This recipe can be made with or without the ravioli entree, but after a heavy activity day it’s super filling and the ravioli feels like a special treat! You can also just make the spaghetti and top it with an entree to save time. I will sometimes batch cook the spaghetti and portion it out to use over the course of a week – sometimes making it with the ravioli, sometimes eating alone, and sometimes topping with another HMR entree like the penne or lasagna.
NOTE: There is no salt/sodium in the spaghetti without the HMR entree sauce added, so if you are having it by itself, you may want to add some salt to amp up the flavor.
- HMR Ravioli Entree
You will need an air-fryer for this part of the recipe. You could also bake the ravioli or pan fry it if you want. It’s relatively simple! Just scrape the sauce off the ravioli (save it for the spaghetti) and place the ravioli in a single layer in the air-fryer. Cook for 10 minutes at 390 degrees, flipping over once during the cooking process.
Healthy Solutions Spaghetti
- Two cups cooked spaghetti squash (approximately half a small-medium squash)
- 1 small-medium white onion, diced
- 1 large tomato, diced
- 1 tsp Penzey’s Pasta Sprinkles
- 1/2 tsp Penzey’s Roasted Garlic
- Sauce from HMR Ravioli entree
Heat a large frying pan to medium-high heat. You may want to use a quick spritz of cooking spray depending on the pan you have chosen (you can also just occasionally sprinkle water as you cook to keep things from sticking).
Cook the onions for several minutes in the hot pan, stirring frequently, until the onions start to soften and start to become translucent. Add the spaghetti squash and Penzey’s spices. Stir to combine and cook for another two minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes and stir to combine, cook for one more minute. Finally, add the sauce from the raviolis and stir, cooking for approximately one more minute.
Enjoy the spaghetti with the raviolis on top or on the side. You end up with 4 cups of vegetables and an entree as your incredibly filling meal.
It’s been a rough couple of weeks in our house and through it all, I’ve fought to stay in my Healthy Solutions Box (aside from when I had Strep last week and could barely get down water, forget a veggie or entree!). I know it’s been rough because my fruit consumption has drastically increased over my veggies, as I’ve been choosing berries over broccoli in my emotion-clouded mood. Don’t get me wrong, I know fruit is awesome and it’s not a terrible choice. But I also recognize I just wanted something sweet because I associate sweet with happier times.
With one shake left to get in my minimum prescription tonight, I opted to have a special treat saved only for that rare moment when I need an extra kick to keep me in the box. And yes I call Benefit Bars “candy bars” – because it helps to remind me they are a “sometimes food” – a tool but more energy dense and addicting than other HMR foods.
Chocolate Peanut Butter Candy Bar Pudding
- HMR 70 chocolate shake packet
- 1/2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/2 tbsp PB2
- 1 tbsp Torani sugar-free salted caramel syrup
- 2-3 oz cold water
- HMR peanut butter Benefit bar
Mix the shake, cocoa and PB2 together in a bowl. Add syrup and slowly add cold water. The amount of water is a personal decision depending on how thick you want the pudding. Normal HMR pudding is 2oz but with the additional dry ingredients it can be more like a dough.
Place in freezer to expedite the thickening. While it chills, chopped up Benefit bar. Mix into pudding. I actually throw the bowl back into the freezer so I end up with a pretty solid pudding with frozen chunks of candy bar.
This is a more caloric way of enjoying your HMR foods – so I don’t have it often. However it is an easy and relatively quick way to prepare a sweet treat when you need something special.
After struggling in Phase Two, especially while dealing with the aftermath of an abrupt medical emergency, I recognized I needed to get my weight management act together. More specifically, I needed to focus on practicing the healthy behaviors I had learned while in Phase One in 2013-2014 as well as introduce some new behaviors. I had only spent a few weeks in the Healthy Solutions transition between Decision Free and Phase Two, and I needed to work on my relationship with fruits and vegetables.
In January of 2018, I committed to following the Healthy Solutions Diet offered by HMR at Palo Alto Medical Clinic. 12+ weeks of HMR meal replacements and unlimited fruits and vegetables. More decisions that the faster weight loss program (Decision Free) but still effectively limited food choices and thus decreasing my decision anxiety about food.
After 11 weeks on the program, I have lost over 30lbs, all while embracing the “More is Better” philosophy to help me stay on the program. My minimum prescription each day is 3 HMR shakes (or soup or oatmeal), 2 HMR entrees, and 5 servings of produce (the program offers guidance on serving sizes) – however most days I have extra fruits and vegetables, and maybe an extra meal replacement or two (or three or four) to keep me full and away from temptation for minimal calories!
After some conversations with other HMR patients on social media, I am sharing my data for the first 11 weeks (I am in week 12) publicly because I have come to realize it helps shape the reality of this “More is Better” concept at HMR:
In a seven day week, my MR (meal replacements) minimum would be 35, as would my V/F (veggies and fruit), however you will notice I never eat “just the minimum” because it would not keep me full and thus I would faced increased temptation. And yet I have lost weight every week (and I peeked at my personal scale this morning at home and am feeling pretty awesome about this week as well!).
I have had struggles while I have been on Healthy Solutions. Making choices on going out to eat. Preparing for travel. Making sure I have a variety of options available to keep me full and away from temptation. But I have learned some valuable lessons too:
- If you don’t like a vegetable or entree, try a different preparation method. I rarely ate the chicken soup in Decision Free unless it was a cracker or savory muffin. However I have been making all sorts of soups in Healthy Solutions (and actually still haven’t made a cracker or savory muffin with the mix!).
- When in doubt, double the vegetables! This seems silly, why eat more than you had planned? Well you can usually sneak in an extra serving of vegetables when preparing a meal and while the calorie cost is minimal, the extra fullness can’t compare! When I add cauliflower rice to a chicken creole entree, I add two cups instead of one. Extra bulk. Extra fullness. And only 40 extra calories that is going to offset something higher calorie later!
- Always keep easy-prep produce around. You never know when you are going to have a bad day (or days), so having a couple go-to standards is always a good idea. Every week I make sure to order a couple of easy-prep items in my Imperfect Produce delivery (apples, carrots, baby tomatoes, citrus). But I also have a few standards in my freezer – riced cauliflower (awesome to mix into most entrees), frozen cherries (perfect for snacking), small frozen bananas (throw one in a shake or make an ice cream), and frozen mixed peppers or grilled asparagus (something fun that’s quick to prep and can change up an entree or be blended into a soup). Finally, I always keep an onion and either a potato or hard winter squash on hand. The onion can transform lots of things from entrees to soup to veggies. The potato or squash might take a little longer to prep but they are carbalicious treats that are a better choice than something out-of-the-box.
- Plan for more than you think you are going to eat. If it’s in my plan, I am not afraid to eat it and it’s already prepared and easy to grab. If I am not hungry, it can be stored for the next day when it’s the first thing on my list. For example, Monday was my first day back from Spring Break where my eating was less regimented. I also had a 5am OrangeTheory Fitness so I knew I’d be starting my day early and with a lot of activity (which can sometimes leave me hungry all morning). So my post-workout commuter breakfast was a blended 120 vanilla shake (with some PB2 and sugar-free salted caramel syrup from Torani) as well as a chicken soup blended up with my “green soup base” (which is really just whatever looks like is near it’s end in the produce bin getting simmered with broth and spices and blended into a greenish broth). Then my snack and lunch bag had: 1 cup of baby tomatoes, 2 cups of roasted broccoli, 1 cup of berries, a chicken creole cooked with peppers, 1 cup of cucumber-tomato-basil salad, a diet soda, a giant Contigo with herbal tea, and another giant Contigo with a 120 chocolate shake turned into a hot cocoa. When I got home from work, I still had the broccoli (which I snacked on while preparing dinner) and the tomatoes, which are back in the lunch bag this morning and will be my first snack of the morning.
Overall, I think Healthy Solutions has helped me to embrace fruits and vegetables as filling and delicious foods. I realized before that they could offset calories, but I never truly practiced incorporating them into my life, making them the main focus of snacks and meals instead of side dishes and afterthoughts. And while my weight loss has been slower on Healthy Solutions than on Decision Free, I do think spending more time in Healthy Solutions will help to prepare me for Phase Two. I wouldn’t trade the fast weight loss initially because I think Decision Free helped me reduce decision anxiety and find success and motivation in the HMR Program. It taught me invaluable lessons that I am not sure I personally could have found if I had started in Healthy Solutions.
But I was definitely in a rush to get to “normal foods” in Phase Two and forgot along the way the fruits and vegetables are the staple of the “normal foods” – a foundation that needs to be solidified in order for the house of weight maintenance to be steady when the earthquake called life might hit. And now my foundation is getting that strengthening it needs so that my weight management practices can be strong in the Phase Two world.
As Spring Break winds to a close, I’m back to prepping multiple grab-and-go meals for the week. I wanted to share this one because someone who reads my blog told me they don’t like cauliflower (what?!?) and was looking for fast ways to add vegetables into their diet.
This one is quick and cheap. So easy I can’t believe I haven’t shared it before!
This bag of fire roasted veggies from Trader Joe’s has no added oil and approximately five cups of veggies! So I throw the whole bag in a large hot frying pan and stir while it defrosts and starts to warm up.
I add in two HMR Program Chicken Creole entrees into the pan and sprinkle in my favorite Creole seasoning. Continue to stir for several minutes until all the flavors have come together.
I divide the mix into two half for two quick meals that are easy to reheat and contain 2.5 cups of veggies already cooked in!
This is one of my favorites – so easy and quick but flavorful and filling! It doesn’t actually have jelly in it but the berries soften up during the cooking process making them gooey in the peanut butter oatmeal.
Peanut Butter and Jelly Oatmeal
- HMR Oatmeal
- 1 cup frozen mixed berries
- 3/4 cup water
- 1 tbsp PB2
- 2 pumps Torani sugar-free Belgian Cookie syrup
Mix all ingredients in a bowl and microwave for two minutes. Stir and enjoy!
However as I am working to make vegetables and fruit the major portion of my diet, I realized I would need a new approach to traveling on the HMR Diet Healthy Solutions program. So I spent several weeks thinking about this, not only because I knew I would be traveling in March, but also because I needed to find a way to manage my weight during the long summers I teach at residential programs away from home, where I don’t have a kitchen and live in a dorm.
This weekend was the first test of traveling in the box and I wanted to document what I did so I can reflect on it in the future (and maybe help others out too).
I should also add that this week’s homework assignment for our Phase One class was to eat one more entree that our previous highest entree total for a day. In the first week in Phase One in January, I had two days where I ate 5 entrees (and still lost!), so I had to pick my most challenging day and eat six entrees. I’ll write more about that later but I do have to give a special shoutout because it meant I had to pack even more entrees for a three day trip than I had planned, but it actually served to be a very useful tool I might have otherwise not considered because I *didn’t* want to pack tons of extra entrees!
So what did I pack for my 3 day trip?
- A minimum of 3 entrees for each day of travel (well in this case I packed 13 instead of 9 because I had that special assignment) – most of these needed to be entrees I could eat cold in case plans changed (although I did have a microwave at the hotel and my HotLogic Mini packed). I may switch this to having 4 a day on hand after my experiences this weekend – front-loading with a double-entree for example really made the day a lot easier!
- 6 packets each of chocolate and vanilla 800s (they travel easier than the 120s)
- 2 packets of 70s for emergency pudding
- 2 batches of pudding cookies (divided into 4 snack size bags equivalent to 1 shake each)
- 3 benefit bars for emergency treats
- 4 pieces of fruit pre-washed that stand up to the jostling in my backpack
- 1 carton of blueberries with 1-cup snack bags packed to divided up upon arriving at the hotel (the fact the snack bags have measurements on the side make it easy for portion control!)
- 15 1-cup baggies of vegetables pre-washed and sliced that could be eaten alone or used as chips to eat the lentil and bean entrees
- Snap Peas
- 1 diet soda can (stored in my BlenderBottle) for an emergency mix-in
Equipment (don’t worry, I don’t use affiliate links! just sharing where I bought them):
- eBags Crew Cooler – after a lot of research, I settled on this bag with a removable liner. The top portion is where I store tools, the front pouch is condiments and my food journal, the side pockets for bottles (they zip up when not in use), and the main compartment for food. It looks professional, has a loop in back to slip over a roller suitcase, and has an easy to carry shoulder strap.
- HotLogic Mini – this fits easily in the top pouch of the cooler and is perfect for heating up food while I am in meetings (and in case the hotel didn’t have a microwave).
- BlenderBottle – Easy to use and clean, I picked one that matched my cooler.
- Bottle Brush for cleaning the shaker bottle.
- Travel cutlery for easy dining.
- AeroLatte Travel Frother – perfect for mixing hot shakes (and soups when I take them)
- Extra quart-sized ziplock bags. I actually also had travel ice blocks for this trip because we weren’t flying. But I keep extra ziplock bags to make ice packs on the road – getting ice from the hotel or a restaurant – to keep things cold.
I have also successfully purchased fruits and veggies at local spots, like having a bowl of fruit when taking my students for ice cream. But I didn’t want to rely on those options being available.
And yes, I will most likely have food left at the end of the trip. My students and coworkers also enjoyed munching on some of my vegetables when they were hungry so packing more was a great idea!
I won’t get home from my trip until this evening, but so far so good. I have survived a pizza party, an ice cream social, and a number of other temptations. And I haven’t suffered any anxiety about making a decision or not having options when I am hungry. I’ve met my minimums (and then some) and I have rather easily stayed in the box!
I was watching Top Chef this week and was impressed with a challenge where contestants had to replace an ingredient with cauliflower. It was fun to watch because cauliflower is in my Healthy Solutions box and I was inspired to play…
The Internet is full of cauliflower “bread” recipes, most of which require oils and cheese, which aren’t in my HMR Diet Healthy Solutions box. And thus I was motivated to create my own.
I’m still playing around with this, but after several variations (I’ve eaten a LOT of cauliflower this week), I have a version that makes a pliable wrap/tortilla-like product that can easily hold other ingredients.
One note of caution if you are a volume eater is that by processing the cauliflower in this way, you are making a low-volume food that may not be as filling. I try to keep my low-volume foods to a minimum so that I can stay full, which is why although this is “in the box,” I won’t reach for it all the time.
I have included pictures of the steps at the conclusion of this post to help with visualization since it’s a bit more complicated than most recipes I’ve posted.
This recipe uses something called aquafaba. Its the water that chickpeas are cooked in (there’s a chemical reaction that occurs giving it a viscosity that works like egg whites). You can just open up a can of chickpeas and take a tablespoon of this water/aquafaba. It serves as the binder for the ingredients.
Final note – the soup gives more than enough salt for this recipe. After several trials, I’d recommend checking any flavorings you add do not have additional salt in them (I used Penzey’s seasonings but you could change things up).
HMR Healthy Solutions Cauliflower Tortilla/Wrap
- 4 to 5 cups of cauliflower florets
- 1 HMR Chicken Soup
- 1 tbsp aquafaba
- 1/4 tsp Penzey’s Tuscan Sunset
- 1/4 tsp Penzey’s Roasted Garlic
- Preheat over to 350 degrees. Steam cauliflower in your favorite method. I just throw a tablespoon of water and the cauliflower in my large Pampered Chef Micro-Cooker and microwave for 5 minutes. Let cool so you can handle it.
- Use a food processor to blend it. You could also mash with a potato masher. I will warn you that I tried making a version with pre-riced cauliflower and it did not stay together very well – so definitely start with florets and get them nice and smooth.
- Scoop the cauliflower into cheesecloth and squeeze out as much liquid as you can.
- Add remaining ingredients to the cauliflower and stir to combine.
- Spread evenly on a baking pan either lined with parchment or a silicone baking mat. I actually would make three smaller tortillas next time, the larger one was too big and didn’t crisp as well in the middle.
- Bake for 30 minutes. Check doneness. Mine were still soft in the middle but had browned on top, so I used a spatula to flip them over and baked for another 10 minutes. Baking times will vary based on how big and how thick you make them as well as your oven’s calibration.
One of the lessons I learned in my weight loss journey has been the bigger you cast your support net, the easier it is to stick with a weight loss program. From my original Core class starting our own Facebook group to finding fellow health-seekers to follow on networks like Instagram, from having conversations with friends and loved ones about what is supportive for me to seeking out like-minded individuals in my community, I have cast a very large net. I am also in a number of social media groups where I also find support and inspiration. And today’s recipe came from such a group – where a photo of a shepherd’s pie inspired me to play.
The concept itself is very simple. Mash some cauliflower and spread it over an HMR Lentil entree and bake. I played around with it a bit and would encourage you to do the same. I’ll include a list of ingredients I used at the end, but you should have fun with it and try different profiles. And if you really hate the lentils, I bet this would also be awesome with the chili entree!
For starters, I don’t fancy the lentil entree plain. So I added some salt, pepper, Penzeys Bavarian spice blend, and a dash of red pepper flakes. Mixed in two lentil entrees and spread evenly along the bottom of a silicon pie pan.
Then I steamed a bag of frozen cauliflower. There were five cups of cauliflower in the bag. After it was reasonably soft (about 5 minutes in the microwave), I drained the cauliflower and put it in the food processor. I added HMR-approved butter seasoning, smoked paprika, and Penzeys roasted garlic. Then turned on the food processor. I added fat-free vegetarian broth to help make it a thick but creamier consistency (you only need a couple of tablespoons – I recommend adding only one tablespoon at a time to avoid making it runny!).
I put the creamed cauliflower in a pastry piping bag. Because I felt like it and for no other reason. But it did allow me to make a fun spiral design and create a consistent layer relatively easily. You could also just spoon and spread the cauliflower on top.
Bake for 20 or so minutes until the cauliflower has started to brown and has a light crust. You could continue baking, or broil to brown the top more to increase the texture variables.
I let my pie rest overnight in the refrigerator, which made for easy portioning in the morning. Half of the pie is an entree and 2.5 cups of vegetables (and very filling!) but you could portion it into quarters or have the whole pie if you wanted!
Ingredients I used: 2 HMR Lentil entrees, 1 5-cup bag of frozen cauliflower, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, Penzeys Bavarian seasoning, Penzeys roasted garlic, smoked paprika, Molly McButter, one vegetarian bouillon cube made into broth
After my first Core class last week, I went to Sprouts to stock up on vegetables and fruits to bulk up my meals. It was going to be a stressful couple of days and I knew I didn’t have time to prep a lot of ingredients, so I went in search of pre-cut produce to save some time. And I discovered spiralized butternut squash!
Now I have a spiralizer at home but I’ve never thought to use it on butternut squash! So I had to pick up a package to try as I was struck by inspiration.
I’ve made the following recipe a few times this week. I like the texture of the squash to be a little crunchy, so cook longer if you want softer noodles.
Also, if you are extra hungry, you can double everything but the entree for extra bulk and minimal calories (I’ve done both!).
Butternut Squash Beef Stroganoff
- HMR Beef Stroganoff Entree
- 1 cup butternut squash noodles
- 2 tbsp chopped onions
- 1/8 to 1/4 tsp smoked paprika (depending on how strong you want it)
- 1/2 tbsp FF sour cream
- Salt and pepper to taste
Heat sauté pan to medium high and cook chopped onions using either a spritz of cooking spray or water for 1-2 minutes until they start to soften. Add noodles, paprika, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper.
Stir and cook for 3-4 minutes. You will want to add a little water to keep things from sticking (I keep a little bowl with a tablespoon in it nearby while cooking to add as needed without adding too much).
Add Beef Stroganoff entree and mix well. Cook for another 2-3 minutes. Turn off heat and fold in sour cream. Serve and enjoy!
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.
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
- HMR Lentil Stew Entree
- 1.5 cups broth
- Trader Joe’s Green Dragon Sauce (I use about 1.5 tsp)
- Garlic salt, just a dash
- Black pepper, just a dash
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!
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!
Let’s start with a confession. Outside of making lattes with my HMR Program shakes, I have had very few hot shakes. I would occasionally try a hot chocolate, but that was about it. However, as I have made it a goal to focus on losing my marathon weight gain, this means incorporating more shakes and entrees to off-set outside foods and one of the ways I was successful in Phase One, was playing with my HMR food to try new things, often trying to hack a food I might have eaten pre-HMR, in order to keep it interesting (while still staying safely “in the box”). So I am trying out a variety of hot shakes in an attempt to stay warm and full this winter.
During the holiday season, I had a chance to try a kid size Snickerdoodle Hot Chocolate at Starbucks. It was super sweet and a fun treat, but the calories were insane! Even for the tiny thimble they call kid size. Well I loved the flavors so much, I asked if it could possibly be turned into a latte to amp up the volume. But I was told it was just made with milk, white chocolate syrup, and cinnamon dolce syrup, and that it wouldn’t translate well into a latte.
However this week I decided it would translate very well into an HMR shake! And while I haven’t had a Starbucks version to compare it to (nor do I plan on it) — this is a sweet and filling beverage that only has the calories from the shake. It’s in the box for both Decision Free and Healthy Solution folks while being the perfect cold weather pre-portioned meal for Phase Two folks too!
HMR Snickerdoodle Hot Chocolate
- 1 HMR Vanilla Shake (I used the 120)
- 1 tbsp Torani Sugar-free White Chocolate syrup
- 1 tbsp Torani Sugar-free Belgian Cookie syrup
- 10 oz. hot water
Mix hot water and syrup together. Slowly whisk shake powder into the liquid. I use an Aerolatte travel milk frother (it’s inexpensive, comes in a travel case, and prevents clumping!). Enjoy! You could even shake a little cinnamon on top for a pretty garnish.
I am training for a marathon. And I am gaining weight. But marathon training didn’t cause this to happen. And I have been thinking a lot about this possible connection as I prepare to toe the start line of the New York City Marathon on November 6.
Let’s examine the facts. Which is going to involve talking about running for a bit. But if you are here for the self-discovery and discussion of weight gain, don’t worry, that will be coming in a little while.
I began training to run the Portland Marathon starting in the summer of 2015. I ended up with a DNS (did not start) after dealing with some injuries late in the summer. Rested. Recovered.
I started training for the Little Rock Marathon in October of 2015. I ended up getting different injuries but finishing the marathon. Albeit with time goals thrown out the window.
And two days after Little Rock in March of 2016, I confirmed I would be training for New York. But after not recovery properly from Little Rock, I have spent a large amount of time in physical therapy with yet another injury (shockingly these are all linked to some genetic issues, not shockingly they are all uniquely different injuries). However, I do have adjusted time goals. But ultimately I want to enjoy what I am openly acknowledging may be my last marathon, at least for a couple of years.
So essentially, for the last 17 or so months, I have been in some stage of marathon training or recovery. And while I haven’t stepped on the scale in a couple of weeks (more on that later) – I know I have gained about 20-30 pounds since May 31, 2015. But to be more specific – I gained 5-7 pounds in the summer of 2015, lost 14 pounds while I was injured and not running at all, gained 17 pounds during my training for Little Rock, struggled for awhile in recovery after (gaining another 7 pounds), and then losing 14 pounds before starting training for New York. So (and I am not the best at math), when I started training for New York, I was about 5 pounds heavier than when I started training for Portland the previous summer. But that doesn’t change the fact that the last time I stepped on the scale, I was 16 pounds heavier than I was when I started training for this marathon.
Going into marathon training, I knew many people had struggled with weight gain. From talking to my health coach, I knew this was something I would need to be mindful about. And so I went and did some research. HOLY MOLY don’t even try Googling weight gain and marathon training. SO MUCH HAS BEEN WRITTEN!
But more specifically, so much is contradictory. The FIRST article I opened (which I just found again near the top of the search page) had 6 reasons people gain weight and several of those reasons literally contradict each other! From being too strict about food to overeating to underfueling during the running to overfueling during the run; the information is endless and quite frankly overwhelming.
However, I realize after 17 months of training/recovering… that marathon training didn’t make me gain weight. I have just allowed it to serve as a mask, or as an excuse for struggles I have battled my whole life.
Marathon-training meant focusing on specific training goals with a specific training plan. A hyper-managed schedule to weave into my already full plate. But luckily, what it really just meant was rearranging my fitness schedule, because I learned after a couple of minor injuries, that I couldn’t add training on top of everything else I was doing.
So in reality, I didn’t increase my physical activity too much over the course of a week. But I did shift my mindset and I began more single-sport training. Which meant I wasn’t getting the same level of intensity 5 days a week, but was having some high intensity days and some much lower days. I have since realized that this threw my use of physical activity as a form of stress management out the window and I found food again as a form of stress relief, a habit I had mostly managed to eliminate, but did not realize had snuck back into my life until recently.
I also began to use the marathon as my excuse, or crutch, for more than just taking a rest day. And as I think about this, I realize that we all do this, even if we aren’t training for a marathon. For example, last year I struggled with stress in a new position at work, and people told me it would be understandable if I gained weight because I “had an excuse” – but while I had new challenges in my job, I also knew that it was just different struggles, and it wasn’t an excuse to eat. But I let marathon training be that excuse because I knew it had a timeframe and I could just start working on weight management after the race.
Finally, I realize now that I just didn’t have a maintainable weight of eating for weight management in place prior to starting marathon training. And long runs on Sunday took the place of meal preparation and planning. And the socialization events associated with training took away the desire to do the meal prep and planning. And because I was now constantly thinking about running, about injury prevention, about travel planning, about being stressed because I couldn’t go work out that afternoon because I had a long run in the morning, and at that point something just had to give.
For those of you who have followed my health and fitness story for awhile, you will realize I have struggled with this balance before. And I know this about myself. But I let the marathon mask this, and managed to put myself on the back burner at the same time I was supposedly focusing on myself.
I have some plans in mind that I look forward to sharing soon about how I will be working to lose this weight while finding a way to better manage it long term. I know I will always struggle with my weight. I will continue to gain and to lose (hopefully with a lot less gaining in the future). I will continue to have to confront myself and figure out the trigger of the moment and will have to reframe.
Right now, I will continue to make healthier choices. I am not going to focus on losing weight until after the marathon because that’s a week and a half away and I am not going to add the additional stress to myself right now because I would be setting myself up for failure. But you should expect there will be a number of blogs in the coming weeks both about the marathon, but also confronting the scale, and starting the process to lose the weight I have gained. I look forward to sharing more, but for now I am off to my weekly physical therapy appointment!
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)
- 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!
Alright, it’s January 21 and I am just now getting around to sharing my 2016 goals. I wanted to make sure I could implement the biggest change before I shared it. And yes, I know accountability is a huge motivator, so I did share with many of my Facebook friends and those who I see face-to-face. But I wasn’t ready to write it out here until I knew it was sustainable.
I have some goals that are very time bound which are fitness focused. I will run the Little Rock Marathon on March 6, my first full marathon, with my sister. We are sticking together the whole way and not worrying about time. If I like the distance, I may do another on my own.
I also want to work towards a sub-2 hour half marathon. Yikes! That one may not be in the cards this year but I will put in the work to try to achieve this goal – my target race is October 1 at the San Jose Rock and Roll Half Marathon.
My final goal is to end 2016 at the same weight or lower than I started. I struggle a lot in 2015 to figure out what works and doesn’t work for my weight management efforts. I did put on some weight but I also lost some of the weight I gained. One of my takeaways from Core and Phase One is that I have the tools to catch a gain early and to take it off. And that life won’t always be stable. Nor will my weight.
For example, I was working out 2+ hours 6 days a week when I was losing weight. I cut out my social life. I gave myself one year to focus solely on regaining my health. But when that year was over, I may have gone too far the other way. Reduced my physical activity too much in order to regain parts of my life I was missing. So it’s about finding a balance that isn’t “all or nothing.”
Okay, at this point you have got to be wondering about the title of this post and the photo of goodness knows what (I bet you figured out it’s green soup!). So I apologize for the lengthy intro. But it’s really all related, I promise.
One of the parts of my life I have figured out is that despite losing the weight, I still face decision-anxiety over food. And that increased variety of food options means I eat more. So part of my solution is to decrease my variety. Especially during the week. My menu is relatively the same from day to day.
A morning staple over the last three weeks was inspired by one of my health educators who talked about her green soup. So every week, I take all the veggies that are near the end of their life (and some that aren’t) and throw them in a slow cooker with herbs and spices as well as broth or water. I slow cook them for 10 to 12 hours and then blend it all up. It makes a massive amount of green soup!
Every morning, while getting ready for work, I cook 2 to 3 cups of the soup in a saucepan on the stove. When it comes to a boil, I pour it into my thermos. Then when I get to work, I pour it into a coffee mug over the course of the morning and have a warm and filling soup that doesn’t need a spoon and that is incredibly low in calories. Not to mention all the filling veggies in it!
So that’s it. My magical secret. It keeps me full. It keeps me sipping on something. It gets me some veggies early in the morning. And it’s part of my morning routine that I have developed to help me reach my goals.
At some point, I will write up some of my favorite combos. But really you can’t go wrong with an onion, some broccoli/kale/spinach, a carrot, Italian herbs, garlic powder, and chicken broth. However, I really do just throw everything in there. And I have yet to not enjoy my morning green soup.
(I started this blog entry a few weeks ago and then the insanity of October hit – fellow teachers can relate – so I am finishing it off now – better late than never!)
For the last four weeks I have been on a strict HMR Healthy Solutions diet as part of a “Blitz” that my health center was offering. This meant four weeks straight of being “in the box” of the prescribed Healthy Solutions Diet of 3 shakes, 2 entrees, and 5 fruits/veggies minimum per day (more of any of these allowed under the concept “More is Better” which I will address in a moment) plus 2,000 physical activity calories a week.
When I transitioned out of Phase One of HMR almost a year ago today, I had not spent much time following Healthy Solutions. I had spent nine months living in a hardcore Decision Free box and only spent about a month transitioning into Healthy Solutions before I transitioned into Phase Two (the introduction of outside foods, broadening my personal “box” for successful weight maintenance).
To be honest, I don’t think I had fully grasped the function of Healthy Solutions. I followed it. I did what I was told. But I don’t think I had internalized some of the decision making that is taught in this part of the program.
More is Better
My “more is better” had been shakes and entrees for nine months. And when I transitioned, I continued to rely on these. There is nothing wrong with these decision free meals, however I have learned that if I rely more on vegetables as the bulk “more is better” part of a meal, I can have super filling options for fewer calories. It is a continuation of the idea of calorically dense foods. And so, for example my dinner tonight, instead of having two entrees or an entree and a shake, I am just as full (if not fuller) making “noodles” out of zucchini and having an HMR lasagna on top!
That said, entrees and shakes are incredibly valuable and more of these are better too. But I had been crowing out fruits and veggies – not just Gap foods – with my HMR entrees and shakes … which was depriving me of another “more is better” option (that has even more variety!).
The concept behind meal planning was pretty basic in Decision Free since I had been working with limited options that required no preparation. So when I started introducing fruits and veggies, I went for a lot of basics and didn’t think about meal prep or planning. But that gets boring fast, and thus I started to plan a few more of my meals in order to get all of my fruits, veggies, shakes, and entrees in!
I have also created a “puzzle piece” system where I prep building blocks that can be used a variety of ways during the week (so I can have some spontaneity in what I have but it all still meets a Healthy Solutions guideline) – for example, I will roast several squash and an eggplant as well as spiralize zucchini and rice up a head of cauliflower. Now I have ready made staples I can pair with an entree – like steak and potatoes tossed with some roasted squash or Thai curry bulked up with some extra cauliflower rice.
I also had been pretty simplistic in my journaling in Decision Free. I would just check off with a hash-mark when I had an entree or shake or bar. And while I was okay with basic fruit and veggie tracking in Healthy Solutions. But as I started to get creative, I realized I would get frustrated having to add everything and wouldn’t keep a clear journal.
Now I have all of my puzzle pieces saved and can swap them in and out. But I also pre-log things before I eat them because if it does take awhile to log, I might just end up with a shake or some steamed veggies (which were probably the healthier option in some cases).
Ultimately, there are a lot of things I have taken away from this experience. And I would strongly encourage anyone who needs a reset to check out their HMR clinic for the next Blitz offering. I not only lost some of the weight I had gained, I have taken away a better appreciation of defining what I need to maintain my weight as well as an appreciation for decision free options (shakes and entrees) that I had “tired” of after transitioning to Phase Two. I embrace them with a newfound respect having taken a “break” from them and realizing they are actually pretty awesome for more than just weight loss.
I am now currently living inside of my own personal box. It’s not as strict as an official “box” but it’s guidelines I am figuring out help me from diving into “The World of Gap Foods” — I am playing around to figure out exactly what works and I am still giving myself permission to have a meal outside of my new box every couple of weeks. I am also still figuring out if I am at my “happy” weight range or if I do want to lose the additional pounds I have found in Phase Two. If I lose them, will I be at a maintainable weight for me? And right now, I just don’t know. But I will keep living in my box full of fruits and vegetables and decision free meal options (with an occasional outside lean protein) until I have a better answer. And I realize this may be the rest of my life and after a year in Phase Two, I am finally accepting this.
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:
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.
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.
- 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!
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.
It’s been a LONG time since I posted but I spent the last three weeks in China (and was a bit stressed getting ready for the trip before that) — I want to write about my experiences soon (after I finish catching up on work!) but tonight I wanted to share a “recipe” I threw together this week that’s super delicious and filling but low in calories (and cost!). The measurements are approximate and I totally could imagine adding some different spices to change it up.
It all started when I picked up a 6 pound bag of frozen “Asian Vegetable Mix” at a restaurant supply store…
Miso Ginger Soup
- 6 cups frozen “Asian Vegetable Mix” (mine was 25 calories a cup!)
- 8 cups water
- 4 tbsp miso paste (I buy Eden Organic because I use Miso to flavor a lot of things – warning miso adds all the salt you need!)
- 2 tbsp low sodium shoyu/soy sauce (adds a great umami flavor)
- 2 tbsp crushed ginger from a tube (you should use less if you don’t like strong ginger flavor or are using fresh ginger!)
- 1 tbsp granulated garlic powder (different than the fine powder so measurements might vary)
Put all in large pot. Cover. Bring to boil and let boil for 5 to 10 minutes. Then reduce to a simmer and let simmer for at least 40 minutes. It’s even better portioned out and reheated later!
Made 10 servings for me at about 25 calories each (although I tripled up a couple to quench some hunger and sodium cravings while I have been sick since my return).