Friday, July 31, 2009

Reasons Being

The Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon isn’t until Sunday, but I’m already pissed something fierce about this race and making rash declarations of “never again!” Why?

Well first of all, the Rock ‘n’ Roll franchise bought the Chicago Distance Classic, my first half marathon. But sentiment aside, that didn’t bug me so much. This is what bugs me:
From the Final Race Information packet:
You may only pick up your own race packet and number at the Expo – NO EXCEPTIONS!

Huh? And what?

There must be a caveat though… somewhere… for something…

But there’s not. And to add insult, you have to pick up your own packet at McCormick Place, which for those of you who are familiar with Chicago, is completely out of the way, not accessible by public transportation, and is about the size of O’Hare Airport. If that wasn’t bad enough, they are charging $19 to park, whether you’re there for five minutes or five hours.

This is bullshit. I have never participated in a race that didn’t allow someone pick up your packet for you. Even the marathon allows that. This is just a ploy to boost the number of warm bodies they can claim when soliciting exhibitors for the expo. You can bet your money that I will not buy much less even peruse the merchandise.


And that is how I feel about that.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Five Finds

Dr. Praeger’s
Have you have heard of this fella, Dr. Praegar? Well, on a whim, I picked up his Tex Mex Veggie Burgers while shopping at Trader Joe’s a few weeks ago. I figured it would taste like a Boca or Morningstar patty, but this guy’s veggie burgers are fan-freaking-tastic. Well, turns out he’s got a whole slew of low calorie, low fat products that look yummy, only I can’t find them anywhere (Word on the street is that Whole Foods carries some of his products, only I haven’t stepped inside a Whole Foods since I quit my job at The Association—good for the pocket book…hmmmm…). I did also try the California Veggie Burger, and it’s also tasty. I suggest skipping the bun, topping the patty with some salsa (Garlic Salsa from Trader Joe’s is one of my new favorite things) and finishing it off with some slices of avocado. Points: 2 points for one patty; 4.5 for two.

WeightWatchers Chicken Salad
This is one of the easiest, tastiest recipes I have found on the WeightWatchers website. It’s a staple in my make-ahead lunch rotation, and it’s a great way to get a solid serving of lean protein in every day. Seriously, it’s so easy, it’s stupid.

3/4 pound(s) cooked chicken breast, cut into bite-sized piece (I boil and shred the chicken)
1/2 cup(s) celery, finely diced (or as much as you want; celery is a great filler in this recipe and adds a lot of bulk to your serving)
1/3 cup(s) dill pickle(s), or sweet gherkins, finely diced (I found sweet relish that was super low in calories, so I just do about two or three tablespoons of that)
1/4 cup(s) reduced-calorie mayonnaise
2 tbsp reduced-fat sour cream
2 tbsp parsley, fresh, chopped (I actually started using dried parsley because I always waste the fresh stuff)
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp table salt
1/4 tsp black pepper, freshly ground

Mix it all together. Tada.

Lemony Zucchini Goat Cheese Pizza from Smitten Kitchen
I do like to look at photos of food. Food porn, I believe they call it these days. So after everyone I know told me about the blog Smitten Kitchen, I added it to my Google reader. The photography is beautiful, and the recipes always sound good, but she does a lot more baking than I imagine I’ll ever do, and frankly some (most) of her recipes are just not weight-conscious-bride-to-be friendly. However, I keep an eye out for those recipes than would work or could be modified, and lord knows if I see the words “goat cheese” I have to investigate.

I happened to remember reading this when I saw zucchini and yellow squash on recent trip to the farmers market. I knew someone (myself) was trying to tell me something (make the pizza). I was worried the amount of goat cheese might make the pizza too rich or that the added lemon flavor would be over-powering, but my fears were in vain. The pizza turned out perfectly. And I, often a tomato sauce and cheese purist when it comes to pizza, was in love. I, of course, used a Whole Wheat Boboli crust because time is not something I have an over-abundance of these days. Also, do not drizzle the olive oil (if you are concerned with these things), rather, I just put a teaspoon of oil in a small bowl and brushed it on to the veggies right before the pizza went into the oven. It’s not the most diet-friendly meal, but it’s easy to plan for, and it feels more like an indulgence than it is. If you want to eat 1/3 of the pizza it’s 8 points. If you’re going to go “nuts” and eat half the pizza, it will cost you 12.

Total Whole Grain
I love cereal. But sometimes I love cereal a little too much, which has meant that as of late, Cheerios has gone on the “do not buy” list. I will eat an entire box. Watch me. This means that eating cereal is a bit of a precarious situation for me. I have to find something that I like enough to look forward to eating it every day, but not enough that I’m going to want to eat it all day. I’ve been lucky in that I do seem to prefer non-surgery, higher-fiber, lower fat cereals. But that’s just me. MM picked up a box of Total Whole Grain, I was all “whatever Total,” for unexplained, perhaps ignorant reasons. When I looked at the nutritional content though, I decided to give it a try. I am hooked. Not only is it a great breakfast choice, it’s also become my staple pre-workout snack. And one serving is only 1 point (granted it’s only ¾ cup, but whatever…).

Spinach Tofu Chickpea Curry
My experience with is kind of feels like being handed a 10 page menu at a restaurant. There simply too much—too many categories, too many recipes, too many comments with too many suggestions for modifying recipes. This makes it difficult to make a decision, and once you find something you like, you stick with it even though there are thousands of other options. Once upon a time, when I was trying to eat vegetarian, I found the recipe for Spinach Tofu Chickpea Curry. It was an instant hit and I made it constantly. So constantly, in fact, I was shocked that I hadn’t already written about it on this blog. The recipe ran its natural course in our households—as recipes will do—and we moved on.

However, last week I brought back the Spinach Tofu Chickpea Curry, and it was as good as ever. I did make one modification. I use extra-firm tofu, rather than firm. And for those of you who don’t often eat the crazy, hippie stuff, “pressing” the tofu before cooking with it makes a world of difference in your final product. All you need to do is set the tofu on a plate, cover it with a paper towel or dish towel (whatever) and then set some heavy stuff on top of it. Let it sit for awhile (I sometimes do this in the morning and have it sit under the weight all day). This removes the water from the tofu, allowing it to soak in the flavors of curry.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

This is Not My Last Meal

I have exactly three goals in life right now: 1) lose weight; 2) finish planning the wedding; 3) try not to majorly fuck up at the new job. And yes, you're in for another diet and weight lose post. Deal with it (You wanted me back! Well, two of you wanted me back, but that’s entirely not the point in my opinion.).

This morning, I was thinking about yesterday’s blog post and what took me so long to finally get with the program, but moreover, what finally clicked? I mean I have experienced an inexplicable shift in perspective over the last month when it comes to eating, which was, in my case, 90 percent of the problem at this point. Exercise? No big deal. As you know, being the faithful reader that you are, I started running in January 2006, and by some miracle, I never stopped. This year, I’ve incorporated even more cross training, strength and stretching into my routine than ever before (and if not just for the toning and added weight loss benefits, then because the aches and pains in my legs are significantly diminished this year).

But yeah… the eating. That can be a problem. Have I moved beyond the sins of my past eating habits for good? No one can be sure. But I thought I’d write out some of my current lessons to live by that are helping me successfully lose weight six months (15 years?) after I started the journey. I figure if I forget, I can come back and read this post. This is for me, not you, but maybe you’re interested or you’re just bored, whatever.
  1. This is not my last meal. Do you ever go out to dinner and order like you will never visit that restaurant again in your life? God, I do that ALL the time. I have to continually remind myself that this is not my last meal of pizza, guacamole, pulled pork sandwich, chana masala, etc., ad nauseam. I will eat these foods again—probably soon—which means I do not need to go nuts simply because they are in front of me.
  2. Acceptance of what I can and cannot control. Example: I can control whether or not I walk into a grocery store, make a beeline for the freezer section, pick up a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Chubby Hubby, discreetly pay for it, hide it in my purse and make a break for the car. I cannot control whether or not I eat that pint of ice cream once in my possession. Ice cream is one of those foods that I love more than life itself. I cannot, when faced with ice cream, say no. It is simply the truth. So what do I do? I eat it. One scoop. That’s all. No going out of my way to get it, but if it’s there, I’m going to have some and move on with my life.
  3. One bad meal does not have to mean one bad day. And furthermore, one bad day does not have to mean one bad weekend or one bad week. Shit happens. Parties happen. Nights out on the town happen. Bad days that end with a frozen pizza happen. The moral of this story: get back on track as quickly as possible.
  4. Play games instead. Half of MM’s family is Filipino, and huge-mongous. It’s awesome and fun and new to me as I grew up with a sister and no close cousins or aunts and uncles, and I have made myself right at home having a big family to call my own in Chicago. They have BBQs and parties quite a bit, and they are big into eating… and big into forcing food onto their guests. It’s how they show love. I’m not being sarcastic, it’s true; it’s a problem for me; and it’s somewhat offensive if I don’t eat. But I’ve found solutions. In some cases, I make myself a plate and discreetly hand it off to MM. Other times, I use the “I’m going to have some in a minute” excuse, and when I’m actually really hungry, I fill my plate with half salad and help myself to smaller portions of noodles and rice. Saving myself from MM’s relatives actually isn’t too difficult. It’s saving myself from myself that proves trickier. The number one thing I’ve learned at these get-togethers is, if I’m playing ultimate Frisbee, involved in a volleyball game, or dancing my butt off, I’m not eating. Luckily MM has a gaggle of cousins in their late teens, twenties and thirties who are always willing to play.
  5. Eat more fruits and vegetables, but mostly eat more vegetables. I don’t know about you, but I can plow through a carton of strawberries with reckless abandon. Yes it’s healthy. But you know what’s even healthier? Plowing through pound of spinach leaves. Less tasty though. It’s definitely become obvious to me that eating more veggies makes a difference in my weight loss. But to be honest, I’m not really a salad for lunch (or for dinner) kind of gal. It really doesn’t satisfy me. I don’t dislike vegetables; I like them sometimes and even often, but I struggle to want to snack on carrot sticks versus… oh say… a Go Lean Crunchy Bar. I’m working on it. I bring baby carrots and bell pepper strips to dip into low calorie ranch, and lettuce to stuff into a whole grain pita with my low fat chicken salad. Basically, I sneak in my servings.
  6. Just say no. Or yes… depending on the situation. As previously mentioned I started a new job, and since July it’s been a whirlwind of welcome lunches, birthday lunches, lunches for no particular reason, summer celebrations, donuts brought in just because and ice cream socials. Food is central to this office. Being new, I feel it’s critical that I involve myself in some of these food-related activities, so I get to know my coworkers and am not viewed as an outcast unwilling to join in the fun. On a few occasions, for more informal lunch outings, I’ve suggested Subway and other healthy options; I order salads at restaurants when necessary; I carefully assess and choose my options when dealing with buffets of food; and sometimes, I decline the invitation. That usually only happens with donuts.
  7. Planning is key. I know this is obvious, but it’s critical. I plan what meals I’m going to make for dinner each night before I head to the grocery store to do the weekly shopping. About 80 percent of the time, MM and I actually eat what we said we were going to eat. I spend Sundays making my lunches for the week. And, if all else fails, I make sure I have healthy frozen or quick options on hand if I don’t feel like preparing dinner, or I can’t stand the thought of having the same lunch five days in a row at work. It takes time, but this (other than the mental switch that seems to have been flipped to “on” recently) is the most important thing I can do.
So there you go. I think tomorrow I might post a list of some of my latest and greatest food finds that are also helping me stay on track. Are you bored with me yet?

Monday, July 27, 2009

27 Days

I tried, in vain, to write a blog post from my fancy schmancy new(ish) Google phone while sitting in the airport on Friday. Despite the obvious obstacle of finger typing, it was going fairly well, until I accidentally deleted everything. So… yeah. Sorry.

I spent the weekend in Ohio at the last of my pre-wedding parties, a very “intimate” shower (code for small) with family members and a handful of old friends. It was significantly less stressful than other events, which was welcomed considering I teeter frequently on the edge of being a not-so-hot mess because of… oh… stress, real and imagined.

There are 27 days before the wedding. In that time I will: Take one final trip to Michigan for my hair and makeup trial as well as final meetings with the owner of the bed and breakfast where we are holding the ceremony; run a half marathon; continue training for the Chicago Marathon (which means distances up to and including 16 miles); diet; try to get my skin under control (do not get me started on this); schedule and reschedule a dozen appointments; and attempt not to lose my mind and/or alienate MM.

Yay for weddings.

On the bright side, I’ve finally turned a corner and started to believe that the whole ceremony/reception business will end up being fun, and at this point, I’m kind of actually looking forward to it… it’s what happens between now and August 22 that could potentially cause a nervous breakdown.

So anyway, that’s my random update. I’m going to make an effort to blog regularly for the next few weeks. I think it might help my sanity and give me some perspective.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Somebody Told Me

I know I suck. I haven't blogged in forever... long enough for the people who only think to click on some random link titled "Lou's Blog" in their Bookmarks once every two or so months to start asking questions.

Are you dead?


I was just waiting until I had news. Real news. Good news. Brace yourselves.

I fit into my smaller sized jeans.

Collective gasp.

The truth is they've *kind of* fit for awhile (such is the plight of she who loses weight at a snail's pace), if by "fit" you mean, fits as long as I haven't had anything to eat in the last 48 hours. Not that that ever happens. The truth is, I would wear them once in a while, always with a baggy shirt, knowing that if I had a meal, or a drink, or sat down, they would eventually become terribly uncomfortable and I would have to... I know I shouldn't even admit this... unbutton the top button.

The horror. The horror.

But today I put them on, zipped them right up, put on a cute, fitted t-shirt, ate some Indian food, and continued to wear them sans pain and suffering. That's how God intended us to wear jeans.

In short, I'm awesome. Not totally awesome because I still have an even smaller pair of jeans in the closest waiting for their return, but it's a start. And it's about time.

Oh I know... there's so much else to catch up on. But, perhaps this was the break through I needed--inspiration in the form of jeans, one size smaller. Isn't it amazing how something so insignificant can make a gal stand a little taller, walk with a little more confidence, feel a little more inspired, and have, if just ever so slightly, a better outlook on life?