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Setting out on a Self-Improvement Journey

It is the same thing that has happened to countless others. It has different looks and forms, but the root is the same: stagnancy. Those of us who eat out far more often than we should, because it is easy than meal planning and cooking. Those of us who are too busy to exercise, organize, learn, or enjoy the moments. Those of us who are slowly becoming tired and overworked without even realizing it.

I am one of those people. I have come to realize that I am one of those people who has a terrible diet, no exercise, and a life that feels like it is in chaos. Don’t get me wrong: I love being a mother and wife. I have a good job, and a sweet white cat. I also have a roof over my head and a car to drive. I am blessed to have all these things, and I am grateful for them everyday.

However, I can feel myself becoming overwhelmed. I eat out almost every day because it is easy. I lose sleep because I stay up late cleaning the house. I am tired so often, that I have a hard time enjoying the time I get to spend with my family. All this dawned on me one day, and I decided that I wanted to change. I want to live a long time and watch my baby grow up. That might not happen if I continue to eat garbage and stress all the time. It is time for me to take action.

“Your Life does not get better by chance, it gets better by change”

-Jim Rohn

My goals for this blog are varied. While I want to do some obvious things, I also want to improve some of my other skills. It is going to take some time, but I have made a list on how I want to improve myself:

  1. Diet Goals:
    1. Use the DASH diet to get control of my eating
    2. Get my anemia under control
    3. Eat food for diabetes prevention
    4. Get my GERD under control
    5. Prepare my body for pregnancy
  2. Build my endurance
  3. Body strength
    1. Exercise for back injury prevention
    2. Increase my arm strength
    3. Strengthen pelvic floor for delivering a baby
    4. Increase my shoulder flexibility
  4. Knowledge base that will allow me to take care of myself and my family
  5. Learn to pick up after myself when I am finished with something
  6. Improve my emotional intelligence
  7. Become stronger in my faith

I am sure this list will change as I continue this journey, but for right now this is a good place to start. Thank you to anyone who took the time to read this, and I hope that you are happy with your journey at whatever stage it is on. 🙂

-Aurora

When Sugar Treats = Happy Memories

It is that magical time of the year when the coffee shops get peppermint white-chocolate mochas on the menu. That first sip that tells you it is indeed time for the merriment of the holidays just around the corner. Holding the warm cup in your hands as you watch the snow dance gracefully along the street. Smelling the steam that comes off, warming your heart and soul.

As I write the top paragraph, I realize their may be another reason for my sugar problem: Happy memories associated with tasty treats. For me I get excited when I have my first peppermint mocha of the season. Or second. Or fifth. Or tenth. It is just a thing I have during the cold winter months. And it conjures up sweet memories along with that sweet taste.

So what is a sentimental fool to do? I could say “it is just for the season, it won’t hurt to keep having my coffee concoctions for this small length of time.” However, how then do I justify the Peeps at Easter? The pie at Thanksgiving? The chocolates at Valentine’s Day? Name a season and I can find a sweet treat that can go along with it.

I could say “No, I will not have one drop of Peppermint Mocha this year!” But what if that creates a worse beast that what I have? What if by cutting it out completely, I start diving in to all the other assorted goodies out there: Christmas cookies, candy canes, pies, chocolate, and the list goes on and on. I know myself, and the odds that I will be able to keep all these at bay is worse than those of winning the lottery.

For this year, I am instead going to limit myself. I can get one on the first day of December, one during our Christmas shopping session, and one on the last day of work before we break for Christmas. I hope by limiting myself, I will still be able to enjoy my memories without being overly saturated with needless calories.

In the meantime, I am going to try and find some non-sugar based food to turn into a seasonal treat. While I doubt I can convince my brain that kale will be just as much fun as my mochas (bleah!), maybe I can do something else. Green bean casserole? Peppermint Tea? I will have to try out my options and get back.

Thank you everyone for reading. I hope that this season finds you having fun and enjoying your favorite treats (in moderation)!

-Aurora

20 Blog Followers – Thank You!

I started this blog less than a month ago. I started it so I could have a place to post my progress with my self improvement journey. I figured if I had a place to put down my progress, it would help hold me accountable to my goals. I honestly didn’t think though that anyone would be interested in my goals or my progress. I was so surprised when I saw that people were following my blog! Today I hit 20 followers on WordPress. I am not sure if that is a lot of followers or not for a month old blog, but I know that it makes me feel happy to know there are that many people who chose to follow my progress. It makes me more motivated to make progress and become a better and healthier person. To everyone out there, thank you for joining me on this trip! You are the best. 🙂

Screenshot of my good news. 🙂

-Aurora

Programming a Honeywell Thermostat

On my quest of self improvement, one of my goals was to be more self sufficient. This includes learning how to work the thermostat in our house. I will admit: The confounded contraption is confusing and not at all user friendly. My husband set the schedule on it, and I have just always left it. If I wanted to turn the heat up, I would just press buttons until I either gave up or something happened.

No more! I not only learned how to set the schedule and adjust the temperature, but I created instructions and added to my home procedure manual for future reference (I don’t trust myself to remember how to do this in the future).


Honeywell Thermostat Programming

  1. System: Used to turn on the thermostat settings.
  2. Fan: “On” means the fan will run all the time. “Auto” means the fan will only run when the heat kicks on.
  3. Set: Used for setting the schedule.
  4. Hold: Used for setting the temperature apart from the schedule.
  5. Run: Used for taking the temperature off of manual mode and back to schedule.
  6. Arrows: Used to set the day, time, and temperature.

How the Schedule works

Before setting the schedule, I had to wrap my brain around how the programming worked. This was the part that was most confusing for me, since the system assumes that nobody is in the house during the week day. Pretty much, you set what time you want the heat to come on in the morning and at what temperature. You then tell the time you leave the house, and at what temperature you want the house to stay at while you are away. Then you tell it what time you will come home, and have a temperature set for the rest of the evening. You then tell it your bedtime, and what temperature you want the house at while you are sleeping. It will stay that temperature until you are “awake” again and they cycle completes. You may want to set all your schedules 30 minutes early, so the house is warm before you are awake/home from work. Knowing that ahead of time might help with setting the schedule.

Setting the Schedule

  1. Press the “Set” button
  2. Set the time that you get up in the morning (or what time you want the want the temperature to come on in the morning): Use the up and down arrows anytime you would like to adjust the time
  3. Press the “Set” button again
  4. Set the temperature you would like it to be for the morning: Use the up and down arrows anytime you would like to adjust the temperature
  5. Press the “Set” button again
  6. Indicate what time you will be leaving the house
  7. Press the “Set” button again
  8. Set the temperature you would like it to be during the day
  9. Press the “Set” button again
  10. Set the time that you will be coming home (or the temperature you would like it to be for the evening)
  11. Press the “Set” button again
  12. Set the temperature you would like it to be for the evening
  13. Press the “Set” button again
  14. Set the time you will go to bed
  15. Press the Set button again
  16. Set the temperature you would like it to be all night while you are in bed.
  17. Press the “Run” button.

Setting the Temperature Manually

  1. Using the arrows, adjust the temperature to where you would like it to be. If you don’t do anything else, it will stay that temperature until the next time the schedule kicks in. For example, if you set it manually to 79 degrees at 4:00 pm, and you have it set on the schedule to go to 71 degrees at 6:00 pm, it will stay at 79 degrees until 6:00. At that point it will adjust down to 71 degrees.
  2. If you do not want it to revert back to the schedule, press the “hold” button after you set the temperature.
  3. If after pressing the “hold” button you want it to revert back to the schedule, press the “run” button.

Hope this is helpful for anyone else struggling with their thermostat!

-Aurora

5K or .5K: At least I am moving!

Before I had a baby and while I was pregnant, I would participate 5K (3.1 miles) races all the time. 5K’s are very popular with many people as a fun way to enjoy some physical activity. While a lot of people run, some others jog or walk. I was always one of the walkers. Even with just walking, it was a good way to get an hour of exercise. Usually I would be joined by family and friends. We would walk and talk and have a great time. I have done some really fun ones, including ones where they threw colored chalk dust at you as you went by. They were a good way to get off the couch and get some fitness time in without a whole lot of training. As far as exercises choices go, I always liked walking and the benefits that came with it.

Today the Little One and I entered a 5K race called the “Gobble Wobble”. The weather was perfect for some walking. This particular one was gathering donation items for the local food bank, which was nice. Normally when I do a 5K I am surrounded by family and friends. Today it was just me and my son, who was riding in his stroller. The two of us tackling the course! It was on a college campus, so the makeup of the race was comprised of college athletes. I knew that we would be heading up the rear, and I was OK with that. 🙂

Once the horn sounded, we were off! The course was comprised of a loop that everyone was supposed to do twice. The 5K I did today was the first one I have done in probably 7 months, so I wasn’t planning on walking very fast. However, there were two coworkers with me who were walking pretty fast. I decided to try and keep up. However, after a couple of minutes, I realized I was in worse shape than I thought. The coworkers got ahead of me, and I decided to cut across the course and go back to the starting point. I didn’t want them to not see us come back and think that there was some mother and her child in distress somewhere. 🙂

I am not sure if I ever did get a quarter of the way through the course, but it is alright. I got some exercise, some fresh air, and some quality time with my son. As a bonus, at the start of the race, I saw a motivational sign on the light post that had a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt: “You must do the thing that you think you cannot do.” It was a great thing to see as I am trying to start a blog and get in shape. Also, it shows me that I might want to incorporate some more walking into my daily routine. 🙂

-Aurora

When a box meal equates to a GERD blunder

Note: While reading this, please keep in mind cooking is not my friend. I could burn almost anything, and trying to season things does not usually work well for me. This was an attempt to fix that with mixed results. 🙂

The other day, I was in the grocery store and passed a freezer chest with meal kits in it. It was one of those kits that has all the ingredients and instructions on how to make the meal. It had chicken, cheese, seasoning, scallops, and more in it. They were also having a sale on them!

I decided that this would be a fun way to try making something healthy. It might also be a good way to improve my cooking skills (I would put cooking as one of my top 5 weaknesses). 🙂 I took a look at the options. I will be honest: I couldn’t pronounce half of the gourmet cuisines in the freezer case. I am not well versed in fancy food. I ended up with the Chicken Adobo Flautas. The picture on the front looked good. There were tomatoes in the picture, but I figured I could pick them off for my plate. Note: I realize now that I probably should have read the ingredients list a little closer….

My ready made meal kit, ready for cooking!

When I opened the box, I was excited to see how all the ingredients were in perfect proportion. No guessing amounts. However, I was dismayed to see not only tomatoes but a lime and spicy seasoning. However, I decided to still try it. Right away I burned the chicken (not that unusual for me) and set off the fire alarm. I also realized the recipe called for juicing the lime and soaking the tomato in it. Tomatoes are bad for GERD, and so is citrus. So these citrus soaked tomatoes had heartburn written all over it. To top it off, both the chicken and the sour cream had spicy components to them. I debated even trying it, but it smelled so good and I didn’t rally have any other good dinner options.

The finished meal! It looks a little different than the one on the box….

I tried taking a few bites, and it tasted good! So I ate a bit more. It wasn’t long before I was in agony. My stomach felt like it had fire ants in it. I gave the rest of my food to my husband, and went to my trusty Tums. It took awhile before my stomach decided to simmer down. Although I was in pain, I learned a valuable lesson. Before I decide to buy another meal kit I should really check the ingredients list. 🙂

-Aurora

Coping with a Sugar Addiction

I have always had a sweet tooth. However, it has only been in recent years that the single sweet tooth has developed into a sweet mouth. I believe it came from stress. I started using sugar as a way to deal with the stress of my job. I don’t think I was aware of it at first. About 2 1/2 years ago I got another job, one that was far less stressful. However, by that time I think the damage was done. I was addicted and there was no going back.

First, I looked up to see if sugar addiction was really a thing. Turns out it is. Sugar can feed some of those same addiction genes, and manifest addiction symptoms. It can start running your life, as I fear that it has started to run mine.

Here is an example: Today I ate 3 sweet rolls, gummy worms, 2 cups of Coke, a large piece of chocolate cake, and 1 1/2 scoops of ice cream. That was just in one day. Even as I type this out I can’t believe I actually ate all that and don’t have diabetes. You eat one thing, and you almost forget you had it because you are still craving more. You don’t even want to eat a meal unless there is going to be something sugary and sweet in it.

Not only do I want to break my sugar addiction for my own health, but I want to set a good example for my little one. I don’t want him to think any of this is normal.

I took a sugar addiction quiz to see what would happen. I scored very, very low. There was only one question that didn’t put me squarely in the addicted category (and even that one was on the borderline). Do I hide sweets? Yes. Do I prefer to eat my desserts in private where no one can judge me? Oh yes. Do I make plans around a way to get my hands on some sweet and tasty morsel? Sadly yes.

I have tried to stop before, but always rebounded. This time I hope to curb my addiction for good. Not only do I want to give up my sugar addiction for my own health, but I want to set a good example for my little one. I don’t want him to grow up with the same issues I have. I also don’t want him to think that any of this is normal. Imagine trying to explain why mommy has a secret stash of treats that she doesn’t share with anyone else!

I realize that I may need to give up sugar entirely, which would be hard. Sugar is everywhere, and can be hard to avoid. I also hate the thought of missing out on fun treats. However, if that is what it takes I will try to make it work. To start with though, I plan on just cutting back on sweets instead of eliminating them entirely. I have read that cutting out sugar cold turkey can backfire in the worst kind of way.

As I go down this new journey, I hope I can beat this sugar addiction and start living my best life. Not only for me, but for my family as well.

-Aurora

Fitness Journal: Week 1

Day 1 (October 21, 2019) – Stuck with it on day 1! The only sugar I had today was 6 gummy worms after dinner (which is a huge decrease in what I normally have). It was also a deliberate choice, not a mindless snack or sugar craving breakdown. I had a breakfast of oatmeal, almonds, and a banana. Lunch was cheese, cucumber, and raspberries. Dinner was beef, peppers, and onions over rice. My energy seemed to be about the same, but I started craving snacks in the afternoon. As I was making dinner I had to keep fighting an almost automatic urge to snack. But I did not give in!

Peppers

Day 2 – Another successful day! No sugary snacks, no swinging by to get fast food, no soda. As a bonus I also drank my whole bottle of water. I packed my breakfast and lunch and took it to work, and stuck with it! My stomach hurt after lunch (which was chicken salad, carrot sticks, grapes, cucumbers, and crackers). I am unsure if this was because this food is harder to digest than what I normally eat, or if I ate too much. Energy level was still about the same.

Day 3 – No cheating again! Today I am starting to notice some changes in how I feel: both good and bad. Good is that I have a little bit more energy than I have been having. Also, I feel like my mind is less foggy and more focused. It is great to have energy again! The bad thing is that I could feel anxiety creeping up on me. I have had problems with anxiety attacks in the past, and I could feel one coming on. This is probably due to the drastic decrease in eating sugar, since that is what I had used to squash the monster in the past. It was a terrible coping mechanism, and I am sure I am going to have some kind of fallout from that. Today I was able to stay busy and keep the anxiety monster at bay. However, as part of becoming a better person, I am going to try and find some healthy ways to deal with anxiety and stress.

Day 4 – Today I slid back a little. I forgot my coffee at home (NO!!), so I ended up getting one from the local Einstein’s Bagels. I tried to hold out as best I could, but at about 3:30, I could barely concentrate on my work. Normally I would have tried to suck it up, but I decided to not risk messing up at my job. I got myself a white-chocolate mocha. The first sip was amazing, and I perked up right away. However, after about 30 minutes my stomach started hurting. It could have been due to the sudden sugar surge, or the caffeine at such a late hour. I was amazed at how my body reacted since for awhile there I was having those drinks 3-4 times a week. Guess it goes to show how fast your body can adapt!

Other than that, I did good today. Healthy breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I did feel some anxiety today that I need to work on dealing with. But my energy levels felt good.

Lunch containers

Day 5 – Sadly today I had a slide back. I went to a home where there was a surprise birthday cake. A very delicious cake I might add. I figured one slice wouldn’t be the end of the world. Plus I wanted to be festive. My stomach did not agree with my decision. I had stomach pains from the yummy cake.

I also watched a YouTube video that was a compilation of clips from the show “My 600 pound life.” It is motivation to keep going. If someone who is struggling with their food like that can change their habits, so can I!

Day 6 – Today started out really well, then slowly devolved into my old habits. I started out the day with a healthy breakfast of oatmeal, almonds, and milk. However, I didn’t consume enough calories which left me at a Walgreens looking for a snack. This was still a win though. I went for trail mix and a tea instead of the mini donuts and mocha that I really wanted. I was proud of myself.

However, on the way home, my willpower dissolved. I was tired from a day at the pumpkin patch, and I was going home to a sick husband. I went through the Taco Bell drive through for both my husband and I. I had the $5 Double Chalopa Box, which was full of tasty, not-good-for-me items. I did get an unsweetened tea instead of a Dr. Pepper though, so that was a small win. Tomorrow I will get to stay home, so hopefully I can rebound on my good habits.

Day 7 – A good day! I avoided three different Starbucks that were within arms reach of me today. I also avoided getting any candy in the checkout lane. I did get a bag of candy for Halloween. I had a few pieces after dinner, but that was it. 🙂

Overall

This week started out really good, then I slowly started to lose resolve. My sugar cravings and anxiety slowly got worse as the week went on, which didn’t help. However, my energy levels went up and I am feeling better physically. I hope that next week I will be able to stay with my plan the whole week.

I did lose a pound! That is some good news, especially considering I weighed myself the day after I had the Taco Bell. I would like to lose weight a little faster and get out of the obese category. I believe if I can loose 5 more pounds, I will move from “obese” to “overweight”

Spider socks for Halloween!

Stats as of October 27, 2019

  • Weight: 187
  • Difference from last week: -1
  • BMI: 30.2
  • Weight Classification: Obese
  • Waist Circumference:
  • Blood Pressure: Unknown

-Aurora

Content Coming Soon!

I am working on getting content for this section, so please keep checking back! Thank you to everyone who visits my blog – you are the best. 🙂

Peppers

My Diet Plan – Part 2

The DASH Diet Breakdown

How much you can eat on the DASH diet depends on how many calories you want to intake. If you would like to read the full scoop of what the DASH diet entails, the Mayo Clinic has a great article on it. You can visit it here: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/dash-diet/art-20048456 .

I really like that the plan is pretty simple to follow. I also like that I don’t have to give up carbs or milk (which would be hard for me to do right now). 🙂

For where I want to be, which is at the 2,000 calorie mark, these are the servings I need to be eating:

  • Grains: 6-8
  • Vegetables: 3-4
  • Fruits: 4-5
  • Milk Products: 2-3
  • Meats: 6 or less
  • Nuts: 4-5 per week
  • Fats and oils: 2-3
  • Sweet and Added Sugars: 5 or less per week

Since I probably don’t need to be at the full 2,000 calories, I am going to eat on the low end of the serving options. I am not going to be measuring out my food for the time being, and just “eyeball” the amounts. If it doesn’t look like I am loosing weight, or if nothing else is improving, I will start measuring out my food instead of guesstimating.

I am excited to start this and see how it progresses! Thank you to anyone who is following along. 🙂

-Aurora

My Diet Plan – Part 1

Alright, it is time to get serious. I know I need to be eating better, that the person who works at the local Einstein’s Bagels should not know me on a first name basis. It has been a slow road down this hole of fast and convenient foods. I know better: I know a lot about nutrition and how the body works. I used to be much better about my diet. However, commitments and time constraints had me making every excuse why I should just head over to DQ for my lunch.

My goals for this diet have several prongs:

  1. Get my GERD (diagnosed) under control
  2. Have a diet that will help with heart disease (no diagnosis, but a family history).
  3. Try to reverse any damage already done to my heart
  4. Prevent diabetes (a strong fear I will get it)
  5. Beat my sugar addiction (self diagnosed)
  6. Prepare my body for pregnancy (went through it once with issues)

Breaking it Down

With all these goals, it was tough deciding which diet plan I was going to follow. I decided to go with the DASH diet. According to the Mayo Clinic, ” Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) is an eating plan to lower or control high blood pressure” (Mayo Clinic, 2019). I have tried this plan before with good results, and many other members of my family are on it. While I do not have high blood pressure at this time, it runs in the family so I would like to nip HBP in the bud. I have also read that this diet can be good for those with pre-diabetes. Once again, I am not pre-diabetic as far as I know. However, I have a fear that my sugar cravings will one day take it’s toll on my pancreas. To help it out, I want to take the precautionary measures that someone with pre-diabetes may take.

There is mixed research out there on whether or not plaque buildup in the heart can be reversed. However, I found a couple of articles that talked about foods that can help reduce plaque buildup. Because the foods they listed are already considered healthy, I feel there is no harm in incorporating them into my meal plans. No harm in trying!

For GERD, there is no set diet plan. From the research I have done, the best thing to do when you have GERD is to avoid overly acidic food. I will modify the DASH diet to eliminate things like tomatoes, ketchup, citrus items, and such.

With regards to sugar addiction, pretty much the best way to beat that is to cut out sugar. I plan to drastically reduce my sugar intake, which is part of the DASH diet anyways. I hope to curb the sugar cravings naturally with fruit. I feel that this may be one of the toughest parts of this plan. Lets hope it goes well!

Preparing for pregnancy is to take a prenatel vitamin for at least 6 months before getting pregnant. According to the doctor I talked to, it can take that long for the needed vitamins (especially folic acid) to build up in the system. I have been taking a prenatal vitamin, but I have not been very consistent. As part of my plan I want to make sure I am consistently taking the vitamin so I am ready for baby #2.

I will be doing a Part 2 that will have more details of the DASH diet. 🙂 Stay tuned!

-Aurora