Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Being Frugal and Healthy (quick post)

Check this out!  I managed to score an awesome deal on Zevia soda and now look at this stockpile....haha!  It looks like I am preparing for the apocalypse!  :)

Have you found any good deals lately?  Do you have any frugal tips for being healthy and thrifty?

Monday, July 9, 2012

Protein Bars Galore

Well, my plan was to blog more now that I am on my summer break but as you can see, that hasn't happened.  However, I have been doing a lot more cooking including making new recipes.  One of the things I have been making a lot of is protein bars.  All kinds of protein bars......gingerbread "Clif" bars based off of this recipe got everything started.  Then I made Blueberry chocolate chip, pumpkin chocolate chip, and peanut butter banana chocolate chip.  I am still working on getting it just right, but it's been a lot of fun experimenting with the recipes and making lots of new foods.

(Blueberry Chocolate Chip Protein bars with soy yogurt and fresh blueberries)

 I have also been making some overnight oats after getting inspired by a friend who makes them for herself.  Along with cooking a lot of new food, I also rejoined Weight Watchers.  I decided it was time to have more structure and accountability again.  Counting calories on my own just wasn't working for me anymore.  Hopefully paying money, going to meetings and having that accountability will be just what I need.

As soon as I get the protein bars just like I want them, I will post a recipe.  But as you can see based on this picture below, they still have some work (notice the cracks in them!):

(My protein bars:  a work in progress)

What have you been up to this summer?  Are you reaching your summertime goals?  I hope so!  

Monday, June 18, 2012

Berry Banana Pancakes

My summer break is officially here!  Hopefully I will have more time now to blog!  I have been wanting to blog about this pancake recipe for awhile now.  Strawberries are about over for the season, but I definitely took advantage of all of the delicious local strawberries this year.

(Strawberries from the farmers market)

I have posted other pancake recipes in the past, and I have mentioned that I always top my pancakes with yogurt and berries instead of maple syrup because I can feel so much more satisfied with the yogurt and berries than the syrup.  Below is my recipe for berry banana pancakes:

Berry Banana Pancakes 
(Serves 1-2)

-1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
-1 1/2 tsp baking powder
-1/8 tsp salt (just a pinch)
-3 packets stevia sweetener 
-1/2 banana (mashed)
-1/2 tsp vanilla
-1/2 cup almond or other nondairy milk
-1/2 cup frozen or fresh blueberries
-vegan yogurt (optional)
-additional strawberries and blueberries (optional)

Mix all dry ingredients together.  In a separate bowl, mash the banana and then add all other wet ingredients to the mashed banana.  Then add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients.  Once ingredients are mixed, fold in the blueberries.  Heat up a griddle or pan and make sure it's nonstick or spray it with some cooking spray or oil it.  With a ladle, make into pancakes on the griddle.  Cook on one side for 3-5 minutes or until golden brown on the bottom side.  Then flip over and cook for another 2-3 minutes or until golden brown.  Top pancakes with additional berries, a chopped up banana and vegan yogurt.  

Sometimes I like to make this recipe for dinner too!  I really feel like you can eat pancakes anytime of the day.  :)

Monday, June 4, 2012

Annie's LITE Goddess Dressing!

(Photo Source: Prevention.com)

When I first became vegan, I practically drank this stuff.  That was back when I was in the mindset that if it was vegan, it must be healthy.  Hahaha!  I think that if you use the original Annie's Goddess Dressing in moderation, it is fairly healthy.  However, that was not the case for me.  The original dressing is pretty high in oil and fat.  So once I started getting healthy about 3 years ago, Annie's Goddess Dressing became a distant memory to my food repertoire. 

When I was at Ingle's the other day (my local grocery store chain), I noticed that they had some of the Annie's dressings on sale so I decided to check it out and see if anything sounded interesting and healthy.  That's when I spotted the Annie's LITE Goddess Dressing.  I quickly checked the nutritional information and I also checked to make sure the lite version was still vegan.  And it is!  Yay!  When I checked the nutritional information, I decided that 60 calories for 2 TBSP wasn't that bad and I wanted to see if it compared to the original version.  Here's the nutritional information:

(Photo Source:  Soap.com)

It's been a few years since I have had the original Goddess Dressing but the lite version tastes just as good to me.  I honestly cannot taste a difference.  I love it!  I have been using it on my spinach, quinoa and edamame salads and I also had a baked falafel (from Appetite for Reduction) salad with spinach and quinoa the other night and used the lite Goddess dressing on that.  Delicious!  I definitely recommend giving it a try if you find it at your grocery store.  I haven't really been looking around for it at other places that sell Annie's products but hopefully it's not too hard to find.  If you cannot find it in stores, I noticed that the Annie's online store has it for sale for a pretty good deal.  It's less than $3 a bottle and if you spend over $40 you get free shipping.  It might be worth checking out.  Anyway, that's the scoop on the Annie's Lite Goddess Dressing.  Try it!  You won't be disappointed if you have always loved the original Goddess Dressing but you don't want to consume all of those calories! 

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Tutti Frutti Soybean Yogurt: Vegan Fro Yo!

Last weekend we were in Charleston, SC for our anniversary.  There's a Whole Foods in Mt. Pleasant right outside of Charleston so we decided to go to dinner there for the salad bar.  As we were pulling into the parking lot, we noticed a sign for Tutti Frutti Frozen Yogurt that said, "Now serving soybean frozen yogurt."  I didn't get too excited at first because I was afraid that it would be similar to sorbet which isn't really exciting to me.  But we decided to check it out after dinner to see what it was all about.  When we went in, they had 3 soybean flavors:  vanilla, peanut butter, and Oreo....yes, I did say Oreo!  They have it set up where you can sample all of the flavors so we were able to try all of them.  (Here's the link to the Mount Pleasant Tutti Frutti if you live near here!)  I was definitely most excited about the Oreo flavor because I knew they would have Oreos on the toppings bar.  All of the flavors were very creamy and delicious!  As a vegan, I get really excited about the ice cream machines that you can pull down the lever and it makes swirly ice cream/frozen yogurt.  That was always my favorite kind of ice cream before I became vegan.  So whenever I find a place that has it, I always get excited....too excited!  The toppings bar also had lots of vegan options:  fruit, nuts, Oreos, Reeses peanut butter sauce, and Ghiradelli dark chocolate sauce (both of the sauces were vegan).  Right now you might be wondering about the nutritional info of all of this vegan frozen yogurt craziness and I will be honest with you, I didn't do this healthy at all!  The first day (yes, we went back) I had the Oreo frozen yogurt with Oreos on top.  Pretty simple and basic and totally NOT healthy.  However, it was delicious and super exciting as a vegan.  The next day, I got a little bit of all 3 flavors with Oreos, peanut butter sauce and chocolate sauce....yes, even unhealthier than day one.  I let the excitement of it all get to me.  Sometimes I go into "vegan survival mode" or "vegan excitement over a rare vegan find" mode.  It gets the best of me sometimes.

Even though I did this very unhealthy, I looked up the nutritional information online and it doesn't have to be unhealthy.  It could actually be a fairly healthy treat occassionally.  The peanut butter flavor was listed as having 34 calories per one ounce.  No one eats one ounce of ice cream....that's ridiculous.  But if you ate 1/2 cup (4 ounces) that would be 136 calories of the peanut butter flavor.  Vanilla wasn't listed but I bet it is even less calories.  If you ate one cup, that would be 272 calories.  The only issue is that you would have to eyeball it since you serve yourself or I guess you could ask them to weigh out your frozen yogurt before you put toppings on it (if you put toppings on it at all).  I feel like the toppings are the "danger zone."  With things like Oreos, nuts, peanut butter and chocolate sauce (all vegan) that's too temping.  I think I would really have to have a game plan next time I go to a Tutti Frutti that has the soybean flavors.  If I did get Oreos, I would just get a few and not get the chocolate and peanut butter sauce.  Or I might just get the vanilla and eat it with some fruit.  You really could have this be a relatively healthy treat if you did it right.  It's just so hard to do it right when they have Oreos and peanut butter!  :)

Another cool thing about the vegan soybean frozen yogurt is that it supports an initiative to fight hunger.  They donate a portion of the proceeds of the soybean frozen yogurt to help fight hunger.  Very cool. 

Here's the catch:  not all Tutti Frutti locations sell the vegan soybean frozen yogurt.  Some of them just have sorbet.  Asheville has two Tutti Frutti locations and neither one of them have the soybean yogurt.....yet.  Hopefully (or maybe not) they will get it soon.  Before you get too excited, I would call your local Tutti Frutti shop (if you have one in your city) and see if they have it.  If they do, check it out!  It's totally worth it! 

Check out the website link for Tutti Frutti listed above.....they advertise the soybean frozen yogurt on the main page of the website!  How cool is that?!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Food Reviews and What I've Been Eating

I've been taking some pictures lately of different products I've tried and also some of the foods I've been making and I thought I would just do a post on that.  Some of the products are hits and some are misses. 

Protein Plus Peanut Flour-As far as convenience goes, you can't beat this product!  For me, I use peanut flour just like I would peanut butter.  I mix up about 30 grams of it (roughly 1/4 of a cup) with 1 packet of stevia, a pinch of salt and small amounts of water until I get the right consistency.  Peanut flour is high in protein, low in fat and pretty filling.  I will usually put it in a tortilla with a banana once I have mixed it up.  It also travels well.  You can take it on a plane in your carry on luggage whereas you can't take regular peanut butter.  I love this stuff.....a little too much.  That's going to lead me into the cons of this product.  Once I start to use this product, I use it too much.  I have it several times a day and my portions start getting bigger and bigger.  Basically I start to abuse it just like I would regular peanut butter.  Then I have to back off of it and not order it for awhile until I feel like I am "in control." Haha....Then the cycle continues. 

The other con, and please note that it may be something completely unrelated to this product, is that I think it affects my menstrual cycle.  I really don't have any solid evidence to back this up, I am just going off of a couple of things.  Last year, I visited an accupuncturist and he was concerned about the amount of peanut flour I was eating.  He said he thought it could be affecting my lack of a menstrual cycle.  I didn't really listen to him though because I went to a chiropractor shortly after that and after visiting her just a couple of times, my period started back up and has been going ever since.....ever since a couple of months ago.  Recently I realized that my period had stopped again and I was eating a lot of the peanut flour again.  So when I ran out sometime at the beginning of last week, I decided not to buy anymore.  Here it is about 1 1/2 weeks later and my period started again.  Like I said, it could be a complete coincidence because I can't really find anything to back this up, but I am just going to pay attention to my body right now and avoid the peanut flour for awhile. 

(Pistachios for my morning snack!)

I just recently discovered that I love pistachios more than about any other nut.  It's the best nut to snack on because it's in a shell.  It takes longer to eat and it feels more satisfying to eat these than other nuts.  I typically don't eat nuts like almonds, walnuts, pecans, etc. for snacks because it doesn't feel like enough.  I always still feel hungry after I eat them.  However, pistachios are different.  They usually do a pretty good job of tiding me over til lunch time.  I love the roasted and salted kind.  Delicious! 

(Hummus with carrots)

I've been making a lot of hummus lately.  I will usually make a batch over the weekend and have it throughout the week.  I have been making it in my Montel blender and it comes out so perfect when I do that.  (The picture above was NOT made in the Montel blender).  The Montel blender is similar to the Vitamix in that it's super powerful and gets things extra smooth.  I will usually bring along some carrots, bell pepper strips and a tortilla to go along with my hummus

The first time I bought this product, I was so frustrated with it.  I opened it up and it looked like it had been frozen when it shouldn't have been.  It was a lot more like custard than yogurt.  When I tried to mix it up, it then just turned into the consistency of cottage cheese.  The texture was completely off putting and I thought I was just going to throw the whole container away.  Then R got the idea of putting it in the blender.  Brilliant.  We put all of the yogurt in the blender and got it smooth and then just put it back in the container.  Then it was perfect!  This is my favorite vegan yogurt on the market, unfortunately, it's just a pain in the ass to put every container into the blender first before I eat it.  What I usually do now is I buy four or five of the large containers and then do all of the blending at once.  Between R and me, we eat enough yogurt that it doesn't go bad this way.  I eat yogurt almost every day so I really want it to be a yogurt I am happy with. 

Also, I contacted Amande about this issue and they told me it was supposed to be like that.  (???)  I think maybe they are still working out some issues with the product....I don't really know.  However, they did send me a couple of coupons in the mail for 50 cents off.  Not a lot but since I continued to buy the product, I was able to use the coupons. 

I really could take or leave this product.  I definitely was not really excited about it by any means.  I was excited to try the vegan greek yogurt because I was already vegan when the greek yogurt craze hit a few years back.  So, I had never even tried greek yogurt.  I thought that one of the perks to greek yogurt was that it was supposed to be high in protein so I was thinking this would be a good filling snack option.  Not so much....the vegan greek yogurt only has 2 grams of protein per individual sized container.  I don't consider that very much.  The yogurt was very thick like I had imagined greek yogurt to be but it wasn't anything amazing.  R did really like it though.  I took a bite of it and then I just gave her the rest and she also ate the other container of it that I bought.  I will stick to the almond and soy yogurt. 

I've tried Teese cheese before but I guess when I tried it before, I didn't really focus on the nutritional information.  I found both the greek yogurt and the Teese cheese at our local "scratch and dent" health food discount store.  At 99 cents, it was a bargain and I couldn't pass it up.  So I bought 3 tubes of Teese without even thinking to look at the nutritional information.  When I got home, I decided to turn the tube over and glance at the back.  This is what I see.......

(Teese nutrition)

At first glance, it doesn't look that bad.  Then I looked again and realized that there are 10 servings in this little tube.  I quickly did the math and realized that 10 times 80 calories is 800 calories in one small tube of Teese cheese.  Yikes!  So I started thinking about ways to still be able to use it without breaking the caloric bank.  Then finally R made a gluten free macaroni and cheese with broccoli in it.  It turned out so-so but definitely not worth all of the calories.  We ended up throwing the mac and cheese away and the other two tubes of Teese.  I asked another vegan friend if she wanted it and she said she just didn't like the taste of Teese.  I guess we will just stick with Daiya. 

I think those are most of the new products I have tried lately and the things I am eating the most of right now. 

Monday, April 2, 2012

The French Broad Chocolate Lounge

(Just a note--all 3 of these pictures are pretty bad.  I have been really lazy over the past several months and I haven't brought my nice camera with me anywhere.  Therefore, I take pictures with the Retro Camera app for my phone.  I need to get better about this!)

One of my favorite places to go in Asheville is the French Broad Chocolate Lounge.  It serves chocolate and coffee....what more could I want, really?!  Because I am mostly not eating chocolate during the week, the Chocolate Lounge is a nice weekend splurge.  I love the French Broad Chocolate Lounge because they stay open late, they serve vegan chocolate cake, truffles and sipping chocolate and it's a much better environment than a bar.  It's a great place for us to take guests when they are in town because everyone loves chocolate (well, maybe there are a few weirdos out there who don't) and it's a great place to just sit around and talk.  They have two floors and 3 separate rooms so even though there's almost always a line out the door, you can find a place to sit.  They also have live music on certain nights too. 

There are some other things I love about the chocolate lounge.  They have stevia available for my coffee instead of other nasty artificial sweeteners, they pay a fair wage to their employees, they have a focus on the environment and sustainability and it's a great local establishment that pumps money back into the local economy.  It's kind of expensive for us to go to the chocolate lounge but it's definitely worth it and it's a nice, decadent splurge. 

When I go to the chocolate lounge, I ALWAYS get the vegan olive oil chocolate cake....AMAZING!!  Once again, excuse the terrible picture:

They also have a line of vegan truffles called the Buddha collection, but I can't resist the cake.  The truffles are excellent but I just really enjoy the cake more.  R usually gets 2 or 3 of the truffles and we both share some of the french pressed coffee.  It's just a great way to spend a Saturday evening.  

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

I Want!

This shirt from Screened.com!  Awesomeness!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

I LOVE challenges!

I completed two challenges this week!  Both of the challenges I completed were with the gym that I have been going to for about 3 1/2 months now.  The first challenge has been going on for 21 days.  The challenge:  to stay within my points on Weight Watchers for 21 days straight.  I had been having some days where I would start out strong and then binge.  This was resembling old habits way too much for my liking.  I knew I needed to get control before I spiraled out of control.  So, when the gym started the 21 day challenge, I decided that this would be the best goal for me.  Mission completed!  Yay!  However, you would think I would have some weight loss to show for those 21 days of being on plan....well, not so much.  The problem was that I discovered that I was doing what I did on Weight Watchers last year.  Eating too much fruit!  Once they switched over to Points Plus, and I stopped counting fruit, I started eating way too much of it.  Calories in fruit really add up.  Plus, I stopped measuring out portions of fruit and vegetables.  The amount of broccoli that I typically eat for dinner is over 100 calories.  I know that doesn't sound like much but when you add up several of those foods like that throughout the day that you are not holding yourself accountable for, it adds up quickly.  Anyway, more of that discussion later.  The point is that I did follow the plan and towards the end I did switch over to Spark People again.  I figured that this wouldn't mess up my challenge as long as I was following points or calories. 

(Box Jumps-Photo Source:  Farinofitness.com)

As I mentioned earlier, both challenges were with the gym I go to.  The second challenge was to complete 30 box jumps in 1 minutes without stopping.  We had to draw the challenges from a jar on Monday and we had all week to practice and complete the challenge when we decided we were ready.  I knew I could do box jumps but I normally step down after I jump up.  I knew that I would have to jump up and jump down in order to complete this challenge in enough time.  So I decided to start practicing after kickboxing on Tuesday night.  I did a few and I was feeling pretty nervous about being able to do it.  Then my favorite fitness instructor at the gym came up to me and told me that I was ready to do it.  At first I told her that I needed to practice more and wait a few more days.  When she walked away, I decided to see if I could do 30.  I didn't time myself but I just wanted to see if I could even do 30 without stopping.  To my surprise, I was able to do it without too many problems.  I didn't realize that the fitness instructor was watching me.  She said she wasn't exactly sure what my time was but she was pretty sure I did it in less than one minute.  She told me to do it again!  After taking a few minutes to catch my breath, she came back over and timed me.  I was trying to go so fast that I almost lost my balance and fell on the floor.  But I managed to get it together and finish the 30 box jumps.  Not only did I do it in under one minute, she said I completed it in 30 seconds.  I got an awesome sweatshirt for completing my challenge!  :) 

Challenges keep me focused and keep me working towards something.  I try to think of my New Year's resolutions like challenges.  I made two resolutions this year.  My first resolution is a financial one--to get our other car paid off so hopefully we can have a period of time with no car payment.  The second goal is to finally hit my 100 pounds lost milestone.  As I mentioned before on my blog, I had to update my weight loss ticker to 89 pounds lost.  I was only 4 pounds away from this milestone but now I am eleven.  Oh well, I know I can do it and I am going to work hard to achieve this goal!  I am also planning on running another 5K in April.  It's the same run I did last year and I plan to run it this year with a few friends.  That should be fun and also keep me working towards another goal. 

In other news with me this week, as I mentioned before, I have decided to go back to using Spark PeopleWeight Watchers is an EXCELLENT program but I think with my eating habits and also with being vegan, the new Points Plus program is just a little too hard for me to follow the way I should.  When I don't have to count fruit and most vegetables, I am just setting myself up to get out of control.  I was eating 3-4 bananas a day.  Yikes!  Now I am measuring them out again and eating about a half a banana in the morning and another half in the evening.  Much better!  Also, by measuring out all fruits and vegetables, there's no mystery involved with how many calories I am eating everyday.  I am accountable for each and every one of those calories.  Nothing is "free."  No excuses...I just have to do it. 

Do goals and challenges help you?  What else helps to keep you on track? 

Monday, February 6, 2012

My Weekend Top 10

Last weekend was so hectic with renting the U-Haul, hiring movers and having all of our big home items brought from our old house to our rental house.  It didn't feel like a weekend at all.  This weekend was much better.  It was still busy, but it was filled with things that I love to do on the weekends.  Here's my weekend top 10:

1.  Staying home-like I said before, it was just so nice not to have any set in stone plans. 

2.  Kickboxing-I take a kickboxing class on Friday nights that's mixed with plyometrics and then I take a total kickboxing class on Saturday mornings.  I LOVE kickboxing! 

3.  Spinning-I burn so many calories in one hour of spinning class!  This is what I look like when it's over!

(Kind of gross but kind of awesome too!)

4.  Making quinoa nachos with the vegan queso dip from the Post Punk Kitchen.  I did try to scale back this time on the cashews to just 1/2 cup instead of a full cup and they didn't taste the same as last time.  I also think that maybe I didn't puree the cashews long enough to make them smooth and creamy.  The consistency of the queso turned out a little bit gritty this time.  It still tastes good though. 

5.  Free avocados at Earth Fare-sometimes Earth Fare has some great coupons!  Most of the time, if you spend $5, you get something for free.  This weekend's deal was for free avocados with a $5 purchase.  You got 2 free avocados with a $5 purchase so I went back twice and ended up with 4 free organic hass avocados.  Score!

6.  Using my donut pans for the first time and making these donuts from Chocolate Covered Katie.  The donuts turned out really good but we ended up eating them more like pancakes with yogurt and sliced strawberries.  Here's a picture of the donuts before topped with yogurt and strawberries:

7.  Walking in the sunshine with R and Corny on Sunday afternoon-we had a mostly rainy weekend but there was a brief period of time on Sunday morning into the afternoon where we had some beautiful sunshine.  We took Corny to the dog park and on a walk along the river for a little while before my spinning class.  It was nice to soak up a bit of sunshine. 

8.  Going to see the movie, "J. Edgar" at the dollar movie instead of watching the Super Bowl-when I say dollar movie, I truly do mean that.  On Sundays, we can go see slightly older movies for $1.  Awesome!  So we spent $2 total to see the movie because we brought our own drinks, popcorn and snacks. 

(Even though this movie was pretty sad to me, I still really enjoyed it.)

9.  Aldi produce bargains-I just recently discovered Aldi but I am so glad I did.  Right now, we have to really watch our spending because of having our mortgage payment and the rental house payment each month.  Money is pretty tight.  I try to buy as much organic produce as possible, but right now, much of it is just not affordable for us.  Each week, Aldi has weekly produce specials and, so far, they have been pretty awesome!  This week, I stocked up on broccoli for 89 cents a package, mushrooms for 69 cents a package, grape tomatoes for 69 cents, and baby carrots for 49 cents a pound.  I bought a ton of produce! 

10.  Getting a new food scale in the mail-I left my other food scale at the other house last weekend and I knew that it might be awhile before we made it back to the other house.  I just decided to order another one online because the food scale is so important for me to have.  If I measure things out in cups, I tend to give myself way too much food.  I can't do that with the food scale.  I have had a lot of luck with the Escali model so I just decided to order one just like my other one from Amazon.  (Except this time I ordered a pretty retro green colored scale!)

(Photo source:  scalesetc.com)

Overall, it was a great weekend....just too fast.  (As always.)  It's always nice to just have some downtime.  Have a great week!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Fitness & Feminism

Sometimes I kind of feel at odds with myself because of paying such close attention to calories, points, exercise, my weight, etc.  In some ways, this feels so anti-feminist to me.  I have always been a feminist and very proud of it.  When I went away to college, this provided the outlet I needed to “find myself” and discover what I was passionate about.  That’s when I discovered sociology and women’s studies.  My major was in sociology and I got a certificate (sort of like a minor) in women’s studies.  I took so many great classes in college and I learned so much about history, life, feminism, people, and myself.  It was an amazing experience.  I wish everyone had the opportunity to go off to college.  I was only an hour from my parents but that was just enough distance to really come into my own. 

(Have you ever read this book?  I just found it in my internet search for fitness and feminism.  I would like to check it out!)

When I really started learning about feminist theory and the history of women’s rights, I immediately felt drawn to this.  I identified with so many aspects of feminism including the ideal that we should love our bodies and accept ourselves as we are rather than trying to live up to some unrealistic societal expectation of what our bodies should look like.  This was very easy for me to identify with because I have always been overweight.  I would much rather hear that I should love myself for who I am instead of hearing that I should change.  That was convenient and easy for me at the time.  I always felt like I was destined to be overweight, I didn’t know that I was capable of losing a lot of weight and getting fit.  I remember weighing 224 pounds in the 7th grade when my mom and I went to the ladies gym in the town that we lived in.  7th grade…..224 pounds.  I felt hopeless about losing weight.  More on my weight loss journey here and here..... 

Then I remember going to a party with some friends in college and there was a guy who pretended to act interested in me.  I could tell it was a joke…..I was overweight, not stupid.  I don’t really know what he wanted to do.  I am not sure if he wanted to embarrass me or if he lost some kind of a bet with his friend, but I knew it was not for real.  If he wanted to embarrass me, he succeeded.  I was already so socially uncomfortable at parties in college, I didn’t need the help of some frat boy trying to play a joke on me.  Lucky for me, the party was in the same apartment complex I lived in so I was just able to leave and go home.  It was just a few days after that when I started my first “real” diet.  I say “real” because there were times I would try to not eat for a few days or take some kind of weight loss “vitamins” or something like that, but not really changing any of my eating habits.  So after this party, I started Sugar Busters—a diet that is designed for diabetics.  Because I was completely changing the way I was eating, I lost quite a bit of weight.  I dropped about 50 pounds on Sugar Busters and then hit a plateau.  Sugar Busters was a good diet for me at the time because it really urged me in the direction of healthier eating and I didn’t have to obsess over calories or points.  I just got to eat when I wanted to eat as long as I followed the Sugar Busters plan.  I never felt conflicted about my feminism either because I was still just eating what I wanted to eat and walking a lot for exercise.  Also, during the time of Sugar Busters, I never knew my BMI or what I should weigh.  I just ate healthier and lost weight initially. 

Then when I hit a plateau with Sugar Busters, I started Weight Watchers with a couple of friends I worked with at the time.  I started to obsess a little more over weight loss now because all of a sudden, I knew what I should weigh for my height and I also knew how many points I should be eating in a day.  I had to start measuring everything out and I had to stand in front of a Weight Watchers receptionist each week and “find out how I did.”  Even though this sort of ignited that OCD part of my brain, it still wasn’t terrible.  I didn’t really feel like I was less than because I gained weight that week or I didn’t feel guilty because I decided to go out to eat instead of preparing something healthier at home.  I don’t remember getting too hung up about my weight on Weight Watchers the first time around. 

I feel like my focus (what sometimes feels like an obsession) over my calories, points, and exercise has developed since losing weight this time around.  When I say “this time around,” I mean since July of 2009.  Losing weight this time has involved so much social media.  I read blogs, I use message boards, I watch old and new episodes of the Biggest Loser on the computer and on Netflix, I am “friends” with Biggest Loser contestants on Facebook and, recently, I have started looking at fitness inspiration on Pinterest.  I have to wonder if social media, what usually inspires me to work harder and stay on track, also hinders me.  It feels like I am constantly looking at food on blogs and looking at images of half starved women on Pinterest with quotes like, “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.”  I hate these images on Pinterest but I love some of the other ones.  That’s the dilemma:  do I expose myself to these anorexic looking women who want to lose weight so their ass will look good for their boyfriend just so I can see the inspirational images of women working hard to achieve healthy goals for themselves?  Media affects people.  I know this.  I like to believe that I have a good filter in my brain that can edit these images out in order to be inspired by the good ones, but simply being exposed to this garbage affects me whether or not I want to admit to it or not.  This pushes my feminist buttons.  It bothers me that some parts of my weight loss/health journey make me feel like less of a feminist.  Why can’t I just be happy with my body instead of constantly trying to lose more weight?  Why can’t I just eat like a “normal” person and be a “normal” size?   I can’t imagine having a conversation with Gloria Steinem or Betty Friedan about how many points are in Fiber One cereal or how I like to make a pot of decaf coffee at night because it keeps me from mindlessly snacking or how I need to tone my stomach and arms at the gym because they are flabby.  Nope….I am pretty sure I wouldn’t have these conversations with these strong feminist ladies.  But these are the thoughts taking up a lot of valuable real estate in my head.  Sometimes I wonder if R even finds me interesting anymore.  I wonder if she thinks I am just this superficial person who lacks substance.  I don’t want to be that person.  I want to be me but healthy.  That’s the dilemma.  I want to be healthy more than anything else.  I watch my mom and I am seeing her health rapidly deteriorate from the effects of obesity and I don’t want that for myself.  I don’t want to be in my 50s and not be able to walk because my knees hurt so bad.  I don’t want to take high blood pressure medication.  I don’t want to have uterine cancer and have a doctor tell me it probably could have been prevented if I wasn’t “so heavy.”  (Yes, the doctor really did say this to my mom in those words.)  I want health and that’s why I do what I do. 

So I guess that brings me to balance.  Everything in life always seems to go back to balance.  How do I continue to become the healthy person that I want to be without compromising my core feminist values?  How do I focus on health without obsessing over everything I eat?  One thing I know for sure about this journey is that I am always learning new things about myself.  I guess that will always be the case.  Even though it feels like I have been on this weight loss/health journey for a long time, it has been less than 3 years.  That’s really not a lot of time when you consider that I had about 28 years of unhealthy eating habits that I am working on overcoming. 

What are you thoughts on this?  Have you ever felt like your weight loss/health journey has compromised any of your values?  What do you do to find balance?  I would love to hear what you have to say! 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

What Would Tara Do?

Tara Costa-contestant on season 7 of the Biggest Loser....what an inspiration!  I've mentioned before that we are watching old seasons of the Biggest Loser on Netflix and we are now on Season 7.  Tara Costa is, by far, the most inspirational and motivational contestant that I have seen.  She's definitely my favorite from any season I've watched. 

Tara is such an athlete.  She wins so many of the challenges-even the challenges that are typically dominated by men.  The episode we watched last night was the most motivational.  Since she was clearly the strongest of all the contestants, they viewed her as a threat.  So, there was a challenge where the contestants could take their weight they had lost and give it to other contestants.  They didn't know, at that point, what the second part of the challenge was.  So, many of the contestants gave all of their weight to Tara because they knew that it would be a disadvantage to her for the second part of the challenge.  In fact, it was.  It was quite the disadvantage.  All of the contestants had to pull a car for 1/2 a mile.  Some of the contestants had to pull extra weight because they had weight added to them from other contestants but Tara had to pull an extra 250 + pounds....that was a lot more than most of the other contestants!  She started off kind of slow and I wasn't sure she was going to be able to do it.  But as all of the other contestants started slowing down, she started moving faster!  She was amazing!  She just kept pulling and moving and she ended up winning the challenge for immunity!  What an amazing thing to watch!  After all of the other contestants gave her all of that extra weight, she just never gave up and kept pulling as hard as she could.  This to me, was just a perfect example of endurance and perseverance.  That's basically how Tara approached everything and every challenge on the show. 

It's not surprising that Tara went on after the Biggest Loser to compete in marathons, triathlons, the Ironman and many other competitions.  I know I've used the word amazing several times, but that's what she is.  I will be sad when this season ends because she is so inspiring and she has myself asking, "What can Tara NOT do?!"  She has something inside of her that not everyone has.  That's why I have decided my new mantra will be, "What would Tara do?"  :) 

Thursday, January 19, 2012

It's Time to Come Clean

You will notice that my weight ticker has been updated.  No, I am not closer to my milestone of losing 100 pounds.  In fact, I am a lot further away from it now.  I couldn't just keep pretending that my weight had stayed the same since August.  It's been an up and down cycle since August.  I will gain some weight and then I am able to get some back off.  Then I gain some more and get some back off.  On and on and on.....the problem is that ever since I saw that 169.8 on the scale back in August, I haven't seen it again since.  The closest I have seen is 173.  Then I went home for the holidays and completely binged out on food.  Now my weight is at 177 (it might be higher after my weigh in on Saturday because I have had a rough week).  I am ready to turn this ship around.  I have been doing a little too much of this sort of thing lately:

(Part of my brunch at Plant)

(R's ice cream birthday cake from the Hop)

(Alien cookie from Rosetta's Kitchen)

But I have a plan and a goal.  One of my New Year's resolutions is to finally hit my 100 pounds lost milestone.  I want to make that happen.  I am so close yet so far away!  Luckily, the gym I am at has a lot of 21 day challenges.  I participated in one through the holiday season and I was very successful.  My goal was to burn at least 3500 calories each week of the challenge.  I was able to burn closer to 5000....yay!  I have discovered that, for me, my problem is with my calorie intake.  My goal for the new 21 day challenge is to eat within my Weight Watchers points everyday for the 21 days of the challenge.  If I go out to eat, I have to figure it out within my points.  If we go over to someone's house or if they come over to our house, I have to figure it out.  That's life and that's how it will be for the rest of my life.  Temptations, challenges and struggles will ALWAYS be there.  I have to figure that part out because if I don't, I will gain weight back.  This is one of the those times that I remember the quote that's something like this:

"It's hard to be healthy/thin and it's hard to be overweight.  You choose your hard." 

I don't want to go back to weighing 265 pounds.  I felt terrible about myself.  I couldn't do half of the things I do now.  I was not happy and healthy.  I want to be healthy and capable of doing many things for the rest of my life.  I don't want sit on the sidelines of my life because I am not healthy enough to participate.  These are the things I need to remember when I am overcome by the desire to snack mindlessly.  I always need to remember where I came from and where I want to be.  

I will clean the slate and start new....today the 21 day challenge begins.  21 straight days of being on plan!  Let's go!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Book Review: Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer

With the new year here and so many people blogging about resolutions and starting over on the road to health, I know it's kind of strange that my first post of the new year is a book review.  To be honest, there are so many things I want to post on but I am lacking the motivation to actually put a post together.  I feel like the weekends fly by and time is so limited.  We moved into our new rental house 3-4 weeks ago but are still not completely settled in.  Every weekend is filled with unpacking and getting the house in order.  But enough of that for now.....

Over the holidays, I made a trip home to see my family.  I started reading Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer on my last trip home and I finished it this trip.  This book was excellent.  I would recommend it to anyone.  I would recommend it to meat eaters, not to convert them to veganism, but to open their eyes to what goes on.  I feel like that's something they owe the animal they are eating.  At least find it in yourself to see the life and death of that animal.  I know everyone is not going to be vegetarian, I am not that naive, but I would like to think that if people knew more about factory farms and the life and death of the animals, they might be more likely to seek out "humane" options.  I say humane in quotations because my opinion is that no meat is humane but, once again, those are my beliefs.  I would be thrilled if the book at least converted someone into a meat eater that is informed about the type of farm they get their meat from.

I never felt like this book was just spitting out facts and figures.  I always felt like there was a story to Foer's writing.  He went to some factory farms and interviewed some of the workers, the owners of the farms and animal rights advocates.  I love that he decided to start working and researching this book after he had a child and he wanted to know what he was feeding his child.  I think that's a really good point.  People always worry about kids getting sick, getting infections, etc. but they often don't think about one of the most fundamental things to our survival and well-being: the food we eat. 

If you have not read this book yet, I definitely recommend it.  I think it will be an eye opener.  I have been a vegan for 6 1/2 years and it still opened my eyes to many things I was not aware of.  Some of the things were painful to read, however, I am very happy I did read the book.  Go and read it!  :)