Tuesday, November 25, 2014

(Late) Weekly Weigh-In and Measurements

Late weight update, apologies. Now to abate your vague curiosity regarding my weight loss rate. (First and last time I ever do that, promise.) 

Wednesday’s weigh-in:

6/8/20148/19/20149/30/201410/29/201411/6/201411/12/201411/19/2014
Weight191.2182.6181181.4179.6179.6177.6
Pounds Fat82.772.570.370.870.368.868.1
Pounds Muscle 67.366.865.267.36567.763.3

This made me really happy. Two pounds in two weeks is right where my calories “said” I should be, and always like when the numbers match up like that. Muscle count, based on how much it fluctuated, is likely a fluke.

However, this week has been hard. After a great weigh-in on Wednesday, which had me excited to be solidly in the 170s, I went to a work event for a departing colleague. My original plan was somewhat drastic: to not eat anything. I’d have a substantial snack beforehand and just stick to diet soda at the party.

The result: I didn’t actually have any alcohol, and didn’t eat anything for a good hour. Then I decided to try one of the steak-cut fries from amongst the crazy abundance of food my company ordered, and that led to ten more fries, and some warm pieces of pita. I ended up having about 900 calories in bar food - and that was with having no alcohol and even turning down a decent amount of food. It always surprises me, even though it shouldn’t any more, how many calories you can eat just by grazing for a few hours. My food intake didn’t even stand out; everyone was indulging.

That night I got home frustrated that I had used up half my “flexible” calories and it was only the first day of the week. On Friday I made the mistake of baking cookies for a potluck meal with friends, and ate too many of them.



The bottom line is that, good news, I’ve tracked everything, even the stuff I wish I didn’t have, and even with indulging, I was consciousness of staying within a maintenance level for the week. It’s weird, but I’m glad to have this mentality - I can write off this week, indulge, enjoy, go over my calories, but I refuse to gain weight. I might put weight loss on hold for a week, but I will not re-re-lose this weight. Not again. I went from 200 pounds to 180, to 155, back to 190, then down to 177 (now.) This is the last time I will lose these pounds, barring pregnancy or illness. You know that 96-year-old yoga instructor, who has been doing yoga for the last 60 years, and is more flexible than most 25-year-olds? I want to be like her.

I think part of the reason it was hard was because I took my measurements again. I last did it back in March. And? They were exactly the same. Seriously, I'm not going to bother posting them because they were the same. I even did the measurements without knowing the previous numbers, to make sure I wasn't influenced by them, and they were the same. 

Fifteen fewer pounds of fat, knowing without a doubt that my pants are looser - I have no idea why the numbers aren't agreeing. Maybe my measuring skills suck, who knows. Maybe it will take a little longer for it to show up on the measuring tape, even though it's shown up in my pants.




I’m on track to have a calorie deficit for today, but for the most part this will be more of a maintenance week. And I’m okay with that.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Some of the Best Recipes from Around the Web

I love to cook. Growing up, I learned how to bake at a young age and always volunteered to make dessert for holidays or any other events that called for them. But it was only in college that I actually learned how to cook.

It wasn’t always good: the first time I made chicken breast, I cut it into chunks, put the pieces onto a sheet pan sprayed with Pam, and stuck it into the oven at 350 for 20 minutes. When I checked on it, I was genuinely surprised to see that the pink flesh had turned white. Not knowing how to tell if it was done, I left the chicken in the oven for another 15 minutes. The results? Dry, pale chunks of flavorless protein. I didn’t care; I thought it was magical. It had been raw, and I cooked it.







Since then, I’ve come a long way. I’m still not an expert by any means, but I can follow a recipe and have a little intuition on flavors and improvising dishes. I’m always looking for new dishes, new ways to prepare staples like ground beef, chicken breast, or rice, and over this time I’ve built of a bit of a collection of truly great recipes from around the Internet. All are delicious, and most are quite easy and fairly healthy.

Part of why I like calorie-counting is that no food is off limits. If I really want something, I can fit it into my plan. Even the flourless chocolate cake has a place.




So here they are below, in some semblance of order. (I’m not affiliated with any of these website or their owners, I’ve just enjoyed their recipes.)

Soup


  • A little twist from blended soups - you blend half the beans with broth, and leave the other half unblended. It creates a nice texture.
  • Changes: Add more of the spices, to taste


  • This recipe makes a wonderfully comforting soup with a thick, mildly flavored broth. I altered it by using chicken breast and using some chicken broth, instead of the bone-in thighs the recipe calls for. I sauteed the carrots, onions, and celery in the oil, then added the broth and chicken breast, essentially poaching the breasts in the liquid.
  • The dumplings for this recipe are especially good - one-bowl and easy to prepare, they puff up nicely in the soup. I recommend making them small for maximum flavor


Misc 

Easy and Unbelievable No-Knead Bread
  • You know that perfect artisan-style bread - with the wonderfully browned, hard, crackly crust and the perfectly soft and fluffy inside? The kind that, when it comes to your table all steamy and warm, you can never resist? This recipe makes that bread. It’s about 7 hours from start to finish, but only requires about four minutes of actual hand-on work, and most of that is just measuring flour. No kneading involved, the long rising time does that job.
  • This is what to make if you want to impress people, or just enjoy a seriously perfect loaf of bread.

Best Scrambled Eggs
  • You might have seen this video - in it, Gordon Ramsay shows off his method of making scrambled eggs. I was skeptical because they looked undercooked, but they’re actually amazing - creamy and really rich, even though there’s only a pad of butter in the whole thing.
Entrees 


Balsamic Baked Tilapia 
  • I use feta instead of the bleu cheese, and also often use less than the recipe calls for. You don’t miss it. 
  • Balsamic is an underused ingredient. It is so good on basically every kind of meat and fish.


Ginger Chicken Stir-Fry
  • This recipe is perfect, except you should add onions at the beginning. Quick, delicious, and healthy, a new way to prepare chicken breast.
  • The site I linked above, Mel's Kitchen Cafe, is also just a kick-ass site. So many good recipes, I've made several of them and they all come out great. (See especially cookie bars below)


  • This recipe sounds a little weird (baking cut-up refrigerator biscuits in sauce?) but is delicious and makes a huge, filling serving size
  • I make it vegetarian by using soy crumbles, and usually cut down a bit on the cheese


  • I shared this recipe a while back on this blog, and it’s worth mentioning again. If you’re willing to buy pre-cut veggies, it comes together in about five minutes

  • Great, easy-to-follow recipe that yields tender, delicious meatballs. 
  • The secret ingredient is mint - you don’t taste it at all, but it adds this great extra flavor

Desserts



  • I made this for a work event, and people were raving over it.
  • Bonus: It is incredibly easy to make and happens to be gluten-free, but is rich and chocolaty, and looks impressive. I pressed chopped almonds into the rim, which made it look extra fancy (it's a terrible photo; it actually looked pretty good




  • The name is exactly what they are. Simply spiced, soft and chewy cookies. They sound basic but are surprisingly wonderful.


  • I quite frankly can’t recommend these highly enough. Easy to make, you don’t even need a mixer, and they taste like perfect, chewy chocolate chip cookies, but without having to form individual cookies.
  • Note: Be sure not to over bake them though.

The Best Brownies I’ve Ever Made
  • Okay, they’re called “Brooke's Best Bombshell Brownie,” but they are the best. These are the brownies that you’re looking for - with the crackly, shiny top, gooey inside, and rich chocolately taste throughout. And easy, too! I made these as part of the Mother's Day meal we put together, and my mom loved them and thought we'd gone to a bakery.
  • The only change is to replace half the white sugar with brown

I’m always looking for new recipes, so feel free email or comment with your favorites!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Weekly Weigh-In and Strength Training Update

This was another good week, though I repeated my pattern of eating too much one weekend evening and therefore having a lot fewer of those weekly flexible calories during Sunday-Wednesday. I went to the gym five times so those extra calories helped me succeed in having a 1300/day average. However, I’d like to work on not getting like that in the first place. The most annoying thing about it, funnily enough, is that I don’t know how many calories I ate. I know I ate too much of the amazing chocolate chunk challah, but how much too much? 500 calories? 800 calories? I rounded it off as best I could and moved on, but I need to pay more attention in these situations.

On Tuesday, my Zumba friend and I tried out a different class at another of our gym’s locations. It was fun, but had a lot more emphasis on hips/gyrating movement. And I thought I looked uncoordinated doing dance steps...ah well. I’ve improved at my regular Zumba class, so I’d improve here too.

Guess which one I am?

This week’s weigh-in:

6/8/20148/19/20149/30/201410/29/201411/6/201411/12/2014
Weight191.2182.6181181.4179.6179.6
Pounds Fat82.772.570.370.870.368.8
Pounds Muscle 67.366.865.267.36567.7


Weight is the same, which is actually great because I was worried that the previous week was just a fluctuation. Also, look at the fat! I’m now down fourteen full pounds of fat from when I started in June, and haven’t lost any muscle in the process, which is hard to avoid with weight loss. That kicks ass. Or more accurately, I kick ass.




I will probably lose some muscle eventually since I don't think I'd end up with 70 pounds of muscle on a 135-pound frame, but it's great to have lost purely fat till now. 

I think part of that is because of my workouts, but more specifically the strength training. Since July, I’ve been trying to do it at least once or twice a week. I keep track of the weight and reps I do on my phone, and try to up the weight when it gets too easy - for me, that means I can do at least 15 repetitions. When I first started, I put all the machines on the lightest setting (at least I intended to), and I'm making my way up the weights.

Here’s a before and now for the amount of weight I use, in pounds - I use my made-up names for the machines, but put the real names in parentheses.

JulyNovember
Reverse Pull-Ups
(Lateral Pull Down)
5580
Raise the Roof
(Overhead Press)
3065
Slow Crumping
(Vertical Chest)
3550
Show off Your Pecs
(Preacher Curl)
3040
Defy Gravity
(Seated Dip, just started on this one last month)
7075
My Arms!
(Dual Axis Row )
5085

Most of the time, I don't use every machine every time, but I do as many reps and possible - slow and steady - until I've exhausted the muscle. It's pretty much the method I learned when I did strength training with an actual trainer, and since I'm getting stronger (and trainers cost more than God), I'm sticking with it for now.

Anyone else strength train? I want to hear about it!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

First Week On Flexible Plan - A Great Weigh-In

This was a really good week, and I think a large part of that is due to the changes I made to my eating plan. I’ve said in the past that I think one of the keys to weight loss is to forgive the inevitable errors because guilt is pointless, and I still think that. However, in this revamped plan of counting calories weekly as well as daily, I can actually make up for my mistakes a bit instead of just letting them go.




The final plan was simple: eat a minimum of 1000 net daily calories, with 2000 weekly calories that could be used however I wanted, restarting every Wednesday. Still averages out to 1300/day, but much more flexible. For the record books, I’m not counting the calories in non-starchy vegetables because, let’s get real, I didn’t get fat eating too much lettuce and I figure it’s highly unlikely that I could consume enough broccoli to impede my weight loss.





I got a little snacky on Saturday (Snacky On Saturday - romcom coming February 2015). We ate lunch with some friends and there was just a lot of food around. But what got me, calorie-wise, was the picking at leftovers once back home. “Picking” is definitely one of the things I struggle with, especially at home, and I am working on it (kind of). But the great thing is that my estimated 2100 calorie Saturday - a full three hundred above even the regular maintenance level and an impressive 1100 above my minimum - actually fit healthfully into a week in which I had a 3500-calorie deficit. Balance!


On that topic, for now I’m still only eating back exercise calories on the same day that I burn them, but maybe in the future I’ll throw that into the pot.



This is the net calorie breakdown by day:


Wednesday - 1200
Thursday - 1300
Friday -  1500
Saturday - 2100
Sunday - 920**
Monday - 925**
Tuesday -1500



It was quite great, and not as annoying to keep track of as I thought. I felt more in control of my weight than ever because I was confident that whatever challenges presented themselves, I could figure them out and fit them into the week.


My positive feelings were reinforced when I got on the scale this morning.


Weigh-in:

6/8/20148/19/20149/3/20149/30/201410/15/201410/29/201411/6/2014
Weight191.2182.6182.8181181.6181.4179.6
Pounds Fat82.772.57370.370.870.870.3
Pounds Muscle 67.366.867.265.26767.365

Remember when September was going to be the month I got into the 170s, and how I thought it would be so easy? And then October was going to be the month? Well it turns out it’s November. I don’t even care, I’m just glad to be here.





Now that I have finally (finally) hit the goal that I’ve been after for months, it’s time for a new one. I’m going to aim further this time, and set a deadline. I joined the gym last February, right at my 25th birthday, with the dream of losing a significant amount of weight by my 26th. While I won’t be 50 pounds lighter on my 26th birthday, I am going to try to be below 170. In order to make this goal, I need to lose ten pounds in the next 14 weeks - totally doable, with room for a plateaus or a few bad days. From now on I’ll weigh in with this particular goal in mind.


One-seventy would be a great accomplishment since this was the highest weight I looked okay i.e. my weight might not be the first thing you notice when you look at me. If this weight loss is like the previous time around, these ten pounds will come out of my face and hips.

Just because I love these.


**Please don’t freak out, Internet. These are net calorie counts, not gross. On each of these days, I ended up burning 500-600 calories at the gym and just didn’t feel the need to eat them all back.