Friday, February 26, 2010

Another 1 Bites the Dust

Happy Friday blogland.  Let's get right to it shall we?

That's a 1.2 lb. loss this week and a new breakthrough -
3 weeks in a row of losing weight!
Can I get an Amen?!

I hope this truly is a sign that I am winning the thyroid and body battle that I 've been in for months. I've always said that I don't care what the loss is, I just want to see that scale going down.

Since it's Friday, it's time for another Perfect 10 update.  It's going to be simple this week.  Goals:

Track my food: Yes, every day
Lose 8 pounds: Total of 6.6 so far
Run a minimum of 20 miles per week: Nope, not this week.  did 16.85 which is pretty darn good for someone recovering from pneumonia
Water: 64 oz. a day: Yes.  Easy but I still think it's because I'm so dried out from all the meds I'm on.

Now for this weeks fact about Helen. I did not start running until I was 42 years old.  I started by 'accident' when my doctor suggested I insert some running intervals into my regular walks.  He suggested this because I was trying desperately to stay off blood pressure meds.  He suggested that I go to a track and walk a lap then run a lap.  Easy enough, right?  NOPE.  That first running lap was about 1/3 of the of the lap running and the rest walking and trying to catch my breath.  Because I have what Mr. Helen calls a pit bull streak (when I get ahold of something I won't. let. go.), there was no way in heck I was going to let that lap defeat me!  I kept at it until I could run that whole lap.  When I worked my way up to running 12 laps I decided to enter my first road race.  Back then I had no clue that good running shoes and wicking clothing was important.  In fact, I ran my first race with both of my legs bound up from ankle to knee because I had such bad shin splints.  But, when I crossed that finish line, running had me hook, line and sinker. In the end, I still had to start taking those BP meds - the doc said you can't fight genetics sometimes - but I have never looked back and today I proudly call myself a runner.

Speaking of running first races, if you have a minute pop over to Shelley's blog and wish her good luck - she's running her very first 5K tonight!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Confessional is Open

A little bit of a meme today because, after all, confession is good for the soul.

  1. As much as I like to cook and eat very fresh healthy food, I have occasions where convenience foods are the best I can do (running late for work!).  Today, for example, my breakfast is a Jimmy Dean D-Light Egg White, Turkey Sausage and Cheese on a Whole Grain English Muffin and my lunch is a Smart Ones Lasagne Florentine with a small side salad.  Neither are necessarily a bad choice, but I don't care for all the sodium in convenience foods.
  2. My knee has been bothering me lately and I've been putting off going to the Ortho.  I don't want him to tell me no running.
  3. I am quite afraid of "losing" my running.  This very thing has happened to two of my friends in the last year.  It's not a pretty sight.
  4. Some of you have been following me since the beginning and know that I had a huge falling out with my sister at Thanksgiving.  Until this past Tuesday we had not spoken.  Last week my hubby came home after dropping our nephew off and told me to call her that she was ready to talk.  So I did.  We basically agreed to disagree and move on. We both are trying to figure out why people (other family members) expect that we would agree 100% of the time. 
  5. The fact that I am turning 50 is really, really, REALLY bothering me.  I can't shake the feeling that I have failed and don't have enough time to fix my failures.
  6. I think my husband is up to something for my 50th birthday and I feel sort of conflicted about that since what I want to do is crawl in my bed and cover my head.  Normally, I am totally a party girl.
  7. Blogging and "virtual" friends are a good fit for me as I tend to be a bit of a loner.  It's like you get to have relationships with people without the bother of the actual people.
  8. My husband and actually some of my girl friends don't understand why I would spend $55 on an anti-aging cream for my face.  Really, if you don't understand it, I can't explain it.
  9. I've yet to find the perfect pair of jeans but I think that's because I've never felt comfortable at any weight I've ever been at - which is a whole other ball of wax.
  10. I read quite a few blogs that I rarely comment on. 
Your confessions here:

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


Certain: having or feeling no doubt or uncertainty; confident and assured; perfect knowledge of total security from error.

I have been thinking a lot about certainty lately.  I think the trigger was my surprise weight loss this past week.  I had assumed that because I'd been sick and not exercising, but still eating around 1500 calories a day that I would gain.

Around 6 months ago when I started blogging, I had one goal: to be under 180 lbs. by my 50th birthday.  So the name of my blog is a triple entendre: 180 lbs., 180 days to get under that by turning my life around 180 degrees.

As the months went on and my weight bounced around I began to think that maybe I would not make that goal.  It was frustrating and spiritually and emotionally exhausting.  I didn't want to be consumed by this because it certainly wasn't a race per se.   But when I started I weighed around 185 and thought for certain that I could at least make 179 in 6 months.

With this past week's weigh in at 179.2 I should feel confident that I have made my goal.  But I don't.  The reason being is this is the third time I've gone under 180 in the past 6 months, only to have my uncooperative body betray me and my weight bounce back up.  180.6 has been the most popular number... so close and yet so far.

While running on my treadmill this morning I began to muse over this uncertain feeling that I have and wonder when I will feel no doubt that I am not going to bounce back up and that I will be headed for 160ville.  I decided that it will probably take me being closer to 175 because rarely do I bounce up 5 lbs.  My great hope, since I've had weight loss for a couple weeks in a row is that my body has flipped and is understanding that I do not intend to stay where I am; that I will be rewarded with fat burning Scale Victories this week and in the weeks to come.

One thing I know for certain is that I cannot quit.  I do have my eyes on a prize and I am going to get there one way or the other and I will arrive confident and assured that I never have to look back again.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

What to Cook? What to Eat?

I don't know about the rest of you but I go through stages where I am completely bored with what I am eating.  I tend to have a few things that I keep in rotation for breakfast and lunch (mostly because I eat both meals at work) and then I vary dinner.  When I get in one of these moods I generally sit down and start reading cookbooks or go through my file with index cards of recipes.

A couple weeks ago, I was in BJs (a warehouse store) and I walked by the book section as usual.  This book caught my eye:

Of course I've seen the "Eat This, Not That" book series before but never purchased one because honestly, I already knew most of their suggestions.  This book is different because they've taken dishes from popular restaurants and come up with a healthier version or come up with a different dish that gives the same flavors for less fat and calories. It is divided into sections: Breakfast, Appetizers & Small Bites, Doups & Salads, Sandwiches & Burgers, Off the Grill, Pasta, American Classics, Ethnic Dishes, Sides, Snacks & Sauces, and Desserts & Drinks.  Additionally there are pages and pages of information on how to stock your pantry, buy pots and pans, and has pages like the snack matrix or the skewer grid.  The whole book appealed to me because I do quite a bit of cooking - we just are not folks who eat out a lot.  I purchased the book and read it cover to cover like a novel.  On Sunday, I tried my first dish.  I went to the Ethnic Dishes section and chose the Chicken Fried Rice.  The authors compare this to PF Chang's Fried Rice (means nothing to me as I've never eaten at a PF Changs) and say that by making their version you save 1,142 calores, 54g fat, and 3828 mg of sodium!  Sold!

I did make a couple of changes to the recipe.  The original recipe calls for using boneless, skinless chicken thighs and I used breast meat instead.  I also used 12 ounces instead of the 8 oz. called for.  I did this because I knew if I didn't Mr. Helen would be yelling, "Where's the meat?!"  The result was a delicious veggie loaded stir fry!  I will be making this again and would even consider making it meatless as a side dish. Here are a few photos of the process.

My 12 oz. of chicken breast, diced.  You can see I had to microwave thaw a bit
 so some of it started to cook, sigh!

Here are all the veggies as I began to cook them:
Broccoli florets, diced zucchini, julienned carrots, mushrooms, green onions, garlic - yum!

Added the rice to the pot

The finished dish - so delish!

The recipe is supposed to be 4 servings but even Mr. Helen agreed that it made more like 5-6 servings for us.  I am glad I spent the $12 on this cookbook and added it to my repertoire.  It really is a visually beautiful cookbook with gorgeous full page photos of the finished dishes.

I would recommend this cookbook as a great investment to anyone who is willing to cook at home - especially if you do like the flavors in dishes that you could buy in national chain restaurants. 

Disclaimer:  I purchased "Cook This, Not That" on my own.  This review is entirely mine and my experience and I have not been compensated in any way! (Other than a great meal, that is.)

Monday, February 22, 2010

How Much is Enough?

Hello blogland.

I unplugged a bit this weekend and once in a while I have to admit I really enjoy a good computer break.  I think I was on the computer so much while I was home sick that it felt good to mostly ignore it!

My busy weekend consisted of a dinner honoring my boss on Friday night and a baby shower on Saturday.  But, what I was most excited about was beginning to get back into my exercise routine!

Saturday morning, I got up and went to my Biggest Loser class at my dojo.  They worked our legs until we felt like dropping.  They worked our legs so much that mine are STILL sore this morning!  But, the class felt so good and my breathing was ok that I decided to hang around for the 9:30 Thai Boxing class.  Double workout!! YAY!  Yesterday morning, partly because I was hoping to move some of the lactic acid in my legs, I did a very, very, very s-l-o-w run.  Then, this morning, I got up at 4:15 and hit the treadmill at 4:45 - gotta have my coffee first - for a faster run.  So, I feel like I'm getting my exercise mojo back.

I found out that my scale at home exactly matches the scale at the dojo, which is interesting.  But, what really got me - seriously - you could have knocked me over with a feather, was when the Sensei said I'd lost 2.8 lbs.!!!!!  (Since I hadn't weighed myself the previous Friday and hadn't looked at what my weight was at the dojo, I had no idea.)  How could that be possible when I had barely exercised.  All I did between my dojo weigh-ins was 1 four mile run and 1 Thai Boxing class.  I was too sick to exercise.  BUT my food intake stayed right around the 1400-1500 calorie range.  And I lost 2.8?  I never lose more than a pound or so at a time!  So, this makes me think all over again that maybe I don't eat enough calories for the amount of exercise I do regularly.  It's just in the past when I've tried to up my intake a bit I've gained so doing that is a very scary thing for me.  Mr. Helen pointed out that if I wanted to stay at 1500 calories a day, maybe I should cut back on my running by 1 day.  I guess he's right, it would just be a different way to approach it.

So, how much is enough?  I wonder if I'll ever figure it out!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Funk Funky Funkier Funkiest

First of all, this is week 7 of the Perfect 10 Challenge set up for us by South Beach Steve.  Steve lost his father suddenly last week and has had his hands full with other things.  I have to say I've missed him and his posts but completely understand the sadness in his life right now.  Another thing I realized is that even though I didn't have to be accountable to Steve, I wanted to stay accountable to myself.  That's a great revelation!

Track my food. I passed with flying colors this week.  I had plenty of time to do this since I spent most of the week laying around sucking on inhalers, taking antibiotics and trying to breathe.
Lose 8 pounds. I am chugging along on this goal.  It's funny but it's entirely possible that I won't even make this goal - which is why I chose such a low goal in the first place.  I know my body and what it has been doing to me to over the past months.  I'm not giving up though and miracles do happen!
Run a minimum of 20 miles per week. Um, no.  Pneumonia kind of sidelines running so I don't really consider this a fail, just a "pause."
Water: 64 oz. a day. Believe it or not I FINALLY made this goal this week - yippee!  I don't know if it was all the meds or what but for a change, all I wanted to drink was water!

I'm really happy with this week and feel that had I not been paused by the pneumonia I would have had a perfect week.

This week's little known fact is brought to you by a straight A student.  That would be me.  In fact, I was such a good student, I tutored several athletic types so they could keep playing their sport.  I was such a good student that I skipped a year of school - not in elementary but in High School.  I started my first two years of high school in Massachusetts.  Then my father changed jobs and moved us to Ohio.  I was 16 and in my junior year of high school when my parents announced that they were divorcing - then my mother announced that she was NOT staying in Ohio (we all hated it there) but moving to Connecticut to live near her best friend.  This would have meant a third high school for me in 4 years.  I went to my guidance counselor in a meltdown and when she looked at my records she told me I already had enough credits to graduate that I only needed to double up on my English and History so I'd have the prerequisites to get into college.  Because I was underage, I also had to get one of my parents to sign allowing me to graduate early.  Because of all the turmoil in the house, it was easy enough to "guilt" my mother into signing.  So, that was that.  I graduated a year early from high school and went off to college at the tender age of 17.

By now you're probably asking, "Why the post title?"  or alternately,  "Why is Helen so long-winded today"  Let me 'splain!  Funk would be how I felt up until about Thursday of last week - something just felt off.  Funky is how I felt from Friday to Wednesday during which time I went to the doctor and was diagnosed with walking pneumonia.  Funkier is what I've been feeling due to my Mid-February SlumpFunkiest? Well that would be my scale this morning.  Seriously, something is wrong and I'm thinking at the least I need to put a new battery in it.  The following are photos - in order taken - of my weigh in this morning.  Keep in mind that I always weigh myself 3 times.  Generally my scale will give me 3 readings that are the same.  Go ahead, laugh:

I know poor Lynn at Actual Scale knows exactly how I feel!  Anyway, I'm going with the 179.2 since I did managed to get that 3 times in a row, which gives me a total of 5.4 lbs. lost since the beginning of the Perfect 10 Challenge.  I'm okay with that :-)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Snap To It!

So, I’m back to work today. After several breathing treatments my oxygenation is at 98% and I’ve been on antibiotics for 3 days so the doc said I’m safe. I still have to go for a breathing treatment today and tomorrow but that's no big deal.  I’m far from 100% but I do feel a lot better than I did even just a few days ago. Even after having three days off  - actually counting my spa day last Friday it has been a full week since I've been at work - I wish I had the rest of the week off!

I’m in my annual Mid-February Funk/Drag/Slump. Right around Valentine’s Day I start to feel I cannot take it (winter) one more minute!! Which leads to all sorts of thoughts that are not good for a healthy lifestyle. I start whining to Mr. Helen that we NEED a vacation – in the Caribbean – ASAP!! Now you’d think the thought of warm, sunny BATHING SUIT weather would make me snap to, but NOOOOO. It’s like I become a bear preparing to hibernate – I’m grouchy and fixated on eating comfort foods in order to make my brain release endorphins so I’ll feel better. Sheesh what a vicious cycle.

So, around the time I realize this is happening, I end up:
  1.  Research vacations and throwing them at Mr. Helen as fast as he’ll listen, and
  2. Work on a plan so that if I do get my vacation I won’t have to take a Valium to try on the new bathing suit I’ll surely need.

Generally, this involves restrictions on my food, which I do not do as a rule, but see nothing wrong with in the short term. Last year, right on schedule my February Drag hit and I decided to give up both sweets and adult beverages for the Lenten season. It was the first time I ever tried any such thing, as I did not grow up “practicing” Lent but have always loved the idea of it and the thoughts behind it. The payoff was good – I lost 10 lbs. during that 40 days and all I changed was no sweets, no alcohol.

This year I haven’t been feeling the same about doing any sort of Lenten fast so now I’m trying to come up with something to snap me to. Besides I’m in the Biggest Loser challenge at my dojo and I would like to not be the Biggest Gainer by the end of it.

So, my bloggy peeps, what I want to know is this: how to you redefine your "program" if you've been waffling; what do you do to “snap to?”

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Try It You'll Like It!

Remember that line?  What commercial is it from?**

I know I'm not technically a food blogger but since I'm home trying to recover and breathe, I actually have time to download pictures into my posts so I can't resist.

I made our Valentine’s dinner on Saturday night since Mr. Helen had to work on Sunday and he gets home late for us to have a nice sit down dinner. We had salad, steak with caramelized onions and gorgonzola butter, and scalloped potatoes. Even though Saturday is usually the one day I eat whatever, I am aware of portions so I just had a small portion of each thing. Mr. Helen found me taking pictures of my scalloped potatoes and I explained to him all about food blogging; how I want to be like Biz when I grow up. Of course, after I took the pictures I realized part of the art of food blogging is taking enough pictures of the steps – which I didn’t do. But, I’m going to share my recipe with you anyway!

Sweetheart Scalloped Potatoes:

2 ½ lbs. Potatoes, peeled & sliced thin (~1/8 inch)
1 medium onion, sliced thin into rings
6 T butter
6 T flour
Salt & Pepper to taste
1 ½ cups skim milk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Spray a 3 quart casserole dish with cooking spray. Arrange a layer of potatoes then a layer of onion rings. Sprinkle with 2 T flour, then dot with 2 T butter. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Repeat layers two more times, until all your ingredients are used up, ending with flour, butter, salt & pepper. Pour the milk over the casserole (make sure you have around an inch of the casserole dish showing). Cover dish with aluminum foil and bake at 400 for 45 minutes. Put the oven temperature up to 450 and uncover and bake for 15 minutes or until golden on top.

My ingredients - I had already started making layers when I took this picture

Here is what the casserole looks like dry then with the milk poured over

The final masterpiece - yum!

You can use any sort of potatoes you like – I generally use all purpose white, Yukon gold, or red, like I used this time. (Don’t peel the red). I have never, ever had these potatoes come out anything but absolutely delicious.

Also, sometimes it is hard for me share recipes because I'm a cook who doesn't measure exactly.  I tried with this one but you may need more/less potatoes, milk, etc. depending on the shape of your casserole dish.  Just keep making layers and cover it up with milk and they will come out fine.

This will give you 8-10 servings depending on how big your eaters are.

Nutrition per serving (based on 8 servings):

Calories: 226.5
Total Fat: 8.7 g
Cholesterol: 23.6 mg
Sodium: 381.5 mg
Total Carbs: 33.7 g
Dietary Fiber: 3.7 g
Protein: 5.1 g

**That saying is from an Alka Seltzer commercial that ran on TV in the late 60's and early 70's.  The phrase became such a catch phrase that we still use it in our conversations today!

Monday, February 15, 2010

I Have The Day Off but Not Because It's President's Day

Bronchial Pneumonia -1   Helen - 0

Yep, that's right.  I was literally up all night in a coughing spasm.  But, instead of the cough feeling loose, it got tighter and tighter all night long.  My regular MD doesn't have office hours until noon on Mondays so I went to a walk-in clinic because I needed to go to work.

Two hours later I walked out after a breathing treatment, with 4 prescriptions in my hands and a note to not return to work until at least Wednesday and possibly Thursday.  I am now on Albuterol, Advair, Zithromax and a Codeine cough syrup.  The doc literally wants me to lay around and puff and inhale and swallow syrup every 4 hours for the next two days.  I'm going to cooperate because I feel lousy but I have to admit I worry about the no work thing because my job situation is so tenuous right now.

He also told me NO EXERCISE!  Which is pretty horrifying to me  but if he hadn't told me I swear I would have tried to get on the treadmill today because that's exactly what I did yesterday.  I'm betting that 4 mile run probably exasperated my lungs.  I know, I'm stubborn to my own detriment sometimes.


The picture I posted yesterday was of the actual Godiva Dark Truffles and card given to me by Mr. Helen. He was so excited when he gave it to me because it has taken him almost 20 years to “get it” that I like dark chocolate and Godiva is my favorite. He was so cute and sweet: “I really wanted you to have these because I know you love them. Then I almost took them back because you came home and said you were doing so well with the Biggest Loser and I want to be your biggest fan and I don’t want to derail you.” You could have knocked me over with a feather as that is the first time in all the years we’ve been together that he has expressed his support that way – a pretty good Valentine’s gift in itself. As you can see I kept the candy. I told him that Godiva gives you a map so you know what each truffle has in it AND they give you the nutrition facts so I was just going to fit those right in as one of my treats. Yesterday, I allowed myself two of them and still came in under 1400 calories for the day.  However, from this point on, they're rationed and limited to 1 per day.  Here for your viewing pleasure you’ll understand why I will eat only 1 per day:

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Short and Sweet

Happy Valentines' Day to all my bloggy peeps.  Now pass it on...
 Make your day a little sweeter and tell someone you love them. 

Saturday, February 13, 2010


As I mentioned in yesterday's post (which I did not get posted until late last night), I spent the day at the spa.  It was FAB-U-LOUS.  Took a Hatha Yoga class, used the steam room, the whirlpool and that hot room where you pour water over rocks (what is that called?).  Had a great healthy lunch, which is easy to do at this spa because they put the nutrition information for each dish right on the menu.  Just a very much needed relaxing day.  Good thing because this morning I went to my Biggest Loser Boot Camp class and promptly got my butt kicked.  Also as I mentioned yesterday, I did not have time to weigh myself but this morning when I weighed in they said I lost 2 lbs.  Yay!  You know why I'm excited?  Because what I haven't told you is that I started - once again - not feeling week mid-week and now I have a full blown case of bronchitis.  Oy vey.

In addition to my early week stress eating, my eating towards the end of the week was horrible in that I didn't feel like eating much.  I'm sure my metabolism is trying to figure out what the heck I'm doing to it.  Anyway, I hope that loss holds so that when I weigh in with camera next week you guys can see it and be excited for me.

I don't usually blog on Saturdays (hence the blog title) but I couldn't miss the opportunity to point you to my favorite food blogger, Biz.  If you are a foodie in any way, you have got to visit her blog.  Besides, right now she's celebrating 200,000 views with a giveaway!  Or maybe you should stay away because I want that food scale. 

I hope everyone is having a good Saturday.  Now that I started my day off right with some good old-fashioned exercise and a healthy breakfast, I'm off to clean and grocery shop.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Perfect 10 & Sad Way to Start the Day

This morning, I quickly checked into blogland prior to leaving my house and discovered that South Beach Steve's father had passed away.  I've never even met Steve but because of his Hot 100 and Perfect 10 Challenges that he put together for us, along with his weekly Monday and Wednesday videos, I feel like I know him.  I sat quietly and prayed for a few minutes and shed a couple of tears for him and his family.  As you know, I lost both my 39 year old brother-in-law and my boss during 2009 I can feel for what he is going through right now. Hang in there Steve, we are thinking of you and praying for you to have strength over these next days.

This is my Perfect 10 update for Week 6.  To summarize: UGH.

Track my food. I only did this for 3 days.  Which leads to any and every failure with food that you can imagine. 
Lose 8 pounds. To date I have lost 4 lbs. and we are a bit over halfway through.  We'll see.  BUT I won't make this goal if I screw around like I did this week.
Run a minimum of 20 miles per week. I ran 21 miles exactly.  As I've said before, I'm a good exerciser. 
Water: 64 oz. a day. Only 4 days out of the 7 did I make this.  Perhaps because I was stuffing my pie hole with food instead of drinking water.

This week has been an epic "fail" for me because I let my emotions control me rather than the other way around.  I am a stress eater.  It's a long story but something happened first thing at work on Monday that set me off and I could not - or chose not - to get in control of myself.  If you read my post on Wednesday you'll remember that I had a revelation about all of this.  I have been working hard over the last day to figure out what I need to do in order to get this food thing together once an for all.

This week's Helen trivia is once again brought to you by the country Zambia.  Bread is not a staple in Zambia, corn meal is. It is made into a porridge at breakfast and into something called Nshima for all other meals.  Nshima is the sort of the consistency of playdough and is actually used to scoop your food in place of a utensil.  Plus, you eat the Nshima too.   Even though I learned to cook the mealie meal (as they called it) and still occasionally make it to this day, I missed my bread.  So, once a week for the entire 4 years I lived there, I had a bread baking day.  I would make all the various types of bread I wanted for the week: cinnamon rolls, bread for sandwiches, hamburger buns, hotdog buns, etc.  I actually loved doing this and became a pretty good baker.  I can't imagine using a food processor or a dough hook to make bread.  There's just something about burying your hands into that yeast and flour... To this day when I sink my hands into dough to knead it, it brings back memories of those bread baking days. 

I ran out of time and did not weigh myself this morning before I left but I'm sure I will be told "gain" when I weigh in at Biggest Loser Challenge tomorrow morning. Which I'm dreading.  Why?  Because the sensei who is running that challenge was the sensei who taught my Thai Boxing class last night.  We were working on speed so at one point they had us pick up weights and punch with them for a few minutes so that when we put them down, we would feel lighter and punch faster. I took 5 lb. weights and a couple punches in she walked over to me a waggled some other weights at me.  I said, "Ma'am?" and she replied,"You're representing my Biggest Losers in this class.  Give me those sissy weights right now!"  She proceeded to hand me 8 lb. weights.  I thought my arms were going to fall off.  So now, I get to go in and she gets to say, "how in heck did you gain weight?" Disappointing myself and the sensei.  Oy.  I'm not even mad at myself just supremely annoyed!!

So why did I rush out of the house this morning? BECAUSE I HAD A SPA DAY!! Woo hoo! I am blessed to live near a world class spa that gets regular mentions in national magazines. I went with my (deceased) bosses wife and we had a fabulous day.

We Are The World

If you are a praying person, please send one out for our friend South Beach Steve.  He is stuck in Washington, DC and got word around 9 last night that his father had a heart attack and passed away.  Also please go on over and remind him how much this blogging community cares.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

By Any Other Name

A muffuletta would be called a muffaletta, aka a New Orleans sandwich.  When I stated last week that I was going to try making one for Superbowl Sunday, Linda at Diva Weigh asked me to share my recipe.  She must have a lot of faith in me because I hadn't even said if it was good or not - lol!  If I was a great food blogger like Biz, this post would be chock full of photos of all my ingredients and each stage of preparation.  I'm not so all you're getting is a couple pics of the finished product but I think you'll enjoy. 

The muffuletta/muffaletta has 3 main parts:  The bread (muffletta is actually the name of the bread), the olive salad, and the filling.  I wanted to try making everything from scratch so that's what I went for, but I will say, in the future I would definitely consider buying a nice loaf of Italian Boule bread and using that simply because it would be a time saver.

So, for my bread I used a recipe (which I am not going to post here) for Italian Boule.  Instead of making 1 big loaf, I decided to make 2 small loaves since it was just Mr. Helen and me eating. In any case, you want to have a 15-16 oz. Italian Boule bread or two 7-8 oz. small boules.

The Olive Salad
2 cups pimento stuffed green olives
1 cup pitted black olives
1 1/2 cups ready made Giardiniera (for me, it turned out to be a med. size jar)
2 T capers
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup celery, minced
1 T Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped
2 green onions, thinly sliced
2 T jarred diced pimento
2 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
3 T red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
1 to 1 1/2 cups extra virgin olive oil.

You can chop everything by hand, or do like I did which was to pulse ingredients one at a time in my food processor, then dump into a large bowl.  So, I individually pulsed (so it would be a bit chunky), each type of olives and the Giardinera - dump into bowl.  Then I minced the garlic, celery and parsley in the processor and dumped into the bowl.  Then I sliced the green onions into the bowl, measured in the diced pimento, oregano, pepper flakes, red wine vinegar and kosher salt.  Then I gave it all a stir with a big spoon to combine it well.  When finished, pour the extra virgin olive oil over it all (the mixture should be covered) and put it in a large non-reactive bowl or jar to sit.  You should make this ahead of time by at least a day or two but up to a week before you want to use it.  This made enough to fill one big quart jar and another half quart jar.  Here is some of mine in a jar:

Sandwich Filling (enough for large bread - for small breads divide equally)
4 oz. capicola ham
4 oz. Genoa salami
4 oz. mortadella
4 oz. provolone cheese
4 oz. mozzarella cheese

All these ingredients should be thinly sliced.

To assemble the sandwich:

Slice your boule in half.  Take some of the bread out of the center of each side leaving a nice rim for the fillings to sit in.  Pour a bit of the oil off the olive salad into a small dish.  Using a pastry brush, brush the seasoned oil onto each side of the bread.  Fill the hollows of the bread with your olive salad (~1-2 cups salad).  Layer meats and cheese anyway you'd like on the bottom half then put the top back on. Wrap the sandwich tightly with plastic wrap and let sit in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours to allow the flavors to meld.  When ready to serve, unwrap and slice into triangles.  Here is what my finished sandwich looked like when I cut it in half.

Here is a shot that shows the top of the bread a bit better

This was made on one of my small loaves.  My husband ate half of one and I ate half of the half:

It was yummy.  I will definitely make this again and again.  I think I might have mentioned that Mr. Helen told me he wants this to be our "go to the beach" sandwich this summer.  Which means I don't get to stop at the Italian grinder shop and buy a sammy anymore.  I made the second loaf on Monday night and he at half of that Tuesday night for dinner and the rest on Wednesday for his lunch. I guess he likes it a lot.

I still have enough olive salad to do one more sandwich if I want but honestly it tastes so good that I might use it as a spread on any type of bread or sandwich.

If you decide to give it a go, I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Running in Circles

I have an extra day off from work this week!  I am in the 1/3 of the USA where there is currently a winter blizzard going on so I made plans yesterday to not go to work today.  I did bring some work home with me and will get that finished before tomorrow but it is sooooo nice to have this bonus day at home.  So far, I've slept in, run for an hour on my treadmill, planned tonight's dinner, and given myself a pedicure.  I really needed this more than I could ever explain properly.  There has been lots of stuff going on at work to which my reaction has been to stress eat ever since Monday.  NOT GOOD.  Interesting to me is that I think I've conquered the wine because I haven't been turning to that at all.  Since I've been working on  that since the New Year, it was nice to realize that I'm getting in control there.  Still, I'm sure I will pay the price to the scale gods on Friday when I weigh in here and again on Saturday at my dojo challenge. Knowing that, it was tempting this morning to just say screw it and blow off the rest of this week but then I turned that thought into "why not begin to do your very best right this minute and then try to do your best each minute of this day?"  Wish me luck.

"I keep fighting the growth I need to go through because it's too hard."

This morning I was running on my treadmill watching last night's episode of Biggest Loser.  As I heard one of the contestants say these words, I felt like someone who has been in a daze and has just been slapped so they'll come to.  I had an "ah-ha!" moment.

I came to a sudden realization that this is exactly what my problem has been going on 3 years now.  I've let all the hard things get in my way and keep me from progressing.  When I look at what I'll have to/need to do to get to goal, it makes me feel exhausted and I keep quitting.  This pattern flows over into other areas of my life and I don't see complete success there either.

At my dojo we have a saying, "a black belt is a white belt who didn't quit."  Ironically, I am a woman who has trained for and finished several marathons. The only way I could finish was to NOT QUIT.  Therefore, I know I can finish this journey.  I have all the tools - truth be told I have so many tools I should probably get rid of some of them.  But I also have the tools WITHIN me otherwise I never would have finished my marathons.

I realize I need to experience some growing pains and I've decided that I will take this extra time off today to figure out how to get myself headed in the direction of my finish line because I surely am tired of running in circles.

Tomorrow, I say 'tomato' you say 'tomahto' or finally the Muffuletta/Muffaletta recipe - with pictures!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Shock and Ow!

I had a busy weekend – thankfully that blizzard that hit the Mid-Atlantic States stayed to our south so we didn’t even get a flake. Saturday evening we went out with friends, which is always fun. On Sunday, I made an attempt at a homemade Muffuletta for Superbowl Sunday and I must say it came out really good. Our resident Diva asked me to share the recipe so I will do that one day this week.

One of the things that I appreciate about blogging is that when I want to vent – or share - my bloggy peeps are there to give virtual hugs and/or share what has worked for them. Last week, several of you suggested that I try things like cycling calories between low and high or adding speed intervals into my running. Unfortunately, those are things that I have either done (calorie cycling) or do (running intervals/speed work). But, those suggestions did keep me thinking about change and looking hard to see what I can do to try to make some better progress towards my ultimate goals.

Thursday evening when I went into the dojo for my Muay Thai class (which is one of the changes I made in the last year to try to shake things up) I noticed a flyer for a Biggest Loser competition. After my class, I looked at the flyer more closely then spoke with one of the Sensei’s about it. They were offering a 12 week Biggest Loser competition based on percentages. Part nutritional information, part team building, part workout. The sensei told me that the workout would not be like anything else we do and that we would be using resistance and weight training as the main focus. Since she is also a certified personal trainer, I knew it probably would be a tough class. It cost only $60 for the 12 weeks and money prizes were going to be awarded for the top 3 losers. I went home and thought about it hard for a day and decided what the heck, at least the class would be completely different from anything I’m currently doing and maybe that will shock my body.

There are 15 of us taking part in the competition – 5 of them are men so I don’t think many of us women have a chance in hell to win any of the money, but since that wasn’t my goal, I didn’t care.

When the class started we ran around the room for a couple minutes to warm up. Then they told us to get weights. Even when I’m out of shape, I can usually start with 8 lb. weights but to be on the safe side, I decided to use 5 lbs. for the first class. Um, when you do a whole bunch of moves, one after the other for 15 minutes straight, 5 lbs. feels like 50! The class is hard. Hard. Hard. I’ve already got a goal to move from the 5 lb. weights to 8 lbs. by the end of the 12 weeks. Sheesh if the tiny 4’10” 90 lb. Sensei can use 8 lbs. I should be able to as well!

Did I mention that the class was hard? About an hour after I got home, I could feel the soreness setting in. Shock & Ow! Ow! Ow! Mr. Helen finally told me to hush it and take some Aleve. Which I did. Then I took some more on Sunday morning because I was soooo sore that I think I felt slightly nauseous. Ha!

Adding this class to my repertoire means that I will be working out at least 45 minutes a day, 7 days a week. I think I can do that for 12 weeks, although I don’t know if I’d want to do that forever. While, I’m pretty sure it won’t hurt me to commit to that short term, I’ll admit I like having a day of rest. All that remains to be seen is if this change is going to help me move along.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Progress Not Perfection

Definitely not perfection this week, though it's not for lack of trying. I'd say the fact that I did try means progress? Yes kiddies, it's time for another Perfect 10 update. I can't believe it's week 5 already!

Track my food. I did this every day.  The mostly good, the teensy bit of bad, and really, there was no ugly.  I stayed within my goal ranges 6 out of 7 days.
Lose 8 pounds. This is one of the imperfect areas for me this week, though I don't know why.  Numerically with the calories and exercise and whatnot, I shouldn't have gained (see weigh in below).
Run a minimum of 20 miles per week. I ran 20.45 miles this week - which is exactly what I did last week.  How odd!
Water: 64 oz. a day. Honestly, this aspect of the challenge is my achilles heel.  I've been trying seltzer water in the hopes that would help me meet this goal.  I am beginning to wonder if I will make it to the end of the challenge having met this even one time.  Sigh.

So, a good week, even though it's not reflected in this weigh in:
This is a gain of 1.8 lbs. from my weigh in 2 weeks ago.  I was very, very surprised by this but even as I stepped on the scale I started laughing.  Why?  Because since I started blogging and working at getting under 180, my weigh in has shown this exact number a half a dozen times.  It sort of cracks me up that I go straight to the .6.  My body just loooooves this weight. 

Now for the thing you don't know about me.  When I first got to Zambia as a new bride, it was probably a good thing that I was old enough to be there but too young to be scared.  I lived in Lusaka, which is the capital city. My husband and I lived in a hostel for the first 3 months we were there because he was employed as a professor at a government run college so the only way for us to get housing was to have it assigned to us - unless we went out and rented privately which we could not afford to do.  Finally, we are assigned a small one bedroom apartment and we go off to see it.  It was filthy and the only way it was going to get cleaned up was if we did it.  So we went and bought cleaning supplies and literally scrubbed down the walls.  We spent an entire back breaking day cleaning this tiny apartment.  I was really tired - we had just found out that my nausea was morning sickness, not malaria.  When we got back to the hostel that night I literally fell asleep and was dead to world.  Now, also living in Lusaka was Joshua Nkomo who was one of the people who was fighting for Rhodesia's independence, aka a "freedom fighter."  (For those who don't know, Rhodesia is now known as Zimbabwe.) The morning following our cleaning expedition we go down to the dining area for breakfast and the place is buzzing because South African fighter pilots had bombed Joshua Nkomo's compound overnight.  Fortunately no people were there, only some animals were killed.  People were asking us, "Didn't you hear it?"  "Uh, no, I guess I was really tired."  Truly unbelieveable because Nkomo's compound was merely 1 mile away from the hostel.  Had one of those bombs gone even a bit astray it could have been us in the war zone!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Just so you know

I would never, ever say any of the things that run through my head to a friend or to my beautiful daughter!

I agree with Roxie and I would never choose who I love based on their weight.  Not even a tiny bit.  I have friends of all shapes and sizes - friends who probably think I need to lose a few pounds and those who wish they could be my size.  I know some of my food and body image issues come from having to clean my plate before I could have dessert; being put on a diet at the age of 12 (because I was starting to get that teeny bit of pre-pubescent chubbiness and my father was - and is to this day - OBSESSED with weight, especially the weight of the women around him); and miscellaneous other types of abuse - yes I'm calling it abuse - at the hands of others in my life.  I so wanted my child to have a life free of that, I probably made her a teeny bit conceited becuase I constantly told her how gorgeous she was, inside and out.  From the time she was born and I nursed her, to the time she left to be on her own, I let her eat when hungry and stop when full and I let her eat what she wanted, though I did introduce all sorts of food to her.  Somehow, I managed to raise a woman who has never had a weight issue and has an international palate.  She's also a really good cook.

I'm proud of that, even when I can't be proud of myself.

Several times I had people say to me that because I exercise "so much" maybe I should increase my calories.  I did try that one time, under the guidance of a personal trainer and gained 10 lbs.  I honestly didn't care if it was muscle weight - which I don't think it was because I went up a size i clothing -  I was a very unhappy camper.

After a comment with that statement was made on yesterday's blog, I've been thinking about it a lot and I also went and redid BMR calculations.  Supposedly if you figure out your BMR then use the Harris Benedict Equation you should be able to figure out how many calories you need a day to sustain your current weight.  Because this is supposed to be a simple math equation of calories in/calories out, right?

Easy to use calculators can be found here:

So for me my BMR is 1508.85 which is how many calories I need to simply exist and lay in bed all day.  If I use the sedenary mutliplier of 1.2 that comes to 1810.62.  To lose one pound a week, I should be able to reduce my calories by 500 per day to 1310. 

The thing is I'm not sedentary.  So then I got to the multiplier of  1.55 which is for moderate exerise 3-5 days a week.  That brings me to 2338.71.  If I ate the 1310 I should lose 2 lbs. a week because thats 1000 calories less per day.  If I ate 1838 per day I should lose 1 lb. per week.

Trust me when I tell you if I eat 1838 calories per day I will either gain or maintain. I promise.

None of this stuff seems to work for me.  I generally eat between 1300-1500 calories a day.  I should be losing 1/2 to 3/4 lb. per week, but I'm not.  AARGH!

Then I got to thinking about the contestants on Biggest Loser.  They restrict the women to 1500 calories and the men to 1800 calories a day PLUS they make them exercise 6-8 hours every single day.  Those people don't stop losing weight, they lose weight like crazy!

Suffice it to say it's all frustrating to me but I do keep on trying to figure out what to do.

Tell me what side do you fall on?  More calories?  Less calories?  More exercise? 

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

My Body of Work

Over the last couple of days I have been doing some thinking about comments made on this post.  One of the recurring themes that came up in those comments and a few in the days to follow is that so many of you feel like you're better at 40/50 than you were in your 20s and 30s.  As I've mulled this over, I've come to realize that this is one thing that does make me different than other weight loss bloggers.

I have not been the fat girl my whole life.

In fact, more of my life has been spent at or near a good healthy weight than not.  I am NOT better now than I was in my 30s or even part of my 40s. For me this pretty much results in a constant dialogue in my head that goes something like this:

"You are so stupid, how could you let yourself get like this?"

"Oh look, she's wearing the same dress she wore to the party a couple of years ago, of course YOURS doesn't fit because you're a fatty fatty two by four."

"What the hell is the matter with you?  There are literally thousands of people starving in this world yet you feel the need to stuff your pie hole with one more thing."

"Ugh, look at those rolls, that flab, it's disgusting."

"You know why no one pays any attention to you?  Because you're a dumpy, chubby middle aged woman.  Your days of true beauty are over."

And that's just some of it.  I imagine if I really wrote down my stream of consciousness in regards to food and my body I'd give a good psychologist a run for their money.

I know I need to stop it but haven't been able to figure out how.  The simple fact is, I do not, will not and cannot learn to love myself, my body where it is right now.  The need for me to get back to healthy weight is huge in terms of my mental well being and yet - I stumble along.

My weight loss is so painfully slow compared to what it used to be.  18 years ago after I quit smoking I gained 55 lbs.  over the course of 3 years.  In 1995 I joined Weight Watchers (this was before the points system) and lost 60 lbs. in 20 weeks.  I maintained that weight loss until 2005 when I mysteriously started gaining weight while training for a half marathon! By the time I was diagnosed as hypothyroid I had gained 25 lbs. and that wasn't even the end.  It took until 2007 to get my thyroid regulated medically and by then I'd packed on another 20. As of May of this year, I will have been trying for THREE YEARS to lose the 45 lbs. that I put on when my thyroid malfunctioned.  At one point, in 2008, I actually got within 15 lbs. of my goal and then my thyroid went off again and I literally gained 10 lbs. in one month.  Then from sheer exhaustion,discouragement and whatever else, I gave up and gained 20 more.  So three years later I am only around 15 lbs. lighter than my original starting weight in 2007.  I don't care what anyone says, that's just wrong. 

 I have days when I know what I must do is just keep on and then I have other days when I think to myself, "How many days in a row can I eat around 1500 calories, exercise 6 days a week and STILL NOT LOSE WEIGHT?" Many, many days, I just want to quit. My brain wants relief from thinking about food and my body and whether or not I can fit my run in.

In any case, quit or not, this is what I know for sure:
  1. I know exactly what it's like to be healthy, thin, in shape, beautiful - which makes me different from a lot of you. (And also why I haven't posted photos of myself.)
  2.  I have to figure out how to STOP beating myself to a pulp over this.
Tuesday Stats:
45 minutes Muay Thai Boxing
1463 calories; 162g carbs; 62g fat; 80g protein
9 glasses water
No alcohol

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Marrying George Clooney

Last night I received the nicest email from the couple we had for dinner Saturday night - raving about our home and the food and the fellowship.  Hubby and I talked about it again and decided that perhaps the husband was just feeling a bit off as he has been through a lot lately. Since December his father passed away, he had to move his mother to a nursing home, and he changed jobs just 3 weeks ago.  We had found all this out through the course of the evening but hadn't really considered all of that.  Once again you guys had some great input.  I especially liked Steve's thought:  maybe they had a fight on the way over to our house.  I laughed because my husband and I have done that very thing on occasion!

Feeling a bit better today but also feel like this thing is trying to move to my bronchial system.  As I tend to get bronchial infections, I sure hope not!

I received several books for Christmas and wanted to give a shout out to the one I just finished: Marrying George Clooney: Confessions from a Midlife Crisis by Amy Ferris.

Menopause seems to be the thing that our mothers don't talk to us about.  In addition to the crazy physical symptoms, I have found myself having crazy thoughts sometimes and lately have wondered if "something" was really wrong with me.  Never once did I attribute it to the huge hormonal changes going on in my body right now.  Amy Ferris perfectly captures the struggle each woman faces in trying to reconcile the physical and emotional changes of aging. She writes from the viewpoint of insomnia - which I found absolutely fascinating. I had just said to my husband over the weekend that somewhere between 2:30 and 3:15 am seems to be my menopausal bewitching hour. Every single night, I wake up sometime during that time. The trick is, can I get back to sleep before my mind starts racing too much?

Though Amy has begun to rely on Ambien, every single night she wakes up. Her bewitching hour is 3 am and while wide awke she began to journal her stories. They are alternately honest, funny, painful and hysterical. During this awake time she fantasizes about marrying George Clooney (me too!) and Googles old boyfriends. She is also dealing with a poor relationship with her only brother and a mother who is spiraling down into advanced Alzheimer's.

This truly is a five star book for me. As I began to read it, I felt like someone had dived into my brain and was pulling my thoughts out and putting them on paper. Though not each and every thought is identical Amy managed to make me recognize myself in my own mid-life journey.

If you're there - or even almost there - buy this book - and I have to say, you men should read it too.  It would help you understand why your beloved is acting so crazy! Only $12 at Amazon.

Disclaimer: This book was a Christmas gift to me and this review is entirely mine.  I have not received anything for expressing my opinion!

Monday Stats:
55 minute run
1544 calories; 161g carbs; 65g fat; 83g protein
10 glasses of water
No alcohol (does Nyquil count?)

Monday, February 1, 2010


Yeah.  That would be how I'm feeling.  I haven't had a full blown cold like this in quite some time!  I just keep plugging along though.  In that spirit and trying to get back into the swing of things:

Sunday Stats:
72 minutes on the treadmill; 12 minutes of walking fast, 60 minutes of running
1556 calories; 145g carbs; 57g fat; 121g protein
Gallons of sugar free decaf beverages but only 4 glasses of water
No alcohol

I spent most of Saturday preparing for dinner guests.  I hated to cancel on them what with me "just" having a cold but maybe I should have as between cleaning the house and getting our dinner together I pretty much was on my feet all day.

This was my menu:

Appetizers - crab cakes, clam chowder
Main meal - filet mignon, garlic baked shrimp, pan seared sea scallops
Sides - roasted vegetables, a concoction of eggplant, onion, garlic and plum tomatoes with basil; and twice stuffed potatoes
Our guests provided wine and dessert

The couple we had over we actually have known for several years through the karate dojo.  My husband and the wife of the other couple both taught there.  Eventually we all were students there.  We kept saying "let's get together" over the years and finally when the dojo changed the schedule at the new year, I made the call because I don't see them anymore since I'm a lower belt.

I made all that seafood because she decided a couple years ago that she wasn't going to eat meat anymore.  She said she loves animals but as of yet hasn't felt bad about fish or shellfish. 

It was a nice evening but the hubster and I were discussing it last night and much to my surprise he felt the same as I did:  they, but especially the husband, didn't come off the same personality wise as they do in classes.  So, the evening was enjoyable but somehow not quite what we expected.  On the other hand I thought that maybe that guy is a little like me:  a bit cautious and guarded.  So we should probably try to get together with them again and see if we can really get to know them.

Ever had that happen to you?

Yesterday I spent the day moving about slowly as I knew I needed to come back to work today even though I still feel craptastic.  I did get our taxes done and filed, which made Mr. Helen very happy when he got home from work.  Unfortunately between a garage roof, a new back door and a new bathroom vanity that refund is looooong gone.

I know most of the country has been experiencing cooler than normal weather so I thought my bloggy peeps might enjoy the recipe for the Clam Chowder.  It's one I found a long time ago in Cooking Light and have slowly adapted over the years.  Since one guest was a vegetarian, I sauteed the onion/celery mixture in a little butter:

New England Clam Chowder

4 (6 1/2 oz) cans chopped clams, undrained
2 (8 oz) bottles clam juice
4 bacon slices
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
1 garlic clove, minced
3 cups cubed red potato
1 1/2 tsp chopped fresh thyme or 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/4 tsp black pepper
3 parsley sprigs
1 bay leaf
2 cups 1% milk
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup half and half

Drain clams through a colander into a bowl, reserving liquid and clams. Combine clam liquid and clam juice.

Cook bacon in large pot until crisp. Remove bacon from pot, reserving 2 tsp dripping in pan. Crumble bacon and set aside. Add onion, celery, and garlic to pot and saute for 5 minutes or until tender. Add clam juice mixture, potato and next four ingredients (through bay leaf); bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes or until potatoes are tender.

Whisk together flour and milk until smooth. Add to pan. Stir in clams and half and half. Cook about 5 minutes. Remove bay leaf before serving.

Yields 8 servings (serving size: 1 1/4 cups chowder and 1 1/2 tsp bacon.)

Nutrition per serving: 158 calories; 18g carbs; 4.2g fat; 12g protein

Here's to getting back into my routine this week - and getting/feeling better.