May 21, 2011


Just a quick post today, because I was out late last night partying it up for my cousin Sarah's birthday - in addition to great company and a few rounds of cribbage, there also was lots of yummy vegan food - she's also doing the Whole Foods challenge, so her boyfriend Marty made some amazing plant-based treats, including a chocolate hazelnut soy ice cream!

Unbelievable ... sweet but not too sweet, light and natural tasting and not artificial.

For today, I just wanted to share an awesome NSV from yesterday.

It's hard to run on the sidewalks in the city, dealing with traffic lights and all the cars and whatnot, so when I run on the lakeshore paths, I take the bus up north, then run south to downtown.

Yesterday I was on the bus headed to my starting point, iPod on, and an older gentleman near me started pointing to my legs. I took my earphones off and he pointed to the tattoo of an airplane on my left calf, and he said it was a really cool tattoo. He then asked if I was a softball player, because my leg muscles were incredible. I said "no, but I'm a runner," a sentence that still amazes me every time it rolls off my tongue, and he just sat there marveling as I flexed them a little.

In addition to being complimented (which is, in general, pretty awesome), this is a pretty big deal for me. As a bigger person, I always wore long pants in public - even in 90º weather. I didn't want to show off my legs. I was always self-conscious about them and thought they were big and gross (hence why they were the first to be covered in tattoos).

Plus, once in college, a boy I worked with asked to see my newest tattoo and when I rolled up my pant leg to show him, he said (and I quote) "Damn girl, you've got some big calves!" Rolled the pant leg back down, never showed the tattoos off again.

Until recently, that is.

I like that the hard work I do makes my body not only feel great, but look great. And I especially like that I didn't even think about someone seeing my legs when I put on my running pants and headed uptown. It used to be a conscious decision to never show my legs. Now it didn't even cross my mind. And I love, love, love that.

What about you? What great NSVs have you had lately?

May 20, 2011

Roses and thorns

I know I'm only a few days in, but can I just say ... I kind of love being vegan.

Maybe it's the diversity - every day I eat something new, whether a new ingredient...

... or just a new recipe.

Massaged kale salad, portobello mushroom and rainbow pepper tacos, and seitan potato hash with collard greens and tomatoes. Even if I go back to eating meat at the end of the challenge, I'll still keep these recipes in my rotation - they're unbelievably delicious, and all veggie - no meat, no dairy, no oil. And it's all so colorful! Nothing picks you up and out of a funk like a fresh burst of color.

I don't feel like I'm being deprived by not having meat or dairy, and I feel cleaner, which is really remarkable because I thought I felt pretty great before. Something a little surprising is that I don't feel hungry all the time - I thought without meat, I'd have trouble feeling full. But actually, it's kind of the opposite - I feel like I eat more now because I still want to make my 1150-1350 calories a day. So I'll pick up a piece of fruit or have a little salad, and I'm more than satisfied.

I had a ton of energy this week - maybe because of the clean eating, maybe because I decided I was done feeling sorry for myself. But I totally killed all my workouts, ate well, slept great, and came back to life in a big way. I applied for a half dozen jobs - we'll see what happens, but I feel better already just knowing I'm trying my hardest.

For today, I'm weighing in at 205, a 5 pound loss for the week. I couldn't be more pleased. I worked incredibly hard this week, and it's paying off. I'm looking great, feeling fantastic, and so totally ready for greeting the summer as a lady living in onederland for the first time since I was a preteen.

What about you? What's your favorite thing you cooked/ate this week? What are you looking forward to this weekend?

P.S.! The winner of my Carb Queen giveaway is... Ann! Please e-mail me your address and the book will be on its way!

May 19, 2011


This week has been pretty amazing so far. I've thrown myself back into eating well and staying active, and I'm feeling considerably more positive than I did last week. It never ceases to amaze me how what I eat and how I move can make me feel so good, even when there are so many stressors on my emotional plate. Not hearing back from any jobs I applied to? Not knowing what will happen to me in the fall yet even though the semester ended almost two whole weeks ago? Heavy stuff. But when I run along the lakeshore, I'm just living in the moment. I'm focused just on physically pushing my body forward, one step at a time. It's all I can do.

I've been looking back at my food log and my offline journal from the past few weeks, trying to pinpoint specific thoughts and binge triggers so I can work on these things for the future. There were issues with my mom, about which I have done all I can at the moment. And there was the job stress, on which I am still working but feeling cautiously optimistic.

A lot of it, though, was self-sabotage.

I am in a strange place right now. I'm sure a lot of people would love to be able to say they've lost 135 pounds, but something about that really caused me to freak out. I had been doing a great job, but all of a sudden, it felt like I hit the wall. I couldn't push myself to go any further - I wanted to, but the thought of moving forward gave me a feeling of anxiety unlike any I've known before. 210 was okay - but 2-0-anything ... my heart would race, my breath would get shallower, and I'd just start snacking on whatever I could find in the house.

What makes a person who has lost over one hundred pounds suddenly start to panic?

What made this one pound transition into a new decade so unbearably difficult?

Finally, it hit me: this is my flip-flop moment.

210 is a very significant number on my journey. Standing on the scale and weighing in at that number, I now physically represent the excess weight that I set out to lose. I look in the mirror and what I see is all that needed to go when I set out on my journey - and all that I've lost so far is equal to what I'd eventually like to end up with.

The subconscious trigger for this realization was in the last week of classes when I was having a discussion with some of the other instructors in my office. Someone asked what my final year-end weight loss was, and I said 135 pounds. And a couple of girls' jaws dropped at the figure, and reacted with "Oh my goodness! That's more than I weigh!" And that made me panic a little bit, too. Because measuring your weight loss in bags of sugar or dogs or air conditioners is cute and funny - but being able to measure your weight loss in terms of your friends and co-workers is really emotionally heavy. I want to be proud of all I've done, and I am, but at the same time, being able to say "I've lost an entire person" feels a little overwhelming.

Not everyone on a weight loss journey will have this experience - this is something sort of unique to people with a great deal of weight to lose. And even though being at this point is a tremendous accomplishment, it also carries with it a great deal of pain. Once upon a time, I let myself get to the point where all of this was excess on my body; someday I'll be able to compare myself to the girl I was at the beginning of my journey (345) by combining pictures of present me (210) and future me (135).

I decided this week that I am not going to let the flip-flopping of the numbers stress me out - I can't let my past weaknesses completely control my present or my future. Like it or not, for the rest of my life, I'm going to be someone who used to weigh 345 pounds. But now, I'm doing the right thing. I'm committed to eating less, eating better, and moving more. And the extra person I've lost so far? I'm better off without her. She was sad and scared and spent a lot of time dreaming about possible future conditions, if only she could get healthy and lose weight.

The person I'm left with is living that life, and it's even more incredible than she could have imagined.

May 18, 2011


As part of Bombshell Bootcamp, a few weeks ago we did an exercise where we were given $1000 and a list of 25 values and told to place bids on them as if it were an auction. These were things like good self-confidence and personal growth, a good education, and a financially comfortable life. We all submitted our bids, then found out which of the values we "won."

While making my spending choices, it surprised me how few of them I was willing to not bid on. There weren't one or two things I was willing to put the whole $1000 on - I spread my money thin, I wanted it all. My only non-bids were owning a possession of great value and a beautiful home in the setting of your choice ... both of which deal with material goods.

The rest were all bid on in denominations of $25, $50, and $100 - the two I decided to spend the most on were a long and healthy life and a life with meaning, purpose, fulfillment. Interestingly enough, though, I didn't win either of those two. The values I did win, however, are still related and in line with my current and long-term life goals. My values:
  • A meaningful love relationship

  • Continuing to learn and gain knowledge

  • A physical appearance which I can be proud of

  • Freedom to live your life as you want

  • An enjoyable, leisurely life

  • Unlimited travel, fine foods, entertainment, recreational and cultural opportunities

  • A chance to develop creativity or potential in any area
Our next step was to make goals based on our values. Contemplating these has been the focus of my quiet self-reflection lately. Above all else, I want to work on being proud of my physical appearance. I am not currently coupled, but I'm working on strengthening my non-romantic relationships, especially with my best friend Jill and my sisters. I've related "freedom to live my life as I want" to my relationship with my parents and how dependent I believe myself to be on their approval, even as an adult. Financially, I am not in a position to travel or go out without limits, but that doesn't mean I can't make the most of what is available to me and enjoy within my ability.

These are all aspects of living a healthy, satisfying, and meaningful life, and sitting down quietly for a few minutes every day to think about them and how what I do/do not do gets me closer to/further from my goals is incredibly helpful with exercising my emotional weight.

What about you? What values would you be willing to spend your money on in an auction? Health? Appearance? Religion? Education? Possessions?

May 17, 2011


On Thursday night, I went to Whole Foods for a Health Starts Here tour with Becky, one of our Healthy Eating Specialists. She gave us a tour of the store and showed us some things to look for that support our healthy eating plan, not only in terms of store signage but also with regards to the ingredient lists on packaged food items.

One thing that really struck me was when she picked up a package of Kashi cereal and pointed out that the last three items in the list were all sweeteners: ingredients are listed in order from most to least by how much of the product is made up of them, and so by labeling them as their individual sweetener names instead of a combination, the company is able to avoid having the sweetener higher on the list. It may well be that much of the cereal is made up of the sweetener, but instead, they get around that. And it's not always as easy as looking for "sugar" or even "high fructose corn syrup."

I'm wrapping up Week 1 today, and label reading has become an even more important part of my shopping trip now. If I am buying something packaged, I always look at the calories - starting last Wednesday, I have also had to check and make sure there's no dairy. It's easy enough with the big things - obviously milk, cheese, yogurt, and ice cream are not going to be in my cart. But the pasta sauce I usually buy? Apparently there's parmesan cheese in it. And the protein bar I have after my long run? Whey.

I think label reading is super important whether you are on a plant-based diet or not. It's good to know what's in the food you're putting in your body. I try to eat whole foods as much as possible, especially after having a realization about fat-free sour cream (cream is full of fat, so what is fat-free sour cream full of?!). I'd rather have less of something real than more of something that's mostly chemical.

And I think it's important to note, too, that I'm talking lowercase whole foods here - it's awesome that Whole Foods (the store) is taking this initiative to educate the public about plant-based clean eating, but keep in mind that you don't have to shop *at* Whole Foods in order to buy whole foods. We've all heard the trick of sticking to the perimeter of the store when we go grocery shopping - that's where the fresh and not-overly-processed stuff is. That applies no matter where you shop.

A lot of people think that Whole Foods is more expensive than other stores, and while that is true for some items, there are a lot of things that are a better deal there. (I'm not being paid to say that. It's my own observation.) I'm lucky enough to live in a Mexican neighborhood with lots of inexpensive fresh produce, but the trade off is that some special products cost more. So I'm sticking to Pete's Fresh Market for my fruits and veggies, but blocks of tofu at Whole Foods cost less than half of the price at my local Jewel.

What about you? Do you look at labels when you grocery shop? Are there any items you decided not to buy after looking at what's inside?

May 16, 2011

SFC: Week Seven

My positive picture for the week:

From a park downtown: "Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast." Lewis Carroll

What have you done this past week to help achieve your goals?
(1) Unfortunately, my official weigh in had me up one pound this week, to 210. Battle 1, Mary 0 - but I'm bringing it in a big way for the war. I'm already down a little, motivated as heck, and ready to report a new low on Friday.
(2) I weighed myself every day last week because my eating was pretty terrible, but I'm not feeling bad about it. I think weighing daily is only a bad thing when I let it make or break my day. Lately, it just feels like it is what it is. And I think that's progress in the right direction.
(3) I biked 27.5 miles last week, for a challenge total of 137.5 miles (or 65.5% of my goal).
(4) I did it! Two weeks in a row of satisfying my Wii time goal. And I finally got a perfect march on the Rhythm Parade!
(6) Tried new thing #2 of 5 - I walked to the fancy downtown library and then to the park - about 7 miles in total. I usually take the train there, but it was such a glorious day that I decided to walk and take lots of pictures along the way.

En route, at the library, and at Millennium Park. *sigh* I am endlessly in love with this city.

What did you do this past week to make you feel good about yourself?
I walked almost everywhere instead of taking the bus. I forgot how nice it is to just stroll and enjoy the weather and some good music. I walked at least 3 miles every day, between trips to the grocery store, the post office, and the gym. I only took the bus twice: once to the part on the lakeshore trail where I start my long runs, and then a few days later to a meeting so far north it pretty much isn't in Chicago.

When you go away on vacation or business do your goals get put on hold/pause or do you continue to work on them while away?
I try keep my goals in mind as I make my decisions. I'm not working out or controlling my food preparation like I would at home, so I overestimate calories for my food log and try to do as many active things as possible. That said, I'm on vacation - so there's usually a cupcake. The important thing is that it's one cupcake, not six followed by uncontrolled eating for the rest of the trip.

Do you have friends/family members that you work on a goal(s) with? Do you find working towards a goal with someone easier or more challenging?
For my workout goals, Lorelei is my running buddy and having her around is awesome. We train together for races - we ran the Shamrock Shuffle 8k together and we're both doing the Run for the Zoo 10k in June and the Bastille Day 8k in July. In terms of making progress on my non-scale goals, I have an amazing group of family and friends - some are better with words than actions, but I feel incredibly loved and supported by everyone.

What is your favourite magazine to read?
True story: I had a subscription to Readers Digest from the time I was about 6 until I left for college. It was just one of those things, I guess. Now, I subscribe to Saveur and Bon Appétit (well, I subscribed to Gourmet, but then they went under and replaced it with BA, which totally doesn't compare). My subscriptions are almost up, though, so I'm thinking about replacing them with either Women's Health or Self.

May 15, 2011

Confetti rice salad

You could call the program I am working on with Whole Foods a vegan diet, but it's actually even a little stricter. We are eliminating dairy products and all animal meat/flesh, but we also have to omit all added oils and refined sugar. Many vegetarian/vegan recipes I've found so far use natural sweeteners like agave nectar and maple syrup, so that's a plus ... but they also use products like olive oil and Earth Balance spread, which are off-limits with Engine 2.

With the Engine 2 diet plan, there are two paths to follow: the Fire Cadet and the Fire Fighter:
Fire Cadet
  • Week 1: No dairy of any kind.

  • Week 2: No dairy and no meat/flesh product of any kind.

  • Week 3: No dairy, no meat, and no added oils of any kind.

  • Week 4: Consume only clean, whole, unrefined, nutrient rich, plant-based foods from the following food groups: fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds.

Fire Fighter
  • For all 4 weeks, the Fire Fighters will eliminate all animal-based products and refined foods. (Like starting with Fire Cadet Weeks 3 and 4)
Because of my situational concerns about transitioning my eating habits, I chose the Fire Cadet, the slow track plan, in order to get the health benefits of going plant-based without shocking my system too much. Not eating dairy isn't a huge transition and I don't find myself struggling, but I know Week 2 and no meat will be a little tougher, so this week, I've been slowly phasing out meat (definitely eating it less often than usual).

A few of the other bloggers who chose the Fire Fighter track have talked about experiencing withdrawal symptoms - while I can't relate in terms of this specific challenge, I totally understand. In August when I was first starting to eat healthier, it was unbelievable. I had headaches, I couldn't sleep through the night, and I would crave fast food so bad I would cry. I fought it, finding ways to distract myself from the pain (like starting this blog!), and eventually my body adapted to the changes and readjusted to accept what I would be using to fuel it from now on. I know myself and my situation, so starting as a Fire Fighter just wouldn't work for me. By the time I get to Week 4, though, I think it will be a manageable challenge.

Since I have nothing but time on my hands, I've been researching recipes and trying to put together plans to make sure I stay on track not only with the Engine 2 plan but with my own weight loss goals. It's interesting: for nine months, I've had the habit of picking something up in the grocery store and looking first at the calories. I've started looking at the ingredient list and mentally classifying things: week 2, week 4.

This week's recipe is Confetti Rice Salad, a delicious and colorful bowl of rice, veggies, and tofu that would work for weeks 1 or 2. It's a modified version of a recipe that Amber sent me - I changed quantities to suit my single needs, and I used premade baked tofu because I wanted it. Her recipe would work for the whole plan if I made the tofu myself, but the baked tofu had oil in the marinade.

Look how gorgeous that is! So yummy, and incredibly filling.
1/2 cup rice (I used a wild/whole grain brown rice blend provided for me by Whole Foods)
1 cup water
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp garlic powder
8 oz. baked tofu, cubed
1 medium orange bell pepper, finely chopped
1/2 can (15 oz.) black beans, rinsed and drained
1 medium tomato, finely chopped
1/2 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
1/2 cup chopped green onions
2 tbsp. lime juice
Combine rice, water, and spices in a saucepan. Cook according to the instructions for the rice (time will vary based on what kind of rice you use - cook it until rice is tender and most of the water is absorbed). Remove from heat and add tofu, vegetables, and lime juice, stirring well to ensure even coating.

Let me tell you, it was delicious. This is the rice I got from Whole Foods:

And it took an hour to cook. My only regret about this recipe was that I didn't look at how long the rice took to cook before I made it, because I came home from the gym ravenous thinking it was 15 minutes to dinner. Totally worth it, though.

The recipe, as I made it, is 2 servings at 525 calories each. They're huge portions, though, and I could definitely see doubling the rice and dividing it all into 4 servings for just under 350 calories each. I've been eating bigger meals than usual, but I'm also eating less often because I'm feeling fuller longer. My old breakfast, for example, was a Yoplait Light yogurt (100 calories) and two hours later, I'd have a mini Luna bar (80 calories). My recent breakfast love:

Seriously, so good. 1/2 cup of oatmeal, 1 tbsp. of peanut butter (I swapped out my processed one for a natural one with just peanuts and flax seeds - delicious!), and a chopped apple. Ready in 5 minutes, satisfies my peanut butter love, and keeps me full - 330 calories, and I don't feel hungry again for a good 5-6 hours. I could get used to this!