February 1, 2012

Workouts: January

This was a strangely busy month for me. Lots of traveling - home from Chicago, plus overnights in San Francisco and Los Angeles - and the beginning of the spring semester had me pretty worn out, and I took an awful lot of rest days. When my body lets me sleep for 15 hours solidly, it needs to be rested.

February is looking to be much calmer. Some days at work are busier than others, but for the most part, it ought to be smooth sailing. I don't have any traveling on the schedule just yet, which is both a blessing and a curse. It'll be nice to rest a bit, not to mention save a little money ... I've managed to put aside a good amount of savings, but I've also spent about the same amount on these horribly misnamed "long" weekends in Chicago. But staying put might be a bit difficult. I miss my friends. I miss all the things to see and do in the city. And I miss Matt. We were talking the other day about my next scheduled trip back, which is over Spring Break for the Shamrock Shuffle, and we realized it was two full months away. After seeing each other a few times over winter break, both in Chicago and San Francisco, we got a little spoiled.

It'll be a test of my strength, for sure.

On the fitness front, my goal for 2012 of do less, better is coming along quite nicely. I ran 56.26 miles in January, 13ish of which were in my half marathon. Since the race, I've been running much shorter distances than I did in my training runs - my longest has been 5 miles. Also, I biked 194.52 miles, far less than most of the past few months. Working nights has contributed to the decrease in biking, for sure - it's quite dark when my classes end, so I have been taking the bus to/from work instead of riding.

In terms of non-running/biking workouts, I have made some progress.
  • I spoke with the director of the campus recreation facility about a faculty gym membership. I was skeptical about using the school gym last semester - it's a small school, and even though I used the school gym at my last university, we had two there (one that was always full of undergrads, and the other, which I used, was mostly med students). But the more I've been thinking about my nervousness about coming out, the more I realized ... why not work out at school? It could be a good source of accountability and support for me!
  • I have been using the Wii Fit again. It's certainly not the calorie roaster it was at 300+ pounds, but when I get home from work and it's too dark to run or go for a bike ride, it's a fun way to burn a few extra calories.
  • I've been walking more lately - for example, to the grocery store instead of biking, and getting off the bus at the opposite end of campus and then walking to my office. It's a small change, but it makes me feel good. As much as I love running, I'll always have a soft spot for walking: at 345 pounds, I had to lose 15 pounds before I could even use the Wii Fit, so my daily exercise was a walk around the block. And - I struggled. Now, walks remind me of how far I've come.
I feel great about all I accomplished this month: I weighed 207 when I got back from Connecticut/Chicago, and I weighed 198 this morning. Not my lowest, but I'm tremendously proud of getting back to California and getting back on track right away to get rid of all that cookie weight.

For February, I'm doing a little challenge. First of all, I've put my scale away, and am going to see if I can do without it for a few days. Ideally, I want a scale-free February, but for now, I need to take it a day at a time. The food and fitness component of the challenge are interesting: I want to get back to the way I ate and worked out in the beginning of my weight loss journey. I'll be posting on the specifics of the food in a few days, but basically, it was a fairly repetitive routine that I never got bored of and that I found to be very successful for me.

I've been thinking a lot the past few weeks about trying to find a balance with food and exercise, my main struggle since moving to California. I've done well with one or the other, but not both. A recent post by Claire gave me the a-ha moment I'd been waiting for; essentially, her revelation was that you can't move like an athlete but eat like a dieter. My half marathon burned about 2100 calories; I can't work out like that and try to sustain myself on an intake of 1200 calories. Trying to do both is denying your body the adequate amount of fuel that it needs, and it's setting you up to possibly binge. Since I'm not scheduled to run any races longer than 10K in the next few months, I'm going to try and be the dieter and not the athlete for a while.

It's a tough decision for me, because now that I did my first half marathon I want (a) to sign up for about five hundred more because it was such an incredible experience and (b) to think bigger, longer, more challenging - like a full marathon, or similar event. But at the same time, I know that I'm not content with where I am right now weight-wise - my life is wonderful and I'm very happy overall, but the 190s are starting to feel big to me. I've been in this decade so long that every single day, I can wake up and tell you exactly how much I weigh. It's the toughest one for me so far, without a doubt, because even though the difference between 198 and 192 seems small, physically, the difference feels huge. It's tough to explain briefly, so I'm going to do a whole post on it soon. In any case, I'm hoping that the next time I step on the scale, it will be a new month on the calendar and a new decade for my weight loss.

So, that's my January in sum and my goals for February. Continue to do less, better; get back to my tried-and-true basics. I'm a bit of a calendar nerd and this is a leap year, so I've been thinking about planning something for Leap Day - a virtual race? A contest? A giveaway? I'm not sure yet - gotta think. I've had a giveaway on the brain for a while now since my blog hit over 125,000 views (holy moley!) and my followers on Google Connect has hit over 300 ... was thinking a giveaway at 345 since that's My Number, but we'll see!

What about you? How was your January? What are your goals for February? What are you most looking forward to in the next month?

January 30, 2012

SlimKatie Brownies

Sometimes, I really miss baking. I used to always bake for my students and co-workers, not to mention for myself, family, and friends. My cake pops were incredible. Blueberry peach cobbler, divine. Red velvet whoopie pies, to die for. French macarons, perfection. And there is very little better than my from-scratch pear and ginger pie with a salty-and-sweet Gruyère crumble crust.

But ... I have given these things up, for now.

Not because I won't allow myself them in moderation - I am generally okay with desserts when out with friends or at work functions. But baking by myself at home is still a problem for me. I go through fits of being better with it - I'll make something, enjoy it in moderation, and feel very proud of myself for staying in control. But when I am not feeling my best, the baking ingredients in the house can be very difficult to avoid. For now, it's easier for me to abstain entirely.

But sometimes, I want something sweet. And I've been eating pears, apples, and bananas, and they're good, but not quite ... chocolate-y enough. A cheap chocolate bar isn't quite satisfying, and a higher quality chocolate bar is also usually higher in calories. So usually, I just abstain again.

Enter the SlimKatie brownies.

I couldn't think of a better name for these than one bearing the name of their creator, Katie. Calling them pumpkin brownies seems a bit deceiving, as the pumpkin flavor is not as pronounced as in, say, pumpkin pie or pumpkin bread. It's there, but subtly, and in addition to lending its flavor, also adds fiber and reduces the calories (as compared to following the box's baking instructions and using eggs and oil).

There isn't much of a recipe here, per se. Get a box of brownie mix, and combine the mix with a can of pumpkin puree. Follow the temperature and time for baking listed on the box. Easy peasy!

I made mine with sugar free Pillsbury brownie mix - I'm not typically a fan of artificial sweeteners (due to both taste and fake-ness) but got them since the calories were low and the servings-per-box was lower than regular mix. Next time, I'll go for the real deal - the Splenda taste was definitely present in these. But I managed to mask it a little by adding a pinch each of ginger and cinnamon to the batter before baking. Those are the two secret ingredients in my chocolate cake, I figured they'd work here too. Oh boy, did they! Thick, fudgy, a little spicy ... just what I wanted. And with my ingredients, the pan made 9 brownies at 136 calories each.

I ate one yesterday when I made them, another later that day, and put the rest in the freezer for future PMS-ing emergencies. Close inspection of the ingredients list has inspired me not binge on them.

Yikes. Reason #3 why I'm not crazy about artificial sweeteners. Definitely don't want that!

What about you? Are you able to enjoy certain foods in moderation, or do you abstain entirely from individual foods/food groups? What's your take on artificial sweeteners?

January 29, 2012

Stuffed pepper soup

This has been a very strange week. Very heavy, very stressful, with small pockets of happiness that certainly sustained me. Reaching out to people via e-mail, Skype, telephone calls, text messages ... it's been an absolute lifesaver.

Work went well - my students are finally settling in and understanding exactly what I expect of them. A few lecturers and I got a pretty terrifying e-mail from my coordinator regarding employment for next semester, followed the next day by an e-mail from the school's Dean clarifying that the information we received was not entirely correct. So one of my projects for today is deciphering a document attached to the Dean's e-mail ... lots of legal terms, which are not my strong suit.

Also, my sleep patterns have been pretty messed up since I've been staying up very late, texting Matt while he works overnights. Some of it was just chit-chat, but some was related to a bit of a project we've been working on, so I justified it. Unfortunately, staying up late meant waking up late, and not having much of a day to get things done before heading to the university to teach. This week, I'm hoping to get back into a healthier pattern - in bed by midnight, up by 7.

Some of the chit-chat was related to things that have been going on with my dad, who was back in the hospital for most of last week due to more "dietary indiscretion." It's both frustrating and heartbreaking, and I stayed as tough as I could until Friday, when I spoke with my sister Lisa on the phone about it while at work. Riding my bike home, I nearly crashed into several cars because I was sobbing hysterically. Not good at all. I wrote him a long letter that night, expressing my thoughts and urging him to take better care of himself ... but not after raiding my cabinets.

One step forward, one step back.

Making peace with food is absolutely, one hundred percent, without a doubt, the hardest part of my weight loss journey. Using food to nourish myself instead of hurt myself is a truly difficult challenge, a battle I'll be fighting my entire life. It's easier than it used to be, but I'm by no means in the clear. If I've said it once, I've said it a million times: I can't control how/if my dad chooses to take care of his body. But I can control how I take care of my own. I'm going to repeat it, over and over, until it sticks. Until I finally realize that binge eating doesn't change him, only me, and that change is always negative.

Yesterday, I slept in a little, and because of the previous night's overeating, I wasn't terribly hungry until lunch, and even then, I ate light. I walked to the grocery store to get some ingredients for dinner, then went for a 4 mile run. I underestimated the distance at one point and ended up having to do a couple of circles around my apartment complex to get the last half mile in. It was great, though my legs felt very heavy towards the end - not sure if it was from not eating much, or from riding my bike over 35 miles the day before. Either way, it was physically tough, though my mind certainly wanted to keep going.

The ingredients I bought were to make stuffed pepper soup, a recipe I saw on SkinnyTaste a while ago but had mostly forgotten about until now. Before and after adding rice:

It was totally delicious! I eat beef very infrequently (I like chicken/ground turkey better than steaks/ground beef), but I really liked this. And I knew I wanted to make something with freezeable leftovers to make dinner easier for the nights when I teach, so this was perfect. I measured out slightly bigger portions than what she posted, ate one, put one in the fridge for lunch today, and froze three.

I accidentally forgot the garlic (I know ... how could I?!), so when I reheat the other portions, I will probably add garlic to the rice when I cook it for that little extra kick. I also altered her recipe to suit my own preferences, mostly in terms of reducing sodium. In an interesting coincidence, the sodium count for hers and for mine came out to the exact same number. Her portion, though, is 1/8 of the recipe, and mine is 1/5.

To reduce sodium, I used 2 cans of no salt added diced tomatoes. I also used 1 cup of low sodium chicken broth instead of 2, and used 1 cup of water to make up the liquid. The tomato sauce was not low/no sodium, so the soup was still plenty flavorful.

Not sure if her calorie count includes the rice - mine doesn't, since I didn't add it to the soup while cooking (don't want it to soak up too much liquid - made a serving for yesterday and one for today, and will make the others as I defrost the frozen containers). I had 1/4 cup (uncooked measurement) of brown rice for 170 calories. All in all, a very tasty and very satisfying meal!

What about you? What meals do you like to pre-cook and keep in your freezer for busy nights?