Monday, December 12, 2011

Once Every 7 Seconds

No. I'm not talking about how the classic reference to how often men think about sex. It isn't nearly as much fun as that. What I'm talking about is the frequency with which it seems I think about food. It would appear so far that by finally owning the "emotional" component to my eating, I'm now going to be faced with ALL of my food issues. This should be a fun winter.

Admittedly, there are times where my thoughts of food are much more infrequent - but right now, it is too damn often! I didn't really realize how much time I devoted to food. By the time you factor in: making my grocery list, shopping, thinking about what to have for my next meal, talking myself out of whatever it is I want for my next meal, bargaining with myself to get to have at least part of what I originally wanted, calculating the caloric/fat/sodium damage that will do to my daily allowance, tracking what I'm eating, preparing what I'm going to eat, and actually eating - it's like 23 hours a day! A slight exaggeration, but you get what I mean.

this is funny because it's true
This is a problem. But how do I shut it off? It's like people that smoke or drink. I now understand how much time they probably dedicate to figuring out how to get more of what they're addicted to into their system. If guys really do spend that much time thinking about sex, how the hell do they actually get anything done...wait....I think that explains some things. =)

I knew I had a food does not develop this smokin' physique without staying on task - but I didn't really realize how often I think about it. I was washing my car on Sunday. I wasn't hungry in the least. But I found myself thinking about Cheetos. And then rationalizing how I deserved to have them - - I was burning calories washing my car (like 12 of them) - so I deserved a treat (a "single serving" bag is probably like 400-500 calories). That math doesn't quite work out. But even more disturbing was stopping and thinking about how often I could recall thinking about food that day. That's not even counting the times I had forgotten about. And don't worry - I wasn't going to get my freshly cleaned car dirty by going to get chips!

I think it's better when I'm at work. I have my lunch there, so I know what I'm having. It's now freezing and winter, so cost/benefit analysis is too weighted in the cost column to actually leave work to get anything. So work days are a piece of cake - right? Wrong. Today someone brought in doughnuts. And a vendor brought in an entire bag of mini-candy bars. Guess what entered my mind...frequently...all afternoon? It is so damn annoying!!

The good news is that so far I've been able to control far. It helps that I'm not actually "hungry" because I'm actually planning out my calories for the day, and spreading them out. But I'm like a little kid. Tell me I can't (or shouldn't) have something, and it's all I can think about! I'm going to try and continue to be strong, and not waste entire days focusing on food. And if that doesn't work, I'll look into the return of the labotomy.

On a sad note, I just heard from my sister that they had to put her dog to sleep. I am not a total lover of animals, but I did love Reg. He was the best 80 pound lap dog, ever. He was a good boy, and was just so damn happy to see you every time you walked in.
I'm just hoping that he's somewhere running really fast, because he loved it - and always looked like he was smiling when he did it. I'll try to smile through my next workout in his honor.
RIP Reginald Martin

Saturday, December 10, 2011

"I get so emotional, baby..." -Whitney Houston

I'm guessing it will come as no surprise to you that I've been less-than-on-my-game, lately. The biggest hint may be my complete absence from writing this blog. It's not that I don't think of topics, or feel like I have anything to say. It's because I don't want to be a depressing downer. And I feel like that is exactly what my entries would be. Downers.

I made an agreement with myself when I started this blog that I would be honest. Through the good, the bad, the ugly, the stretch marks, the entertaining, the depressing, the chaffing....I'd be honest about what I wrote about. And I want to stick to that commitment. But for the last few months, I haven't felt like I've had a lot of wins - so I didn't think any of it was worth sharing. But a few days ago it finally dawned on me. All of that "life" crap that I was sure had nothing to do with my attempts at getting health, are right smack dab in the middle of the issue.

Hi. My name is Natalie, and I'm an emotional eater.

There. I've finally said it. I finally SEE it. I never really realized just how much what's going on in my life affects - both positively and negatively - my ability to focus on getting healthy. And getting healthy - for me at least - requires focus. Getting health is a thousand different choices and thoughts a day. And for the past few (5) months, I haven't been making good ones for myself. I've come to the painful realization that my whole goal of "getting healthy" isn't as limited (eating and exercise) as I'd originally thought. It also includes money and family and friends and bills and contentment and self-esteem and time and self-worth - and all the stress that bag of crap produces. I made my own flow-chart to demonstrate my discoveries, but it wouldn't open on my computer. (for anyone that knows about my limited skills with graphics, you'll know what a loss this is that mine can't be used =)) Luckily, I was able to locate the one below. It sums up beautifully what it appears to have taken me 36.67 years to finally understand.

And the last 5 months have been a minefield of triggers, and I've been earning a solid F- for my ability to deal with them in a healthy manner. The stress causers: looking for a job/looking for an apartment/adjusting to my new expenses/unexpected bills/my car breaking down. And what is stress? A damn emotion. Some people respond to stress by "forgetting to eat". I, on the other hand, only want to eat crap. And although the "crap" has changed because of my new budget - and I can't afford to eat fast food constantly - the truth of the matter is that junk food is cheaper than veggies. And the other truth: it tastes better. But what you can't see when you're in the middle of this emotional eating frenzy, is that you're just causing more of the same problem. Eating crap, when what you really want to do is become a more healthy person, just causes more....are you with me people...have any guesses??  Negative emotions.

Stress/sadness/loneliness/etc --> making poor eating choices --> sitting on my couch when I should be working out --> guilt (EMOTION) over not working out --> more unhealthy choices --> back to the beginning.

Looking back on it, it is so damn clear. But at the time....I couldn't see that. Or more likely - I wasn't willing to admit it. Truth bomb: this never-ending emotional eating circle doesn't give a shit if you're stressing about money, or family, or friends, or relationships - it's just glad you're focused on something else, to keep you on the loop.

So now that I see it (finally) - what am I going to do about it?

I'm going to start with my finances. I have been so focused on not digging myself back into the financial hole I was in through the spring of 2010, that I don't really allow myself to see the whole picture. Looking around, I'm not really spending money on unnecessary things - but instead of justifying that I can get a bag of chips for $1.19, I need to put that toward healthier choices. I've had a few sites forwarded to me with cheap/healthy options, and I'll be studying them intently. This is also good for you guys - because I'll send links to delicious things. Although I don't go out much now - I will be doing even less of it in the future. Probably not a really negative, since when I'm stress to the hilt, I'm no treasure to have around anyway. Also - winter is a time of hibernation for me, so I'm more than OK with this decision. Hopefully my friends will like me a little better when I return to the scene - hopefully a little more stress-free and a little healthier. My family has to love me anyway...right?

Next up: Food. Cooking healthy meals (other than Baked Ziti...because let's face it - you can only have that for so long before you completely lose interest. Variety is the spice of life, right?) on the weekends, so I have lunches and dinners (and no excuses) for the upcoming week. There is so much information available these days, I really have no damn excuse to just do it - - and I know I'll have the time! And I'm off booze. The last time I remember feeling fully in control of my life, I wasn't cocktailing. And drinking at your house, by yourself, isn't probably a great thing for a person with a dependent personality to do.

Finally: Exercise. So much easier to do when I'm eating well. And I honestly don't hate exercise - it just seems like time I don't have when I'm busy spending every spare second in my own head worrying about things I don't really have any control of anyway. I'm going to focus on cardio - for which there are machines right here in my building. And then strength exercises I can do right in my own apartment. I have this great nautilus machine - it's called my own ass! I have enough body weight to provide plenty of resistance for a while. Who knows - maybe one day I'll be able to hold a plank for more than .5 seconds, and do a real push-up? Maybe. Once I get that financial piece sorted out, I'll get myself into a cheaper gym and a weight routine. If anyone wants to come visit with me on the treadmills, there's room! Let me know when you want to schedule our first gym-date!

That's my plan. Or at least what I think will help ease some of the emotional burden that's currently causing me to be disgusted with myself. I know I can do so much better than I have been, and I also see that I'm lucky. I finally realized what I was doing before I gained all of the weight back that I'd lost. Yes - I gained about 15 pounds back - - and I'm not particularly happy about that - - but I caught it. I didn't allow myself to gain 140 pounds, again. And honestly - I feel like I need to cut myself some damn slack! I think you have to do that sometimes, or you're guaranteed to fail - and turn right back into the financially destroyed fatty that you most fear!

So there it is. The truth about where I've been. The hope for where I'm going. Thank you for reading my nonsensical ramblings. Thank you for supporting me. Thank you for being there. I appreciate all of you, and I'll show you that by being better. Being better for myself, and for you guys.

Do you have any budget-friendly meal tips or sites? PLEASE share them! I can't imagine I'm the only one that would benefit!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Baked Ziti - - 8 servings of delicious

I've shared a couple of times on my blog that I am absolutely in love with the Biggest Loser Baked Ziti. It is easy enough for me to make, but tasty enough to make me feel like I'm having a treat. It makes 8 servings (and who doesn't love one session of cooking, and eight meals?!?!) and the best part....dun, dun, dun....I actually like the leftovers! I don't typically do too well with warmed up food - so anything I find that is good out of the microwave is a total victory.

So let me get on with it. Below is the recipe from their book. I also add a 20oz package of ground turkey to this - - it adds some protein, and allows my brain to rationalize that it is even better for me because of it. =) They also get pretty specific about what types of cookware to use - - listen to them! I made this in a non-non-stick pan one time, and it tasted really metal-y. It isn't great. So listen. Surprisingly, they know more about this type of stuff than I do.

First you need to make the "Main Event Marinara Sauce". All of this will be used in the ziti.

Olive Oil Spray
1 cup minced yellow or white onion
2 T freshly minced garlic
1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup water
2 T no-salt-added tomato paste
2 t honey
1 T dried oregano
1 t dried basil
1/2 t crushed red pepper flakes
salt, to taste (optional)
20 oz package ground turkey

Spray a medium nonstick saucepan with the olive oil spray and place over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook until just becoming tender (they should not brown), 4 to 6 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and with a wooden spoon stir in the tomatoes, water, tomato paste, honey, oregano, basil and pepper flakes until well combined. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for at least 1 hour. Season with salt, if needed.

**Notes from Natalie: I don't add any salt. Also, I brown up the turkey, and add that to the sauce after about 1/2 hour. Then I simmer it all together for 30-45 minutes. And do you see what I mean about the specific cookware!?!? I thought they were full of it.

Now for the Ziti!!

Olive Oil Spray
1 (14.5 oz) box fiber-enriched ziti or penne rigate (I use Ronzoni Smart Taste - and I prefer the ziti to the penne)
1 (15 oz) container fat free ricotta cheese
2 large egg whites
8 ounces (4 cups) finely shredded reduced-fat mozzerella cheese (you may notice - as I did - that their quantities don't add up here. I use 16 ounces - 4 cups. It still isn't that much....)
1/4 t garlic powder
salt, to taste
ground black pepper, to taste
crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
Main Event Marinara Sauce (see above)
2 T grated reduced-fat parmesan cheese


Preheat the oven to 450degrees F. Lightly mist a 13"x9"x2" ceramic or glass baking dish with olive oil spray.

Cook the ziti according to package directions until al dente. Drain. (I do this while the sauce is simmering)

In a large mixing bowl, mix the ricotta, egg whites and all but 1 cup of the mozzerella until well combined. (see - - only using 2 cups here wouldn't make any sense. And I love cheese) Add the garlic powder and season with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Stir in the cooked pasta until well combined. (I don't add salt, and I think it's just delish...)

Spread 1 cup (I use slightly more b/c of the turkey) of the marinara sauce on the bottom of the prepared dish. Add half of the pasta in an even layer over the sauce. Top the pasta evenly with another 1 cup sauce. Layer the remaining pasta over the sauce. Spoon the remaining 1.5 cups of sauce evenly over the top of the pasta, then sprinkle the remaining mozzerella and the Parmesan over the top.

Cover the dish with aluminum foil (I spray the bottom side of the foil w/ cooking spray, so the cheese doesn't stick) and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake 10 minutes longer, or until the mozzerella is melted. Let stand 5 minutes. Cut into 8 pieces, or spoon among 8 bowls and serve.

Here's the nutrition info (w/o the turkey) per serving:
350 calories, 22 g protein, 57 g carbs, 6 g fat (3 g saturated), 20 mg cholesterol, 8 g fiber, 429 mg sodium

OK you guys! I hope you love it. And when you try it, you need to tell me how it was. And if you come up with any health upgrades, please share!