Saturday, March 27, 2010

Mar. 27: Fiesta Recipes

I love Mexican food  - it's my absolute favorite!  I'd like to share a few recipes.  A couple of them are repeats but I thought they all went together nicely.


I've been making homemade salsa since I learned how from a roommate in my early 20s. He had immigrated to the US from Mexico and had a little salsa garden in our courtyard for this very purpose. The fresh taste is totally different from any of the concoctions you will find at the supermarket!


•2 large cans of diced tomatoes, drained


•4 cups of diced fresh tomatoes, drained

•1/2 small red onion, chopped to preference

•1 large green bell pepper, chopped to preference

•1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves

•juice from either on1 lemon or 2 limes

•4 cloves of garlic

•1-3 jalapeno peppers (to taste)


1.) Drain tomatoes in a colander in the sink while preparing the other items for the salsa. I reserve the tomato juice that drains off for soup stock or cooking rice

2.) In a food processor, place peeled garlic cloves, cilantro, jalepenos (leave in seeds for spicier salsa), and lemon or lime juice. Process until slightly chunky paste forms.

3.) In a large, non-metallic bowl, mix all ingredients well. Keep refrigerated.

I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

Notes: Some people like the salsa better with a sprinkle of sea salt. The original version also included a splash of tequila, for a smoky depth. I use this salsa to top chicken breasts, any kind of taco, tostada or wrap, and on a fresh green salad. It's also delicious just as a healthy dip! I've been taking this to parties and giving jars as Christmas presents for years.

Nutritional Information (1/4 cup serving)
Calories 21.9  Fat:  0g  Carbs: 4.4g  Protein:  0.8g

This spicy condiment is a great addition to chili, fajitas or anything else you want to add some bite to!


•8 jalapenos

•4 tbsp white vinegar

•1 tsp sucanat

•4 tbsp fresh cilantro leaves (optional)


1.)Remove the stem from peppers. (For a less spicy condiment remove seeds - I leave them in)
2.) Cut each pepper into 3 pieces and place in the bowl of the food processor.
3.) Add other ingredients and pulse until finely minced. It will be the consistency of pickle relish without the green gooey jelly stuff.

This makes a delicious spicy condiment. I love spicy food and the kids don't so this is one way I like to add some bite to my chili or tacos. I'm not an egg fan but I'm told its also really good on scrambled eggs. Serving size: 1 tablespoon Including sucanat and cilantro: 5.1 calories, 0g fat, 1g carbs, 0.2g protein Note: You could probably substitute agave nectar or honey for the sucanat - if you do, reduce the vinegar by an equal amount.

Nutrition Information:  Serving size: 1 tablespoon

(Including sugar and cilantro)

5.1 calories, 0g fat, 1g carbs, 0.2g protein


6 whole wheat tortillas
1 lb. ground beef (or ground turkey or chicken_
1 can fat free refried beans
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
can of tomato juice or V8
minced garlic, garlic powder, sea salt and chili powder to taste
1.)  Brown ground meat with some minced garlic.  When the meat is thoroughly cooked, season it with chili powder and sea salt.  Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350*.
2.) Stir can of beans into the meat.
3.) In a sauce pan, heat V-8, adding 1/2 can of water, chili powder and garlic powder to make the enchilada sauce.
4.) Spray a cake pan with cooking spray.  (I often use a disposable metal pan to save on some scrubbing time).
5.)  Spread a little of the enchilada sauce on the bottom of the pan.
6.)  Fill each tortilla with beef and bean mixture.  Roll up tightly and put it in the pan, seam down.  Fill the pan tightly with rolled enchiladas.
7.)  Pour the remaining enchilada sauce over the enchiladas.  Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes.
8.)  Remove foil and top with cheese.  Cook for 10 more minutes.  Allow the enchiladas to sit for 10 minutes before serving.
Nutritional Information (per enchilada, made with beef)
Calories  451 Fat: 25.4 Carbs: 31.4 Protein: 25.8
There are never leftovers of this!!!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Walking Tour =)

I am lucky enough to live close to a recreational waterway with a 30 km path on either side of it.  Today, since I'm still recovering from a recent illness and can't run yet, I decided to walk a 5 km circuit and take some pictures to share with you.  You'll soon see why I enjoy walking so much!!!

There is water on both sides of the path.  It's very peaceful, especially in the early mornings when no one else is around.

A walk wouldn't be a walk without my pooch Katie and my new purple kicks.  Sometimes we go off the paved trail to a path so she can run around off her leash.

It's great for my walk/run program because the trail is marked off at 14/ km intervals.

One of my very favorite things about it is all the carvings. It started out as something to do when a dead tree had to be cut down, but even some of the living trees have a little surprise peeking out.  The artistry is incredible.  Here are some examples from my usual 5 km course.

These definitely add some interest to the walk.  Quite frequently I go and discover some new artistry has been added. 

Today I discovered I may be a likely candidate for "What Not to Wear".  I often see the same people along the pathway.  I had a doctor's appointment before my walk so I didn't have my hair scraped back in a ponytail, I had make-up on and I was apparently less bummy than usual.  Three people didn't recognize me, only the dog, and wondered where "the lady that usually walks Katie" was.  Eek.  Time for a makeover!

Mar. 26: How'd I Get To Be So Smart?

Well, I'm not that smart, really. Although I really like to dispense opinions and information, I'm really just regurgitating the information from other sources that I find reliable.  I just like to collect the information and sift through the misinformation.  I have some tips for finding your own information.

Find reliable sources.  That can be tough.  I don't think one person knows everything there is to know about dieting and fitness.  That being said, some sources are more reliable than others.  When you read information someone is providing, first, question that information.  Does it make sense to you?  Does it seem reasonable or far-fetched?  If it seems unrealistic, does the writer quote his or her sources? (I'm the worst for quoting sources, thus this post!) Has there been one small study on the topic or has there been a range of observations?  What is the writer's background, educationally, professionally and personally? At the end of this post, I'd like to post a few links to sources that I find reliable.

Question everything.  As you study, you learn.  If you read something that goes against everything you've learned, even if it comes from a trusted source, dig deeper.  Look into it.  No one is perfect, and the opinions of the writer always come into play when they provide information.

Find a good forum.  Not only can you receive support and friendship, but if you get 500 people together, think of all of the combined research and information-seeking that has been done.  However, you have to examine the information from the other posters carefully as well.  They are only human and are subject to the same restrictions that you and I have.  Their opinions also come into play with the information they provide.  Never be afraid to question their sources so that you can dig deeper yourself.

What works for others may not work for you.  This falls into the land of opinion again.  Some people like to eat 6 times a day.  It works well to keep their hunger at bay, so they never overeat.  Others like to have 3 larger meals a day because they feel more satisfied tucking into a big plate of food.  These are not facts, these are preferences.  A lot of people like to present their preferences as facts, but as an intelligent reader, you have to apply the things that work for you.

Here are some of my favorite resources:

Body Recomposition : Lyle McDonald is brilliant.  He is a bit acerbic but I've always found his information to be excellent.  He obtains his information from research papers and sums it up for his readers.  It is very scholarly, and sometimes I have to Google some of the terms, as I don't hold an advanced degree in Kinesiology, but I have never seen anything here I found unreliable.  This is my favorite source of information.

Stumptuous :  I find this site very motivating, and I really enjoy the writing style.  It is not extremely scientific but it's still a good read.  I don't always agree with 100% of the information provided here, but it's pretty good.

Alan Aragon's Blog :  This is another very reliable source.  Aragon is a bodybuilder and personal trainer and very well educated.  I'm definitely a fan.

Patrick Ward's Blog  Another very well-educated man.  Ward is also a personal trainer, specializing in sports performance.  You can learn a LOT from this blog.

Oxygen Magazine Forums :  I am almost hesitant to post forum links.  In a forum you have to REALLY pick and choose your information.  I've gotten great information here, and I've also gotten horrible information here.  Read critically.  Also, a lot of the posters on this board are VERY hardcore and passionate and can be rather......abrupt.  Proceed with caution.

Tosca Reno's Forum :  Although I don't follow the principles of clean eating to the letter, I've found this forum to be incredible in terms of support.  The site, as a whole, houses and amazing collection of women, many of whom have become personal friends throughout this journey.  Like any forum, read with a critical eye.  All of the information may not be correct and all of it may not apply to you.

There are a few other sites that I've just begun to read, but haven't yet formed a solid opinion on.  Look for an update to this post in a few weeks with more great sources.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Mar. 25: Food vs. Mood - Another Funk

Boo to funks. I'm having another one. It's been a really rough day today.

I'm actually writing this post to inform, rather than whine, however.

For the past couple of days, my eats have been really off. I've been out shopping with my friend and my lunch choices could have been far better. I wasn't too worried because I stayed within my desired caloric ranges and the macros weren't terrible. However, last night, I started feeling really anxious. I had a lot of trouble getting to sleep, so of course, this morning, I had a lot of trouble getting up. I really only made it as far as the couch. I did manage to force myself to go for a 45 minute walk, which helped some. However, I'm now back on the couch and pretty darned mopey and lethargic.

I've had this happen before. I went through my personal journal and looked over the past 4 months. I want to know WHY!!! My out-of-the-blue funks all seem to be triggered by eating crappy food that I did not prepare myself. It isn't guilt. It isn't something that I'm creating as a reason for my personal brand of picky. It is a realistic link between what I eat and how I feel.

I've narrowed down the culprits to: Calcium Proprianate, MSG, and/or Refined Sugar. I really lean more towards the CP, since I do have things with just a touch of sugar from time to time with no ill effects, and the issue tends to occur when bread products are involved.

So if I know this triggers depression, why do I continue to do it? I could have just as easily tossed the bun that came with my hamburger and been sufficiently satisfied with the food I ate. I really must make the decision to avoid processed bread products in the future so I can truly narrow this down. If I still have the issues, I can research the other potential triggers. I eat that stuff so rarely that I often forget when faced with the options of what to eat at a fast food place. I realized today it's been over a month since I've had a burger that care from anywhere but my own kitchen.

I could keep going back to the doctor every time I feel like this and get my antidepressants increased, but that won't get to the root of the problem. I definitely have some issues with depression and need to be on meds right now, but perhaps that propensity towards depression makes me even more susceptible to the chemicals in foods.

As for me, I'm even more convinced that whole foods are a necessity in my life, and hope that others dealing with similar issues can find links between their food and their mood.

Question for my readers: Have any of you noticed a particular food triggering mood issues? If so, what food is it? I'd love to hear about your experiences.

Mar. 25: A Few Things You DON'T Need to Worry About

Do you ever pick up a fitness magazine or turn on the news and feel positively overwhelmed at the amount of information out there? Sometimes it seems like you need degrees in Chemistry and Biology just to lose weight!

It's great to learn. It's wonderful that scientists are constantly researching ways to help us lose weight. But sometimes, the stuff we learn is so negligible that it's just crowding our heads and taking away from the stuff you DO need to know.

The big thing you need to know, if weight loss is your only intention, is that you must consume fewer calories than your body requires to maintain its current level of weight. That's it. There is no magic pill, no scientific discovery, nothing else. All of the other stuff I talk about here is relevant to your good health, but not necessarily to your weight loss efforts. Obviously, the two goals can, and should, go hand in hand, but in this post, I'm strictly focusing on weight loss alone.

Here are some "discoveries" that are not going to make a difference in your weight loss journey.

1.) Spicy food boosts metabolism. Spicy food can boost your core body temperature, but it is not going to be an effect that is long lasting enough to make a difference in how many calories you burn that day. I love spicy food, so I eat it all the time, but if I'm eating cheesy nachos that happen to be spicy, they will still adhere directly onto my butt.

2.) For that matter, the idea of "boosting metabolism" is a myth. Your body burns calories how it burns calories. It isn't something you can inherently change through diet and exercise. The only exception I am aware of to this is a person who suffers from a thyroid or other hormonal disorder. That is repaired through medication and isn't overly common.

3.) You must eat 6 times a day to lose weight. For some people it works very well to suppress their appetite. Other people constantly feel hungry and deprived and really just want to chow down on a bigger meal a few times a day. I eat 4-5 times a day because it's my personal preference and because I tend to eat fewer calories when I never let myself get really hungry. Eating more frequently doesn't do anything to your calorie-burning ability. This is a preference and you just need to see what works best for you.

4.) You can only lose fat by doing 30 minutes or more of cardio per day. Fat loss is purely a function of diet. Exercise can help with your calorie deficit, but don't expect to be able to eat anything you want because you spend 30 minutes a day on the elliptical machine at the gym. Also note the "calories burned" function on those machines is extremely inaccurate. I exercise because I feel fit and healthy when I do so.

5.) Eat XXXX and you will lose weight. Sorry, there are no wonder foods. Eat in a caloric deficit and you will lose weight. Choose your foods because they are good for you and you enjoy them.

This is the bottom line - to lose one pound a week you must be in a caloric deficit of 3500 calories. Be concerned with calorie reduction and good nutrition.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Mar. 24: Wedding Dresses

I missed blogging yesterday because I had a crazy day. Today was equally crazy but I wanted to share a couple of observations.

I spent the past two days shopping with my dear friend for wedding dresses. My friend is an absolutely beautiful girl. She is confident and fabulous. We went to a lot of different stores and realized how much wedding dress shopping could mess with your mind.

First of all, wedding dress sizes are two-three sizes larger than regular dresses. So if you wear a 10, you are going to be wearing a 14 or a 16 in wedding dresses, depending on the style and the designer. Ouch.

Second, it really seemed like the majority of the dresses were an 8, which in reality is a 2 or a 4. So if you saw a style you liked, you had to try it on in the 8 and leave the back gaping open while you tried to judge whether or not it would look good if it actually fit you. Wow. That'll poke a hole in the old self-esteem boat!

My friend, confident, beautiful person that she is, was unbothered by either of the above facts. We went to one salon with wonderful service and private rooms. The teeny tiny little salesperson was so careful with her feelings!!!! There was a dress on a mannequin that my friend wanted to try on, and the salesperson tried to talk her out of it because it was 4 sizes to small. Finally we persuaded her that no one would fall on the floor in a weeping puddle when it wouldn't lace up, and the dress was brought in. The dress might be "the one" !!!

Apparently everyone orders their dresses 1-2 sizes too small and signs a waiver that if they don't fit into the dress it isn't the fault of the shop. What unbelievable pressure is involved in being a bride! My friend and I discussed on the ride home things like realistic size targets, and whether or not she actually felt like she should lose weight.

I'm not a bride and really don't intend to be, but to those of you out there that are, please be kind to yourselves. Understand these tiny sample sizes don't fit the average woman. Don't set yourself up for stress and anxiety by picking unrealistic goals for yourself. Be strong and healthy enough to enjoy your day through good nutrition and exercise! Don't fall prey to the society-induced anxiety that seems to accompany a wedding. Please love yourselves - all brides are beautiful!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Mar. 21: Thoughts on Depression

I've mentioned a few times on this blog that I've had some serious issues with depression. I wanted to talk about that a little bit, because I realized this weekend that no one knows about depression because no one talks about depression. I know the whole world doesn't read my blog, but if I can spread some understanding among those who do read it I'd like to do that. Further, if I can reinforce the fact that you are not alone if you suffer from depression, I'd like to do that too.

I've had lots of ups and downs in my life, when I look back at my own story. There are so many times when my quality of life could have been improved if only I had known that I am one of the 1-in-6 North Americans that suffer from depression. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 58 million Americans are living with depression.

It's a slippery slope because it is misunderstood by the general population. Nobody wants to feel like they are 'crazy'. Because of that, a lot of people go without the help they need. They think they can "shake it off" or "pull up their socks." I've heard those phrases so many times I want to pull out my hair whenever I hear them. Or even better, pull out the hair of the person that says it!

I take medication for depression. I have taken it on and off over the past 15 years. Some people suffer from chronic depression and need to take medication all the time. In a person who is clinically depressed, it is a chemical issue. The chemicals in their brain are out of balance. They aren't going to "perk up" unless the chemical imbalance is corrected. It is exactly the same thing as a pancreas that doesn't produce enough insulin. Medication is required for a proper quality of life.

Other people have a tendency towards depression but are not clinically depressed at all times. This is me. A stressful situation is something I can't shake off like other people, no matter how hard I try. A bad break up, a difficult marriage, a divorce, my father's death.....all of those things ended up in a despair that wouldn't go away. Things in my life start going downhill because I just can't muster up the energy to keep that from happening. It's an effort just to open my eyes and take care of my kids when this happens.

Because I have two daughters I love, I get treated when this happens. They deserve a mom who is a fully present participant in their lives. Because it honors my dad, I get treated. He would never want me to be unhappy and unable to go on because of his loss. Because I love myself, I get treated. I deserve to be happy and healthy.

I will likely spend a minimum of the next 1-2 years taking one capsule a day to help me fight off the demons in my head, the ones who drag me down below the surface of my life, to a place where I merely observe the joy going on without me. I feel like I have a lot of things to offer this world, and if I am too depressed to get off my couch, the world will be going on without my contributions.

Mental health cannot be taken for granted. If you are having a hard time and it has been going on too long, consider discussing it with your doctor. It might be the best gift you have ever given yourself and those who love you. There is no more shame in receiving this treatment than there is in receiving dialysis for a non-functioning kidney.

It has the potential to change the way you spend your life..... It really is that simple.

Mar. 22: Things you WON'T Spend Money On

Lots of people talk about the expense of changing your lifestyle to one that is chemical free and healthy. Everyone knows that "healthy food costs more." And if you compare items directly, this is true. Look at a bag of organic apples vs. a bag of chemical-laden fruit. Way more money for the organic stuff.

However, there is another way to look at the situation. Think of the things you WON'T be spending money on anymore:

soda pop
vending machine snacks at work
drive thru meals
non-nutritious beverages
coffee and a bagel on the way to work
packaged foods
just-add-water meals
pizza deliveries
100 calorie packs
potato chips
candy bars
going out to lunch on work days
This is just a personal list of things that I cut out. Really, it added up to nearly $200 a month. When I applied that money to my organic foods and higher quality meats, I ended up reducing my food bills.

Don't be surprised if you spend a little more initially, but realize it's going to even out very quickly. Also know that it won't take long before you don't even miss the items mentioned above. Now on the occasion that I do go out for dinner, quite often, I'm very satisfied with just an appetizer or soup. Again - it costs far less than what I spent before, based only on the quantity consumed.
If I had all the money in the world, I'd go organic on everything. Because my resources are limited I try to get the most bang for my buck. I tend to choose organic with items in which the skin is eaten, like apples, pears and berries. Things like bananas and kiwi are peeled, so I don't worry as much about those. I buy organic free range meats whenever possible as well. I don't like consuming antibiotics and growth hormones. The "free range" choice is for ethical reasons, because it is something I feel strongly about. Currently I'm forgoing the organic dairy products because I'm using that additional money for a gym membership, but one day soon I hope to go back to the dairy products that are chemical-free.
The decision to purchase organic is very personal. Look at your resources and do your research. Make your decision based on those factors. Make your decision based on information rather than propaganda.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Mar. 21: Weekly Check-in

Yes, I know, I said I wasn't writing today, but here I sit with the keyboard on my lap - so, what's a girl to do?

Weigh In:

Today's weigh-in has me down 1 pound. I now weigh 188, down from my starting point of 210. I'm not 100% delighted with that, and with all of the water I've been retaining, I wonder how accurate it is. I was really hoping for 2-3 since I didn't do an official weigh-in last week. However, 1 pound down is better than one pound up!

This Week's Workouts:

2 strength workouts
3 walk/runs
6 walks

This is way more activity than I've done before, so I am very happy with it! It just gets better from here. Because I am sick today, I'm not walking any further than the fridge to get another bottle of water. I'm just taking it completely easy.

Weekly Food Tally:

Calories: 1384
Carbs: 150
Fat: 40
Protein: 110

I'm pretty happy with this. My focus this week was boosting protein over 100g a day. Check. Next week, I am going to work on dropping the carbs a little and raising the intake of healthy fats. Not by much - this seems to be a very satisfying ratio. I don't crave anything at all, I'm not hungry, and I feel energetic. My calories were supposed to be going up a little but I have to say, I feel very comfortable at this caloric intake. I'm probably going to stay in this area.

Okay, I'm really going to rest now. Hopefully I feel better tomorrow - I wanted to do legs tomorrow so that I had a rest after running. However, if I'm still feeling rotten, the most I'm going to do is walk. (How incredibly rational of me!) The kids go back to school and life gets back to normal tomorrow.

Now back to your regularly scheduled program.....

Mar. 21: Short and Sweet

I'm under the weather today with a kidney infection. I'll be all better by tomorrow - started the antibiotics this morning.

I'd just like to post a link to another blog post about binge eating. For anyone who has had a problem with this, it will send chills down your spine. It's incredible.

Enjoy your weekend, friends!