Thursday, May 27, 2010

"I haven't had anything yet... So how can I have s'more of nothing?"

In the midst of my breakfast excitement, I forgot to mention a neat lil' revelation that I experienced last night...

Our team decided to take the night off from pub quiz, so Doug and I did some produce shopping. We hit a couple of stores and about halfway through, I started thinking about junk food. So we shopped for junk food. But I ended up not buying anything. I looked at all sorts of cakes, cookies, donuts and chocolate bars, but got frustrated because nothing appealed to me. So I gave up.

I went home and and found myself in a bad mood. I felt like I had deprived myself. "How can I have a sane relationship with food if I deprive myself?", I thought. But I was totally missing a bigger, more important point: I didn't even know what I wanted in the first place, so technically, I wasn't depriving myself of anything!

Before we went out to shop, I had a filling, satisfying dinner. I wasn't hungry. But of course, the habit of thinking that I "want" or "need" something sweet started to play out, as it often does. But that's all it is- a habit. It's something that isn't really valid and certainly not necessary for my survival or happiness. And by finally taking on a new perspective last night, I have (at least for the moment) broken that habit. If you don't really want something specific, why pretend the "need" is still there and waste time going through the motions of digging and trying to fulfill a "need" that doesn't even exist? Seems a bit silly, no? That whole thought process ends up being so schizophrenic and obsessive that it's no wonder I have so many issues being sane around food. Turns out it's waaaay easier to pause, relax and realize that it's okay not to want sweet/fatty stuff all of the time. When I truly do want something, I'll be able to think of a specific item and won't find myself quibbling over other alternatives. It'll be a quick, simple decision, one that will yield satisfying (and sane) results.

Anywho. Just another one of those "duh!" moments I wanted to share. They seem to help me make the most progress in the long run.

Part of this complete breakfast.

I've been trying to mix up my breakfasts this week and am also on an egg kick again. That said, this was today's morning fuel:

Diced up half of a leftover baked sweet potato, threw in the pan with some fresh salsa, sprinkled with a bit of shredded cheddar and topped with a fried egg.

One of the best breakfasts I've had in a while! It was hard to eat this one slowly. The textures. The spice. The subtle sweetness from the potato... Mmm! Need to pick up a few more taters so I can repeat this. I wanted to serve some grilled corn tortillas on the side, but totally spaced it, hence needing to make it again.

Even though this was a great meal, I was still a little hungry afterward, so I finished up the last of some honeydew and topped it with some thawed strawberries:

Crisp, cool and sweet. Love.

In fitness news, I did some strength training this morning, á la Jari Love. Despite my disappointment with her Body Rock DVD, I still had yet to try the weight & abs portion of the workout, so I decided to give it a shot. This portion really is the better half of the DVD. It's only about 30 minutes too, which I appreciated.

This certainly isn't the best of Jari's strength/resistance workouts, but I still felt like my muscles got worked over pretty good. I liked how she reverted back to some isometric moves, typical of some of her older DVDs, but also included some new [killer] shoulder exercises that I had never done before.

She also had a great deadlift circuit, so I quickly swapped out my weights for heavier ones so I could get more of a challenge. If I had to make a list of my favorite exercises, deadlifts would be pretty high up. It's the perfect move for working your arms, back, abs and hamstrings, all at once.

There were also plenty of weighted squats, bicep curls and chest presses. The abs portion was basically a mix of different crunches, including the bicycle variety. It was pretty much all upper-ab work though; not too much focus on lower abs. Fine with me though; my upper abs need all the help they can get these days.

Glad I gave the rest of this DVD another shot! Gotta love variety. I felt like my overall calorie burn was still lacking though, so I did a one mile run before hitting the shower.

I think tomorrow will be another gym day with a new treadmill program. I also have a workout from Fitness magazine that I saved a month or so ago and still haven't tried yet. Looks like a good strength routine. Might save that for Saturday.

Three-day weekend is almost here! No travel plans, so I'm looking forward to lounging like nobody's business. This week's been tough at times.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Bob ya head.

This morning, I had pretty much the best workout in months. I debated over ditching spin class, ditching the gym altogether, doing something at home, etc. I finally decided that yes, I would ditch spin, but I would still go to the gym and try some new programs on the machines.

Snagged a treadmill and selected an incline interval program. LOOOVE! Maybe I was just in a good mood this morning, but I was totally feelin' running up hills. It was hard. And I loved every minute of it. My favorite moment? Running 6 mph on a 7% incline while this song came up on shuffle:

I'm pretty sure I was smiling through that whole song. I was sweating, breathing hard, legs burning and feeling my heart keep me alive. It was one of those rare moments where I was 100% in tune with my body and completely aware that I was putting forth a damn good effort.

As my 15 minutes came to a close, I knew what had to be next.

I craved that machine, for some sick reason. All but two machines were taken and two old men were quibbling over using the newer model of the two. I knew I had to act fast; I didn't want to run any more and wasn't feeling the elliptical at all. I hopped off the treadmill and snagged the older stair master while Old Man River x 2 continued to yap. The older machine works perfectly fine, it just has a less flashier screen than the others.

I don't remember the exact program I selected, but it whooped my ass. Twenty minutes of various speed intervals. No handles, of course. And yes, I'm bragging because once again, everyone around me was a handle-slave. I kept thinking of bailing out at 10 minutes. Then I got close to 10 and said, "Eh, I'll stop at 15." Well, when I got to 15, I knew 20 was around the corner, so I kept at it. Ended up doing 80+ floors. It was the longest amount of time I've stayed on that machine, so I was feeling pretty bad-ass.

Since I only covered about 1.5 miles during my 15 minute treadmill thing, I ran the last half-mile after my stair-step routine, to even things out. Left a sweaty mess. And felt phenomenal. I know it probably doesn't sound like the most exciting workout, but I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and didn't hate it. I didn't feel like I was struggling or phoning it in. I was working hard and appreciating my own strength. Doing a hard workout is one thing, but being completely engaged and positively reinforced by your own capability is another.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Veggies galore.

I think I'm one of very few bloggers writing up a post during the Lost finale right now. Doug has left me for the evening and joined our housemate to watch it downstairs. I'll admit, I'm that bitch who rolled her eyes when the show came up in conversation and said "So what, are they on the island? Off the island? I don't get it, man." Oh well. I love my TV, but just couldn't get into this one. Anywho.

After a few days of eating a laughable amount of produce (caramel apples and pizza sauce count, right?), it seemed like a good idea to pull out all of the stops and throw together a big ol' salad:

Aye, she was a big 'n', indeed. In the mix:
  • about a handful of spinach spring mix
  • a few handfuls of romaine/iceberg/red cabbage/carrot/radish mix
  • more grated carrot
  • beets (my first time trying them- not too shabby!)
  • black olives
  • grilled chicken
  • chickpeas
  • crimini mushrooms
  • tomatoes
  • cucumber
  • light salsa ranch dressing
  • grated parmesan
  • salt/pepper
  • crushed red pepper
  • green onion

I contemplated saving some of it for tomorrow, but it was one of those dishes I couldn't tear myself away from because each bite had a different combo of mix-ins, all of which were crazy-awesome. It was like a salad adventure, heh. I've been craving chickpeas for about a week now too, so those hit the spot all on their own.

Although the salad proved to be the healthiest, most balanced thing I ate in days, I'm still feeling the lovely pudgy effects of the aforementioned junk. Still no guilt, but definitely ready to lighten things up in the coming days, food wise. My body has a threshold for too much crap and is looking forward to all of that good, whole, fresh stuff. And I'm proud of myself for not beating myself up with exercise so far either. I got a workout in today just to feel alive and get my blood flowin', not so much to burn off ice cream.

I'm feeling good right now. Content, not stressed. Calm, not guilt-ridden. Should I have practiced better eating habits the past few days? Of course. Always. But I didn't and the world is indeed still intact. Progress. She feels good.

Can't... Stop... Shakin' it!

Since Thursday, I've been eating pretty crappy and barely exercising (I even skipped spin class yesterday morning and opted for leftover pizza instead). But y'know what? I'm not particularly guilty about it. It's been a nice and relaxing weekend, filled with episodes of Daria and FINALLY finishing AFI's Top 100 Movies of All Time. It was a project Doug and I started about a year & a half, maybe 2 years ago, starting from the bottom and working our way up. Watched Citizen Kane yesterday and we are officially DONE!

Anywho, great entertainment and junk food aside, something else equally awesome also happened this weekend...

I learned to hula hoop again!

This is something I haven't attempted since I was a kid. I bought a hula hoop about a month or so ago and had many sporadic failed attempts until yesterday, when something clicked and I was actually able to keep the damn thing going for more than 2 seconds!

I still can't keep it going for a full minute, but I'm getting closer. In fact, I made it part of my [much-needed] workout routine this morning. I ran a sloooow 2 miles and followed up with hula-hooping for about 40 minutes, whilst listening to The Rapture. Such a great band to shake your hips to:

And it's hard to beat something that's addictive, fun AND makes you sweat. Either throw on some good tunes or just find something good to watch on TV and you're good to go. Feel free to read more about hula-hooping for exercise. Once my form and endurance gets better, I'll start experimenting with some custom hula-hooping routines (i.e., hula-hooping while walking, incorporating squats, possibly adding weights, etc.). I know, I'm a dork, but this is one of the most fun things I've done in a long time.

That's all for now. Time to find some breakfast that doesn't involve cupcakes or ice cream, haha. Hope you all have enjoyed the weekend so far!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

You don't understand; I'm ON the LIST.

This post is more of a bitch-fest than anything else. You've been warned.

Every week, either before or immediately after my spin class at 24 Hour Fitness, I ask the desk staff person to add my name to the list for next week's class. And I see them write my name down. And then I walk away.

Last week was no different, but somehow, my name was absent from this week's list.

And of course, it had to be on a day where the class was packed (seriously? it's a 5:30 am class and hasn't been full in weeks!), with no chance of an extra bike opening up. So, I didn't get to spin this morning. And it kind of broke my heart. My guess is yeah, my name got written on a list, just not the list. Buh.

So I gathered my things and headed to the cardio room, pissed and unmotivated. I started to use one of the regular exercise bikes, but it wasn't the same. And the bike itself smelled like it hadn't been cleaned after about 50 sweaty workouts. Lovely.

I then made my way to the elliptical. Meh. Wasn't feeling that either. See, I had psyched myself up for a super-tough workout (see: 60 minutes of spin class) and didn't have my mind on anything else. Does that happen to anyone else? I'm sure it does; you mentally pump yourself up, imagine the burn and the sweat and most of all, the feeling of bad-assery when you're done. That's why I love spin so much; it forces me to challenge myself. Sure, I try to challenge myself when I workout on my own, but getting that extra push from Vanessa (the instructor) and everyone else in the class just makes me want to see how harder/faster I can pedal and for how long.

Anywho, after contemplating not working out at all and just heading home, I decided I would at least run on the treadmill for a bit and maybe use the Stair Master. I got on the treadmill, regrettably, and started my run. On the upside, my recent strength training has improved my endurance, so I was able to go a bit faster than usual. I did 2 miles in 19:17, staying at 7 mph the last quarter-mile. Considering I wasn't in the mood to run at all (and wearing padded cycling shorts and not wearing my usual running shoes and feeling like a complete tool), I was pleased with the end result.

I had to wait for a Stair Master which only added to my foul mood, but one finally opened up and I did 15 minutes of speed intervals. I try not to be a hater, but yes, I'm one of those handlebar snobs. Out of all 8 people using the machines, I was the only one not hunched over and putting all of my upper body weight on the handles, holding on for dear life. Just let go, people! You'll get a higher heart rate, burn more calories and strengthen your core muscles. If you have to hold on, you need to slow things down. But of course, I keep my mouth shut and save such thoughts for blog rants because I'm passive-aggressive like that.

It wasn't the worst workout, but it certainly wasn't the ass-whooping I signed up for. I of course signed up for next Tuesday's class and DOUBLE-CHECKED that my name was indeed on the list for Saturday's class. Great. Now I get to be that annoying, paranoid member who asks 3 different employees if my name is on the list. Why the obsessive behavior? Because I'm a spin addict.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Meatless Monday.

I usually have a meatless day once or twice a week, but it doesn't always fall on a Monday... Well, today I finally timed it right!

Broccoli Tofu Stir-Fry:

Not a particularly special dish because I make it quite often, but it's one that I've more or less mastered and sometimes make with chicken.

I cooked the veggies and the tofu separately. For the veggie mix, I used:
  • broccoli
  • onion
  • zucchini
  • minced garlic
  • minced ginger
  • crushed red pepper
  • low sodium soy sauce
Sauteéd altogether until cooked down.

For the tofu, I used this tofu prep post from Tina at Carrots 'N' Cake to get me started. I always try to drain my tofu as much as I can, but it still ends up a bit soggy, so the towel/weight method did the trick! I chopped it up and threw it in a pan with some soy sauce until those nice, crisp brown edges started to form.

Once the tofu was done, I added some Panda Express Orange Sauce and threw it all together in a bowl.

I made rice as well, but I just wanted a mess of veggies and tofu, so I skipped the rice and saved it for Doug. I ended up adding a little extra soy sauce and some Sriracha on top.

It doesn't look like the most exciting dish, but it was definitely loaded with flavor. The leftovers are gonna make a bitchin' lunch tomorrow!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Grilled cheese, please.

DINNER! was awesome.

My grandma sent me home with a big ol' block of government cheese last weekend, so I've been stoked to make some grilled cheese sandwiches this week. Don't ask me why I get so excited about this particular commodity... I just do.

But before I got around to the special sandwich, I started with some guac, chips and bell pepper:

I also mixed a quick blueberry-pomegranate champagne spritzer:

Now for the good stuff...

I saw a pretty cool idea on The Kitchn this week to make a grilled cheese on raisin bread!

Looks like plain ol' raisin bread until you open up its insides:

Whoop-whoop! I dig this! I like raisin bread, but don't buy it too often because I get bored just toasting it with butter or cream cheese. Never thought to make sandwiches with it! I ate half. Doug took a bite of the other half, but wasn't as stoked about it as I was, so I guess I have breakfast ready for tomorrow!

It also just dawned on me that a PB sandwich on raisin bread would be pretty bitchin' as well...

Dessert's not pictured... I had one of Namaste Mari's Chocolate-Banana Protein Muffins with a teaspoon of White Chocolate Wonderful on top. I'm proud to announce that I bought the WCW almost 2 weeks ago and there's still a little more than half left! Haha.

Great lil' meal. The weather's cold and rainy, so I'm looking forward to some TV couch time with Doug tonight. Spin class in the morning and then off to my cousin's BBQ B-day party in the afternoon. Happy weekend everyone!

French Women Don't Get Fat.

Ok boys and gals, the time has finally arrived for my feedback on:

French Women Don't Get Fat, by Mireille Guiliano.

Since this book has been out for a while, I'm not going to do a tradtional review, but rather, list some points that I highlighted and follow with some of my own thoughts. Before we get to that though, I guess I just want to point out the grand theme, which is to genuinely enjoy good (and good quality) food. Guiliano frequently points out the many ways French and Americans differ when it comes to food consumption and appreciation. There's a certain degree of snobbery that remains consistent throughout the book, but once I took on a mature and objective outlook, I was able to truly understand and appreciate what Guiliano was saying.

Now, on to the bullets:
  • " the master of both your willpower and your pleasures."
  • This spoke to me instantly because I'm constantly going back and forth on being "free" to eat whatever I want, feeling guilty about exercising said freedom and trying to find redemption through restriction and/or too much exercise. The thing, for me, is: I CAN enjoy all types of food. But if I want to maintain my current weight and not go back to 248 pounds, let's be realistic: I need to take responsibility for my decisions and be mindful of what my healthiest/least self-defeating choices are. I'm an adult and I'm in charge of my body. Yeah, technically I can eat cake for breakfast everyday. But I obviously know the long term effects of such behavior and know that I can regularly nourish myself with better options and still have the cake when it's really friggin' good and the time feels right. 
  • "It is one thing to identify your offenders, quite another thing to manage them."
  • While I'm still moving away from food labels ("good, "bad," "sinful," etc.), I do get what she's saying here. Peanut butter is a food that I could easily identify as an "offender" because it's something that I've abused in the past. But since I've allowed myself small servings of it almost everyday this week, I feel safer having it in the house and no longer feel like it has some stupid power over me. It's a jar of peanut butter, for fuck's sake. 
  • "Any program that your mind interprets as punishment is one your mind is bound to rebel against."
  • Nothing too complicated about this concept. Yet fad diets continue to flourish. 
  • Regarding food as a 'reward':"'s okay as long as the food is rewarding: no junk, good quality and respectfully savored."
  • This is something I've been really trying to live by this week. I like sweets, but there's a lot of sweet crap out there that's just not worth my time. I've bought some good (well, good by my standards; certainly not anything by Hershey's) chocolate over the past week and have managed to make it last by really zeroing in on the smell, texture and taste. And I have indeed savored each bite, hence not feeling like I have to eat it all at once. 
  • "What is relatively easy for you may be hard for someone else, and vice versa."
  • Guiliano points this out early in the book and I'm glad she did; this reminded me to read with caution and not assume that I would be able to live by every single topic in the book and have it completely change my life. I've spent a lot of [wasted] time over the years trying to model the various eating habits of others and often found myself discouraged because what worked for them didn't work for me. Well, duh, that's because they are not me. And I am not them. But that doesn't mean I won't ever find what works for me. It's just gonna take time, practice and patience. 
  • Three meals a day, three-course dinners; "Our courses are greater in number, but smaller in size."
  • Obviously I'm no stay-at-home chef, so I can't go too crazy with multiple courses, but I have tried breaking my meals up into different sections and just focused on enjoying the different components on their own. Doing so has increased my appreciation for certain foods, where as before, they all kind of got lost when the focus was to have "one great meal." 
  • "Snacking, which results from not having three proper meals, is generally an unhelpful expedient that confuses us, body and mind."
  • Now, I know I just said that I need to find what works for me and not mindlessly copy the actions of others, but for the sake of this book and for the sake of what Guiliano is trying to achieve AND for the sake of me finding my own food balance, I've been practicing this and can't say that I've missed snacks. Obviously snacking works well for a lot of people. It may have worked for me a bit, back in my dieting days, but I've noticed that by skipping snacks in between meals, I enjoy my next meal much more and am satisfied with less because I was able to "work up" a genuine hunger. This is not to be interpreted as me starving myself. I'm simply getting more satisfaction from my main meals and just haven't been distracted by the thought of snacking. But if you adore your snacks, take this section with a grain of salt. 
  • "Wine can also enhance your health if absorbed in small daily doses and always, always with food."
  • Truth time: Prior to reading this book, I pretty much ALWAYS drank alcohol around a meal, rarely during. And of course, drinking in such a manner allowed alcohol to get the better of me and led me to make poor food choices. So this week, I have tried having a glass of wine with dinner. Doing so has increased my appreciation not only for the wine, but for the food as well. I finish feeling like I had more of a true dining experience, even at home. I know that sounds cheesy as hell, but it's true. 
  • "...being ready for the pleasure of food is essential to contentment with proper proportion."
  • Because I've been making an effort to eat what I feel will please me the most at that moment, I have been feeling satisfied with less. I don't make hideously large portions of food to begin with, but I often find myself finishing a plate just because "it's a serving" and it's there. I'm making an effort to pause and breathe more in between bites. I feel like I have a better idea of different fullness levels and have a much better judgment on when to stop without feeling deprived. 
  • Regarding chocolate (of the dark, rich, high-quality variety, of course): " is better enjoyed after lighter meals than after fat-laden holiday feasts, or by itself as a pick-me-up."
  • A piece or two of chocolate after a lighter meal definitely rounds it out and of course adds a pleasing, sweet touch. Such satisfaction has kept me from going back for more. And I haven't been limiting myself to just pieces of chocolate; whatever source of sweetness I feel like, I just go for it, but downsize and savor, of course.
  • "Mindless exercise is almost as bad as mindless eating."
  • Just something to keep in mind. I try not to zone out during workouts, but sometimes it happens, especially on machines at the gym. I just highlighted this as a reminder to make sure I'm always mentally present and getting the most out of my exercise. 
  • "Self-punishment is never our path to well-being. The only purpose of withholding some pleasure is so we can more fully enjoy everything else for having it in proper balance."
  • I know, I can't help but sometimes roll my eyes and/or groan when weight maintenance "experts" go on and on and on about "balance" and "moderation" because they often seem like generic practices that are easier said than done, but still overused. Well, I stopped rolling my eyes this week and just decided that if I expect to be sane about food for the rest of my life, I do need to make more of an effort to find that "gray area" or "middle-ground" or whatever term you want to apply to it. I'm just tired of living in extremes and am at a point where I'm ready to welcome both pleasure and nourishment from food without going overboard and/or freaking out in the process. So far, I've been doing just that pretty well. But as always, mother-frickin' baby steps. 
  • "...when that balance slips, each must devise her own plan of correction, based on personal preferences."
  • I like how she says "plan of correction." Soooo much better than "get back on the wagon" and the like. And she doesn't imply that you need to starve yourself the next day or workout for hours either. Just go with the flow, with a healthy-minded foot forward. At least that's how I interpreted it. 
  • "Attitude shifts take much longer, but when they take, they tend to take for good."
  • I just liked how she acknowledge that a) it is indeed about attitude, b) yes, it can be changed and c) yes, it will take time. 
  • Regarding the 50 Percent Solution: "...ask myself if I can live with half the amount being offered; indeed, will I be just as happy eating half as much?" and "...if you continue eating only half of what's on your plate each time, you will never eat the whole thing."
  • At first, I was a little thrown off that she mentioned this practice as an afterthought at the very end of the book, but when I think about it, I suppose it makes the most sense. Guiliano wanted you to first get comfortable with the idea of just enjoying your food without guilt, then progressing to portion control from there. As I mentioned before, I'm mindful of serving sizes when making my meals, but I don't always need as much as I think I do. And being completely satisfied with half of some of my meals the past few days has acted as proof. How? Savoring each and every bite, son! And again, pausing in between bites and just really paying attention to what I'm ingesting. 
  • "Eat the smallest bite that lets you register taste. Then have another."
  • Another point I wanted to highlight, just to reinforce the concept of food appreciation.
So there ya have it. There are some parts I admittedly breezed through (sometimes Guiliano talks at length about her upbringing and picking fruits in the summer at her aunt's house and blah, blah, blah) and I didn't get much from her, with regard to fitness. She clearly despises the gym and thinks we should all walk and bike everywhere. Perhaps when I'm retired in Paris, I'll do just that, but otherwise, simply walking isn't a practical means of exercise for me. I'm at a point now where I need to sweat because it really does make me feel good and I like the way my body feels when I make regular efforts to keep it in shape. She does suggest some strength training and yoga though, which I appreciated. She also wants you to eat nothing but leek soup for a couple of days before beginning her "program," but obviously I skipped over that nonsense.

Lastly, THE RECIPES! You can check out some that have been posted on the book website. I've yet to try any, but some are so simple that I'm excited to make one or two over the next few days.

Although some of Guiliano's concepts weren't new to me, I ended up getting much more from this book than I expected to and can say that I genuinely enjoyed it. French Women... is a relatively quick read and flows more like a novel and less like a typical Here's-How-I'm-Gonna-Help-You-Shed-Pounds diet manual. I don't think I'll be turning into a Francophile anytime soon, but I have no qualms about having a French attitude toward food because it makes the most sense. Not to be hatin' on Team USA, but the typical American approach to food is pretty scary at times and our means of consumption can be quite destructive; and I know it's true, based on my experience alone.

There are a ton of other highlighted notes that I made but didn't share because if your interest is at all piqued by now, you really should just get a copy and read it already.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Gone official, gone foodin'.

Trying to fit multiple things into the blog today, so hang in there kids. My feedback on French Women Don't Get Fat is indeed around the corner (as in, hoping to post it in before the end of the day because I finished the book yesterday and cannot wait to blab!), but since I had some other bits to share, I thought breaking everything into two posts would be a better fit. This week is going by a little too fast for me, which has been good in some ways (see: typical work week), but a bit unforgiving in others (see: blogging stuffs).

First: I haz a new domain name!

I suppose it wasn't a necessity, but the original URL ( was hideously long and buying a shorter version was cheap, even by my standards, so there ya go. Update your feeds and bookmarks if you'd like, but if you don't want to bother, the old URL will still remain active.

I don't foresee any major changes resulting from the new URL, but it has motivated me to plan a possible blog face lift and more pages, particularly some dedicated to recipes, DVDs and maybe fitness. Yes, I realize all of those topics are incredibly unorganized currently and yes, I promise to fix it. Slowly, but surely.

Second: New Favorite Food Links.

I'm a bit reluctant to label myself a "foodie," because I don't feel I meet the requirements (or can even define them) and the idea of such a label is relative, arbitrary and at times, a bit silly. However, I'm finally moving closer to a place where I just love and appreciate good food (rather than fear or struggle with it) and I love that there are some decent blogs running wild with that same appreciation. That said, there are a bajillion food blogs these days, but I've found a few that I just really dig and wanted to shamelessly promote:

Serious Eats. They publish regular restaurant/product reviews, recipes and special food features (tips on preparing testicles, anyone?). I've found it to be a great resource, not just for my palate, but for my brain as well. It's a site that not only makes me want to continue trying new things (without necessarily making me a crazy hungry maniac every time I read it), but also fascinates me, from a general education standpoint. I'm a nerd for new knowledge these days and what better subject to hold my attention than food? Eeeeexcellent.

The Kitchn. This site features a mix of kitchen designs (geared toward small apartments primarily, but the ideas could easily be adapted on larger scales), recipes and general food Q & A. It's a great resource for some cooking/meal planning basics and of course, great kitchen design ideas, should you be in the market.

Doug is all about design (he friggin' BUILT our platform bed and made his own desk with floating shelves, for example), so his ability to recognize the importance of stylish, yet incredibly functional design within all aspects of the home has indeed rubbed off on me. We don't own a home yet, but when we do, we intend to customize the shit out of it. That said, I plan on using The Kitchn as a resource, as they have some great ideas for storage, appliances, colors, textures, etc.

Food Network Humor. Just for fun, obviously. If you watch Food Network regularly and find yourself mocking the hosts, this is a good site to vent your frustrations and/or encourage your mocking. I personally love the Food Network Drinking Game. One of these weekends when I'm feeling bold (and not planning on leaving the house), I might just open a bottle and play along.

Third: Fitness Notes.

Still rocking the strength training and noticing MORE bitchin' results. I know it'll make me sound like a narcissistic bee-yotch, but I totally spent approx. 10 extra minutes (not all at once) looking at my body in the mirror, lovingly, this morning. Seeing some definition come back in certain areas and enjoying the disappearing of flab in others. But the best part? I haven't been beating myself up at the gym and I've been enjoying wine & chocolate. I know, punch me in the gut for sounding like a total douche-y informercial. But it's true. And I'll expand on that when I write about the French Women... book later.

Monday, I did Jari Loves's Slim & Lean DVD. Tuesday was 24Cycle class at the gym. Yesterday, nothing. Today, I busted out an oldie that I haven't touched in mooooonths (possibly a year? I dunno):

Jillian Michaels' No More Trouble Zones. I must admit, even though I hadn't done this DVD in forever, I was still feeling a bit cocky and thought, "Yeah, I'll just bust through this and will probably use heavier weight the whole time." Psh. I suppose I did bust through it, but not without struggle. And I used heavier weight for maybe like, 2 moves. The rest of the time, I was rockin' the 5 lbs. weights.

Best move that I totally forgot about that made me say "Oh, Jillian, you dirty bitch!" out loud? Plank rows. Granted, they're easier for me now than before, but they still snuck up me. Hell, I can say that for any move performed in plank position. Buh.

Last time I did this DVD, I still felt like giving strength training the middle finger. But now that I don't totally hate it, it was a great workout to re-visit. I still prefer Jari Love and Jackie Warner for strength workouts, but it felt good to throw in Jillian's routine, for old time's (and variety's) sake.

My cramps aren't totally kicking my ass today (well not now anyway), so I think I might make it to Zumba tonight, after a 2 week absence. But if not, I'm not going to beat myself up. I totally go through phases with my workouts and easily become obsessed with certain trends, eventually burning myself out (including, but not limited to: Zumba, 24 S.E.T., incline training, sprints and running). That's not to say that I no longer think Zumba is totally awesome, I'm just trying not to be so strict in my workout schedule these days and settling into the same routines. Going on a different night is always an option, as is just listening to my body and doing what feels the most welcoming at that particular moment. The only exception to this new philosophy is 24Cycle, because I have to reserve a spot and I expect to be tortured a bit. I'm starting to build a somewhat sick relationship with that class; I signed up for the Saturday class this week as well.

Fourth (and last):Hall & Oates Week.

Between gals on Twitter, Doug, our housemate James and I, Hall & Oates seem to be on regular rotation this week, so I decided to officially declare this week Hall & Oates Week, or "H.O.W.", if you will.

You have between now and Saturday to rock this shit out. Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Adventures in meatball-ing.

I know, I need to work on my blog titles. But the perv in me is gonna let this one slide.

Spaghetti and meatballs have been on my mind for a couple of weeks and tonight, I felt like I had the right mix of ingredients to jazz things up a bit. The result? Butternut Squash Spaghetti & Turkey-Zucchini Meatballs!

For the meatballs:
  • 16 oz. lean ground turkey
  • 1 zucchini, grated
  • 1 onion, chopped/diced
  • about 1/3 cup egg substitute (just needed to use the last of it; with the eggception [ha!] of egg whites, I'm officially done with egg liquid from a carton. Good ol' eggs FTW.)
  • 2 tbsp grated parmesan
  • 1/4 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/4 panko bread crumbs
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • salt
  • pepper
  • Italian seasoning
  • crushed red pepper
  • garlic powder
Combined everything in a big bowl by hand. Another one of my freestylin' ideas, hence the mix of breadcrumbs and the flour. I was just trying to get a decent consistency so the balls would hold together. That's what she said. I made 16 and baked them at 375 for about 30 minutes.

While the meatballs finished up in the oven, I dropped the pasta (Ronzoni Smart Taste Thin Spaghetti) and warmed up the special sauce:

I found this whilst browsing Costco and had to try it since butternut squash became one of my new favorite foods this past year. It had tomatoes and other spices in it, but it was definitely full of that sweet squash flavor.

All combined in a bowl of awesome:

The sauce matched the color of the bowl too well, heh. Poor color contrast aside, this dish turned out pretty good. I ended up adding more of the following: salt, crushed red pepper & grated parmesan. I'm trying to be more cautious with salt and spice these days and even more so with this dish since I wasn't sure how the sauce would blend with everything else. It definitely needed some extra spice to balance out the sweetness. Might add more garlic to the meatballs next time too.

Doug enjoyed it as well and said my use of ground turkey would make Bob Harper proud. He was telling me this from the living room however, so I thought he said "Bob Barker." I thought, "What the hell does Price is Right have to do with ground turkey?!" Anywho. Good meal and looking forward to leftovers.

But for now, what I'm really looking forward to is a few spoonfuls of this:

Um, yeah. It is indeed super-dope; don't question it.

Phases and Crazes.

Just a quick check-in posts of sorts. Sadly (or happily?), I don't have much to report this week. I was out of town over Mother's Day weekend and seem to have hit the ground running this week with miscellaneous chores, errands, exercise and of course, work.

I'm almost done with French Women Don't Get Fat and will be sharing my highlighted notes hopefully later this week. I know, I can sense some eye-rolls out there in cyberspace, but as I stated before, it was just one of those books that made me oh-so-curious, not necessarily some new fad I was looking to throw my life into. I know it has probably been cast into that typical-trendy-bullshit-diet category, but after reading the majority of it, I feel comfortable saying that it's not. That doesn't mean I haven't come across parts that made me say "Psh!" out loud, but I have enjoyed it for the most part. Anywho, details to come soon!

I'm going through another strength training phase. After trying to add more running into my routine the last couple of weeks (and more cardio overall), I was honestly disappointed with my appearance and general heavy feeling, even though it seemed like I sweated like crazy every day and managed a stable diet most days. The past few days I've focused a bit more on weights and resistance and hey, guess what? I'm back to toning up and feeling like a fit bad-ass again.

I know balancing both types of exercise is important, but some weeks I'm just more motivated to do one or the other (and more times than not, that motivation goes to cardio). I went to spin class this morning (and signed up for another class on Saturday because I'm a sadist), but plan on mixing up some Jari Love and Jackie Warner DVDs in between. Might throw in a day of yoga or a custom at-home lifting circuit somewhere too. I've got the weight set at home, begging me to do some squats, lunges, shoulder presses, deadlifts and more.

While I know that I benefit from all types of exercise, I think my body type benefits from strength training the most. I've always leaned toward cardio year after year, week after week, day after day, but I need to work at adjusting that ratio and try keeping strength at the top of the list. My body speaks for itself when I stick to lifting on a regular basis.

I've read in a few different articles that weight and resistance training boosts self-image and y'know what? It's true. That's not to suggest that I don't feel good about myself when I run or spin or stair climb, but there's something about lifting weights and/or working with my own body weight that causes me to be a bit more aware of what's going on with these muscles of mine. I certainly can't speak for others, but I require significantly more concentration when I strength train because I'm paranoid about my form and preventing injuries. And when I manage to perform [heavy] reps successfully, well, I don't know... I just feel like this:

On the inside, anyway. Heh. Notice I didn't throw a picture of The Incredible Hulk up there; although I sometimes push strength training to the side, I'm glad I no longer believe the myth that lifting makes women bulky. Because it totally doesn't (unless you get testosterone injections and live off of a steady diet of steak, eggs and tuna). I certainly feel buff 'n' tough afterward, but I also feel incredibly lean and sexy. And that's not so bad, eh?

That's all I have time for today, but fret not; I have some new recipes floating around in my head that I wanna try this week, so I'll definitely be sharing those, along with pics. Hope everyone's having a great week!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Now that's amore.

Caught Doug's cold. Fail. It started to hit me last night at quiz. Woke up this morning feeling like crap and skipped my workout. Kinda bummed. I was planning a 3 mile run to round me out to 20 miles for the week, but I felt like some extra rest would be the better choice.

I don't feel terrible... I made it to work, but I still feel out of it. Congested. Sore throat. Headache. I may/may not leave early for some hot nap action. We'll see.

Anywho, before the germs set in last night, I was feeling pretty good. I ran two miles after work to sort of "re-do" the crappy 2 mile walk/jog session that I did earlier in the morning. Tuesday night, my mom took me out to dinner. Margaritas were had and waaaay too many chips were consumed, along with salsa, queso and a big ol' pork burrito, which I totally inhaled. Came home and had wine and an array of sweets, thus having a crappy night's sleep. Lack of sleep + dehydration + bloat made for the worst morning run attempt ever. But I redeemed myself later in the day and it felt great.

After the run and a shower, I headed to the kitchen. I munched on a hummus salad while I waited for my latest creation to bake in the oven:

Salmon pizza. (The salmon slices are hidden under the tomatoes.) I've been trying to use up the last of the smoked salmon I got for my lox adventure and this. was. the shiiiiz!

Took a tortilla wrap and topped it with: mozzarella, green chile, red onion, smoked salmon and tomatoes.

Yes, the green chile was the odd man out, but it really did add a great touch (I'm biased. So what?).

I was so pleased with how it turned out that I made it again for breakfast this morning! Also looking forward to my banana/PB overnight oats and Greek yogurt for lunch. Brought some grapes, carrots, bell pepper and hummus to munch on in between.

I hate to miss Zumba again since I skipped it last week, but I'll just go with the flow and see how I'm feeling. I've got an awards dinner tomorrow night and a weekend away in the San Luis Valley, so I need to nip this cold in the bud!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Breakfast of Champions.

Did I really have leftover chili and cornbread for breakfast? Yes, yes I did. It was less "Oooh, you know what would be really awesome for breakfast? Chili!" and more "Sigh. I really don't want to end up throwing that stuff out 'cause I hate wasting food. And I still want my shrimp/broccoli/rice leftovers for lunch. Mom's taking me out to dinner later... Fuck it."

And it wasn't the worst choice. After spin class this morning, I did indeed have an appetite, so it was the ultimate mix of protein, fiber and carbs. Plenty of beans, tomatoes, onion and spicy peppers. Lean ground beef, so just the right amount of fat. And the cornbread had chopped green chiles and a bit of cheddar baked in. A bit of discomfort ensued because it was probably too early for so much spice, but I'm fine now. And still full.

Aside from eating something for the sake of getting rid of it, I'm also trying to change up my meal "routine," for... Fun? I guess you could say this new change kind of falls in line with the "Eat like a king for breakfast, a prince for lunch and a pauper for dinner" method. I typically eat in the opposite order, which is a pretty terrible idea, seeing as I'm an early morning workout person. Ok, maybe not terrible, but my smaller breakfasts eventually lead to increased snacking all the way through dinner, so time for a change.

I'm not planning on eating chili every morning, but I am going to try and bulk things up a bit, while also changing up my food choices. I've had this inherent (and ridiculous) fear of eating too much for breakfast for yeeears and it's just silly, given my activity schedule. No real meal ideas yet, and I still plan on keeping my beloved oats, fruit, Greek yogurt and peanut butter in the mix, in varying degrees. But I'll also be more open to things like tuna, veggies burgers, broccoli, tofu. Whateva.

In other news, I joined Daily Mile last Thursday and it's been pretty addicting so far. I added a mile-tracker widget to my blog homepage and it's fun seeing the number go up over the course of just a few days! It's motivating me to make time for a run just about every day, even if it's just one mile, and/or mixed in with another type of workout. Since Thursday, I've racked up 13.5 miles! A little over a half-marathon! Obviously I'm not ready to tackle such a feat all at once, but slowly chipping away at distance, one mile at a time, is still motivating nonetheless. And it's already helping me work on my goal of increasing speed.

Last note on workouts: At the gym on Sunday, I felt myself missing the incline trainers at my old gym (24 Hour Fitness doesn't have them). But instead of boo-hooing that I couldn't do my ol' 18-20% grade inclines, I decided to compromise and try one of the cross-country pre-set routines on a regular Precor treadmill, but increase my speed to jogging/running levels, instead of just walking. And y'know what? It was pretty damn awesome. I think the highest grade I had went up to 7%, but when you try to tackle that between 5 and 5.5 mph, your legs are workin' hard. And because it was pre-set, I could just go on auto-pilot for the most part, aside from when I wanted to adjust my speed. Glad I was able to discover something new and challenging!

And on a closing note, I ordered French Women Don't Get Fat this morning. I found a copy on eBay for under $5, free shipping. Mostly just curious. Not expecting it to change my life or anything. I won't be doing a full 'n' proper review after I finish it, but I'll definitely share any points of awesomeness that I come across along the way.

I suppose that's all for today. My goal is to make it through the week without catching Doug's cold. My boss was out sick all last week too and has been coughing ever since she came back. Gah. I am to germs as Nacho Libre is to corn:

Hope everyone is having a good week!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Frustration, all around.

I debated posting this morning, but figured it would be best to just come clean.

I'm frustrated.

I binged yesterday.

It certainly wasn't the worst binge, but there was still a lack of control and a lingering feeling of fullness into the evening. Not painfully full, but enough to make me feel like I did something wrong.

At first, I told myself I would not feel guilty. And I didn't! Until this morning anyway... Did I genuinely want to go the gym and run this morning? Yeah. But was I more motivated by guilt to push myself through a 70 minute sweat session aimed simply at burning extra calories? Yep. Very much so.

Do I feel better? Well, I certainly feel less shitty, but still quite discouraged and frustrated with myself. I'm glad that I resisted the temptation to use laxatives, but still upset that I considered that an option in the first place.

A good amount of this frustration comes from my reaction to reading dozens of posts over the past week from people (well, all women actually) who are constantly counting calories or points, beating themselves up when they "go over" said points/calories, overexercise, restrict and hang their happiness on a number on a scale. And when the number doesn't match their perceived effort or they eat "bad" foods, the cycle just repeats itself.

In fact, I've had to flat out delete some blogs from my Google Reader because I just couldn't take reading these posts anymore. They only served as reminders of the typical dieter I used to be and it's pretty heartbreaking. And it's frustrating because I still can't seem to break up with that part of myself.

On the side other of the spectrum, there are all of the other blogs that don't obsess over points or calories, enjoy all foods in moderation, stay active more for health rather than weight and manage to maintain balance and happiness without [seemingly] batting an eye. And those are the blogs that leave me asking, "Why is it so hard for me to be more like them?" I certainly don't want to get too wrapped up in comparing myself to others, but at the same time, I still like to seek out good role models. BUT, I also need to remember my own personal history with food/weight. I can't simply follow the good habits of others and expect that history (more specifically, those old behaviors) to disappear completely. Yeah, it would be nice if it worked that way, but I know better.

As I've mentioned on this blog before, I read Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat and really felt it to be a huge eye opener, in terms of defining the trends that led to my binge eating in the first place and how to be normal around food.

I know how to listen to hunger cues. I've made a great deal of progress in removing the "good" and "bad" labels from food. I've learned to love exercise for the way it makes me feel (and not just how many calories it burns). But, there's still that typical dieter in me that won't let me live life 100% guilt-free when it comes to food. Right now, I'd say I'm pretty much 50% mindful/intuitive eater and 50% typical hard-ass dieter. I'd like to say that it's a 60/40 split or even 70/30, but then I'd just be lying.

I'm making progress. I can't deny that. But I'm still trying to rush the process of recovery and that's what causes these self-imposed guilt trips every time I "slip-up." There's still so much damn diet talk ("guilt-free," "fell off the wagon," "indulge," "sinful," "back on track," etc.) that pops into my head and it pisses me off. It pisses me off because after reading EWYL, I now know that such language is utter and complete bullshit, yet I still let it affect me from time to time.

There is light at the end of this damn tunnel. Everything's not lost. I don't feel like this whole process is hopeless. I still recognize how awesome and strong I am. And yes, I'm still too hard on my self. Lots of things I'm completely aware of. At the beginning of this post, I was indeed frustrated. Several typed characters and a few deep breaths later, I do indeed feel better. Certainly not feeling like a tiger, ready to roar and dig its claws into the day, but rather a penguin, hopping from rock to rock. Or something like that. I don't know. I never said analogies were my forté.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Hold me, I'm in lox.

Not sure this morning could get any better, folks.

I woke up, threw on my sweat band, slid on my lifting gloves and did a quick custom routine:
  • 1/2 mile run
  • 10 push-ups, 20 one-count deadlifts (60 lbs.)
  • 1/2 mile run
  • 10 push-ups, 20 one-count deadlifts
  • 1/2 mile run
  • 10 push-ups, 20 one-count deadlifts
  • 1/2 mile run
  • 45 sec. plank, 20 two-count deadlifts
Pretty simple, but went by fast and felt really effective. My goal was to get in 2 miles of running and work on my upper body/core in between. Mission accomplished. And yes, doing 20 reps of deadlifts means my weight is too light, but when it finally dawned on me to slow down and do two-count reps, my god, such a difference! I've really grown to love deadlifts with my my barbell. Dumbbells are ok too, but the barbell makes me feel like more of a bad-ass.

The whole circuit took just over 30 minutes and of course, left me dripping. I need to not be so lazy and come up with more quick 'n' dirty routines like this, especially for Saturday mornings when my motivation isn't always the best. I haven't done a custom routine since my first one in January.

After the workout, I showered and got ready for my quest to the store for tomatoes and red onion, amongst other produce items. Why tomatoes and red onion, first thing in the morning? Well, this broad was on a holy mission to make lox & bagels.

We went grocery shopping last night and I got the bagels, smoked salmon, capers and cream cheese, but totally spaced the tomatoes and onion. Feck.

Before I left this morning, I made a quick smoothie with 1/2 cup thawed frozen strawberries, about 1/2 or 2/3 cup chopped papaya, 1/2 cup light soymilk, 1 scoop of Green SuperFood and a bit of granulated splenda. AHHH! This was so good! Papaya is indeed perfect for smoothies; it came out super creamy with just the right amount of thickness. Will probably repeat this and add bananas and blueberries. Mmm, mmm, mmm.

ANYWHO. Enough about smoothies. While the smoothie was good, it didn't change my life like this plate of radical:

Moment of silence here, kids...

Easily the best new thing I've tried in a few years. Used one of those new Thomas Bagel Thins (lightly toasted), cream cheese, capers, red onion, tomato (sprinkled with S&P) and a few different varieties of smoked salmon from Costco (dill, peppered and plain).

So damn good. And I'm sure it would be even better with a higher quality Everything-flavored bagel. Doug enjoyed it and he doesn't even like salmon!

For the record, I'm not Jewish. But I've wanted to be since I was about 14 or 15 for some reason. Or at least marry a Jewish dude. I've made an exception for Doug. He lacks the Jew-fro that I long to get my fingers tangled in, but if he'll eat lox and bagels with me, I suppose it all balances out in the end. *Wuh-ink*

Best breakfast ever. I'm torn between having it again for lunch or practicing self-control and waiting until tomorrow's breakfast. We'll see how this new love affair plays out. Stay tuned!