The “Cheat Meal”

Another week, another 2 pounds down. Feeling strong!

One thing to keep in mind about Weight Watchers or healthy eating in general, is that it’s not so much a temporary fix. I know people like quick fixes to lose weight fast, but sustainable weight loss requires a lifetime of choices.

This weekend, I went to the beach with family and had an indulgent meal followed by an ice cream. I don’t eat that way every day, but once a week makes a big difference in my perspective.

Eating real food with few fake or shady ingredients is important, but if you enjoy something, it should never be off limits. You just have to learn how to eat them in moderation. Easier said then done, but do something long enough, it does become habit.

Just like I need a rest day once a week, I also need a meal or two where I’m not counting calories or points, or wondering the ratio between carbs, proteins, and fats. Sometimes that meal turns into a week of meals, but know it’s never too late to return to healthier ways. Being super restrictive leads to resentment, which blocks success.

I don’t know if we should label anything the “cheat meal” because ice cream for me is just as important to my diet as baby spinach. I eat a lot more baby spinach per week, but it keeps me determined and successful. Referring to something as cheating provides further negative connotation to food, which our society does not need. We need to stop shaming people based on their habits, but try to promote better habits. Eating, for me at least, is an enjoyable part of life, whether it’s breakfast in the middle of a hectic morning or Thanksgiving dinner. I enjoy it now more than I did when I was obese and eating a lot more. Part of that is I’ve come to like cooking, but another part of it is coming to accept the fact that we need food to live.

I’m not a proponent of many diets, fasts, or cleanses (although different things work for different people). Learning to eat real food most of the time just has better lasting effects and makes you feel better inside, which is most important.

Keep being you!

WW Problem: Going Out to Eat

In my second week of Weight Watchers, I’m down 1 pound.

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I knew I wasn’t going to lose another 6 pounds because that would be a lot after one week of changes. This is more consistent with what a person should aim to lose weekly. Also, I indulged in some pizza and Chinese food this weekend, not a weight loss winning combination, however delicious.

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My workouts have been consistent. I stick to a six-day plan, 3 days of strength training with harder, shorter bursts of cardio like jump roping and spinning, with 3 days of running.

I’m trying to be better about cooking at home on the weekends more often. This is difficult when it’s busy and I’m out and about. I’m pretty good at identifying what’s good to eat on menus, but I always find the healthy stuff is better when I make it myself.

Salads for instance! I went to a restaurant Friday night with my parents and because I wanted some chips and salsa, opted for a grilled shrimp salad. There were five tiny shrimps, lettuce, tomato, and a bunch of onions (blech!). It’s disappointing when you get something unsatisfying for a meal, particularly when you’re paying for it!

On Saturday, my friend and I split a small pizza with a large salad for lunch and then split some Chinese food dishes for dinner. The food itself is indulgent, but we also tried to manage the portions. Still, I want to try to stick to one indulgence on the weekends- at least in one day!

I also went out to eat on Sunday afternoon, which Weight Watchers builds into the plan, but I counted all my extra points for Saturday and didn’t want to go too crazy. I had a salad with grilled shrimp (much better this time) with a cup of soup and one roll because hey, it’s Bertucci’s and their rolls are amazing. I only had a small bite on Sunday for dinner because it was filling though.

I think the important mental note to take away when you’re trying to eat better or following something like Weight Watchers is that healthy living is something you want to be doing consistently. If you like to go out to eat, do so, but also learn to choose those indulgent favorites as a treat, rather than the norm. One meal does not a diet break, but if you view these changes as temporary, your mind will set back to old habits.

Plus, cooking at home can be fun!

Daily Things

I thought I’d give a- probably mundane- rundown of my daily routine. Three days a week, I open up at the gym, so my alarm clock blares at 4:35am. When it’s being unkind, I’ll roll over and see I only have three minutes left to sleep. There is no kind when you have to wake up before 5am, although I have gotten used to it to an extent.

On these days, I get ready very quickly, really just feeding Simba and throwing my breakfast together. I typically work until 1pm and fit in my own workout. If I time my coffee and snacks appropriately, and slept well the night before, I will be motivated to complete an intense workout. If none of the aforementioned happens, then I will go through the motions. Most days, I’m awake enough to put myself through a tough workout, even though my first thought in the morning is I will definitely nap. (I never nap).

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My workouts on MWF are strength training based, sometimes total body, other days split by muscle group- functional and heavy lifting depending on my mood. This part, core included, will take 45-50 minutes. After, I fit in 15-25 minutes of cardio- cycling, arc trainer, and/or jump roping with intervals included.

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Once I leave, it’s lunch time! I try to stick to lean proteins and veggie-heavy dishes, including salads and stir fries, but other times, I’ll have leftovers. Being back on Weight Watchers means my lunches main source of carbs are veggies and fruits.

Before I shower, I spend some quality time with Simba. He’s still only one and loves being chased, so I try to do this as often as possible. The dude loves his friskies, so he can use the exercise too. Although, half the time when I run at him, he throws himself down and demands pats.

He demands pats most of the day and will follow me around, but when I settle down at my computer for writing time, he does settle down to sit in front of the window or under my desk. Right now, he’s actually yelling at me for attention.

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The rest of the night is spent meal prepping, reading, and watching TV or the Red Sox. Of course, Fridays are a little different.

On Tuesday and Thursday mornings, I get to sleep in a little longer. I never thought a 6:45am wake-up time would be indulging in sleep. These mornings, I hop out of bed, chug water, and hit the pavement for a run. Sometimes I’ll run straight through for about 3 miles, other times I’ll alternate between running and walking. I get to have a nice, leisurely breakfast before heading to work.

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On Tuesdays, I’m done early, so I follow a similar routine to Mondays and Wednesdays. I work a split shift on Thursdays, so in-between, I’ll meal prep, play with Simba, and write.

For Saturday and Sunday, I choose one day to run and the other to rest, depending on my schedule.

What’s your daily routine look like?

Weekly Weigh-In

It’s been a little over a week since I decided to actively lose weight again and I’m happy to report my weigh-in news. I weigh in on Monday mornings, but it didn’t fit in with Monday’s post and yesterday was my lo-ong work day and I didn’t have time to write a post! After one week, I’m down 3.6 pounds.

This loss is drastic, but normal for the first few weeks of weight loss because your body adjusts quickly to the new changes. I expect it to fall under the .5-1 pound loss as the weeks progress, but any progress is good!

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It might be cheating that I’m dressed in all black.

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I also hope you appreciate the too-short pants. I only point it out as something to brag about because pants are never too short on me. I suppose one might get away with wearing them as capris, but I couldn’t because they’re not quite short enough and therefore we’re back to the same problem again!

Anyways…

As for my goal, I don’t have a number in mind as I like to base my body off how I feel and not the number. However, I haven’t felt like my best as of late and was ready to put in more effort and I’m already feeling so much better! Right now, I’m focusing on a range that I think would lead me to my best results.

With my body, I try not to see anything as being on a diet or temporary. At this point, the changes I’m making to my eating and exercise habits are nowhere near as drastic they were when I first started to lose weight five years ago. For one, I exercise six days a week hardcore because I love it and it makes me feel strong. The only changes I’ve tried to incorporate are to keep me from plateauing by either upping the amount of weight I’m lifting or changing the amount of sets and reps and exercises I do, as well as throwing some intervals into my cardio sessions.

For food, my meals are fairly healthy as I eat a ton of fruits and veggies. Lately, I’ve been watching portion size more and really paying attention to my body’s signals. The other thing is eating between meals, especially sweets. I’ve found that allowing myself one small-moderate indulgence a day works well and makes me more mindful of what and when I’m eating it. Overall, I’ve found it not to be so difficult as it seamlessly falls back into place. The difficult part is paying attention, which I’ve been using the My Fitness Pal app to track what I’m eating, not so much to count calories, but to keep me aware throughout the day and less likely to give into urges.

Yesterday, I had to be hyperaware because I work 10 hours and need to make sure I’m fueling myself throughout the day, especially when training. To prepare, I dedicated some quality time on Monday to food prepping. Thankfully, Tuesdays are my new rest day so I can just focus on work, so I started the morning off with a typical breakfast of eggs, toast, and fruit. The meal was sustainable enough to carry me through until lunch where I packed food that was portable and quick: kefir with grapes and cinnamon, a peanut butter rollup, a hard-boiled egg, and hummus with carrots, pepper, and celery. My mid-afternoon snack was a handful of almonds and raisins for a quick trail mix. I also had a sugar cookie someone brought in for my sweet and all of that seemed to do the trick!

To get through the day, energy is important, which means you need to eat food! Don’t be afraid to eat and to include your favorites in there! I still eat pizza, burgers, and ice cream every so often and it’s all part of a healthy diet. I just make sure I’m listening to my body and providing it the other nutrients it craves at an appropriate amount! It’s also important to dedicate a half hour-hour 3-5 days a week to exercise! It doesn’t have to be perfect, you don’t have to like it (every time), but you’ve got to move! The time you put into exercise, whatever it may be, belongs to you because it’s something wonderful you’re doing for yourself. Physically you will reap the benefits, but not enough can be said about the mental and emotional wellness exercise provides.

It’s all good, every little step you take, even if it’s backwards because you can get right back into it. Like I tell my clients, my three steps to successful weight loss 1. Drink more water 2. Lift weights 3. Stay positive!

To sum everything I’ve just written, I’ll leave you with this: be kind to your body.

Quality Over Quantity

We are consumers. Whatever it is that is being consumed, be it food, culture, ideas, or anything else, we prefer it to come fast. Quantity and speed over quality. (You’d think the Oscars would have anticipated this and not run for about 84 years, but I guess this joke is a few days old).

I find that I always need to be moving. If I’m out on a walk on a beautiful, sunny, and fairly warm day in the middle of winter, I feel like I should be running. If I have a scrumptious meal in front of me, I pick up that fork and in I dig. Social media has upturned the way we learn news, but we’ve seen countless times that it can be as misleading as it is effective. If something takes awhile to load, if I have to suffer through a few days of anticipation, or get from start to finish on a project, I can feel anxiety roll through me, my feet and fingers tap, mind jitter.

But I want to be better than mindless, fast, and impatient.

Through my weight loss journey, graduating from school, editing my stories from rough draft to actual publication, to studying for my personal training certificate, and any other accomplishment I consider in my life, I know it didn’t come from fast or easy. But even in the things that we suffer, from grief and hardship, pain and annoyance, we have to live through it, not bear down and go through the motions. Life is what we put into it, much more so than what happens to us.

I think we are often so unhappy because nothing truly satisfies anymore. There is a difference between something happening and actually experiencing it. We can be happy with a lot less if we take the time and effort to appreciate what we have. Sometimes (a lot of times), I need to be reminded of this.

I’ve found two pictures that incapsulate this idea perfectly. One of my own taking:

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It didn’t matter that I had to get him inside because I was heading to work, Mac was not ready to come inside. He was lying on that grass and soaking up the sun!

This second photo has been making the rounds on the internet and it’s just so funny to me and it fits my point, so I’m sharing. Thanks to whoever shared it in the first place!

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Eat up life the way Leo looks at his Girl Scouts’ cookies (and how he must look at his Oscar now).

So for as much as we consume, let’s try to savor too.

I Ate A Frog’s Head (But It’s Not What You Think)

I would admit that while I am typing up today’s blog post, I am sipping on my second cup of coffee, which just so happens to be pumpkin spice, but I’m afraid you might judge me. It’s not my fault the pumpkin spice k-cups are on the shelves and one of my favorite flavors. We’re almost well into September now, what with it being the second day. It’s a judgement free zone here. Kind of. Okay, it’s still early, but it’s tasty!

I enjoyed a very non-seasonal cup of coffee with my breakfast this morning of the french vanilla variety. Also one of my favorite flavors. It complimented the flavors of my meal, which included scrambled eggs with a sprinkle of colby jack goodness, waffles with a dab of butter and maple syrup (I’m really not sure what this craving is about because I’m not usually of the maple syrup loving, but in moderation, I don’t think there’s a danger- my teeth feel kind of gritty after though), and a big bowl of berries which were super sweet.

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Is it me or does my breakfast look like a frog’s head? I guess I’m just artsy that way.

Dinner last night came in stages because I was called into work. I quickly threw together a peanut butter roll-up, a greek yogurt, and grapes to enjoy over the course of a few hours. When I got home, I had a salad with some steak on top.

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All were excellent and nutritional.

As for my moment of strength yesterday, it may sound counterintuitive. I think I mentioned how my workout consisted of heavy strength training (if not, my workout yesterday consisted of heavy strength training), and since I’ve changed up my routine to include only six exercises on this day, I’ve felt myself grow stronger. For barbell strength days, I focus on six power moves- deadlifts, shoulder presses, rows, squat presses, leg presses, and bench presses. I perform each move using the pyramid method of reps, which is 10x10x8x8x6x6x4x4x2x2. Starting with 10 reps, I use the lowest weight and go up as I go down in reps. By my last two sets, I am maxing out on how much weight I put on the barbells.

I’ve been gaining progress on my deadlifts in particular, and I felt like I could really max out on my last two sets, pumped myself up, set up in the correct position, and found I could not lift that barbell. This will happen. That hasn’t happened to me in awhile, which maybe means I’m not pushing myself hard enough. It’s a good reminder that progress will always have to be made, but hard work will get me there. There’s strength in failure too, so long as we learn from it.

In the making-Caitlin’s-life-easier variety, I learned how to Air Drop pictures from my phone to my computer so that I no longer have to email them. All those emails go undeleted by Ms. Laziness, which clogs things up and makes everything look cluttered. I’m not a fan of clutter, but it happens if I don’t take the time immediately to delete. Air Drop is a friend. Thank you, Air Drop.

Readers seemed to enjoy my big bad post on stir fry, so I will try to do more of those as I go! I think just talking about how I eat healthy in general is something that appeals to people. It’s not easy, but it should be. We’ll just have to be rebels and find our way around what society deems “convenient.”

Food Good, Good Food: I’ve Got It All

Stir fry is a great, healthy dish for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. It’s a one pan dish that can be so versatile! It’s easy to make it for one or for a family. Here are some of my tips to make any meal stellar!

To break it down, a stir fry incorporates every single food group into one meal, if you know how to do it right. We can start with the protein. This is the one-two ingredients that will provide staying power.

For breakfast, eggs are the obvious go-to protein. Bacon, ham, sausage, or tofu would work just as well, either as the main or assistant protein. Beans are also really easy and nutrient dense, you can make them fancy or just drop them into the pan out of the can. My favorite combination for breakfast protein would either be eggs with chicken sausage or black beans.

Lunch and dinner follow similar patterns. Chicken is a staple in my diet, as it is for so many others. I eat chicken more than any other protein and you can never go wrong with simply grilled, spiced, or marinated depending on your mood. Steak is another great option as it can offer protein and fat. Steak is one of my favorites, but I tend to eat it less because 1. I try not to eat too much red meat and 2. I am not an expert at cooking it, yet. The most versatile protein for stir fry would be fish, particularly salmon because it is full of omega 3’s and good-for-you fat. I also enjoy tilapia as it is so similar to chicken. Swordfish and tuna are good too. Stir fry is so fun because you have so many different options! Any protein you might use in breakfast can also be used for lunch or dinner: eggs (not just for breakfast/brunch!), beans, or tofu- all excellent choices!

Next up, we need the veggies. Veggies provide the bulk of the dish- or at least they should! Vegetables add heft, filling you with nutrients and vitamins. Not to mention that they allow you to eat more food! Here’s where you can get really fancy. For my stir fry, I usually chop up and toss in any assortment of vegetable I have in the fridge. My staples are red bell peppers (my favorite vegetable), spinach, carrots, broccoli, and zucchini. To keep things fancy, I sometimes add in bok choy, sugar snap peas, sweet potato, squash, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, or corn. For my meals, I add in a ton of vegetables so I never worry about meeting my daily requirement. They are like salads in this way. I recommend choosing at least two-three vegetables to add to your stir fry and be as fancy or simple as you want! Goal: make it colorful!

Carbohydrates tend to scare people. I get it. Carbs and sugar make up a lot of the tasty treats we hate to love (or love to hate) and we’re told not to eat too many.

Side note: don’t ever feel bad about indulging. If you are truly indulging, it means you are enjoying what you love and incorporating it as an important part of your healthy lifestyle. Gulping down spoonfuls of ice cream is a lot different than savoring every bite. Your relationship to food is all in your perspective. I’m still learning more about this, but it’s so important to developing and maintaining healthy habits.

But carbs are good for you and you need them. Yes, you! The easiest grain to use in my stir fry is brown rice. Brown rice is good because it adds a wonderful, chewy texture to the dish without taking away from the flavor. I’m also a fan of whole grain pasta, buckwheat noodles, or quinoa. Sweet potato and regular potato are also yummy carb choices, but they can also still be considered veggies, so double yay! White rice and pasta are fine too on occasion, but the whole grain versions offer more protein, which means it will fuel your body for longer. Let’s vow to stop making carbs, in their simplest form, the enemy. It’s what the carbs make up that matter (which is still quite alright every so often).

Let’s talk about another friend that gets a lot of grief. I don’t get why people are so against fat. I think it’s because it shares a name with an adjective that no one wants to be called. Healthy fats need to be distinguished. Yes, we should use them in smaller portions, but we should still use them.

Uh oh, another side rant! When I was on Weight Watchers I remember thinking how silly it is that the plan would rather me eat a wayward, processed, low-nutrient, but low-calorie and low-fat granola bar than a serving of almonds or peanut butter. First, peanut butter is my favorite food ever. Also, nuts are so good for you. They offer a ton of protein and healthy fats and are incredibly versatile for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks! Nuts can be dressed up and dressed down. They come from the earth. Eat the right kind, the right amount, and you can’t go wrong!

And we’re back- I like to toss in a few nuts, either cashew, peanut, or pine for a bit of fat, when I use grilled chicken as my protein because there is no fat there. Cheese or olive oil also contribute to the healthy fat content and provide the dish with a little heft. It’s in a good way though because you need fat to help keep you full!

We’ve discussed protein, vegetables, carbohydrates, and fat and we’ve created exciting meal options. Last thing we need is a little marinade. It might be a stretch, but we can consider this the sweetness that we all need in our diet. My favorite sauces for stir fry include anything peanutty, sesame, or teriyaki-based. When I buy them, I make sure to first check the ingredients- many store-bought brands have so many ingredients, it’s crazy- and the calories to see if it’s even worth it. Sauces, and dressing for that matter, are things I need to start making home-made. I enjoyed the recipe I did make, which included some spicy mustard, soy sauce, and garlic. Simple, yet delicious! *And I can name the ingredients. A little sauce can go along way if you know how to mix things right.

I don’t know whether to be impressed or embarrassed that my little post on stir fry went on for so long. Let’s blame it on the little rants spread throughout. There are so many dishes that follow the rules of stir fry- oatmeal and yogurt parfaits for example. Yes, these meals can go from good to uh-oh very quickly, but if you pay attention, stir fry is more likely to stay on the side of good.

I followed my own rules this afternoon for lunch. I’ll break it down.

My protein of choice was salmon, which thanks to last night’s leftovers, made things very easy for me. Next, I chopped up and tossed in my veggies. More leftovers included Brussels sprouts and cauliflower. I added bok choy, red pepper, shredded carrots, and zucchini. My grain was a simple brown rice that was seeped in flavor after I poured the medley over it. To top things off (more like swirl around), I drizzled a teriyaki marinade/soy sauce combination throughout.

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The end result was delicious, leaving me fueled, healthy, happy, but not overly stuffed. The meal was a great recovery from my strength workout this afternoon, got me through this post, and will lead me through an afternoon of studying.

What’s your go-to stir fry?