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7/14/10

Work On It Wednesday - Loving Yourself Part 3



This is the third week in Work On It Wednesday where we are talking about loving ourselves. If you missed the earlier posts, click on the Work On It Wednesday topic to the left and they should all come up.

I think that 2010 is a pretty hard era for women to live in, in all honesty. Although in the past women may have been more confined to traditional household roles, at this point in time we are pretty much expected to be a jack of all trades - and a master of all of them too! Instead of being June Cleaver, who was "allowed" (or forced, depending on your view) to stay home, take care of her family, and be the perfect housewife, now we are expected to be June Cleaver but with a full time corporate job that not only are we passionate about, but we are excelling in too. We aren't supposed to be stay at home mothers because we should want that career, but we also aren't supposed to work because we are supposed to be completely dedicated to our children. Basically, we can't win.

I think all of these societal and personal pressures that we place on ourselves make the situation ripe for criticism. We constantly feel like we aren't completely dedicating ourselves to any one thing, so we are not doing our absolute best in any area of our lives. It isn't possible to the dedicated housewife, mother, spouse, and career woman all in the same breath. Something has to give. Maybe that means that you aren't working a job that you are passionate about, or that you are never really going to climb the corporate ladder, because you simply don't want to. Maybe that means your house is a mess, and you don't have dinner on the table every night for your husband at 6pm sharp. Maybe it means it has taken you two years to lose your baby weight, or that you haven't had a date with your spouse alone in months. All of these things are okay, and it seems like as women we feel like we need permission to have faults.

The goal for this Work On It Wednesday is to begin to accept your limitations. Maybe you aren't ever going to have the cleanest house on the block - you know what, who cares? Your true friends that come over aren't going to, and who else really matters. Maybe there are days that you really just need a break, so you plug your kids in for a movie for a few hours. That's okay! It isn't going to hurt them. Accept your limitations, and don't beat yourself up for living your life in that way that you need. If there are things that you are not comfortable with and you feel like need changing, than ask a spouse, friend, or family member for some help. Ask for the support that you need, because people can't always see it or know how to offer their help. And be okay with asking for help, because no one can do it all alone. The biggest goal is to not beat yourself up though. At the end of the day, who are we trying to prove to that we can do it all? Only ourselves - so the sooner you can accept that you actually aren't able to do it all, the sooner that you will be in a happy mental place by asking for support from those who love you.

7/7/10

Work On It Wednesday - Loving Yourself Part 2

Work On It Wednesday this week is a continuation of last week's theme of loving yourself. This is the second step  (in my opinion) of working toward acceptance and love of yourself - not only for your wonderful qualities, but also for those qualities that you don't love.

I was listening to a podcast the other day while I was working out that was talking about Maria Shriver's Women's Conference, and the idea of women supporting each other. Basically they were talking about how lots of times when there is a women's conference or something of the like, the speakers and concepts presented are about women's issues around the world - sexual slavery, gender inequalities, etc.  However, even though in the United States and most Western countries those things are not everyday issues, we still have "women's issues" that we need to address - and part of those issues is the practice of constantly bringing each other down.

I was talking to my father one day about the differences between men and women. He said that if you put a group of men in the same room, they will basically establish a hierarchy chain, and there will be an alpha male down to the non-alpha males. They have some more dominant males, and some less dominant ones, and don't normally question it or challenge the differences. Instead of jealousy, backstabbing, etc, they cheer each other on (for the most part) or at least recognize that some men are better at things than they are, or have better jobs, or whatever, and they move on.

Women on the other hand tend to be more jealous, and more threatened (or whatever you want to call it) by other women. Instead of being happy for a woman that has a better job or is more athletic or whatever, they tend to try and bring that person down. The biggest problem that I see with this is that by bringing each other down, we are bringing ourselves down too. Often times, the qualities that we are insulting or criticizing in others is the very ones that we are jealous of or want for ourselves. However,  by constantly comparing ourselves to those around us, who may or may not have had completely different life circumstances that got them to where they are (good or bad), we disempower ourselves to be the best YOU you can be, and bring down everyone around you when you project your insecurities onto others.

My goal this week is to do my best to stop comparing myself to those around me. Maybe I won't ever be better than everyone else around me in every single facet of my life (how would that even be possible?) but you can rest assured that there isn't one person who is the best at everything anywhere. I know that I have positive characteristics, just like each individual in the world, and the most successful, happy, and fun to be around people are the ones that highlight (not verbally...that is obnoxious) their good qualities, and cut themselves some slack with their less good qualities. Everyone has drawbacks - that is what makes us human, but to accept yourself for what you are, and try to be the best you that you can possibly be, that is where you are really going to shine and have that sparkle in you that people adore. Coming to terms with your imperfections may be a life long journey, but it is never to early (or late) to start on that journey, and work toward a happier, emotionally healthier you.

7/1/10

Work On It Wednesday - Loving Yourself Part 1

This week, Work On It Wednesday (coming to you on Thursday...sorry about that!) is going in a little bit of a new direction.  As I was working out yesterday, I was inspired by a podcast that I was listening to that was talking about women's issues. It covered a broad variety of topics, but the first one that I was to discuss with you is the problem with women being so critical of themselves.

I don't really have a good explanation of why this is, but I see it every single day in the women that I am around (and even in myself). We are so critical of our bodies, and so aware of every imperfection in them. Jillian Michaels was saying on the podcast that she was at a book signing where a woman came up to her and wanted her to sign her "Making the Cut" book, and the woman was talking to her about losing the "last 10 pounds." Jillian was saying that the woman was in great shape, and really didn't have a single pound to lose or need to do anything with her body, but the woman just obsessed about a tiny bit of skin on her stomach from having two children in two years. 

Basically what Jillian said, and what I agree with, is that the problem at that point is not a physical one, it is a mental and emotional one. Instead of focusing on the positive aspects of her body - like the fact that she had two healthy, beautiful children in the span of two years time, and that she had lost all of her baby weight and was really taken care of her body, she was focusing on the one tiny little aspect of herself that she wasn't happy with. What makes us so critical of ourselves? Ultimately, why do we feel this pressure to look like we are ready to be on the cover of a magazine every single day? I don't have a solid answer for it, but I presume some of it comes from the pressures of women around us, some of it comes from society and the pressures of Hollywood and all that, and some of it comes from within ourselves.

The goal for this Work On It Wednesday is to stop. Stop criticizing your imperfections. Stop only seeing the negatives of yourself - your looks, your personality, or whatever. Each person has good and bad, and your personality is a balance between those. Focus on the positives - maybe you are really athletic, or really smart, or a great mother. Maybe you have wonderful arms, or eyes, or hair, or feet. Maybe you have extra skin because you lost a lot of weight - but you are so much healthier now than you were before, and no longer have the chronic diseases associated with obesity. Appreciate your body for what it can do, and where it has gotten you so far in your life. There are always going to be things about ourselves that we don't like, but so what? Who do you know that is perfect? This week, I am going to make an effort to look in the mirror every single morning and point out something that I love about myself. To begin to appreciate those small things that we see as positives is the first step in beginning to appreciate our beauty and uniqueness as individuals - and the first step to accepting ourselves as whole.

6/29/10

Try It Out Tuesday - Avocados



With the 4th of July holiday coming up, and cook outs and celebrations sure to ensue, I decided that this week we would focus our Try It Out Tuesday on Avocados.  Avocados were long thought of as a food that you should eat only "occasionally" because of the relatively high fat content, but upon closer inspect recently have become listed as a super food because of the heart healthy benefits and antioxidants that they contain (in addition to their fat being the "healthy kind.")

All About Avocados

According to the research that I read in preparation for writing up this Try It Out Tuesday, avocados can sometimes because called the "alligator pear" because of the shape of the fruit and it's thick, leathery skin. I've never personally heard them called that, but some of you may be more familiar with the terminology.

Avocados are grown all over the world, from South America to the islands of the South Pacific. They are grown on trees, and when fully grown they can weigh somewhere between 8 ounces and 3 pounds (!!). Once picked, they take about 6-9 days to ripen, after which time they have a very soft, buttery texture and richness.

Nutritional Benefits

Aside from the olive, avocados have the highest monounsaturated fat content of any fruit at 20%. They also contain smaller amounts of saturated fats and polyunsaturated fats. They contain three times the potassium content of a banana, as well as vitamin A, C, some Bs, folic acid, calcium, iron, magnesium, and phosphorus.  Avocados have been shown to reduce the risk of prostate, oral, and breast cancers. In addition, they also have more lutein than any other commonly consumed fruit, which is key in fighting age related macular degeneration (which is the leading cause of age related blindness). Avocados also contain key ingredients which help with heart health, stroke prevention, and lowering your cholesterol. Finally, some research has shown that nutrients are better absorbed when eaten with avocados (although you could presume this would also apply to other foods that are high in monounsaturated fats). In one study, people that ate avocados in their salads absorbed five times the amount of carotenoids (compounds that protect against chronic diseases) than people who did not pair their salad with avocados.

Ways to Incorporate Avocados

My favorite: guacamole! Other suggestions include:


Or you could do what was common when I was traveling in South America, and just slice it up and eat it by itself! Yum!

I can't wait to try out some new avocado recipes, and maybe even be generous and bring them to a 4th of July celebration to share the healthy deliciousness! I would love for you all to share your favorite avocado recipes or uses, so leave a link or recipe in the comments section and I will be sure to check it out! Have fun adding avocados to your diet this week!

This post is part of 

6/28/10

Money Mondays - My Grocery Budget Part II



At the very end of May, I talked to you all about my grocery budget and my goals for the month of June in terms of tracking (and reducing) my spending. Well, the month has come and gone quickly, so now I'm back to update you on my progress and final tally.

If you remember, my May total for groceries was $530.46 and eating out was about $109, for a total monthly food budget of $639.46. I set some goals for myself for June, which were the following:


1) Reduce my grocery bill to $450 for the month


2) Reducing eating out bill to $30 for the month


3) Explore new ways to get local and healthy foods for cheaper (farmers markets, ethnic stores, etc)


4) Not compromise on quality while trying to save


I have to admit, I'm pretty pleased with the progress that I made in only one month's time, although of course there is always room for improvement, and I did not achieve all of my goals. As far as the month's tally, in total I spent $420.38 for groceries and $67.81 for eating out, which totaled $488.19! I also saved $110.03 through my use of coupons, which was a savings percentage of about 21%. The savings number actually should be a little bit higher though, as I bought a good selection of meat on sale at the commissary for "reduced pricing" (it is the meat that they need to get rid of faster) and that is not calculated into my amount saved on my commissary receipt.

If you are counting, the amount that I spent this month was $151.27 less than last month, which is a 23.6% savings over last month! I am always more inspired by the savings percentages, because it just seems like a larger chunk! It makes me pretty proud that I reduced our grocery spending by almost one fourth in only one month! 

Here were the best tips that I used to achieve this progress:


  • I did continue to use coupons. I scoured the internet for organic and healthy food item coupons, and used them on things that were already marked down (like some organic tomato sauce for about $1, and organic whole wheat pasta for about $1 as well).
  • I mapped out my meal planning for the month, and really tried to use all the meals up. I have found that often times I am really good about sticking to the meal plan at the beginning of the week, but then we branch out a little bit as I get more tired of the foods we have in the house. One way that I combatted that boredom or whatever is that I always have some of my whole wheat homemade pizza dough ready to be whipped up into a homemade pizza, which has become our standby meal for the nights we don't feel like having a big to-do dinner. This has really helped, since we haven't been going out to eat as much, and also haven't been going to the store to just pick up a few things to eat for dinner.
  • Making a grocery list - this has been invaluable to me. I've always made grocery lists, but just this month I have started really sticking to them and not throwing in a bunch of extras. Maybe we don't have as many snack foods around the house, but who is really missing them anyway?
  • I have made less cookies. This was one of my original goals, and I think I only made two batches of cookies this month. It has cut down on our milk consumption, and also cut down on our desserts consumption!
  • Taking stock of my pantry, freezer, and fridge before going to the store. This was part of Keeper of the Home's series, and I think it is something I will do every time before I go to the store for a big grocery trip. I haven't been as good about keeping up the inventory lists that I made last time, as we go through food pretty quickly and I don't really feel like crossing all the little cans of stuff that I've used off, but I definitely think that it helps me to get a handle on what we already have and don't need to buy again, and that helped me to cut down on my grocery spending a lot.

Although like I said, I am pretty happy with my progress, I also recognize that there are still some things that I need to work on in terms of getting my grocery bill to where I would really like it:

  • More vegetarian meals - we are not vegetarians by any stretch of the imagination, but cutting back on meat is one of the easiest (in my opinion, but I'm not a big meat person) and most effective ways to reduce cost on meals. 
  • Less eating out - this is really my fault more than my husbands, as a few of the "eating out" meals this month were times that I went out with friends when he wasn't around. I'd like to start doing other things instead of just getting together for lunch, which is often the easiest thing to do. Some of the ideas of Work on It Wednesday - Get Outside! would be applicable - I am going to ask my neighbor if she wants to walk the dogs together, or maybe go over to a friends for lunch instead of going out to eat. 
  • Farmer's Markets - turns out the best farmers market around here didn't really open until last weekend, so I've only been once. We were sorely unprepared (no cash or a cooler), so we'll be going back again sometime soon. I'm planning on getting more meat, so hopefully we can improve on the quality of the meat that we do eat. That is the one place that I am really unhappy with our grocery situation at the moment - we are still eating the conventional, non organic, nasty commissary meat. This wouldn't be an area that will decrease my spending, but hopefully it can even out with the other things.
  • Stop buying toiletries! Argh! As I said in Why I Quit the Grocery Game and Other Thoughts about Saving Money, I do still to some extent play the "grocery game" with my toiletries. The thing is, I have so much body wash, shampoo, conditioner, and toothpaste that I really don't need anymore! We're moving soon too, so I need to stop stockpiling! I think some of that gets a little addictive, as I feel like I need to get the good deals out there. Money spent on things I don't need, even if I got them for a good price, is still wasted money. Goal for July: No more toiletries (except whatever I can buy with my leftover $6.50 in register rewards from Walgreens). 

So there is the update, my progress, and a few goals for next month. The budget for the next few months is going to be a little skewed, as we are moving in the middle of August so I'll probably stop buying groceries completely (except for maybe a few fruits and veggies) around the end of July, and force my family to eat whatever we have (anyone want some spaghetti sauce and rice for dinner?!) =) I refuse to let the massive amount of food in my walk in pantry go to waste, so I fear we'll be eating some weird meals in the upcoming weeks. That being said, I'll let you know at the end of July what kind of progress I've made, and maybe July/August will even each other out (since we'll be buying staples all over again in August in our new house).

I hope you've enjoyed reading about my progress. Have you made any changes to your grocery budget lately? I would love to hear other people's end of the month numbers for their family. If you don't mind, let me know the region that you live in, how many people you are feeding, and if you buy organic/"real" foods or not. I am (for whatever reason) really fascinated by this, so please join in and share! Also you'll give me something to aspire to, as I really have no idea how my numbers compare to anyone else!

6/26/10

Suggestions Wanted!

Now that I've been blogging for a few months, and have a fairly good number of subscribing and reoccurring visitors, I want to hear from you all! I am looking for suggestions, feedback, and any kind of comments you would like to submit!

Once you click the link below, a box will pop up with survey in it. Please fill it out and submit, and I will be sure and take into account all the feedback that I receive. After you submit a page will come up with a pie chart on it, which means that your entry has been sent.


As a bonus for you, each person that submits a reader survey (with actual, real comments) will be awarded an extra entry into our upcoming giveaway! You don't want to miss it, so get your surveys filled out today!


Click here to take our Reader Survey






Thank you in advance for your participation!

6/25/10

Why is it so hard to lose the last 5 pounds?


This is the last question in a series of "5 key questions about weight loss" from Time magazine. You can read the previous ones listed below:



The last question in the 5 key questions is "Why is it so hard to lose those last 5 to 10 pounds?"

Time's answer is that the bigger you are, the more calories you burn. Therefore, with the more weight you lose, the fewer calories you are burning and the more you have to work to burn the calories. 

That answer is true, for sure, but there is more to the story. In my opinion, there are a few combined reasons why those last few pounds are hard to lose. 

First off, you do burn fewer calories as you get smaller. You burn less through living, and also less in your activities. For example, if I am 5'4 and weigh 140lbs, my basal metabolic rate would be around 1452. This means that even if I were to stay in bed all day long and mope about, I would burn 1452 calories throughout the day just by being alive. Things like hair and nail growth, breathing, heart beating, etc, all take calories in order to function, so I would burn 1452. Now if I were that same 5'4 female, but I lost weight and now weigh 115, my BMR would be around 1343. Even though my body still needs to do all the things that it did before, because it is smaller now it burns less energy through these processes. So that approximately 110 calories per day won't be a deal breaker, but equates to around one pound a month that you were losing before that you aren't losing now.

The second part of this is that your calories burned during exercise change as you lose weight. Just like your body expends less energy by simply living, it also expends less energy through exercise, because you aren't moving as much weight. For example, a 155 pound person running 5.2 mph (11.5 minute miles) for an hour would burn around 633 calories. That same person, once they lost some weight and got down to 130 pounds would burn around 530 calories doing the exact same exercise at the same speed. Again, this 100 calorie difference isn't going to be a make or break difference, but if you combine these two ideas, you are burning 200 calories less per day, which would have been a pound of weight loss every 17-18 days that you aren't having now. 

The third part of this equation is that people often try to lose the last 5-10 pounds by starving off, which is not only unhealthy, but also not effective. If you are a fan of Jillian Michaels and read her books or listen to her podcasts at all, you'll know this information already, but bear with me. For someone that is drastically overweight, your body wants to get rid of the excess weight. Therefore, if you are overweight and cut down to 1200 calories per day and exercise, you'll lose weight because your body will dive into the fat stores that you have and burn them for energy. On the other hand, if you are near your healthy weight for your body, your body doesn't want to get rid of that extra fat. There hasn't always been a grocery store every mile, so our bodies have evolved to store fat for a little extra energy when food is scarcer. With a few extra pounds on you, your body is happy because it has a little safety net. So if you start to starve yourself in order to get rid of those last few pounds, your body is really going to think food is scarce, and hold onto those fat stores like there is no tomorrow. Physiologically speaking, we don't need muscle in the same vital way that we need fat, so if your body fears that it is starving it will begin to burn up your expendable muscle tissue, and hold onto the fat to keep you functioning. 
All that being said to point out that as you approach the last 5-10 pound realm, you need to eat! I've heard Jillian Michaels say multiple times that to lose those last few pounds the best thing to do is to eat around your BMR level (you can calculate that here)  and make the calorie deficit through exercise alone so that you won't end up starving your body. 

The final part of the 5-10 pound equation is setting realistic goals. Sometimes, people have trouble losing those last 5-10 pounds because they have set their goals at an unrealistic number for their height, build, or age (here is a chart that shows a range for each height).  If your goal is unrealistic, you are going to feel like a constant failure as you struggle to starve yourself thinner (see #3 above). Often times, I've heard people say that as you approach your goal weight, it is better to weigh yourself less and focus more on your body composition and how you feel/look in your clothes. It can get very discouraging and unhealthy to focus so much on a number, so just try to see how you are feeling and if you really even need to lose those last few pounds.


I hope you have enjoyed my take on Time's answers to the 5 key questions about weight loss.  Leave me a comment if you have any more questions, as I would love to answer them! I know this site is mostly about healthy life choices relating to food, but often times weight loss does go hand in hand with working toward a healthy lifestyle, so I wanted to touch on that aspect as well. 

Link Mashup - Great Reads of the Week



Here are some great reads of the week, as well as a rundown of what we've been talking about over here at Just Add Lauren this week. Life has been pretty hectic for me (hence the lack of updates yesterday!) but I promise there will be more to come this weekend and next week!


Great Reads:
Kitchen Stewardship - Why I Chose Raw Milk - I'm still not there yet, and haven't chosen raw milk for my family as of now, but I think her argument is thorough and interesting. I also like that she is always non-judgmental in explanation of things, and states that this is a personal choice for each to make for them and their family.

Easy Breakfast From Scratch - I am always looking for new ideas, and since breakfast is my favorite meal of the day (by far!) this one was especially applicable to me.

Freezing Kale - great idea to preserve your summer harvest! Also goes really well with this week's Try It Out Tuesday - Leafy Greens!

Bidding Farewell to the Microwave Oven - something I've considered doing myself, and very interesting to read about someone else's journey.  I also like the suggestions on alternative ways to heat things up once you are done with your microwave.



What We've Been Talking about at Just Add Lauren:

Money Monday - 6 Expensive Habits You Can Live Without - a guest post for Money Monday this week discussing the expensive things we can do without in order to save big bucks!

Why Does It Get Harder to Lose Weight as You Age - the third in the series of Time article questions. Discussing why it is that people find it harder to lose weight with age. Check it out to see what you can do about combating that!

Winner of the Coffee Cup Creations Giveaway - Congratulations to freddie! She's been contacted and has responded, so she will be receiving her prize shortly!

Try It Out Tuesday - Leafy Green Vegetables - they are in season now for colder climates (like here in Colorado) so it is a great time to add them to your diet! Leafy greens provide tons of cancer fighting chemicals, and are a wonderful healthy addition to what you are eating.

Diet Sodas and Weight Gain - my take on Time's answer to the question of if diet sodas can cause weight gain. We have covered the series of 5 key questions about weight loss this week, and the last one will be coming later today.

Work On It Wednesday - Get Outside! Summer is officially upon us, so now is the time to enjoy all those wonderful activities that you are dreaming about while the snow is covering the ground during winter time!


That's the week in review for this week. I hope you have enjoyed the articles! As always, I welcome your feedback, so let me know which was your favorite or least favorite posts!