Friday, November 3, 2017

My Simple Weight Loss Journey

Yesterday I shared this photo documenting the first four months of my journey to a happier, healthier lifestyle, and many people expressed an interest in how I am accomplishing this. I love sharing my tips of how I made this positive life change for myself, and I hope that it can inspire someone else to do what they thought they couldn't! In the title of this post, I used the word "simple." I don't mean that this has been an easy road! It has been a huge challenge for my self-control, but the steps themselves are simple.

The first step is a desire to change. You'll find that this is crucial for any habit you are trying to break or change. If you aren't committed, you will likely fail and the effects will not last. This is exactly how I began. Sometime in June, I decided I needed to cut way back on my sugar in-take. I have diabetes on both sides of my family, and sugar has always been my biggest diet-related weakness; I would even call it an addiction for me. So I asked my wonderful fiancee, Morgan, if he would help support me in this goal. He was more than happy to help!

Soon after cutting back my sugar, I decided I wanted to eat better in general, and again asked Morgan to help. I do not like counting calories, so this was one way Morgan was a huge help. I began by making a list of foods I normally eat. Then, Morgan looked up the calories and serving sizes for me.

Another concern was my energy level. I used to sleep a lot more than I do now, but I seemed to always feel sleepy and sluggish throughout the day. Morgan helped me to pick foods that would give me energy, and identified foods that would make me more tired. He also helped me pick out proper proportions of protein, veggies, fats, and good and bad carbs, which I could incorporate into each meal and any snacks.

Here's what worked best for me. We began with a 2000-2200 calorie goal for the day - I have no idea how many calories I was eating normally at that time, but it was most likely too high. The goal with eating was to not eat until I felt full, but to hit that content feeling between hungry and too full. Mornings are tough for me; I'm not a morning person at all! So for breakfast, I mostly ate protein to energize me right at the beginning of the day.

At lunchtime, we wanted to avoid the mid-afternoon energy dip - that time when I would always take a nap if at all possible. To accomplish this, I ate a ratio of about 10% carbs, 50% protein, 40% fruits and veggies. A lot of times it ended up being a ton of vegetables, which helped fill me without adding a ton of extra calories.

Dinner is my big meal. One-third of my plate is protein, one-third is grains, and one-third is vegetables. At the beginning, about half of my daily calories came from dinner. A couple weeks in, we had planned to start adjusting my calories to 1800-2000 a day, because this is about the average for a person my age and height. However, I found that I was beginning to feel full during my meals at about 1600 calories, and I was no longer able to finish my meals.

Today, I eat about 1300-1600 calories a day. That sounds like I'm starving myself, but I am actually quite satisfied and eat plenty of food each day. I just eat a lot of food with fewer calories. Another thing I want to mention is that I am NOT incorporating very much exercise into my days at this time. If I were, I would add more calories. My current level of physical activity includes walks, as well as my normal physical therapy exercises and stretches for my neck and back.

A few other things - 
  • When I feel like I need a snack throughout the day, I stick to protein and/or fruits and veggies.
  • I don't want to waste my calories on drinks, so I only drink water - I've always liked water, so this wasn't hard for me. Another option is Powerade Zero - zero calories and zero sugar! Occasionally I'll drink a Powerade Zero.
  • I cut my sugar WAY back - at the beginning I only ate a sugary treat at the end of the day if I had enough calories left-over (I usually made sure I had calories left! Haha). I wasn't ready to give up sugar yet. Once I was willing to give it up almost completely, I cut back more. Now, I only eat sugar-free desserts under 100 calories (I enjoy sugar-free chocolate pudding or Jell-o), and once a week I allow myself something sugary up to 200 calories.
  • I have recorded what I ate since I began, and this has helped me to stay on track and to learn what I can eat without looking at the nutrition facts as much. Now, I can typically look at a meal or recipe and anticipate whether or not I should eat it.

  • As you can see from the above food log, my diet is not so restrictive that I can't eat out. In fact, I still eat a lot of the foods I've always loved, including at restaurants I've always loved. I eat out about once a week; I'm just smarter about where I eat and what I eat when I go to restaurants. I've discovered that it's better to look up nutrition facts for restaurants before I go. This isn't always possible, but we usually know when and where we're going to be eating out, so I do try to look up menu items beforehand so I'm not tempted.
This is not a crash diet that I'm trying out in order to lose weight quickly; this is a lifestyle change. This is how I intend to eat for the rest of my life. Sometimes I mess up. That's okay! Nobody is perfect, and this kind of change can be harder for some people and easy for others. Sometimes those really hard days hit me out of the blue when I feel like I've been doing so great, and then I suddenly have all these old cravings. It's still a struggle sometimes! I just start each day fresh, and I am very motivated many days by the great changes I continue to see in myself - I lost 18 pounds in the first three months and gained so much energy!

Three things that I think have been most important for my continued success:
  1. I had to make the choice to change
  2. I have an awesome support system in my fiancee, Morgan :)
  3. I had a desire to learn about nutrition to be able to eventually do most of this on my own
I'm definitely not a nutritional or health expert, but this is what has worked for me!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

"The Atonement Covers All Pain"

With my final semester at BYU-Idaho already half over, I thought it was time for an update. I think we often find that the life we have pictured and planned for is often different than the one we live each day. This semester has become an immensely difficult one for me. Just before the semester began in early January, I started experiencing some pain in the region of my lower back. I have lived with lower back pain for about fifteen years, so this is not new to me. My insurance doesn't cover chiropractic care, so I went to see a doctor on campus hoping for a physical therapy referral, which I received! I began physical therapy the first week of school and have continued working to heal since then. My physical therapist tells me the problem is in my left SI joint. It seemed that recovery was going quickly and smoothly at first, but over the last few weeks I have experienced set-back after set-back. When I asked my physical therapist what I was doing wrong, he simply replied that sometimes your body just rebels against you when you are trying to re-train it like I am. Sometimes the pain is so unbearable that I can't find a single comfortable position - whether I am sitting, standing, or lying in bed - and pain medication seems to be effective less than half the time. During these times, I can't even walk. Sitting has been the most uncomfortable position, which has made sitting through classes very difficult. Luckily, I only have classes on Mondays and Wednesdays, and I teach AM Kindergarten on Tuesday and Thursday, but I am able to stay in motion which is actually helpful. Basically, this semester has been completely different than what I thought it would be. Obviously it has been a physical struggle, but it has also taken a toll emotionally. Last weekend I experienced another set-back and Monday night I didn't attend FHE because I couldn't walk. So I went to bed, hoping to rest, but no matter how I positioned myself, the sharp pain would not subside. I remember feeling so helpless as I lay there, and just crying and praying, not knowing what else I could do. As I lay there praying, the pain subsided somewhat and I decided to look up some talks on I typed "pain" in the search bar and found Kent F. Richard's talk "The Atonement Covers All Pain." It was so helpful to me in that moment and I remembered that my Savior suffered everything for me. I know that by turning to Him, we can experience peace through all trials and all pain, whatever form our pain takes. I have prayed and pondered to understand this trial. I know there is a purpose in all things. I know that the Lord can see all things and knows what I need and what I am going through. I encourage you to read Brother Richard's talk and to always keep in mind that throughout every trial, there is an end in sight and a lesson to be learned. The Lord blesses us as we endure and remain faithful.

"Opposition is part of Heavenly Father's plan of happiness. We all encounter enough to bring us to an awareness of our Father's love and of our need for the Savior's help. The Savior is not a silent observer. He Himself knows personally and... infinitely the pain we face.

"He suffereth the pains of all men, yea, the pains of every living creature, both men, women, and children."

"Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need."

Sometimes in the depth of pain, we are tempted to ask, "Is there no balm in Gilead; is there no physician there?" I testify the answer is yes, there is a physician. The Atonement of Jesus Christ covers all these conditions and purposes of mortality."

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Secret is Nutmeg

Introducing my new cooking blog: The Secret is Nutmeg!!! Featuring a variety of recipes; some are my own creations, but many of them are recipes I grew up with. Keep checking back for new posts!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Chicken Tikka Masala!!

Chicken Tikka Masala

3 chicken breasts
2 cans tomato sauce
1 quart heavy whipping cream
5 tsp cumin
2 ½ tsp paprika
½ - 1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp curry
½ tsp nutmeg
1 ½ tsp salt
1 tsp garlic, minced
Fresh chopped cilantro, for garnish
5 cups, uncooked basmati or jasmine rice

Cut chicken into bite size pieces, season with salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper, and cook using the method of your choice (I find baking the chicken while the sauce is simmering to be the easiest).

Mix tomato sauce, cream, and spices in a large saucepan. If desired, adjust seasonings to taste. Simmer on low for an hour to an hour and a half, until the sauce thickens. Add cooked chicken and simmer for another 10 minutes. Serve over prepared rice and garnish with cilantro. Naan is also typically served with this Indian dish (the recipe for naan is below).


1 package yeast
1 cup warm water
¼ cup white sugar
3 tablespoons milk
1 egg, beaten
2 teaspoons salt
4 ½ cups bread flour
¼ cup butter, melted

Proof the yeast in a large bowl with the cup of water (and however much sugar the back says that you need to use to proof it). Wait about ten minutes until it is nice and frothy. Add everything else except the butter and make into a dough. Knead it on a floured surface until it is smooth. Place it in a well oiled bowl, cover with a wet cloth, and let it rise somewhere warm. It is done when it has doubled in size--about an hour.

Punch it down, tear off small sections and roll into golf ball-sized balls. Place on a greased tray, cover with a towel and let rise again until doubled in size--about half an hour.

Preheat grill to a medium/medium-low temp (I use an oven rack, if you want the nice lines on it. You could also use a skillet). Oil lightly. Roll out/use your hands to smash and flatten a ball of dough into a thin circle. Cook for a couple minutes until puffy/lightly browned. Brush uncooked side with butter. Flip. Brush cooked side with butter. Cook another few minutes until nicely browned. Remove from grill. Repeat.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Miss Meganeee's Catering

Today's post includes pictures from Lydia's wedding of all the food I made. Enjoy!

The Bride!!

The Wedding Cake - the bottom layer and part of the top was styrofoam. Only a portion of the top was a real cake.

Banana Bread with chocolate chips. Lemon Bread was also served.

Mini Cheesecakes with optional garnish.

Stuffed Jalapenos

Wrapped Asparagus

Mini Kebabs

Turkey Wraps

Lydia found a ton of goblets at D.I. and provided them for her guests to use as part of her tea party/garden party theme.

Also found at D.I. were a collection of colored glass serving dishes and bowls. Instead of arranging the usual fruit platters, I decided to utilize this glassware to serve the fruit.

None of this would have been possible without my wonderful crew! A huge thank you to all of you for your patience and hard work!!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

My Dear Friend

I was sitting on my bed this evening when it started to rain. But this wasn’t just any rain. It was a down pour - my favorite kind. Lightning split the sky, followed by the explosion of thunder. I smelled it first. I love the smell of rain. Do you know the smell I mean? That scent that tells you rain is coming. Next I heard it: a million tiny drops colliding with the pavement. I grabbed my book and hurried outside. I sat in the stairwell, shielding myself from the deluge only because of the fragile pages of my book. How I love the rain. It reminds me of home. Washington. Seattle. The mountains. How green and lush everything is. I didn’t get to my book. My thoughts wandered. And settled. They settled on you. So many things have changed. How I miss you. I miss your smile. I miss talking to you. I think about you often. I’m glad I know you. I’m glad we are friends. You are a wonderful child of God and I know He is proud of the person you’ve become. I hope I know you forever.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Pure Exhaustion

Two weekends ago I was able to make a short trip to Seattle for my best friend, Lydia's, wedding, which I catered! It was so much fun!! And was the first wedding that I catered, so there was a lot to plan and prepare for. But I think we ended up being a little over prepared and everything went quite smoothly, which was nice. Posted at the end are all the recipes I used.

A wedding can be stressful enough, but added to the stress of the wedding plans was the fact that it was at the end of finals week! Wednesday night/Thursday morning I went to bed at 4:30am and had to wake up at 6:30am for a final...I did not do very well. And then I finished my last final on the 10-hour drive from Rexburg to Moses Lake, WA. We had to stop briefly at a hotel just before midnight so I could submit that last final. Then we arrived in Moses Lake shortly after and I passed out pretty quickly.

I spent the entire next day cooking and prepping the food for the reception at 6pm, along with my wonderful team of helpers - they were so great! Some of the items on the menu were requests of the groom, Tyrell, including stuffed jalapeños. He provided the recipe and even spent several hours in the kitchen helping prepare the jalapeños! The groom helping in the kitchen on his wedding awesome is that?! I also made a fake cake, which I think was awful, but the bride was satisfied so all was well. We bought styrofoam layers to build it up and then just the top was real. I covered the styrofoam in cream cheese frosting and decorated it with pearls and pink roses.

The next morning we drove the three hours to the Seattle Temple for their Sealing. I was just Endowed two weeks ago, so I was very happy to be able to attend their Sealing! It was so wonderful!! Right after we met at a nearby park for a small open house. I served cupcakes for refreshments and we had a few activities including a costume/dress-up chest and tug-o-war!! We played boys against girls and the girls won the first two times and the boys the third time. After the open house, a small group met at the pier in Seattle to eat dinner at Ivar's. While everyone was waiting for a table and then ordering and waiting for food, two of my friends, Lydia's oldest sister, and I decorated their car!

It was such a fun weekend...I was able to spend that night with my dear friends Melina and Jenessa! And I got to see my cat!! Jenessa and I stayed up WAY too late talking nonsense and giggling. Then my friends (Bonnie, Cassandra, and Jessica) left to head back home at 5 Bonnie's car without a/c! We had a spray bottle to keep us semi-cool. I was so exhausted from finals week and the whole weekend - I slept most of the 8-hour drive to Boise, where I stopped to stay with my friend Julean. We stopped in Pendleton for church - that's pretty much the only time I was awake, except we stayed to listen to one speaker and I don't remember what she said because I was so out of it. Then I slept for 12 hours at Julean's! And Julean drove me the rest of the way to Rexburg. We had lunch at Craigo's and then she headed back to Boise.

Now school is over for seven weeks (six weeks now...) and I am definitely enjoying some down time. It is boring at times, but for the most part I am loving the me time!


Zucchini Bread -

2 eggs
½ C oil
1½ C sugar
2 C grated, peeled zucchini
1 tsp vanilla
3 C flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp baking powder
Chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease generously and flour 5 mini loaf pans. Beat eggs until light and foamy. Add oil, sugar, zucchini, and vanilla. Mix lightly but well. Add flour, salt, soda, cinnamon and baking powder sifted together. Mix well. Stir in chocolate chips. Spread into pans. Bake at 350 for 40-45 minutes until toothpick comes out clean.

Lemon Bread -

2 cups flour
1 tsp. grated lemon peel
1 ½ tsp. baking powder
½ cup unsalted butter, room temp
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1 container lemon yogurt, room temp
2 lg. eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Butter and flour 4 mini loaf pans.
To prepare bread: In a medium-sized bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a small bowl, stir together yogurt, vanilla, and lemon peel, until blended. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until blended. One at a time, add eggs, beating well after each addition. In three additions each, alternately beat in flour mixture and yogurt mixture, beating just until combined. Scrape batter into prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove pan to wire rack. Completely cool.

Mini Cheesecakes -

1 package Royal Cheesecake mix
1 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup margarine or butter, melted

Combine crumbs, sugar and margarine; press equal portions onto bottoms of 24 lightly greased or paper-lined muffin cups. In large bowl, follow directions for making Royal Cheesecake. Spoon equal amounts of mixture (about 3 tablespoons) into prepared cups. Refrigerate until set. Garnish as desired.

Stuffed Jalapeños -

24 jalapeños
8 oz cream cheese
8 oz shredded parmesan cheese
1 lb spicy Italian sausage, cooked

Cut the jalapeños in half and gut them. Mix cheeses and sausage together to make stuffing. Stuff the jalapeños and bake at 450 degrees for 15 min or until the cheese melts and browns on top.

Asparagus Wraps -

1 bunch of asparagus, boiled
8 oz cream cheese
1 pk sliced ham

After the asparagus is cooked and cooled, spread cream cheese over the ham and then wrap around asparagus.

Mini Kebabs -

Sharp Cheddar Cheese, half-inch cubes
Black olives
Sliced turkey

Stab an olive, a slice of turkey, and a cube of cheddar onto a toothpick

Turkey Wraps -

1 pk large tortillas
8 oz cream cheese
1 pk sliced turkey

Spread the cream cheese over the tortillas and then the turkey. Roll and slice.

Fruit Platters - Pineapple, Grapes, Watermelon, Strawberries, Orange wedges

***E-mail me with any questions about these recipes - Enjoy!!