Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 Review and New Goals and Resolutions for 2011

*This picture was taken on a hike in Hawaii.  I NEVER do hikes when they involve ropes.  But this time I pushed myself to do it and I did.  This was where I had to stop because it got too scary for me to continue, but I did do many sets of ropes before we got to this point.*

2010 has been a great year.  I feel like I am in the best shape of my life, I am healthier than I have ever been and my self esteem and confidence is so much better.  I went on many trips to see friends, family or just for the sake of traveling and seeing new places and I also turned 30!  I challenged myself to try new things, to work harder than what I thought I could and just to genuinely care about myself and my health.  Looking back at my resolutions/goals for 2010, I feel very optimistic about what I am capable of in 2011.  Looking back, these are the resolutions I made for myself for 2010: 

Resolutions for 2010

  1. Floss every day
  2. Workout 5-6 days a week for at least 30 minutes
  3. Scrapbook
  4. Continue to make integrated health a priority (healthy food choices, exercise, sleep, leisure)
  5. Continue sewing
  6. Make at least 1 new recipe a week
*This picture was taken back in September on my birthday weekend.  Bicycling was one type of exercise that I incorporated into my life over the course of the past year.  It was a lot of fun riding bikes on the weekends when the weather was nice.*

Looking back at this, I feel like I had a very successful year.  The only goal that I can’t really say that I completed was scrapbooking.  I will try again this year but I am not going to make this one of my goals/resolutions.  I feel very proud that I have continued to make health a priority.  Even when life gets stressful, healthy living has become such a habit, that falling back on bad habits has not been an issue.  The only time I have fallen off the wagon is with travel.  It has been very difficult to travel and maintain the Weight Watchers program.  But instead of stressing too much about it, I just pick myself up and start right back with it the next day.  I also give myself a few days before I weigh myself because there’s no sense in getting discouraged by what I see on the scale.  However, if I give myself a week and there’s still a gain, I know I am doing something about it and I know the weight will come off so I can start losing again. 

*Jogging has been another exercise that I have started in 2010.  I swore it off after the half marathon in 2006, but after I started losing weight, I got curious about it again.  I felt like it might be easier and more enjoyable with less weight to carry around.  I wouldn't say that that jogging is my favorite form of exercise but I really do enjoy it now and I love that it's such a good calorie burner.*

Goals/Resolutions for 2011

  1. Run a 5k race for an animal organization (Humane Society, SPCA, etc.)

  1. Blog at least once a week (I find it motivates and encourages me when I put my thoughts in writing and really think about my weight loss journey.)

  1. Learn to use my NEW camera!  (I just purchased a Canon Digital Rebel and I should be shipped to me very soon!)

  1. Incorporate more upper body workouts (It was a rude awakening in Hawaii when I was trying to do easy kayaking but it was very tiring for me.)
*This picture was taken at the trailhead of the 13 mile hike that we did for my 30th birthday.  That was such a great feeling completing that hike and knowing that it was something that I wouldn't have been able to do when I turned 20.  Knowing that I am in better shape than I have ever been is such a great feeling!

What are your resolutions and goals for 2011?  What do you want to accomplish this year?  Happy New Year to you!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Blueberry Banana Muffins

Every now and then I really crave muffins.  Since I have been on the new Weight Watchers program, I haven't been baking as much.  Carb heavy foods like cake, cookies and muffins (even when made with whole wheat flour) are quite a bit higher in points.  Oh well...I was eating too much of it anyway.  But this weekend I did a little experimenting with some muffins.  Now that fruit is "free," I decided to bulk the muffins up with quite a bit of fruit.  I was really happy with the results.  I will definitely make these muffins again.

Blueberry Banana Muffins 
-1 cup whole wheat pastry flour (or whole wheat flour)
-1 tsp baking powder
-1/4 tsp baking soda
-1/4 tsp salt
-1/3 cup organic zero sweetener (you could also use Stevia, Truvia or regular sugar)
-1 banana (mashed)
-1/4-1/2 cup almond milk
-1/3 cup applesauce
-1 tsp vanilla
-3/4 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Mix the dry ingredients together (flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sweetener).

Mix the wet ingredients together (mashed banana, 1/4 cup almond milk, applesauce, and vanilla).

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients.  If muffin batter is not wet enough, add another 1/4 cup almond milk and maybe a little more applesauce.  Once wet and dry ingredients are mixed, fold in blueberries.

Put in a muffin pan and bake for 25-30 minutes.  Let cool and serve.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Kale Smoothie Success!

I have always been a little scared of the "green" smoothie.  I guess I thought it would taste gross or that I wouldn't be able to get it right if I made it.  But while I was in Hawaii, I tried a kale smoothie at Sweet Home Waimanalo and it was delicious.  (I ended up having 3 of them before our trip was over!)

  I knew I wanted to try and recreate this smoothie after discovering how delicious a "green" smoothie is.  So, today was my first attempt at recreating the kale smoothie and I think it was a huge success.  Another bonus is that, with fruit being zero points on the new Weight Watchers plan, the smoothie is only 1 point....what a deal!  (Plus, I count it for 3 fruit/vegetable servings and 1 "milk" serving because it has a cup of almond milk in it.

Above is a picture of my kale smoothie.  I think the trick with the kale is chopping it up and pureeing it before the other ingredients go into the blender.

Here's the recipe:

Katy's Kale Smoothie
(Serves 1-2)

-2 large leaves of kale (de-stemmed and chopped up into small pieces)
-1 cup almond milk (I buy the unsweetened kind but you can use the non-dairy milk of your choice)
-1 banana (not frozen)
-1 large handful of frozen, chopped up peaches
-1 handful of frozen strawberries
-1 packet of Truvia
-1/4 cup water (optional)

In the blender, put in the chopped up kale and 1/2 cup of the almond milk.  Puree until there are no longer pieces of kale.  It should just be a green puree.  

Then add the banana and puree until smooth.  Next, add the frozen peaches and frozen strawberries, the other 1/2 cup of almond milk and the packet of Truvia or sweetener of your choice.  Blend until smooth.  I added 1/4 cup of water to the smoothie to make it a little less thick and to help it blend a little better.  This step is completely your call.  You may like your smoothies really thick, so you can omit the water.  

Test your smoothie out with a spoon and make sure it's sweet enough and there are no chunks of kale or fruit.  Now it's ready for you to drink!  Healthy and delicious....I love it! 

Friday, November 12, 2010

Onion Project Success!

So....I am a nerd.  I own that and I even embrace it.  It's just who I am.  So this project is a little on the nerdy side, but it was a total success.  Awhile back, someone on the Weight Watchers Vegetarian Message Board mentioned prepping a bag of onions all at once and freezing them.  That way you just cry once and get it over with.  So I started doing that.  However, it still felt like a pain in the ass to me b/c it burned my eyes so bad and by the time I was finished, it was like I had just watched My Life with Michael Keaton.  So, when Rebekah asked me to pick up some goggles for her so she could swim at the gym, I decided to get some for myself to try out this little project.

Step 1:  Get some goggles

Step 2:  Get a bag of onions

Step 3:  Get other supplies ready: food processor, knife and cutting board and containers to put your onions in

Step 4:  Chop the onions into chunks, food process and put into individual containers-then freeze

That's it!  If you prepare your onions this way, it takes the hassle out of it.  You wear the goggles so you don't cry, you prep a lot of them at once and you freeze them.  You will always have onions ready to go into any recipe at any time.  Amazing!  

Monday, November 8, 2010

Making New (Healthier) Holiday Traditions

Making health and fitness a priority sometimes requires some reprogramming-especially for me.  Holidays and celebrations have always involved food (and lots of it) in my family.  I think many people who are trying to focus on being healthy are faced with this challenge.  How do you make it through the holidays and not gain weight or how do you make it through without having your progress derailed?  It’s a challenge, that is for sure.  I think food has a place in celebrations and holidays, but does it have to be the standard holiday food?  Last year, my mom bought an apple pie and I thought I would have a piece.  But I looked it up in my Weight Watchers book and it was 9 pts!  9 pts for one, yes 1, piece of pie!  Crazy and so not worth it for me. 

How do you create new holiday traditions that still capture what that holiday is about?  I am mostly thinking about Thanksgiving because it’s the holiday that’s coming up next month, it’s the holiday that typically comes along with some of the richest foods and it’s the holiday I think of as being the most food focused.  Is Thanksgiving supposed to be just about food?  I think of Thanksgiving as a holiday about gratitude, things I am thankful for.  When I think about it this way (instead of thinking about Thanksgiving dinner), I can think of many ways to celebrate this holiday.  There are so many things I am grateful for and I would love to spend a day focusing on that! 

Rebekah and I have a Thanksgiving tradition that we have been doing for several years now.  We “adopt” a turkey from Farm Sanctuary’s Adopt a Turkey project.  We give a donation and then they send us a picture of our turkey along with its biography.  We display our turkey in our house all through the holiday season.  We started this the first year we became vegan-we liked how it was symbolic for us not eating turkeys (or any other animals) anymore. 

Farm Sanctuary usually has a celebrity be the spokesperson for the Adopt a Turkey project each year.  This year, the spokesperson is Ellen Degeneres.  I am very excited about Ellen being a vegan because she is really able to get the vegan message out there with her show and just her celebrity in general. 

*Here are some possibilities for new holiday traditions/celebrations:

*Thanksgiving Day Hike or other outdoor adventure

*Thanksgiving Day 5k (or other race)

*Work on a craft project with your friends and family (especially if the focus of the project is what you are thankful for)

*Volunteer (I was thinking about walking dogs at the humane society on Thanksgiving Day or any other day for that matter)

*Work on making holiday recipes healthier with your family

*Think of ways to express gratitude to your loved ones

Any others?  I would love to know about a healthier, less food focused holiday tradition that you have!

Monday, November 1, 2010

2 New Product Finds!

If you have ever dieted or tried eating healthier, you know how exciting it is to find new products.  I am constantly on the prowl for new foods to incorporate into my meals, snacks, etc.  Recently I have found two new products that I think are great!  The first one, and the most exciting is Wildwood Probiotic Unsweetened Plain Soyogurt. 

The reason why I think this product is so exciting is because soy yogurt is typically pretty high in Weight Watchers pts.  When you buy the big container of this vegan yogurt, you can have a half of a cup for one pt!  I have been eating 1/2 cup with fruit and it's a great breakfast or a snack.  However, if you buy the individual size containers, most varieties are at least 2 or 3 pts.  I have also found that using vanilla or plain yogurt is great for cooking in brownies.  See my last blog entry for a recipe.  Another great perk for the Wildwood Soyogurt products is that they are organic and Wildwood is a great company.  I found my container at Earth Fare Health Food store.  It's a regional chain, but I bet that Whole Foods carries it too. 

Another product I have recently found is Silk Pure Almond milk (Unsweetened).  I was buying either Almond Breeze or Silk Pure Almond Original but then I discovered that the Silk Pure Almond Unsweetened has just 35 calories per cup.  Even if I have 2 cups of it throughout the day, that's just one WW pt.

I couldn't find an exact image of the Unsweetened box of the Silk Pure Almond, but just make sure you look for "Unsweetened" and not "Original."  The "Original" variety is great too, but it has some sugar in it which makes it 60 calories for 1 cup.  Still not bad!  The only problem with buying Silk products is that they are owned by Dean Foods which owns a lot of dairy companies and Silk brand is mostly not organic products.  So when I buy Silk, I feel like it's much less of a vegan purchase than when I buy the Whole Foods variety of almond or rice milk or when I buy Almond Breeze.  So, next time I go to Whole Foods, I am really going to spend some time searching their almond milks to see if I can find something comparable.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Weight Watchers Cocoa Brownies

Photo from Weight Watchers-The star with JH means that it's one of Jennifer Hudson's picks

I often overlook or underestimate Weight Watchers recipes.  I don’t know why....I typically love the recipes from their website when I make them.  I have been on a brownie kick lately.  I am perpetually on a chocolate kick, but lately it’s been brownies.  I tried making the Pumpkin Swirl Brownies from the Happy Herbivore last week, but I changed the sugar around so much, that they didn’t turn out right for me.  I love the Happy Herbivore’s recipes, but I am afraid I had to alter the sugar so much on this recipe that it just didn’t work.  So I have been on the hunt for another brownie recipe.  I found this one the other day on Weight Watchers and I decided to try it because I have some vanilla soy yogurt that needs to be used up before the expiration date.  The good news is that I still have some yogurt left, so I might be making this recipe again this weekend!  I will make note of any modifications I made to the original recipe. 

Weight Watchers Cocoa Brownies

-3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
-3/4 cup sugar (I used ¼ cup of agave nectar and ½ cup Truvia…..I am planning on adding a little more sweetener next time. 
-1/2 cup all purpose flour (I used ¾ cup of whole wheat flour)
-1/2 tsp baking powder
-1/2 tsp salt
-1/2 cup low fat plain yogurt (I used vanilla soy yogurt-I am impressed that this was the only modification I had to make to make this recipe vegan)
-2 TBSP vanilla extract
-non-dairy milk (I used some almond milk because the batter was too dry-the original recipe does not call for this.)
-cooking spray
-powdered sugar (*optional* I sprinkled 1 tsp of powdered sugar on top of each brownie-definitely a nice touch.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Whisk the cocoa powder, sugar (dry-if using agave nectar for part of the recipe, add it to the wet ingredients), flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.  Then use a spoon to stir in the yogurt, agave nectar (if using) and vanilla.  This was when I added in some almond milk because the batter was too dry. 

Spray an 8 x 8 baking pan with non-stick cooking spray.  Spread the batter evenly into the pan. 

Bake until toothpick comes out with a few moist crumbs attached.  The Weight Watchers recipe says for 20 minutes but for me, it was about 30-35 minutes.  Cool for 15 minutes (it was more like 5 for me) and then cut into squares.  When serving, sprinkle the powdered sugar on top of each square.  Another nice touch is to serve with vegan vanilla ice cream. 

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Non Scale Victories

The past 3 weekends I have been out of town....Atlanta, Oklahoma, and then Asheville last weekend.  Travel is definitely my biggest challenge with healthy living and weight loss.  During times like these when I don't see a lot of progress on the scale, I really have to focus on "Non Scale Victories."  It's this stuff that keeps me focused and motivated.  Here are some of my non scale victories:

My Wedding Ring
This ring used to be so tight that it would barely fit on my finger some days.  Sometimes I couldn't get it off when my hands would swell.  Now I can almost shake the ring off my ringer.  This is an everyday reminder of my progress and I love having that with me. 

Size 12 Pants
I know it doesn't sound like a very small size, but it is for me.  I have NEVER worn a size 12.  Well....not since elementary school (if even then).  I want to be smaller than a size 12, but I really have to stop and savor the moments along the way on this journey.  This means that I can go in almost any clothing store and find clothes that fit.  That's a great feeling!  When I wore my 12 jeans last weekend out hiking, they were actually a little baggy....WHAT?!  It's definitely motivating.

Shopping at Cosmo's Vegan Shoppe
A few weeks ago when we were in Atlanta, we stopped by Cosmo's Vegan Shoppe to see if we could find some hard-to-find vegan products.  They also had some cute vegan shirts in the store.  When the woman working was helping me find a shirt, she said, "I am not sure if we have a medium and I guess that's probably the size you would wear."  Once again, WHAT?!  A medium!  It was so funny to hear her say that.  I am starting to wear mediums in unisex t-shirts but it was such a good feeling to hear someone who doesn't know me say that.  

This picture was taken out on my 13 mile birthday hike.  It felt so good to do this hike for my birthday.  My fitness ability has definitely increased over the past year and 4 months.  I can do things now that I wouldn't have been able to do 2 years ago.  I can handle intense hiking and I can even handle running!  Running has always been something I hated....especially after the half marathon.  I swore I would never run again!  But now that I am not carrying around so much extra weight, I can handle it a lot better.  I have been doing a lot of walk/jogging lately and I actually enjoy it!  

These non scale victories keep me going.  They keep me focused when I feel like the scale isn't moving.  I know I am healthier, I know I am stronger and I know I am more confident.  Those are the things that are most important to me.  

Friday, October 8, 2010

Pumpkin Pie French Toast

Now that it's fall, I have craving pumpkin all of the time.  And because I thought I might not be able to get canned pumpkin this season, I ordered a case of the organic Farmer's Market brand on Amazon.  We were planning on having french toast the other night but I kept thinking about pumpkin.  So I decided to make a pumpkin pie french toast.  I think it turned out great!  If I made it again, I would probably either half the "batter" or I would save half of it so I could have french toast two times in a week!  You can never have too much french toast.  You can also adjust the spices or just use pumpkin pie spice to simplify the recipe.

Pumpkin Pie French Toast
-1/2 container of silken tofu (I buy the Nasoya organic kind)
-1/2 cup of canned pumpkin
-1/2-3/4 cup almond milk (or other non-dairy milk)
-2 TBSP sweetner (sugar, agave, Organic Zero, whatever works for you)
-1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
-1/8-1/4 tsp cinnamon
-pinch of nutmeg
-pinch of ginger
-8 slices of bread (or more)

Put all of the ingredients in the food processor except for the bread.  Process until smooth.  Put the mixture in a pie plate.  I use a griddle to cook the french toast on but you can use a regular skillet.  I put a little oil on the griddle, coat the front and back of a slice of bread and then put it on the griddle.  When all bread is coated and on the griddle, I cook each side for about 5 minutes or until it looks browned on each side.  Top it off with a little powdered sugar and maple syrup.  I also had some swiss chard and Gimme Lean "sausage" with the french toast.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Healthy at 100-Book Review

I was lucky enough to find a copy of Healthy at 100 by John Robbins at my local library.  It took me awhile to read this book at first, not because I didn't like it, I just don't typically sit down and read a lot at one time.  So I started reading this book at the end of the summer and just now finished it.  I took it with me on my trip to visit my parents and finished it up on the plane.  I loved it!  One thing I have found with veganism is that I am not really able to handle reading or watching ethical issues involving animals.  It's just too hard to watch.  I have always told myself that if I start to falter with my veganism, that I will force myself to watch Earthlings or Meet Your Meat or read Animal Liberation or something like that.  Luckily I have not gotten to that point.  :)  So I have really been interested in this division of veganism that solely focuses on the health aspects of a vegan diet.  I have been discovering so many authors promoting veganism in this way.  When I was at Whole Foods this past week, I noticed they even have a section near their deli with many of these books and DVDs-it's called Eat Right America.  I was amazed!  Below is a video clip talking about the Eat Right America program:

 I am not sure if I am just seeking out more information in this area or if people are starting to catch on to the health benefits of a vegan diet.  A documentary is even coming out in March of 2011 called Forks Over Knives which focuses on this-how veganism can reverse many deadly medical problems such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity, blood pressure, etc.  Here's the trailer:

So, there's so much information out there to benefit our health.  Below are some of the doctors who are promoting veganism (or at least a mostly vegan diet).  Most of them have books, cookbooks or other resources to check out.

I am sure there are others to add to this list, but these are the doctors I have heard of.  Lots of good stuff to check out.  But back to Healthy at 100.  I love John Robbins.  I have also read Food Revolution-also an excellent book.  Food Revolution was harder to read because it does cover some issues involving the treatment of animals on factory farms.  I loved how the book covered different groups of people from around the world who live to be well into their 100s.  The first part of the books talks about these different groups of people while the second half of the group covers changes that we can make to live longer lives.  I would definitely recommend this book or any book by John Robbins for that matter.  

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Tools For My Weight Loss

I have been working on losing weight and focusing on my health for the last year and 3 months now.  Along the way, I have discovered many tools that help.  We all have things that work (or don't work) for us.  I think so much of this journey is trial and error and keeping things fun and exciting.  These are some of things that help me on my journey:

I love it!  I haven't had it very long, but it's such a motivator.  (The calories burned in the picture above are from the Tanawha Trail 13 mile hike).  I often avoid hills when I can when walking the dogs, but since I have my HRM now, I will intentionally go up hills just to burn extra calories!  I also tend to work out harder to get my heart rate up and burn more calories.  I love knowing how many calories I burn with my exercise.  If I slack off one day, I can look down and see that.  I can see that I am not burning as many calories as I would have if I put more effort into it.  I bought my HRM from Heart Rate Monitors USA.  It was on sale and then I did an internet search for coupons for that website.  Sure enough, I found a coupon that gave me an additional 5% or 10% off.  I think the total cost was around $118. 

Food Scale

This is my food scale that I use.  I ordered it from Amazon about a year ago and I use it all of the time now.  When I first got it, I wasn't aware of what the "Tare" button could do.  I didn't know that it was the button that cleared off the weight of the container that you put on the scale.  So when I initially got the food scale, I was making it way more complicated than what it needed to be.  Everytime I weighed something, it was like I was having to do some big math equation just to find out how much the food weighed.  I got annoyed with it and actually didn't use it often unless I could put the food directly on the scale without needing a container.  Then someone on the Weight Watchers Vegetarian Message Board (I will talk more about this later) was talking about their scale and how it had the "Tare" option.  So from reading that post on the VB, I realized that I had that button too and how it made using the scale SOOOO much easier.  After that, I used the scale all of the time and still do.  When I felt like I was hitting a plateau, I decided to start weighing more of my foods.  I would always measure 3/4 or 1 cup of cereal or pasta out but kind of felt like I might be "cheating" a little bit.  Well...."cheating" a "little bit" is definitely an understatement.  When I looked at 3/4 of a cup of my cereal actually weighed out (about 30 grams) it was so much less than what I was measuring out for myself.  The scale has become my saving grace with pasta as well.  I used to just make a pot of pasta and then measure out 1 cup.  But when I would measure it out, I would smash the pasta down in the cup or I would let it spill out over the cup.  Pasta is definitely a trigger food for me, so I had to figure out something or else I would have to stop eating it.  I didn't want to stop eating it, so I started measuring it out before I cooked it.  I only measure out what I am going to need for dinner that night.  I measure out mine and then I measure out Rebekah's and I cook them in separate pots.  This works like a charm.  I can eat all of the pasta that I cooked and I have found I am perfectly satisfied with 1serving.  But if the pasta is there, I will continue to eat it.  If you click on the Amazon link above, it will take you directly to the food scale that I own.  It's a necessity for me now...I even took it to Atlanta this weekend! 

Phoenix and Cornelius
I know it might seem strange that my dogs are listed as a "weight loss tool" but they really are.  I basically have to walk them every day or they turn into little crazy demons running around the house.  They expect to be walked.  It's not really an option.  Plus, I am responsible for them.  It's in their best interest and health too.  They deserve to be walked just as much as I deserve to take a walk.  It's a win win for all of us.  The picture below is of Phoenix.  He gets the shorter walk each day because he had knee surgery about 3 years ago and just can't handle a long walk.
This next picture is of Cornelius.  Corny likes to take long walks.  He actually lives for walks....and popcorn.  Those are his two favorite things in the world.  Everything else takes a backseat to those two things.  (He also loves Michael Franti music but not as much as walks and popcorn.)  Cornelius is blind so I really have to be careful when I walk him.  If I stop paying attention, he often runs into poles and other things.  Other than that, being blind doesn't get in the way of him living a happy life. 

I decided when I joined Weight Watchers this time around (my third time) that I would try and use all of the resources that I could.  The last time I had joined Weight Watchers, I did not use any of the message boards.  But this time I around, when I discovered there was a vegetarian message board, I decided to check it out.  I am so glad I did.  It is one of the most useful tools I could ever imagine.  The people who come to the VB (as it's called) are wonderful and inspiring.  If I ever have a question, I can almost count on one of them to have an answer for me.  I also post on the Daily OP Thread where we declare each day that we will be OP (on plan, on points, on program, etc.).  This helps me out a great deal.  It's pretty much the same group of people each day so we are held accountable with each other.  I am also part of the monthly fitness challenge thread.  Each month, I figure out how many minutes of activity I plan on doing and write it down in my calendar.  Then I post my minutes at the end of each day to the fitness thread.  The structure of it keeps me focused, and once again, the accountability really helps out. 

I love the VB!  I actually had a chance to go to a VB retreat this summer on the coast of Oregon.  It was fantastic.  I met some amazing women and had a great time.  It was a wonderful opportunity to be able to meet up with the people I had been sharing my weight loss journey with for the previous year.  I hope I have the opportunity to another one again in the future. 

My menu notebook
When I joined Weight Watchers in June of 2009, I knew I had to do it differently than I had in the past.  Obviously, something was not working with how I was doing it in the past.  I decided to become as structured as possible with my day to day life in order to gain control.  I was out for summer break (I work on a public school calendar), so I decided to create a notebook that would help organize meals, grocery lists, recipes, etc. 
This notebook is just about falling apart on me, but it has helped me so much.  Each weekend, Rebekah and I meal plan together.  The first thing I do is I go through the fridge and kitchen and find all of the produce that needs to be used. 
As the week goes on and we use the produce, I mark it off the list.  (I love lists and checking things off of them!  I am such a nerd.)  So, once we have our produce list, we meal plan around that.  (We also meal plan around what we can find at the farmers market.) 
Then the next thing we do is we create a grocery list for the things that we need for these recipes but we don't have.  This has really cut down on the number of times we have to go to the grocery store each week.  We typically have what we need for the week and we don't have to go back to the store until the next weekend. 
I have started putting my notebook inside a binder to be even more organized.  Now I keep all of the Weight Watchers handouts they give you at the meetings (story boarding, positive outcomes, etc.) inside the binder.  Now I have all of the important things I need inside that binder to be successful. 

If you haven't checked out Spark People, you really should.  It's free and has so much great information.  I decided to track my calories, protein, fat, and carbs for awhile on Spark People and it was very interesting to see the break down of my food for the day.  Weight Watchers is great, but you never really know how much protein or carbs you are getting each day.  I also love to enter recipes into their recipe site.  I like it better than the recipe builder on Weight Watchers.  It's just a great website to check out and it's FREE! 

My Weight Watchers 6 month tracker
I have been using this since I started back on Weight Watchers.  I use it everyday.  I check off my Good Health Guidelines and I keep track of my activity in this too.  I try to remember to always have it with me (I forgot it today!) so I can enter in foods I eat right away.  I don't have a fancy cell phone, so I can't use any of the apps that help you track food.  I have to stick with the old fashioned way by using a pen and paper.  It works though! 

My parents got this for me for Christmas last year.  I don't use it everyday, but it is such a great thing to have.  We had a really rough winter last year, and this allowed me to workout everyday without getting a gym membership.  I HATE gyms!  I use several different games.  One of my favorites is Wii Tennis.  Surprisingly, you can burn a lot of calories playing Wii Tennis.  I also have the Wii Fit but I don't use it a lot anymore.  I feel like I get a better workout using the Wii Active and Active-More Workouts.  My latest Wii game purchase was the Biggest Loser Wii game.  I don't use it a lot but it's definitely a workout.  I would much rather workout outside, but the Wii gives me so much flexibility with my workouts.  It's definitely a great tool for me. 

I have done a couple of posts of weight loss blogs out there (especially vegan ones).   They really do help me so much.  If you want to check out some of the blogs I read, I have created a blog roll on the right side of my blog that lists the most updated blogs.  I actually use this as a tool so I can see when my favorite blogs have been updated.  It get so much inspiration, tips and advice from blogs.  Other people going through this process have so many great things to say. 

There are many other great tools out there, but these are just some that I can think of.  If you have any great weight loss tools, tips, etc., please let me know! 


Thursday, September 23, 2010

20 vs. 30

I just celebrated my 30th birthday this past week.  I had such a great birthday weekend.  One thing I really wanted to focus on as a celebration was "then vs. now."  Now that I am 30, I feel like I am in the best shape I have ever been in my life.  I decided I wanted to take a symbolic hike to celebrate turning a new decade.  Rebekah and I hiked the Tanawah Trail on the Blue Ridge Parkway--the trail is 13.2 miles!  I know this is something I couldn't have done at age 20.  In fact, on my 20th birthday, I had a big party and got really drunk.  Same story for my 21st birthday except it was at bars since I was legal.  Here I am around age 20 or 21:

Making pottery with Randy around Christmas time

I remember this time very clearly.  This was right before I started Sugar Busters during my Junior year of college.  This was really my first attempt at dieting.  I lost a lot of weight on Sugar Busters-about 50 pounds.  Then I decided to join Weight Watchers for the first time and lost about another 20.  Then I graduated from college, got a job in the real world and slowly gained all of the weight back.  

Fast forward 10 I am the day after my 30th birthday on our 13 mile hike.  I am currently at the lowest weight I have been in my adult life:

I feel so much better about myself now.  I feel healthy and mostly in shape.  I also feel like my food choices fuel my body rather than tear it down.  The day after my birthday was also another important milestone in my life.  It marked my 5 year vegan anniversary.  I have now been vegan for half a decade!  And my what a journey that has been!  When I first became vegan, I was an oreo, frito, and french fries kind of vegan.  (Not that I don't still indulge every now and then!)  But I had this thing that I like to call the "Vegan Survival Instinct."  If something was vegan, I would eat it.  I felt like I HAD to eat it just because it was vegan.  CRAZY!  I was eating all kinds of bad stuff.  So, of course, I gained weight after becoming vegan.  It took a long time to see veganism in a different kind of way.  When I became vegan, it was strictly for ethical reasons.  I didn't think about the health aspect of it.  But somehow I got the idea that I could eat however I wanted to and not gain weight because I was eating a vegan diet.  Oh how I was wrong!  

So here I am about 1 week before starting Weight Watchers for the THIRD time.  I was on a trip to Oregon and California visiting friends.  I was so unhappy with myself.  Just a week before this trip, I went to the doctor and got weighed and realized that I had gained almost all of the weight back that I lost my Junior and Senior year of college.  
I deleted so many pictures from this trip because I was so disgusted with how I looked.  Most of the pictures I kept are face shots but I think you can still see a pretty significant difference.  The next picture is a face shot of me now. I had just finished a workout.  
I still want to lose quite a bit of weight.  I want to be within my healthy BMI range.  But I really have to focus on celebrating where I am at now.  This is a life long journey.  There's no finish line.  I don't have to lose the rest of my weight fast or by a certain date.  As long as I am making healthy choices, changing my bad habits and learning new things about myself, I feel like that is a success.  One of the things that I hear often at Weight Watchers is that it's not about perfection, it's about persistence.  I sometimes get impatient and I want to be my goal weight right now, and those are the times that I really have to stop and think about the progress of my journey.  I also took this picture in my workout gear.  This picture is DEFINITELY out of my comfort zone.  I never wear sleeveless things and I NEVER wear things this tight in public.  I bought this strictly for working out, but I feel like it's important to capture where I am at now.  

Here's another shot:
So this is where I am at.  I work each day to become stronger, healthier and more inspired.  I have a lot of work ahead of me but I know that will be lifelong.  Each day and each moment is about choices.  We are faced with so many choices that can really add up to improve our lives.  As BitchCakes said on her blog:

"Remember that every single choice you are presented with after a not-so-great choice is a chance to move forward, a chance to choose better, a chance to just get back up and start over. You don't need to wait for the next week, the next day, or even the next meal - every choice counts. And every choice is a chance to choose differently and better. Every choice counts. Remember that. You just have to choose as well as possible as often as possible."

I love this!  I think this is my new mantra.  So I try to make each choice a good one but I also know that not all of them will be.  But I will pick myself up and go on.  Because that's life.  One final picture:  this is Rebekah and me after finishing our 13 mile hike.  I want to bottle this feeling up.  It's the feeling of accomplishment and feeling proud of myself.  Such a good feeling!

Monday, September 20, 2010

New Food Finds-Part 2

A few months ago, I posted a blog entry about food finds that help me on my weight loss journey.  I also mentioned that I have been trying to phase out so many processed non-organic foods.  Although I am not perfect with this, I do feel like I am pretty successful with eating whole food with little to no processing.  I need to take some pictures so you can see, because I have created a shelving system in my kitchen that is all beans, grains and flours.  Over a year ago, I couldn't even imagine needing a shelving system to house only beans and grains!  I think that is a testament to successfully eating foods that are not processed.  But with that being said, there are still some foods that I eat are processed and are not organic.  I feel like as long as 75% or more of my foods are whole unprocessed foods, then that's a success for me.  I do my best, and I know that in order for me to be successful right now, I am still going to eat a few convenience foods that might not be the most healthy or nutritious.  Progress not perfection!  :)  Here are some of my more recent food finds that I am enjoying:

Ghiradelli 72% Dark Chocolate Squares-Not all of these little Ghiradelli squares are vegan.  Usually the higher cocoa content, the more likely it is for the chocolate to be vegan.  However, with the Ghiradelli squares, the 72% variety is vegan but the 80% (I think it was 80%) was not vegan.  Tricky, tricky!  If you eat just one of these squares, it's 1 point, but if you eat 2, it goes up to 3 points.  This is good for me, because it helps me practice portion control.  I only eat one because I don't want it to go up to 3 points if I eat two. 

PB2-I did a post not too long ago about peanut butter vs. PB2 vs. Better'n Peanut Butter.  Truth be told, I LOVE real peanut butter.  NOTHING will ever take the place of it.  However, I know I cannot eat a whole lot of peanut butter and still be successful with weight loss.  So, sometimes I will eat 2 teaspoons of peanut butter to get the taste of it but when I want more substantial amounts of peanut butter, I eat PB2 and PB2 chocolate.  You can have 4 TBSP of PB2 for 1 point and you can have 6 TBSP of the chocolate PB2 for 2 points.  What I like about this product is that it still has a lot of protein in it.  So when I eat an english muffin (5 grams of protein) with 4 TBSP of PB2, I get 15 grams of protein for 2 points.  Not too bad!  I have found that ordering this product from is the best deal. 

Nature's Own 100 Calorie Multigrain English Muffins-Yes, I agree, not the healthiest of products.  It's the bread products that are really hard to get away from.....Thomas Bagel Thins, Arnold's Sandwich Thins, etc.  These are definitely a convenience food.  But right now, I am just not willing to give them up.  These english muffins are 1 point.  I often eat peanut butter or PB2 on these.  They make a good snack and it's pretty filling.  Unfortunately, the only place I have been able to find these is Wal-Mart.  I try to avoid Wal-Mart but I find myself going there just for these. 

New Tree Chocolate Bars-There are a couple of these dark chocolate bars that are vegan and excellent.  Because of the added fiber, you can have 1/2 of the chocolate bar for 3 points.  That's a substantial amount of chocolate for not a lot of points.  I am not sure of the names of the two bars I buy, but one have goji berries and other "super fruit" and the other has flax seeds in it.  Buyer beware: not all varieties are vegan, they are expensive and I have only been able to find them at Wal-Mart and Target. 

Wax Orchard Chocolate Fudge Sauce-I LOVE this stuff!  However, it's also expensive and very hard to find.  I went to Atlanta in August and I found some, but before that, I hadn't had any in a few years.  This stuff is very Weight Watchers friendly, it's sweetened with fruit and not some other crazy sugar substitute product and it's vegan!  It's wonderful.  If you can find it, I would highly suggest trying it on your vegan ice cream.  :)

Daiya Vegan Cheese-There was a lot of hype surrounding Daiya "cheese" but I had to wait quite a while b/c there are just not a lot of places that cater to vegans where I live.  Finally, the closest Whole Foods (1 1/2 hours away) started carrying it and then my local Earth Fare started carrying it too.  Mostly we make pizza and quesadillas with the Daiya cheese but I am sure you could make so many other things too.  Here's a recipe for the quesadillas, if you are interested. 

We Can't Say It's Cheese-This product is more like a cream cheese spread than an actual cheese.  It's delicious spread on a bagel or even melted over nachos.  What I found is that once this product gets hot, it melts.  So that makes it ideal for a melty, cheesy product.  I have tried this product 3 ways.  I spread it over a bagel, I melted about 1/4 of a cup and poured it over nachos and I used it instead of mustard or Reduced Fat Vegenaise on a sandwich.  I love the way this "cheese" tastes, however, I have struggled to find a lot of uses for it.  It's a good Weight Watchers find though.  You can have 2 TBSPs for 1 pt.  At least with the kind I tried-so I would be careful with the nutritional information when you buy this product. 

Reduced Fat Vegenaise-I LOVE this product!!  I am definitely a fan of Vegenaise, however, it's way too high in fat for Weight Watchers.  All of the other vegan mayos I have tried have been disappointing to me.  I had almost given up on low/reduced fat vegan mayo until Reduced Fat Vegenaise came along.  In my opinion, it tastes just like the original Vegenaise but with a lot less fat.  I make my vegan ranch with the Reduced Fat Vegenaise and also spread it on my Tempeh Bacon Tomato and Vegenaise sandwiches. 

Organic Zero Sweetener-I use this for baking a lot.  It's a great replacement for sugar.  I have tried to read as much as I can find on Erythritol and everything I have read is positive.  It's also used in Truvia which is another sugar substitute that I use.  Organic Zero is definitely expensive though.  I order it from Amazon and do the "Subscribe and Save" option but it is still expensive. 

Flat Out Wraps-I don't use these a whole lot, but I love to have one when I make a hummus wrap.  They are high in fiber and most varieties come out to be just one point on Weight Watchers.  With my two point hummus and zero point veggies, I can have a hummus and veggies wrap for just 3 points.  It's very filling and can be a snack or a meal.  Flat out wraps can also be used for pizza or quesadillas. 

I love discovering new foods and products.  It makes the weight loss journey much more exciting when you are constantly trying new foods and products.  My goal is to not get bored with the food I am eating.  I feel like that can be one of the reasons for people to be unsuccessful with weight loss.  It's also easy to get stuck in a rut when you are eating the same foods all of the time.  If you have any products and/or foods that you live and they are vegan, let me know!  I have recently started reading the Bitch Cakes blog and I LOVE it!  She posted something about trying Gnu Bars.  I have not been able to locate these yet, but I can't wait to try them.