snacks today, so I can go a little hog wild at dinner!”, and before you know it, you’ve blown so far past your calorie count, you can’t even SEE that net-1200 mark anymore.

Enter exercise…

I find it incredibly strange that as soon as we moved to Florida, I decided to stop working out. I don’t know what my problem was. But ask my hubby–he could NOT get me to the gym. I mean, maybe once a week, and for this chick who used to workout at least 3-4 times a week consistently for years, that was heinous. Oh, and that one workout usually consisted of a leisurely walk on the treadmill and maybe a few bicep reps. Not nearly enough to burn off all those extra juice and Kind Bar calories.
 
So this is really how MyFitnessPal.com has changed my life…
 
Last week, after a short trip up north, I returned to Florida with a new mission. It was time to get serious. No more messing around. Eric suggested I take a look at MyFitnessPal, as it integrated with my FitBit and my FitBit scale. I took a look and realized it was basically Weight Watchers but FREE! What?!?! I can track every calorie in (they have a HUGE database of food) and every calorie out (my FitBit automatically reports my activity to the iPhone app!!!)
 
I’m so much more aware of what I’m eating now, though I’m not depriving myself in anyway. I eat real food, and when it looks like I’m going to go over for the day, I get off the couch and do a workout video or go for a walk to gain more points.
 
Tomorrow I’ll share some of my favorite lo-cal, real food, snacks and meals with you, but for now, here’s the before and the after. And this is just after one week! I’m down 3.6lbs, which might not sound like a lot, but considering all the fitness I’ve added in, I know I’m also gaining muscle and toning down…
 
Before…
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After…
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Check back tomorrow for some of my tasty recipes!

Reviving the Chick Lit!

A year or so ago, I embarked on one of the funnest projects of my life: a chick lit novel called The Matchbaker. But things kept getting in my way — life, Regency novels, beach-themed novellas and short stories — so The Matchbaker took a backseat. Until now. I pulled it out the other night and decided I was going to revive it!

And, in light of my critique group’s recent discussion about the frustrations of weight gain, I’ve decided to post this excerpt from The Matchbaker…you don’t need to know anything about the book to enjoy this piece, so don’t worry about spoiler alerts :)…

I hope you enjoy!

I hop into the shower, trying to shake off the depression that’s setting in. I mean, I have no right to be depressed. He’s not mine, he never was, and to pursue him at this point would be absolutely reprehensible of me. Besides, there are plenty of guys out there, I just haven’t put any effort into finding one. I’ve been so career focused—and Colin focused—that I haven’t taken the time to even go out on a date.
That’s it! I have to start dating. I know my plate is pretty full with the bakery right now, but I can’t let that stop me. I’m going to get my butt back in shape and start dating.
I’m sufficiently cheered by the time I get out of the shower. So much so that I don’t even let the fact that Holly has sexy lingerie hanging in the closet get to me. It’s totally fine.
“Candy, what are you doing?”
I jump, startled by my sister’s voice behind me. “Holly, you can’t sneak up on people like that!” I shout, exasperated.
She ignores me. “What are you doing with my lingerie?”
Damn. She noticed. “Nothing,” I say as I pull it away from my body, where I’d been holding it against me and stroking the soft, pink satin. “I was just…trying to find something to wear.”
“I’m not sure that’s appropriate work attire.”
I give her a scathing look and roll my eyes. “I thought it was a camisole.”
She doesn’t believe me. I can tell.
Well, never mind her. It could very easily have been mistaken for a camisole. How tragic that my own sister thinks I’m a liar.
“Here, this should fit you.” She walks over pulls a mu-mu-looking top out of the dresser. I stare wide-eyed for two reasons: 1) I didn’t realize she had drawer space on top of having half the closet, and 2) I’m flabbergasted and down-right offended that she thinks the only thing I’ll be able to fit into in her wardrobe is a mu-mu. A mu-mu!
“Oh, well…” I turn back to the closet where there are a plethora of trendy pants and tops (my sister’s not one for skirts and dresses.) “I was thinking of these pants with this blouse. Do you mind?”
She looks dubiously at the articles of clothing I’m holding aloft, then she glances toward my waistline and raises her eyebrows. I don’t like to use the “B” word very often, but in this case my sister is being a huge B!
Well, I’ll show her. I can fit into this outfit just fine. I mean, it’s a size 6. I’m a 4 at most. “Do you mind?” I say, glancing toward the door.
Holly shrugs and leaves the room, closing the door behind her. I wait until I hear the latch click, and then I begin to get dressed. Thankfully, my bra and underwear survived the papier mache incident. I slip those on, then reach for the pants. They’re beautiful. The flat front has buttons down either side and then they flare out into a wide leg—a modern take on the sailor pant. The cream-colored blouse has tiny navy polka dots to match the pants and a ruffle down the front and on the cap sleeves. Frilly and girly, but still sleek and trendy. Maybe I’ll go sit at the coffee shop and pretend to read something smart while I’m really scoping out men. My dating mission starts today.
I put one leg into the pants, then the other, and hoist. Then I hoist again. But the damn pants won’t move past my hips. I seek out the side zipper. It must not be down all the way. I pull it and it moves. Hooray! I knew there was something wrong. Only, the zipper doesn’t move down quite as much as I hoped it would. A half-inch at most. But really, that should be plenty.
I hoist again, and the pants finally move over my hips. Ha! I knew that would do it. I put the shirt on next, since it needs to be tucked in. My arms slip easily through the armholes and I start to button it up. Only the top two buttons, the ones that button over my breasts, don’t come anywhere near the buttonholes on the other side. Shit. Something must be wrong. I mean, really. There’s no way my boobs have grown that much in the last two weeks.
I mash them down and let out my bra straps so they hang a little lower down, and finally, the buttons close. There’s a bit of a gap there, but I’m sure it will be fine once the pants are zipped. My hand reaches for the zipper and tugs. I suck in my stomach and hold my breath, and the zipper moves easily to the top.
Ah. There. Perfect.
“Candy, are you ready?” my sister calls from the other room.
“Coming!” I say as I grab my bag off the bed. “Do you have shoes to go with this outfit?” I emerge from the bedroom and ignore the look of dismay on my sister’s face as she gives me the once-over.
“Um, yeah…” She sounds a bit dismayed, but I can’t understand why. Obviously we’re the same size. It’s not as if I’m going to stretch out the clothes or anything. “Here.”
She hands me a pair of Kate Spade wedge espadrilles that have cream-colored crochet straps. They’re perfect for this outfit. I bend over to put them on, and all at once I hear two of the most horrifying sounds in the world. The sound of a pair of pants splitting down the middle, accompanied by the click of buttons hitting hardwood. Oh, my God.
I look up from my bent over position, afraid to move another muscle. Holly is staring at me, her eyes wide. Shit.
“Did you just…?”
Oh, God. What do I do? Do I play this off and blame it on sizing and fit models? Or do I let myself break down into tears, apologize profusely and promise to have it all repaired?
I’m desperate for Holly to make the first move. Maybe she’ll start laughing. I mean, it is pretty funny, me busting out of her clothes and all. Or maybe she’ll start yelling and say something horrible to me, at which point I can turn the tables on her and make it all sound like it’s her fault. Either way, I just want her to say something. Anything.
But she doesn’t. She just stands there, waiting on me. And then I can’t help myself. I burst into tears and wail, “I’m so faaaaaaaaaaaaat!”