Amping Up

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Wow. As of today, it has been eleven months since I started this journey, which is terrifying for reasons related and unrelated to my weight loss program. But as the one-year mark nears, I am both proud of the progress I’ve made and positive lifestyle changes I’ve implemented, but also a little disappointed that I didn’t accomplish more.

So, it occurs to me, maybe I need to engage in phase two. Honestly, I never considered that there should be a phase two until a week or so ago. I spent last year in a state of recovery. I was so out of shape, so down and out–physically and emotionally, and in such a destructive relationship with food, I needed time to remember not only how to be healthy but to feel healthy. Walking a couple of blocks no longer sounds like a chore. (Yesterday, I went for an hour long walk just because it was nice outside.) Taking the stairs isn’t a last resort anymore. And I’m back to my root opinions on food, so most junk food grosses me out, and vegetables aren’t a chore but rather a requirement in my day.

Those are basic goals that I didn’t even consider because they seemed so obvious. But really they did take a long time to fully accomplish. And, of course, there were setbacks. Moving. The holidays. Maintaining a social life with my naturally skinny, junk food loving friends that is still conducive to my body’s needs. These have been significant hurdles that took time to master. In fact, mastering them (or not) is pretty much a weekly struggle.

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Yet another delicious fruity breakfast recipe.

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Well, getting back into clean eating mode has proven a little more difficult than I expected. Mostly because it’s freaking freezing outside and who wants to eat a cold salad when there’s a windchill of negative 10? Someone, maybe, but not me. Soup is a great alternative, but eating it every single day gets old real quick.

So the trick, which I am far from mastering, is eating clean, energy dense foods that are still warm and satisfying. Mac and Cheese only satisfies one of these goals it turns out. I’ve had a couple of successes though.

My greatest accomplishment so far this winter is definitely a Banana-Berry Baked Oatmeal, which has received rave reviews and requests for more. I’ve made it twice.

Here's the first batch.

Here’s the first batch.

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A dear John letter to junk food

Dear Carbs,

Well, to be honest, I’m not really sure how to say this. It’s been so great seeing you over the holidays. These last three weeks have been really great. You are so sweet, so deep. I’m always surprised how much I discover I’ve missed you when we get back together like this. You really are truly delicious.

This time when we reunited though, things just got so intense. I started approaching you in elaborate ways I never considered before. I mean, I baked! I made Mac and cheese from scratch, all for you! The black and white cake balls were truly inspired. I loved the chex mix so much I made it twice.

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But I don’t know if it’s because we’ve been apart for so long, and I’ve learned to live happily without you, or if it’s because our reunion had been so intense, but…and I’m so sorry, I just can’t do this anymore. You make me feel bad. And worse, you make me feel bad about myself. I can feel so good when I’m with you, but a couple hours later I’m overwhelmed by how crappy you’ve made me feel.

Frankly, it’s just not healthy. This isn’t how relationships are supposed to work. I can’t keep this going with you when I know you’re just going to encourage me to make decisions that will hurt me in the end. No matter how much I love you, I have to put myself first. We can’t keep doing this. It’s not healthy and it’s time for me to move on. But I do truly wish you the best.

Take care of yourself,
LJ

After the Flood

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Oh my god. I am so full. Holidays, man. I read (somewhere) that the average American puts on ten pounds during the holiday season. Ten Pounds! Last year when there wasn’t a big difference between holiday eating and my normal lifestyle I would have thought that was astronomical. Sadly, this weekend I believe it. I was planning on posting “before and after” photos of myself for the New Year, but at this point I don’t feel good enough to even show off a difference!

It all started three weeks ago, when my lovely friend cooked dinner for a girls’ night, and the food consisted of pasta, garlic bread and cookies. I’d like to tell you that it hasn’t been all simple carbs and saturated fats for the twenty-two days since then, but…mostly it’s been all simple carbs and saturated fats with a few fruits and vegetables here and there.

Until today. I have been feeling progressively more and more terrible for the last two weeks: waking up with headaches, feeling sluggish…not to mention feeling like my pants are a bit tighter than they are supposed to be. I’ve kept making excuses, though. “Well, it’s a special occasion.” “Eh, it’s pointless to reboot now, I have that party on Friday…” But today, I’m out of excuses, and I think I feel just gross enough that excuses wouldn’t matter anymore anyway.

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Bake me a cake

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So, I’m a terrible baker. I mean, it’s probably for the best, because if I loved baking I’d be in real trouble. But you know, it’s the holiday season and I’ve been in this weird domestic mood lately. So I’m baking.

I have big plans for my baked goods. I am not that much of a dessert person, I enjoy it but it’s not the highlight of a meal for me or anything. But I love cake balls. Maybe it’s the intrigue. Maybe it’s the adorable packaging. Maybe it’s that they are virtually the only interesting thing I know how to bake…and they come from a box but don’t seem like they come from a box. So I have all these plans for cake balls, and maybe some chocolate chip cookies, and all these plans are making me exceedingly guilty. Carbs and I seem to have rekindled our love affair in the worst way, but like any abusive relationship, I know this is just a honeymoon phase until the next time I weigh myself.

To counteract…or maybe mitigate is a better word…all this completely indulgent baking, I decided to try something healthy as well.

Banana Chocolate Chip Breakfast Cake

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Picnic Food in the Wintertime…

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Hello! It’s been a while since I posted. But that doesn’t mean I have fallen off the wagon, I’ve just been busy! In fact things have been going very well on the health front. I am hoping to post more about that soon.

In the meantime, I have a much less important success story to tell. I have been trying for literally months to make a successful black bean burger. Okay, this was only my third or fourth attempt, but none of them were really up to par until now. I had several goals for these black bean burgers, and you wouldn’t think any of them would be particularly hard to meet and yet, these elements have been elusive.

First, the burgers needed to stick together, like burgers are supposed to do. Second they needed to be healthy. It would have been a lot easier with eggs, cheese and flour but I was really trying to keep it strict. Third, despite the restrictions, they needed to taste good, obviously!

Vegan Black Bean Burger with Avocado Cream

Vegan Black Bean Burger with Avocado Cream

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Pumpkin Up the Jams

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Wow. I am so sorry about that title. But what can you do, it’s the fever talking. Yep. Still sick. Don’t worry, I’m on the mend. I have decreed it. I’ve given my body more than a week to get this shenanigans out of its system and now I’m ready for us all to move on. I’d like my lungs back, please.

The most annoying thing about being sick is that my grand plans for this month were totally neglected. Working out was a total bust, since I could only breathe for roughly half the days since Halloween. And creative cooking was just not plausible in my addled state. But sometimes we just have to muddle through.

Pumpkin Cheesecake Dip

Literally all month I’ve had this grandiose idea for pumpkin pie baked into a cored apple, a technique that you’re likely familiar with if you’ve looked at Pinterest ever in your life. I planned on taking it to a birthday party I helped plan for one of my BFFs on Saturday. But then Saturday came around and I slept through all of the hours I was supposed to be baking.

So, I considered my ingredients, started on a contingency plan, realized I didn’t have time for that either, and in the end accidentally created this very delicious (diet-friendly) Pumpkin Cheesecake Dip. Continue reading

Lentil Soup for the Soul

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Well, I’m sick. It never fails, every year I deal with minor seasonal allergies on and off throughout the fall and then boom, Thanksgiving gets here and I get bronchitis or pneumonia or the plague (or whatever). Hopefully this year it won’t be that bad. Usually in the past I’ve been travelling for Thanksgiving, or I was busy with school, or both, so I always blamed my annual illness on stress. This year I’m not in school or travelling, so I’m really hoping it doesn’t get any worse. So far, I’m not so sick that I can’t function, but I’m still sick enough that all I really want in life is a big bowl of soup and my mommy.

Luckily, two nights ago I made a really great Lentil Curry Soup, which turned out to be even better this afternoon when I reheated it. I think my body predicted this illness and so it encouraged my brain to make a huge batch of soup ahead of time. That’s totally plausible, right?

Lentil Curry Soup

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100 Ways to Stock a Kitchen

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Over the last few months I’ve been slowly collecting a set of cookbooks I’ve never opened. I always think they look like a great and wonderful idea, until I get home and realize I already have the entire Internet and my own imagination. But over the summer, a friend was getting married and to go with the little mixing bowls she had on her registry I got her this really cute cookbook from Crate & Barrel:

I thought it was so cute (and relevant) that I bought a second one for myself. Then it went on the shelf with all the other rarely opened cookbooks. But the other day I was bored and noticed it, so I opened it up, and in the first chapter, the author goes through all of the ingredients she thinks are absolutely necessary. No respectable cook, she says, should live without these things.

Going through her list, I found some of her must-have ingredients were no brainers. Cumin, duh. Sea salt, duh. Garlic & ginger, double duh. But then other things went from duh to “huh?” They were things that would never occur to me to keep, nor did they seem so vital, useful in enough different ways to warrant having these things constantly on hand. Some examples of the huh items were anchovies, tapenade and seven different kinds of vinegar. That seemed extreme to me until I realized I have four or five already.

So this list of kitchen essentials got me thinking, what are my own kitchen essentials? Are my must-haves totally weird, too? What is my kitchen’s equivalent to “seriously? tapenade?” Once every month or two I will go on a big grocery spree to restock all of the things I use all the time (which inevitably always run out at the same time, right?) and I realized, I definitely have my own list of kitchen ingredients I wouldn’t want to go without. Some get more frequent action than others, but I would be annoyed if I discovered any of these were missing. If you’ve read more than two entries of this blog I seriously doubt the list will feature any surprises.

 Notes:

  • 100 seemed like a lot to me, but then I thought about it and with all the little things like spices and condiments, it’s not really that much.
  • Okay it’s actually more like 103…I forgot some essential essentials and added them in.
  • There are a few things I will always buy organic–spinach and other greens, soy & meat products–and some things I never will, like bananas and avocados, because the part we eat is protected by the thick outer layer and because conventional tastes just as good (or better). Generally I specified if something should be organic on this list, but that is a personal decision depending on how paranoid environmentally-conscious you are and how much money you want to spend.
  • I also included things like English muffins, which I probably haven’t included on the blog before, but I do use at least once a week.
  • There were a couple other things I wanted to include because I use them frequently but only seasonally, like peaches, or that can’t really be kept stocked because they’ll go bad, like salmon.
  • Obviously this list is designed to my particular tastes. If you like a lot of meat or hate spicy things, this will need some tweaking.

The most important thing to note about my list is that there are very few things that are processed, and what is processed is only marginally so. A lot of things I would have bought from a conventional vendor I’ve started trying to make myself (like hummus and salad dressing). I have observed so far in my journey that cooking from scratch and eating as many whole foods as possible is really the best thing to keep me feeling strong and healthy. With the exception of a few additional items: granola bars, one or two organic frozen meals in case of emergency, and an occasional box of crackers, this is pretty much all I keep around. If I keep other things, I’ll eat them. Having a very specific list like this helps curb temptation.

I don’t know if this will be helpful to other people. But even if it isn’t, I think it’s a good idea to take a catalogue of all of the things you use on a regular basis. Making sure they are always on hand will a) make meal preparation way easier b) enable spontaneity in your kitchen goings-on and c) hopefully allow you to avoid opting for takeout because, “we’re out of everything, ugh!” or snacking on unhealthy stuff because, “there’s seriously nothing to eat!”

Personally this has been an important lesson for me to learn, and an on-going challenge to really adhere to. But honestly, organization has been key to my success so far. If I make sure I have everything I’m going to need for the week, and plan ahead a lot of the things I intend to eat, I am a lot less likely to stray from my goals. I will stick to the plan, when there is one. When there isn’t one–anarchy! Chaos! Nobody wins (except maybe saturated fat and the pizza industry). So far, this particular list has been good to me. Sticking to these foods, most of which are fruits, vegetables and nuts & seeds, I feel better physically than I probably ever have before. Even within the list, I use bread crumbs and brown sugar a whole lot less frequently than I use apples and spring mix. The goal of a good grocery trip, a stocked kitchen, and this entire blog is just to enable a lifestyle that is as healthy and nutritious as possible, and to cut out as many possible deterrents as I can from getting where I want to be.

-lj