Sunday, August 29, 2010

Mom's birthday dinner and no starch ice cream!

I'm at my mom's house celebrating her birthday this weekend. For her birthday gift my mom requested I make dinner for everyone, which I thought was pretty awesome for a couple of reasons. First off, I love cooking with and for people. A good meal is best shared with those you love. Secondly, I was not always known for my cooking prowess. Actually it was more like the opposite. As a kid and teenager I would experiment in the kitchen, which typically yielded disastrous results. One such time I was baking at my friend Laura's house and accidentally put a tablespoon of salt in our cookie recipe instead of a teaspoon. Then I tried to overcompensate by adding more sugar. The end result was incredibly gross, and she still teases me about it. ("Remember the time you made those nasty salty cookies and tried to convince me they weren't that bad?") In high school my church youth group had a chocolate chip cookie baking contest, and everyone asked which were mine so they would be sure and avoid them. It was pretty sad.

Our senior year of high school Laura and I took a cooking class as one of our electives. Laura's mom recommended it, since she is a really good cook and told us that we should probably try and learn a few things (such as the difference between teaspoons and tablespoons) before we were on our own in college. Things improved as I pursued my major in dietetics, since there were several classes which required cooking as part of my degree. By the time I graduated college my friends and family were no longer afraid to eat anything I prepared.

Therefore, you can see why I'm a little excited that people are actually requesting me to cook for them. My mom has been an AS-kicker blog reader since day one, and she requested I make her my Mustard Glazed Chicken and Lemon Roasted Asparagus (see for recipes) for dinner. I made the chicken and asparagus and served them with a salad topped with avocado. When making the asparagus I skipped the balsamic vinegar this time and topped them with lemon juice and zest, garlic salt, diced shallot, and minced garlic. I created a simple balsamic vinaigrette to go on top of the salad by mixing equal parts extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I then added a dash of Italian seasoning. It tasted a little bitter, so I added 1 Truvia packet, and voila!

For dessert, my stepdad made homemade cake and ice cream. I have been wanting to make homemade ice cream with stevia for some time now, so I was very excited to get to use the ice cream maker last night. My stevia ice cream took a bit longer to set up than the regular kind my stepdad made, but it tasted awesome!

Stevia Vanilla Bean Ice Cream:

Combine 1 cup heavy whipping cream and 1/2 cup whole milk. Add 7 Truvia packets and stir. Cut 1 vanilla bean in half and scrape out the seeds inside. Add to ice cream mix. If you don't have a vanilla bean, add 2 teaspoons good quality vanilla extract. Either use an ice cream maker for ~45 minutes and then transfer to freezer, or pour into a glass bowl and place it in the freezer. Scrape the sides of the bowl every 5 minutes, until it is the proper consistency.

The normal ice cream sets up in 25 minutes. We ran my ice cream mix for 35 minutes and it wasn't frozen enough. I would have ran it longer but the ice cream maker core wasn't frozen enough after making my stepdad's ice cream and mine. I popped my bowl in the freezer and scraped down the sides until it was done, and that worked just fine.


No starch diet on a budget!

My mom is a frugal gal. When she goes shopping she's a coupon clipping, discount hunting woman on a mission. My dad, on the other hand, is more of an impulse buyer. He enjoys giving big gifts, and when he sees something he wants, he usually buys it. Somehow I ended up being a mix of the two: I'm a compulsive discount shopper, which usually means I end up with a lot of cheap crap. I enjoy my Citizen jeans as much as the next girl, I just buy three pairs from Buffalo Exchange or Nordstrom Rack instead of one full priced pair from Nordstrom. I enjoy a good rummage through the Goodwill, love shopping at Target, and definitely indulge in plenty of retail therapy. Despite the fact that I usually buy items on sale, I still am not very good at actually saving money. I've tried to turn this around during the last year, and for the first time in my life, I'm attempting being on a budget.

My grocery budget is $50 per week. As with managing this diet, some weeks are much better than others. When I was first put on the no starch diet I went way over my budget because I was trying to figure out what and how to eat. Here's the facts about this diet: packaged stuff made without starch usually isn't that cheap. Regardless of what your personal beliefs are about the Farm Bill, high fructose corn syrup, etc, the fact of the matter is that farmers are paid to overproduce corn, which means that modified food starch, corn starch, and high fructose corn syrup end up being the cheap additives that find their way into nearly everything. If you shop at natural foods stores, sugar still finds it's way into products via "evaporated cane juice" or agave nectar, and the starch is frequently tapioca or potato based, but it's still there. This makes searching for anything pre-made without sweetener and/or modified food starch a giant pain in the neck.

Because of the frustration over trying to find anything pre-made that I could eat and also because I enjoy cooking, I've spent more time trying to make food at home. However, I am a woman on the go and sometimes a girl's gotta find something quick to eat. As a result of my ongoing quest for convenience foods I can eat, I wrote a blog a while back entitled "No Starch Diet Staples." See this for some items I've found and enjoy:

Here's some basics that usually find their way onto my grocery list:
Produce: apples, frozen berries, avocados, spinach, mushrooms, garlic, onions, bell peppers, cilantro, salsa/pico de gallo
Baking: vanilla bean or good quality vanilla extract, Truvia packets, Stevia in the Raw, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, unsweetened coconut, unsweetened chocolate, unsweetened cocoa powder, peanut flour, xanthan gum
Meat: frozen chicken breasts/tenders, sausage (without added sugar, of course), skirt steak
Dairy/Eggs: 1% milk, heavy whipping cream, butter, buttermilk, eggs, cheese, string cheese
Other: peanut butter, nuts, canned diced tomatoes, Biggest Loser protein powder, mustard, The Ojai Cooks Lemonaise, coffee, Talking Rain sparkling water, applesauce, fruit leather

The trick for maintaing this diet and your budget simultaneously lies is being creative. For example, I didn't use to be someone who enjoyed leftovers. Now I rely on them. I also have figured out how to use the same product in a variety of different ways.

At a recent trip to Winco I bought the following:
Coconut milk, eggs, frozen blueberries, limes, bell peppers, tomatoes, avocados, Alfresco brand spinach and feta sausage, diced green chiles, skirt steak, spinach, Bolthouse Farms vanilla latte protein drink, and Talking Rain. I spent $30. With some creativity and using some ingredients I already had at home, I created several different meals from these basic ingredients.

Breakfast Ideas:
Some days for breakfast I eat some string cheese and a handful of nuts, or I drink some Bolthouse Farms protein drink and eat some berries. Other days I feel creative and make something.

Mushroom and Sausage Scramble: saute 1/2 cup chopped mushrooms and 1 diced sausage link in 1 tablespoon butter. Mushrooms and sausage should be lightly browned on both sides. Add 1 egg and 1/2 ounce cheese. Scramble together. Top with 1/2 avocado, diced.

Smoothie: Combine in blender: 1 cup milk, 1 cup frozen blueberries, 1/2 avocado, 2 scoops protein powder, 1 packet Truvia

Lunch/Dinner Ideas:

Sometimes I will heat up a sausage link and top it with some shredded cheese and salsa, or I will make egg salad at home and eat it plain or on top of some spinach. When I make something for lunch/dinner, I usually make something for dinner that I can serve atop greens later as a salad or eat as leftovers for lunch.

Mexican Steak Saute/Salad: Cut 4oz of skirt steak into thin strips. Marinade steak in the juice and zest of 1 fresh lime, 1 teaspoon chili powder, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, garlic powder, salt & pepper to taste, 1 small can of diced green chiles, drained, and 1/2 cup salsa/pico de gallo. Saute steak with diced bell peppers. Top with shredded cheese, diced tomato, and avocado. Eat as is, or serve atop spinach.

Italian Sausage Stir-fry: Dice 1 bell pepper, 1/2 onion, and 1 crown of broccoli (optional). Saute in olive oil, until the veggies start to soften. Add 2 chopped sausage links, 1/4 cup diced sundried tomatoes, 1/2 jar diced artichoke hearts, drained (optional), and 1/2 can diced tomatoes. Bring to a simmer and cook about 10 minutes, until liquid is mostly evaporated and the mixture is thick.
Serve topped with shredded parmesan cheese. I enjoyed mine with a a No Starch Lemon Drop (mix 1 shot vodka with diet lemonade)

Enjoy! More creative recipes to come!

Friday, August 27, 2010

no internet - more blogs to come this weekend!

I have sadly been without good internet access for the past week, so I have been unable to post blogs. However, I will have internet this weekend! I am excited to tell you all about my newfound love of sausage and the recipes I've made, starch free pancakes and syrup, going starch free on a budget, plus some end of summer blackberry recipes. Stay tuned!


Thursday, August 19, 2010

A is for Apple

Fall is coming. I can feel it in the air. That smoky "fall" smell hangs in the air as the sun goes down, and it's getting darker earlier every day. I love summer, don't get me wrong, but fall is my most favorite time of year. This end of summer feeling has got me lighting candles and listening to Sufjan Stevens while daydreaming of crunchy leaves, corn mazes, and pumpkin patches. Fall means hot apple cider, butternut squash soup, bundling up in scarves, and wearing tall boots. For me it's a time of reflection and slowing down as I head into the winter season. I also inevitably spend more time in the kitchen. Fall feelings make me long for roasted beets and fennel, mashed turnips, and biting into a crisp, juicy apple. In Washington, fall time is apple time.

I got some delicious Honeycrisp apples from the farmer's market. Farmer's markets are the best place to find fresh, seasonal produce. Also, not only are you supporting local sustainable agriculture, you are really getting more bang for your nutritional buck by purchasing from the farmer's market. Fruits and veggies that are mass produced are picked before they are fully ripe and are ripened in a warehouse. However, farmer's market produce stays in the ground longer and travels a much shorter distance to your plate, so the food you're eating is packed with more nutrients and antioxidants. Also, as an added perk the farmers who sell at farmer's markets really know and care about their crops, and they are great at helping me pick out the best product. They even give helpful hints on how to prepare new foods. The farmers I bought from helped me pick some truly delicious apples.

For me, a perfect apple needs to be very crisp and juicy. Honeycrisp apples are the best combo of these two factors that I've found. They are very crunchy and biting into one often causes juice to dribble down my chin. They are simply delicious.

After enjoying some of my apples by slicing them up and dipping them in fresh ground almond butter, I felt inspired to try and bake something. When I was a kid we had apple trees in my backyard and every year when they ripened we would pick them and my mom would make apple pie. My mom didn't bake super often, so I remember how I excited we would get when it was pie time. She had this special pie dish with painted apples on it, and we only used it for these end of summer pies. As I grew older I decided I liked apple crisp better than apple pie, so that is what I made last night.

No Starch Pecan Apple Crisp with Maple Whipped Cream

Crumble Topping:
Mix together 1 cup finely chopped pecans, 7 Truvia packets, 2/3 cup peanut flour (or other nut flour), 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie seasoning, and 1.5 tsp maple extract.

Using a pastry blender or your fingers, cut in 5 TB butter. Mix until it sticks together to form small clumps. Set aside.

Apple Mix:

Combine the following in a medium saucepan:
-5 cups diced apples (about 3 medium apples)
-Juice of 1 small lemon
-1/3 cup Stevia in the Raw (this product is awesome for baking, since it measures cup for cup with real sugar)
-1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
-1/4 tsp cinnamon
-Dash of nutmeg

Cook on medium heat until the apples soften (about 5 minutes).

Pour the warm apple mixture in a baking dish, and use a spoon or your fingers to drop small clumps of the crumple topping evenly over the apples. Bake at 350 for 40 minutes. Serve warm.

I was really craving maple when I made the apple crisp, so I topped mine with Maple Whipped Cream:
Whip 1/4 cup heavy cream with 1 packet Truvia and 1/4 tsp maple extract. Spoon on as much as you want.


Wednesday, August 18, 2010



The Danskin women's triathlon was this weekend and it was awesome! It was a sprint Tri so it consisted of a 1/2 mile swim, 12 mile bike ride, and 5k run. I knew going in that the swim would be my weakest event and the bike would be my strongest. Sure enough, on race day I was the third slowest swimmer in my wave, and the slowest swimmer that wasn't using a water noodle as a floatation device. My motto the whole swim was "slow and steady wins the race - I am the tortoise not the hare." I knew as long as I could keep swimming that soon enough it would be over and I could get on with biking. It was hard and took me 32 minutes, but I swam the entire time without stopping to rest and finally was finished!

Next came the biking. I love to bike and had trained by going for bike rides around Seattle and biking to work. There are lots of gradual hills on my typical bike route which paid off big time on race day. When I hit the gradual hills on the race course I passed women going uphill, and felt a little proud knowing I was catching up with those who had passed me in the swim.

During the bike ride I remember cruising up a hill and realizing that it was challenging, but it wasn't really THAT hard. I thought to myself, "Hey, I can do this!" I remember being so proud of my body for rising to the occasion. I felt strong, capable, and alive. And that is really what the whole point of doing the Danskin was. I have friends who had done it in the past and they told me what an empowering experience it was. There is a sisterhood of women young and old, fit and overweight, of every shape, size, and ethnicity who come together for this event. All along the race course we encouraged and high fived one another, sharing in our successes and motivating each other when things got hard.

I felt this attitude of encouragement most strongly in the run portion of the Tri. There was a large portion where the runners ahead had turned around and doubled back toward the finish line, and all along where we passed each other women were smiling, cheering, and calling out words of encouragement. These positive words kept me going and even though I ran slowly, I ran the entire 5k. I even finished with a time that was comparable to the last 5K I ran in March - and that was without swimming and biking beforehand!

The greatest things I took from this experience were a renewed respect and appreciation for my body and for the power of the sisterhood of women. Why does it take an event as extreme as a triathlon to encourage a stranger? We should be acting like this toward one another more often in daily life. It's amazing the impact a smile or a kind word can have.

Also, after months of working out hard, training, and struggling with weight loss, it was truly amazing for me to push my body to the limits and see what it was capable of. I was very scared when I signed up, especially of the swimming part. But I knew that my body has been gaining strength and it was so rewarding to fully realize just how strong I've become over the past several months. I encourage anyone to sign up for something like this to test yourself a bit. It doesn't have to be a triathlon. Maybe a 5k walk is a better place to start. For me, having this event looming out there in the future really helped me stay on track with my exercise and diet regimen.

Speaking of diet, this is also the first event I've participated in where digestive issues did not come into play. Since I've been doing a much better job of really sticking to the diet and not cheating, I felt whole and healthy the day of the race. I didn't have any bloating/cramping/nausea, etc, which was AWESOME, since it allowed me to just focus on doing my best instead of waiting in line for the restroom.

I had packed my supply of no starch snacks for the race, which included 2 fruit leathers, dried blueberries, and raw almonds. On race day I ate two scrambled eggs for breakfast and then ate a fruit leather about 30 minutes before the race, and that was enough to sustain me. I didn't even need the nuts or berries.

The whole thing took me two hours and nine minutes. The swim took me 32 minutes, I took 9 minutes to transition to biking, biking took me 47, I took 5 minutes to transition, and I ran in 35 minutes. At the end I was exhausted but incredibly proud of myself. For the rest of my life I can say I'm a triathlete, and I feel pretty damned accomplished.

For any of you thinking you can't do a triathlon, know that I felt that way too. If you are considering signing up, here are some things I've learned along the way:
-The Danskin has lifeguards in kayaks lining the entire swim course. You can stop and hang on to a kayak to rest at any time, for as long as you need.
-They also have "swim angels" who will swim with you if you're nervous, and even loan you a water noodle if you want. I was a bit nervous and asked if a swim angel would swim with me. She encouraged me when I got tired and made me laugh when I was splashed in the face by other swimmers. She even tried to protect me from the next wave of swimmers that came into the water after my wave. It was really reassuring having her there.
-Training is HUGE. When I signed up I couldn't even swim one lap at the pool without taking a break to hang on to the wall and catch my breath, and I was seriously nervous about being in deep water where I couldn't stand up if I wanted to. I practiced first at the pool with a kick board to increase my stamina, then did pool laps, then switched to open water swimming. The open water swimming was really helpful for me, since I had already gotten scared and out of breath, had water up my nose, coughed, sputtered, and recovered while being unable to touch the ground. This increased my confidence so much on race day since I knew I could calm myself down and keep swimming even if something happened.
-I rented a wetsuit for the Tri and I'm so glad I did, as it helped keep me more buoyant. I didn't need it as much for the warmth factor since the sun came out for the race and the temperature got into the mid 80's, but feeling more buoyant increased my confidence.
-As I mentioned before, training on hills with the bike was also incredibly helpful. There was one hill towards the end of the run that was pretty rough, so I would train a bit on running hills if you're thinking of doing any sort of competitive run.
-Hydration is key. I got a race belt with a water bottle when I did the Rock n Roll 1/2 marathon last year, and I used it again for the Tri. I put my water in the freezer the night before so it would be nice and cold on race day. I also found an electrolyte tablet called Nuun that didn't contain any starch, and that was helpful since I get really sweaty when I exercise.
-Figure out the route ahead of time. When I dropped off my bike I practiced walking from where I would get out of the swim back to where my bike was, which was helpful. However I didn't find out where the run started, and I wasted several minutes wandering around and asking people where to go.
-Get your race number in advance. If I had done this, I wouldn't have had to stand in line for an hour to pick up my packet the day before the race.
-Plan ahead and bring a snack. Events are challenging both physically and mentally and it's important to fuel yourself accordingly.
-Believe in yourself. If you've trained and prepared, you can do it. You might even surprise yourself with what you're capable of.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Tri something new

I have always loved the water. When I was a kid I would run towards the ocean, arms outstretched, ready to embrace the surf. (My brother on the other hand was always afraid that crabs would bite his toes off.) I would delight in splashing around and jumping over waves. But that's about as far as it went because as much as I loved the water, I didn't know how to swim.

I took swim lessons at least two different times as a kid. I could stay afloat and keep myself from drowning, but every time I tried to put my face in the water to do the crawl I would start to feel claustrophobic and panic. One time I even hyperventilated. As an adult I pretty much doggie paddle. I can do the back stroke and side stroke, and I've discovered I can swim small distances with breast stroke arms and a flutter kick. I still can't put my face under water for more than about 5 seconds, though.

All of this swim talk is because despite of my lack of swimming ability, I am doing the Danskin Triathlon this weekend! I have to swim 1/2 mile, bike 12 miles, and run a 5K. I've been practicing my swimming and have improved somewhat, but I'm a little nervous for the swimming portion of the Tri.

I'm also a little nervous about nourishing my body during the event. I did the Seattle Rock and Roll 1/2 marathon last year and I drank electrolyte enhanced flavored water and ate sports gels, both of which are completely loaded with sugar and starch. Since I'm anticipating the Tri will take me about 2.5 hours, I'm definitely going to need some portable no starch fuel for my body.

Here's my plan: I've loaded up on some raw almonds, dehydrated blueberries, and fruit leather. I'm hoping the combination of the protein from the nuts and natural carbohydrate from the blueberries and fruit leather will give me the energy I need to perform my best. The last thing I wanted to do was consume a bunch of starch laden gels and drinks and wind up with fatigue and digestive issues during the triathlon. Stretch Island's raspberry fruit leather only uses apple, pear, and raspberry puree plus some lemon juice, so it's definitely ok for us folks on the no starch diet. (Hooray!) I plan on drinking just straight up water, but I'll take a mulltivitamin with minerals first.

I've been training by swimming, biking, and jogging in addition to my regular cardio routine. This week though I've backed off a bit from my typical routine. Yesterday I went to a Bikram yoga class, and it was amazing. Bikram is hot yoga, and you do the same series of 26 poses each time. It makes me sweat literally everywhere, and I feel clean and full of vitality afterwards. I definitely recommend yoga for anyone with AS or chronic back pain, as it has helped strengthen my lower back and improve my flexibility.

After Bikram I feel like I have been cleaned inside and out, so salad was a natural choice for dinner last night. Here's a delicious no starch salad.

Spinach with apples, goat cheese, and blackberry balsamic:

Combine spinach, diced apples, herbed goat cheese, and chopped pecans.
Top with Blackberry Balsamic Vinaigrette.

Blackberry Balsamic Vinaigrette:
Combine equal parts Blackberry balsamic vinegar and olive oil. I use Bistro Blends blackberry balsamic from Pike Place Market. Add a dash of salt and pepper, and some diced shallots. Whisk together.


Monday, August 9, 2010

Thai chicken and celebration

I have had a great last few days. For starters, I played soccer last Thursday night with Emily, which I haven't done in a few years. Emily and I are friends because of soccer. We met because we played on the same team in the 5th grade, and we've been best friends ever since. It felt great to be cheering her on, kicking the ball, defending the goal, and running around until I felt like my lungs would pop out of my chest. I exercise a lot but nothing works me out like soccer. I felt exhilarated and happy tired afterwards. Plus not only did we win, but I got some pretty gnarly new bruises that made me feel rough and tough.

Over the weekend, my cousin got married. I was honored to be a bridesmaid and I had so much fun hanging out with my family. I hadn't seen my dad since January because he lives on the other side of the state. So this weekend I got some much-needed hugs from dad, not to mention some amazing compliments and confidence boosters. (If someone hasn't seen you since you were three sizes bigger, it tends to create a bit of a stir.)

And that brings me to the big news: the challenge I mentioned a few blogs ago started today. There are 8 of us ladies trying to lose weight. We each put in 50 bucks and the one who has lost the highest percentage of body weight at the end of 12 weeks wins the $400 pot. Our first weigh in was today and... drumroll please... I have officially lost over 40 pounds since December! Boo yah! You can bet I did a little dance and had Queen's "We are the Champions" playing in my mind.

Just to recap:
Me in December vs. me today

Losing weight and keeping it off has been a lifelong struggle for me, and being on the no starch diet has helped me bust through a plateau. Also, losing weight has definitely helped my AS symptoms. The exercise/diet/weight loss trifecta has really been amazing for my overall well-being, as being on the diet has helped me feel less fatigued and bloated which in turn gives me more energy to exercise. The exercise helps my back feel stronger and less stiff, and carrying less weight on my 5'5" frame has definitely lessened the achiness in my lower spine.

Other big news this week: I am excited to report that I figured out a no starch version of Thai food! If Mexican food is my most favorite cuisine then Thai is a very close second. I have missed phad see ew, red curry, and chicken satay. I got a wicked hankering for some chicken with peanut sauce yesterday and decided to go for it. That's how this recipe was born.

Thai Chicken with Peanut Sauce, Cucumber, and Cilantro:

Peanut Sauce:

1/3 cup unsweetened creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk
2 tsp wheat free tamari
juice and zest of 1/2 fresh lime
1 TB minced fresh ginger
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
dash of chili powder

Whisk all ingredients together.

Saute together:
1/2 cup chopped portobello mushroom
1/2 cup bean sprouts
4 sliced chicken breasts
Peanut Sauce mixture

Cover and let simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add 1/2 cup chopped cucumber and 1/4 cup chopped cabbage.


Sunday, August 8, 2010

say hola to tacos!

In college my roommates and I would send one another email surveys. We would fill out questions about our favorite movies, actors and actresses, what we wore the previous day, and our weekend plans. I remember one such survey that asked what your favorite cuisine was. One of my roomies was really into sandwiches at the time and she answered that her favorite cuisine was "ham and cheese on a bagel, dipped in ranch." We still tease her about this a little.

I'm pretty sure I answered Mexican because Mexican Food is my most favorite cuisine EVER. I even joined the facebook group "Mexican food gets me out of bed in the morning" because, you know, it kind of does. I think I could eat Mexican food every day and never get sick of it. I love tacos, enchiladas, fajitas, tortas, burritos, tostadas, you name it! However, most Mexican foods involve tortillas, rice, and/or refried beans. For the first few days of being on the no starch diet I didn't eat any Mexican food, and I missed it. I knew if I was going to be successful on the no starch diet I would have to find ways to recreate my favorite foods. Therefore, I quickly realized that tacos without the tortillas taste awesome, and so does taco salad.

To make tacos/taco salad first find a salsa without any added starch or sugar. The taco and fajita seasoning mixes that I have found all contain some form of starch, so I tried marinating the meat in salsa and garlic powder and it turned out excellent. I have had luck finding salsas without sugar/starch at Target and Trader Joe's.

Marinate your meat of choice in salsa. To help the flavor penetrate the meat, poke your meat a few times with a knife. Drizzle with olive oil and a sprinkle of garlic powder, salt, and pepper. You can also add the juice and zest of a fresh lime if you choose.

Saute onions, garlic, and bell peppers in a pan.

Slice your marinated meat into thin strips and add to the sauteed pepper/onion mix.

To assemble the "tacos" just dish up the meat/pepper/onion mix and top with cheese, salsa, sour cream, sliced avocado, chopped tomatoes, and diced cilantro. Or pile everything on top of lettuce to make a taco salad. Enjoy!

Sunday, August 1, 2010


Like many other 20 something girls, I am a huge fan of Sex and the City. I love the stories of camaraderie, the pace of the city, and the quest for the perfect pair of shoes (not to mention the perfect man). But most of all I love how the women support one another through everything: friends, jobs, relationships, etc. One of my favorite episodes is the one where Carrie is selected to be a "real person" in a fashion show. At first she is too self conscious to be in the fashion show but her friends encourage her, saying that Carrie can't see herself the way they see her.

I've been thinking a lot about this and I think a lot of us don't see ourselves as we really are. We definitely don't see ourselves the way our friends and loved ones see us. I think it's unfortunate that I am often my hardest critic.

Take the Golden Rule for example. We've all heard that we should treat others the way we want to be treated; we learned to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. However I think a lot of us do a better job of loving others than we do of loving ourselves. I know I wouldn't dream of walking up to my best friend Emily and telling her she looks really bloated today, or that her shirt makes her look pregnant. Aside from the fact that these things aren't true, I would never think to criticize my friends like that. It makes me feel sad to even think of hurting her that way. And even if Emily were to gain a pound or two I most likely either wouldn't notice or wouldn't say anything about it. If I gain a pound or two on the other hand, I rip myself to shreds. If Emily came to me and said she'd gained a few pounds and felt bad about it, I would support and encourage her. It's only been recently that I've been trying to do the same with myself.

My friend Kelsey is working on this issue as well. She and I were talking the other day about trying to love our bodies more. She brought up the point that we are our bodies. It sounds obvious, but sometimes I forget this. It's easy to pick myself to pieces and let the hatred of certain areas of my body roll through me. My problem area is my stomach. When I lose weight, I still have a tummy pooch, and when I gain weight I look a few months pregnant. No joke - I've been asked when I'm due before. Recently though I've been trying to think of ways to love my tummy. I've been doing a lot of ab exercises and can feel my stomach muscles getting stronger and tighter, and I am grateful for this.

Kelsey also brought up the idea of negative self talk, and how that can effect how our bodies function. Think about it: if we are our bodies and we are constantly telling certain areas of our bodies how much we hate them, why would they perform for us the way we want them to? Maybe if I love and appreciate my strengthening body it will encourage it to continue to grow stronger. It's easy to love the parts of ourselves that get complimented a lot. I was lucky to born with dark hair and blue eyes, and my eyes get commented on a lot. They are my favorite feature for obvious reasons, and even when I'm fat my eyes are still pretty.

I'm sick of being described as "the girl with the pretty face" though. And as much as I love my eyes, I don't want them to be the only pretty thing about me. I'd like to just be pretty, as simple as that. I think maybe not being so harsh on myself with the parts of me that aren't so pretty might be a good first step. I'm also taking steps to change my lifestyle to support this goal.

Like Carrie, I've been blessed with a great circle of friends who love and support me. They see me for me, and remind me of how far I've come. In the end of the Sex and the City episode Carrie does do the fashion show. She looks amazing, but partway down the runway she trips and falls flat on her face. However, she picks herself up and keeps strutting, earning a High 5 from Heidi Klum. Carrie says that "little act of bravery" inspired her friends to be brave and face fears of their own.

So world, here is my little act of bravery:
I currently weigh 165. In December of last year I weighed over 200 pounds. My weight has fluctuated a lot over the course of my life (more on that to come in a future blog), but every time I've lost weight I've given up on maintenance because it's too hard. Every time I gained the weight back I would hate myself a little more. I am finally committed to changing my life for good. This means eating healthy most if not all of the time. It means exercising in some form every day, even if it's just a long walk. And it means loving and appreciating all of me, not just my eyes.

Here's me in December:

Here's me now:

I still have a little ways to go but I'm proud of my progress.

Kelsey's goal is to try and think of a different thing to love about herself each day. I am trying to do this as well. I hope I've inspired you to think of yourself in a new light, and to think of ways to love yourself.