Monday, October 29, 2012

Work your butt off for charity!

I came across the COOLEST, FREE iphone/android app and had to share!

It's called Charity Miles and every time you work out by walking, running, or riding your bike it donates money to a charity of your choice!!  Corporate sponsors donate 10 cents for every mile you bike and 25 cents for every mile you walk or run!

There are several charities to choose from including:
-Feeding America
-Autism Speaks
-Pencils of Promise
-Habitat for Humanity
-The Nature Conservatory
-The Global Fund
-World Food Programme
-Michael J Fox Foundation

There is also an informational part where you can learn exactly what each charity stands for and what it does!

I think this app is such a cool idea and will definitely be using it!  I've been struggling with having any motivation lately so I think this will help- knowing you're working out is helping people in need!  You can always change charities too with each workout!


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Photo Update!

Looking great in our wedding photos was my primary and mostly only motivator for working out and losing weight!  I didn't want to look back at our photos and think 'who's the elephant in the white dress' ..well, we finally got back some of our professional photos and I honestly must say I feel AMAZING looking at them!  I had to share a few :)

Now that our wedding is over and I don't have to stress about fitting in my dress and looking great, I'm going to need some different motivation!  I really don't want to gain the weight back.  I want to keep losing.  I worked too hard, for too long to just give up and not continue the progress and maintain.  Hopefully, life will be slowing down and I can finally post some awesome recipes I've tired that are great and super healthy! :)


Saturday, October 6, 2012

DIY Photo Coasters!

I was on Pinterest when I saw a diy project for pretty scrapbook paper coasters but got to thinking that it would be just as easy and probably cuter to make coasters out of photos so that's what I've done and I just had to share it!!

Each coaster costs about .50 so they're super cheap, super easy and would be a GREAT holiday gift coming up!! I know I'm making several sets for my aunts and in laws! And they're personalized so people will LOVE them!!

What You'll Need:
4x4 Tiles (I found mine at Lowe's for 16 CENTS a single tile but I ended up buying a huge box of 80 of them for only $10 because I knew I would be making so many!)
Fabric Glue
Instagram Photos (click here: How To Print Instagram Photos for another post on how to get your instagram photos printed!  They're the PERFECT size for this project, no measuring, cropping or cutting photos needed!)
Mod Podge
Sponge Brush
Acrylic Spray (Clear) (this makes the coaster water resistant so the photos don't get ruined or curled)

What To Do:

** The reason this was SO EASY is because I didn't have to cut or crop any photos to the 4x4 tile- I had my Instagram photos printed as 4x4 squares so they fit PERFECT. For information on how to do that, visit my blog post about it:  How To Print Instagram Photos.  If you chose not to do that, just take any photo and cut/crop it into a 4x4 square!

1. Mod Podge the actual tile.  This helps the photo adhere better to the tile.

2. Place the photo on the center of the tile IMMEDIATELY after the tile has been 'mod podged' so the photo adheres better.  Then, cover the photo with mod podge. 

The mod podge will dry clear, just make sure you have an even coating and that all of the photo is covered.  Again, this will help it adhere better and stay 'glued' to the tile.  I did several coats but waited for each coat to completely dry before adding another coat to make sure it didn't get all 'gloopy' on me.  

3. Apply felt to the back of the tile.  This will make sure the tile doesn't slip around on a surface or scratch it.  I used tacky glue on the felt and just stuck it to the back of the tile! I didn't specifically measure the felt, just kinda 'eyeballed' it. 

4. Last and finally, 'waterproof' the coaster by spraying it with clear, acrylic, water resistant spray.  This will make sure the coaster is water proof and keep the photo protected. I used Krylon clear, glossy spray.  Again, I did several coats of this but waited for each coat to dry before applying a new one.  

Ba-Da-Boom-Ba-Da-Bing you're done! That's it!! I told you it was super cheap and easy :)
I'm so excited to make these for Christmas for our friends and family! They're useful, personalized, cheap, and so easy! 


Saturday, September 22, 2012

DIY Personalized Mug

You're welcome for this super easy and cheap DIY project!!

Basically, buy a dollar tree ceramic mug, plate, dish etc write whatever you want on it with a Sharpie marker (I used the thin, pen-like kind) and then just bake it in the oven at 300 degrees for 40 min so it becomes permanent and doesn't wash off!! THAT'S IT!!

Boom!! Easy & Cheap!

Also, when you're writing on it with the Sharpie, if you make a mistake, the Sharpie wipes off easyyy so you can make all the mistakes you want and no one will know!

I plan on using this for pretty much every kind of gift now- wedding gift, teacher gift (with their name on the handle!), birthday gift.. the list and ideas are endless!!


Hope you think this is as awesome as I do ;)

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Crafty Memories

I'm always on Pinterest and came across a few ideas on there I was inspired by and had to share!

Make a honeymoon in our case, or a vacation memories ornament! I got the clear ornaments from Hobby Lobby! Just fill it with sand, shells, add a tag and you're done! 

Wedding memory shadow box! I purchased a 16x20 shadow box at Hobby Lobby and filled it with memories from our wedding to have hanging up and always remembered! I included our invite, save the date, rehearsal dinner invitation, ceremony program, personalized kleenex, fake petals that were thrown, a photo booth strip, my husband's boutonniere, napkin, garden, a thank you we had at the tables for our guests, and photo charms I had on my bouquet in memory of my grandparents!! 

Baby Shower gift: write quotes/inspirations on diapers for the new parents to read so those middle of the night changes are a little more pleasant :)  
Map of special vacation spot with a photo on it! This was a map of south carolina with myrtle beach visible where we took our honeymoon and a photo on our honeymoon!

I'm working on a few more craft projects and am dying to share those when I'm all finished! 


Saturday, September 15, 2012

Wedding Card Book

When it came to all of our wedding cards I just couldn't throw them away but I didn't just want to shove them somewhere out of sight or have them laying around everywhere so I decided to make a little 'book' out of all of them :)

I organized all of the cards from smallest to largest and then hole punched each card in 2 places and just tied a ribbon through them!  It didn't take as long as I thought & wasn't as hard as I thought either.

They're sitting out on my dresser for now but they all look cute together as a little book and it'll be nice to have all of our cards together in once place to possibly look back at someday!

I hope this inspires you to do something with those important cards you just can't get rid of :)


Healthy Chicken Bruschetta

I came across this recipe on Pinterest and had to try it out!  It's a healthy chicken bruschetta and it's SO SO SO easy! And husband approved!

Ingredients you'll need:
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1/2 Cup Kraft Sun-Dried Tomato dressing (divided into two 1/4 cup)
2 finely chopped tomatoes (I used tomatoes from our garden!)
1/2 Cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil or 1 tsp dried basil leaves (I used fresh basil from our garden and finely chopped it)

Put 1/4 Cup of sun dried tomato dressing in a zip lock baggie and add the chicken- turn bag over to make sure chicken is evenly coated with dressing.
Let it marinate for 10-15 minutes (or all day if you remember and have time).

In a separate bowl combine the remaining 1/4 Cup of sun dried tomato dressing, tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, and basil.
Set aside.

Place marinated chicken on uncovered part of grill for about 6-8 minutes (until fully grilled on one side).
Turn chicken over and place on aluminum foil.  (Already grilled side should be placed onto the foil)
Cover with the dressing, tomatoes, cheese and basil.  I mixed all of those ingredients together in a separate bowl before hand so they were ready to be placed on the chicken.
Grill chicken for 8-10 more minutes until fully cooked.


Seriously, it's that easy! It was quick to make and seriously so good!  I will definitely be making it more often since it's so easy and considering my picky eater of a husband liked it, I know most people will!

I served it with a side salad and fruit!


Tuesday, September 11, 2012


So many of you have been asking alll about the wedding and photos so I thought I'd share some updated ones from our wedding & honeymoon! We have to wait a while to get our professional wedding ones back but I'll be sharing those when we finally get them :)

I honestly have to say I felt absolutely beautiful on my wedding day.  I wasn't worried about whether or not I was going to look fat in photos- if my dress looked ok- if I had a double chin- if I could suck it in enough etc. etc. I felt wonderful.  We had our engagement photos done in Oct. 2011 and when our photographer saw me again on my wedding day she actually said she almost didn't recognize me because I had lost so much weight since she last saw me. :)
I was also SO worried about whether or not I'd fit into my dress.. I got my dress in Feb.  2011 and be the end of last year I couldn't fit into it. at all.  It was a sickening feeling. I put off my dress fittings because I didn't want to deal with the fact I couldn't fit into it and I didn't want to be upset and disappointed.. well, I finally went into get my dress sized in August- about 1 month before our wedding annnnnd I HAD TO HAVE MY DRESS TAKEN IN!!!! Working out at times SUCKED and it was hard and there were times I wanted to quit but having a dress that's TOO BIG and not worrying about how I looked in my photos WAS WORTH IT. 

I also realized not only do I have a wedding to look good for but we'd be on a beach for our honeymoon so I had to look good for that too.. well I wore a bikini on our honeymoon! Now, I maayyy have been jumping the gun on that one but I didn't care.  I've worked my ass off (literally) and I'm proud of the work I've done and besides, my hubby loves me no matter what so he loved my bikini bod ;)

Here's pics of us on our honeymoon:

I haven't been able to fit into that dress for a year!

I really thought after the wedding was over I wouldn't care if I was fat or not- that I would finally be able to stop working out and watching what I eat but I just can't.  I want to keep working at it.  I never want to get back to that point where I hated looking at myself, hated taking photos because I looked fat in them all, didn't want to go out because I just didn't wanna get dressed and be seen. I've worked too hard and come too far to just stop.  It's really been a life change and I love the way I feel!

I'll continue to post updates, recipes and workout tips now that I have actual free time since I'm not wedding planning :)


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Instant Instagrams

I always take pictures with my phone- I rarely have any other camera on me since it's so easy to snap a pic with my phone! & I love, love using Instagram!  It's easy to snap a pic, use a cute effect, and upload it instantly to Facebook or Twitter.  However, I've always hated that I've never really had a way to print the photos- and let me just say I've snapped some pretty cute ones of my puppy that should be printed asap!

Wellll, I recently came across an iPhone app called PostalPix.  It's a free app you can find in the app store that prints your phone photos for you.  (I have an iPhone so I'm not sure if it's available for androids or other phones.)  All you do is literally upload your Instagram or iPhone photos from your phone to PostalPix, they print them, and then mail them to you.  It's that freaking easy!

The quality pretty much matched the quality of the photo on your phone.  I had some 'fuzzy' pictures that I still wanted and they still turned out a little fuzzy.  I also had some pretty clear photos with Instagram effects and they printed just how they looked on my phone!! If the pic had a border on it, it printed with the border, also.

Here are examples of how some of the printed photos look: 

PostalPix also offers different size prints- they have 4x4, 5x5, & 8x8 square photos which are PERFECT for photos done on Instagram and regular sizes like 4x6, 5x7 & 8x10.

I paid just a little over $4 for 12 4x4 photos- that includes the shipping.  The shipping was also pretty quick- I ordered them on a Thursday night and received them on the following Tuesday!

I'm soo soo excited I found this app- now all the important photos don't get lost to just Facebook or deleted on my phone!  However, I will be searching Pinterest for ways to actually use these photos now rather than just framing them.  I was thinking of turning some of them into drink coasters as gifts!

I hope you use & love PostalPix as much as I do!


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Change the way you think!

So I've been an epic failure at keeping up here since I'M GETTING MARRIED NEXT SATURDAY!!! I do have a ton of new things I've been wanting to write about so hopefully soon I'll have time to spill it all out!

But I found this quote and thought it was so perfect for anyone wanting to or trying to lose weight.

Stop saying:
"I wish I could lose 10 pounds" 
start saying:
"I will lose 10 pounds" 

Change the way you think about your health and weight.  Stop wishing, dreaming, hoping and start doing.  Start going for walks, swimming, eating healthy.  I genuinely feel when you change the way you think about it, you start actually making progress.

Think you can do it and you will do it!!



Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Eat Yourself Skinny- Healthy Chicken Spaghetti

A lot of you have asked exactly what I eat so once I week I decided I'm going to share a recent, healthy meal I've made!

I came across a healthy chicken spaghetti recipe on Pinterest & made it for dinner a few nights ago and it was amaaziing!

Yes, I really did just Instagram a pic of my food haha!

Ingredients You Need:
2 skinless chicken breasts (I bought organic)
1/2  tsp each of dried oregano & basil
salt & pepper to taste (I didn't use any salt)
8 oz spagetti- make sure you get either high in fiber or low carb kind.  I bought Ronzoni Smart Taste brand
2 cups of grape tomatoes- I was able to get these from my garden at home!
6 garlic cloves- they need to be smashed & finely chopped
4 tsp extra virgin olive oil
4 TBSP chopped basil- I got some from my neighbors garden!
cooking spray

Season the chicken with salt, pepper, dried oregano and basil.
Heat a large skillet- when it's hot spray with the cooking spray and add the chicken.
I cooked it for about 5 minutes until it was no longer pink.
Remove the chicken & set aside.

Bring a pot of water to boil.
Once boiling, add spaghetti noodles & cook according to the directions on the package. When done, drain the pasta but save 1/2 Cup of the water you boiled the spaghetti in.

(while the pasta is boiling): add olive oil to a skillet on high heat.  Add the garlic & saute- it should be a golden brown but make sure you don't burn it.  Add the tomatoes and salt and pepper for taste and reduce the heat to medium- saute everything for about 5 min.

Once pasta is done, add the saute garlic & tomatoes to the pasta. Toss it and then add the chicken and some fresh basil!  If the pasta is too try you can add some of the water you set aside!  I added a little grated parmesan cheese on top for taste.

The whole meal was easy and super quick to cook and it tasted so good. There was also enough leftovers to eat the next day at work! Take that to everyone who has ever said you couldn't eat pasta & lose weight!

Hope you try & enjoy this recipe!

I've been 'pinning' low fat dinners, desserts, drinks, and appetizers so feel free to 'follow' me on Pinterest for more recipes: My Pinterest.  & feel free leave your email if you don't have an account yet but want an invite to Pinterest.  I can't wait to try and share all the great recipes I've came across!


Friday, July 20, 2012

DIY Personalized Envelope Liners

This might just be the EASIEST, CUTEST DIY project ever!

Photo envelope liners add the perfect, cutest, personalized touch to any envelope- I did them on our save the date envelopes but you could use them on envelopes for a child's birthday party invitation with a pic of your baby, birth announcement with a newborn photo, graduation party invitation with a pic of the grad.. you can do it for almost anything!

& they're super easy.. if I can do it, so you can you!

What you need:
printer & regular white paper
envelopes (obviously)

1:  Decide on the picture you want to use and insert it onto a word document so it can be printed on regular paper.  Make sure you enlarge your photo in the document so it will cover the inside of the envelope.  Also, make sure the photo subject will be centered or shown on the inside of the envelope.  I've found horizontal photos usually work the best.  After you have the photo enlarged on the word document, just print it out onto regular, white computer paper.
Photo enlarged on a word document

2.  Trace the envelope onto the photo. Usually, the photo will not be as long as the envelope, just make sure the photo is long enough to be 'tucked in' a little to the envelope so there is no blank space showing where your liner should be.

3.  Cut along the traced lines from the envelope 
Notice I cut off more than I actually traced- there needs to be room so the liner isn't covering the glue strip on the envelope.  I also just like my liners shorter so I don't have to glue as much of the liner down.  You may need to trim the sides also so it fits inside the envelope.
4. Glue liner to envelope 
I used Scotch (made in USA!) Scrapbooker's glue- I know it's a strong adhesive so the liner won't come unglued. I covered the entire back of the liner with the glue and simply placed inside the envelope and that's all! Make sure you leave the envelope sealer strip (whatever it's called! -that strip you have to lick to seal it!) exposed and not covered with the liner!

5. All Done! See, I told you that was the easiest DIY project ever! 

Here's some tips:
*Instead of printing out however many copies from your own printer if you have a lot of liners to make- print 1 liner on computer paper that works & go make copies at a local store or library.  It saved me time and ink!
*When you have your liner cut out after you traced the envelope on it- use that as a template and trace on the other photo copies.  This was a bit easier for me than tracing the evelope everytime. 

Hopefully you find this as easy, cool and useful as I do!

Photo Update

I'm terrible at remembering to take pictures of my progress but thought I'd share a photo taken March 21 (I had already lost 15 pounds when the first photo was taken) & one taken July 19-

I'm going to really start working on getting toned & will be posting some workouts I find effective! 
stay motivated :)

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Nom. Nom.

2 posts in 1 day! Woo! Weight Loss Wednesday!!

Several people have emailed me asking what I exactly eat every day, my meal plans etc so I thought I would share some of the healthy things I eat!

Some people have asked me what diet I'm on & I'll always respond with I'm not.. I've just changed to eating healthy and actually working out.  This whole experience- going through gaining so much weight and being in denial about it to working so hard to lose it all has honestly been a wake up call and lifestyle change for me.  Before, I had no problem eating Hardee's biscuits and gravy with pop for breakfast, a large Coke and Big Mac with fries for lunch, and pizza with beer for dinner.  Now, I grimace just typing and reading that.  I don't do 'fad' diets or the diets my friends tell me to try.. every day I eat healthy, am aware of what I'm putting into my body and I now work out.  After I've lost every pound I want to, I will continue to eat what I'm eating now and will still work out to maintain the weight I want to be.

The 1 and only thing I have 100% cut out of my diet is coffee and frap like drinks. That's it.  I haven't had a cup of coffee or cappuccino in over 6 months- which was so hard in the beginning because every day on my way to work I used to stop at a local coffee shop and order a large coffee drink.  I cut it out because it's a drink that didn't fill me up (wasted calories is what I call that when you consume something but get no 'full filling' from it), was SO fattening (the owner thought my favorite drink had about 1200 calories for a large) and it's expensive ($6-$8 a drink, every day for me).  Now, I couldn't care less to have any coffee every morning.

Occasionally I'll have a cherry coke with my dinner because let's face it- water just isn't the most exciting and tasty thing to drink all the time.  I'll grab a snack bag of chips from time to time.  I still go out to eat.  I do all of that, I've just changed the way I do it.  
If I want chocolate, I get the fun sized dark chocolate Hershey bars and have one.
If I want pop, I have one can at dinner and that's it.
If I go out to eat (maybe once a week now but before, I kid you not, it was at least probably 5 nights a week before) I ask for smaller portions, cut out mayo, no appetizers, and pick a healthier option like the baked chicken over fried, veggies for the side instead of chips etc.
I also split a dessert if I go out to eat.

Don't cut out everything *unhealthy* from your diet.  You will go insane.  I tried to at first- absolutely no pop, no candy, no chips, no ice cream etc but I was like a rabid dog pretty much foaming at the mouth, ready to attack anyone I saw eating a candy bar.  It's just crazy.  If you have a craving or really want something you cut out, eat what you want just NOT AS MUCH AS YOU WANT. I promise you won't get thunder thighs just because you decided to have one ice cream cone last month.

If you've read anything I've written before you also know I truly think 5 smaller meals a day (3 meals, 2 snacks) has helped me.  I stay full throughout the day, I have energy throughout the day and my metabolism keeps going because I'm refueling it.
So, yesterday I ate:

Breakfast 8:30 am- cup of vanilla yogurt & a peach with a cup of cold green tea.
Snack 10:30 am- 100 calorie pack of vanilla covered pretzels.
Lunch 1 pm- Lean Cuisine Cheese Pizza meal with a bottle of water.
Snack 4 pm- Nature's Valley oat granola bar
Dinner 7 pm - Broccoli with small baked chicken breast and some baby tomatoes.

*So many people ask how I can eat Lean Cuisines- well, they're pretty cheap, easy to make and can be made at work (toss in microwave) relatively healthy/low calorie and since I already had breakfast and a snack, I'm not starving so they do fill me up.

On Monday:
Breakfast 7am- Bowl of oatmeal with some blueberries with a glass of non fat organic milk
Snack 10a- serving of cottage cheese with baby tomatoes
Lunch 12p- 1 cup (half can) low sodium chicken & vegetable Progresso Soup with a bottle of water
Snack 4pm- Cup of strawberry yogurt
Dinner 6pm- Baked chicken salad- a small baked chicken breast on lettuce, garden tomatoes, carrots, asparagus and cucumbers with no dressing since it tasted good already! and a glass of tea.

I decided from now on, I'm going to start posting once a week some favorite and easy meals each week for all of you!

I did come across a DELICIOUS 'healthy' and easy to make brownie I had to share!
I purchased it at a local HyVee store and literally all you do is dump the brownie mix in a bowl, add 2/3 cup of Vanilla yogurt (or applesauce if you're lactose intolerant), mix, and bake for 30 min! Seriously! No eggs, flour, butter, milk or anything- just vanilla yogurt!  They taste freaking delicious too, especially the mint flavor to me!  One brownie is a little over 100 calories I believe but no trans fat!

What are some of your favorite healthy meals to eat or make!?

I'm going to start 'pinning' actual healthy, easy to make meals instead of the *quadruple chocolate chip fudge brownies that are more calories than you should eat all year* recipes I always fall for so feel free to follow me on Pinterest here: Amanda Byerly's Pinterest.  Don't have a Pinterest yet?  Feel free to leave your email & I can send you an invite to Pinterest :)


Smart (phone) Weight Loss

Some of you may read this post and not find it useful at all because you already knew about it or are using what I'm talking about but hopefully it helps some out there!

I just got an iPhone for the first time in April and I.Love.It!  I recently discovered a ton of apps to help aid in weight loss & have a personal favorite one I wanted to share!

It's called Lose It! (the icon is an orange scale) and it's the most useful app I have. And it's free!

In a nutshell, the app calculates the calories you eat per day, the exercise you do per day and helps track your weight loss.

You start Lose It! With your information of what you weigh now and your goal weight- it calculates a Daily Calorie Budget for you based on your information:

You then can enter the food you eat every day for every meal.  I love Lose It! Because it has stores, name brands, recipes, restaurants, etc already programed that you can find your exact meal in to get an exact calorie count or you can add your own recipe for an estimated calorie count: 

You can add every meal, snack, or drink you consume throughout the day to keep track of your calorie count.  Notice on the top bar as well how it keeps track of your calorie budget, calories consumed and calories lost from exercise: 

Lose It! also tracks the exercise/activities you do.  You can select from the exercises they have listed (which there is a ton of activities listed like bowling, carpentry, darts, martial arts, etc) and customize the length and intensity of the work out or activity or you can create your own if you don't see it listed for an estimated account of how many calories burned.

You can also enter your weight each week or month and Lose It! will track your progress! I love seeing how that line has gone down and how it's over halfway to my goal weight!

I've said before I'm a huge fan of diet journals and Lose It! is a convenient diet journal I'll always have with me.  Keeping track of what I eat helps me really pay attention to what I'm putting into my body, how much of it and when.  It's really helped me stop that random, unnecessary snacking on junk food because I'm so much more aware of what and how much I'm eating.

However, I'm not too big on calorie counting- it's just not *that* necessary for me.  I really try to use common sense: obviously eating the cup of yogurt and fruit for breakfast is better than that triple bacon and egg sandwich.  No matter how many calories each has but it's nice Lose It! tracks everything for me so I don't have to calorie count or keep track on my own.

I've found a few other apps I thought I would mention but Lose It! has been my favorite and I use it every single day!

Diet Point is another app that gives users recipes and shopping lists for diet and cleanses.  I checked it out after a friend gave it to me and I'm sure some of the cleanses might work for people beginning to lose weight to get started but I'm changing my whole lifestyle to eating right and losing weight so a diet wasn't what I was wanting or needing.  If you do find a diet on there that works for you (they have tons and information about all of them as well as the weight you can expect to lose on the diet to help you find the right one of you) they also have a shopping list to go along with that diet so you know exactly what you need for it.

My Fitness Pal is another app nearly the same as Lose It! that you can check out- I just found Lose It! to be super user friendly and I love the huge selection of food and workouts to chose from but My Fitness Pal is so similar.

Hopefully some of you can check out the Lose It! app and find it to be as useful for yourself as I've found it to be!


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Busy Losing Weight.

New Tips & Tricks on making weight loss easier & more enjoyable!

I apologize for my absence on posting updates & tips!  Big, big life changes have been happening and I've been quite the busy bride!

In April my fiance was offered a great job with BNSF railroad but it required him to move 16 hours away to North Dakota so I've been adjusting to that!  Finishing up our wedding planning with him 16 hours away isn't ideal but we're doing the best we can!

But now that I finally have a little down time I wanted to post allll about the progress I've made as well as a few new tips!

Now, I started my blog hoping I would maybe help a few people get motivated, stay inspired etc but WOW the amount of emails, messages and posts I've received have been so encouraging and inspiration TO ME!  I never thought I could reach out to as many people that I have.  It literally brought tears to my eyes.  The best feeling is knowing there are so many people in the same boat as you and when the waves start rocking that boat and things seems tough it's great to have people push you and rescue you and get you motivated and inspired again.  So THANK YOU to everyone who have shared similar stories and for all the kind words of encouragement!  I started my weight loss journey March 1 & am still going strong!

I wanted to first talk about my current motivators:
1. My wedding.  It is the biggest motivation I've ever had.  If you want to lose weight set a wedding date and get a dress.  Nothing will make you want to work hard and start eating healthy like knowing you have a beautiful dress you want to look your best in.  Seriously! Once it hit me I was getting married soon I went into overdrive trying to shed the pounds.  My one and only regret this whole journey is that I didn't start trying to get healthy sooner.  I should have started this years ago instead of just 6 months before my wedding but I just didn't have the motivation!

2. When I can finally see my fiance... Being 16 hours away we don't see each other much. at all.  Maybe 2 weekends a month if we're lucky.  The last time I saw him was July 1 and I won't see him again until July 26.  That time in between is a great motivator.  When he sees me after 3 weeks I want him to notice a difference! It can be hard to see a difference in a person when you're with them often but working out and eating right for the 3 weeks we're apart should be enough for him to notice some changes!  

3. Boudoir photos.  As  a wedding gift to my fiance I'm getting tasteful photos of myself done.  MOTIVATOR!! A year ago I would never, never, everrrr get photos of myself done. Absolutely not. NO.  But now that I've lost some weight and am feeling better about myself, hell yes I'm going to flaunt what I got!  It's pretty motivating knowing I'm getting photos done so I've been swimming my butt off! I know I want to lose even more weight so I probably will look back at the photos thinking I look heavy in them but you know what, I feel great right now, my fiance loves (always has loved) the way I look and I'm going to celebrate my body and the hard work I've done!  Side note: you should check out  Jennifer Lee Photographee.  She's doing my photos and she's insanely talented so I know they'll be beautiful & classic.

What are your motivators?  How do you stay motivated?!

Well.. I have some tips for that!

I've always said make your goals visible.  They won't slip to the back of your mind, you won't go for that oreo double chocolate cheesecake fudge dessert, and seeing them should make you want to work out, go for a walk, swim, etc.

Along with making your goals visible.. make your weight loss visible.  What do I mean by this?  Make it known and show that you've lost weight! Acknowledge what you've done and how far you've come!  Here's what I did:  I listed my weight from my heaviest to my goal.  I have two goals- a goal on my wedding day and a goal overall that I probably won't reach until a few months after my wedding.  Well, every pound I lose, I mark off that weight!! It's so great seeing all those numbers crossed off knowing what I'm doing is working and paying off!! I only weigh myself once a month- (the beginning of every month) so it's SUPER exciting to go to my chart and cross off 7 or 10 pounds!  This also works if you weight yourself weekly- crossing off 1, 2 or 3 pounds still shows you're working hard but that it's working!! I hang this on my fridge next to my reward chart just as a reminder of how far I've come but also how far I have to go.
Some people have asked why I have the charts visible... isn't it embarrassing you were that fat asked one of my friends.  And you know what I say?  I say I'm not embarrassed.  I'm embarrassed I never did anything but I'm more proud I took action, changed my lifestyle and have worked hard to lose weight.  That is nothing to be embarrassed about.  Please, please don't ever be embarrassed or ashamed of your size or weight.  If you're exercising and eating right to lose weight you should be most proud you've done something to make yourself healthy.    

Another quirky little thing I do to make my goal visible is:
literally write it on my hand.  I've said before I swim as the biggest form of exercise and sometimes I just want to quit.  I'm tired, just want to go home, eat pizza and watch Real Housewives instead of being in the pool. But I look down at my hand.. see the reminder I want to be a skinny, beautiful, healthy bride and I get my second wind.  Try it!

Another tip: ride your bike or walk anywhere you can.  I've been riding my bike to work.  Which, let me say my work is about 8 miles away from my house.  Not 8 nice, even miles.  8 hilly miles.  I leave an hour before I have to be at work and don't get home until an hour after I'm off.  It's hard. I get sweaty. My legs ache.  But I always feel so damn good.  I'm a nanny so my bosses don't care if I wear tennis shoes and athletic clothes to work so this happens to work out for me.  I ride my bike to Target, the post office, almost anywhere.  It adds exercise to my day and obviously saves me $$ on gas so its a win win!  I know it's not practical for everybody but it's worked great for me!

2 months ago I bought a size 8 dress that didn't fit.  I couldn't get it over my head because I thought I'd hulk through it and rip it.  But I bought it because I obviously couldn't live without it and knew someday I'd be able to wear it.  That day was yesterday! I tried it on again just out of curiosity to see if I could fit in it yet and it fit soooo perfectly!!!! I took a picture of the size 8 tag & sent it to a few friends because I was so excited! Buy something a little too small.  Hang it where you can see it.  In a month or 2 try it on and I bet it'll fit if you're working out.  It's a huge uplifting moment when it fits.  You realize what you've been doing is working and you don't want to stop working until you've reached your ultimate goal!

My other tip:  Don't.Stop.  I've lost over 40 pounds so I'm about 170 pounds which compared to 215 pounds, my biggest, is phenomenal.  But it's not the 135 goal weight I have.  Yes, I feel great but I keep in mind I have more to go.  If you have a goal weight of -30 pounds, losing 10, 15, 20 pounds is going to feel so so good but don't stop.  Keep going until you reach that ultimate goal and you will never feel better!! I think it's easy to forget our end goal when we start feeling so good after just a few pounds lost.  Don't stop because you've lost some, keep going!! Hopefully that makes sense!

One more thing I wanted to touch on:
My overall health.  Obviously when you are overweight, weight loss is going to help you feel better but there's really more to it.  Losing weight and being healthy helps your entire health in general.  I go to the dr. once a month just for blood work and to make sure everything is going well.  Well.. I happened to notice my Blood Pressure when I was at my heaviest and my blood pressure now.. yeah there's a difference!
March 1: my blood pressure was 130/80
June 1: my blood pressure was   122/74

According to my Dr. 130 was getting to the 'higher normal' range and the 120s are the optimal range so even in my physical health I've seen how my weight loss has helped.  PS- I'm not a dr, dietician etc.  I'm simply a girl working hard to lose weight and change to eating habits and lifestyle to a healthier way.

Here are a few before/after (during) photos:

I was my heaviest in the summer/fall 2011:  My face was FULL- puffy cheecks & double chin, I looked like I was 6 months pregnant too:
My face, my arms, my stomach, my legs.. everything just ballooned on me which you can see above.  I was wearing a Large shirt and size 14 shorts 
That T shirt I'm wearing is a size Medium and was wayyy too tight.  Now Med are getting to be a little big :) 
These are more recent photos taken on the 4th of July! ::
Everything is smaller about me & I can really tell a difference! my face isn't as puffy, my gut isn't out as much and those are size 8 shorts :) PS that cute puppy is my new English Bulldog, Artie! (my early wedding gift!) 
At my heaviest I never wanted to take photos. I felt disgusting but I already feel so much better about myself.  I've noticed the biggest difference in my face with my cheeks not being so puppy and my double chin basically gone :)  Also- I AM wearing a shirt, just a tube top :) Which I would have never fully exposed my arms before! 

I sincerely hope my tips and story help at least just one person out there either get motivated or stay motivated.  I'm already working on a blog post about how to use your smart phone to aid in weight loss!

I'll keep you updated :)


Friday, April 13, 2012

Before & After Pictures {3 weeks}!

I've promised updates and before and afters so here ya go!

The before picture was taken March 21- (I had started my diet and working out on March 1 so the before picture was actually taken after I had already lost 15 pounds!)
I didn't think to take any pics on March 1 :(
The 'after picture' was taken April 13!

It may not look like a significant before & after but considering the photos are only 3 weeks apart I'm pretty damn proud of myself :)

If you haven't already, you can read how I've been losing weight here.

I also wanted to list a few things I've found to be much easier with a few pounds shed:

Tanning. (yes, I already know the dangers of tanning) but Oh My Lanta! Laying in a tanning bed is so much easier with you have less weight and more room! I don't feel as squished as I used to.

My engagement ring is comfortable!  Before my fingers looked like cocktail weenies and now I've even noticed my fingers slimming down & my ring is so much more comfortable.  It was so tight before I thought I might literally have to have it cut off, now with just a little pushing it comes right off and on!

The obvious of feeling comfortable in clothes.  When I tried on a medium dress and it fit like a glove I thought I was going to cry tears of excitement!  I've been a borderline size 14 for the past few months so getting into those size 10 jeans and a medium top just sent me over the top!  It's really moments like those when your motivation kicks back in and you can really tell results.  I've always said- it's not the numbers on the scale that matter, it's how you feel.  If you feel great after losing 'only' 10 pounds or so then good for you! Keep rockin' on!  There was also this super cute coat I bought in November.  I couldn't fit into at the time (nowhere close to fitting in it, actually) but it was so cute I couldn't not have it, so I bought it.  Well, I tried that coat on a week ago and it fit perfect.  *SQUEAL* It made my month, really.  The best motivation is when you see results for yourself.

Now, I may have gotten a little overzealous but I bought a bikini top.  Not to wear now, oh hell no, but as a little more motivation.  It's hanging outside of my closet so I see it everyday and when I think I'm too tired to work out or don't have enough time, catching a glimpse of that bikini boosts my motivation and drive just enough to make me want to work out.

We had our engagement photos done in October and while the photographer was AMAZING I was so unhappy with how fat and bloated I looked.  I was still in so much denial at how much I had gained I hated the photos and only noticed my double chin, thick legs, fat arms, etc.  Since I'm feeling so much more confident about the way I looked we had another session of photos done and I am so anxious to see how those turned out, but I felt great while taking them so I'm sure they're noting but great.

I'm about half way to my goal weight so I am so excited for in a few months when I'm REALLY getting into shape.  After I lose the amount of weight I want I'll start focusing on really getting 'toned' so we'll have to see how that goes ;)

If you feel like you need or want to lose weight, just start.  Start somewhere.  Start taking small walks and build up to long ones, go for a bike ride, go paddle-boating, rollerblading. SOMETHING.  I can admit the only reason I didn't start working out before March 1 was because I was afraid.  I was afraid if I did start working out I wouldn't lose any weight, that it would be a waste of time and I would just be more upset. Well, I started and I couldn't be more happier.  I know I have a ways to go before I reach my goal weight but even the weight I've lost has boosted my confidence, self esteem, and just overall happiness. It sucks that weight gain can have such a hold on a person's emotions and esteem but the fact is that it does.  If you're not happy with how you look, it can will put you into crappy moods and feelings.  When you feel like you look good, you feel good overall.

As always, I hope this post has helped motivate some of you, get some of you started and has helped you see that your work WILL PAY OFF.

Monday, April 2, 2012

I Do.. Traditions?

(photo by Byerly Photography (me!)

I titled my entire blog "Bits & Pieces" because that's what I imagined it would be filled with: bits and pieces of advice, motivation, photos, stories, etc.  So here's a bit of advice from me, a bride, in regards to 'wedding tradition' that might help other brides out there.  

I've had my wedding planned since about 2 days before I was born so planning everything has been fairly easy because I knew exactly what I (we?) wanted.  I never realized I would have as traditional of a wedding that we currently have planned.  I don't consider myself much of a religious person but it was so important to have our ceremony in a church. I also never dreamed of seeing each other before actual wedding ceremony.. until I started making a timeline of the day and entertaining the thought for organization and time saving purposes.  I gave myself a cold sore from stressing about seeing each other before the ceremony or not.  
Well, I can't believe Im saying it but:  
We're Breaking Tradition And Seeing Each Other Before The Ceremony! :D 

I'm sure this is something a lot of brides consider over and over and probably stress about making that decision. So I thought I would lend my advice and the reasonings as to why we made the decision we did to hopefully help other brides out there.  I'm surprisingly at peace with our decision and already know it's the right choice for us.  I know it's not the right choice or even thought for a lot of couples but if you're considering it and can't decide here's what I think:

I was originally worried our ceremony wouldn't be the same if he didn't have some sweet, romantic reaction when I waked in, but I now really think his reaction to seeing me is such a personal, private moment that should be shared between the two of us.  In a way for me, kind of like the birth of a child- such a beautiful, unique moment that will only happen one time it should be shared between the parents. Hopefully that makes sense to you like it made sense and helped me.  

What's the only important part of the ceremony? To me, The Vows. Period. I could show up wearing jeans and a Helly Kitty Tshirt and it wouldn't matter as long as the vows were read.  I mean, it would kind of matter because I have a beautiful wedding dress I want to wear, but you get my point ;) Realizing that the ceremony should be about your commitment and your future together and a promise to never give up on your love is what made the decision for me.  It's not about the way he looks at me or if he's already seen me because I know him already seeing me is not taking away from the importance of the ceremony.  I wish I would have realized this sooner because it's absolutely what sealed the decision for me.  I know I'll never look back on our wedding and think 'damn, our ceremony was ruined because he saw me before it.' or 'damn, there was nothing special about the ceremony since he had already seen me.'  C'mon now.

The only reason I began to even entertained the thought of seeing each other before the ceremony was because of how much I thought it would help the day stay organized and efficient on time.  I'm positive it absolutely will.  Seeing each other before the ceremony will allow us to get our photos done early, which I think our photos will turn out even better than if we do them after because we'll be more relaxed and not rushed to get to the reception. We also plan to stop at our reception site together before the ceremony so we can see it all decked out before the guests are there and 'ruin' the linens and decor. 

Another point that really helped me decide: the entire day we will be surrounded by family and friends (which is fantastic!) but it's our wedding day and we should have some time during the day to just the two of us.  Everybody will be watching our vows, our first kiss as Mr & Mrs, our first dance, etc. that it was so important to have a few moments together, alone. And yes, even without our photographer in our face for just a bit.  

I went from 'oh hell no would I break tradition and see each other before the ceremony' to 'ohh our day is going to be so much more relaxed knowing we'll see each other beforehand.' and the points I listed above completely set my decision and helped me feel so relaxed knowing we're doing the right thing.  If you're a bride having a hard time deciding, I hope this helped you <3 

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Oh the places you'll go in CHICAGO!

I'm in the mood to write and with an exciting trip planned to Chicago (Cubbies home opener!) later this week I thought I would share a few fun things to do around the city!

My fiance and I have been so lucky to have shared so many awesome experiences in Chicago and sometimes feel like we've done everything there is to do and search for something new and exciting!

DIE.HARD.CUBS.FAN. and SO proud of it! Don't hate on 1908! One of the best things we've done in Chicago involves The Cubs and sports in General!

Obviously, going to the game itself is an exciting experience.  We've been to about 15 games together in the 6 years we've been dating and every single time we've sat in The Bleachers. Yes, they're so important they get capitalized :).  Whyy The Bleachers?  Well, first off you can get tickets pretty cheap from StubHub.  We've found that the closer it is to the game, the cheaper the tickets on the site.  It's other people trying to sell their tickets so as it gets closer, they just want to get rid of their ticket rather than make a giant profit. We once scored Cub/Cardinal tickets from StubHub for $15 a person for Bleacher seats!  Another great thing about the beloved Bleachers is that the seating is first come first serve.  NO ASSIGNED SEATS AT ALL!!  We've always sat in the first 5 rows!  You simply get in line about 30-45 minutes before The Bleachers open (1 hour before the game) and then once you're in the stadium you pick where you want to sit! You can even decide if you want Left, Center or Right outfield!
I will say, most people who sit in The Bleachers are adults so I definitely don't recommend it for family seating.  Unless you like your children being exposed to drunk Bleacher Bums :)

Another must is a Wrigley Field Tour! 
For $25 a ticket we got to experience Wrigley Field in an unimaginable way.. we learned the history of the field while visiting the locker rooms (can I say Zambrano had a photo of Megan Fox in his locker?!) dugouts, broadcasting booths, Bleachers, and even got to STEP.FOOT.ON.THE.FIELD! It's really a must for any sports fan!
just hanging out on the field & in the dugout!

We've also seen The Bulls and Blackhawks at The United Center, The Sox vs Cubs at US Cellular Field and The Bears vs Vikings at Soldier Field.  We've also bought tickets to all these events from StubHub

If you are a sports lover be sure to check for charity events sponsored by pro sports teams or players.  We came across a Chicago Cub charity event and purchased tickets for $100 a piece to attend with all proceeds going to a Cubs charity.  At the event we had dinner, received autographs and were able to meet and get photos with Cubs players!  There was also a silent auction and autograph balls for purchase with proceeds again, going to charity.  We got to meet players, get autographs and pictures all while donating to charity!! Win-Win! 

Me with Derek Lee! I think he winked at me with both eyes.. or maybe that was just a blink but still! And my fiance and I with the legendary Ernie Banks the a ball he autographed! 

Another SUPER FUN thing we've experienced is a Segway Tour! 

You will feel like the when zipping around on a Segway wearing those super cool helmets but it is so worth it! I can't remember how much it was but it couldn't have been too terribly expensive and whatever the cost, it was so fun! We glided (because that's what it feels like) by Lake Michigan and around Grant Park.  It was a little tricky at first learning how to ride on one but the instructors were super helpful and once you got used to it, it was fairly easy.  One of my more favorite things we've done! 

Museums! I wouldn't normally visit museums but since we were looking for new things to do we decided to visit the museums in Chicago.  We've been to the Field Museum, Science and Natural History Museum, Art History Museum and the Shedd Aquarium.  As far as I know, we only have the Planetarium left to visit! 
All had cool exhibits but we both like learning and seeing new things so deciding on which museum to visit depends on your personality :) The photo above is when we saw Sue the T-Rex at The Field Museum which was very cool! 

Dinner Cruise!
Ohh la la! Every once in a while it's nice to get all gussied up and enjoy a fancy, romantic night out so we treated ourselves to a wonderful dinner cruise aboard the Mystic Blue Cruise liner. We were entertained with a live band, a full dinner and dessert buffet, dancing and a firework show from Navy Pier while cruising on Lake Michigan for 3 hours.  I believe the price was a little over $100/person but since it was a treat and not a usual event it was worth it and a great memory! 

Dining. We have a rule that anytime we go anywhere for vacation or a weekend trip we do not eat at any place we could at home and boy oh boy does Chicago have some amazing restaurants!! My top two favorites are:  Pizano's and Gino's East.  Both are pizza/Italian restaurants and oh so good! I'm a sucker for Chicago style pizza so I can't leave the city without having some!  The Signature Room at the John Hancock Building is also a fabulous place to dine.  It's located on the 95th floor and has breath taking views of the city and delicious food.  We ate there for dinner which was 'fancy' dress code as I call it.  I wore a dress, the fiance wore a suit.  Our dinner was over $200 which we had planned for and expected after looking over the online menu.  We also ate there for a weekend brunch which was a normal business casual dress and much more affordable.  We ate the brunch buffet and the bill was about $30 for the two of us.  I actually liked the food from the brunch better but the dinner was a cool experience.  I don't think we'll ever have a dinner that fancy again :) 

View of the city from our brunch at The Signature Room! 

Other places we've eaten and enjoyed are: Ed Debevick's, House of Blues, Giordanos, Billy Goat Tavern, Harry Carey's Steak House, and Al's #1 Italian Beef.  

Chicago Chocolate Walking Tour! Nearly 3 hours of walking around Chicago taste testing chocolate from the finest bakeries and chocolatiers. Need I say more?  I scored the tickets off of Groupon for $40!  If you love chocolate then your life isn't complete until you experience this!

Annual Chicago Auto Show! I don't know a dang thing about cars other than some of them are so pretty and I like the way they look.  That's about it.  My fiance likes the Auto Show to see all the new cars and everything they come loaded with, I like just looking at the pretty cars!  There are so many cars and so many people it's almost overwhelming but it's pretty cheap (less than $15 a person- but I can't remember the exact price) that it makes a great day experience.  

Ice Skating & Carriage Rides<3.  Is there a more romantic combination?! The answer is no, there's not! Each winter Millennium Park transforms into a public ice skating rink! I had never ice skated in my life but it actually wasn't too bad! It does cost, but for the fun experience it was worth it and it wasn't very expensive that I can remember.  There are also horse and carriages rides available during certain days and times! Ice skating and then a carriage ride in downtown Chicago?! I think that's what makes movies.  

My fiance and I both love the city of Chicago and have scoped out so many fun things to do that hopefully you'll be able to experience some fun things as well!  Feel free to share the fun experiences you've had in Chicago!