The Value of Reading Food Labels

We are one month and twelve days into 2019. Even if you did not commit to a traditional New Year Resolution, I bet you set some type of goal for yourself. How’s it going?

The top objectives for people in the new year are to lose weight, eat healthier, exercise more, and to save money.

If your goal has anything to do with eating healthy or losing weight, pay close attention. The most important new skill you should adopt is to learn to read food labels. Read before you buy.

Vegan Avocado Wrap

Case in point, look at this mouth-watering avocado wrap.

So you’ve bought this beauty.

Now you can’t wait to sink your teeth into it.

You sit down, open the package, and prepare to dig in.

Then, you notice this small 1.4 oz. packet.

The sweet chili sauce is the perfect blend of sweet and spice that you think you crave. Mouthwatering.

Thankfully you have the conscious mind (yes you do) to flip the packet over and you read the nutritional label.

Ahem!

Look. At. This. Mess! Bulging eyes!!

1. I rarely count calories, but this is a bit much.

2. The sodium content is all wrong! 530mg? That’s salt baby!!! If you’re monitoring your blood pressure, DON’T DO IT!

3. For the sugar addicts, 23 grams of sugar in a 1.4 oz. packet is preposterous!

The chili sauce is a precise example of why you must remain disciplined to read the labels on everything you buy.

If you are ever going to reach your goals, I urge you to commit to taking the first step to read the label before you buy anything for consumption.

Also, there are many Apps where you can search menu items from popular restaurants. When I trained for my figure competitions, I used MyPlate to track my macros. You can search for food by restaurants and get nutritional values.

Here I did a random Chic-Fil-A menu search. when you tap on the food item, the App gives you total calories, protein, fat, and carbs. It’s simple but helpful. If you are aware of the nutritional value of the food you are about to eat, the knowledge may deter you from completing the order and inspire you to change up. 🙂

This post is short and sweet but I need you to understand the connection between what’s on your plate and how snug your jeans fit.

Set aside your fitness regime because no matter how hard you exercise, if you’re not eating right, your clothes ain’t gonna fit right. TTYL

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Confessions From A Vegan

There once was a time when I was relentless in my pursuit of perfection. A sparkling and stain free stove, a crumbless kitchen counter, clean bathroom mirrors, and bare floors that left no dust or particles on the foots’ bottom.

Impeccability on this level was too much to maintain, but it took me years to learn what and who was really important. The approach was stupid, and I am still trying to determine why “perfection” was such a priority for me.

I have felt for many years that in high school, I underachieved at everything I did.  I was an okay teenager but never really pushed myself hard at anything.  For most of my life, I blamed the adults (teachers, coaches, and advisors) for not seeing something in me that I did not see in myself. They should have pushed me, but they did not. I blended in a predominately white school with only two black teachers, neither of which I had as a teacher.

My guidance counselor never hid her lack of interest in my academic progress or achievement. I’m confident that Mrs. C.  had distorted views about the potential of most of the students who looked like me. How do I know? We talked. Like an over-copied handout, the sentiments were regularly used, and the similarities in stories align perfectly.

My parents got a free pass. Mother, one of 13 was dirt poor. She and other siblings quit school to work. During my high school years, she returned to school to obtain her GED. Watching her study was motivating. She encouraged me to do my best and to finish school.

“Get your diploma because you won’t be able to get a decent job without it.”

My dad came here on a boat from the U.S. Virgin Islands. Although he never earned his diploma, he was a teacher of hard work. “Doing my best” was excellent advice but I needed a more detailed narrative on what it looked like and how to do this…especially when my teachers had little expectations from me.

In my early 20’s when I thought that immediately after high school, I should have gone to college and believed that I should be further along in my career. When I was overlooked for a promotion because I did not have a college degree, I felt inadequate.

Perhaps the idea of perfection as an adult offset my underperformance as a teenager.  Every task that I completed would be perfect or as close to perfection as possible. I was always the model employee. I was the front desk clerk who never had a drawer shortage. The VIP Agent who never messed up a customers’ accommodations. At home, the linen was correctly folded and stacked. The list goes on.

Today, I’m the happy imperfect vegan.

Yesterday (Sunday) we celebrated a milestone birthday of my cousin. We enjoyed brunch at The Cheesecake Factory. Hmm mmm.

The night before brunch, my final thoughts before going to sleep was The Cheesecake Factory’s menu!!  Now ain’t that some ish? I didn’t toss and turn. I wasn’t stressing or anything. Ahem… I was planning!

Well, peeps, all the planning didn’t make a difference.

I read through the menu. I contemplated an old favorite.

I even thought about this blog, my Instagram, Twitter, and my Facebook pages. What am I gonna say? The truth! I am human! That I decided to do me.

Without guilt or shame, I ordered a Cajun Shrimp and pasta dish. It was delicious!!!

I came to terms with ordering and eating the fantastic dish with this thinking:

I am not a perfect Vegan.

Life is short, don’t deny myself of a dish that I really want.

This is my second cheat and the world has not stopped revolving.

I am a human being.

We falter.

Why does eating shrimp & pasta have to be a falter?

Change takes time.

I am a Vegan student.

Only eight months have passed.

I need the protein.

Looking at the plate made me grin. My face should’ve cracked! I was doing the right thing.

I live authentically.

My experience may help others.

The study of health behavior includes research on numerous behavioral change theories. Some of the contributing factors to successful changes in our behavior include our environment, community, family, work, knowledge, support, and finances.

Even if you have all the factors aligned, change occurs in stages, and it takes time. Change is hard, but you should keep trying.

Your goal may be to quit smoking, to learn to meditate, lose weight, start exercising or like me become Vegan, regardless the change in our behavior will not happen overnight. Having an understanding of this process can alleviate some of the stress. James Prochaska’s Readiness for Change Model is used widely in the field of wellness. His concept may help you to achieve goals related to modifying your behavior.  Below are the stages:

Six Readiness for Change Stages.

  1. Pre-contemplation – Lack of awareness; unconcerned; a person has no thought of changing. Ex: A cigarette smokes who has no desire to quit.
  2. Contemplation – The Person, begins to consider change; ambivalence. Ex: Cigarette smoker thinks about quitting but has not taken any action.
  3. Preparation – Person begins to explore change possibilities. We get ready for a change by gathering information about the subject and gathering resources. Ex: Cigarette smoker talks to their doctor about methods to quit smoking, talks and seeks support from family and friends or obtains medical assistance such as a patch.
  4. Action – Person takes action. Ex: The day the person chooses not to smoke a cigarette
  5. Maintenance – Person works at maintaining change. This is me. Lapse and relapse occur at this stage. Ex: Smoker experiences a relapse and takes a few puffs or smokes an entire cigarette.
  6. Termination – The new behavior is now part of your life. My goal! We engage in the new practice with little effort and without much thought. In other words, the new behavior occurs naturally.

If you are in the process of some type of behavioral change, can you identify which stage you are in? Being aware of your current stage may help you to understand your actions.  Working with a wellness coach will help you to move through and complete the steps.

My point here is to support you in the change(s) you are trying to make in your life. I relapsed and wanted to share this with you.  You might also relapse, and I don’t want you to beat yourself up about it.

Continue to surround yourself with people who encourage you; that’s why I’m here. Stay on your wellness train, it may be hard but please don’t give up.  If you’d like to talk, email me at tanyafcain@gmail.com

Happy Day!


Mind Your Sugar This Holiday; You’ll Be Glad You Did

December is the time of year when we splurge on delightful deserts a little more than usual. We attend office parties, end-of-year celebrations, family dinners, and banquets. These celebratory events besiege us with sugar-coated treats that have you feeling like a kid in a candy store. But you know what? If the holiday sugar feast isn’t your norm, then it is okay to indulge a little.

This post is not about encouraging you to avoid your holiday favorites. I only want to inspire you to remain mindful while you enjoy the holiday season. How do you live mindfully?

Stay Present.

To remain present means to observe everything that is happening to you. If you are present, you are in the moment; not thinking about tomorrow, what someone else thinks, or grappling about an incident that occurred yesterday. Being mindful means to:

  • Actively listen to the sounds around you. When listening to music, try to pick up on the background instruments.
  • Observe (but don’t judge) the colors, shapes, sizes in detail that is around you.
  • When eating, concentrate on the color, flavor, texture, smell, taste, and temperature of the food.
    • When eating, take smaller bites and avoid multi-tasking (watching TV, reading, surfing the net, etc…). The aftereffect of mindless eating is overindulging.
  • When communicating with others, focus on their words not what your response is going to be.
  • When driving, observe the cars and the roadway.  When was the last time you were driving down a road and the next thing you know, you arrived at your destination and don’t remember passing familiar streets and landmarks?  A wandering mind is reasonable; however, the trick is to catch the thoughts but then reject it and return to your focus.

We are hosting Christmas dinner, so as I began to think about the menu and desserts, I realized that the one common bothersome ingredient comprised of most holiday main course meals, desserts and beverages is sugar.

Sugar is an addiction. The more we eat sugar, the more we crave it. So, as you approach the dessert table, be mindful… How many trips have you made? Are you eating because you’re hungry or are inattentively shoving food in your mouth? Just something for you to think about.

img_6516-1

Image courtesy of Me_living (Instagram)

Eggnog Martini, White Christmas Martini, Santa Clausmopolitan, Jack Frost Cocktail-– Look them up on Pinterest; there are many!   Do I indulge? Absolutely!!  But the solution is to sip consciously.  Drink a glass of water between drinks. Go ahead, enjoy one sweet cocktail but if you decide to take a second drink, order it without the sugar on the rim, or just have your favorite spirit on the rocks.

 

Image: CDC (Center for Disease Control)

 

Even if you don’t consume alcohol, still think about the non-alcoholic eggnog, the punches, sodas, and juices.  When the news reported this week that the current U.S. President drinks 12 cans of diet coke each week, I cringed.  The label on diet coke shows zero “0” sugar, but it does contain aspartame. Too much of anything, especially, a GMO ingredient, is not good for the body.

Sixteen days remain in 2017, and I am still going Vegan strong!  My holiday festivities will undoubtedly include cocktails (mainly cabernet) but will exclude meat and dairy products.  I made it through Thanksgiving, so Christmas and New Year’s should be a breeze.

Happy Holidays!


Yes, I Care About You

“I’ll have an order of hot wings, spicy please and a Coors Light.”

At 25 years old, this was my standard eat after aerobic class. With my workout partner sitting across the table from me, we laughed ridiculously about class, our uncoordinated moves and how fine the instructor was.

We were young, slim and trim, and as far as we were concerned, we were going to stay that way forever.  Lol! When you’re young, you think that way– at least I did.  🙂

Recently I saw a video of “The Stanky Leg Workout” and I laughed so hard. These people are having a blast dancing to a choreographed aerobic workout. The class is getting their cardio in, as well as,  getting their heart-rate up.  🙂

For some reason, the video reminded me of the early 90’s when me and my girl worked out then feasted on the hot wings and beer.

I wondered what the participants in the class ate after their Stanky Leg Workout. I wondered if it mattered to them or if they understood how relevant their post workout meal is to the hard work they put in during class.

After all, when I was 25, I didn’t give a hoot about post workout nutrition. It didn’t matter. I was lean; could not gain weight, did not have any fitness goals, so what I ate did not matter. We worked out because it was fun. Both of us were married and with kids. We enjoyed the hour of “me time” away from work and family.  If this is the case with you; that’s cool–enjoy every minute!  If you workout for additional reasons, this post is for you. 🙂

What are your fitness goals?

lexawrites.com

Fitness goals motivate your behavior.  Fitness goals dictate what you do before, during and after your workout.  Your goals move you to live a certain lifestyle.

lexawrites.com

I am not an expert, a certified nutritionist, a certified personal trainer, or any other fitness pro (yet); however, for over 20 years, I have lived a healthy lifestyle and continue to educate myself in the world of fitness and nutrition.  It just keeps getting better.

I care about myself and…

I care about you!  I don’t have to know you to care about you.

Everyday I see the results of unhealthy lifestyles. I see it in children, parents, and in my family. I have lost family members to cancer, diabetics, and morbid obesity. It’s not pretty.

When I see an obese child, it makes me sad; and I want to cry. I know they’re getting teased in school and, if nothing changes for them (or their parents), they will experience a lifetime of unhappiness– failing to reach their full potential in life– unless a positive change occurs.

By the way, I AM NOT saying that a person cannot be heavy or large and be in shape and live happily. I’m talking about lifestyles that lead to major healthy issues such as, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, strokes, and more.

I want to take the obese child and the parent by the hand and tell them there is a better way. In reality tho, I’d get cussed out, so I stay in my lane.

I receive daily emails, texts, private FB messages, and phone calls from people asking me for help; this inquiries compelled me to write this post.  My advice to you is to sit and decide what your goals are and to write them down.

Don’t generalize: “I want to lose 20 pounds.”  Instead be specific:

To reduce my blood pressure to ______ and to reduce or get off my medication, I want to lose 20 pounds.

Start a food journal.  For three or four days, write down the following:

  1. What you ate/drank
  2. How much ate (estimate don’t measure)
  3. When you eat (time of day)
  4. Why you’re eating (breakfast, lunch, boredom, at a party, etc…)
  5. How you felt after you ate

This may seem time-consuming and cumbersome; however, to get the results, you MUST do the work… inside the gym and outside. There are no quick fixes.

If you don’t understand what you do or why you do it, you cannot make progress.

So what should you do after any workout?

Eat within the hour. If you are not going home immediately after your workout, pack your meal and take it with you to your workout. Eat it in the locker room, in the car, or on the bus, just eat.  After a workout, your body is in recovery and needs fuel to recover.

If you’re into bodybuilding, pre and post meal workouts are more complicated.  This post is more generalized for the average person.. if there’s such a thing.

Eat what?  This will vary greatly depending on your fitness goals.

Generally speaking, avoid:

  • fast food
  • fried foods
  • processed food (such as lunch meat)
  • sugary drinks/soda (including diet sodas)
  • packaged foods
  • frozen foods (unless you froze natural food yourself)
  • can foods

Try eating:

  • green/leafy food (spinach, broccoli, kale, collards, brussels sprouts, asparagus, etc..)
  • lean meat (skinless, boneless chicken, turkey, beef, etc…)
  • fish
  • beans (sometimes I use organic canned beans but I always rinse them well)
  • water
  • brown rice or pasta
  • yams/sweet potatoes
  • whole wheat vs. white
  • yogurt (plain with fresh fruit)

This lists above are general.  Again, depending on your health and fitness goals, your diet will vary.

Before starting any fitness regimen or nutrition plan, you should ALWAYS discuss it with your doctor.

Likewise, if you are being treated by your doctor for any condition, discuss and develop a plan with your doctor.  Safety and overall wellness should always be your first priority.

I hope this helps. 🙂

Thanks for stopping by and have a fabulous day!


He Went In Hard

Late December 2014, I received a random and unexpected text from a friend.  My friend was taking on a self-imposed 30 day challenge. His decision inspired a few others in our circle of friends to do the same.

The challenge was to merely live healthier for 30 days.  The goal was to avoid alcohol for the whole month of January and to eat healthier foods.

I don’t know what sparked his interest, but I was pumped and excited for my friend.  When someone makes a mindful choice to aim at living healthier (for whatever reason), I become overwhelmed with happiness. Why?  Because I know the benefits that await them. 🙂

Although working out was not part of the equation, I knew that if he remained committed for the entire month, he would certainly feel better, but also lose weight and inches.

My friend does not work out, but is active and rarely stays home.  He is active year around with sports and loves to travel. We also share an appreciation for good food.

He wanted to make better food choices, but he did not know how to do so, and that’s where I came into the picture.

I figure a big part of the obesity and unhealthy lifestyle culture in this country, is that people are unaware of the long-term effects that food has on the body and overall health.

Education should be ongoing and is vital to living in good health.

“When you  know better, you do better.”

At least that’s the premise from Dr. Maya Angelo and Oprah Winfrey.  I agree.

Year after year, I learn new facts about the food I consume, which I previously thought were good for me, and am forced to cut them from my diet.  And really, this is what the process is all about. Continue to educate yourself so that you can take a proactive approach to making smarter choices for you and your family.

While considering what kind of advice I would give him, I knew that I had to be realistic.  I needed to give him suggestions that he could manage and incorporate as part of his daily nutrition plan. The last thing he needed was to be overwhelmed by a long and complicated list of foods to eat and to avoid.

Lifestyle adjustments begin with small and subtle changes.  Studies show that taking on too much too soon can lead to failure, and failure was the last thing I wanted for him.

In addition to eliminating alcohol, my advice to him was to:

  1. replace soda and juice with lots water
  2. Avoid anything white (bread, flour sugar potatoes, sugar, etc…)
  3. reduce his sugar intake, i.e. sugar in coffee
  4. don’t skip meals
  5. eat breakfast (oats)
  6. plan meals
  7. When dining out, substitute cream sauces with tomato based sauces & replace fatty sides with extra vegetables.

He was open to trying new foods, which is half the battle of learning to eat better.  With the help of his girlfriend, he was delightfully overwhelmed with all kinds of new foods.   Here’s a list of some of the new food he incorporated into his diet.  It’s freaking amazing!

  1. Brown rice
  2. turkey burgers
  3. asparagus
  4. turmeric milk tea
  5. smoothies with kale, avocado, and almond milk
  6. zucchini spaghetti
  7. 1-2 gallons of water daily (he’s BIG guy)

He went in HARD and I love it!

Superbowl Sunday, the first of February was the official weigh in but, as soon as he took his coat off, I could see results. He lost inches in his midsection and his pants were unintentionally sagging.  Wow!

Without even incorporating an exercise program, he lost 14 pounds in January and 9 pounds the first week of February!

Most important to me is that my friend noticed his energy levels improved and ongoing joint issues improved.  He was flabbergasted by how changes in his diet improved how he felt.

Honestly, it’s no surprise to me but I am ecstatic that he has made the important connection between diet, nutrition, and overall wellness.  I’m doing cartwheels!  His attitude toward food is evolving…

from eating to feel full…

to eating to nourish the body…

Throughout the month, our group randomly checked in, via texts, to encourage, post meal pictures, and for daily and weekly progress reports.

Several friends in our group added exercise to the mix and experienced weight and/or inches loss.  Their journey to starting better lifestyle habits have begun. Yay!! I am so proud of all of them!  🙂

Developing new habits take time and “is not an all or nothing process.”

On average, it takes more than two months before a new behavior becomes automatic — 66 days to be exact. And how long it takes a new habit to form can vary widely depending on the behavior, the person, and the circumstances. In Lally’s study, it took anywhere from 18 days to 254 days for people to form a new habit. [1]

Contrary to popular brief, it takes more than 21 days to form a habit.  The 21 day habit myth evolved from  study done by Dr. Maxwell Maltz. Anyways, my friend is on his way to adopting new habits of improving his lifestyle. How do I know this?

Well, he decided to extended the practice of making better food choices in to February AND…. drum roll……  he is considering….

A gym membership!!!  I’m screaming this!!!!!!  

 It’s never too late…

You’re never too old…

You’re never too fat…

You’re never too far gone…

To take control and responsibility for your health. Start small, don’t quit, and go big!

You have what it takes!  🙂

Make it a great day!

 


Making The Protein Connection

How do I look like you?  I want my arms like yours?  What do I have to do? These are just a few of the questions I am constantly asked.

If you are starting a fitness program, especially one involving weight training, you need to get the scoop on the importance of protein intake.

You want ripped abs?  Ladies – you want to the confidence to go sleeveless and wear your arms out right?  To accomplish this, there are three basic essentials that you MUST do.

  1. Start weight training
  2. Eat lean and clean
  3. Consume more protein

Here’s an easy read article I found on Muscle & Fitness that will give you a simple explanation of why protein is important to building muscle.

8 Things You Should Know About Protein

Making the choice of which whey protein to take is overwhelming.  There are so many. Finding the right one for you is tricky.  Based on my fitness goals (figure competition), my trainer recommended Optimum Gold Standard 100% Natural Whey, which is working for me.

Since starting this protein, I’ve read many articles comparing protein supplements and recommend you do the same.  A good source to start reading is at BodyBuilding.com. Go to the supplementation page and there are endless articles.  Take your time reading through them.

If you’re working with a personal trainer, ask your trainer or an experienced fitness expert at your local gym for recommendations. I buy my protein at The Vitamin Shoppe, but there are other sites like eBay where it you buy it for cheaper. However, if you visit a store who sells supplements, a knowledgable staff member can help you.

Before deciding, consider your health and any dietary restrictions such as gluten, dairy and other allergies. If you take medication, always check with your doctor first.

Once you decide, buy small first. If you like it, can digest it, and it works for you, then buy a larger size.

Happy Monday and Keep it movin!  🙂