Saturday, September 11, 2010

Beer and Brownies: A Tailgating Survival Guide

Football may not be your thing. You may not like it, you may not understand it, or you just plain may not care about it. However, even though it's not your thing, you probably have some kind of "thing" that seems to revolve around friends, food, drinks, and fun. For me, football is that thing. And although this is my survival guide to tailgating, I'm sure parts of it can also be applied to whatever your "thing" is that happens to involve eating and drinking.

(Disclaimer: I'm not claiming that everything in this guide is "healthy", most of the tips are just my "healthier" options to enjoying the day. The beauty of WW is that you don't have to give up eating and drinking with friends in order to live a healthy lifestyle. It wouldn't be healthy to live this way every day, but on occasion it is necessary to fit a day like this into your life, if only to preserve your sanity!)

Tomorrow I will be attending the home opener of my favorite professional football team. My friends and I are pretty serious about football. Eleven of us own a bus, painted in our team colors, which we will be driving to the stadium tomorrow morning. We will arrive in time for the parking lot to open at 8:00am. Here are some suggestions for getting through a day like that without completely sacrificing your hard work toward living a healthy lifestyle:

Tip #1 - Bring breakfast
Breakfast is for wusses! Beer is all the breakfast we need! Well, not this week. I will be eating fruit before I leave home, but I am making low fat blueberry muffins for everyone else (and I will have one too). I'm hoping this will allow me to eat lunch at a more normal time instead of having hot dogs at 9:00am because I am starving!

Tip #2 - Bring your own snacks
I bought fat free pretzels because I have a sneaking suspicion that everyone else will be bringing snacks like potato chips and Doritos. Snyder's is my go-to brand for pretzels, yum!

I also made a dip, because for some reason people really like to dip their snacks in something (myself included). I'm not sure why, pretzels are great on their own, but when tailgating, I always feel the need for dip. This dip is super low fat! I have a dip mix that calls for mixing the spices with mayo and sour cream. I substituted nonfat Greek yogurt for the sour cream and used low fat mayo. 2 T of dip are now only 1 point!! It's called Fiesta Dip and has a lot of spicy, Mexican flavors. Doesn't it look yummy?

Tip #3 - Keep track of your beer!

For me, this one is especially important. I am very serious about tracking my WW points. After a few beers, it gets really hard to remember how many I have had, and almost impossible to track them later! Some people say to limit your alcohol intake by drinking water in between beers, and that may work for some, but not for me! I'm not interested in filling up on water when I planned to drink beer all day!

My number one rule: no beer in the stadium. It's too expensive and too difficult to keep track of. Instead, any beer I am going to drink will be while tailgating in the parking lot. Every time I finish a beer, the tab (in this case, since I bought cans, but you can do this with bottle caps too) goes directly into my pocket. Later, when I get home and need to track my points for the day, I can pull out the tabs and know exactly how many beers I had. No guesswork!

Tip #4 - Substitute
I am from Buffalo. We are a town that appreciates our sausage. I am from a very Polish family. My innards are practically made of processed meats. I would love to say I am vegetarian and have the easiest excuse for avoiding these meats while tailgating, but my friends know me way better than that! Even more, I know I will WANT those processed meat products, and I am not about to give up all the great things in life if I don't have to. Everyone is going to be eating hot dogs, sausage, and hamburgers. However, I will enjoy eating these goodies more if I know they aren't a heart attack on a plate... So I substitute. First, I bought reduced fat hot dogs. Second, I am bringing some homemade venison sausage (venison is a very lean meat). And third, I am eating these products on wheat rolls with more fiber than your typical hot dog bun:

Tip #5 - Play games!
So, I have already saved all my weekly points for tomorrow. And I have already earned as many APs as possible. But instead of just sitting around bs-ing and drinking beer, I will have tailgating games handy to try and sneak in some activity. For those outside the greater Buffalo area, I present to you the best party game ever: KANJAM!!

Seriously people, this is a fabulously fun game to play with friends! It involves throwing a frisbee into a small plastic container (like a small garbage can with a slot cut in the front). If you don't have access to KanJam, there are lots of other great group games you could bring... Rings, ladder golf, beanbags (we used to have a great team logo beanbag toss, but it got warped in the rain one day). None of these things are hardcore exercise, but they certainly help prevent everyone from sitting around and eating nonstop!

Tip #6 - Conquer the post game munchies
After the game we head back out to the bus. Being Bills fans, we typically have just suffered a devastating loss, we have lost our buzz, and we are facing hours of traffic to get out of the parking lot. We don't want to fire up the grill again, so we snack on whatever is handy. There are always leftover chips (luckily I will have my pretzels) and someone brings cookies or brownies.

This time, I refuse to get caught up in that post-game lull of mindless snacking on unhealthy foods. To satisfy the sweet tooth, I made No Pudge brownies to share with everyone:

I added some chocolate chips on top, which did increase the points value a little (this is a batch of 24 brownies, at 3 points each). I wonder if anyone will be able to tell they are low fat!!

I hope this survival guide helps some of you through the football season (or with whatever your "thing" is). Go Bills!!

Week In Review

I gained a little this week. I totally expected to have a small loss, since as I mentioned early in the week, I did not exercise AT ALL. However, I wasn't really expecting a gain. I ate well, used most (but not all) of my weekly points, and made sure to drink lots of water. It's a bit frustrating to gain, especially since my past shows me that my body loves to hover around that 170 mark for long periods of time. I definitely don't want to think that I'm going to be bouncing in and out of the 170's for months, so I hope this was the kick in the pants I needed to MAKE time for exercise. Since this weigh in on Tuesday, I have been out running my power line intervals with the pup on days when I get home before dark. I have been trying not to obsess about getting APs, but focus more on the enjoyment of what I'm doing for exercise. I am also trying not to beat myself up on days when I just don't fit in any exercise. It happens. Like my mom likes to say "Bridge it and get over it."

Accomplishments of the Week:

This week I kicked ass because:
1) I tried one new recipe - This was not as many as I had planned, but again I was struggling with finding that balance between going back to work and cooking, exercising, and making time for me! So I was happy to have made something new at all!

Lately I have been really loving the recipes featured on the WW website. I never used to be a huge fan of most WW recipes, because they always seemed to be lacking something but they have really stepped it up over there! This week my new recipe was "Tomato, Basil, and Mozzarella Pasta Salad" which was a refreshing summer treat.

In our house, we LOVE pasta salad and it's really hard to find a satisfying healthier replacement to the traditional version we crave. I really enjoyed this salad! It was whole wheat pasta, fresh mozzarella, cherry tomatoes (from the garden), fresh basil (from my herb garden), oregano, salt, pepper, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil. Super healthy and super delicious. The hub said it was a little dry for him, he wanted more oil. I told him to suck it up, it was healthy! But I liked it a lot and took the leftovers for lunch the next day!

2) I planned ahead and packed awesome lunches - One thing I have relied on in the past and am trying to get away from is eating frozen meals for lunches at work. It's so convenient, but I know I can make much healthier lunches by just preparing ahead of time. Every day of work so far I have packed my lunch the night before (even using leftovers, which I usually forget to do!) and I'm really hoping to keep that up. Obviously there is nothing wrong with frozen meals occasionally, but I find myself jumping on the whole foods bandwagon more and more all the time, so packing something I made is just a better option for me.

Goals for Next Week

Next week I will kick ass because I plan to:
1) Report to this blog on time - I'm really trying to use this as a tool to keep myself weighing in, attending meetings, and being overall accountable. I feel like I really stink at it when I weighed in on Tuesday, attended my meeting on Wednesday, and am finally getting around to reporting on things on Saturday! I am about to start a second job, too (more on that another time) so my schedule will be even crazier. BUT, I really am going to work on writing posts on time.

2) Work in some exercise - As mentioned above, I have already been working on this. I am not going to get caught up in obsessing about how much I exercise or get upset on days when I don't work it into my schedule. I'm going to be more laid back about it, do it when I have time, enjoy it, and reap the benefits that I know will come. I can feel my heart getting healthier all the time!

3) Be the healthy tailgating buzz kill - I love fall because I love going to football games. My team is playing its home opener tomorrow and I will be going to the game with a large groups of friends. We are arriving when the parking lots open, at 8:00am and will be eating, drinking, and having a generally great time all day. I have a master plan to keep tailgating from ruining my healthy lifestyle... I will be posting later with my healthy tailgating tips so stay tuned!

Monday, September 6, 2010

"Exercise: Necessary Evil or Untapped Enjoyment?"

I am late. My meetings are, as you know, on Wednesdays and now it is Monday and I'm finally getting around to writing about the "Exercise: Necessary Evil or Untapped Enjoyment?" meeting topic. Regardless, here goes nothing:

Exercise. Ugh. The bane of my existence. Even growing up, when I tried to play sports as a kid, I was never very coordinated or skilled at anything. I got used to the idea that my brother was the athletic one, and I was the smart one. It's funny how those early memories stick with you and influence your adult life. Still today, when I try some new form of exercise, there is that little voice of doubt in the back of my mind reminding me that I am not athletic and will probably suck at whatever I try. It literally took me months of psyching myself up before I could set foot in a spinning class. I was sure there was no way I was in good enough shape to keep up. Turns out, I was! Plus I really enjoyed myself!

This week I have earned exactly 0 activity points. I have not lived up to my promise from last week that I would keep up the great workouts even though I am going back to school. I was tired and my schedule was hectic and I used that as an excuse to be lazy. I am positive I will see a difference on the scale in the morning... and I hope it will be enough to motivate me to do better this week.

On a related note, I am ending my gym membership and I am totally okay with that! At my meeting last week I came to a realization that although I really detest going to the gym (sometimes enough to make me avoid going altogether!) I actually really enjoy many other types of exercise. I got caught up in the mindset that unless I was slaving away on a cardio machine at the gym (and hating life) I wasn't actually exercising. Last week, I realized that was not true. I had that huge loss and I did not set foot in the gym. I hiked with my dog, I ran intervals on the power line through the woods, I rode my bike. I loved every minute of it, earned a ton of APs, and had a huge loss on the scale. That was a real light bulb moment.

I decided that I am done treating exercise as a necessary evil and that is the attitude I have when I force myself to go to the gym. It doesn't make sense to do something I hate, just because it burns calories. I wouldn't force myself to EAT something I hate, just because it is good for me! Instead, I would find a substitute healthy food that would give me the same benefits but that I could actually enjoy. My new fitness goal is to tap into the enjoyment side of exercise. I will continue to try new things in order to find activities that burn calories and work out my heart, but I will require they are activities I actually enjoy! Plus, it sure won't hurt to have an extra $35 a month that I am currently spending on my gym membership!!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Week in Review

Wow, I was NOT expecting another large loss this week! Down 3.2! I am getting so close to my all-time adult low and I cannot wait to see that number looking up at me. Hopefully next week.

Accomplishments of the Week

This week I kicked ass because:
1) I made exercise my priority - I incorporated a ton more cardio into my usual lackluster fitness routine. I started doing intervals of running and walking on the power line trail near my house. It is literally a trail cut through the woods so a power line can run across the hill so I walked from my road to the first electric pole, jogged from the first to the second, walked from the second to the third, and so on. I am by no means athletic, and certainly am not a runner, but this was a great start! Guess who also really enjoyed it?

I also had some really great bike rides this week. I went a different way on my usual trail and look who I saw:
There was this entire swamp that was so beautiful and there were about five beavers playing around in there. They didn't seem to be too concerned that I was there, so I stopped and watched for awhile. The one in the picture seemed curious and swam right up to me!

2) I tried some new recipes - I have been trying to beat food boredom, so I plan to try a couple new recipes every week. This week, I tried three.

The first was a "Buffalo Chicken Pasta" recipe I found on the WW message boards. It consisted of chicken breast and whole wheat pasta, in a sauce made of vinegar, light whipped butter, celery seed, Franks Hot Sauce, and Laughing Cow Cheese (it called for Herb and Garlic, but I only had the Sun dried Tomato so I used that... I threw in some garlic powder for a little garlic flavor).  Being a Buffalo girl, I enjoyed the flavor of the Frank's Hot Sauce a LOT! It had that chicken wing-ish flavor without all the deep frying and butter. Not entirely the same, of course, but enjoyable nonetheless. It was a bit too spicy for the hub though.  I forgot to take a picture before we ate it all up, so it will have to suffice that I say "yum!".

The next recipe I tried was one of the recipes of the day last week on the WW website. It was "Grilled Margherita Portobello Mushrooms":

Looks like a burger, right?! It was pretty good, but I'm a fan of portobellos in general. This was a grilled portobello topped with a mixture of fat free mozzarella, garlic powder, and oregano. I put it on an Arnold's Sandwich Thin and topped with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, some fresh basil from my garden, and tomatoes. This was crazy low in points and so satisfying! I would suggest NOT eating it on a bun though, unless you're into the whole wet bread thing. I am not a fan of any kind of soggy bread and between the mushroom juices, the balsamic, and the tomatoes this meal was just too wet to come anywhere near a slice of bread!

The last new recipe I tried this week was "Grilled Corn and Avocado Salsa", again a recipe of the day last week on the WW site:

Every recipe I tried this week was good, but this one was my favorite! It is made of grilled corn (cut off the cob), scallions, a jalapeno pepper, red pepper flakes, garlic, cumin seeds, salt, pepper, avocado, lime juice, and cilantro (my favorite herb, by the way!). I loved this recipe because it was super versatile. I used it the following ways:
- To eat with tortilla chips, like you would a tomato salsa
- As a condiment in a burrito-like wrap
- Mixed in with a Mexican-style chicken bowl (with black beans, chicken, a little cheese, and some sour cream)

I'm sure there are more possibilities, but I ran out of salsa! I will definitely be making this again. It was super delicious, a little spicy, and a great new flavor to add to a lot of dishes. Plus, it kept for days, looking as fresh as the day I made it.

Goals for Next Week

Next week I will kick ass because I plan to:
1) Mix up the exercise - I know it is inevitable to lose some muscle along with fat every week, especially with these large losses I have been having, but I am not a fan of that "Body Fat %" number going up on my scale. I know I need to continue the great cardio I have been doing, as well as get back to strength training. I hope to work that in this week.

2) Get back on a schedule - School starts again this week so that means I am back to work for the school year. Summer is great for a lot of reasons (warm weather activities, fresh produce, a carefree attitude) but being on a schedule is not one of them. I'm a bit of a control freak, so the school year is good for me because I can plan more regular meals and exercise since I am on a set schedule. Sometimes, this throws me off right at the beginning of the school year since it's hard to figure out how I ever had time to work, exercise, cook, clean, etc (I've often fallen victim to ordering a lot of pizza during the first couple weeks of school). I'm spoiled in the summer and can use all my time to care for myself and my home! It's a lot harder when I suddenly have to convert back to the working woman! My goal this year is to not let the transition phase me and to keep up my recent success!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Amazing Drivers License Victory

Most people I know absolutely hate the picture on their drivers license. Usually for good reason. The lighting is poor, the "photographer" doesn't give you any warning before pressing that little button, and most pictures closely resemble either mug shots or a deer caught in headlights. Mine is no better... But today I learned to love my drivers license picture. Here is said glorious picture, read on for the story of why it is no longer so offensive to me:

I was at Office Max picking up a few last minute supplies for my classroom (back to school this week, let the craziness begin!). I handed the cashier my credit card to pay for my items and she asked for identification to verify it was my card. Now, I don't find that cashiers typically comment on customer's drivers licenses, although I'm sure they see a fair amount of horrendous photos. However, today my cashier immediately said "Wow, have you lost weight?!" loudly enough that several other people started looking! I responded "Yeah, thanks for noticing." She went on to proclaim how fantastic I looked and asked a whole bunch of questions like how did I do it, how much have I lost, do I feel different, etc.

Wow! I felt like a minor celebrity there in the checkout line! No one had ever noticed I lost weight before solely by looking at the picture on my drivers license and boy did it feel fantastic to be recognized for that accomplishment! It was such an inspiration to myself to think that a complete stranger could see my progress just by glancing at an old grainy photo the size of a postage stamp. Sometimes just when you need that little extra push to get through the day without ordering greasy takeout, it just comes out of nowhere and bites you!

Go me!!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Weekly Meeting with Caroline

So I told you the other day I was going back to WW meetings, and I meant it, damn it! I went to my regular Wednesday evening meeting with Caroline, the sweetest lady ever. Caroline has been my leader for a couple years and she is hilarious. She is about 70 years old and has been on WW for 30 years!! Seriously, I want to be her in 40 years or so! She is such a firecracker!

The topic of the meeting was "Say no to saying no" and was all about how on WW we don't NEED to say no to any foods. We may CHOOSE to say no, because it is not worth the points to us, but there is nothing that is completely restricted. (One reason I love WW, by the way!). I felt like this was a timely topic, considering my Pizza Hut debacle last week.

One thing Caroline said that really hit home to me was this: "Don't feel guilty about eating something. But make sure you ate it because you really wanted it. Don't eat it just because it's there, or because you smelled it, or because someone else is eating it. If you really, really want it, eat it. Count the points and move on. Guilt will get you nowhere."

Okay then. Last week I really, really wanted that pizza. I ate it, I counted it, I moved on, I still lost weight. I felt somewhat guilty for eating WPs when it wasn't really necessary, but I DID have the points, I DID want the pizza, and I DID track what I ate. So, no guilt.

The bottom line is, I think we are programmed to feel guilty when it comes to eating "bad" foods. No matter how healthy a lifestyle someone may live, no one is perfect and I'm sure every one of us craves some kind of not-so-healthy food at some point or another. Realistically, it's totally okay to splurge on something  every so often if we are maintaining a healthy lifestyle most of the time! And why should we feel guilty about that?

I think people often follow this philosophy in other areas of life and don't feel guilty about it. For instance:
I know people who cut back on spending in everyday life to save money for a nice vacation. I bet they don't feel very guilty while they are sitting on a beach somewhere sipping margaritas! Isn't what we do on the WW program a similar philosophy? If you want the pizza, cut back in other areas or exercise to offset the points, and enjoy! Wash your hands of the guilt!

I am just as "guilty" of this behavior as others, as you saw in my post about the pizza last week. However, Caroline's comment about how guilt gets you nowhere has really been stuck in my head. She's totally right and I'm going to try to stop the "bad" talking and feelings of guilt. I challenge everyone else to do the same!

Good luck and stay healthy!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Week in Review

This morning's weigh in was super successful! I lost 4.1 pounds since last week. Typically, that's a pretty unrealistic expectation. However, since I have not been living super healthy for most of this summer, and last week was the first week I really got serious about getting back on track, a pretty big loss was the result. I expect it to be a much smaller loss next week, but I'll certainly take that 4.1 for now!! I'm only 4 pounds away from my lowest adult weight!

Accomplishments of the Week

This week I kicked ass because:
1) I tracked everything I ate (even the junk, even the littlest bites and tastes, everything!) - This is so important! It's easy to ignore little tastes, or write off the junk food as a screw up, but all of it adds up! Note to self - suck it up, admit you ate it, write it down!

2) I made it through a wedding, and several beers, without binging on any junk food there (and, of course, I tracked the beer!) - Weddings are tough. A lot of times you have no idea what food will be served and by the time it IS served, you have made great friends with the bartender. For most of us, more drinks = less capacity to make great decisions. At this wedding, I didn't allow myself to fall victim to the taunts of cheesy pasta, fatty beef, or creamy dips. I ate super clean. I chose chicken breast, a baked potato, steamed veggies, and fresh fruit. All of that even after a few drinks! To me that's a sign of a healthy lifestyle starting to become the norm, instead of something I have to force upon myself!

3) I bought tons of fresh, local fruits and veggies and used them for everything (breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert, snacks, you name it!) - 'Tis the season for local produce, no matter where you live. Take it from an upstate NY girl, where most fruits and veggies aren't ripe until mid-summer: seize it while it's available, it will soon be gone! I can't stress enough the importance of supporting local growers. Their produce is fresh, your money is supporting your local economy, and you are helping the environment by purchasing goods that didn't have to be shipped across the country for your consumption. Check out this amazing caprese salad I made the other night with local tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and basil from my own herb garden:

Goals for Next Week

Next week I will kick ass, because I plan to:
1) Try some new recipes - I have three picked out. Not sure if I will get to all of them, but I'm going to try. New recipes really help keep things fresh and exciting. There are some foods I love and could eat everyday, but I don't want to get stuck in a rut or get bored by food.

2) Go back to WW meetings - I am going to admit that (gulp) I haven't been to a meeting since May! Eeeep! Seriously, I love my meetings, I love my leader, I have no idea why I strayed. Then it got to the point where not going just became habit. But tomorrow, I GO! I promise.

3) Kick it up a notch - When I'm not on track for awhile and I decide to get back ON track (like I did last week), I tend to focus on one aspect of a healthy lifestyle at a time. Last week, that was the food part. Since I was so successful at getting my eating back under control, this week I will be continuing eating healthy while also focusing more on the activity part. Today, I already made a step in the right direction:

Here I am, in the reflection of my car window, getting ready for a bike ride (always wear a helmet, people!).  I have a pretty decent mountain bike and I haven't had a chance to ride my favorite trail much this summer. Today was a cool day, but sunny, so I took the opportunity to ride for about an hour and a half. I had an amazing, peaceful ride plus I earned 7.5 activity points!!

My favorite trail is part of the "Rails to Trails" program. It's an old railroad converted to a multi-use trail. People use it for hiking, biking, horseback riding, etc. I really love it because it's such a beautiful ride through the woods and past swamps where I get to see a lot of different wildlife. Today I saw deer, rabbits, and a tiny little turtle sunning himself on a log! Most of the trail looks just like this:

... and makes me think of "The Road Less Travelled". The great part about "Rails to Trails" for beginning bikers is that since the path used to be an old railway, there were rules about how steep the grade could be... Meaning there are no areas where there are super steep inclines!

So I felt really great about getting all those APs right in the beginning of my week. It's a habit I hope to continue as the week goes on. Even when I feel like I don't want to make time to exercise, I try to remind myself that it's essential for a healthy lifestyle. Could I lose weight without it? Sure. But will I get all the same health benefits, just by losing weight and not exercising? Nope. So exercise it is.

Good luck and stay healthy!