Wednesday, December 30, 2009

One Pound A Week

Tonight was Weigh-In Night. I went to the Weight Watchers meeting and stepped on the scale, and saw I lost another pound, whoo hoo! That is 12.4 lbs lost since my first WW meeting November 11th, just a few weeks ago.

One pound may not sound like much, but I will take it, that is for sure! Last week at the WW meeting our leader handed out bookmarks with the 2010 holidays on it. The idea was if you lost one pound per week, how much would you have lost by Valentine’s Day? By the 4th of July? By Halloween? Think about it. There are 52 weeks in a year, if all I lost was one pound a week all next year, I would lose 52 lbs! Wow.

One thing I did differently this week was start exercising more consistently. I went ice-skating on Christmas Eve, and then Saturday, Sunday and Monday I went to the gym and did an hour of cardio: 30 minutes on the elliptical trainer and 30 minutes on the stationary bike. Then situps and stretching.

I was thinking about how I want to start working out at least three times a week; to make sure this week is not a fluke. And then She Wears a Red Sox Cap, another one of my favorite bloggers, posted the Elliptical Challenge 2010! See her post for details, but basically you set your own goal for how many minutes a week you will use the elliptical trainer through the first month of 2010. There's a prize-drawing for those who meet their goals.  Sign me up! I am totally in. And very excited about it. Except I just realized my gym is probably closed New Year’s Day, so I may have to do an hour on the elliptical on the next day to achieve my pledged 2 hours per week. And if it weren’t for the challenge, I would not be thinking about how I can make sure I get 2 hours of elliptical time in this week. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Homemade Veggie Broth

I have a habit of keeping vegetable scraps in the freezer. Every once in a while I justify the habit by throwing it all in a pot and making homemade veggie broth. It’s not hard, and it’s a great way to use up all those scraps that don’t make it into your dinners: potato and carrot peelings, the tops and bottoms of onions and celery, the vegetables that I thought I would use but didn’t and they are going to go bad in a day or two. All of that makes its way into the freezer and eventually, the broth. Or as I call it, Mystery Soup. Either way, I made it so I know it’s low in sodium and high in nutrition.

It’s easy to start. Throw that handful of green beans no one put on their plate into a bag or container and put it in the freezer. Add to it when you have scraps from cooking. Soon enough you’ll have enough to cook.

Throw it in a pot with a few cups of water. I added some fresh baby carrots and celery  this time because my Mystery Soup bags tend to be heavy on the onion.

I don’t season the broth because there is no telling what I will use it for: to make soup, to flavor mashed potatoes, to cook rice, for the liquid in homemade bread, or as a low-fat medium for sautéing chicken and vegetables.

Bring to a boil, turn down the heat until its just simmering, cover and let it do its thing.

Once the veggies are mushy and look like all the goodness has been cooked out of them, drain them over a bowl.

(Ignore the flour in the corner of that photo; I was making bread while the broth simmered.)  Dispose of the cooked vegetable scraps, and think of ways to use your homemade broth!

I used this batch to make salmon chowder.

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Conclusion of the Trifecta of Chocolaty Goodness: All Bran Brownies

I had it stuck in my mind that I’d seen a recipe with brownie mix, All Bran cereal and water. Of course I had not bookmarked the recipe, and now that I’m looking for it I see tons of versions of this recipe. The All-Bran website has a version without brownie mix… cocoa, flour, etc. But I’m staying true to brownie mix in the Trifecta of Chocolaty Goodness. The low-calorie and diet websites all seemed to have member versions of the recipe, so here’s a link to one on Dotti’s Weight Loss Zone. It’s for muffins, but the idea is the same. And all the recipes I saw, whether for brownies or for chocolate muffins, called for baking powder. Now that says to me “Liz, this is gonna be a cakey brownie, not a fudgie one.” As a lover of fudgie brownies, I decided to throw caution to the wind and just wing it, making up my own recipe.

Here is the basic idea I started with:

3 cups All Bran cereal
2 ½ cups water
1 package brownie mix
2 Tbs mini semisweet chocolate chips

Check me out, rockin' the store brand chips and generic mix.  I do love to save a buck. 

Mix the water into the cereal and let them sit together for at least 5 minutes so they can learn to enjoy each other’s company. Then add the brownie mix and chips. Stir, spread in a pan you have sprayed with non-stick spray, and bake for 20 minutes at 350.

I could not resist tampering with the brownies a little more. I had some homemade cranberry sauce leftover from Christmas. I was in a hurry when I made the cran sauce or I would have taken pictures, the cranberries were so bright and cheery-looking through the short 15-minute process it takes to make the sauce. I attempted to swirl the cranberry sauce on top of the pan of brownie batter. I’ve never swirled anything into brownie better before; it turned out more like a “W” which I will say stands for “Wow.”

After seeing how bad that looked, I threw a handful or so more chocolate chips on top. Then I shoved it in the oven before I could mess with it anymore.

At 20 minutes they looked good, but a finger-poke found them mushy. After 10 more minutes they appeared solid enough. I had one while they were still warm because my mama didn’t raise any fools.

Here’s the good news: the chocolate gives the cranberry sauce a good solid canvas for its tart kick, and berry’s flavor enhances that of the chocolate. Cranberries and chocolate are a match made in heaven.

Now for the bad news: wow, the bran is really obvious. Bran is not bad. It was in the cupboard because I like it. But it interferes significantly with the brownie-ness of the brownies. I see now why there are so many recipes out there for chocolate muffins with All Bran; it is probably more suited to a muffin or maybe a bar. So I’ll call these chocolate-cranberry muffin bars next time. They are not brownies, not to me, but they are still pretty darn good!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Down a Size

I got a gift-certificate to Old Navy for Christmas so of course yesterday I headed out to spend it in the after-Christmas sales. We got more snow and unfortunately had to skip yesterday’s Christmas at Jeff’s grandparents’ farm. It’s a three hour drive and we have gotten so much snow in the last few days. My little trip out to shop and go to the gym confirmed that. The highways were not too bad, but still affected. No one was going anywhere near the speed limit, not even the big heavy four-wheel-drive trucks; it was slow-going. Parking lots were the worst of course, and when I saw our mail-man at the corner gas-station, he said subdivisions even more dangerous. Driving was dicey but I was highly motivated. The places I was going were not far from home and just off major highways; I took a calculated risk. 60% off at Old Navy which is less than 10 miles away vs. 20% chance of ending up in a ditch… Shopping it is!

If you know me, you know I am not a shopper. Hate it. Always have. Except for a brief period right after college (thanks for reminding me of that, Miriam aka Best Roomie Evah!). I think that was just temporary insanity coupled with post-college euphoria, before the reality of working until retirement set in.  But I actually enjoyed shopping this time.  Clothes fit better, I felt like the world was my oyster!  Is that a saying?  It sounds weird now that I have typed it out.

I figured I’d just run in and run out; I wanted these “walking pants”.  I already have a pair and lovelovelove them. They are so comfortable and never shrink up or go high-water on me. Since I wear a 32 inch inseam that can be a problem for me sometimes, even though my strikingly Amazonian sisters will tell you I’m short. The pants have been in heavy rotation since they’re my favorites, they last through frequent washing really well and I think for gym-gear they look pretty sharp. The amount on the gift card was blank so I asked the check-out girl to tell me what it was when I walked in and it turned out I was equipped for a shopping spree! What a great surprise.
I ended up getting a couple sweaters, a couple long-sleeved t-shirts, a pair of jeans and the “walking pants” or as I call them, loungie pants. And I was so happy to see that I was down a size in pants! Back down to a 14. I was in 16’s for a few months and that was pretty hard to take. I was so happy to be down a size! And the shirts and sweaters I bought were L’s, not XL’s. Thank God. Not where I want to be, but on the way. It’s a journey, one pound at a time. And then I went to the gym and did an hour of cardio.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Eve Ice-Skating!

I hope everyone is having a fabulous Christmas! My current favorite Christmas tradition is ice-skating on Christmas Eve at Crown Center in Kansas City. Here’s a picture snapped by a cooperative stranger… I did not catch your name but thank you and Merry Christmas! I’m on the far right, BF (aka Jeff) is right beside me, then his sister Nicole, their mom Judy and her BF Steve, and the nephews Alex and Noah front and center, as they should be!

It was freezing out; usually it’s warmer and we last longer. Jeff and I were the last to arrive; I think I probably got 20 minutes of good cardio in before we went in to warm up. That’s two workouts this week because Sunday I went to the gym and did an hour of cardio. If I get one more workout in this week it will probably be walking. We had a winter storm last night and have not ventured out today. The roads were pretty dicey when I went on a last-minute grocery store run after skating.

What is your favorite Christmas tradition?

Thursday, December 24, 2009

11.4 Lbs Total and NSV!

Because of the holidays there were only three people at my Weight Watchers meeting last night. I love the meetings that are full of people; they are lively and energizing. But this was awesome in a different way; it was very personal and everyone had a chance to contribute something. I was very excited to step on the scale and find out I lost another 1.4 lbs, for a total so far of 11.4 lbs. WHOO HOO!

Last night we talked about NSV’s. An NSV is a Non-Scale Victory. Something positive that has happened as a result of or related to your weight-loss efforts but is not a new number on the scale. An NSV can be anything… clothing becoming looser, a newly discovered addiction to exercise, or in my case, a piece of jewelry that fits again.

Earlier this year my watch battery died and I set it aside, putting off getting a new battery after I tried a couple stores and they said they could not help me. Eventually BF and I went together to try again and found a jewelry store that would do it. After the new battery was in and I tried to put the watch on, I couldn’t fasten it. I cannot tell you how embarrassing that was. In the time from the battery dying to when it was replaced I gained enough weight that I could no longer wear my watch. Ouch. And I discovered this at the jewelry store, with BF and the staff as witnesses. Double-ouch.

About a week ago I decided to try the watch again and it fit! I was so happy. A few weeks of being on Weight Watchers and my reward was not just the loss the scale showed, but this tangible change. Sometimes the scale can show a loss and you don’t see it, not in your face, your body or how your clothes fit. Sometimes the scale shows no loss but you see that your body is changing as a result of eating better or exercising. Now every day when I put it the watch, I feel a little thrill of success. And now when I wear the watch, it is an anchor for me, which is another Weight Watchers tool. As an anchor, the watch is a concrete reminder of what I am doing and why. I wear it every day, and when I am having trouble sticking to the program or heaven forbid I’m jumping off the wagon with total abandon, I can see the watch on my wrist. I can remember the day I could not wear it, and the moment I put it back on, and get in touch with the feelings of pride, joy and relief I felt when it fit. And hopefully the memory of that moment will help me focus and reset my fatitude.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Here I Yam!

I always like having a face to go with a voice on the phone, with someone you email or to go with a blog. I hesitated to post this because I am struggling with my self-image; I’m trying to lose 50 lbs and 20 of that I gained this year, yikes! I truly believe my current weight is temporary and am working to make that true, hence the title of my blog, shedding the fat-suit. I talked about that more here: The Beginning.

And since I mentioned yams, let’s talk about ‘em. When I hear yam, I think sweet potato. But per this Wikipedia article, yams and sweet potatoes are not the same. However, it also proves I am not crazy because it says that in the U.S. and Canada, the terms are used interchangeably. Here is a link to an article about the differences between yams and sweet potatoes. And this article says that yams are toxic if eaten raw, and do not have as much Vitamin A and Vitamin C as sweet potatoes.

Here is a link to some yam recipes on Epicurious.  I’m particularly interested in the recipe for Yams with Crispy Skins and Brown-Butter Vinaigrette.
Hmmm now that I have been educated by Wikipedia and, I am not sure that I have ever had a true yam. I will put that on the to-do list for 2010, and will update you when I try some of the epicurious recipes!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Surviving the Holiday Frenzy

We are smack dab in the middle of the high point of the dangerous party-and-goodie-filled holiday season. I am standing in the middle of the street risking being run over by three Christmas gatherings that are barreling down on me at the speed of light, and I’m still dizzy from the two that have already whizzed by. If I’m going to finish the season in one piece (equal to or slightly smaller than the one piece I am now) then I will need a solid plan.

Step 1: Log intake

Consistently record all points used/all food and drink. This is the third week in a row that I have only logged intake about half the time, and this is not the time to do things halfway. We are in the middle of the toughest time of the year for losing weight, people, this is no time to mess around! Today I logged it all; it’s a good start.

Step 2: Increase Output

Calories burned, silly. Exercise! Today I went to the gym: 30 minutes on the elliptical trainer, 30 minutes on the stationary bike, then stretches and sit-ups. Just have to keep it up. Go again. I like it, why not do it?

Step 3: Organization and Planning Ahead

This is not the time to let myself get hungry without having healthy snacks and meals ready to go. Ten minutes of prep work in the morning can forestall giving in to temptation mid-morning… midday… midafternoon… midwhatever! Plan and prepare snacks and meals throughout the day, do as much ahead of time as possible.

Step 4: Don’t Forget About Sleep

It is so tempting to stay up until all hours this time of year. There is much to do and no one thought to increase our 24 hour days to 27 or 30 to help us get it done in a timely fashion. Do what can be done and then get a decent amount of sleep. Lack of sleep has been known to be used as an excuse to go through a drive-through, at least in Liz-Land. Don’t do it! Get some rest!

Step 5: Probably the Best Step… Focus on the People!

The whole point of these Christmas get-togethers is to see loved ones; to spend time with them, catch up, enjoy their company and show them how much you care. Focus on that and forget about the cheese ball and the peanut brittle. Somebody else will eat it. Enjoy seeing the people!

So that is my 5 Step Plan for Surviving the Holiday Frenzy. What’s yours?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Why Do I Do It?

Why am I writing this blog?

Do I think what I have to say is more important than what anyone else has to say? No. Am I an expert on any subject besides what goes on in my head? No. Is my perspective completely unique? Doubtful.

So why am I doing this? Because it’s fun. I like it. Everyone has a hobby. This is one of mine. I enjoy hearing about the things that other people do and the things they take an interest in, and this is me sharing my interests.

Writing about it helps me focus. Publishing posts on the internet helps me with accountability. Am I going to eat Christmas candy? Sure. Am I exercising regularly? Not yet. Right now I’m just trying to make some better decisions each day.

I was inspired to blog about my efforts and thoughts by several people who have courageously shared their stories in this way. A few of my favorites: Roni of Roni’s Weigh. She is funny and and honest, and achieved her goal through serious commitment. Then there’s Cammy of The Tippy Toe Diet. She is engaging and supportive. She has met her goal and never fails to reach out with humor and encouragement to others on the same path. And last but not least there’s Bitch Cakes, whose personal insights and self-awareness are every bit as interesting as her fabulous style. These people embody what I strive to achieve for myself: the dedication to show oneself enough love and respect to live a healthier life. I want to be just like them when I grow up.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

You Get Out Of It What You Put Into It

Last Wednesday I weighed in at my weekly WW meeting and learned I had gained 0.8 lbs. Ok, I had expected it or worse… I had not journaled my food for most of the week and that is always bad news for me. This week I journaled food starting on Saturday, so I skipped Thursday and Friday (my WW weeks run from Thursday to Wednesday, and I weigh-in on Wednesday nights). And I lost 0.8 lbs, so am happily back where I started, at a net loss of 10 lbs after 5 weeks on Weight Watchers.

Our topic at this week’s meeting was how to persevere; fighting the snowball effect. It addressed how we all fall off the path sometimes, but it is what happens next that is important. Do we throw in the towel for the day or until “after the weekend,” or until our next meeting? Does that turn into more and more time, until we have lost all the progress we have made? Or do we turn things around at our next meal, or even better, immediately?

As we discussed the events involved in the snowball effect and how to keep it from turning into a landslide of poor decisions and weight gain, the meeting leader said something that described exactly what my problem has been the last 2 weeks: you get out of it what you put into it. If you sorta work the program, you sorta get results.

I tracked food a little more than half of the last two weeks. I went to the gym three times last week (yay me!) but that was not enough to compensate for poor food choices. I have been half-assing the program and getting half-ass results. Duh.

So I start over right now: planning ahead, journaling my food and making good decisions. Who knows, maybe I’ll even go to the gym again.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

PB2… Waist-Friendly Peanut Butter!


What is this PB2, you ask?

PB2 is a life saver for me, since I am a big peanut butter lover! Essentially it is powdered peanut butter with almost all the fat removed: it has 85% less fat than full fat peanut butter. Now don’t be scared. It’s not a franken-food; it’s not a chemical-filled replacement food with no nutritional value and even less taste. Quite the opposite, it still has 5.65 grams of protein per serving and all the flavor of regular peanut butter! It’s all natural: the ingredients are peanuts, sugar and salt. That’s it. And it has a very favorable 53.2 calories and 1.87 grams of fat in each 2 tablespoon serving.

Using PB2

Mix 2 tablespoons of the powder with 1 tablespoon of water if you take your peanut butter straight up. I add a couple drops of agave nectar, as well, though I am sure Equal or Splenda would work too. PB2 mixed this way is perfect for dipping apple slices in, or spreading on toast, or making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

I also like adding the powder to oatmeal for a protein kick in the breakfast, or to fruit smoothies. I haven’t tried baking with it yet but rest assured I will update you when I do!

But my current all-time favorite way to have PB2 is to mix 2 tablespoons of the powder with 1 tablespoon of Torani Sugar Free Chocolate Syrup and spread it on two slices of toasted light bread. I highly recommend that next time you’re looking for a peanut-buttery chocolaty snack that won’t bust your Weight Watchers point bank for the day.

*Link is through my Amazon Associates account.  PB2 can be found at many grocery stores; I've seen it at Hy-Vee and Wal-Mart.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Blueberry Oatmeal Pancake

I could have sworn I found this recipe on the internet, but I have searched and searched and cannot find where it came from, now. So if this is your recipe, please comment and let me know and I will attribute it to you.

The recipe makes 1 serving and calls for:

½ cup egg beaters (I use 3 egg whites)
1/3 cup oatmeal
1/3 cup blueberries (I use frozen)
Dash cinnamon
Dash salt
Splash vanilla

Mix them all together and cook like any pancake: in a pan sprayed with non-stick spray and watch carefully for flippin-time. I would recommend cooking on a lower heat setting so that the pancake cooks all the way through; with the blueberries and the oatmeal, it is a thicker pancake. I used ½ cup frozen blueberries this time and it was a little too many berries for the batter.
I use either fat-free Promise or I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter Spray, and instead of syrup, heated agave nectar. The amber variety of Madhava Agave Nectar has a smoky, almost maple flavor and goes very well with pancakes. It also has a lower glycemic index than syrup, or so I hear. Which it means it has less impact on blood sugar. Keep in mind that all my medical information comes from random internet searches so take my statements for what they’re worth. All I know is I lovelovelove Agave Nectar! I will probably dedicate an entire post to it sometime in the near future.

The pancake looks a little scary because the frozen blueberries squished; trust me, it is yummy! And it’s low in fat, packed with protein and fiber and antioxidants… all those things that I like to seek out for my healthier diet. The protein and fiber help keep me full almost all the way to lunchtime.

I just wanted to share that I have gone to the gym for the first time in months, and I have gone two days in a row! Yesterday I did 20 minutes on the elliptical machine, stretched out and did some situps, and today I did the same thing except added 10 more minutes to the elliptical. I go so slowly on the elliptical because I try to stay in the “fat-burning zone” and I reach that pretty quickly. It’s almost embarrassing and whenever I hear anyone laugh I look around to make sure it’s not because of my slow-mo workout! Ok, two more trips to the gym this week and I get my reward of a new pair of sneakers.

Have a fab week!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Part II of the Trifecta of Chocolaty Goodness… Pumpkin Brownies!

I started with a half-remembered recipe from the Hungry Girl website.  I forgot the recipe called for cake mix, not brownie mix. So my version is as follows:

1 box fudge brownie deluxe mix
1 can pumpkin (not pumpkin pie-filling)

Oops, almost forgot the chocolate chips! Two tablespoons, please.

Mix, mix, keep mixing. It seems dry at first but it will come together. Bake according to box directions. In this case it was 28 to 30 minutes at 350, but I like denser brownies so used a smaller pan, 8x8, and baked them for 45 minutes. The edges were a little dry; next time I’ll use a larger pan so they will cook more evenly.

The result: these brownies are amazing! I cannot taste the pumpkin at all; the flavor is full-on chocolate. But the pumpkin is there in the texture: soft, smooth, dense and rich. And they are low in fat since no eggs, oil or butter are added to the brownie mix. Not to mention that due to the pumpkin, these brownies are full of fiber and antioxidants. But you don’t have to tell anyone. They won’t care anyway! The picture says it all.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


I wanted to do it by Thanksgiving but I’ll take the Wednesday after Thanksgiving! Now I want to lose 10 more lbs by Christmas, though 6 lbs is a more reasonable goal since that’s 3 weigh-in’s away. I just lost more at first because of that initial jump in weight loss I’ve always experienced when starting a new eating plan, probably due to losing water weight.

I’m not doing anything drastic. I’m journaling my food, eating all my daily points and all my weekly points. I try to eat healthy things for the most part, but one of the best parts of Weight Watchers is that nothing is off-limits. I brought cookies to work yesterday and mentioned that they were 1.5 points each… another girl said she was going to bring in some treats but they were definitely not Weight Watchers’ food. And I thought to myself “oh no, you are wrong my friend, it’s ALL Weight Watchers’ food. It just may not be very point-friendly!” Which I’m sure is what she meant, but it just brought to mind one of the things that makes Weight Watchers a lifestyle, not a diet. No foods are off-limits. If you have the points for it, you can use them and stay on your path to a healthier life. But you are encouraged to eat healthier, more filling foods, and to make better choices overall, which will maximize your use of points. Yes, I sound like I drank the kool-aid, but I’m pumped, I just lost 10 lbs!

Enough about me. How are you? Have a fab evening.