Traveling through life with a timer and sneakers

Health

HMR Five Bean Curried Squash Stuffed Peppers

HMR Diet Stuffed Peppers

That title is a mouthful. A DELICIOUS mouthful!

I was roasting a squash. And I had some left. So I mashed it. Then I realized I had some small purple bell peppers in the fridge that needed to be cooked. And then the idea began to form. And my goodness it was a filling idea!

HMR Healthy Solutions 5 Bean Stuffed Peppers

Serves One Hungry Me!

  • 1 HMR 5 Bean Entree
  • 3/4 lb Bell Peppers (in my case it was five small peppers)
  • 1/2 cup mashed Butternut Squash
  • 2 tbsp dried Minced Onions
  • 1 tsp Curry Powder
  • 1 tsp Granulated Garlic
  • Salt & Pepper

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

Cut the tops off of the bell peppers – trim the edible parts off the top that you have removed, they can be used in the filling! I had four small ones and one really tiny one, so I chopped up the tiny one as well.

Mix all other ingredients together. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Fill the bell peppers with the mixture. Place them in a baking dish. I used a large loaf pan and made foil balls to help prop them up. You could also use muffin tins or mini pie pans depending on the size of your peppers (you just want to make sure they don’t tip over as they cook and the shell softens).

Bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until desired doneness. Everything is already cooked through except the shell so it will really depend on if you prefer a crisper exterior shell/pepper or a softer pepper.

Below is the nutritional data per MyFitnessPal’s recipe builder:

Screen Shot 2015-09-02 at 5.55.33 PM

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Finding Success Amongst Stress

I’m still here! Moving apartments and starting a new position at my school has been running me in circles. This is a hectic time of year for a teacher and the move and the new classes have added an extra element of stress.

This said, I have continued to work to maintain my health. I have been following the Healthy Solutions program closely, and made a firm commitment to exclusively follow the program starting last week as my HMR center is hosting a “Blitz” for members of Phase Two. This has given us a chance to hit a “reset” button and refocus on healthy and supportive behaviors – so far I have been “In The Box” for 6 days and Day Seven is off and running!

Despite the extreme levels of stress that I have been dealing with, I have managed to control my diet reasonably well through pre-logging my meals each day. This has forced me to write out a plan every single day before the day starts. It means I know I am getting in my fruits and veggies. It also means, now that I am on the Blitz, that I am also fitting in my entrees and shakes.

I tend to overplan. I pack more food each day than I will probably eat. And now that I am settled in my classroom, I also have a stocked cabinet full of supportive meals, shakes, condiments, zero-calorie beverages and all of the tools and utensils I need to prepare them.

By over-planning, I can be a bit more flexible and listen to my actual hunger levels. I avoid the anxiety of making a decision from outside foods but I can play safely in my box for the day. A health educator last week relayed a message from another HMR member who called it “making friends with the box” and I really embraced this. I think this is where I had problems in my transition because I wasn’t necessarily seeing all the flexibility I could afford myself without risking the gains I had made in improving my health.

Pre-logging also means I can eat everything I bring if I am having a hungry day without reaching for outside food. And all I have to do is delete the items I don’t eat.

Finally, let’s say I do feel like breaking out a little. I want an HMR lasagna and not the chili I had planned. It’s a minor change in my log and I can still visualize how it fits into my overall day.

I have logged for 31 days on MyFitnessPal (I’m “HealthyAcademic” if you want to be my “friend” and view my diary – I have made it visible to my friends for added accountability and I love reading other food logs for ideas) – this app is working great for me in terms of pre-logging. It’s taken me a very long time to figure out a consistent way to log my food, but I think this has been my most successful method for meal-planning and ensuring I get everything I eat written down.


Accountability: Why I didn’t want to go to health class tonight.

I have been away from home for five weeks. Three for work and two in the middle of that for vacation. And at some point, despite all my best intentions and attempts at environmental control and planning, I gave up.

The last two weeks have been especially difficult. I have lived in a dorm on the opposite coast with doctor’s orders to rest an injured leg. I ordered shakes and a shaker bottle to be delivered to my dorm and I brought all my physical therapy equipment along with some workouts I could do without aggravating my injury.

And every morning, I woke up and had a shake. Most mornings that was accompanied by fruit, and sometimes an egg. I did my physical therapy. I rarely did any other exercise. And I used my injury and exhaustion from travel as excuses not to try to do more.

Lunch and dinner started out okay the first couple of days. I would load up on veggies. I would make giant salads. I would figure out if there was a lower-calorie entree. And I would be full. But the longer I sat at the dining table during our extended meal breaks, the more often I would get up for second and even third servings of high calorie foods. Eventually I gave up on hitting the salad bar first. I.gave.up.

Then I flew home and attempted a half marathon. I knew I would be taking it easy but my injury flared (probably honestly from the weight I gained adding extra impact) and I walked the last five miles. So the next day, upon finally returning to my apartment, I stepped on the scale and faced the truth. And I added that truth to the truth of my previous semester.

At my lowest, I was 150lbs on the HMR scale. Tonight, the scale showed 188.9.

Back to the title. Because I probably owe some explanation to the rambling thoughts that have been racing through my head over the last several days.

I felt like a failure when I stepped on the scale in my apartment on Monday. I did not want to come back to class because I have managed to gain a significant amount of weight since transitioning to Phase Two. But rather than feed my emotions, I actually locked myself in my apartment (save for a trip to the dentist) for the last 48 hours in an attempt to figure out what has been going on and how I let myself get to this point. Let’s call it a personal intervention. I figured out many of my triggers. I journaled a plan for the next several weeks as well as a plan going into the school year. I cried. I binge-watched “Extreme Weight Loss” and prepared lots of veggie dishes (I had produce delivered – I didn’t trust myself in a grocery store right when I got home).

So I have plans going forward. I have reflections on my past. I even have a fridge stocked full of supportive food. But I still had not come to class. And this was causing some serious anxiety for me. I even considered feigning illness or exhaustion. Anything to avoid confronting my behaviors and the HMR scale.

But I showered. I got dressed. And I got in my car. And I drove myself to class an hour before it started because honestly I thought I might back out. I am ashamed of my behaviors and how I gave up on my healthy habits, but I also know I am human. I know through my previous classes that I needed to confront myself to stop the guilt-shame cycle. And I remember class as being a supportive environment that would help me as I face the obstacles ahead to lose the weight I found over the last seven months.

I didn’t want to come to class tonight. But I needed to come to class. And so I am here. Ready to learn. Ready to continue to work to better myself.

#NoExcuses


HMR Healthy Solutions Stuffed Tomatoes

Today I had the opportunity to attend a Phase One HMR class and they were having a condiment party! Everyone brought low-calorie condiments to share along with recipe ideas. One of the recipes mentioned was the HMR Stuffing recipe which got me brainstorming…

With produce left to use before debate nationals, I imagined how I might blend these ingredients into something new. Because creativity helps me stay focused on consuming supportive foods.

  
You will need three to six tomatoes depending on their size. Mine were somewhere slightly smaller than a tennis ball but not as small as a golf ball. I only filled the three I had and ate the rest of the stuffing. I used half the stuffing for three so in the future I would want six tomatoes this size.

Ingredients

  • Tomatoes
  • HMR Oatmeal
  • HMR Chicken Soup
  • Italian Seasoning
  • Garlic Powder

Cut a circle out of the top of each tomato. Hollow out the tomatoes with a spoon. Save the guts and chop up as much of the top of the tomato that you can. Set hollow tomatoes aside.

Cook HMR oatmeal with 3/4 cup water for 90 seconds. Add soup, chopped tomato and tomato guts, Italian seasoning and garlic powder (I used between one and two teaspoons of each). Mix well.

Spoon stuffing into tomatoes and bake at 400 degrees for 13-18 minutes until the tops are browned (I left mine in for 20 and as you can see they are a tad too brown!) — Enjoy!


Southwestern HMR Diet Healthy Solutions Soup

I have been working hard to focus on high-volume lower-calorie meals in order to stay full for fewer calories. And this week we were given a homework assignment to replace a meal with a high volume meal option from a list. Perfect for my own personal focus!

The one item on the list that I haven’t done since Decision-Free was to essentially turn an entree into a soup. Adding liquid ups the volume for sure!

This was the experiment I dreamed up on my drive home from class and it worked out really well. You can sub in fresh veggies and also change up the amount of water for your desired thickness.

The version I made was pretty thin, so you may want less water if you prefer a thicker soup. I like having the extra soup and I think the flavor was still relatively intense for being a thinner soup.

Southwestern Soup

  • 1 HMR Chili Entree
  • 2 HMR Chicken Soups
  • 1 bag of Trader Joe’s fire roasted bell peppers and onions (no added oil)
  • Mrs. Dash Fiesta Lime seasoning to taste (I probably added between two and three teaspoons)
  • Fresh black pepper to taste (less than a teaspoon for me)
  • 8 cups of water

Cook the frozen vegetables in the water with the seasonings (I bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer for 10 minutes). Add soup packets and chili and simmer for another 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and blend in small batches.

Makes a GIGANTIC bowl which is clearly 4 or more servings unless you are ridiculously hungry. The entire giant storage bowl was only 570 calories. It made six servings for me – so less than a hundred calories a mug!


Reframing the power of the “Meal Replacement”

During my journey through Core and Phase One on the HMR Diet, I nourished my body with packaged entrees, shakes, soups, and oatmeal. I lost a significant amount of weight. And during all of my classes, I would be reminded how important it would be to use these and other variations of “meal replacements” to continue to maintain weight loss once I transitioned to Phase Two.

It makes logical sense. These are pre-portioned, nutritionally-balanced, lower-calorie options to keep you satiated and nourished. You could have two HMR entrees and an HMR shake for the calories in a lot of fast food kids meals. And you would be much fuller for a lot longer!

However, as good a student as I was during the weight-loss process, I harnessed my inner teenager and rebelled a bit once I transitioned. I eschewed “meal replacements” in favor of “real food.” And I fought a battle of what is normal and “got tired” of tracking and other habits I had created during the previous year. And I did it all during the busiest months of the debate season where I was on the road almost every weekend.

From November to early April, I regained 20 of the 130 pounds I had fought so hard to lose. I had let the Gap push “meal replacements” out of my life meal by meal instead of embracing “meal replacements” and the role they play to maintain a reasonable calorie intake.

Over the last six weeks, as the debate season has wound to a close, I have struggled to embrace the habits I know will help me maintain my weight loss. But I realized that one of the hardest habits I have had is this notion of a “meal replacement” replacing a “meal” and during a recent health class, I realized why.

Another student who had transitioned from Phase One was complaining about the idea of consuming “meal replacements” and how she thought it was only temporary. She didn’t want to continue to make them a part of her life. She wanted to eat real meals. I knew exactly how she felt. But I also knew exactly why she shouldn’t kick them to the curb.

I have drastically increased the number of “meal replacements” over the last six weeks. But I have taken a new approach.

They aren’t “meal replacements.”

They are “decision-free meals.”

Not to be confused with the Decision Free portion of the HMR Diet, I have spent a significant time reflecting on why these 300-calorie or less meals that have 10 grams or more of protein are such a vital part of weight management.

It’s because you don’t have to make a decision! You can add veggies and/or fruit to these otherwise complete meals and you don’t have to portion things out or ensure there is a balance of protein/carbs/fat. The balance is there for satiety while the portion-control helps keep the over daily calorie consumption down.

However it’s the notion that these decision-free meals replace a meal that I have struggled with. Calling these complete meals a “meal replacement” triggered two things for me:

  1. I am missing out on something. When I am “replacing” a meal with a “meal replacement” then I am not getting an “actual meal.”
  2. I am on a diet and not embracing a lifestyle. Using the same technical terms I used in weight loss to describe my portion-controlled decision-free meals now makes me feel regimented in a way that doesn’t feel sustainable.

However, I am having real meals and it is sustainable. It’s all a matter of mindset and language shaping reality. When I did my post-graduate work on media reporting descriptors and the impact on female politicians credibility and electability, I found that subtle variations in something as minor as using the word “said” versus “argued” had an impact on voters. Language is powerful! An article in Slate Magazine explores just how powerful language can be in the justice system and policy making.

Thus, I will continue to embrace these decision-free complete-meals as a part of my fight against the Gap. They will be where I turn for a significant number of my meals because they are portion controlled and nutritionally balanced. But they will not replace anything. They are not substitutes. Because I am not missing out on anything anymore. I am embracing life in the best way possible.


HMR Healthy Solutions Pineapple Mint Magic!

I am loving returning home from a workout and throwing together a giant blended shake! And adding in frozen cauliflower and a blend of other ingredients helps bulk it up and make it more filling.

To make it easier, I do mass prep. I happened to have color sandwich bad and have measured out a cup of frozen cauliflower plus whatever other produce/herbs I use. Now I can grab a color coded bag, add water and shake mix and blend! No thinking required!

the door of my freezer!

This blend reminds me of Hawaii for no reason other than the pineapple. The amount of mint will vary based on your tastebuds.

  • One cup frozen cauliflower
  • One cup frozen pineapple
  • 4 to 8 mint leaves
  • HMR Vanilla Shake (I use the 800)
  • 1 to 3 cups of water depending on desired consistency (I usually use two)

The first three ingredients can be packed together in a freezer bag until ready. Put all ingredients in blender until smooth. Enjoy!


HMR Healthy Solutions Chocolate Cherry Ginger Shake

This shake contains a secret ingredient. One I CANNOT believe I ever put in a shake. But I did it. And have done it a number of times with a variety of fun combinations I can’t wait to share!

When my Phase Two health educator suggested putting frozen cauliflower in a shake instead of ice, I thought she was crazy. She claimed you couldn’t taste it. “Ha!” I thought. “It seems just weird enough that it might be true!”

It took me several months before I dared to place a cup of frozen cauliflower into my Vitamix. But with a serving of frozen fruit in there and an HMR shake, she was right! Plus as it melted, it didn’t water down the shake like ice. And for only 25 extra calories I was getting another serving of veggies with all the fiberous nutritional goodness that comes with it.

So here’s one of my combos that isn’t overly sweet but is super refreshing after a workout.

Chocolate Cherry Ginger Shake

  • 1 cup frozen cauliflower
  • 1 cup frozen cherries (make sure there is nothing but cherries on the ingredient list!)
  • 1/4 tsp fresh ginger
  • 1 HMR chocolate shake
  • 1.5 cups of water

Blend until smooth and enjoy! If you like it sweeter, I would suggest adding some Torani sugar free Black Cherry syrup.


HMR Healthy Solutions Apple Pie Shake

Still playing around with produce in shakes, I had a couple of apples leftover that I needed to use. What about an apple pie shake with hints of toffee and maple?

Apple Pie Shake
* 2 HMR Vanilla Shakes (I use HMR 800)
* 4 pumps SF vanilla bean syrup
* 4 pumps SF pancake syrup
* 4 pumps SF English toffee syrup
* 1.5 cups water
* 2 small-medium apples (I used Honeycrisp)
* 18 ice cubes
* Spices – I use Pampered Chef Cinnamon Plus but I think you could use an apple pie spice or just cinnamon and nutmeg. I like space – probably used between one and two teaspoons.

Blend syrups, water and apples together until apples are broken down. Add shakes and spices and blend until combined. Add ice and blend until desired consistency. Enjoy!!!!

I divided this into three coffee tumblers to enjoy throughout the day. However after a PA-filled morning I am thinking of doubling up on HMR meal replacements and enjoying an oatmeal with one of them!


HMR Healthy Solutions Pumpkin Pie Shake

When I was on Decision Free, I crafted a Decision Free Pumpkin Pie shake to get me through the holidays. Now that I have started playing with fruits and veggies in my shakes, I decided to try another experiment.

This shake will very in thickness based on the amount of water you use. I used less water to make it thicker like a fast-food shake but if you add more, it will spread the flavor out and give you more volume. This recipe filled two 16oz tumblers and a 12oz tumbler, so even thicker it still made quite a bit.

Make sure you use pureed pumpkin and not pumpkin pie filling which is full of extra sugar (and calories). Also, this shake isn’t super sweet. If you like sweet pumpkin pie, you will want to add more syrup or non-caloric sweetener. But I like my pie only slightly sweetened.

HMR Healthy Solutions Pumpkin Pie Shake

  • 2 HMR 800 Vanilla Shake packets (or your favorite HMR Vanilla shake)
  • 1.75 cups of pureed pumpkin (it was one can of pureed pumpkin)
  • 2 ounces Torani SF pumpkin pie syrup
  • 2 cups of water
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 16 ice cubes

Blend pumpkin, syrup and water together until combined. Add cinnamon and shake packets and blend again until combined. Add ice and blend until smooth.


HMR Healthy Solutions Carrot Cake Shake

I have had a weird craving for carrot cake. And I can’t deny that a giant piece would totally hit the spot right now. Creamy icing. Sweet carrot and fruit flavors.

But I know I would feel pretty gross if I ate a slice of carrot cake. The sugar crash and high calories would be disadvantageous to the lifestyle I strive to maintain.

So I created something that honestly, I wasn’t sure would work. However after having a shake for breakfast and another in a thermos for an afternoon snack, I am already planning on making this again tomorrow!

And laugh if you want, but this is the first HMR shake I have added any fruits or veggies to. I know! I am shocked too! I won’t do it a ton because I like to chew my produce but I will definitely be playing around some more in the future!

Feel free to adjust the amount of syrups and cinnamon to your taste. This is definitely a sweet shake!

HMR Carrot Cake Shake

  • 1 HMR Vanilla 800 packets (you can sub in your HMR vanilla shake of choice)
  • 1 medium carrot
  • 1 small apple
  • 5 pumps Torani sugar-free vanilla bean syrup
  • 3 pumps Torani sugar-free vanilla cinnamon syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup of water
  • 8 ice cubes

Blend carrot, apple and water together first to break down the produce. Add shake mix, syrups, and cinnamon. You may need additional water depending on how pulpy you want it. Add ice cubes.

I use a Vitamix which breaks everything down very nicely. Results may vary with blender choice as to the consistency.


Just a friendly HMR Diet reminder!

stay-calm-and-stay-in-the-box


Habits: Emotional Eating and Food Substitutions

Definition of Habit

Last night in my HMR Phase Two class, we talked about habits. What they are. Discovering our motivation behind the habit. And how to work to break bad habits while establishing supportive habits.

A topic that was almost too timely for me.

Earlier in the day, I had fallen into an old habit that was surreal but vaguely familiar as it is one I thought I had broken but found myself rediscovering recently. The habit of eating until I was sickening full with no real hunger preceding it.

I have had several recent occasions where I have found myself falling into this habit and I have been journaling to figure out the triggers. It was thus interesting to participate in last night’s discussion as it solidified what I had been realizing about myself.

The eating starts when I am tired and stress. I feel rushed with too much on my scheduling plate and what seems like too little time. I know I need to eat, so I grab supportive foods.

This falls in line with what some people suggest. That when you want to eat, you should replace non-supportive foods like potato chips with supportive foods like carrots. Because then you can satiate your hand-to-mouth desires.

However, what I am slowly learning about myself over this past year, is that this doesn’t satiate my emotions and I end up stuffing myself until I am sick to my stomach. Even with supportive foods that might not cause too much damage, I feel gross and still unsatisfied.

Which means I feel gross. I am unsatisfied. And now I still want unsupportive foods. And while feeling full should keep me from eating those unsupportive foods, I still go for them. And maybe right now it is just small bites. But it’s small bites of high calorie foods on top of the massive bowl of beets and the banana and the bowl of cherry tomatoes and it all adds up.

comfort-eat-all-the-things

But it’s not all gloom and doom. Because as I reflect on my successes this past year, I realize that the times I have wanted to eat and I didn’t take the first bite, I was able to alleviate my stress and anxiety in other ways.

When I have been angry and stressed, I have found that dropping down and doing 5 push-ups (or more) immediately gives me a physical relief that is far more satisfying than a bowl of lettuce. And if I have more time, lacing up and going for a walk or run allows me to process my thoughts away form food.

When I am sad or feeling more of a low-energy emotional need to eat, journaling about why I want to eat helps me find the trigger without pulling it. And then I can figure out a solution to this need – do I need to feel pampered? Do I need a hug? Do I just need to cry without a reason?

While some people may be able to find a solution through replacing high calorie foods with low calories foods when they have an emotional trigger to eat, I am realizing that this won’t work for me.

So the new habit I am working to develop it to not take the first bite. To continue to work to recognize my triggers and to use my non-food toolbox to process my emotions.

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How do you summarize a year? 2014 in review.

As another year comes to a close, I surf my Facebook feed and read through emails attempting to digest and reflect on all that has happened in 2014. Everything that was lost and all that was gained.

I wanted to write that “this is a year that will go down in my history as a special year” but then I stopped myself. Because every year should probably be a special year. In fact writing that sentence reminded me of a short post in 2011 that I wrote when this blog was just a collection of randomness (oh wait, it’s still sort of that way, only more consistent!).

The fact that we highlight a specific timeframe. That we measure things based on a calendar. It’s always bothered me and yet motivated me.

Health class yesterday centered around this idea of timeframe. And more specifically about resolutions. About setting S.M.A.R.T. goals to help accomplish what we set out to do in the coming year. Goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time bound.

I set my goals for 2015. I want to run a full marathon (Portland look out!). I want to get under 150 pounds and stay there (the plan is to stick with a Healthy Solutions based diet). I want to journal at least once a week as writing has and will continue to be a release for me. I want to continue to raise money for community organizations. And I want to continue to strive for a better work-nonwork life balance which I will begin to accomplish through continuing to ensure I have “me time” through fitness and journaling.

As I set those 2015 goals out for the Internet to digest, my mind wanders back over everything 2014 brought to the table. I honestly don’t think I had any resolutions for this year. I just knew I needed to stick to the HMR Diet (I was still in the first months of Core) and that I just needed to continue to take small steps that would build upon each other towards the “yellow brick road to Oz” (sorry I just giggled and imagined an HMR class linking arms and skipping down a path to the Emerald City of Healthy and couldn’t resist sharing).

In January of 2014, I took a rare weekend off work. I traveled with friends. And I learned to put my needs out publicly rather than giving in to those who pushed back. Oh and on a whim, I signed up for the Disneyland Half-Marathon in August. I should probably note I had never run a full mile at this point.

In February of 2014, I ran my first mile (hmmm was there a motivation connection to the previous month? lol). It was at 4.0 mph on the treadmill. I stopped after one mile. But I ran a full mile without stopping. I also tried out every single group exercise class my gym offered at least once. And the ones I hated, I forced myself to revisit again later in the year, just to make sure I really didn’t like them.

In March of 2014, I celebrated my birthday at the gym. I invited all of my friends and we did BodyCombat and Zumba and it was so much fun!

In April of 2014, I ran a 10k. And I loved it. I felt strong. I felt empowered. I felt alive.

In May of 2014, I ran two 5ks with friends and learned how social running could be. I hit the 90 pounds lost mark after 6 months on HMR and blogged about it.

In June of 2014, I ran my first sub-30 5k. A number I had only dreamed about. And in a tutu! I also finished in first place in my Boxing Fundamentals class final exam. I LOVE boxing! Oh and I hit the magic 100 pounds lost.

In July of 2014, I introduced my mother to her first 5k. And she finished under her goal time. I ran a 6-mile race with my husband (the self-proclaimed “non-runner” in the family) by my side. I also ran through the streets of New Orleans after an impulsive race-day sign-up. And I stayed in the Decision Free box the entire time I traveled.

In August of 2014, I RAN TWO HALF-MARATHONS and finished both in under two hours and thirty minutes – one of which was the Disneyland Half. What?!?!?!? No but really… WHAT?!?!?! I also transitioned to Healthy Solutions.

In September of 2014, I ran a sub-60 10k. Can you tell how freakishly proud I am of my running? Probably because it’s super easy to measure compared to so many of my other accomplishments and because it’s something I used to try to get out of doing in high school gym class. I also transitioned to Phase Two.

In October of 2014, I completed the Rock and Roll San Jose Remix – PRing my 5k on Saturday and conquering my mental behemoth (and PRing) at the San Jose Half Marathon on Sunday.

In November of 2014, I hit my one year anniversary since starting HMR. And I ran with friends on Thanksgiving and scored a new 10k PR!

In December of 2014, I shaved some more time off my 5k (post coming in January) at the Santa Run. And I learned a LOT about myself. I spent the holiday season fighting in the gap. And I survived without too many bruises.

I am leaving 2014 on a high note. I know I have a lot of self-improvement still to do. A lot of goals I want to accomplish. But a renewed sense of self-determination and body full of energy (despite today’s 5:15am OrangeTheory class).

So in short, 2014, thank you for everything you taught me about myself and about the world around me. I am truly blessed to have gotten a chance to experience everything you contained and I look forward to jumping feet first into what 2015 has in store!


Easy HMR Chicken Creole Soup

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It’s super cold and windy out and I KNOW I am going to want comfort food after running errands today. So I threw together a standby favorite that I will nosh on for most of the evening (for only 420 calories for the WHOLE stewpot!).

The secret is the spices. Amping up a broth-based soup with flavor makes it go a long way. And really you can throw any veggie-entree combo together with the right selection of spices to make your own cold-weather goodness.

My Creole favorite:

4 cups of chicken broth (two cans)
1 16oz bag (1 lb) frozen okra (I like the whole pods)
1 HMR Chicken Creole entree
Granulated garlic (I use about a tablespoon)
Zatarain’s Creole Seasoning (I use about a half a tablespoon)
Louisiana Hot Sauce (I pour it in but I really like spice if you can’t tell?)

Throw it all in a pot and cook it low and slow until you just can’t stand how good it smells. For me that’s between twenty minutes and two hours.

Are you a broth soup fan? What’s your favorite HMR entree to make into a soup? Share your ideas because I could always use some more easy combinations!


Redefining “Normal” — Exploring my relationship with food & weight-maintenance

Weight loss is a battle. It’s an absolute struggle and I completely relate to anyone who is fighting to take off those pounds. But I have discovered an even more difficult task.

Keeping it off.

On Monday I was working out with a friend and talking about how gross I felt. I began to review all of the terrible things I had eaten while working at a middle school debate tournament. For the first time in over a year, I had eaten at McDonalds and over those two days I had actually had TWO meals from the Golden Arches. And that wasn’t all!

What happened to me? What had possessed me, during a week I was trying to eat on the lower end of my calorie range due to an upcoming vacation, to eat so many of the terribly high calorie foods offered to me?

I started off each morning with a blended shake. I even packed meal replacements and vegetables. I was exhausted but I had a semblance of a plan. To stick with a Healthy Solutions “More is Better” approach because I knew it would be very stressful and I make terrible choices when I am stressed out. Something I have learned about myself over the last 13 months.

However, people offered me lunch delivery from the lunchroom. And I accepted. And then they went around taking McDonald’s orders. And I placed one for myself.

Why?

I realized upon reflecting on the weekend that I just wanted to appear “normal.” After a year of being on such a strict diet, I wanted to be like everyone else and eat whatever I wanted. I wanted to eat like they did.

Like a carnival funhouse, I was tricked by this notion of “normal” and I was the fool.

My concept of normal used to be “what everyone else is doing” but I realize that this isn’t what gave me success in my weight-loss journey. What gave me success was setting a new standard of what normal looks like. And when I reflect upon the weekend, other people turned down these various options in favor of something healthier. Which meant what I had perceived as normal really wasn’t the norm for everyone.

While I anticipate a gain on the scale this week, I have also gained something else. I have gained a better understanding of how I operate and the triggers that entice me further into the Gap.

In middle school we would joke that normal was just a setting on a washing machine. Maybe I just need to listen to my 7th grade self again. Embrace the idea of being me and not being like everyone else. After all, being me is what got me this far in life. And I like who I have become.


The difference a year makes. One year later. HMR Diet Review.

Last Fall, I wandered into a 6am gym class with motivation to get fit. To lose weight.

I left less than 20 minutes into the class in tears. I couldn’t keep up. I felt like I was dying. I was embarrassed and I swore I would never go back.

Before anyone blames the teacher, it wasn’t him. He was awesome. It was me. I was ashamed at how heavy and how out of shape I had let myself become.

I did this to myself.

No one made me fat. Yes, life happened. Shitty things have happened in my life. Things that motivated me to stuff my face full of fatty foods. But no one sat there force feeding me except me. Wonderful things also have happened in my life. Things I had celebrated by, you guessed it, stuffing rich fatty foods in my mouth. And I had all the reasons in the book why I couldn’t work out. Hello I teach six classes a day, coach after school, and work at tournaments at least half the weekends during the calendar year (many of which require travel). I obviously had no time… except the time I was sitting on a couch stuffing my face or at a bar drinking and (you guessed again) stuffing my face.

So I was ashamed. And guess what I did?

Bought myself a high calorie beverage from Starbucks and drove myself through the McDonald’s drive-thru for TWO sausage McMuffins (with cheese!) and TWO hash browns. And a full sugar soda. You know, to wash the candy coffee drink down.

Here’s the deal. I know someone reading this is judging me. And that’s fine. I am putting myself out there and expect to be judged. It’s the Internet for heaven’s sake.

I know there are people who are out there who think that obviously if we just stop eating like what I described, we would all be thin. But for those who know me, or who have struggled with their weight, once you start packing on pounds, even if you switch to healthier choices, it is still incredibly difficult to shave off enough calories to start the scale moving down. I didn’t eat every meal at McDonald’s. In fact, I ate a relatively balanced diet most days out of the week. But between the amount of healthy food (portion control) combined with the comfort food combined with a lack of activity, my scale just kept climbing.

I was ashamed when I left that fitness class. And I never went back.

Until today.

November 13, 2013 — I left work and took myself out for sushi. It would be my last meal where I would stuff my face freely and not worry about the consequences. I enjoyed and savored all the foods I knew I would be leaving behind. I was bloated and uncomfortable when I left the restaurant and I drove across the street to the HMR health class.

It was the first day of the rest of my life.

Nine months into HMR, I transitioned from Decision Free to Healthy Solutions. And six weeks after that I began the transition to Phase Two. I have spent the last six weeks battling life in the real world. And I won’t lie and say it’s been easy. It has been two of the hardest months I have had in a long time.

Losing weight in HMR, if you stick with the plan and don’t give yourself excuses to cheat, is incredibly easy. You are isolating yourself from the real world of choice. It’s safe. It’s easy. And throughout the process, the classes prepare you for life in the real world.

Some people have made judgey comments about HMR because they feel as though they are “better than that” and people should be able to lose weight on “real foods” and you “don’t learn how to manage life” and “the weight will just come back on.”

Here’s my take on those who judge.

Fuck you.

Wow. I have been wanting to say that for years. Because I have struggled with my weight since I was a teenager. And I listened to those judgey people for almost that long. And every time I attempted to “just eat healthier” and failed, I would spiral further and the scale would climb higher.

Maybe preparing all of your own food from scratch and choosing healthy options on every menu works for you. That’s awesome! I am not judging your lifestyle so please stop judging those who make the choice to seek outside help in getting weight off and learning to manage that weight.

But I live in the real world of balancing an 80 hour a week job. And I don’t have the luxury of just “finding a new job” or “taking some time for myself.” I have to work. I actually LOVE my work. I am changing lives. I LOVE being a teacher and a debate coach. And that’s not going to change.

So let’s stop the judging and the diet shaming. Because I want to tell you something.

The HMR Diet works.

I got the pounds off quickly. I learned a lot about myself and the real world in the process.

And although I alluded earlier in this post that the last six weeks have been a struggle, it’s not because of HMR. It’s because the real world is full of choices and I am battling between the person I was and the person I have become.

I am healthier. I am stronger. But there is still a part of me that wants to override the healthy choice machine and pick the worst item on the menu. So every meal is an internal struggle. But in reality, it has always been that way. Now the healthier side is winning more of those battles and the unhealthy side is protesting.

I will continue to attend the HMR Phase Two classes for at least 17 more months. They hold me accountable. They offer me support. And they continue to teach me valuable lessons about myself and about the world around me. Last night I tried to talk myself out of attending this “Total Athletic Conditioning” class. I needed sleep. I have been incredibly run down as I have not had a day off without teaching, coaching, or traveling with students since the first weekend of October. But then I remembered how I have empowered myself. How amazing I feel after getting in a workout. And how I wanted to celebrate life and not make excuses.

So I woke up and went to this 6am class described as combining “athletic sports drills, weight training and other techniques that are specifically designed to improve your speed, agility, quickness, balance and muscle definition. Start with a cardio warmup – progress into active stretching – move into strength and endurance – then some speed and agility  – balance and core and added PLYO…  You will enhance your cardio anaerobic threshold.”

Scary description right?

I was scared.

I remember running out of that studio. I remember hiding in the bathroom. I remember crying.

I looked in the mirror and began to follow the instructor’s direction. I felt strong. I felt empowered. I felt alive.

After the class, one of the regulars (who had been there when I ran out last year) approached me and complimented me on how well I kept up for my first class.

I mentioned I had tried it once before over a year ago. But I didn’t mention running out. I didn’t mention the tears. I just ended by saying I planned on coming back.

And I do.


HMR Decision Free Butterfinger Shake

Although I have transitioned from Decision Free through Healthy Solutions and from Phase One into Phase Two, I still find shakes to be an important part of my daily life. A blended shake with an HMR 500 packet is only 100 calories but is incredibly filling for a relatively long period of time. When I was in Decision Free, I couldn’t imagine that I would still enjoy and drink as many shakes as I do, but I am still playing with recipes and enjoying shakes and mousses!

This shake is inspired by two classmates who transitioned to Phase Two when I did. I can’t believe it took me this long to hear about their Butterfinger shake but with some easy alterations, I made my own. Their shake used SF FF pudding which I don’t keep in the house due to the sweetener used, so I needed to figure out my own version. They also add Molly McButter for some extra butter and salt but I didn’t for mine.

This ratio blends enough in my Vitamix to fill my venti double-insulated Starbucks cold cup to the top.

HMR Diet Butterfinger Shake

10 pumps of SF Butter Rum syrup from DaVinci

1 cup of cold water

1 packet of HMR 500 vanilla (you could probably sub in your favorite vanilla HMR shake)

1 tbsp PB2

12 ice cubes

Blend all ingredients except the ice on low to dissolve the powders. Add ice and blend on high under smooth and fluffy. Enjoy!


Processing Phase Two: An Academic Exploration of Life Outside “The Box” and the Creation of a “New Box”

I lived inside of a bubble for almost a whole year.

It wasn’t a real bubble. That would be a little bit strange. But it was a world where I had protection in the form of a very strict diet called HMR Decision Free. For those who have been reading for awhile, you probably already figured that out. But it still amazes me that for a whole nine months, I lived in such a confined world of food choices and after so long inside my bubble, I think I had forgotten what existed outside of that world.

As I transition from my bubble world to the real world, I have found that a lot of academic texts that were shared with us in health class have become much more salient for me. I wanted to use my journal (blog) today as an opportunity to explore my transition while linking some of these texts as well as next texts to help me connect my personal experiences with broader research. Because I have learned a lot in the last several months but it helps me know that I am not alone in this world full of food that we call “The Gap.”

Cornell researchers Brian Wansink & Jeffery Sobal found that we make more than 200 decisions about food every day. While we learned about this study in our HMR health classes, I dismissed it at the time, because those were not choices I needed to make at that moment. My choices were much more limited. Did I meet my daily minimum of shakes and entrees? Which of the limited selection was I eating next? Since everything was tasty and nutritionally calculated, it was rare I really felt compelled to make a clear decision.

When I transitioned to Healthy Solutions, the number of decisions increased. Suddenly I needed to decide how to get my fruits and veggies in. I needed to go into grocery stores to acquire said produce. I needed to prepare them and write them down and it became more complicated that just jotting down the same several items in my journal each day.

And because I thought I missed variety, I quickly delved into produce diversification. However, perhaps I should have stuck with buying only what I needed each day to minimize choice and over-consumption. Pierre Chandon and Brian Wansink found, in the Journal of Marketing Research, that stockpiling food leads to over-consumption. And so while I thought I was saving money and time in buying in bulk, I have since realized that I consumed even more produce just because it was there, not because I was hungry.

Fruits and vegetables are not the worst things in the world to overeat. However, the habits created could possibly transfer to other items. And so by discovering this in Healthy Solutions, I was able to minimize the total amount of food in the house and as I transitioned to Phase Two, I had to keep this in mind. Because even frozen dinners, that would soon supplement my HMR meal replacements, could be abused.

As I have transitioned to Phase Two, I have worked hard to keep my home environment and work environment as clean as possible. But I have learned a lot in the transition.

I learned quickly that I couldn’t be trusted to just show up in the school cafeteria to select a meal on the fly. The temptations of everything around me would add up. And even if I grabbed small portions of lots of healthier options, it would still add up to way more calories than I needed in a meal. And because I was now socializing at lunch instead of eating in my classroom, I found that I consume far more despite the fact I could have done with less. And I am not alone. According to John M. De Castro, a professor at Georgia State University, in the British Journal of Nutrition, “Simply eating with one other person increases the average amount ingested in meals by 44% and with more people present the average meal size grows even larger.” And so I either have a shake about an hour beforehand and strategically plan which stations I will go to and which I will avoid, or I bring my own meal and bypass the cafeteria entirely.

The social pressures to consume “normal food” have led me to stray from guidelines we are encouraged to follow in Phase Two of HMR. While traveling, I worked to fill my plate with mostly vegetables. I used shakes and produce and entrees to offset hunger, and I walked when I could. But eventually, I found myself caving to the pressure to consume the “special homemade meals” that were offered near where we were sitting. The food was free and the families were so eager to share. And it was delicious. But I have struggled to pull myself back into real life day to day living. It is so easy to justify everything as something special. And yet I lived for nine months where nothing was special enough to eat and I had a few events that probably were once in a lifetime events where I resisted!

I know it is easy to justify my choices. Not just because I teach debate, but also because in the Gap we are handed justifications to make bad food choices every day. However, although I may have had trouble with defining my life after Phase One, I am able to bring myself full circle. Brian Wansink writes in Physiology & Behavior:

“This Laboratory of Life experience – trying to change mindless eating in the real world – brings lessons of both discouragement and encouragement for those of us interested in helping change eating behaviors. On one hand, some results are discouraging because they show how some of our most robust academic findings are often not implemented by people because they do not recognize their relevance, they lack the motivation to make them work, or they lack the step-by- step encouragement and direction they might need. If we fear we are often talking only to other academics, perhaps we initially are.”

While I had some trouble with motivation during some of my initial weeks in Phase Two, I think my health educator helped me assess what a bigger problem was for me. I still hadn’t figured out what my new box was. I had done so much work to stay in the HMR defined box, and now that I “could have” things, I was having them because there wasn’t a box I had clearly laid out.

In the past few weeks, I have figured out my triggers. I also know that severely limiting myself forever won’t work, and I do need to eventually allow for life events to happen. But I also need to write out a box for myself that I can stick with day to day.

I am writing out my Phase Two box here. In published form. To hold myself accountable. While I know that eventually it may change, this is how it need to be for the moment. In order to continue my weight loss efforts and prevent the Gap from consuming me.

I will continue to allow shakes and entrees be a part of my life. The definition of a meal replacement being 300 or fewer calories with more than ten grams of protein. I will allow myself one bar a day but bars must be under 200 calories with at least ten grams of protein and cannot be consumed in my house (in other words, bars should be used as portable meal replacements when necessary, not a daily requirement). I will continue to enjoy fruits and vegetables as these are important for my nutritional health but also to practice “more is better” with. And I will limit myself to no more than one serving of lean protein outside of prepared meal replacements each day. Finally, I will allow myself no more than 200 “other” calories. This might be popcorn. It might be a small cookies. It doesn’t have to be limited in scope (variety) but it does have to be limited in magnitude (calories) and I must ask myself “is this worth it? will it keep me full? if it won’t, why am I eating it?” and if I am satisfied with the answers, I can have it.

I was asked as I transitioned where I saw myself in five years. What is my five year plan. And the truth is, I am still thinking about it. But I know I don’t want to regress. I want to move forward. To better understand and support my health with healthy behaviors. And I will continue to contemplate this as I learn to live inside the box again. The white board has returned. And I look forward to building up those numbers because I am #HMRStrong!


Stepping Outside the Box

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I have a number of things I want to write about. But I promised myself I would write about this first. And I clearly didn’t want to write it. So I didn’t write.

But a quotation from the 90’s TV series Dawson’s Creek kept running through my mind these last two weeks as I contemplated what I would write.

“The reason why I was unfaithful is preposterous. I have no reason. I woke up one day a few months ago and I realized that my life was perfect. Everything I’ve ever wanted from the time I was six, has been realized. I’ve discovered that perfection obtained is a discomforting state. And I got restless. What do you do when everything in your life is right? When everything is just what you wanted it to be? I have the perfect home, career, the most gifted child, a husband who stimulates me mind, body, and soul every day of my life. I wanted more for nothing. And I guess that made me feel empty not wanting. I justed wanted to “want” again. Anything out of life. So, I set out to achive it. And… oh boy oh boy, did I succeed. But what I want now, I want back everything I’ve lost.”

And while that quotation may not exactly fit, it does a decent job summarizing what occurred after 312 days of being “in the box” on the HMR Diet. That’s right, I went out of the box.

I could make a dozen excuses. For example, I was beginning the transition to Phase Two and introducing outside foods already. But after two weeks, I have come to realize, I was just tired of doing it right. And there really isn’t an excuse for it. But there is a lesson.

I was in New Haven for a debate trip and had done everything right all weekend. My students went to Shake Shack, and I went to Subway for a veggie lover salad. I met with some coaches at Buffalo Wild Wings and ordered a plain garden salad w FF dressing on the side. I made myself run in the middle of the day around campus while my debaters were in a round so I could fit in PA. And I had even planned team dinner at a place I could find supportive food at and had something to eat before we went so I wasn’t starving.

What I didn’t predict was a special event at the restaurant that would force us to alter our plans. And while we walked past several pubs and fried food joints, my mind was racing. So when we happened upon an Ethiopian restaurant, all I could think about was the fact I knew they would have vegetarian dishes.

After explaining to the kids what various dishes were and making recommendations, I went to order my own. I got the vegetarian combination and selected three items that seemed to only have lentils and vegetables and spices. I asked for no butter but clearly forgot to say no oil and no bread. The waitress said “oh don’t worry, it’s vegan” and I didn’t respond. I didn’t explain my diet like I had been doing so carefully. I was tired. Tired of explaining things. Tired physically because of travel and chaperoning. And honestly tired of feeling constrained. I was a negative nancy if ever there was one.

And so when the dish came out clearly cooked in oil and served on the injera bread, I ate it. I savored it. And later that evening, I got really sick.

Am I sorry I left the box? In short, yes. Not because the whiteboard would be erased. But because I knew better and I chose to leave the box and eat unsupportive food.

Diet fatigue is real. But knowing I can make choices is also real. And as I have transitioned into Phase Two, I am forced to make more and more choices. Most have been good but some have not. This is going to be a long process but I can take the lessons I have learned in Decision Free and Healthy Solutions and apply those in Phase Two.

So what would I have done differently in New Haven now that I have had time to reflect.

First, I would have stopped outside of the original restaurant and asked the kids what they wanted. Most of them would have probably been okay ordering a couple of pizzas and hanging in the lobby. Which would have allowed me to just have another shake and some fruit that was in my hotel room.

Had they wanted to go out, I could use the mobile apps I had used to find the first place to find a new one that would be just as supportive. A couple of minutes of thoughtful planning could set me up for success.

Third, I should have consumed a glass of water at the restaurant and reflected and just taken some deep breathes. I was tired and stressed and anxious all at once which left my judgement cloudy.

Fourth, I should have ordered off menu. Some steamed vegetables would have been tasty without the stomach ache. And thoughtfully explaining my diet might have allowed the server to make suggestions.

Finally, since I have transitioned, if I had wanted a special meal that was a little more indulgent, I could have planned ahead for it. Maybe a small indulgence would prevent a larger one in a world where boundaries are becoming less strict with an even higher level of self-accountability.

I am proud of myself for the 312 days I stayed in the box. It is proof to me that I can stick with something. It is also something that will keep me in check because I know how hard it was. I lost a lot of weight very quickly which has been hard to process sometimes. But every day was a struggle and I know it will continue to be a struggle. But learning from those struggles is the only way I can recover from the mistakes I make. Then I just have to stand up, dust myself off, and get back in my own Phase Two box.


Ten Questions to Celebrate Ten Months on the HMR Diet

Wow. Today is September 13th and I went to my very first class on November 13th. Ten complete months on the HMR Diet. I have a bajillion (it’s a real number in my world) thoughts running through my head about the past ten months and what the future holds. But I will try to contain my ramblings and keep this post somewhat focused.

Today I saw many of my students’ parents for the first time this school year and for many parents I hadn’t touched base in person since our conferences last November. Many were very open about their surprise and open happiness for my improved health, including one or two who thought I was a different teacher and they had come to the wrong room. In light of the many questions I answered throughout the day about my journey, I thought I would select ten common questions I get now in order to celebrate the ten months since I started this incredible journey.

1. What did you do to lose all this weight?

Well this one is easy for those of you who have been reading my blog for awhile. I started on the Decision Free diet with HMR which is a medically supervised diet where I was prescribed a minimum of two entrees and three shakes/cereals/soups a day. Yes I could only eat the HMR food but between the balancing of the meals themselves plus additional vitamins, I stayed healthy – in fact I had the fewest amount of sick days in a school year that I can remember! I could also eat more than my minimum if I wanted and I would still lose weight (due to the high volume and low calorie make-up of the HMR meals).

On my nine month anniversary, I transitioned to Healthy Solutions where I began introducing a minimum of five vegetable/fruit servings a day, again embracing the more is better mindset. While the weight loss slowed, I have still continued to lose most weeks. It has been more difficult to make decisions because now the outside world is open but it’s also great to have the additional options.

This week I began the transition to Phase Two by each day introducing one outside meal replacement of 300 calories or less with ten grams of protein or more. This has been an interesting week as I explore foods I really missed like eggs and while I will write more on this transition later, in short I realize I haven’t been missing much over the last ten months.

2. Don’t you get tired of the same food all the time?

Yes and no. I have obviously been very limited in my choices however I have mixed it up with various condiments and preparation methods. My weekly homework assignments have challenged me to be creative and this has kept me engaged. During the ten months, I didn’t allow outside foods into my life. I learned many valuable lessons from my classmates about how to handle stressful situations and manage life should I find myself slipping off course.

3. What does it taste like?

Food. So here’s the deal. I know it’s all packaged. And the thought of consuming it made me gag a little a first. I almost threw up after my first couple of bites of a cold entree in an airport during my second week on the diet. But it was all in my head. I had to reframe in the first couple of weeks to think of it as a prescription and separate the word “food” from the equation. Once I got over the mental hurdle and actually tasted the food, it was quite tasty! Yes, the barbecue chicken, for example, doesn’t have the same texture as a commercially plumped chicken breast because it is vacuum-sealed. But everything has good flavor and you can change them up with the dozens of allowed condiments and spices.

4. Do you plan on losing more?

I am still above my BMI range for normal. I would love to be within that range. But I also know my body and mind are tired focusing on losing weight. I fit in a size small in most tops and a size six petite (sometimes four!) in pants. While my numbers-focused brain is still catching up with this realization, I logically know that I am at a reasonable weight for my size. I would like to lose ten to fifteen more pounds, especially from my stomach, to get to my “half-my-size” weight but I am choosing to transition now because I know I need to learn how to incorporate outside foods “safely” in my life and wanting to lose a little bit more would help me to avoid going hog-wild in the outside world. I am probably at the top of my happy weight range, a range I want to develop and to try to live within after recognizing that a single goal number isn’t practical (thanks to my health educator).

5. How many hours do you exercise a week?

This is where some people I know call me crazy. To be honest, when I started this diet I maybe did two to three hours a week broken down into much smaller bits. It was all low intensity.

Now I do six to twelve hours most weeks and it’s usually 30 to 60 minutes a block multiple times a day. But it’s not because I have to do it… it’s because I LOVE doing it. I was sidelined earlier this week for a day and missed my training session and boxing class and I was super cranky.

I know I may have to dial back during the debate season but even my most conservative schedules have at least six hours. I can’t imagine doing less. I feel amazing when I work out and the feeling extends past the actual sweat session.

6. What exercises do you do?

In short – I do a LOT of things. I get bored easy.

When I started HMR, I walked. A lot. I used the elliptical on the easiest setting. I did spin class without a ton of resistance. And I started swim class. I am still taking swim lessons and my teacher encouraged me to go to masters swim sessions, so I try to include one a week when I can (although I am still no where near as fast as those guys, it’s a fun way to structure a swim workout!).

A month into HMR I gathered up courage to ask a trainer about the free session that came with my membership. I met Eliana and the rest was history. I have been working out with her for one to two days a week since. She started with building small muscles to help stabilize weaknesses and we have worked our way through her program and she has helped tailor my workouts based on my needs and abilities.

I have also tried almost every class our gym offers — I know what I like and what I don’t like. And if I didn’t like a class, I made myself go again a month later to make sure I really didn’t like it. I discovered in some cases I didn’t. But in some it was that I either wasn’t ready for it yet or it was just an off day for the class the first time around or in some cases I just needed the chance to adjust to the type of activity it was and learn some of the basics.

When I had lost about 60 or 70lbs, I took my walking to running. I ran my first full mile in late February and worked my way up to running 13.1 miles. I learned I hate running on a treadmill and I actually prefer running without music most days. Some days I run fast and some days I run slow. I also love races because of the challenge and also the community of runners I get to run with.

A few months ago my gym offered a small group (3-5) boxing fundamentals class and I fell in love. I wish I could keep this one up during the school year but once this session’s final happens, I will have to take a break because I will miss too many classes with my travels. However between the technique and conditioning, I get a ridiculous workout.

In late June I also tried a free OrangeTheory class and decided it would be a great supplement to my running by giving me speed and hill workouts during these classes.

7. How do you fit it all in?

My health classes are non-negotiable. They are once a week and unless I am gone for a full week, they can’t be missed. I need that accountability and built it into my schedule.

I plan more workouts than I can practically do. Some are set in stone and I treat like doctor’s appointments like boxing classes and my workouts with Eliana. Others I am more flexible with. By scheduling extras on my calendar, I don’t feel guilty if I have to cancel one or two. As long as I get in the majority, I am having a good week.

I try to prep lots of fruits and veggies in one bout and portion them out to grab all week. And I have HMR entrees and shakes in my classroom and car and purses so I am never without and thus have no excuse to not stick with my eating plan.

And honestly I have had to let some things go. My apartment is probably not as clean as it could be but my husband is luckily super amazing and he takes on a lot of the dirty work. I also don’t spend as much time randomly surfing the web or other time sucks.

I have also found I have more energy and am more focused which means I get a lot more done in the day than I used to.

Finally, I don’t let myself make excuses any more. When I don’t want to do something, I ask what excuse I am trying to use. If there is a legitimate reason and not an excuse, it’s fine. But if I can counter it with a solid response, it’s an excuse and I need to suck it up and get over it. I deserve the best I can give myself and that means not getting lazy and countering all my hard work because of some lame excuse.

8. How do you keep up with work travel while doing this diet?

Super easy! Lots of planning ahead by making sure I have enough HMR food packed. I have written a number of blog posts here about traveling on HMR that you can find for more details using the tags to the right of this post.

9. How much better do you feel now?

Honestly I can’t even begin to explain this one. I feel like I have my life back. Actually scratch that. I feel like I have more life back than I ever had before. It is absolutely unquantifiable!

10. Is it expensive?

Yes and no. For someone like me who ate out a lot? I probably saved money the last ten months. The meals range in price from $2 to $4 and you consume 5 or more a day. So it does add up. Plus health classes and medical tests depending on whether you do Healthy Solutions or Decision Free and your insurance may or may not cover those things.

However most diets are expensive. And none of the others worked for me. So it was a bunch of wasted money. I knew this would be an investment going into it. However in some ways the investment also was a disincentive to cheat. I have spent so much on diets over the years – I needed to stop flushing money down the drain.

Plus, I can’t begin to quantify how much better my quality of life is. How more productive I am and how much I have saved myself in future weight-related medical costs. How positive my outlook is (yes someone told me to “shut up Pollyanna this week and I beamed). I can’t even begin to think of how many years I have gained back in my life. And these things are  truly priceless.


HMR Thai Curry in a Kabocha Squash Bowl

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The fabulous folks at HMR have a new entree! And after 300 days of being in the HMR box, I was super excited to sample a bite of this delicious new vegetarian entree!

The spice level is great – not to overpowering for those who don’t like spicy foods but with enough flavor development for those who do. I could see amping it up more with some crushed chili flakes or a chili salt if I was on Decision Free. Or perhaps adding some broth and making it a curry soup with a tablespoon of fat free sour cream!

Because I am now in Healthy Solutions, I decided to amp up the volume of the meal (and the cuteness) by utilizing a vegetable in my preparation.

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Kabocha squash is an Asian varietal of winter squash. It’s green on the outside but orange like a pumpkin on the inside and has flavors reminiscent of pumpkin. It’s super easy to prepare too!

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Wash and scrub the outside of the squash and then puncture it with a knife or fork multiple times to allow steam to escape. Then place it in a roasting dish with a half in to inch of water and bake for 30 to 45 minutes until the squash is soft/tender when you apply pressure. Cooking times vary based on your oven but also the size of the squash.

I used a knife to carefully cut a “lid” out of the top and then scoped out the seeds (if the squash is fresh from the oven be careful to avoid escaping steam!). A perfect bowl! I sprinkled a little flake salt inside the bowl to season the squash a bit.

I microwaved the curry entree for the requisite minute and spooned it into the bowl. It was AWESOME and incredibly filling.

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I did it! #DisneylandHalf

Apologies on the delay! The race was fabulous and then it was back home to teach all week followed by another weekend of races. But more on those later.

First the spoiler… I FINISHED THE RACE! And I finished in under two hours and twenty-seven minutes!

That’s the short version. Below is a much longer accounting of my experience of the 2014 Disneyland Half Marathon weekend.

I'm running in Disneyland!

I’m running in Disneyland!

I spent a lot of time anticipating this race. I signed up for it in January, before I could even run a mile. And then spent seven long months learning to love running.

For those of you who may not know, I attempted this whole “running” thing in 2009. I made it a goal to finish a half-marathon. I worked a little but never really committed to training. I did intervals, which was necessary for my body at the time. I was about 60 pounds heavier than I was for this race when I set my personal best in December of 2009. My time to beat would become 3:19:50 and it would stay that way until August 2014. Shortly after the half in 2009, I injured myself. And spent most of 2010 recovering from multiple injuries which spiraled into never really getting into running again.

Until I signed up for this race.

Anaheim Angels Stadium

Anaheim Angels Stadium

The race was at 5:30am on the Sunday morning of Labor Day Weekend. I had been preparing for the early start by going to bed earlier and waking up earlier all week. I even continued the trend by waking up early on Saturday and cheering on the 10k runners as they ran past my hotel!

Stole my husband's chEAR noisemaker while he slept!

Stole my husband’s chEAR noisemaker while he slept!

We spent the Saturday in the park. I had read you should try to stay off your feet the day before a long race but I wanted to enjoy all the weekend had to offer. Which included riding Cars for the first time and doing multiple trips on California Screamin!

Exploring California Adventure!

Exploring California Adventure!

As the sun rose overhead and things started to get extra hot in the park, we headed back to our hotel where I enjoyed some HMR Chicken Pasta Parm and bananas. I ate a LOT of bananas over the weekend and not just the free ones in the concierge lounge! Then I took a nap. Which ended up happening until about 8pm when I woke up, laid out everything for race morning, and went back to sleep!

It’s a good thing I went to bed early because I was awake before my 2am alarm even sounded! I got dressed in my finery and ate my HMR oatmeal and drank 8 ounces of Via coffee at room temp because, well, the water in my water bottle was room temp?

Obligatory hotel room selfie at 2:45am!

Obligatory hotel room selfie at 2:45am!

After nervously dancing quietly around the room and making sure I had everything I needed, I woke up my husband to drive over to the Disneyland Hotel where we would park the car and head to the start. It was 3:15am and parking opened at 3:30 and I am never one to be late! My husband had not gone to bed early so he was probably a bit cranky but I don’t think I even noticed!

We got to the hotel, hit up the lobby bathrooms, and then wandered around near the finish line. I met up with some Team #runDisney folks for a group photo and at about 4:40am, headed to my starting corral (with a quick portapotty stop on the way!).

Once I got to corral H, I knew I was in for a wait. We had about 30 minutes at that point until the sent the first corral off, but my corral wouldn’t start until 33 minutes later. I was a bit cranky with my corral placement going into the race because all of the earlier corrals had finishing times no greater than 15 minutes apart. Corral H had finishing times from 2:30 to 3:15 and of course my 10k in late May had me finishing right at 2:31. The secret I learned is that everyone pushes to the front of the corral, especially if you are anticipating being slower, so you can stop for photos without being swept. I had no desire to stop for photos (they have professionals!) and I could do character stops at some of my later Disney races — my goal was to stay strong and give the race my best, and I was worried I would spend forever dodging folks (I would later make peace with the dodging as I started at the front of corral H only to catch up to and dodge folks from earlier corrals).

While waiting in the corral, I got my last bit of pre-race fuel in! That’s right. I stayed in the Healthy Solutions box all weekend, including my race fuel!

Yum. Pureed fruits and veggies!

Yum. Pureed fruits and veggies!

The start was less thrilling than I imagined. I had read so much about Disney races where they set fireworks off for each corral. But that didn’t happen at Disneyland. And there was so much chatter from the hosts, I didn’t have time to get excited. Instead I just wanted the host to stop talking and let me run already!

Finally my corral started and I was off! I kept repeating “go out slow, you have a long way to go. start strong but slow.” and while I was slower than my 10k pace is now, I was still faster than my planned pace by over a minute! I was one of the leaders coming out of our corral and quickly caught up with corral G within the first mile. Oh and speaking of that first mile, there were TONS of spectators. It was super cool to see so many people supporting the runners. Except for maybe the guy who yelled “you’re almost there!” in mile one. I didn’t like him so much ;o)

The course itself ran outside the perimeter of California Adventure before turning into the back driveway of the park. It was there I saw the mile 12 sign. I joked out loud that we only had one more mile. Yeah that went over really well. I blame the “almost there” guy hehe.

There were bands all along the course, including in the back lots of California Adventure. I love the live music – never needed my headphones (which stayed tucked away for the whole race) between the attractions, spectators, and live music!

From the back road we entered the park. I expected it to be crowded through the whole race and I was not let down by that expectation. I have no photos from California Adventure because runners without manners were running crazy diagonals and hopping in front of all of the cameras. Literally jumping. Like stopping suddenly and jumping in the air. Next time I am just running into them. I saw someone else run into people stopping suddenly to pose for cameras. It’s not safe! I am all about walkers and I am all about people having fun. I get it. But it’s absolutely inconsiderate and UNSAFE to stop suddenly without looking around or to dart in front of people just to mug for the camera.

End rant.

We ran through most of California Adventure which was super cool since I had been there with my husband the day before. My arms were starting to get warm as the sun rose and I knew my husband would be cheering along Main Street USA, so I took of my arm sleeves which were dripping wet at that point.

The area between the two parks was a super narrow path and both sides were slammed with spectators. It was crazy! I remembered reading the pacer guide which warned runners to not speed up from the thrill of the experience in those first miles and so I kept reminding myself to SLOW DOWN, enjoy the experience, run negative splits later when the course opened up more.

Seeing my husband along the course gave me a whole new shot of energy. I ran over, gave him a kiss, and handed off my dripping arm sleeves to a confused yet amused husband who would wander around after I passed and pick up a couple thousand steps during the race.

Obligatory Castle Photo

Obligatory Castle Photo

Disneyland itself was a neat experience. Although I had run through it for the 5k in 2009, it was still a fun experience. This is the part most people enjoy the most. However there weren’t many spectators outside of the employees (who were very very sweet) and I didn’t feel the same energy I feel running the city streets or along nature trails. It was a little weird but not in a bad way. I also think I still had a bad taste in my mouth from the negative experiences running in California Adventure which I tried to shake off for the next couple of miles.

Once we hit the streets of Anaheim, I felt myself getting my groove back. The streets opened up and there were still so many people along the course. It was super cool to see locals and tourists turn out with signs both for specific people but also for runners-at-large!

There were huge crowds of spectators in the baseball stadium parking lot!

There were huge crowds of spectators in the baseball stadium parking lot!

One of the highlights for me was running through the stadium where the Anaheim Angels play. I had been there for a game with my husband a few years ago, so I was somewhat familiar with the park. But it was a whole new experience to get to run the field and even cooler that the stands were filled with cheering spectators!

The crowds are roaring in Angel Stadium!

The crowds are roaring in Angel Stadium!

I purchase videos from MarathonFoto which included one of my running past the first base dugout. However I wish it included the audio when I was exiting. The announcer was saying that when we exited the stadium we only had… and then the entire audience in the stadium yelled “THREE MORE MILES!!!!!” I WAS PUMPED!

The last three miles were probably the hardest. I had stuck to my pacing and fueling plans and was on target to beat my practice half time which was slightly over 2:28. I hadn’t gone into this race with the intention of beating the practice time because I knew the course would be crowded and I just wanted to enjoy the race. But with three miles left and open streets ahead, I knew I no longer had an excuse. But those last few miles is where the crowds thinned and my energy wained. I took my third banana-squash Gerber (fourth for the day if you count the one in the corral) and allowed myself to walk the water stations a little longer than before.

That last mile seemed to go on forever. Part of it was a repeat of the back lot of California Adventure and then through Downtown Disney. The crowds picked up again and my energy picked up as well.

I can see the finish line ahead!

I can see the finish line ahead!

When I could finally see the finish line, I picked up my pace. I lengthen my stride and really pushed that finishing kick. I knew I could beat my goal and now there was an incentive to get that time as low as I could. The crowds were cheering and apparently I still had fuel in the tank!

Finish Line!

Finish Line!

Remember how I mentioned people should look behind them? Well I crossed that finish line pushing my legs as hard and as fast as I could. Except now I needed room to slow down… so I shot for the opening I saw along the finish.

There's the finish!

There’s the finish!

Except the two people in red shirts did not need time to slow down. The young boy walked in front of me and I had a choice of hitting the boy, the photographer taking this picture or applying the brakes as I went the opposite way. Where the woman in the red shirt would slow immediately to a walk. So I tripped over her and apologized. She didn’t seem happy with me touching her but I had no choice. I stumbled between them and managed to regain control without falling on the pavement. I laugh about it now but one of us could have gotten really hurt. But it’s funny in hindsight. And since I bought the videos…

In the end, I finished. I finished faster and stronger than I ever dreamed. I am a runner. I am strong. I am healthy. And I have never been more grateful in my life of all of those who have supported me through this journey.

I did it!

I did it!

 

 


This is it. #DisneylandHalf

On November 13, 2013, I started the HMR Diet. Walking quickly left me out of breath and running was out of the question.

On January 28th, 2014, I logged on to Facebook during my lunch break and saw on Facebook that the Disneyland Half Marathon was 90% full after only opening a couple of hours earlier.

I signed up.

I had not yet run a full mile.

On February 20th, 2014, I sent the following email to my health coach:

“I arrived early for a class and thought… Wonder if I could run a mile before class?

I did it! It was “only” at 4.0mph but I don’t care. I didn’t walk at all!!!!I am stupid excited and just had to share. Thank you for the motivation!”

Since that email, I have run a lot of miles have gotten faster in the process. I broke the 30 minute mark for my 5k time and continued to shave down my 10k time. I even completed a local half marathon two weeks ago as a last minute replacement for my long run that weekend and got below the magical 2:30 I had dreamed of breaking. Yet completing that half marathon seemed easy, I signed up for it knowing I could run it.

Disneyland is a different beast. I committed to this race based solely on the belief I could someday do it. That my body, which could not run one mile, would be able to last for 13.1 miles. That I wouldn’t fall off course over the 8 months leading up to the race.

It took serious faith in myself to commit. And a commitment to myself to train and fuel properly.

I don’t know what race day will bring. I don’t know if I will PR but that’s not my goal this Sunday.

I am doing this to celebrate my journey. To celebrate my commitment to myself. To celebrate the trust I had in my ability to continue the journey to this moment.

Do you want to celebrate and follow along on the journey with me? My bib is 5272 and I invite you to celebrate virtually by signing up for runner tracking.

Having faith in yourself and in the process can take you to amazing places and help you achieve things you didn’t think were possible. I will be running 13.1 miles on Sunday and I can’t wait!