Archive for October, 2009

Jack o LanternDay 78

Each year I buy a bag of Snickers bars, a bag of tootsie rolls, and a bag of Kit Kat bars. I put them in a big Halloween bowl and pray for Trick or Treaters to knock on my door so that none will be left over. Snickers loves Halloween because that was the day that I brought him home to live with me eight years ago. He was so sweet that I just had to name him after a candy bar.

That first year he wasn’t sure what to make of the children ringing the doorbell and yelling “Trick or Treat!” But each year since then he looks forward to the excitement of having visitors all dressed up in funny costumes come to the house. This year I dressed as Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz and Snickers pretended that he was the little dog “Toto.”

Snickers Halloween

Snickers gets ready for Trick or Treaters

Snickers helped me to get things ready and as soon as I put the plastic pumpkin out in front of the door, he knew what he had to do.  He spread out by the doorway and waited patiently until he heard someone approach.  Then he started barking and jumping at the door. He was really trying to be scary! But as soon as I opened the door and he ran out to greet the visitors no one was scared.  Instead all we heard was “Oh, what a cute little dog!”

Tomorrow I will take the leftover candy to work and let someone else be tempted by it.

Snickers as Toto

Snickers as Toto

Yesterday was weigh-in day and I really was not looking forward to it. I knew that the news would not be good. To be honest I have been sort of bummed out.  I don’t like that I couldn’t stay disciplined while I was staying with my grandchildren. I felt discouraged and disheartened.

I started the 20 lb struggle with so much enthusiasm and positive feeling. But now I felt like I had failed. I wanted to get my motivation back but I just felt defeated. I was telling all this to one of my friends when she said something interesting that changed everything for me.

What she said was, “You have worked hard for the past ten weeks and you lost 14 lbs. You deserve a vacation.  Some time off. Maybe you gained a few pounds on your vacation from the 20 lbs struggle, but you didn’t gain it ALL back. Give yourself a break and then get back on track.”

So that’s what I did. 

I decided that I had had my vacation and now it was time to step onto the scale and get back to business. I was scared.  But it wasn’t because of Halloween Horrors.  I was scared to see the damage that I had done while I wasn’t paying attention to what I was eating.

One foot.  Then the other. I closed my eyes. And then I looked. I had only gained two pounds! It wasn’t as bad as I feared. I can do this.  I can lose those two pounds. And. I can lose six more! After all I’m already 12 pounds gone.  That’s a pretty good head start as a begin my renewed effort in the 20 lb struggle.


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Pantry temptations

Pantry temptations

Day 70

My weight loss challenge this week is focused on self-control and will-power.  Because I live alone I have been able to control my food environment very well. There is nothing in my pantry that I shouldn’t eat.  But this week I am at my daughter’s home which is filled with temptations at every turn.

I have already succumbed to pretzels, hummus, pizza, Keebler Fudge Shoppe Fudge Sticks, and Sun Chips. While none of these foods are sinfully unhealthy, they do stimulate my appetite and make staying on the straight and narrow more difficult. My weight loss plan involves eating lean protein, vegetables, and fruit in order to feel satisfied. These foods help me to suppress my appetite. The idea is that the less hungry I am the less likely I will be to eat impulsively, make poor choices, gain weight.

But life rarely works out according to plan. In the midst of family fun and togetherness I have let down my guard. Knowing that so much is available “just to taste” creates temptations that I do not usually have to overcome. At home I have made things easy on myself by creating good routines and avoiding the foods I know will not help my weight loss efforts. But here my will-power is being tested almost on a minute by minute basis.

So it was with trepidation that I stepped onto the scale this morning. After 10 weeks of the 20 lb struggle I am proud to report that I have lost 14 lbs!

Have I mentioned that I am very petite? Standing at less than five foot tall, a weight loss of 14 pounds represents slightly more than 10% of my original body weight. Despite the fact that I have not been able to develop a regular and organzed exercise regime yet (but I am working on this), I feel more energetic, less sleepy, mentally sharper and happier.

I am truly excited by what I have accomplished so far.  I can’t wait to lose a few more pounds.  My clothes are getting too baggy and I want to go out and get some new ones.  But being a practical and thrifty person by nature I want to wait until I am at my goal weight. I think that I am beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Temptation can slow down my choo-choo train, but it can’t make it stop.

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Laura dressed as Dorothy

Laura dressed as Dorothy

Day 69

It’s challenging to control your food consumption when you live alone, as I do.  It is even more difficult when you are living  with others who have different ideas about what they want to eat.  This week I can  test my will-power in new ways.

For example: As soon as I walked in the door I noticed the white chocolate covered popcorn clusters laying on the kitchen counter. My daughter, Laura, dressed as Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, was on her way to Girls’ Halloween Costume Bunco Night. She was taking the wrapped popcorn clusters with her, but there was plenty left over.

My son-in-law, Rick, decided to go work-out at the gym, leaving me alone with those mouth-watering morsels. Not exactly dietetic! I decided to remove myself from temptation by leaving the room. When Rick returned he made turkey burgers which was a great choice for dinner, high in protein, low in calories. I would have had this with some steamed vegetables but what we had instead were potato chips with low-fat dip.

Turkey burger with salad and ketchup

Turkey burger with salad and ketchup

How did I do? (1) I made a salad for myself which I ate with my turkey burger minus the bun. (2) I tried to avoid the potato chips with dip but was not entirely successful.  I did have a small amount.  BUT. I did not pig out. I stayed aware of what of I was eating and just took as little as I could. (3) When it was time to clean up I couldn’t resist taking a few pieces of popcorn and then I watched as Rick threw the rest into the garbage. You can judge me if you want.  I give myself a C+, not great but still a passing grade.

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 After 67 days of the 20 lb struggle I’m packing it in!

I’ll be spending a week in Orlando staying with my grandchildren while my daughter and son-in-law visit San Francisco.  How will I manage in a different environment?

Look, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that a diet of peanut butter sandwiches, pizza, pasta, French fries, cheeseburgers and hot dogs is not exactly going to lead to weight loss. That’s what the kids like to eat and with their level of activity and the metabolism of small birds they can get away with it.  But, I am in an entirely different place.

Whereas my grandchildren can eat whatever and whenever they want, I have graduated to the level of mindful eating. That means I have to think about what I eat, when I eat and how I eat. Doesn’t sound like much fun does it?

It is true that mindful eating sort of takes the spontaneity out of food consumption. It doesn’t allow for those wonderfully impulsive and decadent treats like ice cream, cheesecake, chocolate cake, brownies and donuts. My grandchildren can eat tons of candy and popcorn yet they are always ready for more. If I have just one taste, I am a goner!

So I’m packing it in and taking it along. My healthier eating habits, that is. While the kids are eating their French toast slathered in pancake syrup, I will have my morning oatmeal made with skim milk. While they are at school I will have a simple sandwich of sliced turkey breast with lettuce, tomato and mustard on Weight Watcher whole wheat bread.  And when they start eating their pizza at dinner I will ignore the aroma and focus on my grilled chicken breast and steamed vegetables. That’s right. I’m taking my 20 lb struggle and my George Foreman Grill along with me.

You don’t think I can do it. Do you? I’m not so sure myself. I’ll keep you posted.

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spaghetti_squashDay 65

Have you ever heard of spaghetti squash? This stringy vegetable is often touted as a substitute for pasta. At 43 calories a cup as compared with 210 calories for real spaghetti, it would seem to be a dieter’s dream come true. So I decided to cook some and find out the truth.

If you Google “spaghetti squash” you will get a list 605,000 items. There are many instructional videos on how to prepare spaghetti squash and lots of recipes for spaghetti squash casserole. However, I had trouble finding anyone I knew that consumed it regularly. A few said they had tried it and said it was ”ok,” but no one that I talked to was a fan. I wanted to know why.

Apparently there are several different ways to cook the squash. The recipe I used suggested baking it whole in the oven at 350 degrees for about half an hour. So that’s what I did. After 30 minutes I stuck it with a skewer to test the tenderness and it seemed to need more time so I let it go another 10 minutes. Next I was supposed to cut the squash in half. OK. But it was steaming hot.  I waited a few minutes, but I had made the mistake of not giving myself enough time for food prep so I was starting to get hungry and impatient.

Using paper towels to protect my hands from the heat I held the squash down as I slit it down the middle. I scooped out the seeds and the pulpy stuff the seeds are attached to wth a spoon. Then using a fork I started scraping what was left and, voila, it actually started to create strings that sort of looked like spaghetti. My squash yielded 3 cups of this stringy stuff.

Spaghetti squash, grilled fresh turkey slices, and grilled veggies

Spaghetti squash, grilled fresh turkey slices, and grilled veggies

Now there are as many different ways to use the spaghetti squash in recipes as there are ways to use spaghetti. But I decided to taste it without doing anything further. Pretty tasteless. Texture is difficult to describe, more like  Chinese soft noodles than pasta.  I added garlic and olive oil, salt and pepper and grated parmesan cheese.  That made it taste much better, but not as good as real spaghetti would taste with the same ingredients.  

I used the spaghetti squash as a side dish with grilled vegetables and two fresh turkey slices which I cooked in my George Forman grill.

PROS: Spaghetti squash is a low-calorie, healthy alternative to pasta.

CONS: It doesn’t really taste like spaghetti, although it looks a lot like it. Because the squash is bland you have to add sauce, butter, or olive oil and other ingredients to make it tasty. This adds calories.

VERDICT: Whereas just about anybody can boil up a pot of spaghetti and make a pretty good meal out of it, spaghetti squash seems to require more advanced cooking skills. I would need to experiment with other recipes before I could recommend it. It seemed like a lot of trouble with not much pay off.  Some fresh steamed broccoli would have been a lot easier.

CONCLUSION:   It wasn’t bad. I ate it. It was “ok.”

For a very different experience with spaghetti squash check out Amy’s blog.

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Scallops & shrimp with steamed vegetables and mango salsa

What I ate: Scallops & shrimp with steamed vegetables and mango salsa

Day 63

Who says that being on a weight-loss diet means that you can’t enjoy wonderful restaurant meals? Not me! I know that eating in restaurants regularly can be challenging to my weight loss plans. But, by playing my cards right I’m hoping that I can “have my cake and eat it too.” Hmmm. I think there are too many calories in that last sentence. Let’s change it to: I’m hoping that I can “have my weight-loss and eat well too.”

Last night was girls’ theater night. We decided to have dinner at Bonefish Grill before the show. So the first thing I did was go to the internet to find the healthiest thing on the menu. Oh my!  Bonefish Grill does not publish the nutritional information of its menu items.  So I had to fly by the seat of my pants. I think I did some things right, but there is still room for improvement.

I ordered Scallops and Shrimp with steamed vegetables and mango salsa.  All low calorie, low fat choices.  BUT. I forgot to say, “No butter, please.” The food looked gorgeous and was amazingly delicious. Yet you can see from the photo that it is glistening from added fat. Next time I will not make the same mistake again.  But in the meantime. WOW! Was that good!

When we got to the theater we were in for a big surprise. We have been attending the theater regularly for the past several years and so we noticed the change right away.  It was the aroma of food as soon as we entered the lobby. Following our noses we found that the theater is now serving sandwiches and fresh baked goods. I’m talking about big, fresh gooey, chocolate chunk cookies and brownies.  I’m talking about fresh carved hot pastrami and warm turkey sandwiches on rye bread. Whatt!!! Have we all gone crazy? Well maybe not so crazy.  They seemed to be doing a very good business.  And even though we had just finished our own delectable dinners, our eyes could not help but follow each sandwich as it passed by with its scent of delicatessen.

WhatI didn't eat

What I didn't eat

At intermission I stayed glued to my seat but my friends needed to stretch their legs. They came back smelling suspiciously of chocolate.

Today is the completion of week 9 of the 20 pound struggle.  It is weigh-in day. I confess that I have relaxed, gone on auto pilot much of the time.  I’m not paying as close attention to portion control or between meal snacks. In my head I think I am doing great, but the scale doesn’t lie.

This week: NO PROGRESS. 

But I am proud to say that I have lost 13 lbs in 9 weeks. My friend, Phyllis said, “That’s like you got rid of a big sack of potatoes.”

The closer the train gets to the station, the slower it goes. Staying motivated as weight-loss slows (or pauses) is not easy. But you don’t see passengers jumping off the train impatiently when it slowly approaches their destination. And you won’t see me jumping off the 20 pound struggle.  I’ve gotten this far.  I intend to take it all the way to the finish line. No matter how long that takes.

Copyright © 2009 Maxine Schackman

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Chicken Tikka
Chicken Tikka

Day 60 of the 20 lb struggle

To get into the spirit of our book selection, The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar, the book club decides to meet at Punjab Indian Restaurant in Boca Raton. The book is about two women from different social classes living in modern Bombay (Mumbai). Like the movie, Slum Dog Millionaire, the book takes us into a world beyond the comprehension of most Americans. It also demonstrates that despite even vast differences in culture the every-day struggles of families can be quite similar.

Don’t get me wrong. I like Indian food. BUT. I associate it with rice, naan (bread), creamy sauces and fried dishes. Not exactly diet friendly. How can you meet the challenge of a weight-loss diet when you want to indulge in ethnic foods that are not only big on taste but also high in calories?

Well, you can do what I did. You can thank your lucky stars that you live in an age when any kind of information is available to you on the internet. How did people ever manage before? The first thing I did was  find a website that lists all kinds of ethnic foods by type, Italian, Indian, Greek, etc.

For each kind of ethnic restaurant it tells you which items are ok for a weight-loss diet and which are to be avoided. In the case of Indian food, the website recommended Chicken Tikka, which I learned had 155 caloris per 100 grams. 

I also went on the internet to check out the restaurant’s menu to make sure that they had Chicken Tikka on the menu.  Yes!  They did.

Yet, when it was time for me to order, I inexplicitly ordered garlic chicken instead. WHAT??? That’s right.  You can lead the horse to water but you can’t make it drink. To my credit, and in my defense, I must say that I ate carefully.  I had a little rice and no Naan, I also leftover about 1/3 of the garlic chicken, which I am proud to say I DID NOT take home to eat as a bedtime snack.

Will I pay the price? Or will I get away with it? Tune in on Saturday for my next weigh in. We’ll all find out together.

Copyright © 2009 Maxine Schackman

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