Friday, January 28, 2011

mashed cauliflower

A wise man once told me not to eat carbs after 3pm.  I took this to mean to limit carbs after 5pm.

Considering this wise man is a doctor of nutrition/body builder/personal trainer, I think he has some little nuggets of wisdom.

So, what does one eat for dinner? No more lasagna, paninis, pasta, burritos... and mashed potatoes. One of my favorite things.

Behold, mashed cauliflower!

photo from here
 - Cut up 1 head of cauliflower in chunks and boil. For a while. They need to be pretty soft to get the right consistency.
- Drain water and mash with a potato masher.
- Stir in 1 ish tablespoon butter, a couple splashes of milk, a few shakes of garlic salt, and if you'd like, a few shakes of instant potato flakes. They make it a better consistency and help if you put in too much milk.

Admittedly, not the exact same as the delicious starchy carb that is the potato, but pretty dang close.  The first time I made them, I didn't let them get soft enough and the consistency wasn't great. I also over-seasoned them.... a common mistake in my cooking. The next time they were mucho better. Even Husband liked them!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

beginner's guide to losing weight: food journals

 image from here

The first installment of the Beginner's Guide to Losing Weight was about cardio training at the gym.  But even if you're exercising consistently and burning calories, it may not make any difference if you have poor eating habits. Keeping a food journal, in my opinion, is the best way to encourage good eating habits.

When I feel like I'm gaining weight or not able to control my portions, I get out my trusty little notebook and revisit my food journal. I like to think of calories like money. I am allotted X amount of calories each day and I can spend it on whatever I want.

Sidenote: Not everyone needs 2,000 calories a day. A 6'2" man and a 5'4" woman have entirely different caloric needs. It varies by gender, height, metabolism, activity level, etc. It takes a bit to figure out what is appropriate for you.

Anyway, back to money. On a day I'm not working out much, I allow myself 1400 "dollars" each day. On running and strength training days, it gets much higher than that. I choose how I want to spend that money.  Some things are more money, but keep me full for a long time. Some things seem really yummy, but aren't worth the money to me- they're too expensive.  The return I get for buying the item is not worth shelling out the cash. 

Why keep a food journal?
It's a way to budget the money (calories) I am given for the day! People tend to underestimate how many calories they are actually eating.  It's easy to forget about the handful of goldfish you had while packing your kid's lunch, the samples at Costco, or the nibbles from dinner as you were preparing it. Also, many people don't realize how many calories that are in their normal order from their favorite deli or the mashed potatoes they had for dinner.

What do you write in your food journal?
Everything you put in your mouth.  Everything. It's okay that you ate the candy from your coworker's desk, but write it down.
3 dark chocolate Hershey kisses ------------- 60 calories
Don't know how many calories are in 1 Hershey kiss? Google is your friend! Make sure your portions sizes are correct. Don't write, "bowl of Cheerios", but "1 cup of Cheerios and 1/2 cup milk".

Keep a running tally of everything you eat in the day. Mid day, add it up and see if you have budgeted well enough that you still have money left for dinner. If you didn't, something needs to be readjusted for the next day so you have money left. At the end of the day, check your balance.

How does this help?
Firstly, food journals keep you honest about how much you are eating.  When I find myself not wanting to write something down or round down on a calorie count, I have to remember that there is no point in lying to myself and it won't help me to my goals.

I think the biggest area that food journals help with is simply being conscious about what I am eating.  Rather than reaching for the snacks unconsciously, I'm thinking about consequences and if it will help me towards my end goal.

There are plenty of more complicated food journaling techniques that count fat grams and protein and what percentage of your diet is carbs, but I find that this simple technique can help monitor calorie intake without becoming obsessive.

Happy journaling!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

stuff i dig: greek yogurt

Greek Yogurt! 

I love yogurt of all kinds and flavors, but I am super in love with Greek Yogurt. 
Yogurt is a good source of protein- usually about 6 grams in serving cup. Also, the live cultures help with digestion and keeping good bacteria in the body. Add a mix in of fruit, cereal, ground flax, honey, or chocolate chips (I seriously have yogurt and choco chips every night for dessert) and you've got a wonderful snack.
Greek Yogurt typically has double the protein- so about 12 grams or more. That's like 4 eggs! It also has a wonderfully thick consistency that feels more like a dessert. It tends to have slightly more calories than a typical "light" yogurt, but considering how it's drastically more filling, I'm okay with that. 
I don't have a particular brand that I prefer because I always get the cheapest (usually Yoplait). I considered doing a massive taste test of my own, but Google reconfirmed my belief that it can find my anything and showed me these: Serious Eats, Cooking Light, and a superb breakdown of nutrition values by FitSugar.
As always with yogurt, beware of the sugar. I try to stay away from anything more than 20 grams of sugar for one serving.

[A much after the fact edit: I now only go for plain yogurt, which has a much shorter ingredient list and MUCH less sugar. Costco has the best value and good quality: $7 for two large containers.]
If you're really adventurous, you can try making your own! Recipe found here from Eating, Etc.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

barefoot running

This weekend, I decided to tell winter to shove it one time and went running.  Not outside, mind you, because the Salt Lake area has the worst air quality in the nation, but on an indoor rec center track. I have a friend who teaches aerobics classes and scores us free passes.

I wore my Vibram shoes, and it was the most fun I've ever had while running. I don't know if it was that I was running not on a treadmill for the first time in a while or that I was wearing Avatar shoes, but I actually enjoyed myself while I was running.

on my first walk with the Vibrams, Christmas day in Colorado
I love the natural feeling I have running in the Vibrams. I feel like it's the most basic and primal form of exercising, and you can't help but to feel good. The track had some windows on one side, and my reflection showed that my form was so much better than in regular running shoes.  Because there is no padding, you have to land with your whole foot or palm first, not heel striking, as what most people tend to do. Heel striking (or landing heel first while running) sends shock to run up the runner's leg, causing knee pain. Forefront running, however, allows the shock to be absorbed naturally. Check out this video:


And I felt fast! Perhaps because the rest of the track was filled with walkers and slow joggers. But still, I wish I had timed myself because I have a guess that it would be a PR.

The next couple days, random muscles were slightly sore. I can tell my feet/legs are getting strengthened by wearing the Vibrams. My arches (or lack thereof) were tired- in a good way. They were working as they are naturally designed to do, to support and act as a shock absorber for the rest of the foot.

In other running news, I will be doing my second half marathon in April. Sometimes I can't believe that I ran 13 whole miles (plus one block!) last fall, so I've got to prove that I can do it again.  Will I be in my Vibrams? We shall see.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

beginner's guide to losing weight: cardio at the gym

Every January, gyms all across the country become more packed with new gym-goers with hopes of making their New Year's resolutions stick. Part of me (like most regulars) gets annoyed with the influx of people, making it hard to get an open cardio machine or find room in the aerobics class. But mostly I'm excited to see people getting into a better lifestyle.

This brings us to the first installment of the Beginner's Guide to Losing Weight: Cardio at the Gym!

image from here
Most people who are trying to lose some pounds do so through cardio exercises and machines. The most commonly used cardio machines are the elliptical, the treadmill, the stairmaster, and the arc trainer. has a good list and instructions on how to use these possibly intimidating machines. Knowing how to use the machine, even something as simple as the elliptical, is necessary to produce a more efficient workout and avoid injury. If you're not sure how to use something, just hop on and try your best to figure it out! If you're having a lot of trouble, ask a gym staff member to help you out. No need to be embarrassed!

[Pretentious side note alert.... My biggest pet peeve about elliptical users: If your head is bobbing up and down or your heel comes up with each step, you are not using it correctly!]

The most important thing to remember when doing cardio is to stay in your target heart rate zone. Many people think that the harder they work out, the faster they will lose weight. This is true, to an extent. The harder you workout, the more calories you burn. HOWEVER, it is much more efficient to work out where your heart rate is in the "fat burning zone".
chart from here
For a person who is 35 years old, their fat burn zone would be a heart rate generally between 100-120. That's only 50-65% of their maximum heart rate. I met with a personal trainer for several sessions over the summer and he was even more extreme, recommending that I stay between 90 and 120 for optimum fat burning. I was amazed that by working less strenuously I was able to burn fat more efficiently and ultimately, lose weight.

image from here
To check your heart rate, you can use a heart rate monitor, which I have never personally used (but would love to), or the old fashioned finger on the neck check. Place two fingers under the cheek bone/upper neck area and feel a pulse. Count the number of pulses for 6 seconds. Add a 0 on the end of your number, and that's your heart rate.  Most cardio machines have sensors that show the users heart rate, but I have found that they are not always the most reliable.

Next up in the Beginner's Guide to Losing Weight: Food Journals!

Monday, January 3, 2011

a (late) 2010 wrap up

I began this post back in December to wrap up the year 2010.  I started writing about how great it was this year that I really fell in love with endurance sports and started being a fitness person instead of a person who did fitness things.

This lead me to talk about the mental shift that's involved with this type of change, and more specifically, my brain's relationship with food and fitness. And that was hard. I kept trying to come back to this post, to elaborate and write more, but found myself procrastinating. For anybody who's had a "relationship with food" (those who have know what I mean. Others who are luckier, like Husband, have no idea) knows how hard it can be to put in to words what is going on in their head.

So, I saved it as a draft and will revisit that and one day formulate my thoughts on the mental challenge of changing bad eating patterns.

As for the intended 2010 review, I will say that I feel very accomplished and blessed to have been able to complete my first centuries and half marathon.

People ask how we got "into" cycling and endurance sports. Honestly, it was because I had a friend who cycled and had run a marathon and did things. She called me one time and said, "Hey, do you want to go pull weeds on Saturday morning with me for Earth Day?"

Who does that? But I went with her anyway and had a grand time. Afterward, we perused the REI that was next door (I call that fate) and chatted over lunch.

And after that, I decided that I can do what I want, too! I can run. I can ride bikes. I can go hiking. I can decide how I want to live my life and spend my time.  Shortly thereafter I bought my first road bike from Craigslist, a blue 1980's Raleigh, and it was all over from there.

This "little" 2010 wrap took much more time and went in a totally different direction than I intended.  But I hope that somehow, I can show someone that it's not hard to achieve goals you didn't even know you had.