Meet The Nat Pack!

My photo
The Nat Pack: The super fashionable, super mod, super hip family consisting of Nat, Pete, Jakob, Brock, Troy, and Ivy. Like The Rat Pack, only younger, cuter, and not as rich or famous.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Kinda Like Lent, Or, 7 Pounds

Well, my family and I just ended our 6-week health challenge.  It was a really great experience. And now I'm going to write ALL about it!

We started January 2, and ended February 12. The different categories of the challenge were: getting 7 hours of sleep every night, eat three servings of fruit and three of veggies every day, no eating after 8 p.m., drink 64 oz. of water every day, exercising, and no sugar. Each part was worth 5 points, except for no sugar, which was worth 10 points.

7 hours of sleep every night. This one is easy for me.  I actually think that I need more like 8 - 8 1/2 hours of sleep. For a while a couple of years ago I was trying to go with about 6 1/2, and I couldn't keep my eyes open by the end of the day. My kids get their own breakfast usually, so when they do and I don't have to set an alarm to get up (like in the summer), I usually wake up at about 8 or 8:30 when going to bed at 11:30. During the challenge, I had one day that I didn't get the 7 hours, and it's because I was out way too late with a couple of my girlfriends, and then we had to get up early the next morning. So I got 6 1/2 that day.

I felt like, during the challenge, that I had really weird dreams the whole time.  Well, I have weird dreams a lot, but it seemed to be more than usual. Maybe I was getting more REM sleep time or something. So yeah, this part of the challenge was not so challenging for me.

Eat 3 servings of fruit every day. This part of the health challenge wasn't all that hard for me, either. The very first day for breakfast, I ate some oatmeal with peaches chopped up on top. It was really yummy! Before the challenge I would have had the oatmeal but no peaches, or no breakfast at all. I also had Life cereal with a banana cut up on top (before would have been Life cereal with a load of sugar on top). I would usually have one of my fruit servings in the morning, one at lunch, and one at dinner.

My sister Kar introduced us to a super easy smoothie recipe. It's 3 cups frozen fruit, 1 cup milk (or water or juice, but we always did milk), 1/2 cup yogurt (we did vanilla), and 1/2 cup sugar. We tried this with different mixes, but my favorites were strawberry/banana, and one that had raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, and blackberries. YUM! It was an easy way to get all your servings in one fell swoop. (A serving size of fruit is generally 1/2 cup, so when we made this Pete and I would have half a smoothie each and get our servings in.)

I realized that I really enjoy having fruit for breakfast in whatever form, so I plan on continuing with that. I also liked having a variety of fruits so it wasn't just an apple every day or something.

Eat 3 servings of vegetables every day. This part was...surprisingly fun. Exciting, even. It was almost like rediscovering all the veggies that I liked, but just didn't take the time to buy or eat on a regular basis. Like broccoli, and green peppers, and cucumbers. We made Veggie Pizza at least 3 or 4 times during our challenge, which is SOOOO good. I also cut up veggies and stuck them in little baggies of one serving in each. That way we could grab a bag that was ready to go and know that it was a serving. Very handy. Though celery doesn't last very long that way.

Another thing that got introduced to me by my sister Lex was individual salads. They're called Ready Pac Bistro Salad. They are a salad that has all the cool, yummy stuff you'd want. For example, the Santa Fe one has little chicken bits, tortilla chips, shredded cheese, roasted corn, and a dressing that's like Thousand Island.  Oooh, yum!

The hardest part of getting my three veggies in was sitting down to a huge plate of veggies at lunch. I would try to get two servings in at that time. I kind of have TMJD, where my jaw will lock up sometimes to where I can't open my mouth, and I have to pop my jaw open, and then it continues to lock and pop while I'm eating. Like 80s robot dancing, but in a way nerdier, crappier, non-productive way. It's SUPER fun. I've noticed it comes on when I'm chewing hard things like carrots, or dense things like steak. (And forget about gum.) So during a lunch of carrots, apples, and celery, my jaw would be hurting and I'd be frustrated. I guess the lesson with that is to chop up my food into smaller bites, like diced celery instead or something. But I do love having a veggie-oriented lunch, which I plan on continuing now that our challenge is over.

And to get my last serving in of the day, I usually ended up cooking something with veggies in it. Most of my dinner meals are like that, so that was a no-brainer.

Here are some FABULOUS recipes you have to try. The first two are family favorites, and the last one is one that I discovered during this challenge:

1 cup mayonnaise
8 oz. sour cream
1 Tbl. minced onion
1 tsp. dill weed
1 1/2 tsp. Bon Appetit spice (Shillings or McCormack)
Mix all ingredients together and serve with vegetables. This gets better if it sits in the fridge for a few hours.
Thaw and flatten 1 loaf of frozen Rhoades bread on a cookie sheet.  Cook at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes.
Mix together and spread on top:
½ cup mayonnaise
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
2 tsp. dry Hidden Valley Ranch dressing
1 Tbl. liquid Hidden Valley Ranch dressing
Then add on top:
1 cup grated carrots
1 ½ cups cut up broccoli
1 ½ cups cut up cauliflower
Sprinkle shredded mozzarella cheese on top.

24 oz. bag frozen California blend vegetables
1 stick margarine, melted
10 oz. Velveeta cheese, melted
1 sleeve Ritz crackers, crushed

Cook veggies according to package directions. Mix half of margarine with cheese and half with crackers. Add cheese mixture to veggies. Place cheese and veggies mix in 1 1/2 quart baking dish. Top with crushed cracker mixture. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until bubbly.

California blend veggies is a broccoli, cauliflower, carrot mix of some sort. I tried this with a carrot, corn, green bean veggie mix. I LOVED it.

No eating after 8 p.m. I'm not sure when the bad habit of eating snacks after 8 started for me, but rest assured it was a habit I needed to break. Because it's not like I was snacking on veggies. So the first night at about 7:30 p.m., I was still hungry, so I snarfed down some cheese really fast before 8. After that day, though, I was totally fine not eating after 8. Here and there I would get cravings for things, but I wasn't hungry, and there's a huge difference.

That's one of the really cool things about this challenge, is it makes you extremely aware of what you're putting into your mouth, and when. For instance, now that our challenge is over, Pete bought some Twizzlers Bites, and we were watching Downton Abbey (which is AMAZING: if you haven't seen it then WATCH IT RIGHT THIS SECOND FROM THE BEGINNING). I popped a couple of them into my mouth.  Then about 10 seconds later, I threw a few more into my mouth. And again. And again. I physically had to move them to stop eating them.

So now that our challenge is over, I need to continue to be aware of what I'm eating and when.

Drink 64 ounces of water every day. I didn't struggle with getting the water into me. I hated the aftermath of it though. I seriously had to use the bathroom every 2 hours, and would get up at least once a night to pee. UGH!  I hated that part of this. Drinking the water: good. Going through 500 rolls of toilet paper: bad.

To prevent the multiple bathroom trips at night, I would try to get as much water into me in the morning as I could. I would fill a 20-ounce water bottle, add some Propel or Crystal Light flavoring to it, drink it down halfway, then fill it to the top and drink it down all the way.  That way I figured I got 30 oz. in in the morning. Then I'd have 20 ounces at lunch and 20 at dinner.

Since I'm such a Coke lover, I thought I'd be going through withdrawals or something during the challenge. Before the challenge, I would have a glass (14 oz.) of Coke at lunch time. So roughly a can a day, which to me doesn't seem like all that much. Not good for me, but not necessarily bad for me, either. It was mostly my little indulgence, a way of pampering myself. But surprisingly, I didn't crave Coke at all the whole time. Okay, that's not true. The only time I craved Coke was when we went out to eat like at Chilis or Wendys. That's when I didn't want to drink water.

So I decided that now I'm not going to buy pop for myself to have at home. But if we go out to eat, I'm not going to stop myself from getting a Coke.

And yesterday, I had been so sick of peeing so much, that I went the other extreme and didn't have hardly anything to drink the whole day. And right before dinner, I felt kind of sick to my stomach. Maybe my bladder was cramping up or something, like FEED ME, SEYMOUR! So even though I might cut back slightly on the 64 ounces, I still need to keep hydrated. Also, I need to get more milk into my diet, so maybe I'll substitute that for my water at dinner.

Exercise. These last two categories (exercise and no sugar) were the hardest for me. The original challenge had 5 points for each 1/2 hour of exercise, up to 10 points a day (so an hour of exercise, for all you mathematically-challenged people). We changed ours to be 1 1/2 hours a day (so up to 15 points a day). This was the main category where I lacked in full points. (I got perfect points the whole challenge in fruits, veggies, no food after 8, and water. I missed the one night in sleep, and one day at the very end in no sugar.) I always got the first half hour of exercise in, and usually the hour, but getting that last 30 minutes was a bit of a struggle for me. I did it more times than not, but it was hard.

For the exercise, I did a lot of yoga, walking, and Dance Central. My parents have the Dance Central on the X Box, and it has a fitness section and you can choose the length and intensity of your workout. It was really fun, and I would get super sweaty doing it.

I would go walking with my mom; we mall walk. That's also way fun, because I get to chat with my mom as I push Ivy in a stroller. There are a lot of cute elderly people that are there. One guy that salutes us as he walks by told us that walking next to the walls for 1 lap is 6/10 of a mile. Since my mom and I do 5 laps, that's about 3 miles (we cut corners a little because of the stroller).

Pete and I would do the yoga, which I LOVE. It is so relaxing! I noticed that I got a lot stronger and more flexible after doing it for so many weeks.  At the beginning when I would bend from the waist and touch the floor, I could grab my ankles and that's as far as I could go. At the end, I had my palms flat on the floor.

So now that the challenge is over, will I still get 1 1/2 hours of exercise in? Maybe on some of the days. But I most definitely want to do something each day. Before I would make up the excuse of not having the time, but now I know I can find the time to exercise, even for a half hour.

No sugar. Okay. This is where my "Lent" reference comes in. One part of Lent is giving up something -like a luxury or indulgence of yours- for the 40-day span. In our challenge, we had decided that "no sugar" meant no candy, no chocolate, and no pop, including diet. I already explained the pop part. But that was only part of it.

The other part I had to give up was my weakness: chocolate.

The night before the challenge started, I cleared our house of consuming it.  That's right. That means I ate, like, 12 snack-sized Kit Kats so that they wouldn't be around to tempt me. The first few days were fine.  And then the cravings kicked in.

Now normally, when I would have a chocolate craving, I would have grabbed some chocolate without thinking twice. When there was none to be had during the challenge, and 10 points at stake, I would just have to ignore that craving.  And usually, about 20 minutes later, I wouldn't crave it any more.

There were some days, though, that it was all I could do to stop from jumping in my car and driving down to Sarah's Candy Cottage and devouring a whole pound of fudge. Seriously.

Yes, I missed one day and had a piece of chocolate cake. On day 41. Pete and I went down to Logan, Utah, for a basketball game, and we had dinner at Olive Garden. And the coaster had the picture of the cake on it. It was STARING at me. And Pete was the devil, being all, "Just get it. Just eat it. And get a cherry Coke, too." And you know what?  I figured that I had been great the entire time with NOT giving in, that one time would be fine. And oh, it tasted sooooo good. Which part of me was all, "I should stay strong. I've made it this far, what's another 2 days? Don't give in." But the other part of me was all, "CHOCOLATE CAKE!!!!!" It was totally one of those angel and devil on the shoulders moments for me.

The one thing I noticed about my cravings, though, is that it was always for the really rich, thick, amazing chocolate. Kit Kat or Snickers? Nope. Mississippi Mud Bars and fudge? Absolutely.

So, now that this is over, when I have chocolate, I'm not going to eat the whatever, filler chocolate.  If I'm going to have chocolate, I'm going to go for the big guns. Which means I'll have to make a specialty trip, or bake it, which means I'll have it less often.

Overall. I noticed that I ate more food, especially during breakfast and lunch, but I'm sure I was consuming fewer calories. Before I would crash in the early afternoon, and while doing this challenge I would still get tired then, but not the full-on crash. But I did fall asleep almost instantly at night the whole time too.

I ended up losing 7 pounds, which surprised me. I didn't set out trying to lose any weight, but it happened anyway.

I won the challenge, which means I get 60% of the kitty. (Pete came in second, and my sister Lex was 3rd.) Maybe I'll use my money to buy some new jeans for myself that fit me-mine are loose now, especially in the waist, which seriously rocks.

I think the rest of my family saw some changes, too, with weight loss or how they felt.

I'm glad that I did this challenge, because it changed me for the better. And even though I plan on slightly modifying it for "real" life, for the most part I'm going to keep on keeping on.


Kar said...

Ugh, you did so, so well, Nat. You are a ROCK. I did really well for the first three weeks, and then kind of lost my motivation when I saw that I still was so far behind everyone else. But I have continued trying to get my water/fruit/veggies in every day and exercising, of course. That's the easy part.

Momza said...

That health challenge is something that many of my church friends are doing too. I think it started in Utah--someone's brother's brother's second cousin by marriage, involved in Herbal Life, yada yada. Anyway, all the cool kids are doing it and I've only heard good things about it, so GO YOU!

Mindy H. said...

Awesome. Really awesome. I don't think I will be trying the WHOLE challenge anytime soon, but I will be trying the recipies. Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

I love that your family does some sort of health challenge every year! I wish we would do that! I know I need it. I'm glad it was a good change for you and good luck with keeping it going!