Monday, March 19, 2012

Week 10: Prepare and Plan for Success: Recipes, Organization and Scheduled Workouts

For those readers who have missed the journey from hobbling, braced, and uncomfortably over-sized, give a looksee to my original post "Do These Nachos Make My Hiney Look Fat?" which condenses the whole shebang into a chronological narrative. There's an added bonus of photos, too!

After maintaining a significant loss in size for a year (from a size 20W to a 2 misses trouser), I decided it was time to further reduce my body fat and show off some of the muscle definition I'd earned from working with personal trainer, Kevin Carlson. Kevin is the managing partner of the Accelerated Fitness Solutions Cromwell location. I turned to the Accelerated Fitness nutrition program called FirstLine Therapy. It is a balanced, health focused, clean eating program - a lifestyle, not a diet. Although I kept to a fairly healthy diet (meaning nutritional plan) during my year of maintenance, this program made some changes to what I was doing and provided the jump my body needed to start changing again. As I type this, I am starting my tenth week of the program.

I still haven't felt the need to step on a scale since week 5. I haven't kept count of how many times I've said the scale is a bad measure of what is going on with a body. It doesn't tell you if you are losing fat or losing muscle (or gaining fat versus gaining muscle). For me, the true measure is a bioimpedance test which accurately measures fat mass and fat free mass. I have one more of these tests to go. It will be administered on or about April 6 by Caryn Acevedo of Accelerated Fitness. I'm really interested to see how much I have managed to reduce my body fat percentage. The last time it was measured, my body fat had dropped almost a full two percent. 

Keeping muscle is important to me. Muscle is metabolism, plain and simple. We lose muscle as we age so to combat the process, I engage in muscle building activities such as weight lifting and interval cardio (think high intensity, rest, high intensity, rest) which build muscle. In the meantime, what I said in my last blog stands, "Jeans don't lie". My size 2 jeans are big in the waist and my 0 jeans zip comfortably. My black belt with the extra hole punched by a screwdriver has been replaced by an identical twin, albeit a smaller size.

I am often asked by friends for advice about diet, nutrition and exercise. Many have "failed" at weight loss attempts. My response is simple. The weight loss industry has a 95% failure rate. Those plans fail people.

Ever watch people faithfully work out at a gym, perform exercise routines on DVD and still never make real changes to their body? It's not from lack of effort. This whole process for me has been about finding what works and learning what doesn't.

Kevin Carlson, my trainer, gave me the most important piece of advice I could ever hear, "If you don't clean it up in the kitchen, you'll never get the body you want, no matter how hard you work". This adventure is not just about losing weight. It isn't about getting skinny. This is about being confident, happy, strong and healthy. I'm 46. I intend to age in a healthy way. I simply feel better when I eat well. So, I always pass that advice along because it stayed with me and has made the difference between success and failure.

Have a plan. Cook ahead, plan for challenges in your day and be ready to handle them. Write down what you eat - either use an online app or old-fashioned pen and paper. Make consistent, healthy choices. Accept that an occasional deviation is fine. (Notice I do not use the word "cheat". That word implies unplanned, shifty, hidden - it's a negative word with negative connotations. I use the word deviation because these deviations are a planned divergence. The goal is to make the planned deviation and then get right back on course.)

Realize there are consequences to fat loss goals when you make those deviations. Make sure it's worth it to you. If your nutrition is well-planned and healthy most of the time, then the deviations don't make a huge difference. Plan what the deviation is, how much it is and don't go crazy. In other words, plan for x number of drinks, x amount of "bad" food and stick to that plan. Then get right back to healthy eating.

If you're eating junk, then your body is not going to give you the results you want. I don't care if your plan says if you can count it, you can eat it. There are consequences to what you do - not only with fat loss but health as well.

100 calories in one of those nifty little packs is still 100 calories that your body thinks is sugar. To your body, that means, let's store that as fat. Remember the phrase "95% failure rate". That's a failure to achieve goals and/or a failure to maintain the loss.

To be successful, you must do something different. If the body isn't changing, change something else. Learn everything you can about food - what is a true portion, how your body handles particular types of food and what those foods cause as a reaction when you eat them.

Exercise smartly.

I wrote a recommendation letter for Kevin Carlson in November, 2010 after looking in a mirror while exercising. It was the first time I didn't flinch away from my reflection and I was wearing a size 4 trouser at the time. I used two words to describe him: "effective and efficient".

I didn't want to be the person at the gym spending hours on the elliptical or treadmill and not seeing changes. That experience is frustrating and part of the reason why New Year's resolutioners leave the gyms they so enthusiastically join in January. Find a trainer. Explain your goals. Make sure this trainer is willing to make a plan to get you there. Go where they point. Weight train using real weights. Learn about circuits. Get out of breath. Make sure whomever you hire is "effective and efficient". If your trainer isn't up to par, find one who is.

The biggest key word to all of this is PLANNING. Plan your meals, plan your day, plan your exercise and plan your deviations.

On April 12th, I'll be heading over to Get Baked in Windsor for exactly one triple chocolate nutella brownie and a cup of coffee. Not a brownie and a muffin and a stack of cookies and a scone and some pizza, although owner Emily Woodward makes amazing creations. I picked one thing to enjoy that won't derail all my hard work or cause me to feel anxious or guilty.

I have a vacation planned for May, a visit to the wonderful Saint Simon's Island in Georgia. I am planning ahead - for food, exercise and relaxation. There will be martinis and wine, but a set number that won't undo all my hard work or cause me regret. I will pair them with a nice protein, most likely fresh shrimp or crab, which are well used in the local cuisine. Will I have a giant plate of nachos? Probably not. They might taste good, but I don't feel well after eating them. I'll make sure to exercise while I am there, not because I have to, but because I enjoy it and it keeps me in the habit.

This past week, I expanded my culinary repertoire just a bit. The FirstLine Therapy program talks about the benefits of healthy, complex carbs and shows what a serving is. I decided to try quinoa. My routine is to keep it simple and spend as little amount of time in the kitchen as possible. I like to be able to grab and go. This is why I bought quinoa that is practically instant. No soaking, no guesswork.

Boil 1 1/2 cups of water, add quinoa and simmer for 16-18 minutes (until water absorbed).

The quinoa started to absorb the water and this experiment proved successful. I served the quinoa with salt, pepper, roasted garlic and some fresh avocado. Yummy!

I cook ahead so lunches may be prepared without having to recreate the wheel every single day. I either steam roast or bake enough chicken for the week which I portion into 4 oz grab and go servings. My freezer has plenty of them. Here's a plateful - baked and seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic powder and oregano. (I should note, I do not live on chicken. I also eat a variety of fish, such as salmon and shrimp, eggs, veggie burgers, and lean beef.)

Colorful vegetables round out almost every meal during my day. An easy recipe on the stove top calls for:

1 yellow squash, diced
1 green squash, diced
white onion, diced
garlic cloves, thinly sliced
diced tomato (canned is fine, I tend to buy the garlic, basil, oregano seasoned)
black olives, 8-10 medium, sliced
grated cheese (I prefer Romano)
salt and pepper to taste

Heat 1 tbsp EVOO in a non-stick skillet, add some sliced garlic and chopped white onion (choose the amount based on your own palate, I'm a garlic lover so there is no such thing as too much).

Once the garlic and onion are browned, add in the squash, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Toss lightly in the olive oil mixture. As the squash begins to cook, add in some diced tomatoes. Add as much liquid as you like, there is no right or wrong here, only personal preferences. I add only a little liquid. Stir and let cook down. Add in sliced olives.

Continue to stir, tasting to make sure the dish is seasoned to your liking. Once cooking is complete and vegetables are tender, remove from heat. Sprinkle with grated cheese.

This photo shows a container packed for lunch the next day.  It may be reheated in a microwave, but also tastes great cold.

I am also sharing a new recipe I intend to try once I shift to a maintenance phase. I need to modify it because it calls for Splenda which is not a natural sweetener. I intend to replace it with Stevia. Figuring out the exchange rate proved interesting. Here is the swap out information for baking recipes if anyone is interested. This information is from a book called "Sugar-Free Cooking with Stevia" by James and Tanya Kirkland.

1 cup Sugar
1 cup Sucralose (Splenda)
24 packets Stevia Blend
12 tsp. Spoonable Stevia Blend
2.5 tsp. Stevia Extract Liquid
1.5 tsp. PURE Stevia Extract Powder

So the 1/2 c of Splenda becomes 6 tsp of spoonable Stevia Blend.

Apple Cinnamon Tortilla Cups


3 large apples, peeled and cored
1tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp allspice
6 tsp spoonable Stevia Blend
1/8 tsp nutmeg
8 scoops vanilla protein whey powder (I like Pure Protein brand)
water as necessary
12 small low carb tortillas (I love the Joseph's brand)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. On a cutting board, peel 3 large apples and remove the cores. Cut the apples into small, bite size pieces and place in a mixing bowl. Add cinnamon, allspice, Stevia and nutmeg. Mix together. Add the protein powder, one scoop at a time, blending. If the mixture becomes too powdery, add small amounts of water, 1 tbsp at a time, until the mixture becomes moist. Set the bowl aside.

Spread water with a brush over one side of each tortilla. Sprinkle each tortilla with a dash of cinnamon. When wet, take a knife and make 4 small slits from the outside, moving to the center - at the 3, 6, 9 and 12 o'clock positions. The slits should not meet. They will allow the tortilla to shape to the muffin tin.

In a muffin tin, place each tortilla inside the cup, shaping it to the side walls. Add, apple mixture to the cups. Bake approximately 15 minutes. The tortillas should appear crispy and the inside should be warm.

Allow to cool before serving.

Makes 12 servings, each approximately 202 kcal each. The protein, carb and calorie counts will shift depending on which brands you use.

This isn't something I would eat all the time, but it is a healthier treat to enjoy on a workout day, once my goals are achieved. I'm hopeful the recipe is as yummy as it sounds.

If you want to catch up on the blogs you missed, please head over to my blog, Merty Writes. The blogs are listed in chronological order on the right side of the page.

Until next time, cheers!


  1. I saw a poster not long ago and it made me think of you. It said: "You earn your body."

    With obvious exceptions for hideous diseases that attack without rhyme or reason, I believe the above statement is absolute truth. We've each earned the bodies we have.

    Fortunately, our bodies are constantly changing and reacting in response to how we feed, care for, and utilize them, so while today reflects what we did yesterday, tomorrow will reflect what we do today. If that isn't a great reason to make good choices today, I don't know what is.

    I like food and certain foods are quite pleasurable. Some, though, bring more discomfort than pleasure, whether long term (added weight, increased chance of certain illnesses) or short (headaches, sluggishness, gastro symptoms). I suppose like anything, it's a balance sheet and each person must weigh their choices according to their own standards. For me, some stuff is worth the occasional indulgence, but only the stuff that I really, really enjoy.

    Oh, one more thing. One of our favorite dinners is something I think you'd enjoy. You throw a spaghetti squash in to the oven to bake and while it's going, you saute some onion and garlic in EVOO, then stir in either fresh diced tomato or 2 cans (I buy the seasoned ones, too), some sliced black olives, and just enough crumbled feta (I like the tomato & basil kind) to make it extra yummy. When the squash is tender, you scoop its innards out and toss with the other stuff. Seriously delicious!

    1. What time is dinner at your house? I'm in!!!!

  2. Oh, and I love that you don't use artificial sweeteners! I've seen people advising their use all over the place and it makes me cringe. Real food, the simpler the better, is a good plan for almost everyone. And when we choose to indulge, then indulge, but there's no need to sprinkle poison on our food. Craziness.

    1. Yes, it took me a long time to figure it all out. Still have a lot of reading and learning to do. Natural is better, I think. I owe Caryn Acevedo a shout out for all the great information she sends my way. The Robb Wolf margarita on my page is courtesy of her - she follows his podcast. The soda water trick made me tilt my head to the side and say, "Hmmmmmm".

  3. Your recipes always looks so inviting. The apple one looks really yummy. I've take the plunge and have given way to the four letter word (DIET). I am going to a writer's conference in May and want to be 15 lbs smaller. I've got eating down - I don't over eat or binge, but losing weight is difficult for me (my wild dieting youth).. I am trying to add more exercise to my days. I love how I feel when I exercise, but if I come home sit down and start writing before I work out - it won't happen. Let's see how successful I am. I keep telling myself if I can write a book, start a second one, I can lose a few pounds. :-)

    1. Thank you, Brenda. It's fun to play with recipes these days & to find healthy ways to make favorite foods. I don't diet, I just make mindful eating choices - portion and balance - meaning x amt protein, x fruit, x grain, x nut, x legume, etc on a daily basis - I look for lower glycemic index fruit, colorful veggies & try to keep to lean protein choices - it's really become a life style -
      Find a trainer to help you workout in fun ways that are effective - battle ropes, weight lifting & joint movement work like squats etc - my trainer has become my workout partner. He can push me to the ends of what I think are my limits and then beyond them because he distracts me with a damn good time.
      :-) Good luck! (I know you can write the book without a problem - you always pull me in with a good write!)

  4. It really is all about planning...Without a plan you're just out there aimlessly flailing around and for me that is never successful...I usually allow myself one day a week (usually Sunday as it is also a day I take off from working out) to eat whatever I want...if there was something I'd been craving during the week, if I still want it...I either make it or get it...I've gotten so I don't crave too many things and I often sail thru Sundays without really misbehaving all...that's if you don't count margaritas *smile*...
    You already know, I hope, how much I appreciate all your advice and encouragement along the way...Can't thank you enuf for all of that...and I'm gonna try your squash/veggie recipe this weekend...I make something similar but I'm gonna try yours and see which I prefer...They all look good and I'm sure I'll try them at some point...Great blog, btw :)

    1. KK, so glad to count you as a friend. You've been so supportive of me. Looking forward to another Saturday of fun when things calm down!

  5. Such a great story, good job! Also, I want that stevia book! :)

    1. Thank you, Elizabeth - I appreciate you coming by!


You comments are truly appreciated!