Monday, April 22, 2013

Quinoa and Chicken Stuffed Bell Peppers

Another delicious dish from mi cocina today: Quinoa and Chicken Stuffed Bell Peppers. Yum! This is a little more caloric dense than you might want (435 a serving), but you can definitely modify it down some. You can make it vegetarian, take out the cheese and olive oil, which  would get you closer to 300 calories per serving.Or, instead of eating two halves, you could just eat one. Paired with some grilled veggies, one half could definitely fill you up.

Serves: 3
Takes about 45 minutes start to finish
Calories per serving: 435

The What:

1 teaspoon Cumin
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
12 ounces of boneless, skinless, chicken breast, diced
Juice of one lime
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 cup chopped onion
3 bell peppers
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
3/4 Cups Cooked Organic White Qunioa

The How:

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
•Heat one tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat.
•Add 12 ounces of diced chicken, 1 teaspoon, cumin, juice of one lime, 1/2 cup chopped onion, and 1 tablespoon of minced garlic. Cook on medium until chicken is almost done (about 145 degrees).
•While chicken mixture is cooking, cook Quinoa according to package directions. Don't cook the Quinoa all the way. My directions were to bring Quinoa and water to boil, reduce heat, cover, simmer for 15 minutes. I only simmered for about 8. Once the Qunioa is almost done, drain in mesh strainer to remove as much water as you can. 
•While Quinoa and chicken are cooking, cut the bell peppers in half and gut them. 

•Chop up the tops and add to chicken mixture. 

•Once the quinoa and the chicken mixture are ready, combine both with the cheddar cheese in bowl. Mix together well. 

•Spoon chicken and quinoa mixture into bell pepper and cook on a cookie sheet at 350 for 25 minutes, or until pepper are tender.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

360 Calorie Pad Thai

I have a friend from Birmingham who comes to visit me in Nashville a lot. I'm pretty sure the only reason she comes up here is for the Pad Thai at this little restaurant right down the road from me. It is the best Pad Thai on the planet, I swear. Well, on this side of the world, anyways. I've have been craving it like crazy but I've been resisting. Instead of caving to the craving today, I decided give it a go in my kitchen. It was pretty darn good.

Chicken Pad Thai
Serves: 3
Calories per Serving: 360

The What:

12 ounces of skinless, boneless chicken breasts
3 cups of rainbow slaw, raw. Broccoli, Cauliflower, Carrots, and Red Cabbage. I cheated and bought the bagged kind.
•1 tablespoon of olive oil
•3 tablespoons of reduced fat creamy peanut butter
•3 limes
• 1 orange
•2 ounces of chopped almonds and cashews, raw, non-salted
•2 teaspoons cumin
•1 teaspoon minced garlic
•1 teaspoon onion powder
•2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
•chili paste (optional)

The How:

1) Chicken:
•Dice chicken into bite sized pieces.
Heat olive oil in skillet over medium heat, add chicken, juice of one lime, 1 tsp cumin, and zest of half an orange.
•Cook until chicken is about 150 degrees, add chopped nuts and cook until chicken is done.

2) Sauce:
•Put peanut butter and half a cup of water in food processor until smooth.
Transfer to sauce pan, add juice of one orange, juice of one lime, 1 tsp cumin, 1 tsp onion powder, 1 tsp minced garlic, and 2 tsp red pepper flakes. Simmer over low-medium for about 15 minutes. Add spices until desired flavor is reached. Don't be afraid to add a little water if it is too thick. I think I had to add about 2 tablespoons of water halfway through.
•The sauce yielded one cup when it was finished and was thin, but not runny. 

3) "Noodles:"
•I did not need any oil or butter to make this. In pan, saute the slaw over medium heat with the juice of one lime and salt and pepper. Cook for about  8 minutes, or until the slaw slices begin to look transparent. 

•Once the slaw is done you're ready to chow down! This serves three, so divide everything up into thirds, mix it all together in a bowl, and enjoy! 
•Top with chili paste if you desire. I didn't have any, but I would've if I had some!

5 Things I Couldn't do 5 Months Ago

Having a regular exercise program is crucial to weight loss. This of course requires the use of my favorite word: planning. Plan ahead to get the results you want. This is what works best for me and I suspect it will work for you, too. This is why I love cross fit- I can go to my gym's website the night before my workout and I know exactly what I'll be doing the next day. I go to my gym (IronTribe) 3 days a week at the same time, so I don't have to worry about finding time to work out. I've been doing this since the end of November and I've lost 30 pounds. Coincidence? I don't think so. I think having a workout plan is the best way to exercise and it's not as hard as it sounds.

Take a few minutes on Sundays to map out your routine for the week and see how that works out for you. If you have a plan it will relieve the burden of fighting with yourself over exercising. You know what I'm talking about: you go to bed planning to get up early to workout, then you sleep through your alarm and you are distracted all day as you try to talk yourself into/out of working out when you get off work. Then you don't do it, you feel guilty, swear the next day will be better... rinse and repeat.

 Plan. Brush your hands of the hassle of the daily exercise fight: done.

When I started IronTribe I could not do a "real" push-up, a box jump, or a full burpee. My pull-ups were not pull-ups at all; I had to jump up to the bar and fake it. Now I can do a pull-up with a resistance band. I also could not do full med ball sit-ups; I had to modify those, too. After 5 months I can do all these things. I credit having a regular routine. If I just sporadically went to the gym without a plan, I really don't think I would have been able to meet as many goals as I have.

I say give planning a try and see the positive results. Do it for 3 weeks and I am confident that you will feel less stressed and will start to look forward to your planned workouts. These workouts don't have to be anything crazy. Start small, like 30 minutes of walking on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday Mornings before you go to work. Add 15 minutes of resistance on Tuesday and Thursday evenings after dinner. 

Examples of resistance workouts:

Once you get that routine down pat, increase the intensity of the walks by adding some jogging and add weights to your Tuesday and Thursday workouts.

Plan to get the results you want. 

So, to celebrate my success in workout planning and sticking with it, I decided to share a video with you of me doing all the exercises I couldn't do 5 months ago. In another 5 months, I fully expect to not need that band at all for the pull-ups and that box will be a 20 incher instead of 12 inches. Those are my goals and I will continue to plan like it's going out of style to reach them. 

Friday, April 12, 2013

105 Calorie Sweet Potato Latkes

These sweet potato latkes are basically a mouthful of awesome. In fact, they were so awesome, I will never make them again because I ate the entire batch in ONE DAY! That's right: I ate them ALL. In a DAY. In other words: I latke. I latke them a lot.
Amazing that THIS:

Can make THESE slices of heaven:

Ok, here's how to get started on your new starchy weakness. You'll need:

•1 pound of sweet potatoes. Which was two this size:

•2 scallions, chopped
•1/4 cup whole wheat flour
•6 tablespoons of liquid egg whites
•1 1/2 teaspoon of s and p
•3/4 cup vegetable oil

How To:

•Stir all ingredients together except for the oil. It will be a little runny, and might not stick together very well. If you have trouble keeping it together, you can add a little flour as needed, but I didn't need to.

•Heat the oil in a non-stick skillet over med-high heat (doesn't matter the size- it depends on your preference of how many you want to cook at a time. I used a small one, cooking 4-5 at a time)

•While they are frying, press down on them slightly.
•Cook until they are good and golden, and a little crispy (but don't burn them!). It took about 2 minutes on each side. 
•Immediately blot and drain on paper towels (or a napkin like me since I was out lol). This made 11, or 12 if you count the burnt one I cast aside. Ziggy got that one. 

All nutrition facts are approximate and they are based on latkes about 2.5 inches in diameter:
 105 calories per latke
7 grams of fat per latke

Challenge Accepted!

A little over a month ago one of my co-workers asked if I wanted to help her head up a weight loss challenge at the office. Well hell yeah! I am not one to turn down the chance to win at something! Not that I'm a fierce competitor or anything ;). A few folks were interested and then just like that we had a competition! The challenge consisted of 6 weeks of encouraging each other while silently vowing to push everybody else out of the way of the prize (kidding, but I did win 55 buckaroos). We emailed each other constantly with fun inspirational quotes and sayings to keep the momentum up, and on Fridays we shared how we were going to stick to our goals over the weekend. On Monday we checked in with each other to see how we did. We had a wellness coach come in twice to give us good tips, and we bonded as we worked together to shed some pounds. I'm proud of everyone for being courageous enough to share how much they weighed with people they barely know, and making themselves vulnerable to defeat. In the end I won (19 pounds lost during the challenge), but the real prize is finding that I have amazing supportive co-workers who are willing to put themselves out there with me as we strive to get healthy. I don't plan on stopping the supportive emails just because the challenge is over.... and I learned that sometimes an unexpected support group is just a few desks and a couple of toplines away. We are in this together and that means more than anything.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Less than 300

I was filled with lots of <3 this morning. <3 for my family, my friends, and YOU. You, my readers, who trust in my words and support me in more ways than you'll ever know. For that I <3 you big time.

So why was I filled with all this mushy gushy crap? Because for the first time in YEARS my scale dialed in at  <300. I don't even remember the last time my scale pointed at 200-something. I think it was like '07 or '08. I have been so uber frustrated since I got back from camp because I had not lost any weight. Well, I'm not sure what happened over the past few days, but 4 pounds went bye bye!

Drink mostly water, and lots of it. Eat often, mostly plants. Exercise until you're in a caloric deficit (burn more than consumed), and have faith. Work at this with me, friends! We got this!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

10 Calorie Caesar Dressing

I almost lost my s**t when I found this 10 calorie Caesar dressing recipe. You have noooo idea how much I love that stuff! I made the most amazing chicken Caesar pita today that will make you slap your grandma.

The Dressing (from

2 ½ cloves fresh garlic
1 cup skim or low fat cottage cheese
1 ½ cups fat free yogurt
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 oz. plus ½ Tbsp separate fresh squeezed lemon juice
½ Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
Combine all ingredients in food processor and blend until smooth.
Store in air tight container and can keep up to 2 weeks refrigerated
Yield: 3 cups
Serving Size 1/2 ounce
Calories: 10
Fat Grams: trace

Here's what the dressing should look like once finished. Nice and thick:

After putting an ounce on half a pita (yeah, I doubled the serving size because it was just so damn good!)...

I had 10 ounces of dressing left. Holla! I know what I'll be eating this coming week!

I stuffed the pita with 3 oz of grilled chicken and mixed herb greens. It was the most amazing pita in America. Fact.

Citrus Splash for Greens

H3's Citrus Splash for Greens (

This is an awesome recipe for a warm citrus splash to be served with greens such as spinach, rabe, or arugula. Really, any pungent greens will go well with this. This recipe is great with summer just around the corner- the perfect combination of heat and citrus!


1 tablespoon shallots, minced
2 teaspoons garlic, minced
•1 teaspoon olive oil
•1/2 cup orange juice (I used fresh squeezed)
•Pinch of red pepper flakes
•2 tablespoons orange zest, finely chopped


•Saute shallots and garlic in olive oil for minutes. 
•Add juice, peppers, and zest; simmer slowly for 10 minutes. Reserve
•I used a manual juicer and it worked just fine- no need to dirty up your electric juicer

 H3 says this is 4 servings and that the serving size is 1/2 a cup. After putting about 2 tablespoons on my greens (above), this is all I had left:

So, you might want to double this recipe if you are serving multiple people, or just want to make extra to store. 

Calories per serving (1/2 cup): 28
Fat grams per serving: 1

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

335 Calorie Chicken Enchiladas

If you are like me, you know that Tex-Mex food is the However, it tends to be loaded with cheese, grease, and carbs. I don't even want to know how many calories a chicken chimichanga packs in! Even the salads are loaded down with calories. I made a delicious chicken enchilada that won't leave you feeling guilty afterwards at all!

 It is pretty spicy, though- so I hope you're ready for it! I made this with my favorite spices, but you can spice it up however you want. Instead of the creole and jerk, you may want to use chili powder.
Serves 2, Approximately 335 Calories per Enchilada

- Pre-Heat oven to 350

1 chicken breast (5-6 ounces, skinless, boneless)
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 small onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon of creole/blackening seasoning
1 tablespoon of jerk seasoning
1 tablespoon of crushed red pepper
1 tablespoon of ground cumin
1 15 ounce can of tomato sauce (no added sugar)
1 cup of water
A dash of salt and pepper
One lime
1 medium tomato, diced
1 small bell pepper, diced
2 cups spinach leaves, chopped
2 wheat tortillas
1/4 cup cheese (mozzarella or cheddar)

•Cook chicken however you want, just be mindful of added calories. I cooked mine on a flat pan with a little olive oil spray, half a lime, and a little salt and pepper. Cook until almost done, about 150 degrees. Chop into small, bite-sized pieces.

 •For the enchilada sauce: heat the olive oil over medium heat, then add the onions. Saute over medium heat until brown. This takes about 10 minutes. Add garlic and spices until spices are toasted. Add the tomato sauce and water. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to low and simmer until thick. This took about 15 minutes. If desired thickness is not reached by 15 minutes, add a smidgen of cornstarch. Once sauce is done, strain in a mesh strainer, pushing down on the onions to get all the juice out. You can throw the onions in with the chicken and veggie stuffing, or toss them out. Your choice.

•While the chicken and the sauce are cooking, roast the tomato, spinach, bell pepper, one clove of garlic minced, and the juice from the other half of your lime in the oven for about ten minutes, or until the spinach is wilted. I did not add any butter or oil, I just let the veggie juice do its magic to keep it juicy. These will be stuffed in the enchilada with the chicken.

 •Once the stuffing is roasted, drain, and add chicken in separate bowl.

• Heat the tortillas up, just until they are flexible. Stuff them and roll them up to form the enchiladas. Place in baking dish, and cover completely with the sauce. Top with cheese, bake for about 20 minutes. Enjoy!!

I ate my tortilla with a spinach/carrot salad on the side with balsamic vinegar and lemon. Delish!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Eating Mindfully

Eating mindfully is a key component to being healthy and losing weight. If you are not aware of what you are putting in your body, you have no way to control it.

Over the next couple of days, make notes of your environment as well as your actions while you're eating.
During your meal, figure out how mindful you are being of your eating habits.

Are any of these showing up in your notes?

•Eating in front of the t.v.
• Eating in the car
•Eating while you're on the telephone?
•Eating while working on the computer
•Eating at your work desk
•Eating while reading
•Feel so stuffed after your meal that you are miserable?
•Are you filling your fork with another bite while there is still food in your mouth?

Any of the above can definitely be signs of mindless eating. These actions can put you in danger of zoning out and result in overeating. As much as we try to be mutli-taskers, our brains can really focus on only one thing at a time. So if you are reading, or typing, or doing anything while you're eating, you will more than likely miss the signs of fullness. If you eat in front of the tv late at night and overeat, this can impact digestion and sleep. I've said this before, and I'll say it again: there's nothing wrong with eating in front of the tv as long as you plan it out. If you want to do it, and I do it all the time... fix your plate in the kitchen, and limit yourself to what you prepared. Tell yourself that's all you can eat- that way you are setting yourself up for tv munchie success! The same would go for any other distracted eating. I pretty much have to eat at my desk every night at work. I bring my dinner, so I know exactly how much I'll be able to eat.

One of my biggest problems is eating to fast. I'm really bad about not really making the effort to chew properly and take pauses between bites. This tends to create a strain on the digestive system. Digestion begins in the mouth w/saliva. You have to chew your food properly, or else you are creating more work for the digestive process.

According to Lisette Cifaldi, a speaker on Behavioral Health, Mindless eating affects the whole person:

Physical: Physical discomfort from excess food, weight gain, physical repercussions of escessive weight, digestive problems, sleep disturbances, etc...
Emotional: Emotions are numbed and stuffed with excess food. Mindless eating is often used to avoid the emotional experience.
Spiritual: Mindless eating detaches us from a spiritual connection.

Cifaldi defines mindful eating as: "eating with intention and attention." When you do this, you are purposely aware of what you are eating and are consciously aware of the process of eating. You notice the sensations involved and how your body responds to them.

This next part is really interesting to me.

Smell and taste, and the effects they have on your eating, according to Cifaldi:

•As you chew, you're forcing air through your nasal passages, carrying the smell of the food along with it. Without that interplay of taste and smell, you wouldn't be able to grasp complex flavors. Instead you'd be limited to the basic taste sensations picked up chemically by the tongue: salty, sour, sweet, and bitter.
•One reason Americans may be becoming more obese as a population is that we serve way too much in one course. It is usually the case that we actually stop tasting our food after the 3rd or 4th bite, but we don't realize it because we are still smelling it. The nasal cavity and oral cavity are closely connected, separated only by the palate. so it makes sense that the two senses go hand in hand.

Aspects of Mindful Eating (Also per Cifaldi. I really like her work, in case you can't tell! :)

•Put one small bite in your mouth, You only   have taste buds on your tongue, so flavors of a large bite of food are lost on your teeth, cheeks, and the roof of your mouth.
•Notice the texture and flavors of the food on your tongue, then slowly begin to chew it. Breathe in, since flavors other than salty, sweet, bitter, and sour, and come from the aromas.
•Set your fork down between bites. If you begin to load your next forkful, your attention will be on your next bite, not the one you are eating now. If you focus on the next bite of food instead of the one you are eating, you won;t stop eating until there are no more forkfuls.
•Sit for a moment and let the flavors and experience linger before you take the next bite.
•Notice the food gently fills your stomach. Pause for several moments in the middle of eating to reconnect to your hunger and fullness levels.

Cifaldi's steps to Minful Eating:

•Start small. Like all new habits, it's best to set realistic expectations.
Stop multitasking at meal time.
•Only eat at the table.
•Appreciate the appearance of your food.
•Focus on each mouthful.
•Use cutlery and out it down between mouthfuls.
•Talk and share
•Go for quality, not quantity.
•Make time to prepare your own meals, preferably from fresh ingredients.

Mindful eating goes hand in hand with emotional eating in my opinion. I have so many bad food habits that I am working on breaking and it is no easy feat! I think it just makes sense to make yourself aware of what is going in your body, otherwise, how will you be able to pinpoint the problems?

Resolve Dissolves in Alcohol

"Resolve Dissolves in Alcohol." This is a quote I learned at Hilton Head Health and it is shockingly true. I am so down in the dumps right now because I have not lost a single pound since I got back from fitness vacation. I haven't gained, but I haven't lost. Which is the whole damn point in trying! The factor to blame is alcohol. I know it is. I have had wayy too much to drink since I've been back. I'm not blaming just the drinks themselves for the lack of losing, because I've done well to stick to wine or other low calorie choices. But along with alcohol comes bad food for me. I get tipsy and the munchies attack with a vengeance. Not because I'm hungry, but because the behavior that comes along with drinking for me is fried, or other forms of bad food.

Weight follows behavior.

This week my weight followed the behavior of drinking too much and consequently making poor food choices. I have eaten fast food twice, and I ate out at THREE different restaurants! This cannot continue. I worked too hard last week just to ruin it all on a weekend. The good news is that I did not gain any weight when I stepped on the scale this morning, but not losing any weight is not acceptable. I know how to lose  and I have the tools to do so.

So, as much as I love the stuff, I need to really limit it. It's not worth ruining everything I've worked hard for.

On a positive note, my best friend and I kayaked for about fours Sunday and it was so much fun! I know we had to have burned about a bazillion calories. That's what I love about the weekends. They are a great excuse to engage in an intense physical activity that you can really push yourself doing. During the week you don't have time to go on a 3 hour hike or play in a 2 hour tennis tournament!  I love to explore new places and try out new activities on those glorious Saturdays and Sundays.

While I was kayaking I had kind of an epiphany. At my health retreat we talked about 'compressed morbidity,' which is basically the theory that the healthy live long and die fast. The unhealthy die sooner, but have a longer death (think fatal disease, like emphysema). The speaker had us think about something that we love to do and to imagine a quick, peaceful death doing that thing we love. I thought it was an extremely disturbing thought, but I went with it. Then I realized that there is not any particular thing that I just LOVE to do more than anything else. I mean, I feel that I am a pretty adventurous person and I like to do many different things! I do love to be on the water. Preferably the beach, but I'll take a lake or a river. I have put off kayak trips because I was honestly scared that I wouldn't fit in the damn thing. Do you know what it's like to have to sacrifice doing things you love because you are physically unable to enjoy them? I think back to my trip to Six Flags when I couldn't ride some of the rides because I was too big. I made a pact to myself that I will no longer let my weight get in the way of what I love to do. The other day my friend and I talked about riding horses and I said no because I don't feel right putting this much weight on a horse. I don't want to hurt the animal! I am so tired of feeling limited because of my weight. I have to account for my weight in everything I do. If I want to wear high heels out, I have to make sure that I will be able to sit down the majority of the time. I absolutely hate this because I end up just wearing flats mostly. Parking is absolutely horrendous in Nashville- there is NEVER anywhere to park near where you are trying to go and so I have to prepare to walk to wherever I'm going. I'm ready to get to the point where that doesn't matter. I'm tired of surrounding my life around my weight. I will not let my weight control me anymore. I am in charge!

345 Calorie Pizza

Pizza! My favorite treat! Unfortunately, it is not the healthiest of meals. Here's a recipe that will definitely cure your craving for that slice of tomato-y goodness. Pre-heat oven to 350. For the red sauce: 2 tablespoons of tomato paste, 1/4 cup of tomato sauce, salt and pepper to taste. Combine and simmer on low-medium until bubbly. Stir frequently. You'll want it to be a little thick, so add a teensy bit of tomato paste to thicken if you need to. I actually went ahead and poured the whole can of tomato sauce and tomato paste in a pot and saved the leftovers for the next time I want to make this recipe. Spread on one whole wheat pita. Top with 2 tablespoons of roasted red pepper and artichoke tapenade (bottled, mine is from Trader Joe's), spinach (about a cup), chopped red peppers (about half a cup), 1 ounce of fat free feta crumbles, and 1/8 cup of shredded part-skim mozzarella. Because we're trying to be healthy here, it's not a lot of cheese, but if you spread it out evenly, it does just fine. Bake at 350 on an ungreased cookie sheet for about 15 minutes, or until cheese is melted and pita crust is crunchy. You definitely don't want to burn the pita, but you do want it crunchy. There's no need to grease the sheet or the pita. When done, cut into 4 slices and enjoy! This is such a refreshing, non-greasy version of pizza. You will get your fix without the guilt! If you want to add meat, choose something lean like chicken or ground turkey. Add it to the pizza fully cooked and bake as directions above state. But don't forget to count those extra calories! I think it would be fine to add meat to make this 400 cals. You could also add turkey bacon- that would be pretty tasty, too.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

362 Calorie Quesadilla

Salmon and black bean quesadillas with red pepper, tomato, and onion. One small wheat tortilla, 3oz of cooked salmon, 1/4 cup of mozzarella cheese, 1/4 cup of black beans, 1/4 cup of tomatoes, 1/4 cup onion, 1/4 cup of plain, low fat greek yogurt to substitute sour cream. Tomatoes and lettuce to garnish. Cook the salmon in a skillet on low to medium in it's own juice with a smidgen of olive oil and lime and lemon. Once it's almost done (about 120 degrees), chop up, and add tomatoes, onions, red peppers, and black beans. Continue to cook on low-medium until salmon is done. Take mixture out of pan. In same skillet, heat up tortilla (shouldn't need cooking spray) for a few seconds on each side. Spread cheese on one half of tortilla. Add salmon mixture on top of cheese. Fold tortilla over, cook on both sides until outside is crispy. Cut into slices, top with plain Greek yogurt, tomatoes, and lettuce. There will probably be leftover salmon mixture. Either eat it on the side like I did, or save a few calories and throw it on a salad for dinner.

Friday, April 5, 2013

How I Lost 30 Pounds and How I Plan to Lose More

The first 5-10% of weight loss plays the biggest role in health benefits. There are all kinds of scientific research explaining why, but I'm not going to get into all that. What I will say is that I'm 30 pounds down, and I know that I have done something really good for my body.

How I Lost:

I've lost 30 pounds. It took a while for that to sink in, but now that the scale isn't moving up every time I step on it, I can finally believe it. People have noticed and I have been loaded with compliments this week! I cannot wait to see what 50 pounds down feels like! I've had lots of folks ask me how long it took me and the truth is TEN YEARS. Literally. I have wanted to lose weight ever since I started gaining, which was in 2003. The more I obsessed over the THOUGHT of losing weight, the more I gained. I gained until the scale topped 300 pounds.

 I decided to get serious in January of 2012. I gained a lot of weight when I moved to Nashville in March of 2011. I'm not sure exactly how much, but it was about 20 pounds in 8 months. I was MISERABLE with my new job that I had JUST moved here for, and I definitely emotionally ate my way through the days... one at a time. Luckily  I got a wonderful new job in November of 2011 and after about a month of being happy with work I was able to let myself focus on my life a little bit. By the end of December I decided that 2012 was going to be MY year. Well, even after completing two triathlons and making a LOT of very big changes, I did not see the results I wanted to. I made a lot of behavior changes, but not the weight loss I wanted.

In November 2012 I joined Iron Tribe Crossfit and it was the best decision of my life. For whatever reason, weight loss just clicked once I started it. It is exhilarating, different, competitive, and exactly the kickstart I needed. I make myself get up at 5:30am five days a week, drive across town, and workout with my "tribe." So, that is definitely helping.

I have learned to utilize the power of a tiny little two letter word: "no." I have had to tell myself no and force myself to stick with that decision. It's not easy to deny yourself something you want, but after the fact it is so rewarding.

Tracking calories is crucial. I've been doing them via myfitnesspal. Even if I don't stick to my daily goal exactly, knowing what's going in my body helps put things in perspective in a big way.

I went to fat camp. I went to Hilton Head Health for 7 days to submerge myself into a healthy lifestyle program. This got the last 8 pounds off.

I went to the doctor. I went to the doctor to address my weight and see if there was anything she could do to help me. Turns out I have a hormonal imbalance that is a contributing factor to weight gain. I am taking medicine to even it out.

Support. Having great support is one of the most important elements to weight loss. It doesn't have to be a lot of people, or even people at all. It can be an online forum with people experiencing the same struggles. You, my readers, are my support group. Your encouragement keeps me going.

The scale. I've forced myself to use the scale and face the numbers. There were days when it wasn't pretty, but hey- the truth hurts!

Most importantly: what it boils down to is that I had to TAKE CONTROL. Control is the best word to describe my success thus far. I had to learn to control my cravings and make myself get on an organized exercise routine.

How I Plan to Keep Losing (and keep it off!):

Planning. Planning my meals and knowing what I'm going to eat makes a huge difference for me. As long as I can utilize that control I previously mentioned, this works well for me.

Self Monitor. This is where the fun part comes in. I have a new toy called a FitBit. It's kind of like a pedometer on steroids. It's small and I clip it on to my bra all day every day. It monitors my steps, floors climbed, how many calories I've burned, and it even monitors my sleep. It syncs to my computer and is just the coolest thing. I especially like the sleep pattern tracking. I have sleep apnea, so it helps me keep an eye on it. I also have an app for my phone that gives me quick access to my daily tracking. I log my food, just like I did with MyFitnessPal. It has a graph for caloric intake and I noticed that I was slowly consuming more calories each day this week, so I checked myself and regulated that today.

                     For the sleep monitoring, you can see how many times you wake up and when:

This device makes it easy for me to see how much I need to move my feet, especially since I have a completely sedentary job. The only time I get to leave my desk chair is to use the bathroom.

I'm going to work on managing my stress and letting myself relax. That is my biggest weakness (besides pizza). I never let myself relax, which means my body never gets to rest, which throws my metabolism for a wild ride.

Limit slips and incorporate lapses into my routine. I cannot tell you how many almost slips I have saved myself from this week. For example: I got off work the other night and I don't really know why or how, but I ended up at the grocery store. Remember it's 10:30 at night when I get off work. I remember telling myself to go, but I couldn't really figure out WHY I was there. The monkey chatter stated sounding off like CRAZY. Get some chips and salsa to snack on, you deserve it, get it. Get some ice cream. Get a pizza. AGHH!!! Shut up! What the hell am I here for? Coffee creamer. Thank God. No surprise there, right? Of course it had something to do with coffee, right? I walked straight to the creamer, picked it up and ignored the monkey chatter all the way to the checkout counter. I was not hungry, but because I COULD eat, I wanted to. Pitiful. I got home, did my nails, drank some green tea and watched The Hobbit. I wasn't hungry. This is how tricky emotional eating can be. Know when to stop it.

Exercise. Continue to keep workin' it. I love to exercise. I will not let laziness or emotions get in the way of something I love to do.

Water. Drink a shit ton of it. Having a cute Tervis helps. This is probably a total girl thing, but it helps.

I will eat a healthy, balanced diet built on the foundation of fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean protein sources, and low and non-fat dairy or soy products.

Here's a meal breakdown per the Hilton Head Health Meal Plan:

Breakfast (250-300 calories): Fresh fruits, whole grain breads and cereals, along with non-fat dairy and soy products. Occasionally eggs, french toast, and waffles. A balanced breakfast is one that includes a whole grain choice, a good source of calcium, and a piece of fruit.

Lunch (250-300 calories): Soup, salad, sandwich, or casserole

Dinner (300-350 calories): Lean protein source, vegetables, and a whole grain OR a starchy vegetable.

2-3 100 calorie snacks throughout the day: fruits, vegetables, non fat dairy, or occasionally whole grain pretzels, edemame,   soy nuts, or rice cakes.

Again, planning is key

Simple is better. Eating the same way everyday is the best strategy for controlling your calories. 

Establishing food rules. My main food rule is NO eating when I get off work!! Since this is my biggest challenge, it is my number one rule. In fact, the way I ensure that it doesn't happen is leaving my debit card and any cash I have on my counter before I leave for work. I live a few blocks away from my job, so it's not like it will be a huge deal in the case of an emergency. I'm literally within walking distance. If I can get through the first 30 minutes after work, I'm good.

Mindful eating. Admit it, you've done it before- you're watching a movie and look down and realize you've eaten the ENTIRE bag of chips without even meaning to. This mindless eating is detrimental to health and has to be controlled. There is absolutely nothing wrong with eating in front of the tv. The wrong comes in when you devour 4,000 calories just out of habit. My suggestion is to fix a plate of tv snacks in the kitchen and tell yourself that's it. This is all you can have. Snack on it, take it slow, and enjoy it. Habits can be changed; they can have a life span.

Tweak my environment. A GOOD kind of mindless eating is the kind where you are being healthy without having to work at it! Planning your meals is a perfect example. Grab your lunch, eat it, enjoy, wipe your hands- boom you're done. You just ate 300 calories of healthy yumminess and you didn't have to work at it. Have small plates, bowls, and cups in your house- you will automatically eat and drink less without even realizing it!

This is a lot of stuff, but doing a lifestyle 180 requires a lot of change.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Slips vs. Lapses

Another concept I learned last week on my fitness vacation was the difference between slips and lapses and how to deal with them. Slips are sudden, impulsive, unplanned bad decisions and are the ones you need to avoid. Lapses are planned "cheats" and are okay in moderation.

Examples of Slips vs. Lapses:

-Slip: At 10am you made a plan to run on the treadmill at 6pm for 20 minutes. 10 minutes in to the run you suddenly decide to cut it off at 15 because you already worked out that morning and you're good.
-Lapse: At 10am you decide not to run on the treadmill at 6pm because you had a good workout this morning and you need the rest.

-Slip: You have a dinner planned with friends, you've looked at the menu ahead of time, and you decided on the rainbow trout with veggies. The server comes around, you get order envy, and you order the Cajun pasta.
-Lapse: You have a dinner planned with friends, you've looked at the menu ahead of time and you decide on the Cajun pasta because it has been a long time since you have treated yourself to a pasta dish.

-Slip: A co-worker has leftover Easter candy and you accept a piece, even though you are not hungry.
-Lapse: As you are packing your lunch to take with you to work, you grab a piece of chocolate to have for dessert.

-Slip: You plan on having 2 glasses of wine at 100 calories each at happy hour with friends, but once you get there you see they have a special on chocolate martinis. You drink two of those at 400 calories each instead.
-Lapse: It's Sunday and you plan a 'Monday Martini' night with the girls, knowing that you will have 2 chocolate martinis because they are your favorite and it's been two months since you have indulged.

Are you asking yourself what the real difference between the two is? Look at the first one: a lapse in this situation would mean that you didn't even walk at all, so isn't some better than nothing? Or how about the second one? The calories are the same for the slip and the lapse, so why does it matter which one it is? You consumed the same meal both ways!

Here's the difference: Control. Lapses are controlled 'cheats,' wheras slips are out of your control and tend to happen waaaayyyyy more frequently. Those little slips, like grabbing the work candy just because it's there, are the things that REALLY add up and have the most effects on your health. The occasional lapses are planned, well thought out, planned around, and happen very infrequently.

The things that have the most affect on your body, are the things you do consistently.

So be mindful of your slips, know the difference between the two, and control them. And when you do slip (and you will), don't beat yourself up about it. Learn from your mistake. Identify it and watch it next time.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Emotional Eating

The lecture that meant the most to me at Hilton Head Health was the one on emotional eating. At 300 plus pounds, you're not obese just because you skip a few workouts and forget to count your calories! I have known for forever that emotional eating is a big problem of mine. And it's not just about eating when I'm sad or lonely; I eat when I'm happy, too. I celebrate the good things in my life with food that makes me happy instead of food that makes me healthy. I've also thought for a very long time that this emotional eating and my occasional binges are what have kept me at the weight I am. Boy was I wrong. Over and over again the trainers at camp told us that "you are what you consistently do." I do not consistently emotional eat, nor do I consistently binge. I consistently don't count calories. I consistently don't take alcohol into consideration. More importantly, I consistently don't address my emotional eating and try to figure out where it's coming from.

There are two types of emotional eating: conscious and unconscious. Conscious means that you can easily identify why you're eating: you are aware that you feel sad, insecure, happy, etc... These emotions are on the surface and they are easy to recognize, as is your desire to eat in relation to those emotions. So, what do you do to fix this? First off, you can't out think your obsessions or your compulsions, so don't try. You must create a new behavior to offset them. Go for a 10 minute walk, drink a cup of tea, etc... Create a NEW behavior to train yourself to crave, and your emotions will eventually be tied to that behavior. Think about the food you eat when you know for a fact it is linked to emotions. For example: ice cream is typically linked to sadness in women. So, if you always eat ice cream when you are sad, your body naturally starts to crave it when that sadness emotion set in. Create a new habit to crave. When you have identified the emotions that trigger specific eating, leave the environment where the food is. Get away from it and occupy your time with something other than food. Come up with a strategy so you don't have to think about what to do during that intense emotion. If you're like me, emotions are very strong, scary strong. It is frightening to me to know how powerful they are and how much I let them control me.

In contrast, unconscious emotional eating is not as simple to deal with. These emotions have not yet surfaced to the conscious level, but the good news is that they DO have symptoms. Symptoms include: an increase in food thoughts and cravings to the point of distraction, physical signs of stress such as heaviness in chest, grinding your teeth, trouble sleeping, difficulty relaxing, small food slips, eating between meals, slight overeating, racing thoughts, difficulty quieting your mind, or you are easily frustrated or short tempered. All of these symptoms happen because you are not plugged into your feelings and eating is happening out of your control. An example: you're having an uber stressful day at work. You have been so busy you haven't had time to even think about eating your healthy lunch you brought with you. A coworker has a plate of homemade brownies that he is escorting through the newsroom. While you're furiously stabbing your keyboard to death, you grab the brownie, scarf it down without a second thought, and the next thing you know you reach for a salty bag of crunchy chips. These are things you might not have done if your day was smooth-sailing and you had plenty of time to enjoy your homemade bowl of healthy goodness. When you have a problem and you eat over it, your problem has now reproduced another problem. In other words, you now have two problems. This is when the "monkey chatter" comes back into your head, distracting your thoughts and corrupting your decisions. The resulting bad choices you end up making are red flags. Start taking note of all these red flags and document them somehow. When you start to get sloppy with your health, you will notice more and more red flags. These red flags indicate something else is going on; something is brewing in your emotion realm. The speaker, Lisette, literally has little red flag post it flags that she tags somewhere she can see them every time she slips. She sticks one of them in her chosen spot every time she slips so she can address the cause of the flag. This might seem like a lot, but once you a able to identify the source of them, it will become easier to identify at the start of the urge. Once you have matched the emotion with the red flag, you can establish your "food rules" and make a plan for your recovery of emotional eating.

Food rules are strict guidelines that you have to follow, day in and day out. The only advice I have for following through is telling yourself how much you wanted to do this at the time you created the rules. Think back to how you felt when you established them and get back to that level. My food rules are to follow the eating and caloric schedule I was on while I was at Hilton Head Health. 3 meals a day, 300 calories each, and 4 snacks a day, 100 calories each. Nothing more, nothing less. And if I want to drink, that's fine, but I need to keep it to a 5oz glass of wine, which is about 100 calories.

An example of putting that all together: Yesterday was my first day back at work and I felt hungry throughout the day and wanted to snack on something every 15 minutes it seemed like! I kept telling myself that there's no possible way I could really be hungry. How can I be hungry if I'm just sitting on my butt doing nothing, but at camp I was exercising 8 hours a day and I didn't feel hungry? My identifying emotion at work was boredom. I was pretty much wrapped up with everything I needed to do, so I was falsely feeling hungry because I was bored. Now, the next step to solving this puzzle is to figure out why the boredom emotion equals hunger. I eat when I'm bored. This is my biggest weakness. I am fine all day until I get home from work at 10:30pm. I have already eaten dinner by the time I get home and I eat because I am bored. I am bored because I live by myself and I have nothing to do until I can finally wind down enough to go to sleep. For two years now since I have had this schedule, I have solved the boredom emotion with food. Because my body is used to food paired with the emotion of boredom, I have trained my brain to crave food when I feel bored! Kind of crazy, huh?

So now that I have figured all of that out, the next step is to create an action plan to retrain my brain. Unfortunately I have a job where I can't just get up and go for a 10 minute walk when I need to, so I have to find something to do at my desk. I snagged a few stress balls to take to my desk. When I start to get bored at work, I will take a few minutes to squeeze the stress balls until I stop thinking about food. Mine is a blueberry and I brought a strawberry one and a grape one for my two other co-workers I share a desk with! :)

When I get home from work I'm going to work on the meditation techniques I learned at camp. I am creating new behaviors for my mind to associate with boredom. To get a grasp on your emotions, you have to bring them all out into the open. "When you put your emotions on the altar they will alter." I don't remember who said that, but I love it. The emotional stress cycle is easy enough to understand, but it's not as easy to break. Imagine a circle: at the top is the precipitating event or the precipitating thought, then it slides down to the emotional reaction, next come the emotions that trigger overeating or compulsive eating behaviors. Next come feelings of shame or failure resulting from overeating or compulsive eating. Then the cycle starts over again. And over again. You have to cut the circle off at the emotional reaction to break the cycle. But you have to be brave enough to get there. You can't do anything about the precipitating event or thought, but you can control the reaction. Emotions are not facts and they don't define you. But, they do have a life expectancy and they can be changed. They can serve you well but they can also lead you astray. Insight is the key to determining what they mean. This insight is the key to freedom from emotional eating , but it needs to be actively developed and strengthened.

Now, this next part is what I thought was the most enlightening. Emotional hunger versus physical hunger. They can both feel the same until you learn to identify their different characteristics. The next time you feel the urge to overeat, think about these differences and be aware of why you are hungry. The most common symptom of emotional hunger is a specific craving. If you know exactly what you want, it is emotional eating. With physical hunger you will eat anything and your desire for food is not specific. For example, if you are craving pizza, there is an underlying emotion there that's brewing that you have "cured" through pizza. So, now that emotion is automatically connected to a pizza craving.

The following is straight from a handout given to us at Hilton Health, so all this info belongs to them...

Emotional Hunger is:
-Sudden. One minute you're not thinking about food at all, and the next minute you're starving. Your hunger goes from 0-60 within a short period of time.
-For a specific food. Your craving is directed towards a particular type of food, such as chocolate or chips. With emotional eating, you feel you need to eat that specific food and nothing else will do.
-"Above the Neck." An emotionally based craving begins in the mouth and mind. You want to taste that pizza or chocolate. You begin to focus intently on how to pbtain the desired food.
-Urgent. Emotional hunger compels you to eat right now. There is a strong desire to instantly ease or soothe oneself with food. It can't wait.
-Connected to difficult feelings or situations. emotional hunger can be triggered by strong feelings or reactions (anger, resentment, helplessness, envy), or certain states of being (boredom or tiredness).
-Automatic or absent-minded eating. Emotional eating can feel as though you're in a trance (automatic eating). You may eat standing up, walking, in a car, or very quickly. Or, you may not particularly notice what you've eaten (absent-minded eating).
-Continuous eating, despite fullness. Emotional overeating gets tangled up with feelings. The person stuffs him/herself to deaden troubling emotions and continues to eat even when over-full.
-Followed by feelings of guilt. The paradox of emotional over-eating is that the person eats to feel better but ends up berating him/herself for bingeing or eating 'bad' foods. Promises are made to make amends (I'll exercise, diet, skip meals tomorrow).

Physical Hunger is:
-Gradual. First your tummy begins to rumble. One hour later, it growls. Physical hunger gives you steady, progressive clues that it's time to eat.
-Open to different foods. With physical hunger, you may have food preferences, but they are flexible. your appetitie remains open to alternative choices.
-Based in the stomach. Physical hunger is connected to stomach sensations. You feel gnawing, rumbling, emptiness, and even an ache in your stomach with true physical hunger.
-Patient. Physical hunger would prefer that you ate soon, but doesn't command you to eat right at that instant. It can wait a bit longer.
-Out of physical need. Physical hunger occurs because it has been four or five hours since your last meal. you may even experience light headeness or low energy if overly hungry.
-Deliberate and Aware of the choices made with eating. With physical hunger, you are aware of the food in your hand, in your mouth, and in your stomach. You consciously choose whether to eat only half your sandwich or to consume all of it.
-Stops when full. Physical hunger stems from a desire to fuel and nourish the body. Once that intention is fulfilled, the person stops eating.
-Realizes eating is necessary. when the intent behind eating is based on physical hunger, there's no guilt or shame. The person accepts that eating, like breathing or sleeping, is a necessary behavior.

I suggest that you let yourself get really hungry a few times (unless you have some sort of medical condition, of course). When you let yourself get really hungry, you can identify your physical vs. emotional symptoms. Once you have identified them, you will be able to differentiate between the two.

With all that being said in this obscenely long post, I leave you with this saying: Eat to live; don't live to eat.