March 2, 2012

Roses and thorns

I'm back down to 195 pounds, which is really interesting. First, because it's my -150 milestone weight and it feels so, so good to be able to claim that again. And second, because my workouts the past few weeks have been lousy at best - good workouts, but just few and far between. The weight loss has been almost entirely diet-based, which I am proud of. I'm eating well and I have not binged; between feeling well-nourished and feeling in control of my recovery, I'm very positive these days.

The workouts have slowed mostly because it's the middle of the semester (already!), and while I don't give a midterm exam to my students, they do have chapter exams, which I first create, then administer, then grade. Add the exams to short essays, post-film screening packets, and oral exams, and it's been a busy couple of weeks that won't be slowing any time soon ... and I am so happy. And so grateful. It's my dream job, and even though little pockets of being extra busy pop up here and there during the semester, I truly love the work I do. I'm finally figuring out the university system here, how to best reach my students (the material may be the same as in Chicago, but the way I introduce and explain it is tailored to the unique needs of this student body), and how to make sure the kids enjoy the class while still feeling like they're learning something useful, even if they don't ever speak French again after this semester.

So, this weekend, I'll be continuing to do a lot of work. A few piles of grading are here, in need of a serious dent. But - good news! There will be a few breaks here and there because...

My new bike is ready!!!

And not a moment too soon! The folks at the bike shop called me yesterday afternoon; I'll be walking over there this morning to pick it up. It's going to be a little weird, though. I ordered the exact same bike - same model, same color, same size, same extra-thick fancy tires. My old bike's identical twin. I'm honestly hoping I don't cry.

The old bike was definitely a girl - I named her the Black Widow (because like the spider, which can be found locally, biking was something new to me in California - and also, because the bike [and the bug!] is small but powerful!). This one I have not met yet, but I already sense that it's male. Not quite sure what I'll name this one; perhaps seeing it will inspire me.

I need to control myself and not jump on it and ride my 35 mile mega-loop right away (even though I so desperately want to). I have about three weeks of pent-up, no-bike-riding energy that wants to cycle itself out, but I also don't want to go nuts and overdo it and get hurt. So I'll try and contain my excitement as much as possible.

What about you? How was your week? What's on deck for this weekend? Do you name things like your bike, treadmill, etc.?

P.S. The winners of my Mister Rogers giveaway are Dominique (from DomWillRunForBeer) and Ashley (from The Opposite of Thin). Congrats, ladies! Please e-mail me your mailing address so I can get those out to you ASAP!

March 1, 2012

Workouts: February

"In the depths of winter, I discovered there was in me an invincible summer."
Albert Camus

One of my all-time favorite quotes, and my guiding mantra this month, for sure. According to the calendar, this is winter, but after spending the past three in cold and windy Chicago, I've definitely appreciated California and every moment I've been spending outdoors in dresses, capris, and shirt-sleeve shirts.

The quote is also perfect in a figurative sense, as I've spent this past month finding my way out of the difficult place I was in (health-wise) last semester. I struggled for a few months, but over the past 29 days, I've made some huge moves. I've been trying to live fully and entirely, focusing on everything that is wonderful now and everything that I hope to accomplish in both the short- and long-term.

There were struggles, for sure - huge gaps of no exercising after the loss of my bike - but I got my act together, and for the first time in several months, I'm not starting a month at 198 (or higher). It's not what it could have been if I hadn't slowed down/backpedaled (no pun intended) after the bike situation, but I'm pleased with where I am. More than the number on the scale, I am happy to feel in control again of my eating, and I'm feeling positive about continuing to make progress in the right direction.

When I first started getting healthy in July 2010, conditions were perfect. I didn't have to worry about if/where I would be working, I was comfortable in the place where I was living, and most important of all, I was ready. It was a "now or never" moment, and I immersed myself entirely in the opportunity. Conditions may never be that perfect again, but I'm learning how to make the most of the opportunities I've been given. I'm in control of my eating because I feel my best when my body is nourished. I'm staying active because my body was made to move, and I'm honoring it by working it out.

Every bite of food, every step of every mile - they are apology letters to my body.
I'm sorry I hurt you, but here - let me help you recover. Let me make you strong. Let's be powerful. And I promise, I'll never hurt you like that again.
For March, I'm going to continue to focus on being the dieter and not the athlete, because clearly what I am doing is working for me. I ran 31.68 miles in February, with no run longer than 10K. While I had a bike, I biked a good amount - 114.3 miles - but it was never an attempt to nullify a binge, so I'm very happy. My eating is in control, my body is in motion, and everything right now is quite good.

I definitely miss long runs, though. There's this terrific disconnect that comes with distance running. After the first few miles, I stop thinking about the act of running and my mind can wander a bit, unfiltered and without any distractions. Sometimes deep thoughts, sometimes to-do lists for home and work, sometimes remembering funny moments or good times with friends and family. It's a chance for some quality time between me and the pavement.

So, I have a plan: I'm going to keep focused on weight loss for now, until the end of the semester - a solid three more months to work towards my healthy weight range (135-155). Then, in May/June, I'm going to focus on maintenance for a few months. Eating well, keeping up with working out, but not actively trying to lose weight.

Because I made a big committment a few weeks ago that I've got to get ready for.

Ho. Ly. Cow. This is going to happen. And when it does, I want to be in the best shape I can be.

"Not actively trying to lose weight" doesn't mean a no-holds-barred free falling plunge off the edge. It means eating like an athlete and not a dieter. More calories as need be, and reintegrating certain foods that I typically abstain from. That means sandwiches on bread, not cupcakes for dinner. Eating like an athlete means taking care of the body just as much as eating like a dieter, just with a different focus. Binges are unhealthy for both situations, so I'm glad to be back on track with getting that under control.

So, there you have it. February was a learning experience for me, and voilĂ , the big reveal: I'm registered for the Chicago Marathon in October. Having specific and measureable goals helped me get back on track this past month, for sure. Certainly looking forward to what the next month brings!

What about you? How was your February? Any races, events, or challenges coming up?

February 28, 2012

Thankful / Giveaway

Yesterday marked nine years since the death of Fred Rogers. Known to most as simply "Mister Rogers," Fred was a man who inspired innumerable people - children were his main audience, but it was hard for people of any age to not be inspired by this kind, soft-spoken man whose message was entirely about self-confidence and love.

When I graduated high school, I gave all my best friends copies of "The World According to Mister Rogers: Important Things to Remember." And a few months into my weight loss journey, I found a copy of "Life's Journeys According to Mister Rogers: Things to Remember Along the Way" at a thrift store, so I bought it immediately. The wisdom is unparalleled:
All I can say is, it's worth the struggle to discover who you really are and how you, in your own way, can put life together as something that means a lot to you.
From time to time, I find myself dipping into the book, a collection of short thoughts and anecdotes, for inspiration and motivation. And it absolutely never falls short of perfection.

Yesterday, one of my favorite magazines/websites, MentalFloss, shared this video of Mister Rogers accepting a Lifetime Achievement Emmy award:

Such a lovely person, no?

It had me thinking about you, reader. And about my family, and my friends. And all the people who have been there along the way as I have worked to create the person I am today. And how endlessly thankful I am to have such love and support.

So, I'm going to give away two packages: one copy each of these Mister Rogers books

Plus 5 Larabars each (because, well, they're delicious.)

Here's how to enter:

1 - Post a comment here completing this sentence: "The person/place/thing I am most grateful for on my journey is..."

2 - Follow me on Twitter! @oh_mg (and post a comment here letting me know!)

3 - Post the following on Twitter: "I'm entered to win @oh_mg's Mister Rogers giveaway on - you should be too!"

You have until midnight on Thursday, March 1, to enter; I will announce the winners in Friday's Roses and thorns. Good luck!

February 26, 2012

Banana hummus

I absolutely love getting e-mails from blog readers. It's really meant a lot to me, especially lately, to have people asking for my advice on weight loss, running, binge eating, and lots of other subjects. In responding, I find myself reflecting on what has helped me achieve so much up to this point; I am reminded of how far I have come and discover strengths to help myself work through my own personal roadblocks. Writing replies is then as helpful to the reader as it is to me, and I'm intensely grateful for both these opportunities.

Without a doubt, the question I get asked the most is about what diet I followed to lose 150 pounds. The answer is easy, though not necessarily simple: I ate better and I ate less. I tried not to impose any overly strict food rules (I didn't cut out entire food groups or drink only juice - I wanted to make changes I could keep up long-term), but in discovering what works best for me, I've found that I respond better to some foods than others, and avoiding them has proven to be my best approach.

Namely, I have a big problem with flour. Bread in all forms, pasta, cereal, baked goods ... these are things I cannot keep in the house. If I do eat them, I have to be careful about it - sandwich rolls were purchased one at a time, pasta is only eaten in Lean Cuisines, and cereal/baked goods are pretty much skipped entirely.

I really can't keep quantities of anything, but keeping flour and flour-based products out of the house reduces the damage of a binge drastically. A cookie binge can be thousands of calories. A lettuce binge (yes, it has happened) is a hundred at best. If I have, say, a package of tortillas in the house, I'll try and limit myself to eat one or two with a meal, but inevitably I eat them all. Some days are better than others, but it's something I definitely still struggle with, especially lately. It's a compulsion, an issue I will confront in due time, but for now, it's easier to avoid these foods than try to wrestle with moderation. One issue at a time.

Sometimes it is tough. Sometimes I think I want nothing more than a giant bowl of homemade macaroni and cheese - my total comfort food. But I know deep down that what I really want is the comfort, not the food - and especially not the painful feeling of fullness and indigestion that follow. For all the slip-ups and backtracking I've done, I'm very, very proud of the fact that I haven't made macaroni and cheese at all since I started eating better - over 18 months now.

Something that has helped incredibly has been finding substitutes and alternatives for ingredients. Sandwiches wrapped in lettuce leaves? Delicious! Spaghetti squash and shredded zucchini? Wonderful! And for my sweet tooth, I try to mostly stick to plain ol' delicious fruit (really on a strong pear kick lately), but sometimes, I make a little treat: dessert hummus.

I made it for the first time about a year ago, and fell in love. It had the delicious consistency of cookie dough without the flour or refined sugar, plus fiber and protein from the chickpeas and peanut butter. Since peanut butter is another one of my problem foods, though, I haven't made it in quite a while. I also stopped because the bulk bins at my local grocery store don't have chocolate chips in them like they did at the Whole Foods back in Chicago - again, quantities. I don't want to buy a whole bag of chips for one little recipe. I liked being able to buy just a few tablespoons as needed. So, again, easier to just go without.

This past week, though, I was really craving sweet hummus, and decided to experiment with what I had in the kitchen. Instead of peanut butter, I used a medium-sized very ripe banana, and a tablespoon of cinnamon. I added those into my food processor with a can of chickpeas I had drained and rinsed, and processed it all into a paste.

Looks strange, but tastes delicious - trust me. I searched the Internet afterwards to see if I was the only one who'd ever tried it (not for the thrill of being an inventor, but more for validation that I wasn't eating something weird), and I found quite a few banana hummus recipes. Most of the ones I found, though, involved peanut butter as well.

I wish I had taken a better picture. Or even took it out of the food processor. I just ate it with a spoon, straight from the mixer. Unlike with the other non-savory hummus recipe, I did not peel the chickpeas - I wish it was intentional, but really, it was me being lazy. But it worked out really well, I think, because the consistency was less like a dip and more like a cookie dough. Just what I wanted!

A bit higher than my usual greek yogurt and piece of fruit, but it was very, very filling. Next time, I will only eat half, but have it with apple slices. I'd also like to try it with PB2 instead of cinnamon - I finally ordered some, and am excited to try it!

What about you? Have you ever tried a dessert/non-savory hummus? If you're a PB2 fan, how do you enjoy it best? Personally, I'm looking forward to mixing it in with my morning yogurt - always a plain Fage greek yogurt.