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Posted on Mar 28, 2012 in Dear Diary, Weigh Ins | 36 comments

Option Paralysis

Before I jump into things, I should mention that I’m fully aware I haven’t posted a weigh-in in the past two weeks, but that’s because I have literally been weighing in at exactly the same weight for the past two weeks (kind of a victory?), so there’s just not a whole lot going on there. ::shrug::

I’ve mentioned — on more than one occasion — that I’m a bit of a waffler. Wishy-washy, flaky, indecisive, whatever term you want to affix to it, I’ve never been very good at sticking with something. I tend to start something with enthusiasm, go full-throttle… and after a little while, totally lose interest.

It has been a big step for me to be able to recognize this tendency of mine. I think it’s a sign of growth, to be reflective enough to tell when I’m just following a lark versus pursuing something in a serious way. But in some ways, I feel that I’ve almost taken it to the opposite extreme at this point. I’ve convinced myself that I’m so waffley that no matter what I think I want to do, I *will* lose interest. That it *will* be a waste of time/money/etc. And therefore, I don’t actually do anything.

I bring this up because for quite a while now, I’ve found myself facing that looming question that all twenty-somethings pose to themselves at one point or another: what should I do with my life? Starting this blog has helped me hone and define my interests so much more than I ever thought it would, and subjecting myself to this new world of people who are passionate about food, nutrition, health, fitness has been incredibly eye-opening to me. And because of how so many other bloggers that I follow — all women who truly inspire me — I really thought I needed to follow their example in terms of my career as well.

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I’ve spent a good year+ waffling, debating, and trying to decide between whether I should pursue nutrition or food as a career. Do I start the long, arduous, but ultimately rewarding task of going back to school to become a Registered Dietitian, like Anne? Or do I follow my passion for food and go to culinary school, like Emily has done, and Cassie is currently doing?

One path would lead me far from home (there are no ADA-accredited master’s programs in Nutrition in this area that I would be eligible for), and would cost a lot both in terms of money and time (since I have almost none of the necessary prerequisites). The other path would be an incredible experience, but could I ever really justify paying so much money and taking so much time for something that I simply *want* to do, since I have no desire to work as a restaurant chef? Neither were particularly practical for me, since the only thing that I knew I wanted either way was to give myself the credentials and experience to make myself a more effective blogger.

I was stuck between these two options for a long, long time. Both had their pros, both had their cons, and despite talking with family, friends, bloggers, and random strangers on the street (well, only that one time) I still found myself incapacitated by these two choices. Stuck in the space between them. As my clever coworker informed me, this state is aptly called “option paralysis”.

Tug-O-War
Pulling on both ends with equal pressure doesn’t get you very far, my friends.

So I asked myself some questions: Why was this decision so difficult for me? Was it the equally tantalizing appeal of both options? Or my fear that pursuing one or the other would inevitably lead to my loss of interest? When I started out in college, my major was vocal performance. It took less than a semester for me to realize that making singing my career would only cause me to hate to sing, so I switched. And while that was fine and dandy as an undergrad, it would have a bigger impact on me financially if the same thing were to happen on a graduate level.

After living in this career-decision-limbo, I finally forced myself to take a step back. Reevaluate. Reassess. And I’ve realized that while I was (and am!) passionate about both food and nutrition in general, feeling the need to turn them into my career was coming more out of unspoken peer pressure than true desire. No, It was coming from a similar place as my previous (and at least temporarily, extinct) desire to be a long-distance runner: I am immersed in a world full of fantastic, inspiring women who are doing these things, so I wanted to do it too. But when it comes down to it, I’ve finally realized those aren’t even the things that I love most about this blog.

What I love most about writing this blog is exactly that. Writing it. I love to write, to know that I’m reaching people, maybe even helping inspire them on their own journeys. I love being able to impart the knowledge that I’ve picked up from my own experiences and pass it on. I love reading your questions, hearing about your struggles, and sharing in your experiences. So for a while now, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to a totally different path instead: teaching. Specifically, teaching secondary English and, subsequently, writing.

I know full well there are tons of pros and cons when it comes to teaching, that can probably be discussed ad nauseum. I’m passionate about writing, literature, and goodness knows I LOVE my young adult novels, hahaha. Not to sound like I’m bragging or anything, but I also feel I’m equipped with the enthusiasm and creativity to be an exciting teacher. But, of course, I’m also concerned about getting burnt out, being a disciplinarian, and all the general ethics and politics that are tied up with the world of education. So far, nothing is confirmed, nothing has been decided. Since I have a few English courses I need to complete before I’d be eligible to apply for the education graduate program I’m looking at, I’m starting there. Just a couple of classes on the side to see if the subject matter is even something I could really see myself doing.

We’ll see where things take me. I’m trying not to get too wrapped up in it, reminding myself that I am still young, and I do still have time (cliches are there for a reason!). I’m dipping my toe in the water instead of jumping in with both feet, but it finally feels good to have a little forward momentum. Something to work toward that’s my own, even if it’s just the slightest bit separate from my world here.

Have you ever gone through anything similar, with regard to your choice of career and interests?

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Posted on Sep 23, 2011 in Food, Recipes | 17 comments

Roasted Red Pepper Pasta

Yesterday was just one of those days. You know, the kind of day where nothing’s in particular is wrong, but nothing’s really right either. But then again, with sushi the day before, the bar was set pretty high.

I woke up thinking it was Friday, the weather was decidedly dreary, and I was generally in just a hum-drum mood. So after trying (and failing) to lift my spirits with far too much caffeine throughout the day, I came home and knew I had to take action. Time for some kitchen therapy!

Chop chop

Chopping soothes the soul.

Aromatics

As does mincing. And dicing. Gotta keep those knife skills “sharp”! (Badoom-ching!)

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I also roasted my first peppers! After only ever buying the pre-roasted kind that comes in a jar, it turns out it is pretty much the easiest thing ever: turn oven onto broil. Put peppers on baking sheet. Broil for 10 minutes, turning twice, until charred.

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Let cool (or, if you’re feeling masochistic, make the same mistake I did and don’t, haha), then peel off the skin. Typing out those words may make me feel creepy, but it’s oddly therapeutic!

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Slice, dice, and done! Meanwhile…

'Shrooms
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Let’s make some magic. The result?

Roasted Red Pepper Pasta 2

A pasta dish that ended up being simultaneously hearty and light, and totally hit the spot! Funny how my idea of “kitchen therapy” has evolved from eating my way through an entire box of Thin Mints in one sitting, eh? I think I may be an even better emotional cooker than emotional eater, haha. The only thing I thought was missing was a touch of fresh basil… which I would have gladly added had my basil plant not been vanquished by my black thumb. Oops.

Black Thumb
R.I.P.

Regardless, it still turned out great! Just the thing to lift my melancholia (well, finally getting to watch the season premiere of Modern Family might also have been a factor.) Behold:

Roasted Red Pepper Pasta

Roasted Red Pepper Pasta
Print this recipe!

This easy pasta is robust and creamy, tasting far guiltier than it is! I like a little zest, but you can make this as spicy as you like. Pair with shrimp or chicken, or enjoy on its own!

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:

3 cups whole wheat fusilli (or pasta of your choice)
2 cups diced or sliced roasted red peppers, diced or sliced (or both!)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 small white onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup sliced mushrooms (I used baby bella)
1 can stewed tomatoes
1 cup milk or cream of choice (I used unsweetened almond milk)
1 teaspoon dried basil
Sriracha, optional
Salt & pepper to taste

1. Set pasta water to boil. Broil peppers if necessary. Cook pasta to preference/according to instructions on the box.

2. Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan to medium heat. Sauté garlic and onions with seasonings (basil, salt, pepper) until onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook for an additional 3 minutes, or until mushrooms are soft.

3. Add the roasted red peppers, stewed tomatoes, and sriracha (if using.) Add almond milk and bring sauce to a simmer. Reduce sauce until it is of desired thickness, about 5 – 7 minutes.

4. Combine with pasta, and enjoy!

Take a bite!
Bon appetit!

Have a fantastic weekend!

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Posted on Mar 28, 2011 in Weight Loss, Weight Loss 101 | 26 comments

Weight Loss 101: Getting Started

First of all, thank you all so much for your kind comments in response to yesterday’s weigh-in post! I really couldn’t have gotten even this far without all of your support. And while I still have a little ways to go, it’s kind of strange to have such confidence that I’m going to actually get to my healthy weight this time! Who knew? 🙂

So, my first post in this whole “Weight Loss 101” series o’ mine explained my weight loss story, how I decided to finally start doing things the right way, and listed some resources where you can do research on the proper way to lose weight before actually changing anything about the way you live. Today we’re going into some action items. You ready? 😀

*Disclaimer: I am not a professional nutritionist, registered dietician, or medical doctor. All following information is simply based off of my own experience and research in attempting to live a healthier life.

Getting Started

While in the first post I went over some resources and tools for you to look into prior to starting your weight loss journey, these are now my general weight loss tips and to-dos:

1. Figure out your current caloric intake.

rapid_weight_lossBefore you even start dieting, you need to figure out how many calories you’re actually consuming. Carry around a small notebook for the day, or download an iPhone/Android app, and log every single thing you’re putting in your mouth. This includes not only meals and snacks, but that peanut butter finger you’re sneaking after breakfast, the two Hershey’s kisses from the candy jar at work, and don’t forget about LIQUID calories! You may not even be aware how many little things you’re overlooking on a daily basis, and those little things literally add up.

2. Calculate your BMR.

Weight LossWeight loss really is pretty simple math. Calories consumed – calories burned = weight gain/loss/maintenance. It really is that simple! You can easily figure out how many calories you naturally burn just by being alive (your Basal Metabolic Rate) utilizing one of the ten kajillion online BMR calculators out there. Just remember, the more overweight you are, the more work it is for your body to function and the more calories you’ll burn naturally. For example, right now (at 196 pounds) my BMR is 1728.5 calories/day. However, at my starting weight of 246 lbs, it was 1946 calories/day. That’s over a 200 calorie difference that I now have to make up by either further limiting my intake or upping my exercise and burning more throughout the day.

3. Start Losin’

weight-loss-tips1 pound is said to equal about 3500 calories. So if you know how many calories you burn, and how many you’re consuming, you can calculate your intake/outtake for a 500 calorie deficit and lose 1 pound a week. If you discover that you were previously consuming 2300 calories a day, lower it to 1800 and see where that puts you. I started out by lowering my caloric intake to 1500. Obviously, the heavier you are to begin with, the more calories you’re likely to burn just by breathing and thus the more weight you’re apt to lose (I lost nearly 11 pounds my first week – unthinkable!) Use a calorie counter to help you with this! Estimating in your head will NOT be enough in the beginning. You may be able to get to that point in time, but for now you really should be counting every single thing you eat in order to get a realistic perspective of how to balance the rest of your day.

4. Eat! (Nutritiously.)

Healthy_FoodI know that I’m putting a lot of emphasis on calorie counting here. And I do think that is important, and is the most integral tool in how I’ve lost my weight so far. However, I made the mistake when I started this journey of only concentrating on the caloric content of food, and not any other nutrition facts. I was living off of frozen Lean Cuisine dinners and diet sodas for the first few weeks before I started getting really tired of eating all that processed, sodium-laden crap. So, my suggestion for anyone who is contemplating starting a journey of their own is to start eating whole, nutritious foods right off the bat! The good news is that many of the foods that are so good for you, are also super low in calories! You can eat more, get more nutrition, and feel less deprived. That’s a win-win-win in my book. 🙂

Go crazy with your fruits & veggies, though be wary of high-calorie ones like , potatoes, avocados, and bananas. Definitely eat these nutritional powerhouses – they taste awesome, after all! — but just be sure to factor in their caloric density. Leafy greens, apples, pears, citrus fruits, sweet potatoes (different than reg. potatoes), celery, broccoli, berries, tomatoes, mushrooms, sea vegetables… the list is endless. And delicious.

Stick with lean proteins – poultry & fish. Red meat is much higher in saturated fat and calories. Obviously don’t deprive yourself of steak if you’re feeling a serious craving for it, but measure your portions (a 3-ounce portion of meat is about the size of a deck of cards.)

Try out new ways of cooking that don’t require the use of lots of oil or butter. Steaming is a fantastic option. In fact, I would say to cut out butter as a cooking ingredient completely if at all possible, replacing it with heart-healthy olive oil instead (but still be sure to calculate the oil into your daily caloric intake!)

Replace all white flour products with whole wheat. If you’re going to be eating things bread, pasta, and rice anyway, you might as well make it better for you, right? Go for the whole wheat varieties of these carbs. They are better for you, will keep you full longer, and taste really good! I love the hearty texture of whole grain bread (and be sure you’re getting “whole grain” and not just “multigrain” varieties — they’re not the same.) Try Ezekial 4:9 Sprouted Whole Grain Flourless Bread for something different (and uhhhmazing!) Just be aware of the fact that just because it’s whole grain (and good for you) doesn’t mean you can eat as much of it as you want — I’ve made this mistake more than a few times, haha.

Sidenote: If you have an issue with the heartier texture of whole wheat pasta, my suggestion is to overcook it. Cook it longer than you’re “supposed” to, and it will more closely resemble the softer, looser texture of white pasta.

Enjoy nuts, seeds, nut butters,  with a conscience. These are amazing for you, and will help keep you full and satisfied. However, they are also VERY calorie-dense. Just measure out your servings and you’ll be fine!

If you don’t already own a set of measuring cups, spoons, and a food scale, invest in them. Measuring your portions takes time and can be kind of annoying, but is especially important in the beginning. I bet you’ll be surprised from both sides when you actually start measuring. For example, 2 ounces of pasta (about the width of a quarter when you wrap your hand around it) is admittedly less than thrilling when you measure it out, but 2 tablespoons of peanut butter is actually a lot! I was really surprised by how off my own personal estimations of portions are.

I feel very strongly that you need to have a realistic idea of how many calories you are consuming and burning in order to lose weight properly. My weight loss journey has NOT been a miraculous, speedy one! It’s taken me almost 8 months to lose just shy of 50 pounds, and I’m most definitely not done yet. But I really feel, and believe me, I know how hard it is to hear, you have to lose the weight slowly in order to do it right. I’ve lost weight quickly in the past (crash diets, Atkins, etc.) only to have it surge back in a vengeful fury weeks later (and naturally, it brought along a few extra pounds, too!) You didn’t gain 20, 50, or 100 pounds overnight, so you can’t expect to lose it that quickly either.

I hope that someone is able to find these posts helpful! Please comment with your own weight-loss tips, to-dos, or regimens! Look forward to future posts covering fitness (what I’m still working on most!) and meal planning (another thing I suck at, but want to improve on.)

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