Progress and the next great adventure

My journey is officially a month underway, and I have made such incredible strides in the past 31 days I can hardly believe it. It’s so hard to categorize the changes that I’ve made, or even just list them out. Instead, I’ll just talk about them.

Before I started this journey, fast food was a staple. I pretty much ate it 4-5 days a week, for at least one meal, sometimes more. While I typically opted for slightly healthier choices (baked potato, chili, grilled chicken, salads occasionally) there were plenty of times that I didn’t. And even the healthier options are simply lower in calories, not necessarily lower in sodium and other icky things. When we would go to sit-down restaurants, an appetizer was essential. Every. Single. Time. I’d drink 4-5 glasses of sweet tea or coke, an unhealthy or badly proportioned meal, and if some food did manage to make it home in a to-go box, it didn’t last the night.

My evenings consisted of nothing more than sitting on the couch, at the computer, watching tv. Facebook, LinkedIn, blogs and games. Staying up way past my body’s “bedtime” for no good reason. I was lazy, lethargic. I didn’t often even enjoy hanging out with friends, because I just wanted to sit and do nothing.

Mornings were the worst part of my day. Getting out of bed required a symphony of snoozes, and I pretty much felt asleep until mid-morning. I never ate breakfast, I yawned constantly, and struggled to get through the day.

And then: I got tired of it. I got tired of abusing my body, ignoring my mind, sitting through life. I decided it was time to take it back. I decided I had wasted so many years already, it was time to stop waiting for an overnight fix, and do things right. Change habits, alter my lifestyle, and move on with permanent, healthy habits. I formulated a plan, found some great tools for tracking progress and getting support, and got started. 

My goals for January were to start incorporating healthy foods and eating habits, increase my water intake, and start working on my lifestyle. 31 days later I have not eaten fast food. 31 days later we have gone out to dinner 3-4 times, and have not ordered an appetizer. My meal has fallen in the under 550 calorie category, and my nutritional intake each day has remained within a healthy range of each target. We are in a solid routine of dinner right after work, prepping the next day’s lunch, and getting to bed earlier.

I don’t drink with meals anymore, but do consume 6-8 glasses of water per day. I have completely stopped drinking all soft drinks, including diet drinks except on very rare occasion. My breakfasts, lunches and dinners are full of vegetables, lean meats, and succulent flavors.

I’m not just sitting. I’m doing the things that I love. I’m cooking, I’m crafting, I’m spending time with my friends and family. I’m teaching them about the healthy choices I’m making, and they’re starting to make some, too. Alex is trying new foods, including lots of veggies! (Sidenote: when I first started dating Alex in 2008, he ate one “vegetable:” Potatoes. He now eats (with little regularity) corn, potatoes, green beans, spinach, asparagus, cauliflower and sweet potatoes.)

The best part about all of these changes and successes, is that so far- it has not been torture. If I’ve wanted to indulge, I have indulged. But I have slowly started to learn the idea of moderation. I have learned to pace myself, and treat all decisions thoughtfully and completely rather than spontaneously and compulsively. I have started slowly, and I have slowly started succeeding.

Today is the end of month one. I have come a very long way in a very short time. It is an excellent start, but it is not enough. Tomorrow is day 1 of Jillian Michael’s 30 Day Shred. I have taken my pre-exercise measurements, and logged them. Neck, arms, bust, waist, thighs, and hips. Wrote down each painful number and recorded it forever in a safe place. As hard as it was to see those measurements, I am so excited to see the end result.

When I started this journey, I was at an all time high as far as my weight. I want so badly to share that number with you, but I just can’t. Not yet. But what I can tell you is that after one month of moving a little more, eating a lot better, and holding myself accountable for every nutritional decision I made, I am starting the 30 Day Shred 12 pounds lighter than when I started. 12.

Thanks for sticking around with me over the past month. Having the support and encouragement of all of my new friends, from all over the globe, has really helped to motivate me to continue, even on the most difficult of days. Hell, I almost lost a pound for each of you! So thank you, thank you, thank you! I sincerely hope you’ll all be around for the next milestone, too!



I’ve been cooking a lot lately

I’m a little behind on my recipe posts, but the days and nights have been busy, and filled with laughter and happiness, so I really cannot complain. Saturday John and Tonya came over so that us gals could craft and that evening we went to O’Charleys for dinner. I tried the cedar-planked salmon, and oh. my. God. It was delicious.

As luck would have it, the very next day at Ingles, Alex and I spotted a 1/2lb salmon filet on sale for only $2.50. Nothing wrong with it, straight from the fish counter, fresh not frozen, just marked down for quick sale. I knew I’d either have to freeze it, or cook it that night, so I decided to try my luck on a salmon recipe.

For my first time cooking fish at home that is not processed, preserved or frozen, I was more than a little intimidated. I let Alex cook his new recipe first (cast-iron skillet pizza) while I poured over 800 how-to websites and obsessed over what to do with the skin-side. When all was said and done I settled on broiling as my cooking method, and a simple marinade of garlic and lemon infused olive oil. I coupled it with fresh steamed broccoli with a little lemon, salt and pepper, and a risotto-inspired portabello quinoa.

Broiled salmon, mushroom quinoa risotto, and steamed broccoli:

1 large (1/2lb) salmon filet
2 tbsp olive oil
5 cloves fresh garlic
1 cup broccoli florets
1/4 cup quinoa
1 cup portabello mushrooms

Bring 1/2 low-sodium chicken stock, 1/2 cup water and 1/4 cup quinoa to a boil. While the water is coming to a boil, saute one cup mushrooms in a separate pan. Pour mushrooms and drippings into after it finishes boiling, cover, and set aside.

Cook broccoli however you prefer. I cheat and cook in the microwave in a bowl with about 1/4 cup of water and a loose cover.

Turn oven on to broil. Prepare a pan lined with foil, and spray with non-stick cooking spray. Place salmon on the pan (skin side down!) and rub the flesh lightly with butter. Saute garlic cloves in 2 tbsp olive oil until garlic is golden brown. Be careful not to burn the garlic, it gets a bitter taste. Press down on garlic cloves and remove them. Add lemon juice to oil to taste, and baste over butter layer on fish. Place in oven and broil, uninterrupted for 10 minutes, or approximately 5 minutes per 1/2 inch of thickness. I wanted mine a little bit more done, and turn the oven off but left the fish inside for an additional 5-7 minutes.

Plate up and enjoy a fest of garlic-lemon broiled salmon, mock-mushroom risotto and fresh citrus broccoli.

The whole meal was approximately 605 calories, including: 39g carbs, 28g fat, 52g protein, 519mg sodium and 6g fiber!

Quinoa stir fry with chicken and vegetables

Let me begin by saying I am disgusted with most of the major chicken companies. Primarily, Tyson. I know, I know, I just need to buy organic. Unfortunately, our roommate just moved out and it’s all I can scrape to buy my spinach organic. But Tyson is just ridiculous. The quality is horrendous, and they are grossly overpriced unless you can catch it when the family packs are on sale for $1.98/lb. So this week, nearly out of chicken, I opted for the Ingles meat counter’s stir fry chicken packet. They’re pre cleaned, pre sliced for stir fry, and looked better overall than most all of the Tyson at the store.

I’ve been craving Chinese food really badly for a week or so now, and it was brought to a whole new level on Friday night because my family ordered take out and it smelled delicious. Tonight I threw together a healthy take on stir fry with Quinoa, the prepared chicken, tons of delicious veggies, and a little Asian flavor.

I ate my fill, mom loved it, and dad had seconds. And maybe thirds. It was definitely delicious. Alex had some of the same chicken chopped smaller and made into quesadillas, and he thoroughly enjoyed those, too.

Quinoa stir fry with chicken and vegetables:

1/2 cup quinoa
1/2 medium zucchini squash
1 medium yellow squash
2 medium carrots
1 cup portabello mushrooms
1/2 medium yellow bell pepper
1 medium stalk of broccoli
1 package stir fry chicken, about 1/2 lb
Soy sauce/duck sauce to taste (we didn’t have bottles on hand so it was equivalent to 7 packets of Kari-Out soy sauce, and 4 packets of Kari-Out duck sauce.

Bring 1/2 cup quinoa and 1 cup chicken broth to a rapid boil. Boil for 10 minutes, adding about 3/4 a cup of water halfway through. When most liquid has been absorbed, remove from heat and cover. Leave aside until everything else is ready to serve.

I began by prepping all of my veggies. I simply sliced the zucchini and squash into medallions, and then halved or quartered them depending on the medallion size. I cut florets off the top of the broccoli, and set the stalk aside. Mushrooms got a rough chop, keeping them fairly large since they cook down quite a bit. The carrots were thinly sliced lengthwise and the bell pepper was chopped into bite sized pieces. I trimmed the outer skin off the broccoli stalk, and julienned it so that it mimicked the bamboo shoots I love so much in restaurant Chinese food.

In a large skillet or wok, heat about 2 tbsp of olive oil and 1 tbsp butter. Add all veggies, kickin’ chickn’ seasoning to taste, and saute until all veggies are soft but still a little crisp. When veggies are cooked, add soy sauce, duck sauce, and ground ginger to taste, and reduce heat to low allowing vegetables to simmer while you cook the chicken.

Add 2 tbsp olive oil to another saute pan, add chicken, kickin’ chickn seasoning and saute until chicken is golden-brown and cooked through. Add chicken to vegetables, and serve on top of quinoa.

This makes about 6 healthy servings, and contains: 197 calories, 19g of carbs, 5g of fat, 22g of protein, 248mg sodium, and 3g of fiber.

Stream of Consciousness Sunday: Getting spiritual

One of the points of me getting healthy is to do it holistically, not just in pieces. I’m dedicating all of 2012 to improving myself in mind, body and soul. Spirituality is something I have never struggled with, but religion definitely is. As I’ve grown up, I’ve found it harder and harder to go to church, and feel that sense of belonging that so many others feel. Raised Catholic, the rules are what have recently been turning me away. The rules and the money. In the Catholic church, to receive the body and blood, you are supposed to have a clean spirit, if you will. What this mostly means is that they prefer you go to confession before you receive the host. The running joke is confession on Saturday, church on Sunday, and back to confession again on Saturday, assuming a week of sin lays in between.

I struggle a lot with the idea of going to confession, because many of the sins that I commit, are things that I know I will continue to do. It feels hypocritical to me to confess and receive pardon for these sins when I do so knowing that I will confess the same transgressions next week. It is natural, of course. As humans we are born in sin. Christ died for our salvation because we are sinners. But it is still something I struggle with, and something that has kept me from going back to church. I still pray, I still feel connection with God, but I don’t practice my faith regularly.

My parents have been asking me to start going back to church with them, and today I did. I had a very intense experience, and was so overcome that before I knew it I had tears on my cheeks with no recollection of where they came from. As I sat in the pew, surrounded by people just like me, struggling to balance their desires and wants with what is right in the eyes of God, I just felt okay. I felt like for the first time in months I could let go, and let God as they say. I felt the tension, the stress, and the unrest fowing from my mind, and my body. I felt connection, I felt security. I felt like if I could just do this a little more often, and actually put my trust and faith into a higher power, then I can’t fail.

There is no proof, there is no evidence, there is no insurance that this idea is correct. But that is the basis of the idea of faith. Being able to let your fears retreat and put your whole heart and trust into that idea that you can’t insure. Believing that it is, simply because you can’t believe it is not.

Today I felt relaxation, for the first time in a very long time. I felt at ease, and okay with life. I felt thankful for how far I am coming, and grateful that I can finally trust and believe again, believe that there is a power greater than me or you or anything out there watching out for me. Guiding me. Reassuring me when I am doing the right things, and giving me days and experiences like today when I am struggling and unsure.


So I cheated today and spent 9 minutes and 5 seconds streaming from my consciousness. I’m not sorry about it. You guys should do it, too! Here’s how:

This was my 5 minute Stream of Consciousness Sunday post. It’s five minutes of your time and a brain dump. Want to try it? Here are the rules…

  • Set a timer and write for 5 minutes.
  • Write an intro to the post if you want but don’t edit the post. No proofreading or spellchecking. This is writing in the raw.
  • Publish it somewhere. Anywhere. The back door to your blog if you want. But make it accessible.
  • Add the Stream of Consciousness Sunday badge to your post.
  • Link up your post below.
  • Visit your fellow bloggers and show some love.


Resolution: do more of the things I love

One of the other goals that I am working toward in this year is taking more time for me, and doing the things that I love. Some of those things have been incorporated easily into my primary focus, which is getting healthier. Cooking has been a big part of the progress that I’ve made in that department, thus far. I’ve always loved to cook, especially at our apartment. The kitchen was not gigantic, it was an apartment after all, but it had plenty of counter space, plenty of storage space, I could move around without stubbing my toe or knocking things around, and I had a clear view of the apartment and living space so I could still interact with Alex and our guests.

The kitchen at the house that we rent is a bit more challenging. It’s a galley kitchen, only one wall has counter space, and that space is interrupted by a gigantic microwave, toaster oven, double basin sink, and stove top. Not to mention that most of my cake pans don’t even fit inside of my oven. But, despite all of this, in the quest to get healthy I have made do. I chop, mince, and julienne with the best of them. I broil, boil, bake, and sautee. I’ve gotten back in the kitchen, and my heart is swelling with a fulfilling happiness every time I try out a new recipe.

This weekend I was determined to get back to some of my other hobbies. Namely, crafting. I am a craft fanatic, I pin obsessively, and I have more ideas on my to-do list than I care to share. But I got a Michael’s gift card from my best friend, Tonya, for my birthday and it was finally time to use it and kill several birds with one stone.

The craft project I’m working on this one is inspired by a picture I found on Pinterest, and was originally posted (to the best of my knowledge) here. So far I have both of my canvases painted with two coats, and all of my petals cut. Tomorrow I plan to start assembling and gluing. With any luck and time management, they’ll be finished tomorrow, Monday evening at the latest. There’s something so therapeutic to me about crafting, I really want to make doing this more of a priority in my free time. So much time is wasted in front of the tv and computer, it’s time to stimulate my more creative side!

This project not only helps me realize that goal, but also a larger home-goal for 2012. The house we live in was actually the house my parents lived in for the first 12 years we lived in Georgia. Last year they had an opportunity to move into a house in the same neighborhood with more space, an in-ground pool (no complaints here!) and the kitchen of my mother’s dreams. When they made that move, Alex and I took over renting this property. It’s been a great move for us, but we still have a lot of work to do a year later to really make it our own. The house has a master bedroom with en suite bath, 2 smaller bedrooms, a formal living room, formal dining room, family room, kitchen eating area, kitchen, laundry room and full, unfinished basement. 11 total rooms, 11 total months left in 2012. I want to tackle one room a month, and get it to a point of comfort, if not completed.

The first room that we are finishing is our master bedroom, because this one is mostly finished. Shortly after moving in we repainted the walls a shade of tan, purchased new chocolate brown bedding, and several accent items in muted lime, light blue, brown, and white. We stripped and repainted our nightstands and bookshelf, and purchased new hardware for the nightstands. The only remaining components to completing the room to a level of pleasing aesthetics and comfort are stripping the remaining two dressers and repainting them, and completing the decor. The two art/craft projects from this weekend will go toward completing the decor and bring us one step closer to a finished project!

While I’m rambling on this completely random post, I want to take a minute to thank the individuals following me on this journey, and offering up your comments and support. I have been truly overwhelmed with the support from friends and total strangers alike, and I know that things would be so much harder without the love and inspiration  you each give me everyday! More recipes and progress reports coming soon, but for now, I hope you’ve enjoyed learning a little bit more about the things that I love.


Rosemary Sweet Potato Wedges

Dinner was a new adventure for me tonight! When we went couponing last week, I scored Boca Burgers BOGO at Publix, with a $1.00/2 coupon. I ended up paying something like $3.00 for 2 boxes of Boca Burgers. Great savings, but a risky move considering I’ve never tried a Boca Burger, and the only kind they even sell that I have ever had was black bean burger (which they were sold out of.)

I knew I wanted to try one of the burgers tonight, and I am such a sucker for french fries with a burger that I had to figure out something quick, tasty, and nutritious to fill the void. (For the record, I’m not boycotting regular potatoes completely, but I am significantly decreasing the amount I eat them.) I remembered a recipe my friend Tara used for a party a few months ago for Rosemary Sweet Potato Wedges, and I decided that was a perfect compromise!

This recipe is super simple, delicious, and nutritious! It would be delicious paired with just about anything, or by itself! I only made a single serving, using one half of a very large sweet potato and I still had some wedges left over. Since the calorie information will not be accurate, I’m not going to include it here.

Rosemary Sweet Potato Wedges

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

Par-cook sweet potatoes until slightly soft. I did this in the microwave because I have a genius microwave that has a potato cooking sensor. You can do it however you like, just watch them so they don’t get too soft, you still have to cut them.

While sweet potatoes are par-cooking, mix your “marinade” in a separate bowl. Add 2 tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil, 2 tablespoons rosemary, 2 teaspoons of garlic, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper.When mixed it should be almost pasty, but you can omit some of the rosemary for a milder taste.

When sweet potatoes are just tender enough to slice through easily, cut potatoes into medium-sized wedges. I used one half of a sweet potato and got enough wedges for two servings of about 6 wedges.

Using a basting brush or spoon, drizzle/baste sweet potatoes on all sides with the oil mixture. Place on middle rack of oven for 10 minutes, turn potatoes, and finish for another 10 minutes. I don’t like mine super crispy, so you may want to increase the cooking time by a few minutes if you do.

I paired my “flame broiled” Boca Burger with the delicious sweet potato wedges and about a cup and a half of steamed broccoli. It was a delicious meal that came together pretty quickly all said and done. And Boca Burgers? I give them an A+. I honestly thought they tasted just like a concession stand cheeseburger from my high school football stadium. I’m not sure if that should make me as happy as it does, but I’ll definitely add these to the list of foods that can help me out on nights I don’t have as much time to spend in the kitchen!

Another dose of inspiration

As I mentioned before, it is important for me to remember the little bits of inspiration and the things that are helping me along the way. I wholly believe I am fighting a long, tumultuous battle to get to the point where I need to be, and keeping both an accurate record of my feelings and emotions as well as my actual nutritional progress is key to ensuring that I’m staying healthy throughout the process.

One of the tools helping me to track all of this is a free calorie counter, diet and exercise journal called My Fitness Pal. I realize now that I was probably the last person on earth to discover this amazing community, but regardless of my position in line, I’m definitely glad that I did. I joined at first with the intention of doing nothing more than tracking my food. During previous diet attempts, I had used a similar website called Fit Day. It’s not that I have a problem with Fit Day, but I couldn’t remember my login information, and I tried several times to reset my password, reclaim my account, etc. to no avail. Frustrated, and not wanting to let something small and trivial detract me from my end goal, I simply searched the internet for another free calorie counter.

When I joined My Fitness Pal, I was immediately impressed with the user-friendly layout. It’s set up much like a Facebook news feed, allowing you to see updates and achievements from your friend connections, join groups, participate in discussions, and share your stories through blog posts and progress reports. It has a very easy food tracking system, with pretty much any food you can imagine (seriously…I’ve found Laura Lynn brand hamburger buns, cheese, sour cream, milk…it’s great!) Like many of these trackers, it analyzes your current state of fitness and your goal weight to determine your daily calorie intake and suggested breakdown of nutrients, and it is all just so simple.

You can create custom recipes for later use, incorporate your exercise right into your food diary to show you the breakdown of calories burned versus calories consumed, and has a nifty water tracker with a cup that fills as you drink more water throughout the day. There is an app for smart phones that even allows you to scan in food as you eat it.

Needless to say, I am a fan. But when I first joined, I really didn’t expect to get much more than a daily log out of it. As I looked around the site more and more, I quickly realized that MFP is so much more than a calorie tracker or food journal. It is a community. A home away from home. I shoulder to cry on, and a pat on the back. It is a network of thousands of individuals who get it. Who have been there, or who are there. It is success stories, before and afters, friendly contests, questions and answers, experience, wisdom, friendship. It is understanding on a deeper level.

The best part about this amazing resource? It really does help. It keeps you accountable to yourself, and others. It lets others share in your journey in the most personal way imaginable. You let these people in and they know what you eat and how you exercise and when you slip up and when you can finally button those skinny jeans. They get to know the most personal, intimate parts of you and they make it impossible to fail.

If you, like me, are late to the My Fitness Pal party, be sure to check it out today! It’s kept me honest, kept me real, and kept me motivated.

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