Refreshing

There is something about heading into the fall that makes me want to embrace the remains of summer and start refreshing everything around me! I want to bask in the warmth of August and eat the fresh, beautiful foods of the season.

I also want to start cleaning everything out! Since I returned from our family vacation at the beginning of the month, I’m on a rampage to clear the junk out of our house and organize. I’m slowly working through the rooms in the house, and I feel like I’m reviving the energy throughout the whole house. Ahhhhhh!

One of my food challenges continues to be getting in enough servings of fruits and vegetables. I wish I liked more of them. Maybe that would help. But I’m giving up the self-judgment on that topic. I am willing to try new things, but I’m not going to beat myself up when I don’t like a food.

Still, I’m always looking for ways to bring those good-for-you fruits and veggies into my life. Sometimes I resort to a tried and true mom trick: I sneak them into my food 🙂  I roast veggies like eggplant and butternut squash with a little olive oil and salt. Then after they cool, I put them in the food processor. From there, I spoon the pureed veggies into an ice-cube tray and freeze. Once frozen, I pop them into a zip-top bag and put them back in the freezer. Then I have them ready to go when I want to add them to a sauce or soup, such as into a tomato sauce for spaghetti. It adds a bit of texture and the sweetness of the veggies that roasting can bring out. But I hardly notice that it’s there.

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Another thing I do to have fresh fruits and vegetables on hand is have them delivered. I use a service that delivers fresh, organic, local, in-season fruits and veggies. I just get the little box, and I only get it every other week. That’s enough for us! Sometimes I try something new, but I also tend to use all 5 of my substitutions to make sure I get foods that I and my family will actually eat.

Last week, I got a whole bunch of tomatoes. Boy are they amazing right now! And I knew just what I wanted to do with them: make a fresh, cool batch of bruschetta. I love this recipe from the Pioneer Woman. Cooking the garlic not only brings out the flavor, but it saves me and my sensitive stomach from a night of heartburn that I would otherwise get from raw garlic 🙂  She used 2 pints of tomatoes, but since mine were whole, I just used about 300g instead (I think it was about 4 or 5). I sliced up some French baguette and melted some fresh mozzarella on some of the slices and practically swooned over the flavors bursting in my mouth!

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Don’t those vibrant colors just make you want to get in your kitchen and whip up a batch, too??

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My Food Plan

In a recent post, I talked about various strategies to get – or get back – on track. One of them was tracking my food. And that is my basic food plan. I am not on a diet where I restrict a list of foods. In fact, there are almost no “off limit” foods for me. So how does that work?

I started using the My Fitness Pal app (it’s the one I read about in Cooking Light, January 2014). It takes some effort, especially in the beginning. But the more you use it, the more it knows about the foods you eat, so they are easier to look up and enter. You can use the app on your phone or the website on your computer. I use both, depending on what I’m trying to do. I set up my goals by telling it some basic information: my current weight, my goal weight, how much weight I want to lose per week (I started with one pound per week and now have it set to half a pound per week), and my activity level. Then it comes up with target nutrition goals. I focus mainly on the calories but am also aware of fat and carbs, as those are of course the things I crave!

After that, I start logging. I am most successful at staying within my target if I plan most or all of my food the day before. Of course I still make adjustments throughout the day, depending on what happens or what I’m craving. But having an idea of what’s coming throughout the day helps stop me from mindless snacking.

As I said, I do not deprive myself of any foods. I’ve gone down that road enough times to know it does not work for me. If I say, for example, that I can’t eat chocolate, I become this crazy person who can’t stop thinking about food and ends up eating all kinds of other things that are really no better. I become so irritable and most unpleasant to be around! And wasn’t I just writing about how this is still supposed to be fun?! I may be trying to make changes in myself when it comes to my body and my health, but that doesn’t mean that my personality has to suffer (especially at the expense of the people around me!).

So instead of depriving myself, it’s all about portions and balance. I measure most of my food (unless it’s already pre-measured for me, like in those 100 calorie packs). I have to admit, the math geek in me actually enjoys measuring! And I have some fun playing the numbers game. It goes something like this: “I really want some chocolate. But I only have 50 calories to spend. Okay, so that’s about 2 dark chocolate Hershey Kisses.” I used to be the person who couldn’t have just one or two – I wanted a whole handful, if not the whole bag! But now I can be much more disciplined about it … most of the time 🙂 And I really savor those one or two little chocolates.

Of course, I do try to make healthy choices, too! That is sometimes a struggle for me. I use another app called Healthy Habit Tracker to try to eat enough fruits and vegetables and drink enough water each day. It’s amazing how a day can go by so quickly before I realize I haven’t had enough!

The balance comes from looking at my whole day. If I want to have some light ice cream at night (I’ve become hooked on Edy’s slow-churned mint chocolate chip!), then I can’t have a cookie earlier in the day. So maybe I’ll have that cookie the next day instead.

So I still eat cookies and ice cream and chips. We still have hamburgers and french fries. We still order pizza. And we still go out to eat. In fact, my husband and I have date night every Thursday! When I eat out, I look up the nutritional info online, if it’s available. That means eating at a lot of chain restaurants – at least in the beginning. But now that I’ve gotten a better sense of food, I feel more confident to eat at other restaurants, too. I just look up the food I want to eat on My Fitness Pal and choose one from the list that sounds about right. And when I know we’re going out at night, or ordering pizza, then it’s especially important for me to plan the day ahead of time!

What I really like about planning out the day like this and balancing my foods is that I really get to enjoy eating! It takes the guilt completely out of the equation, because I’ve already accounted for it. I can really dig in to that slice of cheese pizza. Or savor the creaminess of the mint ice cream and the richness of the dark chocolate chips. Yum!!

Bump, Bump

On January 4, 2014 I had had enough. Seriously. I hit the wall, and I was DONE. Enough of the feeling of being overweight and all the negativity that came with it. Over the course of the year, I dropped 4 pant sizes. Woo hoo! I used my positivity as my main source of strength. Everything else stemmed from that. Eating better and exercising became much easier, because I was finally being kind to myself.

Just before the holidays, however, things began slowly drifting away from me. I became fearful. What if it doesn’t stick? What if I go back to the “old” me? I knew the holidays presented lots of yummy eating opportunities, and I didn’t want to miss out on them. I did pretty well, too. I enjoyed the foods of the season, mostly in moderation. And I was confident that after the holidays, I would get back on track.

Only that hasn’t happened. Mostly I get inspired one day, then find I’ve come down with yet another cold. I feel like we’ve hardly had more than one week at a time with a healthy family. Ugh. It’s wretched. Every time I get sick  –  or over-tired from taking care of the kids  –  I start eating. Not healthy foods either, of course. Why is it that we want to eat junk when we’re sick?? I know I’m not the only one.

Okay. So I get over a cold and think, “Great. Now I can get back on track again.” I start tracking my food again. I start exercising again. … And then I get sick again.

I don’t know how much weight I’ve put back on, but I know my pants are snug. The clothes I was fitting into last fall are snug this spring.

sigh

I’m now getting over a 3-week cold. Here we go again. I’ve been trying to track my food. Not doing so well with that. I’ve been exercising. (Although I have found out that I actually really like exercising! But I think that’s another post.)

Here’s the thing, though. I’m getting that feeling again. ENOUGH. I’M DONE. I do not like that image staring back at me in the mirror. I don’t like the way I feel in my clothes. I don’t like the way I feel, period. So what am I going to do about it? Time to get back to the things that worked last year. But also find some new sources of inspiration.

  • Track food – especially works when I plan the night before for the next day
  • Exercise (as I said, I can definitely do that!)

But those are the physical things. I really believe that the emotional work is what’s most important.

  • Be kind to myself
  • Say only positive things about my body and myself
  • Appreciate my body and all that it does for me
  • Go easy on myself if I have a less-than-perfect day

I also believe it’s important to take care of myself. Have time for myself and with my husband and my friends. Get a massage, go to the chiropractor, schedule health sessions with my acupuncturist. Talk to people who are uplifting. Laughter feels so good!

Ah yes – be light about all this!! It should feel good! It should be fun!

So this post is in essence my very own pep-talk. Let’s go! It’s spring! It’s time to feel fabulous again!!

Wait for it…

So far, most of my posts have been more abstract about things like being kind to your self or getting inspired or taking it one step at a time. Here’s something a little more practical.

A strategy that has worked for me in the past  –  and one I’m trying to re-implement now  –  is to wait for it. In other words, if there is something I know I want to eat, I wait until at least the afternoon to have it. If I splurge in the morning, I could be in big trouble all day long.

For example, I am a Coke-drinker. I just really enjoy the taste of a good, cold Coke. I’ve tried cutting back – or cutting it out – a million times. But it’s hard! Right now, my goal is to drink a maximum of 4 ounces a day. However, if I indulge in the late morning, it’s almost a given that I will be giving in again in the afternoon. And I end up way beyond that 4-ounce limit. But if I wait until after 2pm – or later – then I’m usually good! It also helps me to get in some much healthier water earlier in the day. (Another tip here, if you also enjoy soda, is to switch to seltzer water. It’s an acquired taste, for sure, but the flavored ones can be pretty good. And sometimes, I really just like all that bubbly carbonation.)

Here’s another example. I love chocolate. In fact, I’m always a little suspicious of people who actually don’t like chocolate. Really?? Come on! I’ve gotten pretty good at choosing dark chocolate. Sometimes I don’t even want to waste the calories on something that is only milk chocolate (except perhaps the occasional Snickers bar!). Again, if I can hold off until the afternoon for that sumptuous bite of rich, dark chocolate – perhaps coating some crunchy, salty cashews – it really works. I make a healthier choice in the morning and at lunch and then I can really savor the delicious treat later in the day.

It may seem obvious, but sometimes those are the best tips of all!

Now I’m going to go enjoy that taste of dark chocolate!