Own Your Beauty!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The "I am totally broke and using it as a gimic" Post


Ok - So here is the deal...I am broke. Like as in, flat, crazy, $20 to my name broke until I get a paycheck in 2-3 weeks and even then most of that will have to be saved for rent and car insurance. I guess that's what comes of being a college student again and not having a job until this week. So that means I get to now figure out how to eat on $20 or less for the next 3 weeks (and in turn take these frugal lessons along with me as I continue to be a relatively poor student for the next 3 years. And let's be honest - I am studying theatre, as I continue to be a poor artist for the next 10 years!)

Things in my favor:
1) I have a relatively well stocked pantry with a few sauces, peanut butter, a couple cans of tomatoes, tons of spices, a good amount of rice and grits and pasta and tortillas, some frozen veggies, flour, basics like that.
2) I am a good cook, a confident cook, and I have an adventurous palate so eating some crazy concoctions doesn't phase me

Things going against me:
1) I have a ton of carb items and very few protein items. I have, 1 can of chickpeas, 1 tin of protein powder, 2 tubs of tofu, about 1 lb. of ground beef, 2 cans of smoked oysters and 2 cans of smoked sardines - that is is when it comes to protein for the next 3 weeks.
2) I will run out of muffins this week and I don't have any sweet potatoes on hand to make new ones
3) I will run out of bananas and milk this week for making smoothies
4) I am very limited on fresh produce and I don't have much canned or frozen as backup

So what do you think? Can I live out of my pantry without grocery shopping for the next 3 weeks? If I have to go to the store I don't want to spare more than $10 so what do you think would be the best things to get for that $10? Dried beans? Fresh fruit? Canned fruit? Frozen veggies?

I also have to make a confession - although I generally am very opposed to the industrial agricultural food system and I try to buy only organic meat and dairy products (or natural non-dairy products like almond milk and earth balance "butter"). However, I went to the store yesterday with a $10 budget and I ended up caving to my principles for the sake of cost and got store brand milk and cheap ground beef. It's not that I eat a ton of meat anyway, and I don't think I will do that again...but I have more of an appreciation now about how saying "eat organic no matter what" can seem like a very elite cry when people have to eat and they just don't have the money. That being said, I wasn't happy about eating the beef and I think I am going to go back to vegetarian if I can't afford organic and get dried beans and such instead. I just can't compromise quite that much.

Now - To launch things off, here are some pictures from my pantry cooking last night!



Dinner was an enchilada casserole made with homemade salsa, whole wheat tortillas, a mixture of ground beef, brown rice, and mashed sweet potato seasoned with cumin and chili powder, topped with 1/2 package of frozen veggies, more salsa, more tortillas and sliced cheddar cheese. Baked it at 375 for 20 minutes without the cheese and added the cheese for the last 10 minutes. I don't feel it is worth doing an official recipe for because it was yummy, but pretty basic, and nothing I would be able to repeat since it was made with just whatever was in my fridge last night :-)
I admit, it looks a little goopy when it is all served up, but it was really quite tasty! If I make it again, I will substitute black beans for the ground beef. And if I could buy whatever I wanted to add to it, I would get kale or collard greens and saute those down and add a layer too - but that doesn't fit with my current challenge so frozen veggies it is!

I also had about 5 peaches that were getting really overripe and I needed to do something with them. So I peeled and sliced them all up and tossed them with some cinnamon and ginger.


Added about a cup or so of white wine and simmered it all together for about 20 minutes until it was nice and boiled down and syrupy and super yummy!

I had about 1/2 of this mixture for dessert with one of those mini containers of Ben and Jerry's Cherry Garcia I had in the freezer and a glass of the white wine I used for simmering. Absolutely divine! The other half of the peaches is in the fridge for tonight. I have some cherries that are getting past prime in my fridge too, I might do those with red wine tonight.


So folks - I could use your input here. Any ideas, suggestions, or thoughts on ways to get through this 3 weeks and what I should spend my last $10 of grocery budget on next week would be greatly appreciated! I will try to keep you updated on how it is going and one way or another, I'm pretty sure I won't starve :-)

Monday, August 30, 2010

Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail

So after a great first week of school, I set myself up for the second week...to fail. Ok, so maybe failure is a harsh word. But I ended up NOT going to the grocery store yesterday to replenish my important basics of yogurt, almond milk and frozen spinach. I also fell into the trap of not falling asleep until late last night which means I overslept this morning and only had 20 minutes to get ready and out the door.

So what does that mean? It means that fortunately I had muffins still that I grabbed for breakfast, but no protein smoothie which means I need to be aware if I am more hungry than usual later today. It also means no morning snack of yogurt and granola, so again...lighter eating this morning means I need to be aware of my body later if I feel more hungry than normal. It also means I didn't have time to pack a lunch so I will have to buy something from the fast food wasteland that is campus. And being aware of my overly carb happy breakfast, I probably want to go with something more protein packed for lunch so that I don't TOTALLY crash this afternoon.So yes...this boys and girls is an example of "When you fail to plan, you plan to fail!" We will pretend I did it on purpose so at to serve as a valuable lesson to you all ;-)

So how am I salvaging this day?
1) I still rode my bike to school so I am still getting exercise.
2) I grabbed 2 muffins, one for breakfast and one for an afternoon snack so I don't fade too badly
3) I am going to make the healthiest lunch choice from the options available - possibly a veggie burrito or sushi and fruit
4) I am going to the grocery store after work to get those things I am missing
5) I am going to turn off the super awesome Quantum Leap reruns at a decent time tonight and get some real sleep (Did I just reveal what a geek I am? Because I totally have had a thing for Dean Stockwell since I was like 10 years old!)


Happy Monday everyone!

Friday, August 27, 2010

The College Lunch Revolution

I am writing a post to contribute to the Fed Up With Lunch blog party talking about school lunch revolution! Now, I am not the average target audience of Mrs. Q's crusade to change school lunch in grades K-12, but I think that it is just as important to look at how poor nutrition and food choices affect college students too!

1) Answer any, all or one of the following questions in a blog post on your blog, flickr account, or youtube video:
  • How is “Back to School” going for your family?
  • Well, back to school is happening for me for the first time in 10 years :-) Returning to college as an adult is VERY unique. Things that I took for granted in the corporate world (refrigerator, microwave, money, stable schedule) are now GONE. I am back to packing my lunch in a lunch bag that can fit in my backpack and that doesn't require refrigeration or reheating. Also being in classes with people 8-10 years my junior does take some getting used to :-)
  • Is school lunch important part of your child’s day?
  • School lunch is not an important part of my day, but only because I live off campus and I don't have a dining plan.
  • What is school lunch like at your school or your child’s school?
  • School lunch (and breakfast and dinner and snacks) at college take place in the dining hall or in the food court in the University center. Basically, it is giving kids who are away from home for the first time, all you can eat access to fast food 24 hours a day. The quality of the food is low, and the choices are primarily high fat/high calorie/high sodium and the vegetarian alternatives are slim to none.
  • Does school lunch need to be reformed?
  • ABSOLUTELY school lunch needs to be reformed! And I think that needs to extend from preschool all the way up through college. Especially at a college like mine where town is 8 miles away so the only options for 80% of the student body is on campus, I think there is no excuse to take a captive audience and give them only unhealthy options because it will boost the school's profit margins. Even at the mini marts the best you can find is maybe an apple or a banana in among the candy and chips. I am lucky enough to have access to the grocery store so I can get fruit and veggies and the ingredients to cook and pack my own food, but many if not most of the students here don't have that option and I think that is a crime.
  • Do you pack lunch for your kids and what do you pack?
  • I pack lunches for myself and a sample (what I packed yesterday) would be: sandwich with hummus, sprouts and cucumbers, homemade granola and greek yogurt, apple slices, homemade muffin and cherries for an afternoon snack (recipes for my granola and muffins are both on my blog!!)
  • What are some of your favorite lunch recipes (kid-friendly or adult-friendly)?
  • My favorite recipe right now is for my pumpkin cranberry muffins (which I had to improvise and make with mashed baked sweet potato since there is still no canned pumpkin in the stores). It uses no oil, no butter, and is super awesome for breakfast and snacks. Recipe is on my blog!
  • What are some great beverages for kids and adults?
  • My favorite beverage is making a pitcher of iced tea and then just keeping that in the fridge. I collected a couple of Snapple size bottles and I keep them clean and then just fill them with my own iced tea when I want it to take with me. Might be tough for kids where the glass bottles would break, but it is perfect for me to take $0.o5 worth of tea instead of paying $1.50 for an oversweetened bottle when I am out.
  • How much time should kids get to eat lunch?
  • My biggest issue right now is that I only get about 10 minutes to eat lunch in between classes and work and running around. I have turned into more of a grazer bringing small snack items to eat when I have time instead of a big lunch like when I was in an office.
  • What are some products that you use when you pack lunch?
  • I bought myself an insulated lunch bag and a little blue ice pack and a selection of tupperware containers in 1/2 cup, 1 cup, 2 cup and 4 cup sizes. That and my giant waterbottle covers me on a daily basis.
So that is just a little bit of info from an (untraditional) college student's perspective on the school lunch issue.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Pumpkin (or sweet potato) Muffin Recipe


Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup white sugar (I used organic)
  • 1 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoons nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoons ground cloves
  • NOTE - In place of the 3 above spices you can use 2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • 3 eggs (If you wanted to veganize I recommend using a combination of vegan replacers like flax seed, bananas or Ener-G)
  • 1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin OR 2-3 baked sweet potatoes, mashed to get approx. 2 cups
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 cup raisins or dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or almonds

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 C). Grease two 12 cup muffin pans, or line with paper muffin liners. Soak cranberries in hot water for ten minutes to plump, then drain.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon, and ground cloves. In a separate bowl, mix the eggs, pumpkin, and applesauce, until smooth. Add this mixture to the dry ingredients and stir thoroughly to make a smooth batter. Stir the cranberries and almonds into the batter. Spoon batter into the prepared muffin cups to 3/4 full.
  3. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes in the preheated oven, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  4. Makes 16 muffins

These muffins are DELICIOUS! Sweet, but not overly so, dense but not heavy, not oily or greasy at all because there is no added fat, yummy burst of cranberry goodness throughout...the perfect thing to grab for breakfast with my smoothie in the morning instead of toast. I made 16 and I am refrigerating half and freezing the other half. And of course, because I am always thinking of ways to make additions, I may add some orange zest in with this next time...I bet the flavor would really add a lot!

Now I normally am not too fussy about the nutrition info or tracking calories religiously, but I was curious to see what the nutrition info was on this recipe because I did alter it from another recipe using different measurements of nuts and fruit, switching whole wheat flour for all purpose and cutting the sugar in half (because I don't want my breakfast muffins to taste like cupcakes!) and I was pleasantly surprised. If you make 16 muffins from this recipe each muffin comes out to about 175 calories, 3 g of fat, 3.5 grams of fiber and almost 5 grams of protein. Not to bad if you ask me! I included the full breakdown below if you are interested. I got this from entering the recipe into Spark People's recipe calculator which is a very handy tool.

So please make a batch of these and let me know how you like them!

Amount Per Serving
Calories 177.1
Total Fat 3.1 g

Saturated Fat 0.5 g

Polyunsaturated Fat 0.6 g

Monounsaturated Fat 1.5 g
Cholesterol 39.8 mg
Sodium 18.9 mg
Potassium 132.5 mg
Total Carbohydrate 34.9 g

Dietary Fiber 3.6 g

Sugars 17.5 g
Protein 4.8 g

Pictures!

Ok folks, so I took some pictures to share with you today to make up for Tuesday's picture-less post.

First - a couple pictures of the lovely, tasty and nutritional powerhouse green monster smoothie! I drink a little bit while getting ready and put the rest in my water bottle and take it to school to drink during my 8am classes.


Also a picture of my yogurt and granola all ready to be mixed and consumed before my 11am class :-)

Now I have LOVED these Oikos individual organic greek yogurt cups with honey and they are perfect for bringing to school. However, my budget will no longer allow me to buy them so I am probably going to just be switching to regular plain yogurt and premixing it in my lovely 1 cup liquid-tight tupperware containers with my homemade granola. Oh the sacrifices of a poor student!

And here is a picture of the illustrious Blue Bomber - my trusty companion to and from school and all over campus.

Please note the helmet hanging from the handlebar (normally on my head) because safety is important and I have had a couple of bad bike accidents in my past (if you launch headfirst over the front of your bike and catch a handlebar in the gut you may end up with a face full of pavement, a lacerated spleen and internal bleeding...I'm just sayin'!), the backpack and water bottle with WATER in the basket up front, and the water bottle with smoothie in the handy dandy water bottle holder. Much like running, I may not be the fastest one in the pack, but by god I am going to get there!

For a couple of new items may I present my new breakfast goodie - pumpkin spice muffins!

"Now wait a moment!" You might be saying..."I thought there was no canned pumpkin available in the stores right now because of the big pumpkin harvest rotting last year!" And you would be right. For those of you who don't know, all the commercial pumpkins last year basically rotted on the vines and there has been no canned pumpkin available since Christmas last year until the new harvest ripens this year. So I did what any enterprising cook who wanted muffins would do, I baked sweet potatoes used the mashed meat from those instead. Voila! Made with whole wheat flour, sweet potato, applesauce instead of oil, and studded with cranberries and almonds. A not-too-sweet but oh so delicious breakfast item to keep in the fridge and grab all week. I will do a separate post with the recipe and nutrition info.

Note to self however - do NOT attempt to balance said muffin on the backpack in the above pictured bike basket and expect it to stay in place when going over a speed bump...1/2 a muffin was sacrificed to learn that lesson today. Will adjust for tomorrow :-)

Also a pic of my sandwich today. Tuesday/Thursday is my day that I have 10 minutes to eat lunch because I have class from 11am-2pm with only that short break in between. Last time I brought tuna and dill dip and crackers, and decided that eating pungent tuna before going into acting class was not the greatest idea. Last night I made some lemon dill hummus and turned it into a hummus/sprouts/cucumber sandwich for lunch today. Will let you know how that goes, but it sure looks yummy!

By the way...any suggestions or ideas on 10 minute lunches would be greatly appreciated!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Biking and Cooking

So - This whole riding my bike back and forth to school thing may possibly kill me before it gets me in shape! Ok, maybe not, but going from basic couch potato all summer (with one good 9 mile hike) to riding my bike all around campus does feel pretty intense and was definitely feeling more tired on the ride this morning than I did yesterday. I am taking it slow, not pushing myself, taking rests when I need to, and just knowing that if I keep it up it WILL get easier and I WILL get in better shape before I even realize it :-) In the meantime though...even with a padded seat (and a padded rear) my backside hurts! I just keep telling myself that I will get used to it and it is only day 2. And honestly, the good feelings, the exercise, the endorphins, the cured insomnia and the flexibility to get around campus without looking for parking is worth the trade off so I will keep the whining to a minimum.

So - I promised recipes yesterday and today I shall deliver! And both are vegetarian and I will note the easy substitution to make it vegan.

Granola:
I LOVE making granola...it is so cheap, you can make it much lower fat and lower sugar than the stuff you buy in a box or bag, and you can add whatever you want to it! I see that Bear Naked granola selling for $7 a bag and it makes my head hurt because I could make the same amount of granola for about $2 and it tastes even better.

So here is the basic recipe:
2 1/2 cups old fashioned oats
2/3 cup honey (or agave nectar to make it vegan)
1/3 cup nut butter or oil (choose your favorite nut butter, peanut, almond, sunflower, cashew...it all good!)
1 Tb. vanilla
1 tsp. cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice
1/2 cup nuts
1/2 cup seeds
1/2 cup dried fruit

-Spread the oats out on an ungreased baking sheet and toast in a 350 degree oven for 5-10 minutes stirring often and watching carefully to make sure they toast, not burn.
-While the oats are toasting in the oven, in a small pan on the stove bring the honey, nut butter and vanilla just to a simmer so it all melts together and remove it from the heat.
-Once the oats are toasted transfer them to a large mixing bowl and add the cinnamon, nuts, seeds and dried fruit and mix well.
-Pour the honey/nut butter mixture in with the oats and mix well so that the oats are all moist.
-Spray your baking sheet with cooking spray and spread the mixture evenly over the pan and return to the oven
***At this point I usually just turn the oven off and let the granola sit in the cooling oven for a couple of hours or overnight to crisp up. You could also turn the oven down to 250 degrees and let it bake for 30-45 minutes, stirring often until it is toasty. I think leaving it overnight is easier, less chance of burning it on accident, and then it is crunchy and ready for breakfast in the morning!***

Now, that is the basic recipe and it is endlessly customizable to your taste and depending on what you have in your cabinets. Almonds, cashews, peanuts, pecans, walnuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, dried mango, dried apples, dried cherries, dried cranberries, grated coconut, chocolate chips, orange extract, almond extract, flax seeds, anything and everything you can think of would taste GREAT in this. You can even cut the honey in half if you want it to be a little less sweet and I find it is still enough stickiness to hold the granola together well. As an example, for my most recent batch I didn't have any peanut butter or seeds in the house but I wanted granola so I used 1/3 cup honey, 1/3 cup Earth Balance spread, and vanilla extract for the liquid. Oats, pumpkin pie spice, cocoa roasted almonds, orange flavored cranberries and unsweetened coconut for the granola base and it is totally AMAZING. Not overly sweet, tons of flavor, perfect to mix into my plain yogurt with an extra drizzle of honey. So try it out, use your imagination...it is a very easy, quick recipe and will make tasty granola for pennies of what you would pay in the store.

Smoothie:
I am also making a smoothie every morning as my breakfast because it is easy to make and I can put it in a water bottle to take to school and drink during my 8am class. I absolutely love my smoothies so I wanted to share that recipe too.

Tina Version of a Green Monster Smoothie-
- 1 scoop protein powder (I use unsweetened chocolate flavor)
- 1 Tb. ground flax seed
-1/2 frozen banana
-handful of frozen fruit
- approx. 1/2-1 cup frozen spinach (to taste)
-2 Tb. 100% pineapple juice frozen concentrate
- 2 dashes cinnamon
-1 cup almond milk
- water as needed for consistency

I just put all of this into my blender and blend away until it is smooth and green and yummy! You don't really taste the spinach but it is a great boost of veggies and nutrients in the morning. The pineapple juice concentrate adds some natural sweetness. I add a little extra water if it is feeling too thick with just the 1 cup of liquid from the almond milk, you could also use more almond milk but I like my carton to last the week and a little water really doesn't change the flavor. Super yummy, super filling, super natural energy!

So that is my morning recipes right now. I apologize for there being no pictures, I was in a rush this morning and forgot to take any. I will try to update this post later to include some pictures so you can see my granola and green goodness and a picture of the Blue Bomber Bicycle that is transporting me every so faithfully around campus and kicking my butt into shape!

Have a great day everyone :-)

Monday, August 23, 2010

I'm Back!


Hi there folks (for anyone who may actually be reading this). Sorry for the long absence but my dad's lovely little pug knocked a glass of healthy, antioxidant filled red wine on my laptop and now a few vital keys are no longer working! Rather than copy and paste every single A, S, D, and W into a blog post, I had to wait until I could come use the computers at school. So, hopefully I should be able to stay a bit more on top of things now that I will be on campus every day and will have access to fully functioning keyboards :-)

So, since today is the first day of school I figured I would kick off with my healthy approach to school post! First off, I am not your typical college student in many ways. The fact that I am not 18 would be a big indicator of that. I went to school full time for a year when I was 19 at Rutgers University in New Jersey and then quit and started working and taking classes online at the community college for several years. I have spent most of the last 8 years working in finance and am just now going back to pursue a degree in my passion, acting. So needless to say, my 28 (almost 29) year old self stands out a bit next to all the fresh faced recent high school graduates! Also because of that, I am not living in a dorm and I am not on a meal plan.

However, in many ways this is a great thing when it comes to healthy living. I gotta tell you, when I did go to college when I was 19 I FULLY indulged in the crazy cafeteria eating that freshman can be so famous for! Can you say large soda cups full of soft serve ice cream and Reese's Pieces?? Oh yeah...I did it. So when I had lunch in the cafeteria here during orientation and was surrounded by basically the equivalent of fast food for $8 a meal I just said "No" and have decided to keep it in house. Now, when I was working in corporate America I packed a lunch just about every day and kept a cabinet full of healthy breakfast and snack options to eat at my desk. Oatmeal, tea, nuts, dried fruit, all the good stuff. I also had a fridge and a microwave to keep perishables and heat up my lunch. Of course, when I have nothing but a backpack to bring to school every day those are no longer options so I have to reevaluate my choices based on lack of cooling/heating and more limited space.

So here are the things I am doing immediately, and some medium term goals that I will be pursuing to make my return to school also conducive for maintaining and improving my health!
1) I am biking to and from school every day. I live about a mile from campus, and 1/2 mile is straight uphill and the other 1/2 mile is straight downhill so it is a great workout going both ways! It takes me about 15-20 minutes so right there is 2 miles and 30-40 minutes of exercise 5 days a week.

2) I am eating a healthy breakfast and packing a morning snack and light lunch. I have all morning and early afternoon classes so I have to leave fairly early and am on campus for lunch every day. I am planning on a piece of toast and a green monster smoothie at 7am in the morning, a small bowl of plain yogurt with honey and homemade granola for a morning snack, and a light lunch of leftovers, a sandwich, or some sort of homemade dip/spread and crackers with a fruit or veggie for lunch. Compact, easy, doesn't require reheating, portable. Today I had my slice of toast and smoothie, brought a container of greek yogurt and granola for a snack, and packed some whole grain pasta with homemade tomato sauce that I filled with shredded veggies for lunch.
*** I will do a separate post tomorrow with the recipes for my smoothie and granola with real pictures***

3) I am cooking and prepping in advance so that it is easy to have healthy food already portioned and ready to grab in the morning. I made granola last night, I packed leftover pasta in a single serving tupperware, I had my waterbottle for my smoothie clean and ready to go. I wish I could think of a way to prep my smoothie the night before, but I really like the texture from having all the frozen fruit, and I think if I prepped it and kept it in the fridge instead it would lose that nice milkshakey texture for me.
***Any ideas here readers on how smoothie prep might be shortened or done in advance?***

4) In the more medium term goal I am going to start going to the gym at school in between classes. I have a nice hour long break every morning that would be perfect for doing a 1/2 hour strength training routine to supplement my biking and dog walking. I need to figure out the best way to pack my exercise clothes in addition to my textbooks and get it all here on my bike, but I would like to start that next week once I get settled into a routine and actually KNOW where all my classes are!

5) I am allowing myself small treats as I go so that nothing seems overly painful or restrictive. I bought a bag of individual Ghirardelli chocolate squares that are in my freezer and I have one in the evening with a glass of wine so that I have a high quality, yummy treat while I am watching a movie or reading a book (or doing schoolwork as I will be starting now!) I really appreciate that little bit of sweetness and I am finding that when I savor it and enjoy it I am not running back to the freezer to bust open the rest of the bag like I might if I was just scarfing down a gas station candy bar!

So there you have it! And I have to tell you, I am feeling great right now...I have been focusing on eating healthy, eating moderate meals, enjoying my food, indulging in great seasonal produce (I just LOVE living so close to Georgia and getting the sweetest, juicy peaches for $0.50 a lb!) and working on treating myself with kindness, caring and appreciation every day.

Now I just need a LITTLE more sleep (but hey, falling asleep at 11:30pm instead of 3:30am is an improvement!) and a job and I will be set! If anyone has any other suggestions on easy to pack, healthy, natural options for snacks and lunches it would be greatly appreciated or fast breakfast options. Thanks y'all :-)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Moderation not Deprivation


Over my many years of learning about how to be healthy and what does and doesn't work for me, I have come to realize that moderation is really the key. When I was in high school the diet I was on meant zero fat, zero choice, and eventually zero interest from me to maintain it! I have tried various things over the years for various reasons that involve cutting things out of my diet completely and all that ended up happening is I got angry, resentful, frustrated and eventually caved having a ton of that food out of spite (spite to myself?) and then feeling guilty about it. I don't know about you, but that is no way to live for me!

I am very lucky, I don't have food allergies or even sensitivities that I can tell. I did have my gallbladder out at age 21 so I don't process high fat foods or highly processed foods very well, but even that I am able to have in moderation on occasion and not put my health at great risk like an allergy would. Now I have found that eating generally lower fat, high fiber, natural, clean, organic and low to moderate amounts of animal protein seems to work the best for my body and keeps me running smoothly for the most part.

Now, I steer clear of fad diets because I think they are a lot of hype and often without the best science to back up the author's grandiose claims. I mean, the bigger the claim the more tv time you are going to get, right? So Atkins/South Beach/French Women Don't Get Fat/Skinny Bitch/Eat For Your Blood Type/Blah Blah Blah don't get much space in my bookcase or on my plate. I think that there are some sound ideas from some of these though and the important thing is using your own mind to take what works for you and then leave the hype behind. For instance, South Beach has some good things about eating lots of veggies, fiber, beans, whole grains, and not a bunch of processed food and sugar and I tend to incorporate a lot of that into my food. But really, in my mind that is more about common sense healthy eating than it is about buying a bunch of books and diet plans and doing a 2 week "detox" that just gives you headaches and makes you hungry.

Something else I do think is worthwhile is the so called "French" approach to eating. Ignoring the suggestion from the most famous book on this subject to eat nothing but boiled leeks and leek broth for 3 days (and to plan on sitting around your house reading and not expending much energy during that time because you will be STARVED and CRANKY), but embracing the idea of moderation without guilt. Have 3 healthy, full meals a day with food you love, but maybe eat a half portion of the things that are less healthy and more veggies instead. Have a light afternoon snack in between lunch and dinner, and make it something really tasty and delicious with no guilt or shame! For me that may mean a latte and a chocolate, or some fruit dipped in full fat greek yogurt, but it definitely does NOT mean a powerbar or a handful of trail mix because those aren't things I particularly enjoy (not to say YOU can't, they just aren't high on my list).

The other thing that I have taken from this idea of living more French is to really take care of yourself. I tend to go to bed with my makeup on, go a day or two without moisturizing my face, maybe throw on clothes that are less than flattering because it is easy, and just generally give more time to others than to myself. But when I take the time to do things for myself I FEEL better which in turn makes me want to be HEALTHIER because I am respecting and loving myself. So that means washing my face at night, maybe splurging on some fancy face cream because I have sensitive skin, going through my clothes and donating what just doesn't look good on me to Goodwill, or even throwing on a pretty scarf for a very French look for the day :-)
So that is an idea of what moderation means for me...living my life to the fullest, taking great joy and pleasure in the things that are important to me, getting rid of guilt and shame around these things, and because I am finding this joy every day NOT feeling the need to dive into the chocolate fountain headfirst when I see it!

Food Stuff!

So i don't intend to turn this into a daily food log blog because I find that somewhat boring and repetitive. However, I am still on vacation near Portland, OR with my family so I am taking full advantage of trying out some of the awesome places around here before I head back to small town NC :-) On that note, I wanted to share a couple of pics and kind of my approach to eating in a relatively healthful way in spite of having some indulgences.

First...PHO!! Holy cow, I had heard about pho before but the first time I had tried it was during this trip. I went to Pho Van on Hawthorne Street in Portland and was BLOWN AWAY by how amazingly amazing this food was. And I even tried the variety that had tripe and tendons in it and was in beefy soupy noodly heaven (sorry vegetarians, this post is not for you but I promise I have more veggie entries coming soon as soon as I leave my carnivorous parents houses!)
Pho Van on Hawthorne St. in Portland, OR has the BEST pho

Then today I stayed a little closer to home and went to Pho Green Papaya in Vancouver which got just amazing reviews online. Had another packed bowl of pho and while it wasn't QUITE as amazing as the Portland one, it was still a big bowl of heaven. I have to admit, this is the biggest thing I miss about not living in a city anymore is not being able to just go grab pho or sushi or Thai or tapas or any other number of great ethnic foods that they just don't have in the small town South. Healthwise pho is relatively healthy - clear beef broth, rice noodles, lots of bean sprouts, the only thing that is fatty is some of the beef and even that wasn't prevalent compared to the lean cuts. I can never get down more than half a bowl anyway and I feel good, light, but full afterwards. I didn't make the mistake I did at Pho Van and order salad rolls in addition to the pho at which point I felt like Violet Beauregard in Willy Wonka except full of beef broth instead of blueberry juice! And I practiced moderation, ate half of my bowl slowly with consciousness and drinking tea in between, and when I left I was pleasantly satisfied without being stuffed.
Mmmmmmmm...pho goodness

The next place I went was to Cinetopia which is one of those fabulous movie theatres with the big plush leather seats and waiters that will serve you food and wine or beer right to your seat. All HD digital screens and usually a good selection of more artsy flicks.
Wine and cheesecake service to your movie seat...doesn't get much better!

Well, I didn't exactly pick an artsy flick today - I saw Salt with Angelina Jolie (mini review: Reminded me of the Jason Bourne movies except with Angelina Jolie instead of Matt Damon. I liked it!) But I did indulge in a little afternoon happy hour and had a slice of lemon cheesecake with fresh blueberry compote and a glass of pinot noir delivered to my seat. Yeah, it was almost $20 for that little bit of food and drink, but it was a treat and something else that won't be happening once I get back to North Carolina.

So how does this fit into a healthy lifestyle? Well this goes along with the concept of living a little more French and enjoying a little treat in moderation without indulging in the very American guilt! Would I eat a slice of cheesecake every day? Nope. Could I have eaten half and still been satisfied? Probably. But the point is that I had a good quality treat of something that I truly enjoyed and I don't feel bad about it in the slightest.
Blueberries are in season and I am having them everywhere right now

So that was my treat afternoon out. To round out the day I also had breakfast (2 egg omelette with a little cheese, 1 slice of toast, blueberries and a small glass of oj) and dinner (homemade chicken lasagna, salad, 1/2 slice of bread, fruit for dessert and wine). I want to talk about this more tomorrow, but I feel like I am getting more in the habit of practicing moderation and enjoying my food without needing to feel full and stuffed all the time. That is more important to me than going back to that high school diet of zero fat, zero oil, zero carbs and total boring.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Where I am Going and Where I Have Been

So since I have stated these lofty goals of becoming a healthier person, losing weight, getting in shape, I figure I should let you know a little more about what that means to me in my life.

Awwwww...wasn't I cute?

I have never been what you would call a small person. I was a big baby (over 9 lbs at birth), a chubby kid, a plump adolescent, and I became downright obese in high school. By my junior year of high school I was a size 24, pushing 250 lbs and, with most of my meals consisting of fast food and vending machine candy, not exactly a shining paragon of health! So that summer my mom and I joined a local weight loss program and I for once really, totally and utterly committed myself to it. I was logging everything I ate, cooking with absolutely no oils or fats, taking my lunch everyday, avoiding all drive throughs, and waking up to do an hour of Tae-Bo every morning (and this is when Tae-Bo was still brand new). I was IN SHAPE! Like, running, lifting weights, energy, down to 175 lbs. and a size 12 and feeling like I could kick some ass SHAPE! I thought this was it, I was going to get to goal and I would never be the fat kid again. Then something happened...

...College. Yes, I went to college and everything conspired against me (including myself) to give up this healthy lifestyle. My bike was stolen so I couldn't ride anymore, the cafeteria was FILLED with all you can eat junk food, my roommates thought exercise was a dirty word so I stopped working out, suddenly mac and cheese and peach schnapps seemed like a PERFECTLY reasonable dinner, and all the weight I had lost and more began to creeeeeep back on. Over the last 10 years I have yo-yoed a bit, but primarily just worked my way back up to that high school size and an even higher weight.

Don't get me wrong, I have had my spurts of exercise and health! In 2008 I went from being a
couch potato to training for and running the Philadelphia Half Marathon. I worked out with a personal trainer and lost about 30 lbs. and gained a ton of muscle in 2009. I have done weight watchers for various lengths of time and success over the past 7 years. But really, nothing has stuck and I am at my highest adult weight and size right now, and worse feeling so very out of shape that a mile bike ride to school has me winded and gasping for breath. I am no longer willing to just resign myself to a life of ill health and poorly fitting clothes!

After having said all that, I also need to make it clear that I am a firm believer that you need to love yourself and love your body at any size. If you are just miserable all the time and hate your body, why would you want to be kind to yourself by offering it healthy and delicious food? Why would you want to exercise and move a body you loathe? All that does is set you up for frustration when things don't go exactly as you want, and ultimately anger when you lose the weight and find that being a skinnier person doesn't make you a happier or different person, it just makes you the same person who takes up less room. I do love myself most of the time...I love my body for what it DOES not hate it for what it DOESN'T do. I may be huffing and puffing on my bike, but I still have 2 strong legs to ride it. I may walk a lot slower and have to take more breaks when hiking, but I am still out there relatively pain free and loving the outdoors. I may have to learn to eat healthier and smaller portions, but I have no allergies and I love all types of food from all over the world (including some of the stuff other people find weird!).

When I look in the mirror I tell myself that I am a beautiful, intelligent, passionate and amazing woman who is pursuing the things that make me happy! I am making the changes in my life to improve my health, but losing 150 lbs. won't make me a better or happier person, I am doing that now simply by living my best life. Size is just a number - Friends, family, doing the things you love, that is what makes you a happy and well-rounded person.