Monday, June 30, 2008

Read more about raw...

Quick note: My story in the Boston Phoenix about Grezzo's all raw, all vegan ice cream is live--go check it out.

Biking beauties!

I love a front page story in the Boston Globe today on old folks learning to bicycle. Some are doing it for health and fitness reasons, others so they can ride with their children or even grandchildren! And of course, given the ridiculous price of gas today, others are doing it so they have a viable transportation alternative. For whatever reason folks are grabbing two wheels and a set of handlebars, I'm all for it!

I love to ride my bike. I first become enamored with bicycling when I registered for the Boston to NYC AIDS Ride about 10 years ago (eeh gads, that's hard to believe it was that long ago). Of course, similarly to when I signed up for the half-marathon last April, I wasn't a runner, before registering for the AIDS ride, I didn't even own a bike. So, I signed up on one day and then had to go buy a bike a couple days later. (By the way, I still have this same bike and I love it. I get very emotionally attached to things--my bike, my car, my computer, pairs of shoes. It's a little odd, I know, but I have a friend who has similar feelings about inanimate things in her life, as well, so at least my strangeness has company.)

And then I started training--seriously training. It was the first time I had ever trained for anything. I never was into sports as a kid, so this was pretty new for me. But, I did it! I rode two then three days a week, with hill-training one day and an increasingly long ride on the weekend. When the time came for the ride, I was ready. I rode every mile--all 362 of them--up every hill, and every long stretch. My first century was a breeze. I never once stopped and walked my bike, although a lot of people did. I was never the first one in at the end of each day--far from it--but I was never the last either--far from it.

What an enormous sense of accomplishment. Plus, I was in great shape--my legs were dynamite! I'm a big advocate of using some kind of charity athletic event to jumpstart a workout / fitness regimen. So many of my friends have done it, and it really works: the cause gives you an emotional commitment and motivation. The organization usually has some kind of organized training group along with a support network. And, most importantly, I think, you have a goal. It's hard to just go out there and workout or run or whatever it is without something pushing you along and that you are striving for. Doing it with a group, or even a friend, is extra motivation, as there's nothing like a little competition to get the feet and a..s moving.

I still ride, although I haven't done a really long ride for a while. Maybe it's time. My honey just this past weekend bought a brand new shiny red bike to toodle around on the Cape. She's very excited about it. So, watch for more posts about biking.

Unfortunately, WW is as stingy as can be about allocating activity points for biking--only 3 for a full hour of moderate-level biking. But alas, what bicycling does for one's sense of well-being far outlasts the few points you earn.

Friday, June 27, 2008

What is it about blue jeans?

So...seriously. Why jeans? Why are they the weight loss currency that is considered the most valuable? It's all about wanting to fit into a certain pair of jeans. That's the victory. Sure, it's the goal weight and it's the bathing suit (maybe) and the dress size, but ask any fat girl what she really wants, and 9 out of 10 will answer that they want to look good in a pair of jeans, or fit into a fill-in-the-blank size of jeans.

I'm guilty, too. I have two pairs on my shelf that I will not toss. They are both size 8. They used to fit, and I truly believe they will fit again. (I did toss my size 6 jeans, because I could only wear those when I wasn't eating anything and I was completely depressed. I don't really want to be in that same place again.)
Today, I'm thinking about jeans because I have on a pair that are looking pretty good--they used to not fit at all, and now they do. They are still a size 12, but they are petite. And, I think some size 12's are bigger than others. Whatever. I'm just happy that today, a pair of jeans that didn't used to fit now does and they're actually kind of comfortable. I'm also happy because it means I can wait a while longer before buying new jeans. Again, I'll buy other pieces of clothing--maybe--but I'm not going to buy jeans until I can at least buy a size 10, and I would really be happy to be buying a size 8.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Weigh In and Random Thoughts

So, I've lost one more pound, which doesn't seem like a lot, but it does mean that I do continue to lose. I'm about 12 pounds from my original goal, but I'm kind of thinking that I'll aim for five more pounds off beyond that. So... we'll see.

I'm pretty much ensconced on the Cape at this point and learning my way around eating and cooking and working out and being active here. More to come on that, so stay tuned, but last night, I made a delicious Asian-inspired whole wheat pasta with some leftover grilled tuna steak and scallion greens. Delicious. I made the sauce by whisking together soy sauce, lime juice, a little sesame oil, and some rice wine vinegar.

Random Thought: Did you hear about the guy losing 80 pounds by eating at McDonald's? He didn't eat Big Macs, of course, but he ate salads and small wraps that are available there. I'm pretty impressed, I must say. It also just goes to prove my point that restaurants can make low-calorie tasty food if they are committed to doing so. So, I never thought I would say this, but I'm sending a woohoo shout-out to the Golden Arches for heeding the call of doing their part to stop the increasingly bulging waistlines of Americans.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Shoutout for Au Bon Pain!

So, my honey brought home for me a brochure from au bon pain called "au bon Portions": I'm loving it!

Remember when this little chain used to be all about bread, chocolate croissants, and mediocre soups? Not anymore! Inside the brochure are pictures showing colorful little cups filled with tasty looking foods such as grilled chicken on a little salad, chickpea salad with carrots, a little sandwich wrap, cheese and crackers and grapes, stuffed tomatoes, asparagus with almonds. And beyond taste, here's the best feature: each cute little cup is only 200 calories! Gotta love that!

The new menu is the creation of the Executive Chef Thomas John, who used to be at Mantra and was a Food and Wine best chef of the year. Trained in his native India and schooled in French cuisine and techniques, Chef John is demonstrating that a chain restaurant truly can--if it committed to doing so-bring together flavor with a diet conscious sensibility. Hurrah! for him, au bon pain, and lunchers lucky enough to be anywhere close by one!

What's on the menu?

So, I think this ongoing debate in NYC re having nutrition information on menus or available in stores for consumers is interesting. An Associated Press story today says that the city is ready to fine chain restaurants that don't provide calorie counts on their products. I truly can see both sides of the argument.

I've been reading through the website at the National Restaurant Association, which opposes such "one-size-fits-all" mandates, and I respect their opinion, I really do. It's their job to advocate for positions that support their membership of professional chefs and restaurateurs and to fight against what they believe are unfair burdens placed on them. And, I respect that. Their position is that obesity and overweight should be addressed through education, not legislation, and that is a feasible argument.

I was trained to cook. And while it's not now what I do professionally, I do understand and appreciate first of all, that chefs are neither trained or certified nutritionists. That's not their job. Their job is to create tasty meals that people will enjoy and--because this is a business after all--pay for and come back again for. And, well, whatever they need to do to do that is fair game: butter, cream, pork fat, duck fat, deep friers, flour, sugar---the list goes on and on. And good food makes people happy; not everyone wants--nor should they be forced to--eat only salad and lean protein.

On the other hand, however, from the consumer point of view, how are eaters and diners supposed to educate themselves about the calorie content of restaurant foods if the restaurants don't provide this information? I know a fair amount about calories and fat, but even I didn't know what was a true portion size and what foods were good to eat and which ones were bad. I've learned so much from WW. And, I certainly didn't know--and still don't--which foods to eat, for example, at a fast food restaurant (see my travel story about Wendy's) and which were higher in calories. And I'm motivated! What about people who just don't really think about it very much and just order what sounds good to them?

Seriously, before I joined WW and started keeping track of points, I really had very little idea how much or little to eat day to day to lose weight. I just didn't know. Other people don't know either.

Also, when a diner orders a dish at a restaurant--whether it's fine dining or at a chain restaurant--he or she doesn't have any idea how a dish is made. They don't know that a meat might be sauteed in a high-calorie fat or that a sauce--even a light wine sauce--might be finished with butter or cream at the end. When you add in that portion sizes at restaurants are 3 to 10 times what is considered a "healthy" portion (a plate of pasta out could be as many as 4 or 5, if not more, cups!) and it's caloric doomsday for a lot of people.

Now, I know--and I completely believe--that people have got to take personal responsibility for themselves. And to that end, I support the restaurant association's stand against frivolous obesity lawsuits. But, I also think that today's diners need help and that the restaurant world has a responsibility to be, well, responsible to them.

How I like to think about this, however, is that this way of thinking presents an opportunity, not a burden, for restaurants to join in partnership with their diners toward healthier eating. Chefs want to create delicious food. Why can't they be inspired to create food that tastes good and that is good for you? I don't think this has to be an adversarial relationship; I truly believe it can be one that is mutually beneficial: people will, I really to believe, buy food that is low in calories and still tastes great. Just like we all have to be thinking about how to move ourselves around with alternative sources of fuel, so can we all start to think about how to feed ourselves without making ourselves fat. It's not bad.....just a different way of thinking.

Kick Butt!

So, I've been working out with my trainer Mark for a little over a year, and I can honestly say that this past month, it's starting to really show. All along, I've been getting stronger and more flexible and building stamina. But now, we're starting to seem some real definition and tone. I'm loving it.

Yesterday, we did a new routine--a boxing/kick-boxing mix that seriously, kicked my a...s. I was begging for mercy halfway through. It started with jumping rope--I'm pretty uncoordinated with this childhood pasttime, so I need to work on that. Then Mark went into a 10-minute explanation/demonstration, and then he put the gloves on me and away I went. Jab, upper cut, kick. Over and over and over again for a minute and then switch sides, and then over and over and over again. I am so sore today it hurts to type. But, I LOVED IT.

What a workout combination of cardio, flexibility, and concentration. I really enjoy workouts that require an intense amount of concentration to keep the form: it helps me learn to focus better, which actually calms my mind. I'm too impatient for meditation, so this works for me. Boxing/kickboxing is the best example of something that requires intense concentration but that also gets the heart rate going. Plus, honestly, I can't say enough about the ability to really take out my aggressions on a big stuffed bag. Punching and kicking just feels good. I think more women should really try this.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Sounds good!

So, I just got my July/August issue of Everyday Food and two of my favs are on the cover: Martha Steward (what can I say, I love her) and Emeril Lagasse. Kick it up a notch! BAM! How can you not love that??

Now, Emeril's food--of which I would love to sit at the counter on his show Live w/ Emeril and eat anything he makes for me--is probably pretty high in points. Dlish, yes, but oy. Pre-WW to be sure for me. But in this issue, this dynamic duo teams up to create some really tasty and healthy and low WW points meals. A few I'm going to try:

Tex Mex Turkey Burgers w/ Zucchini Salad
Shrimp Salad w/ Apricots and Cucumber
Emeril's Fish Provencal
Spaghetti w/ Bay Scallops, Leeks, and Tarragon
and so many more...

There's also a recipe for an orange vanilla milkshake that I believe can probably be made with low-fat 1% milk and still be delicious. I'll try it and let you know.

And, while I'm on the subject of delicious-sounding, low fat recipes, check out my friend Tammy's blog, Boston Food and Whine, and her recipe for Bok Choy Salad w/ Grilled Salmon, which she adapted from a friend's recipe to to be low fat and low cal. And, since Tammy says she is trying to lose a few pounds and is pretty adept w/ the WW system, she includes the WW points. Love that!!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Random Thoughts, continued

Hello friends!
I'm so sorry, I completely forgot to mention that I have some new friends! Blogger friends from BlogCatalog who have added me to their neighborhoods and friends groups. Welcome and thanks so much!

Good news!
New York City's ban on trans fats goes into effect today. Now, I do have some thoughts about food police and restrictions on cooking liberties and freedom to eat whatever I choose. But, I also have serious concerns about the high reate of obesity, especially in children, in this country and all of the related health concerns associated with it. Trans fats are particularly insidious because they raise bad cholesterol and lower good cholesterol. And, researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health also warn that they can cause inflammation in the body. Bad bad bad. For a great resource on healthy eating from the experts who really know their stuff, visit the Harvard School of Public Health's Nutrition Source.

Get naked!
About 1,000 people in Ireland did just that this past weekend and had their picture taken as part of a performace art installation. Several people quoted said they found the experience to be quite liberating. I'll bet. I would love this. I think that we are so body conscious because we have such limited experience seeing real bodies. The naked or semi-naked bodies we see (beyond the one or few we may see privately of those who are our intimates) are in magazines, TV, and in the movies and they have been so airbrushed and made to look perfect that as a culture, we have very little idea of what real bodies look like. Even at the gym I go to, where the women's locker room is one big open room, women are constantly wrapping themselves up tightly in towels and trying to put on and take off their underwear underneath the towels. It's a little crazy, actually. If we just realized we all were imperfect, then maybe we'd be more relaxed. I'm not saying that we still shouldn't strive to have healthy weights and to be fit and take care of ourselves, but we'd realize that other people have bumps and dimples and little rolls and there's nothing to be ashamed of or embarrased about. Go Irish!

Update and Random Thoughts

I have been bad and not been writing, but now I have some exciting news to share: I'll be spending the a lot of the summer on Cape Cod!! We just rented an apartment there, so I am very excited. The eating challenge, however, will be with several friends coming to visit, there will be lots of drinking. I will have to really watch how much I drink, while I also have a good time. Hmmm.

The good news, however, is all the fresh fish and vegetables available. Truro has an amazing fish market in the same little shopping center as a farm stand, so that will become a regular stop. We stepped in this past weekend just to look around, and were made teary-eyed by the selection of fresh haddock, cod, tuna (I wanted to take a spoon and scoop out a bite right there!), and lobsters. Watch for my summer grilling stories. Low points in fish!

More updates: I am now down 12 pounds since starting WW. I think that's great--and I feel great--but I am surprised, I guess, by how long this is taking; I'm averaging a 6-pound loss a month. Is that too slow? I guess I do realize that stable weight loss is slower and that losing too much too fast usually means that most of the weight lost is gained back. But, it seems a little slow to me. I feel like my metabolism is stubbornly holding onto having more food so it's not going to budge. We'll see.

I am excited, however, about wearing a new dress tonight to a party (not the BIG party with the slightly tight party dress--that party is next week!). But, just a casual party with a stretchy dress. We did some amazing shopping in Provincetown last weekend and now I have a hot new pair of leather sandals and a new red bag to accessorize my new dress.

I sound like such a girl, don't I? Get this: I'm getting a pedicure today, too, to go with the new shoes and the dress and the party.

I guess, in essence, I'm feeling so much better about my body and how I look that I'm happy again about a dress and a pair of great shoes. I had lost that feeling of wanting to put myself together to look good for a night out. And now, it's coming back.
I am in no way finished, but I'm on my way.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Recipes Revamped to Skinny

Remember when I said that I was tearing through my huge stack of foodie magazines to find recipes that could be revamped for lower points values? I just recreated a tandori chicken from Bon Appetit that was absolutely delicious. I have to share it. (I don't have a picture of it because I was starving when it was finished and then it was so good, I ate it all! Sorry! So, you'll just have to settle with a picture of the original recipe hanging on my refrigerator!)

So easy though to make this into a low points meal. The recipe called for a full chicken cut into parts; I used (no surprise!) skinless, boneless chicken breasts. The recipe also called for full fat Greek yogurt. Yes, that would have been delicious, but too many points. I made it with nofat yogurt and it was still really good.

Chicken, especially breasts, was just made for yogurt. When you marinate the chicken with a yogurt-based mixture, the chicken is tender and just explodes with flavor. It's really an amazing little secret. Fill the yogurt mix with 0 points flavors, such as cumin, red chili flake, fresh herbs, lemon juice, and you've got a real treat coming.

Here's the skinny:

Low Points Chicken Tandoori

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (or more if you have more people--I had 2)

1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley

garlic cloves (I don't like garlic that much, so I only used one; original recipe called for 4)

1 tbs ground cumin

1 tbs sweet paprika

1 tbs kosher salt

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

1/4 cup olive oil

1/2 cup plain nofat yogurt

1/4 cup lemon juice

Whir all the ingredients (except the chicken!) in a food processor or blender until well combined. Put chicken breasts in a big sealable plastic food bag and pour the yogurt mixture over the chicken. Seal the bag and turn it upside down a couple times so that the chicken inside is covered with the yogurt. Refrigerate for a couple hours, turning the bag a couple more times.

You can grill then grill the chicken on a grill, or you can do what I did, which was to sear it in a saute pan that had been sprayed with cooking spray and sear each side and then finish in the oven until an inside temp reaches 165 degrees.

Serve with slices of mango and yummy yummy yummy and so low in points!


Thursday, May 29, 2008

Where Have I Been?

So sorry. I have been sick, dear reader. But am back on the mend, thank goodness. And, you'll be happy to know that even though I have been sick, I have stayed on the plan! My weekly weigh-in: 149.6!! So, that means that I've lost a little over 10 pounds. Which is great, unless you consider that I've been on this for 6 weeks, which means I should have lost at least 12 pounds by now, if you believe WW that average weight loss is 2 pounds a week. I'm below average :-(

But, I'm not really complaining too much, because I am losing. So that's a plus. And, I'm working out a lot; isn't it true that muscle weighs more than fat? People always tell you that to make you feel better, but I really think there might be some truth to it.

I also have a confession. Call me crazy, or overly optimistic, or something, but I bought a fantastic dress that is ... well... a little tight. Not too much--it's not like it's 3 sizes too small or something, but it's a size below where I am now. But, a lot of the clothes that are the size I am now are too big, so it's not completely inconceivable that I could soon be in a size lower. Right?

Hmmm. I bought the dress to go to a party on June 27: two days shy of an entire month away. Given the current rate of weight loss, I should be down by 6 to 8 pounds, unless I throw up my hands and give up; which I'm not going to do. So, I should be ok. It's motivation, inspiration, something. It's like that commercial for Special K: "....itsy bitsy teeny weeny yellow polka dot bikini..." You know, the one where she passes that skimpy thing every day while she eats her cereal, and then whola! At the end of the commercial, it fits? That'll be me. You watch!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Rah Rah Rah: Three Cheers for Raw Food at Grezzo

Wow! Very rarely in my jaded life do I have an experience where I say 'Wow, that was truly amazing (I don't know, maybe I need to get out more!). But last night, with my friend (and beyond the pale food blogger) Tammy, I went to the much buzzed about Grezzo in the North End. Wow!

Grezzo is Italian for raw, and nestled as it is in the heart of Boston's Italian food district, it holds its own as an eatery that deserves--and will likely receive--lots of attention.

On the way over, Tammy and I were stuck in Red Sox traffic and admitting to one another that we were both a little nervous, not quite sure what to expect. Tammy is a quasi-vegetarian and I am a bring-it-all-on carnivore, so this was going to be interesting. However, we are also both great lovers of food and food adventures, so we were the perfect companions for one another to try this new spot. (Tammy will be blogging, too, about Grezzo today, so check out her post.)

We arrive to this very small but very warmly colored room with huge paintings of vegetables on the walls and a server who both Tammy and I were immediately drawn to: she was energetic and obviously very passionate about the food and took great care to explain to us each of the dishes.

We chose the chef's tasting menu--a good choice since it came with a delightful sampling of several of the dishes on the short menu. (We also each ordered a glass of biodynamic wine--with a very healthy pour for each of us, that was a nice bonus!)

I'm going to leave it to Tammy to do a food overview, but I will tell you that from my perspective, I am very intrigued about the idea of raw food as a weight loss / healthy lifestyle choice.

Alissa Cohen, who has been eating raw since the 1980's and who works with people to turn them onto a raw life, has some impressive results to show on her website. We are all used to the before and after pictures of fat to skinny people, and this site has them as well. I'm listening!

As I was eating last night, I was thinking that since so many of these foods are based on nuts--nut creams and ground up nut pastes--the point count must really be adding up. So, while I would have loved to have lapped all the cream on my plate, I didn't. But then, my main entree was a marinated piece of papaya with a salad of shredded zucchini in a yogurt dill sauce. Once you get past the nuts, all the other foods are fruits or vegetables. How points free is that?

When I left last night, I was sated and happy and I didn't have that horrible post-big dinner feeling of needing to go immediately to bed and snore like a fat old man. I felt light and energetic and... well, alive. When I woke up this morning, I wasn't starving, I just had this really good feeling.

I've ordered Alissa's cookbook, so I'll report back in later posts about my attempts to cook with it and what my thoughts are then. But right now, I'm really impressed. I'll probably go back to try the other dishes.

Rah rah rah!!!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Random Quick Thoughts

Just what I'm thinking about now:

  1. Got new running shoes yesterday: my first pair of Asics. LOVE the folks at Marathon Sports who fitted me. Will try them out later today--hope it doesn't rain.

  2. Dale had to pack his knives and go from Top Chef last night. Too bad...NOT! After all his nastiness to his comrade contestants, I was surprised to see how much affection Stephanie, Antonia, and Richard showed him as he left; made me wonder if the producers really were only showing his bad side and never his good qualities. Hmmmm....

  3. Remember the post about my having put points aside for a night and going out for a lovely evening at Lala Rokh, the Persian restaurant on Beacon Hill? My story about that night for is now live. Check it out.

  4. I'm having dinner tonight with a friend at Grezzo Restaurant in the North End--all raw food; can't wait to try it and to tell you all about it tomorrow!!

  5. I'm wearing right now a pair of jeans that 3 weeks ago didn't fit at all, one week ago barely fit, and now, fit just fine.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Roadtrip Results

So, I'm back. And, surprisingly enough, my weekly weigh-in yesterday morning, despite having had one 45 point day during the roadtrip weekend away, and despite having exceeded my weekly allotment of overage points by a whopping 15.5 points, I still lost weight. I'm not sure how that happened, but alas, I'm not complaining.

Here's the rundown of my weekend road trip.

Two friends and my honey--who is also on WW and skipping along quite nicely with it--and I started out on Friday for a 6.5 hour drive from here to Lewisburg, PA where Deb's niece Cordy was graduating from Bucknell (cum laude, too, I might add--we are all very proud!). I knew that food choices along the way were going to be -- ahem slim--pickings, so I planned ahead and brought good healthy food along for the ride: fruit salad, a package of hummus, some pieces of pita, raw almonds, and some whole wheat pasta and vegetables in a 0-points Asian sauce I had made the night before.

First stop: Starbucks. Of course. Now one of the things I am most grateful in doing this whole food reduction game is that I drink my coffee black. I always have. This is a good thing because I have heard from others that giving up sugar and/or cream in one's coffee is harder than giving up anything else in the points paredown strategy. Lucky for me--no points in the coffee.

But, I was hungry because I had been running around that morning trying to pack and do all the things one who proscrastinates as badly as I do must do before leaving on a trip and I didn't eat breakfast. Not to worry: Starbucks--not all, but several--have an array of relatively healthy fresh food choices to go with one's coffee. (Oh yeah, there are lots of high points offerings as well, like muffins, breads, and sweet rolls, but I don't look up anymore, I only look down in the case below the sweet stuff if I'm hungry.) Whola! Yogurt parfait: low fat plain yogurt, fresh fruit, and a little granola. I had to wait until I got home to calculate the points: 6, but I appreciate that Starbucks offers all the nutrition information on their packaged foods so you can choose wisely.

Next stop for lunch: Wendy's. Whoa. Be careful here. Seriously! Points are lurking in places you wouldn't even imagine. I got the Mandarin Chicken Salad. Now, by itself, this salad, which comes with big tender chunks of skinless chicken and mandarin oranges in the bowl, is 170 calories--3 points. BUT!!! They toss onto your tray some stealth ticking time bombs: packets of salad dressing, slivered almonds, and crispy noodles. Now, I'm no fool--I think--I know that almonds are better than fried noodles, so I forgo the noodles and spill that entire little packet of almonds all over my salad. Oh yeah. I opt for about a third of the sesame salad dressing, and I figure I have chosen pretty wisely and I'm feeling quite virtuous for myself.

On our way out, I see the large poster of nutrition information for each of the food items hanging in the dining room. If I had eaten everything: almonds and noodles and all the dressing, that salad would have totalled out at more than 500 calories! The almonds are the worst offender. I came home and did the points: 11. They must do something to them.

Now, I have to give Wendy's credit because if you go online, you can actually create personalized meals with their products and get the exact nutrition information for each one. And, because they allow special orders, if you plan ahead, you'll know exactly what you're getting when you order. Use this in combination with the WW points calculator, and you're golden. The key: plan ahead. (More on planning ahead in a future post.)

That night at dinner--and throughout the weekend--I limited my alcohol intake. A huge challenge, generally for me, but a slight stomach bug kept me in check for the most part. We did find some excellent microbrewed beer at the Selingsgrove Brewery the next day, that, had I been feeling better, I could have indulged even more in. Also there, we had a good healthy lunch of curried chicken salad with fresh vegetables and pita points. We also had nachos, which generally are high in points, but these had more tomatoes than cheese and no chili, so not as bad as they could have been.

My fruit salad was a great snack throughout the weekend--thank goodness for the in-room refrigerator--and, for the most part, staying away from the hors d' oeuvre table--which was surrounded by hungry young graduating people and their friends, so that was good--made the weekend no so bad for points.

Dinner Friday night was the hardest: steak and seared tuna with tempura sushi rolls, amazing grilled romaine salads and key lime pie. Hmm. That was tough. (I'm just remember that I never entered the points for those tempura rolls! Oh well.)

All in all, however, not a bad trip points wise. And we had fun all hanging out together. Biggest takeaway lessons: pay attention, plan ahead as much as possible, bank points throughout the week, and relax. I know that because I'm on WW, I didn't eat as much as I would have had I not been tracking points. And while I definitely went over the limit, I was always mindful of what I was eating--not in a panicked ridiculous and annoying to others kind of way--but just paying attention kind of way. It worked. I'm happy.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Quick Thoughts

Short notes:
  1. My honey and I are heading off tomorrow for a 3-day road trip with friends to a niece's college graduation. We will see how well we can stay on the Plan with parties, cocktail receptions, restaurant meals, and road food to contend with. I'll be keeping good notes and taking pictures, so stay tuned next week for the rundown.
  2. I'm very excited about some raw food recipes in the June issue of Food&Wine (somewhere someone is hearing my call for healthy recipes in the mainstream!!). I'm going to test them out and will report back in a future post.
  3. Have a great weekend and wish me luck!

In the News: Fat Kids Don't Think They're Fat!

Oy vay--at least when I was a kid, my skinny cousin Gina with long blonde hair and lots of boyfriends made sure I knew I was fat. Nowadays, says a story in today's Boston Globe, fat kids are surrounded by so many other fat kids and adults that their perception of overweight is that it's normal. And, they're not doing anything about trying to change either their weight, or the habits--what they eat and the amount of time they spend being sedentary--to change that.

Now, give them credit: kids are only following their parents' example, so if the parents are fat, whola. And if the parents aren't encouraging them--or other adults in their lives, doesn't have to just be parents--then how do they know that that is the way life just is?

Some folks are doing good work; gyms for kids and new federal programs to teach kids how to make healthier food choices and to move more. But people today--kids and adults alike--are just so innundated with bad food choices that choosing the few good ones takes enormous motivation--something which kids have a hard enough time with. It's a sad battle, and one that I am very afraid we are losing. Meanwhile, a survey from PeaPod, Inc., showed that employees have a hard time making good food choices for themselves when they are busy at work. And what do they often have to choose from? Highly processed, high calorie foods from vending machines and local fast food restaurants. When you think about it, this is really outrageous.

Top Chef is Tops with Healthy Food Challenge

I was jazzed up last night when my favorite TV obsession--Top Chef (I have watched every episode of every season since it started)--featured an elimination challenge that required the contestants to make delicious healthy meals. Personally, I feel that every chef in the U.S. at least should have some responsiblity to do the same thing, but more on that soapbox in a later post.

The winner was Dale, who is my least favorite contestant on the show, but he did come up with an interesting dish that was very healthy and looked like something I would enjoy eating. His originality showed in his use of buffalo meat. I've only had this protein once, and I liked it. I would eat more of it if it were more widely available: it's very lean, high in protein, and tastes like beef. He made what sounds like a tasty mango chili marinade by boiling fresh and dried mango together in rice vinegar and then adding the beef, which he then grilled. Secondly, he added brown rice and then scooped the salad into big pieces of bok choy, which served as a tasty, crunchy, and obviously 0 points bowl. It looked really good--so good, that, despite my not liking him (oh yeah, I said that already) I saved the recipe to try myself. I'll report on the results in a later post.

This challenge was to cook for members of the Chicago Police Academy. What a great view into a slice of everyday life for thousands of working people in this country: people on the go who need a satisfying, even hearty, meal that is also delicious. But, because everyone is getting so fat, they need something that is also low calorie and healthy. Bingo--the producers hit on the crux of the American food problem: sating hunger with healthy food when your options include numerous choices that are filled with fat and calories and more fat. Bravo Bravo! for thinking outside the box on this one.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Sauce it Up!

So, I love sauce. I really really love it. And one of the things that I was most excited about learning in culinary school was how to make a great sauce. And boy oh boy did we learn to make some kickin' sauces: bechaemel, espagnol, cheese, hollandaise, mayonnaise, bologonese. You name it, we made it.... and ate it. Hence, the current situation.

Sauces was one of the first tricks I brought home, adding butter and heavy cream and stock to crispy bits left over in the pan from sauteing. And let's face it, all my dinner guests loved these sauces, too. Oh my god, biscuits and gravy--just another word for sauce, right?

But stop! No sauce, no more. At least not like I used to make it. But thanks to some channel surfing on a rainy Saturday afternoon, I found Ellie Krieger on the Food Network channel, and she made a sauce without cream or butter or flour. She used stock and fresh fruit. I tried it with roasted pork (very lean) and it worked. And it was delicious. Here's what I did:

I browned the pork tenderloin, and when browned, I removed it from the pan and deglazed the pan with a half-cup of white wine and let that reduce. Then I added 1 cup of chicken broth, 1 cup of orange juice, and then a mixture of soy sauce, rice wine, and crushed ginger. Let that reduce, and then I added a cup of chopped pineapple. Taste and season. Let it reduce again, returned the pork to the pan, and let the whole thing cook until the porkloin was finished. Really good, and really low in points.

The trick is the reduction technique and the use of good fresh fruit. Ellie used peaches in her recipe, but I think many fruits word work well, as would cherries. The resulting sauce is definitely thinner than a sauce made with fat and flour, but it still has flavor--lots of it. Try it!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Good TV

So, it does seem a little oxymoronic to admit to loving tv at the same time I say I'm trying to lose weight--you know, the whole couch potato syndrome--but I just caught the episode "Hit the Wall" from the third season of Work Out on Bravo. I'm digging Jackie Warner; I think she's hot, first of all. But I also really admire her business savvy and her commitment to running a top notch gym and build her business. And, because she's from Ohio, too, and has come from a tough family situation, I admire her grit and ambition and her trust of her own instincts.

For the purposes of this blog, however, I'm intrigued with Jackie's SkyLab project to bring 10 really overweight--and a few obese--people into shape. It's a fascinating insight into what people need to do to lose weight: this is where the rubber hits the pavement for real. No baby talk. No hand holding. No crying game. No 'why me??' This is the real deal. The formula to losing weight is simple: reduce what you eat; increase your workout. That's it.

But the people in her SkyLab--not all, but a few--whine and cry and say I can't. Hey, if it were easy and could be sold in a bottle, everyone would be doing it. It's not easy. But it is the only way. I'm not being coarse. I just know. Painfully, I know. I also know that if I don't do the formula, there will be no change. And that is not acceptable to me--I cannot not lose weight. That is not an option.

So, I'm going to be staying tuned into Work Out this season because I really want to see how these folks do and compare my own ups and downs, triumphs and heartaches with theirs.

Also, if you haven't check out the Work Out website, do it now. Not just for the drama--which is sizzling and fun--and the eye candy of the trainers (Yowza!), but for the 30-second awesome workout videos. Now, nothing beats getting yourself a personal trainer (I'll write more about my own hottie personal trainer, Mark, in future posts), but these little shorts are well done and get right to the point.

So go, watch some good tv and work out, now!

Monday, May 12, 2008


Seriously, I gained weight. Not a lot--only 1.8 pounds. But what the f...? I have not even been eating all my points. I have been working out regularly. Aaaargh. When I filled in my weight tracker today--and, I didn't lie--I got a little face with a straight across "smile"; so, not a smile, certainly not that! And not a frown (I guess that's good), but not a very nice face either. Ok. Back to the drawing board. The little message did say that weight gain during weight loss was normal, but to just keep on track. Ok. I'm back on track. I'm not happy, but I'm back on track. Raw veggies for lunch for me today! I also did a 45-minute jog today, too. (Just a side note for another post for another time: I am not "running"; I am only jogging. So, even though I'm panting and spent when I reach my finish line, according to the WW activity tracker, a "run" doesn't start until you're clocking at least an 8.5 minute mile--I gots a long way to go!)

More later. I have lots of fun ideas to write about, but I have to go sulk for a while at the moment!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Turn the Other Cheek

So, I have to be honest. I just went to dinner the other night and I didn't worry about even trying to capture the points. Just didn't do it. Here's what happened:

I am a budding food writer (I know, the timing is a little off, but I have some fantasy that I can make it all work out one way or another--stay tuned.) Anyway, I got a wonderful invitation / opportunity to write about an art collection / food and wine pairing at a lovely little Persian restaurant on Beacon Hill called Lala Rokh. The brother and sister team who owns this restaurant also collects art, so the evening was as much about viewing a new acquisition, exhibited in the restaurant, as it was about enjoying the cuisine. How could I say no?

Three of us had a very enjoyable dinner with wine, dessert, and lots of laughter and fun conversation--exactly what being at table should be.

I thought about my points before the evening began. I have been diligently tracking them morning, midday, and evening for three straight weeks as well as adding in my activity points (which, I must say, seem to be very unfairly distributed when compared to the food points--but that's another post for another day!). And then, I just made the choice to not worry about points for this one evening. I wasn't going to try to calculate points for foods that were strange to me and that I would have little idea about how they were made. I wasn't going to add up all my banked points and fill them in for this night. I just decided I wasn't going to do it. I was going to enjoy this evening with my wife and one of our good friends, and the delightful service and recommendations of the chef, relax and enjoy. And I can say triumphantly that I did just that!

Now, a couple comments: I did not eat eat any bread from the bread basket, although I did take a bite of the hummus served as an accompaniment. And, Persian food, much like other food from the Middle East, is, from the outset, more healthfully and naturally prepared than food from some other cuisines. The bases are dried fruits and legumes; the techniques are long slow stewing; the meats are lean. There aren't many fats--no butters or heavy creams. Intense, complex flavors come from spice combinations; flavors are intensified by roasting the spices. We all left the table happy and sated, but not full and ill feeling. The biggest indulgences were two thumbnail-sized pieces of baklava and a melon-ball sized scoop of saffron ice cream.

And of course, the easiest way to reduce the amount of food you eat is to share. Plus, it's much more fun to have different tastes and to give and take instead of horde your own plate, I think.

The next day, back to points. I know that I cannot eat with abandon on a regular basis. In fact last night, again out with friends, but this time, I chose the seared tuna steak--and ate half--and greens. Simple, delicious, low in points. I know that my life now--and probably for a very long time to come, if not now forever--will be guided by points. I feel better. I'm losing weight. I'm healthier and happier.

But I also know that, occasionally, I will also be happy to enjoy an evening at table without overly consciously thinking about points. (Dinners with huge bowls of pasta covered in cream sauce, however, are probably never more.) I do believe I can mindfully do both.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Happy about HungryGirl

So excited to have found this chick--HungryGirl. In real life, she is Lisa Lillien (and she bears a striking resemblence to Rachel Ray..hmmmm), but she is chock full of advice, tips, and best of all...information and points about a slew of products that are low in WW points and high in flavor. HungryGirl has scanned the shelves of the grocery store to find the products that are safe eating so now, when I shop, I know where to stop in the aisles, and where to keep right on walking.

I wait on the edge of my seat for her daily email with news about good products, delicious easy recipes, and things to stay a mile away from: Ruby Tuesday's fat loaded oh so high in WW points turkey burger. (This charlatan loads in more than 1000 calories!!)
One of the best things about Hungry Girl? She has done all the research--and the eating--to know what sweet treats to eat and which ones to avoid. Thank you HungryGirl! She also has a new book out and is on tour, so check your local listings and grab up her book.
Where did I find Hungry Girl? On the Weight Watchers site, where even though they torture me, they entertain me as well!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Sing a Song for Sushi

Tra la la la.......Let's all eat sushi! It has so few points it's like eating raw vegetables. What a joy. Good thing I love it; I could start eating it all the time--or at least a few times a week. Here's the breakdown:

Nigiri: 4 pieces = 2 points
Spicy Tuna roll = 5 points
Seaweed Salad = 1 point

There's even room for sake: 3 points for a 1/2 cup.

I'm singing for sushi because I have been working on a food story for about the wonderful and inspiring Haley House Bakery and Cafe (check out my story), which is chock full of tasty and healthy sandwiches and plates of roasted meats and sides. Yum. But the killer has been the muffins. I have to try them to be responsible to my story, right? So I do and of course they are delicious. The pumpkin muffin topped with toasted pumkin seeds sends shivers up my spine just thinking about it.

And then the slap of reality when I come back to Jesus and sit before my points tracker and start adding it all in. A muffin: 6 points. Now, seriously, that hurts.

So, it was raw veggies for lunch yesterday and then sushi last night. Eating slowly and talking and laughing a lot helps stretch out a meal and makes you feel like you might be eating more than you really are. All these tricks one must learn.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Interesting Observations

Just from the last few days:
  • Heat, like the kind from chili peppers, creates saiety as well as excitement and full flavor
  • I really have no tolerance for bad food--if I'm going to save up my points to eat pizza, it better be damned good pizza
  • I'm finding that I actually don't enjoy eating too much: I don't feel good afterwards

Current results:

  • I've lost a total of 6.8 pounds so far
  • I'm able to run a 9.5 minute mile pace for a longer period of time
  • My total number of daily points has been lowered by 1 point; is this WW's way of telling me they want me to lose more weight?

This really is the beginning of how I will eat the rest of my life.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Drinking My Dessert

I know what you're thinking.... since I have already written about whining about wine, you're probably wondering if I have figured out a way to make low points chocolate martinis, or something, for dessert. No--maybe later, but not right now.

No, the joy I have discovered for dessert is tea. Really. Try it. I'm a diehard coffee drinker--it's one of the reasons I ditched the South Beach diet early on: no coffee allowed. For me? No way! Double espresso every day... bring it on! But at night, after dinner, I've been making myself a cup of tea. But not just any tea. I'm getting turned on by teas with bold bright flavors: Berry Black, Red Zinger, Lemon, Jasmine Spice. If I'm feeling a little more mellow, I go for chamomile or mint or ginger.

Ending my meal with tea is surprisingly satisfying. The warmth creates a feeling of fullness that is also comforting and very calming. The bold flavors make me happy and delight my palate. And...0 points! I don't kill my tally at the end of the day. What can be better?

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Common Threads Improving Children's Lives through Food

I'm a huge fan of the Bravo reality series Top Chef. I have seen every episode of all four seasons. I read the blogs and often add comments. I have ordered the Top Chef cookbook and I have casually thought about trying out myself.

But this post isn't about the contestants or the recipes or whether I agree with the judges about who was told to pack their knives and go. This post is about the guest judge of last night's episode, Art Smith, former personal chef for Oprah Winfrey, now chef/ owner of Table 35 in Chicago, and the founder of an organization called Common Threads.

The mission of Common Threads is "to educate children on the importance of nutrition and physical well-being, and to foster an appreciation of cultural diversity through cooking." Through after-school programming, kids 12 years and older get hands-on cooking experience by working with professional chefs. They learn to cook healthy nutritious food--maybe they eat at McDonald's less often afterwards and they cook for their families. But they also learn how food is a cultural bridge, bringing people together across differences.

I am so moved by just going through the site, that I'm going to do some work to see if there is any interest in bring Common Threads to Boston. Stay tuned.

Childhood obesity and poor nutrition has reached epidemic levels, the longterm consequences on public health we have only begun to realize. The reasons are many, but lack of healthy food options--or knowing how to choose and prepare healthy foods--are chief among them. I know. I was a fat kid, a fat adolescent, a fat young adult. In fact, I was fat until I was 28 years old, at which time I went through a very difficult break-up of a long relationship and I lost 40 pounds. Amazingly, I kept it off for a pretty long time--about 10 years. And then, I gained it all back and then some. So, that's why I am where I am now. So I know how hard it is to eat healthy, particularly as a young person when the peer pressure to heat french fries is probably more intense than it is to smoke and take drugs. Common Threads offers an alternative. Plus, just by looking at the pictures, those kids seem to be having a blast!

Tasty Treat!

Yippeee! A tasty treat that is enough like a cookie that you might believe it is one, but it has only 3 points! And, what is also great about this yummy for the tummy morsel is that it's also full of protein and vitamins. How can you possibly go wrong?
Sent to me via personal messenger from my friend Diane, this Heart Thrives (there were 2 in the package, and you can't see them because I ate both of them before I wrote this post--see how greedy I am?) cookie comes from the Healthy Baking Company in California. Also known as "suncakes" these goodies are made with oats, brown rice syrup, natural apples, brown rice flour, soy protein concentrate, soy flour, rice bran, apple juice, dried plums, calcium citrate, and cinnamon. They are vegan, contain 30% of daily fiber, 30% protein, and 60% calcium. Yowza!

And, they are thick and chewy and have the mouthfeel and satisfaction of an oatmeal cookie. And, what I love about the packaging, is that it includes the WW points: 3. How consumer minded is that? Why can't other food companies do that with their products?

Oh, I know--because the truth about the WW points in products like Zone Bars and Cliff Bars and other products that are supposed to be healthy and good for you would kill their sales. I used to be a big believer in -- and eater of -- these products until WW. After eating a very tasty yogurt covered cranberry Zone bar, I plugged in the nutritional information into the little WW calculator, not really worried, but just so I could add it to my daily tracker. Do you know what came up? 8 points!!! I should have just gone straight to the candy aisle. I had been deluding myself for a very long sad time. No more! I'm ordering some suncakes today.

You can, too. Go to, or call 1-800-830-0309. Heart Trives are $18.95/dozen.

Happy snacking!

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Foodie Magazine Mode

I am mad about foodie magazines--like crazy, not angry. When I was getting ready for culinary school, I started my subscriptions to every single one: Saveur, Bon Appetite (now bon appetite), Gourmet, Food and Wine. I pored through them and imagined the day when I would be able to cook anything in any one of them.

And now the real world: I probably could do a good job at about 90 percent of the recipes I can find in those magazines, but the portions would kill not only my points value for the day, but probably for the month. So alas. The piles have stayed in my house--and we have a pretty small house--for all this time, but the recipes have merely been gazed upon and not attempted.

But now, I have new inspiration. Compelled by the need to do some serious spring cleaning, the piles must go! But not just straight to the recycling bin. Now I'm going through each one--probably more than 200 magazines--and I'm looking for recipes that I can make as is or that I believe I can adapt.

Throughout this whole experiment in points-based weight loss, I am determined to accomplish two major goals: lose weight and eat good food. I absolutely must do the first; and if I don't do the second, I will be depressed and my sad skinny self won't be much worth being around anyway. Plus, if I'm not happy eating this way, then I won't be able to maintain it for any length of time.

So, in my recipe scanning, I'm passing right over, right off the bat, anything fried, any recipe that calls for more than a cup of butter, or pasta. (Oh, that last one is a killer--really. But, truth is, I had a great Italian instructor, so I can recreate just about any pasta dish from memory anyway, so...those magazine recipes won't be that missed.)

And, I, surprisingly, so far have accumulated quite the stack of recipes to start to test. The fun part will be actually starting to cook. I'll keep you updated on what works.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Weigh-In: It's working....

So, I'm in the beginning of week three and I just had my weekly weigh in (sorry, I'm a day late--supposed to be on Monday mornings) and I have lost 5 pounds since this all started! Yippeee. I am pretty happy. Now, I have 25 pounds to go, sure, but I do finally feel like I'm making progress.

The best part is that I really am developing a better sense of how to eat. Take last night as a case in point. My wife and I went to Cuci Cuci in Cambridge, a funky fun tapas place. While in the past, any dinner at a restaurant was just destined to be a night of over-indulging: too much alcohol and too much food. Even if I thought I was being restrained, I would (I know now) eat way too much. I would start with the bread, and probably eat about two slices if not more. If we were someplace this was available, I would fill my little bread plate with olive oil, coarse salt, and dip and swipe and lap it all up like a cat on cream. Not last night: one thin wafer from the bread basket, and that was it. One cocktail -- only 3 points -- and then water.

And ordering: I chose grilled fish, lamb--which we shared--and roasted vegetables. We did much more sharing than we would have in the past, and we didn't eat everything. Again, it really is about being mindful of everything I eat.

I was really worried about "constraining" myself by the points system, but now I really like the discipline. And, of course, I really like that it's working: 5 pounds!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Whining about Wine

Why does wine have so many points??? I went out to dinner last night with friends, and I drank too much wine and then, somehow through my increasingly misty haze had the wherewithal to know that if I ate too much as well, I would really be, ahem, off point. So, I did what any wise woman would do and I stopped eating and kept drinking, and then I got smashed!

I am recovering today with 0-points water and black coffee and trying to imagine a world without -- or at least with very limited amounts -- of alcohol. Oh, what a sad sad world to live in.

I have a whole rant coming up about trying to figure out points while sitting staring at a menu, but it will have to wait until my hangover subsides.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Read the Menu!

So frustrating. So I'm feeling pretty good yesterday going into the evening, where I have a cocktail party to attend, followed by dinner with friends. I had saved up enough points to have a couple glasses of wine and then a light dinner. Skip any hors d'oeuvres. I'm set.

Menu comes, friends are all talking and laughing, asking a lot of good questions about the previous event--an HRC New England Federal Club meet and greet--lots of good conversation. I break from the fun-filled commotion and make my choice. (Last week, when I knew I was going out to dinner, I read the menu online beforehand, did some searching for points of various offerings, chose the best options, and so was really ready when it came time to order: I knew exactly what I was going to get. Good strategy.) Last night, not so much.

I sighted a romaine lettuce salad--good enough--and a tuna spring roll. Now, I knew the dough deep-fried thing would be an issue, but the tuna is so low in points and again, I had a pretty good number of points banked headed into the evening, so I wasn't worried. And that's when it happened. The waitress comes, my dear friend Monica across the table from me, orders the romaine salad and the spring roll. I say "That's it! That's exactly what I want." Waitress leaves. It's all good.

Except it's not!! My salad comes--yummy. (I really need to remember to order the dressing on the side, but this one was pretty light, so I'm still good.) Then--after much waiting and avoiding the bread basket the entire evening--my main plate comes. I take a bite of my spring roll and it's filled with gooey melty oh so sinfully tasty CHEESE!!! Loaded with calories and points CHEESE!!! Where's the tuna??

I didn't pay attention. I ordered the wrong spring rolls. Boy was it good though. Eeek. So much to learn with this whole thing. With only a couple handful of points in a day to play with, I really need to pay attention.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Week Number Two: 35 Weekly Points Remaining

So, this is Weight Watchers. I am 43 years old, at least 30 pounds overweight, and I have never ever been to WW before--not to a meeting, not to look at it online. Nada. And now, I'm a member. Why? Isn't it obvious? But what finally got me motivated was a chef friend named Michael who one day, all of a sudden, looked slim and trim. How did he do it? Weight Watchers online. I signed up the next day.

And now, I'm obsessed.

I work at home--I'm a writer and have just launched my own strategic communications business for nonprofit organizations--so I have my computer on and my butt is in front of it pretty much all day. And, along with all the windows at the bottom of my screen beckoning me to pay attention to them is my WW daily points tracker. Every bite, glass of water, and walk around the park gets tracked in that baby.

I'm doing pretty good this week, my second. I haven't used up any of my weekly points yet. And, I think I can even carry over a point or two from earlier in the week. Wow.

I'm pretty determined to accomplish my goal of losing 35 pounds. But, I also love food--I'm a trained chef, having graduated from the Professional Chef's Program at the Cambridge School for Culinary Arts. And, I love food, especially Italian. So, this is is gonna be a challenge.

You keep me honest. I'll keep you informed about what I've learned and where I've succeeded and failed.