Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Food Of The Day: Banana Choco Chip VitaTops

Gahd, these are good.

How good?

Well, I wouldn't touch a banana on a dare and I love these, so there you go.

On a side note, bananas are one of two foods I file under Wish I Liked But I Don't. Every 6 months or so I will try a banana (and salmon but not, you know, together) just to make sure I still feel the same way, and I have yet to want another bite of either.

I feel like I should love both, but I just don't.

Anyway, I am a major VitaTop fan and have been eating one daily for over a year. Banana Choco Chip came out later last year and, unlike most other VitaTops, that flavor is only 2 Points Plus per top. Most other flavors are 3 Points+, so win-win.

If I don't like banana, what made me want to try these? Well, the chocolate, of course, and the combination actually sounded worth a try. Plus, only 2 Points+, why not give it a whirl? Glad I did.

You can order these online via Vitalicious, but Target also carries them in the freezer section. They are so freaking good - just enough banana, just enough chocolate. Warm them up in the microwave for about 20 seconds, then enjoy.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Food Of The Day: Kale chips

For the past year or so, everyone has been social media-ing about kale chips.

I never understood the fascination.

Then I made some today for the first time and, now, I get it.

I think what didn't excite me is that I am not a huge greens person. Also, I am lazy and the thought of washing, drying and then separating a gigantic bale 'o kale was not something in which I would invest time.

But, today, I was perusing the produce section at Wegman's and I happened to spy a huge bag of pre-washed, pre-cut kale. This is the kale equivalent of Yuppie Eggs. So, I was in. Seriously, this esta un krapload de kale.

Anyway, when I got home I got on Twitter and hit up some WW-ing friends for advice. Dacia was quick to give me the 411. She's lost 90 lbs in one year and has undergone an amazing transformation in so many ways. Seriously, check out her blog.

Dacia pointed me here and making these chips really is easy. I did the easy oil & salt route. I put 6 cups of kale in a bowl, 1T of olive oil and sprinkled it with kosher salt. Baked it for 14 minutes at 350 and below is the result.

I like the picture at the top of this post a little better as it gives you an idea of what the individual chips look like. The "group pic" just looks like a big salad.

However, it was a pretty delicious gang of greens. Until today, I had only had kale in smoothies. I didn't love it, but I also didn't dislike it. Kale is so ridiculously good for you, I had no problem including it in smoothies because of its nutritional awesomeness.

But, lathered in oil and salt? Kale is delicious. Funny how that works. Salt and oil is always a winner, as you know, and the greens were crunchy, mild and not bitter. It didn't taste like I was eating a handful of grass off the front lawn.

Next time, I would drop the amount of oil down to 1/2T. I think I could use less oil, still get a good result and save 2 Points Plus.

I counted today's snack as 4 Points Plus for the 1T oil because I ate the whole damn thing (seriously, it was like a bag of chips to me). Dacia noted that when she ran 2T of olive oil and the 6C kale through WW's recipe builder on eTools, it's 9 Points Plus for the whole thing.

She is a better WWer than I because I will not count that as 9 Points Plus. Truth be told, I hate the Recipe Builder because it calculates Points for Points-free food when they are included in a recipe. I understand why Weight Watchers does this, but I don't agree. I'm not taking a 5-Point hit for 6C of kale, which if I ate all by their lonesome would be 0 Points Plus.

I'm not urging anyone to overthrow the Recipe Builder, your mileage may vary, but I'm being honest about how I count it in this case. Hell, I didn't get to 282 lbs by eating too much kale.

Anyway, this was a great snack. While I was waiting for the chips to cook, I was eating raw kale bits out of the bag because, hey, they were there. And, even raw, they were great. Next time I put out raw veg and dip for an appetizer, I am including kale. It was very good and would be more fun to eat than, say, gigantic broccoli crowns.

I can also envision having these salty devils instead of popcorn next time we're watching a movie at the house. No, I can't imagine sneaking a bag into a real theater. Although...

Thursday, February 23, 2012

In which I almost miss a great run

I've found that sometimes the runs or workouts that start out the worst - or almost don't start at all - turn out the best.

Latest case in point was this morning.

I woke up at 4:30 am, on my own, wide awake. This was disturbing because I didn't get to sleep that early and I still had another hour before my alarm went off. Rolled over, tried to go back to sleep. No dice. Tried it again. Again, eyes wide open.

I begrudgingly got up, grabbed my running stuff and went downstairs because, hey, at least I got to eat. I had breakfast, read the paper, checked my email, Facebook and Twitter. It was now 5:20. Crap. I didn't have to head out to run until 6:45 am. I knew what was going to happen.

I was going to lose this burst of energy, get sleepy again and crash, then wake up tired and late for my run, if I even make it at all. It was too dark to go running this early, but then I realized I could go to the gym and get a treadmill. Or I could just go back upstairs to bed and hit the gym tonight after my husband got home from work.

I sat on the couch and pondered my options. (By the way, this is way too much thinking and decision-making for me at this hour.) Then I thought, Well, I'll just lay down here on the couch for a bit. I felt the wave of sleepiness overtake me, and when I opened my eyes it was 6:36 am.

I quickly got up and checked the thermometer. 44 degrees! Factoring in 20 more degrees to compensate for the heat of running, that's 64 degrees. On Feb. 23. Yeah! I threw on a long-sleeve tech shirt and wind pants. No winter hat. No gloves. No fleece shirt. No vest. Warmed up and stretched out, I took off.

I decided to try a more challenging route, which means "more hills." I also decided, with a 5K three weeks away, it was time to really stretch out the rehab run-walk ratio, which today meant 10 minutes running, 1 minute walk, repeat x3.

Within 5 minutes, I was really happy I did not go to the gym. It had showered overnight, so it was damp and smelled like spring. I was unencumbered of winter running gear, the sun was coming up and blue skies were peeking out in between the clouds. This was very good.

After the first 10-minute interval, I felt good. Loose and smooth. Tuesday's run was not great - I felt clunky and uncoordinated. But this morning, this was a keeper. The second 10-minute interval had me hitting some decent hills and I practiced my good hill-running techniques to conserve energy and remain efficient. I saw the last nasty hill on the horizon and I thought to myself, It's 7:23 am. Knock this off and the hardest part of your day is over. That's a nice feeling to have.

The third interval was the home stretch. I felt good. My endurance, breathing and legs felt good. Sunday I'm aiming to go 20 minutes straight before stopping for, say, 2 minutes, then another 10. And next week? We're going to run the whole thing.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

In which I like going to the doctor

When you're overweight (OK, obese), one normally doesn't like to go to the doctor. Any doctor. At all. Ever.

In fact, most people - including yours truly - avoided any medical professional for years so as to dodge the inevitable Come To Jesus moment in which the physician correctly says (in varying degrees of empathy and/or kindness): "You've got to lose weight."

Before I joined Weight Watchers in September 2010, I was in a very bad way physically. I weighed 280+ lbs. I had high blood pressure, my BMI was 44. Forty-friggin-four, people. For perspective's sake, 25 is considered "Normal." Tweny-six to 30 is overweight. Over 30, you're skipping doctor's appointments forever. Regardless of how you feel about BMI, that is dangerous.

Aside from OB appointments due to my pregnancies, I avoided my primary care physician because I didn't want to hear the truth. I also didn't want confirmed what I also knew was true: I had sleep apnea. Many times I would wake up overnight gasping for breath - and that's when my husband wasn't waking me up because I was snoring so insanely loud.

And, most likely, I was pre-diabetic, if not outright diabetic. I also knew I had high blood pressure, Lord knows what I was doing to my poor heart.

Weighing what I weighed and fighting the symptoms I had, it was amazing I dodged the medical bullets I did. But I knew I couldn't forever, and if I didn't change my ways I seriously would end up what I call: "scooter fat." So heavy, you need a scooter to get around. I was slowly, painfully walking the way to scooter fat and I wanted off, so I literally shaped up.

Cut to now, almost 18 months later and I am a healthy weight and a very healthy person. A runner. A bootcamper. A vegetarian! I mean, Wow.

Last year, I was a little over halfway to my weight-loss goal and I was excited to go to the GYN. I vividly remember telling his nurse, whom I love: "Next year when I see you I will be a Size 10 and weigh 160 lbs."

So I was a little pumped to strut my Size 10, 160-lb self into the office today for my annual howdy-do.

Inside, I was a freaking brass band. Ta-da! Here I am! Follow me, to the scale!

Funny, actually the nurse said: "I don't need to weigh you, you know what you weigh." Oh, yes, I do.

My GYN was very complimentary, saying all sorts of wonderful, encouraging things: "We're so proud of you."

It's amazing to go to a doctor's appointment confident instead of embarrassed, just a world of difference.

Now, my goal for next year: Strut through the door once again, Size 10, 160 lbs.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Food Of The Day: The 'Are You Pregnant?' Wrap

Were I to spy you eating this wrap I would say, "When are you due?"

This concoction totally looks like a pregnancy craving come to life. And, before you can ask, let me reply: "No. Absolutely not. That ship has sailed."

That cleared up, this wrap was inspired by two friends. Flo posted a link (which I can't find) to some grilled-hummus/egg sandwich thing that looked delicious, yet I stupidly did not bookmark. I figure she'll eventually bail me out in the comments below, because she is awesome.

The other half of the germ of this idea came from my friend, Lynne, who keeps telling me to put olives in my sandwiches. Not sure why, but she's adamant. If they were 0 Points, believe me I would have jumped on this earlier.

Anyway, both ideas sat in the back of my head, resulting into this mash-up, "Are You Pregnant?" wrap:

  • 28g roasted red peper hummus spread (1 Points+) over a whole Lavash (2 Points+). You had me at "whole Lavash."

  • 2 Eggland's Best hardboiled Yuppie eggs, which are only 1 Points+ each because they're medium eggs. Yeah.

  • 14g green olives (happy now, Lynne?) works out to about 5 olives for 1 Points+. Yes, I weigh them every time hoping I will be able to jam in a sixth for 14g. Has not happened yet, maybe someday.

    It may sound like an odd combo - and look like a hot mess - but it's quite delicious.
  • Sunday, February 12, 2012

    In which a bad run is still a run

    The way I sometimes wax poetic about running, you would think they're all Chariots-Of-Fire great. And sometimes I forget they're not.

    But I was reminded of that this morning, when it was a windy 12 degrees. I bundled up appropriately, but forgot my sunglasses, so the gusts kept making my eyes tear up and I somehow always managed to be running into the wind even though I was changing direction often.

    Yet the real problem was I felt clunky and uncoordinated. Slow and shuffling. But I endured because even though it was cold, it was sunny. I got to run. And I had a new playlist, and it was rather kick-ass, even if I wasn't.

    My new full-length running tights arrived in the mail yesterday, and thank goodness they did.

    It was 12 degrees out when I left. I had a pair of wind pants layered over the tights, so my legs were plenty warm. My arms and torso were fine, too, thanks to a long-sleeve tech shirt, a thin fleece and a light vest. Layers ahoy.

    Now, the most interesting thing I realized during this time was while it was literally freezing out, I wasn't cold and I wasn't miserable. Which is odd because I am always, always cold. It was in the teens, most every smart mammal was snuggled warm in bed and I was out, in the cold, running. And enjoying it, even though I wasn't doing a particularly good job.

    Will wonders never cease?

    These are the little things that are most surprising. When you lose weight you expect smaller clothes and compliments and stuff like that. But it's the little things, like enjoying running outside, or not minding the cold, or becoming a morning exerciser, that are shocking. You learn quickly to exorcise the words, "I'll never..." out of your vocabulary because one day, whatever it is, you probably will.

    So sometimes even when a run isn't great and I feel like a truck about to lose all four wheels, I remember that any run you end uninjured is a good one.

    Thursday, February 9, 2012

    In which I keep you up to date

    I love reading weight-loss blogs.

    Even though I haven't met many of these people in person, I feel like I know them. I feel vested in their lives and I like to know how they're doing. This is where frequent updates are great.

    Whenever I find a new blog, the first thing I do is check out the photos. I love the Befores-Durings-Afters. Then I want to know: How are you doing now? Are you at goal? What are you doing for exercise? What challenges are you facing?

    I realized if new folks come here, they may have the same questions: How is she doing now?

    It could be hard to discern that right off the bat - sometimes you can piece that together from my recent posts, sometimes not. And people may or may not have the time to spelunk through older posts.

    So I decided to make it easy. If you look on the right-hand side there's a new link: What I'm Doing Right Now

    I've always listed my weight stats, but these monthly updates will be a little bit more elaborate than a number and a date. Reaching my goal weight is a wonderful achievement, but really it's just the beginning of the story. I'll give you the lowdown on what's happening on the scale, at bootcamp, on the road, etc.

    I'll update it at the beginning of every month as a quick reference for new folks, as well as those who may not have stopped by in a while.

    Tuesday, February 7, 2012

    In which I share my playlist

    Becca's looking for new running music and I've been deficient in sharing. But, see above (click to enlarge). Right now I'm on a classic rock/club tunes/nerdy sci-fi heroic instrumentals kick.

    That's the current favorites. I usually end up tweaking or completely revising about once a month as I can get easily bored listening to the same songs three times a week.

    However, I do keep my playlists because sometimes it's fun to go back, listen to them again or pick a few from here, a few from there and Frankenstein a whole new one out of old favorites.

    It's funny, when I do dial up an old playlist, I can usually remember exactly when I was training for and where I was running, sometimes even down to the specific street. For example, I have an all-live-Queen playlist that I ran to while training for my first big race last May. I can't listen to it without thinking about running that race.

    In a blog post for a future day, I'll cobble together my all-time running playlist. Not a bad idea as the one above is getting a bit stale and needs some revision.

    Monday, February 6, 2012

    In which I run again

    Last Wednesday night I got to do something I'd yearned to do for weeks: I plugged in my Garmin.

    Unused since Dec. 4 it needed a charge because I had a run in the morning.

    I can't accurately express how happy I was to be able to state that: I have a run in the morning.

    I last ran on Dec. 29 - last year, for Pete's sake - after a three-week hiatus, courtesy of the whole back thing.

    That day I took an easy, 30-minute treadmill run to assess how I felt. I felt great. Oh, God, how I missed running.

    Then, about 3 hours later I was stiff as a board and in pain. Back to prescription ibuprofen and Flexerol. A great chiropractor worked out my kinks over a few sessions and I felt good, but he cautioned that the stress of running may put me one step forward, two steps back in terms of my glute problem.

    I decided to take the entire month of January off to really give it time to strengthen and rest.

    I've been able to resume bootcamp to continue strengthening, and time on the elliptical was a Poor Man's sub for a good run, but it also kept me from medication and pain.

    It was so hard to abstain for a month. Given we've had an unusually mild winter, I'd see my running brethren out in force. I'd drive by them, a little jealous and a lot sad. That should be me.

    I also really missed what running did for me metabolically: Burned crazy calories. Even a short, 30-minute run was like a calorie-burning furnace. By 7 am I'd be done with my run and face the day with a great sense of personal accomplishment. But, for January, that was on hiatus and I had to make hay elsewhere. I wasn't a fan.

    There were clear roads and relatively warm temps. There were miles to run and races to prepare for, and, hell I wanted to get back on with it already.

    Finally, the month was over and it was time to try again.

    Wednesday night I went through my pre-run ritual. Finding my clothes, my sneakers, my cheap-but-effective hat and gloves. Headphones? Check. Nano? Charged. New playlist? Arranged. Reflective gear: Located. Weather: Clear and cold. Sunrise? 7 am.

    Earlier that week I posted a question on Jenny Hadfield's Facebook wall: How do I get back into running without reinjury?

    Hadfield is a veteran running coach, author and expert, and her advice was awesome:

    Basically, go back to where you started: run 2 minutes, walk 2 minutes and repeat for 20 minutes. Gradually build up your time and slide the ratio until it eventually it's all running.

    That made sense. After all, I learned to run with C25K, why not go back to a similar setup to rehab my legs and endurance into running shape?

    Now, when I thought about the day I could run again, I assumed it would be at the gym. I hadn't planned on a mild winter and clear roads. When I got up Thursday and looked outside, it was criminal to head to the gym.

    My best rehab would be on the road and since there was no snow or ice, why waste time driving to the gym and getting a treadmill when I could run my old routes? This is amusing because less than a year ago I was petrified of running outside.

    So I did just that. My chiropractor cautioned me that a key to continued healthy running was improved strengthening of my core (hello bootcamp), stretching and warmup. I did my regular bootcamp warmup and stretching, then walked for 5 minutes.

    The Garmin counted up: 4:57, 4:58, 4:59, 5:00. And I was off.

    I made sure to take it easy and loose. I'd check my watch and as soon as the 2 minutes were up, I'd stop for a walk. Rinse and repeat. It seemed to be over quickly, I went home, did my usual bootcamp cooldown and stretching, and I was back in the running game. Or was I?

    Even when I was hurt, it didn't hurt when I ran. It was the 6 hours or so after when I stiffened up like a board. I spent the rest of the day almost waiting for the other shoe to drop or, really, back to stiffen. But it didn't. I felt OK.

    Sunday was my next scheduled run day. It was brilliantly bright, sunny and a seasonally-appropriate 15 degrees when I headed out. (Note to self: Capris are not cutting it, get full-length running tights). Did my warmup and stretching, walked for a bit then headed off.

    It was so great to run outside again. It was cold, but gorgeously sunny. My legs felt strong as they pushed off and landed. My arms pumped smoothly and my breath came out in big, beautiful plumes of white. I felt lean, light and loose as I quietly ran through my old haunts, by bare trees, brown grass, and barely iced over little streams. My favorite running music blistered through my headphones, broken up by the scratch-scuff-scratch-scuff of road sand shifting beneath my shoes.

    It felt poetic and just right. And I was so very grateful to be able to enjoy what I love once again.

    I came in the house and after stretching I headed for the bathroom to shower. I caught my reflection in the mirror: My hair was matted from sweating under the hat. My face and shins were pink from the cold. My torso looked flat and lean in a long-sleeved white running shirt and my legs, oh God, my legs looked - pardon my French - fucking fantastic in my running tights.

    I hadn't seen that woman in a while. I couldn't help but smile like an idiot at myself. Welcome back.

    Friday, February 3, 2012

    In which I get some perspective

    It was about 6:20 am today and I was walking across the bootcamp gym, carrying a 35-lb plate weight in each hand like a suitcase.

    All I was doing was walking, carrying this extra weight, and as my shoulders started to burn, it hit me:

    How the hell did I ever do this before - plus another 55 lbs?

    Sure, I didn't have 125 lbs hanging exclusively off my arms but, you get the idea.

    I can't remember hauling around a 282 lbs - and that's a very good thing.

    The fact I got a little challenging reminder? Even better.

    And the fact I could put down (OK, drop) the plates and instantly weigh 158 lbs again? The best.