Traveling through life with a timer and sneakers

Health

Experiencing failure in weight management: Examining lessons learned in order to become successful

As the semester wraps up at the school where I teach, and I enter final exams into the grade book, I notice some familiar occurrences. Students figuring out the minimum work they need to do in order to maintain their current grade in the class and those who worked extra hard on the final in order to compensate for missing work earlier in the semester.

I used to be one of those students. In middle and high school, I hated turning in homework for many of my classes. It wasn’t that I didn’t love learning, it’s just that the process of doing homework seemed silly to me and I felt like my time was better spent in other areas like extracurriculars or reading some non-course literature. I always attempted to learn the material, often scoring incredibly well on exams, which balanced my grades much to the chagrin of my teachers and parents.

However over time those bad habits began to take their toll. Now as a teacher, I have come to realize that homework is an important component of learning, providing continuing opportunities to strengthen your knowledge and skills in an area. And I learned that lesson the hard way, when in one high school class I fell so far behind that I eventually needed a tutor to help me learn the material so I could pass the final exam.

Why did it take getting to near failure before I caught myself? It wasn’t until a recent HMR class, when an instructor said something relating to weight management, that I made the connection. I had become complacent in my success. With every slip in my grade, I would readjust my goals, lowering the bar to make the falling grade more acceptable. Until eventually it got so low, I couldn’t figure out how to do the work by myself to bring my grade back up to where it needed to be to pass the class.

As a teacher, I have made it a goal to ensure students I work with don’t fall into these same bad habits. And as a student entering the HMR program in 2013, I was determined not to let myself slip. I did every homework assignment. I studied my own behaviors as well as paying close attention to every lesson my teachers and fellow classmates shared. And I found myself excelling at something I had failed at so many times in my adult life. I lost weight. And a lot of it.

I had successfully practiced the behaviors of the Decision Free Diet to the point it had become second-nature. My brain learned to appreciate and thrive in this structured environment full of homework and accountability. And I eventually “graduated” to the next step, Phase Two. Managing my weight and maintaining my new lighter body.

It was in Phase Two where I met my own personal nemesis again. I found myself slacking off on healthy behaviors, choosing to skip a serving of vegetables and having a an unmeasured serving of fried rice instead. And as I saw small gains on the scale, I kept readjusting my healthy weight range. When I got worried about the gains, I found myself holding “cram sessions” where I would jump headfirst into weight loss behaviors in an attempt to adjust for gains, without making a plan to sustain that loss (much like a student crams for a test and then forgets all of the material the day after). And over time, I became complacent. Until I had gained so much of my lost weight back, that I felt like a failure.

This has not been an easy post to write. Nor has it been an easy lesson to come to terms with. Through my complacency with the ever-upward creeping scale and my desire to focus on “extracurriculars” instead of foundational lessons, I have found myself failing in weight management. I made choices to ignore the lessons I learned in Phase One and Phase Two classes that would allow me to be successful, and instead I felt shame and a loss of so many health benefits I had worked hard to earn, like climbing stairs without feeling winded or sleeping without feeling acid climbing up the back of my throat.

Maintaining weight loss is a course you cannot graduate from. It is a course you are enrolled in for the rest of your life. There isn’t a final exam you can hire a tutor to prepare you for, where you only need X% in order to pass your class and maintain your weight on your permanent record. And this has been a difficult lesson for me to come to terms with. In order to be successful in this lifelong lesson, I will need to be consistent in practicing my healthy behaviors. I will need to stop adjusting up what is a “passing grade” for a healthy weight range to justify continued weight gain. And I will need to stop being complacent in the world of the gap.

Much like a student who struggles in an advanced academic class, I am going back to my foundational coursework. I have accepted that I need to work on my relationship with fruits and vegetables. And I need to lose the weight that I have allowed myself to put back on my body. So I have started again as a student in the Core classes of Phase One, enrolled in Healthy Solutions this time from the beginning. I know this means I will be faced with making more decisions during weight loss, which I found difficult in my transition to Phase Two. So this will be important for me to focus on during the weight loss phase. It also will mean I am eating a higher calorie minimum prescription, which will mean I lose at a slower rate, but will also mean more time to practice these behaviors during weight loss. I am back in my late night Wednesday classes and surrounded by a number of new and returning HMR students. I am determined to be successful again, this time not just in weight loss but also in the lifelong class of managing that loss. I know the HMR Diet works. I just need to make sure I am also doing the work.

With this in mind – I’d love to hear your favorite HMR Phase One recipes. Decision Free and Healthy Solutions. Please share or link in the comments!

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Creamy HMR Penne Pasta Bake

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The new HMR Program Penne & Meatball entree is great on it’s own but sometimes you just want to shake things up to keep it interesting. Adding the soup and some additional spices can make for a delicious and easy pasta bake.

Creamy Penne Pasta Bake

  • HMR Penne & Meatball Entree
  • HMR Chicken Soup packet
  • Penzeys Roasted Garlic (several dashes worth – you can also use your favorite garlic powder or crushed garlic or leave this out)
  • Crushed Red Pepper (1/4 tsp optional for a nice kick)
  • 3 ounces water

Mix all ingredients together in a casserole dish until fully combined. Bake in oven at 375 degrees for 20-30 minutes until top has browned. Oven times may vary depending on how shallow or deep your baking dish is as well as your oven’s calibration.

Enjoy!

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Spicy HMR Lentil Soup

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When I was in Phase One of the HMR program, I rarely ate soup. Odd because it seemed like that’s what all of my classmates were doing – turning entrees into soup. But it just didn’t appeal to me.

Since entering Phase Two, I have realized how useful broth-based soups are as high-volume, low-calorie meal options. And so I have tried to increase my soup intake.

This is a very simple but delicious Decision-Free way to use the new HMR Diet Lentil Stew. If you don’t want the spice, cut the Green Dragon Sauce.

Spicy Lentil Soup

Stir all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir occasionally while heating. Once soup comes to a boil, turn off heat and enjoy while it’s still steaming!


Toffee Apple Cider – a warming HMR shake on a cold day!

The weather has turned colder in sunny California and that means more hot HMR shakes to stay warm and full during the holiday season.

This one is easy and perfect to sip from a thermos while heading out in the evening to see holiday lights.

Toffee Apple Cider

  • 1 ounce Torani Sugar-Free English Toffee syrup
  • 1 packet Alpine-Spiced Sugar-Free Apple Cider mix
  • 1 serving HMR Diet Vanilla Shake
  • 15 ounces hot water

Put everything in the blender and blend on low to help everything dissolve and come together (always be careful blending hot liquids). Pour into a large mug or thermos for a warm and filling beverage!


Pumpkin Spice Tea Latte – An #HMRProgram #DecisionFree Recipe

Pumpkin spice is EVERYWHERE – seriously I must have seen at least ten different brands of pumpkin spiced tea in my local shops. But I finally caved and bought a box because I wanted to mix things up and my other dessert teas were running low.

I realized today after making a tea latte, that I had never posted about these before. But it’s a great alternative to coffee while giving you a warm shake any time of day. I make tea lattes with all sorts of flavored teas but this week have been enjoying a little something extra with the addition of pumpkin spice seasoning added to my shake.

Pumpkin Spice Tea Latte

  • Pumpkin Spice Tea (I used the Sprouts Grocery brand black tea)
  • Vanilla HMR Shake
  • Pumpkin Spice blend (you can find this in most baking aisles)

Boil 14 ounces of water and then brew tea. You can double the bags or reduce the water if you want the flavor extra strong, but I don’t think it’s needed. Once the tea has brewed, add it to your blender with the vanilla shake and a dash of pumpkin pie spice. Blend to froth (you can also use a travel milk brother if you are on the road). Pour back into your mug and top with a half-dash of spice. Enjoy! SUPER easy and perfect for sipping during your morning commute.


Peanut Butter Cookie Shake – An #HMRDiet-friendly recipe

Girl Scout cookie sales are in full swing – and I refuse to buy a box of those little scale-busters. Instead, with the sun shining again in California, I thought I’d try out my Torani Sugar-Free Belgian Cookie syrup out in a cold shake. The result was a peanut butter cookie shake that was quick to go into my blended shake rotation!

Peanut Butter Cookie Shake

  • 8-10 ice cubes
  • 2 ounces SF Torani Belgian Cookie syrup (I bought it on sale at Cost Plus World Market but you can also find it online and possibly at a store near you!)
  • 10 ounces cold water
  • 1 Vanilla HMR Program Shake (I used the 120 for this recipe)
  • 1 tbsp PB2

Blend all ingredients together until smooth. Drink and enjoy the cookie flavor in a filling shake without the density of a tiny little calorie-bomb of a cookie!


Bulked up Beef Stroganoff an #HMRDiet Healthy Solutions recipe

This is an easy way to get three servings of vegetables into the day while enjoying a delicious and satisfying meal.

  • HMR Program Beef Stroganoff entree
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 1 sliced garlic clove
  • 1 & 1/2 cups sliced Baby Bella mushrooms
  • 3 cups fresh spinach
  • Chicken broth
  • Smoked paprika
  • Truffle salt (or your favorite salt)
  • Fresh ground pepper 
  • 1 tbsp sour cream (whose nutritional data falls within HMR condiment guidelines)

Sauté onion and garlic in a splash of chicken broth (I use the broth in lieu of cooking spray in the dish so you will want to keep it nearby to pour a splash in if things get dry). 

Once onions start to soften, add mushrooms as well as paprika, salt, and pepper (those will all be too taste – I tend to pour a little heavy!). Sauté for one to two minutes. Once mushrooms start to soften, add spinach.

Once spinach starts to wilt, add HMR entree. Toss everything together and cook for several minutes to allow flavors to meld.

Remove from heat and fold in sour cream. Serve and enjoy!


Peanut Butter Hot Chocolate – the HMR Diet hot shakes continue!

It’s cold and rainy here in California which means I am continuing to experiment with hot shakes. I tried to make something a little less sweet this time around while still being rich and filling.

Using unsweetened cocoa and PB2 gave the shake a deep mouthfeel while keeping the overall sweet level down. Perfect to sip while grading research assignments or enjoying a good book.

I used a travel Aerolatte milk frother for my hot shakes. It’s easy to carry, clean, and make clump-free shakes. But this could easily be done with a whisk or a blender (just be careful with pressure that can build making hot beverages in a blender!).

Peanut Butter Hot Chocolate

  • 1/2 tbsp PB2
  • 1/2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 HMR chocolate shake
  • 14 oz hot water

Pour hot water in a large mug. Slowly pour in shake powder while frothing/whisking. Do the same with PB2 and cocoa. Make sure to pour powders in slowly to reduce possibility of clumping. Enjoy!


Spiced Chocolate Cake Pudding (An HMR Diet Decision Free Recipe)

Holidays are full of food-filled memories. The association of flavors and smells with specific events can make it difficult to practice supportive behaviors during this time of year.

I have found it helpful to isolate the flavors and smells to try to figure out what I really miss and if it is really food, trying to find a way to enjoy these things in a new way. The holiday spice blend in many baked treats was one flavor profile I just couldn’t shake, and thus this pudding was born.

HMR Chocolate Spice Cake Pudding

Whisk all ingredients together. Enjoy! I have tried it with slightly warm tap water which made it even more comforting, but it also tasted great chilled in the freezer.


Bulking up the HMR Diet Chicken Creole Entree (Healthy Solutions Recipe)


This one is short and easy but so good I had to share! And while you can grate cauliflower or run it through a food processor to get that rice texture, I recently learned you can also put raw florets in a large ziploc bag and beat it until it crumbles… excellent stress relief! (Okay so you can also buy riced cauliflower but c’mon let’s take cleavers to that vegetable and get some energy out!)

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup diced onion (I dice an onion or two early in the week to throw into recipes)
  • 1/2 cup diced bell pepper 
  • 3 cups riced/grated cauliflower
  • Creole seasoning (to taste)
  • HMR Diet Chicken Creole entree

Heat frying pan over medium-high heat. Either spray with cooking spray or add a tablespoon of water and onion and bell pepper to sauté. Cook for one to two minutes stirring frequently and then add cauliflower and Creole seasoning.

Cook for another two to four minutes and add HMR program entree. Mix thoroughly and cook for another two to four minutes until heated through.

One gigantic serving or two smaller servings. Bulked up for just a few extra calories! Cook time varies because it depends on how soft you want your cauliflower rice. Add hot sauce if you want an extra kick!


Hitting the reset button on weight management: Week One

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post talking about gaining weight over the last 16 or so months while training for three different marathons. I kept jumping into cycles of trying to lose weight during these months, only to end up gaining, as I would find myself needing more nutrition during training, but rather than control the needed increase, I would just eat whenever I wanted. It wasn’t planned nutrition, it was just eating to eat. And this failure to plan meant the scale just kept going up.

The NYC Marathon is over. I finished and will write more about that amazing adventure later. But as I promised myself weeks ago, I hit the reset button on November 9. And I will be sharing this journey with you in an effort to hold myself publicly accountable.

One of the realizations I have had over the last 18 months is that I did not have a system in place to track my food that worked for me. There are dozens of ways of keeping a food diary and I had tried many of them – from various apps on my phone to paper logs. I loved the HMR Program application for my phone, but it became difficult to track outside foods, and so I would only track the meal replacements and fruits/veggies. Which meant lots of outside foods would creep in. With other applications that tracked calories, I would find myself looking for the lowest calorie options, and not the most nutritious or filling options. And with paper, I would forget it at home or wouldn’t take it when I went to social events because I didn’t want to draw attention to myself (and would inevitably forget to log). But I loved the paper log because it allowed me the freedom to just write everything I consumed, and not have calorie anxiety or the judgement of many of the free trackers to causing me to avoid logging.

You will find a new tab on the top of this blog that is a page with a Google document embedded in it. I have this linked on my phone, where I can have the ease of electronically logging, while having the freedom of my paper log. And I have chosen to make it public – because I think sharing food logs is helpful for accountability but also to share ideas with each other about what works and what doesn’t work.

I am taking this reset in stages, recognizing going cold turkey doesn’t always turn out well for me. So the public log is part of this first week’s steps. And I will continue to add in healthy behaviors each week and share them with you as I commit to them. Most of the nutrition based will revolve around the healthy behaviors I have learned in my time with the HMR Program, because they work.

The second goal of this first week is to work on crowding out calorically-dense foods by intentionally increasing my fruits and veggies. I am shooting for nine servings (using HMR measurements) of fruits and vegetables per day, every day this week.

I will also be adding in new physical activity programming in the coming weeks and can’t wait to tell you more about it along with the dietary changes. Step-by-step, day-by-day, week-by-week – using what I have learned along my journey to get rid of this excess weight while also recognizing and celebrating the significant weight loss I have managed to maintain. I also promise to try to post some pictures here (although you can also follow me on Instagram where I definitely love to share pictures!)

What works for you to maintain your weight loss? Do you have a secret strategy for success? And if you are struggling to lose weight, what is something that you are finding difficult? I’d love to hear from others about your successes and struggles!

 


Training to run a marathon did not make me fat

I am training for a marathon. And I am gaining weight. But marathon training didn’t cause this to happen. And I have been thinking a lot about this possible connection as I prepare to toe the start line of the New York City Marathon on November 6.

Let’s examine the facts. Which is going to involve talking about running for a bit. But if you are here for the self-discovery and discussion of weight gain, don’t worry, that will be coming in a little while.

I began training to run the Portland Marathon starting in the summer of 2015. I ended up with a DNS (did not start) after dealing with some injuries late in the summer. Rested. Recovered.

I started training for the Little Rock Marathon in October of 2015. I ended up getting different injuries but finishing the marathon. Albeit with time goals thrown out the window.

And two days after Little Rock in March of 2016, I confirmed I would be training for New York. But after not recovery properly from Little Rock, I have spent a large amount of time in physical therapy with yet another injury (shockingly these are all linked to some genetic issues, not shockingly they are all uniquely different injuries). However, I do have adjusted time goals. But ultimately I want to enjoy what I am openly acknowledging may be my last marathon, at least for a couple of years.

So essentially, for the last 17 or so months, I have been in some stage of marathon training or recovery. And while I haven’t stepped on the scale in a couple of weeks (more on that later) – I know I have gained about 20-30 pounds since May 31, 2015. But to be more specific – I gained 5-7 pounds in the summer of 2015, lost 14 pounds while I was injured and not running at all, gained 17 pounds during my training for Little Rock, struggled for awhile in recovery after (gaining another 7 pounds), and then losing 14 pounds before starting training for New York. So (and I am not the best at math), when I started training for New York, I was about 5 pounds heavier than when I started training for Portland the previous summer. But that doesn’t change the fact that the last time I stepped on the scale, I was 16 pounds heavier than I was when I started training for this marathon.

Going into marathon training, I knew many people had struggled with weight gain. From talking to my health coach, I knew this was something I would need to be mindful about. And so I went and did some research. HOLY MOLY don’t even try Googling weight gain and marathon training. SO MUCH HAS BEEN WRITTEN!

But more specifically, so much is contradictory. The FIRST article I opened (which I just found again near the top of the search page) had 6 reasons people gain weight and several of those reasons literally contradict each other! From being too strict about food to overeating to underfueling during the running to overfueling during the run; the information is endless and quite frankly overwhelming.

However, I realize after 17 months of training/recovering… that marathon training didn’t make me gain weight. I have just allowed it to serve as a mask, or as an excuse for struggles I have battled my whole life.

Marathon-training meant focusing on specific training goals with a specific training plan. A hyper-managed schedule to weave into my already full plate. But luckily, what it really just meant was rearranging my fitness schedule, because I learned after a couple of minor injuries, that I couldn’t add training on top of everything else I was doing.

So in reality, I didn’t increase my physical activity too much over the course of a week. But I did shift my mindset and I began more single-sport training. Which meant I wasn’t getting the same level of intensity 5 days a week, but was having some high intensity days and some much lower days. I have since realized that this threw my use of physical activity as a form of stress management out the window and I found food again as a form of stress relief, a habit I had mostly managed to eliminate, but did not realize had snuck back into my life until recently.

I also began to use the marathon as my excuse, or crutch, for more than just taking a rest day. And as I think about this, I realize that we all do this, even if we aren’t training for a marathon. For example, last year I struggled with stress in a new position at work, and people told me it would be understandable if I gained weight because I “had an excuse” – but while I had new challenges in my job, I also knew that it was just different struggles, and it wasn’t an excuse to eat. But I let marathon training be that excuse because I knew it had a timeframe and I could just start working on weight management after the race.

Finally, I realize now that I just didn’t have a maintainable weight of eating for weight management in place prior to starting marathon training. And long runs on Sunday took the place of meal preparation and planning. And the socialization events associated with training took away the desire to do the meal prep and planning. And because I was now constantly thinking about running, about injury prevention, about travel planning, about being stressed because I couldn’t go work out that afternoon because I had a long run in the morning, and at that point something just had to give.

For those of you who have followed my health and fitness story for awhile, you will realize I have struggled with this balance before. And I know this about myself. But I let the marathon mask this, and managed to put myself on the back burner at the same time I was supposedly focusing on myself.

I have some plans in mind that I look forward to sharing soon about how I will be working to lose this weight while finding a way to better manage it long term. I know I will always struggle with my weight. I will continue to gain and to lose (hopefully with a lot less gaining in the future). I will continue to have to confront myself and figure out the trigger of the moment and will have to reframe.

Right now, I will continue to make healthier choices. I am not going to focus on losing weight until after the marathon because that’s a week and a half away and I am not going to add the additional stress to myself right now because I would be setting myself up for failure. But you should expect there will be a number of blogs in the coming weeks both about the marathon, but also confronting the scale, and starting the process to lose the weight I have gained. I look forward to sharing more, but for now I am off to my weekly physical therapy appointment!

 


Seeking your HMR Diet entree challenges! And turning up the volume to solve one of mine.

The HMR Diet Beef Stew entree has always one of my least favorite entrees. It wasn’t ever bad, per say, but it just never spoke to me and I never felt fully satisfied eating it alone.

A few months ago, I wrote about a device that I was finding super useful when I travel. And now I keep one in my classroom too! And it’s through the use of this tool that I have been increasing the volume of my entrees, finally finding a way to love the Beef Stew entree.

It’s super easy too! Just one chicken bouillon cube, 1.5 cups of water, and one Beef Stew entree. Throw them all in the mini crockpot and let sit for several hours. It has a super flavorful broth which permeates the chunks of potato and beef cubes, leaving me full and satisfied.

So is there an entree you are having trouble with or often avoid? I love a good challenge and also think crowd-sourcing is a fun way to find new ideas. So please also share your favorite entree “fix-up” here and hopefully it will help someone else!


Thoughts about weight, clothing size, public commentary, and body image.

It’s been awhile since I have written a lengthy thoughtful post, and with Back-to-School Day just around the corner and a pile of tests to grade, I can’t promise this will be long. But it will be thoughtful.

Earlier this year INKnBURN, a small art-focused activewear company that I love, selected me to be an ambassador for their clothing. I wrote about it earlier this year, and am still pinching myself over the honor. I never imagined someone might think I was worthy to be a face of “activewear” and wearing this clothing makes me feel like a badass, so it meant even more to me that I could share my love of their work as an official ambassador.

One of the parts of this company that I have appreciated is their response to their customers and helping to spread the physical activity love by showing all shapes and sizes in their social media communications. No, they may not be able to provide clothing that is perfect for everyone, but they are working incredibly hard to try (especially considering how they are a small company that does all of their production in-house here in the United States). INKnBURN recently released a fit chart and I am proud to have been included. No, it doesn’t include every size – that chart would be never-ending – but it does show women of various heights and weights and shapes, many of whom are wearing the SAME size.

This picture means a lot to me. It helps to communicate that a size number on a tag shouldn’t be your end goal. It tells me that it’s about wearing what fits and how you feel in what you wear. It’s that awesome activewear makes you look and feel like a badass! And that keeps you active!

I am not 150lbs any more. I have struggled in the process of weight management to balance the high-calorie foods with the high-volume foods. I have had weeks where I have thrown in the towel and then spent four weeks trying to correct it. Weight management is rough, but I know it’s a lifelong process and the secret is not to give up.

However, I am proud of my journey. And while I may not be my lightest weight, I am still more active and more health-focused than I ever was before my HMR journey. I lift weights, I run, I do yoga, and I play. Yes, I would like to be lighter and yes I know this will require me to put my nose back to the proverbial grindstone. But I am also working to find a manageable balance in my Phase Two world.

And I am a lot stronger mentally than I was before HMR. I am realizing this as random strangers comment on the size of my body and the fit of my clothes in a public space. From women who said there were no bigger girls pictured (I am the heaviest person on the picture, so I guess I am not a big girl) to women who appreciated the bigger girls pictured (now I guess I am a big girl) to the women who specifically tried to pinpoint how I could wear the same size as a woman 55 pounds lighter than me (including one who said I was just wearing the wrong size – funny because it seems to fit wonderfully – worked out in those shorts this morning!). Reading some of the less sensitive comments (people who may have forgotten we are real people who have also commented on the thread), hurt at first. But then I realized I was okay with it. I know my body. I know what fits comfortably when I go punch a heavy bag or run 13 miles. What I like to wear for 90 minutes of hot yoga or an hour of OrangeTheory. And that’s what matters!

When I was 150lbs, I wore a pair of size 2 petite skinny jeans and had a body fat % of under 20. Even at that weight, I would still have been heavier than several of the amazing athlete who I was being compared with in the fit guide. They are rockstars and so am I. We wear what we want to wear and we all look good.

I have learned along my journey that I am more than just the number of the scale or the number on the tag in my shorts. I also have learned it’s easy to judge others without knowing them or their stories. And it’s easy to judge or make comparisons about those lighter or heavier, bigger or smaller, but in the end what does that really do for you?

Not that many of the comments were negative – and that is important to note. Many women saw themselves in the picture and that is fantastic. That women who feel however they may feel about themselves could see themselves rocking cool workout attire and getting their fitness on. That makes me happier than I could ever explain. Because I love how I feel in my INKnBURN. It inspires me to get out and get active. And I want others to feel like physical fitness badasses too regardless of your scale or shorts size!


Savory Decision-Free “Pot Pie” Recipe on Facebook!

Because sometimes I don’t have the energy to write a full blog post – check out the quick tip for turning the HMR Beef and Bean enchilada into a savory pot pie!


Revisiting a favorite … and a winner!

Last week I wrote about my new favorite travel tool, and even offered one up as a thank you in my post. This thank you giveaway has ended, and I wanted to congratulate Mary S. from Wisconsin as well as thank her for reading my blog. I will be sending her a new Crockpot Lunch Pot this week!

Today, I want to share a double-entree comfort food that MANY of you may already be familiar with, that I have prepped in my Lunch Pot recently. The HMR Program Turkey Chili and Chicken Pasta Parm! I throw them both in the Lunch Pot along with some Sriracha and let it warm for a massive bowl of comfort.

Here’s why I am really sharing this HMR Decision-Free favorite. Because I think in Phase Two, it’s easy to shy away from double-entrees. We are integrating outside foods in our diets, double-entrees seem so high in calories, and maybe we think we are tired of HMR entrees! But two entrees is still fewer calories than many of the GAP foods out there, and what worked in Phase One (i.e. super-filling, higher-volume, nutritionally-packed meals) still works in Phase Two to crowd out GAP foods and keep you full — more bang for your caloric buck! And yes, fruit and veggies and double-shakes will do the same. But the double-entree is adds some extra oomph after a hard workout or before a big event (especially on the road!) that you might not find with some of the other high-volume choices.

As I recommitted to increasing my meal replacements this summer, I am finding reflecting on what I did during Phase One to be invaluable in my continued journey to manage my weight. What is (was) your favorite double entree combo? Have you revisited it lately? 


Enchilada Bites: An HMR Decision Free Recipe

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With the first couple days of summer vacation under my belt, I finally feel like I can come up for air and reflect on my first year teaching new classes in a new department (and drastically reducing my work travel!). Over the course of the last year, many things have changed, including the HMR enchilada entree! (Bet you didn’t see that transition coming, did you?)

I am trying to reconnect with my HMR meals – in Phase Two it is easy to forget about focusing on high-volume foods or on portion-control. And increasing my use of HMR meals has allowed me an opportunity to reeducate myself. But I don’t have a microwave at home, which means getting creative with entree prep.

In honor of my Decision Free Chips & Dip recipe made with the beef enchiladas, I decided to attempt another “finger food” recipe with the new chicken enchiladas. Super easy and still something people on decision free can have in their rotation!

(Warning: I used a toaster oven, so times and temps may vary)

Enchilada Bites

  • 1 HMR Chicken Enchilada entree
  • Hot sauce, salsa, FF sour cream (your choice!)
  • Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cover mini cookie sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray.

Scrap sauce off enchiladas and cut into 6-7 “coins” each. Lay on side on cookie sheet so it looks like a coin (as pictured above). Will produce 12-14 “bites” total. Put in oven and bake 8-12 minutes until tops and sides have started to brown.

While bites are baking, mix the sauce from the entree with your choice of hot sauce, salsa (if you are allowed to have it in your program), and/or fat-free sour cream. I just used Frank’s Buffalo Sauce for the bites pictures above to add some additional heat to the dipping sauce.

Enjoy! And then share how you like to prepare the chicken enchilada entree… I could use some new ideas!

 


Almond Cloud – an HMR Decision Free dream of a mousse!

In Phase 2 class this week, we were encouraged to amp up the volume of meal replacements. The Phase One mousse came up a few times as an example – and with summer heat hitting us in California, I decided this would be my homework.

Unlike many of the mousse recipes, this one does not use pudding. Leaving it in the food processor allows it to set-up quite nicely (although it won’t be quite the same as the recipes that utilize the instant pudding).

Almond Cloud Mousse

  • 10 ice cubes
  • 1 HMR 800 Vanilla Shake
  • 2 oz Torani Sugar Free Brown Sugar & Cinnamon Syrup
  • 2 oz cold water
  • 1/4 to 1/3 tsp almond extract (depending how strong you want the almond)
  • A couple dashes of ground cinnamon

Put ice in food processor and blend until ice is ground fine. Remove lid and use a spatula to scrape the ice off the sides.

Replace lid and start processor again. Slowly pour in liquids and add shake and spice. Let processor run 8 to 10 minutes until mousse becomes thick and has doubled in size.

Eat immediately and enjoy mega volume for minimal calories!

Have you tried one of the mousse recipes on HMR’s recipe search or do you have one from a class? I’d love to try your favorite – so please share a link to the recipe or the recipe in the comments!


Weight management success: Why the media portrayal of the “Biggest Loser study” is flawed

I have had a lot of ideas flying through my head the last few months and have had difficulty putting any of them down in words. But I read a post this morning that was discussing a study about “Biggest Loser” participants having difficulty maintaining their weight loss and a part of that article resonated with me:

“If you want to succeed with long-term weight loss, it’s crucial that you embrace both reality and imperfection. Remember, too, that your best efforts will vary. Your best when facing a challenging time in life will be different from your best when everything is hunky-dory, just as your best on your birthday, or on a vacation, or at a holiday meal will require indulgence.”

The article hit a place in my gut that really isolated a lot of what I have been juggling in my head. I have struggled with weight management in my first year teaching new subjects and dealing with some personal stresses, and I have felt like I am constantly hitting the “reset” button. Like I wasn’t giving my best effort to maintain what I had worked so hard to accomplish.

My health educator recently told our class that we always check-in to tell him what we are doing wrong. That we often fail to celebrate what we have done right. And reflecting on my own check-ins, I can see what he means. I can easily pinpoint when I have succumbed to the GAP and eaten everything in my purview. I know when I have skipped a workout. I know when I have decided to eat a high calorie food when a veggie or fruit would have worked just as well. I have seen my weight go up and down over the last 18 or so months since I transitioned out of the Phase One HMR classes. I have beaten myself up for the gains, and when I have had a loss, I have beaten myself up that I even needed to lose in the first place.

It’s hard to define what your best effort it, especially when we live in a world of comparatives. I struggle daily when I look at people successfully maintaining their weight and want to be like them but then I see others around me who don’t have to count every calorie and I want to be like them as well. I want to be free of managing my health but I want my health managed. I want to be a social butterfly but I also want to have the body of someone who lives at the gym and never eats a gram of fat. I know I can’t have all of these things as some of them operate on completely contradictory orbits. And I know this.

Everyone is different. Everyone’s “best effort” will be different. And everyone’s definition of a “tough time” will be different. The secret is figuring out what my own personal definition is – figuring out what is maintainable, what is my push-effort, and when I am not giving it my all.

We discussed the Biggest Loser study in health class last week and while many focused on the negatives, I wanted to learn more about the success story. The woman who not only kept it off, she continued to lose weight. Erin Egbert was quoted as saying she continues to struggle daily, but somehow she has found success. However, there isn’t much in the news about how she has managed to do it. The popular media instead chose to also focus on the failures, and not the successes.

So where does that leave me and my mental struggles?

First, I must continue to embrace the reality that weight management is really an EVERYDAY responsibility. I won’t make the comparison to brushing my teeth because I think that’s too simplistic. Instead, let’s compare it to sleeping. I could choose to not sleep – and I have done so in the past – but the implications of not giving myself ample time to sleep are magnified with each hour I shave off in a week. I can try to “catch up” on sleep but it isn’t the same, similar to crash dieting after a few weeks of ignoring weight management.

Second, I must realize that my best efforts need to be in relation to my own experiences and not the experiences of others. Just because some people can abstain from comfort eating easily, can deny themselves of food groups by just saying no over and over, I may still struggle with this, especially in times of stress. But I need a clearer definition of what a challenging time looks like, or when I am just making excuses. It’s like the sleep analogy. Choosing not to sleep so I can watch one more episode of a television series is not a responsible method of managing my sleep patterns. However, not being able to sleep due to nightmares or stress would be a challenge I might have less control over.

The reality that I need to accept is that this will be something I will struggle with my whole life. Weight loss was the easy part, but keeping it off will be with me forever. Some day it might get easier, but just like getting a regular and consistent amount of sleep (and forsaking a late night social event or television marathon), it will still be something I will need to be consciously aware of. I need to continue to celebrate my successes while acknowledging when I slip up, so I can keep myself on track.

I want to be the success story. I *will* be the success story. And I won’t let my journey be reframed to focus on the negative storyline.


Feeling the Burn: Connecting weight management and INKnBURN fitness apparel

One summer, I was reading a novel about a woman who only felt powerful in specially tailored suit. She excelled in her job and in life when she rocked that special suit. And that novel supported everything I had learned in my college and graduate school studies. When you feel powerful, you communicate with that same power. Confidence can be manipulated by how you feel and what you wear can change how you act. And this is backed up by studies in multiple academic arenas. Even in the fields of athletic performance and weight management.

When I was in my weight loss classes at HMR, I remember constant conversations about getting rid of larger clothing so you don’t have an excuse to go back to them. About wearing slightly tighter clothing when you are going to be faced with food temptations so you can stay focused on your health goals. And about always having a gym bag packed in the car so you never have the excuse of not having anything to wear. Clothing can be a total motivator and not feeling good what we are wearing can definitely reduce our positive motivations.

Which is why I didn’t think twice when we were sitting outside of health class on Thursday and a classmate complimented me on my newest pair of INKnBURN capris which prompted a whole line of conversation about workout attire. My Rose capris looked like denim which meant I could just wear them to class straight from the gym (where I had spent the previous hour on the foam roller). And I broke out my phone and started sharing photos of a number of other INKnBURN favorites.

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Wearing my INKnBURN Rose capris & INKnBURN Wildflower tank for a Valentine’s Day 5k.

I joked that ever since starting HMR, my wardrobe budget for work has shrunk to make room for my expanding athletic clothing collection. But I was also 100% serious.

I learned early in weight loss, that when I felt amazing in my athletic attire, I wanted to spend more time in it! Which encouraged me to get out and move. Maybe it was just walking at first, but eventually it was everything from running to boxing to lifting heavy weights and putting them back down again.

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Wearing my INKnBURN Rose capris & INKnBURN Wildflower tank for a Valentine’s Day 5k.

It seems silly to say, but when I put on my first INKnBURN piece, I felt like a total badass. Like I can accomplish anything! The INKnBURN line is made entirely in America and by hand. It’s a small company located in Southern California that does incredibly intricate designs (which are all limited production) which are hand applied to the fabric. And their clothing is tested by ultra runners (the beasts who run races even longer than marathons!!!). Needless to say, the company is pretty awesome and they know the fitness world. And knowing an ultra runner will rock similar attire for 50 or more miles? I secretly imagine I can do the same 😉

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Wearing my INKnBURN Rose capris & INKnBURN Wildflower tank for a Valentine’s Day 5k.

But seriously, the intricate artwork and the flattering cuts make me feel invincible. I remember when I didn’t want to stand out. I wanted to blend in with the crowd. But now I feel empowered. And that doesn’t shock me. But that feeling is exactly why I am in love with this company’s clothing.

Sometimes I hear friends say they are in love with a certain INKnBURN piece, but don’t want to buy “anything expensive” until they get to a smaller size. But I think that’s missing the point. I don’t feel the same mentally in my generic black capris and plain tech shirt that I do rocking out in my INKnBURN gear. Which means I don’t approach my workout the same and thus don’t achieve my best effort. Why wait to find that motivation until I can fit in a size 2? Why not push myself to be my best now!

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Wearing my INKnBURN Rose capris & INKnBURN Wildflower tank for a Valentine’s Day 5k.

And it’s because of how INKnBURN makes me feel when I am wearing it, the feeling I can achieve any fitness goal I set my mind on, that inspired me to apply to their ambassadorship program. I am super excited to share with you that they selected me as an ambassador – which blows my mind! The former 280-lb me cannot wrap my head around a fitness company being interested in me. But the girl decked out in INKnBURN apparel feeling like a total badass can understand. And is gosh darned proud of herself and super excited to share the incredible way she feels. Because if I can give myself an edge in being the best possible me? I’m going to seize it and look good in the process!

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First 20 mile run? NO PROBLEM in my INKnBURN Rose capris! #BEASTMODE


Measuring Progress: Six Weeks of Change in Photos

Six weeks ago, I began a weight loss challenge with my OrangeTheory Fitness studio. I paid my $25, took weight and waist measurements, as well as “before” photos. Today, at 4:30 in the morning, I returned for the six week final results. Here are the photos…

You can TOTALLY see the difference, right? The progress is OBVIOUS, right?

To be honest, I couldn’t initially. I looked at them this morning and felt a rush of disappointment. I knew the results on the scale were minimal – I hadn’t really entered the challenge to lose weight. I was entering the height of marathon training with the knowledge I had gained some weight early in my training due to family stresses, and I wanted to finish my training strong (and maybe a couple of pounds lighter).

So when I stepped on the scale this morning and I was a couple pounds heavier than I was at the 3 week midpoint, I missed the joy of being lighter than I was six weeks ago. And I missed an even bigger change.

It’s not always about our weight.

In the last six weeks, I ran my first 18 mile long run. And my first 20 mile run. I did several sets of goblet squats using a 70-pound dumbbell (the heaviest weight my OTF studio has!).  I have added modifications to basic core work to make it harder. I have, ultimately, grown stronger and more confident in my physical capabilities. And I am ready for this marathon (even if tapering is making me a little crazy).

It’s really easy to measure progress on the scale. You are rewarded by hard, clear data. You can physically see the difference as the numbers on the scale go down.

But you can’t always clearly measure confidence. You can’t get hard, clear data on inner strength.

And sometimes it’s important to see beyond the hard data and recognize the progress you have made that’s not as easy to measure.


Magical Green Soup – the secret’s out!

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Alright, it’s January 21 and I am just now getting around to sharing my 2016 goals. I wanted to make sure I could implement the biggest change before I shared it. And yes, I know accountability is a huge motivator, so I did share with many of my Facebook friends and those who I see face-to-face. But I wasn’t ready to write it out here until I knew it was sustainable.

I have some goals that are very time bound which are fitness focused. I will run the Little Rock Marathon on March 6, my first full marathon, with my sister. We are sticking together the whole way and not worrying about time. If I like the distance, I may do another on my own.

I also want to work towards a sub-2 hour half marathon. Yikes! That one may not be in the cards this year but I will put in the work to try to achieve this goal – my target race is October 1 at the San Jose Rock and Roll Half Marathon.

My final goal is to end 2016 at the same weight or lower than I started. I struggle a lot in 2015 to figure out what works and doesn’t work for my weight management efforts. I did put on some weight but I also lost some of the weight I gained. One of my takeaways from Core and Phase One is that I have the tools to catch a gain early and to take it off. And that life won’t always be stable. Nor will my weight.

For example, I was working out 2+ hours 6 days a week when I was losing weight. I cut out my social life. I gave myself one year to focus solely on regaining my health. But when that year was over, I may have gone too far the other way. Reduced my physical activity too much in order to regain parts of my life I was missing. So it’s about finding a balance that isn’t “all or nothing.”

Okay, at this point you have got to be wondering about the title of this post and the photo of goodness knows what (I bet you figured out it’s green soup!). So I apologize for the lengthy intro. But it’s really all related, I promise.

One of the parts of my life I have figured out is that despite losing the weight, I still face decision-anxiety over food. And that increased variety of food options means I eat more. So part of my solution is to decrease my variety. Especially during the week. My menu is relatively the same from day to day.

A morning staple over the last three weeks was inspired by one of my health educators who talked about her green soup. So every week, I take all the veggies that are near the end of their life (and some that aren’t) and throw them in a slow cooker with herbs and spices as well as broth or water. I slow cook them for 10 to 12 hours and then blend it all up. It makes a massive amount of green soup!

Every morning, while getting ready for work, I cook 2 to 3 cups of the soup in a saucepan on the stove. When it comes to a boil, I pour it into my thermos. Then when I get to work, I pour it into a coffee mug over the course of the morning and have a warm and filling soup that doesn’t need a spoon and that is incredibly low in calories. Not to mention all the filling veggies in it!

So that’s it. My magical secret. It keeps me full. It keeps me sipping on something. It gets me some veggies early in the morning. And it’s part of my morning routine that I have developed to help me reach my goals.

At some point, I will write up some of my favorite combos. But really you can’t go wrong with an onion, some broccoli/kale/spinach, a carrot, Italian herbs, garlic powder, and chicken broth. However, I really do just throw everything in there. And I have yet to not enjoy my morning green soup.


Stress Management and Weight Management – what is in your toolbox?

I have been sitting on this post for about a week. I wrote it in my head and then rewrote it about 60 more times before I finally opened up my computer and started writing. So what you are getting now is a stream of conscious thought that has been overthought. And that’s about where I am with this topic right now.

I had a very stressful series of incidents occur recently in my life. Without going into detail, I will leave it as one of the more stressful moments in recent history. And now, in the aftermath of the initial fallout, I am left reflecting on what I did well and where I need to continue to work on my stress management strategies.

First, a good practice, is that I exercised. A LOT. I worked out every day for at least an hour and on top of that took long hikes several days with friends. This physical activity helped me to relieve a lot of the physical anxiety I was feeling about the events that had unfolded. For an hour, I could just run, bike, row, kick, jump, sing loudly to music and leave my stress at the gym door.

I also tried to ensure I met my minimum intake of vegetables and fruit each day. I didn’t alway make it. But I kept it in the front of my mind and would opt for produce if it was available and in front of me.

But then there was the bad. And if you have been reading my posts for awhile, you can guess where I am going with this. I ate and drank just about everything in front of me after consuming that produce. I didn’t shovel food nonstop, but I did not make conscious choices about what I ate or when I ate it. I ate to comfort myself from the emotional and mental stress that I was facing. I would go out with friends to avoid facing the stress and would drink (in mostly restrained quantities) but this loosened my inhibitions which resulted in even less restraint about food choices. And it was a holiday week which meant those bad choices were everywhere around me.

I didn’t stop to think. I didn’t stop to evaluate how those food choices would impact my weight management. I didn’t consciously, in most cases, even realize I was making decisions about food. And now in hindsight, I can see where I didn’t use my other tools to manage my emotional and mental stress.

I am trying to regroup. I have meal plans and have food prepped. I am preplanning in order to reduce my choices about food. Which will help me continue to work through the current stress factors in my life. But I want to continue to build my stress management toolbox. And I think there are some pretty awesome people reading my ramblings. So I am throwing it out to you.

If you are still reading this post, please take one minute to reply. Share one way you manage stress. Or one way you combat emotional eating. What’s in your Stress Management/Weight Management toolbox?


Lessons and Acceptance: Reflecting on my HMR Diet Blitz experience

(I started this blog entry a few weeks ago and then the insanity of October hit – fellow teachers can relate – so I am finishing it off now – better late than never!)

For the last four weeks I have been on a strict HMR Healthy Solutions diet as part of a “Blitz” that my health center was offering. This meant four weeks straight of being “in the box” of the prescribed Healthy Solutions Diet of 3 shakes, 2 entrees, and 5 fruits/veggies minimum per day (more of any of these allowed under the concept “More is Better” which I will address in a moment) plus 2,000 physical activity calories a week.

When I transitioned out of Phase One of HMR almost a year ago today, I had not spent much time following Healthy Solutions. I had spent nine months living in a hardcore Decision Free box and only spent about a month transitioning into Healthy Solutions before I transitioned into Phase Two (the introduction of outside foods, broadening my personal “box” for successful weight maintenance).

To be honest, I don’t think I had fully grasped the function of Healthy Solutions. I followed it. I did what I was told. But I don’t think I had internalized some of the decision making that is taught in this part of the program.

More is Better

My “more is better” had been shakes and entrees for nine months. And when I transitioned, I continued to rely on these. There is nothing wrong with these decision free meals, however I have learned that if I rely more on vegetables as the bulk “more is better” part of a meal, I can have super filling options for fewer calories. It is a continuation of the idea of calorically dense foods. And so, for example my dinner tonight, instead of having two entrees or an entree and a shake, I am just as full (if not fuller) making “noodles” out of zucchini and having an HMR lasagna on top!

That said, entrees and shakes are incredibly valuable and more of these are better too. But I had been crowing out fruits and veggies – not just Gap foods – with my HMR entrees and shakes … which was depriving me of another “more is better” option (that has even more variety!).

Meal Planning

The concept behind meal planning was pretty basic in Decision Free since I had been working with limited options that required no preparation. So when I started introducing fruits and veggies, I went for a lot of basics and didn’t think about meal prep or planning. But that gets boring fast, and thus I started to plan a few more of my meals in order to get all of my fruits, veggies, shakes, and entrees in!

I have also created a “puzzle piece” system where I prep building blocks that can be used a variety of ways during the week (so I can have some spontaneity in what I have but it all still meets a Healthy Solutions guideline) – for example, I will roast several squash and an eggplant as well as spiralize zucchini and rice up a head of cauliflower. Now I have ready made staples I can pair with an entree – like steak and potatoes tossed with some roasted squash or Thai curry bulked up with some extra cauliflower rice.

Journaling

I also had been pretty simplistic in my journaling in Decision Free. I would just check off with a hash-mark when I had an entree or shake or bar. And while I was okay with basic fruit and veggie tracking in Healthy Solutions. But as I started to get creative, I realized I would get frustrated having to add everything and wouldn’t keep a clear journal.

Now I have all of my puzzle pieces saved and can swap them in and out. But I also pre-log things before I eat them because if it does take awhile to log, I might just end up with a shake or some steamed veggies (which were probably the healthier option in some cases).

My Takeaway

Ultimately, there are a lot of things I have taken away from this experience. And I would strongly encourage anyone who needs a reset to check out their HMR clinic for the next Blitz offering. I not only lost some of the weight I had gained, I have taken away a better appreciation of defining what I need to maintain my weight as well as an appreciation for decision free options (shakes and entrees) that I had “tired” of after transitioning to Phase Two. I embrace them with a newfound respect having taken a “break” from them and realizing they are actually pretty awesome for more than just weight loss.

I am now currently living inside of my own personal box. It’s not as strict as an official “box” but it’s guidelines I am figuring out help me from diving into “The World of Gap Foods” — I am playing around to figure out exactly what works and I am still giving myself permission to have a meal outside of my new box every couple of weeks. I am also still figuring out if I am at my “happy” weight range or if I do want to lose the additional pounds I have found in Phase Two. If I lose them, will I be at a maintainable weight for me? And right now, I just don’t know. But I will keep living in my box full of fruits and vegetables and decision free meal options (with an occasional outside lean protein) until I have a better answer. And I realize this may be the rest of my life and after a year in Phase Two, I am finally accepting this.