Eats

Friday Five: My 5 Favorite Food Prep Hacks

Happy Friday! One of the things I have a knack for is figuring out the most efficient ways to do things, both inside and outside the kitchen. While I generally enjoy cooking and meal prep, I’m usually working against the clock (and/or my hunger pangs) with getting dinner made, or am prepping a bunch of things for the week ahead and like to streamline the process as much as possible. Through all of my experimenting in the kitchen, I’ve discovered some hacks that make the process a little bit quicker and/or a little more hands off, and wanted to share some of my favorites with you. Here we go!

1.) Preheat your baking sheet.

Did you know that if you preheat your baking sheet along with your oven when roasting veggies, you dont have to flip them half-way through? While this doesn’t time since it still takes the same amount to roast, it does save you from having to pull them out and flip them halfway through.

2.) Chop bell peppers with four cuts from the top down.

Here’s a video I shared on Facebook a few months ago demonstrating this method for cutting bell peppers. Saves a ton of time, especially if you’re chopping a few!

3.) Peel ginger with a spoon instead.

I used to spend so.much.time. trying to use a paring knife to peel ginger, and would end up cutting so much of the ginger itself away instead of just the peel. And then, I discovered that you can peel the skin off ginger by scraping it with a spoon, and only the peel comes off, none of the ginger flesh. Try it!

4.) Hands off hard-boiled eggs.

In general I’m not big of a fan of kitchen tools that just serve one function, but this Go Dash Rapid Egg Cooker was some of the best $20 I ever spent and one that I swear by. I love hard boiled eggs but somehow always managed to mess the timing up when cooking them in a regular pan, either from different sized eggs or user error with the timer. I got the egg cooker about a year ago and use it at least once a week if not more. It makes 6 hard boiled eggs at a time, and there are also options to make omelets, poached, or soft or medium boiled eggs, though I mostly stick with the hard boiled. It’s super simple to use and the eggs cook perfectly every time. I fill the water level to just below where it says “hard boiled” – which leaves the middle of the yolk ever so slightly undercooked and is exactly how I like them.

5.) Heat ‘N Eat Steel Cut Oats.

I wrote a post about the technique way back in 2010 (!), but I love having oatmeal as a breakfast option, and really like steel cut oats, but hate that they take 45 minutes to cook. This method takes a little bit of foresight because you have to get it together the night before, but basically you use a 1:4 ratio of oats to water (so 1 cup oats:4 cups water for 4 servings), bring it to a boil for one minute, and then keep it covered off the heat overnight. In the morning, you just give it a stir and the oats are cooked through and ready to be topped however you like ’em. You can also freeze these cooked oats into individual servings if you want to make a bigger batch (or can’t eat all you made in a few days).

What’s your favorite trick to save time (or effort) in the kitchen?

New Recipe: Lazy (Wo)man’s Chicken Cordon Bleu Stacks

You know those recipes that say they only take 20 minutes, but then you look through them and realize you have to chop, dice, and mince so many things that there’s no chance you’ll be done with the prep in 20 minutes, let alone the dish itself?

Spoiler alert: this is not one of those kinds of recipes, as this was born out of sheer laziness.

I always loved Chicken Cordon Bleu, and have experimented with several versions, most of which take a good amount of time as you pound out the chicken, roll it up with ham and swiss cheese, and then coat it in egg and breadcrumbs carefully before baking. While that version isn’t even that intense in the scheme of things, sometimes there are nights when the last thing I want to do is add another dirty dish to the pile or spend time getting the elements ready for an egg wash and dip in breadcrumbs.

Enter: Lazy (Wo)man’s Chicken Cordon Bleu Stacks

For this dish, it literally takes less than 2 minutes to prep and will only dirty one thing in the process – your baking sheet (and perhaps your hands). It’s hard to even call this a recipe because it’s so simple, but it’s one I put into my rotation at least once a month, so without further ado…

Ingredients:

  • 1-2 pounds of thin sliced chicken breast
  • 1 package sliced ham
  • 1 package swiss cheese
  • salt & pepper

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Lay your thin sliced chicken breasts out on a baking sheet with foil or a nonstick baking sheet (this is the one I have and LOVE)

3. Season with salt and pepper on both sides of the chicken breast

4. Place a slice or two of ham over each chicken breast

5. Place a slice of swiss cheese over each chicken and ham

6. Place in preheated oven for 18 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through

And that’s it! I usually have one or two pieces of chicken over a salad or with some kind of veggie and/or rice/potato on the side. I’ve also been known to eat leftovers cold/straight from the fridge (am I supposed to admit that?) or on a sandwich. Super simple, quick, and tasty!

What’s your go-to recipe for a quick & easy weeknight meal?

A Peek Inside My Food Bag

Oh, hi! I have a lot to update you all on, but sometimes it’s hard to figure out how to come back when you’ve been away for a while without some grand gesture (post?) and I realized I can’t let that stop me, because I have to start somewhere.

Yesterday I got back from a four night trip to Hilton Head Health and I cannot tell you how serendipitous the timing of that trip was for me. I got invited to check out the facility with a group of other bloggers, and here’s a photo of the six of us who went, courtesy of the Hilton Head Health Facebook Page.

Bloggers
Andi, Monique, Sarah, Nicole, Lisa, …and Me

I’m still gathering my thoughts on the trip to share with you, but I will say that I left feeling very refreshed, excited, and recommitted to being healthy, losing weight, and getting myself back on track!

When I got back yesterday, I really wanted to cook for the first time in a while. It helped that I had also promised my friend Stacy, who watched Stella while I was gone, dinner, so I decided to sketch out a meal plan and then go to the grocery store.

Usually when I make a meal plan, I map out what meals I’ll be eating when, but I rarely stick exactly to it. So this time, I decided to just come up with a couple meal ideas for breakfast and then lunch/dinner, without plugging them into specific days/meals. This way I have the ingredients and ideas ready to go, but I’m not tied to having a certain meal at a certain time if I don’t feel like it.

So here’s what I came up with to carry me through most of the week:

Breakfast:

  • Steel cut oatmeal (I made 3 servings)
  • English muffin w/egg, spinach, and cheese
  • Smoothie w/banana, berries, spinach, skim milk, and almonds

Lunch/Dinner:

  • Chicken chili (just made this up as I went and this is what I made for dinner last night for Stacy, but I have two servings leftover)
  • Skinnytaste Creamy Lentil Soup (this is amaaaaazing. I made it last night for the first time and it’s so, so good.)
  • Chicken breast with cranberries and butternut squash (inspired by this recipe, but I’m too lazy to go through the whole process there)

And then, to satisfy your voyeuristic tendencies (trust me, I have ’em too), I wanted to give you a peek inside my food bag that I’m bringing to work today.

Lunch Bag

Keep in mind that I am in my office only Monday through Wednesday, and I’m lucky to have a fridge there I can leave things in overnight.

Closed Contents

I’m trying to get back into the habit of bringing in a few extra things at the beginning of the week, and then just supplementing as needed the next couple days.

Contents

Clockwise starting with: Honeycrisp apple, steelcut oats with pumpkin and cottage cheese, creamy lentil soup, chicken chili, raspberries, vanilla Chobani yogurt, Cilantro (garnish for both soups), Banana, Babybel cheese, reduced-fat sour cream (garnish for both soups), shredded cheddar (garnish for chili).

Are you more of a map every meal to every day, or just plan a couple meals for the week and make them as you feel like it? Any fun recipes you’ve tried lately and/or are looking forward to making soon?

Whole 30: Day 24 + Meal Ideas

You guys! I can’t even believe I’m writing in on day 24 and I’ve made it this far. I feel good. My skin has cleared up times a million, and I am definitely feeling less lethargic and more energetic than before. That said, I definitely don’t feel any miracles, but I still do have a week left, and I am very glad I’m doing this as a reset. I really needed something that would help me take pause and evaluate everything I was putting into my body, because I was slipping into some bad habits that I needed to kick to the curb (especially diet soda and processed foods in general). When I posted after one week on the Whole30 and admitted to stepping on the scale, a few people suggested that I really not weigh myself because it would make me focus on the wrong things, so I did actually put my scale away and haven’t weighed myself since. Just wanted to share that side note.

The Whole30 has truly helped reinspire me in the kitchen, too. Prior to Whole30, I was eating out A LOT (bad for the waistline and the wallet), not cooking very much, and eating a lot of convenient, packaged foods. Since Whole30, I’ve been diligently grocery shopping every week and doing a ton more cooking in my kitchen. I’ve gotten excited about my weekly grocery trip, gotten back into meal planning, and have ventured to the farmer’s market, Wegman’s and Aldi (first time ever). It’s been pretty awesome! Also, Whole30 helped me to make homemade mayo for the first time ever (using this recipe and because most store bought mayo contains soybean oil) and also purchased a spiralizer (this one) that I am obsessed with and use all the time.

A lot of my meals have been simple and straightforward, and looked something like this:

photo 2

2 eggs fried in coconut oil, sugar free bacon, 1/2 avocado, 1 sliced bell pepper, 1 sliced kiwi, seltzer water, and coffee with coconut milk

But I have come up with a couple more exciting meal ideas, and while I haven’t done up detailed recipes and taken step by step photos, I wanted to share anyway.

Slowcooker Mexican Shredded Beef

This is probably my favorite creation from all of Whole30. I purchased grass fed beef chuck from Whole Foods (it was on sale!), and then I did a simple prep and cooked it in the slower cooker. I chopped up an onion to throw at the bottom, and then seasoned both sides of the meat with cumin, corriander, chili powder, and a little salt, and put the seasoned beef on top of the onion. I added a little pico de gallo on top of the meat, and turned it on low and left for work. When I got back 9 hours later, my apartment smelled amazing and I had the most flavorful, melt-in-your-mouth shredded beef that I’ve ever had. I had Shredded Beef Lettuce Wraps, and stuffed butter lettuce with the beef, bell pepper, pico de gallo, guac, and mango salsa. If I could eat like that every day, Whole30 would be a breeze.

photo 4

Shredded beef, homemade pico de gallo, guac, mango salsa, red peppers, and butter lettuce leaves

Sweet Potato Egg Bake

This is a dish I’ve made a couple different times, and is perfect for bringing to work for breakfast. I shredded a sweet potato in the food processor, then added in scallions, eggs, and sausage from the farmer’s market that I cooked in a pan first. You could throw in any veggies you like to this, but the sweet potato was AWESOME and made it unlike any egg dish I’ve ever had. It almost tasted cheese-like, and added a very stick-to-your-ribs element that helped me stay full for hours. This will be in the regular breakfast rotation for sure.

Shredded Brussels with Bacon

photo 1

The picture here does the dish no justice, but this was probably my favorite veggie side dish. I mean it’s probably not a big surprise since there’s bacon, but only a few slices! I cooked 3 slices of (sugar-free) bacon in a pan, and then put the cooked pieces on a paper towel. In the same pan with the bacon fat still in there, I added a bag of shredded brussels sprouts from Trader Joe’s, and cooked those for a few minutes until they softened a bit. I crumbled up the bacon and tossed it back in, and voila! I had this with a few eggs on top, and also as a side with meat a few times. Delish.

Chicken Salad

Boring, I know. But eggs can get kind of tiring if you have them for breakfast every day, and I still have trouble wanting to eat something more lunch/dinner-y first thing in the morning. Chicken salad turned out to be a good middle ground, because it was light enough for breakfast, but substantial enough to keep me full for hours. I poached chicken breast (first time ever!), and then sliced it up and tossed it with some grapes, celery, and bell pepper. I mixed some curry spice into the homemade mayo, and then tossed the chicken salad with the mayo. I served it over a bed of greens to get a little more veggies in there, or else just ate it as is.

Egg Salad

This is not the most exciting thing on the list either, but I feel like it deserves a shout out because it’s a meal i’ve eaten several times a week all along the Whole30. Just like chicken salad, it’s something that I can eat for breakfast if I don’t want regular eggs, and it’s really easy to throw together. My favorite combination to date is 2 hardboiled eggs, 1 red bell pepper, 2 stalks celery, 1 dollop homemade mayo, and 1/2 avocado. So delicious and something I haven’t gotten bored of yet!

Avocado Deviled Eggs

So remember when I used to post a lot of recipes on this blog? It’s been something I’ve been struggling to get back into, so when I saw that the California Avocado Commission was hosting a recipe contest for the attendees of FitBloggin’, I knew it was the perfect chance to get back into it! Not only do I love avocados and coming up with simple and delicious recipes, but I also love me a contest with a chance to win some pretty sweet prizes.

For the California Avocado Cutting-Edge Culinary Recipe Contest, we had to come up with a recipe featuring California avocados, and I’ve been toying with different ideas for weeks. Here’s what we’re being judged on:

  • Creative use of California Avocados
  • Simple ingredient list with less than 7 components
  • Variety of fruits and vegetables
  • Recipe Photo Quality

As you probably know, I absolutely love everything avocado, but I generally use it in super simple ways that would barely constitute a recipe. So for this, I wanted to come up with a recipe that uses the California avocado as a staple ingredient in a way that I wouldn’t normally think to use it. I also wanted to use it in a way that would make the recipe healthier, but wanted to keep it pretty simple since those are the kinds of recipes I like (slash am capable of making).

Enter deviled eggs.

While traditional deviled eggs use mayo to smooth out the egg yolks, I thought the creaminess of an avocado might be a great replacement to still get that same satisfying consistency, and it worked out perfectly. Seriously, besides a slight green tint to the yolks, no one would ever know you slipped an avocado if you went with the traditional accompaniments of Dijon mustard, lemon, and cayenne. Trust me, I tried it.

But for this, I wanted to go a little further and use some other flavors to play off the avocado, so I went with a Mexican twist.

DSC_0027

In addition to the egg yolks and avocado, I used lime, cilantro, cumin, and jalapeno for the filling and it was AWESOME. The filling was so creamy and flavorful, and the thin jalapeno slice added a nice crunch as a garnish. You could also top these with a tortilla chip, or leave the garnish off all together, but I loved the idea of using some of the ingredients already in the mix on the top. I had a few taste testers, one who apparently is very critical when it comes to his deviled eggs, and he said these were “actually awesome”. I’m told that was a deep compliment. I’ll take it.

Without further ado, here’s the final recipe!

Avocado Deviled Eggs

Ingredients:

  1. 12 large hardboiled eggs, peeled (I use this method)
  2. 1 large ripe California Avocado
  3. 1 lime, cut in half
  4. 1 tbsp cumin
  5. 1 cup cilantro leaves, plus extra for garnish
  6. 1 jalapeno (I used a red one)
  7. salt to taste

DSC_0007

Directions:

1. Cut the hardboiled eggs in half lengthwise and separate the yolks from the whites.

2. Combine the egg yolks, California Avocado flesh, juice of the lime, cumin, cilantro leaves, and as much as the jalapeno as you like. If you don’t want it too spicy, you can discard the seeds and only use half the pepper. I cut off a few rings for garnish and threw the rest in there and it was perfect for me.

DSC_00233. Combine all ingredients until smooth. Use a food processor for the best results, but if you don’t have one or don’t feel like cleaning it afterwards, you can also mash it together with a fork, use an immersion blender, or use a regular blender.

4. Spoon the mixture into a plastic bag, cut off a small diagonal edge, and squeeze the mixture into the egg whites. You can also just spoon it in if you don’t want to go through the trouble.

5. Garnish with sliced jalapeno and/or cilantro, if desired.

DSC_0038

6. Enjoy! These will go fast.

Trying Something Different (Again)

Oh hey, old friends! Soooo I posted this yesterday on my Facebook page, but for the last several weeks/months, I’ve definitely been in a rut when it comes to eating (and exercise too, but that’s another post for another day). I mentioned in my last post that healthy eating has just not been a central focus of my life lately because I’ve had so much going on, but I’ve definitely started to notice my clothes feeling a little tighter and not loving pictures I’ve seen of myself recently, so I knew it was time to get my butt in gear before things get too out of hand.

I sat there Sunday night googling, “kickstart your diet” and “healthy jump starts for weight loss”, as if I was going to come across something that I didn’t already know about. I think the trouble is with me that lately I’ve really had so much going on that I can’t do something that requires too much effort or attention for the moment. So, after perusing the results of my searches for some time and trying to make a corresponding grocery list, a light bulb went off and I realized the simplest, easiest, most result-oriented thing I can do right now is go for the low/no-carb thing, aka Atkins, to get myself back on track.

Now, I’ve done Atkins before and while it did help me lose weight, it did NOT help me keep the weight off. I lost about 40 pounds my senior year of college, and then I gained it all back (and then some! you know how it goes…) once I reverted back to my old eating habits. I didn’t really have a plan in place (ie, I’ll give this a go for such-and-such amount of time, OR, I’ll go back into such-and-such way of eating once I’m done with this), and I think that was my downfall the first time around. I was successful in losing weight, but as soon as I was done with Atkins I went back to my old eating habits and hadn’t really made any permanent changes.

This time, while I don’t know exactly how long I’ll do it for, I do know that once I’m tired of it, I’ll go back to Weight Watchers and rest on all the things I’ve learned about healthy eating and moderation from it. I think I’ve come a LONG way in the past 9 years (since the last time I tried Atkins), and I know a lot more about myself, my body, nutrition, and weight loss than I did back then. And, I also know it’s not reasonable for me to stick to a no/low carb thing forever, so this is just temporary.

There are definitely some things that really suck about Atkins, and they are:

  1. No fruit
  2. No bagels (wahh!)
  3. No sweets
  4. No pizza
  5. No bread? duh

But there are also some things that I love about it:

  1. It’s black and white. Things are either allowed or they aren’t, nothing in between.
  2. Portion control is less important, since it’s more WHAT you’re eating and not how much.
  3. I can eat an avocado with a spoon and feel good about it.
  4. Nuts are also not that scary anymore, and same goes for nut butter.
  5. I can eat the skin on meat if I choose without any guilt.
  6. CHEESE. That’s all.

So to be honest it feels a bit weird to be officially doing something that is not Weight Watchers after all this time, but it also feels oddly refreshing. I think when you know a diet (or a lifestyle! Winking smile) inside and out, it can be hard to approach it with a fresh perspective because it’s not… well, fresh.

Have you ever had luck with kickstarting weight loss with a program you don’t plan to stick with forever? What have you found to be most effective?

Weight Watchers Simple Start

In case you missed it, the Beth’s Journey DietBet starts today and it’s not too late to sign up!

Every January, Weight Watchers releases a new innovation on the program and for January 2014, it’s called, “Simple Start”. The way Simple Start works is it’s a two week program designed to get you eating the right foods without having to weigh or measure everything you eat. There are a list of allowable Power Foods that you can pick and choose from, including fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nonfat dairy, lean proteins, and some extras. If you stick to picking foods from that list and pay attention to your hunger signals, you don’t have to portion everything out. On top of those “safe” foods that you can eat from, you get 7 extra points per day for treats (aka 2 <tiny> glasses of wine if you’re me). I love that you don’t have to weight and measure everything because it’s a great way to get back into the swing of things and not feel too overwhelmed, especially if you’re new to the program.

You’ll notice this sounds veeeeery similar to the Simply Filling Technique, and it is. The main difference is, instead of using the 49 weekly points however you want (all at once, divided between a few events during a given week, or spread out however you like), they recommend spreading them out evenly during the two week Simple Start program and using 7 per day.

Since the Beth’s Journey DietBet starts today, I decided to give it a try this week (and maybe next) to see how it goes, though I’ve not been able to stick with the Simply Filling Technique before, so we’ll see what happens!

Here’s the menu plan I came up with for the week:

Breakfast Lunch Dinner Snack
Monday Eggs sandwich with ham on a sandwich thin English muffin w/turkey + cheese, broiled with grapefruit on the side Turkey chili w/sour cream + radishes for crunch shredded wheat w/banana + skim milk
Tuesday Greek yogurt w/shredded wheat + blueberries turkey chili w/sour cream + radishes Grilled chicken thighs w/homemade tzatziki + roasted sweet potato cottage cheese + grapefruit
Wednesday English muffin w/ cottage cheese + grapefruit chicken thighs w/tzatziki over salad with cucumbers + tomatoes Roasted chickpeas + eggplant w/brown rice greek yogurt w/mashed banana
Thursday Veggie egg scramble w/toasted english muffin roasted chickpeas + eggplant over greens turkey chili w/radishes + cheese air popped popcorn + grapefruit
Friday Cottage Cheese w/blueberries + shredded wheat turkey sandwich on sandwich thin with sprouts, popcorn + blueberries TBD smoothie w/skim milk, banana, berries, and raw oatmeal

And, in looking back at last week’s goals:

  1. Workout 3x+ this week. I only went back to the gym twice, and my goal was to go for 20+ minutes because right now I’m focusing on getting back into the habit of working out. I went twice, and ran for 25 and 30 minutes each time. I also did a walk outside on Saturday for 2.5 miles, but I really wanted to get to the gym 3x, so I’m going to make this another goal.
  2. Eat out only once this week. Done! I ate out Thursday Night for restaurant week, and then managed to bring breakfast and lunch to work, and make dinner every other night. Woohoo!
  3. Limit to 2 glasses of wine. I had a few more than two one night of the weekend, but other than that I limited drinking to twice a week.
  4. Drink 3+ glasses of water during the day. Nope. I definitely drank more water than normal, but I need to keep working on it.
  5. Get in bed by 11pm every day. I was in bed by 11pm a few nights last week, but this is another thing I need to focus on.

So, with that said, here are my goals for this week:

  1. Workout 3x+ this week. I went on a 4.5 mile walk yesterday, so one down already!
  2. Drink 3+ glasses of water during the day.
  3. Get to bed by 11pm during the work week.
  4. Stick to Simply Filling Technique each day during the work week.

And that’s it!

What’s one thing you want to focus on this week?

Worlds Collide: Healthy Eating on the Road

Hello friends! Long time! I have been craaaaaazy busy with so many things, including lots of travel, a busy work schedule, and a busy social life! I was away for a week in Puerto Rico for pleasure, and in Denver for a long weekend for work before that. October basically flew by before I even knew what was happening, and now somehow we are almost half way through  November. I digress.

Yesterday at my day job, I gave a presentation on Healthy Eating on the Road. You may remember I did another presentation on Healthy Lunch Options a while ago, and it was kind of crazy to be at my day job talking about healthy living stuff, since those two worlds rarely cross paths. But yesterday, they did again.

I opened up the presentation with asking about what is challenging about being healthy when traveling. Everyone was in agreement that it’s definitely difficult and people were pouring out their ideas for why. Here are the challenges we identified:

  1. Lack of healthy options and not being as familiar with the options as you are at home.
  2. Wanting to enjoy new food as part of the travel experience.
  3. Time constraints/stress lead to limited time for exercise/making healthy choices.
  4. Social influences/drinking more than when at home.
  5. Lack of control over the menu/not knowing what is in the food that you’re eating (catered meals/restaurants)
  6. Kids.
  7. Portion control when eating out.
  8. Food being around all the time.
  9. Vacation mentality. (Feeling like you deserve to eat everything).
  10. Being out of your routine.
  11. Budget (healthy options cost more)
  12. Cultural Challenges (ie. not being able to turn down a 10 course meal)
  13. No scale to check in on your weight.

Originally I wanted to go through the challenges one by one and identify the tips and tricks that might work for each, but in the interest of time, we only got to a few. Here are the tips that we came up with:

  1. Do some research before you go so you can identify some accessible spots to eat and locate a grocery/convenience store not far from where you’re staying.
  2. Bring a water bottle, healthy non-perishable snacks, and workout clothes with you no matter what.
  3. Ask the staff/server at a restaurant or hotel what’s in the food and/or how it is prepared if you don’t know.
  4. Ask the hotel to put a refrigerator in your room before you get there so you can stock up on some healthy staples.
  5. Focus on eating a lot of the local fruit and veggies as part of the experience.
  6. Pay attention to portion control when you’re having heavier dishes and have less control over what you’re eating.
  7. In general, simpler foods where you can identify what is in it tend to be better for you than dishes where you can’t.
  8. 10 minutes of exercise can be enough. If you don’t have time for a full workout, just do some pushups, sit-ups, and/or jumping jacks. You can get a great workout and it doesn’t require any equipment and not much time, either.
  9. Carry healthy snacks with you so that you don’t let yourself get ravenous. Being ravenous is the worst way to be if you want to make healthy choices.
  10. Realize that just because you’re eating out for every meal does NOT mean every meal is a celebration. Sometimes it’s just lunch.
  11. Choose one between bread, dessert, and booze when dining out.
  12. Take a look at all the options before you choose what you put on your plate. That way you can make room for what you really want.
  13. Ask for half your meal to be wrapped up before they even bring it out to the table.
  14. Order two appetizers instead of a full meal for your entrée.
  15. Physically put yourself away from the food if it’s out all day. If it’s within arm’s reach, you’ll tend to eat a lot more than if you have to get up to reach it.
  16. Choose your splurges wisely. Ask yourself, “is this really the best cookie/brownie/etc I can get? Is it worth it to eat it just because it’s there?”
  17. Treat yourself with things other than food. Maybe go see a museum, exhibit, or show in the town you’re traveling as a treat instead.
  18. Plan a splurge meal for towards the end of your trip so help keep you on track leading up to the splurge.
  19. Stay within your routine as much as possible, even though you are in a different location.
  20. Take extra whole fruit from the breakfast buffet for later.
  21. A lot of hotel gyms are equipped with a scale, but use your clothes as a gauge instead if you can’t find one.

Lots of good stuff!

Do you struggle with being healthy when traveling? What’s your biggest tip for staying on track?

Part Two: The Evolution of My Relationship with Food

In case you missed part one, you can find it here.

Once I got to my goal weight with Weight Watchers, I had a little more flexibility with the system and how much of the “bad” foods I could eat. I was able to play the game a bit, but still cycled between that all or nothing mentality and was either being really, really good, or really, really bad when it came to eating. I learned to identify my trigger foods and make sure I never had them in my house – like peanut butter. I literally could not keep a jar in my kitchen because inevitably I would eat it by the spoonful until it was gone. And though peanut butter isn’t bad for you (like pizza would probably be considered by most), it was definitely one of those foods I did not allow myself to have when I was being “good” because it was too calorically dense, and I didn’t trust myself around it.

When you’re used to behaving one way or eating one way for most of your life, it’s a very, very hard cycle to break. I remember reading stories of people who had completely changed their lives and their bodies and preached the “everything in moderation” thing, and secretly hating them. How could there possibly be a way for someone who once struggled so much with their weight like I have all my life, come to a place where they trusted themselves around food? I didn’t buy it.

But after maintaining my weight loss give or take for about a year and a half, I realized that though I had gotten myself to a healthy weight, I still had an extremely unhealthy relationship with food. It still held a power over me and caused extreme preoccupation and anxiety, and it just came to a point where I couldn’t take it anymore.

One of the big first steps in breaking out of this cycle was changing my goal weight. I think I was putting so much pressure on myself to maintain a certain number on the scale, that it was getting in the way of me living my life and really giving food more control over me than was necessary, or healthy. When I upped my goal weight from 164 to 177, I felt a tremendous amount of pressure lifted. It gave me much more wiggle room to figure out where my body would land naturally and took away some of the power the scale held over me.

The other big thing that led to breaking out of this cycle was actually not something that I did directly – it was getting into a relationship with someone who had a lot less healthy eating habits than I did (which has since ended, but that’s a different conversation for a different day). I didn’t realize quite realize it while it was happening, but spending a lot of time around a lot of the food that used to cause me tremendous anxiety exposed me to these foods more than I’d ever been before. You know how they say if you are scared of heights, you need to gradually expose yourself to heights and let yourself feel the anxiety, and then once you realize nothing bad will happen to you, it helps relieve the anxiety and get you over your fear? (For a better explanation that actually makes sense, you can go here.)

I think for me, being around foods that used to have power over me and cause extreme anxiety over and over (and over) conditioned me to feel less anxious and preoccupied around them. It was a slow evolution and the first few weeks/months definitely still caused a physical reaction and made me ask myself a lot of questions. And, it was scary and uncomfortable being OK with being in that situation repeatedly. But, it also really helped me realize a few things.

First, I was not going to gain back all the weight by being near a pizza.

Second, I could have pizza every day if I wanted to, so there was no need to eat an entire pizza and make myself sick, because I could just have a few pieces and then if I wanted it again the next day, I could have it again (because it was probably going to be around).

Third, by letting myself have what I was actually craving and not eating what I thought I should be eating, I was able to eat less to feel satisfied.

Fourth, my preoccupation and anxiety around “bad foods” slowly lifted over time, and they stopped pulling my attention in every time I was exposed to them.

And finally, by letting myself have what I felt like eating, I actually started craving healthy foods and eating them because I wanted to, not because I felt like I had to.

As I said, this was a sloooow process and took a lot of courage to learn to trust myself around the foods that I hadn’t trusted myself around… ever. And it’s been a pretty eye opening process that has taught me a lot about myself. I don’t think I’m ever going to be “cured” of my issues with food and will always keep Weight Watchers as my backup for when the scale does start moving in the wrong direction. I know it works, but I don’t want to have to count everything I eat everyday for the rest of my life. And I’m not willing to.

Part One: The Evolution of My Relationship with Food

All my life, I was heavy. And I hated it. I went through this perpetual cycle of hating my body, hating myself, and hating that I let food have this power over me. I’d start off every day with the best of intentions for being healthy and losing weight, and while I knew what foods were healthy, I really had no concept of how much I should be eating of what. I would go for things with good gimmicks on the labels like “low fat” and “fat free” and “good for your heart”, thinking I was making the right choices. And I would eat just a little bit of it. And then, I would be hungry. And I would try to convince myself that I wasn’t, and do everything in my power not to eat more so I could lose weight.

And then I would binge.

I’d eat everything and anything I could get my hands on that was off limits for me during the times I was being “good”. I’d use being sad, happy, drunk, busy, anxious or bored as an excuse, and I would eat myself sick. Never to the point where I threw up, but to the point where I would feel sick to my stomach, uncomfortably full and would likely have to lay down. This would usually get it out of my system temporarily, and then I’d wake up the next day and hate myself even more. And then I’d start the cycle again.

There were periods of my life where I cared less about weight than other times, like during the first few years of college where I had my first serious boyfriend. At those times, I was just eating a lot of what I knew were bad-for-me foods pretty much all the time. And it’s no surprise that I gained a lot of weight. And then at the end of college, I decided to give Atkins a go because I knew it was something I could try that would allow me to eat excessive amounts of food and still lose weight. I was used to the “allowed” and “not allowed” labels on things, so it really worked for me. I lost 40 pounds, felt pretty good, and kept it off for a year.

But you know what? I like bread. And pizza. And fruit. And milk. There was no way I was going to be able to stick with that forever, and when I went off Atkins and back into my unhealthy restrict/overdo cycle of eating, it’s no surprise that I gained back all the weight and then some.

And then I (re)discovered Weight Watchers in 2009. I loved having the system that I could track my food (I’m a numbers person) and that nothing was off limits technically. I also loved that I was losing weight and learning to eat right, and being in a room of people where I could tell them that I ate an entire batch of cookies and they would get it and not judge me. It was very liberating. I think Weight Watchers was a very essential part of my journey because it really was what helped me develop a lot of healthy habits and lose a large amount of weight. At the time, I really needed a way out of the cycle I was in and the accountability and easy-to-follow program were right for me at the time.

But in many ways, Weight Watchers encouraged that restrict and then overdo it cycle that I was accustomed to, though a little bit less severe than it was before. I would always eat my minimum points per day, but for anyone who has ever done WW, you know that it’s really not that much. It’s enough, but there’s no way I could eat just 26 pointsplus per day every day for the rest of my life. My approach was that I would eat the daily target Monday to Friday, and then use all the extra points on the weekends or for a special event, which is when I’d way overdo it. A lot of times I wouldn’t count the points on those days where I was going above and beyond, and that freedom helped me feel less trapped by the counting of the program. But I would still have those same guilty feelings after eating excessively, and then return to the minimum points per day until I felt ok about myself again. It worked in helping me get down to a healthy weight, but it didn’t help break that cycle of being good or bad, and seeing everything as black or white.

And though with WW nothing is technically off limits, for me, it was. I didn’t trust myself to have one piece of pizza – so I would either eat no pizza on those days where I was sticking to my daily target, or eat most of a large pizza on a day when I was not. I still kept that off limits mentality with “bad” foods when I was trying to stay on track, and though this wasn’t Weight Watchers fault per se, the program allowed me to embrace these old unhealthy habits as I found my way to a healthy weight. They said everything in moderation, but for someone with as messed up a relationship as I had with food, I didn’t trust myself with the whole moderation thing.

The other side of it, besides seeing foods as good or bad, was that the bad foods caused me extreme anxiety. If I would attend a social event or be at a work party where there was pizza, my heart would literally race as I fought with myself against whether I was going to have some or not. Sometimes my willpower and resolve would be high, and I’d place myself away from the food knowing that I was not going to touch it. Other times, though, I couldn’t even pay attention to what was going on around me because I was too focused on the food and was being consumed by it. (Ironic, eh?) This was particularly sad when I was spending time with friends and could barely pay attention to the conversation because I was so distracted by the food in front of me, until it was either taken away or completely eaten. I don’t think anyone around me could grasp how preoccupied by the food I was because I put on a good act, but it’s pretty disturbing how much control I let it have over me.

To be continued…

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