Re-thinking the Pre-Bedtime Snack

What you ingest at night just might make or break you the next morning.

I used to think that only applied to Jaeger bombs and lemon drops, but I think just might go for anything.

A couple weeks ago, I was having a hell of a time getting up in the morning. No matter what time I went to bed, I could not pull myself out from under the covers. I blamed it on the darkness. I blamed it on the weather. I even blamed it on the dog for hogging the blankets.

Then, during a moment of profound contemplation, I began to think through what I ate throughout the day. I’m a big proponent for eating every 2-3 hours. Even if that means you’re eating an hour before going to bed.

Before you eat in the morning, you’ve essentially been fasting for 8 hours. If the last time you eat is at 6 or 7, you’re going for 12 hours without food! For those of you who skip breakfast (shame on you), you could go for 17 hours!

Your body needs nutrients. Feed it. Even if it means eating before going to bed. (Caveat: Don’t eat a huge meal of course. A light snack will do. Unless you like to toss and turn and have psychedelic dreams.)

Anyway, I usually eat dinner around 7, and then go to bed around midnight. That’s 5 hours. Obviously I need another meal or snack in there. I had been lazy, so I had been snacking on multi-grain crackers before going to bed.

Hm, maybe what I’m eating could be making it hard for me to get up, I thought.

I’d always heard that eating starchy carbs before going to bed might affect your sleep. It makes sense, I suppose. While you’re snoozing, you want something that will digest slowly. Starchy carbs digest rather quickly.

So I decided to change up my pre-bedtime snack to include a source of protein to slow down the digestion process. I’ve read that dairy is a great pre-bedtime snack because the casein protein in it digests slowly so it feeds your muscles while you sleep!

Here’s one of my favorite pre-bedtime snacks:

1/2 cup non-fat plain yogurt
1/3 scoop chocolate or vanilla protein powder (for an extra boost of protein)
touch of honey
1/2 tsp natural creamy peanut butter
some flax meal for crunch and fiber (to slow down the digestion process even more)

Be very mindful of the yogurt you get. Make sure it’s plain yogurt and has very little sugars in it. Mainstream yogurts like Danon and Yoplait have almost 20 grams in one serving, which usually come from added sweeteners and totally defeats the purpose. My favorite brand is Nancy’s. You can usually find it in the natural section of your grocery store.

Since changing up my pre-bedtime snack, I no longer feel like I got hit by a truck in the morning. I suppose that means I might be one of those “carb-sensitive” people.

Some people react to certain foods differently. Pay attention to what you eat at night and how it makes you feel in the morning. It could make a world of difference.

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The Wonderfully Selfish Act of Giving

What a beautiful weekend. Mother Nature has blessed the Pacific Northwest with something very rare for this time of year – sun and blue skies. My husband and I made our way south to the Oregon Coast for a fun-filled beach weekend with friends. There’s nothing like the view of the vast, blue open sea with a glowing, orange horizon to fill you with inspiration and complete awe at the miracle of life and all the possibilities it brings.

Oregon Coast Moon

Oregon Coast Night

Something about the crisp ocean air and starry skies reminds me that life is so special. Why live life without doing something that matters to you? So many of us go to work every day and go through the motions to get a check at the end of the month. It’s a noble thing to work to provide for your loved ones. But sometimes, do you ever think there’s got to be more?

I’m one of those optimistic thinkers that believes there is. Why can’t I support my family and fulfill my own spirit by doing something that has meaning to me? Something that keeps me alive?

Today we celebrated the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. There’s someone who was passionate, who stood for something he believed in with his whole being. Who believed in something that was bigger than he was and was willing to pay the ultimate price to see the realization of his dream.

What do you believe in?

I’m fortunate enough to work at a large company that had a special celebratory event commemorating Dr. King, and our keynote speaker echoed this concept. You might remember this guy. He played basketball for some team in L.A. back in the day.

Magic Johnson

In the words of Earvin “Magic” Johnson, “The check won’t wake you up in the morning.” After retiring from the NBA, Magic Johnson could very well have lived the rest of his life on a sunny beach in the Bahamas. Instead, he decided to start the Magic Johnson Foundation, which addresses the health, educational, and social needs of inner-city communities. He saw a need and is passionate about fulfilling it.

What need do you see?

Why not take your strengths (as defined by Marcus Buckingham as something you look forward to doing, lose track of time doing, are usually successful at doing, and feel energized by after doing) and apply those strengths to promoting a cause you believe in? You don’t have to quit your job to do it; volunteer even just a couple hours a month.

Do you love planning parties for your friends? Why not volunteer to help coordinate an event for an organization like the Candlelighters Childhood Cancer Foundation? You get to have fun picking out table centerpieces and planning logistics, and help kids with cancer and their families. Do you love being outdoors? Why not volunteer to help clean up a local park or beach? You can enjoy the scenery and make it more beautiful at the same time.

Me? I believe in proactively taking responsibility for your own health. “Pay” for your health now by buying and eating the right foods, exercising, and investing in your mind and spirit, rather than paying for it later in healthcare costs, prescription drugs, and the frustration that your body can’t keep up with you. I believe that there are too many people out there who don’t do this because they don’t know any better. They frankly don’t know what they’re doing to themselves. And in turn, they teach their own bad habits to their children.

I believe the children are our future. (Sorry, I had to quote Whitney Houston…I know that song is in your head now.) Let’s teach them healthy habits at a young age.

So a while back, I decided to take what I love to do (write), and volunteer my writing time and skills to Treeswing, a Pacific Northwest organization that promotes healthy, active lifestlyes in children and their families. I occasionally write for their newsletter and website. It’s selfish in that I get to do what I love and get more experience doing it, but I’m also contributing to an awesome cause at the same time. It’s a win-win situation.

It doesn’t have to take much time. All you have to do is give what you can. Give a few minutes here and there, and if it’s doing what you love, how can you lose? I firmly believe that the more you freely give, the more the universe will return to you in ways you never expected.

There are plenty of organizations out there that are desparate for a helping hand. Check out United Way to find a volunteer opportunity that excites you.

In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

What matters to you?

P.S. Today I officially started my husband’s Transformation Challenge program. My plan is to blog regularly about the experience. I’m thinking I’ll create a separate page for those blogs. Stay tuned.

Lessons in Failure from William Hung

Ah, American Idol.  One of America’s favorite guilty pleasures.  Despite the fact that it’s practically the same thing year after year – cue cute wholesome 17-year old girl from the south with soulful Etta James/Aretha Franklin voice, funky tatooed pink/blue-haired girl with mediocre voice, and rebel-without-a-cause rocker dude equipped with money chain and guitar – it’s a good lesson in balls-out, put-it-all-on-the-line failure.

Take William Hung for example.  Putting aside the horrible music videos and unfounded fame he somehow managed to take hold of, you might recall his audition.  I don’t know about you, but I liked him.  Here’s this unassuming civil engineering student, bucktooth and all, pursuing his passion on national television in front of megastars that could make or break every dream he’s ever had.  He sings, he dances, and best of all, he demonstrates humility, gratitude, and a genuine love of what he’s doing.

Wow, if only we all could have kahones like that.  So, he didn’t make it through to the next round.  But gosh, look at what he did.  He stepped up there in front of those judges and put his heart and soul on the line.  He went after his dream and did his best, so he has no regrets.

The Fear of Failure

Failure.  It’s a scary word, isn’t it?  Maybe I shouldn’t start a new workout program; I might give up.  Maybe I shouldn’t accept that project; I might not be able to deliver.  Maybe I shouldn’t start that blog; I might be horrible at it.

Three statements I recently said to myself.  Three statements I recently threw out the window. 

I wonder if William Hung said “Maybe I shouldn’t audition; I might make a fool of myself.”  Odds are he did, but he auditioned anyway.  Did he make a fool of himself?  Maybe.  Did people laugh at him?  Of course.  Did he walk away from that audition a better, stronger person?  Absolutely.

I know it’s been preached over and over again, but one thing I recently realized is that fear of failure is never a good excuse. 

For the longest time, I was afraid to start a blog.  The thought of putting myself out there, open to being ridiculed, laughed at, or just told I suck, scared me to death.  But it’s something I’ve always wanted to do.  Writing makes me alive.  It pumps the blood through my veins.  And I was about to let fear stand in my way of that?

I did, for years.  Then one day I realized, so what if I fail?  At least I’ll know I tried, and I’ll have no regrets.  I still don’t know if this blog will fail.  But I at least know that I stepped out of my comfort zone and did it despite the fear.  And I can’t tell you how great that feels.

“A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable but more useful than a life spent in doing nothing.” — George Bernard Shaw

Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway

See, I’ve realized that everyone feels fear.  Notice the difference between the winners’ and the losers’ strategy:

LOSERS:

  1. Feel fear
  2. Do nothing

or

  1. Feel fear
  2. Do it anyway
  3. Fail
  4. Beat up on self

WINNERS:

  1. Feel fear
  2. Do it anyway
  3. Fail
  4. Take note of what didn’t work and what benefits were gained
  5. Apply lessons to next challenge

The key is, feel the fear and do it anyway.  Feel the fear and do it anyway.  (Not only a great mantra, but a great perspective-altering book by Susan Jeffers.)   The second key is, accept that failure is a possibility, but learn whatever lessons you can from it.

For instance, I’ve already gained so many things from this blog – I’ve learned about my writing style and what I like to write about, I’ve made a few blogging friends, and I’ve even helped a few people through my posts.  And if this blog fails, I’ll take the lessons I’ve learned from this experience, and I’ll keep writing.

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” — Thomas Edison

If you’re going to do it, DO it

Another horrible mistake you can make is to fail while giving only half-assed effort.  If you’re going to fail, do it with all you got.  If you do fail, one of the worst feelings would be if you look back on your experience and think, “If only I tried harder.”

If you want to succeed big, you must be willing to fail big. 

So here I am.  I started that workout program.  I took that project.  I started this blog.  If I succeed, great!  If I don’t, I know I’ve already gained so much anyway.  Do I still feel that fear sometimes?  Of course.  But I’m doing it anyway!

I leave you with one of the greatest commercials ever made from one of the greatest athletes of all time, Michael Jordan…Hm, William Hung and Michael Jordan. They’ve got more in common than you’d think.

Sweeteners Are Everywhere: Look Out for Hidden Sugars!

I was on a grocery store tour with my husband the other day, as he explained the “do’s and don’ts” of shopping for food.  We were on the subject of sweeteners, and were hence looking at honey and agave nectar.  One of his clients mentioned that agave nectar isn’t very sweet, so you usually need a lot to make a difference.

Later that afternoon, my husband and I grabbed a couple of Americano’s at a cute place we like near his work (Pomegranate Bistro, for those of

airmoore
photo credit: airmoore

you in my area).  I love this place because their ingredients are fresh and light.  And their coffee stand offers agave nectar and Sugar in the Raw as a sweetener for your drinks. 

If you recall, I much prefer these natural sweeteners over Pink and Blue Death (Sweet & Low and Equal) or white table sugar any day.

So I squeezed some agave nectar into my coffee.  And remembering my husband’s client’s words, I kept squeezing, even though I knew I shouldn’t.  I took one sip…and bleh!  WAY too sweet.  I just ruined my $1.95 fufu coffee drink.  Well, I didn’t want it to go to waste, so I kept sipping.

About halfway through the 8 ounces, as we strolled through Macy’s bedding department, my stomach started cramping.  Not only was I incredibly unsettled by the fact that I felt a major urge to do something very un-lady-like between the aisles over-priced Egyptian cotton pillowcases and the over-rated silk fitted sheets, I was perplexed by why I thought that agave nectar is way too sweet, even though my husband’s client might think it’s not sweet enough.

As I rushed to the men’s department to find my husband and tell him that it was time to leave, I realized that one person’s sweet is another person’s not-so-sweet.  But why?

Now, I’m not saying this is the case with my husband’s client, but some people are more accustomed to sugars, therefore are less affected by a high dosage.  It’s like if you get headaches often and are always popping Advil, one Advil is going to do nothing for you while it might work worlds of wonders for someone who rarely takes it.

But my husband’s client also eats fairly healthily.  It’s not like she eats Skittles and Nerds every day, so why might she be more accustomed to sugars than I? 

Could it be those crafty hidden sugars?

The Joys of Hidden Sugars

Uwe Hermann
photo credit: Uwe Hermann

Just when you think you’ve eliminated all forms of sugar from your life – you stopped eating candy, you use applesauce in your baking instead of sugar, and you stopped drinking Coke with every meal – little did you know that you’re being sabotaged by all kinds of sugars that you probably don’t even realize are there.

Sugars can go incognito, disguised as many fancy terms you might overlook:

  • cane juice
  • corn syrup (like that nasty high fructose corn syrup)
  • sorghum
  • glucose
  • lactose
  • maltose
  • fructose
  • sucralose
  • xorbitol
  • mannitol

If it ends in “ose” or “ol” it’s most likely a sugar.  And don’t forget that artificial sweetener, aspartame.  As far as I’m concerned, that’s another one of those chemically processed ingredients that pretend to be good for you, but in actuality it’s out to get you.  Hm, kind of reminds me of Rebecca DeMornay’s character in “The Hand that Rocks the Cradle.”  Whatever happened to her anyway?

So how are these ingredients hidden?  Well, you’d expect sweeteners to be in candy and other foods that are supposed to be sweet.  But did you know that sugar is in almost everything?  Many of the packaged foods that you buy have some kind of added sweetener in it.  Here are some common ones:

  • bread
  • ketchup
  • spaghetti sauce
  • salad dressing
  • mustard
  • beef jerky
  • peanut butter
  • jams and jellies

So while you think you’re limiting your sugar intake, you may actually still be consuming way more than you should.  Food manufacturers add sweeteners to their products not only because they know that the American pallate prefers sweet, but because the sweeteners increase your craving for the food, so you’ll eat more!

Your best bet is to buy these foods in the natural section of your grocery store.  While they may still have added sweeteners, they’ll at least be in natural forms (evaporated cane juice, brown sugar, organic cane sugar, etc.)  instead of in the artificial forms (high fructose corn syrup, aspartame, corn syrup solids, etc.). 

Always check the nutrition label and the number of sugars in 1 serving.  And remember that 1 package might contain multiple servings!  You should always try to stay below 4 grams, which is the equivalent of 1 packet of sugar.  But of course, the fewer the better.  Try to get the product that lists the sweetener as low on the ingredient list as possible.

Also, be weary of “Lite” and “Low-Fat” choices.  The fat that is taken out is usually replaced with sugar.

Once you’re aware of the presence of these sweeteners, you can begin to take the steps to moderate your intake.  (No, you don’t need a cup of ketchup on your eggs.)  As you decrease your intake, you’ll begin to notice that you just don’t feel the same way about sweet as you used to.  (I could never get through the grande mochas of my past.)

 And hopefully you’ll remember to add agave nectar in small amounts before dumping it into your coffee.  You’ll be glad you did.  Macy’s will be glad too.

Everyone Makes A Mistake Every Now and Then

It happens all the time – newspapers post corrections to stories that contained an error in a previous edition.  Granted, it’s usually in very small print on the back page, in the bottom left-hand corner where no one ever looks.  I’ll be (wo)man enough to call out my error in broad daylight. 

I was at the gym again, and decided that because of the higher reps in today’s workout, I could use the 24-pound Power Blocks in the women’s fitness area.  I reserve myself a bench, grab the Power Blocks, and start my front squats.  Around the 5th rep, something new about two feet to the left of the dumbell rack catches my eye. 

What is that I see?  Another set of Power Blocks?

Oh it is, isn’t it?  I finish my set, walk over to them, and discover that my hunch is correct – they’re 60-pound Power Blocks.

Oooh, I feel so sheepish. 

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photo credit: chalkie_colour_circles

 Alas, I stand corrected and hereby rescind the remarks I made on my last post.  So I didn’t notice those nifty new Power Blocks yesterday.  I must have been too engrossed in the dramatic episode I concocted in my head to even notice. 

<Insert unnamed health club here>, as well as that nice, young trainer behind the fitness desk, deserve my heartfelt apologies.  They haven’t turned their backs on their duty to enable women to lift heavier weights.

Brownie points have officially been earned back.

(Another) UPDATE: Women Who Lift Heavy Unite!

I’ll be honest – it’s been a while since I set foot in a gym. Of course, that doesn’t mean I haven’t been working out, I’ve just be doing it at home. Since my husband bought me some cute workout clothes for Christmas, I decided I should put them to use and go to the gym. (When I work out at home, I’m usually in some Felix the Cat boxers and an over-sized t-shirt from some work event that I would never be caught wearing in public.)

So I get to the gym, change by my usual locker, and head down to the women’s fitness area. I’m doing the 15-minute workouts, which consist of a very quick circuit with very limited rest. So I need everything within close vicinity and easy to access. As you might recall from my original Women Who Lift Heavy UNITE! post and the first update to this saga, the main workout floor is usually overflowing with testosterone-laden Arnold-wannabes.  And everything is so spread out and machines are high in demand, it’s just a pain to hog a bunch of weights AND a machine for my circuit.  So I go to the women’s fitness area which is much less crowded and circuit-friendly.

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Umm, what am I supposed to do with these tiny weights? (photo credit:rick's old photos)

I get to the women’s fitness area, reserve myself a bench, and head over to the weight rack. Hmmm…5’s, 10’s, 15’s, 20’s…20’s…20’s…Where did my 30’s and 40’s go?

THEY’RE GONE! [dun dun DUUUNNNNN]

Oh, young trainer behind the fitness desk, you’ve failed me!  Two months ago when I asked you to kindly put heavier weights in the women’s fitness area, you made every effort to fulfill my request, leading me to believe that you understood my plight!  And now, behold, you’ve receded into the unforsaken mindset that women wouldn’t lift anything more than 20 pounds. 

<Insert unnamed health club here> has officially lost the brownie points they earned with me.

I don’t know what’s more upsetting: 1) that they realized that no one was using them in my absence so decided to remove them because they don’t believe they should enable women to lift heavy, or 2) that no one else was using them.

Either way, I turned around, threw my towel over my shoulder, and left the women’s fitness area in disgust.  If that young trainer were standing in front of me, he would have gotten a sharp ponytail wisp in the face.

I made my way down to the big workout floor, past the women on the ellipticals and stairmasters, and joined the men in their evening ritual of grunting and iron pumping.  The two other women in the room were quietly pushing through their sets amidst the macho-fest surrounding them.

Stand proud, sisters.  Stand proud.

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photo credit: Pranav Singh

8 Goal Setting Guidelines to Help You Win in the New Year

new-picture-3

I know it’s kind of late to be talking about goal-setting since New Years Resolution time has passed, and about 80% of the general population has already given up on them.  I’m running a little late.

I already set some good high-level goals, but I know they’re not done yet because I need to get more specific.  So I’m in the process of doing so.  That got me thinking – what makes good goal-setting? 

Remember in high school – or was it college?  its’s all a blur to me anyhow – you were taught to make goals SMART (S=specific, M=measureable, A=attainable, R=realistic, T=timely)?  That’s all fine and dandy, but there’s got to be more to it than that.

Before I get into it though, I have a slight problem with the good ol’ SMART acronym that I need to get off my chest.  S, yes.  M, yes.  A, yes with a caveat.  R, yes with a caveat.  T, yes.  Explanation:

A.  “If you can dream it, you can achieve it.” – Walt Disney.  Did anyone ever tell Walt Disney that his vision for a huge, magical theme park with mice in tuxedos and singing and dancing bears was unattainable?  You betcha.  So, this gets us into a discussion around visions vs. goals, which can be a meaty subject on its own.  Here’s how I see it: a vision is your long-term picture of what you want in your life.  Goals are how you get there. 

So, should your goals be “attainable”?  Yes, these are the stepping stones to attaining your big, scary vision.  BUT, they should be on “the teetering edge.”  As James Ray would say, they should be set so you don’t know whether they excite you or scare the shit out of you.

R.  See “A” above.  I always thought the two were the same thing, but for the sake of having a clever acronym were split into two.  (“SMAT” doesn’t sound as cool as “SMART.”)

Now that that’s off my chest, onto my goal setting guidelines:

  1. My goals are SMART, as we discussed above.
  2. My goals always span 5 categories: physical, mental, relational, spiritual, and financial.  Well-being encompasses all aspects of life, so I strongly believe that you need to give attention to all areas.  Some may get more attention than others at any one time, but there should never be one that is completely neglected.  I typically have one or two goals per category.
  3. My goals inspire me.   You are never going to achieve them if they don’t spark some kind of fire in you.  If it’s just words on paper, that’s all they’ll ever be.
  4. My goals are on the teetering edge.  Again, see discussion above.  They’re one step beyond what my initial gut reaction says I’m capable of. 
  5. My goals are written down.  Writing them down brings them one step closer to becoming reality.  If they’re just floating in your head, they’re likely to be forgotten.  Also, writing them down sends a strong signal to your unconscious (a.k.a. subconscious) mind that you’re committed. 
  6. My goals are written in the first person, are in present tense, and include a statement of gratitudenew-picture-4.  Setting your goals as “I am measuring at X% bodyfat, and am so grateful for it” or “I am so grateful now that I donate $Y to Charity Z once a month” is so much more powerful than “I want to weigh X lbs” or “To write Y blog posts every month.”  It sends a strong signal to your unconscious it’s already here and this is who you are.  In a great post about New Years Resolutions vs. Goals, Tim Brownson, UK qualified Life Coach, says it “forc[es] [yourself] to view [yourself] differently.”
  7. My goals are broken down into 1-year goals and then further broken down into 1-month goals.  Obviously I set my 1-month goals on a monthly basis.
  8. I reserve the right to revisit and reshape my goals.  Don’t get me wrong – this isn’t a cop out.  I’m not saying that you should change your goal just because you’ve gotten lazy.  Sometimes you may discover down the road a goal doesn’t align with your vision.  Or maybe you underestimated the commitment required for another goal, and this one has to give way a little.  Whatever the case, sometimes goals have to change.  As long as it’s truly for a good reason, that’s okay.

I highly encourage you dedicate some good, quality time to goal setting.  It provides great clarity for what you want in your life, and is a great way to get motivated, inspired, and focused for the upcoming year.  I know it’s done that for me, and I’m ready to take on 2009!

Feel free to post some of your goal-setting guidelines as well!

To your health, prosperity, and happiness,
Julie (The Fitness Wife)

Time to Change It Up and Get My 15 Minutes of Fitness

15-minutes

Whew!  Just got done working out.  That was one of the toughest 15 minutes I’ve ever lived through.

I’m starting a new program by who else – my husband.  (Why would I train with anyone else?)  It’s merely 15 minutes.  But let me tell you, it’s a tough 15 minutes.  He’s big on getting fit without spending hours in the gym.  He’s always told me that you should never have to spend more than an hour there.  My average workout time is around half an hour – 45 minutes if I throw in some cardio intervals.  One hour max when I do his Saturday morning fitcamps.

But this time, I’m getting it done in 15 minutes, and at home nonetheless.  Although I do need to go to the gym once in a while to sport my cute new workout clothes.  My husband got me a really cute jacket from Lululemon and some reversible workout pants for Christmas.  Yes! 2 in 1!(Yes, I’m one of THOSE people…you know, the ones who wear color-coordinated outfits to the gym.  But I DON”T put on makeup to go to the gym, unlike some people I know.  That’s just ridiculous if you ask me.) 

Anyway, today we used resistance bands connected to the door and a sandbag.  That’s it – nothing fancy.  Who said you need fancy equipment to get fit?  He has a couple “quick fix” workouts posted on his website, http://www.element5fitness.com.  Scroll about halfway down, and they’re posted on the right-hand side.

I’m also putting more focus on my nutrition again.  (Yes, during the holidays I did let myself indulge a little bit.)  One of my goals for this year is to educate myself more on nutrition for healthy living.  I want to combine one of my passions – yummy food – with eating in a way that supports a healthy, fit lifestyle without sacrificing the God-given gift of taste and occasional, planned indulgence (i.e. indulgence that doesn’t take advantage of an undisciplined mind).  Who says you can’t have it all? 🙂

I’d love to hear from you if you’re changing things up with the New Year as well!  There’s nothing like change to get you motivated and moving again!