A time to renew

Yesterday was an interesting day in terms of how the calendar lined up. It was the first day of Autumn which means that now the hours of night are long than day. It was also the end of the High Holy Days, and the day when the Book of Life is sealed for another year. This time of year has its challenges for many of us. For me it is a stressful time as I get closer to Thanksgiving. Every year of my life that I have spent that day with my maternal grandmother has been very difficult.

This year, though, my mom will be having surgery that month and my grandma is taking care of her post-op. This is great news because it means we can skip the big family get together! Maybe another relative will have everyone else over and I can spend the day with just my mom, the hubs, and the dogs. That would be a wonderful day for me to give thanks and focus on the truly important things in life.

I have also had some really good things happen in the fall, though. We are coming up on our 8th wedding anniversary. I get to see my sister and meet my nephew next month. We are also having a big family party for my niece’s birthday. So fall is definitely a time for celebrating in my life, too.

As the great wheel of time rolls forward this year I am thinking about using this time of darkness and hibernation as a chance to rest and rebuild myself. I am working on untangling some of the emotions tied up in my weight. I have been carrying them around and struggling with them for years, but I think I’m finally ready to unwind them and let them go.

How can I do that? Well, I’m not entirely sure. But I know that part of it will be to continue my meditative walking in nature. Part of it will be to accept the fact that I look like I do right now, and that’s okay. Part of it will be to continue to learn how to improve my health and well-being every day.

One thing I have been thinking of lately is how I look. I shared my weight loss progress with a coworker the other day. I was so excited that I’ve lost 28.6 lbs. He said it was great and asked if I can imagine how good I’ll look in a year. I’m sure he meant it in a positive way, although it’s not really a positive thing to say. I also tend to judge my appearance harshly on days I don’t heat-style my hair or if my makeup isn’t staying in place the way I think it should. Part of that comes from working in the beauty industry for so many years. Part of it has to do with my negative self talk.

The real question, though, is why do I need to wait to be beautiful? Can’t I be beautiful today at 320? Can’t I be beautiful with no makeup or natural hair? Why am I left out of what I consider beautiful? I understand that when I flat-iron or curl my hair, when I put on a full mask of makeup, I look beautiful. Did you catch that? I LOOK beautiful, but never accept that I AM beautiful.

So what I want to work on this winter is the transformation into seeing myself as beautiful. I will untangle all those nasty thoughts I have about myself and wrap them around me in a strong cocoon. When I am ready, I will pull myself out, strengthening myself as I go, just like a butterfly. And I will be able to see beauty in myself and see myself in beauty.

Metamorphosis

It’s a tall order, for sure, but one well worth the work. I was reading about a woman yesterday who cleans her hair with baking soda and vinegar. I have used that cleaning method in the past with great results. I looked at all of the lovely pictures of the woman and several others online and they all have such great natural hair. Why not me? So I am going to go “no ‘poo” as well and hopefully find some of that natural awesomeness in myself, too.

I have also been reading about barefoot living. I have been letting my feet out as often as I can and I even ordered some custom fit huaraches. It’s funny, in shoes my feet were never visibly soiled so I hardly ever actually washed them. Now that I am walking around my house constantly barefoot as well as outside a little and sometimes on trails my feet get washed often. They look so healthy from the gently scrubbing and I feel like my arches are starting to pull back up.

Maybe there is a beautiful person somewhere inside after all. Not hiding behind layers of fat, but hiding behind layers of social constructs. Fix your hair, wear the right shoes, look a certain way. All of these are just fleeting as style is fluid. Why bother? I can be myself and be amazing, right now. I do not need to lose any weight to be beautiful. 🙂

Spicy (or not) Three Bean Chili

Not too long ago my dearest M started a new job. His hours are now completely different from what they have20150916_202651_resized been. This month he has to be at work at 630 am Friday – Monday. It has totally thrown me for a loop. Sundays have been our day to go for long hikes, run errands, watch a movie, and generally reconnect for the past few years. We have also been able to stay up late on Saturdays together and he was able to have dinner made when I got home from work Fridays and Saturdays. Now he’s working on those days and it’s been a little adjustment that I’m still working through.

So what do you do for dinner when you and your partner are both hungry but no one has the time for an intensive prep session?

Almost instant chili!

20150916_202547_resized

It’s actually a super simple meal to throw together and can be made to suit your individual tastes very easily. Is there a particular flavor I used that you LOVE or HATE? Use as much or as little as you like. In the end, you’re the one eating it so make it amazing! 🙂

For this dinner I was able to have M wash and chop a few sweet potatoes. When I got home I started them steaming while I made the chili.

I used three cans of chili beans – pinto, black and white. I also used two cans of Mexican style stewed tomatoes, a 20150916_202617_resizedlarge can of diced tomatoes with garlic and onions, and a can of fire roasted green chilies. All of those went into a large pot along with some garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, chili powder, cayenne pepper, and smoked paprika. M chopped several garlic cloves with an onion chopper (he likes to help) and those went in, too. I let it simmer for a bit then tasted and adjusted. We took the dog for a walk while the flavors melded. When we got back we tasted again. It was amazing!

I did add a little salt to the pot, but not enough to encourage eating beyond satiety. The sweet potatoes gave the perfect balance to the spices. And I loved the big chunks of tomatoes. It was a very hearty dinner!

This week we were lucky enough to have a day off together. Thursday we went for a hike in Joaquin Miller Park on a favorite trail of ours. We started walking this trail last summer and every time we have been able to go a little further. This time we made it all the way to the end!

It was a gorgeous day and a fantastic walk together. We also made it to the store and got a few chores around the house done. Doesn’t sound romantic, but it was a perfect day together. Which is good because I don’t know when we’ll have another day off together.

20150917_121830_resized  Recipe for Spicy Three Bean Chili:

  • 3 cans chili beans – pinto, black, white
  • 2 cans Mexican style stewed tomatoes
  • 1 large can or two regular cans diced tomatoes with garlic and onions
  • 1 can fire roasted green chilies
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • garlic
  • garlic powder, 2 tsp
  • onion powder, 1 tsp
  • ground cumin, 1 1/2 tsp
  • chili powder, 1 1/2 tsp
  • cayenne pepper, 1/2 tsp
  • salt to taste

Open all the cans and pour into a large pot set over medium heat. Add chopped garlic and stir well. Add seasonings, starting with a small amount of each and building up after tasting. Use any other spices that sound good. I also like smoked paprika, red pepper flakes, cinnamon, and cloves in chili. They all add another layer to the complexity of the flavors. Try them and see what you think.

When the chili is warmed through it is ready to serve but the longer it sits the better it tastes.

The garlic will still be pungent since it is not precooked. If you are sensitive to raw garlic heat it in a small amount of water in the pot BEFORE adding any of the canned items. It will soften the flavor.

Serve the chili with your favorite starch.

Ideas for starch pairings include: steamed or baked sweet or regular potatoes, corn bread, polenta, steamed corn, rice, millet, whole wheat bread.

ENJOY!!!

This is a perfect recipe to help with weight loss. There is very little fat and it is incredibly filling. The flavors are intense and the overall meal is comforting. 🙂

My first gain, and how it is affecting me today

I have now been back on Weight Watchers for 13 weeks, and following the McDougall guidelines for 10 of those. In that time, I have lost 25.8 lbs total, which is fantastic! I am getting close to hitting a milestone of losing 10% of my starting weight. I feel amazing everyday.

However, this week I had gained weight. I bought a scale not too long ago so I could have daily feedback about my dietary choices. Usually it goes down steadily. If I indulge myself and buy a loaf of sourdough bread I see it go up for a couple of days before settling to lower than before the bread. I understand these little fluctuations are often a result of how much of the foods I’m eating are being absorbed by my body. In the case of the sourdough, I know the finely ground flour is much more easily absorbed than whole corn kernels. So it makes sense to gain weight.

But this week was different. I have not eaten much regular bread (made with white flour). I did eat a lot of corn tortillas and I made ugali with masa harina the night before I weighed in. So maybe the corn was ground finely enough to be absorbed like wheat flour. Or maybe it has to do with where I am in my cycle. I’m not entirely sure.

I did see the scale at home creep up for a few days before I weighed in on Sunday.

I remember in the past how upset I would get over a gain like this week. I’m up 1.4 lbs which is not that much. And this morning it was already going back down.

I still remember the very first week I gained weight at WW. It was over a decade ago. I had been following the program to the letter. I had lost consistently for several weeks straight. I was weighing in in the evenings so it’s quite possible I had eaten differently or maybe had some extra water. But I was crushed. When I saw that number on the scale higher than the week before my face fell and I was close to tears. I still remember the staff member who was helping me. To this day she is my favorite of all WW staff members, which says a lot because I love most of them! Her name was Fred and she asked me if I had been following the program. I explained that I had. Then she asked about my cycle. I was a little embarrassed by that question, but she assured me that we retain water at different times. She then said that if we couldn’t figure it out, we would call it a vegetable and it wouldn’t count!

This was not like that. I knew I was going to be up on the scale. I am also okay with it. 12 straight weeks of loss followed by one of gain is a trend I am quite happy with! I know that there will be ups and downs on this journey. Considering my ultimate goal weight is over 200 lbs less than my starting weight it would be completely unrealistic to expect to not gain weight occasionally.

But, I do not intend to make this a regular pattern, either. I am working on incorporating more starchy veggies instead of just grains. Potatoes and sweet potatoes help me shed pounds easily so that is where I am choosing to focus my meals for now. It works out perfectly since the weather has cooled a bit. Tonight might be a good night for potato leek soup! Or just steamed sweet potatoes with spicy black beans and salsa.

All in all, I would say that while I am not thrilled to have gained weight this week I am not horribly upset, either. I think it is a normal part of this process. And it’s okay to gain weight occasionally. I am just going to continue to take this one meal at a time, one walk at a time. I know that a year from now I will be in much better health, so what’s a pound and a half this week? 🙂

Kenyan food!

I was recently reading an article comparing the effects of diet on top athletes. Kenyan runners are known for their speed and endurance. Their diet is typically a high-carbohydrate diet. One of the staples mentioned was ugali, which I had never heard of. Intrigued, I googled it! Turns out it’s a mush made from finely ground cornmeal that is used to pick up other foods like stews with the fingers and then the whole thing is eaten.

20150828_184945_resized
International night: Kenyan edition!

Finger food? Count me in! The next step was to find food to eat with the ugali. Another Google search turned up a ton of meat based stews that sounded good but would not support my journey to health. A few keywords and related searches later I decided on two of the dishes listed here: cabbage and ndengu. I am still not sure how to pronounce that last one, but boy is it tasty! I followed her recipe for the ndengu and this one for the cabbage. I also chopped some fresh cilantro for an added burst of flavor.

The result? A totally new culinary adventure that was absolutely amazing! I have made the mung bean stew twice sinve then and it’s a little different but just as tasty each time. I love the simplicity of the flavors that really let the natural flavor of the ingredients shine through. Yum!

Ndengu - a mung bean stew with a contemporary tomato twist.
Ndengu – a mung bean stew with a contemporary tomato twist.

I for all recipes that called for oil I simply omitted it and added extra water as needed. The first time I made ndengu I used sweet potato. The second time I used russet. I much preferred the sweet potato and have a slow cooker full of it simmering away for when I get home tonight. I did not salt the stew while it was cooking, only in my bowl as usual for me. So the flavors really get to meld on their own and then pop against the salt on the surface.

Kenyan curried cabbage. Simple, delicious. A definite repeat!
Kenyan curried cabbage. Simple, delicious. A definite repeat!

The cabbage was so easy to make. I added a few dollops of tomato paste instead of fresh tomatoes. It turned out fantastic. I also upped the spice on this since the ndengu turned out so mild. It made a nice balance on my plate.

Ugali. The dish that started it all. Forgive the blurriness. It's hard to focus on cornmeal mush!
Ugali. The dish that started it all. Forgive the blurriness. It’s hard to focus on cornmeal mush!

Ah, ugali. What can say about this delectable ball of starch? It was a workout to cook since it’s twice the grain to water ratio as polenta. It gets cooked very firm then allowed to cool slightly before serving. I don’t have a nice pot or bowl to use as a mold so I eat it lumped. The first night I actually followed the eating method I read online: take a small portion and roll into a ball then indent with the thumb and scoop stew up to eat. I managed to get most of my ugali and about half of the other dishes into me that way. However, since I was raised eating with utensils, I am not that dexterous with my fingers. I finally resorted to using a spoon. I will say that it is more fun to eat with my hands and I have been practicing. 🙂

All in all, international night, Kenyan edition was a great success. Since then M has been putting avocado on his ndengu and he loves it. I play with the spice level each time I make it. It is truly a simple dish to throw together. I don’t always cook the beans first, either. Since they are small and thin-skinned it is simple enough to just add some extra water to the sauce and cook it longer. Then everything melds so beautifully! Even if you are not a huge fan of cilantro, I would suggest a little bit as garnish to enhance the other flavors. The more I eat it this way the more I love the freshness it brings to whatever I made.

I have also started using masa harina from the Mexican section of the grocery store (like to make tortillas or tamales) to make ugali. It comes together much more easily. I don’t know the whole chemical reaction of it, but it just turns into a smooth, creamy, firm dish that is the perfect base for anything else. I do add a bit of salt to this before I put the corn into the water since it is more palatable that way, but I use a small amount so I don’t over eat it for taste alone. With all of these recipes, it is easy to adjust the seasonings to suit your preferences. Give them a try and enjoy! Who knows, you might have the energy to start running, too!

20150828_184945_resized

I am not exercising for weight loss!

I have been walking a lot lately. I mean a lot! In the past 3 and a half weeks I have walked almost 200,000 steps. Considering the fact that I am still well above 300 lbs, that is a lot of effort and I am quite proud of myself.

I love my daily walks. I feel centered and balanced, especially when we go off-road onto a trail in one of the beautiful parks near me. There is something about being surrounded by tall trees, fresh air, and dappled light that puts my soul at ease. And I love the energy I feel from how I’m eating that gives me fuel for these lovely excursions. I even like walking around my neighborhood.

However, I am not doing any of this for weight loss.

I have tried to lose weight so many times before. In every other program I have found the calorie swap portion to be one of my downfalls. The idea is basically that since the Diet part creates a calorie deficit already any extra calories burned through exercise can be swapped for more food. This was how it was when I did Slim-Fast, Weight Watchers, Spark People, My Fitness Pal, and more. Other diets didn’t have specific swaps, but allowed more flexibility when exercising more. I constantly found myself exercising enough to justify an ice cream, a package of mini doughnuts, a cupcake.

But was I really exercising enough to get all of that extra fat burnt up?

No.

I wasn’t.

All I was doing was using exercise as a form of punishment to justify a reward in the form of junk food that didn’t help me get any healthier or slimmer while damaging my relationship with food even more in the process.

What was the point? I ended up heavier than ever with no concept of how to appropriately move or fuel my body.

Now I am using exercise as simply what I feel like doing. I am walking around simply because I like walking. We go exploring trails just for fun. I am even working my feet up to barefoot hiking.

Redwood Regional Park Trail Map
One of my local parks. Lots of trails to explore!

I think this paradigm shift is so vital to why am so successful this time around. It’s funny, though. It took changing my food to have the energy to want to walk to have that paradigm shift at all.

This is not to say that exercise will not help with weight loss. Of course it does! It lowers blood sugar, builds muscle tissue and strong bones, and helps burn extra calories.

But I cannot out exercise a poor diet.

I need to eat foods that support my body, give me energy, and encourage healing in order to even be able to exercise at all.

I am also happy that I recently reconnected with a high school acquaintance who has become my walking buddy and is quickly becoming a close friend. She also started McDougalling and is experiencing great success as well. Walking together lets us talk about the personal issues we each have along with the struggles we share.

At this point, I am looking forward to our chatting just as much as the walk itself. Let me repeat that. I am looking forward to walking!!! Who knew that would ever be possible for me?!

All that said, though, I am definitely experiencing successful weight loss and I know that walking is encouraging it. In the past 12 weeks I have lost 27.2 lbs. I feel fantastic that I have lost so much and I love how easy it is.

So I’m going to continue to get outside to walk and enjoy this beautiful world. I’m just going to do it for its own sake, and not to lose weight. 🙂