Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Some tips (from my own experience) for keeping my family healthy

Several years ago, my family made the choice to eat healthier whole foods. Real food. Food without chemicals or fake sugar. Real ingredients. I didn't realize what an incredible life-long change this would actually become for us. My husband and I lost about 40 pounds and managed to keep most of it off. My kids actually eat healthier when given the choice (most of the time, unless french fries are in front of them). Unfortunately, due to my frail will power, my weight has always fluctuated, especially around the holidays. Homemade cookies are my downfall. And ice cream. It's a constant battle between eating and weight, and now more recently, exercise too.

Here are some things I have learned over the past few years:

  • Small changes - replace the unhealthy food items with healthy choices slowly - this takes time and patience as you are trying new things. Not everything you try will be a home run for you. 
  • Research ingredients and what you are feeding your family. For years, I was obsessed with calorie content, fat, carbs, etc... But now the most important thing to me is that ingredient list. Learn to read labels. Learn where your food comes from. If it contains chemicals, GMO's or is highly processed, it doesn't make into my shopping cart. I shoot for mostly organic when possible.
  • If you don't like what the store has to offer, make it yourself. One of the things I decided to make at home a couple years back is bread. I make all of our bread now from scratch weekly. It doesn't take long and I can control what ingredients are in it. I also make my own salad dressings and other items that are usually highly processed or loaded with chemicals in the store. I will occasionally buy bread (when crunched for time) from the Great Harvest Bread company, who makes the most delicious organic whole wheat, white and cinnamon bread (they post their ingredients online and in the store). 
  • Plan your week! I plan our meals out a week ahead of time, usually on a Thursday night, and do my shopping list (and online order) at the same time. Then it's done - no wondering what's for dinner every night. 
  • Where do I shop for food? I will start by saying I am not a 'couponing' type person - I just don't have that time. I break up my shopping between 2 or 3 stores mostly. I do my online food order (for pickup) from Harris Teeter, and buy my basics there - mostly organic basics and lunch essentials, paper goods, etc. Then, first thing on Saturday morning, I drive to Whole Foods for produce, meats, organics and other specialty items I can't buy elsewhere. I also love their bulk bins there.  This is my favorite food store in the entire world, hands down. The Whole Foods '365' brand, by the way, is extremely budget friendly. We will also go to the Farmers Market every so often as time permits. Sometimes I will hit Earthfare as well if they have good sales - Earthfare is sort of like a Whole Foods-Lite. (Both stores are within 2 miles of my house). I just recently started going to Aldi for some items - and while I just don't love Aldi like everyone else does, I still have found a few things there at a very good price like our sparkling water that we go through by the case, and the kids school snacks. I am cautious with Aldi because I am skeptical where some of the food actually comes from and they have a lot of processed packaged food which I do not buy anyway. I also recently tried some coupon apps like Ibotta and Favano... the jury is still out on those ... I will let you know how much I like them once I have had enough time to use them thoroughly, 
  • The easiest way to keep things in check is write down and record what you are eating daily. It's an eye opener to say the least.
  • You can, unfortunately, only control what's eaten under your roof. Not all situations are ideal. You can't control everything outside of your home when it comes to food or the choices that will be given to your children. This was one of the hardest things for me to accept is that I can't control every scenario. I feel like our lifestyle at home rubs off on my kids and I hope it will benefit them long term without them even knowing it.
  • Get the entire family involved with making food. Julianna loves to help me put recipes together and now Tyler loves to help as well, even if it's just pouring in the measured ingredients. When I get the stand mixer out, they ask "Oh are you making bread?". This is the stuff I hope will stay with them down the road. Learning to cook and the ability feed yourself (other than 'take out' food) is an important life skill and requirement for kids as they get older. 
  • Move. It doesn't matter what you do, but just make sure you move. Get off your butt and go! Go for a walk, jog, take a burn bootcamp class, go to the gym, walk on the treadmill, or dance around. Whatever works for you. It has taken me a couple years to finally realize that eating 'healthy' by itself will no longer keep the weight off or keep me as healthy as I should be. Up until a few months ago, I haven't done any sort of exercise in 10 years other than walking a few times a week. Just under 3 months ago, I started working out at home before the kids get up in the morning 5 days a week doing Beachbody on Demand. It's super awesome! I feel like I hit the ground running to start my day. In addition to my morning workout, I try to walk daily and lately have started jogging, which is something I have always wanted to do but was too scared to try. I manage to somehow squeeze it all in and I feel better than I have in years at 46 years old! I would love to run a 5k - maybe I will work up to that. I'm far from perfect but I'm learned to be happy in my own skin and I'm owning each day making the conscience choice to live fit & healthy.
  • Don't 'ram' the 'good food/bad food' down your kids throats. Lead by example. For instance, we use certain terms in the house like 'this is healthy for our bodies' and "I feel good when I eat this because it gives me energy", and phrases like that. Salad is good for your body! We don't ever say anything like "french fries will make you fat' because I feel it is not something the kids need to hear or put preconceived notions in their heads. We try to word it like ' lets try something different today other than french fries' or if they insist on them when we go out to eat, we will say "Let's have something healthy with it like fruit!" and they go for it... most times. Their favorite thing to eat before bedtime is strawberries while we read books. Don't tell them "If you eat that, you will get fat" and surely don't let them hear you saying how fat you are feeling today - save that for when you are out of earshot and go ahead and curse yourself out then! haha. And we do buy ice cream - I just buy the kind with real ingredients and without carrageenan and other nasty ingredients in it (Yuck!). 
  • Believe in what you practice. There is more than one right way to live a healthy lifestyle. Don't preach friends or family about how they should be doing things since it's a touchy subject. I talk to people about what we eat and our beliefs but I don't force it on anyone. Everyone else has their own way of doing things. You can only control your own. Do what you think is best for your family. Stand by your values. I pack my kids lunch every day before school, and I personally do not mind doing it because I do not care for the food served in school. But I play it up as mommy likes to pack lunches and surprise them daily - they love it too.
  • Find something that inspires you, no matter how little it may be. For me, I like to read the Fitbit Community posts on my Fitbit app - they motivate me because I see that I am not the only one out there struggling some times. Find your inspiration and let it motivate you. 
  • Does junk food make it into our house? You betchya! Once in a while it does. I would like to blame my husband but he's not always the culprit. My kids go to school and sometimes bring things home like candy given to them in school. Sometimes you just have to pick your battles and say we'll do better next time. 
  • Weight loss or being healthy is a journey. Don't beat yourself up. Everyone has bad days (OK, bad weeks even!) and good days. Sadly, I had 10 bad years! Ha! It's a journey and a marathon - not a 50 yard sprint. There is no miracle pill or magic diet. Being healthy takes thought, mindfulness, willpower, want, and longevity. You have to do it for yourself because no one is going to do it for you. I have learned to accept the fact (recently) that no matter how hard I try, I may only lose a half a pound every 2 weeks, or none at all. And I am finally OK with that. My goal is to wear a bikini by next summer... Let's see if I can make that happen! :) 


And finally, here are some pictures from this summer...


Tyler, me and Julianna gem mining by Chimney Rock, NC 


My husband, the captain


Tapas & Drinks in Charlotte  


Pepper doing what she does best 


Rock hopping 


Flying a kite on a windy day on an island in one of our favorite spots on Lake Norman


The kids playing in the water - they spend all summer in the water!


Morningstar marina - one of the most beautiful places to be during sunset - It's our happy place


Daddy - daughter walk 


Tyler loves to sit in Brian's lap while driving the boat


Loving our pool in the summer 


Visiting Chimney Rock in the mountains of NC - about 2 hours from our house. 


A rare moment this summer - the kids smiled and snuggled together 



Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Catching up - Part 2

The most common question I am asked since moving to the south is, "How do you like living in North Carolina?"

Here's my answer;
I love it. I love how friendly the people are and the how our neighborhood is such a tight-knit community. There is just a completely different feel here and different way of life. Best thing we ever did. You only live once; you have to decide what's best for you and figure out a way to do it.
We also have some pretty great pizza places - all owned by northerners!
Babysitters are shared by neighbors and there are plenty to go around. Neighbors take care of each other and everyone watches out for you.

One of our biggest motivators for leaving NJ, was the cost of living. The housing costs plus the property taxes are among the highest in the country. It was time to get out. It's amazing the size house you can get for your money compared to up north. Our property taxes are ridiculously low as well. Our old house would fit in our new house 4x over! There's just no comparison.

The weather ..... oh the weather. Short winters where the average temp is 50 degrees, then a long spring, longer summer, and long colorful fall. Everything starts to bloom in March and flowers come up so early. I love seeing all the green when up north, we did not see that until early May if we were lucky. I also love that the kids can play outside almost every day.

I also think, much of how I feel is based on why we decided to relocate. For us, it was just the right time in our lives and this was the right place. Some people relocate to a new place because of a job, family, or other reasons, and my not like it. We did it for us and made the 100% right choice.

There so many parks in every town - big parks where the kids can play, we can walk, picnic, do NFL obstacle courses, and they all have real bathrooms. You laugh, but most of the kids parks where we used to live had port-a-potties (yuck!) or no bathrooms. Super inconvenience.
We can walk to Julianna's school from our house- a major perk. Many of the kids walk or bike to school.

Things here are just so different, but in a good way. I love exploring all new places and there is so much to do. I also love how everything is geared towards outdoors. We are only an hour or so from the Mountains if we want to get away for the day or the weekend. We live right down the road from an outdoor shopping and restaurant area called Birkdale Village. Truthfully, it's one of the things that persuaded us to live where we live. We go there at least once a week to shop or eat out. All the restaurants offer outdoor seating because the weather is so nice here. You can bring your dog everywhere, they can even sit with you when you eat dinner or lunch (outside), if that's your thing.
We live within a few minutes of every major convenience known to man kind. In NJ, I've always had to drive far to go anywhere, but here I barely have to drive far ever. I love living so close to everything! I fill the tank of my SUV maybe once every 2 weeks.

Everything is clean, landscaped, and kept up wherever you go.
Charlotte is the cleanest city you will ever step foot in. There is so much new construction and so many new buildings going up all over the city. I love living outside of a major city but not having the cost like we used to when we lived outside of New York City. We don't have to pay a $15 toll to cross over a bridge or go through a tunnel, and then we don't have to pay $30 to park ... and we don't have to sit in 2 hours of traffic just to get into the city. We can cruise in and out in 15 minutes time from our house, a very nice convenience. Charlotte is such a foodie town - we have discovered some really great restaurants as well.

I was nervous before moving here that we would feel like outsiders or have a hard time fitting in. I don't feel like we've encountered that much really. There are a lot less working moms here, so I do find I don't fit in with some of the mom groups who don't work, but there's not much I can do about that.  The part that I knew would be hard was making new friends. It's been a big adjustment, but I sure didn't expect to miss my lifelong friends from NJ so much. Luckily with technology, we can keep in touch easily and my best friend has already come to visit as well as some others that expect to visit soon. I miss my friends from NJ terribly and they can never be replaced (you know who you are).

We have, however, met some wonderful people since moving here, but it's hard to make close friends and make that connection with everyone right away.  Good friendships take time and need time to cultivate, so I am just learning to being patient. I feel like we are finally headed down that path as we have met some exceptional neighbors, and also have developed friendships with some of the parents through the Julianna and Tyler's school.

One nice surprise is, two of my high school friends live here in the Charlotte area, they moved here long before us. I found out they were here and was in touch before we moved. Once we moved here, we have met up and out to dinner, on the boat, kids activities, etc. It was so nice to have some familiar faces from home.

I feel like we are 'trailblazers' for the rest of our family. Brian's parents decided they will be moving down here in a couple years when his step-father retires. They fly down every few months to visit because of the weather and we have plenty of room for visitors. My mother ended up moving here a year ago (shortly after we moved), and she loves the senior community she lives in. My Aunt and Uncle may end up here in a couple years as well. Oh and Brian's aunt will be moving here soon as well. We also just heard from a cousin that wants to visit and move here! Brian's father and step-mom live in Charleston, South Carolina, which is only 3 hours away. It's nice to have them close by.

In closing, I will say that of course nothing is 100% and I would be foolish if I said this has all been perfect. There have been a few inconsequential things that I do not like (to be expected), but overall I have zero regrets about moving, and we will never go back.


As promised, Here are some more pictures from the last year...






I just love our neighborhood. 


This is Birkdale Village (my happy place). 



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