Archive for May, 2009|Monthly archive page

A month of maintenance

Yea!!!!

I am happy to report that I have maintained my goal weight (within a 1.5 pound +/- spread) for the entire month of May!

For those of you who know me well, you’ll recognize this as the accomplishment it is!

For those of you who don’t actually know me, in the past, I have been very good at reaching goals, but less successful at maintaining them! As a wise woman once told me, “You’re a striver, not a thriver.” In other words, I’m very good at striving, but less good at thriving — and, unfortunately, this applied to all areas of my life! In terms of weight-related goals, it meant that the one or two times that I even got close to 140 in the past, I only stayed there about one minute (the first time) or in the case of the second time, three days!

That I’ve been here for four weeks — in the midst of work-related hell and selling a house — is saying something! Truly, the thought of it makes me smile — at the very least — and want to jump up and down! I definitely think it’s time for a non-food related celebratory gift. Maybe I’ll finally succumb to all the direct marketing I’ve received since purchasing k-b slim and tone on line! I have to admit, it looks fun. It sort of reminds me of the bosu at the gym! But I digress.

Back to maintenance.

So, what’s it been like?

Sadly, for everyone who wants to be able to lose 10 (or 20 or 30 or even 90) pounds and then jump head first back into their favorite foods, it doesn’t work that way. Maintenance is just like dieting, you just get to eat more calories. Other than that, nothing has changed.

I still weigh myself regularly to make sure that I haven’t dropped too low (hasn’t happened yet, but it might!) or gone too high. When I’m up, I reduce my calories for a while. When I’m low, I add them back in.

Through repeating this process again and again, I’ve figured out that I can pretty much eat between 1,200 – 1,500 calories a day when I need to drop a pound or so and that I can maintain while eating between 1,500 – 1,800 calories a day. (This, of course, assumes that I exercise between four and five times a week!) Just knowing this little bit of information about my body has made a crucial difference in my ability to maintain my weight.

Now, does this mean that I just sit around and eat 1,500 calories worth of veggies everyday? No. In fact, just last week, I went out with friends and ended up eating 2,200. When that happens (and it will again), I automatically drop back down to 1,200 – 1,500 for a couple of days until my body stabilizes. It’s been great. And, importantly, it’s been easy!

One of my skinny friends — a woman who rarely exercises and is someone that I never would have assumed ever even thought about her weight — asked me what the difference has been for me this time. I told her and she said, “That’s exactly what I do! I can tell when I’m up. Or when I’ve eaten too much at a meal, I’ll cut back for a few days. And when I know I have something coming up, like a party or a holiday, I cut back a couple of days beforehand.”

Notably, she doesn’t count calories like I do (and I still do, religiously), but she does know what she eats and, perhaps even more importantly, what it does to her body.

So maintenance — it’s really nothing more than a diet with more calories. You still watch what you eat. You still make daily adjustments to your calories. You still weigh yourself regularly. You still — or at least I do — avoid those foods that make you crazy!

This is why, I suppose, that people always say that it’s not about being on a diet, it’s about changing your lifestyle. Because if you think about it as a diet that you can quit when you reach you’re goal, as opposed to a lifestyle that you’re committing to for life, you’re setting yourself up for failure or, at the very least, a lifetime full of diets.

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Living an undivided life – Part 3

(Continued from Part 2)

The day that I reached my weight loss goal, I called the lovely fitness coach as promised. Once I had reintroduced myself, I told her the good news.

She seemed genuinely happy for me. And we spent a few minutes just celebrating my accomplishment.

After the initial euphoria (she really did seem as pleased for me as I was for myself), I cleared my throat and I said, “I have a confession to make. And, more to the point, I owe you an apology.”

She seemed surprised. “Really?”

Essentially, I gave her a recap of everything that I had been thinking about her (and skinny women in general). Then, I apologized for making that rude gaffe when 1) I asked her how much she weighed and 2) then promptly shaking my head and wrinkling my nose in disgust and lying: “Oh, I’d never want to be that skinny.”

“Did you say that?!” she asked.

“Oh yes,” I admitted. “And I was lying like a dog. In fact, I wouldn’t mind looking exactly like you. You’re gorgeous.”

She laughed. “I don’t remember you saying that,” she assured. “But then again, when that stuff happens — and it does — I really don’t take that on.”

It was my turn to be surprised. “Excuse me?”

“Well,” she began kindly, “that’s really about you, isn’t it? It really has nothing to do with me. Whenever someone says something like that, I just don’t take it on. You can’t really.”

I was flabbergasted. She may not be able to, but I certainly do.

Or more importantly, I used to.

I’ve had people say really ugly things to me during my weight loss process (as well as during other cycles of what I see as positive self-change) — hurtful things, non-supportive things. And I always took them on. And I felt bad and I worried. And sometimes I felt bad enough and worried enough that I ended up sabotaging myself in order to make my friends feel better.

But the coach is full of gifts it seems — and I realize, in retrospect, that all of the hurtful things that people say to me (just like the hurtful thing I said to her) are about them, not me. Just as my own rudeness was not about her, but about me. It was all me. And she was right not to take it on.

Needless to say, there’s something very powerful about being honest with yourself to the point of being able to be completely honest with others. There was also something extremely powerful about realizing that you’re wrong and taking the steps to own up to and apologize to those you have been wronged — not by anything that they’ve done in terms of their own self-change — but by those things that you’ve done.

Remember that old childhood rhyme — I’m rubber, you’re glue? I know that I must have sang it frequently as a child, but apparently it hadn’t stuck as an adult. Think about it before you criticize someone else. And if it turns out that you are projecting your own insecurities, own up to it. And don’t be afraid to apologize.

Rainbowfy your food!

I’d been looking for an article on this very topic and low and behold — I find one written by one of my favorite former students. Check it out here! Thanks, Diane!

Quote for the Day

The past doesn’t have to equal the future — Tony Robbins

Setting priorities

As I drove in this morning, I found myself going round and round in my head about how much stuff I had to accomplish today and how little time I had in which to accomplish it. The more I thought about all of the things that I needed to do, the more stressed out I began to feel.

Essentially, I am swamped at work; I should be doing nothing at the moment other than working. But I really wanted to exercise. And sadly enough, as I drove into campus, I had just about convinced myself to skip the gym. However, before that decision could stick, I remembered my last quote of the day.

Sitting at a crosswalk, trying to decide whether to turn right for prime gym parking or to proceed straight to the office without collecting my $200, I decided that there are a lot of ways to waste time during the work day, but that working out was not one of them.

I went to the gym, as desired.

I then went to my office and started grading.

What I did not do was start surfing.

What I most certainly did not do was check email.

In fact, I left my computer in its bag on the floor! Ladies and gentleman, a first (but not a last)!

I’m glad I worked out.

I’m gladder, still, that I finished grading.

And do I feel bad about the email and web? Not really. Because, trust me, the email (and the world at large, for that matter) are still right where I left them.

Memorial Day with MJ’s Parents

As noted before, I have struggled with how to deal with my eating preferences and other people — especially when I’ve been invited to their homes.

This holiday weekend, we were invited over for the typical family Bar-b-Que, with steak, chicken, elk, potato salad, baked beans, and beer.

I packed up a huge bowl of tabouli (or, tabbouleh, which is the proper spelling), some veggie burgers, and some Arnold’s Multi-grain Sandwich Thins. I tossed my burgers on the grill and no one said a thing, other than I’d waited too long and therefore didn’t get to start eating when everyone else did! But that’s okay; they were still at it when I got there and there was still plenty to go around.

I even tasted the elk and the steak — both were delicious. But more to the point, everyone loved the tabouli and I got to eat exactly what I wanted!

For dessert, I passed on the Ben & Jerry’s, the Key Lime Pie, and the Strawberries and Angel Food Cake. I fixed a really strong cup of Raspberry Zinger tea and curled up on the couch for some quiet conversation. I’ll write more about my new relationship with tea later!

The first couple of times I approached family meals this way, I felt awkward. However, now that I’ve been consistent, people don’t seem to find it strange. Instead, it’s “just the way KJ eats.”

So, give it a try. It may be awkward at first (or it might not be). But as you stick to it, it simply becomes the way things are…just like the person who doesn’t like fruity fruit or, god forbid, beets.

Another reason to eat quinoa

In addition to being delicious in soups and stews, it apparently also fights cancer as well: check it out!

K-Bell Total Body Blast – Review

As noted previously, I purchased the latest trendy exercise program, K-bells (with “Master Instructor” Michelle Khai) and actually liked it.

I had worked through the introductory package, which has a lot of good instructional material as well as one decent cardio workout and one 50 minute circuit training DVD.

Despite that I liked the idea of a k-bell exercise program, the flowing movements, the knowledge that I was working out micro-muscles, the workout itself, and the instructor, I realized that I just wasn’t doing this workout. Whenever I made a decision about what type of exercise I was going to do, I would go to the gym and hit the Step Mill (which my massage therapist lovingly calls “The Gauntlet”), the Tread Climber, Spinning, or if I stayed at home, I’d more often than not jump on the Nordic Track or do Yoga. So what was going on? If I liked the program, why wasn’t I doing it?

It boiled down to this — the premise of the workout is that you get your heart rate up and you do the bell work and this combination “blasts” the fat from your body!!! Sound good? Sure it does. But there’s only one problem: it was physically impossible for me to get my heart rate up into my fat burning zone doing this workout alone. Thus, I wasn’t burning any calories. It’s not Michelle’s fault, nor is it the fault of the k-bell program. In fact, I have the exact same problem with all of Jillian Michael’s home workout DVDs. I also have the same problem with Tony Horton’s Kenpo X (the kickboxing segment of P90X) and Cardio X. And, for that matter, Billy Blanks Tae-Bo the last time I did it. Essentially, it’s not them; it’s me. They may actually work in terms of toning and building muscle, but psychologically, I feel like I’m wasting my time.

And it’s not that I’m not trying, it’s just that after teaching spinning for 4 years, I have a super low resting heart rate: it’s about 42 first thing in the morning and around 56-60 after I’ve been up a while. It takes a lot of umph to get from 60 to 130 (which is the low end of my target training zone) in a 30 – 45 minute work out tape.

However, I really wanted to do the KB Total Body Blast and I really want to be able to incorporate it into my summer routine without feeling like I’m wasting time. It’s fun; she’s doing a lot of really interesting moves. I can feel the little micro-muscles doing their thing. I feel like my balance will improve if I keep it up. I like the momentum generated by the bell as I swing it across my body. And unlike a lot of newer cardio blast programs, there isn’t a lot of jumping. There is hopping, but that doesn’t bother my knee the way that other more plyo-centric programs do.

So, determined to get a good workout and do KB Total Body Blast, I got up this morning, put on U2’s, “No Line on the Horizon” and jumped on the Nordic Track. This album is a good choice for getting into and staying right in my target zone (between 130-145 beats per minutes) as it has a good mix of fast and slow songs. Also, there is a good mix of tight (or short) notes and loose (or long) notes, lending itself to intervals. It’s also relatively short, clocking in at only 54 minutes. That’s 15 warm-up, 30 minutes in the zone, and the last two songs are slow, which starts a pseudo-cooling off period.

Then, with my heart rate at 100 (instead of 58!) I immediately jumped into KB Total Body Blast — which is only 30 minutes — and it was perfect. I stayed in the zone almost the entire time. I was tired when I was done. I actually worked up a sweat! I only burned 204 calories doing it, but it was only 30 minutes (and when I’d done it without raising my heart rate first, I had only burned 157)!

However, add that to the cardio that I’d done on the Nordic Track (400!), I burned 604 calories. Not to shabby for a leisurely Sunday morning at home. Especially since 1 hour out of that 1 hour and 24 minutes was in my target training zone!

So, bottom line: if you are already fit and you find home workouts to be a waste of time, do something else first to get your heart rate up. I really think that KB Total Body Blast is going to be worth it. Besides that, it’s a lot of fun! This is also going to encourage me to shake the dust off of some of my other programs and give them another go!

Update!

What’s for lunch?

I woke up and it was cool and dreary! So, I decided that a nice hot stew would fit the bill.

I put together one of the regular salads for the weekend, checked the cupboards and crisper, made sure that the cilantro was still good and pulled out my trusty Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home.

And the winner: Peruvian Quinoa Stew.

For more information on quinoa, go here.

I tend to make a big salad and at least a couple of one pot meals during the weekend so that we’ll have plenty of quick, healthy options during the week! Enjoy.

Recipe: Quinoa Peruvian Stew

Taken (and adapted from) Moosewood Cooks at Home.

1/2 cup quinoa
1 cup cold water

2 cups chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 carrot, cut on the diagonal into 1/4 inch slices
1 bell pepper, cut into 1 inch pieces (KJ: I prefer red or will use both red and green for color)
1 cup cubed zucchini
2 cups undrained chopped fresh or canned tomatoes
1 cup water or vegetable stock (KJ: because I tend to be lazy, I use Organic Better Than Bouillon, Vegetable Base)
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground coriander
pinch of cayenne (or more to taste)
2 teaspoons of fresh oregano (1 teaspoon dried)
salt to taste (KJ: I tend to use Malden’s sea salt)

Chopped fresh cilantro (optional)

Using a fine sieve, rinse the quinoa well. Place it in a pot with the water and cook, covered, on medium-low heat for about 15 minutes, until soft. Set aside.

While the quinoa cooks, in an uncovered soup pot saute the onions and the garlic in the oil for about 5 minutes on medium heat. Add the celery and carrots, and continue to cook for 5 minutes, stirring often. Add the bell pepper, zucchini, tomatoes, and water or stock. Stir in the cumin, chili powder, coriander, cayenne, oregano, and simmer, covered, for 10 to 15 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. Stir the cooked quinoa into the stew and salt to taste. Top with cilantro if you wish. Serve immediately.

Per 8 oz. serving: 140 calories, 2.8 grams of protein, 4.7 grams of fat, 22.9 grams of carbohydrate, 52 mg sodium, 0 mg cholesterol.

Time: 35 minutes

Living an undivided life – Part 2

( Part 1)

At the end the the King talk, on honesty, he challenged us to a 24 hour challenge, during which you could only be unflinchingly honest. No lies. Not even the little white ones. Total and absolute honesty.

Okay, I thought. I’m pretty honest. How hard can it be?

At the break, I went a product table, where they were selling all kinds of things ranging from Time Management Tools, Leadership CDs, Relationship Programs, and Weight Loss Products. I had a couple of questions about a 10 Day Cleanse that I had bought the day before. I’d never done one before — still haven’t the truth be told. There was also a weight loss supplement package that I was curious about, but eventually didn’t buy.

The person behind the counter was a woman who I had noticed at the beginning of the weekend. She was skinny (and therefore I had written her off as relatively stupid and bitchy; see Part 1). But, if that wasn’t bad enough, she was also very feminine. One of these ultra-feminine girlie girls. Make up, scarves, gypsy pants, low cut tops, exotic jewelry. She didn’t walk, she glided. She didn’t make sudden turns, she flowed. She was dramatic. She was also truly drop dead stunningly gorgeous.

I, of course, hated her on sight and was horrified at the thought about having to ask her anything about my weight issues.

“May I help you?” she asked in this fabulous British/Welsh accent. (Could life be any more unfair?)

I gave her another look and figured that she certainly looked like she’d know what she was talking about and asked her about the weight loss product, which consisted mainly of various dietary supplements, herbs, and teas.

She looked me up and down. “And how much would you like to lose?”

“I don’t know,” I admitted. “I weigh 151 now.”

“Well, what would you like to weigh?”

I looked her up and down. “What do you weigh?”

She glanced down and then back at me. “I weigh about 135.”

“Well, I wouldn’t want to be that skinny!” I denied, suddenly mortified that I had asked this beautiful woman how much she weighed!

(End flashback!)

Whoa! As I told my partner about the exchange the following week, I realized that not only had I been ruder than hell, I had also told a bald-faced lie. Twenty-four hours? Sorry Mr. King, I hadn’t even made it twenty-four minutes! I’ll come back to this later.

(Resume flashback)

She looked nonplussed for about a sixteenth of a second. “Well?”

“Maybe 140,” I ventured, thinking surely that she’s laugh.

“Well, you’re almost there then aren’t you. That’s just ten pounds.”

She then proceeded to sketch out a weight loss plan on the back of a note card; turns out she’s a fitness coach, among other things. A very generous one at that who gave me a lot of free advice. Free advice that worked! She also gave me her phone number to call when I was done in six weeks (her estimate, not mine, of how long it would take).

I’ve mentioned this before, but she essentially told me to cut my calories to 1,200, keep exercising, and when I’d lost five pounds, gain three back, then lose another five pounds, gain three back, and so on. So, since I was at 151, stay at 1,200 calories a day until I hit 146, then pop up to 1,500-2,000 until I hit 149, then go back down to 1,200 until I hit 144, then back up until I hit 147, and so on! It worked. In six weeks, I’d dropped 12 pounds. And using the same technique, I have maintained a two pound spread around my desired weight for over a month!

So let’s get back to the lie: Just in case you hadn’t figured it out, I didn’t think she was too skinny. In fact, I did want to be that skinny! Hell, it’s not too much of a stretch to say that I wanted to look just like her, gypsy pants, high heeled boots and all! But I thought that if I expressed that, she’d take one look at me, laugh, and snort (elegantly, of course), “And what makes you think you could ever look like me?”

Why wouldn’t she? Hadn’t I said the same thing to myself on several occasions with a lot less compassion? Hadn’t I said the same thing every time I had looked at someone I thought was attractive and called them a stupid, skinny bitch? Hadn’t I said the same thing every time I looked at the mirror and called myself fat? And, albeit less harshly, hadn’t I said the same thing when I said that I was only losing weight to be fit? Hell, I was fit. My resting heart rate was (and still is) 48! Why hadn’t I ever been able to admit the truth: I wanted to be skinny! There was some part of me that wanted to be a little, skinny, girlie girl. There, I said it!

And for the first time in my life, I had been honest about why I wanted to lose weight.

And, perhaps not coincidentally, for the first time in my life, I have been successful in reaching and maintaining my desired goal.

(Continued in Part 3)

Living an undivided life – Part 1

Back in March, while crewing a Tony Robbins event, I went to a workshop by a former racer Gary King. Essentially, his shtick, if you will, is that “there is no such thing as an inconsequential lie.” You should be honest with others and honest with yourself. If you aren’t honest all the time — and this means no “little white lies” either — than you are living a divided life. When you live a divided life, it is impossible for you to meet your goals, you have lower self-esteem…. The list goes on and on.

Now, I had been thinking about this a lot lately, as it was. For example, I had gotten back to that place where I was stuck in my diet — this was the weekend back in March, by the way, when I finally decided that enough was enough and took intense and massive action in my fitness and lifestyle regimen. I had been thinking about this — the divided part, not the honesty part — because I had realized that whenever a skinny person would annoy me, I would think — sometimes subconsciously and sometimes not — stupid, skinny bitch!

Essentially, I had realized that I had created a negative association with being skinny, especially if you were female. I assumed — wrongly, I realize — that if you were skinny, you were also a bitch! And, more importantly, given the high value I place on intelligence, you were also stupid.

Now, you’re probably wondering, what about all your smart skinny female friends?

They’re exceptions.

Just like people make exceptions for other stigmatized groups — oh, some of my best friends are X — I, too, embarrassingly enough, had exceptionalized all of the the smart, skinny, non-bitches that I actually know and love.

I know this sounds terrible, but bear with me.

Though I hadn’t fully grasped the extent to which this was a problem, I began to have the sinking feeling that part of the reason I couldn’t lose weight was because I viewed myself as being relatively intelligent, kind, and compassionate woman — at least where non-skinny people were concerned, obviously! 😉

So, how could I want to be something (that is, skinny) that I at so many levels obviously disdained?

The answer is simple. I couldn’t.

Step One: Change my attitude about skinny women.

How did I do this? I began to focus on my skinny friends and how wonderful and smart they were. I also stopped myself every single time I caught myself thinking something negative about a skinny person. I didn’t necessarily think anything nice about them (I haven’t changed that much). But at least I stopped linking bad things to being skinny. After all, it’s just as easy to think someone is a self-centered, obnoxious, cow when they set their yoga mat up directly in front of your perfect yoga spot as it is to call them a stupid, skinny, bitch.

Once I figured that out, I thought I was golden. Oh, how wrong I was.

To be continued….

(Part 2)

Note to self:

Feeling a little sluggish after last night’s carb and sugar fest. It’s fine to have them on very special occasions, but don’t underestimate the effect that it’s going to have on your — my — body.

When you start following a diet devoid, for the most part, of sugar and alcohol, you can really appreciate how delicate the chemistry of the body is when you add them back in!

Celebratory Dinner

I went out with friends to celebrate 1) the sale of my house in a downward market — the check that I took to the closing was larger than the one the buyer brought! — and 2) the one year anniversary of my tenure decision.

I ate like a pig, and was it ever glorious. A couple of glasses of prosecco with olive and goat cheese to start. Then a glass of red. Salad. Whole wheat penne with tomato, onion, garlic, and spinach for dinner. And then some sort of chocolate mousse! Yum.

The conversation was great; the atmosphere was chic, yet fun. The food? Well, I haven’t eaten that much — or that richly — in a while.

So, am I kicking myself? Absolutely not.

So, what does this mean for my “diet”?

Nothing, other than the fact that I’ll reduce my calorie intake back down to 1,200 calories tomorrow (and probably the next couple of days as well). But that’s fine! I’ve been trying to gain a couple of pounds for the last month as it is — and something tells me that tonight I may have very well succeeded.

“Why would I be trying to gain weight?” you ask. Well, it’s actually quite simple.

For every five pounds I lose, I try to gain three back.

While this approach may seem counter intuitive, it actually creates a stair step pattern that keeps my metabolism from tanking. More importantly, however, it also helps me better track the true number of calories that I can eat in a day and not gain weight.

Since I’ve been doing this, I’ve actually had a harder time gaining the weight than losing it. It’s an interesting problem to have and –by the way — not one that I ever thought I would have.

Quote of the Day

How you choose to spend your time is the most important decision you can make in a day – Anonymous

Clothes horse

Within the last two months, I have procured a tremendous number of pants. I’m not talking two pairs. I’m not talking three pairs. I’m not even talking about five pairs. Embarrassingly enough, it’s closer to ten! It’s insane. And to make matters worse, I haven’t even worn the majority of them.

Luckily I am buying them at consignment stores, thrift shops, and at the 75% off outlet at J.Jill, but still. Ten pairs of pants?

For those of you who know me, you’re probably thinking — do you even wear pants? And when you do, don’t you always pretty much wear the same ones over and over?

It’s true that I used to never wear pants. And on the rare occasion that I did, I tended to wear the same pair. The reason being was that I could never find pants that would fit me! I remember standing — dismayed — in a GAP dressing room with a pair of 14s that fit my hips but stood out about six inches around the waist. (To give you a little perspective on the situation, my thesis adviser once asked me if I had natural curvature of the spine!) Regardless, just as I was thinking that I never wanted to see the body that these jeans were supposed to fit, the sales girl came around the corner and gasped, “You’re right! You do have a big butt!”

I think it was at least five years before I ever set foot (or butt cheek) in another GAP; though these days, I have several pairs of GAP pants that I picked up for cheap at the consignment store! There’s more than one way to heal old retail-inflicted wounds!

In addition to the recent weight loss (40 pounds since February 2006), my body shape has also changed. Without giving away too much information, suffice it to say that I can now wear pants! In fact, it’s nothing for me to buy six different styles — all in the same size — and have them all fit. I think my new found pant lust stems from the joy of actually trying them on — after so many years of failure — and having them fit. But as I put away the new dress khakis, the dress linen tweeds with flared legs, and the moss mini chord cargoes, I have to think, enough is enough!

I say that as I sit here typing in a pair of moss colored cargo pants with purple piping that my inner child — KJ, Junior — just had to have. Was it the purple piping or was it the fact that they were size 16 girls?! We never wore cute clothes in girls’ sizes, even when we were girls. I picked them up, told myself I was being ridiculous, then put them back on the rack. But every time I walked past them, I hesitated. When I finally tried them on — and when they actually fit — I knew there was no way they were going back!

I am close to 40 years old. When’s the last time you saw a 40 year old woman wearing green cargo pants with purple piping?

Will I ever wear them outside of the house? Maybe — but probably not. But they were only $3.00.

Green pants with purple piping: $3.00. Fulfilling my old childhood desires: priceless.

What’s your favorite food?

The other day a friend of mine asked me what my favorite food is. I answered quickly and without a lot of thought: “Beets!”

The look of disbelief on her face was laughable.

“Beets?” she asked, incredulously.

“Yep,” I nodded earnestly. “Those or Brussels sprouts. I eat them all the time. I love them.”

It was clear to me that she hadn’t thought of beets or Brussels sprouts when she posed the question. It was equally clear that her idea of what constitutes a “favorite” food was something more along the lines of a fresh baked chocolate chip cookie (or something else you’re likely to eat only when you think other people aren’t watching).

This simple interchange has led me to reflect on what makes a food a favorite food. And since then I have asked a number of people about what their favorite foods are.

Michael, my partner, said salmon. Then he proceeded to pair the salmon with his favorite green vegetable, either broccoli or green beans. And then threw in a glass of red wine for good measure. Obviously the question, for him, made him think of his favorite meal, rather than a particular food.

Luckily, that was what we were having for dinner that night — sans the wine.

And, notably, it’s something we have fairly frequently.

When I pushed him, he listed a lot of other things that we eat all the time (like salad, a nicely cooked steak, etc), leaving off the things that I thought he might say, like chocolate, chips, Coke, etc.

Eventually, he came to this conclusion: “There’s food that I like while I’m eating it and there’s food that I like after I eat it. If I like eating it, but it makes me feel like crap afterward, it’s not my favorite.”

Interesting.

Another friend answered anything ethnic — especially either Indian or Thai. Well, as it turns out, he and his partner cook Indian and Thai all the time at home. So they, like Michael and I, tend to eat their favorite foods, regularly. When I made this observation, my friend commented: “Well, there are things that I like to eat that I know I need to cut back on, but that’s not food. That’s junk.”

So it seems that people have different definitions of favorite — not to mention different definitions of what actually constitutes food.

What are your favorite foods? What is it about them that makes them your favorite? And how do you incorporate them into your life?

A 1,200 calorie day in my world

Over the last few days, I have found myself being asked: Well, what do you eat?

My very simple weight loss pan (now maintenance plan), was to lose five pounds — eating 1,200 calories a day and exercising moderately. When I lost the five, I would gradually increase my calories to 1,500 – 2,000 a day, trying to ascertain the point at which I stated to gain weight. When I gained three pounds, I would drop down to 1,200 a day until I lost another five, and so on.

Whenever I tell people this, their first question is usually: Can it be 1,200 calories of anything? Mmm, probably not — especially if you want it to be sustainable.

So, just to provide an example, here is my typical 1,200 calorie day:

March 24, 2009 (taken from my food diary):

Breakfast:
Shake, 270 calories

Snack:
Apple, 80 calories

Lunch:
Pita Bread & Hummus, 130 calories
Salad, 65 calories
Tabouli, 100 calories

Snack:
Orange, 64 calories
1/2 cup soup, 39 calories

Dinner:
1 cup Brown Basmati Rice, 150 calories
Lentil Dal, 173 (recipe)

Dessert:
1/2 cup Soy Ice Cream, 130 calories

Total : 1201 calories

As you can see, I’m a healthy grazer. I eat about every two to three hours. Not bad work if you can get it!

Recipe: Lentil Dal

(Serves 8 )

Note: Super easy! And wonderfully nutritious. Serve with brown basmati rice and a green salad!

1 Tablespoon oil
2 large onions, chopped
4 garlic cloves, crushed or minced
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
2 teaspoons coriander
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon cayenne

2 cups lentils, rinsed
5 1/2 cups boiling water
1 teaspoon salt

Heat the Oil in a pot, then add the onions and garlic. Cook until soft, about 5 minutes.

Add the cumin seeds, coriander, turmeric, and cayenne. Cook another minute (be careful not to inhale the fumes).

Add the lentils and boiling water. Cover and simmer until the lentils are tender, about 1 hour. Stir occasionally while cooking. If the mixture becomes to thick, add a bit more water. And salt to taste.

Per serving: 173 calories; 10 grams of protein; 28 grams of carbohydrates; 2 grams of fat; 270 mg sodium; 0 mg cholesterol

(Reproduced from The Peaceful Palate).

Recipe: Tabouli

The classic bulgur salad with garlic, parsley, lemon, mint, etc. You can prepare steps 1 and 2 as much as a day in advance. The flavors get deeper as it sits around. A food processor (even a mini!) does a perfect job of mincing scallions, parsley, and mint into a fine feathery state, which makes the salad much prettier and easier to eat.

(6 to 8 servings); 30 to 40 minutes to prepare.

1 cup dry bulgur wheat
1/2 cup boiling water
1 to 1 1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
Juice of 1 lime (KJ’s addition)
1/4 cup of olive oil
2-6 medium cloves garlic, crushed
black pepper, to taste
4 scallions, finely minced (white and greens)
1 cup minced parsley
10 to 15 fresh mint leaves, finely minced (or 1 to 2 Tbs dried mint).
2 medium-sized ripe tomatoes, diced

optional:
1/2 cup of cooked chick peas (KJ: I tend to throw in an entire can, drained and rinsed)
1 medium bell pepper, diced (KJ: I prefer red over green and it’s prettier!)
1 small cucumber, seeded and minced

1) combine bulgur and boiling water in a medium-large bowl. Cover and let stand until bulgur is tender (20 to 30 minutes, minimum).

2) add salt, lemon juice, lime juice, olive oil, garlic, and black pepper, and mix thoroughly. Cover tightly and refrigerate until about 30 minutes before serving.

3) About 30 minutes before serving, sit in remaining ingredients (including optional ingredients) and mix well. Serve with warm wedges of lightly toasted pita bread. (Or, as I do, on top of a spinach salad)!

Reproduced (and modified from) Moosewood Cookbook, New Revised Edition.