Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Check Out Line

Generally, I feel moderately okay to moderately shameful/guilty when I am checking out at the grocery store. Moderately good: canned beans, Lean Cuisine, skim milk, whole wheat tortellini, and maybe something naughty. Moderately shameful/guilty: several naughty items (white cheddar popcorn, chocolate, pizza rolls, ice cream, etc.), and maybe something "healthy" like a Lean Cuisine.

I have read on multiple occasions about how we have an incorrect idea of what eating healthy is in the US- Lean Cuisines and 100-calorie packs and lowfat options for everything. I don't think that we necessarily need to completely cut out those things, and they have their place in a healthy diet, but I agree- eating those alone is not a truly healthy, nutritious diet.

Today, though, today I felt great. This entire weekend is going to be thunderstorms in my part of Texas, so I ran out to Whole Foods to restock before the roads flooded (they like to do that here. Today, I also learned that my "safe" alternate route, the freeway, also floods! Good to know). I didn't really notice until I was checking out, but I had solely awesome goodies in my basket. I felt so proud to lay out my stash- a bunch of bananas, baby spinach, two packs of extra firm tofu, a little bit of garam masala from the bulk bins, adzuki beans from bulk, black rice from bulk, raw cashew pieces from bulk, Greek yogurt (2 plain, 2 vanilla), and gluten-free multi-grain penne. Grains, beans, nuts, tofu, yogurt, and fresh produce. I feel like such a health nut vegetarian! Which is, of course, the goal.

I'm trying to focus in on the really positive and really negative feelings various types of eating provoke lately. Yes, I always feel really happy and good when I am making, and even eating my white cheddar sauce on whole wheat penne. But I always feel ill afterwards. I am testing out some GF pasta this week, to see if that is the culprit. When I was eating nothing but beans, yogurt, and whole grains during the summer, I felt ecstatic working out, practically getting giddy when I surged forward in a resistance exercise. Now, I feel weak and shaky early on in a workout. On the more mental side, I generally feel ashamed and guilty when I am at the grocery store, especially lately, but then today I felt so proud and special!

One of the things I have learned in my quest to kick my eating disorder is that there are two major aspects: changing habits (what you physically do) and changing mindsets (how you feel about what you do and don't do, why you do what you physically do). Changing habits is going to be making food substitutions, writing about why I want to binge instead of bingeing (is it actually binging? That sounds like it should be pronounced Bing-Ing, but it's all my spell-check is offering...), riding my bike instead of snacking while I watch TV. Changing my mindset is going to be about focusing in on these good feelings, until they become the norm and the craving, not the exciting exception.

So, what have I learned about what makes me feel good in the check out line? Whole foods, natural fuel for the body. Ingredients for a recipe, not a list of ingredients in and of themselves. I like that the yogurt was the most packaged, processed thing on the belt. I love that I had fresh produce. I love that I had uncooked beans. And tofu just always sends a good message.

Things to know for the future.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Peanut Sauce Quest

I may have just stumbled upon the end of my quest for The Perfect Peanut Sauce. For several years now I have been wandering through the archives of endless food blogs and recipe books, searching for that elusive mixture of reasonable health/nutrition and restaurant taste. Each time I find something that seems so promising, something falls flat when I actually make it. Generally, it's the sesame oil. I love the idea of it, but I hate the taste every time. Not like my dislike of vegetables, where it's more of the same mentality that makes me freak out over microscopic spiders than actual distate. I strongly dislike the taste of sesame oil. Some are too sweet (I honestly didn't think there was such a thing until I finally tasted it), others too bland, some just plain weird tasting. Every blogger insists that it is The Peanut Sauce For All Eternity, so feel free to take my recipe in stride. But, here it is, in its current form. I want to transition it a little healthier, using natural peanut butter or maybe even PB2, and then cutting down a little on the agave. But for now, here it is:

Equal parts soy sauce, amber agave syrup (or maple syrup), and water. Add a scoop of peanut butter roughly equivalent to the combined liquids. Shake on some powdered ginger, chili powder, and garlic powder. Whisk to combine. It won't want to whisk at first (peanut butter can be fussy that way)- persevere. It will give into your demands eventually, and taste absolutely amazing.

This was good on its own, and good on quinoa and rice. It was absolute perfection, however, when sauteed onto tofu (see Emily's tofu marinade for the process, just sub in this peanut sauce). Warm, sweet and savory both, an absolute perfect compliment to the subtle flavors of the tofu.

Ladies and gentlemen, I'm in love. And I may have completed my quest.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Steam Frying and Derrière Burning

In light with my topic from yesterday- too many diverging dietary opinions- I have another little compromise I'm going to make. As I was making up some of my healthy falafel for lunch, I thought about how many things I will be sauteing in olive oil in the coming months. At least it's good for me, right? Then we run into the whole debate on oils. Gah.

For some items, I am going to continue to use the olive oil. Probably with the falafel, possibly also with the tofu. Though I do want to experiment with baked falafel.... Anywhoo, for the standard "saute the onions" bit that precedes most recipes, I want to experiment with this:

Hopefully I can figure out how to do this with other items, though I have my doubts about it being a viable option for tofu. I guess it's worth trying, though! (Also- assuming the man in that video is neither married nor gay, I call dibs, ladies)

In quick workout news, stalled on P90X Day 2, but getting back on the horse tonight. Not going to allow myself to feel guilty- the first day I missed was due to honestly not having the time- I was working on homework or in class from 8am to 3:30am. The days that have come since are not ideal, but starting something as big as P90X is bound to have a few stumbles. I don't want many, but I don't view having one or two as failure. As long as I get back on the horse, that is ;)

Additionally, I did a standard longer bike ride this morning, then hopped on for some HIIT. Only made it through 2 high-intensity intervals instead of the goal 4, but my heart and breath were going nicely haywire. I can still feel a little of that horrid feeling in the top of my chest that I get when I really push it on cardio, and it's been easily half an hour now. Walking was also interesting for at least 10 minutes- recumbent bikes are excellent for the posterior region!

Taking a Look at Beans

Maybe I'm just using the wrong search terms. But I'm unable to come up with a simple list or chart that discusses the various nutritional aspects of the different varieties of beans and lentils. I've found ones that discuss tastes and what they are best paired with, and individual pages that go into absolutely exhaustive length about the specific nutritional breakdowns of individual beans. No basic list that says "Chickpeas are good sources of x, y, and z, and work well in q. Black beans are high in j, as well as being good sources of k and l." So, I'm going to take 30 minutes and make up my own, posted here for future reference.


  • Adzuki Beans
    • Sweet, "nutty flavor"
    • Good source of iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, and folic acid
    • High in protein, low in fat
  • Black beans
    • Excellent source of protein, folate, and fiber
    • Good source of iron, magnesium, thiamin
    • Good source of antioxidants
    • Dense texture, water used to boil is useful for seasoning other dishes
  • Garbanzo Beans 
    • Good for use in Middle Eastern recipes like falafel and hummus
    • Extremely high in protein
    • Good source of carbs for people with insulin sensitivity
    • Good source of folate and dietary fiber, source of iron, magnesium, and phosphorus
  • Kidney Beans
    • Absolutely vital to boil these for at least 10 minutes. NEVER consume raw or undercooked
    • High in fiber, protein, folate, and iron
    • Vitamin K, Thiamin, Phosphorus, mangesium, manganese, potassium
  • Lentils
    • particularly high in protein (of all vegetable sources, rank third under soy and hemp)
    • extremely low in fat
    • Good source of fiber
    • Excellent source of iron (more than half the recommended daily value), folate, and thiamin
  • Lima Beans
    • Keep blood sugars steady, good for those with insulin sensitivities
    • High in fiber, iron
    • Lowers cholesterol
    • Good source of folate, manganese, etc.
  • Navy Beans
    • Helps lower cholesterol, fights cancer cell growth, antibacterial and antifungal properties
    • Extremely low in fat, extremely high in fiber
    • Good source of calcium and iron
    • Good source of protein
  • Pinto Beans
    • Help to reduce cholesterol 
    • When combined with rice, makes for a complete protein
    • Excellent source of fiber
    • Good source of iron, phosphorous, manganese
  • Soy Beans
    • Contains all of the essential amino acids- a complete protein in and of itself
      • particularly high in protein, as well
    • Vitamin B6, Vitamin K
    • Good source of calcium and fiber
    • Excellent source of iron (looks like pretty much the entire recommended amount)
  • Split Peas
    • particularly excellent source of protein and fiber
    • Strong source of iron, thiamine, folate
    • extremely low in fat

Note: "Good Source" generally means 10-30% (I wasn't too specific). It might occasionally deviate, but if I wasn't blown away but it seemed somewhat significant, it got this designation

Having done this, I wanted to take a quick look at some of the repeating nutrients I was relatively unfamiliar with. Here is what they do for you:
  • phosphorus
    • part of the structural framework of DNA and RNA, used to transport energy between cells
    • When combined with calcium, helps strengthen bones and tooth enamel
    • Important to not overload your body with phosphorus- at extremely high levels, it starts to affect the body's ability to absorb other important nutrients
  • manganese
    • helps the superoxide your body produces to kill pathogens and infections not kill you
  • magnesium
    • essential for the functioning of virtually every cell type in your body
    • If using only dietary sources, and not supplements, nearly impossible to overdose, as kidneys are efficient at flushing it
    • Magnesium deficiency can lead to development of asthma, diabetes, and osteoporosis
  • potassium
    • nerve transmissions, healthy cardiac system, healthy nervous system- keeps brain firing, keeps muscles from contracting
  • folate
    • One of the B-vitamins (B9)
    • helps synthesize and repair DNA
    • produces healthy red blood cells and thus prevents anemia 
    • Not getting enough can lead to cancer, but can be problematic once you already have cancer (due to its proclivity for enhancing the ability of cells to regenerate, regardless of how good those cells are for you)
    • especially important for pregnant women
  • vitamin K
    • blood coagulation and bone metabolism (no idea what the latter is, but it sounds important)
  • zinc
    • structural role with protein
    • eyes and brain function
    • metabolism of DNA and RNA
    • reproductive systems
  • thiamine
    • B1
    • breaks down sugars in the diet
    • aids the nervous system and heart
Final Note: this is my own loose research. Think of it as Wikipedia when starting a research paper- it gives you a general framework, but you are better off sticking to the experts for actual usable data. 

Friday, September 9, 2011

Too Many Cooks

When I started getting serious about turning my health around, I started hitting the books, and more specifically, the blogs, like crazy. I read and read and read and collected tips and made lists of foods to get and routines to start. I gradually filtered my way down to what I follow on a regular basis. Out went a lot of larger, less targeted places, like AOL Health, and even Shape Magazine, and now I always get a little bummed out on weekends because Emily and Angela take the weekends off. I also love Matt over at NoMeatAthlete.

Though there are individual differences, overall these three sites provide me with relatively similar overall health schemes. Something I've started to figure out over the past few months is, I really shouldn't delve any deeper than that right now. As you start delving deeper, you start getting more and more contradictory evidence. How much protein do you really need? Are grains and beans superfoods, or are they slowly killing you? Fruit- yes or no? Everyone has scientific evidence up the wahzoo about why their set-up is best. Everyone has anecdotes and the very compelling story of their own personal enlightenment.

I know of two quick-loss diets with very similar concepts. Stick with veggies and protein most of the time, and occasionally splurge on what you want. In one plan, it's at dinner, in the other, it's one day a week. Both forbid fruit except during the splurges. However, one expressly forbids beans but highly encourages dairy. The other expressly forbids dairy but insists it will never work without beans. At one point early in the summer, I literally wandered around my kitchen starving for three hours because I couldn't figure out what I was supposed to be eating. I don't actually remember what I ended up having, but I'm fairly certain it was in violation of both.

Even though I haven't properly stuck to either- one of my favorite No-Starchy-Grains Diet meals is beans and cheese, which has a strike against it in either column- I have felt a little guilty for months every time I have a grain. There is the little voice somewhere wondering if I shouldn't be having it, because it will slow down my weight loss.

Yes, I would love for the pounds to just fall off. There was a brief glorious period in the summer of 2009 when I dropped about 25 pounds practically without thinking about it. Every single morning, I would excitedly rush to the scale and see at least 1, often 2 or 3 pounds off the previous day. I've isolated everything I can think of about that month, and tried to recreate it, and so far, nada. Can't repeat it. I've just come to realize in the past day or so that that drop in 2009 brought me to a state of equilibrium. At the amount I eat, the quality of what I eat, and the amount of exercise I get, this is where I stay pretty darn consistently. It oscillates by about 5-8 pounds depending on how good or bad I am being month to month, but it has not strayed from the same 10-pound range (think 0-10, 10-20, 20-30, 130-140) in two years, save for a few precious days when it dipped down into the 9.5s of the next 10-range, on a few occasions.

To be accurate, I actually realized the equilibrium factor over a year ago. Where I am really going with this is that in the past day I have realized that quick change probably isn't really an option right now. I need to work with what I have to get what I want. One of the things I have right now is a fondness for whole grains and beans, and a distaste for most fruits and vegetables. I am working steadily to improve my palate for the fruits and veggies, but I'm not going to turn up my nose at nutrient-dense grains and beans that have been sustaining highly active and healthy populations for millenia if I know I'm not going to be replacing it with produce.

I'm going to stop delving deeper, and just enjoy my two blogs that I know and love. A few years down the road, when it is a lifestyle and not a goal/transition, I would love to start looking into raw veganism and the "fruitarian" 80-10-10 thing discussed on NoMeatAthlete today. But if I do it now, I either won't eat, or I'll end up self-destructing, figuring that I can't win in any case, so might as well eat junk that I know is junk. I'm going to read NoMeatAthlete a little more carefully for right now, since he discusses and sometimes espouses a lot of the more intense options. I need to stop confusing myself. I need to get to the point where I'm addicted to how good I feel physically (and emotionally) when I treat my body right. Right now, I love how that feels, but I'm addicted to the emotional feeling I get from stuffing my face with things I know are bad for me. So I'm not going to worry about what The Ultimate Best Way to treat my body is. I'm just going to focus on treating it a lot better.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Off to a Good Start

52 minutes on the bike today, for 8.78 miles and supposedly 450 calories. Those things tend to be inflated, but I think it probably still did me some good! Legs feeling decidedly shaky, even if I wasn't absolutely pouring sweat or out of breath at any point.

Did my first day of P90X today! Actually tracked my reps this time, which I didn't do when I first experimented with it in France. I had to cut out early on the AbRipper part, due partly to muscle fatigue, but also in large part to just plain running out of steam. I first noticed this second phenomenon during the second half of the summer at SuperFit, after I stopped fueling as well as I did during the first half. My body just doesn't have the energy to go all-out during an intense workout, because I am not feeding it properly. Had some of the chili today, so that's a start, and now that I've busted through that barrier, I'm going to use it in burritos with some of the quinoa that's also chilling in the fridge.

Didn't get any time in on the bike yesterday, but I was out and active all day. Well, not active all day, since we were floating a river, but I put in quite a few good swim intervals, especially when I was towing 7 linked tubes with my friends in them. I now sport some very interesting-looking sunburns, despite my best efforts to stay sun-safe. Off for shower and more aloe, then!

Tomorrow: long easy bike (probably with television or movie), and short interval bike. Day 2 of P90X (I think it's legs and back?). Beans in at least two meals or snacks, whole grain in at least one. I have the sweet chili sauce, so tofu is a distinct possibility, though I don't have anything for the quinoa yet. Hopefully I can find a good teriyaki joint around here that sells their teriyaki sauce. If not, there is always peanut sauce, and in one week (!!) I will be 21 and will be able to buy my own sake to make my own teriyaki sauce.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Learning About the Bike

Work on the Bike:

Day 1:
  • Bike arrives
  • Put together
  • 35 minutes, 6 miles
Day 2:
  • Busy all day, but hop on for my minimum required 10 minutes of solid, sweat-inducing work around 1:30 am after DD-ing and dancing all night.
Day 3:
  • 50 minutes of medium resistance- enough to feel it the whole time, and work up a consistent sweat, but not to be ragged of breath or pouring sweat. No intervals, but knocked out a good 8 miles while catching up on my USA Network genius. 
  • For now, this won't count as an actual workout, but will count as time put on the bike each day. However, depending on how I schedule my HITT workouts, 8 miles that leave the legs a little shaky might count as my cardio for a few days each week. I'd like to have a bit more rise in the heart rate, though. This was mainly just to keep moving instead of vegging. 
Today's experiment in using the bike while marathoning television was at once successful, informative, and perhaps a little disappointing. Overall, however, I will qualify it as a success. I burned some calories, and handily kept myself from munching while watching- a double win there! Sometimes I will want to log an actual workout while watching television, but I think just simple moving and breaking a sweat is also a worthy occupation. The main disappointment came from how much I noticed it, for what I wanted to be just moving. Time passed pretty quickly, but I was also pretty aware that I was on the bike for just about the entire time.  I only got a little into the second episode before I decided to hop off the bike. I think within a week or two I should be able to go for 3 episodes at a time, once I get some proper fuel in me, and build up a little strength and awareness again. It's been a while since I've been on a bike, and since I've eaten right.

My goals for this Saturday, then:
  1. Clear up the space/finish organizing the space in the front room where I will do P90X (though I did just have a brain wave the I can probably put it on my laptop and do it in the dining room, which requires no rearranging. Should still organize the front room, though....)
  2. Clean up the kitchen enough so that I am excited to be in there cooking up good things. Maybe try out that new energy bar formula on No Meat Athlete... I need to break in that food processor at some point!
  3. Heat up some of the chili and have it over quinoa. I need to get some nutrients in this body, and fast! It's getting angry at me. 
  4. Get the makings for peanut sauce, and sweet chili sauce so that I have stuff for tofu. I know Emily at Daily Garnish loves it with just salt and pepper, but I don't know that I'm there yet. 
  5. Commit to a blender. Get said blender. Make a mini Green Monster and just down it. 
  6. Homework....

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Giant Post of Update- and a Bike!

I have landed once more in the Lone Star State, to start my senior year. I've got my own place, with my own kitchen, which is nice. I went a little crazy with junk food and binging during my first week here (interesting factoid: brownies make me uncomfortably full significantly faster than other foods, at smaller quantities even). But it's really been eating at me for several days now, and the arrival of my bike coincides nicely with my revived interest in being healthy and fit and generally smart about how I am treating my body.

So that's probably the biggest news: I have a cardio machine! I mentioned to my parents that I was looking on Craigslist for a recumbent bike to get for myself, and they decided to help me get a nice one. It isn't one of the $300 or $600 ones, but it is a good, solid, highly rated bike. I was figuring it wouldn't have enough resistance to do High-Intensity Interval Training, but until I really build up on it, I think the top resistance level will definitely do the trick for HIIT. Putting together the bike took somewhere in the range of an hour, give or take (I didn't think to look at a clock to time it), and was a lower level work-out in itself on a few occasions. But I prevailed, and it is solid, and looks good! Some of the cheaper ones just looked cheap, and weird. This one isn't quite as substantial as you would find in a higher-quality gym, but it looks like a proper piece of equipment. It looks like it should. Which makes me more inclined to use it!

I have it set up in my front room, near the TV. One of the reasons I wanted a recumbent bike over any other cardio machine is that it is the only one where your head doesn't bob up and down at all while you work. When I have lots of reading to do for class (and I'm a history major, so you'd better believe that extensive reading comes with the territory), I can work on a recumbent bike, but not anything else. Same for reading for pleasure. But, of course, for most workouts, I will be glued to the TV. I have DVR, which is excellent, so I can watch my shows whenever the workout mood strikes me, but I do like to watch things real time when I can. I love being the first to know about new plot developments! So commercial breaks could make for good built in intervals. We'll have to see about that- the intervals in HITT are generally supposed to only be the length of one or two commercials. Some trial and error over the next week, then.

I want to do both planned workouts and just general moving on this bike. HITT and hard, sweat-inducing rides are a must. Tonight, I pulled up George W. Bush's 9/11 Interview on my DVR and biked more than 6 miles, at a pretty consistent 10 mile pace on varying medium-high resistances. That was a pretty solid workout. And I'd like for that to be mostly what I do. But I also love to just watch and watch and watch full seasons of shows in one sitting. So, I want to have the option of not actually sitting. While I don't want it to be my main activity, I want to give myself permission to bike a little slower, on low resistance, sometimes, just to make sure that I'm still moving when I have a marathon TV session. Leave being entirely sedentary for being in class and working on the computer.

Ultimately, I want to put in a solid workout on this bike most days of the week, if not everyday. Even a ten minute HITT session if I'm totally slammed that day. I know you are not supposed to do HITT every single day, so I'll need to stay aware of that.

On the eating front, from this point out:
I've been making plans to be eating healthy this whole while, even if I have been sabotaging myself. I stocked up on whole grains and beans. I am even storing them in a wonderfully mismatched set of mason jars like my favorite bloggers! I made a batch of quinoa, and a batch of Cuban black beans. I made half of the CBB into a really fabulous looking chili. It's all chilling in my fridge right now- I've only had a scoop of the quinoa, in a burrito one morning, and haven't touched the beans or the chili. About half way into the first can of vegetarian refried beans I opened, as well. Tomorrow I'm going all out, though. I've had some of my Kashi a few times, and I'm definitely having a bowl tomorrow. A plate of beans and cheese for a mid-classes snack. Maybe a burrito at lunch, and then the chili and some corn muffins for dinner. I have the makings for a Green Monster, and a block of tofu, but no blender for the GM or makings of a sauce for the tofu.

I do have a food processor, which is excellent. It's huge, not like the wonderful 3-cup one we have at home, and certainly not as nice. But it should do for making falafel, hummus, and pesto, and for blending soups until I get a blender. I have my eye on a $50 Ninja one. It gets fabulous reviews for not being a Vitamix or a Blendtec, but is still reasonably affordable. I want one that really pulverizes the spinach in my GMs.

Shopping list: fixings for peanut sauce, sweet chili sauce, blender, parsley for falafel, lemons for falafel and hummus, basil for pesto, walnuts for pesto. And a new garlic press! We bought a $5 one, and it broke on the 2nd clove. I saw the nice one we use at home at TJMaxx for less than $10, so I'm going back for it. I love doing fresh-pressed garlic. Don't get me wrong, I still keep the minced around (darn good thing I did, too, when the press broke on me mid-chili), but I feel so fancy using the press.

The final piece of the puzzle is my weight training, and this is probably what I'm most nervous about. I brought my P90X DVDs, my workout bands, and my workout gloves. No more bugging out because my hands are dying! I have the requisite floor space, a TV, an area rug for the sit-ups, the whole shebang. I'm just a little worried about actually getting myself to do it. I'll keep you updated on that, for better or for worse. I'd better get on it soon, though, or I'll lose everything I gained at Superfit over the summer!