Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Super Bowl Champions and Eating Out

Sorry that I haven’t gotten a post up the last two days.   We have been busy the last few days. First there was Baltimore’s second Super Bowl win since I have lived here. I don’t have to tell you what sort of pandemonium something like that brings to a town.  However I don’t see anyone complaining since we were all too busy celebrating.

Monday I was also busy. First I had to get a lot of things done at home since I knew I was going with my father for an outpatient procedure Tuesday morning. Everything turned out fine, by the way.  ;-)  Monday night Dan and I had dinner with our architect friend Jeff who is from Missouri. For those of you who were expecting Phil (he is Jeff’s dad) he had to stay in Missouri for two funerals so it was just the three (Dan, Jeff and myself) of us.  Since I know you all enjoy a good meal I thought I would share the evening’s food in today’s post.  

In a very uncharacteristic move I have also decided to share a pic of me from Monday night.  I hate pictures of myself because all I see is “old” but for those of you who are curious what I look like here I am.  ;-)  See, I am definitely more of a curvy vegan than Kate Moss look-a-like.  Don't get to used to pics of me since I really don't like them.  Just thought you might be curious and felt like "running with scissors" today.

When we arrived at the restaurant we hear that Ahmad’s last day will be this week.  L  But on the bright side he will be making more money and he’s engaged so that part of the story was great.  We chatted with him for a while and he “convinced” Jeff that the jalapeno margarita was the way to go.  I had a sip Ahmad was right.  Jeff thought so too since he had 2 of them.

While we were chatting Ahmad told me about some of the infused spirits he was working with.  The first was the jalapeno tequila but there were also others that he was also infusing. When he asked if we wanted a taste I was very quick to say yes.  So he bought out a flight of infused spirits including:  grapefruit infused gin, Tahitian vanilla infused rye whisky and blood orange and pineapple infused rum.  The grapefruit gin had the most intoxicating aroma.  I will be infusing some for us soon. I think it will make a kick butt gin and tonics this summer on the boat.

After the adult beverages and green tea it was time for us to eat food.  ;-)  Dan and I started with a bowl of white bean and kale soup which is usually on the menu and is vegan so you know we like that.  Not to mention can you ever get enough kale? 

Jeff ordered the Caesar salad with the marinated white anchovies. If there is one thing I miss about being vegan it may just be the Spanish marinated white anchovies that Ian always has. Those briny little fish are the bomb!

Then Dan and I ordered the kale salad which we split. This one has lemon juice, olive oil, pine nuts, tomato, golden raisins and olives.  Delicious!  When I make it at home I omit the olive oil and it is just and good and maybe better. But that is because we don’t eat much oil now. Sorry there is no picture of this dish. I only  took one shot and it was blurry.  Oops!

Next Dan and I split the Sicilian penne. It is a red sauce with eggplant, onions, artichokes, capers and olives.  It has a little bit of heat in the background as well as fresh basil. It is a delicious dish.

Jeff went with the crispy salmon over gnocchi, Brussels sprouts and mushrooms and thoroughly enjoyed it.  I know this because he told me that was full but that it was too good not to keep eating. That is definitely the sign of a well prepared meal.  ;-)

For those of you looking for recipe ideas, we often order the cauliflower dish on the menu that is vegan.  It is delicious if you want to try your hand at recreating it at home.  ;-)

As usual we ate slow, chatted a lot and were the last ones to leave the restaurant.  Basically it was a typical evening out with us.  ;-) 

One of the topics of conversation over dinner was about eating slowly. Jeff was big into martial arts earlier in life so we were chatting about health and exercise which you know I enjoyed.  Since I only know Jeff as an architect I have to remind myself that he used to own and operate a martial arts studio. I find people and their interests so fascinating.  Jeff’s point was that by eating slowly and stopping when you are satisfied most people can make a big difference in their health.  I added that if you also focus on eating your produce first that will make an even bigger difference.  ;-)

Happy thoughts:
  1. Monday was busy but productive. I was able to cross a few things off my to-do list which was a good way to end my day.
  2. We had a wonderful evening meal with Jeff. What more could you want other than to spend time with people you like, good food and good conversation?
  3. Tuesday morning I could not find a single pair of pants that fit me well. I found one pair which worked with a belt but that was it.  While it is good that all my pants are too big it was also a bit annoying to find it out when I was trying to get dressed. I knew my jeans were too big but didn’t realize it was all my pants until this morning. Darn, it looks like it is time for me to go clothes shopping.  You know I hate that right?  LOL
  4. I am very stoked to try my hand at making grapefruit infused gin for the summer.  I love gin and I love grapefruit and the combination last night was amazing.  Ahmad had a brilliant idea with that combination.  Now I just need to be careful that this doesn’t lead to too many adult beverages while on the boat.  I can’t wait to share this with our neighbors Reuben and Eric.  *happy dance*
  5. Speaking of Eric, I had a lovely conversation with him yesterday. Booz Allen is interested in talked to him about a job and I couldn’t be happier. Congrats Eric!!
Signing out:

I am typing this sitting in the waiting room of the outpatient surgery center while I wait for my father’s procedure to be completed.  I decided this was a great time to catch up on the blog since I had a little waiting time on my hands.  However I will say that you learn a lot sitting in waiting rooms. I enjoy watching people and noticing how different yet similar we are all.

I hope that you are having a fabulous week so far.  Assuming father continues to recover as expected I am hoping not to miss too many days blogging.  Worst case I expect to be back to blogging by Friday.  Talk with you all again very soon.  Ciao for now.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Busting a Weight Plateau

(beet, orange, walnut and upland cress salad at Zaytinya in DC)

“How do I bust my weight plateau” is one of those questions that I hear all the time so I know that it is a topic that is near and dear to many people’s hearts.  You’ve been doing the exact same thing that resulted in weight loss for some time and then it’s like someone hit the brakes and the scale refuses to budge.  You stay with your prior program and every time you get on the scale … nothing happens!  What the heck is going on? Does this sound familiar to you?  Weight plateaus happen to all of us no matter who we are, what we are eating and how much we are exercising.  However there are things that you can do to get the scale moving again and I am going to discuss those in this post.

(balsamic roasted pears over spring mix topped with hazelnuts)

Why do weight plateaus happen?

People are always asking me why they are doing the same thing that caused them to lose XX pounds and then suddenly those healthy habits stopped working.  Everyone seems to be baffled when this happens to them. It is very easy to get stuck in your habits.  It is human nature to think that what worked for you in the past will continue to work in the future but that is not always true. 

I am going to use a little math to show you why the same habits won’t continue to work over time.  Hopefully seeing why this happens will help you to shake up your routine if/when you hit a weight loss plateau.

Assume you are a 50 year old, 5 foot 2 inch, 150 pound woman (using those numbers because the math is easier).  To estimate your basal metabolic rate (BMR) the formula is 655 + (4.35 times weight in pounds) + (4.7 times height in inches) – (4.7 times age in years).  This equates to 655 + (4.35 x 150) + (4.7 x 62) - (4.7 x 50).  When you run the numbers you get a BMR estimate of 1,364 calories.  Don’t gasp… I hear you.  It isn’t as bad as it sounds you get to add the calories that you burn with exercise to your estimated BMR to calculate your allowable calories for the day. I hope this helps you to see why exercise makes a difference both when you are trying to lose weight and when you are working to maintain your weight.

Now let’s assume that you lost 20 pounds so now you are the same woman but you weigh 130 pounds. When you run the numbers you now get a BMR of 1,277.  The only thing you changed was that you lost weight and somehow you now must eat approximately 100 calories less.  Does this help you to understand why you can’t keeping doing the same thing and get the same results?  As we lose weight it our bodies require fewer calories to maintain themselves. That is what BMR is trying to calculate. BMR is basically the calories required to maintain your body, your muscle mass, to fuel your brain that sort of thing.

Since I know we have male readers the BMR formula for guys is 66 + (6.23 times weight in pounds) + (12.7 times height in inches) – (6.8 times age in years). The gentlemen also get to add the calories they burn with exercise to their BMR to determine how many calories they should be eating daily.

(the aftermath of exercising at my house)

What can you do to get the scale to move?

Now there are two obvious things that any of us can do to get the scale moving. Those would be eat fewer calories and burn more calories with exercise.   After seeing the formula to calculate BMR above I am sure you all those two suggestions coming a mile away.  ;-)

However there is another possibility that is not as obvious to the ladies. That would be to create more lean muscle which requires more calories for maintenance. This is actually also the reason that men can eat so many more calories than we ladies.  Men are naturally larger (bigger frame) and they have more muscle mass. These two things mean our men get to eat a lot more than we can.  Think about that the next time you are serving yourself dinner.  If you are eating anywhere near the same amount as your man you are going to be as big as he is if not bigger and we certainly don’t want that now do we?  *shakes head no*

(one of my exercise toys)

Men seem to be born knowing how and why to increase muscle mass.  Women tend to run away from it which is a shame.  I hope you all know that weight lifting will not result in a masculine physique on a woman unless she has a serious hormone problem. Trust me masculine/muscular appearing women don’t happen naturally. The odds are very high that those women took steroids in order to look like way.  For those are you who are reading between the lines yes this means that I am advocating strength training for the ladies.  That is too big a subject to get into here. However there are many places you can turn to for help on this subject.  One of my favorite books on the subject is “The New Rules for Lifting – for Women”.  If you are new to strength training this book is a wealth of knowledge and will get you started in the right direction.  It also contains a lot of information for those of us who started lifting decades ago.  Darn I sound old when I say things like that. LOL

(healthy food away from home ... aka on the boat)

How long should it take for you to see results from changing your habits?

This is one of those questions that I get asked often. Everyone wants to know long things will take to work.  However this isn’t an easy question to answer. How long it takes depends on how many calories you reduce from your intake and how many more you burn with exercise.  Don’t forget you have to factor in your body composition (fat and lean body mass percentages).  What I can say is that if you make changes and stick with them you should expect to see at least some movement in a few weeks.

Happy thoughts:
  1. Saturday was a pretty good day at our house. Let’s hope that fuzzy little ground hog is correct and winter will be over in 6 weeks. Wouldn’t that be lovely?  Can you say sailboat time? *woot woot* 
  2. As is typical for this time of year it was absolute frosty outside today. Our morning started with a “balmy” 21 degrees.   *ugh* Fortunately I didn’t freeze to death this morning when I went out.  ;-)
  3. Since Dan needed to go downtown to work today I had some extra time in the kitchen today and used it to my advantage. I pressure cooked some dried white soy beans for veggie burgers, made brown rice and pot of minestrone soup. Tomorrow all I have to do is put the soy and rice veggie burgers together and bake them and they will go into the freezer for quick meals. BTW the burger recipe will be coming soon since I perfected it last weekend.  As you know, I love having a well stocked pantry, refrigerator and freezer.  Let’s not forget that having a good supply of quick healthy meals is one of the secrets to maintaining both this lifestyle and your health.
  4. I also found time to get some pizza almonds in the dehydrator for a friend.  It makes me so happy to share my healthy food with my friends who are trying to eat better.  I still believe that the best way any of us can make an impact on the world is by being a good example for those around us.  None of us can reach everyone, but we can make a difference for those we know. 
  5. I ordered a really cute summer dress from Zulily today. Have you noticed that my Zulily time out seems to have expired again?  Yeah, Dan noticed that too though he doesn’t really care. I may have to stay off the site for a little while again. Since I get such great deals I don’t feel so bad about shopping there. That darned site is addictive.
  6. Its official I don’t have a single pair of jeans that fit me right any longer.  Since they are all too big I am not complaining about this fact.  Sometime next week I need to get out and buy myself some jeans.  *woot woot*  Don’t you just love it when your hard work pays off?  I know that things like this just make my day.

(today's purchase at Zulily)

Signing out:

Since I was “home alone” without a defined schedule I had more time to work on my post which means this actually went into the scheduled posts prior to 11:30 at night.  Sad isn’t it?  I totally need to work on my time managements skills.

I have no idea what I will be getting into tomorrow.  I hope your weekend has been good so far and that you are having fun or relaxing whichever you need at the moment. Chat with you later.  Ciao for now.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Pantry Staple - Marinara Sauce

(intentional leftovers:  red sauce with eggplant)

One of the most common reasons that people give me for not eating like I do is that it is far too time consuming.  Generally people are surprised to learn that I do not spend hours in the kitchen and that I don’t even cook every day.  I can make this happen using a few tricks and techniques. One is that I intentionally overcook when I do cook. Those of you who have been reading me a while know that I refer to this as making “intentional leftovers” and it makes my life SO much easier.  I keep these intentional leftovers in both the refrigerator and freezer.  Additionally I keep items in the refrigerator which have multiple uses.  For example when I make red sauce (marinara as we refer to it in the US) I always make a large quantity because if freezes beautifully and it has many uses.

Why cook your own red sauce when you can buy jarred?

Depending on the brand of red sauce you buy it can have HFCS (high fructose corn syrup), too much sodium, added oil and it is not uncommon for it has either cheese or meat.  Sometimes it contains chemicals and preservatives also.

Not only will undoubtedly contain at least one thing that you don’t want it to have it may not be flavored the way you like. I solve all these problems by making my own red sauce.  You can simmer you sauce on the sauce, put it in a crock pot or make it in a pressure cooker. As you probably guessed I make mine in the pressure cooker these days because it is the quickest and easiest for me.

(farro topped with tomato and bean sauce topped with parsley)

What can you do with red sauce other than use it with pasta?

(whole wheat pasta with summer squash, seitan sausage and peppers)

In America red sauce is almost predominantly found on past and that is a shame because it works with so many things.  I almost always add some variations of vegetables, mushrooms and beans to it and use it alone (with more veg like my pizza veggies) or on top of any cooked whole grain (which I also make in large quantities) and top it with nutritional yeast or walnut parm.

(Green salad topped with defrosted veggies, marinara sauce, and raw pumpkin seeds)

Another use for red sauce that happens often at my house is to use it cold for salad dressing the same way you have seen me use salsa. It makes a very flavorful non-fat dressing to moisten salad.

(zucchini spaghetti with creamy tomato sauce and artichokes)

You can take a little marinara sauce and combine it with raw cashews and make a creamy salad dressing.

(Pizza topped with red sauce, veggies, fresh arugula and sriracha)

Red sauce it great if you want to make homemade vegan pizza or calzones.

(pureed tomato soup topped with dandelion walnut pesto and olives)

I use the red sauce as a base for soups if I want an Italian flavor.  For example you can combine red sauce, raw cashews and other seasonings in your Vitamix and make a delicious cream of tomato soup. But you can also use the red sauce like you would canned tomatoes to start soup.

I hope hearing what I do with red sauce gives you insight into its many uses.

Happy thoughts:
  1. Friday was a crazy day at my house. I was expecting it to be low key and relaxed but it turned out to be anything but that. However I am happy to say that it was nonetheless a good day.  I managed to get a few things accomplished with was a miracle given my day.  :-)
  2. We woke up to a beautiful light snow fall just before dawn.  Mother Nature puts on quite a show doesn’t she?  I never get tired to seeing the beauty in nature. I hope you find time to enjoy it too.
  3. Dan actually came home at a reasonable hour for dinner on Friday which was nice.  :-)  However he did this because he has to work on Saturday so that happy thought could be better.  ;-)
  4. I made a quick delicious curried tomato sauce with “almond coconut milk”, frozen veggies and previously cooked chickpeas.  I added fresh cilantro and whole wheat pasta and topped it with some sliced almonds. Dinner was ready in the amount of time it took to cook the pasta. Darn I love meals that come together that quickly and easily!
  5. My father was busy today obsessing over a minor medical procedure next Tuesday.  While this isn’t easy for the rest of us to deal with it does remind me how lucky I am that I don’t make mountains out of molehills like I used to.  That was a difficult habit to break but it made such a huge difference in overall level of happiness.
  6. We reached our high temperature in the morning on Friday and it got progressively colder throughout the day.  I don’t have to tell you that I stayed in today do I?  LOL
  7. Today I got a serious bargain on two items at Zulily (again). The first was a faux leather jacket in orange.  The second was orange and fuchsia patent leather pumps. Both are pictures bellowed. The best part of this is not only are they cute but with shipping I spent less than $100.  If you enjoy a good bargain please check out Zulily. I have gotten some great deals here and you all know I don’t need any baby or kid stuff.  ;-)
(Curried veg and ceci in tomato sauce over whole wheat pasta - Dan's dinner on Friday)

(my new orange faux leather jacket)

(my new orange and fuchsia patent leather pumps)

Signing out:

I didn’t sleep well at all last night so I am definitely looking forward to getting some rest tonight.  It is funny how you take sleep for granted when you get plenty of it and miss it terribly when you don’t get enough.  ;-)

Tomorrow I have a few things to accomplish and Dan has to go to the office. However I should have time to write a post.  *fingers crossed*  Let’s all hope the ground predicts the end of winter and that the little rodent is correct. Ciao for now.

Friday, February 1, 2013

How to Stop Dieting and Start Losing Weight

(dog and his human mother taken a year or so ago at Tide Point in Baltimore)

Every time I talk to a friend who is going on some new diet I know immediately what the end result will be. They will lose weight for a little while and then some event will come up and they go off this diet. The next thing you know they have stopped losing weight and generally they regain everything that they had lost. I see this over and over again and yet people continue to “go on and off” these crazy diets.  

I want to say this in the clearest way possible, Diets Don’t Work!  Those of you who have been reading me for a while know this s a recurring theme with me.  The reason that I continue to bring it up is that I am constantly talking with people who are going on diets and have high hopes of success only to see those same people back to life as usual (and the same weight) within a relatively short period of time.

(typical farmers' market haul at our house)

If diets don’t work what does work?

The answer is simple yet few people actually figure it out how to make it work.   In order to change your weight you have to change your habits.  Think about all the habits you have that impact your weight.  I will use an unnamed friend of mine as an example to illustrate my point. This friend always “talks” about wanting to lose weight but when I make suggestions the excuses start flying.  I hear things like, “my spouse won’t eat this way with me so I can’t do it.”  Sometimes I hear, “I don’t want to cut (insert unhealthy food here) out of my diet.”  Or my favorite, “I’m too lazy to exercise”.   By thinking of reasons why they can’t succeed this person is actually rationalizing why they won’t be successful.  In essence when people give themselves excuses they are harming themselves and ensuring that they don’t succeed.  Please think about the next time you make up an excuse, like that you are too tired to exercise after work. 

By the way, not being able to exercise at night was one of my favorite excuses.  A friend of mine (waves hi to Matt) exercises multiple times per day and generally in the evening after work.  When I said that I couldn’t exercise after work because it would keep me awake he called me “on my stuff”.  Guess what?  I tried exercising later in the day and it hasn’t impacted my sleep at all.   This is exactly the sort of thing I mean.  Even if you think what you are doing is the only possible answer, be open to other options particular those that you are know are better/healthier.  In this case exercising versus not seemed the clear choice and it was.

In addition to problem with excuses there are the people who want to eat unhealthy food in moderation and yet they expect to get big results.  For example I have worked with people who want to get healthy, but they tell me that they will reduce but won’t give up (insert any unhealthy food you like) from their diet.  Often it is cheese that people are addicted too. Sometimes it is something really absurd like soda or candy.  Whatever it is that you think you can’t give up that is a sign that the food is in control of you rather than you are in control of the food.  It is time to take back control.  I would strongly suggest that any food that you feel like you “have to have” in your diet needs to go.  By eliminating it for a month you give yourself time to regain control.

Here is the ugly truth.  Everything that you put in your mouth and every physical activity you did or passed up has resulted in the health that you have now. If you want your health and weight to change you have to change what you do.  You can’t take a pill to kill your appetite and expect it to keep weight off you long term without other side effects. You can’t buy an ab belt off TV to stimulate your abdominal muscles and expect a flat stomach. The sad fact is that in order to reach and maintain a healthy weight you have to eat right and you have to exercise.  Ok, I can sense the groans as you read this. But you didn’t really think there was some magic answer did you?  People who are a healthy weight have healthy habits and it really is that simple.

(My "girlie"  adjustable dumbbells LOL)

How do you start to change your habits?

This one I have talked about many times but I think it is important so I will discuss it again and maybe this time it will click for some of you.  I always start working with people by asking them what they don’t like about their current physical condition and how it impacts their life.  This is something that I have them work on for days to get down into what they don’t like.  The reason I have them do this is cement in their mind why they need to change.   Losing weight for the sake of vanity is generally not enough for people. It works for some people but not many.  Most people have to embrace the health, wealth and quality of life consequences of being unhealthy/overweight before they are ready to change long standing habits. Whatever you come up with that will motivate you long-term to stick to healthy habits use that. Remember motivation is a choice. You either decide to be motivated or you decide to return to your unhealthy but comfortable habits.

I hope my description of this issue was different enough that maybe I made some sense to those of you who need a little nudge in the right direction.  One thing that I always remind myself that may help you is that each choice makes a difference. Each meal is a chance to nourish myself or to harm myself.  Each choice to be active or not is going to have positive or negative consequences for your health.  It helps keep me on track and hopefully it will work for you too.  *fingers crossed*

Happy thoughts:
  1. Our lovely unseasonably warm weather from Wednesday has disappeared. Today we experienced temperatures 25 degrees colder than yesterday and crazy winds. All that meant that this girl was happy to be busy inside today. ;-)
  2. I had some nice calls today which is always a great way to spend the day.  When people are open to changing their habits there is nothing better than helping them improve their health. Seriously I get so much enjoyment from it I would do it for free. I think that is when you know you have found what you should be doing.  Love that!
  3. Today I had a friend say one the nicest things anyone has ever said to me.  This person told me that they considered me "a gift in their life". Seriously guys I almost started crying. Can you think of anything nicer than that for someone to say?  Here is hoping that all of you have people in your life who consider you a gift too. J
  4. Even though I broke my juice fast yesterday with an enormous salad the scale this morning was exactly the same as the day before, down 4.2 pounds.  *happy dance*   See why juice fasting is addictive?  ;-)
  5. I have some new “gadgets” that I have been using in the kitchen that I need to tell you about soon. I get so happy when I find useful new kitchen items. I am such a geek sometimes.  LOL
  6. Last week I ordered Barry White’s Greatest Hits and have been enjoying it ever since. Every afternoon when I finish working I put Barry into the CD player and dance.  Yes I actually do this, no joke.  After sitting a lot of the day it good to get up and move around. Not to mention who doesn’t love to dance?  There is something very positive and uplifting about dancing so I go with it.  J
  7. I was chatting with an online friend this morning that just happened to be traveling through my childhood hometown and he sent me photos. It was wonderful to see my childhood stomping grounds.  It is crazy how you meet people and they bring something unexpected into your life.  However I love that aspect of life. Sometimes the littlest things just make my day.  

Signing out:

Once again I am writing this late in the evening. I really need to work on writing this earlier in the day and on my breaks.  In the past I was great with time management so I am not sure what happened.  But hopefully I will figure it out soon.  J

Here is hoping that you have a wonderful Friday and a fantastic weekend.  Ciao for now.

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