Diary of My Healthy Eating Day

I talk a lot about food and my ongoing effort to eat healthy and not return to my former eating habits. Plant-based diet, mindful eating, sugar reduction, whole foods, and macro tracking are all methods I have borrowed from to retool my meals. I avoid thinking in terms of ‘banned foods’ even as I certainly had removed some of my favorite meals while in weight loss mode. Cutting out foods had more to do with deciding between more food volume with lower calories to keep me full and get the right nutrition. As I moved into and now live in maintenance mode I keep the same trade-off mindset but I also think about portion size to keep things under control.

There is nothing boring, bland, or measly about how I eat. A healthy food addiction won’t allow any of that. And, I do change things up where my lunch looks more like dinner or I eat a big breakfast and then lighter meals the rest of the day.  I’m a petite woman so the amount of food I can eat is drastically lower than the average woman. The challenge is to keep my calories within 1400 per day and only allow myself 1600 on a given day when I have a particularly active week (climb a mountain one day, or paddle all day, or go on a longer run than usual). To be honest, if I didn’t run at least 4-5 times per week (get in at least 30 minutes) I would be eating 1200 – 1300 calories just to maintain. Doesn’t that sound like dieting?

While I talk/blog about all these things, sometimes it is easier to show what a typical day of eating looks like for me. Maybe it will help and inspire you to enjoy eating whether you are trying to maintain or on a weight loss program. Disclaimer, I arranged the food to look pretty for you but I am usually more interested in eating than creating food art. Calories and macros are from my MFP tracker.

Breakfast: Bagel and Cream Cheese with Lox and Strawberries
296 Calories 42% Carbs 31% Fat 26% Protein

My favorite meal has always been bagel and lox. On Mother’s Day my family knows that they need to always have this ready when I come down in the morning, its that important to me. Typically, a bagel when trying to lose weight is a big no-no – calories and big carbs. In keeping with my mantra of no banned foods,  I can get thin bagels at the market that are less than half the calories of regular ones. I can also use 1/3 less fat cream cheese. In addition, by right sizing my calories there I give myself room for strawberries.

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Lunch: Antipasti Plate 
211 Calories 38% Carbs 26% Fat 36% Protein

My favorite meals are nibbling meals using my fingers. In fact, last night for dinner my kitchen table looked like it belonged in Tuscany rather than a suburb outside of Boston. Italian meats, cheese, tortellini, roasted vegetables, olives, pickles, ciabatta, dipping oil, shrimp, and of course a bottle of Italian wine. Picking up on what was left over, I arranged my lunch plate with cold asparagus, cold ginger garlic carrots, plums, shrimp and smoked gruyere. You might not be able to tell, but this is on a regular dinner plate. Lots of food. Also a bit distorted, the fruit and vegetables is actually 2/3s the plate.

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Snacks: Anise Cookie, cut off piece of Framingham Baking Co cheese Pizza
Calories 196 58% Carbs 29% Fat 13% Protein

Yes, I do splurge. The Framingham Baking Co. is an institution and has some nostalgia for me. Celebrating its 100th birthday this year, my history with this gem started 30 years ago in high school. Me and my friends would jump in the car and head over after school for a big slice of focaccia pizza baked fresh that day. My son Matt is now hooked on the pizza himself. Today, I made a stop and picked up pizza, cookies, and homemade pasta. Not being able to wait until I made it home, I snuck an Anise cookie and took a strip off of a pizza slice (full slice shown). Yes, it was before I could have my lunch, but so worth it!

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Dinner: Chicken and gravy with mushrooms, asparagus, spinach and polenta, Can of Guinness
Calories 379 40% Carbs 28% Fat 32% Protein

We sat down to a Thanksgiving style meal (sub chicken for turkey) complete with mashed potatoes, butternut squash, stuffing, green beans, roasted carrots, and yes, gravy a few nights ago. Well, I have a lot of chicken left over and what better to do with it than turn it into chicken and gravy. I love a creamy garlicky polenta, but the boys don’t, so they had open faced hot chicken sandwiches while I had polenta. A small variation that isn’t hard to adjust for and we all get another fall comfort meal this week. And, let’s not forget that it is dinner, so what better to pair with this meal than a cold creamy Guinness.

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So far I’ve had 1182 calories. I’m going to add 100 ghost calories since I was tasting my food as I cooked and I’m still not completely sure that I got the calories right on my cookie and pizza. That brings me to 1282 – lets just round up to 1300. The plan is to chill with Tom watching Mr. Robot and then grab a chocolate pop for dessert with a few strawberries. That gets me to almost 1400 calories.

Chloe's Dark Chocolate

So that is it. A bit short for the day, but I’m full, enjoyed my meals, and feel like overall I succeeded in staying the course.

 

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Sabotaged By Gut Flora

I’ve been doing a ton of research on nutrition as I’ve worked toward healthy living. Gut flora is one of those things that is fascinating to me. It seems to be the key to eating healthy and even reinforce those habits. There is evidence that famished gut flora is linked to poor health. Not surprising to most of you. For example, we think of eating yogurt to re-bloom gut flora with probiotics after antibiotic treatments.

Also,  If you have limited your diet to primarily pasta and breads, then that is what your gut flora will ask for. If you divert from this, it is a factor in how hungry you feel as your gut flora is starving.

Now neuroscientists have found that specific types of gut flora help a host animal detect which nutrients are missing in food and then finely titrate how much of those nutrients the host really needs to eat. “What the bacteria do for appetite is kind of like optimizing how long a car can run without needing to add more petrol to the tank,” says senior author Carlos Ribeiro, who studies the eating behaviors of Drosophila melanogaster, a type of fruit fly, at Champalimaud Center for the Unknown in Lisbon.
https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-gut-bacteria-tell-their-hosts-what-to-eat/

Why am I sharing this? As I moved into maintenance mode I started to reintroduce foods I ate before – burgers, pasta, stuffing. I still kept to moderation and within my daily goals (mostly) and then something funny happened. I started having stomach issues.  I felt yucky after meals. I was more constipated. I was hungrier even though I was eating more. I was in a bad mood. I felt similarly to the first couple weeks when I stepped into my diet.  What was going on?

This weekend, I went back to a more plant based diet. I essentially listened to my gut flora telling me it was starving. A funny thing happened. My meals tasted so much better. I realized that my hunger was cravings for beets, cauliflower, carrots, broccoli and zucchini. All those things that I poured into my body for the past 10 months. I ate more lean protein in smaller portions rather than bigger portions of fattier meat. Chicken, shrimp and eggs were tastier and didn’t feel like a rock in my stomach. And I’m eating nuts – yummy!

My body was overall happier. I’m less tired. I’m more regular. And, while I was still staying in the 110 range, I’d creeped up to 110.9 until I reverted to my healthy eating. I dropped back down to 110.1. I know that sounds ridiculous, but as I watched the scale move from 109.4 to 110.9 I knew I had a problem. So, even at the same caloric intake and activity level, my plant heavy diet keeps me trimmer.

I’m still a little hungry. Not after I eat, but within a couple hours. So, I think I have another week of getting my gut flora back to normal before I even out on this. It’s getting better each day and sometimes I find it isn’t hunger as much as thirst. More water fixes that.

There you have it, my personal science experiment and qualitative experience with gut flora. Maybe what I shared will help you either get through your initial weight loss period, keep you on track, or just stay in maintenance mode.

 

 

3 Tips For Healthy Living – Getting Off the Fence

While in San Francisco last week I ran into a number of colleagues that hadn’t seen me in quite some time. So the fact that I lost almost 60 pounds was quite a shock. But, I also ran into a colleague that had started out on the healthy journey the same way I did, attending several weight watcher’s classes at the office. So, when he saw me, he asked, “How did you do it?”

There was something odd about the question because we both started from the same place, live the same hectic work life balance, and are food addicts. I made progress and he was still a work in progress (please don’t interpret that as mean spirited, more introspective). In many ways, as we talked, it boiled down to the fact that I had moved ahead and he was still on the fence.

To be honest, his question is what I keep asking myself even as I’ve read my own blogs and analyzed my tracking of food and exercise. I think that if I can come up with the secret sauce of why I was able to lose the weight and get healthy and others aren’t, I can keep on going. But, there really is no secret sauce. There are tricks and advice to be sure, but the answer I’ve come to is pretty simple and boils down to three things:

Choice is a Commitment

I’d been down this path before and the results were temporary or limited. The difference today was I knew I was at the age where I had to make a real choice – chubby and limited in life, or healthy and enjoying life. It really was that black and white. You can start a diet. You can take a walk. But, you need to choose to be healthy. Choice is a commitment, not an activity. When you decide to do something you need to back it up.

Know Why You Chose

A smaller pant size, getting into a bikini, and parading in a wedding pageantry is a vanity result. For me, and for others that have made a choice and committed to healthy living have a deeper drive. Some want to live and losing weight and getting fit improves their heart, cholesterol and diabetes. Some want to be active and involved with their kids and the weight is getting in the way of that. I wanted to enjoy all my outdoor loves and reconnect with my husband by doing things together as we are close to entering our empty nest stage. Yes, I love my skinny jeans, bikinis and athletic body. But it is the bigger reason for a healthy life that got me through the first phase of getting healthy and losing weight and is keeping me focused on holding back the weight and staying on point.

Just Live It

Part of commitment is that you commit. Sounds recursive, I know. But, that is the point. There is no wishy-washiness. There is no bargaining. There are no excuses. There is no gaming the system. If you are doing these things you will fail. It is that simple.  You don’t think about picking up your kids from daycare, you just do it. You don’t think about if you need to go to work. You just do it. It is the same with this. Sometimes you just need to not think about things. You just need to live it. Learn how to live healthy and then just do it. No gimmicks to this – its a lifestyle.

Running Journal – Some weeks you just surprise yourself

Last weekend’s mountain haul put a cramp in my running game this week along with travel. Tight legs and tight schedules left me with only two days of running on a treadmill for 1/2 hour each. The other downer is that I am always deathly afraid I’m going to fall off the treadmill so I run really slow, 5 mph. Yes, that’s right, 12 minute mile.

Anyway, it was a no excuses morning today. My kitties woke me up trying to burrow under the covers, get either me or my husband to play with them, or just kept flopping on my legs trying to get comfortable. This went on for about an hour starting at 6:30a. So, at 7:30a I just got up and threw on my running stuff.

Elsa got me going with Let it Go – don’t judge, it gets me to run up a 200 ft elevation in 1/2 mile out of my neighborhood. Except this morning I was having wardrobe malfunctions. The new running/yoga pants I bought seemed to want to slide down my butt rather than come along for the ride. I almost stopped and turned around after only about 100 feet and then thought better of it. If I did that there was no telling if I would actually go back out again. Pulling them hard up to my chest and yanking them further up to my knees and thighs, I just opened up my stride and kept going.

About every quarter mile I could feel them slipping down and would grab ahold and lift them again. Thank god I was wearing one of my chubby girl shirts that hung down halfway on my thighs. No one was going to get a glimpse of my lacies or butt crack.

Despite the pants slide, I was hauling. I could feel it. Longer stride, faster steps, muscles activated. The hills weren’t challenging me in the same way they normally do this morning and the flats and down-hills were exhilarating as I felt like I was flying through my town. Lights and traffic also seemed to be in my favor as I easily crossed streets and intersections without having to stop.

I was able to get in a bit of a trail run as my playlist launched into Miranda Lambert’s Little Red Wagon and I ran-danced to her declaration of loving her apron but not wanting to be your momma. I think I might even have been singing a bit, so gladly I didn’t run into anyone along the way.

Anyway, hitting the center of town I hit my next big hill which slowed me down a bit even as I tried to keep my pace and open my stride more to leap up instead of using my lazy short step move. But, it is a short hill and getting up to the commons I was able to once again pick up steam and head back home.

Stopping my tracker and pulling up my pants once again, I felt good. My runner’s high was in full gear. The sweat was starting to pour out. And amazingly enough, this was the first time I finished without the tinge in my hips or tightness in my legs. Something was definitely different today.

921That difference turned into a personal best – 3.85 miles at 9:21 minute mile. I shaved off 23 seconds from my last PB during a 5k and more than 30 seconds off to my typical outdoor pace. Need to work on my hill – having a hard time cracking 10:00 min mile but this is still 15 seconds faster for my first mile out. If I can shave off another 30 seconds overall, then Tom and I can run together – if he slows down abut 30 seconds.

So, what I think happened is that the mountain hike strengthened my legs and I took it slow and easy during the week. My body was able to recover and gave me a bonus/thank you gift for treating it well.

Note to self:

  1. Switch up my intensity to get gains.
  2. Wear running pants with a drawstring so they don’t fall down.

NYC Came and Went

What a bizarre trip this week. I headed off to NYC for a conference I was speaking at. I wasn’t able to stay where I normally do and more importantly I always avoid Times Square and this is exactly where I was. So, my NYC experience was definitely like a Twilight episode as I had to angle my way through tourists and occasionally crash into them. I was dressed up for my client meetings and presentation which sharply contrasted the shabby jeans and shirts of those on leisure time (I say this not with disdain but jealousy – I wanted to wear my jeans!) And, my hotel while boutique chic, still lacked enough seating and big screens for a woman on her own a place at the bar to catch some pretty incredible baseball and hockey. (Bruins, Cubs and Indians all failed me on Wed. – sigh)

But, I digress. It was a little things that those of us looking to get and stay healthy notice that either make you smile or grimace. Like, when I was in the United lounge waiting to grab my big salad a man and woman were going down the line and the man said, “Wow, there is only healthy stuff to eat!” Or, that the streets get so crowded that the thought of running down 6th/Ave of Americas to Central Park and back makes a treadmill look amazing.

The biggest take away was the reactions of people I had worked with over the years when they saw/didn’t see me. I’d been off the speaker circuit for over a year and many of those that I did see at the event had only talked to me over the phone during that time. Even my picture on our company website doesn’t look much like me anymore. So, when I walked up to people to say hi the first reaction was a polite hello then an eye widening then a big HELLO! followed often by our typical hug. No one asked about the weight loss. That wouldn’t be polite. But, it sure was recognized. I just wanted to giggle.

The travel was a little hard this time. I kept to my exercise even as my hip and ankle were smarting over the treadmill after the weekend mountain hike. And my breakfasts were in line. But lunches and dinners were a challenge. In the grand scheme of things I stayed within the calorie range for a very active person which for me meant 1650 calories in a day. But, I don’t like being there because I know it is easy to not exercise but still eat a lot.

I’ll fess up, Wednesday night I headed to Connolly’s (the best Irish Pub I’ve been to outside of Ireland – for real) and had a 20oz Guinness and a plate of fish-n-chips. Finished the Guinness, ate a little more than half the plate, but as much as I relished dinner, I was so guilty.

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Awesome Fish n’ Chips @ Connolly’s in NYC

 

 

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Check out all those Massachusetts patches!

 

Hungry before my flight back, the soup and salad with a few cubes of cheese didn’t do it. I was bad – grabbed a roll and before my gate I bypassed the big salad bar and ordered a couple of vegetable spring rolls. Oh, and I had some wine.

Anyway, the scale never lies and I’m holding steady. Back on program today with skyr, a slice of toast at breakfast and I made a Chinese vegetable soup with dumplings at lunch. If I didn’t have to wait around for my tech support to help me by EOD I’d be out running!

 

25 Years Later We Conquer Mt Lafayette Again

In 1994, only 9 months into our relationship, Tom and I booked a romantic weekend at a quaint B&B in Franconia, NH. The goal, hike up Falling Waters trail, cross three peaks with the Franconia Ridge Trail (Haystack, Lincoln, Lafayette) and come down Bridle Path. This 9ish hike brings you up to 5200 ft with amazing view through Franconia Notch, back across the Presidentials and west toward Vermont. On a clear day…which isn’t a guarantee.

That was when we were 25 and were pretty outdoorsy. Skiing, hiking, rollerblading and mountain biking were our typical dates. I was barely 95 pounds and thought I was in pretty  good shape. Still, that hike kicked our butts. We had to take breaks on the way up and I cheered/grumbled when we hit “natural stairs” – those blocks of granite some amazing soul helped to stack together and create the stairway to the top. On the way down, Tom’s Achilles was killing him as we stepped down the rocky path. At the bottom our legs ached, my hips were sore, and we were spent. All told, I think we took about 8 hours.

1994 Hike

Fast forward to this 23 years 2 months to this weekend. At 48, Tom and I are no spring chickens. We’d been pouring over pictures from our Franconia hike for years wistfully thinking we would like to do it again. There is a picture of us sitting in front of the sign at the Greenleaf Hut that is framed and always sits out on our bookcase as a constant reminder and medal for our accomplishment. Well, we had made reservations for the Columbus Day weekend in Franconia and low and behold, Saturday was the day to do the hike again.

1994 Greenleaf Hut

I was worried. We were old – okay older. I’d only just become my skinny self, but certainly wasn’t as little as I was back then. I run, but I didn’t’ think I was anything near in shape compared to back then. Yet, Tom and I knew that we wanted to do it, and do it we would. Even Matthew, our 14 year old son, was excited to join in.

Falling Waters was as I remembered it. Beautiful waterfalls, gorgeous forest, and a brutal number of “natural stairs” before you got to the tree line. I was the turtle. I slowly and methodically put on foot in front of me and didn’t look back. Crossing a couple of water points left me almost falling in and even loosing my water bottle, which I was able to retrieve. After the first hour, Tom was starting to give me the, “we need to get moving faster” talk. He was worried we wouldn’t get to the top and down fast enough before the sun came down. I shot him the icy stair and kept to my pace. Matt was gleefully bounding up the trail like a true trail runner – show off!

Getting past the tree line and Haystack was in view. The easy crawl hike up to the summit was where I got my mojo back. I knew that after this, the hiking part was going to be easy. The only issue is that at the top, we now hit cold temperatures, fog, and same insane wind. I put on my shell, hat and gloves on and quickly adjusted. We went over to the trail sign and took our picture for history.

2017 Hike

Moving across the Franconia Ridge Trail was an easier hike but the wind was whipping. Tom stopped a few times for some spectacular views. The foliage was amazing and sweeping vistas took my breath away – along with the wind. I was trying my best to keep my footing as gusts up to 40 mph tried to push me off the ridge. When we got to Lafayette, the weather was so challenging that Tom suggested we keeping moving rather than take a historical picture. I was all for that and Matt was too. While there wasn’t any rain, the fog was wet enough and the wind just pushed the dampness right into us. My hair was wet, my gloves were wet, my hat and jacket were dripping.

If we thought it was bad on Lafayette, going down and across to the Greenleaf Hut was worse. I could barely keep my footing and balance due to the wind. The trail had been moved to conserve the ridge but this created challenges to know where the trail was. We weren’t the only ones having difficulty. Normally cheerful when passing, all us hikers were heads down and focused on moving through. There was little more than a head nod for a greeting and often we all were just focused on pushing forward.

Getting back into the tree line was so much better. While the wind was still whipping, the trees kept us sheltered and our hike became much more enjoyable again. The trail itself was also easier and we made our way quickly to the Greenleaf Hut for lunch. At the hut we squeezed into a table and pulled out our lunches. We’d started at 7:45a and it was now 12:00p. We were starving. Out came the cheese, sausage, tuna fish sandwiches, turkey sandwiches, apple sauce, and nuts. Never did a meal taste so good!

Half an hour later we packed up and headed to the Greenleaf Hut sign for our historical picture. It was still cold and damp, not too unlike what it was like 23 years earlier, but being able to document that we did it again was amazing.

2017 greenleaf hut

The hike down Bridle Path was easy. We stepped down the rocks quickly. On the sections that were less rocky we all jogged our way down the trail – Matt in the lead, then me, and then Tom taking up the rear. The way down was exhilarating. With only 2.9 miles left, we realized how far we came and how good we felt. Stopping a few times as the weather was clearing, we took in some views from the bluffs over looking the notch and even chatted with a few hikers coming up to the hut.

About 1.5 miles left in the hike the rain came. Under the trees we didn’t feel it much, but it was definitely coming down. At this point the trail was much more even and a slight slope. We picked up the pace and mostly jogged our way out. Reaching the parking lot, our hiker’s high was turned up, smiles on our faces, and congratulatory high fives were in order.

Time – 6 1/2 hours. Not too shabby for a couple of old people!

No real aches and pains compared to the last hike. Although we did take an ibuprofen at lunch as insurance and popped another in the evening and the next morning. But, Tom and I did go out for a hike and even climbed up Artists Bluff for the views the next day. Back today, the most I can complain about is tightness in my calves and the usual hip aches when I do a long run. All in all, not a big deal.

As for the really good part? For two days I didn’t not really think much about my diet. Wine, cheese and crackers were pulled out when we got to the RV. Dinner after the hike was hot Italian chicken sausage with Arrbiatta (sp?) sauce and pasta, a bottle of wind, and a hunk of dark chocolate. The next day was chilly cheese fries, buffalo chicken tenders and a bacon swish burger. Oh yeah, and the really big beer at Oktoberfest at Loon Mountain. Gluttony? Oh yeah. Did it matter, NO!

Got on the scale today, I’d lost a pound. 🙂

Vegan Can Be Yummy

Give me a Five Guys Burger and you can’t go wrong. But, getting healthy has definitely changed my taste buds and tolerance for protein heavy and fat heavy meals. My body craves vegetables. Tom tells me my gut flora has changed and it is telling me what it wants to eat. Whatever…

The thing is, I really like my veggies. Even those veggies that I tolerated (eggplant, yellow squash, mushrooms) and those I hated (kales, swiss chard) are regular visitors to my meals. I can even eat tofu, although I have to say it is not my favorite and is only in the tolerated column. In fact, if you look at my meals, and even some of my days, I’m definitely on the verge of a vegetarian diet and not always so far off from a vegan diet.

Don’t get me wrong. I applaud those that morally live by veganism. I just don’t have that moral fortitude and am happy to keep my omnivorous ancestry alive in my diet. I love eggs, cheese and fish. What I will own up to is that if you take away the moral argument and only apply the healthy argument, then verging on vegan is possible and not at all a restriction.

Case in point. Heading to San Francisco, the restaurants know their customers and recognize that vegans are a dominate group – for moral and health reasons. It isn’t uncommon to see menu items with vegan symbols to make it easy to find dishes to eat when dining out with your non-vegan friends. In fact, restaurants are going out of their way to create amazing vegan food that rivals non-vegan menu items. It is almost hard for the non-vegan to ignore these delicacies. I can’t!

Always searching for healthy menu items to avoid travel spread, and formerly trying to still lose weight while on the road, restaurants that had vegetarian and vegan items were a god send. Being in California is always the easiest, and this visit was no disappointment.

Anku, an Asian restaurant inside the Hotel Nikko, not only has an entirely healthy menu, but also has vegetarian options that can easily be converted to vegan dishes. Purple Cauliflower Soup and a Portobello Mushroom and Couscous Purse surrounded by baby carrots, asparagus and yellow squash sitting in a vegetable puree  (the purse is swiss chard) was my dinner.  The lack of meat wasn’t noticeable. The flavors and textures were surprising and wonderful. Along with a glass of French rose wine and my meal was every bit as good as a steak dinner. The fact that my meal was preceded by complementary nuts, olives and pickled purple cauliflower made it that much better. Really!

I’m not saying you need to give up your meat. I am only saying that there is enough evidence that too much meat has health risks and cutting your 10 oz steak down to 3-4 oz and loading your plate with vegetables or creative vegan delicacies isn’t the hardship your mind keeps telling you. Don’t deny yourself, just nurture your body a bit more.

Be a vegan for a day. It can be yummy.