The strange things that change

Completely changing the way you do pretty much everything does not come without its challenges. I have had to understand how my body works, change things that have been lifelong habits, and work hard to maintain those changes. Sometime along the way my body started changing, and suddenly some of those challenges have shifted, some disappeared altogether. Some new challenges have come up that are altogether unexpected.

One of the biggest surprises and subsequent challenges from the beginning my journey was the amount of calories I drank every day. Sodas, tea, hundreds of calories at a time, and on top of that more sugars and sodium than I care to think about now. I didn’t even consider diet sodas as an option- I have developed ridiculous dependence on them before, and I know they are just not at all good for you. Water was a struggle, even with Crystal Light (pretty much the only way I can drink water…) I was not at all consistent.

Even though it was difficult, I pushed through. I got a water bottle large enough to make it easy to get in my daily allotment without losing count or stressing out about getting the right amount. I stayed diligent, only ordering water anytime we go out to eat, starting my day with a glass, ending my day with a glass, pushing through even when it is difficult. Over the last four months, my body’s aversion to water has changed. What used to be a struggle, is not something I rely on. When I’m thirsty, I crave water. I know when I haven’t had enough.

Another thing that has changed significantly is my food cravings. Sweets and chocolate were never something I liked. I have never disliked them, but I would opt for a savory snack over pretty much any sweet selections. Sodium is one of the things that I monitor pretty closely, and overtime those tastes have completely changed. Rather than unhealthy snacks like Cheez-Its or Chex Mix, or even healthier options like carrots or celery I cannot make it through the day without a taste of something sweet. This week my reward when I have the extra calories to spare has been a couple Hershey’s Dark Chocolate Nuggets with Almonds. They are just sweet enough, have a little crunch, and a half serving (2 pieces) is only about 90 calories. It’s just enough to satisfy the craving, and not so much that I go over all of my limits for the day.

Where I used to love indulging in a big, juicy steak, my body screams for vegetables, salmon, chicken. Chips and dip are carrots and hummus. These things aren’t hard anymore. They are what my body wants. These changes are the real NSVs, the little victories that reaffirm that this is a lifestyle change, a new way of eating, living, being that makes me feel good emotionally, and physically.

These are strange changes; things I hoped for, but never quite expected. These are the things that make me smile at the end of another day where I made healthier decisions, and thoroughly enjoyed each and every one of them.

Veggie slump

Okay, people. I’m in a veggie slump. One of the staples of my healthier eating has been tons of fresh veggies, prepared by me at home where I can control the amount of salt, butter, etc. that goes on or in the food I prepare.

There are some staples that I love, and just can’t get enough of (like spinach, for instance) and plenty of others that I keep in the house regularly. The problem is, I feel like I’m running out of ways to prepare them to make it feel like I’m not eating the exact same thing day in and day out!

Veggies I keep in plenty:

Cabbage
Spinach
Mushrooms
Sweet Potatoes
Yellow Squash
Zucchini Squash
Asparagus
Brussel Sprouts
Broccoli
Cauliflower
Pole Beans

Pretty much the most creative cooking these get is going on the grill versus the microwave or stovetop. I need something new, fresh, exciting. New veggies to try, or new applications and flavor combinations for these veggies I already know and love!

I’m not opposed to trying new veggies, but the reason these have become my staples is because this is primarily what I can find easily at the local grocers and farmer’s markets.

I do have relatively easy access to an H-Mart (Asian superstore for those unfamiliar…) and their produce section feels as big as the entire grocery secttion at a Wal-Mart, but I don’t know what half of it is and it intimidates me!

What veggies do you eat, and what is your favorite way to prepare them? I would love some feedback from everyone!

NSV…FTW!

For those of you who do not speak in internet acronym, today’s post will share a couple of NSVs (non-scale victories) that I have had this week (for the win!)

First, I want to mention my scale. I have not lost it forever, I have not thrown it out the window, and the number is not going back up in the wrong direction. That being said, you won’t see any scale posts here for a couple more weeks. When I started losing more and more noticeable amounts of weight, I fell into the trap I always do: slave to the scale. I refuse, absolutely REFUSE, to let that happen to me on this journey. This is about so much more than the number on the scale, that I know when I start hopping on it every single day, sometimes more than once…it’s time to lock it up for a few weeks.

So this week, I celebrate some NSVs!

1. Towels. I have pretty much used nothing but beach towels since high school, because it was the only kind big enough to wrap completely around me without paying $20-30 for a big fancy department store “bath sheet.” 1st of all, let me say: no towel should cost that much. I am not paying that amount of money to dry my butt off, unless it’s going to do all of the work for me. And 2nd, I refuse to use a towel referred to as a “sheet.” Doesn’t really help the fat complex.

Today, for the 1st time since probably 8th grade, I was able to use a regular old towel and with the exception of the very very widest part of my hips, it wrapped all the way around!

2. Sizes. So I’ve mentioned a couple of times that I’m almost down 3 full sizes- almost, but not quite there yet. Well, I can officially say: when I started my journey, I was starting to outgrown my 26Ws. You did not read wrong, that was a twenty-six. 2 – 6. I have never felt more horrible about myself than getting to that point. I had previously felt that way before when I realized my already gargantuan-feeling 24Ws were starting to get snug, but that thought of moving into a 28W was something I just couldn’t handle. That was the maximum size at a lot of stores that I shop at! No way was I going to have to purchase the biggest options.

I’ll admit, it was honestly more than just the number on the tag. I am an apple shape (which in case you’re not aware is pretty much the worst thing ever, AND the most difficult thing to shop for, ugh.) So having to buy clothes to fit my lovely “apple” (aka my size 26W+ waist/stomach) they are HUGE on my everywhere else. I’ve never had particularly large hips/thighs, and I have NO ass to speak of. So I pretty much look like I’m wearing a potato sack most of the time in jeans, capris, anything really that is designed to fit a size 26W.

Saturday Alex and I went to Discover Mill’s to check out their Sears outlet and Ross store to see if they had any good deals. I was able to squeeze myself (uncomfortably) into 2 pairs of capris, both size 20W. I almost talked myself out of buying them because they were tighter than I wanted, but since I could button and zip them all the way, and they were just uncomfortable, I still got them since the price was right and I knew they’d fit in a couple of weeks. Imagine my surprise when I threw them on Sunday and realized they fit perfectly. All I can think is that I must have been bloated while we were shopping because not only do both pairs still fit perfectly today, but they’re actually even the slightest bit roomy!

Just a little more hard work and a little more time, and I’ll be out of the 20’s forever! Have you had any NSVs this week? If you haven’t heard this term before, definitely work it into your vocabulary- when I finally stop staring at the scale and take a look at the things going on in my life, I start to see more and more of these little victories. I’m not going to lie- sometimes they feel even better than seeing the numbers on the scale!

Cheers!

Who says healthy can’t be tasty?

This will be a short post, as I’ve discussed all possible relative topics to death, and nothing is really a new “recipe” (excepting maybe the quinoa.)

This, is why I am in love with my grill. And salmon.

The zucchini, squash, and asparagus was done in a basket on the grill. In cheated and microwaved the quinoa in a little water, and when it was finished I added roughly 1/4 cup of chopped grape tomatoes, and a tablespoon of tomato basil feta. The salmon got nothing but a pinch of salt and pepper, and a salt-water soaked cedar plank. De-lic-ious.

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Jesus, My Father, the CIA, and Me (A review)

One of my first great loves is reading, followed of course by writing (a close second.) Since one of my resolutions for this year is to get back to the things that I love, it is only natural that I write a book review. To make things an even better fit, the books are primarily Christian-themed, and exploring my spirituality is something I am working at diligently right now. The book that I will share with you today is called Jesus, My Father, the CIA, and Me, by Ian Cron. This book was provided for me free of charge by the publisher (through BookSneeze, a blogger book review program), in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own, and I was in no way encouraged to write a positive review. Without further ado, here are my thoughts:

Jesus, My Father, the CIA, and Me (Ian Cron)

Cron’s story is what I would consider creative non-fiction. The story of Cron’s life unfolds in snippets of stories from his childhood, and catalogs his reactions both then, and now. The story is one of family, struggle, growth, and a slow acceptance of God and his role in our lives. Cron shares the shocking revelation his mother shares with him at age 16: that his father works for the CIA. The rest of the tale unfolds in present reflection, emotional flashbacks, and the real, raw emotion of a child growing up with an alcoholic father, a slightly dysfunctional family, and a constant struggle between loving and hating God.

If I were to some up this book in just one word, it would simply be “good.” There were several things that I loved, and a couple that I really, really didn’t. Unfortunately, one of the particularly displeasing things occurred very heavily in the beginning of the book, which made it difficult to get into. In the first 1/4-1/3 of the book, Cron uses an incessant amount of pop-culture references. I can appreciate a reference here or there, but there were so many littered throughout the story that it became distracting. This did taper off some as the story progressed, but it definitely took away from the beginning.

One of the aspects that I loved about this book is Cron’s ability to really bring a reader in to the pain that he feels throughout the story. The emotions he felt, the thoughts in his mind, the atmosphere of a room, the tone of a conversation- he draws the reader in with beautiful descriptions, vivid language, and a personable tone until you literally feel the pain and fear along with him.

Lighter moments, such as arriving early to be an altar boy will simultaneously make you shake with laughter and shudder in fear. Darker moments, especially in confrontations with his father, literally made me pull the covers up closer around my shoulders, hiding from a man in someone else’s house 30 years ago.

As a general rule, I tend to gravitate towards books like Cron’s. I love stories of struggle, not because the person had to endure that struggle, but because of the bravery required to share a story like that. If you, too, enjoy a deeply personal, increasingly intense, and reassuring tale of struggle, love, loss, and growing both in age, experience, and faith, then I would definitely pick up a copy of Jesus, My Father, the CIA, and Me.

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Steam of Consciousness Sunday: Steeped in tradition

Yesterday I went back to my alma mater, the Women’s College of Brenau University for the annual May Day Alumnae Reunion Weekend. Yes, let me be clear- we’re aware that it is April. There’s a reason behind all of it, but that is not the point of the story, so we will save the explanation for another time.

May Day weekend is my absolute favorite Brenau event- both as a student, and now, as an alumna, too. The campus is bright and beautiful, full of excited woman of all ages. The oldest alumna in attendance this year graduated from the women’s college in 1944. 60 years before I started my college career.

It is a day full of togetherness, sharing in the rich history of tradition that our beautiful college holds in our hearts. We see and hear from current students about all that is going on at the shcool, about their experiences, their favorite new memories. As I sit back and listen to these tales each year, no matter how hard I try not to, I can’t help but feel the tears well in my eyes.

Not out of sadness, no, but out of joy. Joy that no matter what happens, what changes, Brenau is still Brenau. Brenau is still helping women to find their voice, feel included, learn how to be strong, independent leaders and thinkers. Brenau is still a beacon of hope for women when all over the country and world others are trying to push us back, hold us down, reclasp the chains of oppression.

In a world where women are again having to fight for the right to care for their own bodies, and fight for equal opportunities in the workplace, there sits my alma mater, beautifully nestled into the heart of Gainesville, GA, reminding the future leaders of our businesses, our country, our world that they can do it. Just because they have a vagina, is no reason to stop trying, stop working towards change.

Brenau was a wonderful place to matriculate during my undergraduate education. Brenau taught me not to be afraid, to try something new, and to never give up. Despite the ups and downs that I certainly experienced there, if I had experienced them anywhere else, and had anyone else standing behind me during those times, I don’t know that I owuld have come out with the same confidence that I did today.

So this weekend I celebrated a sisterhood. A family. A network. I celebrated an organization, steeped in a rich tradition of changing women’s lives since it’s inception in 1878. From the Georgia Baptist Female Seminary of yesteryear, to the multi-faceted university that I graduated from, Brenau University is a place and institution that I will always be proud to be a part of. It has definitely shaped me into the woman I am today, and it makes me so happy to see other women continuing to have that same expeirence year in and year out.

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This was my 5 minute Stream of Consciousness Sunday post, hosted by All Things Fadra. To participate yourself, visit Fadra’s site to learn more and link up!

#SOCsunday

I’m having an affair

I have fallen in love with another. Alex need not worry, this new love is certainly not a man. It is not my grill, either. It is a food. A delicious, versatile, filling, fantastic food. My new love is none other than Quinoa.

Even before I made the decision to get healthier, I kept stumbling upon delicious looking recipes using quinoa on Pinterest. Mixtures of luscious vegetables, flavorful meats, and creamy sauces, all mixed in with these tiny, moist, soft little granules.

It is ridiculously simple to prepare, both on the stove top and in the microwave when I’m feeling lazy. I have paired it various proteins, using it as a side with broiled salmon, as a main course with chunks of chicken, veggies, and soy sauce, and as a southwestern casserole with black beans, corn, salsa, and cheese. It is the perfect base for any accompaniment.

Tonight Alex started on his quest to perfect the “Juicy Lucy” (apparently this is the popular term for a burger cooked with the cheese on the inside, who knew?) He even made a special Lucy for me, stuffing mine with a little Atheno’s Tomato and Basil feta, and topping it with fresh spinach.

While he was busy on the grill, I was busy whipping up a delicious quinoa side. The amount prepared could comfortably serve about 8 people, and I am super excited about the leftovers. I am affectionately referring to tonight’s concoction as, simply, “Italian Quinoa.”

Italian Quinoa
-1/2 cup Ancient Harvest Quinoa
-1 can of Del Monte diced tomatoes with garlic and basil
-1/2 10oz package of Fresh Express baby spinach
-1 cup baby bella mushrooms, chopped

I prepared the quinoa in the microwave using the directions on the box (2 parts water to 1 part quinoa, loosely covered in a microwave safe bowl for about 8 minutes) so that I could use the stove to prepare the veggies without having to stress too much. (I’m PMSing this week, forgive me.)

While the quinoa was cooking, I sauteed the mushrooms with a little grape seed oil in a saucepan. Once tender, I added the spinach and let it cook down. I drained a little excess liquid out of the tomatoes, and added them to the pan along with the now finished quinoa.

I seasoned with a pinch of salt, pepper, garlic, and McCormick Perfect Pinch Italian Seasoning, and about 3 tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese. I brought the mix up to a boil, reduced to simmer, and let it cook for just a couple of more minutes (until the Lucy’s were ready for consumption.)

The whole meal was a bit above where I typically like to stay, coming in at 734 calories, but again- PMS. It’s getting really hard to behave right now, and I’m proud I’m doing as well as I am.

The quinoa dish breaks down as follows per serving: 84 calories, 13g carbs, 2g fat, 4g protein, and 2g of fiber.

Have you tried quinoa? How do you like to prepare it?

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