Saturday, April 30, 2011

I am in trouble now...

Several weeks ago, a member stopped by our center for a weigh-in. She was visiting from Pennsylvania (if memory serves) and stopped in on her way to Florida. During part of her brief moments with us, she told us about a place in Pinehurst NC that does gourmet specialty olive oils and vinegars. I told some of my buddies about it and we laughed and said, "ROAD TRIP!!!" (Pinehurst is about 6-7 hours or so from here?).

Alas, no road trip awaits. At least not 6 or 7 hours in cars with my coworkers. Instead, we may make a 30 minute trip. There is a similar store RIGHT near us.

Dear Upstate SC friends, I present to you: Palmetto Olive Oil Co. They were at the Upstate Spice of Life Expo this weekend. I stopped by there on the advice of a fellow WW staffer.

I walked out a little lighter in the wallet but with a TDF bottle of strawberry balsamic vinegar. Some of the same made its way to my salad tonight. Oh yum. I could have bought one of everything. It was that good. I also liked the cranberry-pear white balsamic. And the Persian Lime olive oil.

Yes, dear friends. I am indeed in deeeeeeep yogurt. Or oil. Or balsamic. Oh...dear.

***

And may I also recommend Great Harvest Bread Co. (Upstate peeps, they're on Woodruff Road). I asked them an odd question: "Do you have a whole-wheat bread that's also low-carb? I know, an oxymoron, right?" To which they replied, "Not at all, we have that, but not right now...." (I caught them right as EVERYONE was packing up). Lo and behold, they HAD one for me! And according to their nutritional stats, a 42 gram (~1.5 oz) slice is worth 2 PointsPlus. OH MY!

***

Well, I had seen a tweet earlier this week that tied into my last post about local eating.... with a link to a good article. Dang if I can find it now. Don't even remember which person or group tweeted it! DARN IT! If I find it, I will post it.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

And now for something a little more serious....

I received some shocking news earlier this week. My best friend lost one of her close high school friends earlier this week to breast cancer, just a few weeks short of her 42nd birthday. I had the pleasure of meeting Laura just a few times in the 20+ years that I have known my best friend, and she was always a beautiful person.

My BFF and I were talking about how many of our generation who are leaving us way too early. In just the last two years we have lost two fraternity brothers way too soon (ages 39 and 41). We have both lost dear friends to breast cancer: mine at age 36, hers at 42. I have another friend who is bravely documenting her battle against breast cancer -- age 42. My BFF's own brother (whose birthday would have been today) passed away at 30 from cancer.

What is going on here? Not just with cancer but with an entire generation falling to diseases that should not have even been more than a fleeting thought until we hit our 60s. Now, I have my theories -- and while I'm not the love child of Det. John Munch and Jesse Ventura, I do have some ideas that are just hunches but could very well pan out. My own thought is that we have these things because of a poor food supply.

Not poor in quantity -- one need only see my chunky photos to show there was plenty of food in my childhood. Poor in quality .... well, that's debatable. I hesitate to use the word "poisoned" because that would connote that it was deliberate.... but hey, who knows? Who knows what sort of genetic modifications to the food supply took place in the 70s and 80s, and no one cared to alert the public? God only knows what years of laissez-faire toxic dumping did to our groundwater and soil? Who knows what mutations have coursed through our systems because of the food and chemicals we so eagerly ingested in childhood?

But there are groups out there, and other ways of doing things, to help your chances. Now, I'm not advocating hopping aboard the all-organic, all-natural, etc. bandwagon. As my friend Carrie put it, "Black widow spider venom is all natural" (she laughed when I told her my line is "hemlock was all natural but where did that get Socrates?"). However, I do think that we need to take a far more serious look at where our food is coming from, what's in it, who's providing it. And yes, there are times when the pocketbook trumps all. Let's face it, if I have $5 to spend on oranges, I'll buy the $2.00/bag regular ones over the $3.50/bag organic set -- after all, unless I'm buying it to use the orange peel or orange zest, it's money wasted when I throw the peel away!

Here are some websites that I visit, subscribe to their print publications, or somehow otherwise pay attention to in trying to clean up my own food supply:
There are lots of good grocery stores out there that support these principles. Some are chains, some are just local stores - but wherever you live, find something that works for you. For example, I work within 3 miles of two chains (one national, one regional) that in my childhood would have been labeled "health-food stores" .... but my local larger-chain grocery (not a national chain, but a good regional one) has lots of natural/organic/healthier items as well. I'll never forget when they first opened (even before I joined WW), that I noticed each aisle had a "natural and organic" section. I kind of chuckled and thought, "Yeah, good luck with that around here!" Well, all these years later, and they still have it... and you can usually find me at least browsing in those sections for some things!

I also Strongly advocate visiting farmer's markets (whether locally operated or state-owned), local farms, and taking part in a CSA (community-supported agriculture) group. I had planned to join a nearby CSA myself this year, but a huge car repair bill put that plan on ice. For more general information on what the local food movement is about, visit the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service.

To find a CSA near you, check out Local Harvest or the Eat Well Guide.

Here in the Carolinas, for local food sources, check out Carolina Farm Stewards. And if you are interested, visit the SC State Farmer's Market and the NC State Farmer's Market. Truth be told, I love the Asheville Farmer's Market... mostly because I've been to the one in Greenville at 9:00 AM and it's already been picked over!!! And I've been to Asheville's at 3:00 PM and still had plenty of choices! OR, if you are close to downtown Greenville, they have a Saturday Farmer's Market .... Clemson has their own market on Friday nights (starting June 3), plus nearby ones in Pendleton and Anderson, as well as Denver Downs (near Anderson). And for the last couple of years, Easley has had a Saturday farmer's market -- I got some GREAT stuff there near the end of the summer, and it was so good!

And of course, this year -- come hell or high water, if it kills me! -- I will be getting my big rear over to a nearby berry farm and to one of the local orchards for fresh berries, peaches and apples. Here's a great place to check out where to Pick-Your-Own in South Carolina, Western North Carolina, or North Georgia (or any other state/region you wish!)

The point is the more you know about your food, how it reacts with your body, the more you realize that you need to put the best that you can into it --- I'm not saying to spend a fortune. Believe me, it's way better to eat store-bought California grapes in South Carolina versus spending the money on junk. But with spring and summer here, there's plenty of opportunity to eat well -- and help local farmers stay in business so that we don't always have to wonder.... "Gee, what's in this corn?" or "Wonder where the stuff in this dish came from?"

PS: Not that I get on soapboxes that often (y'all stop snickering!), but if you want a very cool read, check out the story on Percy Schmeiser, a Canadian farm who took a stand against large agribusiness over genetically modified seed.

Okay, steppin' off for now.....

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Sweet Inspiration

Lately, I have been completely digging the Derek Trucks Band, especially their 2009 release Already Free ... and the song that is my go-to song has been this one:



It was playing in my CD player as I got out of the car at work this morning, and somehow it was appropriate: inspiration ended up being a personal theme over and over. I had someone thank me for my gift of singing. We had someone who hit a milestone today and she was SO good to hear. There were two new enrollees during my open hours who help me remember my own first days of membership -- and how scary and yet empowered I felt to get this new lease on life.

And then there was Cassandra -- yes, dear, I am calling you out by name! Cassandra is a member of one of the weekday meetings, and she stops by sometimes on Saturdays to pick up some snacks for the week ahead, or to just say hi. We spoke for a while today about the Walk-It Challenge, and I mentioned some of the discussions that helped me formulate last week's post, especially about being your own competition. She brightened a little and said, "That's it, you have inspired me. I'm going home to sign up for this walk!" It was cloud nine for me from there on it -- she inspired me to really have a great day!

Do you know what inspiration really means? To breathe life into ... to infuse with spirit. Spring is awesome inspiration - the world is awakening again from dormancy with beautiful green lushness and eye-popping colors. For those who are from the Judaic or Christian traditions of faith, we have wonderful stories of life-springing-from-death, freedom-from-bondage in the stories of Passover and the Exodus or in the passion, death, and resurrection of Christ. Other faith traditions from around the world have similar stories of awakening, enlivening, inspiration.

So in that vein, how are we doing at casting off the old dead habits, methods, ways, plans that don't work for us anymore? How are we showing others that yes, anything is possible with a little freshening and ingenuity? Are we sowing seeds of hard work, patience, perseverance, and determination that will yield the results we do desire?

Who are our role models? How do they inspire us? How do we enliven and inspire those around us? How are we doing at being not just our own competition, but our own best friend too?

All of this ties into taking care of ourselves. I feel like I'm a broken record, but really it's true: no one can care for us the way we can care for ourselves. This week, take just one small step in better self-care ..... to inspire others to do the same. And maybe in caring for ourselves and inspiring each other, we'll find that we're really caring for each other in the best way possible!

To everyone who inspired, inspires, and will inspire me ---- THANK YOU!

Saturday, April 09, 2011

New Feature: Recipe of the Week

If you haven't figured it out now, I love to cook. Well, perhaps even more to it, I like to experiment.

On the way home from work, I had the idea that I might like to make myself a Chicken Tostada for lunch. So I stopped off to get fat-free refried beans... couldn't find those but I did find relatively low-fat bean dip. Okay, that would work. While I was there, I saw that they had Frank's Red Hot Sauce on sale too. SOLD!

I had no sooner gotten to my car when the little light in my head went -- DING! WAIT! And the idea was born for my Buff Chicken Tacos!

These are gonna be pretty simple, yet pretty tasty too!

Ingredients
2 6-inch (fajita-size) corn tortillas (I used Great Value brand from Wal-Mart)
2 oz diced chicken breast (I used the Tyson prepackaged stuff, but .....)
1 wedge Laughing Cow Light, Blue Cheese variety
Frank's Red-Hot Sauce to taste (I'm guessing I used 2 tsp, roughly)

Instructions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Very lightly spray a baking sheet with cooking spray. (Note: I used a small baking stone that is already seasoned, so I skipped this step).

On each tortilla, spread 1/2 the cheese wedge (best to halve it vertically so that you get roughly the same amount on each tortilla). Set aside. In a small bowl shred chicken even further if desired and coat with hot sauce. Mix well so that the chicken pieces are well-coated, and divide between the two tortillas.

Bake in oven for approximately 5-7 minutes. Remove, fold, eat, roll your eyes back and go "OMG, this is SOOOOOOOO good!" (Okay, that last clause is optional, but I did...)

And it's only 4 PointsPlus (per the Recipe Builder in eTools)

So, I've been thinking....

(and long-time readers and friends will shrug and go, "What else is new?")

Okay, so I was thinking about some things from both my own regular meeting (as a member) and at other ones where I work or attend just if I need a boost. And one of the things that I occasionally hear is the lack of support that people get when they're trying to make healthy changes for themselves, or even little steps for a healthier family. Spouses or kids who throw up roadblocks, their own self-defeating tape loop in their brain.....

That first one, I don't have much experience with as a "confirmed bachelorette" (which sounds far better than "old maid"). But I definitely have experience with the second one. I have it far less these days, and much improvement over the old self-talk about my body, but it's still there. My favorite self-description is "I'm a doofus" or "I am such a geek about...." (insert favorite weird hobby).

Today, as I was straightening up the center while working, I suppose I was pondering some of the things I'd heard along this vein in the last week or so. And I got mad. I haven't decided if for me anger is so much a bad thing. And it's not anger in the sense of rage or an appetite for destruction (ooh, good CD).... it's more what you might call "righteous indignation." A passion for helping the downtrodden find justice .... yeah, I like that.

And this thought occurred to me as I was stewing about it: "There are two people in this universe who are allowed to define me: my Maker and myself. That's it. No one else."

Ooh rah. Kick (NSFW). Think about that. Soak it in.... I'll wait..... No, read it again. I have all the time in the world.

Are you allowing others to define you?
* The child who's defining your eating habits -- because HE or SHE doesn't want (name the good food) and is pitching a fit for McDonalds, and oh well, you're just powerless over a Big Mac? REALLY?
* The spouse who's upset because they love you just as you are -- which might mean, "I don't want you to change because (list any reason here, I have several in mind)." And gee whiz, love of my life, I don't want to cause you too much grief like that, so I won't grow too much more as a person. Hmmm......
* The coworkers who are sabotaging your efforts: "Oh, it won't kill you to go out with us once a week..... after all, can't you eat this kind of food on the Plan?" (insert evil grin) And Olive Garden or Ruby Tuesday or Wherever.... well, you do love it there, but the coworkers will always order dessert, and golly gee, you love sharing that cheesecake.....

STOP!!!

You have control. You decide. You define yourself.

You've read on here that I'm so reluctant to define myself as an athlete -- because I have this preconceived idea of what an athlete should look like..... but in reality, I am an athlete (snicker. Okay, there I said it.). I compete in races. I work out. My competition isn't the other racers -- their pace is not my concern. My pace is my concern. I compete against myself, my previous times, every single race. Who cares that George Peabody XV finished the Race Of The Day in 12:24 and it took me 52:05? Good for George, but whoop-de-crap. I care that 52:05 is better than my last race time..... in short, I define me. I define my success.

And I refuse to let others -- or myself -- derail me or my success.

And that, Charlie Sheen, is WINNING!

Friday, April 08, 2011

Hidden Treasure

Last night, our meeting was focused on the 2011 Weight Watchers Walk-It! Challenge …. If you are a member, or friend of a member, or complete stranger and want to take part, WE’D LOVE TO HAVE YOU!!! It’s a way to get started on activity/exercise if you’re not doing any right now – or to have a goal to work toward, if you’ve never done a 5K.

I saw a factoid last week which stated that walking is the one activity that people are least likely to quit or give up on. Well, why not? It’s free! Truly, all you need are two working feet – and as a grandchild of two disabled people, trust me, I don’t take that requirement lightly. It does help if you have a good pair of walking shoes. You don't have to have the highest-priced shoe on the market, just something with the proper support. But really, that’s it. There are lots more bells and whistles you can get, but that’s really all they are (says the girl with the closet full of workout gear – all being used, but that’s not the point).

When I first started incorporating exercise into my daily life, walking was literally all I could do. At 400-plus pounds, it was the only thing that I thought was feasible. The idea of me doing a 5K was a pipe dream. It took everything I had to walk out 2 blocks to a friend’s house and back -- every ounce of energy, breath, and 10 minutes each day. But I worked hard and was able to increase my time and distance as I got healthier and lighter. Fifteen months after joining WW, I did my first 5K (the 2007 Race for the Cure). I did my next at the 2008 Race for the Cure, shaving just over TEN minutes off my time. Six months after that, I did a local 5K to benefit a scholarship fund, and at that point, I had shaved another EIGHT minutes off my time. This past December, I did a 5K and was about 30 seconds short of my personal best.... Oh, was I disappointed. And for the life of me, it's been two years of frustration to break a specific time barrier. But by golly, I am going to hit that mark if I have to (gasp, dare I say it?) run more than just a little part of the way. Oh yeah, that time mark will be mine one day!

There's plenty of information about the physical benefits of activity, and we're starting to see more about the mental benefits. I can truly vouch that I have experienced this first hand, many times. The times when I have needed a relief from stress, a quick walk around the building or the block will clear my head. Somehow, either the problem is gone or resolved by the time I come back, or at least I'm better able to deal with it in a rational frame of mind. Tonight as we spoke on this topic, I mentioned that for me, something about the rhythm of the pounding of my feet against the pavement somehow helps. I know, weird, huh? But then Denise (our leader) noted that we rock our babies or we walk them around the room or we do something rhythmic to calm them.... why wouldn't it work for us as adults?

And she's absolutely right. I've mentioned before about my "running dream" ... it's a visual image I've had for years of myself engaged in running. Even when I was at my heaviest, I would have this mental picture where I was always running. I remember lying there in that half-sleep -- just content to be still and let the dream image unfold -- and the rhythm, the pounding of my feet, the music that always accompanied this imagery was enough to send me right on into the beauty of a full sleep. I felt that same rhythm last night, on an elliptical at nearly running speed, headset in my ears and good inspiring music pouring into my brain, and a rhythm to every exercise I did. I almost believe that the rhythm of life is making its way through us when we honor our bodies by giving it oxygen and lifeforce, and honor it with healthy foods. As we grow closer and closer to wholeness and a more integrated lifestyle, our minds join in as well. Laugh if you will, because yeah, it sounds a little kooky .... but there's a part of me that thinks we're on to something.

So let's do our bodies, minds, brains, hearts, and souls good --- get back to the basics of life!!! Eat right, move more, get better, repeat.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Hey - not half-bad!!!

I've heard friends rave for years about fish tacos but somehow I never bought into the idea. Shrimp tacos, oh yeah, bring 'em on, I'm all there. And then I saw that some of the ones available at restaurants were fried fish. Well, uh, NO!

But today I had a couple of pieces of leftover baked grouper, and got the bright idea to get some corn tortillas while I was in the grocery store..... and some shredded cabbage for coleslaw later this week. And an idea was born:

I took 2 corn tortillas, put in 1/4 c of the shredded cabbage in each, then divided up the two small pieces of grouper (4-1/2 oz total), and 1 Tbsp of peach-pineapple-chipotle salsa in each. Folded them over and nibbled away.

Oh. My. Goodness. YUMMY!!!! And only 5 PtsPlus for both. The one suggestion I have is to warm the tortillas. I didn't and ... they weren't bad but yeah, they would be better warmed. (And dry-warmed, not steam-warmed in the microwave). Toaster oven or quickie minute or two in a small skillet.

If you've never given it a try -- do!!! Doesn't have to be grouper but a good firm whitefish would be a great place to start: tilapia, mahi (oooh...), etc. I will definitely be doing this again over the summer! As well as shrimp tacos.... and different marinades and spice combinations to try! :)