Tag Archives: diet

The Cost of Getting Healthy: Worth It

With my somewhat aggressive savings plan, my networth has eeked over the $480k mark, leaving “just” $20k left for the remainder of the year to hit my annual and “before giving birth*” goal of $500k. (*still not pregnant, so it’s looking more and more likely that I’ll hit this goal.)

While I’m far from frugal, I started doing some longer term calculations and realizing that perhaps I’m saving too much of my paycheck (is there such a thing?) I’m not a Mustachian — I have no desire to “retire early” — and maybe I don’t need $200k a year (after inflation) in actual retirement because I hope to always be able to work (albeit in a different, lower paid and more meaningful job once I’ve saved enough.) Continue reading

PCOS Women: Avoiding BPA – is it possible?

BPA (bisphenol-A) – a synthetic estrogen used to harden polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resin – is a troubling element of most plastics that we use on a daily basis. It is proven to be an endocrine disrupter, which is especially worrisome for women who are trying to get pregnant, especially those of us with PCOS.

BPA-Endocrine Disorder (source):

  1. Reduces the number of oocytes (cell in ovary that may undergo meiotic division to form an ovum)
  2. Lowers successful number of births
  3. Changes gene expression
  4. Reduces the function of Estrogen Receptor Beta
  5. Negatively affects mitochondrial function
  6. Alters hypothalamic pituitary / increases testosterone
  7. Lowers progesterone
  8. alters GnRH secretion
  9. Increases glucocorticoids
  10. heightens response to stress, elevates levels of anxiety

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How Much Should I Spend on Food Per Month?

Food is by far our biggest expense. We spent $2500 on food (inclusive of alcohol and cleaning supplies, so probably $2200 on food) in August alone. Clearly, that is way too much for a couple to spend on food each month. People tend to share that they feed families of 4+ on under $600 a month, as part of conversations on how they’re trying to cut down on spending.

But how much should a DINK couple (planning to have kids in the next few years) be spending on food? Here is the advice I found:  Continue reading

The Big Bet: Weight Loss and $1000 On the Line

Last summer, following my engagement, I decided to put a significant amount of money on the line to commit to losing weight. At the time I was about 170lbs, and I refused to walk down the aisle that overweight. My healthy BMI, according to the charts, is – at its highest – 140lbs. My goal, then, became to walk down the aisle at a healthy BMI.

I found a site called HealthyWage which allowed you to pick your weight loss objectives, timeline to hit those goals, and how much you want to put on the line. I bet $1000 because I figured that was a very substantial amount of money – substantial enough that I wouldn’t fuck up. I gave myself 10 months for the weight loss… I had to lose about 30lbs in 10 months, which was less than 3lbs a month – totally doable.

Then, I went through a period of depression and gained back some of the weight I was losing. I still stayed under my max weight, but suddenly the easy weight loss goal became much more difficult. I hired a personal trainer. I found that even with eating healthy and working out 3x a week I was only losing four pounds a month on average. I wasn’t losing weight fast enough, and my final weigh-in was getting closer and closer.

Today, I have a little over 5 weeks to lose 10-11lbs. While that’s theoretically do-able, it’s extremely hard (it’s basically 2lbs per week consistently.) There is plenty of literature that says you can lose this much, but it gets harder the closer you get to your goal. It’s one thing to completely botch this exercise but to end up just 2lbs away from my goal will be emotionally devastating. It’s quite possible it will come to that. Or, I can figure out how to kick the final 11 pounds to the curb once and for all. It will take more focus and determination than I’ve ever exhibited in my entire life. But, as I’ve always said, if you aren’t going to be willing to kick your ass into shape for your wedding, when in life will you be willing?

I’m focused on increasing my cardio and a very low carb diet, taking one day at a time. I’m at the point where every calorie counts and no matter how badly I want to sleep in or go home at a reasonable time, I need to work out to force my body to lose those two pounds a week. I believe on a strict ketosis diet with substantial exercise (still eating a healthy calorie count) I can get to my goal, but it’s going to be very, very hard. With my average of 4-5 lbs of weight loss each month on a healthier-than-usual diet, my body may not be willing to part with the pounds. But I’m putting my best effort forward here and will not be eating sweets on Easter or giving in to drinking anything other than tea and water.

April, you are my clean eating month, my super healthy, shrink my fat arms and stomach down marathon. You are my opportunity to win $900 or lose $1000. To be a winner or to fail despite losing over 15 pounds.

By April 14, I need to be down to 145lbs. That is my current focus. Six pounds in a little under 3 weeks. There’s my two pound a week goal, and a good half way point to check in on. I don’t know why but I’m feeling optimistic here that I can do this. I really hope I’m right. I’ll do whatever it takes.

Weight and Finances, Keeping Both on Track

As I head towards what will likely be my actual marriage year (2017), I’m fully aware that both poofy white dresses and slim, sleek white dresses accentuate one’s curves – for better or worse. I’m on a mission to actually lose weight and keep it off this time. Yes, I know I’ve said that virtually every year since 1983. Ok, maybe not 1983 because when I was a baby I did not say that. But you get the point.

The last time I was at a healthy weight I was extremely depressed and quite frankly not eating enough calories paired with riding a bike 5 miles a day in hilly terrain to commute to and from work. I didn’t notice the pounds just melting away over a three month period, but melt they did. Somehow my then-typically 155b body slimmed down to 120lbs. I wasn’t toned or anything so I still felt heavy, and to put this into context for those of you who understand women’s clothing my 120lbs was an adult size 8, not like a 2. I’m rather petite, so 120lbs – next time with some muscle and a little less fat – is my ultimate goal for W-day.

Unfortunately, since 2006 and my massive weight loss, I put all the weight back on and then some in the form of further depression and my binge eating habit. It was easy to not eat a lot when I was feeling anti-social and had no car, and no place to really hide my food, living with roommates and not wanting to leave the house other than to go to work and come home. Then I got a car and started to drive to and from work, a work with a vending machine and a crappy cafeteria which I ate at for lunch, often eating unhealthy food. I’d drive to taco bell for a treat and have two tacos and a pepsi. Needless to say, my body is very sensitive to caloric intake and I blew up like a blimp just as fast as I lost the weight.

When I stepped on the scale at a recent doctor’s visit and weighed 180lbs, I knew something I had to change. I only saw that number once before and that was two years ago, when I started to get my act together, and got down to 155lbs, only to drop back into a depression and eat myself back up to 180. It’s really frustrating, because it takes so long to lose weight and it seems it’s so easy to just pack it all back on and then some. And every year one gets older metabolism can slow so that makes weight loss even harder.

I also want to lose weight because I know if/when I have kids, I want to be able to have the energy to run around with them. I definitely can feel myself – my body – getting older. I’m not treating it right. I have to hyper focus on my health as I have on my finances throughout these last 10 years. Perhaps my 20s were really my financial fitness years, my 30s will be my personal fitness ones.

What’s most challenging for me is that I’ve never been the athletic type, but I love to move. I have so much energy in me and sitting at my desk all day just numbs me. I’d love to go to an adult dance class but my social anxiety typically keeps me from it. Or I’m just too busy traveling and it’s a waste of money. I know, excuses, excuses. Mostly I just am too caught up in my depression to get myself to do much of anything. At least I’ve been walking some to and from work – I try to get in 1 to 4 miles of walking a day during the week, and now that it’s spring a longer hike on the weekends with the beau. I also have a gym membership through work which is awesome and I really need to use it more. I just spend so much time commuting that my energy is shot by the time I even think about going to the gym.

I know more than anything being healthy takes long-term dedication. Being healthy is different from being in top shape, and before one can even consider becoming fitness-model worthy, she must spend a heck of a lot of time just getting to basic health. So that’s my first goal. I want to lose 1lb a week and not get off track this time. According to my scale, which I think is too low, I’m at 173lbs now. I’ll be tracking there as by the end of May I want to be at 167lbs. I still can’t believe how I got myself to 155 two years ago and completely messed up the downward trend, but it is what it is. At least my boyfriend hasn’t proposed to me yet. I think he will on our nine year anniversary, which is next month. So that gives me some time to get myself presentable for a wedding. One he officially proposes to me, and once I’m down about 20lbs back to 155, I may splurge on the personal trainer to help with the last 30.

There’s Logic to this Depression

I hate making every other post about my mental health situation (you don’t believe me, do you?), but everything seems to tie back to that these days. Some spans of time are better than others, but overall this deep sense of panic is inescapable. I’m not being overly dramatic, it is just what I’m feeling at the moment. So I write about it. It’s better than some other ways to deal with it, anyway.

That said, I could focus on doing things like meditating — recommended to me by both my doctor and therapist — to help calm down and feel centered — but ultimately I’m just grabbing at loose ends here. So I’m depressed. Clearly. I’m just lost. On the days that end in massive amounts of tears and gasping for air, looking for a way out, I just try, to the best of my ability, to pull the pieces together and give myself the positive reinforcement required to shut my eyes, clear my head, and face another day. It’s not that bad, but then it is. You know?

Turning 30 has been harder than I expected for me. Besides the whole biological clock – going-to-be-really-really-hard-to-have-kids-thanks-PCOS – situation, I’ve run into some new medical issues. Nothing life-threatening so far, knock on wood, but things that seem to swing into play at a certain age and genetic disposition. Not to be all TMI (isn’t that the point of this blog) but my mother and grandmother have GERD and apparently I now have it too (if you don’t know what that is and really want to know, be my guest and look it up, but anyway it’s not fun. A whole new diet and a pill should help.) Yeay for being/getting old* (*not to offend anyone older than 30! Trust me I’ll be there soon as well.) Continue reading

The Price of Weight Loss

Two weeks ago, I walked into a local weightloss office and filled out paperwork on my health history. I gave my FSA card to the receptionist, who entered in the card numbers into the system, locking in my $400 per month payment for this program that guarantees to help you lose 5-10lbs per month. Then I spent an hour with the clinicians learning about the program and proper portions. I was given a shot of amino acids and sent on my way to a new, thinner me.

When people see me and I say I need to lose weight, they roll their eyes. I’m not morbidly obese, but I am medically overweight. I have a body fat percentage of 39%. Obese is 32%+(!) I’m at an age now where I can no longer ignore this. While some people can just exercise their weight off, I have a few larger problems to deal with first. One is that my insulin regulation is messed up. I know this because I have PCOS and also unless I remove most carbs from my diet I will not get my period naturally. I want to fix this because I’d like to have children in the next five years, and I want to at least set myself up for the best odds to procreate. Infertility treatments will be much more expensive and if I can avoid them by getting myself to a healthy weight, then all the better.

Continue reading

Health vs. Savings

I’ll admit that since joining Mint shortly after I graduated college, I’ve become addicted to watching my networth go up. While the stock market has made that not always the case, in general my uncontrollable spending habits have taken a backseat to my savings addiction. While my increase in salary over the years has helped, I’ve gone from being the type of person who would throw money away to someone who carefully ensures she maxes out her IRA and 401k each year, with extra cash to “play” on certain stocks in taxable accounts. Overall, that’s great.

Where it hurts the most, though, is in my health. I’ve become so frugal that my brain tells me it makes more sense to put together a dinner of random snacks at the office versus coming home and cooking dinner (I’ll be too tired by the time I get home to do that anyway.) In one’s 20s, eating unhealthy and living unhealthy catches up to you. I’ve never been thin, but I definitely am noticing how as the years go on I put on weight much easier. Seeing the scale hit 180lbs was an eye opener. For years 155lbs was the number I’d hit if I were eating anything and not exercising. If i’m at 180 when I’m just 28, what will I be in my 30s?

Besides the number, the reality is that I’m already on my way to Type 2 Diabeties, I’m going to have tons of health problems later in life, I’m already so tired and lacking energy (I’ve been sleeping 9 hours per night and still feel exhausted each day), and what’s worse, it’s going to be incredibly difficult if not impossible to have children. There are so many reasons why getting healthy now is imperitive, yet each year goes by and I manage to come up with more excuses and find myself in a binge eating nightmare. It’s awful to admit, but I’m definitely a food and carb addict.

In 2 years or so, I’ll be getting married. There’s no ring on my finger yet, but we’ve already joked about the date, and we’ve been together six years(!) There’s a NY Times article about how brides will do anything to lose weight for their wedding day. I don’t want to lose weight just for my wedding day, but I do want to do it for my life. I’m even avoiding going home to see my family because I know they will make comments about how fat I am, one after another, with my dad, mom, grandparents, aunts and uncles all making some cruel comment about how I need to diet. Which is true. But nevertheless, it ruins an otherwise plesant conversation of how I’m doing well in my career and life otherwise (minus the depression and all that, but that’s easier to hide.) In the NY Times article, it calls out a bunch of popular fad diets that the brides were doing to lose weight. Most of them sounded absolutely ridiculous (a feeding tube through one’s noise and 800 calories per day? No thanks.) But one — the Dunkan Diet — sounded quite reasonable.

I’ve always been attracted to the idea of a low-carb diet because with PCOS and insulin resistance this actually is the healthy way for me to eat. My body is funny in that I don’t actually mensturate due to the PCOS, but the only times in life I’ve been able to actually have a natural period was by cutting out carbs and amping up on protein (mostly dairy.) I also briefly went gluten-free, which made my stomach flatten out quite a bit. I bet it had more to do with cutting out carbs versus the gluten, but it made a huge difference. So why is it so hard to just eat healthy and cut out carbs? It seems like if it’s clear this makes me feel better and healthier, I should just do it, right?

Part of it is the difficulties anyone has going on a diet. There’s fatty food EVERYWHERE. We have lunch at work and it always comes with a lot of high-carb sides. I tend to dislike the protein (how it’s cooked) and end up eating only bread, butter, and potatoes (plus junk food from our snack cabinet later in the day when I’m hungry again.) No wonder I’m fat.

Alcohol plays a huge role in my obesity. I don’t normally drink often, but lately my work culture is to go out to happy hour a few times per month, or to have beers at the office at the end of the day. While I can “not” drink (and I should not drink!) this is exceptionally difficult in my professional environment. For a few months after my DUI, I did stop drinking entirely, and it was awkward to order water when the team went out for beers. Yes, I could easily say I need to drive home, but so does everyone else and everyone else had at least one beer.

Finally, and this is a biggie, my lack of healthy eating goes back to not wanting to spend money. I’d love to have fresh produce and lean meats in my diet daily (especially fish!) but shopping for this brings my monthly grocery bill up by a few hundred dollars. I do end up spending a lot on dining out, but those costs are usually split between my boyfriend and myself. Worse, because we live separately, I often end up buying food and it going to waste because I’m always at his house and I’m never home. The worst is when you spend a lot on food and then it all spoils because you haven’t had time to eat it or prepare it.

Alright, enough with the excuses, right? I really want to commit to a diet for the next year and see how I can transform myself. I’d also like to start swimming in the mornings (there’s apparently a pool with practice in the ams before work near my office — it will be another relatively large monthly expense to join and hard to get myself there in the mornings for the workouts, but if I can do it than the cost will be worth it!).

I’m very interested in this Dunkan diet. It isn’t that new, but it’s gotten a lot of attention lately. It’s very similar to Atkins or South Beach, except it focuses on a healthier way of doing low carb (ie one cannot eat a lot of fat.) There are 100 foods that are allowed at all times and you can eat as much of them as needed until you’re full. Oat Bran is apparently an extremely important element of the diet as it fills you up. The diet starts with an “attack phase” where for 10? days all you eat is protein and oat bran. I’d be amazed at myself if I could get through that phase. It’s supposed to kick start your metabolism. Ultimately, though, what I like abut the diet is that it’s designed to set you up for a life of eating healthy and maintaining your ideal weight. They have a quiz on their site about what your ideal weight is, and although I’d really like to be 120lbs, my big-boned self will have to settle for 130lbs as a healthy person. Seriously, though, that’s 50lbs to lose and that’s still a lot. That said, if I were able to follow this diet and swim for an hour three days a week I know I’d be able to lose the weight. It WILL cost a lot, and I won’t be able to save as much, but ultimately who cares how much money you have if you’re a big, fat lethargic blob who is diabetic, depressed and cannot have children? I guess when I put it that way, it makes a lot of sense to invest in my health. If I don’t max out my 401k, the world isn’t going to end.

10 Ways to Make the Most of Your Gym Membership

Gym memberships are a costly investment, but the good thing about them is that you can control the amount of pay off by the amount you actually use them. It doesn’t really matter if you’re spending $19 a month or $99 a month, what matters is how often you actually get your lazy butt off the couch and go workout.

Here are 10 ways to make the most out of that costly gym membership:

1. Go, and go often: Ok, this one is obvious, but despite having a “duh” factor, this is the most important step of all. For the past year-and-a-half, I had a $46.99 a month membership to 24 Hour Fitness. I went to the gym a total of 10 times in those 18 months. Quick math shows that I would have been better off splurging on a day pass to a local luxury gym… or buying myself fitness equipment… instead of spending about $70 a visit. Now that I belong to Gold’s Gym with a $27 a month membership I’ve vowed to go to the gym at least twice a week. Not only does this make my gym membership make more sense to my budget, it’s also helping me be more healthy, which will hopefully cut medical bills in the long run.

2. Get a Gym Buddy… Who Isn’t a Close Friend: Having a gym buddy is a good way to encourage yourself to use your gym membership. But if your gym buddy is a close friend, there’s a better chance that one of you will come up with a last-minute excuse on why you can’t go, letting the other back out easily. After all, friends are often more forgiving about these things, especially if the friends aren’t keen on going to the gym in the first place.

3. Take a Class or Ten: Many gyms offer a variety of “free” group fitness classes. As soon as you start taking these classes, your “investment” dollars are being put to work. Assuming group fitness classes, on their own, would cost $50+ a month at the local rec center, taking a class once a week makes the entire gym membership worth a lot more. Go in without any expectations, and be ready to walk if the instructor is awful or the class is really too hard for you.

4. Use Those Machines: One of the main benefits of belonging to a gym is the ability to diversify your workout. Don’t be afraid of the weight training machines (I know I was for a long time). Instead, read the instructions on the side of the machine and start slow. You should pick a weight that allows you to do 15 reps (repetitions) of the same movement until your muscle feels as if it is melting and has turned to jelly.

5. Go In the Morning: I’m going to try to take my advice on this one in the coming year, as I’ve yet to experience the 5am gym rush. Going to the gym in the morning is great because it gives you energy for the day, helps your metabolism, and… best yet… ensures you won’t come up with excuses after work about why you can’t make it to the gym. Also, going in the morning makes you more aware of getting to sleep at a reasonable hour, which is ever-so important for weight loss and health (she writes at 2am after getting 2 hours of sleep last night.)

6. Buy a Bunch of Used Fitness Magazines: Fitness magazines often repeat the same information over and over again, so I wouldn’t recommend them for health nuts, but for beginners they can be quite helpful. Not only do they offer advice on workouts, they also will discuss (and show photos) of proper form, which will help you make the most out of your workout and not hurt yourself… both important things if you want to keep using the gym.

7. Don’t Give Up: Easier said than done… but staying on track is more than half the battle. Don’t disillusion yourself into thinking you’ll drop 10lbs a week. If you’re eating a healthy diet around 1200 calories (for women) or 1500 calories (for men) and working out 3 times a week, you will lose weight… like 1lb per every 1-2 weeks. Even if you don’t lose a pant size, any exercise is good for your long term health. It’s what you can’t see that’s the most harmful.

8. Join a Online Health Community: Free health and fitness networks can aid in your journey. Check out SparkPeople.com, a wonderful community where you can track your diet, get fitness advice and surround yourself (digitally) with other people like you.

9. Invest in a Personal Trainer: Personal trainers are very expensive and they’re not all worth their lean muscle mass in gold. Some gyms offer a few cheap personal training sessions when you sign up, so take advantage of that deal. Tell your trainer up front that you’re broke so he or she will be less tempted to try to sell you expensive supplements or additional sessions. Instead, explain that you really want to learn a good basic workout (or, if you’re more advanced, ask for a workout that can help take you to the next level). Get the workout in writing and take notes on any specific proper positioning that isn’t obvious.

10. Eat Healthy: You know that saying “you are what you eat?” Well, it’s true, and it’s most apparent when you’re at the gym. It’s easy to tell yourself that you’ve worked out a ton so a good reward would be an entire pizza or slice of cake. However, you’re just sabotaging your hard-earned results. Eating a diet high in protein, complex carbohydrates and fiber will give you the energy needed to work out. For good, easy sources of protein try egg whites. Egg beaters, which are milk-cartons of liquid egg whites, are my new best friend. Also, splurge on a good vitamin. I’m no nutritionist, but look into what sort of vitamin would be best for you. It’s cheaper to buy one slightly more expensive vitamin with everything in it you need than buying a lower-cost vitamin and having to buy separate supplements for missing nutrients.

Whole Wheat Pasta = Great for Living Alone

Living alone and cooking usually sucks because recipes have you make 6-12 servings and you end up having tons of leftovers that go to waste (or you force yourself to eat the leftovers and get so tired of the food that you’ll never make it again!)

Up until a few weeks ago, my diet consisted of cereal and microwavable dinners for just that reason. But now I’m experimenting with fresh cooked meals that won’t leave me with tons of leftovers.

That’s one reason I love pasta. You can make as much or as little of it as you need. Feel like a half serving? Go for it, just measure it out and bam, there’s your half serving. The rest of the pasta can stay in its packaging for whenever else you feel like eating pasta again. Also, whole wheat pasta is actually pretty healthy, as long as you eat the right portion size. I’m in love with Whole Foods’ 365 Organic whole wheat pastas. Here’s some pics of what I’ve made thus far…

1/2 serving of the rolly kind of pasta with 365 Organic fat free tomato sauce (35 calories a serving… I used a half serving of it since I’m not a big tomato sauce fan, but it’s much healthier than the cream alternative I used to use). I also fried some pre-flavored tofu in 1 tsp of oil (it got nice and crunchy… prob overcooked) and threw that in for protein and texture. It was pretty good.

A week or so ago I made another pasta dish with linguine, steamed broccoli & cauliflower and fried tofu. I added a little salt and pepper and it tasted amazing!

(Note: I made two servings of this because I cooked dinner for me & my boyfriend.)

Got any other suggestions for quick and healthy pasta meals?