It’s Time to Vlog

I’m home sick from work. I woke up with a killer headache and choose to wait it out hiding under the sheets in the comfort of my bed. I’m still not feeling 100% but with lots of water and rest I am getting there.

While I’ve been relaxing I decided that I wanted to do another vlog. It has been months since the last one and it was so much fun I thought it would be great to do it again.

But I need your help.

What do you want to see? Do you have any questions you’d like me to answer? I’m open to almost anything; weight loss, veganism, marriage, etc. Or would you like to see another cooking vlog? I’m leaving this one up to you. Leave me a comment, shoot me an email (thirtythreeandcounting@gmail.com), Facebook message or tweet (@dacialee33) at me your responses. I’m hoping to vlog this weekend so please get your questions/requests in by Saturday 🙂

That’s all I’ve got for now. Can’t wait to hear from you!

Thanks for reading!

May 29, 2012. Tags: , , , , , , , , . Blogging, Vlog. Leave a comment.

Well, hello there…

I have been in a funk for months now. Although life has been great and I have had some wonderful adventures and created many fabulous memories when it comes to my weight loss journey I have been in a rut.

And until a few days ago I didn’t know why.

Or maybe I did but just didn’t want to admit it.

But the cat is out of the bag now. I have realized where I went wrong and the changes I need to make to get back on track and I am more than ready to make them.

Here’s the short version of what I’m talking about; well maybe not short but it’s the shortest version I can give you.

I went into 2012 seeking balance in my life. I had spent the previous 10 months dedicating 100% of my time to my weight loss journey. I spent my evenings at fitness classes, weekend activities were planned around workouts, I was constantly tweaking my diet to find out what worked best for my body and I experienced great results because of it. By Christmas I had lost 100 pounds in just 10 months and I was beyond the moon excited.

Although I couldn’t have been happier about my weight loss I was definitely feeling the toll those months had put on me. I had no social life. I barely saw my husband. I was borderline obsessive with my weight. I needed a break. I needed balance.

And so, 2012 started with my search for balance. I decided to ease up a bit and focus more of my attention on the aspects of my life I had neglected, namely my husband, as well as set some different goals/aspirations for myself. I was ready to start running. Something Paul does and enjoys doing and something I had always hoped to do with him. My focus was now on the only goal I had set for myself – run an entire 5K. I steadily progressed through the 8 week Couch to 5K program and at the end was able to run my first 5K, which I did in 34 minutes and 4 seconds! Paul and I also bought road bikes and took up cycling. I was enjoying my new hobbies.

I was also enjoying all of the fun activities Paul and I were partaking in; hockey games, beer tastings, parties, and lots of relaxing at home watching TV.

I was definitely bringing my focus back towards the areas of my life I had been neglecting but somewhere along the way I went from one end of the spectrum to the other. I hadn’t found balance, I found social Dacia. And I welcomed her back with open arms.

My life had gone from a constant focus on my weight loss to a constant focus on fun. I found myself becoming less active, some days even skipping workouts, but I was completely oblivious to this change in mindset since I was pretty much maintaining my weight. I had some fun new hobbies that were keeping me (somewhat) active, I was still following a vegan diet, and I still felt I was putting my health first but was I really?

I think what had happened was this- I was doing was enough to get by and that kept me feeling like I was still committed to my journey. However, it kept me from really making much progress this year and that has really started to wear on me. Bouncing between the same few pounds week in and week out, who needs it? Definitely not me.

Then the other night I was talking with Paul and he made a comment in regards to my fitness. He said;

“You write in your blog and tell others about how they need to find what makes them happy and yet you stopped doing everything you love. You stopped boxing, you stopped Nia, and you took up running which you don’t even enjoy.”

Yep. His comment was spot on.

Yes, I had my reasons for stopping my group exercise classes and at the time I thought swapping them for running and other standard gym activities would be no big deal.

And maybe it would have been no big deal if I had the same passion for running, the stationary bike and swimming that I had for the group exercise classes. But I don’t.

To say I enjoy running would be a half truth. I enjoyed setting a goal and achieving it but the training, the boring days on the treadmill, the solitude- eh, blah. That’s kind of how I feel. I plan on continuing to run but for fun. For me. When I feel like it. Out on the trails. Not on a treadmill. Not following a set training schedule. I’m just not that person. No matter how hard I try to convince myself otherwise. Maybe one day. But not now.

So after a few conversations with Paul about what I want to start doing again (Nia, yoga, Journey Dance, spin class) and what new things I want to try (crossfit, body pump, boot camp, TRX) we have come up with a plan on how I will get back into my happy place in regards to my workouts and still continue to have a life as well. A plan to find balance.

This Sunday I will be returning to the Synergy Studio and I will start back with some Nia, yoga, and Journey Dance classes. I won’t be going every day because there are other things I want to do but going 1-2 times a week will help bring focus on the self-love/self-worth aspect of this journey. Those classes, in that studio, bring me calmness and inner peace and help me grow and heal both my physical and mental state.

Paul and I will also be taking advantage of a two week trial pass we have for the YMCA. The closest Y to where we live (which is literally down the street from Synergy) offers a crap ton of evening classes that would work into both of our schedules. They have multiple spin classes daily. They offer yoga, Pilates, and Tai Chi as well as the more challenging classes I crave like boot camp, boxing and TRX. Plus they even have a rock climbing wall. How cool?
I think we are both optimistic that we will like the classes and trainers there and will be joining the YMCA after our trial period is up.

I am also excited because they offer early classes so I can hit up a class after work, shower, and still have time to hit up our favorite watering hole for a beer every now and again.

We can still enjoy our long bike rides together and then spend time with friends.

I can dance a Nia routine with some of the most amazing women I have ever met and then curl up with a book afterwards.

To me, that is balance.

And that’s what I need right now.

I’ll be sure to keep you posted on how the next few weeks play out. I am glad to be back. I’ve missed you guys. But I needed this break. I hope you understand. Sometimes things have to get worse before they can get better and I think the worst is over now. I’m ready to recommit myself to this journey, and to this blog, and start being accountable again. Are you with me?

Thanks for reading! 🙂

P.S. for those of you that have been reading this blog for awhile may remember that I had set a reward for myself that when I hit the halfway mark to my weight loss goal I would go ziplining. Well the timing didn’t really work out and that reward kept getting pushed to the backburner. Well, you’ll be happy to know that I finally bought a ziplining package (through Groupon, yay!) and I hope to use it in the next few weeks. Post and pics to come 🙂

May 18, 2012. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , . Fitness, Life, Weight Loss. 2 comments.

Veg Week 2012: A Week of Vegan Recipes

Next week, April 23 through April 29, is Veg Week. I am very excited about this. Obviously it was easy for me to pledge to eat vegetarian for a week, you know being a vegan and all, but I am excited thinking about all of the people out there pledging to take one week out of their lives and try something new. The basis of Veg Week is compassion over killing and although my choice to go vegan did not start out for this reason it has quickly become a big part of this lifestyle for me.

In honor of Veg Week I wanted to put a post together filled with quick and healthy recipes that utilize easy to find ingredients. I want people to feel comfortable taking the seven day pledge. Choosing to eat a vegan or vegetarian diet should not be stressful and I thought what better way to help others out who want to take this challenge by giving some advice, tips and recipes to make it as easy as possible.

Breakfast

There are so many great blogs and cookbooks dedicated to vegan cooking and I could provide you with tons of great breakfast recipes but for the sake of your sanity (and mine) and the fact that most people don’t cook huge, elaborate breakfasts during the week I say keep breakfast simple.

Cereal with non-dairy milk (I prefer almond milk) with some sliced fruit. I love Uncle Sam original with sliced banana and almond milk. Some days I’ll even add some walnuts, too. Check out this list of vegan cereals on the PETA website– you will be amazed at the choices of cereals you have!

Oatmeal with Berries/apples/raisins and a splash of non-dairy milk- YUM!

Toast (I prefer Food for Life or other sprouted grain bread which can be found in the freezer section) or English muffin with nut butter and sliced banana – this is usually a snack for me but would make a great breakfast.

Lunch

I am a creature of habit. Most weekdays you will find me eating soup and salad for lunch. I change up the soup weekly/bi-weekly so it’s not really the same thing day in and day out but it kind of is. I like it this way, though. I love salad. I love soup. It’s what I want to eat. Paul…not so much. His lunches are either leftovers (which you will have for most of these recipes) or I make up some grain and bean salad or quick bowls (from the Whole Foods website) for him. However, don’t forget that something as simple and easy as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich would be a perfect vegan lunch.

I like to keep these salad ingredients on hand for lunches but I also use them in other recipes like the hummus pitas: plastic container of salad mix (I like the organic mesculin mix), cherub tomatoes, bagged shredded carrots, alfalfa/broccoli/radish sprouts, bell peppers, cucumber, and zucchini.

If you are a soup person like me then try making up a batch on Sunday and then portion it out into Ziploc baggies and freeze. I pull a portion out of the freezer for my lunch each day- it’s so super easy. Here are two fast and easy soup recipes I love to make.

Soup Recipes

Asian-Inspired Vegetable Soup from Weight Watchers

Makes 6 hearty servings or 12 smaller servings

2 cup(s) uncooked bok choy, chopped

2 cup(s) uncooked Chinese cabbage, chopped

3 clove(s) (medium) garlic clove(s), minced

1/4 cup(s) ginger root, thinly sliced and julienned

4 small uncooked oyster mushroom(s), chopped

2 cup(s) uncooked scallion(s), chopped

1 cup(s) canned water chestnut(s), sliced (8 oz can)

1/2 cup(s) sweet red pepper(s), thinly sliced

1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

6 cup(s) vegetable broth

2 cup(s) snow peas, stringed

2 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce

1/2 cup(s) cilantro, finely chopped

Directions
Put bok choy, Chinese cabbage, garlic, ginger root, mushrooms, scallions, water chestnuts, red pepper, red pepper flakes and broth into a large soup pot; stir to combine. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer, partly covered, for about 10 minutes. Toss in snow peas during the last 3 to 4 minutes of simmering.

Stir in soy sauce and cilantro.

*If you can’t find oyster mushrooms try white mushrooms instead. No Chinese cabbage use Savoy or green. I don’t like water chestnuts so I omit them and add half a box of prepared thin rice noodles instead.

Vegan Curried Split Pea Soup from Vegan with a Vengeance

This is the first vegan cookbook I owned, months and months before becoming a vegan, and this was the first recipe I tried. I love it! Not a lot of ingredients. Super easy. Very tasty.

Number of Servings: 6

Ingredients
16 oz dried split peas
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 medium white onion, diced small
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
8 cups water
1 carrot, grated
fresh cilantro, for garnish (optional)

Spice blend:
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
2 teaspoons salt
generous pinch cinnamon

Directions
Sauté the onions in the olive oil at medium heat for about 5 minutes. Add garlic, ginger and spices. Sauté 2 more minutes.

Add the water and stir well. Add the split peas. Cover and bring to a boil.
Bring heat back down to medium; let soup simmer for about an hour, until peas are tender. Grate in the carrot and serve. You can garnish with fresh cilantro if you have it on hand.

Snacks

I am a big fan of snacking and prior to becoming a vegan my routine was 3 meals and 3 snacks a day. That hasn’t changed. I mainly stick to fruits and nuts for snacks but here are some other things I like to keep on hand to snack on as well.

Apples and almonds (my typical morning snack)

Grapefruit (or oranges if you don’t like to eat plain grapefruit)

Hummus and veggies (or pita chips or pretzels)

Toast with nut butter and banana

Popcorn (whole kernels, microwave in a brown paper bag, seasoned with spices)

Dark Chocolate

Non-dairy ice cream with fresh fruit and nuts

Dinners

Paul and I were talking about this post yesterday and what recipes I should include. Here are some of our favorites and anything with an (*) notes the changes/tweaks/tips to the recipe. All of these are from Rip Esselstyn’s Engine 2 Diet. His recipes are super tasty, easy and healthy and so we use them quite frequently. They also don’t use a ton of ingredients and come together quickly which is important to me as a hungry cook who wants to eat ASAP so she can get to riding. I love my new hobby.

Jane’s Jammin’ Burritos

Serves 6
1 large onion
2 cloves garlic
2 zucchini, chopped
2 yellow squash, chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
3 cups shredded Napa cabbage (*I buy one head and use for both this and the asian-inspired vegetable soup)
2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained
2 cans fat-free vegetarian refried beans
1 cup cooked brown rice (*cook up 2 cups and save one cup to use on Rip’s Sweet Potato bowl)
2 teaspoons cumin
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
6 large Ezekiel sprouted-grain wraps (*if you can’t find Ezekiel brand just use any large/burrito size whole wheat tortillas you can find)
Salsa
Guacamole (*I buy Wholly Guacamole brand guac usually found in the produce section and keep a box or two on hand at all times. I love the 100-calorie packs because they are the perfect size – we split one pack per two burritos)

Preheat oven to 350º.
Sauté the onion and garlic in a large sprayed skillet on high heat for 3 minutes. Add the zucchini, yellow squash, red pepper, and cabbage to the skillet. Cook 4–5 minutes, until the vegetables are al dente (soft but firm) and the cabbage is wilting. Add the black beans, refried beans, and rice to the skillet. Stir the ingredients together on low heat until the mixture is thick and mortar-like. Season with the cumin and cayenne. Slap a large spoonful of veggie mortar onto the center of the Ezekiel wrap and spread it from top to bottom along the center line. Fold the sides over using a bit of the veggie mortar as adhesive for the top flap. Rest the burritos next to each other and place them seam side down on a sprayed baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes or until the wraps are crisp. Serve with salsa and guacamole on top.

Esselstyn, Rip (2009-02-19). The Engine 2 Diet: The Texas Firefighter’s 28-Day Save-Your-Life Plan that Lowers Cholesterol and Burns Away the Pounds (Kindle Location 3821). Hachette Book Group. Kindle Edition.

*This recipe makes 6 gigantic burritos. You can halve the recipe if that is just too much for you or wrap leftover burritos in aluminum foil and place in Ziploc bag. These keep well frozen and make great leftovers for lunch or for dinner next week.

Rip’s Sweet Potato Bowl

Serves 2
1 large cooked sweet potato, skin removed, cut into cubes (*or two medium/small potatoes)
1 mango, peeled, seeded, and cut into cubes
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 avocado, peeled, seeded, and chopped
½ bunch chopped cilantro
Juice of 1 lime
Balsamic vinegar to taste

Esselstyn, Rip (2009-02-19). The Engine 2 Diet: The Texas Firefighter’s 28-Day Save-Your-Life Plan that Lowers Cholesterol and Burns Away the Pounds (Kindle Locations 3795-3801). Hachette Book Group. Kindle Edition.

*How I make this recipe- I microwave the potatoes for like 5 minutes to cook them (make sure you pierce the skin with a fork first) and then let them cool a bit before peeling them. I warm the black beans in a small pot with some water/veggie broth and some chili powder. I toss in the bell pepper and ½ cup frozen corn and let them warm together. Reheat the leftover brown rice from the burritos. On a plate or bowl layer potatoes, rice and bean mixture then top with mango, avocado and cilantro. I squeeze some fresh lime juice and top with salsa. I omit the vinegar.

Healthy Homemade Hummus

1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2–3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon Bragg Liquid Aminos or low-sodium tamari (*low-sodium soy sauce works fine too)
3 tablespoons water or vegetable broth

Blend all the ingredients into a thick paste, using a small amount of water as necessary to achieve desired consistency.

Variations: Customize by adding one or more of the following:
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
1 fresh jalapeño, seeded and chopped
1 roasted, seeded, and chopped red bell pepper
1 cup dark or Kalamata olives
1 bunch fresh mint
1 cup fresh spinach
1 cup cooked eggplant

Esselstyn, Rip (2009-02-19). The Engine 2 Diet: The Texas Firefighter’s 28-Day Save-Your-Life Plan that Lowers Cholesterol and Burns Away the Pounds (Kindle Location 3940). Hachette Book Group. Kindle Edition.

*This is one of my favorite recipes. I make a batch of the hummus up and spread a thick layer of it inside a pita. I top it with cucumbers, tomatoes, shredded carrots, sprouts, squash, really any veggies you have on hand would work. I serve it with a side of canned black-eyed peas (drained and rinsed) warmed in water or veggie broth and topped with some hot sauce. Voila- dinner in less than 10 minutes.

Pasta Primavera

1 red onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 can corn, rinsed and drained
1 jalapeño pepper, minced (remove seeds to reduce heat)
1 green or red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 bunch fresh kale, rinsed and chopped
1 can diced tomatoes, 14.5 oz (I prefer Muir Glen no salt added, organic which they carry at the commissary)
1 jar pasta sauce (I prefer Organic Ville, Whole Foods brand, or Newman’s Own)
16 ounces whole-grain spaghetti, cooked
½ cup raw cashews, finely ground

Sauté the onion, garlic, and corn in a large skillet on medium heat for 5 minutes. Add the jalapeño, bell pepper, and kale to the skillet and cook for 3 minutes. Add the diced tomatoes and pasta sauce to the vegetables. Ladle the sauce over the pasta and top with the cashews.

Esselstyn, Rip (2009-02-19). The Engine 2 Diet: The Texas Firefighter’s 28-Day Save-Your-Life Plan that Lowers Cholesterol and Burns Away the Pounds (Kindle Locations 3205-3214). Hachette Book Group. Kindle Edition.

*This is a great base recipe and I tweak it based on whatever veggies I have on hand. I have used frozen corn instead or canned, red pepper flakes instead of jalapeno, omitted kale (which I recommend using if you have it) and threw in every frozen veggie I had in the freezer, including okra. Oh, and those shredded carrots I use for my salad- yeah, I toss those in too. This recipe is practically fail proof and it makes a ton and the sauce freezes nicely. I omit the cashews and use half the amount of pasta. I prefer penne or fussili over spaghetti- whatever your preference is go for it.

New York Times Veggie Burgers

Makes 8 Patties
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can tomatoes with zesty mild chilies, drained
1 garlic clove, minced or pressed, or 1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
2 green onions, chopped
1 cup chopped carrots
1 cup parsley or cilantro
2 cups quick rolled oats
8 whole grain buns
Fresh veggie toppings and healthy condiments

Preheat oven to 450º. Process the first seven ingredients using an immersion or a regular blender or food processor. Remove contents into a large bowl and stir in the oats. Form into patties, place on a sprayed baking sheet, and bake for 8 minutes. Turn oven up to broil and cook for 2 more minutes, until the tops are nicely browned. Toast the buns and pile on your favorite toppings. Variation: Sauté the burgers on medium heat in a sprayed nonstick skillet for 5 minutes on each side, until both sides are browned.

Esselstyn, Rip (2009-02-19). The Engine 2 Diet: The Texas Firefighter’s 28-Day Save-Your-Life Plan that Lowers Cholesterol and Burns Away the Pounds (Kindle Locations 3061-3073). Hachette Book Group. Kindle Edition.

*The only change I make to the recipe is adding in a tablespoon or two of flour to bind it better. Sometimes make mixture seems a little wet (maybe I don’t drain the tomatoes well enough) and so I found if I add some flour it binds it together nicely. Oh, and I cook mine longer. Ten minutes on each side. I usually cook up half the mixture and freeze the other half since there are only two of us. 8 patties are too much for one meal for us. These are great topped with grilled onions and peppers, guac, and salsa or ketchup, mustard and relish work too.

EMS Portobello Mushroom Fajitas with Rice and Guacamole

Serves 4
4 Portobello mushrooms, sliced into thick strips
1 large onion, sliced
2 bell peppers, seeded and sliced into thin strips
1 jalapeño pepper, diced (remove seeds to reduce heat)
12 corn or whole grain tortillas
Guacamole
Salsa
3 cups cooked brown rice

Cook the mushrooms in a large nonstick skillet on high heat for 3 minutes, or until the mushrooms begin to brown slightly. Add the onion to the skillet and cook for 5 minutes. Add the bell peppers and jalapeño and cook for 3 minutes. Warm the tortillas. To serve, spoon the mushrooms, bell pepper, and onion strips into the corn tortillas with the guacamole and salsa. Serve with a side of rice and beans.

Esselstyn, Rip (2009-02-19). The Engine 2 Diet: The Texas Firefighter’s 28-Day Save-Your-Life Plan that Lowers Cholesterol and Burns Away the Pounds (Kindle Locations 3809-3819). Hachette Book Group. Kindle Edition.

*I omit the rice and serve with a can of fat free refried beans instead. To the mushroom fajita mix I also add in some taco seasoning blend I made for some added seasoning. Use whatever seasoning you like; cumin, chili powder, oregano, garlic powder, etc. Leftover fajita veggies make a great addition to salad the next day.

Three-Bean Chili

Serves 6 to 8
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
2 bay leaves
2 green bell peppers, seeded and chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 cup chopped mushrooms
1 jalapeño pepper, chopped
1 can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
3 cups water
2 28-ounce cans plum tomatoes, with juice, chopped
1 6-ounce can of tomato paste
1 pound firm tofu, crumbled
1 can corn or frozen equivalent
1 apple, chopped
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons coriander
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon blackstrap molasses
½ cup chopped parsley or cilantro
Salt and pepper to taste

Sauté onion on medium-high heat in a large sprayed soup pot for 5 minutes. Add garlic, bay leaves, bell peppers, celery, carrots, mushrooms, and jalapeño, and cook on medium for 5 more minutes. Add beans, water, tomatoes, tomato paste, tofu, corn, apple, remaining seasonings, mustard, molasses, and parsley or cilantro. Cover and simmer on low heat for 15 to 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Esselstyn, Rip (2009-02-19). The Engine 2 Diet: The Texas Firefighter’s 28-Day Save-Your-Life Plan that Lowers Cholesterol and Burns Away the Pounds (Kindle Locations 3682-3701). Hachette Book Group. Kindle Edition.

*This makes a lot. Like a giant pot full of chili. It is not spicy and the apple and molasses add a sweetness not usually found in chili. It is not like any chili I have ever had before. With that being said- I love it. Think of it as a stew and not a chili and then you won’t be disappointed when it isn’t what you expected. Again, this freezes wonderfully and I freeze it in individual portions so I can have for lunches or dinners.

I hope some of these recipes sound good to you and inspire you to try to eat vegan for a week. I picked recipes with ingredients you should be able to find at any regular grocery store but if there is something you can’t find feel free to ask me or a grocery store employee what would be a substitute for it. We eat a lot of foods that have somewhat of a Tex-Mex flavor so we always have guacamole (like I mentioned before Wholly Guacamole is a lifesaver) and salsa (we prefer Muir Glen organic or Newman’s Own both of which we buy from the commissary) on hand. Veggie broth is another staple as well as low-sodium soy sauce, brown rice, and whole grain pastas. All of these items you can buy at any grocery.

Some other great online resources to check out in case you still need some ideas are:
Engine 2 Diet
Post Punk Kitchen
The Blissful Chef
The Happy Herbivore
Oh She Glows
The Sensitive Pantry

And of course don’t forget to check out the Veg Week websiteand take the seven day pledge!

Thanks for reading!

April 18, 2012. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , . Veg Week, Vegan. 6 comments.

Updates and Explanations

I went back and edited yesterday’s post. That’s not something I typically do. Unless of course I spot a typo 😉

I am glad I did it though. Because of yesterday’s post I learned some new things and there was no way I wasn’t going update what I wrote to make the information more complete/accurate. The last thing I want to do is give you bad information.

With that being said I just want to address the obvious… I’m not a doctor, a nutritionist, a dietician or any other type of expert. Yesterday’s post was more about passing along weird factoids I have picked up over the past five months and nothing else.

I am not trying to convince you to become a vegan. I don’t think it’s for everyone. But it is for me.

I am not some super healthy person, either. There is just as much vegan junk food out there as there is non-vegan junk food.

Last night I ate a giant vegan chocolate chip cookie (5 WWPP) from Whole Foods. I probably shouldn’t allow myself as many indulgences as I do because a cookie is still a cookie. It’s still junk food, vegan or not.

I am just a person who is struggling everyday to make the best choices for my body and for my health.

Why? Because I am scared.

A year ago I was knocking on the door of the 300 pound mark. Although I hadn’t been diagnosed with obesity related ailments I was still physically sick. I had no energy. I struggled moving around or standing for long periods of time. It was only a matter of time before the diagnoses would have come.

In the past year I have come to realize that the only way I was going to extend my life and reduce my risk of heart attack/stroke/diabetes/high blood pressure etc was to get active and change my eating habits.

I do not want to rely on medicine to sustain my life. This is my opinion, my personal belief. It is not the future I want for myself.

I look at my father who at the age of 55 had a heart attack and subsequent quadruple bypass. The surgeon told him afterwards that he basically had a brand new heart (which he meant the arteries but you know what he meant) and would live another 40 years. Then three years later he was back in the hospital – another heart attack.

My dad was not overweight and he was pretty active. His diet may have been the contributing factor to his heart disease. Who knows; I’m no expert.

What I do know is that I don’t want a life where I have to carry around a list of medications in my wallet in case I am hospitalized and they need to make sure there won’t be any fatal drug interactions like my Dad does.

Will being a vegan keep me from having a heart attack? Maybe, maybe not. But what I do know is this- it has helped me so far. So does exercise. So does limiting processed foods. So do numerous other things.

And I do recognize that every person is different and that making any positive changes in your lifestyle can have a positive impact on health, not just choosing veganism.

For me, which is what this is all about right- my journey, it has helped rid me of some nasty digestive issues I struggled with all my life and for that I am very thankful.

Will it cure everything? Will I live to be 110? Only time will tell what will happen.

For now I will continue making the decisions I feel are best for me and my health. I will continue to learn and grow and change and I expect that from all of us. No matter what those decisions are 🙂

Thanks for reading!

March 1, 2012. Tags: , , , , , . Diet, Vegan, Weight Loss. 2 comments.

My First Year Blogiversary Celebration

This past Monday was my one year blogiversary. I was too sick to celebrate. That’s life, I guess.

I am feeling somewhat better now, thank you for asking, and am excited to finally have a diagnosis from the doctor; Vitamin D deficiency and anemia. I won’t bore you with the details other than I am going to start taking once a week vitamin d supplements and daily iron supplements and then in twelve weeks back to the lab to check my levels. Hopefully the supplements will make everything all better 🙂

Any who, today I want to celebrate this past year and all of the changes that have happened in my life. It’s amazing to look back on it and see how different my life is now. A year ago I was miserable and at my breaking point. The blog was my last hope. I desperately needed it, and the support of my six friends I told about it, to help push me and keep me accountable. I never thought that in a year’s time (which to me seemed so far in the future) I would grow into something so powerful and lead me here, healthy and happy.

When I first started I weighed 286 pounds which seemed like an impossible number to overcome. In order to get to the top of my healthy weight range (150 pounds) I would need to lose about 48% of my weight- almost half of me! That’s crazy! I needed to lose a healthy 5’5” woman in order to get to a healthy weight. Yikes! That was too much. So I started with small, realistic, short-term goals and rewarded myself when I reached them. That helped me focus on the progress I was making, instead of the giant mountain that lay in front of me, and gave me a sense of accomplishment.

I wasn’t always successful, it wasn’t always easy or rewarding but because of this blog and the amazing support team I have I was able to push through the tough spots. Because of this blog, and all of you, I am pushing through a tough spot right now. I am going to make it through all of this….because of you.

Thank you!

Over the course of the last year….

I walked a 5K for WordPress worldwide 5K day, for Weight Watchers, and for fun…

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I took up boxing, which I now love, and after just six months was asked if I would write a testimonial for their website

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Boxing helped my confidence grow and because of it was able to try new things. I found Nia, my second great love. Nia became a passion of mine and it translated into confidence, self-love and personal acceptance. I was chosen as Nia San Antonio student of the month for September and in December I completed my Nia White Belt Intensive…

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My blog was featured in the Blog Watch section of the Edmonton Journal…

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I’ve been able to reconnect with my friends scattered around the country. These amazing ladies keep me in check!

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I’ve made new friends and found great inspiration. My kindred spirits. I always know they are just a tweet/email/phone call away!

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I went on vacation twice. New Orleans in April and PA/NJ/DE in February…

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I went to lots of hockey games…. with and without the doggies

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There were season ticket holder events, too…

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I became a vegan and my compassion for animal rights grew exponentially…

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I climbed mountains…ok, more like really big rocks

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I laughed, cried, danced, stumbled, climbed, and fell…

I ran a mile without stopping.

I biked a 50K at the gym.

I started a new job.

I became the person I wanted to be; I started living the life I wanted.

I took more time for myself and in turn found the things that were truly important in my life.

I did all of this for me. I did it all with him. My love, my best friend, my number one supporter. Thank you, Paul! I love you!

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This year has changed me and my life so dramatically and I am thankful for these changes every day. I am truly blessed for all of this. I could not ask for more. Last year I was thirty-three and counting, this year I’m thirty-four and freaking fabulous!

Thanks for being with me this past year and I hope you will be with me for many more to come!

Thanks for reading!

February 24, 2012. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , . Blogging, Life, Love. 19 comments.

Guest Post: the Reluctant Weight Watchers Foodie!

Hey Everyone!  Angela here (aka. The Reluctant Weight Watcher Foodie).  When Dacia asked if there was anyone interested in guest blogging for her, I immediately jumped at the opportunity!  She did that for me and it was about time I returned the favor.  I just had to figure out what to write about.

Let me start by telling you a little bit about myself.  I’ve been overweight my whole life, but it never really held me back.  I was content.  I didn’t have problems with socializing or dating or traveling… just minor concerns about how I looked (like any person does when they are getting ready to go somewhere) and I just pushed them aside.  I was a strong, confident BBW (still am)!  Then I met the love of my life and realized that if I wanted to have a family, I needed to lose weight.  Pregnancy (and parenthood) is EXPENSIVE and beautifully chaotic, so getting in shape became more important than ever.

I’ve been on (and off) Weight Watchers since November 2010.  My journey has been a bit different from Dacia’s.  She’s a machine!  I’m… an A/C set on auto.  Sometimes I’m on, sometimes I’m off.  Depends on the weather.  That’s my personality, though.  I get focused on one thing for a while, let most other things fall to the side and then I have to take a step back and re-gather my senses before moving forward again.  Right now, I’m back on!  In the past 14 months I’ve lost almost 45 lbs, but I still have about 110 lbs to go.  But hey!  It’s almost 1/3 of the way there.

Enough about my story, though.  Time to talk about my passion.  FOOOOOOOOOOOD.  Why do you think I got to over 300 lbs in the first place?  I love food.  I love new tastes and textures and flavor combinations and kitchen appliances.  I used to cook amazing full fat alfredo and Thai curries and brownies.  Now, I cook amazing LOW-fat alfredo, curry and brownies…. plus a lot of other stuff!  In fact, I’ve learned so much about how to create amazing healthy dishes that I think I finally figured out which career path I’m meant to pursue: Culinary Arts Extraordinaire!  This girl is going to culinary school!  Not sure when, but I’m hoping to be attending Le Cordon Bleu sometime within the next couple years.  Then I’ll know all the right techniques to really bring delicious, healthy food to the next level.

Right now, I enjoy combing through cookbooks and trying out new recipes to inspire my taste buds.  Then I share them with all my readers!  Now, I know that Dacia is happy vegan these days (so happy for her!), but I like meat.  And I’m sure that at least SOME of you readers out there like meat too, right?  I’ve decided to share a recipe with you since that’s what I do best 🙂

This recipe was inspired by one of my favorite cookbooks, the Best Ever Indian Cookbook. I’ve really been into Indian cuisine lately.  The depth of the flavor is incredible and there are actually quite a lot of dishes that come out to be really low in WW PointsPlus.  Many of the dishes are also SUPER fast to cook from start to finish, so as long as you have all your ingredients (and cooked rice in the fridge), you can make a delicious, different meal for yourself or your family in hardly any time.

Chopped Lamb with Curry Leaves and Chile

Servings: 2

PointsPlus Per Serving: 3

Ingredients

– 1 tsp oil, 1PP

– 1 medium onion, diced

– 5 curry leaves

– 3 green chiles (I used Thai chiles)

– 4 oz trimmed leg of lamb, 3PP (I bought a big lamb leg cut it up into 4 oz portions and froze them. It ended up being about $2 per portion which isn’t too bad! Plus, the meat is so tender!)

– 1/2 tsp crushed or minced garlic

– 1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger root (I peel mine, freeze it and grate it on demand. Faster, less mess, same intensity as if it was fresh!)

– 1/8 tsp turmeric

– 1/2 tsp salt

– 1 medium zucchini, sliced into half moons

– 3 mini sweet peppers, diced

 Directions

1. Take your lamb and chop it up into really small pieces, almost as if it was ground. If you are comfortable using a food processor to do this, go ahead.

2. Heat the oil in a wok or saute pan and fry up the onion, curry leaves and chiles.

3. Put the lamb into a bowl and mix in the garlic, ginger and spices.

4. Add the lamb mixture and salt to the onions and stir-fry for about 5-7 minutes.

5. Add the peppers and zucchini and stir-fry for another few minutes. Serve hot and enjoy!

This dish is best served with either brown rice or even with eggs!  And if you DID want to make it vegan, all you’d need to do is switch out the lamb for either chopped mushrooms or maybe tempeh or seitan.  You can also put in as much of the veggies as you’d like, just adjust the spices to match the amount. And as for any of the ingredients that you wouldn’t normally have in your house, just find a local asian grocer and you should be able to find them for a really good price.

February 10, 2012. Tags: , , , , , , , . Cooking, Recipes. Leave a comment.

Robin’s Bite: Inside the Fridge

Today I am over at Robin’s Bite as part of her ‘Inside the Fridge’ segment. You know me, I love food! I’ve shared pictures with you before of my fridge and pantry so when I found out there was a whole segment on a website dedicated to this topic I asked if I could be a part of it. I’m so happy to be able to share more with you, as well as Robin’s readers, in regards to what I eat, buy and covet when it comes to food.

Please stop by Robin’s Biteand check out Inside the Fridge. Make sure to take a look around while you are there. It is an uber informative website all about food and nutrition put together by Robin who is an expert in her field. What’s not to love!

What’s in your fridge?

Thanks for reading!

February 8, 2012. Tags: , , , , , , , . Food, Inside the Fridge. 2 comments.

Recipe Review

This week I tried a few new recipes from the Whole Foods website. If you are ever looking for recipes or new ideas check out their website; it’s awesome. I love it because I can search for recipes tagged vegan instead of searching through all of them trying to find some that might work for me. They of course have a ton of non-vegan recipes and from what I’ve seen they look fantastic.

My favorite recipe I tried this week was Pasta Bake with Tofu Cheese. Oh my word it was amazeballs. It’s like having baked ziti or lasagna without the layers. It was very reminiscent of the heavy, cheesy, ooey gooey yummy pasta dishes I grew up eating. However, it was cheese less. It wasn’t heavy at all. It was filling but not in a ‘I have to unbutton my pants’ way and just as tasty (tastier in my opinion) than the original it’s based off of. Since you are using tofu instead of cheese you totally up the protein content making it a dish that keeps you feeling full long after you’ve eaten. It rocks.

Go make this

Now

It has only nine ingredients and you probably have at least three (olive oil, salt and pepper) in your pantry already.

Pasta Bake with Tofu Cheese
​*From Whole Foods
Serves 4
Serve this vegan baked pasta with a simple salad and steamed vegetables.

Ingredients

8 ounces small whole wheat pasta shells
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 cups pasta sauce, divided
1 (14-ounce) package soft tofu, drained
1 teaspoon dried basil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 cup soy or rice Parmesan-style cheese, divided
Salt and black pepper

Method

Preheat oven to 375°F. Cook pasta in boiling salted water according to package instructions. Drain well and transfer to a 7-x-11-inch baking dish. Stir in olive oil and a cup of the pasta sauce. Set aside.

Put tofu, basil, garlic, half the cheese, salt and pepper in the bowl of a food processor. Process until the mixture reaches the consistency of ricotta cheese. Taste and adjust seasonings. Spread tofu mixture over the cooked pasta and top with remaining pasta sauce. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup cheese. Bake until bubbly, 30 to 40 minutes. Serve immediately.

*I had some Daiya mozzarella vegan cheese on hand so I topped the pasta with that instead of the remaining ¼ cup of parmesan. It was so good. This would be the perfect addition to your Meatless Monday repertoire. Two thumbs up!

Speaking of food, what do you have planned for the big game Sunday? I checked out a bunch of vegan-friendly party food/snack recipes posted on different websites but I haven’t really decided on anything yet. To be honest, I am more concerned with packing for my vacation next week than I am with the Super Bowl. Can you blame me- I’m an Eagles/Bills fan so I have a strong dislike for the Giants and the Pats. Oh, well. I will still watch. I love the commercials 😉

Thanks for reading!

February 3, 2012. Tags: , , , , , . Cooking, Vegan. 6 comments.

Finding My Balance

I’m trying to find balance in my life. Searching for that happy median where I am dedicated fully to my WLJ and getting healthy but not to where it controls me. Does that make sense? Maybe I should explain.

Until last December I was fully engulfed in my routine and the activities and diet that kept me losing weight. This routine was evening workouts during the week coupled with a few hours during the day on the weekends. I chose to not eat out or eat anything not on my planned meals before weigh ins. I skipped/avoided making plans with Paul and friends that didn’t fit around my schedule. My life, day in and day out, was ruled by my quest to lose weight.

Then December rolled around and I had to completely rearrange my schedule to fit with working long hours, taking the Nia White Belt Intensive, and having family in town for the holidays. I switched from evening workouts to morning workouts and because I wanted to have more free time I switched from a couple hours of activity at a moderate level to an hour a day at a higher intensity. December, although it was chaotic, was a great month. I was able to spend more time with Paul, friends and family and started to feel like a normal human being again. It was great.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have an easy time in January when I tried to transition back into my routine from November. I had grown so accustomed to spending time with Paul and being able to do stuff in the evening s that it was really difficult to give that up in order to go back to evening workouts. Getting the flu didn’t help me stick to my routine either and then last week, once I finally had my head back in the game, I decided I really needed to go back to morning workouts.

So, that’s the new plan; morning workouts with the exception of Mondays when I go to boxing classes in the evening. Meal plans that include fast and healthy dinners so I am eating at a reasonable time, at least a few hours before I go to bed. To help keep me honest- and by honest I mean keeping me from spending the evenings zonked out in front of the TV- I will spend an hour or so after dinner helping with dishes, making lunches, cooking future meals, whatever needs to be done for the next day. These are tasks that Paul has been pretty much doing on his own for the past 11 months. After the kitchen stuff is finished I will do my evening ab/core workout and then, when all of that is done, I will watch some TV or read a book (something relaxing) before bed.

I’m excited for this new schedule because it will allow me to be at home more, spend time with Paul, help out around the house, get in my workouts, plan and eat healthy meals, and still manage some relaxation time. I think it will bring me the focus I need and the balance I crave. Wish me luck!

Thanks for reading!

February 2, 2012. Tags: , , , , , , , , . Health, Life, Weight Loss. 2 comments.

This Week

One week from tomorrow I am heading home to attend my cousin’s wedding. I will be seeing my entire family on my Mom’s side as well as my best friend James. Aside from my parents who saw me at Christmas and James who saw me in August no one else I will be seeing has seen me since I started my weight loss journey. Last week I talked about how nervous this made me, that I would disappoint them by still being fat. Thankfully I have the best friends ever and they left the nicest comments and basically told me I was being an idiot for thinking that. I needed to hear that. It totally squashed the anxiety I was feeling. Now I am nothing but excited to go home and see everybody.

I’ve mentioned in a recent post that January was a rough month for me (expect to see a post very soon about finding balance in my life) so with this vacation coming up I want to spend this next week dedicated to a routine that I am hoping will become the norm once I am back from vacation. This includes switching my weekday workouts back to the mornings.

To help keep me accountable I thought I would share with you my workout routine for the next week as well as my meal plans through Friday, which is as far as my meal plan goes right now. I am counting on you guys to hold me to this plan 🙂

Tuesday

No AM workout

Breakfast: Green Monster Smoothie, Lunch: Leftover Asian Quinoa Salad and Mixed salad with veggies, seeds and sprouts, Dinner: Pasta Bake with Tofu Cheese (Whole Foods recipe), Snacks: honeycrisp apple, blood orange, veggies with hummus

PM Workout: AB routine plus assisted pull-ups (at home)

Wednesday

AM Workout: Stationary bike 40 minutes, Stairmaster 20 minutes

Breakfast: Green Monster Smoothie, Lunch: Energizing & Spicy Broccoli Dal and Mixed salad with veggies, seeds and sprouts, Dinner: Veggie Wraps and Black Beans, Snacks: honeycrisp apple, blood orange, cinnamon raisin Ezekiel bread with almond butter

PM Workout: AB routine (at home)

Thursday

AM Workout: Rower 30 minutes, Stairmaster 30 minutes

Breakfast: Green Monster Smoothie, Lunch: Cabbage and Lentil Stew and Mixed salad with veggies, seeds and sprouts, Dinner: Veggie Wraps and Refried Beans, Snacks: honeycrisp apple, blood orange, cinnamon raisin Ezekiel bread with almond butter

PM Workout: AB routine plus assisted pull-ups (at home)

Friday

AM Workout: Stationary bike 40 minutes, Rower 20 minutes

Breakfast: Green Monster Smoothie, Lunch: Energizing & Spicy Broccoli Dal and Mixed salad with veggies, seeds and sprouts, Dinner: Greens and Beans Ragout served over Ezekiel Pasta (Whole Foods recipe) Snacks: honeycrisp apple, blood orange, cinnamon raisin Ezekiel bread with almond butter

PM Workout: AB routine (at home)

Saturday

AM workout: 5K with the people from my boxing gym

Breakfast: Overnight Oats with fruit

PM Workout: AB routine (at home)

Sunday

AM workout: full body workout with weights

Breakfast: Overnight Oats with fruit

PM Workout: AB routine plus assisted pull-ups (at home)

Monday

No AM workout

Breakfast: Green Monster Smoothie, Lunch: Energizing & Spicy Broccoli Dal and Mixed salad with veggies, seeds and sprouts

PM Workout: Combo (half boxing/half boot camp) class and kickboxing class

Tuesday

No AM workout

Breakfast: Green Monster Smoothie, Lunch: Red Beans and Rice Stew and Mixed salad with veggies, seeds and sprouts

PM Workout: Spin class and AB routine plus assisted pull-ups (at home)

So that is what’s in store for the next week. The abs routine at home is just going to be a set of exercises Paul puts together for me. Sometimes I’ll use a balance ball, sometimes I won’t. It will change from day to day. Tonight is the first night for this so I will have to let you know how it goes.

What do you have going on this week? Do you schedule your workouts and meals in advance or do you take it one day at a time?

Thanks for reading!

January 31, 2012. Tags: , , , , , . Fitness, Health. 3 comments.

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