Today marks the end of this 4-week Phase 2.  This phase introduced new, more challenging workouts (side planks are still my nemesis), a couple of what-to-eat habits and a lot of education about where foods come from and how to gear my diet to be more whole foods while cutting out the processed junk.

The end of a phase also means something else:  a new set of photos.  Amazingly, this is the first time where I was almost looking forward to them.  I knew that I had dropped about 7″ from when I started this (despite the scale being obstinate), and I wanted to see if there was any visible difference.  And, there was!  I lost about half of a back fat roll! Success!

I think I say this every week, but I still have a hard time believing that the time has passed this quickly.  Already at 10 weeks done!  I started this at the height of summer and am now enjoying the gorgeous weather of autumn — there’s nothing better around the Midwest.

Without further adieu, the weekly review:

I opted to stay off the scale all week, so I was a little nervous heading into Saturday’s measurement session even though I had been pretty good most of the week.  I was pleased to find that my good behavior was rewarded:  a dip on the scale and a very slight dip in measurements!  I think I’ll continue stepping on the scale just once a week — it’s like being scared skinny.  Heh.

What I feel like after side planks

The good news is that I’m still riding my 100% compliance streak!  The bad news is that I’m still really hatin’ on both stability ball planks and side planks.  Curse them! This last week upped the number of sets and it just about killed me. I’ve also been running more — 3 times this week, which used to be a slacker week for me, but now represents a milestone. I’m happy to be running again.

I haven’t been all that good about getting my 5 servings of vegetables.  No reason, no excuses, just haven’t.  This weekend I’ve really focused on it and got it done, but I think I’ve hit this habit maybe only about half the time in these last two weeks.  I’ll need to continue working on this.

Habit Log:
Weeks 1-2: Fish oil and probiotic
Weeks 3-4: Eating slowly
Weeks 5-6: Stop eating at 80% full
Weeks 7-8: Lean protein with every meal
Weeks 9-10: 5 servings of vegetables a day

A few weeks back I went out with friends to an Italian restaurant and was (easily) persuaded by the waitress to try their eggplant parmesan when she told me that it was “the best in the city”.

Whether or not it’s earned that “best” moniker, I thought it was absolutely fantastic!  I had never had it, and it wasn’t at all what I pictured it to be.  To me it looked far more like an eggplant lasagna than parmesan; still, I wasn’t going to split hairs on the name of it.

Since then, I’ve kept my eyes peeled for a recipe and ran across a healthy(er) version of it earlier this week and decided to put it on my menu for the weekend.  I went shopping this morning for the ingredients — there wasn’t really too much to it — and started prepping for it in the early afternoon.

I immediately realized that my planning could have been better — turning on the oven for an hour when it’s in the 80’s (and I’m not running the air conditioner) wasn’t the smartest idea.  But, undeterred I forged ahead.

There was no frying involved — frying never equals healthy as I’m sadly aware — so instead the eggplant was baked after dredging in flour, egg and bread crumbs.  A hot cookie sheet and some olive oil did the trick… the eggplant came out of the oven nice and crispy!  I mentally filed this method away for future uses (sweet potato fries, perhaps?).

And guess what?  Apparently eggplant parmesan is supposed to look like eggplant lasagna!  I assembled the layers and put it in the oven — it smelled heavenly.  And you know what?  It tasted just as good!  

My verdict?  While it took a little time to prep, it was worth it.  All in all, an easy recipe because there wasn’t much in the way of slicing, dicing and chopping and most of the ingredients were already in my house.  And while I only made a half recipe, the recipe makes two 8×8 dishes of it and they suggest freezing the second one.  Cook once and eat many times.  I love it!

Mine looked much messier but tasted awesome.

Long ago, in a galaxy far, far away (called high school), I had a favorite basketball/softball coach who had a favorite saying:

Practice doesn’t necessarily make perfect.  Perfect practice makes perfect.

I remember walking into the gym one day and seeing the poster on the wall — he thought this would be a great motivator for us girls.  A firm believer in making sure that everything we did was up to the highest standards, he wanted us to understand the difference between going through the motions and really focusing on improving and working hard on every facet of the game.  Oh, and he loved walking around during practice yelling, “Is this perfect practice???”.

Of course, perfection remained elusive, but as a motivational tool, it worked well on us young teenagers. We loved him to death and would have done anything to make him proud (and I wouldn’t have put it past him to use that bit of knowledge against us!).

I read that now, though, and I admit I cringe a little.  I understand all too well the pitfalls that come from trying to be perfect. Hell, I think I’m entirely made up of those pitfalls. My world tends to be black and white, and if I’m not perfect, then what’s the point?  Right?

Now that just sounds silly, doesn’t it?  Except to me, it doesn’t really.  Well – it sounds silly in a logical way, but deep down I know it to be a truth.  MY truth, at least.  LE goes a long way to trying to convince us staunch “If you’re not in first, you’re losing” types that it’s okay to be imperfect.  That the joy — and the transformation — is in progress and moving forward, even just the tiniest bit, each and every day.

True dat

I’m working on this part.  It’s a process, for sure.  Right now I can see it creep in with the whole 5 servings of vegetables habit.  This should be easy for me — I like vegetables in almost all forms — but it hasn’t been because it requires forethought and preparation.  I’ve done the prep for 1-2 servings a day, but had opted to “keep my options open” for the other 3-4.  And you know what?  If by the dinnertime I’m only at 1 serving, and I know I won’t get in 4 for dinner, I decide that it’s easier to just skip it entirely.  If I’m not going to hit 5, then why bother?

Don’t worry — I see the flaw in my thinking.  Of course 3 servings is better than 1, every day of the week and twice on Sunday.  Sure, 5 would be perfect, but if I can’t hit that, it’s still worth it to get another 1 or 2 with my dinner.  Obviously.  It’s sad when the voice in my head whispers at me, “It’s FAR too much trouble to stick that bag of frozen vegetables in the microwave…”.

Well, my streak is broken — I missed posting yesterday for the first time since I started this back in July.  That makes me a little sad, but it was unavoidable.

I was at work from about 8am (a late start for me) until 11:30pm and didn’t step back into my house until well after midnight — not only too late to blog, but officially the next day anyway. To be honest, I didn’t even think about it until I laid my head on my pillow and since my alarm was going off at 4:30am it wasn’t like I was getting out of bed to do anything about it.

This schedule has thrown my nutrition into a tailspin, though.  I didn’t get to have any dinner last night (I had my vegetable afternoon snack around 2pm) and woke up this morning ready to chew my arm off.  And with only 3.5 hours of sleep last night, I’ve been all kinds of snacky today (though I’ve mostly behaved myself), and wanting carbs and sweets.

Luckily, a good night’s sleep should solve all of my problems as long as I don’t give in to my craving for pizza.  And ice cream.  Oh, and cookies.  Donuts!   (okay, I need to stop this now and go to bed…)

Not only a rockin’ 80’s song from the band Chicago, but also a list of things that I still need to get out of my diet:

  1. Diet Pepsi.  I have only one a day (okay, okay, so it’s a 24 ounce bottle, but still just ONE bottle), but I probably need to break this habit.  I’ve given it up from time to time, but always find myself back on it after a period of weeks or months.  Thing is, I genuinely really, really like the taste of it!  People always say that after you give it up for awhile, when you drink it again, it tastes like chemicals.  Um, yea, no.  Not for me.  For me it’s dark, bubbly liquid gold that makes me smile, close my eyes and go “YUMMMMMMMM” when I take my first sip of the morning.
  2. Butterscotch hard candies.  I do love these little gems.  I go through cycles with them — periods where I barely notice them and other times when I could snack on them all day.  And it’s amazing how quickly 20-25 calories per candy can add up! (not that I’m calorie counting, of course!)
  3. Non-caffeinated diet pop.  Root beer, Sprite Zero, Hansen’s All Natural Diet Mango — it’s my go-to sweet of choice at night when I’m looking for something dessert-like.
  4. Trader Joe’s Green Tea Mints.  Try them.  You’ll love them.
  5. Trader Joe’s Black Bean and Quinoa chips.  What can I say — even Clarke thinks they’re irresistible. 
    Clarke wouldn’t stay still long enough for
    me to take a non-blurry picture.  And
    don’t worry, no dogs were harmed in the
    taking of this picture.  The bag was
    already empty.  Of course.
    Those are the major offenders, and ones that I don’t feel quite ready to get rid of just quite yet.  The Diet Pepsi I’m considering not replenishing when I run out (in 4 days); same with the other diet pops (or “sodas” for those non-midwest folks out there).  The mints?  Well, I don’t get them too often, and try to only keep them in the car, so I don’t feel quite as guilty about them.  And the chips, well, I can actually go days and days without eating them, but when I do dive in, it’s not pretty (though I pair them with guacamole, which is healthy, right?).
    I need to start thinking about setting myself up for success and having these foods around — while I refuse to absolutely cut them out of my life — puts me in a situation where they’ll get eaten, one way or another (and normally I don’t let the dogs eat the chips). That’s not really the best way to break my habits, now, is it?

It’s the first full day of Autumn!  Hard to believe — the summer always seems to just fly by, you know?  The weather has been feeling very fall-like as well, which has been a relief after the heat and humidity of last week.

And I have to say, fall is just about my favorite season. There’s football and pumpkin-flavored everything, chilly mornings, the smell of leaves burning and the rustle of them underfoot, the end of oppressing humidity and not minding turning on the oven to cook good comfort foods. And we can’t forget “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!”  I mean, really — what’s not to like?

Another thing I like about this time of year is the sense that it’s a fresh start.  I suppose this comes from my long-ago school days (I was always the nerd that liked when school was in session), but it’s stuck with me through the years. I’ve got a kind of Charlie Brown “I’m going to kick the football this time!” optimism.  

I’ve been struggling lately, right? I think it’s time to take stock and refocus.  I’ve noticed that I’ve been having a tough time following the “eat slowly” habit — more often I’m bolting down my food without really paying attention to what I’m doing.  It’s not that I can’t do it, it’s that I’m just not being mindful enough to do it.  So, that’s what I’m going to start today (or restart, as the case may be):  eating sloooooooowly.  Time myself.  Meals aren’t allowed to be any less than 20 minutes long. Go, Laura!

If only winter didn’t follow fall — that’s the only thing that stops it from being absolutely perfect, don’t you think?

Like I was saying the other day, this week has been a bit of a struggle.  I feel like I spent a lot of time reverting back to my old behavior, which puts me a little on edge because it was SO DAMN EASY to do.  I would like to think that one day I’ll be able to lower my guard a little, but it’s possible that I’ll have to be forever vigilant if I want to stay healthy.

But, that said, this weekend has been a turn for the better.  With the exception of dinner out with family at a Polish restaurant last night, I’ve been eating healthy and in appropriate quantities.  Not only that, but the house is filled with good (and good for me!) foods.

The weather finally turned and the past few days have been absolutely gorgeous.  Mid 50’s and sunny and awesome in the mornings, giving way to not-quite-70’s during the day.  I would love this kind of weather year round (don’t ask me why I live in the Chicago area if that’s what I want out of Mother Nature) and have been taking advantage and getting outside as much as possible.  This weather perfection won’t last long.

And now the weekly review:

The happy green checkmarks are
starting to accumulate…
My bad choices were reflected in the measurements Saturday morning. And going out Saturday night really reinforced why I need to drop some inches: none of my winter clothes fit.  Aside from some hoodie sweatshirts, I literally have nothing to wear.  I’ve decided that in pursuit of progress, I’m going to avoid the scale entirely.  I found this past week that I would step on the scale the morning after eating poorly, and I hadn’t gained much and thought, “Oh, hey! I can eat whatever I want and not gain weight!” … of course, that’s completely wrong, it just sneaked up on me instead.  I’m hoping that no feedback will force me to make good choices so as not to have a bad surprise on Saturday morning.

Still going at 100%!  I’m pretty proud of this, especially since my schedule didn’t exactly play along with me.  Also – I got in an extra run this week, hopefully on my way to running 3-4x/week.  I have a 9K race coming up in a month that I would like to not suck at.

Because of the slip-ups already mentioned, the 5 servings of vegetables a day habit also suffered.  It’s harder to get the good stuff in when I’m filling myself up with bagels and donuts and chips and stuff.  I’m going to sit down and make a plan for the week and get all of my food prepped and really buckle down and make this happen.

Habit Log:

Weeks 1-2: Fish oil and probiotic
Weeks 3-4: Eating slowly
Weeks 5-6: Stop eating at 80% full
Weeks 7-8: Lean protein with every meal

Week 9:  5 servings of vegetables a day

Well, I put the vegetables that I bought last night and my new rice cooker to good use this morning and made a Frittata with Summer Vegetables that was absolutely awesome, if I do say so myself.

Sometimes I seem to forget how good healthy food can be, and really, this is close to a perfect balance:  vegetables, protein, and a small amount of carbs.  I put summer squash, red peppers, a sweet onion and purple potatoes in mine and went a little light on the cheese. The purple potatoes added a nice flavor to it, but didn’t exactly enhance the looks of it, if you know what I mean.

I had high expectations for this recipe and was absolutely blown away by it.  It was easy to make — other than having to chop all the vegetables — and using the rice cooker meant that I didn’t have to babysit it.  I got it prepared, turned on the rice cooker and then went out for a run.

This one’s definitely a keeper!  I ate half after my run and can’t wait to eat the leftovers tomorrow.

Not my frittata because mine tasted awesome
but came out looking a little weird

I’ve been struggling this week, and giving in and not practicing what I’ve been learning these last 7 weeks.  There’s no way to gussy it up to sound better, either.

The office has been tough for me:  bagels one day, fresh donuts from my favorite bakery the next, and a bad breakfast decision on my part the day after that.

The bagel day, I didn’t even really want one, but my co-worker had gone out of his way to bring them in (because he knows I love them!) and so I found it difficult to not have one. It felt rude to turn it down.  No one at work knows that I’m doing Lean Eating — and that’s how I think I’m going to keep it for awhile — and so he didn’t know that I’m trying to stay away from unplanned, surprise bagels.

The donuts?  Well, those were a present from a rare vendor visit and when I walked by them, the smell wafted up and grabbed me.  I should have said no.  I should have kept walking.  But I didn’t.  That’s not really the worst part, though.  The worst part was that I went back for another even though by that time I *really* wasn’t hungry.  The only thing that kept me from getting a third?  The fact that my jeans were very uncomfortably tight. I suppose it was a stroke of luck that I was wearing my Getting-Fat jeans rather than my Already-Fat jeans (which have a little slack in them).

The breakfast decision… well, usually once a week I treat myself to a bagel with egg and cheese on it.  I figure that as long as I have a week of good eating, that’s one thing that’s not horrible for me and that I really enjoy.  But, coming on the heels of everything else, I really should have abstained this week.

And the vegetable habit… well, I haven’t been doing very well with that either.  I’m getting in 2-3 servings a day, but that’s been it, mostly because I haven’t cooked dinner even once this week.  Some of it due to busy days that ended up out of my control, some of it due to days that I was just too tired and lazy to put in the effort to cook.

So, tonight, I decided that I needed to do something to turn it around.  After getting home from work and napping for awhile due to a headache, I went out to the store and bought tons of vegetables and good stuff for food to make over the weekend.  I’ve got baked broccoli, a vegetable frittata and a warm spinach side dish on the menu — all new recipes that I’m looking forward to trying out.

The moral of the story:  acknowledge the past, be gentle and give myself a break and then move on.  Don’t let those donuts from the past be the excuse for bad choices in the future.

Patience is something that I don’t have a whole lot of — I admit it. When I want things, I want them now.  Immediate results, please!  Of course, that’s always made dieting problematic for me … while it seems like I can put on weight if I simply get too close to a cookie, the weight takes forever to come off. And boy, that kinda pisses me off (excuse my language, but diets make me curse).

Which is why I’m doing Lean Eating — it’s not a diet. But I have to keep reminding myself of that because lately I’ve found myself slipping back into the diet mindset, like bad habits reasserting themselves.  I’ve debated on here the value of weighing in every day vs. weighing in just once a week, and I think I’m starting to see the wisdom of not watching that number bounce around every day.  I’m starting to really want to see the pounds go down and that’s making me a little bit crazy (more than usual).

So, I need to back off a little bit and deep breathe and tell myself:  this is not a diet.  This is not about weight loss (I always chuckle a little when I say this, despite knowing that I ought to buy into that wholeheartedly). This is not about what the scale tells me. This is not about counting calories or purposely going hungry.

This is about transforming my life, starting from my mind and heart and working outward.

I’ve got a year (well, actually a year minus 8 weeks, now) and at my current pace, I’ll lose the 30-40 pounds that I’d like to see gone.  And I shouldn’t have to monitor every ounce of up and down. And that’s the point, obviously — to transform by altering how I think about food and exercise and creating the mental habits that will sustain the physical changes.