Discovery of the day: Quick ways to lose weight

In the last year or so I've discovered two really quick ways to lose a couple of pounds.
Method A: Discover your husband is having an affair. (Note: I don't recommend this)

Method B: Get a virus that kills your appetite and make you and poop a lot. (Apologies for the oversharing.)
Method A was good for almost 15 lbs in two weeks and lasted about six months before it all came back. So far, Method B has been good for a pound or so. I'm actually much happier with Method B, since it broke me through my first goal. It's A Very Important Pound.

If I can stay motivated, I'm hoping this particular pound won't come back.

Bad joke of the day:
A: What's a quick way to permanently lose 275 lbs?
B: Method A.
Sorry -- must be the virus talking.



Discovery of the day: Falafelicious!

I'd had this hankering for falafel ever since I saw the recipe in my Moosewood Cookbook a couple of weeks ago.

I decided to try cooking dried chickpeas to see if the texture would be different than canned. Got that done earlier in the week. I had to hang around the house yesterday morning to wait for the furnace guy so I took that opportunity to put together the "batter". Screw the "hand-mashing"; I used the food processor and it was done in nothing flat. I stuck the bowl in the fridge and came in to work, pleased that I A) knew what we were having for dinner that night and B) had already started it. Both are rare experiences for me.

Once I got to work, I started thinking that frying the falafel probably wouldn't aid me in reaching my goal, so I poked around on the Web and found a couple of recipes for baked falafel. 350 deg. for 20 mins? Sure, why not.

They came out... OK. Flavor was good but the texture was... eh. It couldn't have been too bad -- my son actually ate it (dipped in mayo) -- but dammit, I wanted the fried crunchy goodness. The tahini sauce I made rocked, though. And next time I'm using canned chickpeas. I can't see where the texture of the cooked dried beans was any different. And if there was a difference, it certainly wasn't worth the 3-4 hours it took me to cook them.

I scooped the rest of the falafel into little mounds and froze them on a cookie sheet. I'm going to throw them into a zip-top bag and keep them in the freezer until I'm ready to try again. And yes, next time they will be fried.

In other news, my solid 6 lb loss is holding. I'm fighting a headache and some... intestinal upset today. Hope that's a temporary aberration and not the sign of a virus to come!



Discovery of the day: Patience, grasshopper

As I got on the scale this morning and noted a solid 6 lb total loss, I reflected a bit on yesterday's post. Yeah, I'd love to see spectacular 10+ lb loss in three weeks, but christ on a cracker (whole grain), I only have about 15 total to lose. And I'm not exercising at all. What am I complaining about?

If I was 30 lbs overweight, eating fast food three times a week, drinking a couple of adult beverages a day, snacking on things that come sealed in crunchy bags, and cooking full-fledged banquets (or decorating cakes - I used to do that) on the weekend; yeah, I'd expect to see a huge drop in poundage upon stopping those behaviors.

But I wasn't, so I didn't.

My dietary habits were OK -- half&half addiction aside -- just not quite OK enough to keep my weight down in the absence of just about any physical activity. I need to remind myself that a solid 6 lbs in three weeks is a success, especially since I can now wear my jeans without hurting myself.



Discovery of the Day: Proper pomegranate attire

I found out on Saturday that disassembling a pomegranate with a white shirt on is a bad idea. I now have a white shirt with pink spots. I think Shout will get them out, though.

Other things I learned this weekend is that the novelty of The Plan has worn off, I haven't lost any more weight (holding at 5-6 lbs), and when you're out and about on a Saturday afternoon with a young child, it's really hard to find something to eat that doesn't violate The Plan in one or more ways.

Saturday afternoon I took my son to the symphony. I mis-timed lunch so by the time we got out after 3 pm we were starved. Luckily I had brought some peanuts for him to eat during intermission but they had long since worn off by the end of the concert. Got down to the ferry terminal and bought my son McD's (hey, he likes it) and I figured I could find something do-able upstairs at the World Wraps place.

Well, I was too hungry and tired to try to make sense of their huge menu so I ordered the first vegetarian wrap I saw, teriyaki tofu with rice and a few veggies. Luckily I ordered a small. It filled the hole, but there was a lot of really sweet sauce and barely any veggies. If I had had the presence of mind to stand there another minute I probably could have found something salad-based. I hope it was a better choice than McD's but I wouldn't bet on it.

Sunday was kind of an off day overall. Lots of cravings for I don't know what. I did some housecleaning (which may have contributed to my mood). I should have gone to the store since I was out of a lot of my staple fruits but blew it off. I got the bright idea to try to make falafel for dinner, but the chickpeas took longer to cook than I'd planned so I ended up reheating some veggie stew I had in the freezer and served it over whole wheat noodles. My son ate it but wasn't thrilled. And I didn't feel like eating a BAS so I skipped it.

I should count how many heads of romaine I've prepped in the 3 weeks or so. Theoretically I eat ~1/2 head/day but I don't always hit that goal. Still, I could probably call it 12 heads so far and not be far off. Plus I bought two more today. I know for a fact that's more lettuce than I cleaned (let alone ate) for 2007 total. Wow.

I've not made much progress on my list of go-to, kid-friendly dinners. I've got pseudo-Mexican (pintos & rice & guacamole w/a cheese quesadilla for my son, over lettuce for me), egg drop soup, and tofu & veggie stir fry. And once a week we do Mom's Diner, where we each get to pick what we want.

That's not a very long list.

Yeah, I'm feeling closer to "down" than "up" today, but I'm still eating my BAS for lunch. If I pay a little more attention to my oil intake, I bet I can get the scale moving again. Or I could just start walking at lunch time but I doubt that's going to happen before spring.



Discovery of the Day: Too much tofu...

...annoys the boy.

I managed to crank out a stir fry last night. I used a bag of frozen stir-fry vegs (learned that frozen baby corn and water chestnuts taste better than canned), about half a head of bok choy, and some bean sprouts. And I put in a whole lb of pressed tofu, cut into 1" cubes. After eating five or six pieces my son announced "I don't like tofu."

Actually he does like tofu, he just doesn't like a freakin' half-pound of tofu.

Notes for next time: Press and marinate the tofu ahead of time. I pressed but didn't have time to marinate last night. Use only 1/2 lb tofu (duh!) Find a better sauce. I used Mark Bittman's recommendation from "How to Cook Everything", which is just chicken stock and soy sauce, and it was... underwhelming. I need to re-read the recipe -- maybe I missed something.

I have the rest of the stir fry with me today, to reheat and throw on top of the other half a head of bok choy plus romaine for lunch.

Speaking of romaine, I didn't have a BAS with my dinner. I feel slightly guilty.

I haven't lost any this week, but it is PMS week so I'm hopeful that my body will catch up soon.



Discovery of the day: Uh...

So far it feels like I've been at a dead run all week. I have to keep reminding myself that it's only Wednesday. Yesterday after work I went to the chiropractor so my son had dinner at his dad's. By the time I got home, took out the garbage and recycling (it was Garbage Eve), brought in my groceries, and prepped a seemingly never-ending pile of FFV, I barely had enough time to eat my default BAS (romaine w/marinated beans and avocado) before dashing out to pick up my boy. Not a lot of time left to discover new things.

However, I have made progress on slightly altering my son's diet. For breakfast, his "usual" for the past 4 (or more?) years has been an Eggo Nutrigrain waffle with maple syrup. A week or so ago I, ahem, accidentally ran out of waffles, so he's cheerfully shifted to either Cheerios or shredded wheat with rice milk, or a piece of peanut butter toast, along with a piece of fruit (usually the other half of my banana or a little satsuma orange) and maybe a small glass of soy milk. I'll call that a success.

Next thing is to work on his veggie consumption at dinner. Historically I've been fairly lazy about providing veggies w/dinner -- just one more thing to deal with and it's easier to just not. But I need to work on closing the gap between what he eats and what I eat or I'm going to be producing two dinners when I can barely garner the mental energy for one.

Luckily, he's pretty tolerant for a kid. I can give him various bean & veggie soups (I do use chicken stock) and a piece of bread and he's happy. He likes steamed broccoli (yay!) but isn't big on salads. He will eat cabbage, stir-fried or slaw. So it shouldn't be too bad. And once in awhile it's fun to play "Mom's Diner" where we each get to choose what we want. On those rare occasions I'm not averse to pulling out a Blue Box for him, although he does have to eat either peas or mixed vegs (the frozen ones) along with it.

In reality it's probably more about training me than him. Ain't that usually the case?



Discovery of the day: Surviving TDM

By the time my son & I left the dentist office yesterday afternoon there wasn't much mental energy left to spend on cooking. My boyfriend suggested we go out to Taco Del Mar. OK, I figured they had lettuce and beans there so I could probably find something to eat.

I ended up getting a Cabo Salad with pinto beans instead of meat and no cheese. I also had them put guacamole on it. :)

Verdict: Not bad. It contained a decent amount of lettuce, and between the pintos and the black bean & corn salsa, I felt like I had plenty to eat. The only downside was that the guacamole was really salty.

I've eaten there regularly for awhile and haven't noticed that problem before so hopefully it was a random thing. But the scale didn't like all that salt! I've been generous with the water today so I'm sure all will be well tomorrow.

I'm kind of at a loss for other fast food places to try. I can't bear to eat a limp, smelly McDonald's salad, and salad bars generally seem to be a thing of the past. If there was a place called Big-Ass Salads, I'd be there!



Discovery of the day: Decaffeinating hurts!

I did grudgingly make the switch from quarter-caf to decaf over the weekend. Owww... my head hurts. I was sooo sure that the difference in the amount of caffeine would be negligible. Apparently it's not. But if I'm lucky and can tough it out, I'll be happy again by the end of the week.

Killed the last of the half&half so it's all soymilk now. It doesn't lighten the color of the coffee as much but it lightens the flavor enough so it'll work.

I did pretty well over the weekend and it looks like I might be down another lb. for 5 lbs. total. I was able to easily implement the plan at dinner because my son was at his dad's so it was just my boyfriend and me.

It's so funny -- my boyfriend keeps talking about "our" diet even though he hasn't quite got the big picture. Seems he's generally OK with cutting way back on meat & cheese (lactose-intolerant -- doesn't eat much cheese anyway) but he keeps wanting to put grains at the base of his pyramid instead of the leafy greens. But he's got my go-to book to read on his upcoming business trip so we'll see how he feels about it all when he gets back.

My goal this week is to come up with a short list of kid-friendly and mom-friendly dinners for the work week. Given the state of my aching head, it might not be that easy!



Discovery of the Day: Important banana safety tip

When making a batch of fruit salad large enough to last several days, wait and add the sliced bananas at serving time.

Fruit salad has been a lifesaver for me so far. I buy fresh pineapple already peeled (in the produce section), kiwi fruits, apples, grapes, and oranges. And the aforementioned bananas. The pineapples have a lot of juice so I really don't need to add anything else, although sometimes I add a little lime juice for fun. Even without the lime juice, the apples don't darken, and everything else holds up really well except for the bananas. They take on an... interesting texture after the first couple of days. Ick.

If I'm really feeling extravagant when I dish up a serving (usually ~1 cup), I'll put a few raisins on top. I am kind of amazed how sweet raisins seem all of a sudden.

I think I've kicked the morning grain habit -- I've replaced my Kashi cereal with a cup of fruit salad, some ground flaxseed, and 1 oz chopped walnuts. The flaxseed and walnuts give me the sense that I'm eating something other than a big bowl of fruit. And both are high in omega-3 fatty acids which are Important.

The only negative thing about fruit salad is that it takes time to make. Much more time-intensive than my beloved breakfast cereal. But a big bowl will last me 4 or 5 days. And I can eat some more for dessert, if I have a hankering.

I think I might branch out and try a mango or papaya or something like that. Ooo! Exotic!

No weight lost over the last day or two, but I have been pushing the limits with the whole grains. It looks like I'm going to have to be pretty diligent until I get the weight off.



Discovery of the Day: Soymilk

I know, I didn't invent soymilk, but I did drink it for the first time and survived.

I've bought soymilk off and on over the years for my son who, I believe, develops eczema when he consumes too much dairy. It's just a theory so I stop and start the soymilk as the mood strikes. But somehow I've never quite been able to make myself drink it.

I had this perception of myself as fairly open and sophisticated, food-wise, at least until recently. Soon after I started dating my boyfriend, we were discussing restaurant choices and he asked what I did and didn't like. Surprisingly, I think that was the first time in a long time that anyone had asked me. Of course I wanted to impress him with my open-mindedness, but as I heard the list the of things I either didn't like or was afraid to try coming out of my mouth, I was appalled. Organ meats, shellfish (except crab), any white fish (it's a texture thing), game, which to me means any meat other than beef, pork or chicken... and I've always been kind of afraid of soymilk.

I don't drink a lot of milk anyway, other than using it on breakfast cereal (rice milk works well for that), and giving up most cheese hasn't been a problem so far but I do have that little half&half problem. And even though I'm decaffeinating I'll probably still be drinking at least some decaf each morning. It's a ritual thing. I drink my coffee pretty strong (I am in the Seattle area -- can't help it) and my coffee just begs for something to lighten it to the proper color. And rice milk, similar in consistency to skim milk, just ain't tough enough for that task.

Enter the heartier -- dare I say almost creamy -- soymilk. It was time for me to face my fears.

I felt the need for a tall decaf drip at lunchtime yesterday so I went to my nearby Major Brand Name Coffeehouse (my favorite -- can't help it). On a whim, I asked them to put the soymilk in instead of h&h. I tentatively took that first sip, and you know what?

It didn't suck and I didn't spit it on the floor.

I believe that I can kill the last of the h&h I have at home tomorrow morning and make the switch to my new pal soymilk with a clear mind and a joyful heart.

Now I'm guessing that soymilk, rice milk, and probably the almond milk I'm going to try making soon are all pretty much carbs and fat, both of which are on the pointy end of my new food pyramid. So even though I have these new tools to employ in my dairy-free state, I will have to use them judiciously.

Yay, soymilk!

BTW, the barista told me that they see lots of customers switch to decaf, non-fat milk, and/or soymilk after the holidays. I told her I give them until March to surrender and resume their unhealthy ways. :)



Discovery of the Day: Surviving Chinese food

Yesterday after work we went for that haircut and ended up at the Chinese restaurant next door. I had pretty much resigned myself to falling off the wagon but managed to come out of it OK despite myself.

I ordered Veggie Delight (just stir fried vegs in a light sauce, luckily not oily.) It was a generous portion. I did eat half an egg roll, but I only ate maybe 1 or 2 bites of white rice and scarfed a few strips of my son's teriyaki chicken. And even though I usually retain a LOT of fluid the day after eating Asian food for dinner, the scale was up only ~0.5 lb this morning.

I think I dodged a bullet.

I like to use chopsticks when eating Pacific Rim-type foods, and not just to show off (I'm not that good!) It slows me down and makes it harder to eat the rice, although I can shovel in a decent amount if I try. I even use chopsticks when I'm home by myself if I'm eating a bowl of noodles or stir fry or something. I bought a 100-pack of disposable wooden ones at a restaurant supply store almost 2 years ago and I still have a bunch left. It cost me something like 5 cents. OK, maybe not 5 cents, but they were chee-eep!

The other thing that saved me last night was that I have had nary a craving. I suppose it's because I've been eating an obscene amount of plant fiber -- enough to block up my sink, but that's another story. If I had gotten on a white rice binge, I probably could have eaten both scoops on my plate as well as the remaining scoop on my son's. But even after a couple of bites, I didn't start jonesing over it.


As I sit here at my desk trying to eat my BAS with my little plastic fork and dropping chickpeas all over the floor, I'm wondering if I should employ chopsticks with my BAS. The little plastic fork just ain't cuttin' it.

I've already got tonight's dinner figured out (nice for a change!) Leftover white bean & kale soup, a chunk of good quality crunchy-crust bread in the oven for young son & boyfriend, and, of course, the ubiquitous BAS.

Speaking of ubiquitous, I wonder if or when I'll get to the point where I can't stand the sight of leafy greens. On one hand, sometimes I can eat the same things day after day -- same breakfast cereal, same sandwich for lunch -- because it spares me from having to make a decision. On the other hand, with some foods I hit a point where "That's alls I can stands, and I can't stands no more..." and I can't touch it again. Like eggs, lunchmeat, and low-carb bars from when I did Atkins. I can (oops, could) handle eggs again after a certain point, but lunchmeat is iffy and the bars are right out. Urp!

We'll just have to wait and see, I guess.



Discovery of the day: Edamame

I've had a couple of bags stuffed in the back of my freezer since forever. I'd cooked them before and liked them -- not sure why I stopped. I cooked a bag last night and shelled enough to bring to to work. Note to self: Buy shelled edamame next time!

Dropped another pound, although I am pooping green. Small price to pay, methinks. I was expecting a lot more gas, not that I'm complaining, mind you! I must not have been eating too poorly before after all -- my system seems to be taking the dietary changes fairly gracefully.

So far I have breakfast, lunch, and snacks pretty well figured out. Breakfast is oatmeal or Kashi cereal, less than a cup, with rice milk and some sort of fruit. Eventually I'd like to have the cereal & oatmeal only a couple times a week but just can't make myself go there yet. Fruit salad with walnuts and flaxseed might work.

Snacks can be more fruit, either some of the fruit salad I try to have on hand, or a whole fruit of some sort. Sometimes mixed nuts, but I try to keep it less than 2 oz/day. Today I brought the edamame to work -- good stuff.

Lunch is generally a Big-Ass Salad (BAS) based on 6 to 8 oz of romaine & possibly spinach, with whatever canned beans, beets, and traditional fresh salad veggies I have around. I've been using (drained) cans of marinated three-bean salad to take the place of dressing, although in the past I've drizzled the greens with a little olive oil and sherry vinegar instead. Love to put avocado in it; either plain or smashed with salsa to make a cheater's guacamole. But I need to not eat *too* much avocado, at least until I get the next 10-15 lbs off.

Dinner, however, is tougher. Partly because of the rush in the evening, partly because the stuff I want to eat does not have a high acceptability factor with my son. When he's with his dad, I eat another BAS. But that still leaves up to 5 nights a week I have to "produce".

Since it's still cold outside I can get away with lots of soups and stews. I found a great easy recipe of egg drop soup, which he likes, and it doesn't have too much animal protein in it for me. I adapted a white bean & kale soup recipe that came out pretty good. There's always stir fry, and I picked up dried beans to try some crockpot soups. I pulled out my Moosewood Cookbook and found some recipes that will work, although a lot of them have cheese which I'm trying to avoid. Luckily my son likes broccoli and most of the traditional "kid-friendly" veggies, and he seems OK with the rice milk & soy milk, too, so once I kill my last pint of half&half, that's the end of the dairy cartons for me. I should be mostly off dairy at that point (except for freshly grated parmesan!) but my son will still get cheese.

Over the next couple of weeks I hope to get in the groove and come up with maybe 10 easy, quick veggie recipes with a high acceptability factor that I can mindlessly rotate through. I have a red beans & rice recipe I can adapt, and I bought tofu, too. I need to get in the habit of dealing with tofu. I like it OK, just never got in the habit of using it.

I spent big bucks on FFV (fresh fruits & veggies) this week in hopes I'll cook them before they rot. My fridge is stuffed! I'm going to make hummus (easy & good), and I'm going to try making baba ganoush. Those should go well on the BAS.

Tonight? Who knows. I'm supposed to take my son for a haircut after work -- he desperately needs it -- which means we'll be eating dinner out, which means fast food. Ick. I haven't dealt with that yet. I'm not sure I can stomach a limp McD's salad....


Diary of a lifestyle change

The moment of clarity came in a hotel room with way too many mirrors. I caught a full-on view of my bare ass and it stopped me in my tracks. I had to do something, and fast. I'd been hemming and hawing for a long time, telling myself that my eating habits were "OK", but somehow (I blame medications, of course) I had gained 15 lbs in the last year and that ass, while never my best feature, had crossed the line to absolutely unacceptable. It doesn't help that I am pushing 50 and things are going... downhill fast.

Whatever was going to happen, it was going to have to be drastic.

It didn't take long for me to combine info I'd gleaned from a coworker who had recently gone vegan and a book I had recently bought to formulate my plan.

Here it is:
  • Eat as many veggies as I can stuff in my face, with leafy greens at the base of the pyramid. Salad, salad, salad!

  • Try to cut back animal protein to less than 10% of calories.

  • Eradicate as many refined carbs (sugar, white flour) as I can.

  • Be cautious with whole grains until I get a good chunk of weight off.

  • Eat a small amount of nuts, maybe 1-2 oz per day.

  • Wean myself off dairy (ah, butter! ah, cheese! oh, half&half! sob!)

  • And just in case that's not enough, decaffeinate while I'm at it. (That alone should take care of most of my little, ahem, half&half problem.)
So what's left to eat? Greens (lettuces, spinach, kale, etc.), just about any fruit & veggie you can think of although "starchy" ones are considered whole grains. Some brown rice and oatmeal; maybe whole wheat pasta. And beans, my new best friend!

No, I'm not going vegan -- I really really dislike the label and all it implies, and besides, I'm not that disciplined! It sounds scary to think about, but honestly, how can I go wrong basing my diet primarily on fruits and veggies, nuts and legumes, and eventually grains?

The hard part: Changing my cooking habits, especially on those weeknights when I get home, completely brain dead, with my young son at 5:45pm and have to get something on the table, pronto. Hate to admit it, but "Blue Box" comes in handy at times like that. I don't really like to cook much anyway, so this plan requires a lot more mental energy than I'm used to spending on producing food, at least initially. And I'm not restricting my son to the same foods so I have to plan for that too.

But when I start to waver, all I have to do is remember that moment in the hotel room. And I've lost 3 lbs in the first week, which makes it a little easier to take.

Besides, sharing the tedious minutiae of my process with the universe will be fun!