Thursday, March 26, 2009

My favorite cooking tips

A more practical explanation to the "How did you do it?" question I keep getting....

Here are my top favorite cooking tips for filling, dietetic foods in the winter season

1. beans
Full of fiber and nutrients, low in fat, very filling, extremely versatile, wildly under-used in this country, and cheap!
I started increasing my bean cooking skills in order to save some money and eat more healthfully. Eating a few vegetarian meals a week saves money, reduces our carbon footprint and reduces all sorts of health risks. But I've also come to really enjoy their smooth, comforting texture.  I make bean soups, bean dips, add beans to veggie mixes. My new favorite is baby lima beans. I soak the beans overnight, cook them for an hour or so and then puree them with a little water. Then I freeze them in small quantities and defrost one batch at a time. I add big spoonfuls to things like tomato soup, pizza sauce, sauteed veggies - anything. I do this with steamed pureed squash also.

2. cabbage
Very filling, high in all sorts of nutrients and fiber.
Cabbage is a much heartier salad base than lettuce due to its higher concentration of fiber and less water. I like baby cabbage with salmon, apples and mustard vinaigrette. Cabbage also makes very filling soups, especially when flavored with beef broth. The actual beef is not really needed.

3. tea
No calories! I drink mainly herbal, but some caffeinated as well
I drink it all day to stave off hunger (sometimes works) and substitute for my former snacking habit.

4. bulk cooking
A huge time-saver, but must be done mindfully.
I try to bulk cook on poor-weather weekends. I make things that can be recombined in various formats, like big quantities of sauteed veggies. Those veggies can be used in eggs, with a little cheese over pasta, with an Asian sauce, in a quesadilla, added to frozen veggie lasagna from Trader Joe's, etc. I will also make many things at once, with the idea that as long as I'm stuck in the kitchen and making a mess I may as well kill a few birds with one stone. So I'll usually make a fritatta, a soup, maybe roast or grill some meat and cut it up, etc. Also related is #5......

5. roasting vegetables
A simple variation in cooking method produces results delicious enough to make my kids ask for vegetables.
My favorite vegetables to roast are green beans and cauliflower, but the list is endless.  I just use a bit of olive oil and salt, mainly to appeal to the kids, but if you plug "roasted cauliflower" into a cooking site search engine you'll get lots of more interesting ideas. Natasha and Alex love roasted green beans. My entire extended family begs me to make roasted green beans with caramelized onion and toasted almonds whenever we are together. Delish!

6. baby carrots, grape tomatoes, pea pods
Healthy snack food to replace chips, crackers, etc.
These kind of speak for themselves in terms of snackability, but sometimes, I will eat them with a few of my favorite Cheezits, and have a big snack that is just one or two points. Helps to have them at the ready in the fridge at all times.

I could think of more, but I must wrangle my children to bed.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

One big social experiment

This whole weight-loss experience has provided a huge lesson in American views of image and dieting.  I am constantly amazed at the reactions I get lately-especially at work. I must have looked really horrible before! People who barely know me at work feel the need to say something. I can't imagine that 22 pounds is really THAT different, but apparently it is. And I'm not particularly thin...I still need to lose 15 pounds to be the "correct" weight, according to various online sources (I'm not really aiming for 15 more, but 8 more would be great). I don't really see a difference in my face but other people certainly do. 

But what is so funny is how person after person looks at me with a sense of true confusion and says, "How did you do it?" A simple enough question, and I usually give a simple enough answer - "Weight Watchers basically." But of course the real question they are asking is, "Where did you find the willpower?" All reasonable diets work as long as you stick to them and don't eat too much. Willpower is that magic, elusive ingredient. Where does it come from? I remember looking at friends who have undergone a similar transformation and feeling a desperate sense of inadequacy, like they had some secret internal source of strength that I could never ever have. It's still how I feel about people who run marathons. Just how on earth does a person summon the inner resolve to train for and run a marathon? I don't think I could ever in a million years have that drive.

I just find it so interesting how many people have asked me that question with the exact same tone of voice and look on their faces. I guess the search for that answer explains why the diet industry is so large. Weight Watchers did provide me with a structure around which to relearn how to eat properly, but it's dealing with hunger, temptation and cravings that is the true hard part. Of course Weight Watchers says they offer meetings, support forums, and tactics to help people deal with those challenges, but when it comes down to it it's just discipline and resolve. 

To me the real question people should be asking is, "What took you so long?"  Of course that would be horribly rude. But it's the question I ask myself. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Long absence

Sorry for the hiatus. I injured my back and was unable to sit at the computer, but am all better now. Not even sure if anyone beyond my mom is reading this, but if you are, I will post again shortly. Upcoming topics: a weekend away, common reactions, good and bad habits, tips and tricks.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Silver lining

This past week was really hard. I was having trouble staying within my points limit, basically because I was hungry, not because I was craving ice cream or onion rings. At any rate, on Thursday I pulled a muscle in my lower back and on Saturday I pulled it even more. Eventually Sunday (today) I went to a clinic to get a muscle relaxant. Despite having sworn off scales almost a month ago, curiosity got the best of me and I asked the nurse if I could weigh myself. She brought me to a room with two doctor's scales and I stepped on both of them. I was down over 22 pounds on both scales! I never thought I'd get out of the teens. I'm so happy. This proves that even giving in slightly to hunger but mainly staying on track has resulted in real weight loss. Now Weight Watchers' official first goal is to lose 10% of one's body weight so I did that and then some. For now, I will aim for another 3 pounds to get to my original goal of 25. That is really not enough, but it's ok for least for now I am within a healthy BMI. Of course as soon as I got there I pulled a back muscle, but that's another problem!

I'm getting satisfied. Never the perfectionist, I should take this success as an impetus for harder and loftier body re-shaping goals, but alas that is not my personality! I'm still quite disheartened with the thigh cellulite, but overall, in clothes my figure is MUCH improved. I'm happy I've made it this far. I guess I'll always a B+/A- student...never the straight A.

Thursday, March 12, 2009


This post is nothing more than a complaint about being hungry. For some reason the same points I have been eating up until now are just not doing it for me. I'm just always hungry the last 3-4 days. I am not pregnant so don't suggest that. I'm just hungry. Maybe I've lost my ability to live with being hungry. I have also been eating breakfast earlier, which is certainly a problem. Finally, I have not been using my "indulgence" points on the weekend - not for any good reason, just that we haven't gone out. I think never indulging (in either quantity or richness) has an effect too...I never have that nice full and satisfied feeling. My husband is coming to my office to take me out to lunch and for me to teach him how to shop at Trader Joe's without a list. I'm sure the shopping goal will not prove successful. I just can't imagine telling him, "buy some food to make for dinner, including fresh vegetables and protein, some stuff for lunches, and milk." But perhaps the lunch at a restaurant will at least get me back on track. I will enjoy myself and plod along going forward.

Monday, March 9, 2009


Yesterday I got to act like a girl. I guess I really don't do this anymore, but I went shopping, just to try on clothes, see what was in style, see what colors I liked. I have sort of done this recently but with more intention to buy. This time I was really just looking. Until very recently, I had stopped shopping pretty much altogether. I would maybe order some boring mom-shirts online and keep them whether I liked them or not. All I could focus on in the dressing room was how much weight I'd gained, and how bloated I looked. Now, while I still have issues, and still find the dressing rooms to really accentuate the cellulite on my thighs and the flabbyness of my belly, once I get the clothes on it's not so bad. So yesterday I went to the Gap, ostensibly to buy Natasha some shorts, but ended up trying on about 20 brightly colored very fun shirts. I found two I likes, but didn't buy them. They were full price and that seems like a no-no at the Gap. I mean, nothing is ever full price there.

Here were my two favorites
This one in aqua

This one in pink
(ah ha! it's on sale online - I will purchase)

So my main problem with most of these shirts is the bottom. The style now seems to be long, meant to be worn slouchy over pants. This is a big problem for me for two reasons. They tend to cut me across the hips - right at my widest part, thus highlighting it, and they tend to get bunched up in the middle torso, where I actually am small, thus making it look big. So the result is that they add 10 lbs to my entire mid-section. Am I the only one finding this to be a problem??

Saturday, March 7, 2009


The other night I came home really hungry. I ate some curried bean soup, probably 3 points, and then had a few crackers with peanut butter standing up over the counter. I didn't pig out, but I wasn't measuring points either. I was going for 2-3 points, which I had left in my 'budget' for the evening. I ate about 10 tiny tiny crackers and 1-2 teaspoons of peanut butter. Anyway, that night I had a dream that I was lounging on a couch, in a Jaba the Hut-like state, slathering stale French bread with peanut butter and nibbling down half the whole loaf. I was just slowly eating it and counting points, up to 20 something. During the dream I had the feeling of an addict who had fallen off the wagon after months of sobriety (I think-I've never been an addict). Somehow I knew that I had descended upon a path back up the 16 pounds and I was profoundly sad and disappointed in myself.  I woke up I thrilled that it was just a dream. I'm happy that I did not fall off the wagon, but not so happy to have my subconscious taken over by um...neurosis. Maybe not neurosis, but rather a massive fear of failure after enjoying such progress. Nothing is such an external battle as dieting. If I stop succeeding, not only will I feel like a jerk, but everyone else will notice too - how mortifying!

Sometimes lately I get really hungry and I eat a little extra. I'm trying to be normal. I stopped weighing myself as I find the slow weekly progress too frustrating. I'm planning on throwing out more clothes, mainly because they're so out of style I can't look at them. But replacing them has proven pretty hard! I'm increasingly annoyed at all the $58 yoga t-shirts with some dragon on the front. I have yet to bring myself to purchase one.

After the Jaba the Hut low two nights ago, I had a high today, while, believe it or not, walking into the grocery store. I saw my reflection in the glass door looked it up and down and thought, "Hey that woman is wearing the same clothes as me!" I actually didn't recognize my own reflection. Wow! I mean, I still have wide curvy hips, but they're much improved. Let's see if I can keep it that way. 

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

A jeans compromise

Monday was a snow day. No one was expecting me so I stopped at the mall on the way to work.I thought I'd work on my goal of a new pair of jeans and three shirts. Despite the efforts of many a fashionable friend to steer me towards some very fancy jeans, I ended up at Ann Taylor. I was looking for Lucky, and since there isn't one in that mall, I headed for Bloomingdales, but was sidetracked by AT. I ended up buying a pair there. I feel sort of like a boring mom, but for four facts. 
  1. I really don't like shopping with friends, but I think for this new jeans purchase I must go with a very honest friend. The sales girls are just not dependable and in fact they're annoying by the very fact that they're 15 years younger than me.
  2. I want to lose 10 more pounds first and keep it off for a while (will this even happen?)
  3. I can wear jeans to work and want a less-stylish pair for office use, and a more trendy pair for out of office use.
  4. This is not the time to be spending $200 on jeans.
So my AT jeans and I left the mall and departed for work. They're just fine - great for work, and if I end up not liking them in a few months they were so cheap I don't even care. I was able to go down a size. Every time I try clothes on, even new ones, I'm amazed at the size variety. For the record AT is larger than Banana Republic. So this pair is a bit snug, but the size above was huge, and hopefully these won't be snug for long.  I think I could lose 10 lbs and they'd still fit!

I also tried on about 30 shirts. Finding 3 shirts is way harder than I thought it would be! I used to have a very good sense of what looked good on me but the colors this season are so weird - off brown/gray things...and I'm trying to buy a couple items that aren't quite so BORING. I feel like a mom-robot in solid color v-neck t-shirts and jeans or capris. I tried on some shirts at BR that were really cute, but only found one in my size in a color that was even ok. That was black, and I would have preferred a different color but it was all they had left. I still have a problem of my arms and thighs making things tight that would otherwise fit perfectly. This is where losing 10 or even 5 more pounds would do wonders. So I wanted shirts to be reasonably priced, flattering color, interesting shape, not too tight in arms, and of course long enough in arms. This proved quite difficult! Actually that's fine, as I'd rather buy one nice shirt every so often and slowly build up a wardrobe over time, as opposed to a quickie, expensive, trendy pile of clothes that I don't love. It's just hard when my base wardrobe is so pathetic. And now even the newer shirts I've bought in the last 2 years are too big and make me look heavier than I am. At least when I came home I threw out 2 shirts to make room for the 2 I brought home. At a later point, I'm going to get rid of all clothes beyond a certain age (5 yrs?) even if I like them - just out of principal. First I need some replacements, but eventually that will happen! My goal is a very small, edited wardrobe where I love every item. One day I will even get rid of the old t-shirts I use to exercise in and use real work-out clothes. But this is not top priority. OK enough brain-power on this topic.

On a food note - things are going fine except at dinner last night. I went to dinner with the family, including mom and brother. I tried to enjoy myself and not be neurotic, but then I ended up feeling badly about how much sushi I ate. I don't like to let dieting affect my social life - extremely limited as my social life is. Must work on that. I think I went about 4 points over my daily total, and I really could have not done that if I'd tried. Oh well.

Monday, March 2, 2009

What Not to Wear

Closet-cleaning episode...part 2.

I took advantage of a dreary weekend to finish up my clothes-cleaning project. Fitting into clothes better was somewhat uplifting, but the overall state of my wardrobe is a nightmare! I don't know how this happened but I've become someone from a What Not to Wear show. My work clothes are fine. A bit boring, a bit ill-fitting, but generally fine. Plus, I really don't want to spend a lot of money on work clothes. I don't see that many people and the ones I do see are Ph.D. physicists, not marketing execs on Madison Ave. I have a few "going out" outfits that are ok, but could use a couple more pairs of shoes. My general casual, hanging out on the weekend clothes however, are atrocious. All my shirts are pilled, old, too boxy, out of style, too big or too small. I have one pair of ok-looking jeans, but I need some comfy stretchy ones. I'll do a tad better in the spring as I have some capris and skirts that aren't bad. However, everything is OLD and I'm sick of it. I desperately need cute t-shirts, shoes, jeans and for that matter make-up and purses. But I would be happy with a "favorite" pair of jeans and 3 cute t-shirts. This will be my goal for a shopping trip later in the spring. I have a pregnant friend who offered to come. She will be immediately post-partum and not looking for herself. We're going to some outlets with the new baby - leaving all pre-schoolers home. I'm excited! This won't happen until April though. Another friend gave me so much good advice on how to buy jeans that I suddenly realized my dearth of knowledge about fashion. She knew so much! I'm printing her advice and taking it with me, like my own "What Not to Wear" rule book. I generally don't like shopping. I don't like getting dressed and undressed, seeing cellulite in fluorescent lights, finding things difficult to fit due to out of proportion parts - not just flabby thighs, but my EXTRA long arms (I'm 5'8" and my arms are 29", Dave is 6' and his arms are 28"), my wide feet, my in between tall and normal pants's frustrating. I get hot and disoriented when I step into a mall - all the sounds, lights, sights, temperatures. I can't stand it! So I don't shop much, and now it really shows. I also have a problem with the retro-70s styles and I REALLY don't like the Empire waist printed tops - to me anyone who wears them in their thirties looks pregnant. So shopping is difficult right now....

It's not time yet, but at some point, I'll hit the Denim Bar. I may even take Dave in to have a drink. That place is super-intimidating to me. Everyone in there is 20, skinny, using her dad's credit card. I imagine I'll be ready to enter the Denim Bar in September or October...after the hot months have passed, and when I feel comfortable that I've reached a realistic final weight. Honestly, I'm nervous thinking about it! For now I'll focus on a temporary pair of jeans, and some cute shirts. To be continued...