Thankfully, the teenager is here to declutter the fridge...

Right now, the refrigerator is a weird but rapidly diminishing mishmash of leftover holiday food, and I couldn't be happier that the college student with the 31-inch waist (HOWWWW???) is here to help make it disappear. I made some amazeballs carrot dish from the January/February 2018 issue of Weight Watchers magazine on Christmas and highly recommend it. I can't post it because it's not online anywhere I can find, but this recipe from Epicurious is pretty close. The WW recipe uses nonfat Greek yogurt and twice as many carrots, plus the dish sits on a bed of carrot puree, which was basically a half pound of chopped carrots cooked in a cup of chicken stock until really soft and then pureed. 
 
So! On to decluttering -- one of my favorite things. I love to load up the car and bring a bunch of stuff to Goodwill before the end of the year for that one last tax deduction. I also donate a bunch of books to the local library, and earlier this month I sent a big box of shoes to Soles4Souls.
 
 

A thousand pardons

The headline is for my nearly 2-month absence from here and for the following:

Don't be insulted if I don't try your Christmas cookies.

Don't ask me if I want to share your onion rings.

That's right, I'm drinking kombucha at a bar.

When my birthday rolls around in a few months, I will be skipping the cake.

It's time to say "no thanks," "not right now," "just water for me," and "none for me."

I have made this grand pronouncement for years upon years (HERE'S one from 2015!), and I'm jumping the gun on 2018 to say I'm gonna go nose to the grindstone and spend the next year losing as much weight as I humanly can without losing my mind.

What's different this time?

Emoji-questionI pondered this question last night and decided that what will be different this year is that I'm not going to wiggle or stray or game the system or "just this once" or skip a day or any of that stuff that has slowed, stopped, or reversed me in the past.

Yeah, reversed.

Over the past year, perimenopause has finally settled in (seriously, I'm 55; how long was that going to go on? Like forever?) and, like magic, 20 pounds crept back on. Seriously, I didn't have to do a thing! 

(Hmmm ... maybe if I "did a thing" they wouldn't have crept back on but that's water under the bridge.)

My 2018 project needs to address the hormonal aspect of my new normal and attack the symptoms that come with the closing of Ye Olde Baby Factory -- like slowing metabolism, the need to get to sleep earlier (circadian rhythm FTW!), and the threat of bone and muscle loss.

Like I have stated countless times, I have been "trying to lose weight" since the age of 10. That is one shitty lifelong hobby, if you ask me. By fully committing to this project in the coming year, I can get the weight off and maybe take up bonsai or knitting or ice skating.

So I am going to read and research and work on a plan these next couple weeks, and I'll report back right before the New Year's ball drops. I'm committing to blogging once a week to document how my plan is working, whether it needs tweaks, and perhaps ask y'all what is working for you.

Deal?


Cookies were eaten

Not gonna lie -- there was a lot of unnecessary eating going on at the house this past week. The week before Irma arrived it was "perishables week," which meant nothing from the pantry. Lots of omelettes, yogurt, things from the freezer. Fine -- so far we're doing well on the healthy scale. 

Cuban-crackers
Cuban crackers -- zero fiber!


Then my sister and niece arrived with a bunch of groceries that included doughnuts, chips, and other assorted shelf-stable goodies. I had been on a mission to finish all my kale, which I did, but the desire for garbage got the best of me and I ate a doughnut and a couple servings of chips. At the same time.

Bleaaaah. Kale and junk food do not mix. I swear I've had a stomach ache for a week.

Fpl-screenshot
Every Floridian's favorite app this past week.


The next few days were a blur of chips and salsa, sandwich cookies, wind, rain and fallen trees. Aside from the trees and a green pool, there was no structural damage to the house. We only lost power for a day and a half, and I was able to wheel the contents of my fridge across the street to my neighbor, who had an extra fridge hooked up to a generator (MUCH THANKS!). I also took some brussels sprouts and carrots to a FWP's house (FRIENDS WITH POWER) where I performed a minor miracle and convinced a bunch of people that brussels sprouts were tasty. All I did was clean up the sprouts, cut the carrots the same size, sprinkled on some chopped scallions I found in my fridge, put everything on a sheet pan with a drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper and roast them in my friend's oven at 400 degrees for around 25-30 minutes. 

Avocados
Florida avocados are a lot different than California ones.


My friend (hi, Ruth!) gave us a lovely parting gift of a bag full of Florida avocados, which are all now ripe, so I'm feverishly looking for ways to use them up. I think I may just freeze a bunch for smoothies.

Electricity
Yay, lights!


That evening we returned home to see the lights shining through the front door windows, which was great because I DO NOT handle heat well. Perhaps it's all the extra insulation in my caboose. That right there was extra motivation to "un-insulate" myself. 

Once the power was back, we were able to eat more normally, although my stash of frozen bananas for smoothies is now a solid blob of frozen goo. I think I may have to dump it.

I made it over to the gym yesterday and it felt GREAT to get on the bike and the treadmill, and heave some weights around. 

But yeah, cookies have been eaten. Like demolished. Like I skipped breakfast this morning because cookies. Like, do I have a picture of the cookies? No, because they're gone.

I found that it wasn't really the stress as much as the boredom that set off the Cookie Monster in me, because when the storm was really bearing down, food was the last thing on my mind. So next time (and, yeah, there'll be a next time) I'll make sure I have more things to offset the boredom.

And less insulation on my caboose.


Hurricane Irma prep time!

Irma
As hurricane Irma barrels through the Caribbean, we're getting ready over here. Water, protein bars, giant Ziploc bags, batteries -- all the fun stuff. And while it may be fun to subsist on bourbon and potato chips if the power goes out, I'd think that would get old really fast. 

My dietitian Meryl Brandwein, sent out a great email this morning with a healthy hurricane food prep list and some sample meals. You can read the entire article at her website, but I thought I'd share one of her sample days of post-storm meals:

Breakfast:

Apple with Nut Butter
Rice Chex

Lunch:

Black beans 1 cup
Canned diced tomato ½ cup
Canned corn ( organic) ½ cup
Unsweetened canned fruit ½ cup

Snack: 

Nuts and Dried Fruit
Protein powder mixed with non-dairy milk or water

Dinner:

Vegetarian chili- 1 cup
Corn chips (organic)
Unsweetened canned fruit ½ cup

We've got a bunch of Quest and Zone Perfect bars in the pantry, and I just ordered a case of Orgain Grass-Fed Protein Shakes as well as a case of High Brew Double Espresso cold brew coffee. Mama needs her chocolate and her coffee, and both of these are shelf stable and aren't full of garbage.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to put everything we own in plastic bags ... 


Operation #shittogether starts this week! (Plus, a What's in My Gym Bag update)

Hey there! I've been a bit busy the past few weeks, first getting the kid off to college and settled in his apartment (done!), then coming home and cleaning up the wreckage of said move (done!)

With those two big things done, we're officially empty nesters (aside from the dog). It's the perfect time to work on refining habits and that's what I'm doing this week. 

First off, my lunchtime workouts were NOT happening, and wearing workout clothes all day doesn't count, so this week it's roll out of bed and into the gym. I downloaded Jamie Eason's LiveFit app on my phone, and this time I downloaded the right app. I tried it a year or so ago but I had downloaded the more elaborate BodySpace social fitness app, which made following her program too complicated. This time I downloaded only her program and it's a lot easier to follow. 

Here's a video intro to the first week:

 I had bought an intro package to some kickboxing classes, but to be completely honest, I'm just not ready for it yet. After a couple hourlong classes, I found that my shoulders were really hurting and various parts of my feet are not happy (I wasn't exactly kicking the bag properly).

But more importantly, the whole day after the class I was ravenously hungry, like bottomless pit hungry, so I switched to Jamie's program because I find that I'm not a hungry grizzly bear if I focus on weight training.

And I really missed the gym! Fortunately, the one we've been members of since 1999 recently went through a huge and much needed remodel, so I dropped my secondary membership to Planet Fitness. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE Planet Fitness, but with the kid away at college, I'm not getting my value out of the Black Card membership, and we have a kid going to college, so I'm looking for ways to cut down on costs. (Our main gym has a crazy cheap yearly renewal.)

Food wise I'm still doing Weight Watchers and leaning on fruit and vegetables for the bulk of my meals and snacks. I used to plan my meals around the protein but now the vegetable is the centerpiece. By putting produce front and center I'm taking in more food for fewer Smartpoints.

Wait a minute, I'm burying the lede!

I had skipped last week's Weight Watchers meeting because I had a dental cleaning, but I had a feeling it was going to be good news today because:

  1. I've been working out more
  2. I've been going to sleep earlier, so ...
  3. eating less late at night.

So I step on the scale Wednesday morning and BOOM! 5 pounds down, which is HUGE for me. I've also been replacing my evening snack with a bottle of kombucha. I've really grown to love the stuff and it's only 50 or so calories for the whole thing, plus I think it does good things for gut health. Whatever's on sale is what I buy. So far, I'm loving all the flavors from Humm, Kevita and Big Easy 'Bucha.

So what I call Operation #shittogether is coming together very nicely in my first week!

So what's in my gym bag?

Go Dash Dot
First of all, I have a new gym bag! I covet gym bags the way some people love Pradas. I've got big ones, small ones, gray, purple, pink, blue -- a gym bag for every occasion. My newest bag is the Infinity bag from Go Dash Dot. The bag was designed with the input of more than 100 women to make sure every square inch of it is useful. It's large without being too bulky, has a load of zippered compartments decorated with cool tassels, a padded laptop area, a shoe compartment that doubles as a yoga mat holder, a very cool, stylish strap and a great smaller inner bag you can use as a cross-body bag, so your purse and gym bag fit into one neat duo. So not only is it a premium gym bag, it's also a work tote, a diaper bag, and a crossbody bag.Inside that bag is my Bandi belt. I have a few of them but recently I got a large size to comfortably stash my phone so I can follow my workout program. There are a load of similar belts on the market, and I've tried many, but I always come back to Bandi belts because they're cute and they have a latch so you don't have to crawl in and out of it.

In my Bandi, along with my phone, is a pair of Sol Republic Relays Sport wireless headphones. I had gotten them a few years ago on Kickstarter, then there were production problems with them and they stopped selling them. Now, it appears, they're selling them again, and they cost even less than they did on Kickstarter.  I've had a few pairs of Bluetooth headphones and these are my favorites. They seem to keep a charge awhile, they're super lightweight, charge quickly and they sound great. 

Because I don't want to pay $3 for a snack at the gym if I find myself in need of something, I usually stash a non-melty protein bar in there. Quest bars have their moments, but often there's too much sweeteners in them and just taste overwhelming, but I was sent a variety of Mauer Sports Nutrition protein bars. Each bar is around 200 calories and around 20 grams of protein (dairy, pea and nut blend), so one and a coffee makes a quick on-the-go breakfast, and half a bar is a decent snack. There are no artificial sweeteners or flavors, they're not cloying at all, there's a great selection of flavors (I am partial to the chocolate chip cookie dough), and many of them are uncoated so they won't melt in the heat. 

And bonus! If you use the code Gail20, you'll get a 20 percent discount on your order of bars.

And because I edit and write for the Fit Bottomed World of blogs, I have a ridiculous collection of athletic shoes. One of my jobs is to schedule social media on posts, so I read pretty much every post on every site, old and new. And because of that, I find myself playing "Target Lady" and dashing off to order things when I read reviews. One recent purchase was these Brooks Neuro shoes. Since the post is a year or so old and Brooks has already released a Neuro 2, I was able to score a great deal on them. They're super cool looking, and the cushioning on the soles is great.

 

 

 


Motivation Monday: Decluttering is my most favorite thing ever!

My mom is downsizing to a condo, so she's having to go through 40 years of house stuff. She came over Saturday with some crumbly bits of newspaper clippings that used to be my grandmother's wedding announcement, and after we attempted to piece it together we got to talking about clutter.

My sister and I are very different when it comes tidyness. I tend to be kind of obsessive about it and she's, well, not. My mom's in the middle.

I honestly don't know how I became so fanatical about clutter but I think it had to do with my mom flinging my astronaut watch up the stairs and it breaking when it landed against a wall. I think at that young age I swore no one would ever complain about me leaving a mess anywhere.

(The "Easter egg incident" with my sister could also have been another seminal moment. My sister had a lovely decorated Easter egg that she squirreled away in a dresser drawer. Did I mention it was a real hard-boiled egg? After a week or so they don't smell too good.)

I even decluttered my blog last week!

Anyhizzle...

I'm not 24/7 super tidy, but over the years two things have really helped reboot my decluttering. One was FlyLady's daily emails. Way back when I signed up for those, FlyLady was just a Yahoo discussion group. She now has a website, an app, books, journals, a YouTube channel and a bunch more stuff. Check out her website and sign up for the emails. They give you a simple plan of action every day so that you can tackle one house zone at a time.

Another tool in my declutter box are the resources from Peter Walsh. I first read Does This Clutter Make My Butt Look Fat? and it really resonated with me. In it he refers to clutter as "the fat in our homes." (Conversely, FlyLady (Marla Cilley) wrote a book called Body Clutter, which addresses the flip side of that.) Check out Peter's website for his books, videos and newsletter.

I also subscribe to the Houzz newsletter, which I first signed up for when I was in search of kitchen remodeling inspiration. I still love our new kitchen, which celebrated its first birthday this summer, but Houzz is still fun for interior design eye candy and great articles like the one on decluttering, below.

 


The weekly weigh-in: 'Bonus' Points can be tricky

I tried something different this past week: I wanted to see just how many of those weekly bonus Smartpoints I could use throughout the week and still show a loss on the scale. I probably should have added a few, but, no, I used every last bonus Point.

Aaaaand, I gained half a pound, stopping my weight-loss streak at four weeks.

So live and learn, right? 

While I was momentarily bummed, I now know that I should simply focus on my daily Smartpoints allowance and treat those extra Points as something I can dip into perhaps a couple times a week. 

I'm also on the tail end of a sinus infection, so that curtailed my workouts. When I get sinus infections they manifest themselves in a huge nosebleed, and I didn't want to open the floodgates while working out. 

So that's my week in weight loss. But here are some foodie highlights:

  • Ever try shishito peppers? I love them, but they can be hard to find. I get mine at Trader Joe's, and they were restocked so I picked up a couple bags. Usually I roast them quickly in the oven, but I wanted to see how they'd do in the air fryer. They were fantastic. I air-fried them at 380 degrees for around 10 minutes with just a spritz of oil and a sprinkle of salt. Then you just hold 'em by the stem and eat 'em up, yum!

Shishito-peppers

  • I have serious "meal prep" envy, but I've come to the conclusion that the weekly prep fest just isn't for me. I don't want to "assemble" meals all week long -- I actually enjoy cooking every night. So instead of meal prep, I'm simply planning out dinners for the week, writing them down in my planner. I'll also throw in some preplanned lunches and breakfasts, but I usually have a solid handle on those.
  • Speaking of breakfasts, I tried Fit Men Cook's Cottage Cheese Pancakes and they're super good. I topped them with a half-cup container of unsweetened applesauce and a bunch of cinnamon. The recipe makes two servings, and they reheat really well.  

My somewhat rocky path back to Weight Watchers

Yesterday I racked up a fourth consecutive week of weight loss at my weekly Weight Watchers meeting.

Yes, I said Weight Watchers. I am giving it another go, but this time I'm going to meetings instead of doing the online program. I finally found a leader I like, and the local franchise is now corporate owned, giving the place a more upgraded vibe.

And to offer more support, I started a small, secret Facebook group with a few other friends who are doing the program. We share our progress, recipes and brainstorm strategies.

So why did I call it a "rocky path back"? 

Guuurrl ...

I did not set off on the right foot. Maybe it was breaking old habits, maybe it was not counting the Smartpoints in the fruit I put in my smoothies, but the first two meetings I gained weight. I did a little soul searching and decided that instead of trying to game the system, like I am wont to do, I'd count the damn Points, plan my meals better and act like a grownup.

That was just the trick to turn the tide. 

Week after week after week after week I have notched down. Listen, it's not earth-shattering numbers but it's four straight weeks of weight loss, and that hasn't happened in ages, so I'll take it.

I'm also not eating goofy diet concoctions. No "2 Points for the whole cake" science fair projects made of diet soda and wheat bran. I'm focusing on relatively unprocessed foods that keep me full for a long time, like oatmeal, eggs, Greek yogurt and cottage cheese. 

Here' a lil' sampler of some of the things I've been eating:

Ggg-pear-and-cheese This was an afternoon snack of a wedge of Laughing Cow Light spread on pear slices.

 
Ggg-pear-and-cheeseHere'a s blast from the past: Cottage cheese mixed with a little stevia and a lot of cinnamon, atop a piece of whole wheat bread and toasted until the cottage cheese gets a little melty. Way back in the day (we're talking the very first Weight Watchers cookbook) this was a Weight Watchers "Cheese Danish" but I still like it. It's great with a side of fruit and coffee.

Ggg-ricotta-waffleI found this recipe on the Weight Watchers website. It's ricotta flavored with lemon juice and zest, sweetened with a pinch of powdered sugar, put atop a toasted waffle and sprinkled with a bunch of blueberries. Great little breakfast.


Ggg-pear-and-cheeseThis was my choice at a ramen shop in Gainesville, where I found myself last month. While it probably had enough sodium for two days, I guzzled glass after glass of water and between the water and the broth, I was beyond full. Yeah, there's a fair amount of noodles but overall, a bowl of real ramen (not the grocery store garbage) is a decent restaurant choice.

I even, EVEN! fit in a 2-mile walk on Tuesday, another major milestone because I have been battling an angry left achilles and right IT band. My exercise the past -- yeesh -- year has been somewhat sporadic, and I definitely saw the result of that on the scale. I've also been going to sleep too late, waking up too late, jumping into the home office and working while multitasking laundry and food prep, looking up at the clock and thinking "CRAP. When am I going to fit in a workout?" 

Tuesday I found myself in that predicament, but instead of blowing off the workout (again), I asked Cortana what time the sunset was, laced up my sneakers and beat the sun in a brisk 2-mile walk on a still sweltering early evening. I didn't even care if my left or right leg would flare up -- I was going FOR. A. WALK. A hot, sweaty walk.

And no issues! Everything was good.

So, like I said, I found a Weight Watchers leader I like. She's fun, feisty and stays on topic -- an issue I had with other leaders in this region. But yesterday she drove me a bit crazy when she brought up the notion of "negative-calorie foods."

Ain't no such thing, and if you say there is I WILL FIGHT YOU.

via GIPHY

 She insisted that there were and recited a list of the usual suspects: celery, lettuce, blah, blah, blah ... 

Are we really going to do this? Iverson-caloriesI calmly raised my hand and said "negative-calorie foods is a myth." She didn't believe me, and when I started to explain, she said I was being negative. 

Yeesh.

All the retirees in the crowd were feverishly jotting down the list of miracle foods and my eyes were rolling back in my head. Fortunately it was at the end of the meeting so I flounced out.

via GIPHY

 Listen, I am a journalist, an editor by trade, and I do not handle pseudo-facts well, so as soon as I got home I fired up the WW website and asked one of the 24/7 coaches whether Weight Watchers has even taught their leaders about negative-calorie foods. 

Uh, no.

(BTW, while she was awaiting an official response from the WW higher-ups, I asked her about whether to count the points from a banana processed in a Yonanas. 

Uh, yeah. 

via GIPHY

 But 5 Smartpoints for a Yonana'ed banana with a teaspoon of cocoa powder isn't too bad.

The past year has really been a bit of a weight loss and fitness shitshow but I feel a lot better about things now.


Say (blue) cheese for a delicious yogurt-based dressing and dip

This is a sponsored post from Stonyfield and Taylor Farms. All opinions are my own.

Blue cheese dressing is one of my favorites, but I’m not talking about that overprocessed goo in the salad dressing aisle. (I don’t even think some of those bottles have actual blue cheese or dairy products in them!)

I’ve been making my own yogurt-based blue cheese dressing for eons. I don’t think Greek yogurt was even a “thing” when I started making this dressing! That said, you can use any type of plain yogurt -- nonfat, low-fat, or whole milk, Greek or, um, non-Greek (what is regular yogurt called?).

This dressing is super thick so it also makes a great dip for vegetables. You can thin it out with water if you like your dressing thinner.

In addition to salads and dipping, a dollop is also great on a grilled hamburger. I didn’t have any feta cheese for a Greek cheeseburger recipe so I added a spoonful of the dressing to my burger and topped it with sauteed spinach, which was fab.

Blue cheese salad products
This month’s Stonyfield Clean Plate Club project was tag-teamed with Taylor Farms, so I headed to the Super Target for a big clamshell of baby spring mix. (I also picked up some baby spinach for those Greek cheeseburgers.)

I used Stonyfield’s plain Grassfed Greek yogurt, which made the dressing super thick and luxurious, yet still healthier than traditional bottled dressing -- and a thousand times tastier. I processed the dressing in my Nutri Ninja to get it super smooth, then stirred in chunks of blue cheese to make it extra extra. I paired the dressing with the spring mix, plus grapes and pecans for sweetness and crunch. The salad is great on its own or add some grilled chicken for a complete meal.

Blue cheese salad labeled
Sweet and Savory Blue Cheese-Pecan-Grape Salad

Blue Cheese Dressing/Dip:

  • 1 cup plain yogurt (I used Stonyfield Grassfed Greek)
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 4 ounces crumbled blue cheese, divided use
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons water

Salad:

  • 3 cups of your favorite salad mix (I used Taylor Farms Baby Spring Mix)
  • 10 grapes, halved (I used one of these amazing gizmos that is meant for grape tomatoes but it works great on grapes, too)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped pecans

To make the dressing: Add yogurt, mustard, half the blue cheese, salt and water to a small blender cup and process until smooth. Remove from container and stir in remaining blue cheese chunks.

To make the salad: Top the salad mix with a dollop of dressing (2 tablespoons works fine), then add the grapes and pecans.

Makes 1 serving.