Sunday, April 29, 2012

I hit my goal!! and some helpful tips for others

New foods tried this week: Crabmeat quesadilla with the tomatoes and chilli's included! My previous version of a quesadilla was just chicken and cheese. It turns out I love tomatoes! I also tried a bite of my husbands enchillada (liked it) and some salsa. (too spicy) I only ate 3 of those slices. Thankfully it was light on the cheese. (From my local Mexican restaurant The Sunfire Grill in Rockland Maine which ROCKS!)

So I finally hit my goal weight of 115 lbs. I won't lie, I am excited about that. I do have to share something that happened though as a caution. I actually gained a pound during the time I was counting calories. I think I know why. I fell into the trap of only worrying about the calories and not paying as much attention to what I was actually eating. Oh a Hershey's kiss is only 21 calories? Well according to my numbers for the day I can eat 5. Cool. Forget about the fact it isn't a real food. (by real I mean something that has any nutritional value) It turns out it isn't always going to be super accurate. They give you a few choices for raw banana for instance that all differ in the count. Knowing which one you can use is a guessing game you can get wrong. So I went back to not keeping track and doing what works better for me. Trying to eat as much real food as possible and eating frequently. 3 meals and 2 snacks minimum.
I do also exercise a little. I walk as much as I can. Now for me this means a minimum of 30 minutes at a time of at least a moderate speed. I usually have a dog or 2 with me. (which varies my time and speed) If I am trying to burn more calories I shoot for 45 minutes at a faster pace. I read that for heart health you want to shoot for 30 minutes a day. I am lucky if I get 3 times a week. Because I am not a morning person I walk after work and on weekends. I don't keep track of my walking days, I just go whenever the weather is nice and I can eek out the time. If you can't do 30 minutes start with less. Work up. Any added exercise will benefit you. If you try to start strong and hurt yourself it won't do you any good. Look at it as just moving more than you did before. I am still hoping to add some strength training and yoga soon. (My husband is putting me to shame by running at least three 5K's a week now. That's ok! I am focused on me and my goals and supporting him and his. Don't worry about what others are doing, it isn't a competition.)
Getting healthy is also not a speed race, it is a long distance event. Portion control is important. Don't try to eat so little that you are hungry. This will also work against you as your body goes into starvation mode and you won't lose any weight. (if that is your intention) Or you will have a break down and pig out in response when you can't take it anymore. Start with just eating a little less in your portions. This will help shrink your stomach over time back to the normal size it should be. If you eat out very often you will notice most restaurants serve portions that are NOT a normal serving size. I am an adult and I eat a happy meal because that is a more normal size of a meal for me. If I go to The Olive Garden and get the Fettuccine Alfredo, I take half home to become another meal. I eat a small bowl of the salad and 1 breadstick. (a half would be better but once started it is hard to resist) It is ok to take the rest home! It is also ok to leave food on your plate and walk away. Yes you paid for the food but that shouldn't justify you eating all of it. Think ahead to potential doctor visits or medications needed for diabetes. Or just realize you paid for the food to be your fuel. It costs the same if you stop eating when you are full or if you eat it all. You aren't really "out" anything if you walk away. Super sizing is not a better value if it is super sizing you and your arteries!
Things I try to eat daily or at least very often: Blueberries for the antioxidents. (or other berries) I usually get these at breakfast or sometimes at lunch. Either by using thawed frozen (Maine) berries on my waffle, in my yogurt or on my cereal. (cheerios) If I miss them at breakfast I might have it in my grandmothers homemade jam at lunch. The next thing I eat daily is nuts. They are for heart health. My go to is almonds. I have some in a container I take to work. (no more than an ounce a day) Or I eat almond butter in a sandwich along with the jam. If I don't get it that way I add sunflower seeds to a salad. At the end of the day if I haven't had any nuts I might also have a handful of walnuts instead. Another thing I eat daily is wheat bread. Also for heart health. If you get store bought make sure it has 3 grams of dietary fiber to be a healthy source of fiber. (that 3 gram rule applies to other foods as well) Carbs get a bad name with people who diet. It isn't about cutting out all carbs, it is about eating good carbs. Simple carbs like donuts, cookies, pastas and such can be bad for you because of how they create sugar in your body. Complex carbs are good for you because they convert differently and keep your blood sugar regulated. (again, I am not a nutritionist but this is my understanding of the process) I do still eat cookies, just not as often and I now buy the ones with no trans-fats or I make my own. Eggs for vitamin D. I usually get 1 hard boiled egg at breakfast. If not I might do egg salad at lunchtime. (with reduced fat mayo made with olive oil) Fruit. Because I want to prevent scurvy! LOL No I just eat more fruits and veggies whenever I can because it is a natural food. I do sometimes eat half a grapefruit at breakfast. I also eat bananas frequently at least once a day.
What you drink matters too. Drink more water if possible. Again start slow if you need to. Replace 1 soda a day with water or ice tea instead. Tea is great for heart health and cholesterol health. It helps good cholesterol and blocks bad cholesterol. I brew my own unsweetened ice tea now. I started with a sweetened green tea and graduated to unsweetened. I buy lipton and try to have at least one glass a day. I brew it ahead and store it in the fridge. I add a piece of lemon for sweetener and for the citric acid. I haven't had a soda in months now and can honestly say I don't miss it at all. When I would still get cravings I would just think about what's in it. Syrup, sugar and carbonation. What's nutritious about that? I am also excited to report my teen daughter has also quit drinking soda. (aside from the occasional one at a friends house) This is big news because she was very much into her Dr. Pepper! (When I go to the movies I get a kids pack and ask for a tap water as my drink.)
Read your labels. If you can't pronounce half the stuff on the label it probably isn't good for you. Think of it this way, home made from scratch has things in it you know like flour, sugar, butter. Those are real foods. Processed foods have preservatives in them so they don't go bad on the store shelves. Some of those ingredients are chemical in nature. Those chemicals don't always act like real food in your body. When in doubt go with homemade if possible. If it isn't possible check out your health food aisle. Those labels are far less scary and usually have less or no trans-fats.
So that has what has worked well for me. I plan on continuing of course because it was never just about taking weight off. It is about a healthier lifestyle. I am still learning as I go of course. I also hope to post some recipes here that I find helpful.
Now the bad news: Eating better can cost more money I've found. Organic foods cost more than foods with chemicals because crappy foods are cheaper to produce. (because they are half chemical!) It can also mean more prep time and thinking ahead time. If you get hungry and only have junk food around guess what you will eat? That's right, the junk. (it happens to me too) So be prepared. Have healthy choices around. It doesn't mean you can never eat out or have some potato chips again either. Heck I have Ben and Jerry's ice creme in my freezer I sometimes eat! (beside my frozen yogurt) The secret is moderation. I don't sit down and eat the whole container. Unless you live on a farm and make all your own food you will eat some processed foods. It is reality. So yes eating healthier might cost more and yes it might mean more work on your part, but ask yourself this question? Aren't you worth it?

A healthier snack: Banana slices with dark chocolate melted on the top and frozen. Recipe from Clean Eating magazine. Next time I will try this with dehydrated banana chips. I found the banana to mushy when thawed.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Dieter beware

First I have to make a correction. The application is called "My Fitness Pal" and not My Fit Pal. Also you can use the website at: With the phone ap you can scan bar codes of the foods you eat which means it can also keeps track of other information like fat content, protein and trans fats. Pretty handy!

These are two Quiche I made recently with asparagus and left over pork shoulder bits. Clearly I am a fan of asparagus! One went to my co-workers and the other became my breakfast for about a week.
I am noticing a disturbing trend in "diets". People seem to be focusing on just losing weight quickly to look good, not changing their overall health. That would be fine if it wasn't sometimes dangerous. Seriously, what good is it to be thin and have a certain "look" if a week later you suffer some health problem or worse die. I was looking into one of the diets someone mentioned to a friend and it turns out the high protein, low carb diet can cause kidney stones or even kidney failure. Yikes!! Does the diet work? Yes, you will lose weight quickly. The body goes into Ketosis where it burns it's own fat. Unfortunately that has serious side effects if done long term. But hey, you will look good before you die. This is just one reason you should be very wary of fad "diets". Sure many of them might work in the short term but are they sustainable? Can you really eat that way for the rest of your life or is it to restrictive? And are they healthy for you? Yes simple carbs are not healthy, but complex carbs are good for heart health and for their fiber content.
One diet says you should eat like the caveman did. Well this is slightly flawed in my view. For one reason cavemen lived in many different areas so their diets would have varied. Quite a lot actually. Another is, if there were cavemen doesn't that mean we evolved? If we evolved wouldn't that mean our bodies adapted to the foods in that area as well? Seems suspect to me. We are not cavemen.
Look it's really not rocket science. If you eat fewer calories and move more you will lose weight. You can even not move more if you eat less. However you need to eat enough or you will put your body into starvation mode and it won't burn off calories at all. (If you watch "The Biggest Loser" you'll see that sometimes those contestants run into that problem.) Keeping track of calories works but remember what I said, it isn't just about the calories but where the calories come from. Eat real foods and your body will be able to process that food more efficiently without side effects. There really is no (safe) quick fix. Unless you are just naturally thin or muscular, you have to work at weight loss. Keep in mind tho, that just because a person is thin it doesn't automatically mean they are healthy. If they eat badly their body will also suffer from it. You just might not be able to see the damage.
It took me a long time to be concerned about my health enough to change my eating habits. Everyone will come to it in their own time. I just want people to be aware that some diets can be a risk to their health. Not to mention you need to consider what will be realistic long term. Simple changes will work more than denying yourself foods that are good for you. (Good carbs are not the bad guy!)
My brave moment of the week came when I ate some of my husbands Moose meat chili. It was the first time I have ever eaten chili. Yeah I know. It wasn't super spicy which is why I was brave. I'm not good with spicy. It was excellent and only 195 calories per cup. This also brings up you need to look at serving sizes when you read the labels. The calories listed go by servings and most labels will tell you have many servings are in a bag/box.

I got on the scale yesterday and was down 2 more lbs. I'm starting to wonder when I will level off. I know I weighed 112lbs before I got pregnant. My lowest was 97lbs back when I was in the military. However I KNOW I wasn't healthy then. I had an ulcer that made me feel nauseous all the time. Because I barely ate my stomach shrunk so when I did eat I couldn't eat very much. It also made me very weak and I would have to lie on my bathroom floor after a shower so I didn't pass out. Yeah fun times. I do still have the mummy tummy that I really want to get rid of tho it is smaller now. I'm starting to wonder if that will ever really go away. Time will tell I guess.
I also have to say, so that people will know I DO eat junk food on occasion that I had the most AMAZING piece of wedding cake this weekend. It was a strawberry shortcake vanilla deal that even had real strawberry pieces. I consider homemade cake ok because I can name all of the ingredients that it is made with. Of course I wouldn't eat it every day but it isn't a food that is off limits to me. Processed foods like twinkies? Yeah those are a no-go from now on. Homemade wedding cake? Sign me up.
Eat well!!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Mindful eating

Things are going well. I've realized what it comes down to is mindful eating. You have to think ahead for meals because if you get too hungry you can set yourself up to make bad choices. Have some snacks ready that are good for you. Don't beat yourself up for indulging once in a while. Just take it into account, adjust and move on. I have been walking more for exercise. I do feel I need to add more strength training to the mix soon. Maybe some yoga too.
I got back on the scale today and was amazed to see I am now 118.2lbs. Seriously I am not even trying that hard. Just added basic exercise (mainly power walking) and eating real foods as much as possible. I do think not weighing yourself to often is a good idea. Because even if you lose 1 lb a week, which is ideal, it doesn't feel like enough to keep some people on track. If you wait and do it once a month those lbs add up and you see it more. According to  medical body mass index charts my weight should be between 18.5 to 24.9 lbs. I'm pretty sure this means I should level out anytime now. However if I start doing some weight training my weight will go up because muscle weighs more than fat. (well not exactly but you know what I mean)
I just recently got a new application for my phone called My Fit Pal. It calculates everything you eat and the exercise you do. It and takes your height and weight goals into account it does a countdown and helps you keep track of your daily calorie intake. This helps because if you don't eat enough when trying to lose weight you can put your body into starvation mode and NOT lose weight. This is where many dieters go off track. However, it only keeps track of the calories as numbers, it doesn't tell you what food is better nor rate the quality of the calories you are taking in. This is a VERY important distinction! I should be getting 1200 calories a day, but if they are from crappy processed foods than I may lose weight but my body isn't going to be as healthy as if I ate foods that are good for me. Remember, this isn't about weight per say, it is about health. (tho we women have a hard time separating the two methinks) When in doubt always chose the real food with more calories over processed crap that might have fewer. It just means you need to read the labels closely. If you can't pronounce it that might be a red flag. Food = Fuel. Our bodies are really amazing at how much punishment they can take before they start breaking down. But make no mistake, put crappy fuel in long enough and it will break down.
Now the bad news. It seems the Naked juice company isn't all it appears to be:  I really hate it when that happens. Thankfully I heard the rumor and checked into it. Being a fan of truth in advertising I think I will remove the links to products on this blog so this doesn't happen again. I may mention food brand/juices I like but it is buyer beware. Sadly companies change hands and their products may not stay the same over time. Another good argument for making your own food at home I guess!
And yes that is a Christmas plate in the photo of my breakfast. I got it in England as a Boxing Day gift.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Because I do love a good cookie

Today I made my new favorite cookie recipe for the second time. Now cookies do have sugar in them so they don't really count as a healthy food. However these ones have flax seed and oatmeal in them so I consider them a less-bad-for-you version. Plus being homemade they certainly have less preservatives. Next time I am going to try to substitute the regular flour with a whole wheat flour and see if it works. Baking is like chemistry so sometimes you can't change a recipe the way you want and still have it turn out ok.

Oatmeal-Flax Chocolate Chip Cookies (a.k.a. Hidden Agenda per the Food Network Magazine)

1 & 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup quick-cooking oats
1/4 cup flaxseed, finely ground in a spice grinder, or pre-ground (I use flax meal)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
12 tablespoons (1 & 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar (I used light brown sugar with this batch because I didn't have dark. They tasted fine.)
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (or I'm sure you could use raisins, cranberries or m&m's)

1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
2) Whisk the flour, oats, flaxseed, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in a bowl.
3) Beat the butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar in a separate bowl with a mixer on medium high speed until fluffy, about 4 minutes. Beat in eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla. Reduce the mixer speed to low; add the flour mixture and beat until just combined, scraping down the bowl as needed. Stir in the chocolate chips.
4) Drop heaping spoonfuls of dough onto the prepared baking sheets, about 2 inches apart. (This makes HUGE cookies. I had better luck with one rounded normal size spoonful no more than 9 cookies to a sheet.) Bake until golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes. Let the cookies cool 3 minutes on the baking sheets, then transfer to racks to cool completely.

My tips: USE the parchment paper! The first time I made them I didn't and they stick like crazy to the cookie sheets. Also bake one pan at a time. That way you can load the next one after the cookies get transferred to the cooling rack. I got 54 cookies in the batch, enough to feed me, the youngins and take some to work to share with my friends.

Cookies are one of those snacks I will never get away from, especially during my "feed the beast" week. (I'm sure the the ladies know of which beast I refer.) So it is nice to have one I don't feel bad eating. Tho the Back to Nature brand also makes a fabulous chocolate chunk cookie that is guilt free too.

Milestone moment of the week: I had put aside a pair of jeans that were given to me by my sister in law because they were to small. I thought, well if I lose weight maybe I can fit into them later. Cut to a couple days ago and I decided to give them a try. They fit!! Not only do they fit but I wore them today and needed a belt with them! So many times I have done this in the past and given up and gotten rid of the clothes after awhile. It was nice to "win one" for a change.

New company I am adding to the bloglist: Odwalla juices. I haven't tried one yet but their labels look good to me. Lots of healthy choices and juice can be a great meal replacement when you are on the go or can't decide what you feel like eating. (or are to tired to prep a regular meal) I'll be sure to report on what flavors I like best.