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November 2013

Taking stock of Thanksgiving

Turkey stock

(Stock? Get it? Oh, ha-ha.)

This is what I did this morning -- took Mr. Carcass out of the fridge, added carrots, celery and a couple of blobs of Knorr vegetable stock concentrate, and made turkey stock. It's now back in the fridge so I can skim off any fat.

Turkey on the grillOur meal was nowhere near the 4,000-calorie nightmare I keep hearing about. There were no rolls, no potatoes, no creepy creamed vegetables and no appetizers. (Seriously, who feels the need to eat before Thanksgiving dinner?)

We like to focus on the bird, and that was lovingly barbecued by the husband. Cooking the turkey on the grill frees up the oven all day and there's no slimy roasting pan to clean afterwards. Plus, it cooks evenly all the way around.

Usually I follow one of my favorite recipes for stuffing, but I decided to wing it this year. I settled on making gluten-free  Cornbread kale cranberry stuffingcornbread (using cornmeal and Now Foods Living Now rice flour that I won from the Fun and Fit twins -- thanks!) and added in most of a giant bag of precut kale, plus the usual celery and onions. Then I added a cup of dried cranberries. It turned out great. And since the cornbread was soaking up chicken stock like crazy, I figured that my "salt" should be liquid, too, so I used some of San-J's new low-sodium gluten-free tamari sauce, which worked perfectly. (So yeah, family, the stuffing was gluten free.)

Steamed green beans, scalloped corn (I never heard of the stuff until I met my husband) and two kinds of cranberries rounded out the meal, and dessert was a Publix bakery pie (because I can't do pie crust and, hello, $3.99!) a mini pecan pie from Whole Foods (not my fave but others love it) and chef Devin Alexander's Pumped Up Pumpkin Pie Bites from "The Biggest Loser Dessert Cookbook." I've been making that dish since the cookbook first came out in 2010 and it's a great dessert, especially because it's cut into little squares, so if you're not into a giant slab o' pie, it's perfect.

I hemmed and hawed this morning on weighing myself but I decided that if the number is no big deal, it's no big deal the day after Thanksgiving and it was no big deal -- it was pretty much the same as the day before.

I saved the "Turkey and Pie" breakfast to the teenager, but I did throw in a little leftover cranberry sauce in my afternoon Greek yogurt. (Why doesn't anyone make cranberry Greek yogurt? It's a perfect combo.)

Cranberry yogurt

Like I've done for years and years, I focused on a "healthy Thanksgiving" and everyone enjoyed the meal without falling into a "food coma."

Tunes for Tuesday: 'The Comeback' mix, from Rock My Run

(Just so you know, I'm not an affilliate or anything for Rock My Run. I've just been a member since it first started and think it's a great source for workout mixes.)

I was feeling a bit discouraged last week and The Comeback workout mix from Rock My Run couldn't have come at a better time -- it's 30 minutes of motivation-pumping music that makes you feel like you can do anything. Some of the songs: "Lose Yourself," "Hall of Fame," "Stronger" and my fave, "Mama Said Knock You Out" by LL Cool J.

If the Brady Bunch says it's time to change, then it's time to change

After a few weeks of the scale going in the wrong direction, last week it stayed exactly the same every day. Finally, today it jumped down a pound, so I celebrated with a 3.5-mile wind-propelled walk and a new blog name!

I've been meaning to do it for awhile -- I realized that you can lead a horse to water but you can't make it blog. The blog started out with my sister and I but she has a full-tme job, two teenagers and loads of stuff going on right now, so no more arm twisting from me.

I came up with the new blog name on my walk today because I want it to be motivating to myself as well as y'all. I also wanted to move away from the "shrinking" and "dieting" mindset of the old name and focusing on the "go!" of life -- go work out, go to a farmers' market, go cook something great, go get healthy. Fat loss is just a side effect of all that.

You can get to Go! Go! Gail! either with or -- it'll redirect until I can figure out all the back-end stuff.

My awesome cranberry relish, with help from a Ninja

Cranberry relish
I've been meaning to post this recipe for raw cranberry relish because it's one of my favorites, but hey, it's still the middle of the month and ...

Holy crap, Thanksgiving is next week! Time to get going on this stuff!

What I love about this cranberry relish is its intensity. The tartness of the raw cranberries, the heat of the crystallized ginger, the slight bitterness of the orange rind -- it's pretty much the opposite of the can-shaped cranberry sauce.

This is cranberry sauce

It's chunky, slightly sweet, spicy and pretty much amazing if you're a cranberry fan. In past years I added a little sugar to the relish but I recently discovered Swerve -- a natural non-caloric sweetener -- at a Whole Foods sample table. I subbed it in and it  worked beautifully.

Ninja ultima blenderWhat also worked beautifully was the Ninja Ultima blender. Me and the Ninjas go way back -- this is actually my fourth one, not counting the Ninja Cooking System (but that cooks stuff instead of chops stuff). The folks at Ninja Kitchen caught wind of my Ninja Love and sent me its latest Ninja blender to review. (So my sister gets the old one.)

The Ultima is Ninja's answer to the pricey Vitamix blenders -- it has the same horsepower as the Vitamix but instead of needing that "poking stick" to get the ingredients mixed, the Ninja has a dual-stage blade that thoroughly blends the food from top to bottom.

And since it's variable speed, you can use it like a food processor, too. That's what I did with this cranberry relish. As long as you keep it on the lower speeds you won't end up with a cranberry smoothie -- unless you want one, because it does amazing things with my complicated concoctions.

So, OK, back to the cranberry relish. Here's the recipe:

Raw Cran-Orange Relish

  • 1 navel orange, cut into chunks
  • 1 bag fresh cranberries
  • 1/3 cup crystallized ginger pieces
  • 1/4 cup Swerve (or sugar)

Cranberry relish orangesPut the orange chunks into the processor and pulse until you have pieces the size of the cranberries. That way you start with a level playing field and you won't have huge orange chunks in your relish.

Then add everything else and pulse until everything is combined and it's a consistency you like.

That's it!

Definitely make this a day or two before Thanksgiving because the flavors need a chance to meld -- and they really do. The orange rind and ginger mellow out a bit and the cranberries pick up the sweeteness from everything else. Plus the pectin from the cranberries thickens the relish a bit but not as much as when you cook cranberries. (SCIENCE LESSON!)

Not only is this great with your Thanksgiving spread, it's also delish mixed into plain Greek yogurt or atop a bowl of oatmeal.

Disclamer: I was sent a Ninja Ultima blender to review. All opinions are mine, all mine!

Brought to you by the letter S: Synthroid, snacks and structure

SynthrodI think I may have cleared up one reason my weight crept back up over the past few weeks and it all has to do with a tiny lilac pill.

Right at the time I reached my all-time low on the scale, I switched to a generic version of Synthroid. At first everything seemed OK but then I started to noticed the old (like pre-1988) symptoms: extreme lethargy, fuzzy hair, really, really, REALLY dry skin.

After taking the real deal for the past three days, I can feel the difference already. My workout didn't feel like the Bataan Death March, I'm not walking around with a giant tube of heavy-duty Bliss hand cream and when I wake up in the morning I'm awake. 

I also thought I was having an all-day hot flash today but then realized I was just "heating up" again after being cold and tired for the past month.

Weird how such a tiny pill can do so much.

 Second on our list of "S'es" -- too much snacking. When you work from home, it's easy to mosey over to the kitchen and I've been doing that too often. 

Now that I'm not counting calories, I realize I have to do things differently. I could, in theory, eat every 20 minutes and as long as I'm within my calorie range I'm OK. But since I'm not counting, I have to be much more aware of what's going into my mouth. Which brings me to the third "S" -- structure.

I can sometimes be a little loosey-goosey with my meals and snacks. Sometimes I get up, have a giant mug of coffee, don't get around to eating breakfast until nearly noon, feel like I need to get "caught up" on my meals and end up in a whirl of maxi meals, mini meals and off-schedule snacks.

So my Retrofit advisor and I came up with a plan for me to be more structured in my meal times. I came up with windows: Breakfast is an hour after I get up (gotta wait for the Synthroid), lunch is 12:30 to 1:30 p.m., afternoon snack is 3 to 4 p.m. and dinner is 6:30 to 8 p.m.

Publix greenwise ice creamIf and only if I need a nighttime snack, I can have one and my plan is for that nighttime snack to be fresh fruit because it'll satisfy that sweet craving and it'll add in water and fiber. And once a week I can indulge in something -- tonight, for example, I had a serving of Publix Greenwise organic chocolate ice cream.

Hey, if you're going to splurge, make it good.

OK, Dr. Oz, you win this time: I tried yacon syrup

Yacon syrup on oatmeal
That's a teaspoon of yacon syrup on this morning's oatmeal.

This being November sweeps week and all, last Monday's "Dr. Oz Show" breathlessly hyped a new metabolism game-changer: yacon syrup.

I had no idea what the stuff was but I did jump on the dried white mulberries bandwagon and loved them, and yacon syrup sounded pretty interesting. It's made from a Peruvian tuber, looks like molasses, has the consistency of honey and is only 20 calories a tablespoon. His angle on the show was that if people slurped a teaspoon before every meal it would help with weight loss.

I have no idea whether it's some new weight-loss miracle but I was intrigued by the flavor description and the fact that it's one third the calories of honey or agave and that it's a rich source of FOS, or fructo-oligosaccharides, which improve gut flora.

I am all about gut flora lately.

Have you heard about the nasty-sounding yet intriguing experiments on fecal transplants? Turns out the quality of your gut flora may have a lot to do with maintaining a healthy weight. (For those of you turned off by all this "poop talk," you can read more about it HERE.)

Anywhoo ... I bought a bottle of organic yacon syrup because, SCIENCE! And I drizzled a teaspoon of it over my oatmeal this morning.

OMG, you guys! It was way better than I expected. It's intensely sweet and has a molassesy flavor. You really don't need very much and that measly teaspoon was about 7 calories.

Since yacon syrup is a highly concentrated food derived from a tuber, I think it's best to seek out organic yacon syrup. That's just my thinking -- I figure any time you dry or distill any food, you're concentrating everything, including pesticides.

Because of the "Oz Effect," yacon syrup can be really hard to find and a lot of companies online are jacking up their prices, putting out sketchy products and turning the syrup into mysterious supplements.

People -- the whole point of being healthy is eating healthy! Use food, don't use capsules! That's why I bought the yacon syrup -- it's not some questionable supplement.

I was introduced to Essential Living Foods, a small, family-owned company that sells organic superfoods. Their prices are great, they have close ties to the farms that grow their products, they use eco-friendly packaging and they even have an Amazon Watch page on their website where they donate 25 percent of every purchase to Amazon Watch, an organization that protects the Amazon and supports indigenous peoples.

I emailed back and forth with the brand communications manager for Essential Living and he said "the phone is ringing off the hook" from stores desperately looking for yacon.

"Oz set off a real firestorm. What he didn't realize is that the organic yacon market was TINY. ... Yacon harvest and processing isn't going through for another few months. We're nervous that a lot of scammers and fakers will be entering the market."

If you look over to the right, you'll see an affiliate ad for Essential Living Foods because I like to support companies that do good (and yes, I get affiliate commissions from any sales).

So, bottom line -- this yacon syrup is yummy! It's also expensive, compared with other sweeteners, but you really only need a little bit and you get a lot more for your buck than just sweetening. If you're interested, the Essential Living Foods yacon syrup is HERE.

Breaking out of 'Calorie Prison'

This past week was my first full week of not obsessively counting calories and making sure my macronutrients were compartmentalized into a perfect pie.

I lost 2 pounds and my head felt free, for lack of a better descriptor.

I'm still journaling what I eat, on the Retrofit dashboard, but only the food gets logged, not the calories or the fat or the protein or the fiber.

Interesting thing is there are very few parameters but what parameters there are make me strive to eat a better diet. 

Every meal has a few boxes labeled Fruit, Vegetable, Both, or None. (Do you really want to tick that None box?) You also mark whether the meal was planned or spontaneous, seated with the food on a plate or on the go.

And the between-meal foods are either marked Snack or Treat.

This all makes me think extra hard about what I'm eating. So instead of adding granola to my yogurt this morning, I added fresh fruit. 

When I made a smoothie for lunch, I added a half a banana and a big handful of baby spinach. 

Instead of an afternoon "treat" I had a salad with turkey and miso dressing.

It's a much more holistic way of looking at my food, and since I really don't know exactly how many calories I'm eating in the course of a day, there's no late-night surge to eat all the calories left in my allowance.

It really feels less "crazy making."

And if you want to read about "crazy making," check out this article, titled "I'm Finally Thin -- But Is Living in a Crazymaking Food Prison Really Worth It?"

Even though I'm not at goal weight, I can totally relate to this writer's plight.

It's not about the scale / it's all about the scale

Good scale bad scale edited
Are you confused yet? Read on and I'll explain.

Back when I was on diets that required a weekly weigh-in, I got into the habit of thinking weigh-in day was a free for all because I'd have the entire week to work it off. Then that day turned into a weekend, which turned into "Don't worry, you have more than half the week to work it off," which became "OK, three days of being perfect and we'll be OK," which became ...

Get the picture?

It wasn't the "Last Supper Syndrome," which is the free-for-all that can occur before someone attempts a restrictive diet. It's kind of the opposite, more like the high school wrestler making weight before a big meet.

This was what I was doing up until a couple weeks ago. I wouldn't get on the scale until I sweated outside for an hour and made sure I was good and dehydrated. Then off would come everything, including my glasses, before I got on the scale.

So my Retrofit advisor suggested I get on the scale every day.

And while the anti-scale crowd may rage against that,  I did that this week and it really made my life less stressful.

Wake up, do my bathroom business, get on the scale, get off the scale, get on with my life.

All the scale does is tell me whether I'm on the right track with my eating and working out. If I have a particularly "salty" day, I know it'll show up on the scale the next morning, so I'll watch the salt and it'll go away the next day.

The number doesn't define ME; it just tells me how much all my water, bones, fat and muscle adds up to on any particular day.

By stepping on the scale every day, I take away its power to define whether my week was "bad" or "good."

Every day is weigh-in day so there are no free-for-alls. What a revelation!

Weighing every day and not counting calories (yes! really!). More on that Monday.

And I dropped 2 pounds this week.

I'll drink to that! (Coconut water, of course. It's still freaking hot down here and it's a great post-workout drink.)