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Posted on Jan 19, 2014 in Food | 8 comments

Choosing Wisely

So passes the first weekend since my bold declaration about getting back in the weight loss game. Well, kind of, since it’s sort of a long weekend and it’s sort of still going if you’re not working today… but I digress.

Sean and I spent a lot time with his family this weekend, since his brother is visiting. Sean spends A LOT of time with *my* family (we’re a needy bunch, what can I say?) so I’m more than happy to tip the scale just slightly back in his favor, haha. We’ve grabbed a few meals together and took a daytrip up to Baltimore to visit the Aquarium, and so it actually was a more active (and enriching) weekend than I’ve had in a while, haha!

In addition to that, Sean managed to surprise me for the second year in a row with tickets to see Ari Hest in concert. Our very first date consisted of dinner and surprise tickets to see Ari Hest (which I guess, technically, means this is the third year in a row that he’s pulled this off.) Of course, now the joke’s on him, since clearly I’m going to expect this to happen next year now. Which I’m pretty sure means he has to continue doing this every year for the rest of eternity.

Aaanyway, clearly between all the various things going on, it was a pretty boss weekend. But it also, by nature of what went on, included a fair amount of going out to eat. So this weekend was pretty much my first test in seeing how much self-control I could muster with regard to my rebooted healthy living philosophy.

As you may know if you’ve been following this blog from before, I’m pretty lax when it comes to eating out. I’ve never been a proponent of the idea that being on a diet means you have to prepare ALL your own meals, eat at home EVERY night, and reserve going out for TRULY special occasions — it’s just not realistic for some people, and, while I certainly do love to cook, it’s really not realistic for me either. I mean, aside from the fact that I work for Yelp.com and so it is literally my job to know what all the best, newest, and hottest restaurants are in town, when it comes down to it, I just really like going out to eat.

I like restaurants, I like trying new foods, new cuisines, new dishes, and I just generally like the whole restaurant experience. Whether it’s for date night, happy hour with coworkers, or just meeting up for a bite to eat with a pal, I just like eating out. And I managed to lose 60 pounds perfectly fine without sacrificing my enjoyment of restaurants the first time around, so I don’t see why I can’t maintain that this time around! After all, just like last time, it’s all about making the right choices when you’re staring down that menu — and I don’t just mean in the obvious way.

So, let’s say you’re meeting a friend for dinner at some new trendy Mediterranean resto you’ve been wanting to try for ages. But, you’re on a diet. Or you’re watching your weight. Or you’re trying to #eatclean or you’re just trying not to feed into the Standard American Diet stereotype. Whatever the reason, you bypass the dishes of flaming cheese and french fried whatever, and your trained, seasoned dieter’s eyes head straight to the “Entree Salad” section of the menu. But… you already had a salad for lunch. Or, maybe you just don’t like salad. Maybe you just wanted to try the grilled octopus dish that folks have been RAVING about, or you hear the lamb burger calling your name. What do you do?

In ages past, I would probably say that the “right” choice would be to muster all that willpower, ignore the siren song of the slightly “unhealthier” dishes, and go for whatever salad sounds best — dressing on the side plz. I mean, it’s definitely the easy choice, right? After all, calories in < calories out, right? Weight loss! Willpower! Health! But... let's really think about this. Because what happens if you are unsatisfied with your dish? Well, I don't know about you, specifically, of course, but I do know about me. And I know that when it comes to me, ignoring a craving doesn't really work. And passing up something decadent for something healthy, because I think it's the "right" choice, has a nasty habit of backfiring on me. 'Cause what's gonna happen later? I'm probably still going to go in search of something to satisfy that earlier craving, and it probably won't be in a good way. See, eating healthy while eating out is, in my opinion, all about balance. It's about striking a balance between what you "should" have -- what's healthy, what's nutritionally solid, what will leave you satiated and well-fueled -- and what you WANT. I'm not saying that you should have license to eat crap because you say that you want it, though. Of course I'm not. I'm saying that the art (or science, depending on how you look at it) of eating out while trying to lose weight is more complicated than calories in vs. calories out. Scratch that, the art of eating PERIOD while trying to lose weight is complicated. Or, at least it is when you have prior food issues, like I do. Here are some examples, just from this past weekend! Sean took me to an Italian restaurant after the concert on Saturday, and, faced with a bevy of creamy, delicious-sounding pastas, I ended up choosing the dish with the fewest amount of calories off of their "Lighter Side" menu:

It was a 5 oz filet with grilled vegetables, totaling (according to the menu) a whopping 365 calories. But aside from the fact that it’s a pretty sad-looking plate (incidentally, the veggies were undercooked, the steak tasted pretty good but looked weird, and generally, I would not recommend), even if it had been an excellent plate of food I’m not sure I would have been happy with it… because it wasn’t really what I wanted. It’s just what I thought I should eat.

But in contrast, let’s look at another example from this weekend:

After the Baltimore Aquarium, we dined at Phillip’s Seafood in Inner Harbor, and I opted for the crab cake salad. I knew I wanted a crabcake — I was in Baltimore for crying out loud! I knew that crabcakes are not inherently the healthiest of foods. But I wanted one and knew I would regret not having it later. So I got a single crabcake with a nice salad on the side instead of a crabcake sammy with fries or any number of the other delicious-sounding items on their menu. And while, yes, I’m sure that eating it with french fries and cole slaw would have been even more delicious, I can say that I had a satisfying meal that I don’t have to feel guilty about.

It probably doesn’t even need to be said, but the same goes for eating dessert. If you want a little something sweet, have it. Otherwise you (or at least I) am more likely to end up making bad choices — maybe even binging — later when the craving gets too strong. After my delicious crabcake salad lunch, our entire party split a slice of pie:

Just a couple of bites were enough to satisfy my sweet tooth completely without making me feel laden down, guilty, or regretful at all. And I also didn’t go scavenging for something sweet later on! Win-win.

I’ve been rambling on for a while now, and I’m not 100% sure if I’m still making my point well, so I’ll cut myself off now. I guess the tl;dr message in all of this is: eating out does NOT have to come down to either making a “good” choice and feeling unsatisfied, OR getting what you want and feeling guilty. It doesn’t have to be an either/or, mutually exclusive situation at all. You can make choices you feel good about AND end up leaving the table happy and satiated — you just might have to get a little creative.

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Posted on Jan 17, 2014 in Dear Diary, Food, Weigh Ins, Weight Loss | 30 comments

Deja Vu All Over Again (Weigh-in)

246.

That’s the number that I found myself face to face with (well, more like face to ground, since I was standing on a scale at that time) back in August, 2010. That is the number that caused my breath to catch in my lungs, the tears to well up in my eyes, and reality to hit me square in the chest. It’s the number that, nearly three and a half years ago, made my life literally come to a halt.

And thank God it did.

Because the life I was living at the time? Just having broken up with my first serious long-term boyfriend (for the first time… but that entire ordeal is, of course, another story)? Fresh out of one job that I absolutely hated, but into another one that was as boring as the last one had been horrible? A couch potato so lazy that I made other sedentary people look like marathoners? The not-so-proud owner of a myriad of serious food issues? That life was not so good.

So, it took me until I reached my highest (known) weight of 246 pounds for me to wake up and finally say, “Enough.” You know the story: I asked my brother to help me create a website, I posted my weight on the internet to humiliate myself keep myself accountable, and I actually — miraculously — started to turn things around.

Slowly but surely, the pounds started to come off and I started to grow up (a little, at least… I think), and one day I found myself 60 pounds lighter than when I started. But I still had the boyfriend issues (shockingly, it turns out, he wasn’t “The One” by a looooongshot), and I still had the boring job, and every day was still a struggle for me not to fall back into my old habits. I had to keep fighting not to backslide.

So when I did finally start to focus on those other, not as stellar parts of my life, it should come as no surprise to you all that I did start to backslide. It was just a little at first. A few extra pounds crept on, and I noticed but I told myself it wasn’t a big deal. Five extra pounds on a frame like mine? Nobody’ll even notice. Except… five eventually turned into ten. And ten turned into fifteen. And before I knew it…

I was almost right back to where I started.

Don’t get me wrong, some amazing things happened while those pounds were silently becoming part of my life again. I found an amazing new guy, I got my dream job, discovered how awesome it is to have unnatural colored hair, and, dude, I wrote a freaking book. But I had stopped making my health a priority — I’d stopped really caring at all. With everything else suddenly vying for my attention instead, the fight for my health just stopped seeming important.

Of course, all of those things are not an excuse for letting myself go, and I promise, I’m really not trying to make excuses at all. What happened happened, and now I’m back here, with my focus once again trained on my health. But, as my very wise and beautiful friend Cassie pointed out in her comment on my weight gain admittance post, maybe since now all those other things ARE right this time, juuuust maybe the fitness and the weight loss and, most importantly, the health stuff will stick around for the long run.

It took a lot of courage for me to post my weight on the internet three and a half years ago. I was terrified to do it. But, I gotta tell you, maybe it’s because hindsight is 20/20 (just like my vision is now, BOOM! Actually, j/k, my vision is 20/15 now. DOUBLE BOOM!), but it feels 80,000 times more mortifying to admitting my weight this time around.

Maybe it’s because I know I have coworkers reading now, or because there are more people reading in general, or maybe (most likely) it has something to do with the whole “I already failed once” thing… but I’m not going to dive too deeply into that now. This post is already heavy enough. The point is, even in my initial admittance post, I was too scared to admit my weight. I used a couple of vague statements to give a little perspective about how much I had regained, but I didn’t use any actual numbers. And, c’mon, you have to admit that was crappy of me, right?! I mean, I’m the girl that posts her weight on the internet so that God and her mother and all of her high school frenemies can see exactly how much she weighs, every week. I’m the girl that wants to help tear down the idea that a number can own anybody. And yet, I’m a girl who was scared of a frakking number?! Boourns.

Well, since you were all way too nice to call me out for that, I’ll do it myself: Gretchen, that was total BS. Own up to your number, and then take it DOWN. Literally. So, here we go. And, let me just say, that while some might consider this to be a sliiiight cop-out, since I waited until my first actual weigh-in (and thus, loss) to post my digits… Well, at least I’m still doing it.

Deep breaths, Gretchen. Deep breaths…

(Re)Starting Weight: 236.6 lbs
This Weigh-in: 233.4 lbs
Difference: -3.2 lbs

Yes, I gained back all but ten — just TEN — of the pounds I fought tooth and nail to lose. I regained FIFTY pounds. And I absolutely hate that I did. I won’t lie, it’s really, really hard not to hate myself for it. But as much as I wish I could time-travel back to every bad food decision and just straight up slap each hoagie, burrito, and pizza slice out of my hands, I can’t. All I can do is move forward, and hopefully downward, as I continue on this journey.

But hey, at least losing 3.2 pounds isn’t too terrible of a way to start, right?

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Posted on Mar 18, 2013 in Dear Diary | 21 comments

What is Health? (Baby, don’t hurt me.)

Ha! After reading the title of this post, hopefully all of you have the song “What is Love” by Haddaway (made famous…er by the cinematic masterpiece Night at the Roxbury) stuck in your heads too. WELCOME TO MY HELL.

Also, hi. Happy Monday and whatnot. Today marks the official 1-week-til-baby day for my sister. Her due date is technically March 25th, so this weekend I’m headed down to Houston. Depending on the timing, I’ll either be welcoming the new little nugget (SQUEE! BABIES!), or I’ll helping my sister keep her sanity as she pushes a football out her hoo-ha in any way I can if the baby takes a little longer to come.

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Cue the episode of Friends, “The One Where Rachel is Late.” And man, this post is already full of delicious, outdated cultural references. Go me.

So, my weekend was actually pretty low key. Not a ton to report, which is a good thing for once! I’ve been able to do quite a bit of work on my second book, and get some ideas down for my upcoming (impending?) HUNGER GAMES-THEMED BIRTHDAY PARTY, which will be happening next month. Yes, I have an entire board on Pinterest dedicated to the planning of my Quarter Quell, and it. Is. Glorious. It might even blow last year’s Harry Potter party out of the water.

Man, I love my birthday.

So, somehow the planning of said party has made me mildly (very mildly) introspective about the nature of celebration, and how it relates to healthy living. You’ve probably already noticed a bit of a pattern with me, in that I really love to celebrate things. Blogiversary? Dog’s birthday? Mastered 6 chords on the ukulele? Let’s celebrate! And usually my kind of celebration involves food, as all good things do, which means I constantly am making excuses as to why I can break the “healthy” rules for one meal, one evening, one weekend. It’s a celebration, after all!

I’ve been trying to work on this. Trying to be “better” about my food choices, about eating out, about constantly “breaking the rules.” However, as I pinned yet another Jell-O shot recipe to my birthday party board, I started to wonder if I’ve been condemning myself for the wrong thing. Yes, this is a weight loss blog, and I am someone who is constantly trying to shape her life around healthy habits. But what IS health? Is it really just down to the nuts and bolts of what I put into my body, how much exercise I do, and the like? Of course not. Health is much more complete and complex–at least when it comes to total health, not just nutrition and fitness.

Okay, sure, I don’t think anybody’s going to give you license to eat a dozen cupcakes in one sitting cause it’s OMG!so healthy. But I wonder instead if the truly unhealthy thing about me right now is my mentality. I shouldn’t be getting on my own case about eating a cupcake, I should be scolding myself for always looking for an *excuse* to eat a cupcake. If I want a cupcake, I should have a cupcake (well, not right now, since I gave up desserts for Lent, but you know what I mean).

I’m struggling with a similar thing when it comes to revamping the ratios of my diet. I’ve said a few times now that I’m trying to focus on protein and healthy fat, over carbs and sugar. But I have an entire lifetime of thinking “fat is bad” to overcome in doing so. So yeah, it doesn’t really feel “right” when I’m ordering a steak instead of a salad, or eating half an avocado with my breakfast. I’m still trying to break my old thought-process when it comes to “dieting” (low-fat! Nonfat! Skim! Low-cal!) and it takes time. But I think that my overall health and happiness deserves that.

Nobody is going to make the argument that it’ll be healthy for me to get schwasted and have an epic time at my birthday party (at which, I should mention, there will also be cupcakes, hahahaha). But it IS arguable that the minor “damage” I’ll be taking that night is outweighed by the happiness and personal satisfaction that might come out of it. I’m sure I’m not really phrasing things correctly, but I think you all kind of know what I’m getting at by now.

For me, healthy living as I think a lot of us think of it–whole grains and kale salads and running 3 miles a day–is not something that will ever come naturally. Yes, I am a more informed, more restrained person than the 250-pound, binge-eating version of myself, but I am simply never going to be the girl who would honestly rather have a piece of fruit over a slice of cake. I will NEVER want to go for a jog, when I have the option to sit on my butt and watch episodes of anything on Netflix. I mean, I *might* do those things anyway, but it wont be because I WANT to. I’m just not hardwired that way. So instead of trying to completely revamp my life, deny myself the things I know that I like–and will always like–and leave room for deprivation to lead to unsatisfaction, and unsatisfaction to lead to unhappiness, and unhappiness to lead me right back into binge eating (or some other equally destructive behavior), I make smaller changes. I try to make good choices, and still leave room for the occasional bad one.

Consider this my official statement saying that I’m done trying to constantly fit my life into whatever standards of “healthy living” I’ve worked up in my head. After all, it’s not some all-or-nothing kind of thing. It’s not like once I stray outside the boundary lines, I’m gonna get kicked out of the healthy living club. The healthy living police aren’t going to come take away my domain name. From now on, I will work healthy living into the kind of lifestyle I know that I want, which means that, yes, there will be TV-watching the occasional plate of cheese fries. But there will also be brussels sprouts and long walks with adorable schnauzers and good times spent with great friends.

A lifestyle that is mostly healthy, but more importantly, sustainable. Which, in my opinion, is better for me than a year of stringently healthy dieting and running, followed by a burnout that causes me to backslide even further down. I think I’m *finally* getting the concept of the whole 80/20 thing that healthy living…ers sometime preach. While, granted, my ratio might be more like 70/30… on a good day… I finally get the idea that I don’t have to strike for the 100% perfect ideal. I can allow myself “permission” to have it both ways. Kind of.

So, yes. My birthday will likely be the epitome of UNhealthy living. But after my night of Capitol-inspired debauchery, I’ll get up. And hopefully I won’t making proclamations about my need to start all over again, or how I need to “undo” the damage I did the night before. I’ll just pick up where I left off. I’ll continue on.

What is health to you? When you think of health, do you only think about your body, or do you account for your mind and emotions as well? When it comes to “healthy livng,” do you feel like it’s more important to set a high standard for yourself so you constantly have something to reach for? Or is forming a realistic lifestyle the key to long-term success?

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Posted on Jul 26, 2011 in Dear Diary | 46 comments

The Spark

Thanks for all your well-wishes and congratulations in response to yesterday’s almost-there weigh-in, friends! I swear, if I’m not in the 180s by this time next week… hahaha. Although, granted, yesterday probably didn’t help push me in the right direction too much. I was going to try to gloss over the fact that I spent yesterday doing nothing but reading/napping/playing video games and had pizza for lunch and Chipotle for dinner but, hey, this blog is about honesty, right?

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So speaking of honesty, I’m curious to know: for those of you on weight loss or health journeys, what was the “spark” that caused you to want to turn your life around? What was the catalyst that made you finally decide that there’s no use in putting it off any longer? A recent exchange I had with a reader has caused me to think about the fact that I didn’t really have a specific thing happen to make me decide to change. No fat photo, no unkind remark, nothing like that. It was just more of a general “hallelujah” moment. I guess what I want to know is, is that weird?


One of the many unflattering “before” pictures that did NOT spark my lifestyle change

I’ve touched on how I got to my journey’s starting point in the past, and how I’ve started and stopped more diets than I can even count at this point. Every Sunday night was a new resolution, and every Monday by lunchtime I’d failed. Being healthy, vibrant, and able to enjoy my life was a pipe dream at best, and diabetes, high cholesterol and a general deterioration of my health (at 22!) was a terrifyingly all-too-close nightmare. Some of you ask me how I finally got the courage to break the cycle of binge eating, food hiding, and occasional purging and I honestly wish I had a more concrete answer to give:

I saw THIS picture of myself, and I knew it was time to change.
I went shopping and realized I was officially THIS size, and I knew I couldn’t let it go any further.
Someone made THIS remark, and I knew it was time to start over.
My doctor told me THIS, and I knew I couldn’t lie to myself anymore.

But… I can’t really say that’s the case. Because I was 22, 246 pounds, a size 20 (I know I say that I was an 18, but I think we all know the truth here), outrageously out of shape, probably pre-diabetic for all I know, and I saw pictures of myself, went shopping, had family members tell me things, and went to the doctor just like any other person. And still didn’t have the motivation to truly change.

Grizzly Gretchen.

Aaaaand yet, here I am today. 23, 190 pounds, a size 12, a 5K finisher (and working towards my first 5 miler at the end of September!), feeling stronger and healthier than, well, EVER. I guess, for me, it was just all about the culmination of stuff: the number on the scale, the clothing sizes, the remarks, the pictures, the way I felt about myself… all of it. Eventually, finally, thankfully I just hit my breaking point.

So, I reiterate: what sparked your journey? What was is that led you to where you are today? Or are you, like me, unsure of exactly what it was that caused you to change, but either way are eternally grateful that you did?

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Posted on Jul 19, 2011 in Dear Diary, Food | 26 comments

Living Healthy

Healthy living means a lot of things.

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It means salted edamame.

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It means tofu that is, yes, smothered in sauce.

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It means good-for-you sushi…

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…and not-so-good-for-you sushi, too.

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Hehehe.

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But hey, it’s okay. After all, you’re sharing with a friend!

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Recycled photo of Ania and me at the Falls Church Memorial Day Parade

After furnishing my pantry with some supplies from Trader Joe’s yesterday, Ania and I had a decadent sushi dinner at Koi Koi — where else? The cuisine, company, and conversation was just what I needed. Healthy living does, after all, extend beyond what we put in our mouths and do with our muscles! Mental and emotional wellbeing is just as, if not more, important than physical health (and failure to attend to all of the above inevitably results in a rapid degeneration of general wellness, as I know all too well.)


Unhealthy: physically, emotionally, mentally.

Grizzly Gretchen.
Getting there…

Between the evening and yesterday morning’s weigh-in, this week has kicked off surprisingly well! So I’m going to take my good mood (180-degrees from last week’s Gloomy Gussery) and do something potentially frightful:

Ask me anything.

No, really! This is your opportunity to ask any questions you might have for me regarding my journey, my methods, my habits, my food, my past… heck, even the dogs are fair game! I figure it’s about time I compile a good old-fashioned Q&A/FAQ page anyway, so this is where I’ll start. Not comfortable leaving your question in the comments? Feel free to DM me on Twitter or email me at gretchen@honeyishrunkthegretchen.com instead.

Ahhh, true pandering to my conceited and self-centered nature at last. 😉 Knock yourselves out! This evening I’ll be auditing a culinary school class at a local institution. I’m really excited, so stay tuned for a report on that. Hopefully the chef won’t mind me bringing my camera…!

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