Food Adventures: Spaghetti Squash Is No Pasta

I have been pretty good with my goal of trying one new food a week, although I haven’t been writing about them. I started a post about brussel sprouts, but even I was bored as I wrote  it so I figured it wasn’t worth sharing. This past week I tried spaghetti squash, and I think it’s worthy of some commentary.

To sum up my feelings on spaghetti squash, I would say it was a huge waste of my time.

Top things I didn’t like about spaghetti squash:

Difficult to cut in half and dangerous. As a person that is prone to kitchen accidents, I tend to avoid hacking into anything with a large knife. I was not able to cut into the spaghetti squash. I had to ask my husband for help and he still had to hack into it swiftly and strongly with a meat cleaver. Perhaps we don’t own the right tool for this job, or simply didn’t know what we were doing, but I am still calling it strike one against the squash.

Time Consuming. The squash took 40 minutes in the oven to cook, and I think mine was a little undercooked. It was a large squash, so I should have bumped it up to at least 50 minutes, but to me that’s a long time to cook one ingredient of an overall meal. I knew this going in, and upon reflection it was aggressive of me to plan this meal on a Monday night after a day of work and then my evening workout. I wasn’t even starting my meal prep until after 7PM. I don’t blame the spaghetti squash for my poor planning, but it’s not an ingredient that will ever become part of my weekly meal rotation due to the huge time suck.

Messy. I used a recipe I found online for a spaghetti squash chow mein, and I added chicken to it to round out the meal. As a side note and to give the recipe due credit, it was very tasty. But, between the pan to cook the spaghetti squash in the oven, the pan to cook the chicken, the stove top skillet for the veggies and final mixing of all ingredients, the sauce mixing bowl, and the cutting board, the mess really added up. I also had bits of squash flying all over the place as I was scraping the squash to make the spaghetti strands. I am sure this was my own fault for rushing and slightly under-cooking the squash, but regardless, the kitchen was a disaster.

squash3

Not Filling. This is my biggest issue with the spaghetti squash. The meal was very tasty, and I would have considered tackling everything over again at some point, but the fact is I went to bed feeling hungry. At a minimum, with the time investment, mess and risk of injury, I at least wanted to feel satisfied and full. If it was a tasty and filling meal, I could disregard all my other issues.

My first thought when I went to bed hungry that night was I didn’t eat enough. I had enough of a portion leftover for a decent size lunch the next day, which I ate around 1-2PM with a Greek yogurt. By 6PM, I was starving again, so that blew my portion theory unless I was suppose to eat the entire pan in one sitting.

squash 1

I had told my best friend, who happens to be a registered dietician, about my spaghetti squash issues. Her solution for my hunger problem was to add a starch to the meal. She commented that the meal would have gone great with rice. True, but this confused me. My first reaction was making rice would have added ANOTHER pan to my mess. But more importantly, I bought spaghetti squash because I thought it was a substitute for pasta. I easily could have made this meal with pasta and saved a lot of time and frustration, but I was trying to be healthy and save on calories. If I need to make rice to feel full, then why not just use some wheat pasta and skip the squash altogether? The meal already had a lot of other vegetables. She told me that people substitute spaghetti squash for pasta in the same way they substitute cauliflower for mashed potatoes. They are non-starchy vegetables and low in calories, but they aren’t going to make you feel full.

She suggested next time to just use it as a vegetable side dish. Well, that was it for me and the spaghetti squash. I’m not putting in all that work for a side dish. Since I made it, I also talked to a friend of mine who is a vegetarian and she seemed quite appalled by my negative feelings towards the spaghetti squash. She indicated I should give it another chance. Spaghetti squash apparently has a following out there. People seem to love it, so maybe I am in the minority.

Well, I love the idea of it, but it’s just not my thing. Big disappointment!

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Week 12: Craving a Change Up

I lost one pound this week, bringing my total up to 15 lbs in 11 weeks, but it was a tough one. I skipped two workouts last week, simply because I was feeling bored and unmotivated. I have such a long way to go, and it’s only going to get much harder, so I need to make some changes to stay interested.

I’m two weeks away from completing my Power 90 routine, but I am thinking of switching to a new workout before I hit the 90 days. I chose that workout because it is a great introductory set of exercises that works the whole body with a mix of strength training, cardio and ab workouts. It was exactly what I needed when I started, but now I’m feeling that it’s taking up too much of my time with very little return, particularly the cardio workout, which is the routine I tend to skip. It takes about 50 minutes to do the workout, and if I’m going to spend 50 minutes working out, I feel like I should at least be sweaty at the end of it.

So, I think I will make this my last week with Tony Horton. That will bring it to 12 weeks of Power 90, and although not technically 90 days, it’s still 3 months. If I’m remembering correctly, in my late 20’s when I first did Power 90, I had lost 16 lbs in the first 90 day round, so the fact that I’ve lost 15 so far (and hopefully another 1-2 this week!) is pretty impressive considering that I’m now 40 years old. Maybe my metabolism isn’t as shot as I thought it was! And a big shout out to Tony Horton for getting me through these first three months.

In other news, I was also having some pretty bad cravings this past week. When talking with my husband, I meant to say, “I need to put the potatoes on..,” but it came out, “I need to put the pizza on.” I also misheard him saying something to me and thought he was talking about ice cream. He wasn’t, not even close. I think I might be craving pizza and ice cream. I’m not into deprivation, so I will have to enjoy some pizza and ice cream in the near future.

I’m really looking forward to “Phase 2” of my journey, but I’m also worried. I have a routine that currently works, aside from the random skipping of workouts here and there, and I tend to fear change. I plan to switch to Jillian Michael’s 30 Day Shred for 4 days a week, and start to go on runs for 2 days a week. I think change will be good, but will I stick to it? That is the question. The 30 Day Shred is a shorter workout overall, so knowing that something is quick (albeit painful) helps with my mindset to get it done for the day. Then again, it’s not like I’m under a signed contract to stay with one routine, so I can always change it up.

For now, it’s the last week of my Phase 1. Going to make it count!

Week 11: Breaking Time from the Bottle

I have officially completed 25% of my 40 pounds in 40 weeks program, and lost 1 pound at my weekly weigh-in on Sunday. To date, I’ve lost 14 pounds, which is 35% of my goal.

I don’t know why I do this, but I think of my weight in terms of chunks of time. For example, I remember in May of last year, I was ten pounds less than I currently weigh, and I felt really “fat” back then. For that reason, I can’t bring myself to feel good about anything I am losing right now. Until I get to that point on the scale, all this weight I am currently losing is weight I’d prefer to never remember. It’s “extra fat” until I get to what I consider should have been my starting point.

Three years ago, on St. Patrick’s Day weekend, was the last time I remember feeling good about myself. My husband has a photo of me as his screen saver on his phone from that weekend, and any time I see it I always think about how much I weighed back then, which is my current goal. That was the last time I remember being happy about my body, and in some ways, life in general. I look at the photo of that girl on his phone, and I want to be her again. She was carefree and enjoyed life. I know the reason I don’t feel that way is only slightly due to my physical state, but it’s at least something tangible and within my control to change.

That weekend three years ago was about two weeks before things around me started to go downhill. It was one stressful event after another and I won’t go into details, but I feel like the air is finally clearing. It’s time to focus on being happy again. I know stressful situations are going to continue to occur, and I need to find a way to deal with them that won’t disrupt my health and overall state of being.

As I came downstairs this morning, my husband told me that I looked “skinny,” which put a smile on my face, but my response was “I do? Well, I’m not.”  My jeans are loose. I was on the first notch of my belt in January, and now I’m on the third. Yesterday I fit into a t-shirt that I got as a Christmas present that didn’t fit me back then. Why can’t I be happy about this? Why do I instantly think about how I looked 1, 2 or 3 years ago and keep measuring my success against my past self?

I don’t have the answer. I am so hard on myself. I am sure I am not the only one that thinks like this, but I guess the good thing is that I know I am doing it. Realizing I have a problem is the first step on the road to recovery. In the end, I understand I’m not going to feel instantly happy and gratified if I reach a certain number on the scale. Forty weeks is an arbitrary number. The number on the scale isn’t suddenly going to flip a switch and make me feel good about myself. It’s one very small piece in a much larger puzzle, and I need to put it together.

One thing I do know, it’s going to take time.

Week 10: Racing into Spring

My 40lbs-in-40-weeks program appears to be going well in March. I lost one pound this past week, which isn’t great in terms of my ‘March Madness’ goal of 8 pounds this month, but I will always cheer for any lost weight! I realized this past week that March spills into a fifth week this month, so I am going to give myself that extra week to lose the eight pounds. I’m determined to hit that goal!

My spirits seems to be higher, and I think it has a lot to do with the weather. I feel like I’ve been in a cocoon for the last six weeks, and I’m ready to break free and emerge. My energy level is higher, and I’m anxious for the snow to melt so I can attempt to start running. I used to run regularly a few years ago when I lived in Florida, and it’s the only form of exercise that I have ever enjoyed, if I had to characterize exercise that way. I don’t really enjoy exercise at all, but running for me was more a form of therapy. It helped clear my head at the end of the day and I always felt really empowered after a run. I was also attracted to running because I can run alone, there’s no social component if you don’t want one, and it doesn’t require a huge investment.

I was getting pretty good at it too, back in the day. I’ve never been a fast runner, I was very average, but I was doing lots of races year round in the lovely Florida weather, and slowly improving. Then one day it all changed.  About four years ago, I experienced a bad fall during a 10-mile training run for an upcoming half marathon. I was five miles into the run (and five miles from my car) and just suddenly went down at a fast pace, smacking my head on the pavement, chipping and cracking my front teeth, and permanently scarring my lip and legs. Luckily, I happened to be passing through the center of a town square at the time, instead of my usual empty bike trail, as I was dazed and almost passed out. A good Samaritan and local policeman helped me up and got me on a park bench, and allowed me to use a phone to call my husband to come get me. I had nothing on me except my iPod. Lesson learned to always carry my phone on a run!

I really don’t know what caused me to fall, maybe I tripped or just lost my balance. Either way, I have this paranoia that it’s going to happen again. I’m pretty clumsy in general, and bump into things all the time, and I’ve had other slips and falls in life, but this one was the worst. After that, I was running a lot less and stopped improving. When we moved to the Northeast two years ago, I have probably attempted running less than a dozen times. I completed one 5K race last year, and it was a serious wake up call to how out of shape I have become in comparison to just a few years ago.

Running never helped me lose weight, but it kept my weight in check. I know people can lose weight with running, but it just never worked for me. If I want to start running again and stay with my program, I will have to mix in strength training and other forms of exercise to continue to lose weight. I still have my paranoia about falling too. I was walking through Boston a few weeks ago and a runner went whizzing by, and my first thought was – how could he run in this weather with all the ice around? The cold doesn’t bother me, but I don’t even consider running when it’s slightly wet or snowing outside, which makes it challenging in New England.

But, assuming we have some significant snow melting this month, I am hoping to get back into running in April, and complete another 5K in late May. I’m anxious to get back to feeling empowered through exercise. I feel somewhat empowered completing my workouts every week now, but there’s just something about running that is calling my name. Maybe it’s the fresh air, or the endorphins, or I’m just reminded of a time in my life that I felt better about my body and myself. I just miss it.

I don’t know if I’ll ever get to the point where I’m that person running through the park in the icy winter, but I certainly won’t be that person if I don’t try. It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon.

Week 9: March Madness

I’m all about the numbers lately.

Weight lost last week: 2
Total for February: 5
Sum total lost: 12

I’m pretty happy with the stats to date, and feeling a bit crazy. I decided to set a ‘March Madness’ goal for this month of eight pounds. No particular reason, I’m just feeling saucy. Spring is in the air (more like in my head, as it’s still very cold and snowing in New England..), and I want to present myself with a short term weight loss challenge.

It’s my last month of my Power 90 workout, and at the end of this month I will say goodbye to Tony Horton, and try something new. I haven’t decided yet, but I’m leaning towards a combination of Jillian Michael’s 30 Day Shred, mixing with running days. To show my appreciation to Tony for getting me through this introductory period of my 40-week journey, I want to give it my best shot in the last 30 days of his program. It would be a great feeling to end March achieving half of my total goal.

If it doesn’t happen, and it probably won’t, that’s OK, but it’s good to challenge myself with an extra push. Two pounds a week sounds doable on the surface, but I know it’s extremely hard.  I will do my best not to skip any workouts this month. Admittedly, I skipped four workouts in February and I feel bad about it. Laziness won on those days. I will not skip meals, limit my processed foods, and stay hydrated.

Basically, I need to follow the plan I laid out for myself. I have been good these last 8 weeks, but I know I can do better. I feel like I was a big whiner throughout February, and I need to buckle down and get remotivated.

Here we go March, I’m coming in like a lion and I plan to stay that way!