Lose the Weight and Keep it Off

By cassandrwiley / On / In Self-Improvement

We are now almost in the middle of April, and you’re probably wondering if I ever lost those unwanted pounds.  Am I still working out and eating healthy?  Well, the answer to both of those questions is “Yes”!

My weight in December 2015: 146 lbs.

Current weight: 139 lbs.

In my last post, 10 Things I’ve Learned From 21 Days of Fasting, I mentioned that weight loss is a side effect of fasting.  However, the important factor is keeping the weight off.  I am still working out at 6:30am before going to work 2-3 times per week.  My mid-section still needs toning among other places.  My cholesterol levels are normal, and my blood pressure is under control.

Unfortunately, I am still pre-diabetic, which baffles me, after a 21-day fast. I made many dietary changes like cutting carbs and adding more protein. My doctor suggested losing 10 more pounds and cutting out sweets. I eat fruit, which has natural sugar; I am doing more research to find out which foods are the best for me. I don’t eat junk food, but something is elevating my blood sugar. Since I do have a family history of the disease, I want to take preventative measures now.  I will share more as I continue to do the research.

A co-worker told me that bitter melon works to lower blood sugar levels. I did some research and I found a supplement called GluControl from Vitamin Research Products.  I have been taking that for the past week…2 capsules twice daily. I will see if that improves my blood sugar levels.

 

10 Things I’ve Learned From 21 Days of Fasting

By cassandrwiley / On / In Health and Illnesses, Healthy Eating, Self-Improvement

As I reached the final day of fasting this past Sunday, I can reflect on the many things that I’ve learned.

  1. Getting closer to God.  This is the main reason for fasting.  It is always nice to get better acquainted with my Lord and Savior through His Word and through prayer.
  2. I don’t need caffeine.  Sure, I like the taste and smell of a cup of coffee, but I didn’t have withdrawal symptoms from not having it for 21 days.  That tells me that it’s not a necessity. Caffeine can affect you in negative ways, like rapid heartbeat or being jittery.
  3. I will cut back on steak and other meats.  My husband and I ate steak almost every week before the fast. I’m not going to totally go vegan since God said that all food is good (I Timothy 4:3-4). However, I have felt amazing these past few weeks. I want to continue to feel energetic.
  4. Diet made more of a difference for my weight loss. I didn’t fast for the purpose of losing weight…it’s just a side effect.
  5. Trivial things don’t matter.  My cell phone was lost, and I didn’t have one for 2 days. At the end of the day, it’s just a material possession.
  6. I need to cut back on social media. I use social media to promote my blog, but other than that, I’m not the type of person that lives on Facebook and always taking selfies.  You ever notice that everywhere you go, whether it’s work or the doctor’s office, people rarely talk to each other anymore? They’re either texting or on social media.  Some people text while they’re walking.  Even driving, although you can get a ticket for that!
  7. I didn’t miss eating bread.  When you’re a pre-diabetic, it is better to resist it.
  8. It felt good to teach someone a spiritual lesson.  I’m always open to talking about spiritual matters with those that will listen.  When I can write about it, it is even better.
  9. Your body needs a detox.  Every now and again, your mind and body need a detox.  See my post on Why Regular and Natural Detox is so Important For Your Body
  10. Television is used as a tool for mind control.  We didn’t watch regular television during the fast, not even the local news.  We watched documentaries and nature shows. It is a mindless distraction.

 

 

Staying Fit While Snowed In

By cassandrwiley / On / In Healthy Eating, Hobbies, Self-Improvement

My 2016 had a weird, but interesting start, but I am back on track with my fitness goals.  One of the reasons that I love my gym is that they give you “bucks” to spend just for being a member. I’ve used them for personal training sessions.  I think I will use the remaining bucks for a massage in the coming weeks.  My personal trainer recommended her massage therapist to me.

My workouts have been consistent, and I’m starting to see some changes in my weight.  I lost 2 pounds this past week. I had to revamp my eating habits since I wasn’t seeing a physical change. I’m eating smaller portions for each meal.

With more than 1 foot of snow hitting the DC Metro area, everything is pretty much shut down.  I will have to be creative with my at-home workouts.  Most likely, I will do crunches and some push ups. There was a time that I could barely do one push up.  My mid-section still needs toning.  If I can trim my waistline and burn away my “muffin top”, that will help my health tremendously.  I took a hour-long cycling class one morning a couple of weeks ago. I took one a few years ago; this one was a lot harder. Surprisingly, the next day, my muscles weren’t sore.

To recap,  I’ll see my doctor in March, so I need to stay focused so he can see the positive changes. My blood pressure readings have been excellent. My reading today was 119/74.  For information purposes, a reading below 120/80 is optimal.  Always ask your doctor if you are unsure.  My cholesterol levels were normal on my last doctor visit in September.  The goal is for the pre-diabetes to reverse.  In the meantime, I will do my best to stay warm and catch up on my writing and sleep. Maybe even read a good book!

 

How to Make Writing a Very Powerful Tool

By cassandrwiley / On / In Hobbies, Self-Improvement

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When a pen is laying on a desk or tucked away in someone’s pocket, nothing happens. However, when it is placed in a hand, it is a very powerful tool.  Go grab one and I’ll show you.

1. Writing down your goals. Writing has always been an important part of my life, even before I started blogging. My life has always been about setting goals. I remember as a teenager, I would write down my goals on paper. I would post them on my bedroom wall or keep them in a convenient place. Once I achieved a goal, I would cross it out. I would continue setting goals until I achieved them. I didn’t realize it at the time how much power was in my pen. Every goal that I wrote down on paper, I always achieved.

2. Keeping a journal. Over the past 2 years, I’ve also discovered the value of writing journal entries. In the past, I was not consistent with it. I can look back and see my struggles, those “winter seasons”, and happy moments that make me appreciate life. Words are very powerful as well. “Death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21). You can uplift someone or tear them down the same way as you can speak a self-fulfilling prophecy. For instance, if you keep saying that you’re broke-you never have money, that will be the case. Write down a plan of action to change your situation. Remember, there are people out there willing to help you and give you guidance. Prayer is always a powerful tool. “Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” (Mark 9:23)

3. Consistently writing down positive thoughts. One of my goals is to have blogging turn into a bigger opportunity. I believe that I’ll meet the RIGHT person, apply to the RIGHT position, or the RIGHT person will approach me. I’ve had a couple of freelance writing opportunities. I shared with one of my LinkedIn groups how a couple of potential clients wanted to pay me $1.40 to $2.00 for 500 words. I recall one of them telling me that it was going to be difficult to find a client that will pay $15 for a 500-word article; writers don’t get paid what they are worth. She went on to tell me that she was paid $1.50 for 500 words 10 years ago; she had bills to pay. That’s understandable; however, how much is your writing worth? Do you accept everything that someone tells you? That very same day, I was paid MORE for a 400-word article. Even still, the rate goes up with each article assignment. I didn’t settle for pennies because I know what my writing is worth. Don’t settle; have confidence in yourself and find your niche.

4. Blogging. There are many blogs that I follow that are powerful. They’re experts in their field.  They share their personal stories, or they write about issues that others may be afraid to write about. I admire those that speak the truth regardless of the situation, especially those that take a stand for Jesus.

Then the LORD answered me and said: “Write the vision And make it plain on tablets, That he may run who reads it. (‭Habakkuk‬ ‭2‬:‭2‬ NKJV)

5 “Healthy Foods” That May be Hindering Your Weight Loss

By cassandrwiley / On / In Healthy Eating

Sticking to New Year’s resolutions to get in better shape and stay healthy is difficult on its’ own – but when paired with trying to decipher what’s healthy, and what’s not? Forget it. With so many food items labeled as “health foods”, “low calorie”, or “low fat”, making healthy choices can seem overwhelming. Check out the products that typically fool us most into thinking they’re healthy, and some alternatives to set you on the right track.

  1. Granola Barsshutterstock_178189958-676x450

While some granola bars CAN be healthy, many popular granola bars are actually just a mine for sugar, calories, and high fructose corn syrup. In fact, some granola bars offer the same nutritional value as a candy bar when you compare their caloric values and ingredients. Want something satisfying and on the go? Reach for some almonds. Almonds are rich in omega fats (the good kind!) that will keep you feeling fuller, longer – without the added sugars and calories.

  1. Frozen Meals

Just because the product has words like “lean” or “healthy” in the title, doesn’t mean that it is so. In fact, despite the fact that caloric value may be below 400 calories, most of these frozen meals have more than a quarter of your daily recommended sodium intake! While frozen meals ARE convenient, packing your own meals helps to regulate what you’re taking in. Sticking with a lean protein, a veggie, and a complex carb, like brown rice or a sweet potato, will keep you satiated and help with that urge to snack mid-afternoon.

  1. Synthetic Butters/Margarines

While the jury is still out on this one, cutting calories by using synthetic butters may in fact be doing more harm than good. These synthetic oils became popular because of the myth that fats make you fat. If fats are bad, then fat free oils must be good, right? Wrong. The problem with these types of products is that many food companies hydrogenate these oils to help increase their shelf life, and keep the form in the container. This process makes the oil harder to digest, and is actually a main contributor to increased risk of cardiovascular disease. If you need to cook with oil, use healthy oils, such as coconut or olive oils, in moderation. Need something for your toast in the morning? Try almond butter for a dose of healthy fat.

  1. Wheat Bread

Speaking of toast, not all wheat breads are what they say they are. Many “wheat” breads available in stores do not contain pure, whole grains. Many also contain hydrogenated oils, artificial sweeteners, and preservatives in order to keep them fresh on the shelves longer. An important tip to consider when buying bread is to not rely on the labels. Instead, look up the nutrition facts and look for “whole grains” or “whole wheat” as one of the main ingredients.

  1. Fruit Juices

It’s made out of fruit, so it’s definitely healthy right? Not so much. Fruit juices DO contain vitamins, but the ratio of beneficial vitamins and nutrients to calories and sugars is just not worth it. In a serving of 9 ounces of grape juice, there are typically about 170 calories, 40 grams of sugar, and 42 grams of carbs. (For the record, this is more sugar and carbs then in a can of regular, non-diet soda). If you are a juice fanatic, consider juicing your own fruits and veggies at home to ensure no added ingredients. Even the “All natural” juice versions likely contain preservatives.

While making healthy choices can be difficult in a world of not so healthy foods, it is possible! Take the time to look up nutritional information of foods you are eating, rather than relying on the labels, and understand that many pre-packaged foods will have additives that do not necessarily help you to trim down, or stay healthy. Opt for whole foods prepared at home, and you are well on your way to meeting your goals.

Written by Claire Kaczmarek

Read more “5 “Healthy Foods” That May be Hindering Your Weight Loss”

Squash: Soup or Sautéed

By cassandrwiley / On / In Healthy Eating

IMG_0047Yellow squash is rich in vitamin C, riboflavin, potassium, fiber, folate, and phytonutrients. They are also high in water content. Butternut squash is also rich in fiber and carotenoids. While yellow squash is more of a summer vegetable and butternut squash a winter one, you can eat then all year long. I’ve included recipes for both types.

Butternut Squash Soup

1 butternut squash, peeled and cut into wedges

1 onion, chopped

1 tbsp. butter

4 cups chicken broth

Salt

White pepper

Nutmeg

In a large saucepan, add one chopped onion (sweet or yellow) and sauté in butter until translucent. Add chicken broth and squash. Simmer for 20 minutes. Using an immersion hand blender, mix until squash chunks are no longer visible and soup is creamy. Add salt, white pepper, and nutmeg to taste.

Sautéed Squash and Potatoes

2 yellow squash, sliced

2 white potatoes, peeled and sliced

1 onion, sliced

2 tsp. paprika

2 tsp. garlic powder

2 tsp. onion powder

1 tsp. seasoning salt

1 tsp. Cajun seasoning

Kosher salt

Pepper

Canola oil

Using a mandoline or knife, slice squash, potatoes, and onion. Add a small amount of canola oil to a heated pan. Add squash, potatoes, onion, paprika, garlic and onion powder, seasoning salt, and Cajun seasoning. Stir, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes. Cook until vegetables are tender. Add kosher salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

15 Foods that are Toddler Friendly

By cassandrwiley / On / In Healthy Eating, Parenting

IMG_0858Most toddlers are very picky eaters, but there are foods that they will ask for and will not turn away. If you mix and match with lots of variety, you can have a happy and healthy child.

  1. Clementines. They are in season right now. They are also sweet, easy to peel and eat.
  2. Tuna fish. The albacore tuna is best. It contains omega-3, which is good for brain development. Add some chopped tomato or cucumber for color.
  3. Nut butters. Whether it peanut, almond, or cashew butter, they all taste great.
  4. Sweet potatoes. They’re naturally sweet and are higher in both vitamin C and vitamin A than white potatoes. Sweet potato fries are an alternative to regular ones.
  5. Chicken. Baked chicken makes a terrific meal. Chicken nuggets and strips are finger foods. Just make sure that they are made from REAL CHICKEN free of antibiotics, not the processed stuff.
  6. Turkey. There haven’t been any reports about turkeys being given antibiotics or hormones. Add a very small amount of gravy for extra flavor.
  7. Spinach. This is a green vegetable that most kids will eat. My son loves it. To cook fresh spinach, add some olive oil and a little garlic. Since spinach is mostly water, you won’t need to add much.
  8. Green beans. They are easy for small children to eat.
  9. Bananas.  They’re high in potassium and can be added to cereal or eaten in bites.
  10. Chocolate chip cookies. My son doesn’t eat junk food, but sometimes we let him eat chocolate chips cookies. Famous Amos cookies are bit size and do not contain high fructose corn syrup.
  11. Graham crackers. Excellent for snacks. Most brands are now being made without high fructose corn syrup.
  12. Popcorn.  A healthy way to eat this is to buy the gourmet kernel popcorn, like Orville Redenbacher, and use an air popper. Add olive oil and kosher salt. I was surprised at the taste of this combination.
  13. Watermelon.  It’s not in season right now, but very tasty and refreshing. Stay away from seedless watermelon. It’s genetically altered.
  14. Apples.  Whatever kind you prefer…Gala, Red Delicious, Granny Smith… cut them into slices for snacking.
  15. Yogurt.  A simple addition to a school lunch or for breakfast. Add fresh fruit for variety.

5 Tips for Setting Goals and not New Year’s Resolutions

By cassandrwiley / On / In Self-Improvement

IMG_0045It’s a touchdown! Well, we’re getting to the middle of January. It’s the Playoffs; you see the best of the best in football. The goal is to get to the Super Bowl. Who will be the next MVP? Another activity that’s popular right now is working out. It’s crowded when you go to the gym, right?   Everybody is always talking about how they want to lose weight at the beginning of the year. Are they serious about it or is it just talk? I used to make New Year’s resolutions until I realized that when December 31 came, I had not crossed anything off of my list. When I started setting goals, the list became smaller. As you get older, your wants become crystal clear. (At least that should be one’s thinking). How do you change things this year?

  1. Be realistic. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to lose weight, find a job, or whatever it is that you’d like to accomplish. You just have to keep your situation in mind. Are you trying something new, or are you doing the same things hoping to get the same results? For instance, you may have to take the job at Walmart until something better comes along. It may not be the time to change jobs. You may need to wait a few more months. Follow up on that position that a friend referred to you. You may have to move in with a family member until your financial situation changes. Also, understand that to lose weight is a lifestyle change. Eating fast food 3 times a week and not exercising is not going to help you reach your goal.
  2. Plan carefully. These days, many things require planning. Finding a job isn’t always as simple as it looks. You may have to go on multiple interviews before you get a job offer. You may have to get more creative with blog topics. People are looking for creativity, originality, and excitement in most cases. What do you have to offer?
  3. Resolutions rarely stick. Your goal may be to lose 10 pounds or give up smoking. However, as I previously stated, those are lifestyle changes. You may go 2 weeks without smoking or try this diet that appears to work for you. Then, you stop. You go back to your old habits and “comfort foods”. You let something small upset you. There could be a number of things that can throw you off course.
  4. Avoid those things (or people) that are distractions. At some point, we all can fall into temptation. There are wolves out there waiting to prey on people. However, you can avoid certain situations. You may have to stop hanging out with that friend that encourages you indulge in alcohol and drug use. IMG_0043You may have to stop going to Dunkin’ Donuts if that is your weakness. You get the gist of the point I am making.
  5. A goal is more powerful than a resolution. You achieve a goal with directed effort. A resolution is an intention. For instance, I achieved my goal of earning a Master of Science degree in Analytical Chemistry. I researched schools, applied, and I was accepted. It was difficult, but I fulfilled my credit requirements with lots of time and study. I even had a job offer by graduation. My intention or resolution may be to work out three days per week. As they tell you, half the battle is getting to the gym. If I’m tired or something comes up, I won’t make it there.

Some of these examples may have been a little extreme, but I hope that you now know the importance of setting a goal rather than making a resolution. Life happens, but with careful planning and determination, you can reach your goals. I wish you the best in 2015!

7 Things that I Learned in 2014 that Will Make Me a Better Blogger in 2015

By cassandrwiley / On / In Hobbies, Self-Improvement

Wow! Can you believe that it’s 2015? I don’t know about you, but I thought that last year went quick. This is my first post for 2015. I learned a great deal about blogging last year so that I can present an even better blog for my readers this year. Here are some techniques that I learned:

  1. Blog posts with pictures get twice as many views. I learned this as a guest blogger and also from experienced bloggers, like Michelle Shaeffer. At first, I used my own photos; then I discovered sites like unsplash.com. It has great pictures that you can download for free.
  2. How to use social media. Once I posted on my website, that post would automatically post to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and Tumblr. This year, I may look to add Pinterest and Instagram. This was a good way to get followers. In addition, I follow other WordPress bloggers. I also have a Facebook page exclusively for my blog.
  3. Guest posting. In addition to inviting guest bloggers to post on “Have Faith and Live Well”, I did some guest posting as well. Blogger Link Up is a great resource for guest post offers and requests. It is an excellent way to network and establish relationships with fellow bloggers. Two guest bloggers wrote 2 out of 5 of my most popular posts in 2014.
  4. SEO.  Search engine optimization allows you to use tags or keywords to make your website or web page more visible.  Sarit Lotem offered a training program last month entitled “How to Optimize Your Blog/Website”. I saw results within a few days. Views to my website tripled. So far in 2015, I’ve had more views in 5 days than I had the entire month of December!
  5. Networking with other writers and bloggers is essential. I’ve met other writers and bloggers online and through local writing groups. They’ve given me so much insight that has allowed me to be a better writer.
  6. More posts mean more views. One of my top goals is to write more blog posts. I enjoy contributing to other blogs as well. It is an amazing feeling when others take the time to read your posts and give feedback, positive or negative.
  7. Criticism is not necessary a bad thing. As I mentioned, when someone gives you feedback, it means that they took the time to read your post. I didn’t receive many comments last year; however, the feedback that I did receive allowed me to be a better blogger. My writing group members always gave feedback without being too harsh.

 

IMG_0856I am excited about all of the opportunities and lessons that this year will be bringing. I look forward to each and every one.

I Appreciate You Because You’re You

By cassandrwiley / On / In Hobbies, Relationships

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I would like to thank all of you that took the time to read my blog posts this year. I had views from those living in over 30 countries. I appreciate your support, comments, and input. I would also like to thank all of the guest bloggers that contributed this year as well. I hope to see more of your work in the coming months ahead. I learned a great deal this year from stellar bloggers and writers, especially my LinkedIn groups and connections. I am also grateful to those that gave me the opportunity to contribute posts to your sites. As I continue to learn more about the blogging world, I intend to make my blog a success in 2015. I wish you the best in the new year!