food

Big Birthday Photobarf

This post is incredibly delayed because it includes photos which were gifts to family, but here it finally is.

I’d been planning a birthday trip to Disneyland and other points of interest in the area for, oh, the last year and a half or so. Maybe even two years. That trip happened in early December, and I was thrilled to have my parents join me.

In total we did three days at the California Disney parks, one at Knott’s Berry Farm, and one at Universal Hollywood. Definitely an exhausting – but fully enjoyable – trip.

One thing I was super excited to do was to take another progress photo in the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse. (Sorry Tarzan, it’ll always be their place in my heart.) Here’s that photo. I didn’t take a photo in the treehouse on my second most recent trip because I was ashamed of how much weight I’d gained back, so we’ll have to settle for a photo from my meet & greet with Boba Fett from that trip.

L-R: Feb 2013, Oct 2014, April 2017, Dec 2019

I never want to go back to where I was in those earlier photos. Hopefully I’ll look even healthier in the next one – whenever that happens. And now for the real fun, VACATION SLIDESHOWS!!!!

We spent a grand total of three days at the Disney parks: two at Disneyland and one at California Adventure. I’ve just lumped them all together here because I’m feeling lazy. High points included treating my folks to a birthday lunch at the Blue Bayou, piloting the Millennium Falcon with my dad, and catching part of the candle light processional (even if we weren’t important enough to warrant invitations to the show).

We spent a day at Knott’s Berry Farm, which I hadn’t been to since our first big amusement park vacation back in the early 80s. They’ve got a TON more awesome rollercoasters than they had back then, and I rode most of them. The Silver Bullet did me in. Got in a couple more coasters after that, but then I had to call it quits. This was only day two out of five straight days at theme parks and I didn’t want to burn myself out too fast. Didn’t get a ton of photos, but here’s what I do have.

We also spent a day at Universal Studios Hollywood, which I also hadn’t been to since that same vacation we first went to Knott’s. I shouldn’t have been surprised that the rides were pretty much all screen-based, but I was. And they made me sick. We had a fun day, but I don’t feel the need to go back. This was Day Three of the Five Days of Funn.

If you know me at all, you know that’s a hell of a lot of peopling for me. Once back home, I had to get out on my own and recharge my nature cells. I’d been wanting to get down to the Chiricahuas for weeks, but my schedule just didn’t allow it. I decided to make it work that Saturday after getting back, and it was absolutely worth it. I stopped at The Thing on my way home just for shits and giggles, and to see the “upgrade” to the museum. That was…. an experience. At least I ended up with a souvenir tee shirt that I really like, and which cost a fraction of anything I saw in any of the theme parks and didn’t like nearly as much.

So there’s my bigass photobarf. Hope you enjoyed it.

And because it’s timely, I had a lovely Christmas with family and am looking forward to a most likely quiet New Year’s Eve as a hermit. Unless I change my mind and go out. Then there’s no telling.

Thanksgiving

So we’re fresh off of Thanksgiving here in the USA.  I got to travel to visit with my parents for a few days last week, which was lovely.  We had a fantastic Thanksgiving meal, watched a few movies, and even got to drive out to the mountains to see some snow.

When I went to my conference in late October, I decided to aim for maintenance calories each day since I knew there was no way I could accurately log conference buffet food and I didn’t want to stress about seeing those red numbers in MFP for going over my deficit goal.  Came home about six pounds “heavier”, which I know was mostly water weight from markedly increased sodium intake for that week.  It took a couple of weeks, but my body sorted itself out once I was home and back on my routines.

For this Thanksgiving trip I decided not to alter my intake goal and instead, log to the best of my abilities and accept that I’ll likely go over my deficit goal just about every day – if not every day.  This seemed to work much better for me.  For about the same length of trip I was only up about three pounds once I got back home to my scale, and I’m starting to get back down again already.  So I guess that’s a lesson learned.

Aaaaaand… here are some photos I took while out and about with the parents.

Now for the rest of the holiday season….

Mileposts

When you’re working to lose 100 pounds – which is my goal – that number is pretty daunting.  That’s why I’ve broken it down into 10 pound mini-goals.  Today I hit that first milepost.  I’m finally down 10 pounds!  (I was hoping to be able to write this post yesterday, but I was still over by a tenth of a pound and I don’t want to get into the habit of rounding down.)

When I went to the doctor for a check-up in late March, I weighed the most I ever have.  For the next month or so I yo-yoed over a five pound range, eventually settling around the five pounds lost mark for another month-ish.  Over the last two weeks those next five pounds have just disappeared, three of them falling off this week.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the weight loss pattern appears to line up with acquiring a fitness band just over two weeks ago, then starting to log caloric intake just over a week ago.  I haven’t made any drastic changes. I’ve just been more aware of what I am or am not doing and making small adjustments here and there.

For example, someone brought bagels and cream cheese to the office for everyone earlier this week.  Normally I’d tell myself, “I don’t need it.  I’m trying to be better.”  Of course I’d eventually cave and say, “Screw it.  Gimme,” then go slather a bagel with cream cheese and wolf it down.  This time because I’d already logged everything I planned to eat for the day, I knew I didn’t have any wiggle room.  That made it much easier to ignore the temptation. Never mind the part where I exercised after work and ended up with a calorie deficit for the day, so technically had plenty of room for the bagel.  That’s another slippery slope I don’t want to get anywhere near.

I’m sure quitting smoking has also helped a ton.  It’s been just over six weeks since I last did any regular smoking, and just over three weeks since my last “Let’s see if the Chantix is really doing what it says it does” experiment – which I have no need or desire to repeat.  Exercise is getting easier.  I’m starting to sleep a little better, Chantix side effects notwithstanding.  Thanks to some noise-cancelling headphones acquired at work, my stress levels have also noticeably decreased… mostly  Any thoughts of having a cigarette are just that – thoughts.  Recognizing that I’m in a place or doing an activity where I would have normally smoked helps me realize I don’t actually want to smoke.  It’s what I’d become accustomed to doing in those situations, so my brain goes there out of habit.  And the thought is never strong enough to make me want to go buy a pack, or even bum a smoke from a friend.  So that’s good.

I do know that losing 3 pounds a week is not sustainable.  As much as I’d love to be rid of the next 90 pounds by early January, that’s just not going to happen.  Which is fine, since I also don’t think that would be a particularly healthy way to go about it.  This is probably mostly water weight that I’m dropping so quickly, and I expect it to taper off any day now.  And that’s okay.  This is a process.

On counting calories

I’ve had an account at myfitnesspal for years and largely ignored it beyond making sure my exercise (when it happens) gets logged.  I never got into the whole calorie counting thing because, well, I know how… focused… I can get on such things and I didn’t want that to take over my every waking thought.

Since acquiring my fitness band last week I’ve discovered that while it does track my exercise, it also tracks the calories I burn just by being alive.  For some reason, that made me want to start actually tracking my food calories in MFP.  So I started doing that Thursday night.

It’s actually pretty easy to do.  Lots of foods are already in their system.  You just scan the barcode on a package with the app on your phone and record how much of it you ate.  Or you can do a simple search for things.  But entering items that don’t have bar codes (produce, fresh meat, stuff from the bulk bins, etc.) helped me realize that while I had an idea of what smart portions looked like, I didn’t really know.

So today I went out and bought a food scale.  I was afraid it would add a lot of time to my meal prep, but it really doesn’t.  (At least, it didn’t tonight.)  I can actually put my baking vessel on the scale, zero it out, then it pretty much automagically weighs each ingredient as I add it as long as I remember to zero the scale after each addition.  Makes it super easy to record accurate amounts of pretty much everything.  And I’m not dirtying any extra equipment since I can weigh right in whatever vessel is about to go into the oven.

So that’s new to my routine.

I’ve also learned just in the last three days that my proportions of carbs to fat to protein are WAY off.  I’m eating way too much fat and not nearly enough carbs, apparently.  Protein is pretty much right on.  And I have a tendency to overdo the sodium.  At least, according to what MFP says I should be eating.  So now I have a better idea of what to change and how.

It’s too soon to say if it really helps, but it’s another step along the road.  Let’s see where it goes.

Titles… meh.

So I only got 2 days of exercise in last week.  I think I went at it too hard Monday and Tuesday since I was so sore that I could barely walk Wednesday through Friday.  By Saturday morning the soreness was gone, but I was fighting our latest wave of cubicle plague.  I decided to take the weekend to rest.

So far this week I’m 4 for 4 on exercising after work.  Today will be day 5.  I’ve dusted off my Power 90 level 1/2 DVD and have been making use of that.  It has a structure, I’m already familiar with it, and it only takes half an hour or so.  (The cardio days take closer to 40 minutes if I do the “ab-ripper” bit they tack on at the end.) Plus, I can do it without leaving the house.  I know it’s too early to see any difference on the scale or in the way my clothes are fitting, but that’ll come if I stick with it.

Since at least January I’ve also been struggling – very much a lot – with the whole “I’m angry/stressed/bored/depressed. Screw it, I’m going to hit this drive through” thing.  Not just at meal times, but pretty much any time I’m out and about.  I know that food won’t fix my feelings.  I know this.  But it’s such an easy salve – even though I’m well aware that it’ll just leave me feeling worse after the fact.

So far this week I have avoided all drive-throughs.  Today was particularly challenging, given some recent developments that I can’t talk about.  (It’s okay.  I’m… well… I’m not fine, if I’m being completely honest.  But I’ll deal.) But I did it. I drove past all 10 drive throughs – and one Sonoran hot dog cart – that are along my usual route home. So there’s that.

Thanks for reading.

Small changes

Despite my best intentions to get out of bed early enough to exercise before work, it’s just not happening.  So I’ve decided that I need to just do it as soon as I get home from work.  I’m 2 for 2 on making that happen this week.  Here’s hoping I stick with it.  I’m rather sore from yesterday’s exercise today – which made today’s exercise a challenge – but I know if I just keep going, my body will adjust and the muscle soreness will go away.

Also, I’ve changed up my grocery shopping patterns.  I was a loyal Albertsons customer for years, mostly because they didn’t require any sort of “loyalty membership” to get the best prices.  That, and they offered a 10% discount every Saturday with my university ID card.  Unfortunately, that’s all gone out the window.  Albertsons has started a so-called loyalty program where you have to make an account, download an app, put in your phone number at checkout, blahblahblah.  They also did away with their university discount at the same time.

And then there’s the part where their new pricing patterns are ridiculous.  In one instance the app showed one sale price for a particular item, the sale tag on the item in the store showed a different slightly higher price, and then there was an “e-coupon” thing below the shelf sale price with a QR code where if you scanned it with the app you got a third, lower price.  I don’t want to have to look three different places to figure out which way I’m going to get the best price.  And half the time, the discounts didn’t even come off at checkout when I did put in my phone number, requiring me to then stand in line at Customer Service to get a refund.  Also at the same time they started doing loyalty thing, they did away with the university discount.  But I kept going there for months entirely out of habit.

I’ve finally decided my privacy isn’t worth whatever few dollars I was “saving” – or selling my data to them for, really.  So I’ve started doing most of my shopping at Sprouts.  While they do have a membership thing to get their sale flyers in an email and an app and all that, you don’t have to *use* it to get their advertised sale prices.  If it’s on sale, you get that price no matter who you are or what information you give them.  (In my case, no information.)  And I’m finding that their sale prices are actually pretty darn good.

I’ve actually been spending about the same amount – if not less – each week than I was at Albertsons, even with their stupid loyalty “discount”.  And I’m generally buying better food, too.  Mostly because I’m not buying nearly as many convenience items – which were also not helping with my weight.  While Sprouts does have a fair selection of those types of things (frozen pizza, fish sticks, boxed mac & cheese, etc.), their prices are generally higher than I want to pay for those products.  So I buy more produce, fresh meats, and nuts instead.  Which I know is better for me any way.  And now that I know I don’t want to pay what they’re asking for the convenience products, I don’t even look at them.  Temptation, removed.

So, yeah.  I’m still hovering around my highest weight ever right now.  But I’m hoping these choices will help change that.

I also picked up some big plastic tubs to sort out some issues in my closet.  I have a ton of clothes in there from when I lost all the weight before, but I can’t fit into them now.  Frankly, it’s rather depressing when I see it all hanging there as I get dressed every morning.  So I’ll be sorting through the closet and packing away the smaller clothes for now.  Then, in the future, I can take the smaller clothes out of the bins and replace them with my “fat clothes” as I slim back down.  That’s the plan, at least.  Here’s hoping it helps.  We’ll see how it goes.

That bean dip’s pretty good, huh?

I kind of figured this would happen. As soon as I wrote about the “whoosh”, it stopped. And that’s okay. This isn’t a race. Would I like to be at my goal weight by mid-October? Of course. Even better would be mid to late September when I’ll be needing to replace my tux in preparation for the 2014-15 season with the Sierra Vista Symphony. At the same time, I fully understand that the body is going to do what the body is going to do. I might be there by then, and I might not. As long as things are trending in the right direction, it doesn’t really matter what the date is when I get there.

Lately I’ve become incredibly bored with using hummus or guacamole on my sandwiches for lunch. I decided it was time to concoct something else with slightly different flavor and texture profiles. What I ended up with was a bean dip-like spread that has been kind of amazing. This is the third week in a row that I’ve made it. I’m starting to get bored with that now, so I’ll need to come up with another option this weekend. Any way, I thought I would share that recipe with you. It’s pretty great on sandwiches. It’s probably really good just as a dip with chips, but I don’t know for sure since I stopped keeping chips in the house around this time last year. I can not be trusted with them. But I digress. On to the recipe!

Bean Dip Sandwich Spread

  • 1 can (15-16 oz.) of pinto beans – organic if possible – drained and rinsed well (I tried it this week with black beans instead. Meh. Stick with the pintos.)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced (I run it through a garlic press, then hand-mince the “guts” that get stuck inside the hopper.)
  • juice of one lime (~2 Tbsps)
  • 1-2 Tbsps olive oil
  • 2 Tbsps tahini (Optional, but I left it out this week and really miss it.)
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/8 to 3/4 tsp chili powder (I really like chipotle chili powder here, but use what you have.)
  • 1 Tbsp dried parsley flakes
  • 1-2 Tbsps water to desired consistency
  • salt and pepper to taste

Just put everything in a bowl and whiz it up with a stick blender. Or dump it all into a food processor and mix it up that way. Or mash it up by hand with one of those old-fashioned potato mashers. Maybe wait until toward the end to add the water in case you like it thicker, though it does thicken up some as it sits in the fridge. I’ll get five sandwiches-worth out of this, and I spread it on both slices of bread. It’s really good with basic meats (turkey, roast beef, chicken) and cheeses (American, cheddar, etc.) and a bit of salad greens. Not so great with a more complexly flavored meat like the maple ham I decided to try this week.

If you decide to try it, I’d love to know what you think.

General update

I’m happy thrilled to announce that the needle on the scale has finally started moving downward again, as have the other measurements that I’ve been tracking. I’m currently in my third consecutive week of using my Power90 strength training DVDs on every non-run weekday. That’s something I haven’t really done with any regularity since finishing C25K back in December. I’m keeping the non-run weekend day as a rest day, though. Some other changes that I’ve made:

  • Started buying a different batch of stonefruits (plums, peaches, nectarines, etc.) each week for my breakfast fruit instead of the Granny Smith apples.
  • Replaced my 10am and 3pm snacks of almonds or cashews with Granny Smith apples. (What? I really like them.) I’m hoping the price of cherries drops soon. They’ll be another really good snack option but at $6/pound, they’re a little out of my budget just now. Especially when the the store only carries them in 2-pound bags.
  • Re-added rice as a side to my baked protein and vegetables for dinner.
  • Started using fish as my protein with dinner more often again.

I’ll be going in tomorrow (Fri) to have blood drawn to check my cholesterol levels again. Here’s hoping for good numbers. I’ll also be getting my first physical in almost 20 years next week. I’m not going to lie, I’m a little nervous about that.

I did cross paths with the Happy Lady again one day last week. This time we were headed the same direction and actually got to talk a little longer, which was nice. I really do miss seeing her as frequently as I used to.

My foot is doing pretty well. It hadn’t bothered me at all for a while until my run this last Monday. It was fine again on Wednesday but I’m rethinking my original plan of trying for a half marathon in October. I think I pushed myself too hard too fast to get to the 10k in May and don’t want to repeat that injury. Also, the race is on a pretty crappy date. (Late orchestra concert the night before, race early the next day, then catch a train that night.) Will most likely choose to do the 5k associated with the event, then work toward a half marathon in December. Maybe I can make a 30-minute 5k my goal for October.

Also, I have not purchased cigarettes (or bummed any from smoker friends) since writing the post about quitting smoking. I have had a couple of small cigars since then, though. They fill the “I want to smoke something!” gap, but leave my mouth tasting much worse than cigarettes ever did. That, and I really don’t inhale the cigar smoke that much. Baby steps, I guess.

A couple more recipes

Since I don’t have any earth-shattering news to report at the moment, I figured I’d share a couple more recipes that I rely on pretty heavily. I think I mentioned in an older post that one big dietary change I made was replacing mayo or miracle whip (yes, I like them both) with either hummus or guacamole on sandwiches. I’ll admit that I got lazy and stopped doing that for a while some time around Christmas, but I have recently started doing this again. Yes, you can buy hummus and guac pre-made at the store. No, I choose not to if I can help it. Why? Because they’re both so damn easy to make. And when I make them, I know exactly what is in them. So here are my takes on these two dips/spreads.  Just like before, measurements are guesstimates.

Hummus

Basic ingredients (I generally use this for dip) :

  • one 15 ounce can chick peas (low sodium and organic if possible), drained and rinsed well
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1/3 cup tahini
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil (extra virgin if you have it)
  • juice of one lemon
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Optional additional ingredients (I often add a selection of these ingredients for sandwich spread):

  • 2 tablespoons sun-dried tomatoes, minced
  • 4 to 6 ounces crumbled feta cheese
  • chili powder to taste

Combine ingredients in a bowl and blend with an immersion blender to desired consistency. Or dump the ingredients into a food processor and blend to desired consistency. If you have a good traditional blender, that might work too. The hummus will be pretty thick. Thin with water if desired (I usually do). When using the sun-dried tomatoes and/or cheese, I like to stir those in by hand at the end rather than blending them in. It’s nice to get little chunks of those flavors in each bite.

You may want to chop the garlic before throwing it in with everything else if you don’t like the possibility of finding a chunk of raw garlic in your hummus. I don’t mind it, so I really only bother to do that if I’m making a batch that I think someone other than myself is likely to eat.

Be careful with the salt, as I’ve found some flavors (salt and garlic in particular) tend to intensify as the hummus sits in the fridge. If in doubt, leave the hummus a touch on the bland side and taste it again the next day. If it’s still too bland, go ahead and mix in a little more salt.

Store covered in the refrigerator. Should last up to a week.

Guacamole

Basic ingredients (I generally use this for dip) :

  • 3 to 4 avocados
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced (I use a garlic press)
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • salt to taste

Optional additional ingredients (I often add a selection of these ingredients for sandwich spread):

  • one or two Roma tomatoes, diced
  • 4 to 6 ounces crumbled feta or blue cheese
  • chili powder to taste

Combine ingredients in a bowl and mash with a fork until desired consistency. If using tomatoes and/or crumbled cheese, stir in gently after mashing the other ingredients.

Store covered with plastic wrap in the fridge. Be sure the plastic wrap touches the entire top surface of the guacamole. This will help keep it from turning brown. (If it does go brown, that’s okay. It still tastes fine, but it looks kind of funky.) Should last up to a week.

General update

Weight is still stagnant since I last wrote, but I’m playing with my intake (adjusting amounts of proteins/carbs/fats/etc.) to see what has what kind of effect. Haven’t taken any other measurements because I’ve just been too lazy to bother.

Was able to start running again last week. I’ll have a few minor twinges in my foot when I first get going, but that stops after about half a mile. Am currently maintaining paces in the 12:00 to 12:20/mile area. I’ve probably been allowing myself more walking breaks than is truly necessary, but I’d much rather take my time than end up making anything worse.

Summer is definitely getting here, as our overnight lows are getting warmer. It was a balmy 71°F when I set out to run at 5:30 yesterday morning. It only gets hotter from here.