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New-To-Me and a Giveaway from Click!

I was just reading a post on the new-to-me Sips and Steps blog about a great giveaway from Click! Espresso Protein Drink. Be sure to check it out!

Just follow the linky link! You could win all of this:

The giveaway consists of the following:   4 packets (2 Mocha & 2 Vanilla Latte) + a blender bottle & the e-tote

Good Luck!


Macaron Madness

I have always loved to cook. I enjoy the creativity and spontaneity of it. During warmer months, I wander the farmer’s market, picking up fresh veggies and herbs, fresh baked goods and home-canned specialties. Once home, I can spend hours in the kitchen chopping and dicing, marinating and sauteing until I somehow manage to combine my market finds into a delicious, light and healthy meal. No recipes, no preconceived ideas as to what the dish should look like. I work by feel and taste, adding here, holding back there until it is just right.

When the weather is colder, though, baking is my vice.  An odd hobby for someone whose diet does not normally include sweets, I suppose, but I like the calm deliberateness of baking. There is a rigidity inherent in combining eggs, flour, butter and sugar into tasty little nibbles that appeals to me. Perhaps it is part of my hibernation process, but as liberating and carefree as my summer cooking is, my winter baking is careful and precise and that is strangely comforting. Since surgery, I might have a little taste of whatever it is I’m making, especially if I’m trying a new recipe for the first time, but mostly, it is the actual tasks of baking and then packing goodie boxes for friends and family that bring the most satisfaction.

And, oh how I love a new recipe! Recently, I agreed to make macaroons for the Bestie’s brother. While searching for a recipe, I accidentally typed macaron into google search and was struck by these gorgeous little french confections. Who knew that missing “o” would become such an obsession? And has it ever! I’ve looked up and printed out every blog, recipe, tip and trick I can find related to making macarons, a task that, by all accounts, is at once tedious and fickle but incredibly rewarding. I couldn’t wait to try them for myself!  The only problem: I’ve never seen one. Nor have I tasted one. There are no bakeries in my are that carry them. I could order and have some shipped, I guess, but how fresh would they be and would I get a true representation of the taste and texture that is the mark of a perfect macaron?  Luckily, my cousin’s wife works not too far from a bakery in St. Louis that specializes in macarons and she graciously agreed to bring me some samples. Whew!

I wasn’t expecting them to be so small, just about an inch in diameter, and they were quite sturdy. But that shell was deceiving. Made of almond flour and sugar folded into stiffly whipped egg whites, the shell is a lot like that of an egg. It feels hard to the touch, but when you bite into it, it gives way to a very moist and delicate interior. Then two shells are filled with buttercream, ganache or jam to create the final treat.

Now that I have my samples (well, had my samples…we finished them off at the office today), I’m ready to try my hand at baking them.  I have my shopping list made and I’m just waiting for the storms to move out of the area so I can get started (apparently, humidity is not my friend). I’ll post pictures of my attempt. Let’s hope they turn out as perfect as the ones from Rue Lafayette.

So, I mentioned earlier that baking might seem like a strange hobby for someone who has had weight loss surgery. And I suppose it is. But for me it is more about balance. Baking is rigid and precise, very much the opposite of my life. I’m impulsive and chaotic at times and baking forces me to slow down, focus on the task at hand and follow instructions. There is a simplicity in that that is calming.  Also, I like making treats for the people I love. It makes me feel less guilty for being a little on the selfish side. Besides, I can’t be expected to live on protein alone, right? One little bite won’t kill me…I’ll just call it a lesson in moderation.

Little Victories

As I continue to get fit, I keep noticing little victories that have nothing to do with the scale or the size of pants I’m wearing.  These discoveries are starting to mean more to me than any number ever could.

Each time I work out, I can feel my back getting stronger. I find that I’m sitting up a little straighter most of the time and I don’t have the constant shoulder and lower back pain that used to make me miserable.  My legs are stronger and I have more endurance. That nagging hip and knee pain that made thirty minutes on the treadmill feel like an eternity…vanished!  I’m noticing more strength and definition in my core. I walk taller, straighter, not hunched over as though each step is a chore.

Lately, these three things – stronger back, legs and core – have given way to an even BIGGER victory. Sky-high heels! I’ve always had a thing for heels, the higher the better. My feet, not so much. In fact, they were so fond of protesting my choice in footwear that I always made sure to have a pair of flats or sensible kitten heels at the ready. As my weight has gone down, though, my tootsies have ceased their crying and today I’m tottering around on these lovely 4 1/2 inch slingbacks!

It’s the little things that make me smile.

Vacation: Begin Again

I started well. I had a plan. Now, on the last night of my vacation I’m realizing how terribly ill-prepared I really was.

I packed my sneakers and planned to get at least some walking, if not light jogging, in during the week. I didn’t plan for the sidewalks o’ slush that completely soaked my running shoes during my first trip to the market. I packed snacks for the movies, then failed to actually take them to the theater. That triggered a slippery slope from poutine to popcorn. I can make as many excuses as you’ll listen to, but the truth is, I let myself give up. For the week. I feel shitty about that. I have to forgive myself and start over. Tomorrow.

Tomorrow at 5:30 am my alarm will go off and I’ll fumble around in the dark trying to make sure I don’t leave anything behind. Anything important, that is. It is a given I’ll leave something behind. But I will start, at that moment, logging, in earnest, my daily food and exercise as well as tracking my behavior modifications. I’ll create a separate page for posting the logs so that you can help to keep me honest.

Here’s a photo of my airport goodies all ready to go:

Leavin’ On A Jet Plane

Next Saturday I’m flying to Montreal for a long overdue visit with my Bestie. In the past, we’ve spent a good portion of our time together wandering in and out of food shops, nibbling on chocolatines, indulging in apple and cheese crepes at our favorite local breakfast place and snacking on ice cream and cereal at two in the morning. It is always an incredibly healthy trip.

This time, though, I’m determined to stick to my goals…within moderation. Oh sure, I’ll have to have a bite of chocolatine (it would be a sin not to), and I know my meal and workout schedule will be a bit messed up. But, I feel like if I plan well and try not to fall into a pit of lazy vacationitis, I can get through it without sacrificing too much.

First, I’m packing my running shoes and workout clothes.  There is a fitness center just a block from where I’m staying, so I’ve sent an email to ask about daily/weekly rates. Just in case I’m not able to use the center, I’m also bringing my Zumba DVDs and will force the Bestie to shake it with me!  I’ll also head out for a daily walk/jog while Bestie gets some work done. I have to admit though, I’m really hoping I hear back from the fitness center so that I can manage that walk/jog on a treadmill as opposed to the snow-covered sidewalks of the Plateau.

Second, I’ve ordered a couple of items to help me hit my protein goals and keep me from reaching for less healthy snacks in the wee hours of the morning. I picked up a three-pack of these blender bottles from Amazon:

I will probably have some pretty lengthy airport layovers (especially since my plan is to get there well in advance of my 4:00pm flight so that I can try to hop an earlier one stand-by) and it is a cruel, cruel coincidence that the gates I fly out of are surrounded by California Pizza Kitchen, Starbucks and Vosges Chocolates. I’ll pre-portion my protein powder into individual bags so that I have a just-add-water meal at my fingertips. I’ll also feel less guilty about indulging in a bit of sushi or fondue if I know I’m meeting my daily protein goals.

We usually make at least one trip to the movies while I’m there and if there is one food that tests my willpower more than any other, it is movie theater popcorn. It is also a slider food, which means that I can eat more than I should while experiencing little to no restriction. The theater we frequent also serves real butter on their popcorn (just another reason to love Canada). Luckily, the Bestie doesn’t suffer from the same popcorn addiction I do and can easily walk right past the concession stand without a second thought. I’ll stuff a bag of these little nibblies I found on Eggface’s blog in my purse to help with the must-snack-on-something-crunchy-while-watching-a-movie habit. Convenient, single-serving size, good protein content and low carb. I just hope they taste good!

For the airport, I’ll probably also pack a couple sticks of string cheese in my purse, my Kindle is loaded with lots of good books and I’ll pick up a few magazines. Now I just need to get the playlists sorted in my iPod and I’m all set… if I can just manage to limit my packing and keep from having to check a bag, that is. Easier said than done.

Emo Eater Rehab

An acquaintance of mine, whom I know through one of the many social networks to which I belong, posted today that she was struggling with emotional eating. I can totally relate.

For as long as I can remember, food has been a constant companion. Ben & Jerry know exactly how to cure a heartache, the Planter’s peanut guy can drag you from the depths of boredom and stress doesn’t stand a chance with Mr. Hershey around! I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve come home from a particularly bad day at work and rationalized my way into a frozen pizza or sat zombie-like, eyes glazed over while watching TV with a bag of Cheetos.

I make different choices now out of necessity. Suzy doesn’t like frozen pizza all that well and cheetos, hell, she’s protesting almost before I open the bag. For me, though, it is about the behavior. I can easily replace unhealthy snacks with more healthy choice, but that doesn’t help me to break the snacking habit. Here is a list of things that help me to get through those ridiculously annoying bouts of head hunger:

  1. Drink Water. Often, thirst will masquerade itself as hunger. I grab a bottle of water and sip over a half hour.
  2. Change of scenery/activity. If I’m at the computer, I might move into the living room to read for a little bit. I’ll go downstairs and prepare my clothes for the next day. Sometimes, even going to the kitchen to do some prep work for the next day’s meals helps. I’ve learned that the act of preparing foods is as satisfying as actually eating.
  3. Journaling. I’m getting better about recognizing when my “hunger” is caused by stress or sadness or anger or even happiness, and when that happens, I start writing. Addressing my trigger issues, even if it is just between me and a sheet of paper, has been a huge help.
  4. Exercise. I’m learning to love exercise lately. It is a convenient coincidence that Sis and I usually go to work out right around the time my head hunger kicks in. It is damn hard to shove food in my mouth when there is a dumbbell in my hand. I do allow myself a post-workout snack of either string cheese or 100 calorie chocolate milk, though.
  5. Know your substitutions. I usually only have strong cravings for chocolate about once a month (go figure). A friend suggested coffee. Sure enough, a good cup of hot coffee totally erases my need for chocolate. Hot tea works for just about any other “specific” craving.
  6. No eating after dinner. Did I eat dinner? Yes. Has it been more than five hours since dinner? No. Did I have a protein-dense meal? Yes. Then I’m not hungry. End of story. After dinner, I only allow myself clear liquids. There is a built in cheat to this though, as sugar-free popsicles and sugar-free jello count as clear liquids according to my dietitian. But, these don’t really help with my desire to change my snacking behaviors, so I only allow myself to indulge in one of those items if I’ve tried items 1-4 for at least 45 minutes to an hour.
  7. When all else fails, pick protein. And eat slowly. Protein helps me to feel full longer and eating slowly helps me to feel full faster. I also don’t snack while I’m doing anything else. That means I choose what I’m going to have, sit down at the table and focus only on that until it is gone. And then I go about my business.

These aren’t foolproof, and I won’t dare pretend that I am 100% perfect all the time. But, they are the guidelines that are helping me to change my behaviors. Maybe one or more of them will work for you, too.

Some Days Are Harder Than Others

Today was one of those days. You know the kind I’m talking about. You start off with lots of plans and items to check off the To Do list and then Whammo! Life throws a monkey wrench and all of those carefully laid plans go right out the window.

Despite the unfinished items on my list, work was pretty good today. I really like the days when I get some extra face time with Doc. It is always good to sit down and just talk, you know? I didn’t have an opportunity to talk with him about the ONE BIG THING on my mind, but that’s okay, I am sure we’ll get to it tomorrow.

I might have already mentioned that I am the Insurance Coordinator for our practice. Today, I had a list of precertification and predetermination requests I wanted to complete. I’m trying to work ahead so that I know everything is complete and there are no loose ends to be tied up when I leave for vacation on February 12. Working with insurance companies is sometimes a bit of a maze. I do love the challenge, though. Nothing makes me happier than guiding our patients through the process and then calling them to say, “you are approved!” For most of our patients, the road to surgery is long and arduous.  I really can’t describe how gratifying it is to coach them through the process. Since I’ve had surgery myself, I get to do more coaching than before. It’s nice to be able to share my experiences with others.

The gym, though, THAT was a struggle. Oy! Sis and I have been going faithfully, and each session I feel like I get a little more out of it. I’m getting in at least 30 minutes of cardio and really amping up the weight training. But tonight, everything seemed harder. I was bored on the treadmill, bored on the bike, bored on the stairmaster (which has become my favorite piece of equipment, by the way) and I just couldn’t focus. When it came to weights, I couldn’t get motivated to stick to a routine. I try to do one night of lower body, one night of upper body, one night of abs and just keep rotating. Tonight I was all over the place…legs, arms, sit-ups, arms again. I feel like I worked out without accomplishing anything.

So that’s it. Today was kind of a meh day. But, I kept to my goals and didn’t let myself give in to the ennui.

Oh! I guess I should share my success from yesterday…I’ve melted away another 4 inches, bringing my total inches lost since June to 36. Three feet of excess me is now history. So, even if the scale is moving more slowly than I’d like, it is still moving and I am still getting smaller, healthier and more fit every day.

And, since I haven’t shared in a while, here’s the tally for today:

Breakfast: ProJoe Nillacino Protein Drink (20g Protein)
Lunch: Starkist Tuna Salad with 2 crackers (22g Protein)
Snack: Light String Cheese (8g Protein)
Dinner: Baked Chicken Breast with Broccoli & Cauliflower (24g Protein)
Post-Workout Treat: 100 Calorie Nesquik Chocolate Milk (8g Protein)

So, with that, I think I’ll borrow a line from Scarlett O’Hara…Tomorrow is another day.