Fall Forward Healthy Lifestyle Challenge

“When you wake up, think about winning the day. Don’t worry about a week or a month from now — just think about one day at a time. If you are worried about the mountain in the distance, you might trip over the molehill right in front of you. Win the day!”
― Drew Brees

LeavesSeptember has arrived and I am embracing fall as a time to reset and follow through with goals that I have set for myself. Many of my Weight Watchers members are participating in a Fall Forward Challenge and we are creating charts and using our calendars to keep track of our success and keep ourselves motivated.

One of the things that being a Weight Watchers leader and member has taught me over the years is that I have CHALLENGE myself often and that a well established Routine can easily slip away when life gets busy. Tuesday marks my first day back in the classroom with students and I refuse to let this be an excuse to let my healthy lifestyle erode.

I bought my stickers at Target for 99 cents a package. Though you could inexpensively draw a symbol on your calendar.

I bought my stickers at Target for 99 cents a package. Though you could inexpensively draw a symbol on your calendar.

Not only do structured challenges help me but I have also found that REWARDS help as well. I have created five goals for myself and will keep track with colorful stickers. (Think back to childhood chore charts and how stickers helped motivate. I have found that stickers can still help keep me motivated!)

One of my friends Erinn said it best when she shared that at the end of the day if she has fallen short on a goal that the sticker gives her incentive to go the extra mile. “I want my sticker!” Erinn proclaims. For so many of us, there is satisfaction in the visual reinforcement of SEEING our success mapped out.

Erinn shared her calendar with me today and at the top she included a “key” with what each sticker represents. I decided to do the same. After all, research supports that when we write down our goals we are more likely to accomplish them. Thank you Erinn for always inspiring me to keep moving forward!

The puppy napping on my calendar is a reminder that I need to be productive during my waking hours so I can get 7-8 hours of sleep each night. Sleep, like whole, non-processed food = FUEL

The puppy napping on my calendar is a reminder that I need to be productive during my waking hours so I can get 7-8 hours of sleep each night. Sleep, like whole, non-processed food = FUEL

My calendar is displayed on the refrigerator for extra reinforcement.

My goals:

*Star = exercise 4 Activity Points Plus (My Weight Watchers Active Link will keep me accountable)
*Smile = tried a new recipe
*Butterfly = weekend organizing/cleaning project (when my house is clutter-free I am more likely to make time to exercise)
*Owl = blog post

Each sticker will be worth $1.

I also added one more goal
*Heart = Dairy free week
(I have been struggling with cheese…I want to be plant-based and feel frustrated with myself) A heart = $5

At the end of the month I will “pay” myself for the stickers that I have earned. The money will go to the purchase of new clothing or something special (I would love to start a fund for a juicer). Your reward may be an indulgence (massage, pedicure, a new bottle of nail polish) or a new cookbook or tool to help with weight management (new running shoes, a piece of exercise equipment, an Active Link purchased at your WW meeting, a yoga DVD…)

If you are on a budget do not underestimate the power of using smaller monetary amounts. A dime or quarter adds up quickly when you are accomplishing your goals on a daily basis.

If you are interested in joining me in this challenge please feel free to like my Produce with Amy Facebook page. I will be posting daily reminders. If you would like you can post your success and challenges. Please encourage others to join us on the Fall Forward Challenge. If there is interest, I will continue to post in the coming months.

The challenge begins today (but feel free to jump in any time) and I WILL have 2 stickers before I go to bed. (This blog gives me one sticker!) Thank you for joining me and I will post each morning as a reminder to us all to stay accountable. I am here to support you and cannot wait to follow your journey! If you are a Weight Watchers leader please encourage your members to participate. Remember, together we can achieve more.

Start Now

Even though it is important to look at our journey day-by-day. Imagine how great you will feel next year at this time knowing that you have transformed your life with healthy routines.

Pin this challenge on Pinterest and do not forget to join my Facebook page.

(Click on image for a larger version.)

(Click on image for a larger version.)

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“Turn Up The Flavor” with Weight Watchers’ Creamy Peanut Butter Soup

“The last full moon of February
stalks the fields; barbed wire casts a shadow.
Rising slowly, a beam moved toward the west
stealthily changing position

until now, in the small hours, across the snow
it advances on my pillow…
~Jane Cooper (from Hunger Moon)

February is fading fast and the snow continues to pile up outside in a dangerous but beautiful flurry. I watch televised weather reports and know that the Upper Peninsula of Michigan is not the only location getting bombarded by snow. Today was a scheduled day off for the teachers in my district. We were supposed to have Parent Teacher Conferences on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. However, the weather had another plan, and school was cancelled on both Tuesday and Wednesday. We have had eight snow days this year and one two hour-delay. My husband Mike’s classes were also cancelled at Northern Michigan University and he pounced on the opportunity to catch up on homework and he took quite a few swipes at our driveway to remove the accumulating snow.

Mike facing the snowdrifts with a smile on his face.

Mike facing the snowdrifts with a smile on his face.

Having a snow day show up unannounced can be a wonderful luxury, but like many of my educator friends, I find them to be bittersweet. Not only do they do a fine job messing up carefully orchestrated lesson plans, but I find that I must organize my spontaneous days off carefully. It is far too tempting to sit around and be lazy and this week I really TRIED to be productive. I did spend time grading, experimented with a couple new recipes, and built-in time to visit my treadmill. Today was no exception. When our dog Phoebe wanted to go for a walk I took deep, conscious breaths and marveled at the loveliness found in the snow-covered trees. I could not let the moment pass and I snapped a few photos as we walked.

The birch tree in our yard is glistening with fresh snow crystals.

The birch tree in our yard is glistening with fresh snow crystals.

My garden is sleeping under that pile of snow.

My garden is sleeping under that pile of snow.

Our snowy street.

Our snowy street sparkling with snowflakes.

Trees and landscape are transformed into art with the swoosh of the sky. I love how the cross from our neighborhood church appears in the lower left hand corner of this photo.

Trees and landscape are transformed into art with the swoosh of the sky. I love how the cross from our neighborhood church appears in the lower left hand corner of this photo.


Whether or not you get snow days, when you live in the snow belt and the weather turns blustery, it is easy to fall victim to the seasonal blues. This winter I have pushed myself to stay busy and keep my exercise levels up. I am thankful for the Weight Watchers 
Active Link that works with my eTools subscription. I am on Week three of my first 12 Week Challenge and I have been learning a lot about my activity patterns from this technology tool. I wish I would have had one years ago because I believe that it will help greatly in my weight management. The Active Link has taught me that I need to keep moving throughout the day and that I need to take advantage of my weekends to bulk up my activity. During my workday I now find myself taking more trips to the office, walking laps around the halls between classes, and I even have started doing a 20 minute Leslie Sansone walking video in my classroom during lunch (a hearty thank you to Sister Gloria for the Leslie Sansone walking video recommendation. I have found these videos to be a fun way to burn calories). Since I tend to be a visual person I am loving the Active Link’s graphs that breakdown my activity by the minute. Some days I even get up early to log 20-30 minutes on the treadmill. Right now my goal is for 3 APP a day, but tomorrow is my weigh-in day and I will be finishing my week with 38 APP.

A visual of my 12 Week Challenge Progress.

A visual of my 12 Week Challenge Progress.

My stubborn streak has kicked in and I refuse to be under 100% of my Goal Achievement.

My stubborn streak has kicked in and I refuse to be under 100% of my Goal Achievement.

I love that I can click on each hour and see a breakdown of my activity and the intensity level.

I love that I can click on each hour and see a breakdown of my activity and the intensity level.

I am always excited to plug the Active Link into my computer to see my goal achievement progress. My day off today was productive and I earned 6 APP!

I am always excited to plug the Active Link into my computer to see my goal achievement progress. My day off today was productive and I earned 6 APP!

In addition to my Active Link, I think that the Recipe Round-Up Challenge my Weight Watchers meeting members are participating in is helping me stay grounded and focused on my healthy goals. For the month of February each of us participating are trying at least one new recipe a week. Previously, I shared a recipe from Vegetarian Times for a Winter Bok Choy Slaw. My second recipe for February was from the Weight Watchers 360 cookbook, Turn up the flavor.

A common go-to dinner for Mike and I is often soup and salad. With our busy school schedules, we decided for the past couple weeks that soup and salad is a great way to eat healthy and that will continue to be our plan for our week nights. I make sure our house is stocked with a variety of salad fixings that I rotate, including: greens (romaine, spring mix, kale, and spinach), fresh berries, raw nuts, chia seeds, dried fruit, homemade croutons, pomegranate, carrots, radishes, cucumbers, citrus fruit, avocado, mango, pineapple, a variety of olives, capers, red onion, fresh herbs, snow pea pods, banana peppers, alfalfa and radish sprouts, tomatoes, pickled beets, purple cabbage, and bell peppers. I stick with plant-based proteins (beans, tempeh, seeds, nuts, hummus) but Mike does often opt for meat and cheese on his salads. I love to experiment with different combinations of greens, fruit and vegetables, try different homemade and store-bought salad dressings, and different varieties of soup.

As soon as I browsed through the Weight Watchers,Turn up the flavor cook book, I knew that I had to try the recipe for creamy peanut butter soup with ginger and chili. When I saw that the recipe contained both peanut butter and chili powder it brought me back to my childhood when my family always ate peanut butter sandwiches with chili. To this day, a bowl of chili makes me crave peanut butter. I always thought this was an unusual flavor combination until I started to notice the combination paired in various ethnic cuisines.

The ingredients for Creamy Peanut Butter Soup With Ginger and Chili

The ingredients for Creamy Peanut Butter Soup With Ginger and Chili

Creamy Peanut Butter Soup with Ginger and Chili

  1. 1/2 teaspoon of canola oil (I substituted olive oil)
  2. 1 chopped red bell pepper
  3. 1 small chopped onion
  4. 2 teaspoons minced, fresh ginger
  5. 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  6. 1 (32 ounce) carton reduced-sodium chicken broth (I substituted vegetable broth)
  7. 1/2 (14 1/2 ounce) diced tomatoes (Since I favor tomatoes I used an entire jar of my mom’s canned garden tomatoes)
  8. 1/4 cup reduced-fat creamy peanut butter (I used a natural peanut butter that was not low-fat and I increased it to 1/2 cup)
  9. 1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder to taste (Since I like spicy food I increased until I was satisfied with the taste)
  10. 1 tomato diced (for garnish)
  11. 1/8 teaspoon salt
  12. 1/2 thinly sliced jalapeno (I used canned. When I stopped at the supermarket they did not have fresh)Directions: Saute bell pepper, onion, ginger, and garlic until soft. Add broth, canned tomatoes, peanut butter, and salt; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer about 20 minutes.Serves four. (though I ended up getting more servings because I added more tomato than the recipe called for and I added a couple of cups of water).
    Serving = 1 1/2 cups
    8 g Fat, 17 g Carb, 3 g Fiber, 10 g ProteinSauteeSoupThe directions called for pureeing the soup but I left it as it was because I really liked the texture. Once ladled into bowls, garnish with fresh tomato and jalapeno.
    Garnish
    100_0969

    I served with crisp vegetables on the side.

    I served with crisp vegetables on the side.

    This is a recipe that I will make again. I found the soup rich and delicious and enjoyed the background notes of ginger. I added extra chili powder and jalapeño garnish for some kick. I love how the spiciness offsets the mellow peanut butter taste.

    I have quite a few Weight Watchers cookbooks in my collection and have found that they are very helpful in my weight management journey. WW cookbooks offer tasty and healthy recipes and are well worth the purchase. The key to healthy cooking, I have discovered, is taking advantage of fresh herbs and spices, instead of heavy oils or butter, to amp up the flavor.

    Many of my Weight Watchers members have said that they have enjoyed our February Recipe Round-Up Challenge because it has forced them out of their comfort zone. Sometimes cooking can be daunting to those who have not been comfortable with cooking. I always encourage my members to experiment with different recipes and flavor combinations because it can make all the difference in reaching our goals. Cooking our own food allows us to be in control of what ingredients we put into our bodies and help us stay satisfied. I always strive to eat whole foods that are not heavily processed and find that this really helps me stay on track and within both my Points Plus and my financial budget.

    This week I am challenging myself to try three new recipes (for a total of SIX new recipes for February) and I am hoping to continue to challenge myself to try one new recipe a week in the coming months. I promise to feature some of the recipes that I try in future blog posts. In the next few days I plan to post recipe reviews for a Sweet Potato and White Bean Veggie Burger and a Vegan Avocado and White Bean Salad. So, stay tuned. I would also love to hear about your favorite recipes. So, please share!

    As for the Weight Watchers 360 Turn up the flavor cookbook, my next selection will be the Sweet Potato Soup with Coconut, Cilantro, and Lime. How amazing does that sound?!

    If you are reading this and have found yourself in a food rut, I encourage you to branch out and flex your culinary skills. I find chopping vegetables quite therapeutic and there is nothing quite as satisfying as a kitchen brimming with delicious home cooked meals. Plus, an added benefit is being able to watch the numbers on the scale move down.

    While February is almost a stranger, I know that winter will linger for a few more months in the U.P. I plan to be productive, fill my plate with an abundance of fruit and vegetables, and give my Active Link a real workout. How are you going to Turn Up the Flavor in your life?

    I highly recommend this cookbook.

    I highly recommend this soup and this cookbook.