Thursday, March 26, 2015

How I Lost 22 Pounds Since Christmas

I posted on Facebook the other day about a weight loss success I had and I've had several people ask me "HOW?"
 
Well, I'll tell you, but you probably don't want to hear it.
 
I ate better and exercised.
 
When I started this journey, I was very overweight. So overweight, in fact, that my insurance let me see a nutritionist covered by my plan. So, January 1, I went in to see her. She didn't tell me anything I didn't already "know" in my head, but she was able to really help me identify what I could change long term that would help me lose weight. That same week, I found out that they YMCA offered a free training session with a trainer, where he would identify your goals, tell you how to get there, and then show you how to use those sometimes intimidating weight machines. Here are a few things I've learned from them both that might help you on your weight loss journey.
 
1. Don't make changes to your diet that you can't sustain.
 
I hear a lot of people say, "Starting tomorrow, no more _____." Fill in the blank with whatever food they think is causing them to be overweight. My nutritionist was very big on this, "I can't make you unlike something you like and I can't make you like something you don't. This is your body and you have to live in it and enjoy living in it." What she meant is that if you don't like spinach, no matter how healthy it might be for you, don't start eating spinach because you will be miserable. You have to find healthy food you DO like that you will continue to eat for years to come. We all have about five go to foods we eat everyday. Mine are usually cottage cheese with pineapple, Wheat Thins, greek yogurt with almonds, tuna, and breakfast bars. I eat these goods almost every single day. My breakfast is the yogurt with almonds and a breakfast bar, so I can get some protein and carbs before I go to the gym. My lunch is hardly ever a large lunch. It's usually tuna (which you can eat tons of for low cals, by the way, as long as you don't load it with mayo and other high cal items!) and crackers, or maybe a scoop of peanut butter and an English muffin, then maybe an apple. I always have cottage cheese with pineapple as a snack because I love it. I eat lots during the day but not usually huge amounts each time. As long as you find the staples in your diet that you love that aren't terrible for you, you can fit it into your calorie goals.
 
2. Those who count, lose.
 
You have to know how much you are consuming. If you don't, you will never lose weight. I use MyFitnessPal app which is the best out there for keeping up with calories. You can scan any barcode and it will automatically input the serving size, calories, fat, sugar, etc. Part of my problem with weight gain is not that ate bad, it's that I ate too much. I have talked about my revelation with my coffee creamer - I was easily drinking 300+ calories a day in coffee creamer that also had tons of fat (I still love you, International Delights Cold Stone Creamery Creamer). I couldn't get rid of creamer completely, I love my coffee, but I just started using a sugar free alternative with 15 calories per serving instead of 50, and I only drink 1 TBSP in each cup instead of 2-3. I started making my coffee less dark so I didn't need as much. See - you accommodate and make small compromises you can continue and won't quit doing!
 
The other benefit of counting calories is that you don't have to put in "cheat days" to your weeks. I don't do well with cheat days because it makes me feel bad the other six days if I don't eat really clean. My life is such that we might get invited to go out to dinner that day with friends, or we might have a movie popcorn night at home. I am not going to not participate and enjoy myself in life because it's not my "cheat day." I am just going to plan my day accordingly so that maybe I eat lighter the rest of the day so I can indulge a little at night. Ever since I started working out, I don't like gorging myself, but I am not going to say no to some chips and salsa and Mexican food because of my diet. That starts a whole shame spiral and guilt that makes it so much harder to keep on track.
 
3. You have to set goals and be able to change them.
 
The first month, I dropped off all sugary drinks and was put on a 1500 calorie a day diet. When I went back in and she saw it was working and I was making better habits, it went up to 1800. If I worked out that day, I earned calories as well. I never felt hungry, I never felt deprived. You don't have to restrict your calories forever. Once your metabolism increases, you can eat more. You just have to get your body ready. (You ever wonder why actresses say they can eat whatever they want to still be skinny? They probably are dedicated to working out every single day). Along with counting calories, you have to know how many calories you need to be consuming.
 
4. Make your workouts count.
 
Ever feel like you are going to the gym but nothing is happening? I wasn't about to spend an hour of my day working out if it wasn't going to mean anything. That's why I asked a trainer and he informed me that heartrate is everything - getting it up and keeping it up for 30 minutes. And I had to also learn to use weights to build muscle mass. When I started, I would get on the elliptical at a 15 resistance and a 4 incline. That was enough to keep my heart rate up for 30 minutes. I could barely get to 30 minutes. Now, I am at a 35 resistance and a 10 incline. Every day, actually, I have to increase it to keep my heart rate up. That's good - it means my heart is getting into good shape, which has sped up my metabolism. Walking is fantastic, moving is fantastic. But if you really want to lose weight and get in shape, you have to challenge your body and keep on challenging it every time.
 
5. When in doubt, consult a professional.
 
I visited with my family doctor and he suggested Weight Watchers. I know it works for some people, it just never worked for me. And I didn't like having to pay. So, I start exploring my options. My nutritionist is paid for by my health insurance (I pay for it every month, might as well use my services!) and my training session was included in my Y membership. Both of these help point me in the right direction of what works for ME. Getting one on one personal attention and instructions helped me more than anything else could.
 
6. Once you get into a habit, do everything you can to keep it up.
 
I started out going to the gym three times a week. Now, we are at 4-5. My nutritionist told me the other day that if I can go every day, or at least 6 times a week, even if my workouts are really light, it helps keep me in the habit of spending that time every day. I feel really blah when I miss a workout now. So, even if I just walk outside for 20 minutes, I am much more active. It's become such a habit, it's hard for me to give it up.
 
I hope this helps you! Stay encouraged!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Little Avery Post...

My four year old is growing into a pretty fun, pretty mischevious child. Her new obsession is jumping on the furniture and coloring on the walls with paint, or markers, or whatever else she can find.
 
So, that's fun.
 
We love Magic Erasers in my house.
 
 
 
Other than becoming independent in certain ways, she has also become very much an only child. She loves to whine and pretend she can't do things she can do, like change her clothes or eat dinner. So all in all, I think she is a perfectly healthy kid, hitting all of the major milestones a four year old should.
 
We also had another addition to our family in the last few months...his name is Jacob and he is Avery's very special friend. Jacob has been Avery's boyfriend, husband, brother, grandpa, and classmate, just depending on what we are doing. Sometimes, Jacob comes with us and sometimes he stays at home. Sometimes, he eats dinner and other times, he is in trouble and was sent to Avery's room. Sometimes, we won't hear about him all day. But Jacob is a fun addition to our lives around here - Avery has nothing if not healthy imagination and the things she says are just as funny as can be! I had a lot of imaginary friends as a kid and would pretend a lot. I love encouraging this side of her personality.
 
 
 
Avery has one more year of preschool before the big K. We love the school she is in and she will stay one more year. It's nice that she only goes a few hours a day, four days a week. I am not ready to give her up to a normal school schedule just quite yet. We are also planning our summer and getting excited about the water park again! We had a great time last year!
 
Have a great week everyone!

Monday, March 16, 2015

What Real Estate Shows Does a Realtor Watch?

I was watching House Hunters yesterday after Property Brothers was over. It peaked my interest because this couple was looking in DFW and I wanted to see if I recognized any of the neighborhoods. House Hunters is probably one of my least favorite shows as a Realtor, and this episode really told me why. This couple was looking for a "craftsman" style house, even though none of the houses they were shown were "craftsman" style. I'm not even 100% sure that this 21 year old couple even knew what a craftsman style house was; I am convinced the producers just tell the people to say these things to add interest to the episodes. The first house they saw was a new build in McKinney. The second was in Mesquite and the third was in Plano. Anyone from DFW should know where I am going with this....how did they get from McKinney/Plano to seeing a house in Mesquite?

 (image courtesy of hgtv.com)
 
This show is very unrealistic, specifically because looking for houses is nothing like this. First of all, you don't get three options of a house and are then asked to choose between them. As a Realtor, we could look at 20 or more houses over a period of months before we find the right house, in the right area, for the right price. I feel like this show puts unrealistic expectations on the home buying process. Another thing that bothered me about this particular episode is that they showed the price of house they were looking for to be between $200,000 and $250,000. $50,000 is a huge gap. As a homebuyer, knowing what you want and what your actual budget would be is very important, along with having realistic expectations of what your money would get you.
(image courtesy of thescottbrothers.com)
 
I do think Property Brothers does a very good job of going through the process, especially some of the more recent episodes. Jonathan and Drew hear what the homebuyers want, they do what they are asked, but they also set realistic expectations for their buyers. It shows them walking in and walking right back out of several houses before deciding on a couple they like. It shows them discussing price points, what they can negotiate, and asks the buyers to look outside of their "must haves" and compromise some things to get better things. I also love that despite how awesome of a Realtor Drew is, it doesn't mean that every offer is accepted and he is not always able to get a deal done with what a couple might offer, no matter how well he can negotiate. He is also well aware of what other houses have gone for in the area and makes sure his clients don't pay more than what they should for a particular property by factoring in what the house is worth and what it would be worth after a full scale renovation.
 
I love watching rehab shows and I love the idea of fixing up a house. However, as a Realtor, it always irks me that none of these shows mention property value and appraisal value when it comes to fixing up a property. Sure, finding a house that is a "fixer upper" might seem like a really great idea, but it's only a great idea in the right type of neighborhood. For example, if you find a house in DFW for $100,000 and the other houses in the neighborhood are around that same price, investing $50,000 or more to fix it up the way you'd like it seems like a wonderful idea. But when it comes to selling it, there is a good chance you might not get your investment back. This is why having a Realtor guide you through wise opportunities is important.

(image courtesy of hookedonhouses.com)

With all of that said, it doesn't mean I don't love watching these shows. Even as a professional in the real estate field, I can see potential in every home I look at, but I love getting lost in these shows that exhibit miraculous changes that I couldn't even fathom. Property Brothers is one of my favorites. The other show I am loving right now is Rehab Addict, only because her priority is to bring older homes back to their former glory and loves seeing large scale homes that are falling apart be transformed into modern versions of themselves. Her ideas for shopping and restoring old homes are very interesting to watch. I probably love it because I live in an older estate and have given a lot of thought to how much character to keep and how much is just plain tacky. (My house has many crystal light fixtures, brass doorknobs, and 60's style embellishments, some I love and some I can't wait to get rid of).

What are your favorite real estate shows right now?

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The 16 Ways I Got Through The First Five Years of Marriage

Right before our first anniversary, I wrote a post about how I got through the first year of marriage. I think that list was pretty great, even now, after we've been married almost five years! I can't believe this month, we will be celebrating our fifth anniversary. I thought I would add to my list and write about how we got through our first five years of marriage.
 
1. There really isn't a day that goes by that one of us doesn't tell the other what we appreciate about each other. We are very specific. Sometimes, it's what we contribute to the household chores, sometimes it's what we appreciate about the other person as a spouse, sometimes it's what we appreciate about the other as a parent. Sometimes, they are big things and other times they are small, like "I appreciate that you always are the one that cleans the toilets!"
 
2. I've learned that a day can change right that very minute. Just because you are mad right now, doesn't mean you have to stay mad the rest of the day. Just because you woke up in a bad mood, doesn't mean the rest of the day has to be bad. You can change your mood any time, any where.
 
3. We try and be very deliberate about spending time with each other without kids, maybe not every day if it's not possible, but a few times every week. Most of the time, it's just time on the couch after the kids go to bed, or maybe we go outside and sit on the patio.
 
4. I stopped comparing myself to Jason - there are aspects of Jason's personality that I am envious of. He is more patient than I am, he is more levelheaded, he is much more fun with the kids. I had to accept that I am different and offer different things to our marriage and to our kids. I spent a lot of time wishing I was different than who I was and wishing I had more of those qualities, but it occurred to me that one of us had to be like that and the other has to be another way to balance it out. He never tried to make me more like him and I certainly never tried to make him more like me.
 
5. We realized that both of us handle situations differently when we are stressed, worried, tired, excited, etc. We never expected the other to handle it like we would. When Jason is stressed, he feels it physically in his body, he gets headaches or stomach aches. When I get stressed, I get compulsive about cleaning, or working. I can't expect Jason to handle things the way I do, or visa versa.
 
6. We found money to get away, even if we just spend one night in a hotel in DFW. No matter how broke we were, we had to take a little for ourselves to give ourselves something to look forward to, as a couple. Having things to look forward to as a couple is incredibly important - be it a musical, a fancy night out, a trip out of town - you have to break up the mundane.
 
7. We were purposeful in maintaining friendships and relationships with people. We invited people over. A lot. We cooked dinner for our friends, we visited friends, both together and separately. You have to be able to get out of your four walls and each other and invest in other people's lives.
 
8. We learned how to fight and resolve conflict in front of the kids, but also to learn when it was appropriate to argue in private. We (I) learned not to be disrespectful to each other in front of the kids. We had to teach our kids that it's OK to disagree, respectfully, then how to resolve the issue, then move on with the rest of your day. There were several days we had arguments in our car, then got out, and had a great rest of the day. When we expect kids to "change their attitude," we held ourselves accountable to change our attitudes, too.
 
9. I learned how to accept a compliment from my husband. Before I had Avery and before I gained weight, taking compliments was easy. After I gained 40 pounds, when I looked in the mirror, there were days I couldn't understand why he thought I was so beautiful. I stopped questioning his reasons and I stopped assuming he was only saying nice things to "make me feel better" or for his own selfish reasons. I just believed that he meant it and when he said, "You are so pretty today!" I said "thanks honey," instead of, "How can you think that, I look so fat!"
 
10. We have fun together. Lots of fun. Life can get hard, but we still stop and take time to laugh and have a good time with each other. Otherwise, what's the point??
11. We still tell each other every day "I love you" and we still kiss goodbye every time we leave the house. And many times in between.
 
12. We share things we've learned and our experiences, be it good or bad, with others, especially those who haven't gotten married yet. We don't pretend our marriage is better than it is or worse than it is - what you see is how we are, all the time, even behind the scenes. It gives people hope when they know what you've overcome to get where you are and to see that while things can be bad, it's not what happens in life, it's all about how you handle it.
 
13. We are very, very, very good at speaking to the other about what we need from each other. We don't take it personally if the other says, "I've seen you too much this week, I need a break!" I think we do really well at communicating then following through on doing what the other person needs.
 
14. We support each other but don't try to fix each other's problems. I had to learn that Jason's work issues, for example, weren't mine to solve. I had to learn to just listen until he asked for my advice. The same goes with him. Listening, supporting, but not fixing, unless asked to. This is a game changer.
 
15. We back each other up when it comes to the kids. If we disagree with something the other parent did, we don't say it in front of the kid, we say it behind closed doors. Discipline, bedtimes, eating dinner, whether or not to stop watching TV, it doesn't matter. We are behind each other 100% (in front of the kids) and discuss it if we aren't, in private.
 
16. Most importantly, God has remained the most important thing. We serve in our church together, pray as a family, pray for each other, and treat each other the way we think God would want us to.
 
I thought about this - in another five years, Jordan will be graduating high school. That's nuts. These years have flown by, to say the least!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Review: The Walking Dead, "The Distance"

I've been pretty vocal about my love of The Walking Dead. It's the one show I can't wait to watch, the one show I will watch as it comes on and suffer through the commercials. For the first time, last night, I realized I didn't watch it Sunday night and had to watch it on DVR. I was surprised that I had forgotten, to be honest. But this season hasn't been my favorite one, at all. There have been episodes in the past five seasons I have suffered through, I call them "story fillers" - they are only there to move the story along, but are incredibly boring. This season, so far, it's not that the episodes have been boring, it's that I am getting really tired of the plot line not going anywhere different. The show has repeated the same cycle since the beginning - our survivors wander until they find a place to stay, the people they find are crazy, they kill everyone, then they move on until they do it again. Last week, we saw them at their wit's end. Tired, hungry, thirsty, and filled with despair over the life they have had to lead, we saw them wondering through a lush desert, unable to find shelter, food, or water. This week, hopefully, we have been given some hope.
 
We meet Aaron, a well groomed, well spoken, kind stranger who has admitted to following our group and has asked them to come to his community, where he promises safety and refuge. (Hmm, where have we heard this before? Terminus? The Governor's camp?) So, with good reason, our fearless leader Rick is hesitant to trust him. He distrusts him so much that he puts his group in danger to make sure this man is who he really says he is. Although I have to admit, barreling through an endless hoard of walkers was pretty awesome to witness. Finally, Michonne has taken a stance on what she feels like the group should do, and admits to Rick that it would almost be better to suffer the consequences of more crazy people if it means they get somewhere they can all rest, even for a short time. I am not sure how I would feel either, and we hear Rick admit that he isn't sure anyone could say anything at this point to convince him that this new community is a good one, he just has to witness it for himself. I am with you, Rick, can't say I'd be any different.
 
What we do see in this episode is that these people have been asked in the last however many months? Years? to constantly adapt to new surroundings to survive. We have gone past the point in The Walking Dead that the walking dead are the number one enemy. The number one enemy is fighting against yourself, trusting when you shouldn't trust, killing when you don't want to kill, and going against all you have learned in a life pre-apocalypse to survive in a new world with new rules that change constantly and swiftly. I am glad we have finally gotten to this point because I do know a bit of the comic book story and I feel like this place will be a positive place and Aaron will be a trustworthy friend, even if the peace won't last all that long. However, we all know that the comics and the show don't always reconcile together, so who knows what will happen. But we do know that we finally see Rick's eyes show a glimmer of hope when he hears the laughing and playing of children and he sees the possibility of giving his baby girl a life where she can learn to run and play, and cry like it's every baby's right to do, within the safety of walls. I hope for the viewers sake that we have finally changed the cycle of this show, because I don't know how much more of these horrible plot lines I can take and keep wanting to watch.

How Did You Spend Your Ice Day?

We had such a lazy couple of days around here.
 
We did make it outside for just a little while.
 
 
My crazy pup loves to eat the ice. She couldn't get enough! The dogs also loved playing in the ice. They went nuts!! That is, until they came inside and proceeded their lazy life on the couch.


 
We even got some hot chocolate afterwards!

 
Jason lets the kids eat ice, which grosses me out, but hey. I guess one parent has to be the fun one. Avery loved being outside, even though we were only outside a total of about 10 minutes.


 
The streets looked decent enough to get out of the house, so we went and had some breakfast for dinner at Denny's. I haven't been to Denny's in ages, but boy, they have some good pancakes!


 
And now, getting back to Day Two of inside fun!
 

Friday, February 20, 2015

Birdman: A Review

As I sit here attempting to figure out what I thought about Birdman, I am having a hard time deciding whether I really liked it or simply appreciated it for what it offered while being incredibly annoyed at the entire experience. The line between artistic, unique filmmaking and ridiculous nonsense is often so thin that it's difficult to determine what a movie actually is. In this case, I can see both sides of the story.
 
 
If you don't like reaching out of your comfort zone in a movie and having numerous questions that are never answered, this movie isn't one you should see. The entire movie is based on an attempted comeback of a has-been superhero actor played by Michael Keaton (whom I have always loved and loved in this movie). He has spent the majority of his career playing Birdman, but hasn't done much in the last twenty years. In an attempt to prove he is a real actor willing to take risks, he writes, directs, and stars in an theatrical adaptation of a book that will premiere on Broadway, which he and his lawyer friend (Zach Galafinakis) spend all of their money to produce. We are introduced to Keaton's character from the beginning with questionable "powers." In the opening scene, we see him floating in his dressing room while meditating, which is the beginning of many "magical" occurances that happen thoughout the film. These occurances are eventually shown as his hallucinations; in one scene. he is angry and begins destroying his dressing room using telekinesis. But as other people come in, we see he is actually picking up the items with his hands. This storyline is essential, as reality and what is going on in his head are constantly at battle and contributes entirely to what will end up providing the debate of the ending of the movie.  
 
As the film continues, it becomes obvious that the character of Birdman is a second voice in his head that taunts and tempts him into self-doubt. We see the film over a series of four nights, three previews of the Broadway show and opening night and the entire movie is filmed in one continuous shot - which made me wonder if this unique technique isn't the reason the movie received such accolades. If this hadn't been the case, would the movie have been as good? I hardly think so. The filmmaking itself is what deserves the praise here, not the actual storyline. I realized as I was watching the movie and began reading some background on the director and his vision, that I appreciated the movie much more, once I learned the challenge of making a movie like this is. I don't think I should have to read background to know a movie is good, but in this case, it was necessary to me fully appreciating the film.
 
There are several character studies going on here as well. The main antaagonist in the film is played by Edward Norton, a narcissistic yet legendary theater actor known in New York, whose style of acting is offensive and crude, yet incredibly effective. I felt like the underlying tone of Michael Keaton's character is that he questions what would have become of his career had he opted not to play such a popular character and chosen to play serious roles instead. Norton's character is who he would have been - a man so successful onstage, yet so incredibly unrelatable as a person offstage. Norton plays the character flawlessly, I love him but really didn't care for him most of the time, which was the point. We also get to know his daughter, played by Emma Stone, a grown woman struggling to come to grips with her father, who had been non-existent in her childhood but more than present through adulthood. We see through her perspective that she is as quirky and odd as her father, but has spend her adulthood overcoming a dad who wasn't bad, he just wasn't there. By the end, we see her come to terms with his reality as we watch her see her father "fly away" in the end scene after seeing him jump out of a window.
 
I came out of this movie thinking on a certain level, it was a cool film. During the movie, I was annoyed at several things. I feel like the movie was longer than it needed to be. I also got very annoyed at the constant sound of drums as the background music. I felt as if the music was there to serve as an effort to keep the suspense going but I started feeling very distracted by it. This was an addition to the film I could have lived without, or perhaps lived with less of. As far as the magical parts of the movie, I felt like it was very difficult to connect what we saw to what he was thinking. Perhaps I am too dumb to make the connection, but I felt like it was a real reach to tie the two ideals together. I almost can't really put my finger on what the "magic" was supposed to represent, other than just to show how disconnected he was becoming from reality at this stage in his life and career. Or perhaps it was him finding it more difficult to disconnect from the powers of his character, Birdman, even though Birdman's powers are never revealed. Either way, it was ambiguous at best.
 
Keaton's performance was amazing. He did a great job of playing the character he was expected to play and I will be voting for him to win the Oscar. He is the reason I liked the movie, because with the wrong actor, this movie would have been borderline unwatchable.
 
Bottom line - if you don't like artsy movies, don't even waste your time. It is hardly entertainment and it is certainly not feel good. It is billed as a dark comedy, but I would bill it more as darkly twisted and ironic. This is one of those movies where there are no redeeming qualities of the main character and while we see him, in the end, get what he wanted - relevance and a successful play - we still watch him descend into the madness of his brain with no hopes of coming back out. It's not the worst movie I've seen, but it certainly isn't the best. Watch it when it comes out on Netflix where you won't feel guilty turning it off, since you didn't pay $6 for it, like I did.