Monday, March 31, 2008

One What?

For Christmas, my sisters, brother, and I all received an odd looking pasta scooper with mysterious holes, presumably for measuring amounts of spaghetti into a pot. I felt this was a useful tool, because I often misjudge the required amount of dry pasta when cooking. These holes are labeled “1/2”, “1”, and “2” respectively. The only question is, “1 what?” Serving? Ounce? Cup when cooked? We knew not, and there was no indication to give us any kind of clue on the packaging.

Yesterday, I set out to resolve this mystery which I am sure has been eating away at the minds of my siblings daily. First, I measured out how many “1’s” there are in a standard 16 oz box of angel hair pasta. The answer: 6. Hmmm…this means it is not ounces, not servings, and the only way to find out if it is cups when cooked is to cook a “1” and see what I get. Or, perhaps the “angel hair” circumference is not the proper pasta configuration for this tool. I decided to try the cooking thing some other day – in the meantime, I plopped myself at the computer to have a look at the world wide web.

I wish I could say the web was useful. Instead, I wasted approximately half an hour searching through pointless drivel. Of course, I had actually lost interest shortly after beginning this exercise, but it became a matter of principle. It should not be this hard! The product is made by Chefmate, so I assumed a quick entry into Google would have this mystery solved in just a few seconds. It turns out Chefmate does not have its own website, but redirects users to an Indian cooking recipe page. Curious. Another resource stated that Chefmate is made by ECKO, and yet another that it is made by Nestle. Neither site has this pasta strainer on it, and the search features come up blank.

I did find a very cool Twirling Spaghetti Fork though. Imagine. Twirling spaghetti manually for all these years, when I could have been using this gadget. Like many things, the ability to twirl spaghetti will soon become an obsolete skill.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Feeling FAT

I recently went to the government sponsored "My Pyramid" site and entered my age, weight, and height. Big mistake. This is the message which greeted me as I innocently clicked "submit":
"The weight you entered is above the healthy range for your height. This may increase your risk for health problems. Some people who are overweight should consider a weight loss program..." It goes on to provide "helpful" links for weight loss, not realizing that it has just insulted me. You said it Snoopy. Suddenly I feel very fat.

Here are some other things that make me feel fat:

1. Going shopping for jeans. Unlike you lucky men out there, it is not as simple as remembering a few key measurements for us women. Women must try to squeeze into literally 20 pairs of jeans, and usually end up buying a pair that doesn't fit anyway. Perhaps you have wondered why many women look as though they have painted their pants on - it's because the thought of going out there for a day and trying to find a bigger pair requires several days of preparation and a few stiff drinks, and this is after admitting that indeed, a bigger pair is needed. Oprah says women should buy the size that fits. This sounds like rational advice, but I disagree. I have a limit in acceptable sizes, and I will go on several shopping trips to find the pair of jeans that meets all my standards - in price, in looks, and in a size that doesn't make me want to cry. But I feel very fat when I have a pair of jeans that should be my size, and I can't even pull them over my gigantic butt. And speaking of butts...

2. My gigantic butt. I swear, it appears to be in a different time zone. I walk through a tight corridor or turn a corner, and leave a trail of random trinkets which have been knocked from their perches by my bum. I have several figurines with superglued paws and chipped ears due to this phenomenon.

3. Dining rooms. Have you ever walked through a dining room and rattled every dish in the china cabinet with your giant steps? If not, you are presumably skinny. In my case, I feel like a ginormous cow stampeding through a house.

4. Eating "the whole thing". Many times I go to dinner with my very nice but annoyingly dainty friends who invariably ask for "the box" at restaurants. Not me. I am practically licking my plate clean even though I have just stuffed myself with enough food to feed an African family for a week. I rarely get dessert though. Does that gain me credits for self restraint?

5. Going to the doctor. I believe I have recently entered a tirade on my feelings about scales. But when at the doctor's, this embarrassment is unavoidable, and to make things worse, another person is present. And this person gives no credit for shoes and clothes. (I usually attribute at least 10 pounds to account for these items.) AND this person records the findings in a little chart for posterity. Really, it is just mean.

6. My extra large undies. My sister accidentally purchased extra large underwear which cannot be returned, and rather than try them on herself, she gave them to me. So sweet. They fit ok. See what I mean about acceptable sizes?? I do not want to be an extra large!! It has taken years for me to be comfortable with the large, and now I have to add an X in front of it? If I ever need to buy underwear in the future, I'll be getting the X-free type. But I am sad to admit, those rouge pairs in my drawer are pretty comfy. They probably shrink when you wash them...

Friday, March 28, 2008

Pull Tab to Open

I have recently discovered a light and delicious lunch option: the Panini. These are yummy little low calorie (around 330 each) sandwiches available in the frozen food aisle at your local supermarket of choice. On Monday, while perusing said frozen food section, I saw that the Healthy Choice version of these was marked half price, so I said “giddy up” and had a meal for just $1.79. This was so convenient and tasty, that I purchased a few more Paninis during my next shopping trip (the Lean Cuisine version this time, for alas the sale had ended).

While my first attempt at cooking a Panini was uneventful, I found that I was totally unable to open the box the second time around. Perforations were clearly visible, but I could not seem to decipher where to begin, and I ended up mangling my box, partially maiming my Panini. Unfortunately, the Panini comes with somewhat elaborate directions for a frozen food item, presumably to achieve a grilled consistency to the bread rather than the soft gooey mush typically obtained by microwaving. In the process of mauling my box, I also ripped the “patent pending” silver tray which is supposed to be placed on top of the box and under the Panini during cooking. As I searched for the cooking time on the side of the box, a small printed tag caught my attention. It said “Pull tab to open.” Duh.

I actually had two frozen meal mishaps this week, and I learned of an interesting phenomenon. After dropping my Lean Cuisine Pesto Pasta with Salmon, the cooked spinach took on a distinctive liquid-like behavior as it literally splashed all over me and the kitchen at work. However, it returned to its typical consistency of gloppy green slime shortly after impact, making it a joy to clean. Several hours later, I noticed spinach in my hair when I looked in the mirror. And you thought it only got it your teeth.

Anyway, assuming I have not scarred myself for life, I think I will add frozen meals to my daily rations. My sandwich was good, but a little mushy. I assume this was “user error” and I do not blame Lean Cuisine. I even added “Panini” as one of my lunch options on my spreadsheet.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

the Five O Clock Feeding Frenzy

Approximately 30 minutes after implementation of my ambitious plan to drop some pounds, I realized that there was a huge roadblock to overcome: the five o clock feeding frenzy. Every day when I get home from work, I rush to the kitchen to find snacks, and proceed to binge on anything I can find as I wait for dinner to cook. Any time I wait for water to boil, I find myself stuffing my face. It is not uncommon for me to eat: a handful of nuts, a few spoonfuls of cottage cheese, a gulp or two of orange juice (poured into a glass, of course), some crackers, and maybe a few frosted mini wheats. Yes, all in a 15 minute period!
Taken one by one, none of these things is an obvious diet breaker - notice I never eat cupcakes or ding dongs (actually not even sure what a ding dong is). But, taken in one shovelful, it does add some wiggle to my jiggle. Not to mention that it is difficult and time consuming to log all this into my spreadsheet accurately.
I still have not been successful in eradicating this behavior completely. Tonight, I had several crackers and a peanut butter cream (yummy - thanks Gramom!). I have found a few things, however, that have helped me to keep my wits about me as my tummy rumbles.

1. Eat a snack late in the day before coming home. When I am still at work, I have no choice but to eat the sensible item I lovingly packed in the morning. I find a piece of fruit works best, leading me to believe that these cravings are due to a lapse in blood sugar. I have this fruit at home, but for some reason it is not appealing when chips and salsa are just a few feet away.
2. Chew gum during my commute. Pretty obvious here - unless you're a talented porn star, only one thing in the mouth at a time.
3. Keep veggies on hand. If I have a recipe that calls for celery, I cut up the whole bunch. Similar rules apply to carrots. I also buy bags of baby carrots or grape tomatoes. Most veggies are only 60 calories per serving, and they are so full of nutrition, that I don't even bother adding them to the log. I have found that as long as the celery is on hand and ready to eat, my tummy is satisfied.
4. Get Chinese take out. Instant gratification. Probably not so good for weight loss. I guess I should keep thinkin'.

Sunday, March 23, 2008


Mmmmm....ham!...Chocolate peanut butter eggs!....Cheesey potatoes...the list goes on. Good thing I am not "on a diet" but just "watching what I eat". And today, I watched 1845 delicious calories go from plate to palate. Yes, it's more than my goal, but not the most indulgeous day on my spreadsheet. I will survive!
...And can I just add: Mmmm...manure? to the list? This is the weirdest thing, but this smell reminds me of home, and for some incredibly demented reason, I find myself breathing in a little deeper when I catch a whiff. Now, don't get me wrong, I am only talking cow manure. Pig and chicken manure? You'd have to be a psychopath to like those.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Sticking to my Principles

Confession: I do not own a scale. In fact, I do not wish to own a scale. Scales are mean to me - every time I use one, I feel like a big, fat, ugly blob. They say scales don't lie. Well, I say they do. OK, so I know weight is normally the primary statistic used to gauge progress in a weight loss program. But I find this to be very discouraging - I would think I had done well in a given week, and discover that I had lost no weight, and even gained weight sometimes! Honestly, the reason for this was two-fold. The explanation I like to give is that I was working out more, gaining muscle, losing fat, and conquering the world. The explanation that is likely true is that I was "cheating". I wasn't logging all my foods, and even when I was, I wasn't really meeting my goals. This was when I was doing fit day - I may have had a day or two in the week when I was pretty good, but I inevitably had a day or two when I was really bad. I have a selective memory, and I wasn't looking at the whole picture. Ultimately, I have developed two main principles based on this experience which allow me to be proud of my little successes, and maintain my interest in eating healthy for life.
Principle #1: If I don't see positive results, I don't want to do it. Lets face it, no one wants to fail at something. The scale is a poor motivator, so I decided to buy a belt. Now, I must admit, this was an ego challenge as well, because the medium wouldn't fit around my left butt cheek and I had to buy an extra large. Oh, how I would love to be medium. Anyway, I was in the very last hole on that extra large - and ladies, I really could have gone for the double x. Eeek! I know it will happen to some of you, and I feel for ya. It hurts. But at least this is a one time thing, a "pulling off the band aid" kind of disappointment - not like that mean old scale, taunting you every week! Ultimately, I am happy with the belt choice. One thing I hadn't considered was that leather stretches - I saw results a week later when I got to hole #2, and I can't imagine this was solely a result of my caloric restraint. But, heck, I took it, and I am currently on the last hole (there are only 4 holes on this belt - I guess the retail gods want me to buy a new one, but I am considering adding more myself.)
Principle #2: Don't lie to yourself. This seems obvious, but it is very tempting. For instance, I had a steak dinner last night, but I was supposed to have a chicken meal that is still in my freezer. OK, so: the steak dinner has more calories. In fact, I just logged it in, and it has 371 more calories. I revised my spread sheet, and lo and behold, the check at the bottom went from "Good Job!" to "Try Harder!" wha, wha, wha... BUT, I am going home to visit the family tonight, so I had planned on a big snack. I always eat and eat and eat on these holiday weekends, and luckily I was honest with myself when I did my planning. So, now I must exercise restraint, and not eat a big snack. (I can still have a little one, it turns out.) I will let you know how it goes - this has happened before, and I have not always been the perfect angel I am afraid. But the point is: I was honest in my planning when I realized that I will probably have a few beers and a big snack and a good sized dinner today. I had to eliminate my snack for most of the week in order to indulge. But indulge I will, and I will do it guilt free, while still being mindful that everything going into my mouth will end up on the spreadsheet. I was also honest with my actual consumption. I had to change the planned spreadsheet into an actual spreadsheet. I have found that I've been able to recover from many meals which I would have thought were diet breakers by changing my intake plan. I often lose my bagel on bagel Thursday, but I get to eat a yummy piece of pumpkin pie - and I still have oatmeal for breakfast, so I haven't starved myself either.
Tomorrow is Easter, and will be my first holiday meal since beginning my regimen. I am going to try an unprecedented non plan - I will eat what I eat, and log it later. There are two reasons for this - one, since Easter is Sunday, it marks the beginning of the week, and I will be able to plan my other days with one actual log on the books; and two, I don't really have time. I usually plan the weeks out on my lazy Saturdays and then go to the grocery store to get "the supplies", but I will be driving home after my class at the gym. So (big breath in), we shall see.
Check in tomorrow for "Easter Feaster" or "Bunny Bites".

Friday, March 21, 2008


I should preface this entry with a fact that will likely become painfully obvious to anyone reading it: I am an engineer - you know, like Dilbert? Ok, so I'm a geek. I have found that I must utilize this inherent need to make an equation balance itself. So, my approach to weight loss has been that what goes in must be less than what goes out. I am extremely discouraged by research suggesting that the body's metabolism will adjust to changes in caloric intake by doing crazy things like storing more or slowing down (or is it speeding up that adds junk to my trunk?) Whatever. Anyway, despite annoying (and hopefully inconclusive) evidence that my equations do not add up, I have assumed Newton's principles apply even to fig filled ones.

STEP 1: Visit and get a free account. Enter age, gender, lifestyle, and credit card information (just kidding, it's actually free - not a trial account or other such scam, though I am sure I get a lot of targeted spam) and be honest no matter how hard it is to enter your weight!!
STEP 2: Go to the "activities" tab on the fitday page, which shows your total calories burned in an average (in my case sedentary) day. By looking at this, I was able to decide on a target number of calories per day. I actually tried using fitday as my primary location for logging in all my calories, but I found it a bit tedious because it took a long time to enter every celery stick (right, that's a laugh). I lost interest in the food journal after about a week or two - but I did learn the number of calories in many of the foods I eat.
STEP 3: Decide on a target. I decided on a target of 1600 calories a day. This turned out to be pretty good - I am not starving, I can indulge in a nice dinner most weeks, and I can have a few beers. Sure, I might lose weight faster by eating less - but I had to consider my nature: a) I don't want to feel like I am "on a diet" and cannot eat whatever I want; b) I don't want to constantly obsess about eating because I am always hungry - ultimately, I know I would cave and then just give up.
STEP 4: Make a plan. I started an excel spreadsheet very much like the fitday site, only I calculated the calories in a few breakfast, lunch, and snack meals using This takes a while to do, but I generally have lots of motivation in the beginning stages of a project, so I tried to think of my habits and things I like for these meals. Of course, I included lunches like "chicken salad" and breakfasts like "cottage cheese and grapefruit" but I also added "burrito" and "pancakes at IHOP". Because a life without burritos is not much of a life, in my opinion. I am considering only calories, by the way, no carb counting or other such nonsense.
STEP 5: Create a table for adding the calories - I have a row for each date, and a column for breakfast, lunch, snack, dinner, dessert, and beer. (See my comments regarding burritos - these last two columns are required for happiness.) I plan out what I hope to eat weekly, and for dinner I usually have to calculate things since I like to cook and I have a lot of variety in dinners. I typically have the same breakfast and lunch each day of the week, but I make provisions for bagel Thursday and other free food that comes up in any given week. (I hate to see free food go to waste!) Making a weekly schedule eliminates the rollercoaster of daily indulgences (which inspire guilt and the inclination to just give up). I aim for an average of 1600 calories a day, or 11200 calories a week - so as long as I compensate throughout the week for a cocktail party on Friday, I'm a-ok. I can also make changes during the week, so if a brownie happens to slip in on Monday, I might just skip my snack on Tuesday.
STEP 6: Follow the plan. After two weeks of following my plan, I added more goals: walk each day for 30 minutes during lunch; go to the gym 3 times a week; drink more water; drink less coffee, etc. I concentrate on one goal at a time, gradually adding more, or focusing back in on old ones after unsuccessful battles with cheesecake or particularly cold weeks when walking makes my lips blue.

It Begins

Welcome to my latest attempt to participate in the latest technology, as usual, a bit late. I was inspired to begin a blog by an actual friend (my recent research into this realm suggests that one now has to distinguish between virtual friends and actual friends). My (actual) friend writes an amusing blog about her life, her baby, and her cats, and I have become addicted. Naturally, I thought I could also blog, if only I had a topic of interest.
So, in addition to mundane stories illustrating my hopeless illusions of grandeur, I plan to write many of my blogs about my recent attempt to lose weight. I am no expert in this category. I have never really tried to lose weight, but sometime last December between turkey binges and cookie feedings, I realized that my track pants no longer fit. (In all fairness, they never fit properly - I bought medium track pants, and I can only assume this was the result of some voodoo lighting scheme at Old Navy or a mega-sale in which size choices were limited.) Still, this was an upsetting trend which was becoming painfully apparent (literally) in several wardrobe items. Throughout the early fall months, I managed to successfully convince myself that the snugness was an illusion brought on by laundry related snafus. But then, those track pants forced me to face the mirror. And I did not like what I saw.
Since the first of the year, I have begun watching what I eat, and I have actually been successful - I wore those track pants yesterday, in public, and with a pair of shorts underneath(!) I want to share this joy with others in this blog. Because it doesn't happen overnight, and I have a long way to go. Hopefully, my trials and tribulations will inspire others (and myself) to continue living a more healthy, happy life!