The 30-Day Challenge is Done! Congratulations!

Congratulations! We are finally at the end of the 30-day challenge towards wholesome living physically, emotionally and spiritually. Thank you to all those who joined me for the challenge and for your support and motivation. Having others to hold you accountable and give you encouragement makes all the difference in being successful in a venture like this!

Here’s a recap of the last week:

  • Fitness: My fitness goal over the last 30 days has been to exercise for at least 30 minutes daily, particularly cardiovascular exercise that would get me to break a sweat. Overall, my goal has been met with the exception of a few days break here and there due to recurring knee soreness. I had to find a balance between giving my knee adequate rest and not breaking up the momentum I had built in keeping to frequent exercise. I knew that if I stopped doing exercise for more than a few days, it would be harder to resume. This week my exercise consisted of an intermediate total body workout, yoga, upper body strength training and brisk walks outside in the beautiful sunshine with the kids. I feel myself getting stronger and fitter. It’s nice to see hard work pay off! If you don’t have time to do any formal exercise on a particular day, try to do something small for your body like going for a quick walk on lunch-break or using stairs instead of the elevator. Every little bit helps!
  • Nutrition: My nutrition goals were to eat healthily, have more variety in my diet and to make sure I was eating enough calories (~2800) to maintain my weight. I was concerned that with daily exercise (particularly cardio) that I would lose weight which I did not want to do. Fortunately, with making sure I ate enough healthy calories, I maintained my weight! I did indulge in BBQ flavored chips and cheese-cake a few times, but for the most part, I met my nutrition goals. My desire to have more variety in my diet resulted in our family eating more fruits and vegetables than we normally do which is great. This week, I made delicious spinach ‘chips’ which were a big hit with our son. All you have to do is drizzle baby spinach leaves with 2 tablespoons of sesame oil, 2 teaspoons of garlic powder and a pinch of salt then spread out flat on a baking tray and bake at 350F for about 10 minutes or until crunchy (see pictures below). This will be a big hit with kids who may not normally like vegetables. The sesame oil-garlic powder combo also works well as a dressing if you prefer to eat the baby spinach raw. This recipe also works well with kale leaves.
Baby spinach drizzled with sesame oil, garlic powder and a pinch of salt

Baby spinach drizzled with sesame oil, garlic powder and a pinch of salt

Baby spinach laid out on baking tray.  I have no

Baby spinach laid out on a baking tray. It’s important to have only one layer to avoid sogginess.  I have no “after” pictures to show you as the spinach chips were instantly devoured by my family!

  • Spirituality: This was my favorite part of the challenge as I really felt the difference in my frame of mind and outlook in life by spending time with God daily in prayer, reading the Bible and just reflecting on the blessings in my life. This week I read some excerpts from “Our Daily Bread” and I liked the quote by Winston Churchill “Failure is not fatal”  in other words, our failures do not define us. We may fall short in many ways but God will always restore us. He is our hope and our anchor. I also enjoyed reading about the story of Jesus and Peter walking on water (Matthew 14:22-33). It reminded me that even those goals, dreams, or difficult situations that seem insurmountable can be accomplished or overcome if we just believe it’s possible. I really feel transformed by these 30 days because I feel that I have forged a stronger identity in Christ. I am constantly blown away by the fact that God loves me unconditionally, no matter what! This gives me such a reassurance, a true hope, and a fiery excitement to see what the future holds!

Congratulations once again for making it to the end of this 30-day challenge. I hope you have benefited from it as much as I have. Keep going with the good habits you have developed and continue to look for new ways to challenge your body and mind to greater heights!

Image courtesy of ponsuwan at freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of ponsuwan at freedigitalphotos.net

Week 3 of the 30-Day Challenge is Done! We are almost there….

Welcome back to the 30-Day Challenge! This has been a fantastic past few weeks of focusing on consistent exercise, healthy eating and daily devotional time. If you are only just joining the challenge, it’s not too late to get on board and improve the quality of your health and mind!

Here’s a recap of the past week:

  • Fitness: Although exercise has often been something I deemed important, I have not always been consistent with it in the past, and therefore this 30-day challenge has been a great way to keep me motivated towards building good habits. So far, I have managed to exercise 30 minutes a day every day for the first 2 weeks of the challenge. My sensitive right knee then started acting up and I felt under the weather so I made the difficult decision to rest from any exercise for 3 days until I felt better. I also made sure to focus on upper body exercises and moderate paced walks outside for the rest of the week to put less strain on my knee. Injuries, sickness or pain can be frustrating when you are trying to keep to a consistent exercise regimen but it’s best to give your body rest to avoid aggravating the situation. Once you are feeling better, get right back on the saddle! Keeping things fresh is important in keeping you motivated so if you are looking for some new workouts to do, here are my favorite 3 workouts from the past 3 weeks: high intensity interval training cardio-abs workout, yoga workout, and T-25 workouts which give you an invigorating cardio workout in just 25 minutes (available through Amazon).
  • Nutrition: Eating healthily has been going well. Two of my main goals are to stick with enough healthy calories to maintain my current weight and to add more variety to my diet. Since the weeks are busy, I am picking Saturday night as the meal to try a new recipe for every week. That way, when my pre-schooler asks me “what are we eating tonight mummy?”, I can actually have something to say other than “chicken, peas and potatoes”. It’s also a good opportunity to offer something new and tantalizing to guests we have over for supper.  Another added benefit is that our brains like new challenges so even trying a new recipe is good for your brain! This weekend’s new recipe was home-made pizza. (See pictures below). The sky is the limit with this because you get to be creative with the toppings: peppers, pineapple, tuna, olives, chicken, sun-dried tomatoes…whatever takes your fancy!
  • Spiritual: My time in prayer, singing and devotional reading time has been great for clearing my mind of clutter, focusing on the blessings in my life and reminding myself of God’s grace towards me. There were a few anxious moments this week about the future but I’m just reminding myself to trust in God and not worry about things. I have been enjoying digging deep into the Bible and spending more time and thought on what I am reading. I am finding such a richness of information, guidance, comfort and inspiration. One particular verse that captured me this week was the call set forth in I Peter to use our gifts and talents: “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others”. I Peter 4:10. In a world that is getting increasingly competitive, we may sometimes wonder what we have to offer. But it’s important to remember (and I’m reminding myself of this too) that it’s not the scale of what we do but the heart behind it. Are we doing everything we can with what we’ve got? And are we sharing that gift with someone else in some way, shape or form?

We are now on to the last week of the 30-day challenge. Even though the goal was to be consistent for 30 days, I am looking forward to keeping up the healthy habits we have acquired well beyond the 30 days. Keep going! Allez-y!

Image courtesy of kromkathrog at freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of kromkathrog at freedigitalphotos.net

My hubby kneading the home-made dough

My hubby kneading the home-made dough (adding some garlic paste to the dough will give the pizza base a delicious flavor)

Hubby spreading out the dough in the baking tray (you can use any shape of tray)

Hubby spreading out the dough in the baking tray (you can use any shape of tray). Push the dough against the edges of the tray to make the pizza base more aesthetically pleasing.

Base ready for toppings after par-broiling in the oven for ~10 minutes

Pizza base ready for toppings after par-baking in the oven at 425C for ~10 minutes (this step partially cooks the pizza base before adding the toppings so you end up with a nice crunchy base at the end.)

First layer of toppings (tomato paste or sauce, mozzarella cheese, black olive, pepperoni)

First layer of toppings (tomato paste or sauce, mozzarella cheese, black olive, pepperoni)

Second layer of toppings (green peppers, mushrooms, more mozzarella cheese)

Second layer of toppings (green peppers, mushrooms, more mozzarella cheese)

Finished product (Baked for ~15 minutes at 400C then broiled on low for a few minutes until lightly browned)

Finished product (Baked for ~15 minutes at 400C then broiled on low for a few minutes until lightly browned)

Delicious!

Delicious!

Week 2 is Through! The 30-Day Challenge Towards Wholesome Living Continues…..

Welcome back everyone! Can you believe we’re already half way through the 30-day challenge? I hope you’ve been seeing the benefits of your hard work towards attaining better health physically and mentally while at the same time preserving sacred time to be intimate with God and reflect on your spiritual state of being.

It has been a great past few days and I have to say that despite a brief period of discouragement last week, this 30-day challenge has done wonders for my life overall. Just knowing that there are others doing this with me and that we are accountable to each other motivates me to prioritize exercise, healthy eating and devotional time. I have found myself feeling more patient and just ready to enjoy each day as it comes.

This weekend was our first free weekend in months and normally that would mean that I am flitting around the house looking for things to “accomplish”. But this weekend, I just slowed down the pace of my mental thought, looked out at my backyard and just gaped at the beauty of the landscape. It had been weeks since we had gardened and things were getting a little out of control with the weeds and fast growing trees. We spent a good part of the weekend outdoors, clipping trees, pulling out weeds, while the kids ran around in the yard, and it was just….beautiful. When my son was telling me something for the thirtieth time, I didn’t distractedly say “oh, really, that’s cool”, I looked him in the eyes and laughed like it was the first time he was telling it to me. It was just amazing to be so in the moment with my family and with my surroundings.

My walks in the neighborhood with the kids were more enjoyable than usual because I decided to try and engage with whoever I passed by, be it a smile, a wave or stopping to say hello. It was something so simple, yet meaningful to me, and perhaps to the other people I met too, whose lives I don’t know much about but who may have been going through a rough time and needed that smile or moment of engagement from another human being.

The 30-day challenge has been going well the past few days with me achieving my goals of consistent exercise daily (at least 30 minutes), eating healthy and spending time with God. This week in particular I was aiming to eat some new foods just to introduce some variety into my diet so I opted for some tilapia, sweet potatoes and green beans which I hadn’t eaten in a while. I have also been using a spreadsheet of foods categorized into food groups so that when I am planning my meals, I can just look at the spreadsheet to see what foods I haven’t eaten in a while and to make sure I am including foods from every food group. Exercise-wise, I am finding myself feeling fitter and can already see physical changes in my body. I am more alert and energetic. I am starting to find ways to fit in exercise in my day no matter what. If you think about it, 30 minutes a day is not that much time even with a busy schedule. If I am having a really busy day, I try to consider what ways I can make my current activity into an exercise. For example, if I am alone with the kids at home and I can’t find the opportunity for exercise, we go for a walk together or they hang out in the yard with me as I am doing the gardening (which can be surprisingly strenuous, I was aching from having my arms over my head for an hour snipping branches and moving them). So don’t feel bad if you don’t always have time to do more ‘formal’ exercise. Even folding laundry or tinkering with the car can be done with a spring in your step and some exaggerated movements just to get your heart-rate up and your blood flowing.

Time with God has been awesome and I have not been restricting myself to one particular time of day. If I cannot do it first thing in the morning, I find moments throughout the day, when I can just clear my head of all “noise” and just focus on God and his goodness. I try to think of a few things to be grateful for and that puts me in a more positive frame of mind. Sometimes, I just sing as I’m going about my day and I find the kids joining in with dance-moves. Other times, I pray as I’m pushing my daughter’s stroller around the neighborhood. I find that the more I focus on God, the less I focus on me. And that helps me not to dwell on life’s uncertainties or fears. I trust God with the smallest details. No issue is too silly or insignificant for him.

So as we enter the second half of the 30-day challenge, I encourage you to keep going. If you fell off the band-wagon at some point, don’t worry! You can get back on! And if life is going a bit too fast, slow it down a little. Take time to enjoy each day afresh. The moments we have with people are the most important and will be captured in our memories for eternity.

Slow down...and enjoy life! (I took this picture close to the Giraffe Center in Nairobi, Kenya. It makes me smile!)

Slow down…and enjoy life! (I took this picture close to the Giraffe Center in Nairobi, Kenya. It makes me smile!)

Week 2 of the 30-Day Challenge…Should I Give Up?

Today was a difficult day for the 30-Day Challenge. Both kids woke up much earlier than usual and since I had stayed up late studying for the MCAT, I didn’t get enough sleep. Coupled with a brewing cold and general grumpiness, I was in no mood to get out of bed, let alone exercise or pray. MCAT studying has proven challenging the last few weeks as I am now at the stage where I am tackling practice questions and there are some topics that I am finding difficult. I was in a “give up” frame of mind when I woke up today and I decided I needed to nip that negative attitude in the bud without delay. So with a stuffy nose, droopy eyes and yawning, I sat down at the piano and began singing.

Sitting down to sing at the piano

Sitting down to sing at the piano

One of the songs that was particularly uplifting today was the upbeat song ‘Enough’ by Chris Tomlin: “All of you is more than enough for All of me, for ev’ry thirst and ev’ry need, You satisfy me with Your love, And all I have in You is more than enough”

I then launched into prayer time where I simply laid my anxieties about the MCAT and getting into medical school at God’s feet and said, “I can’t do this alone, I know I can do all things through you who strengthens me“. I felt such a sense of peace after my prayer time and was further encouraged by my devotional reading which talked about God always being on time. “[God] never issues a call that we’re incapable of responding to, but the timing of His call always seems too soon to us. We think we need more…..more time, more money, more preparations, more qualifications, more……But the Savior is also a saver of time when it involves his purposes. He won’t waste it by calling us into His purpose prematurely or by allowing us to linger beyond the timing He knows is best.”  (From ‘Praise in the Presence of God’ by Jack Hayford). This really encouraged me as I am sometimes tempted to question whether I am prepared enough or if I can really succeed in getting into medical school. When you are pursuing something big, that takes you out of yourself, that pushes you to your limits, that gets you questioning your abilities, you have to push negative thoughts aside and focus on the goal. There will be periods of enthusiasm and periods of doubt, but always the focus should be on “I will get there…..at the right time“.

Despite my feeling under the weather the past 2 days, physically and emotionally, I very much wanted to keep up with the 30-day challenge and enjoyed doing the following two workouts:

  • Tuesday: an intermediate workout great for toning legs, glutes, core and obliques. There is also a tutorial at the beginning of each exercise so that you can get the hang of things.
  • Wednesday: a yoga workout great for core, abs and arms. I was looking for a light workout today but actually found this workout a good challenge. I recommend you only try it if you’ve had some past experience doing yoga. It was tough!

Nutrition has been going well and today I ate mostly fruits, vegetables and nuts throughout the course of the day. I thought I would have little energy without eating much in the way of carbs but I was surprisingly clear-headed as the day progressed, even with having a cold (it was only towards the end of the day that I had an energy low). This was definitely a break from my usual routine of eating lots of chicken, heavy carbs and dairy, and I think my body welcomed the change! Nuts are a great snack filled with fat and protein so will give you that energy boost you need.

So back to my question….should I give up? No, I will not give up on the 30-day challenge, I will not give up on the MCAT and I will not give up on my dream to pursue medical school! Whatever goal you are working towards, be it the 30-day challenge or something else, there will be days when you want to give up. Don’t let yourself do that! Confront your feelings, write about them, talk about them, and work through your thoughts until you are in a positive frame of mind again.

We’re almost half-way through the second week of the 30-day challenge! Keep up the great work! Onward……

Photo courtesy of arztsamui at freedigitalphotos.net

Photo courtesy of arztsamui at freedigitalphotos.net

Week One is Done! The 30-Day Challenge Continues…

My son and I have a funny routine at bedtime where we have a “sword-fight” after his bath and we end up rolling around on the bed grunting and roaring. As I walked into the room yesterday ready to get into battle mode, I was surprised to instead find my son with a huge grin on his face and his arms open wide. He then enveloped me in a long, warm bear-hug. Needless to say, I melted into a puddle of goo on the floor. My son is affectionate by nature, but moments like this never cease to amaze me. It was a lovely way to wrap up the first week of the 30-Day Challenge, a journey into wholeness… physically, emotionally and spiritually!

Here’s an update for you from the weekend:

  • Fitness: My greatest challenge with exercise is getting it done on the weekend because often we have social activities and are extra busy with the kids so it’s difficult to get that physical exercise in. Thankfully, I knew that I would be reporting to you early this week so I forced myself to make that time one way or another! Friday consisted of a nice, brisk 45 minute walk around the neighborhood with my daughter. Our walk took us through some woods in which I was hoping to stop and do some stretches and squats, but the palpable mosquito presence in the woods forced us to make a quick exit!

    My daughter and I going walkabout in the woods (before the mosquitoes descended upon us!)

    My daughter and I going ‘walkabout’ in the woods (before the mosquitoes descended upon us!)

  • Fitness: Saturday was busy with us hosting a good friend’s baby shower and so there wasn’t much time to work-out. However I am consoled by the fact that I was on my feet most of the day decorating the house, prepping food and attending to guests. Sunday was also busy with church and although I was feeling really tired, I decided that a 30-minute walk around the neighborhood was better than doing no exercise at all. If you are feeling tired or unmotivated about doing exercise, take heart! You don’t have to do a killer workout everyday. Just get on your feet in some way, shape or form, even if it’s gardening, doing housework, dancing, walking or riding somewhere instead of driving. And if you miss a day, don’t feel bad, try again the next day. You can do it! Today’s fitness consisted of a light 10 minute warm-up on the elliptical followed by a similar upper body workout as last week, including some additional wrist strengthening exercises. In addition to physical exercise, I realized the importance of having good posture. This is crucial for keeping our spines properly aligned and preventing back problems. I am quite tall (5 feet 9 inches) and so I have a tendency to slouch (I was reminded of this recently when I saw some pictures of me that a friend took). We often don’t realize the way we sit or stand, and this can have an impact on our overall well-being. So I have been making an effort to monitor my posture, particularly while sitting or standing. Here’s an interesting link I found with tips on maintaining good posture.
  • Nutrition: Friday and Monday went well for my nutritional goals but Saturday and Sunday consisted of two BBQs so it was difficult to keep track of nutritional content and to stick to healthy foods. There’s nothing wrong with eating less healthy foods now and again (they can be so delicious!) but I’m trying to avoid it becoming a habit. My goal this week is to try and eat some different foods compared to last week to introduce some variety in my diet. Let’s shake things up!
  • Spiritual: I thoroughly enjoyed having my prayer time during my walks outside with my daughter. It allowed me to put God in the context of nature and just appreciate the beauty around me. I loved those moments with my daughter where her eyes would light up when she saw a bird or a horse. Kids have a way of keeping things so fresh! I have really been enjoying reading what I call “chunks” from the Bible. In the past, I  had a habit of reading a few verses here and there but I am really enjoying reading scriptures in the form of complete chapters where I can get the full context and even imagine myself being there in that time. Despite the busy weekend, I definitely saw the difference it made to have time with God daily. It brought me to a place of reflection and to a time when I could continually unload and tell God that He is in control and all I can do is my best. It’s so comforting to know that we are not “doing” life alone. We have a Heavenly Father who is working out all the details of our lives. We only need to walk in faith and trust. “He who has begun a good work in you will complete it…” Phil 1:6.

Well done everyone for making it to the second week of the 30-Day Challenge. What exercise do you have planned for this week? Having an idea of what you will do each day will increase your chances of actually doing it. Formulate a plan for the week and try to stick to it as much as possible! You’ll hear from me again soon. Thank you for joining me on this challenge and keeping me motivated!!

Here comes Week 2 of the 30-Day Challenge…Keep going!!!

Courtesy of arztsamui @ freedigitalphotos.net

Courtesy of arztsamui @ freedigitalphotos.net

Day 4 of the 30-Day Challenge….. It’s a Wrap!

Welcome back everyone. Have you been sweating? What have you been eating? How’s that devotional time going? Hopefully you are already starting to see some benefits of consistent exercise, eating right and having some quiet moments with God daily. We are drawing close to the end of the first week of the 30-Day Challenge and it’s been great!

Here’s a quick update for you:

  • Fitness: Today I did a very invigorating ~30 minute workout, the T-25 that focuses on cardio and stretches (thank you subsaharangirl for the recommendation). I have to say that this was a lot of fun. It was reminiscent of doing a hip-hop dance routine with old-school moves from the 90’s, all while getting your heart-rate up. Loved it! I also appreciated that there was one person in the video who did a modified version of each exercise which is great for those who cannot handle the high-impact version of the exercise. I am starting to realize that my previous attempts to really be consistent with exercise were being impeded by doing the same exercise workouts over and over. I think I was just getting plain bored! But having done a different type of workout everyday this week has left me feeling full of energy and motivated to keep going! If you’re finding yourself losing steam, perhaps try a new type of exercise or change up the scenery. It’s all about keeping things fresh!
  • Nutrition: I am definitely seeing the difference in eating the right type of food and eating every few hours throughout the day. I have much more energy! All nutrition goals for the day…..met!
  • Spiritual: I was a little bit distracted during my quiet time today partly due to some things I read on the internet that frustrated me. But I decided to just pray about it and let God help me get my attitude under control. Interestingly, I found a verse towards the end of 1 Thessalonians that was very appropriate for the situation, “Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong but always try to be kind to each other, and to everyone else“. 1 Thess 5:15. I was also reminded about the importance of “putting on faith and love as a breastplate” 1 Thess 5:8. Breastplates were designed to protect the torso. In the same way, faith and love offer protection from the negativity that can fill our minds and hearts if we lose faith in people or have resentment. It’s not easy to forgive past hurts, but it surely liberates us when we do.

Day 4 of the 30-Day Challenge… It’s a Wrap! Well done everyone for getting this far! I plan to post my next update early next week so please stay tuned. In the mean time, keep going, keep exercising, keep eating right and keep feeding your spirit and soul! Onward…..

Courtesy of Vlado from freedigitalphotos.net

Courtesy of Vlado from freedigitalphotos.net

Day 3 of the 30-Day Challenge Finished!

Welcome to Day 3 of the 30-Day Challenge! It’s not too late to get on board for a journey into creating better habits for your mind and body. For those of you who are already on board, how is the challenge going? If you haven’t already done so, please pick a friend who can hold you accountable to the challenge. Challenges like these are always easier with a buddy to give you some support (thank you subsaharangirl for keeping me accountable)! Everyone, if you can just make it to the end of these 30 days, you are well on your way to forming great life-long habits!

Today’s update is short and simple:

  • Fitness: I made it to the pool after putting the kids to bed and swam 26 lengths in a 25 meter pool for about 30 minutes. I usually do breast-stroke but I’m hoping to branch out and do more freestyle (front-crawl) as this works different muscles and it gives me more of a cardio workout. Swimming is a great exercise that works many areas of your body and there’s just something uplifting and calming about gliding through the water. It is a great exercise for those of you who have sensitive knees that cannot handle high impact exercise. It is also relaxing if you are pregnant and don’t really want to be jumping up and down too much. If the pool area has an attached sauna, this could also be a good opportunity to get in some relaxing “you” time (not if you are pregnant though, the heat is not safe for that little bean). Swimming can also break the monotony of any other exercises you may have been doing during the course of the week. Shaking things up in the variety of exercises you do can help prevent boredom and burnout.
  • Nutrition: The past 2 days have allowed me to see what is working and what is not in MyFitnessPal and I think I have finally settled on the amount of calories I need to sustain my weight, workouts and breastfeeding. This comes to about 2800 calories daily. It seems like a lot but I do have to keep in mind that I have a fast metabolism and do not gain weight very easily. If you are using MyFitnessPal to keep track of your calorie intake, it may take a few days of tweaking the program to settle on what goals make sense for you. The calorie intake that the program initially suggests is just a ball park and you may have to adjust it depending on your circumstances (like I did). Based on my new settings in MyFitness Pal, all my nutrition goals were achieved for the day! My focus for next week will be to try some new foods as I tend to eat the same foods over and over.
  • Spiritual: During my devotional time, I decided to start reading the book of I Thessalonians since I tend to skip over it for some reason. The first two chapters were Paul talking very warmly and effusively about the church in Thessalonica and what struck me was how much camaraderie, self-sacrifice and support there was among them. Now of course most churches of that time (and today) had various issues simply because of being made up of people, but it reminded me that the concept of the ‘body of Christ’ is so important. We cannot ‘do’ our faith alone. Just as we need others to help us achieve our goals in life, we need others to help us in our faith, both when we are high on a mountain of blessings or deep in a valley of difficult circumstances.

Day 3 of the 30-Day challenge is finished! We are already half-way through the first week everyone. Great job! Keep going!

Courtesy of woravit.w at freedigitalphotos.net

Courtesy of woravit.w at freedigitalphotos.net

Day 2 of the 30-Day Challenge is Done!

Today was another good day for the 30-Day challenge geared towards physical and spiritual wholeness. For those of you who have joined the challenge, keep up the good work and keep at it! It will be so worth it for your overall physical, mental, emotional and spiritual state of being. Here’s how today went:

  • Fitness: Today I decided to focus on my upper body since I worked out my legs and abs yesterday and I have to admit that I am feeling quite sore today! This is often the moment when you feel you should take a break from exercise for the day but I find that one thing leads to another and before you know it, 2 or 3 days go by without any exercise being done.  In addition, I almost missed my window of opportunity to exercise today as I was studying for the MCAT and didn’t notice the time go by. I was tempted to say “well, it’s getting late now, how about we pick up on the exercise tomorrow”. But I decided that was not a good enough excuse. So I decided to stick with the challenge and do upper body strength training today. I warmed up on the elliptical machine in our basement for 10 minutes. The elliptical is a great exercise machine if you have sensitive knees like mine that can’t handle a treadmill. I do find it a bit monotonous though so I multi-tasked by studying some flashcards for the MCAT at the same time. I then did some arm stretches and did the following weight exercises using 8 to 10 pound weights for 3 sets of 10 repetitions each (which lasted about 25 minutes in total): bicep curls, overhead shoulder presses, and lateral shoulder raises. I also did tricep dips using a chair and modified push-ups (knees on floor). Today, I could only manage 2 sets of 8 reps for the push-ups. I’m sure this will get better with time and consistent workouts. In between sets, I walked briskly on the spot, did knee raises or multi-tasked and folded laundry for about 60 seconds. If you are thinking of starting weight training, it has significant benefits such as improved muscle strength and reducing the risks of osteoporosis later in life. All-in-all, a good day on the exercise front!
  • Nutrition: I decided to research the impact of natural sugars in the diet (from fruits, milk etc.) and it seems that these natural sugars are not much of an issue (within reason of course). The issue is “added sugars” like white sugar. I stopped adding sugar to my tea a few years ago and although it was difficult at first, I soon got used to it and hardly miss it now. I still like to eat chocolate and cheesecake now and again which is fine so long as it does not become a daily habit! In terms of my goals for today, I went over my calorie limit by a whopping 500 calories! I’m not sure how this happened but it could be that I am more hungry with the added exercise. So, I’m going to weigh myself at some point just to make sure I’m not gaining too much although gaining some weight would be great! Sugars were a little over the limit again because of fruits and milk but I’m not too worried about that since these contain natural sugars. So I’ve decided I need to increase my calorie goals in MyFitnessPal since I seem to be needing more calories than I thought.
  • Spiritual: Enjoyed my time with God this morning and I wanted to share a song I have come to really love singing and playing on the piano. It’s called “At the Cross” by Chris Tomlin and here are some of the words that really touch me every time I sing them: “There’s a place where mercy reigns and never dies, There’s a place where streams of grace flow deep and wide, where all the love I’ve ever found, Comes like a flood, comes flowing down. At the cross, at the cross, I surrender my life, I’m in awe of You, I’m in awe of You. Where your love ran red and my sin washed white, I owe all to you, I owe all to you….Jesus”. This song constantly reminds me of God’s unfailing grace towards me. There’s nothing I could ever do that would make God love me any less. That’s unconditional love right there. I came to understand this better once I had kids of my own. Even though parenting can be difficult at times, it also brings so much joy and although the kids may drive us nuts sometimes, we can’t help loving them. It’s an in-built, unquestionable, and unshakeable love. My devotional time concluded with finishing up the book of Philippians. I came across some verses that really encouraged me, particularly as I’m preparing to sit the MCAT and apply to medical school, and there are days when the whole process can feel overwhelming. “Do not be anxious about anything but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Phil. 4:6-7.

Day 2 of the 30-Day Challenge is done!…. I’m going to try make it to the pool tomorrow for Day 3 of the challenge! For those of you who are doing the challenge with me…..keep going! You can do it!

Courtesy of arztsamui at freedigitalphotos.net

Courtesy of arztsamui at freedigitalphotos.net

Day 1 of the 30-Day Challenge Completed!

Today was the first day of the 30-Day Challenge aimed at improving our physical and spiritual well-being and it went very well! First and foremost, thank you to all my friends and family (including my wonderful hubby) who have been enthusiastic in supporting me through this and also to those who have agreed to take on the challenge for themselves. There is strength in numbers and just knowing that someone else is working hard at this just like you can give you the motivation you need to keep going and be consistent!

Here’s how today went:

  • Fitness: I broke a serious sweat doing this cardio and abs workout for 30 minutes. This workout basically involves intervals and alternating between cardio and abs exercises. I had to do a few modifications for the sections that had high impact exercise because of my previous knee injury, however it still got my heart and breathing rate up and burned about 400 calories (I am not aiming for weight loss but I still need to keep track of calories so that I do not lose weight). I felt great afterwards! If you are just joining the challenge, you should try it!
  • Nutrition: In my preliminary use of MyFitness Pal, I calculated that I should aim for about 2200 calories of food per day to maintain my current weight (I have a hard time gaining weight). However, when I put in what I actually ate today, it came to 2600 calories! At first I thought I must have made a mistake in my calculations but now I am realizing that this is what I need if I am going to be burning 400 calories while exercising and also since I am still breastfeeding my 16 month old twice-a-day. I  decided to increase my lunch time pasta portion (since I was ravenous after the workout) and to add a snack of almonds in order to add some healthy fat. I had no idea it would end up with 400 extra calories than I originally planned but this is the reason why it’s important to track calories (at least initially) to know what’s really being ingested. I managed to steer clear of chips for the whole day. I didn’t even have the desire, probably because of the thought of being held accountable! 2600 calories seems like quite a lot, given that most nutritional labels are calculated on a 2000 calorie diet. I will monitor my weight but would not mind gaining a few pounds given that my BMI is on the lower side of normal. I also realized from monitoring my food intake in MyFitness Pal that I consume  A LOT of bread. It’s one of my favorite foods and if I had it my way, this is all I would eat in whatever shape or form. But I am realizing that variety is the spice of life and I must try to vary what I am eating a bit more. My sugar intake was over the limit today without consuming much processed food. It mostly came from fruits and milk (another favorite of mine). All other nutrients were within the ball-park of my target goals or slightly under the recommended limit so I’m happy about that!
  • Spiritual: I started off with some vibrant praise and worship at the piano followed by some prayer time. During my prayer time, I was reminded that there is nothing too small or insignificant for God. Sometimes I envision God so high on a pedestal that I wonder if I should really “bother” him with my little details. But I was reminded that he cares about us in our entirety. He is like a father who just wants to be there for us, to comfort us in everything, not just the big things. He longs to draw close to us and be intimate with us and my spirit feels rejuvenated when I feel I have made that connection with God. My devotional reading time consisted of reading from “Praise in the Presence of God” by Jack Hayford. I also love reading directly from the Bible which has so much good advice for daily living. Today I read a few chapters of Philippians and in this book, Paul’s passion for the church is so tangible. He also reminds us  to “do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but consider others better than yourselves” (Phil 2:3). It reminded me that even though we may have noble goals and dreams, it’s important to make time for those we cherish and to value the people we encounter along the way. Our goals are never more important than the people we love or the people we meet.

Day 1 of the 30-Day Challenge completed. On to Day 2…….

Courtesy of stockimages at freedigitalphotos.net

Courtesy of stockimages at freedigitalphotos.net

Introduction To The 30-Day Challenge

As part of the 30-day challenge that my fellow blogger has put me up to, I will be blogging about my progress here so that others can be encouraged and motivated to join us. The aim of the challenge is to improve our spiritual and physical well-being by engaging in consistent exercise and time with God over the next 30 days.  I figure that by writing about it here and having accountability partners, I will have no choice but to stick to this challenge! Here’s my current status (and therefore what needs improving!):
Physical Status:
Several years ago I decided to go on a ‘mass-gain’ diet because I was underweight for my height and I literally had to eat 2200 calories daily. Over the course of one summer, I happily managed to gain 25 pounds. I finally gained the weight I wanted to and pretty much continued with the same type of diet in order to maintain my weight. The downside to being naturally skinny is that I am not always consistent or rigorous with exercise. In addition, a knee injury a few years ago has left me unable to do any high impact exercise despite physiotherapy and visits to two orthopedic surgeons. So my exercise usually ends up being something like this:
  • 35-40 minutes 3 times a week (15 minutes elliptical at home, 15-20 minutes mix of either abs, legs, arms or yoga).
  • Some days, instead of the 35 minutes of exercise at home, I take a brisk 30-40 minute walk outside while pushing my daughter’s stroller.
  • One day a week, 30 minutes of swimming (confession: I haven’t been to the pool in the last three weeks because I wanted to use those evenings to study for the MCAT. Will have to figure this one out though since swimming is great for uncooperative knees like mine.)

So the exercise situation is not terrible, but it could be better and I don’t feel that I exert myself enough (I definitely don’t get to the dripping in sweat stage) partly because of fear of weight-loss and partly because of trying to avoid re-injuring my knee.

To begin the 30-day challenge, I downloaded MyFitnessPal (a program that allows you to track calorie intake, exercise goals etc.) as recommended by my fellow blogger and I just put in my profile. Very revealing!! First and foremost, the program suggested a daily calorie intake of 1700 calories for me based on my height and weight but I think this is too low based on my having had to eat over 2000 calories in the past just to maintain my weight. When I input what I normally eat into MyFitnessPal, my calorie intake came to about 2150 calories. Interestingly, most of my calories seem to come from carbs and protein. I generally eat a healthy diet but have to confess my sweet-tooth and my recent partiality to chips (time to nip that in the bud!). I am a bit low on fat intake although I didn’t take into account cooking oil plus any dressings. I will have to look into some healthy fat options. Based on MyFitnessPal, it doesn’t look like I need any protein supplements. I seem to get enough protein from my diet.

Although weight-loss is not my goal, I do need to tone around the belly following my two pregnancies, and I think no matter how skinny you are, fat seems to just love collecting around the thighs. Time to get rid of that! As part of the 30-day challenge, I’ll be ramping up my exercise to more vigorous 30-minute workouts daily! If you’re looking for ideas on what type of workouts to do, check out this blog. Here’s to hoping that all this exercise will allow us to maintain healthy, happy bodies!
Spiritual Status:

I only just recently became fairly consistent with setting aside time in the morning to play piano, sing praise and worship, pray and read my bible. But this only happens Monday to Thursday. Come the weekend, things get very busy with family and social activities but I know that’s no excuse. I have to make God my first priority. I definitely see the impact on my mood and attitudes when I skip out on my devotional time. So as part of this challenge, my time with God happens daily.

Well, tomorrow is Day 1 of the challenge. Let’s keep each other accountable!
Image courtesy of digitalart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of digitalart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net