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.