According to a recent study by the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center, 43% of those of us with celiac disease are not at our ideal weight. Whether working to lose, gain, or maintain, many of us have to pay a lot of attention to what we eat and how much we exercise in order to get and stay healthy. It's especially hard to do when there are significant distractions that pull us off our A-game with our resolve to stick with a meal plan or exercise regimen. That's when I most need to go on autopilot -- that is, take the thinking out of the mix, and stick with the plan as scheduled.
The key, of course, is to have a plan in the first place. Frankly, I think most of us do have some sense of what will sufficiently nourish us to meet our goals. It's when we fail to plan or get distracted and pulled off track that we wake up one morning, pull on a pair of pants we haven't worn in a couple of months and discover that they don't fit anymore. I hate when that happens.
In my world, summer is over, the kids are going back to school, and things at my Day Job are getting a bit hectic. It's more important than ever that I implement The Plan. For me, that means eating a diet that has a high nutrient-to-calorie ratio, a la Dr. Joel Fuhrman's Eat to Live program. Essentially that means that I eat a lot of vegetables and legumes and sparingly eat refined carbs and animal products. I have to plan ahead, I need support, and I need accountability. Menu planning, shopping and cooking happen on the weekends, I have help from an online support program called PEERtrainer, and I use a smart phone and web app called LoseIt! to track what I eat to provide the accountability, at least to myself. I also weigh myself every morning, but I track my progress for real on a weekly basis and dismiss daily fluctuations that don't jibe with my perception of my actual effort to stay on plan.
As for exercise, it's easy to let it fall by the wayside when times get busy. My tried and true method is to get up 45 minutes early every day and just get it done. I feel virtuous all day, and usually more relaxed and energetic. Lately I've been biking, but I also like running (okay, jogging). Sometimes I walk briskly. Sometimes I do high intensity interval training (HIIT), but I've found I don't stick with it very long, and the real key is finding something that's adequately entertaining so that I stay with it. When the weather turns bad, I turn on the TV... and do a workout video or a Wii Fit workout program like EA Sports Active. I also have a $10/month gym membership that I use just often enough to feel like I got my $10-worth. When I go to the gym, I do the 30-minute express weight/cardio interval circuit. I found that I understand all of those machines, it works every body part, and there's hardly ever anyone else in the corral of machines. Since I'm already there, if I have time I'll usually throw in some extra cardio on an elliptical machine or treadmill. I have to plan the night ahead what exercise I will be doing the next morning, so that I have the right clothes or gear handy. Mostly it depends on the weather and if I need to leave early for work. The key is having a plan so that when I wake up in the morning, I don't have to decide then. I've learned that it's VERY easy to hit the snooze alarm multiple times when I leave the decision-making up to my theta-wave brain. I know that real exercise experts would scoff at my workout regimen, and that's okay. I know that if I develop a real goal I'll have to make a plan that includes milestones and all that (I've been flirting with the idea of a run-bike-run sort of duathlon because my very cool friend Kia does them, but don't tell anyone.)
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First, a TMI warning: One cannot talk about a woman's weight-loss journey and chocolate consumption without also talking about hormones, cramps, periods and the like. Does anyone else want to yell at the screen when women contestants have a bad week at the ranch on Biggest Loser? Why is everyone baffled that every four weeks or so the women contestants under 50 show some inexplicably puny weight loss, or heaven forbid, a weight gain? Maybe they will have me on as a guest expert to slowly and patiently explain that our bodies simply turn on us at regular intervals to make us retain, bloat, ache, crave and crabify. Yes, crabify.
With that preamble, perhaps I DON'T need to explain that I'm not surprised that I didn't lose any weight this week. I DID continue to enjoy an increase in my energy level and general level of optimism, dispite the afore-not-mentioned circumstances. Since I've only lived in my own body, I don't know if my experience is the same as other women's, but the week before my period starts is usually not that uncomfortable (no cramps yet), but the hardest to get motivated to exercise. This week on dark chocolate, by contrast, I've worked out four times since Sunday and felt good doing it.
Usually a few days after my period ends I notice a remarkable reversal of period-related bloating, etc. I look forward to getting on the scale in a week and having some good news to report. [As an aside, my heavy periods coupled with years of undiagnosed celiac disease are the current working theory as to why I continue to have anemia issues. My period really does take a lot out of me.]
In the meantime, I created a new recipe that is not too bad for me and totally fitting for this time of the month. I call it...
Gluten-free Mocha Banana Oat Squares
I had originally planned to just modify my peanut butter banana oat squares, but by the time I was done I had changed it enough to warrant its own thing. I forgot the peanut butter, added coffee, used an egg instead of flaxseed... you see what I mean. It came out really tasty and fit for breakfast.
1½ cups gluten-free 15-minutes-to-cook oats (I use Trader Joe's)
1 egg, beaten
¼ cup coffee
1 banana, mashed
1/8 cup chocolate protein powder (I'm using Xocai)
1/8 teaspoon (or less) salt
30 grams of dark chocolate broken up in chunks (I used 3 xobiotic squares, but you could use 1/8 cup(ish) of chocolate chips)
Preheat the oven to 350. Combine the egg, coffee and mashed banana. Mix in the rest of the ingredients until everything is moist. Line a 6"x9" baking pan (or some other pan that's on the small size - 8"X8" would probably work) with parchment paper or lightly grease the pan with non-stick cooking spray. Pour the oat mixture into the pan and bake for 20-25 minutes, until lightly brown on the edges. Lift the food out of the pan by its parchment paper and let it cool on a wire rack. Cut into bars and enjoy!
Makes 12 squares.
I've just completed my first week with a dark chocolate protein shake breakfast, replacing my former non-chocolate protein shake. I've also eaten 2 little squares of dark chocolate a day, one around 3:00 pm and the other after dinner. It's too early to be sure if this will be a long-term sustainable strategy, but the first week's results are encouraging. I'm down two pounds and my pants are a little roomier. It could be solely because of my increased attention to diet in general - sort of a placebo effect. Still, it's nice to see movement in the right direction.
The other encouraging indicator is my energy level. With the exception of last Tuesday (following a Monday dinner that included a couple of slices of bread), I've been feeling really amazing. This is notable because I generally just feel pretty good. It was almost like a light switch being thrown. Again, I can't be completely certain it's the chocolate, but that's the main thing I'm doing differently.
Given these early successes, the research will continue!
Healthy Choco-PB Dip
I created this single-serving dessert which is totally guilt-free. It combines healthy dark chocolate with powdered peanut butter, inspired by my friend Robin's "dip strawberries in dark chocolate" idea and my friend Lisa's recent enthusiasm for powdered peanut butter, which has only 22 calories per tablespoon and 85% less fat than regular peanut butter. This choco-PB dipping sauce has only 55 calories, plus the caloric value of the fruit you are dipping into it. Nice.
1 6-gram square of dark chocolate (I used a Xocai Power Square)
1 teaspoon of powdered peanut butter (I used Just Great Stuff Organic)
1 1/2 teaspoons hot water
Put the chocolate in a microwave safe dish and heat it until soft but not hot. Boil some water for tea. (You'll want a hot drink to go with dessert, right?) Add the peanut butter powder to the chocolate and pour the hot water over the top of both. Stir until combined. It will be the consistency of brownie batter (less water for thicker, more water for thinner.) Dip your cut up fruit chunks -- banana, apples, pineapple, berries -- in the choco-PB sauce and eat up! Lick the dish when you think no one is looking. Show restraint and don't go make a second one. Console yourself with the knowledge that you will be able to do this again tomorrow.
Since my big weight loss 3+ years ago, I've gained back 15 pounds from my target weight of 125. It's winter. It's cold out. I'm not running as often. I've been following the same eating plan for the last year. I need a change. As Matt Cutt says, if you want something badly enough, you can do anything for 30 days. If you are a regular here, you know I've written about this before.
One of my new year's resolutions was to replace some of the coffee I drink with green tea. I've kept up with this, and have been drinking anywhere from 1-3 cups a day, some regular, some decaf. Green tea is better for you -- lots of antioxidents, weight loss support and loads of good stuff to support overall optimal heath (more about that here.) I have to admit that I don't actually like it. I mean, it's okay, but I never actually say "Ahhhh, green tea," like I do with coffee.
Not long after I started my tea resolution, I met up with a friend who began eating dark chocolate years ago for the same reasons I started drinking green tea. If you know me, you know I haven't eaten chocolate since the "Heaven From MANNA" truffle incident of 1994, when I came to believe that I do not have an effective chocolate off-switch. But my interest was piqued. After a bit of research, it looks like my issue may have been with the fat and sugar of the chocolate I was eating, and not the cacao itself, which is loaded with antioxidents and other healthy stuff. I want to try something different, so I'm going to try dark chocolate for 30-days. I'll keep a log and I'll keep you apprised. If I find myself sliding off the edge in the presence of the chocolate, I will definitely pull the plug.
Today I started with a dark chocolate protein shake. I'll have a 30-calorie square in the afternoon to keep me away from the salted mixed nuts that I gravitate towards at work. I'll replace my after dinner raisin graze with a square of dark chocolate. I took "before" pictures and measurements (not sure I want to share that yet, but I will when my "after" pictures and measurements demonstrate my amazing transformation.) I'll let you know how it goes.
I love sweets. I want to be healthy. My cravings for sweets can easily get me to forget my desire to to be healthy. I have a disabled "off switch" when it comes to some foods. Okay, many foods. In a way, celiac is a blessing because it is essentially an externally imposed self-control mechanism.
So, when Jenn came home with a gluteny apple pie last weekend, I wasn't tempted because I knew I couldn't have it. [Jenn knows I'm fine with the boys and her eating gluten in the house and that I try to stay away from sugary desserts anyway, so don't think it was an insensitive or inappropriate thing for her to do. I couldn't ask for a more supportive partner -- in fact, she's WAY better at reading labels than me. :-)]. I DID feel like having my own desserty item that was relatively fast, healthy and which would satisfy my sweet tooth. I also didn't want so much of whatever it was around so that there was built in portion control.
Thus this recipe, which is sort of a cross between a baked apple and an apple crisp. I decided it was healthy because the total volume of relatively unhealthy ingredients (butter. sugar, gf flour) is pretty small. If you double the recipe and eat all of it, you will probably slide out of the healthy range. Everything in moderation, right?
This recipe is for one apple that you can share with someone else or not (I didn't!).
Easy Healthy Baked Apple
1 apple, cut in half with seeds removed (I used a grapefruit spoon and it worked great)
1 tablespoon melted butter
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon gf flour of your choice (I used Namaste brand gf flour blend)
2 tablespoons of gluten-free oats
Your favorite apple pie-ish seasoning of your choice: nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice, cardamom (if in doubt, use a couple of shakes of cinnamon. You can sprinkle a little more on top after baking if you want.)
Handful of raisins, optional
Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Melt the butter in a medium bowl and mix in all of the ingredients. Spoon it on top of your apple halves. Put the halves on a baking sheet and put them in the oven for 35-40 minutes until the crisp is crispy and apple is tender.
Eat them warm! You can always top with vanilla yogurt or ice cream or whipped cream if you want, but they are good all on their own. Feel virtuous! Enjoy a fresh, warm gluten-free tasty treat! Be very happy. :-)
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