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!
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 fantastic thing about teaching high school is that I get to cover the same material over and over each class period, and at about the same time each year. Some people might think that sounds boring, however I have come to learn it makes me a more successful teacher as well as a lifelong learner. I am constantly looking for new ways to teach the same topics and skills to keep things current and interesting, while reinforcing the core purpose and content for myself. And in the process, I make new discoveries about both the content I am teaching but also the ways my students learn and apply knowledge.
Just like getting to revisit a time period in history or a component of American government, as a student retaking the HMR Core class, I am getting a chance to revisit information and practice skills in new and old ways, reinforcing behaviors and expanding my knowledge base both about health and nutrition, but also about myself. And in the process, I get to make new connections.
Last night’s HMR Core class was a perfect example. One of the slides presented demonstrated how a person could “cheat” and go out of the HMR “box” of foods, while still losing weight. This could potentially reinforce bad behaviors because “hey I still lost even after I had that one handful of chips” or “I can add a Snickers bar and can still lose weight because the math shows that.” However our instructor continued on, showing that even if that math works sometimes, it will take significantly longer to lose the weight because it will be slower. And once the floodgates are open to outside foods, all bets are off on how long you can continually follow the program and stay motivated.
The first time I learned this information in 2013, it compelled me to stay in my Decision Free Box. I was paying too much to not be successful and wanted to lose fast. And I stayed in the box for the entire time I was in Decision Free (over 9 months)!
However last night I took away a different lesson. I already know that staying in the box in Phase One works. I know how motivating it is to lose quickly and how that success continues to build upon itself to some serious big weight loss. I watched people over my tenure make choices to leave their HMR box in Phase One, and I have said goodbye to some as they lost the motivation to continue.
Last night I realized that “cheating” can also happen in Phase Two where the world is my oyster. And that I allowed those unnecessary choices corrupt my box and disrupt my success cycle. By allowing lots of small extras, I lost my calorie balance needed to maintain my weight. But for the longest time, those gains were small. A half of a pound or a tenth of a pound, or “just a pound but I can lose that by tightening up my diet this week.” Except once you make exceptions a habit, they are no longer an exception. And nibbles outside of my Phase Two box became a part of an unsupportive open world while my box fell to the wayside until eventually those small gains became an overwhelming large gain, and I struggled to stay motivated to maintain or to begin the process of losing weight again.
As I relearn those habits that made me successful in Phase One Decision Free in 2013-2014, I am also learning to apply them to how my world will be once I transition to Phase Two again. My first time in Phase One my head was in the sand. My only goal was getting the weight off. But this time I realize how that’s the easy part. I need to create positive behaviors that support my health beyond just this phase. Which means I need to stop allowing exceptions to be the norm in my diet.
Sure I could make excuses and leave my box, or I could recognize my need for consistent positive weight management behaviors. #InTheBox #HMRStrong
As the semester wraps up at the school where I teach, and I enter final exams into the grade book, I notice some familiar occurrences. Students figuring out the minimum work they need to do in order to maintain their current grade in the class and those who worked extra hard on the final in order to compensate for missing work earlier in the semester.
I used to be one of those students. In middle and high school, I hated turning in homework for many of my classes. It wasn’t that I didn’t love learning, it’s just that the process of doing homework seemed silly to me and I felt like my time was better spent in other areas like extracurriculars or reading some non-course literature. I always attempted to learn the material, often scoring incredibly well on exams, which balanced my grades much to the chagrin of my teachers and parents.
However over time those bad habits began to take their toll. Now as a teacher, I have come to realize that homework is an important component of learning, providing continuing opportunities to strengthen your knowledge and skills in an area. And I learned that lesson the hard way, when in one high school class I fell so far behind that I eventually needed a tutor to help me learn the material so I could pass the final exam.
Why did it take getting to near failure before I caught myself? It wasn’t until a recent HMR class, when an instructor said something relating to weight management, that I made the connection. I had become complacent in my success. With every slip in my grade, I would readjust my goals, lowering the bar to make the falling grade more acceptable. Until eventually it got so low, I couldn’t figure out how to do the work by myself to bring my grade back up to where it needed to be to pass the class.
As a teacher, I have made it a goal to ensure students I work with don’t fall into these same bad habits. And as a student entering the HMR program in 2013, I was determined not to let myself slip. I did every homework assignment. I studied my own behaviors as well as paying close attention to every lesson my teachers and fellow classmates shared. And I found myself excelling at something I had failed at so many times in my adult life. I lost weight. And a lot of it.
I had successfully practiced the behaviors of the Decision Free Diet to the point it had become second-nature. My brain learned to appreciate and thrive in this structured environment full of homework and accountability. And I eventually “graduated” to the next step, Phase Two. Managing my weight and maintaining my new lighter body.
It was in Phase Two where I met my own personal nemesis again. I found myself slacking off on healthy behaviors, choosing to skip a serving of vegetables and having a an unmeasured serving of fried rice instead. And as I saw small gains on the scale, I kept readjusting my healthy weight range. When I got worried about the gains, I found myself holding “cram sessions” where I would jump headfirst into weight loss behaviors in an attempt to adjust for gains, without making a plan to sustain that loss (much like a student crams for a test and then forgets all of the material the day after). And over time, I became complacent. Until I had gained so much of my lost weight back, that I felt like a failure.
This has not been an easy post to write. Nor has it been an easy lesson to come to terms with. Through my complacency with the ever-upward creeping scale and my desire to focus on “extracurriculars” instead of foundational lessons, I have found myself failing in weight management. I made choices to ignore the lessons I learned in Phase One and Phase Two classes that would allow me to be successful, and instead I felt shame and a loss of so many health benefits I had worked hard to earn, like climbing stairs without feeling winded or sleeping without feeling acid climbing up the back of my throat.
Maintaining weight loss is a course you cannot graduate from. It is a course you are enrolled in for the rest of your life. There isn’t a final exam you can hire a tutor to prepare you for, where you only need X% in order to pass your class and maintain your weight on your permanent record. And this has been a difficult lesson for me to come to terms with. In order to be successful in this lifelong lesson, I will need to be consistent in practicing my healthy behaviors. I will need to stop adjusting up what is a “passing grade” for a healthy weight range to justify continued weight gain. And I will need to stop being complacent in the world of the gap.
Much like a student who struggles in an advanced academic class, I am going back to my foundational coursework. I have accepted that I need to work on my relationship with fruits and vegetables. And I need to lose the weight that I have allowed myself to put back on my body. So I have started again as a student in the Core classes of Phase One, enrolled in Healthy Solutions this time from the beginning. I know this means I will be faced with making more decisions during weight loss, which I found difficult in my transition to Phase Two. So this will be important for me to focus on during the weight loss phase. It also will mean I am eating a higher calorie minimum prescription, which will mean I lose at a slower rate, but will also mean more time to practice these behaviors during weight loss. I am back in my late night Wednesday classes and surrounded by a number of new and returning HMR students. I am determined to be successful again, this time not just in weight loss but also in the lifelong class of managing that loss. I know the HMR Diet works. I just need to make sure I am also doing the work.
With this in mind – I’d love to hear your favorite HMR Phase One recipes. Decision Free and Healthy Solutions. Please share or link in the comments!
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!
This one is short and easy but so good I had to share! And while you can grate cauliflower or run it through a food processor to get that rice texture, I recently learned you can also put raw florets in a large ziploc bag and beat it until it crumbles… excellent stress relief! (Okay so you can also buy riced cauliflower but c’mon let’s take cleavers to that vegetable and get some energy out!)
- 1/2 cup diced onion (I dice an onion or two early in the week to throw into recipes)
- 1/2 cup diced bell pepper
- 3 cups riced/grated cauliflower
- Creole seasoning (to taste)
- HMR Diet Chicken Creole entree
Heat frying pan over medium-high heat. Either spray with cooking spray or add a tablespoon of water and onion and bell pepper to sauté. Cook for one to two minutes stirring frequently and then add cauliflower and Creole seasoning.
Cook for another two to four minutes and add HMR program entree. Mix thoroughly and cook for another two to four minutes until heated through.
One gigantic serving or two smaller servings. Bulked up for just a few extra calories! Cook time varies because it depends on how soft you want your cauliflower rice. Add hot sauce if you want an extra kick!