If someone had told me seven months ago that I would be eating prepackaged entress and shake packets as my sole form of food, I would have laughed you out of the room.
If someone had told me seven months ago that I would be running a sub-10:00 mile and swimming a mile, I would have looked at you like it was a pipe dream. “Someday… maybe….” But my heart would ache because I would doubt that I had the ability to ever pull it out.
If someone had told me seven months ago that I would be down almost 90 lbs after six months, I would have asked what limbs would I be losing in the process.
I was recently asked why I decided to take a drastic move in my life starting HMR and all of my physical training. Why now? What prompted this move?
If you have known me for years then you will know that I have had a series of struggles with my health. I gained a significant amount of weight right out of high school. I continued to put on weight when I started teaching and commuting 90+ minutes each way to work. I then lost some of that weight in 2006 counting points but some significant events in my life brought back the stress eating and the pounds. I attempted to learn to run in 2009 and lost a bit of weight but improper training and an injury uncovered bigger health issues. All the while I half-assed various diets in an attempt to both control my health but also my weight. Finally, I gave up on all of it and just “enjoyed life” while the pounds piled on.
This past summer we took a cross-country road trip. And roadside hikes that should have been easy were extremely difficult. We went to Hawaii and I felt limited in everything I attempted. I was constantly out of air. I got tired easily. I didn’t find physical activity pleasurable because I wasn’t fit and was carrying so much extra weight. Multiple people in my life passed away in the months leading up to my starting HMR and many were due to weight related health issues. I had trouble sleeping at night worrying that every ache and pain was a sign I was next.
A friend had recently gotten weight loss surgery and I was seriously contemplating it after hearing about her experience. However I knew I wouldn’t be able to do it until the summer at the earliest and we were just a couple months into the school year. So I went to my medical group’s Web site and looked at what programs they were offering to help. I saw orientations for HMR and thought “well it couldn’t hurt to check it out?”
At the time I was opposed to processed food. I wanted to lose weight on my own. I wanted to do it naturally. I was judgey-mcjudergerson about everything I thought HMR stood for. I thought “well even if I lose any weight I won’t learn how to keep it off and it will come right back on.” I had tried Jenny Craig and Nutrisystem so I was *obviously* an expert about meal replacement diets… Ha!
However I forced myself to enter the medical offices with an open mind. After all, I had kind of sucked at doing it on my own. Despite years of weight loss meetings and web sites and books and talks, I was at my heaviest weight ever. I ate more veggies than most people I knew but along with that ate and drank super high calorie foods and considered 20 minutes on the elliptical as an intense workout. In other words, I knew I needed help and I wasn’t afraid to ask for it.
At that orientation meeting, I began to understand that the HMR Diet would be a major overhaul to my social lifestyle. No alcohol? No outside foods? A WEEKLY meeting? I work over 80 hours some weeks… where was I going to fit all of this in?
But something inside of me said that I could do it. That my life depended on it.
So I drove straight from the orientation to speak to my doctor. She said I should try it. She had been an HMR doctor at a previous practice. She thought it would be harder than surgery but it would be good to do it, even as a precursor to surgery, to learn healthier habits. And so I went in for all the lab work.
As a high school student, I didn’t follow good study habits. However as a high school teacher I have learned a few things about setting myself up for success. And so I spent the couple of weeks between orientation and the first night of class preparing my environment, talking to those closest to me, and mentally preparing myself. Confession: I also had a number of “last meals” where I ate whatever I wanted and committed those tastes and textures to memory. I will write more about preparing to begin in a future post but the process itself really set me up for a successful journey.
I have social anxiety. I get nervous in new situations and meeting new people. But luckily I have an amazing health educator, a fabulous clinic full of super positive staff, and a class that had some really nice and positive people in it to provide a safe and supportive environment. The clinic is my safe haven. The first couple months I would show up an hour early sometimes to protect myself from wandering off to a drive-thru because I didn’t know how to spend that hour. I cannot stress how that support helped me get through some tough time. When I felt judgement from others for taking on this diet, I knew I had a judgement free zone.
Judgement is a big thing on this diet. Because you isolate yourself from outside foods, people feel like they can make all sorts of snide and snarky comments to you. I am not open about being on this diet, both because I don’t want my diet to define me, but also because I want to spare myself the nasty comments. If someone asks and seems interested, I will tell them about it. But unlike previous diets where I would declare to everyone what I was doing, I started this one quietly and have remained relatively quiet about it. However through my health classes I have learned how to empower myself and to deal with some of the comments. I know I will have more to face along the journey, but I am building a toolbox of responses.
Cost is the other big hang up for many people on this diet. Yes, the medical tests and supervision is pricey and yes the shakes and entrees cost money. The gym, training sessions, new clothes all cost money as well. You know what else costs money? All the bad food I was eating. All the medical bills I paid. All the unproductive hours where I couldn’t focus and didn’t get things done that needed to be finished. And losing my life day by day to my obesity was the most expensive part of my life. So yes I have depleted some of my savings but I also know I am saving money in the long run. I also know that the improved quality of life is worth the investment. And honestly, I just cut out a bunch of crap I had been wasting it on. Even at happy hour prices those beer and french fry orders add up!
Over the last six months I have been on the road more than half the weekends. I have attended galas and other social events. I have run multiple races. Attended family events. Tried a variety of fitness opportunities. Struggled through exhaustion and stress. Celebrated life and mourned loss. In other words, I have lived. And I have lived “in the box.”
I will be honest. It has not always been easy. And it is getting harder. Because as I see results and feel stronger, I question why I am still in the box. I miss outside food. I feel like I can take a cheat meal… But I won’t. As long as I stay in the box, I am working towards my final goal. This time is truly different and I don’t want to give myself an excuse to halt the journey before I finish it.
I am on a lifelong journey of living the best possible life I can. I believe in myself and my inner strength. And while life happens, I am building skills to pursue health and happiness in spite of life obstacles. It takes dedication and a sense of purpose. But it also takes faith in whatever diet program you choose to pursue. The HMR Diet does work, if you put in the work. I am #HMRStrong.
As I have worked to increase my physical activity, I have found myself needing to fuel on-the-go. This combined with the travel demands of the job have left me playing with ways to increase the portability of the HMR shakes and cereals. This is one of my go-to recipes. It’s important to remember that these would be a low volume food — I make sure to have at least 8 ounces of water with each serving in order to help with the volume of the meal.
Spiced Rum Muffins
3 HMR Oatmeal packets
3 HMR 70 shakes – vanilla
1/4 cup DaVinci Sugar-Free Chai syrup
1/2 cup DaVinci Sugar-Free Butter Rum syrup
1 and 1/2 cups water
2 tsp baking power
Preheat oven or toaster oven to 350 degrees. Use nonstick cooking spray quickly over mini muffin tins (I find the silicone mini muffin tins to be the easiest).
Begin by mixing the oatmeal, syrups and water in a large microwave safe bowl. Heat for two minutes. Stir and let cool for about five minutes. At this point the oatmeal will have cooked and soaked up much of the liquid but will still be warm. Add the shakes and baking powder by folding them in. The heat from the oatmeal will begin to activate the rising agents and over stirring will deflate the batter. You want those air bubbles being created in order to have fluffier muffins!
Gently spoon batter into muffin tins. Bake for 20-30 minutes depending on your oven calibration – you want a nice brown color on top and a slight firmness to the muffin when you gently touch the top. After removing the pan from the oven, you will want to work to release the muffins from the pan relatively soon after baking or you risk the temperature issues between the heat of the pan and the cool air above causing the muffins to collapse. I like to use a butter knife if I have trouble just popping them out and then I put them on a rack to cool.
After muffins have cooled, I divide the muffins into 9 equal servings. Depending on which pan I use, I either get three or four mini-muffins per serving. I am on HMR Decision Free 3/2 with the 180 shakes, so 1/9 of this recipe counts as half of a shake for me (1/9 of the recipe is like a half an oatmeal or one 70 shake calorically). I then put the servings into snack bags and put them in either the fridge or freezer depending on when I plan on consuming them.
Walking through Whole Foods today I was hit by a delicious smell. Suddenly I wanted whatever that delicious smell was. However, now that I am on the HMR Decision Free diet, that wasn’t an option. So instead I decided to dissect the smells and see if I could make an “In the Box” option.
I have no idea what the actual dish I smelled was but the underlying scents were vinegar and mustard. Thus, this dish was born!
Warning: if you don’t like vinegar or mustard, this probably isn’t your cup of tea.
Mustard Chicken and Rice
HMR Savory Chicken Entree
1 tbsp German mustard (or your favorite spicy mustard that meets HMR guidelines)
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 tbsp capers, drained
1/8 tsp smoked paprika
1/8 tsp smoked salt
1/8 tsp ground pepper
1/8 tsp flake salt
Heat savory chicken in microwave.
Whisk all other ingredients together.
Plate entree with rice on the bottom of the bowl topped with the mushrooms and carrots and finally the chicken. Pour sauce over chicken and enjoy.
One of the women in my HMR classes have been making a version of this for months (you can find her version here) and I have been using her recipe as a base to create my own version. I make the sauce in single servings ahead of time and keep them in the fridge. You can toss an entree in the microwave and then add the sauce but if I have the time and patience, I like to throw the entree in a saucepan and cook it low and slow with the sauce for a deeper flavor.
I make this with the HMR Steak & Potatoes entree but I bet it would be good with a few others!
HMR Decision Free Thai Peanut Sauce
1 tbsp PB2
1 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
1 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tsp powdered garlic
1/2 tsp powdered ginger
1/4 tsp imitation coconut extract
Whisk together and let sit for the flavors to meld.
If you haven’t read my blog before, you may be unaware that I am always on the go. Which means I don’t always have the luxury to make shakes in the comfort of my kitchen.
That said, I love fancy coffees and giving up those special treats was difficult. Luckily, with the help of my travel milk frother, I have been coming up with some on-the-go specialties!
This one is the easiest and is a favorite staple in my current rotation. Order a medium black coffee in a large coffee cup (in Sbux speak that’s a grande in an venti cup!). That gives you room to add an HMR chocolate shake packet and optional sweetener (none for me). Then froth that baby up! The travel milk frother breaks down the shake powder and blends inside the coffee cup while adding a light froth on top. Enjoy!
Last night was my 133rd day staying “in the box” on the HMR Decision Free diet.
On my first night of class, my health educator showed us a graph. It showed data that the longer a person stayed “in the box” (eating only HMR food), the higher the likelihood they would stick with the program and the average amount of weight lost. The data included everything from the probability of success if you “cheated” the first week all the way up to 19 weeks.
So I bought a small white board and decorated it with permanent marker after calculating how many days were in 19 weeks. I then used a white board marker to update the number of the board. And then I set that board where I would see it every time I entered the kitchen. I also kept some helpful tools within reach, as you can see in the photo.
The first few weeks, it was struggle each day to stay in the box. But knowing I would have to reset that number was motivation to keep going. And changing the board felt like a triumphant win!
Eventually, I stopped updating each day and would change it every couple of days. However on a difficult day, the visual was a good reminder of how far I have come and how I didn’t want to reset the board after so much work.
Today is my 134th day on the diet. I still plan on keeping the board alive, but I am in the process of setting new goals. Goals to keep me going.
Because I can’t rely on the scale for motivation.
When I get on the scale at the clinic, I try to imagine what the new number will be. In the beginning there were huge jumps most weeks. Some were two or three pounds but many were four to six. And I knew logically that it would slow down as I had less to lose and my body adjusted to a lower-calorie diet.
The last three weeks I have lost one pound, four pounds, and then two pounds. In the real world, losing seven pounds in three weeks is a big deal. And I know I would have been so happy on previous diets with that loss. Yet last night, with a two pound loss on the scale, I felt disappointment.
Practical me knows that this process is going to be an ultra-marathon. That it’s a lifestyle change. That it won’t happen over night. And that I have works for 19 weeks but I knew going in that it would be a much longer process. Finally, I know that I have gotten stronger and have had so many non-scale victories that I should dance with joy.
Today I begin the process of setting new long-term non-scale goals. From fitness goals I am currently working on, to food based goals I need to figure out. I am determined to succeed one day at a time.
This one is super easy and perfect when you want to change up the lasagna entree!
- 1 HMR Lasagna
- 1 to 3 tsp chili garlic sauce
Scrape the meat sauce off of the top of the lasagna and reserve. Cut the lasagna into 8 pieces.
Heat large nonstick sauté pan over high heatt. You may need cooking spray to prevent sticking. Add the eight pieces of lasagna to the pan, making sure you have lots of space around each piece. You will want to allow both sides to brown, turning each piece several times. It will add texture and depth to the pieces (and make the entree look bigger!).
While lasagna is browning, mix meat sauce with chili garlic sauce. Cover and microwave for 15-30 seconds until warm.
Enjoy each lasagna bite with a dollop of sauce on top!
I have had mad cravings for a burger. Luckily, playing off the idea of the risotto cakes and the chili being the special of the month at the clinic and I had an idea. Now I recommend playing around with spices, as I have had a different version each time I make it and all have been great! I leave the fruit in for a sweet and savory taste in the patty.
HMR Chili Burger
- 1 pkg HMR Turkey Chili
- 1 pkg HMR Oatmeal
- 2 oz water
- Spices: Cayenne, Smoked Salt, Chili Powder, Liquid Smoke, Garlic Powder (note if you use liquid smoke you don’t need more than 1/8 tsp for the whole recipe! it’s very strong but totally awesome!)
Preheat frying pan and spray with cooking spray.
Mix oatmeal, chili, water, and spices together and microwave for 90 seconds.
Pour “batter” onto frying pan in small batches. You want to keep the patties small so they cook evenly. It will take a couple of minutes on each side to brown. I like to press down on them once they have been flipped once to help release more moisture.
Once they are cooked, let sit for one minute before enjoying. They are fabulous! And I am sure once I am on Healthy Solutions, I am certain they would be great wrapped in lettuce.
I have made this twice and am seriously in love with the spicy sweet dipping sauce.
1 HMR BBQ Chicken with Red Beans & Rice
Red Salt (optional – I just link the clay flavor but regular salt would also work)
First heat a large nonstick frying pan. I do a quick spritz of cooking spray as well.
Clean your chicken breast off, reserving the sauce (don’t mix that goodness! You want to keep the rice and beans as dry as possible). Chop chicken into small bite-sized pieces.
Add rice and beans to pan. At this point I add a couple of tablespoons of water because the rice is hard. I also add salt and garlic powder – amount will depend on your taste and I love garlic!
You will want to use a wooden spoon to avoid scratching the pan. I start pushing the rice and beans around, breaking them up. After about a minute, add the chicken. Continue stirring until everything is heated up and you start to see some browning.
Okay confession… One of my favorite parts of this process is using the wooden spoon to scrap off all the brown parts that stick to the pan. I scrap them into the bowl (or eat them off the spoon – no shame!) for extra crunchy texture.
Pour your fried rice mix into a bowl.
Depending on your heat preference, the sauce measurements will vary. Add a little sriracha at a time to the BBQ sauce until you find your perfect sweet and spicy blend. Spoon sauce next to stir-fry or pour over.
I love Asian food and while this isn’t quite the same, it is a delicious kick to one of my favorite HMR entrees!
I made these for a Thanksgiving appetizer and will be repeating again for Christmas. The only real problem is that repurposing them out of the sauce made me realize how there are only FOUR raviolis! I had definitely had some portion-distortion going on pre-HMR.
This isn’t my recipe but I wanted to share my review. I definitely pressed down with the spatula to get as much of the outside browned as possible. I also doctored the sauce with various herbs like garlic.
I feel like I have been working a second (sometimes third) job most of my life.
When asked what hobby I do on a regular basis, I am tempted to reply “I diet.”
Dieting has consumed my life for almost half of my life. I gain, I lose, I gain, I lose. The perpetual seesaw.
This new program? HMR? It’s another diet. I know I am supposed to say it is a lifestyle change but I am not there yet. Many diets I have attempted have been “lifestyle changes” but my life didn’t change.
I am working on it. Working hard to live fully in the program. To not try to calculate calories too much these first few weeks but eat my prescription and when needed to practice “more is better” which is a mantra of the program. Hungry? Eat another HMR meal.
The idea of “more is better” is counter to everything I have ever been taught about dieting. I have been constantly bombarded with what needs to be cut. The only more that was ever better was more minutes on the treadmill.
The rational part of my brain understands the justifications for the program’s “more is better” tenet. But it is a struggle some days to eat the extra and not feel guilty. I know I need to eat extra some days. I understand this is an ultra-marathon and not a lap around the track. That staying “in the box” (eating only HMR products) is how I stay on track. And by staying full, I am not tempted to binge.
All of this makes sense. But it’s a hard hurdle to jump over some days. Today is definitely one of those days.
I love to cook. I love to consume a variety of flavors and textures. And one of my biggest fears of starting the HMR Diet was that I would not be able to cook.
This is my third week of the diet and I am happy to say that I have been playing in the kitchen!
The first week of the diet I started looking up recipes online. Many of the HMR recipes appeared to be for Healthy Solutions or involved major manipulations that made me uncomfortable as I didn’t want to veer too far off from the basics until I knew the program and myself.
However after ordering a number of sugar free syrups, zero calories extracts, and spices galore — I have been amassing a number of recipes I want to record to use down the road.
I have a Vitamix blender. I got it before I started HMR but it has been a total lifesaver. It is the easiest to clean ever and makes my smoothies amazingly fluffy and smooth. I say this as a preface because results may vary if you try this with a different blender at home.
Pumpkin Pie Decision Free Smoothie
1 packet HMR Vanilla 800
3/4 to 1 cup of water
6 pumps Torani Sugar Free Pumpkin Pie syrup
7 to 9 ice cubes
Pumpkin Pie spice
1. Blend water, syrup, and powder on low for 20-30 seconds.
2. Add ice cubes and 2-3 dashes of spice to the blender.
3. Blend on high for 20-40 seconds (the longer I blend, the fluffier it gets!)
My brain is absolutely overwhelmed right now. I am “Decision Free” but full of decisions.
After a number of diet attempts. All of the restarts. The downs and ups on the scale (mostly ups). I started to do some research. I reflected. A lot. I knew a change was needed and I knew it needed to happen now.
Doctor visits. Medical tests. All confirmed what I already knew. If I didn’t start losing weight, I was heading down a very dark path.
I like food a lot. I took a hiatus from creating and blogging food recipes on Uncovering Food because I had moved to a more urban neighborhood where every kind of food I desired was right outside of my front door. And explore my neighborhood I did… bite by bite.
I realized I had lost my focus on health, and continued to fight myself. And when we moved to a new apartment and a number of other drastic changes happened around me, I woke up.
After attempting to be the Healthy Academic for so long on my own, I admitted I needed help. Being healthy isn’t just about eating vegetables or running a 5k. Being healthy means caring for your body and ensuring that excess weight doesn’t shut parts of it down. However I realized that with so much going on in my life, my present and my history, I was going to have difficulty staying with another diet-by-my-own-design.
After screenings, meetings, and my first night of class, I am officially an active participant in the HMR Decision Free program through my doctor’s medical network. I plan on writing more about it as we progress but for now I am still overwhelmed with all of my materials and all of the parts of this medically-supervised program…
It took me two weeks to publish this initial post about HMR because I felt like I have given up so much of my identity. I feel like I have to defend my choices to myself, let alone to others. However two weeks into this program, on Thanksgiving Day, I am thankful to myself that I didn’t let pride get in my own way. That I am doing this for my wellness.