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Thursday, November 21, 2013

Low-cost or No-cost Weight Loss Resources That Worked for Me

The old Holly around September 2000.

Four and a half years ago, I was a size 16 squeezing into size 14 clothes! Today, I wear size 4 and 6 clothes. At the start of my journey to lose weight and become healthy I wondered if getting to my current size was a realistic goal for me. Along the way I found some really helpful low-cost or no-cost resources that you may also find as helpful as I did.

Me with my grandson in Sept. 2012.

Bob Greene's book Total Body Makeover was a huge help to me. It gave me very concrete ideas of how to structure a workout program and also helped me to deal with the emotional part of my weight loss journey. This book came out in 2005 and I still go back periodically to read it and encourage myself to keep up my efforts in maintaining my weight loss. There are many personal stories in the book that gave me faith that I could do what the other people in the book did!

Planet Fitness was the gym I joined when I began my steps to fitness. It was a wonderful place to go for someone who hadn't been working out because it is billed as "the no judgment zone" and that is truly what it was for me. A variety of people of all shapes, sizes, and fitness levels go to Planet Fitness ( It has a nice variety of exercise equipment there as well: regular and recumbent bicycles, treadmills, elliptical machines, stair-steppers, free weights, and weight machines, and a circuit training area. It is VERY affordable with no-commitment plans starting at $10/month!

If $10/month is not in your budget, I have great news for you! PBS stations have fitness shows on their line-up several times each week. In my area, I enjoy doing Classical Stretch workouts up to five days a week ( and Wai Lana yoga ( from the comfort of my home. My husband bought me a pretty pink yoga mat, I found some really cute workout clothes at the thrift store, and I was ready to get fit! I started doing these exercise shows last year after I lost a job I had had for seven years and I could not afford a gym membership. I am still doing these workouts at home because I have gotten great results from them and enjoy them very much. 

Last October I realized that I needed a little help as I continued reaching towards my goal weight. I read in Fitness magazine of a lady who used a free app on her smartphone called Lose It! I began using it and have lost 7 pounds since then. ; )

Lose It! allows people to track calories of the foods they eat and calories they expend through exercise. I had tried to do this on my own but found it very difficult to do. Another feature of Lose It! that I enjoy are the various challenges in which I have participated. The challenges are very motivating. One such challenge to weigh in daily just ended after 278 days! I have established the habit of monitoring my weight every day which helps keep me from getting too far off track in my eating and exercising. 

One other fitness resource that I really enjoy using are the walking/running trails in neighborhood parks. Even in my small town, we have several of these trails. The hospital near my house installed walking trails all around it that are marked so people can track how much distance they cover. My husband and I enjoy walking on the trails at the hospital because it is
a safe place to walk, there are restrooms available, we can go inside to get a drink of water, and they have free Wifi to enjoy once we are done walking. 

What have you done in your journey to better health and fitness?

Saturday, November 16, 2013

My November 11-16 Menu (gluten-free friendly too!)

Menu planning is continuing to challenge me.  I realized recently that I only have to plan dinners right now so that should make my task a bit easier.

Breakfast is pretty much an "on your own" affair with four to five adults in the household. I lay in a supply of breakfast items and people just choose from those items. Generally there is a selection of regular and gluten-free cereals, bagels, regular and gluten-free frozen waffles, and eggs on hand at all times. We also have three different "milks" due to allergies so we have almond milk, soy milk, and regular milk in stock. One son likes to make protein shakes with 2% milk, I drink almond or coconut milk due to dairy allergies, and another son drinks soy milk due to dairy allergies and a hatred of almond and coconut milk.

Lunch is also an "on your own" meal mainly due to the majority of us being at work during lunchtime. The lunch food selections are quite varied due to dietary issues and preferences. One son likes frozen foods for his lunches (I don't advise this but he is 19) so he gets burritos, Hot Pockets, and occasionally frozen meals. My other son at home likes sandwiches with lots of meat in them (he is a black belt in Kung Fu and needs A LOT of protein). I like salads, cut-up veggies, hummus, and soups. So, I just stock up on the items we all want and we pack our lunches each day.

Which leads to dinner...

Dinner is the one meal of the day when at least three of us are home at the same time so I feel it incumbent upon me to actually cook a meal. Given all the dietary issues (I have celiac disease, two of us have diary allergies, and two of us cannot eat soy), creating a meal we can all eat is a bit challenging. Add to the mix the need to be on a very tight budget and it is a wonder I can make any meals at times!

So,  here are the meals we ate this week (Nov. 11-16):

Monday- Breakfast for dinner which consisted of omelets, leftover gluten-free hot dogs sliced in half and fried, hash browns, and apple juice
Tuesday-  Soup and Sandwiches (first really cold night of the season!) so I bought a variety of gluten-free Progresso soups with coupons and made both gluten-free vegan grilled cheese and regular grilled cheese sandwiches.

Wednesday- Fried rice with egg and stir-fried veggies, egg rolls (sadly no gluten-free versions for me).

Thursday- Gluten-free General Tso's chicken, which is a crockpot meal from Stephanie O' Dea's blog, A Year of Slow Cooking ( served over rice. This was delicious and will be made again!


Saturday- Refried bean tostadas with chopped lettuce, tomatoes, onions, regular and vegan cheddar        cheese, jalapenos, hot sauce, Spanish rice, garlic green beans

What was or is on your menu this week?


Monday, November 11, 2013

Strategies for Saving and Managing Calories

One of the "cruel" realities of weight loss is that the less you weigh, the less calories you can consume to maintain or lose weight. I have lost 60 pounds and am working on losing 10 more. I am allotted 1,372 calories each day according to Lose It, a very cool free phone app. So, I have to manage those calories really well in order to feel satisfied and stay on track.

I came up with a couple strategies that are working quite nicely for me and hope they will help you too. Instead of topping my gluten-free waffles with syrup (a calorie bomb as 1/4 cup of regular pancake syrup has 187 calories!), I top them with cut-up fruit such as bananas or strawberries, both of which contain nutrients, vitamins, and far fewer calories than syrup. I do spread a little pat of butter on my waffle before topping with the sliced fruit.

Doesn't this look yummy?
Summer waffles!
 I find these so satisfying and filling! Less sugar, more fiber, a plus all the
way around!

I use this principle when eating cereal as well. Instead of adding sugar to my gluten-free Rice Krispies, I add cut-up fruit. I find that I don't need the sugar because the natural sweetness of the fruit is enough.

Another way to save on calories is to switch to unsweetened almond or coconut milk. A cup of unsweetened almond milk contains 30 calories and unsweetened coconut milk contains 45 calories. A cup of skim milk has about 90 calories, so do the math and see if you would rather save some calories while consuming the same volume of "milk".

I have celiac disease, cannot eat dairy, and cannot eat soy. This necessarily limits many food choices for me. Instead of feeling unhappy about this, I have discovered a benefit in that many of the vegan "dairy" alternatives are much lower in calories than their dairy counterparts. A slice of vegan cheese has 40 calories while a slice of dairy American cheese has 70 calories. So, even those of you who don't need to avoid dairy like I do may find a benefit in switching to vegan alternatives. I have found similar benefits in my gluten-free choices. ; )

Of course, not all the alternatives contain the same nutrients as their alter egos-they can contain more or less depending on the item. You need to make informed decisions for yourself. Because I have medical issues that preclude my consumption of gluten, dairy, and soy, I do take supplements to be sure that I get my needed nutrients.

Another HUGE help for me is measuring my food. I realized when I started my weight loss journey that part of my problem was consuming too great a volume of food. I was eating a dinner plate full of rice instead of a portion-way too many calories! Now, my measuring cups and spoons are my best friends. They help keep me on track and mindful of what I am eating.

Did you know 1 cup is a portion?

1 tablespoon = 30 calories of Coffeemate.

What do you do to manage your diet while losing or maintaining a weight loss?

Thursday, November 7, 2013

How to Build a Wardrobe on a Budget Part Two

I am continuing to work on building my wardrobe while on a very limited budget. I need to step up my efforts because the weather is getting colder. Shorts and flip-flops aren't all that comfy when the temperature dips down into the mid-40's!

Fortunately, I had purchased a pair of comfy leather slip-on's and a pair of black chunky-heeled loafers a few weeks ago at a really nice thrift store so shoe-wise I was ready for colder temperatures.

My new favorite shoes!
One of the keys to building a wardrobe on a budget is to buy ahead of the next season or two if at all possible. If I see a cute summer dress in my price range when I am out shopping for the current season, you better believe that I am going to snag it while I can! You should do the same. A lot of times, due to space being scarce at most thrift stores, clothing that is out of season is deeply discounted. Prepare yourself now to take advantage of these deals. One of my core philosophies is to buy needed items at the lowest possible price to keep as much money available as I can for those areas where it is difficult to cut costs.

Another principle I have used in building a wardrobe for the past 25 years is to wear a certain palette of colors. A very sweet friend did my color analysis for me after I had my second child and I am so thankful she did. I am an Ultrian Autumn, which is a Beauty for All Seasons designation (check out this website for more info

The best thing about finding out your best colors and wearing them is that EVERYTHING you buy coordinates. This makes your wardrobe seem much larger and more varied. Today I put on a pair of light tan colored Dockers, a brown cotton knit blouse, my new favorite leather shoes, and threw on a scarf that had all those colors in it. My pants were $2.00, my blouse was $2.00, the shoes cost $7.99, and the scarf was a gift. I clothed myself for $10.00 for this outfit and I often clothe myself for less!

This same scarf can be worn with many items in my wardrobe. 
Another great way I have gained clothing for my wardrobe inexpensively is to swap clothes with a friend. I have a dear friend who also has lost a lot of weight and we now wear the same size clothes. Whenever she is cleaning out her closet, she always checks to see if I am in need of clothes. I gratefully accept what is offered, take it all home to try it on for size, see if it fills a need in my wardrobe, and donate to our local thrift store whatever is left.

One other great way to add needed items to your wardrobe on a budget is to shop the end of season clearance sales at retail stores. I have purchased pants for as little as $2.00 per pair at places like Rue 21 and Old Navy. It is hit or miss at times but definitely worth checking. Accessories are also easy to find inexpensively this way. Having nice earrings, belts, scarves, and necklaces can help extend a wardrobe and make it seem much larger than it is.

I have found that I do not need a lot of clothes if I have a basic set of items to act as the backdrop for my accessories. I like to have a core set of neutral colored bottoms such as tan, khaki, or black pants that can be dressed up by wearing them with heeled shoes, dressy shirts, and nicer jewelry or made more casual by wearing sandals, flats, and nice t-shirts. Websites such as Real Simple have a nice list of what they consider wardrobe basics ( I also like to buy items that are medium weight fabrics so that I can wear them over most of the year. Pants that can be worn all four seasons are so useful when funds are limited for clothing purchases!

I will be sharing more of my acquisitions in future posts, so stay tuned!

What do you consider staples in your wardrobe? What shopping tips can you share for building a wardrobe on a budget?