Nine Tips for Losing Nineteen Pounds (and Counting)

IMG_2989It felt so good, that one little comment made by a friend after Mass on Sunday. “Psst, Amy, have you lost weight?” Someone noticed! In fact, I’ve lost 19 pounds in the past few months. For the first time in years, I have to keep pulling up my shorts, and my shirts are hanging on me. It feels good, and honestly, it has been easy. Yes, I’ve had to completely re-evaluate what I eat, how much I eat, what I cook, and what I order out (the hardest of all). I’ve had to come around to a whole new way of looking at meals, but you know what? It worked. And I’m not starving, nor am I giving up my favorite foods. It was a learning process, and I’m happy to share it with you.

  1. fmimg22490971610149207.ss-0-Weight Watchers was a starting point but not a crutch. I joined, after the encouragement of a few friends, but I knew I didn’t have the time for meetings, so I joined using the app. I found that I only needed to be a member for about three months in order to see what I was eating and how it affected my diet (that’s diet with a small “d” because I don’t feel like I’m on a Diet). I had to learn what foods I was eating that needed to be scaled back or cut out. It was also a great help in restaurants as I shifted into eating things that would satisfy but not add too many calories. I was able to track my food as well as my exercising and learned how each affected my weight. It was also nice to see the weight chart go down each week! I’ve stopped using the app, but I’m still applying the principles, and I’m still losing weight.
  2. Breakfast was hard. I won’t lie. I’m not a big fan of breakfast food. I love bacon, but it doesn’t love me. I don’t eat doughnuts or pastries or waffles or bagels. They just leave me feeling bloated. I enjoy a good pancake but not enough to eat them very often. Cereal works for me, but only about once a week. My go-to breakfast has always been yogurt, but it just doesn’t fill me up. What I really love is oatmeal, but plain, unflavored oatmeal? Yuck! So here’s my recipe for a tasty, healthy, and satisfying breakfast: I cook one serving of plain, instant oatmeal, add a quarter cup of fruit, a half cup of plain, Greek yogurt, and a dash of cinnamon. Mixed together, it’s just the right temperature, tastes great, and leaves me satisfied until lunch.
  3. Lunch was even harder. Okay, don’t laugh. In my mind, I was eating the healthiest lunch I could possibly eat. I ate a piece of fruit, a small helping of crackers and light cream cheese, and a serving size of dark chocolate almonds (hey, it’s dark chocolate, the heart’s vitamin). The first day I loaded the meal into my app, I was shocked. My little tiny lunch ate up half of my allowed points for the entire day! It took some time, but I learned what I can eat that will be nutritious and keep me from snacking before dinner. A healthy sandwich (my favorite is peanut butter and banana on Foldit 5 Grain Flax Bread), a piece of fruit, and a serving of crackers keeps my stomach happy until dinner. I’ve even gotten to where I can forego the crackers and go heavy on the fruit and still be satisfied. Or I substitute the crackers with Half Naked Popcorn. Yummy!
  4. Finding new dinner recipes was fun, and everyone chipped in. Nobody complained when I wanted to try something new. Katie is a vegetarian, so she happily helped me create new meals that were to her liking. The key was making sure that the meal was heavy on fruits and veggies and light on carbs. To be honest, it’s easier than it sounds. Spaghetti, a staple in our home, was even within my point value if I made it the right way. I have always make my sauce from scratch, so that helps. We only use whole grain noodles, so that’s another plus. Ken hunts, so elk burger is our meat of choice (if I’m adding meat). Another plus. It was the portion size that was really the issue, but when served with a nice salad, a smaller portion was easy. Once I learned that not only was I satisfied with a smaller portion, I also felt less bloated, then all was good. And that garlic bread we all like to have on the side? No problem. I just made sure that whatever I ate the next night was lighter. It’s all about balance, but haven’t we been hearing that for years?
  5. valpollicellaCSWe found new ways to make old favorites. I wanted food that was satisfying and healthy, so we found ways to add veggies into things. For example, our favorite new recipe is baked ziti. No, I’m not kidding! It was Katie’s idea that put it over the top. I made the whole grain noodles and my homemade sauce. At the same time, I sautéed fresh spinach in garlic and olive oil. I then mixed the spinach into a bowl of fat free ricotta cheese. I layered the noodles, cheese, and then the sauce and baked it. It was fabulous! Served with a salad, it was filling and rich but not heavy. And I even enjoyed a glass of wine with it and felt no guilt at all.
  6. Ah yes, the wine. That was a killer. If there’s one thing I enjoy immensely, it’s a good glass of Italian wine with dinner. Perhaps that was my problem. I like to eat and drink like I’m in Italy, but I don’t walk everywhere I go like they do in Italy! So I had to decide, eat a filling meal or drink a glass of wine. My stomach won out, and I cut my wine consumption to one glass per week. Okay two, because…
  7. I always take a day off. It seems like there is always one night, usually over a weekend, when we go out to eat, attend a party, or entertain guests. That’s my time to relax, have a drink or maybe two, and eat what I want. I forget the meal plan for that one meal and just enjoy myself. Here’s what I learned, though: eating everything I want just leaves me feeling miserable. So I’ve learned to eat what I want within reason. If I know I’m having a couple of drinks or really want that specialty dessert, I go with a light dinner. And I spend more time thinking about the company I am with than the food I am eating. Life is too short to spend every minute worrying about something, so I just let go and enjoy.
  8. Exercise doesn’t have to hurt. I’ve been doing yoga for almost four years. I try to go three times a week. I do the fitness yoga, or strength yoga, so I’m working my body and not just clearing my mind. It works for me, and I feel good about myself when I leave the gym. And I try to stay active even when I’m not able to make it to class. When we vacation, we don’t spend a week sitting on the beach. We see and do everything, and I mean everything. That usually requires a heck of a lot of walking and often other activities such as horseback riding or mountain climbing. As far as I’m concerned, exercise is about moving, no matter what form of movement you choose to make.IMG_2151
  9. strawberry-shortcake2Snacks and desserts are well-deserved. And every now and then I will indulge in a small hot fudge sundae or even a cookie. But I snack all the time and don’t feel guilty. Remember the Half Naked Popcorn? It has become my go-to pick me up along with whatever fresh fruit is in season. We’ve eaten a lot of watermelon this summer, and I do mean a lot! We’ve also kept the strawberry and blueberry growers in business along with the peach farmers. I will miss the fresh fruit when winter sets in, so feel free to let me know what winter varieties you enjoy. I’ll be sure to check them out. As far as sweets, I haven’t given those up entirely either. This week, we made a homemade strawberry shortcake for Rebecca’s final dinner at home before she went back to school. It was made with angel food cake and fat free Readi Whip. I ate a piece without any remorse, and to be honest, I had another piece the next day.

Live life. Enjoy yourself. But be healthy. I haven’t felt this good in years, and I’m hoping that some of my tips and examples will inspire others to start eating right and getting healthy. There’s only one time when it’s too late to start, so what are you waiting for?

Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and novels for readers of all ages.  She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her book, Picture Me, is the recipient of an Illumination Award, placing it among the top three eBooks of 2015. Her latest book, Whispering Vines, is now available for purchase.

You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com.

Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me (2015), Whispering Vines (2016)

 

Come to Child’s Pose

1st day of school (4)Everyone who has ever taken a yoga class has heard the words, “Whenever you need a break, come to child’s pose.”  This morning, as we all went into child’s pose, on our knees with our heads bowed, those words really sank in for me.  Typically, my mind goes to, I’ve been doing yoga for three years, I don’t need to go to child’s pose.  I don’t want to take a break.  Inevitably, though, when our instructor tells us to move on to downward dog, there’s a little voice in my head that says, No, it feels good to be in child’s pose!  And today, I had a revelation.  In life, we all need a break sometimes.  We all need to come to child’s pose.

Do you remember your childhood?  The days spent with friends, evenings spent catching fireflies, soaring on the swing set, playing flashlight tag.  What were your worries, your biggest concerns?  Whether or not you finished your homework?  What you were going to wear to school the next day?  Which book to read when this one is done? Life was one big break after another.  And then you hit high school, and the breaks were fewer in number; and then in college, your breaks came two or three times a year; and the next thing you knew, you were an adult who didn’t have time for breaks at all.

Everyone needs some down time, a deep cleansing breath, a chance to close your eyes and be in the moment, releasing the tension in your muscles, and melting into the mat.  We all need to step back, smell the roses, and enjoy the small bit of time we are given here on this earth.  Life is hard, work is never ending, we are pulled in several directions at once.  But how good does it feel when we have those rare and precious moments to let it all go?  Perhaps it’s a day at the beach, a family vacation, or even a quiet hour with a good book.  We all need a chance to relive our childhood, to recapture our youth, to come to child’s pose.

During this hectic holiday season, forget about rushing here and there and pulling your hair out trying to have the perfect Christmas. Perfection doesn’t come to us here on Earth.  The most we can do is live every day to the best of our potential and enjoy it while it lasts.  Making gifts doesn’t have to mean quilting a full-sized bedspread for everyone.  It can be baking someone her favorite cake and handing it to her on a pretty platter.  It’s okay if your tree is leaning a little or if the lights on your house are a little uneven.  It’s the joy you feel on Christmas Day and the love you share with your family and friends that matter.  Let yourself relax and have fun.  If you’re lucky enough to have snow, build a snowman!  And remember that dropping to your knees isn’t just for yoga.  It’s what we should do whenever we seek solace and rest.  It is a meaningful moment, a plea for a break or for help, a searching for peace in your mind, for grace in your soul.  When you need a break, come to child’s pose.

“Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.”  Matthew 19:14

Amy Schisler is the author of two mystery / suspense novels. Her first book, A Place to Call Home is in its second printing and may be purchased in stores and online.  Amy’s newest mystery, Picture Me, was released in August of 2015 and is available in stores, at Amazon, and at Barnes & Noble.  Both novels are also available for Kindle, Nook, and iBooks.  Amy’s children’s book, Crabbing With Granddad, may be purchased in stores and on Amazon.

You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com.

Being Grounded

DSC09341Another revelation at the gym!  While in class this morning, I heard our teacher say the same thing over and over again.  “Your right foot should be grounded…”  “Make sure your left leg is grounded.”  “While in the half-moon, your right arm and right leg must both be grounded.”  I felt pretty good about myself after class today.  I had worked up a sweat, maintained my balance, and literally felt grounded!  Yes, my feet, legs, hands, etc. were firmly pressed to the mat during working poses, but more importantly, I realized that I am grounded in my life.

Looking back, how could I not feel that way?  My parents are phenomenal people who raised me to believe in myself, work hard, strive to do and be my very best, and never give up on my dreams.  They secured a good education for me, helped me find scholarships so that I could attend the college of my choice, and continue to support me in my adulthood as a wife, a mother, and a writer.  My mother reads every chapter that I write before I re-read it myself.  My father edits my work before I send it to my publisher.  They planted the very best roots for me and then allowed me to grow into my own tree and spread my branches.  And when I’ve dropped all of my leaves at various times, or had branches broken off in the storms of life, they have been there to help me reach farther and grow taller.

My husband is my biggest critic but also my strong and loving supporter.  He lets me know when I’m on the wrong track or not thinking clearly, but he always allows me to find my own way back.  I hope that, together, we have grounded our three daughters the way our parents grounded us.  Sometimes it doesn’t seem that way, but I think we have done all right.

Life is hard!  Everyone stumbles and falls; all trees bend in the wildest of storms.  The key is to keep from being uprooted.  We all need something to keep us grounded, whether it’s our families, our friends, our church, or even hobbies.  What is the old saying?  “No man is an island.”  What is an island missing?  Firm ground underneath!

In the novel that I’m working on these days, Courtney is doing a lot of thinking about her roots.  She moves into her late grandparents’ house to make a fresh start in a place where she feels grounded.  Oh sure, she’s going to be frightened out of her mind throughout the book, but she’s spreading her branches in the place where she first developed her roots.  She needs to feel that connection to help her overcome a recent tragedy.  We all need to feel that connection at some point in our lives.  Maybe your day is today.  Do you feel like an island, desolate and segregated from the rest of the world?  I promise you, the roots are there.  Take the time to find them, nurture them, and let them become grounded.  Close your eyes, spread your branches toward the sky, and reach for your dreams.  As my mother has always told me, you will make it some day.

Keeping Balance

DSC00558Life is all about balance.  Have you ever given that any thought?  We have two eyes, ears, arms, legs, lungs, kidneys, even nostrils.  Our bodies are perfectly proportioned (given a genetic twist here and there); and even inside where we might have one organ, there is another organ (or two) opposite it that maintains that balance.  When you really think about, it’s amazing!  So how does that matter for the rest of our being?  Writer and theologian Thomas Merton taught that “Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony.”  Sometimes we are in perfect balance within ourselves and our lives, and, well, sometimes we are not!

This morning, in my exercise class, we were practicing our “tree pose.”  You know, the one where you stand perfectly still on one leg while the other leg is bent with your foot pressed against your thigh, hands held above your head like branches.  I will admit that most mornings, I can do this without too much of a problem, at least on one of my legs.  This morning, I couldn’t balance myself on either leg.  Trying not to get frustrated, I began to wonder what was keeping me off balance.  I wasn’t too tired or hungry. My clothes fit right, so no slipping and sliding on loose fabric.  I was feeling good about myself (heck, I got up at 6 and went to class, right?), so what was going on?  Then I began to wonder if the imbalance was mental and not physical.  Maybe today needs to be about tying up loose ends and restoring balance, order, rhythm, and harmony to my life.  I’ll finish my edits on my next novel, get that stack or paperwork completed, make the phone calls I have been putting off, and begin to refocus on doing what I aspire to do best – writing my next tale.

And I should give a big thanks to those who help me to maintain balance in my life: my husband, my mother, my children, my closest friends, and God.  And thank you to those helping me to finish putting together Picture Me.  You all are the instruments that keep my life in perfect harmony.