My name is Crystal. I’m 29 years old and I’m a carbohydrate addict. I LOVE food. I love cooking it, baking it, talking about it, and mostly, eating it. I have been known to devour a half a pan of brownies in one sitting. They are my kryptonite. So at this point, you might be asking yourself (in fact you probably should ask yourself) this is a blog about eating healthy, isn’t it? Why should I listen to you, especially since you’ve reminded me of brownies? Did I accidentally stumble upon some vortex link through impatient clicking? Do I somehow have a faulty search engine? I didn’t know that was possible. Fret naught my friends, because your search engine is working just fine. We were tired of being fat, so we created our simple system to living healthier through trial & error, and good old fashioned research, and now we really know our stuff. Our system is fairly easy, straight forward, and down-right awesome (Psst, we still eat and drink the things we love, just in moderation. No starving or withholding here). We want to share our awesome secrets with you, because we want to help you live healthier too. I want to begin this flagship post with 6 simple things you can do to instantly help you start living healthier. Check back with us, because I can tell you, we’ve got a lot of good stuff coming! (Check out our about page, to read our story.)
1. We were on a budget but tired of being fat (and hearing others call us fat. And yes, we’re still on a budget.)
Jeff proposed to me on March 22, 2011, on a very mundane Tuesday. At this point, we had been together for a year and nine months. Over this time, we both slowly began putting on weight, as new couples often do. My loving parents pointed this out, as loving parents often do. The summer came and went, with a trip to Minneapolis for Jeff’s brother’s wedding (and lots of food). We hit a plateau, and then the Holidays began. For some reason, I just didn’t care what I ate. Jeff and I had been eating poorly for a long time: partly because we are on a budget; partly because we didn’t care enough to put good and healthy fuel into our bodies; and lastly, because we were just plain lazy. Finally, I had a realization that if I didn’t do something to change the way we were living, I was going to be fat in my wedding pictures. Cue the big brass horns, the lightning, dark clouds, claps of thunder, and loud bellowing voices coming from the heavens, all warning against fat wedding pictures. I know, I know. That’s a shallow reason to get in shape. But hey, it worked for me. Do whatever you have to do to justify it to yourself. Whatever your reason, make it for yourself, and make it work for you; but make sure you make it. When you’ve been lazy for a while, change seems insurmountable, but trust me, if I can do it, you can do it.
2. Make a menu for the week to save money and time
The idea is that you plan all your meals for the week before you go to the grocery store. Sure, this step takes more preparation in the beginning, but it saves time and money in the long run. Don’t believe me? Add up all the gas you use driving to the grocery store every night to round-up the fixin’s for that night’s dinner. Then add up the time it takes to aimlessly wander around the grocery store until you find something that “sounds good”. Soon, you are so hungry that you might eat your right arm, and your stomach starts talking to people, without your permission. At that point, you just grab whatever you can (partly because your stomach is embarrassing you), which is not always the most healthy choice. Nor do you really care how much your golden find costs, which drain your bank account. Jeff will tell you exactly how we accomplish this every week, so check back here for more on this topic.
3. A time to buy in bulk and a time to buy small
Eating healthy does not have to cost a ton of money. You just need to learn how to shop smarter. Sometimes we make stops at three different grocery stores, but that’s ok, because we’ve planned out our menu for the week and our grocery store route. As a general rule, we try not to buy in bulk if we don’t know if we will like the product or not. Sometimes we take a chance, because Costco makes a lot of great things. You can also take just about anything back, and they will return your money. I’ve had many a large bag of pretzel chips sit in my cupboard for a long time before throwing them out. Then you watch the pretzels turn into mini green lumps of money inside your garbage can, in pretzel shape of course (but you can’t get the money out of the garbage can, because it’s now germ-y. And also mini, which is not an accepted form of currency). If you don’t think you can finish the product before it goes bad, you probably shouldn’t buy it in bulk, because half of it will go to waste before you can use it up. For example, we don’t buy milk at Costco. We do buy a lot of things in bulk that we can put in the freezer, like butter and meats. Things that are best to buy in smaller quantities are things with a short shelf life that spoil quickly, like milk and vegetables. Check back for more on this topic.
4. Learn kitchen basics
Jeff and I have a lot of fun in the kitchen. We like to pretend we are pros. He loves the Food Network, and has picked up a lot of techniques there. Sometimes I like to measure all of the ingredients beforehand and put them in separate bowls, so I can pretend I’m on my own cooking show. I might even talk to myself so I really get the experience. “Today, on Crystal’s Citchen (yep, I misspelled kitchen on purpose), we’ll be making…” The point is, we have fun in the kitchen and we love to be in it. The more you learn, the better the understanding of the process and the more fun you will have. Oh, and cooking is also a stress reliever, so it’s a great way to keep from pulling your hair out after your 5:00 O’clock commute. Check back for more on this topic.
5. Simplify your life – less clutter = more happy, and more happy = more healthy
That reminds me…I’m starting to feel a little more irritated than normal. It’s either that time of the month, or I need to go clean out my closet. If I can see visual clutter, my mind is cluttered too. That’s a neurosis of mine. I like to take things down to their basic essentials, which entails making a lot of things from scratch. I think it’s fun, and this is a huge benefit I get: I know exactly what is in my food. I’m not against processed food in a pinch, and many processed foods can be eaten in conjunction with a healthy lifestyle; especially in today’s market, where the consumer seems to be demanding healthier food choices from large corporations. Your options for healthier foods are expanding, which means the gap between eating healthy and saving money is closing. I went through the Arby’s drive-thru the other day, and saw a sign posted: “We’re approved by Eat This Not That!” with a picture of a roast beef sandwich and a salad. When cooking from scratch, you can even go as far as grinding your own flour from local grains (if you want to. That might be overkill). Now you know for sure your food is pure and wholesome. I bake bread, infuse oil, bake cookies, make trail mix, dry fruit, make salad dressing, make pizza, Jeff brews his own beer, and we may even make our own cheese some day. You get the idea.
6. The benefits of exercise
I cannot stress this enough. Your body needs exercise. If you don’t exercise at least 5 times a week, you won’t see the results of losing weight. Unfortunately, it’s that simple. When you aren’t exercising, you don’t want to exercise. Picture a 4 year old with pigtails, stomping her foot on the ground – that’s me, not wanting to exercise. But when you are in the routine of exercise, your body craves it. You need to make it a priority. Period. If you’re just looking to maintain, you could probably get by without exercise. But the health benefits of exercising are so numerous, why would you want to? Increased cardiovascular system, stronger muscles (providing greater calorie burn), stress reliever, endorphins, flexibility, blood flow, and it reduces your risk of diabetes and heart disease, just to give you a few examples. It’s one of the best things you can do to be healthy. And it can be FREE! Check out Livestrong.com. Remember to count your calories to make sure you are burning more than your body is taking in if you want to lose weight. It all comes down to calories. If you eat more calories than your body needs in a day, it will store the excess as fat. And remember, just because it’s labeled “Health food” on the package does not mean it’s void of calories, or good for you for that matter. I would not sit down and a whole box of Snack Well’s devil’s food cookies for example. They replace the fat with sugar, and boy howdy (it’s a lot)!
We’ve got some great things coming your way in the near future. Pop on up to the subscribe button and “subscribe” so you don’t miss out on anything great that will help you live healthier!
Crystal is the founder of Simply Playful Fare. She has been in the kitchen for as long as she can remember. She has a degree in English with an emphasis in creative writing.