Sit. Stay. Cook.

Cook to live. Live to cook.

I came across this picture the other day:

Looking at this, I finally understand what it means when people say that muscle weighs more than fat. I get it now, how one can gain weight while losing mass. Do you see? Do you get it?

Does it click for you, too?

This clicked so hard for me, that I joined a gym – the North Kansas City Community Center – in order to build more muscle, which in turn will help me burn more fat.

Because, you see, I have decided to try something new. I’ve been fat – had a high body fat percentage – for as long as I can remember. Since childhood. I’ve never not been fat. So I’ve decided to try not being fat for a while and see how that goes. In order to give it a run, I’ve got to do some work in the form of weight training, cardio and all the rest.

Speaking of cardio – I started Week 4 Day 1 of the Couch to 5K program yesterday. After a 5-minute warm-up walk, I ran for 3 minutes, walked for 90 seconds, ran for 5 minutes, walked for 3 minutes, ran for 3 minutes, walked for 90 seconds and ran for 5 more minutes before walking a cool down. For those keeping score, I ran a total of 16 minutes yesterday, a personal record! Sure, I’m not a speed demon at this point in my running career, but I’m not working on speed. I’m going for endurance. Once I can run for 30 minutes in a row, then I’ll work on how far I run in that 30 minutes.

All of this running and walking and weight training means we’ve been trying to put together quicker dinners lately. Luckily, it’s summer so there’s all sorts of fresh fruits and veggies out there to throw in the mix. Also, salmon sears up fast! Here’s a couple of hits recently:

Salmon with Strawberry Salsa and Cilantro Lime Rice:

How pretty is that?!

Salmon with Peach Cucumber Salsa and Tabbouleh:

No recipe with this one – I had leftover tabbouleh from camping (I’ll post that recipe soon) and whipped up a peach salsa with cucumber, cilantro, red onion, a Serrano pepper, peaches and lime juice. Delish!

Red Pepper and Goat Cheese Frittata and a salad with spring greens, beets and goat cheese:

All of these meals are fresh, healthy and quick to prepare. That last part is pretty important when I want to spend a couple of hours in the gym each evening.

Tonight we’re having baked fish fillet sandwiches with leftover tabbouleh – I’m on a tabbouleh kick lately – before heading out to the gym for an upper-body workout. My arms are going to smart tomorrow, but I’ll earn that pain.

Remember – sweat is just fat crying. I love to watch it cry.

 

So I’m doing it!

Last Thursday, I started the C25K program. Since I’m new to running, I’m taking it a little slower. So instead of running for three sessions then moving to the next week, I am going to do Week 1 through the end of this week. That way, I can build up my endurance and muscles so when the intensity increases, I’ll be ready!

I’m following a mix of podcasts/apps. On Thursday, I used the C25K app and that version of the program. It had me alternating 30 seconds of running with 90 seconds of walking for 20 minutes, with 5 minute warm-up and cool-down walks. On Saturday and Monday, I followed the 5K101 podcast, which had me alternating running for 2 minutes with walking for 3 minutes, for 20 minutes with 5 minute warm-ups and cool-downs. Tomorrow, I’ll go back to the C25K version, and I haven’t decided what I’ll do on Friday yet. I like this approach because it varies things up a bit to keep things interesting.

I’ve read a good deal of information about proper running form and how to take care of myself before, during and after a run, so I’m not going in blind. One of the biggest things I keep in mind is that this isn’t a race – speed and distance at this point isn’t important. The most important thing at this point in my development is building endurance. So while I may run for 2 minutes, I might not get that far. But I run for the entire 2 minutes. If I start to feel sore or breathless, I slow down, but I keep running. And so far, this has worked really well for me.

Of course, I’ve run about 24 minutes total so what do I know?

I watched a really inspiring video yesterday, and want o share it with you, too:

In the video, Arthur says, “just because I can’t do it today, doesn’t mean I won’t be able to do it someday.” This is the most inspiring and motivating thing I’ve heard in a long time, and have taken it on as a mantra of sorts. I may not be able to run a mile or two or twenty today, but that doesn’t mean I won’t be able to run that far someday.

By the way – since I started walking (and now running) with my Fitbit and tracking my food with the program (about 2 1/2 weeks), I’ve lost 4.5 lbs. That’s pretty motivating, too.

I’ve been in a weight-loss slump for the last year. I haven’t gained any back (thank goodness), but I haven’t lost any, either. I needed something to get me going again – a jump-start. A kick in the (still larger than I’d like them to be) pants.

Enter the Fitbit.

The Fitbit is a high-tech pedometer that tracks steps, distance, stairs, calories burned and activity levels, then syncs the information via a base station to a website. The website then shows graphs and charts of activity through the day, and can also be used to track food, weight and health stats. There’s a social aspect in that you can Friend others with Fitbits, and keep track of their information via a leaderboard – who walked the most steps, was most active, etc. It will even track sleep patterns, though I haven’t used it for that (yet).

Mr. Awesome and I got Fitbits about two weeks ago and have since turned into walking machines. Our goal is to walk at least 10,000 steps a day, but we’ve exceeded that by thousands every day so far. We see it as a competition of sorts – who can walk the most during the day at work, can we be at the top of the leaderboard – and that keeps me motivated to want to walk further.

It’s also what is making me want to take up running.

I’ve never been a runner. In high school, I avoided physical activity of that sort like the plague, and have never run more than a couple hundred yards in my life that I can remember. That is, until the last few days.

Gradually, as we walk on the trail near our house, we’re inserting short bursts of running. “To the end of the fence!” “To the scoreboard!” “Make it to the big tree – not this big tree – that big tree up there!” Over the last few days, as I’ve been able to run in these short segments and realize that I’m not gasping for air or tripping or keeling over in pain, my self-confidence has grown and I am coming to believe that yes, I can be a runner.

Last night, I ran almost a quarter of a mile in one stretch. I wasn’t fast, but I made it, and when I reached my goal point (a light pole somewhere on the trail) I almost cried.

I can’t wait to do it again tonight.

If you have a Fitbit, befriend me at http://www.fitbit.com/user/234NVL. If you don’t have a Fitbit, consider getting one. It’s changed my life – I really don’t think it’s too soon to say that.

All this new activity requires proper fueling for the body. Lately, we’ve been eating a lot of salads for dinner…

…like this one with spring greens, smoked salmon, beets, blue cheese crumbles and candied walnuts:

Or this one with baby arugula, beets and imitation lobster:

Those are goat cheese stuffed dates in the background. Which, by the way, are about as delicious as it gets.

Sometimes, we want a little more than just a big salad. When that happens, an egg makes an appearance:

Don’t forget the Sriracha!

I’m planning on starting the Couch to 5K program in a few days. I’m optimistic – for the first time in my life I can actually picture me not just slimmer, but active and physically fit. This is really exciting – I’m going to be a runner!

It’s Friday, and I’m happy to say I’ve stuck to my goals for the week:

  • I stayed on plan every day.
  • I exercised at least once, usually twice, each day.

Like many things in life, the more I eat better, the more I exercise, the more I want to eat better and exercise. It’s a wonderful cycle.

On Wednesday, UMKC hosted speaker Michelle Robins of Your Wellness Connection, who gave a talk called Embracing a Wellness Lifestyle. Michelle gave her seven habits for a healthy life, which include:

  • Rest, Reflect and Rejuvenate - get plenty of sleep, spend time in nature, thoughtfully consider your own actions, beliefs, choices, etc.
  • Breathe Deeply – oxygenate those cells!
  • Move Your Body – make time for exercise
  • Free Your Space – eliminate the clutter from your house, your office, your car, your mind, your life
  • Go for the Greens – eat lots of fruits and vegetables, especially green, leafy ones
  • Eat from the Sea – and Enjoy the Sun! – Eat more fish, and spend time outside to get Vitamin D
  • Drink to Your Health – drink more water

None of these habits is new news. However, they aren’t easy to put into practice. One of the tips she gave that both Frank and I found particularly useful is, rather than eliminating unhealthy foods from your diet, add in healthy ones. Eventually, the unhealthy ones will fall aside as you begin to enjoy how you feel when eating a healthier diet. This has proven true for us. Sure, greasy cheese pizza is delicious, but it is not worth the cost – weight gain, pain, headaches – that come from eating the junk that is traditional pizza.

Another tip she stressed was to define why you want to lose weight/live healthier. If you know why, you are more likely to stick to your plan.

What is your why?

Mine is this: To become the person I know I am. A short, simple phrase that’s loaded with meaning, expectation, hope, promise.

Finally, Michelle shared her recipe for what she calls a Green Smoothie. I modified her recipe a bit to make it one serving, and to add a bit of yogurt:
Green Smoothie
1 c. water
1 1/2 c. fresh spinach
1/4 apple
1/2 banana
1/4 c. frozen mango chunks
2 Tbsp. fat-free plain yogurt
3-4 ice cubes
Put the water and spinach in a blender and mix until smooth. Add the fruit and yogurt and puree until very smooth. Toss in the ice cubes and mix until the smoothie is as smooth or chunky as you like.
Michelle claims that drinking one of these a few times a week will do wonders for your overall health and well-being. Not being one to look a gift horse bearing an improvement to my overall health and well-being in the mouth, I prepared and drank my very first Green Smoothie this morning.

The verdict? It was delicious. Really – it was a teeny bit veggie-tasting, but mostly just fruity and cold and very good. I will have another tomorrow morning.

But – and I speak from experience gained this morning – make sure to remove the sticker from your apple BEFORE putting it in the blender. Sure, the sticker has some extra fiber, but I still have sticker in my teeth right now.

This weekend I will be giving two speeches in my Public Speaking class. On Saturday, I will give  a product persuasion speech on the Sous Vide Supreme. Basically, I figure if I can sell them on sous vide cooking, I can sell them on the Sous Vide Supreme. We’ll see. Sunday, I have to give a persuasive speech, and I’ve chosen to try to persuade my class to participate in the KC Slimdown Challenge, which starts next Monday. Wish me luck.

I’ll also be doing much swimming (hopefully), cooking, healthy eating, resting, rejuvenating, reflecting, breathing, drinking water, moving, and all those other things that come with a busy weekend.

My weekend was busy, mainly because I’m taking a Communications class for the next couple of weekends that meets on Saturday and Sunday mornings.

Friday night after dinner (Sloppy (and Healthy) Joes) and a 30 -minute bike ride, I made a bunch of spring rolls for my class the next day to go with my demonstration speech on how to make Vietnamese spring rolls. Then we watched Take Me Home Tonight, which was okay, but not great. The 80s references were pretty entertaining, but it’s not a movie I’d want to seek out to see again in the future.

Saturday, I got up early, went to class, came home and went to the pool. I swam some laps and got some sun. Perfect pool weather. Then, because it was Saturday night, and because I’d been on-plan all week, and because we had a Groupon, and because it sounded so, so good, we went to dinner at Michael Smith where we had a 5-course tasting menu and a bottle of Kim Crawford unoaked chardonnay from New Zealand. Both the dinner and the wine were very enjoyable.

Notice the absence of bike rides on Saturday. On the fifth day she rested. Or something like that.

Sunday, I went to class again, went to the pool again, swam some laps again. I was in the mood to cook something summery, but interesting, for dinner, so we made Pan-Seared Scallops with Thai Sauce and Rice and Cold Avocado, Orange and Lime Soup. It was positively delicious, and so pretty!

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Peaches are in season right now, so for dessert I chopped up a peach and topped it with some greek yogurt that I had mixed with fresh rosemary and a little honey. Then I crunched up a Newton Fruit Crisp cookie and sprinkled it on top:

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Yum!

Then, it was back to the grindstone with 30 minutes on the bike with Harry.

Sunday night we caught up on the second season of Louie and watched last week’s Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Today started off right with a 30 minute bike ride and a breakfast of an English muffin and yogurt. Lunch was leftover sloppy joes. They are just as good days later, I’m tellin’ ya.

I’m hoping to go swimming after work and if I do, dinner will be at Subway.

A week into the KC Slimdown challenge and I’m feeling very positive about my progress!

Yesterday, I got up early and rode my recumbent bike for 30 minutes again. So far, I’ve been sticking to my exercise goals, and for that I am very happy!

I ate well all day, and stayed under my points allotment. Not intentionally – I felt like I ate as much as I wanted to. Check it:

Breakfast:
Weight Watchers English muffin w/2 tsp. Brummel & Brown: 3 pts.
Blueberry Fiber One Yogurt: 1 pt.
Coffee with stevia: 0 pts.

Lunch:
Weight Watchers Smart Ones Fettuccini Alfredo: 6 pts.
Peach: 0 pts.
Starbucks double-shot with sugar-free vanilla syrup: 0 pts.

Dinner:
1/2 Chipotle bowl with chicken, 1 Tbsp. sour cream and 1 Tbsp. guacamole: 8 pts.

For the day, my points added up to 18, and I have 29 to spend. So what did I do with those extra 11 points?

This:
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I had a sample cup of peanut butter/cupcake swirl frozen yogurt from Lemon Tree (1 pt.).

Then I came home and did 30 more minutes on the bike.

I KNOW, RIGHT?! What a good day.

AND – I went grocery shopping for tonight’s dinner yesterday afternoon. In the process, I bought the first bottle of wine I’ve ever purchased that cost more than $6.

Why would I go and do that? Well, I’m glad you asked.

Last weekend, Frank and I had a lovely meal at Pot Pie, where we enjoyed their out-of-this-world mussels and a very tasty bottle of chardonnay. The wine was a Laboure-Roi Macon Villages Chardonnay, but I couldn’t remember that much when I went to Cosentino’s in Brookside. So I asked the guy for “an unoaked chardonnay with a French phrase and the word Macon in it.” That was enough information, apparently, and I went home with a bottle.

What’s a girl who’s participating in a weight loss challenge doing buying wine? The way I see it, if I’m going to drink at all during this challenge, it’s going to be decent stuff. So I plan on having  a glass of this tonight. It will pair wonderfully with my #, don’t you think? ;)

My first full day of actively participating in the KC Slimdown challenge has been a total success!

I started the day off right with 30 minutes on my bike and 40 pages of Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix.

When I got to work, I parked as far from the door as I could get so I got some extra steps in before I reached my desk.

For breakfast, I had a fiber-and-protein-packed English muffin and some blueberry Fiber One yogurt.

Last night, I made my Classic Stuffed Peppers, so I got to have one for lunch today. These are SO GOOD as leftovers. Make them and see what I mean.

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I know. It doesn’t look much like a pepper. Trust me – it looked sufficiently peppery before I chopped it into edible bits. The drink is my current favorite: a double shot on ice with sugar-free vanilla syrup and a splash of fat-free milk. Delicious!

Once home, we started on dinner. Tonight was one of my all-time favorites: Pan-Seared Salmon with Honey-Balsamic Sauce and Buttery Herb Couscous. It sounds complicated, and the picture below may even make it look complicated, but this is seriously one of the easiest meals to make. Once all the pans are on, the dish comes together in 10 minutes.

This:

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Turns into this:
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Duh-rool.

After dinner, Frank wanted frozen yogurt, so I went with him and had a sample cup (about 1.5 tablespoons) of carrot cake/cheesecake swirl. Perfect!

We got back home and I spent another 30 minutes with my bike and Harry Potter.

So I ate healthy, did an hour of cardio/muscle-building exercise and even had a bit of froyo. All in all, a good first day.

Day two, here I come!

Today, five of my friends/co-workers and I registered for the KC Slimdown Challenge, a city-wide weight-loss competition sponsored by Cerner. We set up our team on the competition website, then took a field trip to a YMCA and did our official weigh-in.

People from all over Kansas City are competing for the grand prize – an all-expenses paid trip to a resort in Arizona – and our workplace, UMKC, is also awarding prizes to teams made up of UMKC employees. Each person on our team has a good amount of weight to lose, but have been stuck at plateaus for a little while. We’re looking at this challenge as a way to motivate ourselves and each other to get to our goal weights, while hopefully earning some prizes along the way.

For the next 11 weeks, I will be completely committed to losing weight and helping my team do well in this challenge. It won’t be easy, but we have each other, so that will make it a bit better. Being accountable to someone other than myself tends to have a positive effect on my efforts.

I plan on using some, if not all, of the following strategies:

  • Logging all of my food and exercise into Weight Watchers
  • Working out each weekday morning for 30 minutes
  • Taking at least one extended walk per day
  • Using hand weights while watching TV in the evening
  • Limiting my alcohol intake – bye, bye martinis :(
I’m also going to make an effort to post as much as I can about my progress here because, as I mentioned above, accountability is key for me. With that in mind, I present to you today’s lunch:

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That is a Lean Cuisine Tortilla Crusted Fish meal. I swear, it tasted better than it looked. It was pretty good, actually. Note the water in the background. I polished that off with lunch and am well into another one right now.

Dinner tonight will be my Classic Stuffed Peppers. I love this peppers recipe because the peppers are really large and filling, but they are low in points – only 7 per pepper! Serve them with some green beans, or a salad, and you have a very satisfying (and delicious) meal.

Send good thoughts my way as a start on this challenge. I’m confident that I will reach my goal, but that’s today. I need to keep this confidence up tomorrow, and the next day, and for 11 more weeks!

Here’s what we had for dinner last week, complete with links to recipes in my cookbook. An asterisk (*) indicates recipes we tried for the first time:

Monday: Classic Stuffed Peppers and sautéed spinach

Tuesday: Macaroni and cheese with tuna and peas

Wednesday: Chicken and Leek Potpie*

Thursday: Sushi at Kato!

Friday: Turkey Antipasto Panini and roasted Brussels sprouts

Saturday: Chipotle!

Sunday: Pan-Seared Salmon with Honey-Balsamic Sauce and Buttery Herb Couscous

Treat Monday: Peanut Butter Hugs

My first week on the new Weight Watchers PointsPlus system has been really great. I’ve been motivated to eat more fruit and I’ve found myself reaching for grapes when I otherwise would have reached for a VitaTop or baked potato chips. I’ve also been more motivated to exercise lately – re-reading the Harry Potter series while on my bike is a good strategy! As a result, I met my goal of using my bike three times last week! YAY ME!

AND – I’ve used it twice this week! YAY ME AGAIN!

I’m almost through Christmas shopping and can’t wait until our families get their gifts. We’ve found great stuff for everyone on our list – you know, those just perfect gifts you can’t wait to give (I have four words for my nephew who doesn’t read this blog – two-foot tall tonton) – now all I have to do is wrap them.

First off, here’s what we had for dinner last week, complete with links to recipes in my cookbook. An asterisk (*) indicates recipes we tried for the first time:

Monday: Grilled chicken sandwiches and Baby Red Potato Salad

Tuesday: leftover grilled chicken sandwiches and Baby Red Potato Salad

Wednesday: Crab Cakes with Red Pepper Sauce* and Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Thursday: THANKSGIVING!

Friday: THANKSGIVING, Part 2

Saturday: Chicken Cacciatore with Red Pepper Tomato Sauce and Parmesan Polenta

Sunday: Leftover Chicken Cacciatore with Red Pepper Tomato Sauce and Parmesan Polenta

Treat Monday: Mom’s Chocolate Fudge

Now for more fun stuff:

Weight Watchers launched a new system today called PointsPlus. Instead of considering calories, fat and fiber when determining the points value of food, they now consider all of the macronutrients: protein, carbohydrates, fat and fiber. Notice that calories are missing from the new formula. The goal is to encourage healthier choices, while discouraging consumption of processed foods. It’s also to take into account the way our bodies process nutrients – it takes more energy to process protein than sugar, so foods with higher protein content, like chicken, are worth less points than before.

I really like the sound of this new approach. This semester, I have been taking a Human Nutrition class and I’ve learned a great deal about macro (and micro) nutrients, how the body processes foods and what each nutrient can do in the body. While I already knew much of the information thanks to Weight Watchers and a general interest in the subject, I learned a lot that I didn’t know about what too much or too little of certain nutrients can do in the body.

For example – did you know that food that naturally contains cholesterol doesn’t necessarily raise your cholesterol? When you eat food that naturally contains cholesterol (like shellfish), your liver responds by producing less cholesterol, thereby balancing out the scales, so to speak. However, when you eat food that is high in saturated fat, your liver produces more cholesterol to process the fats, raising your overall cholesterol. So go indulge in some cholesterol-rich shellfish. It’s okay!

Anyway.

I’m a good example of why Weight Watchers revamped the points system. Why? Because I’ve been eating a lot of VitaTops lately. Under the old system, VitaTops had one point a piece. One point for a sweet, cakey, chocolaty treat that, while loaded with vitamins, is also exactly the type of processed food I should be reconsidering. But one point is so low! Contrast that with the points value of a banana – under the old system, a banana had 2 points. Why on Earth would I choose a 2 point banana over a one point chocolate snack cake? I didn’t. I opted for the food that was lower in points, but not as natural. I was opting again and again for a processed food over a natural food. And I think that’s why I’ve been at a plateau for over three months.

Under the new system, all fruits, including bananas, are “free” – that is, they have zero points. And that VitaTop I like so much? It’s now worth three points, because it’s loaded with carbohydrates and has very little protein. So while I have a mini-surplus of VitaTops that will be staying in my freezer for a while, I am stocking up on fruits that I love – like red grapes, mangoes, bananas, kiwi, berries, etc. – and will be indulging in them more than ever.

I’m really excited about the new system, because I think it will help get me out of the rut I’ve been in weight-wise. But it also means that I have to recalculate the points values for all of my recipes. For now, all points, unless otherwise marked as PointsPlus, were calculated under the old system.

The goals for this week are to get acquainted with the new system, to try to stay within the allotted points, and to get my ass on my exercise bike at least three times this week. I started off right by getting up early this morning and going for 22 minutes. There’s some truth to the notion that if you pretend to be what you want to be, you will eventually become that person. I’m going to try it out by pretending I’m an athletic person who loves exercising. We’ll see how that goes.