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 years.....here 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 Netrition.com 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.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Crockpot Dal Recipe

So it's getting to be that time of year again for me where simple and easy dinners are the way to go.  I work all day and then when I get home, I want to have time to do at least 80 minutes of activity.  It doesn't leave much time for cooking a fancy dinner.  Those dinners just have to wait until the weekend if even then!  Monday nights are especially busy because that's when I go to my Weight Watchers meetings.  It's so convenient to just come home with dinner ready.  That's why I love the crockpot so much.  But to be honest, I have never been a big fan of crockpot dinners.  Most of the time it ends up just being beans and chili which are not really my favorite meals.  But I now have two favorite crockpot recipes that I make pretty consistently.  The first one is a recipe that I posted back in January for Slow Cooker Tofu and Spinach in Peanut Coconut Sauce.  I have modified it a bit to "bulk" it up with veggies to make it more Weight Watchers friendly. 

The second recipe is the Crockpot Dal recipe that will follow.  This recipe is near and dear to my heart because a lifelong  friend of mine went out of her way to make delicious vegan food for me when I came to visit.  She made so many wonderful vegan meals, but this one really sticks out because it's so easy to make.  Some of the spices might seem kind of hard to find, but once you find them, this recipe is super easy.  I love Indian food and I really think this recipe captures some of those spices.  I think this recipe was adapted from HareKrishna.com but I am not sure.  I can't seem to find the original anywhere. 

Crockpot Dal
-1 cup uncooked mung beans, rinsed
-4 1/2 cups water
-1 cup chopped tomatoes
-1-2 zucchini, chopped
-5 TBSP vegan butter (I actually use 4 TBSP of Smart Balance Light)
-1/2 TBSP minced ginger (I probably use about 1/2 tsp of powdered ginger)
-1 1/2 TBSP cumin seeds
-1 TBSP black mustard seeds (I could only find brown mustard seeds so that's what I use)
-1/4 tsp hing (aka Asafoetida-I found it in the spice section at Whole Foods-Frontier brand)
-1 1/2 tsp turmeric
-1 TBSP salt (I think you could get by with using less if you didn't want to use this much salt)

I chop up the tomatoes and zucchini the night before and put it in the fridge. Then I just throw everything in the crockpot the next day, give it a good stir (make sure the vegan butter is not in one big clump) and cook on low for about 6 hours.

I serve it over whole wheat couscous but you could use any grain.  Enjoy!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

My New Polar FT40!

I got my new Polar FT40 in the mail today!  I didn't waste any time....I decided to use it for my workout today and find out exactly how many calories I am burning during my daily workouts.  I was pleasantly surprised to find out that I burned 621 calories during my 80 minute workout today!  I have just been feeling like I am getting to a place where I want to take charge of my workouts a little more.  I love walking my dogs and that will continue to be something I do everyday.  It just wouldn't be fair to them not to take them walking.  But I usually reserve about 30 minutes to do something different with my workout.  With my new heart rate monitor, I will be able to see how to burn the most calories with the time I have.  I was also surprised to see that I burned 160 calories doing Wii Tennis in just 20 minutes....not too bad!  I always thought when I did Wii Tennis as part of my workout that I was just being lazy, but not really!  Also, for just 51 minutes of walking, I burned 376 calories.  I think this will be a great new tool to help me along on my fitness/weight loss journey!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Quinoa Nachos

I LOVE quinoa.  I think it's one of the greatest foods in the world!  And I LOVE nachos.  However, the way I like nachos is not necessarily Weight Watchers friendly.  I kind of like my nachos a little trashy.  The kind of nachos you would get at a not healthy at all kind of restaurant.  But this summer, I was able to go to the Spiral Diner again in Dallas and I ordered their nachos.  I thought it was awesome that they put quinoa on their nachos!  But I really haven't tried making my own nachos since I have been vegan.  Vegan cheeses on the market just didn't melt the way they needed to for nachos.  However, Daiya cheese came along and the wheels started turning in my brain.  It melts and it's stretchy, so it was only a matter of time before I made some vegan nachos.  So, with the help of Daiya and the Spiral Diner, quinoa nachos are my take on the traditional nachos I used to eat.  You can make them as healthy as you want based on what you decide to put on them.  With all of the veggies and spices, you can alter it to fit your taste buds.

Quinoa Nacho Mixture 
-1 cup cooked quinoa
-1 cup cooked black beans
-1/2 cup corn
-1-2 bell peppers (I prefer red and orange)
-1/2-1 package of mushrooms
-4-5 stalks of green onion
-2-3 handfuls of raw baby spinach
-1-2 tsp chili powder
-1/4 tsp garlic salt
-salt to taste

In a large pan, saute the bell peppers first.  While the bell peppers are cooking, add the chili powder and garlic salt.  When the bell peppers are almost tender, add the mushrooms and green onions.  Then add the corn and spinach.  When all of the veggies are cooked, add the quinoa and black beans.  Stir well.  Add salt to taste.

Assembling your nachos 
There are all kinds of possibilities with nachos.  This is how I create mine:
-1 1/2 servings (42 grams) of Trader Joe's Organic Baked Blue Corn Tortilla Chips
-1 serving of Daiya Cheddar Style "cheese"
(Melt the Daiya "cheese" over the chips in the microwave for about 30 seconds or until melted.)
-After the "cheese" is melted, add about 1 cup of the quinoa mixture on top of the nachos.

Other possibilities for the nachos
These are some of the "fixins" I add to my nachos:
-Trader Joe's organic salsa style refried beans
-Tofutti Sour Supreme or Follow Your Heart Vegan Sour Cream
-Fresh diced tomatoes
-We Can't Say It's Cheese Spread (If you prefer to have a "cheese" sauce instead of the Daiya, you could use the We Can't Say It's Cheese Spread and melt it in the microwave and pour it over your nachos.)

So the possibilities for vegan nachos are limitless!  Enjoy!