Traveling through life with a timer and sneakers

Posts tagged “diet

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!


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!


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!

 


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!


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!

 


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


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?


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.


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!


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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HMR Decision Free Diet – Nine Month Review and Progress Pictures

I swore I wasn’t ever going to post progress pictures on my blog. When I first started writing about the HMR Diet, I wanted my experience to be anonymous. I just needed a place where I could explore what I was learning, thinking, and feeling. However I realize now that I can’t be anonymous at this point. Not because so many people I know read this blog now, but because it would be selfish of me.

When I started HMR, I craved success stories. I wanted to see progress pictures. Even now I buy magazines like People touting normal people losing weight because it inspires me and shows me we can all do it. So at the end of this post I will share my nine month pictures.

First, I want to explore my thoughts. I am officially down 122 pounds at nine months and one week. I have also begun my transition to Healthy Solutions (started last week at the nine month mark). When I started this program I gave myself one year to be on Decision Free. My mental framing that it would take this long kept me going — knowing there would be an eventual end. However a year seemed too long so I think the desire to transition earlier motivated me to stay in the box and to seize every fitness opportunity I could.

I have been in the box every day since starting the program. I have had a few emotional eating days but used meal replacements when other tools like journaling or exercise weren’t cutting it. I have had two or three weeks where I didn’t lose weight (also didn’t gain) and I missed two weeks of weigh ins for travel (one week in June and one a couple weeks later in July). I can say from experience that being away from class made it harder to stay on the program because those in person accountability points aren’t just to keep up in check but also have me leaving class feeling refreshed and motivated.

When I started this diet walking at 3.0 on the treadmill was fast and there were days where walking at 2.0 for 40 minutes while watching an episode of Scandal was a big workout. I swam laps but only a couple and very slowly.

This past Sunday, just a couple of days after my nine month anniversary, I ran my first half marathon since starting HMR. And by ran, I actually ran and killed my previous PR by over 50 minutes! Super proud of this picture because I feel like it captures how far I have come:

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Was it easy? Never. But did it become habit? Yes. When you reframe away from what you can’t have and focus on what you can, it makes it so much easier to manage Decision Free. When you focus on each day as becoming the best person you can be, the days pile up into making you an awesome person. When you seize every opportunity for fitness and give it everything you have rather than make excuses then you find yourself seeing physical results even when the scale moves slowly or not at all.

You can make excuses or you can make your move. I had ALL the injuries. Bad knees. Sciatica. Lower back pain. Asthma. I work 40+ hours during the week and 20+ weekends a year. I am traveling ALL the time. I am not wealthy. I don’t live alone. I spend time around temptation EVERY day. And I HAVE found success but it wasn’t handed to me. I had to fight for every single pound and while I have had people tell me I “make it look easy” — it hasn’t been. But nothing amazing is easy.

Now I am transitioning to Healthy Solutions and although I am loving the produce and I am trying to take it slowly, I won’t lie that I am also scared. I have confidence in myself but I am anxious and I can’t articulate why, other than I am constantly entering new territory and that keeps me on my toes.

I teach public speaking – it’s one of the biggest fears in America. Thus I understand having unexplained anxiety and trying to manage and overcome to the best of our abilities. I practice positive visualization (ordering a Healthy Solutions option at a restaurant when I inevitably go out) and I carry a touchstone to keep me grounded when I need to make a decision. I journal my food and exercise. I practice tricks like always keeping a zero calorie beverage in my hand in social settings. And I expel the rest of the nervousness through exercise. I will manage my anxiety like I will manage my weight. One day at a time with mindfulness and positive energy. And no excuses.

A rather lengthy post. And I feel like I have so much more to say. But tomorrow we meet up with our students for the first time this school year so I am off to bed. But as promised, here are my nine month progress pictures. I am proud of my hard work and continue to motivate myself every day to excel so that the work I have done is honored and not destroyed.

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Dessert Pizza on HMR Decision Free

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I am running now pretty consistently as I see half marathons approaching quickly on the calendar. Following my long runs I try to have some broth or something with sodium to replace lost salt from the run. However I am not usually really hungry. It means that some evenings I have a little extra food I need to consume to meet my minimum prescription!

This week I will begin to transition to Healthy Solutions. I have been on the HMR Decision Free diet for nine long months and haven’t stepped outside of it. I am down 117 pounds at the nine month mark and will be starting the school year soon, thus it was in my best interest as I get closer to my goal but needed to also manage the stress of the new school year, that I transition now. So I was feeling a little bit of awesome on Sunday when I had two shakes left in my Decision Free prescription and wanted to make something special.

This recipe isn’t really much of a new recipe at all. It uses other recipes to create a giant frosted cookie!

I used my basic muffin recipe but used a vanilla bean syrup instead of the chai and rum syrups. I also only made one-third of the recipe (one oatmeal, one 70 shake, 1/4 cup syrup, 1/2 cup water, 1 tsp baking powder) and then I poured it out onto a silpat mat on a cookie sheet (parchment paper on a cookie sheet would also work). Then I baked it for about 15 minutes until it was browned slightly on top.

I let the giant cookie cool before removing it from the cookie sheet. Meanwhile I made an HMR chocolate 70 into a pudding per packet description. I spread it out on top of the giant cookie like frosting and used a pizza cutter to slice the dessert pizza.

This is a very calorie dense dish for HMR – it’s about 430 calories! And depending on your prescription it may be more than 2 shakes (I know on my Healthy Solutions prescription is it four shakes!). So this is a rare special treat and I drank a lot of water with it. However it was super satisfying and a perfect way to top off an awesome day of running!

I know it isn’t always a good idea to celebrate with food. I usually find other ways to celebrate accomplishments like getting a new nail polish or watching a trashy tv show I like. How do you celebrate without food?


Almond Roca Mocha Frappe

I have been working out every morning since I started teaching at summer debate institute. I figure it will help transition me into the school year while allowing me to beat the heat. And when I run in my local neighborhood, I end the run with a special treat! I get a trenta (aka really big!) unsweetened passion iced tea from Starbucks to enjoy on the walk back to my apartment. While I am there, I also pick up a tall (aka small) black coffee.

After drinking the iced tea, I have a perfect vessel to carry a homemade blended coffee beverage to work, which I make right after I shower and get dressed for the day!

Today’s shake was so delicious I had to share right away!

  • 1 HMR Diet Chocolate Shake (I use the 800)
  • 12 oz black coffee chilled (I throw my cup in the freezer while I shower and get ready)
  • 2 oz Torani SF Almond Roca syrup
  • 8 ice cubes (or the amount you want for desired texture)

Blend away and enjoy! A perfect sweet treat to jump start your day!


Tastes like pizza? Doctoring HMR Chicken Pasta Parm

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I love pizza. It was a major weakness pre-HMR because I could polish off a whole pizza without thinking. And while I miss pizza and am spending time during my HMR journey thinking about how I can approach this food in the future, I have been working to attempt the flavors while staying in the box.

I think I have done a pretty good job capturing the flavor profile (or I have been in the box too long!). I posted a picture above with the condiments I used but you can probably find different brands that are HMR friendly.

This entire dish revolves around the chicken pasta parm entree which already has the Italian theme going on. It has a tomato sauce with a cheesey taste, a carby component, and chicken. You can amp up the sauce with fresh or dried herbs if you want.

I add the cheese powder to amp up the cheese flavor. I add the bacon salt because it adds a mild smokey taste that reminds me of a pepperoni or bacon garnish. I also love heat and pile on the chili flakes on a real pizza so I add this and then add some drops of Sriracha which has a sweet and spicy taste that I think rounds out the pizza. If you hate spice then you can turn those down or leave them out but in addition to heat I also think these two additions help amp the tomato flavor.

I prepare the dish by microwaving the entree and then sprinkling the condiments on top. Then I get the layered flavor with each spoonful of the entree.

Did you enjoy pizza pre-HMR or some other favorite dish? Have you attempted to find that flavor profile and how did you do it?


When Willpower Isn’t Enough

This has been a hard post to write and I have been mulling about it for a couple of days. I am currently in New Orleans aka “The Big Easy” aka Food Culture Lives Here aka a really tough trip to be on while on the Decision Free HMR Diet. However, I needed to work some things out and since that’s why I started this blog, I need to get it all out here.

I have been on Decision Free for 35 weeks and am currently in week 36. I have not slipped outside of the box once. Knowing my history with diets, I knew when I started that I couldn’t have a cheat meal and not risk derailing like so many diets before.

I am now at my lightest weight ever. Heck, I showed up on Saturday morning on a red-eye and decided to sign up for a 5k in downtown New Orleans that evening and ran it in under 31 minutes! I am so much healthier than I was in November when I started. (And crazier… do you know how hot and humid it is here?!?)

The problem with getting lighter and healthier is that I am finding it harder and harder to stay HMRStrong and inside the box. I have been on the road for most of July between personal and professional travel – I have survived three red-eyes, a week in Disney World, hours upon hours of stressful travel delays, revisiting old eating haunts in Boston… so much temptation. It’s becoming ridiculously hard to say no to temptations because I feel so much better than I ever have. My willpower is weakening by the day.

My health instructor has this demonstration that he does when he talks about willpower. He holds a pencil up in the air and tells us that eventually that arm will give out. Willpower isn’t enough – it can only take you so far. And my arm definitely wants to drop the pencil.

So I am in one of the most food-centric cities in the world and trying not to eat everything around me. Instead I am practicing more is better but second guessing after the ninth meal replacement if maybe that one bite of duck sausage or crawfish wouldn’t have been easier. Yet knowing full-well it wouldn’t have been “just one bite.”

What isn’t helping is that my weight loss has slowed down to about a pound a week for the last couple of weeks. I knew it would probably slow eventually. I also know how water math works and that I might see a bigger loss in the future. Additionally I have been weighing in right after returning from trips and I know that travel fundamentally messes with my routine and body. But the slowdown has me second-guessing if it isn’t time to stop. Rationally, I know I have a ways to go. I am still overweight and still have so much to do to make myself healthier.

The siren call of food will continue to beckon for the rest of my life. I know this. It will beckon whether I am “Decision Free” or in “Healthy Solutions” or fully transitioned into “Phase Two.” I know that the time I live “in the box” allows me the time to evaluate “The Gap” and learn how to handle these tough situations while still holding a barrier to protect myself from making those decisions now.

This is going to be a tough week. I will continue to be tested. I planned ahead and made HMR muffins and biscuits to carry at all times (like last night in the French Quarter) and brought bars and extra shakes and entrees. I have fitness plans in place. And I have work to throw myself into during the weekdays to keep me away from food. I have worked way too hard for way too long to not see this to the end. I want to be as successful as I can be. I want to do this the right way. I just needed to talk myself through my thoughts and remind myself that I can do it. It will be hard. Life is hard. As I tell my seniors going into their last debates – “Give it everything you have. Leave it all on the table. Do your absolute best. Because win or lose this debate, you want to look back and have no regrets about the choices you made. You’ve got this.”