Food Adventures: Quinoa

quinoaAs part of my updated goals to keep my 40-week journey interesting, I promised to try one new healthy food and recipe each week in an effort to expand my horizons. For my first adventure, I decided to try quinoa. I’ve heard about quinoa, but I didn’t really know what it was or how to prepare it. As I did some research on quinoa recipes, it sounded like one of the world’s most perfect foods. I found website after website listing the health benefits of this unique seed, so how could I go wrong. It’s a great source of fiber, high in protein, gluten free, rich in iron, magnesium, copper, manganese and phosphorus, AND has low levels of carbohydrates. That all sounded good to me.

Mainly, I chose quinoa as my first adventure food because I felt desperate to find a new side dish besides rice and potatoes. I had hesitations about it because I once tried to make my own tabbouleh, and I discovered that bulgur wheat is just not my thing. Quinoa and bulgur wheat seem like they would be in the same ballpark of taste and flavor, so I had low expectations.

Regardless, I went to the store and bought a bag of quinoa, which didn’t seem very exciting. Honestly, uncooked quinoa looks a LOT like birdseed. Have to admit, I was pleasantly surprised with the outcome. It was easy to prepare, and I really liked the texture. It had a bit of a pop to it and very slight crunch. It cooks up the same way as rice, except I had to soak and rinse it first. It wasn’t super flavorful on its own, but I found a recipe for a ‘Grecian Quinoa Salad’ that was very tasty, and was able to provide me with some veggies for a nice well rounded meal.

I served this with a grilled chicken breast, and it made enough for a nice dinner portion for my husband and me, and I have leftovers for lunch today:

quinoa2

The recipe I used is below, which I modified from one I found online to cut the sodium and fit my personal taste, but here is the original recipe, to give credit where it’s due for finding this tasty treat: http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/colorful-quick-quinoa-grecian-salad

1 cup uncooked quinoa
1.5 cups no-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon sherry wine
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
1/4 cup chopped yellow bell pepper
1/4 cup chopped cucumber
1/3 cup (about 1 1/2 ounces) crumbled reduced-fat feta cheese
3 tablespoons chopped pitted kalamata olives
1 tablespoon minced shallots

Place quinoa in a bowl; cover with water. Let stand 5 minutes; rinse well, and drain.

Bring broth to a boil in a large saucepan; stir in quinoa. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Uncover; fluff with a fork. Cool to room temperature.

Combine olive oil, lemon rind, lemon juice, sherry wine, and salt in a large bowl. Add cooled quinoa and the remaining ingredients; toss well.

I’m anxious to try some other recipes for quinoa and explore some other uses.

Give quinoa a try! Tasty, easy to make, and healthy, you can’t go wrong.

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Week 4: The Honeymoon is Over

It was a disappointing weigh-in day yesterday. I didn’t lose any weight for the first time since I started on my 40-week plan. I’m not sure what the issue was this past week. I completed all my workouts, and I didn’t cheat with unhealthy foods. I thought I was doing well, so no weight loss on the scale is deflating.

My theory is I’m not eating enough every day. I’m still skipping lunches, and last week I skipped breakfast once or twice. I graze on small snacks, like a yogurt or cheese stick, throughout the day, and I am usually starving by dinner time.

My plan for this week is to keep going on my path, and be extra careful to make sure I’m hitting my 1500/day calorie count. I’m prepping my lunches for the week in advance, so there will be no skipping. If I still see no weight loss on the scale this coming Sunday, then I will have to review my plan and do some modifications. I am doing all my workouts, but they are getting easier, so maybe it’s time to kick them up to the next level. I was planning to do that in a week or 2 anyway, but I might have to bump that up in the schedule.

I just can’t let this disappointment get me in a funk. My pattern in the past would be to lose motivation and start to think all this effort isn’t worth it if I’m not going to see any results, and then fall back into my old ways. I can’t let that attitude get the best of me.

Plus, there will be obstacles this week. There is a blizzard heading our way, so it’s going to be endless shoveling, and general disruption to my regular routine. If we lose power, I won’t be able to do my workout DVD, but that’s no excuse. We have a stationary bike, so I have that as a backup. A disruption of this nature would previously be an excuse to skip exercising, not cook, or ‘reward’ myself with a big bottle of wine, gooey dessert, or unhealthy meal.

Whether I see results on the scale or not, I have to admit I am feeling better about myself. I am seeing improvements in my exercise regime, and I’m slowly getting stronger and gaining self-respect. I might be far from fitting into my skinny jeans, but if I give up, then I might as well just toss them.

It’s going to be a tough week, but no one ever said this was going to be easy.

If you are in the Northeast this week, stay safe!

Magic Recipe: Pan-Cooked Pineapple Swordfish

swordfish2blogJPGThis is one of my staples of the week, I feel like it’s a ‘magic’ meal because I usually make this on Saturday night, and it hasn’t had any negative effects on my Sunday weigh-in day, to date.

This makes 2 servings, which I split between my husband and me, and I normally give my husband a bigger portion:

1lb fresh swordfish, cut into chunks
1/4 cup light soy sauce
1 small can of pineapple chunks in 100% juice (8 oz can)
1/4 cup sherry cooking wine
1 Tbls. brown sugar
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
2 Tbls. lemon juice

Swordfish

Mix soy, sherry, brown sugar, garlic, ginger, lemon juice, and the juice from the pineapple together. Marinate swordfish chunks in the sauce for 30 minutes. Cook swordfish and pineapple in roughly half the sauce in non-stick pan at about medium-high heat on stove top until swordfish is cooked, about 10-15 minutes. Serve over rice. Discard the unused sauce.

Enjoy!

Plumpy Perspectives: Bored Already??

I totally understand why people quit their New Year resolutions so early. I am already getting tired of this exercise in change. Basically, it’s not fun trying to lose weight and change bad habits.

Why can’t it be fun? I’m certainly not going to quit because I’m bored. I need to spice it up. I would have thought losing five pounds would keep me motivated and excited to power on, but that’s not doing the trick. It’s going to be a good 25 pounds before I start to feel any sense of accomplishment in that area. I need to create some more interesting goals that will broaden my horizons, while working towards my ultimate objective at the same time. Plus, it will give me something to write about besides how fat I feel all the time.

This is just off the top of my head, but here’s what I’m thinking:

Try one new healthy food each week: There’s all kinds of fruits and vegetables at the grocery store that have me scratching my head, time to give them a whirl!

Do at least one athletic (indoor or outdoor) activity for fun/entertainment a month:  I might have to finally take my best friend’s advice and sign up for Groupons, I’m sure there are lots of ideas out there. Hiking, skiing, snowshoeing, tubing, sledding, rowing, yoga, races, canoeing, to name a few ideas. Even walking around a museum or sea shelling on the beach is better than sitting at home and watching TV on Saturday. I grew up in the Boston area, and I’ve never done the Freedom Trail – that’s a good one for the list.

Try a new recipe every week: I enjoy cooking, but I’m definitely in a rut. I prepare my meals the same way every week. There must be more interesting ways to make chicken out there that are both tasty and healthy at the same time.

Get organized! My home office is depressing, I don’t like working in it everyday. I spend most of my time in my office, and it’s the ugliest room in our house. It’s disorganized, with mismatched furniture, no hanging photos or artwork, and sloppy white paint on the walls and ceiling. It’s screaming for a makeover, and I think it could be done with a very minimal investment.  Before this 40 weeks is over, I am determined to get this accomplished. I believe feeling better about my work space will make me feel better overall. An organized office life can carry over to other areas.

I think that’s enough to start with for now, and I’m already excited to get to the grocery store and try a new ‘weird’ food!

Fight the boredom!

Week 3: Slap Out of It!

Sunday weigh-in day and the start of week 3, and I am so happy to have lost 2 pounds. I wasn’t expecting that at all.  I completed all my workouts, and I believe I ate within my calorie count, but in this second week I was already feeling the desire to slip into my usual patterns. I physically did everything right,  but I don’t feel like my head was in the program.

As I reflect on the week though, I’m going to call it a win. Life happens, and crap is going to muddy the water.  The fact I was distracted by life and still managed to stick to my program, at least the basics anyway, is a good sign for the future.  I was tempted on several occasions to be lazy and skip my workouts, but I prevailed. My husband and I had takeout sushi for dinner on Wednesday, and the world didn’t end. I didn’t track my calories everyday, I didn’t drink my 2 liters of water a day, and I didn’t eat lunch on at least two or three days.

Weekends are tough too, it’s amazing how much entertainment revolves around eating and drinking. We basically ended up doing a bunch of chores.  At some point it would be nice to go out to a restaurant, see friends, go to a movie, and do normal stuff like that, but I’m fearful of what might happen when it comes to the scale.

I think my lesson of this past week is that it’s OK to let loose once and awhile and not be so strict with myself, as long as I continue to do something everyday to try to be healthier, whatever I can do. But, even in the future if I am faced with not being able to exercise, or I’m in a crazy situation where pizza is my only food option, I can’t let that ‘slip’ become a pattern. For example, I want to eat lunch everyday, and drink plenty of water, so even though I wasn’t able to accomplish those goals this past week, today starts a new week to try harder to make those changes.

Onward and upward!

Plumpy Perspectives: I’m Not Fooling Anyone

I’m an expert at fooling myself. I’ve raised it to an art form.

Here are my top ten best techniques:

  • I avoid cameras so I never have to see how I really look
  • Should it be necessary to share a photo, I can easily take 5 pounds off any image with Photoshop
  • The photos on my Facebook page are several years old and I still believe that’s how I look
  • I purposely wear over-sized clothes so I feel like I’m too skinny for them to fit
  • If I must shop, which is rare, I only try on clothes from designers or manufacturers that I know make sizes that run really big, so I can believe I actually wear those sizes.
  • I wear a lot of black because apparently no one can see my flab in a black shirt
  • I never wear tank tops, or strapless anything, and I only wear longer shorts in the summer
  • I recently invested in SPANX. Why I didn’t do this sooner is beyond me.
  • I avoid people I haven’t seen in awhile so they can’t see how much weight I’ve gained. If they haven’t seen me, their image of me will remain the somewhat “skinny-me.”
  • I do not participate in any group exercise event (classes, races, etc) because I don’t want to realize how out of shape I am in comparison to others

How sad is that? I realize I am kidding myself, and I’m not fooling anyone. I also know that people don’t care how I look or how fast I can run, except for myself.

I know that I’m missing out on life feeling this way. My dog passed away suddenly last summer, and it has been a really difficult few months since she has been gone. I realized after looking at nine years of photos of her – and I have thousands of them – that there are only a small handful of photos of us together. I’m always the one behind the camera or hiding in the background.

I really admire the contestants on the Biggest Loser, they really put it all out there so publicly. I could never see myself doing that, at least not at this point. I can’t even bring myself to post photos on this blog.

I’m not going to change this way of thinking overnight, but I know I need to work on my self esteem to succeed. I need to come to terms with my real size and weight, embrace it, and not let it run my life.

Baby steps, I’ll get there.

Week 2 Begins: Second Verse, Same as the First!

One milestone complete, I made it through the first week without any major stumbles. I lost 3 pounds. The negative part of my brain is thinking about how I should have lost more, and how my younger self would have dropped at least 6 in the first week of cleaner eating and exercise.

I’m really trying not to be that person anymore, I want to celebrate every pound!  I didn’t accomplish a lifestyle change on Week 1 but I made the first step to making improvements. I want to pat myself on the back for a few accomplishments that I need to carry over into week 2 and moving forward:

I completed all my workouts! As I mentioned previously, I am starting with a round of Power 90, which requires 6 days of workouts with one rest day. I managed to get them all in from Sunday – Friday, even though one night I had to work late, and ended up working out after 8 pm. Pat on the back!

I stuck to 1500 calories a day. I didn’t eat all the healthy non-processed meals I hoped to prepare, but I tracked my intake, and made my daily goals. Pat on the back!

I made better choices. Instead of curbing my 3 pm sweet tooth with a cookie or a piece of candy, I had a banana, Greek yogurt or a cheese stick.  Instead of being lazy after work with a glass of wine (and then some..) and TV, I worked out. Instead of getting takeout food on Friday night as my husband suggested,  I made us a healthy dinner. Pat on the back!

I still have a lot to work on,  but it’s a great start. Bring on week 2!

Day 5: Plumpy Perspectives

I made it past hump day in my first week of my 40 week journey. This is not going to be easy, every day has been a struggle, which is sad considering I should at least have some beginner’s momentum working in my favor. I know it’s going to get a lot harder, and I have a lot to work on already, such as:

Making Extra Time in the Morning to Work Out. So far this week, I’ve been working out at night after work, but realistically life is going to get in the way, and I dread having to do it all day. I’ve NEVER been a morning person, but I need to fight it to be successful. Today is a perfect example, I am working late, and now I’m updating my blog, it’s 7PM and still need to exercise. I know I will, but in a few weeks, my slight beginner’s momentum will not nonexistent.

Lunchtime is My Weakest Point of the Day. As I work at home, it’s very easy for the day to get lost on me. I’ll suddenly realize it’s 2 or 3 PM and I haven’t eaten since breakfast. At least twice this week I’ve eaten lunch late, and I have not practiced my rule of a “healthy lunch” – meaning no processed food. Today, I popped a plain cheese frozen flat-bread in the toaster oven and threw some plain chicken on top, and that was 723 calories. I have less than 500 calories left in my day to eat, and I’m betting I’m going to be really hungry. I need to prep my healthy lunches in advance.

I Miss Wine. Cougar Town premiered this week, and it felt like a crime to watch it without a glass of vino! Wine is tasty, I like it, but I know alcohol doesn’t fit into a 1500-calorie-a-day plan. I have worries about how this will go over the next few weeks.

Stop Weighing Myself Every Day. I’m a slave to the scale when I diet, and I’ve weighed myself every day so far. But this time, I am not trying not to think of this effort as a “diet,” but as a rebirth. I’m not just trying to lose weight, I’m trying to become a new person. Not just a person that eats less and exercise more, but a person that has good life habits. A person that makes better choices in how she spend time and respects her body enough to care about how its treated. I need to stop letting notches on a scale define how I feel.

My ultimate goal in 40 weeks is to not only lose 40 pounds, but gain a new approach to the way I live my life. I am taking every day as it comes.

My Nutrition Plan: Find Balance

Let me start by saying I have done several commercial eating programs, and for the most part they all worked when I stuck to them. I’m not endorsing any of them, or putting any of them down. I believe if you can figure out how to make the transition to eating healthy long-term after a program is completed, that is fantastic. I know people that have succeeded in this, I am just not one of them, since I’m once again at a new weight high.

When I was working in an office a few years ago, several of my co-workers (I was not one of them) were doing one of those commercial diet programs. There was a group of us coming back from a meeting and we stopped to get some take-out  at a sandwich place. This guy on the diet didn’t get anything and was explaining the program to us. He had all his food in packages, and he would prepare them in the office. I saw many of my coworkers during this time frame bringing little packages that looked like hot chocolate, ripping them open and re-hydrating them for their meals. Granted, they all lost weight, and some of them still look great years later, but I asked this guy as were waiting for our food, “What’s the long term plan, do you eat this food forever?” He responded, “No, of course not, but when this is over, I have to start to be careful about what I eat.”

I knew he was going to fail. I’ve been him; I am him. Unfortunately, like me, years later, he is still struggling with his weight. As I start this quest to lose 40 lbs in 40 weeks, I am setting out with the mindset that I need to find a way to eat long term that makes me happy, and wanting to eat! I’ve done my share of crazy things. When I was doing the Six Week Body Makeover, you have to eat 5-6 times a day, and I actually took strips of steak and chicken in my purse to Disney World to snack on throughout the day! I was so paranoid about missing a meal, and of course I couldn’t eat anything they served in the parks. I can’t count the number of times I turned down going out to lunch with my co-workers because I was on a special diet.

I really don’t want to be that person anymore. I don’t want to be the girl with the chicken in her purse. I want to find a way to eat out normally, go out with friends, and prepare meals I actually want to eat. But that’s the trick – how do I find balance?

I don’t have the answer, at least not yet, but for this weight loss journey over the next 40 weeks, these are the guidelines I’ve come up:

  • Try not to go over 1500 calories a day. I use a free app to track my food, but I used to keep a food journal, which also worked just fine.
  • Try to hit all the food groups daily
  • Eat a HEALTHY breakfast and lunch. For me, that means no processed food, at least most of the time. I’m not going to beat myself up if I have a sandwich once and awhile, as long as I fit it into my daily calorie plan.
  • Eat a reasonably healthy dinner. For me, “reasonably” means I might add SOME packaged or processed foods to my meal, such as instant mashed potatoes, rice pilaf, wheat pasta, bottle salad dressing, etc. I tried eliminating this stuff from my diet altogether, but it just isn’t realistic for me to make everything from scratch, but I try when I can. I always try to find the healthiest choices from the store with the lowest amount of sodium and calories.
  • Healthy snacks are OK during the day, as long as I can fit them into my calorie plan (examples include a cheese stick, piece of fruit, yogurt)
  • Portion control. I use a food scale and measure all my side dishes with measuring cups. I am still shocked by portions!
  • Beverages: Drink water throughout the day (I shoot for 2 liters). I don’t drink diet soda, but I will enjoy sparkling water sometimes. I also have 1 cup of coffee in the morning, and a cup of tea at night.
  • Drink alcohol only at social occasions, and in moderation (2 drinks max).  Watching Cougar Town doesn’t count as a social occasion, unfortunately. I count a social occasion as going out with a friend for dinner (as long as this doesn’t happen all the time), a party, wedding, or work event. A special occasion with my husband would also count, such as Valentine’s Day or our anniversary. I don’t attend many social events, but if I did, I would need to modify this.
  • When eating out, I will get what I want. I don’t eat out very often, but I used to order what I thought was healthy, and it turned out to not be healthy.  I probably could have eaten what I wanted to order for around the same calories, and actually enjoy my food. I don’t lean towards super unhealthy options in general, so I don’t think this is going to make or break my weight loss. But if I want to get the sausage and ricotta pizza at Bertucci’s, I am getting it. I don’t eat it everyday, or even every month. I need to enjoy my life.

I really don’t know if this is a long term plan or not, or if this plan will allow me to reach my weight goal in 40 weeks. I know my weak points going in, but I will take them on as they come. I’m hoping this blog is one of the steps to helping me overcome these weaknesses.

I guess we will see. It’s all easy to say on Day 3. Time will tell.

40 Weeks, 40 Lbs. Let’s do this.

Proclamation of the day: I am a very lazy person.

I don’t like to exercise. I like to eat, drink and be lazy. That’s how I ended up 40 pounds heavier than I was three years ago.

Laziness.

My main goal in setting up this blog was to create a form of accountability for myself. I thought Weight Watchers with the weekly weigh-ins might work, but I also don’t really like to go to anything that has a social component, so daily or weekly blog entries seem appealing. Also cheaper.

I set my weight loss goal to lose 40 lbs in 40 weeks. I normally set a ridiculous goal and usually fail, or succeed and then fall back into my old ways, so this seemed realistic. Yesterday was the start of week 1, and I keep telling myself it’s just 1 lb per week, but I know there will be weeks that I won’t lose anything, so I need to make these early weeks count and get some in the bank. You would think I’d be pumped to get started, but I’m just not that kind of person. I know everyday will be a struggle to make the choice not to be lazy. It’s getting close to the end of the work day, and I’m already feeling I don’t want to exercise after I’m done with my work. I work at home, and it’s a cold and windy New England day, starting to get dark at 4pm. My pajamas and television are calling my name – with a snack of course (normally wine too, but thankfully I have none in the house).

I’m in the worst shape of my life at 40 years old. I own almost every workout routine and diet program in the book from my yo-yo dieting history (Power 90, Six Week Body Makeover, Insanity, etc..), and I own a Shake Weight, Wii Fit, and even a Thigh Master from the way old days! I call it my “diet museum.” I’m on a quest to not spend any more money on this crazy stuff, or even a gym membership if I can avoid it. Again, the gym involves a social component, so I’m not a huge fan of that idea. The way I see it, I have everything I need at my disposal, if I can just stop being lazy.

Perusing my diet museum, I decided to start with Power 90 as my reintroduction into working out. It’s like an old friend, I used Power 90 in my late 20’s when I was getting into shape for my wedding. It took me probably 3-4 rounds, but it worked, and I lost 30+ lbs and my honeymoon was the only time I’ve ever felt comfortable in a bikini.

I don’t think Power 90 will have the same effect as it did back then, as my metabolism is so much slower now, and I need to work a lot harder to lose weight. I have to start somewhere though, and my hope is that it will help to establish a routine of working out 6 days a week. The workouts are familiar, and do-able (although really hard right now for me!!).  After 1 round of Power 90, I will do something different, or add more exercise. I’ll decide that when I get there, right now I’m just fighting this first week.

I completed the first weights routine yesterday, and today is the cardio/abs. I wanted to get it out of the way in the morning before work, but of course that didn’t happen – because I’m lazy and wanted to sleep as late as possible. I know I need to get this out of the way in the morning if I am going to succeed long term. The kicker is that I work at home – it’s not like I’m up at 5AM fighting traffic, I have more than enough time to work out, I just choose otherwise. We don’t have kids, and our dog doesn’t even wake up until 8:30!  I have no excuse.

Time to fight the lazy! I can make this happen.