Archive for June, 2009|Monthly archive page

Quote for the day

This little gem comes from Loren Slocum‘s new book, Life Tune-Ups: Your Personal Plan to Find Balance, Discover Your Passion, and Step into Greatness:”

“Just as I sit with my mug in the morning, tell yourself that no matter where you are, no matter how rough things seem, you are in the right place for this particular moment in your life. It may not feel like it now, but later when you look back on this time you may realize that it taught you something important or brought something valuable into your life.”

And — if you have a minute — it’s worth checking out the video, here.

Dissent of the Day (Title borrowed from Andrew Sullivan)

In response to my previous link: Family Insights: It’s Not Enough to Want It, a reader writes:

“It’s easy to judge people when you’re on top of your game.  I hope none of the people you reference in this blog ever reads it.  Things aren’t always so black and white.”

Ouch. But totally true.

I was not trying to be judgmental; I was just noticing differences in people and their orientations towards weight. I do know people who simply don’t care (and, in many ways, they seem happier than those of us who do). I also, however, know people who care but who don’t do anything about it (and they, in many ways, seem the least happy). I also know people, family members included, who are unhappy with their weight, yet have real physical limitations that prevent them from achieving their goals. I also, however, know several people, again, family members included, who have mental blocks that prevent them from achieving their goals. Or time commitments. I also know people — myself, included — who are compulsive (maybe to a ridiculous degree) about food and exercise and therefore have made calorie counting and exercise as an important part of their lives as going to work, paying bills, or cleaning the cat box.

Part of the question — for me — is why do some people care about their weight and others not? Why do some people who care do nothing, while others at least attempt to do something?

The point that I was trying to make (to myself and to whoever that might be reading) is that if you want something — anything, whether it’s related to weight or not — you have to 1) have a clear and specific goal, 2) have a compelling reason and 3) take massive and sustained action.

I’d also like to note that I don’t consider myself to be at the top of my game. I have crap days like everyone else. I eat junk, I stress eat, and I’d love to be able to run five miles or do a single pull up. The reason I started this blog was to chronicle my ups and downs and to share my thoughts and reflections on weight, fitness, and maintenance with other people who are doing the same. It was also to keep me honest and to remind myself of what I know is true.

I apologize if my previous post was offensive. The anecdote about my cousin was only used as a set up for something that I think is absolutely essential for meeting goals, whatever they may be. It was a reminder to myself as much as it was for anyone else.

Family insights — it’s not enough to want it

Last week, while visiting my parents, we went to a family funeral. The deceased was the mother of my mother’s sister’s husband. Or, to put it another way, she was the grandmother of my cousins, though she, herself, was not my grandmother.

The last time I saw some of these cousins — sadly enough — was at our grandfather’s funeral last August.

There, at the wake, one my cousins, referred to me as Skinny Minnie — in a good way. And she kept eying me suspiciously and mouthing: How did you get so skinny?

Well, that was 10 months and probably close to 15 pounds ago.

This time she came up to me and said, “I would love to be as thin as you.”

I smiled, thanked her for the lovely compliment and then said. “It’s not that hard, but it is a daily chore.”

And, she smiled — though hers didn’t quite meet her eyes — and sighed. “But it requires a degree of self-discipline that I just don’t have.”

My gut level reaction, which often gets me into trouble, was: Then you don’t want it bad enough!

But, given that she had just lost her third grandparent in less than a year, I kept my mouth shut.

I’ve thought a lot about that exchange. I’ve thought about why it is that some people (myself included) have decided that it’s no longer acceptable to be overweight (often to an unhealthy degree), whereas others are willing to live with it even though they want to change. I’ve also realized that some people just don’t care. Even though they are heavy, if not morbidly obese, they are seemingly okay with their limited physical ability and (in some cases) their deteriorating health.

Essentially, our exchange reminded me that it’s not enough to simply want it. You have to want it bad enough to actually do something about it. My cousin wanted to weigh less, but she didn’t want to have to do anything to make it happen.

When I first started this leg of my weight release program — about three years ago, when I was 40 pounds heavier than I am now — someone (that is, Tony Robbins) gave me this piece of advice.

1. Set a real goal that is motivating. Don’t just say you want to lose 10 pounds, because that’s not compelling. Say you want to lose 20 pounds of fat so that you stop having knee problems.

2. Make it a must! This means that you make decisions regarding your health and fitness that are every bit as binding as the decisions that my cousin makes when running her business or raising her child. You have to convince yourself that if you don’t do it, then something disastrous is going to occur — that is, your physical equivalent of bankruptcy! For me, it was the fear of knee replacement and/or carrying that 40 pounds into my forties. For others, it may be the nightmare of hypertension or diabetes.

3. Take quick and decisive action. As soon as you define that clear and compelling goal, take immediate action! It could be something like joining a gym, calling a friend and telling them that you’re going to lose 30 pounds of fat come hell or high water, joining Weight Watchers, or starting a new exercise program. But do something immediately! Do anything! Don’t just make the goal and hope it will happen, because that’s not doing, that’s wishing!

It’s not enough to want it. You have to want it bad enough to actually do something about it. Hopefully, when my cousin’s ready — if she ever gets ready — she’ll set a goal, make it compelling, and do something about it. Because, truly, it’s the only thing that’s going to get you where you want to be.


Thanks to a dissent from a reader, it’s also occurred to me to add that you don’t have to want it.

It’s perfectly fine to like yourself the way you are. In fact, it’s probably the best way to go.

Not everyone needs to be thin; in fact, being thin or skinny (God forbid) was never a particular goal of mine. However, regardless of size, I do think that people should try their hardest to be as fit as possible given their own particular set of circumstances.

Overview of the trip with the folks

I’ve been rereading my last couple of posts and it’s all about the food.

But the trip really was about lot more than that. It was nice to hang in my parents’ world for a while. And, equally important, they got to hang out in (or at least glimpse into) mine. Every morning I got up and exercised. Mostly long walks (ranging anywhere from an hour to an hour and half — or from 400 to 520 calories, depending on the temperature). But, on more than one occasion, my mother watched while I did K-bell Total Body Blast in her living room; my father, on the other hand, merely shook his head and headed outside.

I made them tabouli and salad. I hung with them. I hung with old friends. Mother and I went shopping, at malls as well as at garage scales. She didn’t say a word when I bought a pretty fitted pair of trousers for her to give me as a not only as a Christmas present, but as a fairly serious piece of leverage to see me through the summer and the fall holidays. She also didn’t say a word, other than it was nice, when I bought my first ever skimpy, spaghetti strap halter top. Well, she did ask if I’d ever really wear it!

From a diet/exercise perspective, it wasn’t that bad; in fact, it was actually quite good. Part of what made it so great is that my parents didn’t make any judgments whatsoever about what I ate. If I stuck to salad and shakes they were fine with it. When I ate close to 1/2 lb of brisket, they didn’t say anything either. They didn’t accuse me of being obsessive or compulsive or annoying when I passed on the wine and cheese at dinner. Nor did they accuse me of wrecking my diet when I had two martinis. In other words, they were great! Thanks guys! They also didn’t razz me about my appearance. They didn’t say that I needed to eat more or that I was too skinny, like they have done in the past. They also didn’t comment if they thought I was looking a little rounder around the edges than I’d been when I’d arrived. They were very accepting. And their acceptance made being there — being with them — being myself — that much easier.

In sum, I had a great time and I know just where I’ll be applying my free round trip ticket from United!

Six airports in 72 hours (unbelievable)!

I’m sitting in Ronald Reagan International, which wasn’t even on the agenda, if you recall. My original flight was scheduled to arrive at home at midnight on the 24th!

After having to report to the airport twice, I made it to Chicago, only to get stuck in Dulles. I stuck to my food plan, other than the portabello burger that I ordered from room service at the Sheraton Reston. It came with fries or a fruit cup. I skipped the fries and saved the fruit cup (strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries — that may have been worth the $25.00) for breakfast.

Once I got to Dulles and realized that I was going to get tossed from the oversold flight, I scarfed down two chocolate zone bars (380 calories) and a banana (90 calories). A little stress with your processed soy product? Sure. Why not?

I lovely woman who doesn’t make nearly enough money — and whose supervisor will be getting a very complimentary letter from me — set me off with a hundred dollar cab voucher, a new ticket (this one leaving from Ronald Reagan International Airport across town) and a another voucher for a round trip ticket to anywhere in the United States. No wonder the airlines are bankrupt, as I was not the only person in a very long line that got this deal.

Although it was only 11:20 when I found my gate at Ronald Reagan, I was ravenous. Unfortunately, the choices were pretty grim: the best being Panda Express and FuddRuckers. I scoped out all of the options (more than once) and went to FuddRuckers.

Believe it or not, it was great. It was also reasonably healthy. I had a veggie burger on whole wheat toast, no cheese. I also, admittedly, had a small order of hand cut fries, which were surprisingly ungreasy. And very tasty. There is also a condiment bar, where you can get tomatoes, lettuce (iceberg, admittedly), pickles, onions, and pico de gallo. I was very filling and I’m sure that it will hold me until I get home, assuming, that is, that I get home anytime — that is, any day — soon.

However, if I don’t, Panda Express does have nutritional values posted and the Mixed Vegetables looked surprisingly fresh!

On the road again (well, sort of….)

My 6:18 p.m. flight to Chicago O’Hare was delayed to the point of missing connections yesterday, due to the weather. According to the woman behind the desk, this happens 90% of the time. So, really, why bother?

Regardless, at least they let me stay home another night with my parents instead of shelling out a hundred bucks for a hotel in Chicago. My new flight leaves at 10:30 a,m., and goes through Chicago, then Dulles, before finally getting me home at 6:38 p.m. Yuck. My other option was to be sitting at Chicago for ten hours! No thanks.

Of course, my biggest concern is not about the number of transfers, but about the food. Eight hours and two meal slots later. Lovely.

Plan: two veggie wraps, a bag of carrots, and (if we have time to run by the store) three or four apples. I’ll also be packing protien bars as well, but hopefully only as a last resort.

I should probably (notice how much possibility of failure is wrapped up in that little phrase) go for a walk, since my parents are still asleep and I have the time. It would undoubtedly make the entire day go smoother — it always does.

Okay, scratch that. I am going for a walk, since my parents are still asleep, I have the time, and it will make the day go much smoother.

I’m off.

An old friend and new patterns

Yesterday, I spent the day with a tweenage friend that I hadn’t seen since highschool (and even then we hadn’t been close since junior high). We reconnected on Facebook.

Because of my evening of over-indulgence the night before, I got up, did k-bells Total Body Blast (again, it’s a much more serious workout in the heat — yielding a 220 calorie burn instead of the 170 that I usually manage at home) and made a shake — destroying my parent’s blender in the process. Oh, how I miss my Blend-tec! Luckily my mother had a spare blade, so she wasn’t too annoyed!

When my friend arrived, we immediately went for a walk! Keep in mind that we hadn’t spoken in at least 20 years! The activity was good. We walked (and talked) for about an hour and 20 minutes, burning 520 calories in the process. Not a bad way to get reacquainted. We both showered and then went and hit the streets.

We browsed, chatted, shopped in boutiques where we would never actually buy anything. We had lunch (a veggie wrap with feta in a spinach tortilla and salad for me) and wandered around some more. Then, partly because it was so hot, we went to the mall. And because I knew she’d have no reason to lie to me, we went and tried on bathing suits. It’s been 10 years since I’ve had on a bathing suit! And, much to my surprise, they looked pretty good. Granted, I stuck to the one pieces, but they weren’t bad. There was one that was very 1930’s Hollywood starlit-esque with a tiny little skirt and a heart shaped neck. We both agreed that I needed a pair of stilletos and a big tray from which to sell cigarettes! I decided that it wasn’t practical as I was looking for for something to wear swimming (not selling). Although I didn’t buy anything, it was fun! It was also good to have someone there with me who challenged my initial preferences and urged me to take a second look at things I wouldn’t normally try. It was also good to go with someone who doesn’t really know my style, but it going on looks alone.

We when then went to my favorite Mexican restaurant, where I had exactly what I wanted: Pork Carnitas and a frozen marguarita. Not the healthiest choice, but it was a choice, as opposed to the out of control bienging from the day before. It was also absolutely delicious.

I’m heading back home today. Part of me is relieved that I am leaving the land of bar-be-que and frozen margaritas, but the other part will miss it — not the food and the drinks, but the people, the friends, and (believe it or not) the heat. There is something wonderful about the heat, especially when an unexpected breeze offers a much-appreciated moment of relief.

Falling off the food wagon

The last couple of days have been more indicative of family vacations, I’m afraid.

Ironically, it wasn’t even them. It was all me.

Monday, we were off for an unexpected family funeral that was scheduled at 2:00 p.m. I got up, went for a walk, had a shake, packed up some blueberries and that was it. And although my mother has a medical condition that requires that food be readily available, my parents hadn’t packed anything else either. At some point my Dad said, “Why didn’t you bring one of those little bags of carrots you’re always carrying around?”

Good question.

Bad answer: Poor planning on my part!

As it turns out, my Aunt lives truly in the middle of nowhere and we were having lunch after the funeral (that is, dinner), not before.

Luckily I had a Dark Chocolate Zone Bar in my purse.

The funeral ran long (as they often do when held in a church in the south). We stopped at a gas station, where I scrounged a bottle of V-8 juice and a bag of Baked Lay’s. Has anyone ever noticed how Baked Lay’s taste like cardboard?

Back to the story: it was also as hot as hell and when we got to my Aunt’s (along with 30 other people), the air conditioning was out and she still insisted on frying fish and potatoes, making it officially hotter than hell! These were to accompany the pork roast, the brisket (no more brisket, please!), the pork and beans, the spiral ham, the brownies, the cake, and her world famous chocolate cream and coconut cream pie. Not a vegetable (other than corn on the cob swimming in butter to be found).

Luckily, it was literally too hot to eat. Though I did try a sliver of chocolate pie; it’s still as good as when I was a child.

We got home at 8:30. I made a shake, went to a friend’s house (the friend that I was supposed to have had dinner with). We ended up going to a local pub, where, still ravenous, I had two dirty martinis and split an appetizer with her of her choice, which turned out to be a thin crust, wood fired pizza. Not so bad, though I probably should have skipped the second martini.

It was when I got home at midnight that it went even further south. I bienged. It was unbelievable: icecream, lavash with hummus, and tabouli (not in that order). When I finally forced myself out of the kitchen, I felt disgusting, and not unlike I was about thirteen again!

But, unlike the thirteen yeat old I once was, I at least realized what went wrong.

Poor planning and inadequate nutrition leads to poor dietary choices. I was also tired and even though the person that died wasn’t a close relative (she was my mother’s sister’s husband’s mother), there was something about the funeral, the energy, and being around my Aunt, Uncle, and cousins, that set off my desire to emotionally eat. It also may have something to do with the fact that everytime I come home, it seems, we’re going to a funeral. In fact, this one was unplanned, but I had had the foresight to toss in a skirt. Maybe it’s the fact that my parents are getting older and I’m afraid that the next time might be them. Whatever it was, it was an ugly combination for food. And I’m sure that the inhibition olive dressed libation didn’t help either.

A two thousand calorie day

Happy Father’s Day! In my family, Father’s Day means that Daddy gets to pick. Luckily, my diet plan recommends that every once and a while, I break 2,000 calories, just to make sure my metabolism doesn’t stall. The last time it happened was June 6th. I think today may be another one of those days.

I overslept and instead of going for a walk (grumble), my mother and I took my father to IHop (a/k/a International House of Pancakes). Fortunately, they do have nutritional information available on line (and some on their menu). I preselected the buckwheat pancakes at 110 calories each. Of course, when we got there, all they were offering that were even close were the Harvest Nut and Grain pancakes, at 180 calories each. Unfortunately, they only came in stacks of four or in two, accompanied by two eggs and two pieces of sausage.

When I hesitated while ordering the waitress, in an unusual moment of insight, said, “You can get a half order if you want.”

Hallelujah! How she knew that I only wanted two (because if they were there I would have eaten them) is beyond me. But I left her a very generous tip! I had them hold the butter and to bring the maple syrup in a dish on the side. This way, I dipped the corner of each bit into the syrup, only using about a 16th of what they actually brought me. It was great.

We then went on the road — I packed a bag of baby carrots and a couple of apples, because I knew that I would be hungry after eating an all carb breakfast (despite that walnuts and oats in the pancakes). And for lunch, we landed at another one of my dad’s favorite hangouts: Rudy’s Bar-B-Que.

Between the three of us, we ordered a pound of lean brisket (which is not so lean unfortunately, weighing in at a whopping 1232 calories per pound) and a half pound of sliced turkey (which yielded a much more modest 226 calories). Thank god there were leftovers, but I definitely ate more than my fair share. We also had corn on the cob, three bean salad, and coleslaw (nutrients available on menu). Maybe it was being into such propinquity of a large number of pieces of pig themed art that did it. Anyway, it was very good. But not only was it a highly caloric expenditure, it was not even properly combined! All and all, an abysmal diet choice, but a great Father’s Day experience for my Dad (especially because the U.S. Open was on as background).

Before I came home, I had been very concerned about my parents’ reactions to my new physique (they have actually been quite complimentary [though my Dad liken me to a quail wing]). I was also worried about the food challenges, but so far so good. And while I’ve been careful during the entire trip, I have done my best to not be annoying. Today, however, I decided that I’d do what they wanted to do with no complaints. It’s his day, not mine. It’s only one day. And, on occasion, the social connection is worth the calories.

Dinner is supposed to be a light meal of wine and cheese; I think I’ll stick with hummus, tabouli, and my favorite lavash (that I had shipped to my parents’ beforehand)!

And as soon as the temperature dips below 90, I’m going for a long, brisk walk!

Days three and four with the folks!

Yesterday was another awesome exercise and food day; though my power walk has become less powerful as the humidity is climbing nearer the air temp!

I had my normal breakfast and lunch (spinach salad and tabouli) and then for dinner we went to a pizza place, where my dad had a $50 gift certificate. My mother and I half and halfed a medium pie (she had a Maui Magic and I had a Mediterranean, hold the mozzarella and light on the feta). According the alkaline diet, feta made from goat’s milk is a lot better for you than mozzarella or any cheese made from cow’s milk. I started with a dinner salad, had two pieces and took the other two home. With the olive oil and garlic glaze on thin crust pizza, it tasted more like a flat bread and felt reasonably virtuous. Yum.

Today was a little more challenging. It started off okay. I went for my walk, which was a little slower than it was the day before and I had my shake. Yea! But for lunch, I had a carnitas quesadilla (the whole thing, but light on the cheese) and guacamole. In my defense, I didn’t have a margarita, but it was a close thing. The scary thing is that the nutrition guide for this particular restaurant isn’t on-line and I’ve seen calorie counts for restaurant carnita quesadillas ranging from 500 to 1300! Since I had them hold the cheese and the sour cream, I’m hoping it’s closer to the former than the latter! However, I am not holding my breath, so I’ve tried to make adjustments elsewhere in my daily food plan.

For dinner, I had another big spinach salad and the last two pieces of my Mediterranean pizza.

A friend of mine was also having a garage sale today. I always liked her clothing style, but she was always a lot smaller than me. Given my new physique, however, I actually cleaned up big. I bought a lot of winter stuff — including a super cute little coat — that I am leaving with with mother to give me for Christmas! It was like my own personal consignment shop. I even got a couple of accessories! This is a win-win for me and my mother; I’m certain to get something I like and she won’t have to look for it! Additionally, I bought a very fitted pair of pants that I am also leaving here. That will motivate me to make sure I don’t gain any weight until Christmas!

You know, if it wasn’t for the scorching heat, summers in the south may not be so bad after all!

Meat as a condiment

My parents happen to live within ten miles of a world class bar-be-que stand. Seriously, the man wins national competitions and, like all good bar-be-quers, he sells his wares out of a trailer, with the smoker cordoned off behind.

My Dad and I go out in the blazing heat of the day to get a pound of sliced beef, a pound of turkey, and 1/2 pound of bologna, which I swear I won’t touch, but do anyway. It was heavenly. Note: this stuff comes succulent, but dry with the sauce on the side, as opposed to being smothered in fat obscuring sauce.

Now, you might be thinking, sauce or no sauce, 2 1/2 pounds of meat is hardly “condiment status.” But it is when you invite five people over for dinner (and have left overs).

Foregoing the traditional sides of pork and beans, mayonnaise and cabbage (aka coleslaw) and creamed corn, I commandeered the menu and made tabouli, spinach salad and a relish plate consisting of radishes, pickles, olives, and banana peppers.

So, all in all, I had about 4 ounces of meat, and a ton of fresh veggies. I actually saved the tabouli as a snack with salad a couple of hours later, but everyone else loved it.

For being at home with my parents and all of my old childhood triggers, I had a surprisingly good food and exercise day yesterday. Looking forward to another one today!

Of power walking and the power of perspective

Remember when people started power walking?

I remember I had a friend back in the late 80s, early 90s, who was a power walker. I’d see her and a lot of middle aged women out there going to town and I’d think, “That will never be me.”

Never say never.

This morning, I got up, had breakfast, and decided that I’d rather go for a walk through my parents’ neighborhood than to stay indoors on the treadmill. It was sunny, 85 (though still inviting for someone who really hasn’t been warm in 8 months), and breezy. I popped my new iPod shuffle in and took off.

The first thing I noticed is that my heart rate was stuck at a stubborn 108. I picked up my pace. When I did so, I threw some arms in and realized that what I was doing looked an awful lot like what I do on the Nordic Trac at home. I then realized, it also looks a helluva lot like — banish the thought — power walking. But there I went, swinging my arms, until my hands were coming about eye level. And after a few minutes of this I caught a flash of my heart rate monitor: 137! Whoa. Exactly where I needed it to be and it took a heckuva lot less time to get it there than it’s been taking at the gym!

I punched up the music and took off.

I highly recommend walking in neighborhoods of strange cities (or, in this case, cities where you haven’t lived in over ten years).

One, it’s fun to look at the houses. I got to see a number of lovely gardens and talk to quite a few tabby and ginger haired cats along the way.

Two, most residential neighborhoods are characterized by rolling hills or slight inclines. This neighborhood was perfect in that I would be going up and down and then level for a minute or two at a time. When I was going uphill, I could drop the arms a little and maintain my heart rate exactly where I wanted it. When I was going downhill, I could bring them back up.

Three, because it was breezy (as in “where the wind comes sweeping down the plains” kind of breezy) it was loud enough that I felt comfortable singing! And, even if they could hear me, no one here knows who I am, so who really cares? Besides it’s hot and most people were indoors with their windows shut tight enjoying the air conditioning.

So, I plotted out a route and stuck with it and after an hour and ten minutes, I had burned 510 calories with an average heart rate of 69%, which, ironically, is about what I burn in a typical spinning class these days! Not so shabby for a morning stroll around the block — well, several blocks.

Power walking. Who would have thought it? But, preconceived notions aside, sign me up. And, as I told my mother, as I came back in and threw myself down on the couch, I love being old enough to not care what I look like. So what if the neighbors look out the windows and say, “Who is that crazy woman out there singing Linkin Park and swinging her arms like a demon?” A fit, firm, and fabulous one, who isn’t putting any stress on her joints and is burning fat like it’s going out of style.

Planning a Good Travel Day Tomorrow

Between airport security and the garbage that passes for food in most airports, it’s really a challenge to have a good travel day.

My plane leaves at 5:45 p.m., with a short layover and final destination arrival time: 10:45 p.m. Not such a bad slot as meal planning goes.

So, what’s the plan?

I’m going to start my day as usual. In other words, I’ll get up at my normal time, have my typical breakfast shake (though I may add blueberries to up the calorie count).

I’ll exercise (an hour cardio and a thirty minute k-bell routine). I’ll probably do about fifteen minutes of stretching and ab work for good measure.

I’ll have to spend some time packing, including what I plan to carry on in terms of food.

Lunch (my most substantial meal of the day), will consist of a fairly generous portion of left over Khatte Chhole (otherwise known as sour chick peas), brown basmati rice and a green vegetable of some sort.

As for the time in the plane, I will carry on a bag of baby carrots, a couple Clif Mojo Peanut Butter Pretzel bars, a 1.5 ounce bag of Sweet Potato Chips, and a couple of apples.

I’m also packing my nifty new Shake it Up Cup (wiped dry of course) and a handful of packages of Emerald Balance that I can mix with water once I get past security.

Wow. You may think that that’s a a lot of food for 5 hours. But I eat every couple of hours and my layover airport is notoriously bad — no matter the time of year (day or night).

I’d rather arrive at my parents’ teeming with snacks than to be sitting in an airport, hungry, surrounded by fast food and — my own personal Achilles heel — soft serve icecream.

Wish me luck.

What’s for dinner? Sour Chickpeas

Tonight Michael and I had a special treat: Sour chickpeas served over brown basmati rice and accompanied by lightly steamed broccoli and fresh baby carrots, which helped mitigate the kick from the cayenne.

This dish is easy to make (don’t let all of the ingredients fool you), gets better as the days pass, and freezes exceptionally well.

Although I usually serve dish particular dish as part of a larger Indian meal, it worked great as a main course. And the house smells wonderful hours later! Yum!

Recipe – Sour Chickpeas

This recipe was adapted from Madhur Jaffrey’s excellent cookbook, “Indian Cooking,” that was originally produced in cooperation with the British Broadcasting Corporation.

I’ve been toying with my own version of this for years and it’s very forgiving. Tonight, however, is was noteworthy — not only for the taste, but how little oil actually used.

Serves 6

2 cans chickpeas, drained (retain liquid)

3 medium onions, peeled and finely chopped (preferably with mini- or food processor; the finer the onions, the less oil you can use).

About 2 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 Tablespoons canned green chili, diced
1 Tablespoon very finely grated fresh ginger
4 Tablespoons lemon juice, freshly squeezed
2 Tablespoons of vegetable oil (the recipe originally called for SIX!)
2 12-ounce cans of diced tomatoes, no salt added
1 Tablespoon ground coriander seeds
1 Tablespoon ground cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 teaspoons garam masala
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (depending on taste)

Put two Tablespoons of the chopped onion, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, green chili, ginger, and lemon juice in a teacup. Mix well and set aside.

Heat the oil in a heavy, wide casserole type pot (or stew pot) over a medium flame. When hot, put it the remaining onions. Stir and fry for 8-10 minutes or until onion bit develp reddish-brown spots.

Add the tomatoes (plus juice).

Continue to cook another 5-6 minutes.

Put in coriander, cumin, and turmeric (all of which can be purchased cheaply in any store that sells spice in bulk). Stir and cook for about 30 seconds.

Now put in the drained chickpeas, 1 3/4 cups of their liquid, 2 teaspoons of salt, the garam masala (also available in most stores) and cayenne.

Stir to mix and bring to simmer.

Cover, turn heat to low and cook very gently for 20 minutes. Stir a few times during this period.

Add the mixture in the tea cup. Stir again to mix. Serve hot or lukewarm.

A moment of denial and (I hope) accountability

I’ve talked long and hard about the problems navigating the social relationships between food, friends and families.

Ironically, I am heading home for a week, yet I have little desire to actually address my concerns, what I see as my upcoming challenges, or my strategies, here.

I’m hoping that this mini-post will break the dam, because, trust me, I have a lot to say.

Christmas in July (well, technically it’s still June)

I decided that I needed to organize my exercise space, because (as noted previously) I am about to open up a new “home exercise phase” that centers more on low end cardio and toning.

As I was shifting through all of my k-bell gear, I found this super thin DVD holder:

Includes 2 Workouts:stretch & strength and cardio fit ballet

The stretch & strength workout features powerful floor exercises that combine Pilates, yoga and dance for chiseled abs and lean flexible muscles. cardio fit ballet offers you the best of a dancer’s workout with innovative leg exercises for the long lean look you crave.

Sounds good to me! So much for cleaning the house!

Exercise, its limitations and gifts

Even though recent studies have shown — depressingly so — that cardio workouts don’t really offer the much touted post workout fat burning boost, they do, according to new research, improve your mood for up to 12 hours! Given my mood these days, it seems like a pretty fair trade.

Jillian’s version of losing the last ten pounds

Today in my in-box, I received my daily message from Jillian Michaels:


How to Take Off Those Last 10 Pounds
You know what I like to call those last 10 or 15 pounds that won’t come off no matter what you do? Vanity pounds.

The term describes our desire to lose weight that, as far as our bodies are concerned, actually feels healthy. Today’s society pressures us to want to look a certain way, so for aesthetic reasons we try to be thinner than our bodies want us to be. Personally, I have gained and lost the same 8 vanity pounds more times than I care to admit.

Losing your first 50 pounds might have been tough, but believe me, dropping those final few stubborn pounds is a whole different challenge. The body struggles to hold on to that last bit of fat for survival purposes.

Now, don’t get me wrong — you can lose the weight if you want to, but it will require you to muster a tremendous amount of restraint and willpower. If you’re really up for it, do the following for 30 days:

1. Cut your sodium to 1,000 mg a day.
2. Drink at least 80 ounces of water daily.
3. Cut out processed foods.
4. Abstain from alcohol.
5. Train at 85 percent of your MHR (maximum heart rate) for 1 hour 5 times a week.

You can do a lot in 30 days — in fact, I can pretty much guarantee you will lose at least 5 pounds. And you’ll feel like a rock star!

Although I didn’t sign up for the full membership on Jillian’s site, I do find the daily messages to be inspirational and full of good information. If you can put up with a having another message in your in-box, it’s a good resource, not only for food, but also for exercise, and (now) information regarding hormones and their effect on your metabolism.

The little things and the unexpected shows of support

I had lunch today with two delightful young women.

One of them ordered her dessert first (so she’d have room for it), then took half of her seafood paella home! It was classic. The waitress blinked: You’re starting with the ice cream sundae?

Ah, to be in one’s twenties again! But I digress….

At the end of the meal (I skipped the sundae and stuck with my typical wood-fired vegetable spinach salad with salmon), they presented me with a small box.

Much to my delight, they had a necklace made for me, touting a message (or touchstone) that I had mentioned in a previous post: never more than today.

There’s even a four leaf clover charm for good luck, as “they couldn’t find one of a beet!”

It was a perfect gift. I absolutely loved it. But more importantly, and unbeknown to the givers, it came at a good time — a time when, for whatever reason, maintenance is becoming something of a challenge and I am having to rely more on alternative markers of success –that is, resting heart rate, the fit of my clothes, and tape measures to chart my progress.

So, thank you ladies, if you’re reading this. You couldn’t have given me a more perfect and motivating gift. I will cherish it always and do everything I can to live in accordance with its ideal.