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.
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
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!
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.
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:
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).