Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Have no motivation but will travel

I have not been feeling particularly motivated either this week or last week. Yet, I am on plan and have not really deviated horribly from plan at all. Further proof that planning is a good thing. It is hard to deviate if you already have a prepackaged lunch salad and dinner is easily accessible in the fridge at home. Plus, I know in the long run I am saving money which is a good thing right now. Anyway, I am fully aware that my lack of motivation focuses on the fact that I have been doing a lot of hard cardiovascular work in the morning and not seeing a lot of results. This is admittedly frustrating so I have been trying to find a way of dealing with it in a healthy non-sabotaging kind of matter. Err, still working on that by the way. However, I am incorporating additional workouts into my schedule on the weekend, I am going to go to the gym again on Saturday and just make Sunday my lazy rest day. Today, if I end up feeling really motivated, I am going to go back to the gym and do an additional 30-60 minute workout. I may end up in court late in which case I will not be very motivated to go to the gym. On the plus side, I managed to talk my body into an actual run this morning (well a thirty minute run on the treadmill). I decided that I would do a slow run at 5.5 mph for 15 minutes before move on to the eliptical machines. Instead, I ended up running for 10 minutes at 5.5. mph then running at 6.0 mph for the next five minutes, then dropping back down to 5.5. mph for the next 5 minutes, then another interval of 6.0 mph for five minutes, and finishing out with 5 minutes at 5.5. mph for a total run of 30 minutes. I have not managed to run in a couple of weeks and I really want to get back running at least twice or three times a week. In fact, this morning I skipped out on an exercise class so that I could run on the treadmill. So, I am going to try and make a point of running on Thursday mornings and Saturday mornings. This effort would be helped immensely by new running shoes but I am going to wait on those until I go back to the mainland U.S. in two weeks. In any event, my brain feels much clearer this morning now that I have done some running. I forget when I do not run for a long time that this is why I run, and why I actually like it as an exercise. I would like it better if I could run outside, but there really is not anywhere around here that it is safe to run because there are no decent sidewalks. I just realized how odd this entry would be to my old self, I am going on and on about how I like working out, and that would certainly have puzzled the 250 lb me. However, it is true, I am a complete gym rat and exercise nut. I think at this point I own more workout clothes than regular clothes and I tend to buy more expensive workout clothes than regular clothes. Frankly, that is a little bit disturbing on some level but hey, this is my life now. One final piece of news to report before I start doing my real job. Last night I discovered that I could actually see indentations on my stomach. Now, I hesitate to call them abs (all though they are in the right location) but I do think they are a result of all the ab workouts that I have been doing over the past month. I think for the record that if we did call them abs they would give me a whopping 1 pack, which would be a first. So, I am pleased about that, and about the fact that if I suck in my breath, I can actually see my rib cage. So, I am trying to go with the non-scale victories, but the frustration level is still there right now. Still, I am doing everything that I can and recognizing that this is going to take time. Apparently, I can gain weight in the blink of an eye but losing it takes a lot longer. Just another indication of the Universe’s cosmic sense of irony.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Monday Check In

Note to self, you are your mother’s daughter even if you spent your teenage years denying it. This means that any caffeine after 2 pm in the afternoon will make it impossible to sleep at night. Now, drinking coffee at 8 pm at night will absolutely make sure that you do not sleep more than 2 hours during the night. It is a great Monday morning, and spin class destroyed me this morning as a result. I am mainlining coffee (more than normal anyway) in a vain attempt to be semi-functional today. This week it is all about preparation, I decided to see if I could make a salad for the week that I am happy with for lunch. So I got all the ingredients, made some home-made dressing, cooked a couple of chicken breasts, and divided everything into individual bags. This way, I just have shred lettuce and dump everything into a portable container the night before and away I go the next morning. Plus, I saved thirty dollars in groceries this week. This is a good thing, because I am going to attempt to save this money and use it for groceries next weekend. If I could cut my grocery bill down from 70 dollars a week to 40 dollars, I would be incredibly happy. Eighteen days from now I am going on vacation for ten days which makes me happy. I have some fitness goals I would like to achieve between now and then, but we will see what happens over that time period. On the plus side, I found a dress to wear to the wedding I am going to while I am on vacation. I do not have shoes to wear (well I do but they are five-inch heels which is a little much). I looked at myself in it, and while I am not really pleased at where I am weight-wise (and I need appropriate undergarments), however I was impressed. I looked grown-up and mature and dare I say it, sophisticated. On occasion I am reminded of how long it takes to get my brain to catch up with my body. It is hard to remember that I am not 240 plus pounds at this point and that in fact I am really 80 pounds less than that in reality. This weekend was a good reminder and I needed that given my frustration with my fitness progress.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The cooking fest continues

I have done so much work this morning that it is rather frightening. I answered a ton of letters, responded to multiple motions, and moved a bunch of files off my desk. I am the Queen of Procrastinators, but sometimes I really manage to get a lot done. Usually it requires the right circumstances (a quiet office, time at my desk plus motivation) and then my entire desk gets cleared off in a flurry of activity. I am so much happier when I am organized and even a little bit of organization goes a long way in my world. The same thing applies to working out and exercise (Obviously). I am much happier when I am following an organizational plan, both in terms of diet and exercise. Right now is obviously a good example, I have been so much more mellow now that I am on plan. Well, I was bitchy for the first week but I am over that little problem. I am gradually getting everything organized and it is overflowing to the rest of my life. This is a very good and necessary thing. Plus, I am starting to cook again and really enjoy it which always makes me happy. Apropos of the whole cooking endeavor, here is my personally modified curry recipe based on several different variations in cookbooks. As always, amounts are not exact and everything is to taste.
One onion-roughly chopped
About 4-5 cloves of garlic-again roughly chopped
Sliced fresh ginger to taste (about 3-5 slices should do)
1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
½ teaspoon Thai red curry paste
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon sugar (you could probably substitute Splenda)
2 tablespoons fish sauce
½ teaspoon salt
2 3/4 cups of water
13.5 oz can of coconut milk
Approx 1 lb of roasted chicken meat, alternatively one could just cut up some chicken and cook it with the curry
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1-2 cups chopped root vegetables (i.e. potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, or anything else which suits your fancy). Alternatively this is pretty good with corn or broccoli in it.
1 package of cooked orzo pasta (optional)
Cook the entire dish in a big pot. Saute the onion, ginger, and garlic in the vegetable oil until the onion is translucent. Then add the chicken and cook for a couple of minutes. Then add all the spices and the sugar, salt, and fish sauce. Cook for a couple more minutes. Add the water and bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to about medium high (i.e. a healthy simmer) and cook for around 10 minutes to let the flavors meld. Add the coconut milk, cornstarch, and the root vegetables. Cook for another 10 minutes or until the veggies are soft. Add the orzo pasta at this point and let it warm up for about another 5 minutes. It should serve around four unless you have really big serving sizes. Now, you could add all sorts of things to this-lemon grass for example (personally I hate the taste). Alternatively, you could substitute a different kind of meat and it would also work. There are a couple of caveats:
• There are about 720 calories in a can of coconut milk. (Yes, I actually calculated this at one point). That works out to 160 calories per serving. However everything else is relatively low calorie in this dish and you can also get reduced fat coconut milk some places.
• You might be able to reduce the oil even further if you tried (and were using a nonstick pan). Next time I cook this, I am going to try reducing the oil to approx ½ tablespoon and see what happens. Vegetable oil has 120 calories per tablespoon so dropping the amount drops the calories in the dish and you just need enough to coat the onion and garlic and help it saute.
• It is pretty darn spicy, Thai red curry paste is very hot so if you do not like it hot, only put a small amount in and then test it.
• I like thick curries but you could make this without the cornstarch for a slightly thinner curry.
Curries are comfort foods to me, so I love all variations of them. However, I only eat a small cereal sized bowl at any given time because otherwise they add up in terms of calories. Still, this is what I have been living on for the past two weeks and it makes me really happy. So, there you go, my chicken recipe of the week for the second week in a row.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Long Weekend

On Monday I took a much needed day off from work. I had some extra comp time I needed to use, so I made a three-day weekend out of it. However, I still got up at 4:30 in the morning and went to the gym for my morning spin class. I did fit in a small catnap yesterday afternoon which balances out getting up early. Actually, I spent yesterday morning running errands and cleaning up my apartment a bit but other than that it was pretty mellow. Scuttlebutt has it that being at work on Monday would have been very drama-filled and I am not sorry that I missed it. Instead, I had a relatively mellow day at home and came back to work today. Today, I spent all day in court which I suppose is pay back for having a day off. I discovered this morning that I could pick up the choreography in the step aerobics class pretty quickly although if I get the least bit distracted I totally lose track of what I am doing with my feet. It is however a good workout for the days that I feel unmotivated (such as this morning) and still need to get in a good cardio workout. My eating has been about 80-90 percent on track and that is pretty good for a long weekend. I did actually do some cooking this weekend, however nothing major. I roasted some more chicken, which I use as the base for a lot of my cooking. I was going to make risoto this weekend but could not find the appropriate ingredients so I improvised and made a dish with chicken and orzo pasta instead. Basically, I combined orzo pasta which was cooked in chicken stock for flavor with sauteed shiitake mushrooms and roasted chicken. Salt and pepper were add to taste along with a little Parmesan cheese. It was very much a comfort meal rather than something exciting and new. Tonight, however, it is going to morph into something new and exciting. Well, at least it will be new. I am going to create another curry (I love curries) with the existing supplies I have in my apartment. I have coconut milk, thai curry paste, an onion, garlic, and chicken. This is more than enough to create a basic curry and I am going to either pour that over the orzo pasta or in the alternative I am going to add the orzo pasta to the curry. I am probably going to tone down the spiciness in the curry a little bit, but I do like my curries to be reasonably hot. I figure that this will carry me through the rest of the week until Friday or Saturday. I am discovering that now I am back on plan, it is relatively easy at work but weekends are becoming more difficult because of a lack of structure and the fact that I am usually trying to finish out the leftovers in my fridge. I am definitely more at peace about the whole process which is nice. I think that the yoga and pilates I have been incorporating into my life are helping me become calmer and more balanced. I am less frantic about things in general and that is helpful in controlling my exercise and food. So, progress is being made slowly but surely and hopefully it will continue for the foreseeable future.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Friday Funny

Okay, this is just funny, this morning the very nice front desk person at my gym handed me my membership card. Why is this funny? I have been going to this particular gym for a year and a half, and today I got my membership card for the first time. Normally, I just saunter into the gym wave to the front desk and keep going on my way to the locker room. My hands are usually full with my purse, gym bags, car keys, and work clothes so I could not use my card anyway. Well, I could but it would involve a substantial amount of juggling on my part and possibly dropping things. However, I am looking at this as a sign from the universe that I really should try to make it to the gym on the weekend and get in a little extra cardio or lift a few weights. I may try that tomorrow if I feel really motivated for some reason. I might have overestimated the amount of curry that I had in my fridge. However, I had enough to eat last night and then freeze for later. I decided I would rather freeze a bag of curry than eat it tonight because I am always running into days where I am too tired to cook and end up eating something crappy as a result. Not any more, now I shall simply pull out frozen items and reheat them. I declined two lunch invitations today from coworkers. I am not trying to be anti-social but I do not really want to spend the extra money when I brought food and I do not want the extra calories in my body. I actually said to one of the co-workers “God no, everything at that particular restaurant has too many calories.” This made her really mad but I swear it just kind of came out of my mouth and was not intended to be insulting. Unfortunately, it was just really honest and not what she wanted to hear. I used to go out to lunch a lot with this particular person so I think she feels a little abandoned because I am no longer doing that anymore. Here is the thing, going out a lot always ends up with me not properly taking care of myself. I eat too much food, I gain back some weight, I slack off at the gym. All of these things are always interconnected in my life. So, one of the ways that I look after myself is by controlling what I eat, making sure it is healthy and not an enormous portion. Invariably, that means bringing lunch into work, watching my snacks, and not eating out very much (if at all). Does this translate to being somewhat anti-social, yes, but for right now that is a trade-off that I am willing to make in my life. I think it would be less of an issue if I lived somewhere with more health conscious dining options, but not here. There are not a lot of low calorie options at the restaurants and frankly that is a real problem for me when it comes to eating out. Also, I can tell that part of what is going on here is that my co-worker has lost a partner in crime on food issues. In other words, it is a lot easier to justify eating things if there is some other person eating them right along with you. Especially if you can say in your brain, well they are healthy so I must be healthy. Umm, no. Personally, I probably carry an extra 40 lbs or so on a very small frame, small bones and very short (ie. 5'2" on a really, really good day or in heels). Not to mention I am blessed with a body that stores all the excess fat around my middle which is the worst place to have it. So, while I am in reasonably good shape, I am not nearly as healthy as I could be and I notice this when I do new and different physical activities. I had the same person tell me she was fit but well padded. Umm no, and I don’t mean that in a mean way. I mean it in a “I have observed your eating and exercise habits and they are not good.” Not enough working out, too much alcohol, and far too much processed food. I have spent so much time finessing my own diet that I am really sensitive to other people’s diets and whether or they can be construed as healthy. Trust me, at some time I have tried every variation of every diet to find out which one works for me. I always end up back at a diet which incorporates everything in moderation. Generally this means less processed foods, small amounts of bread and white flour products, and lots of fruits and vegetables. In this line, I decided last night that I really did not need rice because I had eaten a bunch of crackers during the day and so I just stuck with my spicy curry and some fat free yogurt and fruit for desert. By the way, this is the longest I have been basically on plan for about the past 6 months or so and I am very pleased with myself about that fact.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Thursday Check-in

Today, my office is putting up dividers. It is perhaps an indication of various interpersonal problems or just an indication of the fact that people can only live without their own space for so long. I am going to end up in a fairly tiny windowless cubicle as a result. I was starting to fuss about it and then it occurred to me that my time here is rapidly coming to an end and so it really does not matter in the long run. Now, I feel very zen about the whole process and could care less about the results. Perspective is truly a wonderful thing. I should note that the office staff is already referring to it as my “cave” not a really good thing. As I anticipated, my workout this morning was very easy and not very exciting. My body was not up for anything challenging and I just wanted to get in and out of the gym quickly. I do realize that my version of getting out of the gym quickly is different than most people, since I still worked out for an hour and 35 minutes this morning. Tomorrow will be a harder workout since I have spin class at 5:15 am, plus I made a resolution that I would run a mile before every spin class. So far, that has proved relatively easy since it take about 10-11 minutes to run a mile and I get to the gym about 20 minutes before class starts so that I can get my favorite bike. Progress has been slow but relatively steady, a reminder that there are huge benefits to eating in and monitoring my food intake. Plus, I feel much better, no guilt about what I am eating and I am sleeping better at night. I am still slowly eating my way through the chicken curry I made a couple of nights ago, I may stop and get some brown rice tonight to pour it over. I could stand to have more whole grains in my diet, such as brown rice but I am bad at making sure that I eat them in moderation. Alternatively I am just thinking about thickening up the broth with a little bit of cornstarch since I tend to like thick curries. I will probably freeze some of the curry tonight and have it tucked away in the freezer for emergencies when I do not feel like cooking. I will probably be left with enough for dinner tonight and tomorrow and then I will figure out what to do with the rest of the roast chicken on Saturday. I am going to put some of it into the meal I am cooking on Saturday and I may whip up a few salads with the remainder. Last night I tested out yet another exercise dvd. This one I bought on a whim, it was a belly dancing dvd that I was really hoping would be fun. Instead, I was completely bored out of my mind and fast forwarded some bits. I was surprised, because I do not find my yoga tapes boring even though I have played them repeatedly over the past few weeks. I think it was the fact that the movements were very repetitive and not very exciting that bugged me. I am not sure. Either way, it will be put at the bottom of my piles of tapes and not dragged out very often. I will probably mostly stick with yoga of some description rather than branching out terribly far at this point. Tonight, I am going to run home and try to clean up my space, it is still pretty yucky and it is starting to bother me. I made an executive decision recently that since I get to work at 7:00 in the morning (1 hour before everyone else), and work during lunch that I am leaving everyday at 5 pm. It has been a really good decision and I don’t feel at all guilty about it at this point. Plus, I get a lot more accomplished in the early evening which is good because I go to bed by no later than 9 pm at night and usually closer to 8 pm.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Venting and a small rant

My legs are incredibly stiff this morning. I think that perhaps step aerobics followed by yoga and topped off by hipboxing class within less than forty-eight hours was probably not the best plan. So, unless I feel really inspired tomorrow morning, I am going to take it easy and just do a mellow cardio workout. I am happy to report that I am finally about 90 percent back to normal, the pain of the sunburn has faded into insignificance and as a result I got plenty of sleep last night which helped immensely. I do not think that I have had such a bad burn in over four years, clearly I need to start using a higher spf sun screen (and yes I did use it). Normally I try and stay out of the midday sun here as much as possible because it is harsh. Obviously that plan did not work out last Sunday. This weekend I am going to take it easy and just clean my house and get errands done (and stay out of the sun). The bad attitude cloud that is my co-worker has re-descended upon the office. She was out yesterday. It is amazing how the attitude permeates the office and makes everyone feel uncomfortable and on-edge. Yesterday was remarkably peaceful and mellow in the office, but I cannot say the same for today. I am always hesitant to write about my office and the people in it, they certainly have not volunteered to be blogged about on the world wide web, but this problem is so strongly influencing my stress management ability and personal state of mind that I cannot help myself. I work in an open office space, no real walls and no doors to close. There are not even real cubicles at this point. Thus, noise and by extension emotions bleeds right into my personal workspace. We have erected a wall between me and this coworker and that has helped enormously this morning (it only went up yesterday). Still, I am left with a deep desire to go over to her desk and suggest that she stop behaving like a four year old brat. However, it will not help the situation and so I am restraining myself and letting senior management handle the situation. Well, I am venting here, obviously. Okay, enough about work, moving on with my life and the day. I feel rather like offering some totally unsolicited advice to the blogsphere today. Also, I am feeling a little ranty today (in case you had not noticed). People, seriously, eating under 1200 calories a day is a bad idea. At least, for the vast majority of us who are working out and trying to lose weight the old fashioned way. If you are eating under 1,200 calories a day and working out, your body will assume that you are starving yourself and try and hold on to every single calorie it can find. Personally, I usually end up at between 1,500 and 1,700 calories each and every day. Frankly, I hit that number simply by eating a sensible breakfast, lunch, and dinner. This is my normal meal plan, breakfast is a bowl of oatmeal, I then usually have something when I get to work, either a piece of whole wheat bread or a little bit of cheese. Lunch is a salad with veggies, some cheese, and meat (usually chicken). I have about three cups of coffee with equal and fat free creamer in it, sometimes more or less depending on my stress level. That usually holds me until dinner, if I feel hungry I will hunt down some kind of healthy snack in the late afternoon. When I go home, I usually have a spoonful of peanut butter (and yes it is the healthiest one I could find in the store) then I start dinner cooking and I pop in an exercise dvd and workout for 30 minutes to an hour. Dinner is invariably some kind of protein (usually chicken) and hopefully veggies. I am working very hard at making sure I have vegetables with dinner. Recently, I have been eating a lot of black bean soup for dinner and a fair number of sweet potatoes. Last night for example, I had chicken curry which had sweet potatoes, onions, garlic, coconut milk, and chicken in it. I use small bowls for my meals, usually cereal sized bowls. Then I usually have a bowl of fat free yogurt which I combine with frozen fruit and splenda. If I am out of splenda I have been known to use sugar to sweeten the yogurt and fruit. Seriously, when I add it all up, at a minimum, on a really low calorie day, I have hit between 1,200 and 1,300 calories at that point and usually at least 1,500 calories. This is keeping in mind that people seriously underestimate the amount of calories they are consuming at any given time. So, people, please try and be realistic and sensible about the amount of food you need to put into your body to fuel it properly. I am not on a diet, I never have been except in the very start of my weight loss journey. I am on a plan that I personally believe I can live with for the rest of my life. Yes, sometimes I fall off it for month long periods with a loud bang, but I am working on the emotional issues that cause that to happen (and trust me it is always emotional issues for me). I am attempting to make sure that I live a long and healthy life. A life without the medical problems which come from being seriously overweight. I am only 28 years old (I will turn 29 in a little under a month). If I am lucky I will live into at least my 80's like my maternal grandparents. That is at least 51 years, hopefully more. 51 years would be a horribly long time to be on a really restrictive diet and I would not even contemplate such foolishness. You cannot live on 1,100 or 1,000 calories permanently, and you may gain weight when you go back to a normal plan. So, why not start out on a normal plan which will help you lose weight and which only requires the addition of a few hundred calories when you begin to maintain your weight. Okay, rant officially over, you may return to your regularly scheduled programing.

Evening Post

I was watching television tonight, and I ended up watching something called the U.S. Today Weight Loss Challenge. It is funny how something like this can push my buttons. First, I am not a big fan of programs which involve prepared meals for several reasons. Foremost among those reasons, they are expensive, and more importantly you do not learn how to manage your own food and calories. It probably is my own personal prejudice, but seriously how can you live on package food for your whole life? I cannot imagine doing that myself, so promotion of such programs tends to personally irk me for some reason. Perhaps it is because I have managed this whole process by myself, and so I see such things as a crutch that you will eventually have to learn to live without or being successful in the long run will be difficult. In a tangent, I should say that the chicken curry I made tonight was pretty rocking, if I do say so myself. The recipe is adapted from Nancy McDermott’s cookbook, Quick and Easy Vietnamese:75 Everyday Recipes which is published by Chronicle books. I am not reproducing it here because I don’t want to reproduce the work of someone else. I will say that it suffered from a problem I have run across in other curry recipes, it ended up with too much oil floating around in the mixture. So, I would probably reduce the amount of oil I used by at least half. However, it was good other than that, and I made it very spicy which helped limit portion size. Okay, so that kind of makes me sound like a freak, but I figure whatever works. I had more than enough so I don’t feel deprived, but not so much that I exceeded my daily calorie allotment. Weight loss for me has always involved some trickery and negotiation between my brain and my desires. Still, I forgot what a high it was to eat food that I had personally prepared. I was invited to dinner tonight, but I begged off because I was tired and wanted to come home and do some yoga and then go to bed. I know, I sound like an old fuddy duddy, but right now I am just really working on staying on plan. Once again I am ending a day only having eaten food that is good for me and with a really clear mind and two good workouts under my belt. Frankly, that is huge success in my book and it makes me very happy. I have not been this centered and focused in at least three to six months and as always it is a revelation to me how at peace I feel about the process. If I can manage this working under my current office conditions I imagine that this can only become better once I move on from here into a happier less stressful environment. One last thing, everyday at the end of the day I am asking myself two questions, and these are the questions: What have I done today that is good for my physical body? What have I done today that has improved my emotional well being? I know it sounds very new agey and overly holistic and that is not really who I am at heart. However, I think that these questions are really important for me right now. Most days the answers are very simple, I ate well, I wrote in my blog, I read a good book, I practiced yoga, I drank all my water, I talked to my family. Whatever it is that I did, I force myself to slow down and evaluate my day and see where my head it at right now. So, today, slow down and see where your head is at today, and let yourself be grateful for where ever that place happens to be right now.

Monday, June 12, 2006

The Festival Of Chicken

I am not a person who really likes group exercise classes (despite my unholy devotion to spinning classes). I feel that I should make this declaration immediately before proceeding with the rest of this entry. I always screw up the steps and look like a total idiot at some point during the proceedings (okay usually several times during the proceedings). It is the combination of a total lack of coordination with no musical ability and an occasional problem remembering which side is left and which is right, and trust me that is a problem which usually crops up during moments of high stress. I say all this as if it will somehow explain how I ended up in the middle of a step aerobics class at 5:30 this morning hopping around like the aforementioned idiot that I am in such classes. Actually, to be fair, it was 30 minutes of step aerobics and 30 minutes of spinning in combination with about 10 additional minutes of ab work at the end. I had no intention of taking this class when I went to the gym this morning, nope, I was going to have an easy day on the eliptical machine because my sunburn is still bothering me and then go on my merry way. However, not one or two, but three separate people told me about the class and insisted that I attend. Then to top it all off I ended up in the front row of the step aerobics class sweating like a maniac and trying to figure out how I had ended up there in the first place. I swear the morning classes in my gym are like a little cult, they are almost entirely made up of married women (I am one of the youngest people there) who come faithfully five days a week and take every single class and once they suck you in, well there you are in step aerobics at 5:30 in the morning. Now, it was an excellent workout, I enjoyed it and I will probably go back next week, not that I will have a choice, however I don’t have any clue how I ended up being one of the people who takes all the classes in the morning. If I am being honest, I have no idea how I ended up in any group exercise classes because I do not really like them. However, I have learned a few valuable lessons as a result, first the workouts will push you which is especially good when you feel like slacking off, and second, no one cares if you look like an idiot because they are probably worrying about the same thing or dying from the pain of exercising. Also, the classes are a reminder that my fitness level is really pretty good, because I could walk into the class without ever having taken it before and keep up with all the cardio with no problem (although I need to do more ab work). Last night’s workout was not very good but at least I did a few stretches and a few minutes of yoga which I needed to stretch my back which was tense. I did however manage to roast enough chicken for the rest of the week which was very exciting. Also, it tasted really good although I think you could experiment with more complicated rubs and have excellent results. So, courtesy of my father here is my roast chicken recipe and I swear that tonight I am make my chicken curry so I will report on that tomorrow. First, brine the chicken legs/thighs/breasts that you are using for thirty minutes to two hours. (I did for thirty minutes and I was using chicken legs and thighs). The brine I used was as follows: 1 cup Kosher Salt (you can substitute ½ cup table salt) 2 quarts water That is all you have to put in the brine, no really. Second, turn on the broiler in your oven and separate the oven racks, one should be high up under the broiler but not so close you can’t slide the roasting pan with the chicken on it under the broiler (minor technical glitch I had last night). The other should be lower and closer to the bottom of the oven, mine was pretty close to the bottom of the oven but I have an absolutely tiny oven. Now, on your roasting pan put all of your chicken, skin side down (unless you are being ridiculously healthy and roasting chicken with no skin). Season your chicken to taste. I just put pepper on both sides since the brine had salt in it already. Put the pan in the oven, on the lower rack and let it cook for 15-20 minutes, in a good oven it would probably only take 15 minutes to begin to brown, in my oven it takes 20. When the chicken has been cooking for 15-20 minutes and is turning a lovely golden color and smells really good, pull it out and flip it over. The skin side is now up if you are keeping track. Cook for an additional 10-15 minute until it reaches an internal temperature of around 160-170 degrees. If (like me) you are without a meat thermometer, this would be a good point to check and see if the meat is cooked and the juices run clear. Now, take the pan and move it to the top rack, directly under the broiler. Cook for a minute or two until the skin is crispy and slightly browned. Pull out the chicken and let it rest under a foil tent for at least 10 minutes. There you go, perfectly roasted chicken which if stored in an airtight container should last for between 1 week and 10 days. Plus, it tasted fabulous even though all it was seasoned with was salt and black pepper. As I say, you could go fancy with rubs but it is not necessary, I chose not to because I know I am going to use the chicken in my curry and also in some chicken salads that I am going to make this week, so I wanted to keep it very simple. So, there you go, the festival of chicken recipes have begun.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Monday Morning

Well, at least I went and bought cookbooks and groceries this weekend. I did not manage to get any actual cooking done. Instead, I spent all day Sunday diving and developing a lovely and rather painful sunburn along the way on my shoulders and back. Let me tell you, putting a sports bra on over a sunburn is really no fun at all. However, that is exactly what I did this morning as I dragged my tired rear out of bed and headed to the gym. I had a decent workout, not great but decent and given the circumstance that was a miracle. I almost went back to bed this morning instead of going to the gym because I felt vaguely ill and I did not sleep well last night due to the aforementioned sunburn. Tonight I must do my cooking for the week. I have decided that my theme is going to be food item rather than a region (mostly because it is easier to focus on a product). So, this month I am going to experiment with chicken because (a) I eat it all the time (b) it gets really boring cooking it the only way I know how right now, and (c) it is healthy and cheap. Ergo, I saved 30 dollars on groceries this week. So, tonight I am going to brine some chicken and roast it. In addition, I am going to make a curry which I found in my new cookbook (recipes from Vietnam) which will probably be dinner tonight. Oh, and I am happy to report that I only had a minor deviation from my plan this week and that was Sunday. My snacks were not exactly what I would normally have and neither was the restaurant grilled fish burger that I ate after the dive trip. However, since I did not eat dinner, I think it all evens out in the end. However, all last week and Saturday were totally on plan and today is back to normal as well. I have my water and salad chilling in the work fridge, I have had my morning coffee and I am headed back for a second cup. Tonight, I go back to doing my home yoga workouts at night and I feel pretty good about that as well. I am planning on brining my chicken while I am doing my workout and then cooking it when I am finished. Once I spend tonight cooking I should be set for the rest of the week and be able to get away with just reheating and combining things. So, overall things are going well and I have finally had a weekend of basically good eating, so I am pleased with myself.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Proof Exercise Works

I’ve said this before, but on the days where the stress gets really bad I have developed a new solution. I sneak off to the bathroom and do a round of 45-60 regular sit-ups. If I had an office with closed doors, I would just use my office but no such luck. I have discovered that with a couple of adrenaline spiking exceptions, the stress is unrelated to what I have to do at work. It has far more to do with other people imposing their personal meltdowns and frustrations upon those around them (including me). More and more I become intolerant of such outbursts, not that I haven’t been prone to my own personal work tizzies. However, those shrink in regularity the more that I workout and take proper care of myself. Frankly, currently there is one person in my office who simply needs to get a grip or go running or something. When I was a teenager I used to have tantrums of global proportions, slamming doors (to the extent that my father removed the lock from my door), throwing things and stomping off. Those have faded away, and to some extent I can point to the day I started to seriously work out as the day those fits faded away. My rage rarely gets inflicted on people now, rather it is expended through furious treadmill runs and upon defenseless spinning bikes. All of this is also helped by the fact that I am not eating over processed sugar laden food and sticking with healthy options. I have a feeling that the yoga is also assisting me in releasing stress and learning to be balanced in my life. When you are faced with the negativity that such outbursts produce it makes it more important to avoid them and behave like a reasonable adult. It seems funny to say that when the person having the most outbursts is quite a bit older than me, but it is still true. Today obviously involved a entirely unnecessary meltdown and when I realize that this was what was stressing me out, I went into the bathroom, closed the door and did 45 sit-ups. I feel better now as a result.


I adore Fridays, especially Friday afternoon. The weekend stretches out ahead of one and there is the contemplation of sleeping as late as possible (well, at least until 8 a.m.). I am especially excited about the fact that I managed to have four hard cardio sessions this week (and one slacker day i.e. Thursday). Tomorrow is my day off from working out, I do plan on doing some kind of workout on Sunday but I am not sure what will be involved. I have not decide whether or not I will do a workout tonight, my body is pretty sore today and I may just give myself a rest night. I just realized that I have managed to avoid past and bread all week long (which is hard for me). Last night I was going to stop and pick up bread and have a sandwich for dinner but I decided against it at the last minute and reheated my black bean soup instead. Thus, I managed to not spend any money and stay on plan at the same time, I love when I talk myself into making good choices. I assume I will manage to make it through the rest of the afternoon without major problems and thus will have managed to survive a week on plan with only two minor deviations. This is possibly a reminder of how I can actually run my life when I try being organized and on top of things. I will also end the week with around 10 dollars in my wallet, which is not something that I ever manage when I am eating out during the week. All of this falls in line with my plan to live as simply as possible for awhile with no extraneous and possibly unnecessary purchases (well except for a few cookbooks). I would like to think that I will manage to live this way long term again, but right now I am only looking at getting through one day at a time. I will worry about long term later and stick to focusing on each meal right now.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

The struggle continues

Yesterday and this morning involved some minor deviations off my food plan. Minor in that I could then recalculate what I was going to eat for the rest of the day and be fine. There would not have been any deviation this morning if my regular coffee shop had been open, but it wasn’t so I ended up at the fancy coffee shop and splurged on a correspondingly fancy caloric coffee drink. Yesterday, I ate some sugary food and that all started because I had a Luna bar when I got to work. I know it sounds odd, but I have discovered recently that the moment I add in anything like an energy bar to my daily food consumption I instantly veer off track. Probably because most energy bars are full of sugar themselves. So, no more of those in the diet for now. At least I can point to an actual reason for my dietary woes, I am trying to become really mindful of what makes me eat off-plan and what keeps me on track. I wish I could say I had made up for it with a fabulous workout this morning but my body was tired and insisted on taking it easy. I figure one easy workout morning during the week is acceptable and tomorrow will be more challenging since I have a spin class. Maybe I will make up for it tonight with an extra challenging yoga session at home, depends on how I feel at the end of the day. I have not had a day in a long time where work did not leave me emotionally drained and exhausted and I am trying to compensate with workout sessions which renew me. Some times it works and some times it does not, but I keep trying each and every day. Last night, I also proved that I should not try to make up recipes on my own. I tried to through together something involving a pureed sweet potato and a few other ingredients. It was horrible and instantly went down the drain (which was a good thing because I put entirely too much butter in it). Instead, I had chicken tossed in a little leftover alfredo sauce (don’t have any idea why I bought that, but most of the sauce got tossed anyway), and called it a night. This is why I have to start cooking food on Sunday and storing it in individual dinner containers so I don’t waste things when I cannot figure out what to make on any given day. I should know this by now, but better late than never. Some days, I just wish that this was easier. That I did not need to be so careful about what I put into my body and so focused on portion size. However, I do have to be this careful with my remarkably slow metabolism and long history of personal obesity. I have to remind myself that this is not about what other people can do, but about what I can do and my body can handle. It is an everyday struggle and probably always will be and I continue to learn how to live within that reality.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Where I am today

Last night, in my continuing efforts to shrink my rear end, I tested out a exercise dvd consisting of dance moves. If I am being frank, I purchased it solely because it was on sale at K-Mart. While it did make me sweat a lot, I cannot say that I was terribly impressed. Mostly because it was very hard to follow the moves and the instructor was excessively perky. So, I have a feeling that this will end up as more of a backup dvd than one I keep in regular rotation. I have noticed that one benefit of working out at night is that it keeps me from eating excessively when I get home. Last night, I heated up a can organic black bean soup and tossed in some cooked chicken. I only made it through half the bowl of soup and my blackberry lassi even though I could have eaten more and been fine calorie-wise, I just was not that hungry after working out. The rest of the soup has been carefully stored in a container in the fridge in case I feel like eating it tonight or at some point this week. I am slowly but surely accumulating a fridge filled with leftovers that I need to eat sooner rather than later. Right now tucked away in the fridge, I have a sweet potato, red pepper, olive and feta salad, an additional baked sweet potato, the aforementioned soup, and extra cooked chicken. I need to somehow use all these items up between now and Sunday when I go grocery shopping again. The problem is, I am brilliant at following recipes but when I attempt to throw something together it always turns out badly and excessively caloric. So, I am still racking my brain about what I am going to do with these items, I may just end up reheating them and eating them without further alterations. It will probably depend on how tired I am at the end of the day. I have noticed that my pre-planning is starting to pay off. This morning, I was horribly late in leaving my house (long story, but really I should not start searching for things at 4:30 in the morning, it never works out) and at a dead run. However, I was able to grab lunch with a minimum of fuss because I had water and my prepared salad bowls easily at hand. This is really my new goal, to prepare everything on Sunday so I do not need to fuss during the rest of the week. Oh, and I still made it to the gym in time for my class, although I did not get in the extra cardio I usually do before class. I will try and make up for it tonight by doing my fast-paced yoga dvd and also by running tomorrow morning. Also, (yes I am long winded today) I am still mulling over my recipe of the week and what kind of theme I will be choosing for the next month. It will probably be the cuisine of a particular country–either Thai food or Indian food but I have not decided yet. Either that, or I am going to spend a month preparing chicken in different ways. I am still deciding but I know that I want to pick a recipe where I can store the leftovers and reheat them easily in the oven (I do not own a microwave). Also, it needs to be low calorie and high protein. So this requires a fair amount of thinking and investigation over the next few days. I love projects.

Monday, June 05, 2006

An entirely food related post

So, here is my new thought. I have been reading a lot of food blogs with the theory that I need to expand my food horizons to items other than pasta (always a downfall). My thought is that I will try and cook one new dish a week and write about it. Thus, I will expand both my culinary horizons and also blog topics. Maybe I will try out themes, such as a month spent cooking with one ingredient or a month spent on one country’s dishes (although one month will not be enough for Italy). I am thinking of doing all the cooking on Sundays because that is a day that I am usually at home and also it is the day that I go to the store for my weekly groceries. Plus, I can cook extra and freeze it for dinner during the week. I know already that there will be issues along the way, especially in terms of ingredients. Fresh food costs a lot here, and it can be very difficult to find ingredients (unless the ingredients are used in Thai or Asian cuisine). Still, I am going to give it my best shot over the next month.
I thought that I would start early with one of my favorite things. I stole this recipe from somewhere (sadly I cannot remember where) and then I altered it. You might say that this recipe stems from a desire to revisit some old childhood memories. I can remember being very young and going berry picking with my older brother and parents in the delta area which is part of the San Francisco Bay. Whether the memories are accurate or not, I can remember us ending up with huge white buckets filled with blackberries and raspberries which would quickly be decimate leaving both my brother and I with berry-stained hands and mouths. My brother especially could devour half a bucket of berries in the blink of an eye or a five second turn of a parental back. I can distinctly remember the color of the blackberries, fading from true black to a dark red wine color. I can’t get good fresh raspberries or blackberries where I live now, so I have to settle for the frozen variety and admittedly they never defrost quite right. So, they require some work before being worth eating. A while back, I stumbled upon a recipe for a very good mango lassi and I began to wonder if it could be altered for other fruits. The answer was clearly yes after some experimentation. Thus, my mind turned to blackberries and raspberries (and this is better with raspberries) and I tested it out and was quite pleased with the results. I’m not much for measuring so you will have to approximate amounts.
1/4 cup nonfat plain yogurt (or you can substitute buttermilk)
around 1 cup of berries (I usually eyeball it and go with however many berries evenly cover the bottom of my food processor bowl)
either sugar or splenda to taste (I use splenda) usually two tablespoons is ample if not excessive
around 1/8 cup cold water to help the ingredients blend into a smooth liquid
The result is a tart cross between a smoothie and a lassi which more than fulfills my craving for fresh berries. I usually have this as dessert or a mid-afternoon snack, if I get struck by sudden hunger pains. If you eliminate the water, it turns into a thick semi-frozen berry sorbet without the excessive calories. All of the ingredients can be varied according to taste.

The Long Slow Run

This morning, for the first time in a couple of weeks, I actually did about a three mile run. Oof, I have to start running more often because it was pretty brutal and I was only running a 11 minute mile (as compared to my standard 10 minute mile). I did actually manage to run for a solid 35 minutes which was good and I probably could have kept going but I did want to be able to walk today. Anyway, it meant that I skipped out on what looked like a really good combination spin/step aerobics class but I was already 20 plus minutes into my run when the class started. Next week I may take the class but today I really felt like running so I prioritized that instead. Food and water were spot on yesterday (well I did eat an entire yam for dinner but it is a super food) and I even managed 20 minutes of yoga at the end of the day while dinner was cooking. Thus, I feel like monday was a complete success and I am ready for today. Part of what has been helping is going back to drinking tons of water, it fills me up and I am much better off reaching for one of my little 8 oz bottles of water than a snack. Yoga is also proving to be beneficial because it helps me to relax and unwind which is something that I have never been good at on my own. Now, my main goal is just not to go off plan on Friday or Saturday this week.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Friday/Saturday Problem

I seem to be developing this problem where my food falls apart on Friday and Saturday and then I recover on Sunday. I am working on fixing this, usually I think it is created by all the stress of the week coming to a head on thursday and friday. So, yesterday was decent in terms of food, today will probably be better. I have solved one little problem (excess calories in the form of sugar in my coffee) by simply bringing in fake sugar to work. Every little bit helps, and I am working on baby steps right now. I also brought bottled water to work for the first time in a long time. I am going to try and get in my eight glasses of water today. I am once again dragging myself back on track (for the nine millionth time) but this time I really need to make some progress. I am going to go back to running at least twice a week, because it is the only thing which is guaranteed to work and to really being careful about my food. Part of that probably will involve buying new cookbooks so I can have some variety in my diet, and researching some new ways to get more vegetables into my diet. I have always liked a good project so I am going to treat my diet as my new project and see if this works.