Friday, July 31, 2015

Staying the Course

The Ride to Remember (R2R) is in exactly 50 days.  I am so excited and nervous at the same time.  A novice cyclist, this will be my first Century ride.  In looking forward, I can’t help but think about how far I’ve come and what I’ve been through over the past several months.

Family vacation to Disney World.  Thanksgiving, 2014
A few months later and I look totally different
Through everything, I stayed the course, finding an obstacle or two along the way, but never deviating from my journey to accomplish my fitness goals.  The most significant personal challenge I have accomplished is the completion of a four-part performance assessment for my license to be a school administrator.  I got my official certificate last night!
I can imagine if the state of Massachusetts saw that I posted this online...
so I edited and water-marked it to make it difficult to be reproduced.
But it's official!  :-)
In June, I finished one more graduate class and school let out, which has allowed me to train. I’ve been riding close to 100 miles / week.  Each ride I take is a learning experience and I so enjoy riding and the challenge it gives me.  I’m not crazy about climbing hills, but I don’t mind them and sometimes I feel like I’m kicking their “@$$.”

To compensate for the riding, I have been eating more than 500 calories above what I typically eat daily.  I feel like I am hungry all the time.  I hate it because I religiously log all my food.  My food journal tells me I’ve met my calories and macros for the day, but I am still hungry.  So I listen to my body and I eat, and without trying, I’ve lost four more pounds this month.  Some of my clothes are literally falling off me. 

Last weekend I wanted to challenge myself by completing the first leg of R2R.  I figured I would ride down to the starting point in the morning, head up to the first rest stop before there was too much traffic, then head back through one of the towns, around the back way to our house.  I mapped it out on MapMyRide and it was a 40 mile ride.  I thought, “Ok, you got this.”

I was nervous when I got started.  I went out by myself, which was my first solo ride in a couple weeks.  When I completed the first leg of the journey, the feeling I had was somewhat indescribable.  Energized?  Pumped?  Blissful?  Tired?  How do you combine these four words into one?  I took a short break and headed back.  The sun was high by this point and the heat was increasing.  I had plenty of water and Gatorade with me still.  I had a snack at the rest stop and was feeling good.  As I headed through Monson, I knew I had a mountain to climb, or at least go around.  It was tough.  I had ridden the mountain on the other side and this side was significantly less steep, but I was tired by this point and the sun was hot.

I lost the GPS on my way home, so I don't know exactly what my average speed was.
When I re-mapped the ride out, it was actually 45 miles that morning.
It was a great feeling to have done it!
At one point, I pulled over and took a fluid break.  I had to catch my breath and let the blood flow back to my brain.  I was starting to feel really fatigued and I thought, “I should call Brian to come get me.  I’m really beat.”  But the next thought echoed, “You are not a quitter, you got this.  Come on.”  So I endeavored to get back on the road, finish my climb and get back to our house.  Within ¾ of a mile, I went by Echo Hill Farm, which is a familiar orchard where I brought the kids apple picking in the past.  “A little further, Tracey, you got this.”  Sure enough, I got to the fork in the road, chose the back way which meant less climbing.  A climb still, but not as much.  Within a short while, it was an exhilarating descent for the rest of the way.  When I got home, I was spent.  I was expecting company at 12, but I had to rest.  At 11:30, I took a shower, and texted my friends came at 12:30 and I honestly don’t remember much of what happened the rest of the day.  I was completely exhausted.

I was wiped!
I stopped at the bike shop to get a couple tubes (spares, in case of a flat) and Gary, Jr. at Comp Edge started to talk to me about my nutrition, another customer came in and the conversation ended.  Sunday I was so tired I could not function very well.  I went wine tasting with a friend and told her she needed to drive because I was too tired.  My legs felt like Jell-O all day.  Monday I felt awful, physically and cognitively.  I couldn’t really make sense of things, and physically I felt terrible, which left me feeling defeated.  Three days of feeling like crap.  I was eating and hydrating – far more than I usually do.  I did not understand.

I was done.  As much as I enjoy working out, it’s the good feeling afterwards that I enjoy, not being spent.  I was ready to throw in the towel.  I just wanted to cry.  I can’t do this.

I work out with my trainer on Mondays.  Even though I didn’t feel like it, I went in to see him.  We talked about all of this, he looked at my nutrition journal and made some adjustments.  “Now, go home and eat.  3,000 calories today.  3,000 calories tomorrow.”  What?  How am I supposed to do that?  I can’t possibly eat that much.  “Eat what you enjoy.  What kind of foods would you eat if you could eat anything?”  Pizza.  Ice Cream.  Baked potatoes.  A cheeseburger.  My mind started to race with thoughts of fattening foods I had been either avoiding or eating very sparingly.

I accepted the challenge, went home and had two pieces of meat-lovers pizza, ending the night with an ice cream sundae, topped with chocolate sauce and peanut butter.  It was amazing, but sickening sweet.  The next day was easier because I had an entire day to eat the 3,000 calories, so I ate a huge breakfast; a small sub and chips for lunch; steak, corn on the cob, salad (with blue cheese dressing), Italian bread and a baked potato with sour cream for dinner.  I was soooo stuffed I could not eat the corn.  I felt like my stomach was going to explode.  I logged all my calories and there were enough to have a Friendly’s Reese’s Peanut Butter sundae cup for dessert.  But I couldn’t even think about it because I was so full, but was able to eat it before the end of the night.
All this food made me feel stuffed.
The sweet sugary ice cream that I used to
love and crave so much was way too sweet for me.  
The extra calories gave me a huge boost in energy.  Cognitively I feel so much better.  My thoughts are not jumbled, my mood is significantly improved.  I was able to finish cleaning the house for the wedding we were supposed to host last night.  All week, I've had a jump in my step and a desire to work out. 
My son's best friend came home from Alaska on Monday to marry his fiancĂ©.
We were going to have it at our house in the back yard, but the forecast was
severe thunderstorms, so on Wednesday, the decision was made to move the venue.
I LOVE how crazy hair looked at the wedding!
It's usually pin straight and flying every where.
What did I learn from all this? 

NEVER GIVE UP.  I do need to listen to my body.  But I don’t have to quit.  When I want to quit, it means I need to make some adjustments to what I am doing and figure it out. 

EAT.  Unlike before, when I was trying to lose weight, now I actually need to eat a lot more!  My body needs the fuel to function, both for my rides and for daily activity.  I was burning more than my body has, so my resources were deplete.  Dmitriy gave me a lot of technical explanations, which I understand (enough) but cannot begin to explain.  Being able to eat more (and a lot more carbs than I was before) is harder than it sounds, as I have to overcome feeling guilty about eating a bagel or having a sandwich.

TALK TO PROFESSIONALS.  According to the girls at work, I was feeling crappy last week too, but I don’t remember.  (I was in a fog.)  I should have waited to finish my talk with Gary, Jr. on Saturday, or at least followed up with him later.  The guys at the bike shop are incredibly knowledgeable and more than willing to share their expertise.  I should have talked to Dmitrity about feeling crappy sooner, not when I was at the end of my rope.  I guess I didn’t know what was going on enough to even think it was my nutrition, although Gary, Jr. gave me that inclination.  I can’t tell you how much I value Dmitriy and everything he does to support and encourage me.  He is amazing.  I write about him here:  Dmitriy Made It Happen.

ASSESS and REASSESS as you go.  I had been talking to Dmitrity about my nutrition when I ride and he made some good suggestions which helped me a lot.  But my body stores were deplete and it was not enough.  I have a lot of riding planned for this weekend, so we are going to reassess at my next session to see how I held up.

LISTEN TO YOUR BODY.  Your body needs proper hydration, nutrition and rest.  If you can’t figure it out, talk to someone who knows what they are talking about and listen to their advice.

I am planning a ride today when I get home from Logan Airport (my son is going on a Missions Trip with our church youth group).  What’s on the menu?  A peanut butter and jelly sandwich on white bread!  Why?  (My body needs the simple carbs to give me the fuel to get through the ride.)  I’m feeling so much better that I am really looking forward to it!

I’ll post some pics here later.
Here are the pics:  Riding

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.
Galatians 6:9

Here's my question for you?  
What do you do when you're at the end of your rope?  
How do you stay the course?  
Post your answer in the comments below.

Follow me on Instagram @tracoleman99

Sunday, July 26, 2015


Protein: such an amazing thing!  It takes longer to digest, so you are satisfied for a longer period of time and helps to stave off cravings.  Furthermore, protein is essential for muscle repair and growth.

In my last post, Wonder Woman, I gave a basic explanation of macros (macro-nutrients).  Getting enough protein has proven to be the biggest challenge on my nutritional plan.  As promised, here are my tricks for getting in protein.  Every meal or snack must have a minimum of 15 grams of protein (unless I grab a handful of almonds).  To start, if you don’t have a scale, get one.  I measure everything.

These are my "go to" sources of protein:
Whey Protein Powder
Serving Size = 1 scoop
Calories = 110
Fat = 1 g 
Carbohydrates = 2 g
Fiber = 0 g
Protein = 24 g                                   

I have a protein shake every day for breakfast (sometimes for lunch).  But sometimes I just mix it with water and drink it down (when I need that extra push).  It's not the tastiest way to consume it, but it works.

Peanut Butter
*Serving Size = 2 tbsp 
Calories = 190
Fat = 16 g
Carbohydrates = 6 g
Fiber = 2 g
Protein = 7 g                         

All in all, Peanut Butter is calorie dense, but it fills you up and leaves you feeling more satisfied.  It helps me deal with cravings like NOTHING else.  Don’t bother with low-fat peanut butter, it’s a waste of money.  *I put 1 tbsp. in my protein shake every day for breakfast.

Cottage Cheese
Low Fat vs “Regular” with Chives (my favorite)
Serving Size = ½ cup  (one cup is what I typically have, which doubles the protein!)
Calories = 90 vs 120
Fat = 1 g vs 4.5 g
Carbohydrates = 5 g
Fiber = 0 g
Protein = 14 g

I prefer the 4% milkfat cottage cheese over the low fat.  I refuse to eat the fat-free.  To me, it has to taste good or I won't eat it, so why bother.

Greek Yogurt with Granola (see below)
My FAVORITE is Dannon’s OIKOS Triple Zero.
Serving Size = 1 container
Calories = 120
Fat = 0 g
Carbohydrates = 16 g
Fiber = 6 g
Protein = 15 g

Bear Naked Granola PLUS protein
Serving Size = ¼ cupCalories = 130*
Fat = 5 g
Carbohydrates = 13 g*
Fiber = 3 g
Protein = 10 g
*NOTE the calories and carbs in this!!!  Other protein enriched granolas have over 200 calories per serving.  Not worth it.

Serving Size = 1 oz
Calories = 170 
Fat = 15 g 
Carbohydrates = 5 g 
Fiber = 3 g 
Protein = 8 g

Almonds are truly satisfying.  Study after study indicates that almonds are a healthy source of fat.  Limit your intake to the serving size.

Protein Bars

Pure Protein Bars  (Chocolate Deluxe) vs Quest Double Chunk Protein Bar
Serving Size = 1 bar
Calories = 180
Fat = 4.5 g vs 8 g                     
Carbohydrates = 17 g vs 23 g
Fiber = 2 g vs 13 g    
Protein = 21 g vs 20 g                                   

So, at first look, the Pure Protein Bar looks better nutritionally.  HOWEVER, the higher fiber count in Quest bars makes the net carb count much lower, all in all, much better for you.  The trouble is cost.  The Pure Protein Bars range in price from about $0.75 (on sale) to $1 +/- each.  I keep these in the house at all times.  My family eats them between meals.  Quest Bars run a little more than $2 per bar.  I JUST bought a box for myself and keep them hidden away.  I treat myself to ONE per week.  They are a little chewier than the Pure Protein bars.

Poultry, meat and fish

Always opt for lean cuts of meat.  Try to limit your red meats to one serving per week.  While red meat is an excellent source of iron, it is somewhat high in saturated fat. 

Chicken Breasts
You really cannot get enough boneless, skinless chicken breasts.  Buy them in bulk, cook them up and store them for a couple days.  You can even freeze them once you cook them, pull them out as you need them and they are all ready once they defrost.

One ounce of chicken has only 30 calories, 6.5 grams of protein and less than 1 gram of fat.  So, I typically eat 5 – 6 oz. of chicken at a time. 

BUT … You do not have to eat only chicken!  Add variety!

Salmon is rich in Omega-3’s, which have amazing health benefits
4 oz. of salmon has about 200 calories, 12 g fat, and 22.5 g protein
(I typically eat 6 oz. because I need the protein!!)
To cook it, I drizzle a little bit of coconut oil over the top and add some spices.

Ground Turkey
I often substitute ground turkey in recipes that call for ground beef.
Taco Salad, Turkey Meatballs (with no breadcrumbs), and Meat Sauce (with spaghetti squash)
4 oz. of ground turkey has 170 calories, 9 g fat, and 20 g protein

In comparison…4 oz. of ground beef (75%) has 328 calories, 28 g fat, and 16 g protein.

Don’t be afraid to eat eggs or lean cuts of pork and beef (steak).  You want to learn how to eat for your life, not to eat soooo much chicken, tuna and protein powder that you get bored and can’t follow this way of eating.  

Protein enriched foods

I don’t eat much of these, but when I buy bread or cereal, I always look at the protein count.  When you purchase these kinds of foods, look carefully at the total calories before purchasing.

Arnold’s Whole Grain, Double Protein bread
100 calories and 7 g protein per slice

Kashi Go Lean Crisp Cinnamon Crumble cereal
180 calories and 11 g protein per serving

Kashi 7 grain waffles, with two eggs
150 calories and 4 g protein (for the waffle), plus 140 calories and 10 g protein (for two eggs)

So, let me ask you this:
What protein sources am I missing?  
Do you have an amazing recipe that is high in protein you wish to share?  
Leave a message here and I will check it out.

Follow me on Instagram @tracoleman99.

I will be on hiatus until at least Friday.  My son's best friend is getting married at MY house on Thursday, so I will be super busy getting ready for the rest of the week.  

Friday, July 24, 2015

Emotional Eating

Nearly ever day, I am asked, "How did you do it?"  "Can you help me?"  I think this is both flattering and comical, because I am still learning myself.  Today I want to talk about emotional eating, but first let's revisit the basics.

It took me a LONG time to figure out how to eat right.  I used to say, "I'm a lifetime member of Weight Watchers, I know how to eat right."  Weight Watchers works when you're on it, but it does not really help long term.  And truth be told, I did not know how to eat right.  This was a really tough pill to swallow.

I learned how to eat right by tracking my calories and macronutrients, which took a while to get the hang of. My trainer really helped me...the key was not obsessing. I wrote about this in a previous blog:  Three Steps to Weight Loss.  Recently I saw this article on that best explains a healthy nutritional plan:  How to Lose Weight.  My macronutrients are not divided exactly the way this article recommends, but following these principles has helped me lose weight and keep it off. 

Word of caution:  if you are using an app to track your calories, it may not give you a high enough calorie count!  Less than 1,200 calories is NOT enough.  I was eating about 1,300 calories and not losing weight and the foods I was eating were all wrong.  Furthermore, eating less did not help me listen to my body and did not help break the food addiction.

I was an emotional eater.  I used to eat for comfort. If I was stressed, I ate.  Sad?  Angry?  Overwhelmed?  Tired?  Anxious? Happy?  Food fed my soul and comforted me in an unhealthy way.  I have more of a sweet tooth than a "salty" tooth.  Give me cookies, ice cream or cake - I can pass on chips.  I craved carbs.  Once my body got used to my new way of eating, I stopped craving the sugars in my comfort foods.
Last year, food comforted me and helped me deal with my stress. Today I don't look to food to help me feel better.

If you are an emotional eater, like me, you need to find something else to help meet that need.  Continuing to reach for the bag of chips or ice cream during times of stress, means you will never meet your fitness goals and you'll always be on the yo-yo diet.  For me, exercise has replaced my need to eat.  As busy as I am, I always found time to sit down with a bowl of ice cream and watch TV or play FarmVille.  Working out (with a good playlist) provides the time to focus on me, to clear my mind of the day's trials (I make time for it).  I usually go to the gym after work (either straight from work or after dinner).  I tire myself out, return home to finish the night's tasks and crash.  I don't have time to feel too badly for whatever my circumstances are and I eat less.  Furthermore, writing this blog has helped me to focus on what I have learned along the way, which is therapeutic in itself.

All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it  yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.
Hebrews 12:11

What about you? Does food comfort you? What will work for you to help meet your emotional need without killing your nutritional goals? Yoga and meditation are good ways to deal with stress and train your body.  Maybe it's a long walk with a great playlist. Reach out to your friends and talk to them about what's going on. Get a journal and write. Start your own blog. You may need to seek professional counseling to help you address it. Whatever you do, if this describes you, I implore you to consciously find a healthy alternative to help you deal with stress, which does not involve food or alcohol. (You do NOT want to substitute one addiction for another.)

I still love ice cream! I had a blizzard at Dairy Queen last month when I was on vacation visiting my family in Port Charlotte, FL. Ice cream is not evil...all in moderation. Google flexible dieting to read more about macros.

Wonder Woman

The secret is out, I am Wonder Woman!  I attribute my weight loss (and maintaining my weight) to tracking all of my calories.  I use the food journal through my gym's website.  The fitness director, Ashley puts your name on the A+ wall when you do that, but I told her I did NOT want my name on the wall, so she calls me Wonder Woman.  This has become a thing...

I bought myself a Wonder Woman shirt to wear at the gym.

This is me on the A+ Club wall.

Today, I want to talk about macros and how I follow my nutritional plan in simple terms.  In a recent post, "Foods to Try," I talked about several foods I added to my grocery list.  Since that post, I have had several inquiries about macros.  This post is to explain macros.

Everyone needs certain nutrients:  Micro-nutrients and Macro-nutrients.

When I heard the word "nutrient," I thought "vitamins."  In the fitness world, these are commonly referred to as supplements and are considered "micronutrients."  My doctor recommends a daily multi-vitamin because our nutrition does not typically provide us with enough of the essential micro-nutrients.  I take a women's supplement pack from GNC.  (Truth be told, I'm not crazy about taking supplements, so I only take them three - four times / week.)  Be aware of what you take for supplements.  Read up on them if you take them.

When we look at what we eat, it is primarily made of protein, carbohydrates, and fats.  These are commonly referred to as "macronutrients" or "macros" for short.  Protein is essential for building and maintaining muscle.  It also helps with hunger (protein takes longer to digest, so you are not as hungry).  Carbohydrates give us energy.  We need them to fuel our brain.  The third "macro" is fats, which we need to regulate body processes, as a source of energy, to maintain healthy skin, tissues, and for proper functioning of the brain and nervous system.  Studies have shown that traditional "low-fat" diets do not help with sustaining weight loss.

The trick to weight loss and maintaining a healthy weight is simply thinking, "Calories in, calories out."  If you want to lose weight, you have to expend more energy than you are consuming, or burn more than you eat.  When trying to lose weight, we often make the mistake of not eating enough.  This is a big mistake! If you are eating only 1,200 - 1,400 calories per day, that is probably not enough and your body will not have enough energy to burn calories, which is what you need to do. Your calories are determined by your height, weight and level of activity. To figure out how many calories you should consume, check this article on  How to Lose Weight.

Take your base calories and divide them up into carbohydrates, protein and fats. Viola!  You've got it!  The above article recommends 40% for carbohydrates and protein, 20% fat.  My macros are divided, just about 1/3 for each.  It varies for different people.  The key is TRACKING everything you eat.  EVERY BITE!  I struggled with the macros at first and my trainer encouraged me to not fixate. (I write about him here: Dmitriy Made It Happen.)  Get in enough calories (not too many) and try to aim for at least 100 grams of protein.  I continue to learn along the way.  I found the process to be an immediate success.

There are multiple apps you can use to track your calories and nutrition. They don't always give you an optimal guideline.  I use the app from my gym, BestFitness, which I can adjust according to what works best for me.  (You have to be a member of BestFitness to use their online food journal.)  I did some research and found MyFitnessPal to be an easy (free) app to use.  However, it gives you a much lower calorie count than I would recommend and their macros does not include enough protein.  I could not figure out how to override the MyFitnessPal recommendations.  If you figure out how to set MyFitnessPlan to align more with what recommends, let me know!

Tracking your food takes some getting used to, but in a short time, it becomes an invaluable tool.   For me, my biggest struggle has been, and continues to be getting in enough protein. Here is my post (as promised) on my tricks to getting in enough protein:  "Protein."  Tracking your food works, trust me!  I have lost 80 lbs. since January 1, 2014.  The first 35 lbs. took a year of doing things my way.  Since I started tracking my food in December, I have lost 45 lbs. (six months).  I never trust my gut and always log my food, which is why I am Wonder Woman!

Flexin' with my Wonder Woman shirt on.  

Ashley started a "thing." My ringtone on my husband's phone is the theme song to Wonder Woman, he bought me the Wonder Woman bobble head.  People started sending me Wonder Woman links on Pinterest and I bought myself a Wonder Woman tervis cup.  It's been fun!

Follow me on Instagram @tracoleman99

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Excuses and Self-care

I started this blog because when people see me and are shocked by the change they see in me, they want to know how I did it.  I usually am flattered, but sometimes I hear and see my old self when they respond.

I have heard  just about every reason whey people want to lose weight, but can't.  It almost always has to do with being too busy, which really makes me laugh.  I work full time, have two kids and am in college.  Until I went back to school, I was actively involved in service at my church.  Yet, somehow I found the time to make my health a priority.

I used to make excuses too.  I didn't go to the gym because it was too cold, because I didn't have anyone to go with, because I was too tired, too fat, I didn't have time, I didn't feel like it, I didn't have the energy.  You name it, I had the excuse.  When people ask me how I lost weight and respond with these kinds of answers, I totally get it.  I do.

This made me laugh!!!!  
This is how I used to think when I made excuses for not exercising or for eating garbage.  I didn't really have a legitimate excuse.  I simply was not ready to commit.

When you are ready to make the change in your life, you have to be honest with yourself, you have to make yourself a priority, you have to stop making excuses and you have to say, "Enough is enough."  Once that happens, you can move forward.

Self-care is important to the big picture.  When you take care of yourself physically, you are able to take care of yourself mentally and spiritually, as well.  Taking time out of your day to exercise and to plan nutritious meals is worth the overall benefit.

You can't adequately take care of other people if you don't take care of yourself.

In fact, the Bible agrees with this!  There are at least 8 different Scriptures that include the following:
"Love your neighbor as yourself."
Leviticus 19:18, Matthew 19:19, Matthew 22:39, Mark 12:31, Luke 10:27, Romans 13:9, Galatians 5:14, and James 2:8
When the Bible says this over and over, it must be important!

Think about this.  If you are stressed, your family feels it.  If you aren't sleeping enough, you can't cope with everything life throws at you.  If you are not centered physically, mentally and spiritually, your relationships and your family suffer.  Job performance is not optimal if you are stressed.  Seek balance.

You must consider both exercise and nutrition.  Plan exercise into your routine every day.  If you make it a priority, you know you can count on at least six out of seven days each week, which is optimal.  I wake up in the morning asking myself, "When am I going to the gym today?"  If I have a busy or full day ahead, I work in at least a 30 minute workout in between the craziness.  I always have a packed gym bag in my car.  Think about this, one hour at the gym each day is only 4% of your day.  You are worth that!

Meal planning has helped me tremendously with sticking to my nutritional goals.  It takes some getting used to, but it helps me to stick to just about the same things for breakfast, mid-morning snack and lunch every day.  It can be boring, but it's easy and doesn't require much thought.  Dinner is the real challenge.  I try to grocery shop on the weekends with meals for the week in mind.  I stock up on lots of fruits and vegetables, chicken breasts, ground turkey and/or chicken, lean cuts of pork and / or beef (steak).  Things don't always go as planned, and sometimes my planned menu for dinner is changed.  When I fail to plan, my macros get all wacko and I over-do it either with calories, carbohydrates and / or fat every time.  At this point, it doesn't hurt me too much because I ride my bike so much that I can afford the calories.  I have to be cautious, as the bike season will end and I need to stick to my guidelines or I will gain weight.

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
I Corinthians 10:31

The bottom line is this.  If you want to lose weight, if you want to improve your overall fitness levels, you have to stop making excuses and start thinking of yourself as being just as important as everyone and everything else.

Follow me on Instagram @tracoleman99

Thursday, July 16, 2015

What if you fail?

I grew up with a father who inspired me to accomplish my goals.  Failure was NEVER an option.  If I got a bad grade, he worked with me to help me do better.  I remember sitting at my grandmother’s table practicing multiplication tables with him.  In high school, when I struggled in Algebra II, my parents got me a tutor.  Before I started my first job, my father said, “Remember, this is what they are looking for.  This is what you need to do.”  I never wanted to disappoint him.

This has formed my way of thinking.  As an adult, I have lived my life striving to be and do the best I can.  For months, when I started trying to lose weight, I did not give it my all.  I wavered in my commitment.  Part of me believed that if I failed, it was "ok" because I really did not try.  So when I finally went “all in,” I struggled with the concept of failing.  

There are so many inspirational pictures and sayings on Instagram about working out, nutrition and motivation.  Occasionally I see one about failing.  I am always like, “What are you talking about?” 
Failure.  This is a really hard pill to swallow.  The idea of failing pretty much is something I do not buy.

That said, I am beginning to get it.  There is a HUGE difference between failing and quitting.  When you are serious about reaching a goal, you often have to push your limits.  This means you will inevitably fail.  The temporary failures are signs for you to try things differently, to examine what needs to be tweaked or thrown out, so you can improve the next time.  This is true for exercise, nutrition, sleep, handling stress—pretty much anything you set your mind to accomplish. 

The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.
Psalm 37:23-24

Failure is not about giving up.  If you examine what happened, “Why did you fail?” you are learning a valuable lesson to guide you next time.  The fact is, you have to be honest with yourself.  If you are trying to lose weight and are not seeing the results, look at your eating habits.  Are you tracking everything you eat?  Are you eating too much?  Are you eating too little?  Are you consuming enough water?  Are you eating the wrong foods?  It is only with an honest assessment of what went wrong that you can learn to improve.

I am currently training to do the Ride to Remember, a 100+ mile bike ride in September.  This ride is important to me to complete, to be able to stay with the group, to accomplish the ride.  So every training ride is a learning experience:
  • Handling nutrition before and during a ride
  • Managing joint pain (not my knee, which is great!)
  • Keeping a decent cadence without exhausting myself
  • Climbing steep (and long) hills without feeling like I’m going to quit or die
  • Safely descending hills at a fast speed (using both front and rear brakes)
  • Handling the heat without getting dehydrated
  • Not giving up when I’m tired and want to quit
  •  I still need to learn how to change a flat tire!
 I learn these things from failures (and near failures) with every ride. Each ride builds my confidence and makes me feel more and more like I’ll be able to accomplish the Ride to Remember in September.  My first ride of the season, I did barely 15 miles on my old bike.  I could not get up the hill near my house and had to push the bike up a good portion of it.  I was exhausted when I finished the ride, but I did not give up.  This past Monday, we climbed a 416 foot hill on our group ride.  I had to stop to catch my breath along the way, but I got back on the bike (mid-hill) and started pedaling like, "Ok, here we go."  The group leader was like, "Tracey, look at you!"  Getting to the top of that hill was an accomplishment that left me feeling like I really can do this!

You can’t allow your fear of failure to keep you from moving forward.  

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Matthew 6:34

Step out on a limb, take a risk, go ahead!  If you are failing, you are learning.  If you’re not sure what you are doing wrong, talk to a professional.  My trainer has helped me figure out the nutritional part of my riding.  (I write about him here:  Dmitriy Made It Happen.) I would eat before a ride and came home starving, he gave me some practical tips that don’t mess up my macros for the day and get me through my rides.  Deborah from Competitive Edge leads the group rides and is teaching me about cadence.  You can’t be too proud to ask for or receive advice.  The professionals know what they are talking about; you really have to trust them.  If you don’t have a trainer, it is worth the investment.  Of course you can always research your particular area of concern and get a lot of good advice, just be very selective with your sources of information and sift out the bad information.  Anything that sounds too good to be true probably is.

If you can say you gave it your 100% effort, any failure you face along the way is only a detour, not an end of the road sign.  The trick is to persevere.

Side note:

*If you lift weights or are serious about body building, there is an expression, “training to failure.”  This is something I don’t understand entirely, but it is worth researching. has an interesting article about it here:  The Principle of Training to Failure.

Follow me on Instagram @tracoleman99

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Foods to Try

I have found several “fantastic foods” that have been added to my nutrition.
The key to long term success is adding variety, being willing to try new things and to keep adding to your grocery list.  Here are a few things I have learned to appreciate…for their taste and / or their nutritional benefits.  (And a couple tips I have learned to either follow or avoid.)

1.  Coconut Oil
I thought Coconut Oil was something you purchased in the health & beauty section of the store and put in on your skin or in your hair.  I never in a million years thought it was something you purchased in the grocery aisle and actually cooked with it. 

At my bridal shower (25 years ago), the guests were asked to bring a favorite recipe.  I got an amazing recipe for chocolate chip cookies that I have made again and again through the years.  I had a cookie party in December and posted on Facebook to thank Peggy for giving me the recipe.  She suggested using coconut oil instead of Crisco.  I thought to myself, “That sounds so disgusting.” 

In a conversation with my trainer, Dmitriy, this spring he told me he uses coconut oil and I was like, “That so gross.”  “No, really, try it.”  I bought some and made brownies with it (instead of butter) and was surprised at its consistency. 

Later I was talking to him about how much coffee I consume and he suggested I try coconut oil.  Well, at first it was just nasty.  Black oily coffee.  No thanks.  So I did some research on coconut oil and found out exactly HOW to make coffee with coconut oil – you have to put it in your blender or whip it to combine the coffee with the oil.  The coffee is no longer black AND it tastes pretty good (although I still prefer half-and-half).   You can read about Dmitriy here: "Dmitriy Made It Happen."

Before blending, it is black and oily.  After blending, there is a foam at the top which goes away shortly.  It's surprisingly good.

I made salmon the other day and drizzled some over the top with seasonings on top and it was the best salmon I ever made.  Ever.

(For the record - coconut oil does not taste like coconut.)

There are 101 benefits to coconut oil.  Do some research on it and you will be surprised.

2. Coffee

I LOVE coffee.  In fact, the only things I drink now are water, coffee, tea and an occasional glass of wine.  (I mostly drink tea in the winter to warm me up.)  The caffeine in coffee has some health benefits that I did not realize.  I thought I was just addicted to the caffeine, but black coffee is pretty good for you (in moderation).  I don’t use sugar and am trying to substitute the coconut oil (see above) for the creamer.  It’s a work in progress.  Do some research on the health benefits of coffee and the benefits of drinking coffee before a workout.  Interesting.

3.  Whey Protein
I’m not big into dietary supplements.  I’m lucky if I remember to take a daily vitamin.   But whey protein has become my friend.  It’s so important to have enough protein each day, but it’s hard to eat that much chicken or lean meat.  I used to gag on the protein powder, but now I find if I am low on protein or need something before a workout, I can just mix a scoop of powder with some water and drink it down.  It’s not the tastiest way to consume it, but I’ve gotten used to it and I see the results. 

Here is my recipe for a protein shake:
1 cup fresh / frozen fruit
1/3 – 1/2 cup baby kale or spinach (I just grab a bunch, I don’t measure it)
1 scoop whey protein powder
1 tbsp peanut butter (this is the key!!!!)
a splash of almond milk or water (if I use frozen fruit, I need more than a splash)
Put it in the blender and drink.  It’s sooooo good!

Some people spend a lot of money on juicers.  I have a $20 individual blender that is amazing.  I don’t have the spare cash to spend $200 on a fancy juicer, while I appreciate the health benefits of juicing, for me it’s easier to just throw the fruit and kale into the cup and blend.

It comes with a lid, so sometimes I make one for lunch and bring it with me to work.

4.  Vegetables
This is probably a no-brainer.  Vegetables, really?  To be honest, I used to make dinner and skip vegetables all together.  My family is super picky and I was sick of carrots, corn and peas, so I wouldn’t serve anything.  Maybe a salad, but more than half the time I didn’t even eat it if I made it. 

I now eat vegetables for dinner (and usually lunch) every day, with a healthy portion of lean protein.  In the winter when fresh vegetables are harder to come by, I buy steam-fresh veggies, store them in the freezer, microwave them for 5 minutes and eat the whole bag.  With the nice weather, I eat summer squash like it’s going out of style, steamed broccoli, spinach, plenty of salad, red peppers, and lots of tomatoes. 

To cook my veggies, I either grill them in a foil pouch (maybe with some seasonings) or I steam them on the stove.  I eat the red peppers raw with salad.

5.  Oatmeal
Carbohydrates are – for whatever reason – on the “bad list” for most people’s diet.  I went for about one week on a low carb diet and that did not go well for me.  I felt like my brain was foggy, I could not concentrate, I was super cranky.  Your body needs carbohydrates to function.

That said, the kind of carbohydrates you consume can often make the difference between whether you are hungry in an hour or if you are seeing the results you want.  Look for complex carbohydrates that are full of fiber.  Oatmeal fits the criteria!

I love oatmeal because it satisfies my hunger.  Sometimes when I am low on calories, I will make myself a bowl of oatmeal at night.  It is amazingly good for you!  (Google “nutritional benefits of oatmeal” and you will find over 407,000 results.)

6.  Diet foods:  Fat-free and Sugar-free

I avoid artificial sweeteners all things labeled “fat-free.”  I do not want the poisons in my body.  If your body is working to process the chemicals in these things, it can’t function like it should.  Eating healthy means avoiding diet foods!!! 

7.  What about when you are super busy and pressed for time?

Stop buying light or low calorie frozen meals.  They are full of sodium and have very low nutritional value (low protein, low or no fiber).  In an absolute pinch, I will grab a Wendy’s Asian Chicken Salad any day over a frozen meal!  While a Weight Watchers' Smart Ones Rigatoni with Broccoli & Chicken has only 260 calories, it has 710 mg of sodium, which is almost half the FDA recommended sodium intake for an entire day.

If you work long hours and don’t have time to cook meals, start to think “meal prep” on your days off.  Grocery-shop with that in mind.

Try to use a crock-pot.  The crock-pot cooks while you are working.  Come home and a hot, healthy meal is ready for you!  You can get individual sized ones or larger family ones.  The night before, gather all your ingredients and put them into the crock-pot and refrigerate.  In the morning, put the crockpot on the counter and turn it on.  You do have to be wary of over-cooking things.  I leave a note for my son to turn the crock-pot down when he gets home from school, but some have an automatic timer. Crock-pots are amazing!!! 

I also have a Cuisinart Griddler that is my BEST friend in the kitchen!!!!  It takes 7 minutes (or so) to grill up a chicken breast.  Throw some steam-fresh veggies in the microwave and you have dinner in less than 10 minutes.  If that’s too much, buy your chicken on the weekend, throw it in a Zip-Loc bag with some Italian dressing for an hour or so (I don’t like to marinade it too long or the flavor overpowers the chicken).  Grill it all up and let it cool off.  Put each piece of chicken in a Zip-Loc bag, and freeze.  On your way to work, pull the bag out of the freezer and into the fridge.  When you get home, all you have to do is warm the chicken up.  It’s easy.  You can do this with other things too, but it’s easiest with chicken.

Here’s another recipe for you:
Grilled Chicken Burger 
(recipe thanks to my friend Erica)
One 1-lb. package of ground chicken
Feta cheese (or blue cheese)
2 cups Spinach, steamed, chopped (it will cook down to much less than 2 cups)

Divide the ground chicken (you can try ground turkey, but I prefer the ground chicken) into four equal amounts (about 4 oz. each).
Steam your spinach – I put it in a bowl in the microwave until it’s wilted, drain the water and chop it up
Mix-in ½ ounce of Feta cheese and spinach into each portion of chicken.
Shape into four burgers.

You can either grill this up, and serve, OR you can wrap and freeze to be eaten later.  These can be grilled right from the freezer, although they take much longer to cook.  There should be no pink in a chicken burger.
(When freezing, it helps to place on parchment paper to keep from sticking to your plastic wrap.)
I always eat it with sweet potato fries, lettuce and tomato (no bun). 

8.  Try new things!
Learning to eat right and not feel like you are depriving yourself is about experimenting to find what works, what works better and what does not work.  I have had to push myself to be bold.  There are certain things I just don’t like and some, that at first I did not like, but learned to like.  

This is a journey and I always want to learn and improve.  I don’t want to become bored and slip back to my old habits!

9.  In it for life.

Every day people say to me, “Tracey, what did you do?”  “How are you going to sustain this?”  “What do you do when you want the foods you used to eat?”   This blog is my story.  I tell what I’ve done, and what I’ve learned along the way. 

I will sustain this by being honest with myself, and staying true to what I have learned. If I am craving a hot fudge sundae, I’ll either eat a banana with some chocolate syrup or I’ll eat a small hot fudge sundae.  I can eat one on a special occasion, as long as the whole picture is not hot fudge sundaes, cake, cookies, chips, and French fries. At my nephew’s birthday party, I ate a small piece of cake – I have to learn to live and to not over-do it.  When I was trying to lose weight, I would have declined the cake, but today I allow myself a small portion.  I don’t keep that kind of food in my house, so it’s not a constant temptation to me.  This is not a diet, it’s not a short-term fix.  I am committed to this way of living. 

It’s a cognitive shift in how I live and how I think.

Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own.  But one thing I do: forgetting what l ies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3:13-14

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Hard Work

Are you trying to lose weight? Do you have fitness goals you are trying to achieve? Well I have a secret for you - there are NO quick fixes. It takes hard work and determination.  Every day people ask me how I lost weight.  "What did you do?"  I always give a lot of credit to my trainers (Mike and Dmitriy), but the truth is this. I did it. I worked hard.  I was not spoon fed, they did not bring me to the gym or hold my hand with every workout.  They gave me the tools and I put them to use.

No gimmicks.  No crazy meal plans.  Hard work.

Yes, I learned some strategies.  I did change my eating habits.  I have a well-balanced nutritional plan.  It's all about calories.  Calories in, calories out.  With a balance of protein, carbohydrates and fats.  I don't have a set of rules to follow that say, "You can't eat this or you should eat this with that and never eat that other thing."  (Tonight for dinner I had a 6" sub and Baked Lays.  Why?  Because that's what I wanted and it fit into my macros for the day.)

There's no magic here.  It's discipline. It's hard work.  It's perseverance.  It's working through setbacks and failures and figuring things out.  The key is simple: nutrition, exercise and your overall activity level.

So, stop kidding yourself.  If you think you can accomplish your goals without working hard, chances are it's too good to be true.  It takes more than getting up off the couch during commercials and walking around!

Follow me on Instagram @tracoleman99

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Planting Your Flag

Memorial Day in May, Flag Day in June and Independence Day in July...three days when Americans get excited about our nation's heritage and take great pride in our flag.

This got me to thinking about the importance of planting your flag in life. What is it you stand for? What do you want your life to say about you? What matters most to you?  If you have not figured this out yet, is this an obstacle preventing you from attaining your fitness goals?

This blog is about fitness and I want to stay true to this. Depression and anxiety lead to poor nutritional habits and an overall unhealthy lifestyle.  Having a sense of purpose, a mission in life, helps to manage depression and anxiety. (That said, I know some very fit people who have not yet "planted their flag," so please give me some wiggle room here.)

Of all the people who have shaped my life, I credit my father most with who I am. He guided me to develop a strong value system, work ethic, faith in God and to be goal oriented. He taught me that whatever I wanted to achieve, to develop a plan and make it happen. He taught me to always put God and family first and to serve as a way to show the light of Christ in me to others.

Me and Dad before Father - Daughter Dance.

He taught me to plant my flag.

My family, my career and helping others are what matter most to me.  This is where I find the most sense of self worth.  (Even this blog was started as a way to inspire others on their journey towards fitness.)  I did get lost along the way, completely neglecting care of self as part of my routine, which lead to me being out of control.  With the support of others, I am learning to take care of me, so I can better take care of others.

Wherever you are on your journey, I encourage you to plant your flag. For most people it is their career, but sometimes your passions in life do not always put a roof over your head and bread on the table. If you have an artistic flair and go to college to major in art, you may find yourself with an expensive degree and no job. While there are jobs in the industry, they are hard to come by and do not always pay top dollar. I find my need to help others is fulfilled both in my career and in the activities I participate. (I was the Women's Ministry Coordinator, the NHS Advisor, VBS Director, and Cub Scout Den Leader.)

Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
Matthew 5:16

Fulfillment from your passions can be found outside of your career. If you love photography, you might enjoy that as a hobby, where a career may not land you enough income to support yourself. Don't misunderstand me. I am all about pursuing your dreams, but I am somewhat practical.  Everyone needs to declare, "This is what matters to me. And because of this, I am going to live my life this way." You will find a sense of satisfaction and self worth that is indescribable when you live your life to fulfill your purpose.

The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.  Do not forsake the work of your hands.
Psalm 138:8

Remember these tips: 

1. Take care of yourself - mind, body and spirit.

Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul.
3 John 1:2 (ESV)

2.  Take care of your relationships - the people you love need you as much as you need them.

Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.
John 15:13 (NASB)

3.  Always seek God for direction. (This really should be first.) Regardless of what you believe or your level of faith, a relationship with God will give you peace in your decisions and clarity about your direction.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways, acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.  
Proverbs 3:5-6

Follow me on Instagram @tracoleman99 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Depriving yourself

I have been on and off diets for the past 33 years.  As soon as I hit puberty, I became mega concerned about the girth of my hips, the size of my thighs and my boobs that were cascading out of every bra my mother got for me.  I learned how to lose weight by starving myself.  When I was about 15 (or so), I started on Weight Watchers, where I learned to eat "three vegetables, two fruits, three fats, etc."  I went from a girls' size 14 to a women's size 10, where I fought to get into a Junior's size 9 (or 7, if I was lucky).  I had a pretty decent metabolism, I could eat most anything, go on 10-day diet, lose weight, and return to my normal eating habits.  The one diet I hated the most had us eating tuna with no mayo and beets.  I think there were other things in the diet, but it was so disgusting that I remember it most vividly.  In the 1990s, Atkins Diet became super popular, but I like my carbs too much so that was never for me.  This has been my life cycle.  Find a new diet, starve myself, lose weight, gain it back.  Repeat.  I used to exclaim to everyone how proud I am to be a Lifetime Member of Weight Watchers, an accomplishment I achieved in 2003.

All the labor of man is for his mouth, and yet the appetite is not filled.
Ecclesiastes 6:7 (ASV)

This is me, my senior year of high school.  The picture on the left was taken prior to my senior prom and the one on the right was taken on a visit to my grandparents' house in Florida.  I was very self-conscious of my appearance, thus the ruffle on the bathing suit and the "to the neck" lace on my prom dress.

Today, I proclaim that every diet I have ever been on, including Weight Watchers, did nothing to help me.  Nothing.  A lifetime of looking in the mirror, not being happy with what you see, starving yourself to lose weight, fixating on the numbers on the scale ... until eventually you just don't care.  That's largely how I let myself get to the point I was in 2013.  I couldn't see that anything I was doing or could do would result in a change.  I wanted to eat what I wanted to eat.  Ice cream, cookies and cake comforted me and were easy fixes to being hungry. As I got older, the weight did not come off from depriving myself.  In 2014, it took six weeks of doing things my own way to say, "I need help."  That's when I hired a personal trainer who tried to teach me the right way of doing things, but I was not a cooperative client.

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
Romans 14:17 (ESV)

Through the years, I battled with my weight. Yo-yo dieting never helped.

It was a cognitive shift for me that really made me "click."  A week of crying after my trainer Mike died, getting to know a new trainer and having to make the decision to keep doing things my way or listen to the expert.  "If you want to lose weight, this is what you need to do," Dmitriy said.  And when I said, "I am not going to do that.  I know how to eat,"  I was on the receiving end of a difficult conversation when he told me, "The only way I'm going to be able to help you is if you do this..."  (I write about Mike here:  Mike Made Me Do It.  And Dmitriy here:  Dmitriy Made It Happen.)

The top left picture was taken while I was on Weight Watchers (again) and had lost over 20 lbs.  I was feeling good about myself at that point.  When I hurt my knee in the summer, all of the efforts I had made were lost and I gained all the weight back and then some.  At that point, I just did not care.

So what do I do?  I keep track of what I eat, within a certain calorie range - and I divide the calories into carbohydrates, protein and fat.  I have had to LEARN what foods are too high in carbs or too high in fat that I really should avoid or use up my quota too quickly.  I have had to practice, fail, and relearn.  I try to plan family meals at least the night before so I'm not scrambling to figure out what's for dinner when I get home from work.  Last week we were going to have pasta.  I had some homemade sauce in the freezer, so all I had to do was thaw that, boil pasta for the family and cook spaghetti squash for me.  Pressed for time, I didn't get to cook the squash, so I opted for some pasta.  One serving of pasta is 1/2 cup, which is 200 calories and 42 grams of carbs.  That is 28% of my entire carb allowance for one day, add spaghetti sauce and you're just about done for the day.  This is a crazy way to use my carbs.  What did I learn?  Tonight, when I did not have time to cook the spaghetti squash, I substituted zucchini instead and liked it oh so much better!  (Speaking of carbs...a slice of whole wheat bread is 90 calories and 17 grams of carbs - not a lot better, but at least the fiber will help satisfy your hunger a little.)

Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise.
Proverbs 19:20

What I have learned is that depriving myself only frustrates me, makes me feel like I am sacrificing instead of living, and prevents me from keeping true to my goals for the long term.  I am not in this to lose 10 lbs. and gain it back.  I am in this to be healthy, to feel better, and to be fit.  I have to drop my arrogance and say, "I don't know.  I am learning."  The thing is, at this point my overall nutrition is pretty good and mostly balanced, so if I have a bad day, or if I eat a slice of pizza, my body is not going to hold onto every calorie and say, "Tracey is starving me, let's keep this yummy pizza and make her gain 10 lbs."  It does not work that way. 

Depriving yourself will not make you reach your goals and will not result in any sustained improvement.  You have to be willing to rethink dieting and weight loss.  Start calling it nutrition.  I posted this link on a previous blog entry, and I think it's worth reposting. has a great article, detailing practical guidelines for losing weight.  The article is called, "How to lose weight."  This is very similar to the nutrition plan I have, only my macros are spread out more equally. 

However, if you continue to make poor nutritional choices, you will not see the results you want.  You do have to change your eating habits, but you should not feel like you are starving, or that you are on a diet.  If I am hungry, I eat.  Now that I am riding my bike so much, I find my hunger increases significantly after a ride.  Cycling consumes a lot of calories, so I have given myself permission to eat more than my typical allotted calories (sometimes I eat a lot more).  I also have become a bit of a fanatic about the scale.  I don't get on it every day, but at least once a week.  It's a good way to measure if my eating habits are aligned or if I need to adjust them.

With the holiday weekend approaching, I know I am going to eat more than I usually do and I will probably not follow my macros to the letter.  This weekend is meant to be enjoyed, so I am ok with that.  I no longer live to eat, so I won't be eating cookies and chips hand over fist.  Truth is, I prefer fresh fruits and vegetables...and PEANUT BUTTER!  Oh how I love peanut butter.

If you are trying to lose weight, stop starving yourself.  Start thinking differently about your eating habits.  Stop dieting.  Start thinking about nutrition.