Thursday, January 28, 2010

Ah, the healing properties of SLEEP

I found the secret to weight loss…or at least the secret to jumpstarting my weight loss again...SLEEP…remember that one thing in my life that’s usually lacking? I had forgotten what real sleep was like. It turns out that sleep in your life helps you with a number of things, like self-control, more energy, the ability to wake-up in the morning without crying and gnashing of teeth…you know the basics. I know it seems that I’m making light of this, but believe me I really do know and appreciate the concept of getting enough sleep. If you’ve ever read this blog before, then you know that it is rare for me to get anywhere near to ample sleep (I generally average about 5-6 hours a night). I’ve read a gazillion books on diet, nutrition and fitness that all say the same thing…no matter what you’re doing right, you can't progress in you fitness goals if you don’t get enough sleep. In fact there are studies that say that you really should have 8 hours…no less than 7 and no more than 9, but to really aim for 8. It has something to do with your biochemistry and the hormones and chemicals that your body produces in that amount of time…anymore or less and you will jeopardize the delicate balance that is the miracle of your natural process. It is also important to mention that if you do get less than 7 hours of sleep and if you continue this pattern, then within a few days your body will compensate for the lost chemicals and create new ones that will encourage you to eat more calories in order to have energy. OH, and we all know that we don’t make the best choices when we’re over tired, so pair that with hormones like the increase of ghrelin and the decrease of leptin, and you’re basically screwed when it comes to your diet and willpower…believe me I know…I’ve tried. And one more thing…when you’re overtired, you’re less likely to go to the gym or get in your daily activity…yeah, it’s bad all around. (I gotta give a shout out to Jillian Michaels, I really took notice of the whole sleep vs weight loss issue from reading her book Master your Metabolism...not to mention a whole slew more of useful info.)

So, I’ve been making it a point to get at least 7 hours of sleep every night with my goal aimed at 8…this is my new practice, my new priority…SLEEP, SLEEP, SLEEP. I’ve stuck with this new mantra since last Saturday and it seems to be working its magic. I wake up in the morning feeling rested, I’m able to make good choices during the day, and the scale is already showing results. Here’s what I’ve been doing besides sleeping this week: I’ve started food journaling again, and while eating clean and writing it down, I’m also watching my caloric intake. I’ve been averaging about 1300-1400 calories a day and I feel satiated, and in control and happy with my progress thus far. Now that I’ve gotten the nutritional part under control this week with my new found rest-induced life, next week will focus on not only continuing on the whole sleep and eating clean thing, but it will also be the week where I reintroduce my fitness goals. Working in working-out where I get at least 20 minutes a day, 5-6 days a week. I usually average about 30 minutes on top of all the walking I do around the City, so I think I’m finally going to start seeing results again...I'll let ya know as we progress.

Oh, and let me tell ya about my dinner last night…Taco Salad…delish. No I didn’t order or indulge, I made it at home and it turned out so great, satisfying, and so easy. Let me share the ease. I picked up pre-cut salad greens (a nice mix that had romaine in it for extra crunchiness), I grabbed an organic tomato (SO important…if you don’t eat any other fruit/veggie organic, please try to eat organic tomatoes – the non version is sprayed with 7 different pesticides, picked green, shipped cross country and the sprayed with argon gas [yep, what they euthanize dogs with] to ripen them quickly so they can sell them quickly to you….and tomatoes are such an important food when it comes to nutrition benefits)…so now we have our salad base. Then go to the dairy isle and try to find organic sour cream, if that’s not available, I went with the SmartBalance version which was pretty good, and then grabbed some finely shredded natural cheese (a Mexican blend) as long as it’s in the cheddar family. Then over to the Salsa isle where I grabbed some Green Mountain Salas (Hot is my liking) to add to my salad (so good and you can find it at Whole Foods and other reputable markets that cater to the healthy side). Don’t forget to pick up some fat-free “refried” beans while you’re at it, or some black beans, it adds a nice layer to your wonderful Taco Salad. And finally over to the meat isle where you pick up a nice pound of natural, 93% lean ground beef. I almost forgot, to make your life easier, go to the spices isle and grab a package of taco seasoning (I got the one with 30% less sodium) and maybe a small little can of tomato sauce to add thickness and sauciness to your meat :) …I used crushed tomatoes that I had at home. Now all you have to do is microwave the beans with a touch of water…cook up the meat really quick with your seasoning packet & tomato sauce, and prepare your salad. It literally took me 10 minutes to prepare dinner, especially by using the pre-cut greens & shredded cheese. I like to layer it like this: In a wide bowl, I throw in 2 handfuls of greens, then add some of the organic tomato I chopped, followed by the heated “refried” beans (about 2 tbsps), then I sprinkle a little shredded cheese followed by 2 tbsps of the taco meat, then another little sprinkle of cheese, followed by a tbsp of sour cream and finally a couple of tbsps of salsa. Now we’re ready to dig in. It’s so full of flavor, texture and goodness, that I can’t wait to do it again…seriously delicious!

Recap for your grocery list:

1 pkg. pre-cut greens (w/romaine)
1 organic tomato
1 pkg sour cream (try for organic or SmartBalance)
1 pkg of shredded cheddar cheese (I like the Mexican blend and go for natural if available)
1 packet of Taco Seasoning (go for the reduced sodium if possible)
1 can tomato sauce (small)
1 can Fat Free “Refried” beans
1 lb. of natural lean beef
Pam or Non-stick cooking spray to cook the beef in if you don’t already have it at home.

Makes enough for 4-5 people (or yummy leftovers if you’re lucky)

Bon Appetit

Thursday, January 14, 2010

If at First You Don't Succeed...

Try, Try Again, and Again, and Again, and Again...

Have you ever tried to lose weight and found success? Did you do SouthBeach or WeightWatchers, or joined the Boxing Gym, or something that changed your way of eating and moving and you lost a good amount of weight and thought "I've finally done it! I'm never going back to my old life of crap eating and pure slothful seclusion."??? You were a hero, you lost a good 20 or so lbs. and heck, could it be, you were now one of the untouchables? You could now relax and live your life because "You've got this." Well I have. I've been a good 20 - 30 lbs. lighter in my life and was pretty happy with where I was in the world of weighty issues. Granted, I still had ultimate goals model...bikini goddess...but those were just ideas to aspire to, to keep me on the straight and narrow. However, I got comfortable and really did feel untouchable (cuz I looked GOOOD)...THUS I allowed myself to miss work-outs, and eat things that weren't necessarily on my new "healthy regiment" I gained a few pounds, no matter, I now had the tools to get them off...I knew the secret...and it was only a few pounds, not like its 20 or something. long can you keep saying that before the couple of pounds start coupling with a few more and then they mate to make a whole family reunion of poundage? UGH...WHAT!!! How did I gain back the weight back?'s not all of it, but it's around a good 20 or so! Ok, Ok...calm know what to've done this before...breathe.

So now we start back with the healthy eating and we start getting our butt moving again...OMG...I forgot how hard this was the first time, and it doesn't seem to be working the same as it did when it was new. Why doesn't the weight come off as quickly anymore...why am I not as dedicated as I was the first time? Why do I keep slipping up and putting things in my mouth that I shouldn't and WHY do I not make myself work-out everyday? Let’s think about this for a moment. So I keep starting over on my “regiment”…why do I keep doing it over and over again? Because it worked the first time and with great results…but I neglected to realize that once you’ve found a healthy lifestyle, you can’t just assume that once weight is off that it will stay off if you go back to your old habits…it was those old, bad habits that got you to Fattyland in the first place. Sure you can have your cake and eat it too…BUT they never tell you that in order to eat that cake you must serve it with a heaping helping of moderation on the side and try to grasp the concept of calories in and calories out. Have that piece of cake, but make sure it’s worth it and that it really is a once in awhile thing. It always seems that events, celebrations, holidays, dinners, stress,…life comes up and the excuse to miss a work-out or have a “goodie” is a valid allowance. Again, have your cake, BUT don’t have it everyday and if you have it in that day…don’t keep eating it all day! In other words, I already messed up my eating for today, I’ll just “enjoy” the rest of the day and eat bad. But do you really enjoy it? I know I do…hahahaha…atleast as it’s passing my lips and into my tummy…but then UGH…my stomach…ugh, I’ve got the shakes, indigestion, nausea, gas (teehee), a headache, you name it…I generally don’t feel well when I eat things that I shouldn’t…and then I don’t have the energy to really go burn those calories that I just ingested. What a vicious cycle…no wonder I was a chubmonster…and somehow I am regaining that glorious title.

So what do you do? If what you know worked for you the first time around, but doesn’t seem to really be working this time (or the other 20 times you’ve retried this “miracle cure to fatness”), THEN what do you do? Obviously, if you’re constantly re-trying the same old method, but it doesn’t seem to be working, then perhaps it’s time to stop and re-think things. Or maybe, you really need to re-read and really commit yourself to the challenge as you did the very first time you tried it and it actually worked for you. PLUS we can’t forget that the human body is a lovely organism that evolves and adapts…THUS, perhaps you need to try something new or more advanced to shock the body into change. What if you’ve tried everything and your brain hurts and is melting and leaking out of your ears at this very moment at the swirling amount of options that you’ve tried and failed at? Again…BREATHE…let’s think about this. What really works? Ok…for me, I know that sugar & bread (namely Gluten) is the enemy. I know that when I eat things with those two ingredients in them, I have problems. My blood sugar goes crazy, my digestive system gets all gunky and I swell & bloat like a led zeppelin (not the band…the blimp kind). There’s an answer…cut out sugars and gluten from your diet…not necessarily the easiest thing, but doable. I’ve also found that processed foods in general don’t sit well with me, so we’ll avoid those too. Alright we have a plan forming. I also know that eating small meals throughout the day, usually well balanced to higher in protein, keep my blood sugar level and my energy up…add this to the list of things to do. Now we can’t forget EXERCISE…it’s simple…I have to work-out and it has to be at least 4-5 times a week, even if it’s only for 20 minutes. I know that my body responds to working out. I also know that I have to keep challenging myself in those work-outs or I will definitely hit a plateau, get discouraged, and want to quit. It’s hard enough getting your butt up and moving, the last thing I need is extra mental discouragement...that means changing things up…mixing up the types of exercise I’m getting so I keep the body guessing. OH and don’t for get sleep…the hardest thing for me to get…but without it, I get overtired and have no energy to do anything and that leads to foggy brain and then the wanting to chuck it all out of sheer exhaustion…not good…SO, get some sleep already (how about 7-8 hours).

Looks like we have a plan forming…but this plan is a road you’ve gone down before. So what will make it different this time? What will make me really commit? I need to persevere and really do this…what am I missing? Any ideas?

All I can do is try…and keep trying. I can say that every time I try, I learn. I gain new knowledge and pick up a new good habit, and it seems to really help change my lifestyle. No I’m not at my goal weight, and yes I fall off the proverbial healthy-lifestyle wagon, but I’m better than where I started when I began my journey to a new me.

Overview: The Plan

Eat 4-5 small meals a day (high in lean protein with only some complex
Avoid Sugar
Avoid Gluten
Avoid Processed foods
Drink Water,
Water, Water
Get off the Diet Soda!
Cut caffeine way

Get 7-8 hours of sleep a night
Cut off eating 2-3
hours before bedtime
Cut off work-outs 2-3 hours before bedtime
Clear your

Work-out 4-5 times a week
Work-out for at least
20 minutes a day
Mix it up
Really push yourself…you’re only cheating you

So there we have it…this is the plan…now to stick with it. Please feel free to chime in…I’d like to know if there’s something I missing.

Happy New Year Folks!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Tightrope Walking

Hey kids, long time no see... I'm back and finally functioning, life is and has been a crazy whirlwind of events.

As we last read, I returned from the lovely country of Hungary, where I ate fried mystery meat and drank ridiculous amounts of alcohol (on the last night there). Since I got back from Hungary, I hit the ground running. First with taking up the helm as producer for Opera Manhattan's Hansel & Gretel (which got great reviews!!! Check them out:


After Hansel & Gretel was done, I came down with another horrible cold that started the Monday before Christmas...Not good, due to the fact that I had an audition that following Tuesday for a Christmas gig and then to sing for Christmas Eve & Christmas Day at said gig. Needless to say, I lost my voice with the new sickness and with the horrible cold weather/snow for that week. However I did somehow manage to sing for Christmas and as soon as Christmas Day was done, so was I. I finally just collapsed, took the week off from work and stayed in bed for some much needed recovery. After New Years, I did go back to work, but under puny circumstances. Half the week at work was spent leaving early and coming in later with one missed day in was a rough week, but I was trying not to miss anymore work (I need those days for my opera tours). Which leads us to the current week.

I feel so much better! I started my clean eating and work-out regiment again...Monday (The 30-day Shred Level 1), Tuesday (The 30-day Shred Level 2), Today is still up in the air due to my voice lesson and dinner plans after work, and Thursday is a bit sticky do to other plans that have arisen. However I know I shouldn't push myself too much my first week back from recovery. I'll just play it by ear and listen to my body to gage how much I can handle without relapsing. I have to say, I'm the worst at taking it easy...I'm generally an all or nothing kind of gal...which is not necessarily the smartest way to go about things. I tend to get all "gung-ho" and really push myself until I can't take anymore. I think it's good to have a hard working, ambitious personality & work ethic, but know when to say when (especially when you get sick)...BUT also, don't let it become a crutch or reason for excuse either. As all good things in life, we must find balance, and that is my never ending endeavor. As Ms. Jillian Michaels says, "pain is fear leaving the body...push through that pain to become stronger." And that's what I'm talking about...knowing the type of pain to push through...finding that balance to know what is the good sore and what is the bad. I think I'm learning and I know if you've ever had a really great work-out, then you know what I mean by good sore :)

So...on top of get well, healthy and fit, we have the next few productions now mounting on the horizon. I am once again donning my producer hat for Opera Manhattan's upcoming One-Act Opera Festival. This is going to be an exciting and very interesting group of productions. The festival's theme is how love drives one to madness, thus we have Dido and Aeneas, Erwartung and Bluebeard's Castle...very intriguing operas (and the last two are rarely done.) Whilst in the midst of producing these 3 gems, I will also be the head hair & make-up artist for several other productions at another opera company here in NYC. Yep, I'm a Jack of all Trades ;)

Then I have my own singing to concentrate on. In April, I'll be singing Musetta in a new, hot, modern production of Puccini's LaBoheme. We've already had a photo shoot for PR materials and I've now got to buckle down and get my role memorized before rehearsals start in March. Here's one of the fun pics from the shoot:
I might add, that this getting ready for this new production is a nice incentive to really get in great shape, who knows what the costume will be (think modern French hipster...with me as the gold-digger, brand-loving type.)
Have a great day!