Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Weeks 2 and 3: Why I Love Meal Planning

Weeks 2 and 3 had one very big highlight to them: My new six-week meal plan. I knew if I was going to survive this allergy-free diet thing, I could not just coast by eating snatches of things here or there. I had to have a plan. I had to eat good, yummy, amazing food that I would eat regardless of allergies or no allergies. I had to be eating sweet, succulent yummy dishes. So, I made a six-week meal planner for dinners. 42 dinners. Yikes! I'm not even sure I know 42 dishes. But I put together a meal plan. And it is good. I'm cooking more than ever and I'm eating better than ever. 

Plus, I'm saving money. 

Does it get better than that? 

Monday, January 19, 2009

Week 1: Progress on the Allergy-Free Diet

The allergy-free diet has been going strong for a week now. While I'm pleased as punch about this week, I'm even more interested to see how week 18, 19 and 20 develop simply because I'd like to have jumped all the hurdles I'm going to have to jump to actually arrive at those weeks. In other words, mama wants to know if she can make it that long.

It has by no means been a obstacle-free week. For example:
  • opened and used a can of black beans and then looked a the label only to discover that it contained sugar. I like to think I'm a pretty consistent label reader but this one caught me totally off guard. Why is sugar added to beans? 
  • foraging after a party at the parents' house this weekend and took a big old bite of flank steak only to realize within seconds that it had been marinated in soy sauce (contains wheat); that didn't stop me from taking 3 or 4 more bites; it took me that long to wrestle myself away from it. 
  • could not eat my smoked paprika chicken without what I call special sauce (mayo, ketchup, dijon mustard) and said a fond farewell to ketchup as a part of that mix; know that I will be experimenting with making my own ketchup just so I can keep making the special sauce.
Thank goodness in all of this for Elana over at She's been keeping me sane. She's also been keeping me cooking. In the last few days, I've made her chocolate chip cookies, her almond butter blondies, her cod piccata, and her smoked paprika almonds. All were yummy, but the smoked paprika almonds were fragrant and smoky and hot. I tested them out on Meg's clan and got rave reviews.

I modified the recipe a bit because I'm not a spicy hot fan. You should know though that any recipe that starts with fresh garlic and smoked paprika is going good places.

Smoked Paprika Almonds
from Elana at

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic
3 cups raw almonds
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon celtic sea salt

1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat
2. Add garlic to the skillet and saute for 3-5 minutes, until the garlic is almost brown
3. Add smoked paprika and salt and stir to make a paste
4. Add the almonds and stir constantly until they are thoroughly coated
5. Continue toasting almonds in the skillet until they are fragrant, about 5 minutes
6. Remove from heat and allow the nuts to cool in the pan
7. Serve

They actually made me think of popcorn too. There was this delicious, toasty smell wafting through my house the rest of the night and I ate more almonds than should likely be consumed in one four-hour period.

Easy, fast and you may not be able to stop at just one!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Day Six: Starvation and Refeeding

I read this awesome post today that is exactly in line with the concept of intuitive eating. 

Today I starved. It has been a busy week with long nights and I've been trying not only to do this allergy-free diet but also to exercise every day. And I'm in school. And work has been very stressful. So every area of my life this week was calling out for attention. Financially it was hard as well. I finally got the money I needed in the middle of the week, but by then I was deep in the depths of my week and didn't have time to do menu planning or serious grocery shopping. I existed throughout the week eating smidgens of things here and there but without getting out the cutting board and firing up the oven and really getting some good food going in my life. 

It all came to a head this morning. I left the house late without packing any food--a sure sign of things going wrong for me that day. Whenever this happens, I usually starve and starve and starve all day long until I hit the 3PM bewitching hour when the only thing I can think about is: FOOD. Glorious, beautiful food. And all I do is think about food until I get some. Usually this means the vending machines, a fast food run, or the a jaunt over to the bookstore. Anything to get my blood sugar up and to get me feeling better. Or at least less hungry. 

Today, I simply had to go home and make some food. I couldn't run to a fast food place. There was nothing that I could pick up really quickly to feed myself. I had to go home and make food. And it took time. And I was so hungry. But if I'm ever going to truly do this allergy-free thing, I have to take care of my body and do the things it keeps asking me to do. So, I'm doing those things. 

I guess part of this changing process is learning not only that starvation is detrimental to me emotionally and physically, but also that it takes time to feed yourself. Whether you wait until 3PM to acknowledge that fact or not. 

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Day Four Status

I'm hungry. 

I need to go grocery shopping. I need to get a meal plan. I need to cook a bunch of food. 

I have exercised Monday and Tuesday--at least 20 minutes each day on the treadmill. 

I also made a giant, lovely chocolate cake for my sister's birthday yesterday and I didn't touch it. I will eat that cake again in the future at some point, but for yesterday the choice was to not go there. 

So, at least I'm swinging a bit more to the healthy side of life. 

Monday, January 12, 2009

Day Two Is Going to Bed

So, the plan is in action. It has commenced. I'm on the road. 

I felt like a million bucks today. Funny thing, isn't it? I mean you stay away from the things that your body can't handle and all of a sudden you are feeling like a rock star. 

That's me: Rock star incarnate. 

Well, at least I'm on the road. 

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Year of Action: My Health Plan for 2009

I sat down and nailed out all of the particulars. I feel good about my plan. I think it is a good lifestyle plan. My only hesitation and caution is I don't want to fall deeply into "diet mentality" and perfectionism. I'm hoping to avoid those triggers by setting realistic weight loss goals as well as only weighing myself on the first Saturday of each month.

I'm calling this year The Year of Action because last year was The Year of Inaction where I took my love of avoidance to the extreme. I'm exhausted from all that avoiding. It wears me out. At least with action or hard work, I can feel good about accomplishing something at the end of the day rather than the nonstop feeling of pressure and unease because I spent so much time avoiding.

So, here's the plan in all of its detailed glory:

The Year of Action

What is my health plan?

After months and years of indecision, I’ve decided. I’m going to follow the 6WBMO plan with my modifications. I’m going to exercise 6 times a week? (or at minimum 4 times a week) either to a DVD, at my parent’s house, at the gym or outside. I’m going to record my weight and my waist measurements, but they are not the signs of progress. My signs of progress are whether I’m eating and exercising well, how my clothes fit, what my energy is like and what my mood is. The weight loss is simply a by product of healthy living.

My spiritual and emotional health has to be intact as well. I’m going to study the scriptures and pray each day.

Short-term goals:
For two months to keep my exercise and eating goals, so when I go in for my blood tests with the doctor on March 6th these stats will be improved

  1. Exercised at least 4 times a week
  2. Stayed away from dairy, wheat and sugar in a modified allergy diet.
  3. As I progress with this diet, see if I can also cut out corn and oats as they are on my food intolerance list
  4. Ingest brown rice and red potatoes only a few times a week instead of every day.
  5. Improve my HDL levels to a normal, healthy level
  6. Normal glucose response—in healthy glucose levels so out of insulin resistance.
  7. Improve my Vitamin D levels to normal range

Long-term goals:

  1. Lose 200 lbs. in the next 20 months
  2. Maintain a healthy weight (within a 5-10 pound range) for five years

Eating plan:

1. Eat 5-6 times a day following 6WBMO plan
a. 2 oz. lean protein with each meal
b. 1-2 cups of veggies 2-3 times a day
c. ½ cup fruit 3 times a day
d. ½ cup carbs 2-3 times a day
e. Fats: good oils, raw nuts and seeds, avocados
f. Almond milk and almond cheese
g. Low salt, fresh, whole foods, cooked at home
h. 1 small piece of great dark chocolate daily, but only may be savored
i. Drink 100-150 oz. of water a day (4-5 bottles, 32 oz. size)

2. Foods I will seek out:
a. Lean proteins: turkey, chicken, fish, eggs, grass-fed beef (periodically)
b. Good carbs: yams, squashes, red potatoes, brown rice, spelt, rye, (caution on corn and oats—need to temporarily cut these out for food intolerances)
c. All veggies: spinach, onions, garlic, all greens, broccoli,
d. Lots of fruit, especially apples, all kinds of berries, kiwi, peaches, pears, nectarines,

3. Foods that make me sick, tired, bloated, fat, depressed and overweight
a. Sugar and sugary sweets, treats and desserts
b. Processed foods: chips, candy, crackers, breads, pastries, cookies,
c. Fast food: burgers, fries, sandwiches, chips, soda,
d. Wheat
e. Dairy

4. Foods that I eventually have to eliminate for a few weeks for my food allergy elimination diet
a. Corn, oats
b. Citrus

Exercise plan:

  1. Exercise 4-6 times a week
  2. Walking at least 3 times a week
  3. Pilates DVD and yoga DVD another 2-3 times a week
  4. Possibly rebounding (little trampoline)
  5. Strength training 2 times a week
  6. Stretching and flexibility 2 times a week
  7. Exercise in the morning, first thing


  1. Measure days of exercise as well as time spent
  2. Record food in online diary
  3. Weigh once a month at beginning of month
  4. Measure waist, hips, breasts at beginning of month

Friday, January 9, 2009

Why I'm Thinking about Maintenance

It may seem funny initially to contemplate maintaining a healthy lifestyle and healthy weight when I'm just starting to lose a bunch of weight, but I believe it is essential. At least it has felt essential this time around.

I've lost weight before. I've lost a lot of weight before. I've lost a lot of weight several times before. What I haven't yet done is maintain that healthier weight.

That is where I am at in this health journey now. I want maintenance. I want to live a healthy lfie despite trouble, turmoil or a busy life. I want to do life differently than I have been doing it.

I heard a while ago that it takes five years of maintenance for a weight loss goal to stick forever with a person. I want my five years. I want to lose this weight and I want five years of living healthy that then turns in to 10, 15, 20, 30, 40, and 50 years of healthy living. I want it to stick.

When I started regaining so much weight, so quickly a few years ago, I realized there was a lot more to losing weight and living healthy than just hitting some magic number on a scale. A lot more. What I determined at that point was that I wanted to learn that lot. If I was going to be successful at this goal of losing weight, I was going to have to consider maintenance now. Not when I reached some number on a scale, but now.

So, I've been searching for people who have lost 100 pounds or more and maintained that weight loss for five years. I've found a few. But in reality, most people who lose massive amounts of weight regain some or all of it within five years. Not all, mind you. I think part of the problem is we make such a big, big deal out of losing weight and achieiving a new body that we forget that to tell the stories of people who have continued living healthy lives for decades after. The initial weight loss gets all the headlines. It has all the sizzle and the sparkle of a new body, new clothes, new love, and new life.

For this reason, I find this recent post by DietGirl to be so incredibly valuable. Shauna Reid, the blogger at spent four or five years losing 175 lbs. She's now in to her third year of maintaining that weight loss. What she has to say about maintenance in this post makes more sense to me than ANYTHING I've heard anyone else say about maintenance before. Shauna says that she lived on euphoria alone the first year after her weight loss. The second year was hard. She'd written a book about her weight loss and was flooded with feedback about what an inspiration she was when she was cycling through bouts of eating junk food and little exercise. She says:

There were times when I could have cheerfully burned my book. I bugged the heck out of myself with my optimism and irritating self acceptance. I was just plain jealous of Book Shauna, to be honest. I could barely believe that was me who'd lost all that weight and stuck at it for so many years. How did I start wanting change more than chocolate? That determined girl seemed like a stranger and I worried I'd never find her again.

Shauna, you took the words right out of my mouth. I've worried for three years that I'd never find the girl who lost 105 lbs. a few years ago. The excitement. The expectation. The clarity of thought. I've been waiting for her to show up again and get me through the weight loss so I can move into maintenance.

Maintenance seems to be a story about choosing to do all the hard things involved in weight loss--eating right, exercising, confronting emotions, changing bad habits, making difficult decisions--without all the press. There is no big parade for maintaining a healthy weight for three years or four years or even twenty. The big build up, the great goal seems to be about losing the weight. Then you lose a whole bunch of weight, you celebrate your achievement and then life gets hard again. You have to choose either to keep going with your healthy lifestyle or abandon it. And I abandoned my healthy lifestyle.

I gave it up for many reasons, but I think the real clincher is something called the diet mentality. I invested myself heavily in that mentality. It includes things like: obsessing about the scale, perfectionism in eating and exercising, all-or-nothing outlook, beating myself up for eating anything off plan and focusing on that one perfect moment when the scale finally reads my magic number. That kind of thinking took me to a dangerous place emotionally that exploded in my face 14 months after I began changing my health.

Physically I felt better than I had felt in a long, long time. Emotionally though I was a basket case. When my explosion occurred, I begain eating everything in sight almost immediately. If I had not been so caught up in the diet mentality, I might have had the ability to stay with the emotions I was experiencing and allow myself the psychic space to freak out little bit. But because of the perfectionism--all or nothing--mentality that is inherent in this screwed-up thinking, I didn't pick myself up the next day and acknowledge that while I had eaten three pieces of cake, four sandwiches, and any cookie I could get my hands on the day before, it was okay. I was okay. I didn't know how to deal with that place of terror. Or my way of dealing with it was to EAT. And eat I did. Over and over and over again. Anything I could get my hands on. All the time.

I hit a brick wall and exploded emotionally and I did what I had done for a long, long time before. I ate. I soothed myself with food. I ate to forget that I was hurting. I ate to hide from my failure. I ate to mask the pain. I ate because I didn't realize that I didn't have to beat myself up for making a mistake.

If I could go back now, with everything that I've learned over the last few years, I would like to try handling that emotional explosion this way:

STOP. Stop. Quiet yourself. Sit somewhere. Acknowledge your pain. Feel it. Name it. Feel it again. Eat if you want. Don't eat. Run. Play. Dance. Sing. Mourn. Scream. Hurt. But stop and feel. Allow for gray. My health, my future, my plan seemed so black and white. I did not know how to acknowledge what I wanted while at the same time acknowledge that it might not turn out that way and to BE OKAY. I did not account for contingencies. Who wants to really? But when they come, I want a better way. I know now what gorging and gorging and eating nonstop will do to me. I know now where it will take me. I want to choose a different way. Not a perfect way. Not the only way. But experiment. Try a different way to handle the hurt that is seeping out you.

If I could redo that emotional explosion now, I would approach myself with gentleness. With kindness. With hope that things can change. With hard work no matter what. With space for the unknown to occur without me losing myself. I would hold my hand. Be a friend. And acknowledge that things might be really tough for a while.

That's why I want to think about maintenance now. I have to change my emotional lifestyle if I'm ever going to succeed at my physically healthy lifestyle. They go hand in hand.

Weigh In: January 9, 2009

Weight: 335 pounds
Waist: 52 inches

Honestly, I'm a bit shocked that I weigh 335 pounds. With all the eating I did over Christmas break, I assumed I would have gained more weight. I guess though I've been losing weight slowly since last spring. I don't have any hard data to back me up but I'm pretty sure I weighed about 355 pounds when we went to Denmark in May 2008. I'm also pretty sure that I lost about 10 pounds from all the walking--and from eating a great breakfast every day. I've slowly been going down the scale since then. And I mean slowly. Because I've gone back up the scale as well. I just haven't yo-yo'd with quite the rapidity or the poundage that I've experienced in the past. 

I think it is a good thing to be 335 pounds today. 

Thursday, January 8, 2009

RECIPE: Spinach Turkey Burger

This is a simple, easy, hearty, healthy turkey burger recipe that is a regular feature on my menu now. I just discovered it a couple of months ago and the first time I made the recipe, I said, "Wow!" Often I'm underwhelmed by a recipe or overwhelmed by the intricacies of the instructions, but this recipe is straightforward and simple. I love those kind of recipes.

Typically, I find myself at the grocery store stocking up for the week and unless I have my menus for the week mapped out I will return home having forgotten one essential ingredient for some recipe. This recipe is so easy though, I doubt I will forget anything.

My version is a variation on this recipe from There is something just right about the combination of red onion, garlic and spinach. Enjoy!

Spinach Turkey Burger
  • 2 teaspoons grapeseed oil, 1 turn of the pan
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus some for drizzling
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 1 box or bag, 5 ounces, fresh spinach
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano, lightly crushed in the palm
  • 8-10 thin slices mozzarella cheese (I use almond mozzarella)
  • 1 1/3 pounds ground turkey breast,
  • 1 tablespoon grill seasoning (recommended: Montreal Salt-Free Steak Seasoning by McCormick)

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. To one side, add a little grapeseed oil, add the chopped garlic and chopped red onion and cook 5 minutes. Transfer the onions and garlic to a bowl to cool. Return pan to heat. Add grapeseed oil to pan and then add fresh spinach without stems. Cook over medium heat until spinach wilts about 3-5 minutes. Add the spinach to the bowl with cool onions and garlic and season with 1 teaspoon of oregano. Add in ground turkey, grill seasoning and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil. Mix and form into 8 small to medium patties, 1-inch thick. Raise heat on pan to medium-high. Add patties and cook 6 min on each side. Or you can grill on an indoor grill for 5 minutes. Add mozzarella slices to top of patties and melt them for 1-2 minutes.

Makes 8 small burgers.

Note: The original recipe said to cook the onions and garlic in extra-virgin olive oil over medium heat, but extra-virgin olive oil is not made for sauteeing things at high heat, so I use grapeseed oil to sautee the onions, garlic and spinach. Still adds a great flavor but grapeseed oil can withstand the higher temperatures. You could use an olive oil made for high heat temperatures, but you might want to try grapeseed oil and see if you like it too.


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