And yet another beginning….

I was searching through my computer for something last week and somehow or another came across this old photo of myself. Well, not that old actually; 2008 or 9. I was in my apartment in NYC. Lord knows why I took it. Probably for some dating website (shudder). Honestly it stopped me in my tracks – like being smacked in the face. I was probably around 270 pounds. Today the scale reads 211. The difference is shocking, even for me. Truth be told I’d forgotten. I have been so focused on where I want to be and how much further I want to go that I completely forgot how far I’ve come. When I saw that picture, for a brief moment I remembered what it was like to have all that extra weight on my body – I actually felt it. I’m getting chills just typing this.

I wanted to share this with you all because I think it’s important for all of us to take a moment and remember where we’ve come from, whatever our journey might be (weight, addiction, career, etc). And, even more importantly, we have to use these moments to empower ourselves. If we’ve come this far, just think of how much further we are capable of going. It’s so easy to convince ourselves that all the speed bumps and potholes we encounter are actually lava-filled canyons or craggy unsurpassable mountains. No. We are not Frodo. This is not Mordor. We can handle it.

This was my first week back at boot camp. This time it’s at night, 6pm Mon – Thurs, 1030am Saturday. A MUCH more suitable timeline for me. Because of my new job (more on that soon) I haven’t exercised in months. Time to get serious. Stay tuned.

Happy weekend!

Deep Breath

Scale for BootcampHello, friends. Yes, I am still here and I still have much to share. Today, I want to update you on my journey of weight loss. Many of you had been following this vein of my blog with great interest back when I was in the thick of bootcamp, battling through numbers and frustration as I slowly crept towards my goal. Since then a lot has transpired….

When we last left off, I was approaching the end of my 10 week stint and had dropped down to 205 pounds. If you remember, my goal was to get below 200 pounds before my 30th birthday, April 24. Back in January/February, such a goal seemed like it would be a no brainer – in fact, I projected I would far exceed it. Did this happen? No. The lowest I saw my scale was 202, which occurred in the second week of April. At the time I was excited for boot camp to end. No more being held to a 6am start time, free to make my own work out schedule… But within two days of finishing boot camp I reverted back to my old ways. It was quite alarming – like a recovered alcoholic slipping back into the drink after years of sobriety. Now granted, I had planned to have a week of indulgence for my birthday, but let’s face it: it wasn’t my birthday week yet. And even if it was, it was still way too much.

Though I knew I was going really overboard, I just sort of let it happen. I’ve been here before: I wanted to remind myself how terrible I feel when I eat in such extreme excess. Let myself spiral downward until I feel so awful that I finally just snap out of it. The last weekend in April I was on the scoring stage with Thomas Newman at Fox. They keep a huge array of food out for the musicians – a cornucopia of empty carbohydrates and self-loathing. For two of my three days there this included an entire table devoted to Porto’s Bakery. I ate cookie after cookie after cookie and then went to the green room for the lunch buffet. When I used the alcohol analogy earlier, I wasn’t exaggerating – it is that level of addiction. Clearly not the food table’s fault.

By the time the first week of May rolled around, all the birthday hubbub was over; the cakes gone, the candies and treats cleared out. As I began to get back in touch with my life, I realized that (at least at that point in time) I was unable to take control of myself, therefore I needed a structure. I needed to regain a focused effort on a goal. I needed boot camp. Though I convinced myself I was ready for a break, in truth I was not even close. My ultimate goal was to be in the 180s and at 202, I still had a ways to go.

So, on Thursday May 2, I was back on the bike at 6am… and it felt amazing. In my last stint I wrote about many times where I felt frustrated. As much as I was working hard, I was also allowing myself to give in to poor states of mind: “oh it’s just sometimes impossible for me to get in at 6am” and “this diet is not really sustainable” etc etc. This time around, I am in a state of zen. I don’t think about the time, I don’t think about the food that I am eating or want to eat or wish I was eating. I just simply do it. Who cares if it’s early? Who cares if I hit a few road blocks? The time away from bootcamp was so necessary: it taught me that not only is intense exercise good for me, it makes me a better me. In many ways, I need it. And I am grateful that the ladies at RPM are affording me the opportunity to go at it once again.

On Thursday I was 214 pounds. This morning, 6 days later, I was 209. A good start. Just need to keep it going. Deep breath…

New Tactics

Seasoned Blanched VeggiesSo I’ve been stuck at the same weight for a few weeks now. You’ve all heard about my struggles against digestion, which still remain an issue and certainly don’t help, but there’s something else at work here. I noticed lately that I’ve been finding myself rather hungry/ravenous during the day and as such I’ve resorted to snacking on stuff I have in my apartment that aren’t meant for snacking. For example I always have chocolate chips and pecans on hand to bake. I’ve never had a problem avoiding them…. until last week. Daily visits to my chocolate chip box have been occurring, which may not SEEM like a big deal, but if I’ve learned anything on this whole journey, it is that the smallest of decisions are the ones that really add up in the end.

Since snacking is not conducive to my compulsive eating style, I no longer keep snack-like items in the house that could warrant a code red devouring situation. For example, I love Trader Joe’s “Simply Almonds, Cashews, and Cranberries” trail mix. And in the proper dosage, such a snack would not be a big deal. But let’s be serious, I will eat half the back without even batting an eye. Also, not only are nuts easy to overeat, but they’re not easy to digest, which make them doubly bad news for me. As I make all these efforts to streamline my intake, I came to realize that all of this narrowing down has cause one simple problem: I’m not eating enough! Juice in the morning, a salad for lunch, and often little or no dinner. No good! Therefore what I need is a way to not only supplement my meals, but to also allow me to eat in between meals without completely sabotaging the day’s efforts. The solution? Vegetables. My thought process was this: if I just cook a massive quantity of vegetables and have them in the fridge, not only can I eat them whenever I need to squelch my hunger, but I can also use them for dinner.

So here’s what I did. First, I bought a mess of vegetables: a bag of broccoli florets, a bag of baby carrots, a bundle of asparagus, and a package of sugar snap peas. I got a pot of water on the stove, brought it to a boil, added lots of salt, then I began to blanch the vegetables in stages. First broccoli, then carrots, etc. Once they were just a little bit soft I removed them from the water with a spider into a large plastic container, then added the next vegetable to the pot. Once the cooked veggies were in the container, I hit them right away (while they’re still nice and hot) with some Italian seasoning, a pinch of salt, a few grinds of black pepper, and a good swirl of olive oil and toss them around. I did this for every vegetable as I added them to the container. Once cooled down I just stored them in the fridge – they last for at least a week.

Now you could of course just eat them as is, hell you could even eat them cold for a snack. But, you can use them in a variety of other ways too. My favorite thing to do is serve them with a grilled Salmon burger from Costco. Have you tried the salmon burgers? They are AMAZING. I would just heat up the veggies, cook the burger, throw them in a bowl with some Bragg’s Liquid Aminos and bam, delicious satisfying dinner. You could do this with virtually any protein. You can also eat them with any cooked grains like quinoa or brown rice. Toss them with sauteed cherry tomatoes and feta cheese for a fresh treat. Or even have them with scrambled eggs and your favorite hot sauce. mmm!

How has it worked? Well, not only have I been more satisfied, but the weight has started coming off again. Last week when I started this I was at 207. This past week I got down to 202. Not too shabby. The other secret? Don’t eat after 6pm. This was something they really drove home in Bootcamp,  but I’ve only really begun to see what a huge difference it makes over the past week. Yay healthiness!

Chipping Away and Fighting Inflammation

Anti Inflammatory Food PyramidIt’s Monday, and since I didn’t give you one last week, I do believe it’s time for a weight loss post. I have to confess to all of you: I came very close to falling off the wagon entirely last week. Like, fall off, tumble down a hill, and smack my face on a tree trunk. Why? Well, let’s see. A few weekends ago when I went on retreat, I pretty much resigned to the fact that I would abandon my healthy ways for a few days. And abandon it, I did. The problem with me (and maybe some of you can relate to this) is that when I start on a course of bad eating, it tends to snowball and gets very difficult for me to regain perspective. In the case of eating not so great foods, I get into the mentality of “well, I already ate this, so you might as well just go ahead and eat that,” which is a very dangerous mind set, but one I’ve never been able to help. My parents will tell you that even as a kid I never knew when to stop. It’s like I was born with a switch missing. Though I have gotten better over the years, it is still a very real battle for me. And this is partly because bad foods are addicting – they are easy, comforting, filling… who doesn’t want to eat them all the time?

After getting back from retreat I dove immediately back into bootcamp but the whole week I continued to struggle with my food choices. I think the real reason for the difficulty was because I lost sight of my goal. I was getting so comfortable with my slimmer body and all the wonderful comments from people that I began to lose sight of the bigger goal I had set for myself. It was just too easy to indulge in all those crappy foods and convince myself that I am content where I am, which is absolutely not true.

But, luckily, by the end of last week I was able to pull myself out of it. If you follow me on facebook, you may have seen my post on anti-inflammatory foods. Last week I was discussing my diet with my colon hydrotherapist and she was telling me that my breathing, my being prone to sinus infections, and my poor digestion are likely all connected. The culprit? Inflammation.  She pointed me in the direction of Dr. Andrew Weil’s webpage where I found the pyramid above. Some of the information I found unsurprising. For example, many of the foods that cause inflammation are also ones that cause digestive problems, i.e. white sugar, white flour, wheat, gluten, dairy products, meat. And then there were other things that totally blew my mind – apparently one should never eat raw mushrooms. Only cooked, and only Japanese – who knew!? If you click on the picture above it will bring you to the website where you can explore the pyramid in more detail, which I highly recommend. It was this new angle that helped bring me back on the right track. If this can help me feel better AND help me lose weight, why wouldn’t I want to give it my all? And that is what I’ll do. Besides, how will I really feel when I reach my 30th birthday and not be where I want to be? Not an option!

For numbers, I’m currently stuck at 207, but I am confident I’ll be seeing some serious progress this week. Tune in tomorrow for an anti-inflammatory stir fry that will make you excited to be healthy. Happy Monday and see you tomorrow!

Sodium: The One You Always Overlook

Photo Feb 18, 1 07 53 PMLast Week’s Number: 211
This Week’s Number: 207

Happy Monday, loyal readers! For those of you off from work celebrating the holiday, hope you’re treating yourself to something fun. This has been a fairly successful week for me, as you can see from the numbers above – very exciting. I will admit that the past few days have been a bit of a deviation. Valentine’s Day prompted indulgence, which snowballed into more indulgence in the days following. But you know what, I needed it, and I’m anxious to be in full swing again.

My lesson this week is a very basic, but one that is very easy to forget. First, read your labels – that we all know. But when you do, don’t forget to pay attention to sodium content. Most of us, whether on a weight loss journey or not, are focused on calories, protein, carbs, and fat – and rightfully so. But we forget that too much salt can completely erase all the merits of food that appears to otherwise be healthy. This really hit home yesterday when I was looking through my cabinet in search of some beans. I’m a big lover of kidney beans and though I try and avoid them when I’m on a serious weight kick, I was in the mood for something hearty. And besides, despite being starchy, beans are good for you, right? I pulled the can off the shelf, glanced at the label, and was shocked to see that one serving of these beans contains 400mg of sodium. Normally I would eat an entire can, which would be a whopping 1500mg of sodium!! Aahh!

Let me put this into perspective. This article published by the CDC (Center for Disease Control) states that the body needs 180-500mg of sodium per day to function. The recommended adequate daily intake of sodium is 1,500mg, with the absolute maximum for healthy adults being about 2,300mg. My bootcamp max? 800mg. This innocent can of beans has almost twice that. Holy crap. What’s so bad about all this sodium, you ask? Consuming too much salt raises your blood pressure. High blood pressure is one of the top risk factors for heart attack and stroke, both of which are in the top three killers of Americans. Yikes! This is precisely why one should never turn to frozen dinners or canned soup to supplement one’s healthy lifestyle. Have you ever looked at the salt content for one of those Progresso “zero weight watcher points” soups? Last time I looked it was nearly 1,000mg… PER SERVING. Bad news.

Now don’t get me wrong, I looooove salt. I can’t stand people who say “well I don’t use salt when I cook” or restaurants who try to blame their bland food on “well some people don’t like salt” – horse manure. If you ask me, if you’re not using salt, then you’re not cooking. The difference is that when you cook your own food from fresh ingredients, you are in control of the salt content, not some manufacturer trying to mask their terrible product.

The lesson: when you’re checking labels and trying to do something good for your body, dont’ forget the sodium!

Here is a list of culprits to watch out for:

  • Frozen veggie patties
  • Canned fish (tuna, salmon)
  • Canned soups
  • Canned vegetables
  • Canned or boxed stock/broth (try comparing a box of Swanson chicken broth to a box of Trader Joe’s)
  • Salad Dressing
  • Condiments (soy sauce, hot sauce)
  • Cold cuts and other processed meats