And Vice Versa

I’m sure there is science out there somewhere to back up the things I am about to say, but all of this is just from my own personal experience. And movies.

Making good decisions – decisions you can be proud of – for your body makes you feel good about yourself. Even before you lose any weight or look any thinner or more muscular, you feel better because you are proud of the decisions you’re making and hopeful for the future. I had probably lost about 8 pounds when I asked Will if he thought I looked any thinner. He said he wasn’t sure if I actually looked thinner yet, but that I was carrying myself more confidently, which made me look healthier. And even though I had only been exercising and eating better for a couple of weeks, I definitely felt healthier, which made me want to continue making healthy choices. Thus, the cycle continued. Good decisions => positive feelings and positive self-talk => feeling confident and looking healthy => feeling healthy => more good decisions.

In that cycle, I mentioned positive self-talk, which I think is really important. When you do good things for your body, you are training yourself to love it. I think people have the idea that loving their bodies comes with weight loss and looking thinner, but I don’t think that’s the right conclusion to draw from that correlation. I think they happen at the same time and get mistaken for cause and effect, but what’s really happening is that you are treating your body well, and the more you treat something well, the more you realize how much you appreciate it. It’s the same with any relationship. You don’t always feel the warm-and-fuzzies for people, but when you choose to show them love and kindness anyway, the good feelings come back around. Showing love and kindness actually makes you feel loving and kind. It works for your body too. If you do kind things for your body, it makes you feel the love you have for your body. And the more you do it, the more natural and authentic it becomes. Also, you come to appreciate your body for what it can do, which I really need right now. Healthy choices => authentic appreciation of the body => love of the body => desire to treat the body well => more healthy choices.

And then there are endorphins, which make you feel better when you hate your aerobics instructor for being such a sadist (or when you hate yourself for being such a masochist because you’re working out with a DVD at home and no one is there to make you feel guilty about just turning it off). Oh, and endorphins make you not a murderer, which I’m sure my husband appreciates as a nice side-effect of all my exercising.

legallyblonde

So exercise => endorphins => happiness => not shooting my husband => happy husband => husband supporting my healthy choices => more exercise??

I don’t know about that last full circle, but I do know that feeling better physically makes you feel better emotionally, which makes you want to feel even better physically. And so on, and so forth, and vice versa.

Spicy Greek Yogurt Cauliflower Recipe

You asked for it, and I’m going to give it to you! You can find this recipe in a bunch of different places on the internet, but I’m not exactly sure where it came from originally. I saw it on Facebook. I’ll give you the original recipe and then tell you how we did it slightly differently.

Ingredients

cauliflower
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 head cauliflower
  • 1½ cups plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 lime, zested and juiced
  • 2 tablespoons chile powder
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400° and lightly grease a small baking sheet with vegetable oil. Set aside.
  2. Trim the base of the cauliflower to remove any green leaves and the woody stem.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine the yogurt with the lime zest and juice, chile powder, cumin, garlic powder, curry powder, salt and pepper.
  4. Dunk the cauliflower into the bowl and use a brush or your hands to smear the marinade evenly over its surface. (Excess marinade can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to three days and used with meat, fish or other veggies.)
  5. Place the cauliflower on the prepared baking sheet and roast until the surface is dry and lightly browned, 30 to 40 minutes. The marinade will make a crust on the surface of the cauliflower.
  6. Let the cauliflower cool for 10 minutes before cutting it into wedges and serving alongside a big green salad.

Modifications

As you can see, the recipe tells you to dunk the whole head of cauliflower in the yogurt mixture and roast it. I thought this sounded entirely too delicious to let the whole inside of the cauliflower miss out (and I hate chopping cauliflower because it’s so crumbly), so we bought pre-cut cauliflower and dunked EVERY SINGLE PIECE into the yogurt. We spread the pieces out in a baking dish and roasted them that way.

We also made this Mujadara recipe (to which we added caramelized onions, which made angels sing in my mouth). It required a much lower baking temperature, but since it also needed an hour of baking time, we thought we’d try just throwing the cauliflower in there at the same temperature for the same length of time. We crossed our fingers and hoped for the best.

After about half an hour, we pulled the cauliflower out and turned the pieces over. They had started to get a nice brown crust on top, but the bottoms were still kind of gooey. We put it back in with the Mujadara and waited another half an hour.

With both dishes in the oven at once at 325, we ended up baking both for just over an hour, and that was about perfect. They were delicious. Highly recommend.

Fuel

One of the vocabulary words we’re practicing in class this week is “purchase.” Today, my students were doing an exercise where they had to choose all the correct answers (out of 4 possibilities) to a question. One of the questions was, “Which of the following could you purchase?” And one of the possible answers was “energy.” We decided that might work because you purchase gas and electric services for your home, and then we also talked about how food provides energy for our bodies. We don’t purchase energy directly, but we purchase the food we consume (another vocab word this week), which our bodies then use for energy. It’s an interesting little exercise, and it creates a lot of opportunities for conversation about words and their usage, which is nice.

Anyhoe, this whole thing made me start thinking about the food I eat and how my body uses it, especially now that I’m trying to be more active. When I want my body to do more, I need to give it what it needs so that it can perform. The body doesn’t need much just to sit around watching Netflix all day, but it needs a little more if I’m going to be standing up teaching, and it needs even more than that if I’m going to exercise. My problem until recently has been that I thought all calories were the same.

I guess if I had taken the time to really think about it, I would have realized that that’s dumb, but I didn’t. I thought of food as the reward you get at the END of the workout, not the fuel you need to do the workout in the first place. And with that mindset, I was eating foods after my workouts that were totally undoing all the hard work I’d just done. And then I was still hungry because the foods I ate filled up my calorie quota without filling my stomach or meeting my body’s nutritional needs. Gah! No wonder the whole thing sucked! (Y’all just witnessed that epiphany. That JUST happened. Just now. Jazz hands.)

One thing I’ve noticed, though, with the program I’ve been doing recently is that I’m not all that hungry because I’m eating at least 5 times a day. And the workouts aren’t so bad because I’m eating foods that are helping me get through them instead of trying to jog with a body full of chocolate cereal and Starbursts. (Incidentally, Starbursts are not good for your body in any way. I have a poop story to prove it, but I won’t subject you to it. You’ll just have to trust me on this one.)

So there you have it. I don’t understand or particularly care to know the science behind it, but from my own personal experience, I can tell you that what you eat absolutely has a direct impact on how your body is able to perform. Feed it well.

It Takes a Village (Fitness Edition)

I don’t like working out around other people. Even when I’m at home and my husband decides to take a day off from exercising, he’s not allowed to stay in the room with me while I do it. I REALLY don’t like going to the gym where strangers can see my fat jiggle when I run. I feel very self-conscious exercising in public, and I would prefer to do it in the privacy of my own home.

However, it is VERY important for me not to make major life changes alone. I need the support and help of family and friends, and yes, even strangers who are in the same boat as I am. Family and friends are great because they love you and support you, and you can text them how much weight you’ve lost and get something like this in return:

Yes, I call my sister "Buck Buck Number Two." Is that weird?
Yes, I call my sister “Buck Buck Number Two.” Is that weird?

Strangers, on the other hand, are wonderful because you can tell them your exact measurements and not give a flying flip what they think of it because you’ll probably never meet them, and even if you do, you’ve been through something together by then that makes you happy to finally meet them, still not caring that they’ve seen your measurements because they were right there with you.

I have both of these groups, and hooboy is it necessary for me. I have my sweet husband telling me I’m beautiful regardless of my weight but that he’s also SO proud of me for all the hard work I’m doing. I have my sister cheering me on with every weight loss update. I have my coworkers commenting on how they’re starting to see the changes. And I have a group of mostly strangers on Facebook who are all working on healthier goals together. We can post links to recipes, we can complain about how hard our workout was, we can encourage each other to keep it up anyway or get back on the wagon, and we can give each other big cyber-fives on a job well done.

I work out alone or only with my husband (who doesn’t count as “people”), and I prefer it to the gym or to a group class, but it really does take a village to help me stay on track and make good choices. So to all of you who have read and posted or texted me encouraging comments, THANK YOU. I need you. I can’t do this without you. I’m thankful that I don’t have to.

Easy Dijon Vinaigrette Recipe

I promised you the other day that I would give you a good vinaigrette recipe if you wanted it, and since I usually deliver on my promises, here you go!

The 21-Day Fix eating plan booklet has several salad dressing recipes in it. This is the only one I’ve tried so far, but the others look good too. I just made this one because I happened to have all the ingredients, and my salad was naked. In a jar (I used an empty salsa jar, washed out), combine:

  • 3 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice
  • 3 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 6 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

Put the lid on the jar and shake. This will make you 8-10 servings of dressing. If you think that doesn’t seem like a lot of dressing for a big salad, trust me. The Dijon is so strong, plus the lemon and the vinegar. You really don’t need a lot of this to get a great flavor throughout your salad.

Pop the lid on your jar and store in the fridge until it’s gone. One warning: Sometimes, the oil can sort of harden in the fridge. I took mine out yesterday, and all the oil, mustard, and garlic had formed a glob in the middle of the lemon juice and vinegar. I tried to stir it with a fork, but that didn’t help, so I just let it sit out on the counter for half an hour or so while we went for a walk, and when we came back, it was fine again.

Enjoy!

Meaty vs. Veggie

I went to look at my prompt for today and immediately got “Ebony and Ivory” stuck in my head for some reason. And it’s funny that today’s prompt is what it is because my students asked me this exact question in class today: How do an herbivore and an omnivore cook together?

It comes up a lot when people find out I’m a vegetarian. One of the first questions they ask (after wondering what I eat and how I get enough protein) is, “Is your husband a vegetarian too?” No. No, he is most definitely not. That always invites the follow-up question, “Sooooooo…how does that work?”

It’s honestly not that complicated. I’ve been meatless for seven years, and I’ve known my husband for about seven and a half years, maybe eight, so for the vast majority of the time he’s known me, I’ve been a vegetarian. And we didn’t get together until two years ago, so we both knew exactly what we were getting into before we ever got together. Also, cooking together became a pretty normal thing when we started dating, so we had a good bit of practice before we got married.

Usually, it goes like this…

On Saturday, we decide what we want to make for the following week’s dinners. We pull from a lot of different sources, including a weekly meal-planning service we got cheap with a Groupon (emeals), but my favorites are Forks over Knives, Thug Kitchen (pardon the language if you visit the site), Food Network, and All Recipes. We also have several cookbooks and a recipe box full of vegetarian slow cooker ideas. We both have to agree that we either really want or are willing to try a recipe before we add it to the week’s list. If we’re both on board, I print out the recipe.

Doesn't the mullet magnet guy look like Sir Paul McCartney?
Doesn’t the mullet magnet guy look like Sir Paul McCartney?

Once we’ve picked our poisons, if you will (though you really shouldn’t), we make a grocery list based on what each recipe calls for and what we already happen to have. If we haven’t been very inspired by the recipes we’ve found and only have a few, we’ll make a stirfry one night or just sautee some veggies and pair them with pasta. ORRRR we’ll have “lazy night,” where we go out to eat or order Chinese or something. We put the meal schedule on a white board on the fridge so that whoever is home when it’s time to cook can see what’s on the menu and get it started. We stick all the printed-out recipes on the side of the fridge so they are visible while standing in front of the stove.

Most of the time, Will just eats a vegetarian dinner and has something meaty for lunch, and most of the time, he says he doesn’t feel like the meal is lacking anything, but bless him, he loves me a lot, so he may just not be saying it, though we definitely do have some recipes that he REALLY likes as they are (including our risotto and our tortilla soup). However, there are a lot of times when he says, “It’s good. But it would be a lot better with chicken.” We now have a bag of chicken in the freezer if he ever wants to cook some and add it to his meal. When we make stirfry, he might cook some chicken separately, and I might cook some tofu, and then we’ll just add our own protein to our own bowls.

Last night, we made pasta. We cooked a skillet of veggies for me and a skillet of peppers, onions, garlic, and sausage for him. He then added tomato sauce to his skillet, and I had plain sauce. He now has a jar full of meat sauce that he can use over the next couple of weeks. Making all of that at once was a little hectic, but now when he wants meat sauce with his pasta again, he’s all set.

That’s pretty much it. I usually eat the leftovers for lunch the following day, and that’s planned into my week on purpose, so we make sure we have enough for me to do that. He usually eats whatever he feels like eating for lunch, and we do our own breakfast things too because we have different morning routines and tastes. He doesn’t get as much steak as he’d like in his life, but he gets WAY more veggies than he was getting when he was single, and he recognizes that this is a good thing. I don’t mind him cooking meat, but if it’s beef, we have to set up an elaborate ventilation system so I can’t smell it.

Oh, and eating out or getting take-out is easy, and if he’s like dying for some meat or something, we figure it out. It’s really not so hard.

Discouragement

Something happened to me today. A woman I see several times a week asked me when my baby is due. I don’t know how she didn’t get the memo about what happened, but I’ve been thinking this whole time that I don’t look pregnant anymore, or at the very least, I don’t look like I’m getting more pregnant. Apparently I’ve been wrong. Apparently, despite the fact that I’ve now lost 11 pounds, I still look six months pregnant. Ugh.

I know she just wasn’t thinking. I know time flies, and she probably didn’t realize it’s been three months since I told her I was expecting. I know she just didn’t take the time to put two and two together to figure out that things aren’t how they ought to be. I know she’s had her own problems and worries, and that what is the most enormous thing in the world to me is not so crucial to her. I know all of that, but it was still discouraging.

She just kept looking at me like she didn’t believe me – not like shocked disbelief that something horrible had happened, but like she thought I was lying to her about having lost my baby. Or like maybe I was never pregnant in the first place. I don’t know which, but it really seemed like she thought I was putting her on. What kind of sick person would that make me?

The whole thing made me immensely frustrated because I’ve made such positive changes in my lifestyle, which have resulted in me feeling a lot better most days. I still have sad days and sad moments, but for the most part, I feel SO much better about myself, my body, and my choices. And with one stupid question, this woman made me doubt all of it. One question brought all my sadness back up and made me really discouraged about my weight in spite of the progress I’ve made. One question made me want to come home, cancel my plans for the afternoon, put on my PJs, and crawl into bed. I did all of those things.

However, I did not do the other things I wanted to do – order a pizza and eat the whole thing, cry myself to sleep and nap until my husband got home, then bake brownies and watch a movie while I eat the entire pan (possibly including the pan itself).

I don’t know if it was simply not having the wherewithal to order a pizza, not having the energy to go to the store and buy brownie mix, the guilt of letting my fresh produce go to waste by not sticking to my meal plan, or the grace of Almighty God alone, but I ate my lunch as planned and watched an episode of Chuck on Netflix. Now, I’m going to drink some water, change into my workout clothes, and do my exercises. One decision at a time. One meal at a time. One workout at a time.

3 Tips for Healthy Eating

This is my prompt for today, but you’ve heard it all, I’m sure. Eat your veggies, stay away from fried foods and sugar and processed foods, don’t eat too many calories, don’t eat too many carbs, don’t eat too much fat, don’t eat too much meat, eat enough protein, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And I realize that these tips may just be adding to the white noise that is the health and fitness industry, but they are three things that have helped me to enjoy food responsibly.

1. Spice It Up

Herbs and spices are fantastic. When we cook any of the “recipes” we just make up on the fly, they always include a plethora of dried herbs and spices. We have ALL of them. At this point, I don’t know if I want to include a photo of my spice cabinet or a gif from The Three Amigos. Oh you know what spices look like. Just imagine literally all of them. plethoraSo as I was saying…fat and sugar taste GREAT, especially when they take the forms of cheese, butter, and wheat (macaroni and cheese, grilled cheese sandwich, Red Lobster’s cheddar biscuits, mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm). And when you’re trying not to eat such things, you REEEEAAAAALLLLY miss them. Putting a bunch of spices on your food won’t fill that void entirely, but it definitely helps. Most of our “recipes” end up having a little salt, LOTS of freshly ground black pepper, red pepper flakes, oregano, and basil. If we’re feeling extra sassy (and depending on what we’re cooking), we might throw in some paprika, chili powder, cumin, curry powder, and/or turmeric. And I don’t know if garlic falls into this category or not, but the more the better. Adding herbs and spices won’t make non-fried things taste like fried things, but it will still make them very, very tasty.

2. Make It Pretty

I like my food to be pretty. When it’s particularly lovely, I take pictures of it. I think people will probably get tired of that pretty soon, but I just can’t help myself. I mean look at this:berries and honey

I didn’t even want to eat it. I just wanted to have an endless photo shoot with it. It made me a little sad that I didn’t have a better camera, but then my gosh if it didn’t look delicious, so I ate it. AND IT WAS. That’s about a cup of Greek yogurt, a cup of fresh berries (raspberries, strawberries, and blueberries), and some raw honey. I added to it about 1/4 cup of Grape Nuts, and I can now say with all confidence that this snack is the reason Grape Nuts exist in the world.

I like my food (and my home, let’s be real) to have ALL THE COLORS. I want it to be a feast for the body, the taste buds, and the eyes. The only exception to this is Indian food, which tends to all be brown, but it’s so delicious, nobody cares. The prettier your food is, the prouder you are of having made it, and the more you want to eat it. saladAnd you know how you get lots of colors in your food? Lots of vegetables and fruits. Want a rainbow salad? Toss all of this together:

  • strawberries
  • carrots
  • yellow bell pepper
  • spring mix
  • blueberries
  • purple cabbage
  • garbanzo beans (sautee with herbs/spices)
  • goat cheese
  • homemade vinaigrette (I’ll share some recipes with you if you want them.)

I promise it will be beautiful and delicious.

3. Make a Plan and Stick to It

This is the single biggest tip I can give you if you want to eat healthier. Know what you are going to eat when. If you know you’re going to eat soon, you won’t be tempted to snack. And if you have healthy snacks planned, you won’t be (as) tempted to reach for the unhealthy ones. If you know what you’re having for dinner, and you’ve already bought all the ingredients, then all you have to do is make it. You might be tempted to be lazy and not cook, but I feel guilty when I buy fresh ingredients and then don’t use them, so use fresh veggies. They’re healthier than packaged food anyway, and you can let your guilt help you make good choices.

Sticking to the plan is really the hard part. Making the plan will be a bit labor intensive for the first few weeks, but you’ll get used to it once you figure out what works for you. I plan my dinners first because that’s the only meal of the day my husband and I get to eat together, so it takes a little more cooperation to decide what we’re going to make and what ingredients we need to buy. Once I have my dinners in place, it’s not that hard for me to work in all the other foods I need during the day. But sticking to the plan is another story entirely. It really is a meal-by-meal choice to eat what’s on the plan or to eat ice cream. I’m sure it would help a lot if I just threw out the ice cream, but since I don’t make health and diet choices for anyone but myself, I can’t really do that. Also, the guilt.

So far, though, I’ve been able to stick to my plans really well. It helps that I have a variety of foods every day, spaced out so I’m eating every few hours, and that they’re all delicious. I’m not like subsisting on plain rice cakes or anything horrible like that. Man, I’m glad I was never on a fad diet in the ’80s.

Hard Choices

Here’s the thing. It’s really easy (and cheap) for most people to be fat and out of shape. It requires literally no effort whatsoever. Yes, there are people who have trouble keeping weight on, and I recognize that that is a legitimate problem, but for most of us, all it takes is a month of Netflix and regular deliveries from Papa John’s to pack on the pounds. When the PJ’s delivery guy commented that Will was wearing a different super hero t-shirt every time he came here, I really should have known we’d been ordering too much. First of all, we’d had the same delivery guy more than once, which is kind of a feat in itself. Second, he’d been here enough times to know he’d been here before AND to recognize that my husband has a lot of super hero t-shirts.

It’s just that pizza is delicious, and Netflix has so many great options! Terrible excuses? Maybe. But after almost of month of exercising and eating a healthy diet on a regular basis, I’m still tempted to make them. They’re simply easier than planning healthy meals, preparing for them, cooking them, and getting off my butt every day to exercise.

So my biggest fear going into these changes (and still today) was (is) that I won’t be able to do it. I’m afraid I’ll start slacking off little by little until I’ve completely abandoned the program, and that I will then undo all the good things I’ve done over the past month. I’m afraid my body will betray me again – that I’ll injure myself or something – and not allow me to make the healthy choices I want to make.

Basically I’m afraid I will fail, and I really need a win right now.

All I have in front of me, though, are choices – one at a time. I can’t worry about what may or may not happen if I do or don’t do something. All I can do is choose to plan my meals or not, choose to follow the plan at each meal or not, choose to exercise or not. The only definite consequences are that I will become less healthy, more out of shape, and more overweight if I continue to make the decisions I was making before. I can’t know what will happen if I try – I might succeed, and I might fail – but if I don’t try, the only possibility is failure.

If failure is the thing I fear, and if I really need at least the possibility of a win, then not trying is just not an option.

The choices are hard. I’m lazy some days and just want to order a pizza. I’m busy some days and just want to get take-out. I’m lazy some days and don’t feel like working out. I’m busy some days and don’t know when I’ll have the time. I’m trying to be gracious with myself as much as possible. I don’t want to feel enslaved by any of this, but I know that the process of changing habits is not fun or easy, so I’m pushing through the initial difficulty of it. I hope I’ll be rewarded later. I hope I wake up one day in the future and look forward to my workout. I hope one day that I’ll use exercise to feel better, not food. I hope one day exercise will make me feel better, not like I’m dying. I think that day is coming, but the choices required to get to it are tough. One day, one meal, one exercise at a time, though, I WILL do this.

Tortilla Soup Recipe

Ok so even though it’s the end of our vacation week, I’m really excited that it’s Friday so I can give you this recipe! We made it the other night, and it was AMAAAAZIIIIINNNG (done in a sing-song voice for best effect)!!! If you’re a vegetarian on the 21-Day Fix, I would estimate that about a cup and a half of this soup equals 1 red, 1 green, 1-2 yellows, and 1 teaspoon. If you’re not a vegetarian, I would estimate that the same amount is 1 green, 2-3 yellows, and 1 teaspoon. I also added tofu to mine for an extra red container, and Will added chicken to his. If you’ve got a blue to spare, I highly recommend the avocado, and if you’re not on the 21-Day Fix at all, dude, go to Trader Joe’s and get you some Mexican Cheese. Go crazy.

Here we go. For this, you will need:

tortilla soup

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped (any color is fine, but I like red)
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tsp. chili powder
  • 2 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 (28-oz.) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 carton veggie broth or stock
  • 1 cup corn kernels (fresh or frozen, or I imagine grilled/roasted would be delicious)
  • 1 cup white hominy
  • 1 (4-oz.) can chopped green chiles
  • 1 (15-oz.) can black beans, drained and well-rinsed
  • 1 (15-oz.) can garbanzo beans, drained and well-rinsed
  • sliced avocado (optional)
  • Mexican cheese blend (optional)
  • cilantro (optional)

Ok, now it’s very easy.

  1. Sautee the garlic, onions, bell pepper and garbanzos in the olive oil until fragrant.
  2. Add the chili powder, cumin and oregano, and sautee for another minute.
  3. Add the tomatoes and broth. Bring it to a boil, and simmer for 5-10 minutes.
  4. Stir in the hominy, corn, green chiles and black beans. Simmer for another 10 minutes.
  5. Top it off with the any of the optional ingredients you want. Serve and eat!