Tag Archives: food

Lil Something Extra

15 Dec
Yummers!

I never expected to like this stuff. Surprise!

Surprises are the spice of life. They’re what keep us looking forward to the next day. You expect to get to work and go through your routine. But isn’t it nice when someone surprises your group with cupcakes? You get to the store with list in hand. It’s an added bonus when you find out your eight-pack of toilet paper is buy one, get one free.

The same can be said for your weight-loss journey. You set a goal and a plan of action to accomplish it. But you’ll surprise yourself along the way with what you enjoy about the process or the changes to your body that you weren’t expecting.

Talk to any trainer and they’ll tell you the same story: A new client comes in and is asked what their goals are. Usually it’s to lose a couple pounds or to “boost their energy level.” A client who has never had a strict workout regimen rarely admits to wanting a six pack and quads of steel. A good trainer will stifle their laughter because they’ve heard it all before. As professionals, they know that in order to boost their client’s energy and help them lose weight, they’re going to build muscle—the cost benefit the client wasn’t expecting.

For me, it was my love of running. I began my weight-loss journey in much the same way. I had no idea how to shape my body, but I knew I wanted to lose weight. I started by walking, doing about three miles in an hour. Then my pace picked up, but I wanted to fill the hour. So I began running to fill out the time. In the beginning I hated running. I was an asthmatic as a child and it brought back memories of constricted airways. But I learned how to pace my breathing, how to slow down when things got to hard, but still how to keep challenging myself.

Now, running is my main form of exercise. It was, and still is, a surprise to me how much I love it. In the beginning running wasn’t even on the radar. Now I’m scoping out half-marathon opportunities.

I started out just wanting to fit into my clothes, pride keeping me from wanting to go up another dress size. Now my 10s are loose, my 12s are falling off of me and my 14s are hopefully on the body of someone who needs those clothes more than I do.

It wasn’t just the exercise that surprised me. I’m a decent cook, but pastries are my specialty. Anyone who’s seen “Top Chef” knows that pastry chefs tend not to do well when it comes to meals. But a few good cookbooks and some tweaks to family favorites have me itching to get into the kitchen.

Even the foods I don’t prepare myself are a shock. Once upon a time, you couldn’t pay me to eat Greek yogurt. And the non-fat variety? Psssh! Now I can’t get enough of that creamy goodness. Add in some granola and honey, and you’ve got a happy camper.

It’s the things that will surprise you about yourself that push you to see what else you can do. If you like running, experiment with different versions of it. You could run a hiking trail or try sprints. If you’ve just discovered kale, try kale chips or even a warm kale salad.

Use your journey to get to your destination, but also to learn even more about yourself.

What surprised you most about your weight-loss journey?

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Holiday Food Lag

1 Dec
All this and more over the next few weeks...

All this and more over the next few weeks…

Courtesy of Tumblr

Like many people, I enjoyed my Thanksgiving holiday. I ate dinner with my 91-year-old grandfather and 84-year-old grandmother, I baked seven pies and a cobbler (plus a caramel cake), I put away at least a half-pound of the 39 pounds of turkey (three birds) and I got to hang out with my family, most of whom I haven’t seen in a year.

For many, Thanksgiving is just pre-gaming for the Big Show: Christmas. That’s when the real gluttonous activity happens. For me, Christmas is much quieter. For one thing: I have to work that day. For another: I usually spend that evening having dinner at my cousin’s house. It’s all very low-key, especially without the dozens of desserts, so there’s less temptation to shirk my dietary responsibilities.

I like to call it the Holiday Food Lag. It starts with the sugar-and-salt fest of Thanksgiving and ends with the sugar-and-salt fest: part 2 of Christmas. In the middle, there will be end-of-year office parties, friends’ holiday parties, extra cookies, lots of liquor and many a chicken satay coming your way. You’ll be tempted to give up the exercise and dietary plans because what’s the point? Someone’s going to be shoving more sugar-and-salt in your face in a couple days.

It’s easy to see the Holiday Food Lag as a way to just take a month off. There’s so much to do in those four weeks, it can be burdensome to add one more thing to the to-do list. Still, you have to make yourself your No. 1 priority.

Before I began my weight-loss journey, I was still living in Atlanta, where the Chick-fil-As and Waffle Houses were aplenty. Barbecue as far as the eye can see. Publix sandwiches at the ready. And, my personal favorite, a Wendy’s around the corner. Plus, my grandmother cooked big dinners every Sunday. It wasn’t unhealthy, but when Gram makes your favorite of cabbage with a side of macaroni and cheese, you don’t say no to second helpings (sounds gross, but that’s because you’ve never had Gram’s cabbage with a side of macaroni and cheese). I would cook occasionally, but most of the time I just didn’t feel like it.

Then the holidays would come (all holidays: Easter, Mother’s Day, Fourth of July, etc.), plus the dozen birthdays throughout the year, and you’ve got plenty of excuses to “get back on track come Monday.” As I’ve said before, there’s no time like the present. These few weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas are no exception.

Well, this is the time to test your resistance. Can you forgo the third round of champagne? Can you say no the the eighth batch of Christmas cookies brought into the office? Can you get up early to work out to counter all the sliders that will be wafted in front of you that evening? Of course you can. You’re a strong-willed person who knows what’s good for them. And you can even start your resistance training early.

All those desserts from last Thursday are going to go bad if they’re not eaten soon, so take them to work. Freeze some of that turkey to use in a soup for later. If you’re celebrating Christmas, burn some calories by setting up your Christmas decorations. If you plan on spending New Year’s at the beach, now’s the time to make sure your bathing suit still fits. And if you told yourself “I’ll get back on track come Monday,” guess what? It’s Monday.

You’ll be doing the most this season, from shoveling out of blockades of snow to elbowing someone in the face for the latest toy craze. Just don’t neglect yourself and your health in the process.

Cravings vs. Hunger: Thanksgiving Edition

26 Nov
Last year's dessert table after people had taken hold. Missing are the pies.

Last year’s dessert table after people had taken hold. Missing are the pies.

For the past three months, I’ve had tunnel vision while in beast mode. Sure, I’ve gone out to dinner and drinks a few times. But for the most part, I’ve been sticking to the plan. The 20 pounds I’d gained in the past year are almost gone (*praise hands*). And just in time for Thanksgiving.

I’ve mentioned before about how my family gets down at Thanksgiving. This holiday is not a game to my people. There will be (I believe, I haven’t gotten the menu email yet): three turkeys, two ducks, two hams, two trays of sweet potatoes, two trays of macaroni and cheese, oyster casserole, green bean casserole, corn casserole, greens, rolls and corn bread…at least. And I haven’t even gotten to the dessert table, which will have at least seven pies and four cakes.

I’ve been on my grind recently, preparing my own small meals, eating light and staying active. I’m now in Atlanta where I’m a guest who doesn’t want to crowd her aunt’s already stuffed refrigerators (yes, plural). I’m used to my home where the snacks are few. I’m in Atlanta where my large family keeps snacks in the house because you never know who’s coming by, especially during the holidays.

But most of all, I have to fight the cravings that will trick me into satiating my hunger. The food tomorrow will be plentiful. But I’m going to do my best to stay true the me that’s been kicking ass for the past few months.

1. Leave some white space on the plate. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: you don’t have to clean your plate. We usually tell the young kids to make a “happy plate” to get them to eat what’s in front of them. It’s different for them because they get distracted by one another and won’t eat, which, of course, is something they must do. For us adults, there’s no need to cover every inch of your plate with food, pile it inches high and take your own advice of making  a happy plate. With all the food we’ll have, there will be plenty to go around if you want seconds.

2. Load up on the veggies. Despite all the casseroles, we’re really good about our veggies. My first stop will be the greens, because I love greens. Like…we have a thing. Add in a cornbread muffin and some hot sauce and I’ll be straight. The green beans, I’m sure, will also be on point. Then the sweet potatoes. If there’s still some room, I’ll take a few slices of dark meat and keep it moving. Keeping up some of the good habits I’ve developed over the past few months will keep me from going overboard.

3. Keep tabs on the bar tab. The wine and liquor will be flowing, I’m sure. Despite my old age of 34, my family still thinks of me as a 15. So my occasional glass of wine is often greeted with a side eye. But after everyone’s had a few, no one notices I’m on my way to killing a bottle. I’ve got to watch that. The fun and merriment tomorrow cannot be greeted by a hangover the following day.

4. Sweetie pie. I know I’ve said I have a thing with hummus, Goldfish crackers and greens. But nothing compares to my love for my grandmother’s peach pie. It is outstanding. The homemade crusts are to die for. The pie filling oozes off the sides. And heated up with some ice cream or whipped cream? You’ve never had perfection until you’ve had one of Beulah Lucille’s pies. I don’t get to Atlanta often, so I have to take advantage of the goodies while they’re available. But my old habit of hoarding the peach pie to myself will come to an end this year. I’ll have a slice or two, but I won’t go face first like it’s a pie-eating contest.

5. Relish the relish dish. We keep appetizers out because my family can’t do anything on time. I make it a habit of arriving hungry to family functions because there will always be an abundance of food. The problem is the food isn’t always ready at the designated time. And I don’t do hunger well. Lucky for me, my aunt keeps the relish dishes out so I can pop some carrots, olives or celery sticks when needed—which is always. Plus, bonus points for the low-cal relish dishes, so I’m not overindulging while waiting for my turkey.

Of course, the best thing about tomorrow will be getting to spend time with my family. I haven’t seen everyone since last Thanksgiving. Being around them will fill me up more than tryptophan.

Happy Thanksgiving!

To Diet or Not to Diet?

21 Nov

…all about striking a balance.

 

To diet or not to diet? That is the question a lot of us on our weight-loss journeys will ask over time.

To get into the shape I’m in now, I have been using the “Extreme Fat Smash Diet” by Dr. Ian Smith. It entails a pretty strict diet. The meals are small, the condiments are few and the salad, beans and veggies are aplenty. There are four small meals a day, each one with a guideline for what you should eat. For example:

Meal 1—one egg, one piece of fruit or 1/2 cup of juice

Meal 2—1 cup of sliced fresh fruit

Meal 3—small salad with 3 tablespoons of low-fat or fat-free dressing

Meal 4—1/2 cup of beans, 2 servings of vegetables

That’s on top of the 55 minutes of cardio you have to do, and that’s only Day 1 of the first week of a three week program. The system I used is not easy and it is not for everyone. But what I’ve loved about it—and why I keep coming back when I feel I need to lose a few extra pounds—is that it taught me how to eat differently.

For most of my adult life, food was a crutch. It made things easier. I used to keep at least two pints of of cookie dough and strawberry ice cream in my freezer, along with chocolate sauce in my fridge. I had a steady rotation of brownie mix and cake mix in my cupboards. And the large box of Xtra Cheddar Goldfish Crackers knew they would have a place in my home.

It’s not so much that I grew up with bad eating habits. We didn’t order out a lot in my home growing up. Both of my parents cooked and taught my brother and me how to boil water and make burgers. It was moreso that I didn’t know there was another way.

Over the years, I’ve learned that my childhood habit of steaming a frozen bag of veggies can still be useful; melting a slice of American cheese over it…not so much. Fried chicken was and forever will be some of the best chicken you’ll ever have. But sauteeing some chicken breasts in onions, peppers and garlic with light salt and pepper will still fill a chicken craving.

Dieting serves a purpose. There are people, like myself, who had no concept of small meals and truly thought holding the fries was enough when ordering at Five Guys. There are others whose systems can’t break down complex carbohydrates as quickly as others and have to cut them out altogether. And still there are others who just don’t know what a healthy diet consists of.

No matter where you fall on the spectrum, a diet is not a bad thing. But there is always a need to strike a balance. Sometimes you just want a cookie. Sometimes you’d like to have a burger. Other times you just want that slice of cheesecake after your meal. This isn’t cheating, it’s allowing yourself the freedom to have something else. There’s no rule that you have to have a burger or cheesecake. It is the exception. The rule is that you should be fueling your body with the nutrients you need. The cookies and cakes aren’t necessary, they’re a treat.

To diet or not to diet? I say there’s nothing wrong with it. The diet I’m using isn’t sustainable. It is, however, the perfect tool I need to know how to eat clean. It worked for me because I opened myself to the possibility that what I’d been doing before wouldn’t work with what I wanted to get done.

How do you feel about dieting? Have you learned anything about past eating habits that you eventually changed on your weight-loss journey?

No Time Like the Present

17 Nov
wine

courtesy of Tumblr


When embarking on your weight-loss journey, there are a multitude of reasons to delay your departure. You need to plan out a schedule; you need to figure out what foods to cook; you need to wait for the Saturn’s fourth moon to align with Jupiter.

Waiting to start is just an excuse, and a flimsy one at that. The second you decide it’s time to take better care of your health, then take better care of your health. At that moment you can make several small adjustments before taking on a serious weight-loss regimen.

1. Pack your own lunch. There is so much sodium and fat in the foods you buy at McDonald’s, Subway or even Chipotle. And we all love Chipotle. But why not just make a salad and take it with you to work? Steam that pack of frozen veggies that have been sitting in your freezer. Dust off that cookbook your mom got you a few years ago and find something quick and light to eat.

2. Go for a walk. Walking is exercise. Depending on how much you do, it can be intense. Take a walking lunch at work. Park your car further away from the entrance so you can take more steps. Take the stairs. You’ll be challenging yourself to do something different. People regret the steps they didn’t take, not the ones they did.

3. Clean out your cabinets. When you’ve decided to take an active role in your health, you should get rid of the temptation to do bad things. Most of those bad things reside in your cabinets. There you will find all the cookies, chips, sodas, juices and all-around unhealthy snacks that have been doing you harm. They’ve got to go. No one likes wasted food, so donate the unopened packages to a food bank. Take the open ones to work. If your co-workers are anything like mine, the cookies and chips will be gone by lunchtime.

4. Don’t order that fourth glass of wine. I’ve often been out with friends when they’ve decided they’ll get back on track come Monday. In the meantime, “Another Long Island Ice Tea, please!” That’s not doing you any good. If you plan to “get back on track come Monday” (whatever that means), why would you set yourself back even further than where you are now? You can order a lighter dish at a restaurant. You can cut back on the alcohol you consume. Come Monday, it won’t be as hard to make the effort.

bugeyes

courtesy of Tumblr

5. Know that your eyes are always bigger than your stomach. As I said before, you don’t have to clear your plate. A lot of restaurants give you way too much food. The stomach isn’t that big. And if you go to a restaurant hungry—or my personal favorite, your grandmother’s house—you’re setting yourself up to overeat. Divide the items on your plate, putting half in a to-go container. Drink some water. If you’re still hungry 15 minutes later, by all means keep eating. But don’t feel obligated to eat everything that’s placed before you. That’s why we have refrigerators and Tupperware.

Now’s as good a time as any to take action on your health. Waiting until Monday just gives you more time to come up with excuses to delay your plan. These little steps will help you move forward while you figure out a plan of action.

What small steps do you take to take control of your health?