run with me through sheets of jungle rain

I had every intention of taking at least one day off this weekend. At least one day away from the gym - at least one day where I didn't get sweaty and stinky.

I thought my body needed to rest. Life has been moving incredibly quickly, and the pace has no intention of slowing down any time soon. There's a full-time job to work, a husband to care for, two dogs to feed, a part-time job to start working, a novel to write, another 65 pounds to lose, and a blog to update.

Saturday was going to be my day off. I spent the afternoon with my husband, eating sirloin and shrimp at Saltgrass Steakhouse and then meandering through Half Price Books. My plans for the evening included dinner with my college roommate, and so, I decided, there wouldn't be time for working out.

Except I made time.

After Half Price Books and before dinner, I headed to Lane Bryant to spend a $40 gift cheque (IE: free money) and then some while my husband perused Best Buy and Mardel's. When I walked into Lane Bryant, I was confident knowing that I wore a size 16 in pants and a size 14 in shirts. I intended to purchase a pair of black skinny jeans and possibly a shirt or two.

I walked out of the store with a camisole, a zip-up hoodie, a shirt, and socks but no pants. When I tried on the pants, they were too small and too short. I tried on a pair of dress pants, again in a size 16, and again they were the tiniest bit too small. I felt deflated.

The scale shows a loss. My clothes (mainly my shirts) show a loss. People tell me they can see the difference, but my hips are not shrinking at the same pace.

Months ago, I may have given up. I would have wondered why try and dove into a bowl of ice cream. But this time, I let myself be frustrated and sad, and then I squeezed in a hour long work out.

I pounded out two miles on the treadmill, two miles on the stationary bicycle and then spent another 18 minutes doing lower body weights. I felt great after the work out and slipped the feeling into my back pocket - knowing I would need a reminder, at some point, of why I go to the gym.

This afternoon I had the house to myself and spent a tiny bit of time cleaning, some time working on our taxes, and a little more time writing out a grocery list. And then I headed to the gym for another hour long work out.

Spending time alone is how I recharge. I'm an outgoing person and want to be friends with everyone, but I always need time away from everyone. It used to be that I would spend that alone time on the couch - catching up on certain television shows my husband won't watch with me. And while I do still love taking the time to simply rest and let my mind wander while I watch Grey's Anatomy, I also love the feeling of running/walking a mile on the treadmill, being sweaty after a particularly grueling session of the stationary bicycle, and working my muscles until they hurt.

There are plenty of times when I struggle to complete a work-out. During those times, I count down the minutes I have left on the machine and remind myself that I'm almost done. But there are other times when I feel like I could stay at the gym all day long. Saturday and Sunday were days when I felt like I could stay at the gym all day long.

I needed that reminder. I needed to feel that love for exercise again. I needed to hold onto the feeling that working out is a great way for me to spend time with just myself and recharge. Because I know that working out will only get more difficult with how busy life is about to be, but I also know that it needs to be a priority because it is essential for me to take care of me.

It is also essential for me to plan out meals and cook as much as possible over the weekend because I refuse to let my busyness become an excuse for why I stopped losing weight or even gained weight. And that's what I kept in mind while I completed grocery shopping after my super sweaty Sunday work out.

I purchased lots of chicken, a large pack of sirloin steak, sausage and brautwursts, and also plenty of vegetables to make ratatouille as well as enough cauliflower to make several servings of Surprise South Beach Mashed Potatoes.

This diet is definitely not for everyone, and it's also not the easiest thing to always stick to. It annoy my husband that I can't eat everywhere and depresses him (and me!) that eating at a Mexican restaurant means no chips and queso. It also makes splitting a pizza difficult, but it's worth it because it works for me.

Mashed potatoes (or really potatoes of any kind) are one of my favorite things to eat, so substituting them with cauliflower works well. It's not perfect and doesn't taste exactly like mashed potatoes, but this side is perfect alongside grilled turkey brautwurst (which is what I ate it with tonight) or a sirloin steak.

This was my third time to make the recipe, and I've adapted it from the original recipe, which I found in The South Beach Diet book while at my parents house in Texas. It's now good enough to share; so good, in fact, that I got my husband's approval and agreement to eat it again.

Knowing I'm making healthy choices and "whipping" up easy healthy recipes is something I enjoy, too. I feel accomplished spending time in the kitchen, and it serves as another reminder of just how committed I am to being healthy. I just wish the kitchen would clean itself after I cooked.

Surprise South Beach Mashed Potatoes
1 head of cauliflower chopped and then steamed OR 1 bag of frozen cauliflower florets steamed
1-2 tablespoons I Can't Believe It's Not Butter
3-5 tablespoons of low-fat or non-fat Half & Half
1 garlic clove minced
3/4 cup non fat cheddar cheese (or to taste)
1 tablespoon dried chives
1. Steam cauliflower.
2. Puree the cauliflower, I Can't Believe It's Not Butter, Half & Half, garlic, cheese, and chives until smooth. The consistency should be identical to the consistency of mashed potatoes.
3. Season with salt and pepper (optional).

(title from "green apples" by chantal kreviazuk)


done looking for the critics (week 11)

There are many things I love about the blogging world, and one of those things is interaction. On Thursday, a few questions were asked on one of the blogs I frequent, and I've considered my answer since Thursday morning.

What keeps you motivated? What keeps you inspired? Why do you continue to fight over and over again for your healthiness? Is the reason you started different than the reason you keep fighting?

I thought about my answer for roughly thirty seconds, read through some of the already posted answers, considered everything I've written about on my blog, and then typed out I do it because...

  • I feel better about myself.
  • I’m less stressed (and less bitchy to be honest) when I’m exercising.
  • I’m healthier.
  • I like seeing the diminishing number on the scale.
  • Once I hit 100 pounds lost, I get a new wardrobe.
  • I deserve to love myself.
  • I want to be the woman God intended me to be – and that means healthy.
  • I know I am not alone.
  • I’m worthy of feeling beautiful.
  • It is time to stop hiding behind the weight and start living my life for all to see.

Those answers are true, but there's more to it than just that. Of course, I didn't realize that until I started "shaking my ass" in zumba at 12:00pm that day. Watching some of the girls in the class, I realized how much I wanted to feel comfortable in workout attire and in a workout class. It reminded me that I don't want to feel like the fat girl any more. I want to feel, and look like and be, the fit girl.

I want to be able to wear cute workout clothes from Lululemon (as well as from Nike and Jillian Michaels line). I want to shop in any store I wish because I know the clothes are likely to fit. I want to be proud of my body and no longer ashamed. But I didn't mention any of those things in my original answer to the question because I was ashamed and didn't want to seem vain.

If vanity were the only reason I was losing weight, I would have quite by now. I might look better than I did when I started in April, but I'm so far from where I want to be that I sometimes wonder if I will ever get there. So I remember the other reasons - that I feel better about myself, that I'm a nicer person, that I'm healthier.

I get comments from people that I look so much better than I did months ago - that the changes are evident. I believe them, but I struggle to see those changes myself. Because I want to be at my ideal weight, wearing clothes from J. Crew and Express and Lululemon - not in the process of getting there.

Still, it's good to be reminded of why I am doing what I am doing. It's good to remember all of the reasons I have to get off of the couch and into the gym. It's necessary to hold onto the reasons I cook dinner instead of stopping at Taco Bell or Wendy's.

Reading the responses to the questions was also inspiring. It reminded me that we all started with a reason to work out and to eat better. Even the cute girls in zumba started with a reason. For all I know, they started where I was: unhealthy and needing a change. And it's essential that I remember that rather than look at everyone else with frustration because they are where I want to be.

I'll get there. Slowly but surely I will get there. And I'll remember that just because the scale doesn't reflect my effort does not mean that my body isn't changing. Muscle takes up less space than fat, and I'd rather be a higher, healthier weight with lean muscle than a lower weight with lots of flab.

Because while it is about the diminishing number on the scale, I have to remember that a 5 pound loss on the scale may look more like a 10 pound loss on my body  - especially considering how much more room fat takes versus muscle. Until recently, I didn't really think about that, but now I try to remember it every time I step onto the scale and pass by a mirror.

Eating makes a huge difference in weight loss - a bigger difference than exercise really as you can't out exercise a bad diet, but exercise makes a bigger difference, for me, in every day life.

What does it for you? What keeps you motivated? Why do you continue to fight over and over again for your healthiness?

(title from "f*ckin perfect" by pink)


waiting for this moment to arise

I spent 45 minutes on the elliptical during my lunch hour and completed a 5k. It wasn't the easiest work out because I struggled mentally. Every muscle in my arms hurt after my strength training work out from Tuesday, and I was exhausted after a Tuesday spent rushing from work to the grocery story to community group and then finally home for a late night dinner.

Napping under my desk sounded like the best way to spend my lunch hour, but I knew I would regret not stepping foot in the gym. So I went.

At first, I told myself I would finish two miles and then switch to the stationary bicycle. But by the time I hit two miles, I felt a shift and knew that I wanted to spend my time sweating on the elliptical and not switching to a less intense work out.

During the 45 minutes on the elliptical, I burned 420 calories according to my heart rate monitor. Had I plugged my weight into the elliptical, it might have said that I burned closer to 500 calories. When I put the time spent on the elliptical into MyFitnessPal, it suggested that I had burned over 600 calories. I trust that my heart rate monitor knows best, so I trust the number that pops up on the screen rather than trusting what the machine or the computer says.

I've done a little research and found that cardio machines are often wrong with the number of calories burned. The elliptical tends to over estimate while the treadmill, and stationary bicycle, under estimate. I've found the same to be true with MyFitnessPal as I generally burn more calories while walking than it says, less calories while on the elliptical, more calories when weight lifting, less calories while on the stationary bicycle, and more calories while swimming.

Knowing this helps me a lot. It reminds me of just how hard I have to work to burn calories. Because I do have to work hard. I don't burn the calories without pushing myself and trying harder each and every day. It also reminds me of just how important watching what I eat is; I don't want to ruin my time in the gym by eating too much food or the wrong foods.

So, you could say my relationship with MyFitnessPal is a love and hate relationship. Just like my relationship with other things is a love and hate relationship.

You see I have a love and hate relationship with my kitchen. I love it because it's mine, and it's the kitchen where I've first learned how to cook and also discovered how much I truly love cooking. But I hate how small it is.

One day I'l look back at our small kitchen with fondness and humor. One day I'll remember how I functioned in our kitchen and realize how thankful I am to have a large kitchen - my dream kitchen. Just like one day I'll look back at my 15 minute mile with fondness and then at my much faster mile with excitement.

The further I get into this process the more time I spend in the kitchen. When I got home from work today, I headed immediately into the kitchen and started cleaning and then moved onto making ratatouille (with melted monterrey jack cheese on it) and grilling sirloin on my 5-in-1 Cuisinart griddle/grill combo. And while I love spending time in the kitchen, I hate how cramped it is (and how I seem to step on at least one dog during the process of cooking).

Having a love and hate relationship could have easily stopped me from pushing on towards my goal in the past. But now I know that the love and hate relationship signals, for me, a balance and also that I am well on my way to doing what I need to do - regardless of how I feel about it.

I feel like I so often repeat myself on this blog and that I mention learning the same lessons over and over. I wonder if I should just not mention the lessons that hit me during the most mundane tasks - especially if I've talked about them before - but the last thing I want to do is leave out anything important.

Spending time doing the things I both love and hate today made me realize that, even though I have a ways to go, I'm so much closer to loving these things than I am to hating them. And by loving these things, I'm so much closer to figuring out who I really am.

I've been myself for 26 years, but it's been the past nine months that have opened me up to the person I want to be and to the person I already am. Without excess weight to hide behind, I'm ready to step out and try new things and celebrate my successes instead of ignoring any positive words I might hear. And I can't wait to see all the other things I learn about myself (and cooking!) over the next nine months.

Eggplant Ratatouille (adapted from this recipe):
1 medium eggplant, cut into 1" pieces
1/3 cup olive oil
4 garlic cloves, pushed through a press
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 medium zucchini, cut into 1" pieces
2 yellow squash, cut into 1" pieces
1 small tomato, cut into 1/2" pieces
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1. Heat oven to 425 F. 
2. Remove skin from eggplant.
3. Sprinkle eggplant with salt; place in a colander and let bitter juices drain 20 minutes. 
4. Rinse eggplant and pat dry.
5. In a 10 x 15 baking dish, mix oil, garlic, salt, rosemary, thyme, and pepper. Add vegetables (I sliced mine and placed them in the dish as the eggplant drained) and toss to coat evenly with oil mixture.
6. Cover dish with foil and bake 15 minutes. Uncover and cook 30 minutes more, mixing occasionally, until vegetables are tender and browned.
This recipe makes 6-7 servings. Each serving is 1 cup and contains approximately (calculated using MyFitnessPal): 109 calories, 14g carbohydrates, 5g fat, 4g protein, 0g sugar.

For the steak, I used a low sodium montreal steak seasoning mixed with water and olive oil. I let the steak marinate for about 30 minutes and then cooked it on medium-medium high heat for about 15 minutes.

(title from "blackbird" by sarah mclachlan)


no dreams tonight to interrupt

It seems impossible that just a week ago I was getting ready to head to Texas. It's hard to believe that I've been back in Oklahoma for two full work days so far.

I landed on Sunday afternoon, after a flight filled with turbulence. My husband was rushing to the airport, ready to surprise me with a beautiful bouquet of flowers. My flight landed 15 minutes early, and after getting my luggage from baggage claim, I met him halfway to the parking garage and carried the flowers the rest of the way to the car.

In college, I always wanted someone to pick me up at the airport with flowers or a sign or something equally romantic, but it never happened. Thankfully, it has now.

Also in college, I told everyone that I never wanted to move back to Texas. And at that time, I didn't. I also didn't want to stay in Oklahoma following my graduation from college. Now I would love to move back to Texas.

My main priority right now needs to be health. Spending time in Texas gave me a much needed break from stress, but it also provided me with the opportunity to eat a lot and drink a lot. I loved every moment I spent with my family and enjoyed every glass of wine I drank. But now that I am back in Oklahoma, I'm returning to watching what I eat and adhering to the principles of the South Beach Diet Phase One.

When I'm back in Texas, it's easy. I feel like I fit. There's this sense of loving every bit of the time spent there - rediscovering cities like The Woodlands and Seabrook and imagining myself living there.

The South Beach Diet Phase One is like Texas. I feel like I fit and that it fits me. It's not always easy, but I am rediscovering the foods I can eat and slowly starting to crave some healthy foods rather than just wanting a crispy chicken sandwich from Wendy's or What-A-Burger.

My first craving came on Saturday while I was in Texas. I finished a three-mile walk outside and had a little over an hour to eat lunch and shower before heading to the movies with my parents and aunt. I threw together a mixture of veggies and cut up a piece of grilled salmon to put on top of the salad. It was delicious, and I got another craving for a salad on Monday. While my husband consumed chips and queso for dinner, I ate a Mexican cobb salad.

I purchased all the fixings for a salad on Tuesday when I went to the grocery store, and when I finally sat down to dinner a little after 9:00pm on Tuesday, I did so with a salad that included homemade chicken salad (recipe below).

The recipe calls for 3 cups shredded chicken breasts, but I used two bags of the Tyson diced chicken breast this time around. Next time, I think I would do my best to bake my own chicken and then shred it. I also chopped three stalks of celery and mixed the celery in with the chicken, sour cream, lemon zest, scallions, and parsley. I then served the mixture over romaine lettuce and chopped tomatoes.

It would have been all too easy to grab sushi at the grocery store or stop at Chik-Fil-A for one of their sandwiches. And I thought about doing both those things. The only reason I didn't was that I decided that I needed and wanted to fully commit to eating the way the South Beach Diet instructs.

Phase One is a two-week phase, but the lifestyle of the South Beach Diet is set up in such a way that I can return to Phase One whenever I need to. And since I enjoyed food, cupcakes, and wine while in Texas, I'm sticking with Phase One for another week before reintroducing some fruit and carbohydrates into my diet.

I never really thought I could do this - watch what I eat so closely and eventually begin to prefer healthy food over unhealthy food - just like I never thought I would miss Texas. But the more weight I lose, the more I enjoy the healthy foods and the less I want to eat french fries.

Phase One Friendly Chicken Salad:
3/4 cup nonfat sour cream
3 scallions, minced
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel
Salt & pepper (to taste)
3 cups shredded cooked chicken breasts (or 12 ounces of already cooked diced chicken breast)
3 stalks of celery, diced (optional)
8 large lettuce leaves
1 roma tomato, diced (optional)
1 cup diced cucumber (optional)
Balsamic vinaigrette dressing (optional)
1. In a medium bowl, combine the sour cream, scallions, parsley, lemon peel, and salt and pepper to taste. Toss well to blend.
2. Add the chicken and celery and toss to coat.
3. Serve on a bed of lettuce leaves with tomatoes and cucumber. Drizzle with balsamic vinaigrette dressing.
This recipe makes 4 servings. Each serving contains approximately (calculated using MyFitnessPal): 365 calories, 13g carbohydrates, 27g fat, 24g protein, 9g sugar (does not include cucumber or dressing).

(title from "stay awake" by julia nunes)


done looking for the critics (week 10)

I flew into Texas earlier in the week. My flight landed early in the morning, and I immediately went to breakfast (really lunch for me given my early flight) with my mom. Then it was shopping and finally the first massage of my life. After that, it was welcoming my aunt's surprise visit and then setting about making, and eventually consuming, dinner (my mom grilled salmon, we made eggplant ratatouille, and also made mashed potatoes out of cauliflower - it was delicious).

The quickness of the trip continued when I made breakfast for my mom (a 2 egg and 3 egg white scramble with a poblano pepper, a green bell pepper, mushrooms, spinach, and feta cheese along with a side of canadian bacon), finished getting ready for the day, and then spent the following afternoon with my mom, my aunt, and my nana where we ate lunch at a Japanese restaurant (I ate a house salad, sashimi with jalapeno and cilantro as an appetizer, and then also a sashimi roll with fish and avocado).

There are some principles I haven't followed for the first two weeks of the South Beach Diet. I mentioned some previously but have added more - like several glasses of wine and a total of one cupcake over the span of two weeks.

I also mentioned before, and will continue to mention, that I refuse to be angry at myself for these things. Because this is real life, and real life is meant to be enjoyed - not just survived.

It all comes down to choice. Sometimes we don't make the perfect choices, but we can still say no to the things we don't really need.

We had a shrimp boil, and I said no to both the potatoes and corn (I eat steamed cauliflower and broccoli instead) but yes to the wine and part of a cupcake. I could easily think that these yeses were a mistake, or I could remind myself that it is not every day that I am in Texas, celebrating my mom's birthday, and that it's okay to enjoy a few glasses of wine - especially since I rarely drink in Oklahoma.

I'm adhering, still, to the principles of mainly carbohydrate and sugar free eating but balancing it with the beauty that life offers in the form of a glass of pinot grigot.

And I am so thankful for this week. It's offered me the chance to look at myself and my life and to see just how far I've come. It's also providing me the chance to realize just how much I enjoy this process of healthy living and thus sharing my experiences.

As I said earlier, my mom surprised me with a hot stone massage. I've always loved the idea of a massage, but I've always been fearful of actually having one. I carry most of my stress in my neck and shoulders, and so I am always tense. Whenever someone tries to rub my shoulders, it tends to hurt because of how much stress I carry and because of how tender I am.

Luckily, the massage was a wonderful experience. It didn't hurt. I felt relaxed the whole time, and I couldn't believe an hour had already passed.

The strange part was that I talked to the masseuse the entire time. Most of the conversation was about exercise, food, and eating healthy. Maybe I should have been quiet and just relaxed, but I felt a little awkward lying face down on the massage table, naked and covered by a sheet, while someone worked on all the kinks in my body. So I talked.

And after the massage ended, once I finally rolled off the table and got dressed, I felt incredibly relaxed as well as incredibly excited that I got to talk to someone about what I've done so far to lose weight.

I tell people that I started this journey at the end of April in 2011 and that I've lost 35 pounds so far. The response is always the same - excitement of my loss and encouragement at how well I have done so far. It's hard for me to accept that response as I often feel like I haven't lost enough weight and quickly enough. But what I realized after the massage was that it doesn't matter how quickly the weight comes off.

I wanted to lose 100 pounds in a year. That's not going to happen. It wouldn't be healthy to lose 65 pounds in three and a half months. But those 100 pounds will come off - maybe in a year and a half or maybe in two years. And as it comes off, I'll be able to continue to share my story and remind people that it is possible to lose weight.

My desire to be on The Biggest Loser or Extreme Makeover Weight Loss Edition is still present. But I'm now more aware of how important it is for people to see someone "normal" (AKA without a famous trainer, unlimited grocery budget, or environment designed to help weight loss) clawing and crawling and fighting to lose the weight at home.

Because we all deserve to be healthy and happy. And we all have the tools to do it. I just hope that my story somehow gives you the tools to do it; because if I can do it (and I can), then I promise you can too.

If it takes a year, great. If it it takes longer than a year, great. As long as we do it, the time doesn't matter.

(title from "f*ckin perfect" by pink)


all out of reasons to run

My alarm was set to go off at 3:02am, but at 3:01am, I woke up with a start – worried that somehow I had missed the alarm and then, subsequently, missed my flight. There was a sigh of relief, and then I was out of bed – moving through the house and finishing the task of packing, which is my least favorite part of traveling.

It took me an hour to get dressed, put away the remaining laundry, pack my suitcase, feed the dogs, force the dogs to take their medicine (the peanut butter trick doesn't work; neither does hiding it in cheese), brew coffee for my husband, and throw my hair up. It was just after 4:00am when we left the house, and I was sitting in the airport – waiting to print my boarding pass – before 4:30am.

My flight was scheduled to leave at 6:50am, and I knew there wouldn't be time to cook eggs and then eat breakfast before leaving. In the past, I would have been excited about the prospect of eating on the go. It's not really possible to eat healthy, after all, when you are in the midst of traveling. And if you can enjoy tater tots from Sonic, or a really large blueberry muffin, you should.

Except this time was different. This time I was determined not to just eat what was available to me. So I became the person with a special request, and the restaurant of my choice obliged.

It wasn't the best breakfast I've ever had. The egg would have tasted better between a plain bagel or two pieces of sourdough bread, but since bread is not an option, I ate it mixed with sauteed bell peppers and onions and sprinkled with (too much) cheese.

And there wasn't anything said about the lack of bread. It cost the same as it would have cost to purchase the whole sandwich (wouldn't it be nice if it was less, though, since I ate less food?). But I felt better about what I ate than I would have otherwise. Of course, I did put a little too much half and half into my coffee, but really, I'm the sort of person who likes coffee with my creamer so at least I cut it back some.

A lot of people mention how restrictive the South Beach Diet is and how they couldn't do it. And it is restrictive and not the easiest thing in the world. But it's also not impossible.

Like anything, it comes down to choice. I choose to watch what I eat. I choose to adhere as closely to the plan as I can – though I did have the tiniest sliver of pepperoni pizza for dinner Wednesday night. My butternut squash soup just wasn't cutting it.

It would be easy to say that I failed by eating pepperoni pizza Wednesday night. Really, it would have been best not to eat it. But by eating the tiniest sliver, I showed myself that I can eat some unhealthy things without feeling like I need to eat all of it as I have in the past. After all, it wasn't too long ago that I practically refused to share a frozen pizza with my husband.

I mentioned my little cheats from over the weekend. And I feel like I need to mention the cheat I had Wednesday night because I don't want anyone to think that I'm going along perfectly and without struggle through this two week phase. Because I'm not. I don't know how people can do it perfectly because sometimes you need that something extra.

And maybe if I hadn't eaten the sliver of pepperoni pizza or the handfuls of popcorn I would have lost 7 pounds by now instead of just 5. I don't think it really matters though. I feel so much better than I did just a week ago and that's worth so much more than those two extra pounds.

I also feel more confident in my ability to live a healthier lifestyle. After a month of never stepping foot in a gym and a month of eating more ice cream than I had over the past few months, I really wondered if I could actually make the change from unhealthy to healthy. I wondered if I would be able to maintain a healthy weight if I ever got down to my goal weight. The past week has shown me that I can say no and still be satisfied with what and how I am eating.

Right now, I'm reading the book Unlimited by Jillian Michaels. I usually read through books as quickly as I can, but this time, I am slowing down and really letting her words resonate with me. And they are.

There are so many quoted from her book that are applicable. But the one that really makes me think, at least at this moment in time, is “Understanding how you think about yourself and why you react to life the way you do will allow you to change any behavior, knock out any mental obstacle, and create any reality you desire.”

I'm definitely learning how I think and why I react. I'm taking a hard, hard look at all the reasons I used to eat so much ice cream and fight over pizza with my husband – even pout if he got to eat more of the pizza than I did. And the understanding and realizations have made it much easier to embrace a healthier lifestyle.

I think that's the point of the South Beach Diet, and really any eating plan. It's not about how much weight I can lose in two weeks. It's about bidding farewell to the foods that have no real place in your life and then slowly waving hello to the foods that will fuel you once you learn how to properly and responsibly consume them.

(title from "catch me" by tony lucca)


like a sun comin' out of a rainy sky

We walked through the front door of our house after 9:00pm Tuesday night. My first thought was to begin tackling the laundry - both the clothes that needed to be washed and the clean clothes waiting to be folded. I hung my coat up in the closet and then started the short trek to the laundry room.

My husband caught me, already dressed in his sweatpants and ready for bed. He put his arm around my waist and told me that I looked smaller, that he noticed the hard work I've put into watching what I ate for the last week and ensuring that I spend time in the gym.

I needed that. More than I even knew I needed it.

We talked about our Love Languages last night at dinner as a couple. It's easy to name my love language or my husband's love language, but it's hard to put it into action and actually love each other with that language.

One of my love languages is words of affirmation. I want to know that the dinner I cooked tasted good. I want to know that the effort, however much or little, I put into the house is appreciated. I want to know that, when I spend time putting on make-up and straightening my hair, I look pretty.

Hearing him say that I looked smaller spoke so clearly to me and to my heart. Because today has been tough. I'm hungry - so very hungry - but I can't bring myself to eat more lean meat, more vegetables.

Phase One of the South Beach Diet allows for me to eat as much lean protein as I want. There's a lot of freedom in knowing that I can eat as much of certain items, but after a week, I'm tired of eating chicken and fish without any sort of carbohydrate. I miss macaroni and cheese. And I miss ice cream.

But I know this struggle is worth it. Hearing my husband tell me, without any sort of prompting and in the midst of my thinking about all the things I needed to get done around the husband, that my hard work was noticed solidified the knowledge that the struggle and the hunger, because I am hungry most of the time, and the dislike of eggs (which I eat every morning), is more than worth it.

I haven't eaten perfectly over the past week. Friday night, we had dinner with friends, and I ordered a cup of the chicken chili. There was corn in the chili, but I still ate it. I also ate two (large) bites of a chocolate croissant on Friday night. And I've added creamer into my coffee each day I've had coffee.

But I've also had success. I said no to bread at Outback Steakhouse on Saturday night and ate a healthy salad and a lean steak for dinner. On Monday, when we met with friends for lunch, I took the croutons out of the crab bisque and all the apples off the chicken salad I ordered.

The thought of starting any healthy eating program is overwhelming. Because it changes everything. It doesn't change how you eat; it changes how you look at food. In the past, I wanted to enjoy food; I saw it as something to do with friends. I looked at food as a way to handle life. If I had a bad day, I ate to feel better. If I had a good day, I ate to celebrate.

Now I eat to survive. I eat the food that will fuel my body, and for me, a diet of more lean protein does just that. It is imperitive, for anyone wanting to be healthier and lose weight, to find a program that works for you. And there are numerous programs to choose from.

A friend of mine posted a link on Pinterest to a website that discusses different body types and how those body types impact a person's weight loss. Reading through the website showed me that the South Beach Diet works for me because it's something I can stick with and because, according to the site, it fuels my body with what I need to be healthy and get to a healthy weight.

Knowing that, I can't say I haven't thought about other eating plans like Weight Watchers. I even tried it in high school, and it did work for me. I can't say I also haven't thought about plans like NutriSystem, but I've never tried it because it would be far too easy for me to go back into an unhealthy eating pattern as I wouldn't have learned how to eat - I would have just eaten the food delivered to my house.

But I didn't chose either of those plans. I chose the South Beach Diet - again. I chose the plan that would help me to bid farewell to the carbohydrates and sugars. I chose the plan that is retraining me on how much food actually makes me full. I chose the plan that allows me to eat as much as I want, of certain foods, but is helping me to know that I don't really need to eat as much as I thought I did.

Phase One of the South Beach Diet is hard. It's no fun to not eat bread and to not eat sugars. But I'm more afraid of the upcoming phases. I'm afraid because I know that last time I did not do well reintroducing sugars and complex carbs. Last time, I jumped right into those foods and honestly forgot the knowledge I gained from Phase One. I chose whole wheat pasta over white pasta when I could but I ate more of those complex carbs than I really needed to fuel my body.

I also gave up last time. Halfway through the second week of Phase One, I stopped eating only the allowed proteins and vegetables. It became too hard, and I decided that I would no longer try.

But not this time. This time I am not giving up. This time I am holding onto the principles. This time I am remembering just how far I've come and looking at how far I have to go - knowing that the second week of Phase One of the South Beach Diet will help me get to where I need to be.

I will also hold onto the words of affirmations that my husband gave me. Words of affirmation that came exactly when I needed. And I will hold onto how accomplished I feel with 35 pounds lost, as of today.

(title from "let me feel you shine" by david crowder band)


pretty words to say

This weekend I made mostly good choices. There were a few bad choices, like several handfuls of popcorn on Sunday night while watching Courageous and drinking more Diet Coke and Diet Dr. Pepper than water, but for the most part, I selected my food wisely - eating lots of salads and soups when we went out for dinner - and made it to the gym on Saturday and on Monday.

And that's okay. Because it's a process. And processes take time.

And, as much as I love to see a smaller number on the scale, it's really not about losing weight. It's about gaining knowledge and a new lifestyle.

I lost weight this weekend. But I gained more knowledge. And I really can't wait to share all that I learned during this first week of the South Beach Diet (take three).

(title from "turpentine" by brandi carlile)


done looking for the critics (week 9)

I wish I could be on The Biggest Loser or Extreme Makeover Weight Loss Edition. I so wish I could be. But I can't.

There's nothing stopping me from applying other than myself. And maybe the fact that I might not have enough weight to lose.

The thought that if I gained more weight and then tried out has crept into my mind. If I got back to the weight I started at, then maybe, just maybe, I could get on the show. It's backwards thinking since I'm already well on my way to losing 100 pounds.

But there's something about seeing people's stories on television that gets to me. There's this huge part of me that wants nothing more than to be able to put my story out there on television as well. It's not that my story is all that interesting - because really it's no different than most people's. I've had plenty of hurts. Plenty of things have happened that helped me to gain weight. But I've dealt, and am dealing, with those things. I'm peeling back all the reasons I gained so much weight in the first place, and I'm taking a good, long hard look at myself in the mirror. And I'm learning to love myself again.

I'm doing all the things the contestants on The Biggest Loser and Extreme Makeover Weight Loss Edition do - working out, trying to eat right, sorting through all my issues. And I'm documenting it all here on this blog. But I'm able to filter some of it which isn't possible on television. I'm able to choose what I talk about and what I share. With a television show, it wouldn't be up to me to decide what aired and what didn't. That would be in the hands of the editor and producer.

I think that's part of the reason why I want to be on a show. I want there to be no filter, and honestly, I'm just not brave enough, right now, to take the filter away and talk about every single thing that led to my needing to lose so much weight.

But with television, there wouldn't be a choice. And with television, there would be a trainer and a life coach there with you - available always by phone. With a blog, there's just me and the gym. I have friends I can reach out to, but really it's up to me, and only me, to work through whatever I have to work through. Really it's up to me to succeed.

You can still fail with television. I know that. There was one failure on last season's Extreme Makeover Weight Loss Edition. And while it hurt me to know that person wasn't able to lose all the weight, it made me respect the show so much for their determination to be honest and really show that one person's year long story.

And, really, with a show like those there is so much support available to you. A home gym provided inside your house and healthy groceries for a year. Do you know what I could, and would, do with those things? Do you know how wonderful it would be to not have to worry about where to buy groceries and how much I am spending? Do you know how great it would be to know that as soon as I got out of bed I would have access to equipment?

I'm sure most people do know. Most people want those things too.

There's a part of me that has really wondered if I could do this. A part of me that thought losing 100 pounds would be impossible. And there's a part of me that, for about a month, made it impossible.

I've always been equally afraid of success and failure. If I fail, then what happens? But if I succeed, where do I go next? A month away from the gym was my way of stopping my success and also ensuring failure.

You see, when you spend months and months working out, it becomes a part of you. If I was angry, I exercised. When I was upset, I spent time on the elliptical. During the times when I was stressed and anxious, I turned to the gym.

And then I stopped. I blamed in on strep throat. And then on exhaustion. Finally on my knee. And instead of handling everything with time in the gym, I stopped handling things.

Stepping back into the gym on Monday was equally wonderful and terrible. I climbed onto the elliptical and finished a work out that rivaled the work outs I did before I stopped going to the gym. And I felt proud. Excited. Alive.

But then Tuesday came, and the time I spent in the gym was horrible. I was on the verge of tears during my time on the elliptical and then on the stationary bicycle. I didn't know why.

It happened again on Wednesday and on Thursday. All of these emotions rising up in me. Memories of how out of place I felt the first time I entered the gym. Memories of all the time I spent not exercising, all the time I spent taking care of everyone else but never myself.  Reminders of how scary it is to begin living your life in a completely different manner.

I was on my way home from work on Thursday when it hit me - the reason it was so hard to get into the gym again after a month and the reason I've felt on the verge of tears all week. I took in a deep breath and then I let the tears fall. And I promised myself that, even though I'm not on a television show and even though I don't have what those of television shows have, I would never again let myself fail or come close to failure.

Because, not only can I do this, I am doing this.

(title from "f*ckin' perfect" by pink)


here we go again

After weeks away from the gym, I was nervous. I've dealt with anxiety over exercising and what other people thought of me, but I overcame much of that anxiety. And then I stopped going to the gym.

I would tell myself that this would be the week that I started exercising again. I always meant it, but until this week, I didn't follow through. There were plenty of reasonsexcuses. One was my knee.

In junior high, I had knee surgery on my left knee, and then the summer before my freshman year of college, I had knee surgery on my right knee. I've dealt with problems with my left knee (my knee cap moving out of place) for years. Spending hours at the gym alleviated many of the problems as I finally began strengthening the tendons and muscles in my knee.

But something happened with my right knee. I thought it was overuse and misuse. I would straighten my right leg, and my knee would pop loudly each time. I would bend my knees, and I would hear bone rubbing on bone. And I cringed every time. I decided I needed rest and used the rest as a reason to not work out. But the problems only got worse.

I finally started moving on Monday, and while my knee isn't fully fixed, it feels much better and is already making less noise. I can only attribute that to the past three days on the elliptical, consuming lots of water, and once again taking glucosamine (along with cranberry extract, fish oil, milk thistle, and a multivitamin).

When I stepped into the gym today, I did so with a mission. My upper body was sore after one day of rowing and yoga abs and then another day of upper body strength training, so I knew that my Wednesday work out would need to concentrate on something other than my arms and core muscles.

I decided to complete 40 minutes on the elliptical - 10 minutes more than what I did on Monday or Tuesday. Just moving on the elliptical wouldn't be enough, so I looked for interval work outs to fit my needs. But I didn't find anything I liked, so I created my own.

I spent the first 10 minutes on the elliptical increasing the incline. I kept my speed around 4mph. Then I completed 10 minutes of intervals. I moved at 4mph for 30 seconds and then increased my speed to somewhere between 5mph and 6mph for 30 seconds and then repeated that routine for 10 minutes. After that, I completed another 10 minutes on the elliptical increasing the incline and then another 5 minutes of intervals. I ended with a 5 minute cool down and then somehow made it back to my office to finish the rest of the work day. I was a sweaty, sore mess, but I loved every minute of it.

My day had the potential of turning out poorly. I was rushed this morning as I had something to take care of before work. Our coffeemaker also malfunctioned, so I left the house without an egg scramble and coffee. But instead of letting that determine my entire day, I made do with breakfast, eating turkey bacon and some cheese, and got my caffeine from somewhere else. And I finished the day without any cheating on phase one of the South Beach Diet.

I had planned on making turkey chili in the CrockPot for dinner, but my rushed morning made that impossible. My back-up plan was to make a taco salad, using lean ground turkey for the meat, but by the time I got home, I no longer wanted anything Mexican. In the past, I would have struggled to figure out what I wanted to eat, but I found a recipe on Pinterest that I knew would work for dinner.

It's only recently that I've truly started to cook, so most likely, I will be unable to take credit (ever) for full recipes. I say that because I want to make sure and give credit where credit is due.

Dinner tonight was lightly smothered chicken, although I smothered it a bit more. That's part of the beauty of the South Beach Diet. I can eat as much as I want of the right foods, and somehow I eat less than I do when I'm just watching what I eat.

I started with 12 ounces of baked chicken breast (the original recipe calls for grilled). The chicken breast was seasoned with Italian Seasonings; I baked it at 375° for 25-30 minutes on Monday. The juices ran clear, and it was not dry at all. I then sliced one green bell pepper, one onion, and 8 ounces of mushrooms. I sauteed all of the vegetables in 1 teaspoon of olive oil.

While the vegetables cooked for about seven minutes (they were still crispy - just like I like them), I smothered the chicken in dijon mustard. The original recipe calls for one tablespoon of dijon mustard, but I used more than that. Once the vegetables were finished cooking, I mixed them in a bowl with oregano, two cloves of minced garlic (the original recipe calls for one), sea salt, and pepper.

I put the vegetables on top of the chicken and then covered the chicken and vegetables with cheese. The original recipe called for mozzarella cheese, but I didn't have any so I used colby jack cheese. I also used more cheese than the original recipe because, well, I can eat lots of cheese. The dish cooked for approximately 10 minutes, just long enough for the cheese to melt and the chicken to be reheated, at 350°.

This is a recipe I will definitely be making again. I ate most of it for dinner, and my husband tried it as well. It's now one of his favorites. Next time I would make less onions as they aren't my favorite and use two bell peppers as well as increase the amount of chicken which would make enough food for two dinners and one lunch at least.

So much today was simple. A simple dinner, a simple work out. But it was what I needed because it showed me that I can do this - even when my morning is rushed and less than ideal. I needed that reminder.

(title from "sort of" by ingrid michaelson)


sometimes you just need a little faith

My alarm went off at 4:02am on Monday morning, and I stumbled out of bed. My husband is required to be at work by 5am every day, so we get up in the morning together and I help him by making his coffee and putting his lunch together. Normally, I fall back into bed within 15 minutes and am back asleep within another 15 minutes.

Monday was different. Monday was the first day on phase one for the South Beach Diet. Monday was the first day of restarting my journey towards health.

After he left for work, I turned the oven on and set a pack of chicken breasts under a stream of water. My biggest struggle is planning. The South Beach Diet requires planning - especially phase one when there is no bread consumed, no fruit to be eaten, and it is almost impossible to eat processed foods.

That morning I baked tilapia and I tossed chicken, diced tomatoes, and black beans into the CrockPot. While the tilapia cooked, I settled back into bed and started my quiet time.

Weight loss is different for everyone. For me, it's a spiritual matter as much as it is a physical matter. I know that in the past I haven't done well putting my relationship with God, or with myself first, and I decided that this time around I would make sure that my relationship with God came first. Spending the twenty minutes reading my Bible and journaling prepared me for the rest of the day, and I knew that I would and could do it.
For breakfast, I sauteed spinach and then scrambled the spinach into two eggs and one egg white; I then mixed in 1/4 cup Mexican shredded cheese. I also cooked turkey bacon in the microwave. I brewed my coffee and then drank that on the way to work. I took the baked tilapia, sprinkled with Italian seasonings, for lunch and ate that along with a bag of steamed broccoli. Dinner that night was a South Beach Diet friendly adaptation of CrockPot Santa Fe Chicken meaning I skipped the corn and did not make rice to serve along with the chicken. I also made sure to drink almost 70 ounces of water and only one Diet Dr. Pepper. I ended the day with sugar free chocolate mousse from Jell-O.

I had hoped to make it to the gym Monday morning but between cooking, quiet time, and than taking one of our dogs to the vet, I didn't have time. But I knew I would have the lunch hour to spend at the gym. And I did just that.

I spent 30 minutes on the elliptical, 10 minutes on the rowing machine, and then 6 minutes doing yoga abs. By the time my lunch hour ended, I was sweaty, sore, and happy.

Tuesday started the same as Monday except that I went back to bed within 15 minutes of making my husband's coffee, and I then proceeded to hit the snooze button until the last possible moment. Still, I managed to get up, spend time reading my Bible, bake chicken in the oven, and cook breakfast before leaving for work.
My breakfast on Tuesday included sauteed mushrooms and spinach and three scrambled eggs. I left the cheese out of the equation and also ate two pieces of turkey bacon. For lunch, I ate leftover CrockPot Santa Fe Chicken. Dinner included a 5 ounce steak, seasoned with salt, pepper, and cumin, cheesy cauliflower, and steamed green beans. I managed to say "no" to a piece of King Cake and again ended the day with sugar free chocolate mousse from Jell-O.

I had hoped to complete two workouts on Tuesday, but two snoring, cuddly dogs beat going to the gym at 5am. I did squeeze a workout in near the end of the day and completed 30 minutes on the elliptical, 10 minutes on the stationary bicycle, and then 13 minutes of upper arms strength training. I was sweatier than Monday, sorer than Monday, and happier.

It's only been two days and already I feel a million times better. I don't think it's just the exercise, just the food, or just the water. I think doing one thing without the others would be counter productive but doing all three makes me unstoppable.

My biggest struggle is planning as I mentioned before which makes the South Beach Diet more of a challenge, but the South Beach Diet also helps me to understand how to plan out my meals as well as how to plan how I spend my time in the mornings and throughout the day.

I chose the South Beach Diet because of how it causes me to plan. But I also chose the South Beach Diet because it cuts out the food I eat too much of - carbohydrates and sweets.

There are some people who can control their portions. I am not one of those people. I can easily eat an entire pint, or quart, of ice cream in one sitting. I also struggle saying no to bread or tortillas or tortilla chips - especially when there is queso to dip the tortilla and chips in. The last time I started the South Beach Diet I did not do well with reintroducing carbohydrates and sweets into my diet. Instead of starting slow, I rushed into the carbohydrates and sweets - undoing all the good that Phase One had done.

This time around I am looking at the South Beach Diet as a true lifestyle change. This time I am constantly thinking about what I can eat, and what I can't. This time I am seeing the next two weeks as an opportunity instead of fourteen days of restriction to survive. This time I am excited about what will happen after the next two weeks instead of worried about if I will even make it through the next two weeks.

The South Beach Diet isn't for everyone. I'm making it work for me which means that I'm eating a lot of frozen vegetables and that the meals I am making are simple and also ones that my husband can (and will) eat. I'm also ensuring that there are always leftovers because then I can take the leftovers for lunch the next day which makes the mornings easier.

I know that not every day will be as "easy" as the past two days have been. I'm off work for most of next week, and will be spending four days in Texas with my parents. Nothing beats Mexican food in Texas, but I can, and will, say no to nachos and tortillas while I am there. I also struggle more with my eating when I am at home than when I am at work. There are plenty of reasons why I might fail, but I know I won't because I won't let myself.

This - my health - is so much more important that my love of nachos. It is so much more important then anything because this is my life. And it's my time to put my life first.

(title from "the sun will rise" by kelly clarkson)


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