Wednesday, February 29, 2012

February Foodzie Box

I'm late to the February Foodzie box post this month, but fortunately, this year I had one extra day in February!

I got the Cooking Box (Valentine's Day Date Night In themed) again this month, but it wasn't actually my first choice. I really wanted the Movie Night box but due to a Sarah-based error, I got the Cooking Box. Oh well!

In the box this month:
I'm not generally a huge fan of pasta. I rarely ever eat it. However I loved the little mohawk shape and the pretty combination of colors enough to give this pasta a whirl. I made it into a pasta salad with a warm bacon vinaigrette, topped with a sunny side up egg and crumbled bacon. When I do cook my pasta, I prefer it al dente and this had a good amount of chew to it cooked that way. I was a little disappointed though to see my pasta shapes falling apart. The mohawks fell off (!) leaving me with a boring standard pasta shapes and many of them split in half. Fortunately, I'm just a home cook so presentation doesn't matter to me. It was tasty and that's all that matters.

I used a pinch of sea salt on my pasta salad and enjoyed the salty crunch provided. It was good but I'm not quite sure I understand how it's "hand crafted" salt. Do they mean hand harvested or did they take a bunch of sea water and allow it to evaporate so they could bottle it? Either way, salt isn't exactly "crafted" since it occurs naturally.

I have not yet tried this vinaigrette. Given that I do enjoy figs and I think the red wine based vinaigrettes are the best, I'm sure it will be tasty.

I really like the cute alien and the snippet on the front. The pecans are tasty too.

This chocolate bar was actually a red wine caramel filled chocolate bar. The chocolate? Great. The caramel? Um, I'd just like to keep the booze out of my sweets, thanks!

Which item from the Foodzie box this month looks the most enticing to you?

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

My New Favorite Toy: Striiv

Every year, my company runs a wellness competition where you can join a team and compete in three categories: steps, weight loss and exercise minutes. For the last three years, I've headed a team, diligently logged my steps and minutes and harassed my teammates into doing the same.

The first two years the challenge provided pedometers but I wanted nothing to do with them. They were extremely cheap quality; they made funny ticking noises as I walked. Since I hate walking around with change in my pocket, this noisy pedometer definitely wasn't going to cut it. Enter my first pedometer, the Omron HJ-112. If you're looking for just a pedometer, this model is the best you can get for $21. This one served me well until one hot summer run. My shorts didn't have a pocket, so like every other woman, I stuck it in my sports bra. Did I mention it was summer and that I sweat like a fiend? I think you can put two and two together.

This year, one of my teammates has a Fitbit which tempted me into thinking about a fancier pedometer. I went straight to Amazon and punched in Fitbit. The first entry I saw was not, in fact, the Fitbit. It was this:
Immediately interested due to the cute lemur face on the display, I clicked through and started reading. The Striiv boasts achievements, challenges and a mini-game.

A mini-game? Achievements? Was this pedometer made with my OCD gaming tendencies in mind? I had to have it. It was the Monday before my birthday so I immediately sent the link to my Mom and said that was what I wanted for my birthday.

Now that I've had my Striiv for 10 days, it's time to share my findings!

The Basics
It's roughly the same size as my old pedometer. It fits comfortably into my pocket and comes with a clip for the times when I don't have a pocket to place it. It has a touch screen which nicely responsive, but I imagine that it would be a bit more difficult if you had larger fingers. It tracks five basic categories: steps, equivalent stairs, miles, calories and minutes. You earn arbitrary energy units by simply moving, though I haven't yet discerned the basic energy earning formula. Completing challenges and achievements earns you even more arbitrary energy units.

There are several achievements. Some reset daily and others are cumulative (weekly or all-time). Here's a small sampling just to give you an idea.
  • Morning Glory: Walk 500 steps today
  • Golden Gate Bridge:  Go 1.7 miles today
  • Burn A Cupcake: 420 calories burned today
  • Complete a marathon: 26.2 miles this week

The challenges range from easy, to medium and hard. Most of them are get x steps in y time. They'll occasionally pop up when you unlock the touch screen to take a look at something, which I like. Sometimes I turn it on and I get the challenge of "Walk 400 steps in 15 minutes" which makes me decide that it's time to get up from my desk and take a walk.

I'll be the first to admit, the mini-game is pretty silly. That's not going to stop me from wanting to accumulate little animals, flowers and buildings for my virtual island. You buy the buildings with the arbitrary energy units that I mentioned up in the basics section, and build them using the energy also. Some of the more expensive buildings take more than one day's worth of effort, which motivates me to keep up my average amount of daily steps. Plus, you can click on the lemurs and make them dance, I consider that a win.

The other cool thing about the Striiv is that you can select a charity to log your steps toward. There are three to choose from - providing clean water to families in South America, polio vaccines, and help save the rain forest. Each time you reach the set donation amount, you can plug into the computer, upload your donation and from there Striiv's corporate partners will donate to your chosen charity on your behalf.

Other observations
It gets confused by hills and counts them as stairs. I don't think I would have noticed this except that each time I wear it for a hill sprints workout, my stair count goes through the roof and I get all the stair-related achievements. Honestly, sprinting up a hill and running up some stairs are both taxing so I don't care that it confuses the two.

The Striiv also keeps a log of all your activities and provides you with graphs and metrics (i.e. averages and personal bests).

It behooves me to mention that the Striiv also doesn't require batteries; it charges via USB cable. Thank goodness because I get really sick of buying the 2026 style batteries. Those things cost a pretty penny!

For $99, I think this has to be one of most enjoyable pedometer tools out there. Poking lemurs, donating to charity and earning achievements, what else could a nerd like me ask for?

Do you use the Fitbit, Bodybugg or any other fitness tracking tool? What do you think of it?

Monday, February 27, 2012

Every 6 months or so...

I decide it's time for a hair cut, which usually leads to me stopping at WH|BM.

My very first pair of racing flats arrived this weekend also. Eric thinks they're hideous but I love them.

How was your weekend?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


I've been feeling less than enthusiastic about the blog lately, so I've decided to take a week long hiatus. I'll be back with you all starting next Monday.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Eating too little?

Over the course of the last few months, I must admit, I had turned into a ravening squirrel beast. My evening eating habits were bordering on out of control.

Peanut butter straight out of the container with a spoon? Don't mind if I do!

One extra package of granola bars? *nom*

It had gotten pretty bad.

I was starting to worry that I might not get it under control, when one day I came across a post in the CalorieKing forums. The post talked about how to add back calories for maintenance and asked other maintainers how many calories they consume on a daily basis. I was startled, shocked even, to find out that several of the newer maintainers were only eating between 1400-1600 gross calories a day. Many don't even eat their exercise calories back.

I've read the small amounts of research done on long-term weight loss maintainers which indicates that our hunger hormones don't function quite correctly and that perhaps our bodies really do need less calories than a person who has never been overweight. But I take every study I read with a grain of salt, most especially research on populations that haven't been thoroughly studied. I believe long-term weight loss maintainers are just that kind of population.

My initial reaction to the numbers I was seeing was that that could not possibly be enough calories to maintain a healthy amount of lean mass. Nearly every bit of sports nutrition literature I've read indicates that an athlete, even a recreational one such as myself, needs to eat at least 2000 kcal a day to properly rebuild lean mass. At a net of 1650 kcal a day, I realized was not eating nearly enough for my activity level. I'm sure that this is clearly obvious to someone who doesn't live in my head.

I was keeping myself at a low level of calories because I was (and still am) afraid. The fear of eating too much isn't an easy fear to shed when you spent eight years of your life being the fat girl. Everywhere you turn people are spouting the overly simplified statement of "eat less, weigh less." It's almost counter intuitive to increase calorie intake to see a downward trend in body fat percentage, but that's what I've been doing for the last two weeks. I gave up on logging with Calorie King because I found Cronometer after reading one of Lisa's posts a while back. It's allowing me to track all my vitamins and minerals in addition to the standard macronutrients.

How's the increased intake been going so far? The results have been heartening. My evening ravening squirrel beast episodes have ceased, I've felt stronger in my workouts and I'm feeling tighter and more muscular all over. I'm thinking that this will help me get the nutrition half of the equation down solidly for my 10K goal in June.

Do you struggle with trying to find your calorie intake sweet spot? What's helped you figure it out?

Monday, February 13, 2012


As usual, the weatherman was completely wrong again. I'd had my birthday brunch with the family scheduled for Saturday, but we opted to cancel because the forecast said there would be 2-4" of snow that day. Upon awaking on Saturday, there was a slight dusting of snow that ended up melting before Eric got up at 9:30. It was quite the let down, but we made up for it by having our own little brunch replete with:
  • Oeufs En Cocotte with American cheese substituted for my standard feta and a half a bacon strip crumbled on top
  • Crumpets with the raspberry jam from my last Foodzie box
  • Strawberry and blueberry fruit salad
Oh and tea, the meal wouldn't have been complete without tea. Eric gave the whole meal an A that could have been an A+ if the crumpets had been fresh off the griddle. Unfortunately, it's difficult to make that happen because I would need to purchase another set of rings and a griddle pan that spans two burners. As it is right now, I can only fit two rings comfortably onto my pan. I suppose I could probably fit four but then I run the risk of accidentally flipping a crumpet onto another crumpet and that would just be a disaster.

I also chose not to make any mini-cupcakes for my tiny brunch with Eric. Just having them around would have been too tempting, and I wouldn't have been able to send any away with my little brother.

Sunday (aka Sarah's birthday)
After an entire morning and afternoon of lounging about painting my nails, Eric and I headed into Cambridge for our 6PM reservation at Oleana. I love the atmosphere there and the cuisine is pretty darn good too. I'd been planning my choices for weeks, but ended up swapping my deviled eggs choice for the appetizer special of the day. Like the last time I went to Oleana, I came away with no pictures. We had:
  • Deviled Eggs with Tuna and Olives
  • Fried Mussels and Hot Peppers
  • Chorizo with a Sweet-Potato romesco sauce and soft boiled egg on a toast
Eric got the top two appetizers and I got the chorizo on toast. I did have one of his deviled eggs and a nibble of the mussels too. I wasn't really all that impressed with the fried mussels and I got sand from one of them in my teeth. I quite liked the deviled egg though! My appetizer was also delicious, though a bit unwieldy to eat by hand and difficult to cut with a fork.

Main Course
  • Trout Spanakopita with Avocado and Salmon Roe
  • Some sort of duck casserole thing, it was the special so I can't remember the name
I'd been planning on getting the trout for weeks and I stuck with my decision. It was good, but I don't think I'd order it again. When I saw spanakopita, I thought "Mmm phyllo dough, feta and spinch!" Instead I received a trout wrapped around some spinach and feta. It was delicious but not in my top tier of foods that I've loved at a restaurant. Eric's duck was cooked perfectly but there was just a strange mishmash of other foods in the dish. There were errant chickpeas and other odd pieces that made it feel a little less cohesive than we'd expect. It was good, but not great.

  • Baked Alaska with Coconut Ice Cream and Mango Caramel
  • Milk Chocolate-Tahini Tart with Sesame Toffee and Halvah Ice Cream
This is the best part of every meal. The last time we went to Oleana I had an oatmeal based dessert that was and is still my favorite dessert I've ever had at a nice restaurant. I'm biased though, due to my inordinately large love of the oat. Anyhow! I enjoyed the flavor of my tart, but found it to be a little dry. It crumbled to bits when I was taking bites from it and I ended up having to scoop the little bits onto my spoon to eat it. The sesame toffee was lovely, and the halvah ice cream had a slight nuttiness to it that I rather enjoyed.  Eric's Baked Alaska was huge and he wasn't able to finish it. I did hve a bite of the meringue and another bite of all three components together. I loved the meringue; it was perfectly made. The mango caramel was good but I thought there was a little bit too much mango flavor. It overrode any caramel flavor that may have been there.

It was a pretty good birthday, and thankfully only one person sang Happy Birthday to me. In the car. On the way home.

What's your favorite thing to do for your birthday?

Friday, February 10, 2012

Weekly Weigh-In and Musings: 2/10/2012

Weight: 126.0
Body Fat %: 20.2 + 3 = 23.2%
Measurements: 34"-26"-34"-20"

It's been a quiet week on the blog-front for me this week. Between work and the my new training plan, I haven't done anything of interest that I share in a post. I haven't even had time to really come up with any good thoughtful posts either.

Mostly I've just been falling asleep at 9:30 (training makes me tired), knitting after work (Sarah's baby hat) and playing Minecraft:
I can only take credit for hunting down materials for this. My mom
(because she's awesome and plays MC with me) did the building.
No blue sheep were harmed in the making of this town hall.
Knitting the tiny baby hat has reminded me how rewarding quick-knit projects are. I should be able to finish it off this weekend, especially since it's going to snow on Saturday. My birthday tea plans got cancelled and I certainly can't spend all day playing Minecraft, so knitting in front of the TV sounds like a plan to me. If I can find a tiny baby booty pattern, perhaps I can use my leftover pink yarn to make a pair.

Then maybe I'll attempt to attack my stash of unfinished knitting projects. Maybe. Probably not though as that hasn't happened in over two or three years.

Do you have any hobbies that you start and stop on at irregular intervals, resulting in many little unfinished objects? You know the drill.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Reluctant Role Model

I’ve noticed recently that when someone loses a noticeable amount of weight, it’s as if they’re thrown into the position of role model. Friends, family and coworkers might now look to this person as though they have the knowledge that will help them achieve their goals too. Many take to this new role as inspiration to others, but I’m sure that not everyone does. I know that I certainly don’t fit comfortably into the role.

It’s difficult for me to have someone look to me for advice when it’s obvious they’re not going to take what I say to heart. It’s not because the question isn’t genuine, it’s because it’s easy to spot the people who aren’t ready to deal with the truth of my advice. Deep down, the person who isn’t ready to confront that truth is hoping that I’ll provide some amazing secret that will provide instant weight loss gratification. It always brings the following quote to mind:
“Dieters control what goes into their mouth; resilient people control what goes on in their heads. It’s all about positive thoughts."
Alicia Salzer M.D, trauma psychiatrist
I couldn't have put it more eloquently. I've always felt that successful change (weight loss or otherwise) has to come from an internal motivator, though that internal motivator may be triggered by an external source, e.g. seeing a picture of yourself, hearing your health is poor, etc. I think that permanent successful weight loss comes from growing your own resiliency and no one can do this for you.

What's this resiliency thing I'm taking about?
Image: David Castillo Dominici /
Before I read The Resiliency Advantage, I'd always had a vision in my mind of myself at a healthy spot in my life where I was calm despite a stormy point in my life, strong in the face of adversity and just generally capable of handling a tough time, which is exactly what it means to be resilient. Normally, I'm not one of the self-help book types but I got this one free from a challenge at work. I read through it and it put some interesting perspective on my journey to health. This is why I find it hard to be a role model to those who aren't ready, because all the guidance in the world can't make you be more resilient.

So my advice to everyone who asks, ready or not, is always to learn to live through the lows and ride the highs.

Do you think resiliency plays an important part in the weight loss and maintenance journey?

Monday, February 6, 2012

RWTW 10K Training: Week 0

While the off-season for the NFL just started today, my own little offseason just ended. Obviously  mine was a lot shorter than a professional athletes but still it was a good break. It gave me a chance to heal up that niggling piriformis pain I had been having since last November. So now it's back to a structured training plan for me!

The Goal
Based upon past 5K performance, pace charts indicate that I should be able to complete a 10K with a pace anywhere between 8:48 to 9:01 minute miles. However, my past two 10K performances have not shown this to be true, but I believe that to be due to lack of training.

Not this time. This time I will train and train well for my planned 10K in June. This pace chart should look pretty familiar:
This puts my goal finishing time in the range of 54:40 to 56:01, but I'd like to see sub-56. It's aggressive, but reasonable.

My training plan can be found in full here, but here's what the first week looks like:

Do you have any key races planned for this year? When do you start training? Lemme know down below!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Weekly Weigh-In and Musings: 2/3/12

Weight: 126.2
Body Fat %: 20.4 + 3 = 23.4%
Measurements: 34"-26"-34"-20"

Zumba Pictures
A week ago yesterday, we had a photographer come to Zumba class to take some pics for Rita, who owns The Core Connection. I asked Rita to share the pics of me if she wouldn't mind and I was happy to see her e-mail earlier this week.
Sleepy legging it to the right!
Boom, boom, mama!
Side bend song!
I think this one is our salsa song, but I'm not positive.
I was stuck unhappily in the corner that day, as you can see.
I really love these pics because, unlike my running ones, I look like I'm enjoying myself. See, fitness can be fun!

Superbowl Sunday
I didn't want to miss Zumba two Sundays in a row, so I decided to go to Zumba and miss out on the Superbowl Party Eric is going to. I invited Tina over for the game, and there will be plenty of healthy snacks happening. No reason to go crazy overboard during the Superbowl in my opinion!

No Running With The Wolves this year??
Rumor has it that the Running With The Wolves 10K might not happen this year but I'm still hopeful. Unfortunately it means I may have to find another race during that same week or modify my training plan. Regardless, my super-stretch goal for the next 10K I run is 55:55.  I did 4 miles in 36:55 on Wednesday and felt pretty good after. So while it looks like a reasonably aggressive goal, but I am confident that by actually training for it this year, I can do it. I've also figured out a sweet way to get more outdoor runs in for the first nine weeks of training. I'm one of a lucky few people who got 40 hours of training to study for the SCJP test and I've decided that I'll use 4 hours a week for the next 10 weeks. This means I can come home a couple hours early twice a week, squeak in a run and then get in some Java study time. Yay!

Oleana again!
I'm (super) excited for my birthday this year because I asked Eric if we could go to Oleana to celebrate. I've been ogling the menu for the last two-three weeks and I've already decided that I want:
Meze: Deviled Eggs with Tuna and Black Olives
Main: Trout Spanakopita with Cucumber, Avocado and Salmon Roe
Dessert: Milk Chocolate-Tahini Tart with Halvah Ice Cream, Brown Butter Crème and Sesame Toffee
Now let's just hope they don't change the menu on me between now and then.

What are your plans for the Superbowl? Watching it or ignoring it? Lemme know down below!

Thursday, February 2, 2012


Ever since I returned from my last trip to Norway in 2011, I've been accumulating little snippets of writing on my netbook. They're slowly coalescing into what could theoretically be an autobiography, but I feel a little dorky thinking of it that way. There's obviously way, way more to this story and this is just the beginning.

At age 15, I sat in the RV that my parents made me and my brother come to every summer. It was our summer "home" and we ensured that it had all the amenities. My mother and I would pack up our desktop computers for every trip up there so that we could use the dial-up internet to play our favorite computer games.

I'm not sure that was how my parents expected me to spend my summers, planted in front of a computer playing Diablo II with my virtual boyfriend.

After one particularly long session of gaming, an all-nighter, I sat at the cheap plastic table in the room I shared with my brother ravenously consuming a bag of Tostitos scoops with a bowl of full fat sour cream salsa dip. I clearly recall dropping a chip onto my stomach, then looking at sitting on my stomach. That's when I realized it.
I was fat.

My belly had ballooned to proportions that I had up until this moment been ignoring.

I didn't know what to do about it. I was unhappy, one could even argue that I was clinically depressed. I continued to eat, and eat, and eat. I couldn't stop myself and I didn't know how to fix it.

The high school I attended wasn't actually in my town. My town was too small to build a high school of its own, so they shuttled us off to various different schools each morning. I chose to go to the one that had computer science classes and no uniform requirement. It was also in a town full of affluent white couples with their spoiled children.

I felt like an outcast. A very fat, very lonely, very sad outcast. Now that's not to say that people didn't talk to me, or associate with me. There were a few other misfits and I got along fine with them, but high school was awful.

After my realization that I was fat, I vaguely remember expressing concern to my pediatrician. She referred me to an endocrinologist. Over the course of my sophomore year, I had gone to the doctor and been diagnosed with insulin resistance and polycystic ovarian syndrome.  I was placed on birth control to regulate my infrequent menstruation and metformin to help with the insulin resistance.  I didn't mind the birth control, but the metformin was a different story. It left me with a perpetually upset G.I. system; I hated it.

I had health/gym class second period my junior year, and the first day of classes held a shock for me. We were going to have to step on a scale that also measured body fat percentage, in addition to our weight.  The teacher would make sure that no one but you saw the results, and I was already afraid to step on. I knew I was unhealthy, I knew that I was fat, but I didn't actually know how much I weighed, or how fat I actually was.

It was my turn.

I stepped on...

198 lbs

I waited for what seemed like an eternity to me....

48% body fat

At that moment, I resolved that I would do something. I would finally lose weight.

I started packing my school lunches. I remember measuring out each portion, counting out each chip. I don't remember it feeling restrictive. It was simply something that I had to do because I wasn't happy. Every other night I would hop on my parents beat-up old stair-stepper for 15 to 30 minutes. I had youth on my side and I easily dropped 30lbs before my senior year of high school ended.

I felt successful, but in truth, I didn't really understand the concept of permanent weight loss because it was not even a year and a half before I'd put 15 of the 30 lbs back on. My eating habits started to spiral out of control once more.