A Year In Review

This year I set out to give you a year of wellness, with at least 3 posts a week and intermittent featured posts. In looking back, this goal was not met in its entirety, but I in no way consider it a failure. I have enjoyed every minute of having this blog! Before reflecting on my work, I first want to reflect on the year in general. Some of my favorite highlights include (in no order):

Running my 6th half marathon

6th half

 Finally competing in Battleship

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Turned 21

Birthday

Attending Game Day Homecoming

homecoming

Got an Awesome New Roomie

New Roomate

Took a trip to Orlando all alone  

Orlando

Survived managing my quantity meal

quantity meal

Went to NSCS’s First Semi

Semi Formal

Completed my 3rd Tough Mudder

Tough mudder 3

Completed my first sprint triathlon and first race with Hunter!

Triathlon

Got a picture with the YikYak Yak

YikYak Yak

Added a new furry member to the family 🙂

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My blog is also one of my great accomplishments of 2015. Like I mentioned earlier, I did not post every Monday/Wednesday/Friday like I had promised but here’s the reasons I consider it a success..

  • I took a chance and did something completely new AND I loved it
  • I was able to start conversations and make connections with people with the same passions
  • I had a total of approximately 1,500 views from 840 visitors
  • My blog was read in 13 different countries including:
    • USA
    • UK
    • India
    • Russia
    • Argentina
    • Philippines
    • Nigeria
    • Canada
    • South Korea
    • Australia
    • Japan
    • Norway
    • Mexico
  • 15 people had email subscriptions to my posts
  • And finally, I’m incredibly proud of what I have done

So what now? This blog was a 2015 Year of Wellness and my heart is saying that I need something new, more sustainable, and more realistic for what lies ahead of me. In the next year I will complete my final semester at JMU, (hopefully) move to a new state to complete a dietetics internship, complete a full marathon and much more for which I am unprepared. In the midst of the craziness, I want to continue my blogging journey. So, I happily introduce to you Thinking Out Loud, a blog with weekly posts on whatever subject I am feeling for the week. My hope is that this blog continues to grow throughout my journey into the real world. I would be honored for you to check it out and follow 🙂

Happy New Year to all and goodbye 🙂

❤ Kara

 

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Let The Training Begin

Although this should be a Motivation Monday, I’m going to change it around for this week. Today was the first official day of marathon training! I had originally planned to start right after Thanksgiving, but do to some illness and finals I had to postpone it! With this begin my last semester in college, with only 3 classes, I figured that I would never have another time in my life where I would have so much time to train.

I have yet to pick out a marathon, but I am aiming for the end of May/beginning of June time frame. I have however, picked out a half marathon to do at the beginning of April and managed to rope one of my friends into doing it with me! We chose the Blue Ridge Half Marathon in Roanoke. The last half I ran in Roanoke was the flattest, easiest race that I have run, and is still my PR. It wasn’t until after we picked this one that I saw it was supposedly “America’s Toughest Road Marathon,” but why not try the challenge?

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The Plan

Our weeks are laid out wit 5 different types of days:

  • 2 x short run
  • 2 x run OR cross train
  • 1 x rest
  • 1 x strength
  • 1 x long run

Our short runs are based on a time range, and our long runs, a distance. The whole plan looks like this:

JanuaryFeb and MarApril and May


Smart Resolutions

While this does not tie in to the rest of my post, I think that the timing is crucial. I talked about this a lot last year when I first started my blog, with the focus of smart goals. As we go in to resolution season, I want to reemphasize the importance of healthy weight loss, not only the amount of weight lost per week but the means of achievement.

A healthy amount of weight loss is between 1 -2 pounds a week. This means that is you want to lose 20 lbs accept up front that this will take a minimum of 10 weeks, more likely between 10 – 20 weeks. You didn’t gain the weight in a week, so you can’t loose it in a week, end of story.

So what is the best way to lose weight? Simply eating a balanced diet containing proper amount of foods from each food group, at the correct serving size and exercising. This is the easiest, healthiest and fastest way for you to lose weight that you will keep off. Why?  Because it forces you to change that habits that led you to gain weight in the first place.

Weight loss programs that are designed around a product are going to make you every “promise” that their product will yield you better results than plain hard work so that they can make money off of you. Be sure to do your research, and find a healthy solution to reach your resolution 🙂

Happy Monday!

“Stuffed Cabbage” Strata

I’ve said this before, but the best thing about coming home is mom cooking dinner 🙂 Last night we finally got to have dinner with everyone before putting up the tree and we tried a new cabbage casserole, which turned out to be delicious! We paired it with a roasted chicken, so we eliminated the meat from the original recipe and used butter for browning the onions and rice instead of bacon grease. It still turned out delicious! Here’s the original recipe from the Biggest Loser  Family Cookbook.

“Stuffed Cabbage” Strata

Ingredients

Olive Oil Spray

8 slices of bacon, cut into 2′ pieces

1 1/4 cups minces yellow onions

1 cup of instant rice (preferably brown)

6 cups of shredded green cabbage

1.5 Lbs extra lean ground chicken breast

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

2 (8-ounce) cans of no-salt-added tomato sauce

3/4 c. water

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly spray a 8 x 8 deep baking dish with olive oil. Line a dinner plate with a paper towel.
  2. Place large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook for 4 – 6 minutes per side, or until bacon is cooked and crisp. Transfer bacon to lined plate and remove all but 1 tbsp of grease from the skillet.
  3. Add onions and rice to the skillet and reduce heat to medium. Cook in the bacon fat, stirring, until the onions are tender and the rice is just starting to brown, about 3-5 minutes.
  4. Spread 3 cups of cabbage in the bottom of the baking dish and top with the rice mixture, forming even layers.
  5. Add chicken, salt and pepper to the skillet and place over medium-high heat. Cook the chicken, breaking it up into smaller pieces with a wooden spoon. About 3-5 minutes. Once fully cooked, transfer with a slotted spoon into baking dish to form another layer. spread the remaining cabbage over the chicken layer.
  6. Clear the skillet of any remaining liquid and then add the tomato sauce and water.  Turn the heat to high and bring to a boil. Carefully layer the tomato sauce evenly into the baking dish. Lay the bacon pieces on top of the cabbage.
  7. Cover the dish with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake for 10 additional minutes. Once done, let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

 


 

Go For It

I don’t usually do this, but I want to take a second to share some exciting news! To begin with, I want you all to know that my dream position as a dietitian is a mix between a family counselor dietitian and school dietitian. I want to be able to teach nutrition education classes and work with families who have obese children. The only problem is that this position does not exist at this point in time. Dietitian positions in school systems are more of a food service job, working with the school breakfast and lunch programs. While this job is important, it’s not the one I want. If I am going to get my dream job, I am quite simply going to have to create it.

Knowing this can be daunting, but, as my mom always says: the worst thing they can do is say no and if you don’t ask you’ll never know. Keeping this idea in mind, I was trying to think of places I could work over winter break while I am home. I ended up having this great idea to contact the gym in my area. Where I am from is a very small town, and the first commercial gym has not been there for any extended time. While they offer different workout opportunities such as boot camp, spinning, Zumba and yoga, they have nothing for nutrition.

What else could I do but call them to suggest that they employee me to fill their gap?!?!  In taking the chance and calling, I now have a new job teaching nutrition classes and doing individual consultations at two gyms! I get to start right in time for New Years, so hopefully I can influence some smart, healthy nutrition changes!  (Hopefully I will also have enough money to pay my credit card off from gift shopping now too)

 


The Fattest Time of Year

We are now in the midst of the slowest time of the year in the fitness business. With the holiday and change in weather the number of people going to the gym and focusing on their health is at an all time low. Traveling to see family can also impact the resources and time we have to get in a workout. It’s pretty ironic when you think about it since, come the new year, the gyms will be absolutely packed. While this is a time of celebration, it’s important to minimize the extent that we slack off during the holidays. Here are some tips for the last couple weeks we have left in this year:

  • Anything is better than nothing! If you are only able to get in part of a workout, or just 2 days instead of 4, it’s better than none at all.
  • Do Strength Exercises. Your strength level can be maintained in as little as one workout a week. While you won’t be gaining muscle at this rate, it will make it easier to once you can workout more frequently.
  • Exercise at the Same Intensity. Doing cardio less often can lead to a decrease in respiratory endurance. However, if you workout at the same intensity each time you get the chance to, you can maintain similar respiratory endurance. This means if you’re use to running at a 7 mph pace for 30 minutes at least 4 days a week you can maintain your fitness level by doing the same workout  (7 mph pace for 30 minutes) 2 days a week.
  • Decrease What You Eat. This is a tough one to do during the holidays, but it’s very effective. When you are working out less, your body need less calories. Adjusting your portion sizes to reflect a decrease in activity will help you maintain your health.

Happy Holidays! Only 1 week until Christmas!

 

Hard Work Pays Off

Happy finals week! In this time of stress, I think it’s important to remember that the hard work we put in now will eventually pay off. It can be hard to remember this in the midst of some of the hardest weeks that we have been through. The hours in the library can be endless and the stress infinite.

Thankfully, I do not have it too bad this year and will be done tomorrow at 3 pm 🙂 In some of my procrastination, I came across a new quote I pretty much live by:

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As the last few days of the semester pass, keep in mind why you’re here and what you’re working for. Also, don’t forget to have some fun along the way.


 

Yoga Master

Today would have been the 97th birthday of yogi Bellur Krishnamachar Sundararaja(BKS) Iyengar. Originally born in the southern states of India, BKS was one of thirteen children born during the world wide influenza epidemic. After not being successful in school, he found his place taking and teaching yoga and was a major influence on the spread of yoga to the western world. Although the yoga master passed away in August of 2014, his art still lives on today. Famous for his lyengar yoga style, google has decided to honor his birthday –

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Want to celebrate and take a study break? Check out this awesome yoga channel for yoga just right for you!


 

Sweet Potato Quinoa Meat(less)balls

In continuing my experimentation with quinoa, I finally found a recipe I absolutely love!

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium sweet potato, cooked
  • 1 cup quinoa, cook according to package
  • 1/4 cup oats
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp chopped paprika
  • 1/2 tsp minced garlic (or powder)
  • 1/2 onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease cookie sheet.
  2. Combine all ingredients until evenly mixed.
  3. Roll mixture into balls and place on cookie sheet (I usually try for a golf ball size).
  4. Bake for 20-25 minutes depending on your desired crispiness.
  5. Enjoy with the sauce of your choice! (I went with BBQ)

Gracious Giving

The holiday season is coming into full swing, and thankfully this also tends to be the season of giving. However, giving is not always in the form of an object like food, clothes, money, etc. Giving an experience can mean so much more. Friday morning I came across a story that did just that:

So as we go through this giving season, think about the unique ways in which you can give that involve experiences, not necessarily money. Volunteering opportunities are a great way to give back and realize how fortunate you are to have the things you do.


 

Make Your Workout Count

Another way that you can give back is by simply working out! There’s this awesome app called Charity Miles that donates money to a number of organizations for the miles you walk, run or bike. Running or walking will earn you up to 25¢ per mile and biking up to 10¢ per mile. Charities that you can donate to include:

  • The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
  • Stand Up To Cancer
  • Alzheimer’s Association
  • Feeding America
  • Save the Children
  • charity: water
  • World Wildlife Fund
  • The Michael J. Fox Foundation
  • Wounded Warrior Project
  • ASPCA
  • (RED)
  • Habitat for Humanity
  • St. Jude’s Children Research
  • Autism Speaks
  • Every Mother Counts
  • Team Red, White & Blue
  • Operation Smile
  • Girls On The Run
  • DoSomething.org
  • The Nature Conservancy
  • Pencils of Promise
  • The World Food Program
  • Special Olympics
  • National Park Foundation
  • Girl Up
  • Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America
  • Team For Kids
  • She’s The First
  • Soles4Souls
  • Nothing But Nets
  • Back On My Feet
  • Shot@life
  • The Partnership For A Healthier America
  • Achilles International
  • The Iron Man Foundation
  • Vision Spring
  • The American Diabetes Association

I think out of all those options we can each find a cause we’re passionate about donating to! Another awesome feature on this app is the ability to create teams that can compete against each other! This is a creative way to get people close to you moving while giving back 🙂


 

Food Need Hierarchy

In deciding what cause to give to,  I am always partial to those organization surrounding food. According to Feeding America, 14% of households in the country were food insecure in 2014. This means that 17.4 Million households in the US had limited to no accessibility to nutritionally adequate and safe foods, or did not have ability to obtain these foods in a social acceptable manner. They might have to resort so stealing food or looking in trash and dumpsters.

There are different levels of food insecurity – people can be food insecure without being hungry, or it can be accompanied by hunger. Food insecurity with hunger is considered to be very low food security.

Another way to access the level of food security is using Satter’s Hierarchy of Food Needs. The base of the pyramid covers the basic need for calories, or enough food. As you travel to the top of the pyramid, the food becomes of higher quality and quantity. The bottom half of the pyramid is where people struggling with food insecurity fall.

satters-hierarchy-of-food-needs2

Here’s a link to an interactive map where you can find more details on food insecurity in relation to distance to food access and income level in different areas in the country: http://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/food-security-in-the-united-states/interactive-chart-food-security-trends.aspx

While obesity has been the focus in America recently, it’s important to realize that both extremes do exist and need to be addressed.

Don’t Let It Stop You

Welcome back from the holiday! I know I certainly didn’t have an easy day back into reality today, but I came across a video on my Facebook news feed today that made it a little better. This is 8 year old Alissa who had to have her foot amputated after being run over by a UPS truck. Less than a year later, this was her first dance performance after the accident:

Puts in perspective the things we think are stopping us from doing something we wish we could 🙂


December Workout Challenge

TOMORROW IS DECEMBER!! When did this happen???? While I can’t believe it’s almost the end of another year, I always love the beginning of a new month! There’s no better time for setting goals or workout plans. Here’s the one I am taking on for December –

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Butternut Squash

nutrition_facts_butternut-squashI got the chance to go grocery shopping today and decided to get a butternut squash! I’ve never cooked anything with it, so this should be interesting. Before testing a recipe, I decided to look up some info on it.

Nutritionally, butternut squash is a great source of fiber and a good source of potassium, vitamin C, folate, magnesium, iron and calcium. It is also virtually free of fat, containing small amounts of polyunsaturated fat (the healthiest kind).

When picking a squash, the first thing you want to do is pick it up and make sure it is very firm. The skin should be free of bruises. Brown spots can indicate frostbite scars, which can influence the texture and longevity of the squash. Punctures and cuts should not be present, as the provide a way for bacteria to get inside. A squash free of all these is the one you want!

Hopefully, I will try a recipe using my squash by Wednesday to share with you all!

Thanksgiving Recap & Rehab

Hopefully, we all were able to enjoy a meal with family and other loved ones yesterday. Before we get into some rehab, I wanted to share a new recipe I tried for Thanksgiving. This is by far the best new recipe I have tried in a while! Originally found here, I made a couple changes: I used instant brown instead of wild rice because that’s what I had in the cabinet, and it cooks A LOT faster! I also didn’t use the vinegar or the bay leaf because I forgot them at the store! (oops!)

CRANBERRY APPLE PECAN WILD RICE PILAF

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 cups apple juice
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup wild rice, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 large onion, diced
  • 1 Fuji or honeycrisp apple, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted

Directions

  1. Bring broth, apple juice Dijon, 1 tablespoon butter, salt, pepper, dried thyme, oregano, parsley and bay leaf to a boil in a large nonstick skillet. Add rice, cover and reduce heat to low (dial should be just above lowest LOW setting). Simmer 45-60 minutes or until rice is tender and almost all of the liquid has been absorbed, checking rice for doneness at 45 minutes. Once cooked, drain rice and leave in fine hole strainer.
  2. To the now empty pan, melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Increase heat to medium high and add onions and apples; saute for 5-7 minutes, or until onions and apples are tender. Add garlic and saute for 30 more seconds.
  3. Return rice to skillet along with cranberries, pecans and apple cider vinegar. Toss to evenly combine. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste. Garnish as desired.

Thanksgiving Rehab Motivation

Thanksgiving probably also killed our health streak. Here’s the typical progression, as told in memes…

 

  Funny-Thanksgiving-Meme-picturesthanksgiving-memes-9tgivign meme 2

This does not mean that all hope it lost. This means that we need to get back to our healthy eating and exercise routines! Here’s what to do –

  1. Accept how much you ate on Thanksgiving. Don’t keep thinking about it or feeling guilty because you can’t change it.
  2. Reestablish your goals and write them down. Make sure you have some short and long term goals that are very specific and realistic.
  3. Make a plan & share it with someone. Failing to plan is planning to fail, so make sure you know what you need to do. By sharing it with people, you’ll be more likely to hold yourself accountable.

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Holiday Movie Challenge

With the weather getting colder, and days getting shorter, we will be spending more time cozily inside. We’ll probably be watching some Christmas movies at some point. Well, here’s a way to make those movies contribute to your workout – do a movie challenge!

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