>Why I love the Grand Canyon, a photoblog.

>I think it’s obvious by my background for the blog that I love the Grand Canyon. I’ve written a little about Arizona before, and rehashed details from our trip last June, but I don’t think I posted pictures. I wish I had all my pictures from my 1995 trip scanned in.. I was a wee little lass back then. 🙂

1) The sight of the Grand Canyon takes your breath away. Seriously. Driving around the park in my in-laws’ rented convertible was pretty sweet, but all my thoughts were on the unfathomable expanse of the canyon when I saw it. Oh, and that guy takes my breath away, too.

2) There are fun things to do, like hiking. We did a hike on the South Kaibab Trail that was 5km from start to finish and had us descend about 1,100 feet.

We made it to Cedar Ridge and then went back up. There were no cedars, in case you were wondering.

There were signs posted everywhere to not hike to the river and back in one day. So, don’t. You could DIE. And for goodness’ sakes, don’t ride a bike in the canyon. I mean, really. No wheelies!

The flat portions of the trail were few and far between. And lookie there, it’s that one guy again. 😉 (That would be the ever-handsome and chivalrous husband.)

We saw amazing formations like this. There is a certain type of evergreen that grows only at this elevation (~7,000ft).

Yes, so this is the view down from the top I believe.

And we also got to see formations like this. It’s amazing that even after you’ve descended 500 or 1000 feet, there is still so much more.. well.. canyon. It’s never-ending.

This, my friends, is what they call a “saddle”, and for good reason. It wasn’t nearly as scary as it looks here.

3) There are amazing sunsets. What is better than sharing an evening kiss with your love at sunset at the Grand Canyon??

4) The drive to and from is beautiful.. it’s amazing how many different climates there are in Arizona.

I think this was Humphreys Peak, north of Flagstaff. I remember making this same drive when I was only 10.

We were sold on doing a week-long hiking/camping expedition at some point. It would be amazing.

>My philosophy on nutrition (and a little about exercise)

>A friend asked about what I’ve done to get healthy, and this is part of a message I sent her. Thought I’d post it on here in case anyone needed/wanted some advice or encouragement!

1. I LOVE sparkpeople.com. It’s free and has everything you’d need to know about weight loss. It even has a whole database of recipes! You can track calories in and calories out, and it’ll set up a range of calories based on your calories burned per week. AMAZING. (I’m ElisaMLW on there if you end up joining. 🙂

2. Buy a tape measure (~$2). While the scale shows a very important number, it’s important also to see that your measurements are changing.

3. Buy a big reusable water bottle ($5-10) and drink drink drink! I learned my lesson the hard way just this last week about being dehydrated. Your body needs lots of water, and even more when you’re working out. It also helps you feel full. I also like the G2 Gatorade packets or sugar-free flavor packets. Regular Gatorade or Powerade has too much sugar to just drink.. it’s really made for when you’re working out really really hard.

4. Start working out by easing your way into it. Mentally it’s easier this way than jumping right in, and you’re less prone to have injuries. Educate yourself about proper form when you’re lifting weights or walking.. and there are TONS of video podcasts on iTunes for free you can download to do at home. Since the weather is getting nicer, you really don’t have to spend money on a gym membership.

I’ve worked out at all times of day. I personally don’t see that any time is better.. the important thing is that you do it. Make it time for YOU. Write it into your calendar if you have to!

5. Don’t deny yourself your favorite foods, but enjoy them in moderation. I adore ice cream and only keep a little bit in the house at a time, otherwise I’ll binge and eat the whole thing! Never have I cut anything out of my diet, especially not carbs. Carbs are essential for fuel when you’re working out. Just be smart about it. A donut is not going to offer you anything but a guilt trip later while a whole-wheat bagel with peanut butter will fill you up and still taste sweet.

6. Healthier foods can be more expensive, but if you don’t buy junk like chips, soda, ice cream, cookies, etc and don’t eat out all the time, it can be the same price as “regular” shopping. I try as much as I can to shop around the perimeter of the store, as those foods are the freshest. I do meander into the ice cream aisle though… 😉

7. Don’t be afraid to eat out! But be prepared. Check out the restaurant’s website for nutritional information. I’ve been the annoying person to ask for dressing on the side and steamed veggies (NOT dripping in grease or butter!) instead of French fries. Who cares what anyone else thinks? You’re the one who will be proud that you’re making good choices for yourself!

8. Get prepared for the week ahead. I spend a few hours on the weekends cooking things in bulk. I grew up in a family of five so honestly I don’t really know how to cook for only one person! I cut up things like celery, cucumber and peppers and put it into baggies. I also like to buy lots of berries (they have TONS of antioxidants and natural fiber), mix them up with some lemon juice, and eat on them all week. I always keep bananas and apples out in the open for a snack for the road.

9. Use a smaller plate, and sit down when you eat a meal. I’m not sure what your daily life is like, but make time (especially in the morning!!) to sit down and eat. You’ll eat less, you’ll be more mindful of what you’re putting in your mouth, and you’ll probably make better choices with a little extra time.

10. Here are some things I make in bulk for my lunches: spaghetti w/ whole wheat noodles, taco meat with black beans and lean ground beef/ground turkey, chili!, vegetable stew or soup, Southwest Chicken Stew (on sparkrecipes.com), lasagna with whole wheat noodles and lowfat Ricotta cheese, enchiladas!

Here are some snacks I take to work with me and have at home for when the munchies hit: almonds, prunes (my husband thinks they’re gross but I like them, lol), popcorn (Kettle corn has a little sweetness to curve my craving!), hot chocolate, dried berries (careful to look at the label and see how much sugar is in it), oatmeal, apple slices, banana smoothie with protein powder and skim milk, tangerines, applesauce (you can buy natural applesauce without a bunch of added sugar), lowfat cottage cheese, yogurts (Greek yogurt has twice as much protein as regular yogurt).

Here is a sample day of eating in my life:

WATER, WATER, WATER!!!
Breakfast – high-fiber oatmeal, three strips of pre-cooked bacon or a hard-boiled egg, one cup berries (and coffee of course!)
Snack – three individually wrapped prunes and a handful of almonds (I am seriously hungry ALL THE TIME and this really helps!)
Lunch – taco meat with black beans and seasoning, cheddar cheese, taco sauce with a couple handfuls of tortilla chips (whole grain if possible); celery sticks with a little peanut butter; apple or banana; a couple Hershey kisses or something sweet!
Snack on the way to the gym after work – banana or protein bar (be careful of these though.. some really pack in the calories!)
Dinner – grilled tilapia fillet (you can find these in a bag.. so easy to cook!) with lemon juice, pepper, and a little butter; side of FRESH steamed green beans, maybe throw in some peas or broccoli; berries or pineapple from a can I’ve had in my cabinet for forever!
Dessert – when I was first losing weight, I’d buy the lowfat Blue Bunny personal size. You can also get Skinny Cow brand, or fudge sicles. I also LOVE Edy’s fruit bars. The great thing about those is that if you eat two, or accidentally three, you’re not eating a ton of calories or fat.
If I’m still craving something sweet, I’ll have a cup of hot chocolate or a bag of kettle corn.

There ya have it! I hope this wasn’t too lengthy, and I hope it gives you some ideas. I know it was mainly about food, but I’m a fan of changing only one thing at a time. Food is something you can make better choices about NOW. I also have an issue with overeating, and when I’m drinking enough water I’m not as “hungry”. Learn how to say no! You can do this, and you will FEEL and SLEEP so much better, I promise!!