Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Measuring Success - 8/30/16

I started my workout journey in January of this year.  I say workout journey because I haven't really lost much weight, even though that started out as my goal!  It's the end of August and I've decided that at the end of each month, I'm going to do a post about my successes so far.  

I've had to learn different ways to measure my success this time around.  When I was in college, I did Weight Watchers and dropped a bunch of weight pretty quickly.  By the time I was eight months in with that program, I'd probably lost about 30 pounds.  This time, I've lost about 10.  My 30, nearly 31, year old body loses weight a lot differently than my 22 year old body.  If I just look at my weight, I get depressed. So I've made a list of all the successes that I'm claiming as of 8/30/16 and what I'll be measuring moving forward!

Heart Rate
My FitBit Blaze measures both my resting heart rate and heart rate throughout the day.  When I started, my resting heart rate was in the low- to mid-70s. That's not terrible for my age range, but not great.  My resting heart rate now is now about 62.  That's a drop of 10 points! In addition, my heart rate is now lower during a lot of my classes than it was when I started.  In some classes, my heart rate used to get up to 170 and stay there for a while, meaning I was having to work extra hard. Now, it might get up to 165 during a sprint, but it doesn't stay there very long at all.  I'm still burning lots of calories during my workouts, but my heart isn't having to work nearly as hard!

This is probably where I see the biggest change! I'm up to 1.9 miles running non-stop.  I must be honest and say that my running is more like jogging, but I'm still calling it running.  A mile used to do me in, people.  It actually makes Aaron really mad because he used to be the one that was good at running and now I'm kicking his butt (sorry, not sorry!).  I also do two classes on Saturday mornings - barre for 45 minutes and spin for 45 minutes.  One class used to pretty much kill me. Now? I want more!

The one thing everyone wants - a smaller size! In women's clothing this can be especially tricky since everything is made so out of whack.  I've refused to buy bigger than a size 14, but if I'm really and truly honest with myself, I probably was bigger than that size when I started. I'm not out of 14 land yet (admitting your size on your blog is terrifying, fyi), but I'm pretty darn close to being out of it. The smallest of my 14s now fit me, that haven't fit in about two years, and the normal size ones (the regular fit, not the curvy super stretchy fit) are too big. I'm down from a XL in shirts to a L and sometimes a M! On the clothing/shopping front, this is exciting yet annoying.  My pants and shorts don't fit.  You can grab handfuls of fabric out of the front and the back (which never happens, especially the back!).  But I'm not completely down into the next size. I'm close, like button the jeans but can't breathe in them yet close. I could wear them, but I'm too old to not breathe in my pants. And you don't want to buy new clothes until you're completely in the next size.  So until that happens, I'm drying all the pants (and if you're a female, you know how bad that really is). 

Pictures are honestly the best way for me to see the change in myself.  It's hard to see the difference when you look in the mirror day in and day out. Even Aaron says sometimes it's hard to see because he sees me every day.  So I started taking pictures in the beginning.  I took them with clothes on, because no one needed to see all that, so it's not always super easy to see the difference, but other days - whoa. 
Christmas 2015 and July 2016. See the chin? I have a chin now. 
January and July.

This one I'm just starting.  I actually look a sewing measuring tape and measured my bust, arms, waist, hip and thighs. I'm telling you those starting numbers, but I'll be updating the changes in them at the end of every month! I'd wish I'd done this before, but oh well. Also, when you measure yourself and then compare those measurements to what stores have on their size charts, you realize just how much the fashion industry is trying to give you a complex. Seriously. If you took my measurements, I'd be like a size 18 or 20.  Which isn't right at all.  So I measured my pants that fit from button to button hole, subtracted what the size chart says it should be and THEN subtracted the difference in the two numbers from my actual measurement, I found the number that made since that said I'm literally between a 14 and 12. Which is what I thought it would be and what my pants that don't fit say.  One should not have to do that much math to figure out your size! Anyways, this isn't really a success this month (other than figuring out how to actually find my size!), but it will be in subsequent updates. 

Because it must be addressed at some point. Overall, since I started, I've lost 10.2 pounds. That is ridiculous to me if you look at my photos, but that's why I take them. Because 10.2 pounds over 8 months is depressing. Seriously. Since July, I've lost 2.4 pounds, which is more like a normal weight loss.  The first three or four months, I wasn't eating right, wasn't eating enough for what I was doing. It's still slow, but it's moving! 

How I Feel
I feel like a whole new person. I'm proud of myself. I actually like my body, even though my scale doesn't like me back. I like how strong I am, my progress in my classes and in running. Mostly, I just like me. That's a pretty big change for me. 

On Thursday, I have my biometric screening for the year.  I've worked really, really hard to have good numbers this year.  Last year was abysmal.  I was high and unhealthy on EV-ER-Y-THING. It basically said "get off your fat butt, Sarah." So I did. My weight's not as low as I wanted it to be, I'm about four pounds heavier than my goal for the screening.  But I'm hoping other numbers are a lot better! I have my outfit picked out (channeling my old weight watcher days and have the lightest dress and shoes ready to go!), so here's to hopefully finding one more success!  If you're on you're own road, I hope you find your own successes that aren't just the number on the scale. It matters, but it's not all that matters.

Friday, August 26, 2016

I'm Here for the Savasana

I have a small obsession with workout clothes, also now known as athleisure wear.  I see all these cute tanks with sayings on them, my favorite being "I'm here for the savasana."  If you aren't a yogi, savasana is the final pose (corpse pose, actually) of a flow or workout.  You lay flat on your back on your mat with your feet on the edges of the mat and find stillness at the end of hard work.  Or die. I mostly feel like I'm dying during savasana.

My favorite class is called m'bala revolution.  M'bala is heated yoga with weights and cardio.  I like to call it my favorite form of torture.  M'bala revolution makes it that much worse by starting with 20 minutes of spin (usually in the form of tabata intervals) and then 40 minutes of m'bala.  It's hard work. According to my FitBit, I average about 700-800 calories per m'bala revolution class. But I don't mind working hard, pushing myself to spin my legs to where they feel like jelly and then go twist my body into weird contortions and top it off with pushups, so many pushups, because I know at the end I get savasana.  I get to lay down with the fans causing a small hurricane above me and just lay there. It's glorious.

The instructors always talk about how sometimes savasana is the hardest part for people.  Once upon a time, that was me.  I didn't know how to sit still, how to relax.  Now, I've mastered it.  I can be a lazy bum with the best of them. But I also know I work hard for my rest. I try not to get all zen-like about yoga, truly, because sometimes yoga should just be yoga. There are times, though, when I see how it can help change you. I'm not saying that yoga relaxed me, I'd already calmed down some in that aspect, and changing jobs really helped as well. I have learned from yoga, though, to appreciate the savasana. To know that I can do the work, the really hard work, because there's rest.  I can give myself a break and it be okay.  Then get back up and move right along with life.  That's important to remember in all parts of your life, whether at work, at home, or in the gym. Give yourself a break, because we all deserve it.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Boxed Life - Home Chef

I am a sucker for things delivered and I'm not the only one.  There is a huge industry right now that is designed just to deliver things to you in a box.  Ipsy. Birchbox. Hello Fresh. Home Chef. Blue Apron. Stitch Fix. And so. many. more.

This post, though, is about meal prep boxes. There are multiple out there, three of which are listed above, though I think they are mostly pretty similar.  I did a lot of research before I started one.

We did Home Chef because they were a little bit cheaper and had more family friendly meals.  Meals that I knew Aaron and I would both like and something that I would be happy to come home and make. Also, this blog post is not sponsored by Home Chef (you'll really see that if you read the whole thing!), but is just about our experience with the service.

How did it work? Home Chef had a really nice app on the phone we could use but you can also use their website.  There were nine different meals to choose from each week (a big plus compared to some of the others) plus a smoothie and breakfast recipe and a fruit basket to add on.  You had to choose at least two meals to not be charged shipping.  You chose the meals, typically three, the week before they were to be delivered.  Then they came packed in a box with the exact amount of ingredients you needed to make the meal and a recipe card.  What I really liked is that you could skip as many weeks as you wanted.  They now have other options too like once a month.

So you get a box. In the box come all your ingredients, like this:

The ingredients are individually packaged.  All the ingredients for each meals come in one bag. I always just threw the whole bags in the fridge and the meat in the freezer until I needed it.  Each ingredient was already portioned out and wrapped individually, if needed.  This made food prep super easy but would probably drive an environmentally conscious person insane.

The good part is that we made some awesome meals with Home Chef.

Chicken Chasseur.  This is the end product of the recipe/ingredients above.

Chicken Tikka Masala. My unicorn recipe!

Tuscan Pork Chops
Ultimately, we stopped the Home Chef box, mostly for financial reasons. Meals were $9.95/person.  That means meals were $20 each and the portions, while generous, were only for that one meal. No leftovers, unless you paid extra for the four-person meals.  That's as expensive as eating out! This meant that we paid roughly $60 a week for three meals in addition to still having to buy food for breakfasts, lunches and two other meals during the week.  Our grocery budget went up 50%.  One of the service providers, though I can't remember if it was Home Chef or Blue Apron, has completed studies that show that when making the same meal from Home Chef, most people spent equal to or the same amount of money as they would buying all the ingredients at the grocery store.  That might be true for people that don't cook all the time, but I had most of the seasonings and ingredients they were using.

We enjoyed our boxes and made some really great meals. It helped spice up the kitchen life for me for a while.  I kept the recipe cards for the meals we especially liked and will continue to make them in the future.

So would I recommend it?

I really enjoyed the service and convenience and would recommend Home Chef to anyone that wants to try a service like this. For families that cook multiple meals a week, I don't think this is the best avenue.  The convenience is amazing, but I don't think it's worth the cost every week.  I do think it's great for learning how to cook, maybe for newly weds that are just venturing into the cooking for two world.  And Home Chef now has an option where you can do one box a month, which could be a special treat.  It wasn't for us, but it could be for you.

What about you, have you tried a meal prep box? Did you like it?

Friday, August 19, 2016

Cook once, dinner twice!

See, I told you I still cook!

Aaron started a new job a couple of months ago.  He went from a truck driver, working 12-14 hour days, to a wastewater treatment plant operator, working 7.5 hour days.  We both now work for the City of Durham and live in Durham (we're cute, I know).

New job means new cooking routines.  For many years, Aaron ate sandwiches for lunch every day.  It was something he could take in a cooler, eat on the road, and not have to worry about having a fridge or microwave.  Now the man has gotten picky and refuses to eat any more sandwiches.  And, really, I don't blame him.  I wouldn't either.  He also only has 30 minutes for lunch. Dinners now have to feed the both of us and provide at least one day of lunches, preferably 2. I've been making big dinners on Sunday that we can eat for lunch the next few days.  This week, though, I tried something different.

Cooking Light has been my magazine of choice for years and I still love it.  It's probably my favorite magazine.  One I'll stop getting soon because this is the first issue I've looked at in the past six months. But still, I love it.

This month's edition had a section called "Weekend Warrior."  You make a large amount of meat one time and then use it in three different recipes.  Instead of doing it on the weekend, I thought I'd try it for our weeknight meals.  Spoiler alert - I only made it through two meals.

Monday I made Sheet Pan Swedish Meatballs.  You can find the recipe here.

It was a ton of work - took an hour and a half to make 42 meatballs! The recipe said it would taken an hour, but I never actually go as quickly as the recipe says.  Mind you, chopping a full onion takes me at least 10 minutes.  Two minutes to chop, eight minutes of running back and forth to the sink to rinse out my stinging, crying eyes. And that's just an onion, doesn't include actually chopping the rest of the ingredients (which don't make me cry, I just don't want to chop off a digit).

This wasn't a hard recipe, but it was very time consuming.  It went something like this:

Chop lots of onion (really, only one, but still). Cry lots of tears.  Saute those onions with garlic and fennel seeds.  If you know of other uses for fennel seeds, lemme know, cause now I have a lot of them.

Then mix ground pork and ground beef. It called for sirloin, I couldn't find it in the store when I was grocery shopping, so I used ground chuck.  The recipe used torn wheat bread, which I thought interesting.

Meat and bread mixture. 
Then mix the onion mixture with the meats.  Side note - every time I say "the meats," I think of the Arby's commercial and instantly resay it as "THE MEATS!"

Meat with the onion mixture added.  Side note - make sure to let it cool some first. It was a little...warm.
So you mix all of that together and make 42 (!) meatballs.  I was actually proud of myself for making as many meatballs as the recipe called for.  When making truffles, I always end up using too much per ball and never make enough.  Anyway, I made 42 balls (two are in a mixing bowl for the sauce, I really did make them all).

Then you broiled them.  I'm not sure how I felt about broiling them.  They came out like this:

Not super appetizing, if you ask me
I wasn't entirely sure they cooked all the way through, but they did.

The recipe just had four of these meatballs for dinner. We Zinns don't roll that way.So I added egg noodles and doubled the sauce.  If you knew how much sauce my husband ate, you'd understand why.

Finished product!

Honestly, it was alright. It was a ton more work than I thought the meal was worth. The meatballs were good, but they didn't work so well with the egg noodles and the sauce wasn't really made for the pasta. It was actually much better as leftovers.

Tuesday we made Bahn Mi Bowls, the second recipe (recipe can be found here)

This was delish!
Oh man. What Monday's night dish lacked, this one made up for in spades. So good!  The lime and the chili sauce combination was perfect.  And, best part, it only took thirty minutes to make!

Now, let's discuss my substitutions for the Bahn Mi Bowls.  I'm notorious for not having an ingredient and substituting something else.
  • I ran out of rice vinegar (didn't quite have a full 1/2 cup), so I used apple cider vinegar to make up the rest
  • I couldn't find the chile paste, so I used Sriracha (a chili sauce) instead.
  • It's supposed to include radishes, but we aren't fans, so they aren't in there.
  • Aaron hates cilantro (weirdo), so I didn't bother to buy any
Amazing. Seriously. I would make those stupid hour and half meatballs again just to eat this recipe. But maybe just make enough to make the recipe.

The third recipe was for Greek Stuffed Pitas (recipe is here).

That totally didn't happen.  Wednesday night I made beef and broccoli (really beef and carrots because the broccoli had gone bad, ha).  Thursday night, the night we were going to have the pitas, I forgot I had an appointment after work and we ate...Cookout. Whoops.

So, overall. This experiment kinda flopped. We loved the Banh Mi Bowls, but I think I can make those on their own.  The meatballs just weren't worth the effort, in my opinion. But this is what I love about cooking - experimenting and trying new things! It's okay if something doesn't turn out right the first time or if you don't love it.  You never know until you try!

What about you, any kitchen experiments you've tried that haven't turned out the best?

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

If You Teach a Sarah Yoga...

Back in January, I started attending Burn Athletic, a studio in Raleigh. I took a few classes, including yoga.  I realized two things: I loved it and had no clue what I was doing.  So began my yoga journey, which I've equated to the adult version of "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie" (still my favorite kids book, ever).

If You Teach a Sarah Yoga...
If you give a Sarah a studio, she will want to learn yoga.

And once she tries to do some yoga, she will realize she has no idea what she's doing.

So she'll take a Foundations of Yoga course.

Once she's taken a Foundations of Yoga course, she'll want to practice at home.  So she'll buy a yoga beginner's kit, just to make sure she's really into it.

My first yoga mat - the cheap kit from Target!
And since she's working out, she'll get some yoga pants.  And then a few more. Yoga pants can be used for all workouts, after all.

Now that she knows what she's doing in yoga (at least more than before), she'll start taking the m'bala classes.  Those classes make her sweat. Sweaty yoga means sliding all over the mat.  So she'll buy a yoga towel to put on her mat in class.

She'll continue to take classes, up to multiple times a week!  Her husband will encourage her to buy her own yoga mat.  Not just the starter one, but the good one she's been researching.  One you don't have to use a yoga towel with!  At first, Sarah thinks he is joking, but she doesn't argue.

Me and my smelly yet glorious mat.
 So she buys her yoga mat.  It's smelly, yet gloriously sticky. But she's still sweating, a lot.  Now she doesn't slip all over the place, BUT her mat is now getting gross.  So now she'll need some yoga mat cleaner.

Now her mat is clean and smells like lavender! But taking the big, glorious mat to class can be a bit cumbersome.  It's a heavy mat and likes to roll around in the car.  So, of course, Sarah will need a mat strap or carrier for her yoga bag.  Preferably one she can also put her spin shoes in! (Sarah has yet to tell Aaron about this current need.)

Soon Sarah will have what she needs to continue her yogi journey.  Except more yoga pants.  You can always buy more yoga pants...

My pretty pile of prized yoga pants

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Welcome to The Zinn Life!

My name is Sarah. I have a blog problem.  This is my third and, hopefully, my last.

Blogging is hard, especially consistently blogging.  People have told me they miss my blogs and I've missed writing them, so I've tried to get back into blogging.  But it's been hard.  I've written at least three different posts over the past few months, some drafts, one actually published.  I tried to do a recap of last year on my old blog, but that didn't feel right.  Then I tried to start a new chapter of my old blog, but that wasn't sitting well either. When I really thought about it, the old blog just didn't fit me very well anymore.  It's very specific.  I'm not just about cooking, canning and baking cakes anymore.  I still do those things, but I have other interests that currently have more presence in my life.  Now I've added a house and fitness. And a love of travel and a never ending love of pretty clothes and shoes. The Redomestication of Sarah just doesn't fit all that.

Enter - The Zinn Life. For the past eight months, I've been on this fitness/yoga journey.  I told my husband yesterday that this is not the smallest I've been, by far, but this is the best I've ever felt.  Probably the most in shape. Not the healthiest because I'm still carrying more weight than advised (such a nice way to put that). But definitely the most confident and happy with me that I have been in a very long time.  And a lot has to do with fitness. And yoga. And strength. I want to share that. 

Since I've gotten into fitness and health, I've been searching for blogs that are about fitness and lifestyle and most are written by skinny b's (please, I say this in jest. I have nothing against skinny women, it's pure jealousy).  There is nothing wrong with these blogs or with the women that write them.  I've learned a lot from them.  But they see things a little differently than I do, And that's a good thing. But I feel like there's room for another voice.  I want to talk to women like me. The size 12 and ups that like to work out, that are looking for clothes that will handle all of our assets while jumping and spinning. And talk about food - good food and healthy food, which are sometimes the same and sometimes...not.  I want to be their compliment while I'm on my own journey.  Cause women come in all different shapes and sizes, not just skinny or curvy.  

So welcome to The Zinn Life. A lifestyle blog about fitness, fashion and food. And whatever else I come up with. Hopefully this is my third and final blog. I plan to post three times a week.  I want to challenge myself with writing and, if I'm honest, keep myself busy so I don't buy as many yoga pants and shoes.  I hope to see you again soon!