Whelp, we made it through the holidays, and though they were full of fun times and togetherness, I confess I was ready for the new year. I am more than happy for things to slow down so I can focus a little more inward. I love the holidays, I really do, but it’s been busy, and there’s always something externally to focus on–planning, cooking, shopping, list-making, and task after task that goes with the season. Honestly, I think we are all a little tired and rough around the edges, and it doesn’t seem like relief is on the horizon anytime soon. As the pandemic drags on, it’s hard not to feel disillusioned and mentally fried.
As I’ve posted before, I don’t necessarily think resolutions are a four-letter word, and this year especially, I’ve been taking a hard look about the common theme when it comes things I need to work on. This year, rather than a specific goal, like a 5k, diet, or other drastic change, I realized that a lot of things I need to work on come down to a simple question:
“Will this make me feel good?”
I know, it sounds counterintuitive toward improvement when vices are aplenty. But really, that’s what it boils down to for me. I’ve been working on an internal dialogue during the day that is helping me self-reflect when I’m making small choices, For example:
“Is all that scrolling on social media apps making you feel good? Actually, you usually end up feeling anxious or checked out, and like you’ve wasted so much time. You know what does make you feel good? Reading and knitting. Isn’t that the better choice for this bit of free time?” (I have since deleted several (not all) apps, and you would not believe how much better I feel mentally and emotionally).
“Is skipping your workout going to make you feel good? Actually, you always feel better after a workout, even a small one, and like you are letting yourself down when you don’t. Do you really want the self-disappointment voice nagging the back of your mind all day? You know the better choice here.”
“Yeah, another cocktail sounds great, but will that make you feel good? Nope, it will zap your energy and wreck your tomorrow. Water will set you up for more energy in the morning.”
“The pantry looks like the Ghostbusters just exercised a demon in it. It’s overwhelming to tackle today, but you can set a 30-minute timer and commit for that much. Doing anything will make you feel better than nothing.”
I know it sounds silly, but the simple act of consciously reminding myself that I feel soooooo much better when I am choosing even the smallest of better choices helps build momentum. For example, after tackling the Mount Everest of post-holiday laundry this week, I had a few extra minutes to spare. After looking at the pile of clean napkins, I thought, “Ya know, if I just go ahead and iron these now before I put them away, that’s one less thing to do next time we entertain.” So, I did. Small victories and all that.
It’s hard to imagine what this year will look like but working on small steps feels doable. That’s what I’m telling myself, at least. The bright side? Epiphany is tomorrow…and you know what that means? It’s Mardi Gras kick-off baby, and I foresee king cake and crawfish in my future.
So, as part of my whole spring reboot, I decided to finally check off one of those things I wanted to try but never got around to: a yoga basics class at my local studio. My experience with yoga extends only to that time I played WiiFit, despite the doctor telling me for years I needed to take it up to help my back be less of a a**hole sometimes. I bit the bullet and paid for a drop-in class, convinced that I would hit up Planet Fitness or the rowing machine afterward for a “real workout.”
So, I walked in to the class, which was full of senior citizens, sure that I was going to breeze through this basics gig and sign up for the more advanced classes on my way out.
I….WAS…WRONG. SO VERY WRONG.
By the time the hour was up, my muscles were shaking, I was sweating to an embarrassing degree, and my Fitbit told me I burned over 300 calories during what I assumed would be a glorified stretching hour. Meanwhile the experienced (and way more limber) senior citizens probably took bets on whether I would fall on my face before the class was over.
I survived…barely. Thoughts of my “real workout” went out the window as I mentally ate my humble pie and hobbled right out of there on wobbly legs. Glorified stretching, my butt. To add insult to injury, I had not had a pedicure in months, so my hobbit-like feet were on full display to further my humiliation.
However, as much as I was dyyyiiiinnnggg after the class, I keep going back. Hopefully, it will be another tool in the toolbox for rebuilding my fitness and health.
Something must be working though, because I convinced my husband to give it a try. He will be joining me tomorrow.
So, a couple months ago, I joined Weight Watchers to try and get my health pendulum to swing into a more positive direction. I had previously just been calorie counting in My Fitness Pal, but I was getting concerned that I was so focused on the calorie content of foods, I was missing the fundamentals of nutrition and turning to too many processed foods. I decided to give the new Freestyle program a try, and it’s slowly been changing the way I approach most meals (dinner still has to be a compromise for the husband and Heathens). What made me try it? Here is what is making it worth it for me…for now:
I used to just grab a ZonePerfect protein bar for breakfast. It only has 210 calories, so that’s good, right? Um, nope. WW rates this bar at a whopping 8 points, which is over 1/3 of the 23 points I’m supposed to eat a day. Not to mention, I’m starving by 10 and sugar-crashing. However, most fruits have 0 points, as do eggs, which means I could eat a larger portion of something that is better for me, and not a processed, added-sugar cocktail.
Lunch was typically a Lean Cuisine. Convenient, and low-calories, right? Um, no again. The Chicken Alfredo meal clocks in at 8 points (man, that protein bar is really looking evil now). The portion is tiny, and I’m starving by 2. However, I can now craft one of my wraps below, piling on chicken and spinach, and come away with a 3 point meal with fruit or veggies to fill in any cracks.
Dinner, like I said, is a compromise. I try to make a couple of healthier meals, and air-fry extra veggies for me on the less than ideal meals. However, just running the meal through WW to see points helps me adjust my portion back into sane levels.
Overall, I was skeptical that WW had any value for me, because the food equation seemed straightforward. However, I fell into the trap of a calories-in-versus-calories-out approach to fitness. Now, I am more thoughtful about the underlying value of what my food choices have, and I can say that I can feel the difference. While I still have some processed ingredients, it’s way better than it was.
So, there’s the explanation as to why you will occasionally see me share a few meal ideas for WW peeps. Now, onto my 3 SP lunch this week. Just remember not to overfill if you want to be able to actually wrap them:
2 TBS Hidden Valley Greek Yogurt Ranch Dressing, divided)
Fresh baby spinach leaves (as much as you want)
Cooked boneless, skinless chicken breast, shredded (as much as you want to try and fit in there)
1 ounce fat free feta cheese
1 tsp. real bacon bits
Place wrap on a plate and spread with 1 TBS of the ranch dressing. Add spinach and top with cooked chicken. Top chicken with the remaining ranch, then sprinkle with feta and bacon bits, wrap burrito style, and enjoy!
Additionally, I also make a BBQ variation that comes in at only 2 SP! Same concept, just swap the ranch for Stubbs BBQ sauce and the feta for fat free cheddar:
P.S. I cook chicken breasts in the Instant Pot on Sundays, shred them, and store them in the fridge, so I have the chicken ready on-hand.
**Disclaimer as usual. Weight Watchers doesn’t know me, my blog is not monetized or sponsored, and nobody gives me free crap or anything like that. Oprah is cool, but she doesn’t know me either. I just want to pass along stuff I like someone might like too**
Oh y’all…..The Instant Pot suckered me in, and as such, I somehow convinced myself that if the IP was that cool, surely the air fryers everyone was talking about would be a good investment. After Christmas, I finally caved and bought one, and after playing with it for a week, I’m ready to tell ya what I think of these doo-dads. To clarify, I wanted a way to still give my family agreeable foods that also err on the healthier side. I am trying to get back on my wellness goals, and I figured that, if this thing worked, it would be worth the investment.
The above picture shows the air fryer I bought, but with so many brands and sizes, I encourage you to do your research, because these things can range from $70 to $300 bucks.
Here’s a basic rundown on my pros and cons:
Appliance size. These are fairly large, but I have room in a cabinet to store it. If you are limited on space and don’t want this thing sitting on your counter, consider storage options before you buy. The only appliances I let sit out are my husband’s coffee maker, Cuisinart food processer, and my professional KitchenAid mixer. The space footprint on this model is about that of an average stockpot/Dutch oven to give you a reference.
Small cooking volume. With a family of five, three of which are hungry men, the cooking capacity of mine is on the small size (I think 4.2 quarts is what this is). When I do use it, I have to cook in batches if I’m cooking for all of us. You can’t crowd it too much or you won’t get the desired result. However, for smaller families or couples, this would work. I don’t mind doing batch cooking on some things, but if I could go back, I would invest in the largest capacity I could find. So, understand the size of your prospective model, and go big if you can.
It has limitations, and if you are one of those people who thinks the IP should be able to cook alllllll the things at once like a magician, you might need to adjust your expectations. This is not a substitute for deep-fryer perfection results (especially for super-wet stuff), but with some exceptions, you can get good results for many things. You have to use some cooking commonsense when it comes to managing your expectations.
It works! (assuming you managed those expectations) When used correctly, I’ve been able to achieve results 100 times better than “oven” frying. While I would not make my Mom’s fried chicken in this thing, I am able to achieve crispy foods with great texture depending on the recipe.
I’m able to use just a few pumps of olive oil spray, so definitely calorie savings all around, which is exactly what I hoped.
It’s fast to preheat and cook. I think there is a learning curve to these if you aren’t on confident cook. That’s ok, though. You can check the food as you cook, without much disruption to the process.
Superior performance, taste, and texture when it comes to frozen fries and snacks when compared to oven baking. Additionally, my own experiments produced good results.
So, the first time I used it, I made the Pickle-Brined Chicken Tenders from the Skinny Taste website. I didn’t get a picture, but I prepared the recipe as directed and sprayed them with a few pumps of Pam olive oil spray. They were delicious, crispy, and perfectly acceptable to both me and the kids. That will definitely make it into the rotation. Next, I tossed in half a bag of Alexa sweet potato fries:
I sprayed them with a few pumps of the olive oil spray, cooked them at 390 for 8 minutes, gave the basket a good shake, and cooked for about 5-6 more minutes. The result was perfect for my taste, and I ate the whole plate (then promptly ran out and bought more).
Next, I didn’t get a pic, but I cooked a bag of frozen Crab Rangoon, which also turned out well as far as texture and time, which has me already scheming for Super Bowl possibilities. Additionally, I have teenage boys and the prospect of making mozzarella sticks or other snacks fast and with good results makes me happy.
Finally, I decided to test Brussels Sprouts. I just halved them, added few sprays of olive oil, salt, then 8 minutes on 360. I gave the basket a good shake to toss, then cooked 3 more minutes:
So, final thoughts. This thing definitely was worth the investment, but I also knew what I was getting into based on my research. I am already thinking about Asian hot wings, roasted sweet potatoes, and many more experiments on the horizon. I also think this will give me options to prepare for myself faster and lighter portions of traditional dinners that are for the hubs and the Heathens. Overall, though the size of my model is the biggest con, I am happy I bought an air fryer.
**Remember, my opinions and reviews are all my own. No one solicited me or gave me free stuff, because I’m just not that cool, y’all. There are no affiliate links on my blog, and if you see an ad, that comes from WordPress, not me, because my blog is from their free-hosting plan.**
I’m baaaacck. When I ended my summer, I never had any idea how far my fall would go off the rails. I could give you the gory play by play, but let’s cut to the chase: the Hubs woke up one day in pain, this carried on for weeks, he lost the use of an arm, had a spinal surgery, then had another surgery when that first one failed epically. So, in sum, the Hubs was out of commission for a long, long time, he scared me to death, and I am still waiting on my free pass to throw a toddler-like tantrum as a result. Not really……..but maybe. Good news is that this last scalpel party seems to be successful. He’s recovering by bits and pieces, and I managed not to lose my s—t along the way.
In the meantime, I’ve been knitting, cooking, crafting, and cooking some more. But more than that, I’ve been embracing those small moments with the people I love most. The past few years seem to have been fits and starts of both feelings and voices. Grief is really hard to process when what you hear it in your head is a scream, but everyone around you hears it as a whisper.
Waaaayyy back in the day, I decided to get less fat, and after about a year of hard work, I was rocking jeans I hadn’t worn since early high school. I was proud, and life was great. But then, I got pregnant with Bean. And then I decided to work from home as a freelance writer. And then I moved. And then…well, you get the idea. I’ve tried to reboot my level-headed, not-too-difficult diet/fitness efforts along the way, even going so far as to be able to run 5K on the treadmill without wanting to kill myself, but I’ve always fallen short of sticking with it the way I used to. Running everyday is kind of pointless if you are just going to replace those calories with whiskey, wine, and any food that holds still long enough for you to eat it.
So, after much reflection, I realized it’s time to get back on track. My pants are getting a little too snug after a month of eating out and drinking like a fish. I’m re-introducing my sloth-like body to the concept of exercise (hopefully in a way that won’t send it whimpering in defeat), and making smarter choices, even if they are small ones. Last night, instead of partaking in the “pizza” aspect of our Steakhouse Pizza, I grilled my portion of steak and then got creative:
I tossed some cherry tomatoes with a tablespoon of olive oil, a tablespoon of red wine vinegar, and a teaspoon of honey. I added a little salt and pepper and roasted these bad boys at 400 degrees for about 40 minutes. Here’s what I got:
Sweet, savory, with a hint of carmelization, thus proving that my success with introducing more veggies or savory fruits increases when the foods in question are roasted. This was a nice little side dish to my steak that was so flavorful and filling, I didn’t miss the crust/cheese one bit (ok, maybe a little bit, but not as much as I feared).
As I was eating, however, I had to remind myself that dumping these over cheese grits would probably defeat the “healthier eating” purpose.
But, if that’s your thing, can I at least smell your breath?
I have been living with the rude awakening that, no matter how fit you WERE, taking a 9-month hiatus from exercise means that you basically start back at square one. When I am not hobbling around like a cartoon character, I’m doing whatever bizarre stretches I can think of to alleviate soreness. The treadmill laughs at me, and I curse it with every step. And Bean cares not. All she cares about is conquering the Little People village and what’s for lunch. In the meantime, we have science fair projects to do and school competitions to prepare for. You know what that means?
Happy New Year! The weather may be craptastic outside, but we are enjoying a cozy day off from the post-holiday bustle. The above photo has absolutely nothing to do with this post. I just had to show of Bean’s awesomely obscene holiday bow. Anyway, back to our regularly scheduled programming…
As I do every year, I spent yesterday thinking about my goals for the upcoming year, because for me, “resolution” is not necessarily a four letter word. At the top of my list is getting back to the healthy lifestyle I had pre-baby. When I got on the scale this morning, I was pleasantly surprised that I’m only about 20-25 pounds off my goal weight, and coming from the girl who dropped 60 pounds last time, that seems pretty do-able to me. However, it’s not just about the numbers on the scale, or the fact that I miss my skinny jeans desperately. Right now, I have the activity level of a sloth, and my energy level is in the toilet. Blaming Bean and sleep deprivation is easy, but if we’re being honest, my abysmal food choices and total lack of physical activity are the true culprit. I miss having the bounce in my step that comes from a halfway decent diet and a modicum of exercise. So, just like last time, I’m starting small, because drastic changes only set people up for failure. My goals for the next two weeks are to add an extra helping of veggies to my dinner plate, cut down my ridiculous diet coke consumption and add 30 minutes of activity a day, even if it’s just playing Wii Fit with the Heathens. If I can keep that up for two weeks, we’ll add another goal from there.
As for the Heathens, my husband and I drafted a new set of rules, but more importantly, defined a set of consequences. As they get older (and mouthier), we occasionally have to revamp their expectations . I’ve noticed that, over the past few months, I’ve turned into a mom who spends a whole lot of time threatening my misbehaving kids, but rarely following through with consistent punishments. Predictably, they have ceased to take me seriously as MOM (aka master and commander), and respect for my authority is absent. We had a family meeting, laid down the law and they have been put on notice. If I hadn’t already be crowned “Meanest Mom Ever,” I’m sure I will be by the end of this week.
We didn’t even make it through the first two weeks of school, and both of the Heathens are already sick. Much to my dismay, they woke up yesterday with fever and a case of the sniffles. Oh joy. Even the fact that they looked and felt like death warmed over could not erase the glee in their eyes when Dad proclaimed them too sick to go to school.
You want to know a secret? I don’t think schools should be allowed to give “perfect attendance” awards. I know truancy is a problem, but I seriously doubt that the prospect of an attendance award will motivate truants to change their absentee ways. School awards should be about rewarding behavior that is within a child’s control, like grades, conduct or school service. Whether or not a kid gets sick is certainly not within his or her control. And, last time I checked, most schools even have sick policies that require parents to keep their kids home in cases of fever, vomiting, or other clearly contagious illnesses. This means that, even if a sick child had a burning urge to work toward said award, they still couldn’t tough it out in the classroom with their 103 degree fever.
What message is there in a perfect attendance award? “Hey, lucky duck, you scored in the germ lottery?” Better yet, what message are we sending to the kids who don’t get the award? “Sorry kiddo, but you came up short by contracting that swine flu…better luck next semester?” I can tell you from experience, when a kid in the Heathens’ class accepts a perfect attendance award at the honor assembly, all the other moms are muttering under their breath, “so that’s who keeps getting everyone sick!” They all know who the class Petri dishes are.
In the meantime, I’m happy to keep my germy little Heathens home until they are well…even if it means they’ll miss out on the most pointless award ever. I’ll just make up something even more pointless. Something that at least has a modicum of productivity behind it.
I think “Best Baseboard Duster” sounds pretty good to me.
If you’ve ever read this blog in any capacity, then you probably know I’m not one to comment on news, politics or any other socially charged topic. Why? Because most of the time, I’m not cool enough or informed enough to broadcast an opinion of any significance into the chum-filled waters of internet debate.
However, after reading yet another attack on a post-partum celebrity, one who didn’t magically lose the baby weight within four weeks, I have something to say.
For weeks, a certain notorious celebrity has been dogged by the media about her pregnancy weight, her baby’s birth weight, and then her post-baby weight. In fact, we might as well call it “WEIGHT WATCH 2012,” because pictures of her are feverishly published and scrutinized, using horribly sarcastic phrases like “she poured her curves into her workout clothes.”
“Poured?” Seriously, ya’ll? Every article I’ve seen in recent weeks has something to say about her weight, chest size, or baby, and every word is a thinly-veiled jab at her for daring to be a normal, post-partum mom who may have better things to do than miss her baby’s precious milestones for hours in the gym.
As a mom who is currently struggling with my own post-partum body, I know full well the roller coaster of emotions that come in the first three months after giving birth. We may be filled with all that new-baby joy, but we also must deal with the staggering realization that your body doesn’t magically shrink back down to size the instant the baby comes out. We live in a society where baby weight is cute when you are pregnant, but becomes instantly pathetic about a week after you give birth. What new mom hasn’t felt that crushing blow when the well-intention person at the supermarket asks you when you are due, despite the fact that you have a clearly fresh infant in tow? It doesn’t help when we see highly publicized tales of those genetically blessed celebrities, rocking the catwalk in a bikini less than two months after giving birth. Their perfectly smooth tummies send the impression that everyone would bounce back that fast if we were just disciplined enough, motivated enough, or just plain awesome enough. With nary a stretch mark in sight, these lovely women represent a best case scenario that is out of reach for most moms. Too bad the media didn’t get the memo that maybe, just maybe, that’s not reality for the other 99% of women.
I gained a lot of weight during all my pregnancies. With the first two, it never really came off…but I really never tried to make it come off with any degree of commitment. However, once my youngest was nearing school-age, I did finally decide to get less fat. I had no magic diet or expensive gym membership. I just watched what I put in my mouth, and worked out with nothing more than my kids’ Wii and the streets around my house. It took nearly nine months, but I lost 60 pounds, and wore jeans I hadn’t donned since middle school. It was amazing, and glorious, and I managed to keep the weight off for two years. However, even with the weight gone, my poor body was a scarred landscape of stretch marks, surgical scars, and the inevitable skin “pooch” that many c-section moms can’t shake without a visit to the plastic surgeon. Even skinny me would not dare a bikini, because my abdomen looked like Freddy Krueger had a go at it.
Having conquered my weight once, I figured that my post-partum weight loss this time would be a breeze. I had done it before, I could do it again. I had the knowledge and the experience, so I fully expected to be back in my skinny jeans by now.
When I lost the weight last time, I had one child in school, another was nearing school-age, and I worked out over an hour a day every day. I did a workout program during Bear’s afternoon nap, and went jogging in the evenings when my husband came home from work. My kids were on a predictable schedule and fairly easy to manage, so carving out an hour a day was no great task.
It’s taken me several weeks to realize that losing the weight again is not going to be so quick this time. First, I am a nursing mom, and while I can eat better and make smarter choices, my caloric intake can’t take a nosedive without compromising both my and Bean’s overall health. Furthermore, Bean is a high-maintenance infant, so free time is thin on the ground right now. When or if she does nap, I have things like laundry, cooking, and two other kids that require my immediate attention. When it comes to jogging, leaving my husband with two self-contained kids was a piece of cake. Asking him to manage those two kids plus an infant, all after having worked all day at his own high-stress job, is asking a lot. Even when I do, exhaustion from lack of sleep means I would rather lie down than strap on my Nikes and brave the 100 degree heat (don’t even mention a gym…we are flat broke and childcare for workouts is out of the question). Don’t get me wrong, my husband is the most helpful, supportive person in the world, but after a long day, I’d rather have help with the dishes, kids or the current poop-apocalypse. Mostly, I just want to bathe without interruption.
I know that eventually, I WILL be in the position to rock my skinny jeans again. But, it’s just going to take time. A year from now, will I regret that I didn’t get my full hour of workouts in a day? No. Because I’ll be too busy NOT regretting the fact that I didn’t miss basking in Bean’s smiles, milestones, fresh baby smell, and first-year magic. In the meantime, I’ll eat the best I can without starving myself or Bean, workout when I can, and try not to let insecurity about body image ruin the most incredible time of my child’s life.
So, as much as I avoid social commentary on this blog, I want to say that the perverse expectation the media puts on new celebrity moms is awful, disgusting and pathetic. Even if they have the expendable income for gyms, personal trainers and nannies, they are not obligated to melt the baby weight away at super-human speed, just because a gossip column says so. God forbid they focus their energy on bonding as a family, becoming a good parent, or getting some much needed rest. In fact, for every media outlet that publishes an analysis of that certain celebrity’s baby weight, I say we take a scale to their office, and make EACH AND EVERY staff member weigh in on a live, streaming internet feed for the entire world to see. When all is said and done, I bet we would be able to say, “She just had a baby…what’s your excuse a$$hole?”