First, to everyone who took the time to read my last post, and to everyone who offered words of encouragement:
I was floored at the outpouring of support and kind words, and it's definitely a source of motivation to commit – both to a healthy lifestyle, and to keeping the blog updated.
Second, please do not be butthurt by my use of the word "fatass". I do not mean it in a negative way, nor is it some expression of self-hatred or fat shaming. I just like having names for things, and this one happened to stick.
Par for the course, My posts are about a week behind where I am actually at. As I write this, I am finishing up my second week. I am going to do my best to get caught up in an effort to share my experiences with you in real time. My plan right now is to post weekly about what I did, what I ate (I'll share pictures and recipes when I can), what worked, and what didn't. If that gets boring or stops working for me, I'll switch it up. If that gets boring or stops working for you, I am totally open to suggestions.
This isn't my first rodeo, and I know myself well enough to know that if I started out doing too much too soon, I wouldn't be successful. Our habits on the road trip set a pretty low bar as far as health goals are concerned, so I knew even making a few small changes would yield results. As such, I established the following goals for January:
Prepare as many meals at home as possible – After spending two months eating almost all of my meals out, I'm actually really excited to get back in the kitchen, so I don't see this goal being terribly difficult to achieve. I also want to be completely up front about the fact that I am currently unemployed, so I probably have more free time than the average person at the moment.
Return to a mostly whole foods, plant based diet – In my last post, I talked about how my eating habits changed when I moved to Austin, which included adding meat back into my diet (see my side note located at the bottom of my goals). This goal has very little to do with weight loss, I've just been a vegetarian off and on for about 20 years, and find that I generally feel better when I abstain from meat and dairy.
Work on incorporating exercise back into my daily routine – Walk, run, dance, whatever, just do something physical a few days each week. Asheville is super hilly, so walking and running around here should whip me into shape in no time. It's also a great way to get acquainted with my new city!
In Austin, many of the restaurants source their ingredients locally, and it dawned on me that eating a burger made from beef that was raised and slaughtered humanely on a farm a few miles away, then processed at the very establishment in which I am dining, is likely far healthier than a frozen soy patty that was produced in a lab (Real talk, if you ever go to Austin, be sure to visit Salt & Time. That place is legit.).
As it turns out, my Best Good Friend (aka Kara) recently became a Beach Body coach, and was getting ready to kick off a five day clean eating challenge group on Facebook. This is exactly what it sounds like – a group of people who are interested in trying to eat clean or cleaner for five days. The coach (BGF Kara, in this case) more or less moderates the challenge, providing food lists, recipes, and motivation. You can be as participatory as you want, both in how clean you choose to eat, and how frequently you engage with the group on Facebook. It's also free, so I really had no excuse not to try it.
My goal during the challenge wasn't necessarily to eat 100% clean, I was there to keep myself accountable for cooking at home. I also enjoyed creeping on the group page for recipe ideas, and it was nice to be able to share my progress with a group of people with similar goals.
While it seems like it should be common sense, one of the most important reminders I got from this was that planning and preparation are crucial to success. In addition to planning out what meals we'd have for the week, making a grocery list, and going to the store, I also dedicated most of Saturday to slicing and dicing almost all of my vegetables. Knowing I have all the ingredients to make something is one thing, knowing I need to do very little to turn those ingredients into a meal when the time comes to make it is something entirely different. Yes, this process took me several hours, but saved me time during the week, and reduced the temptation to go out.
My week in meals
I'm the type of person who has no issues with eating the same things for breakfast and lunch every day, so in the interest of keeping things simple and budget-friendly, I had an English muffin, scrambled eggs, and grapes for breakfast...
I added some Sriracha and green onion to the egg to dress it up a little.
... and a salad with a side of pistachios (not pictured) for lunch.
I added chickpeas and avocado to my salad for some protein and healthy fat. Also, while it is not exactly clean, Brianna's Poppy Seed Dressing is awesome, and half the suggested serving seems to do me just fine!
Similarly, for dinners, I looked for recipes that made around four servings, and alternated days of cooking and eating leftovers (I used to do this when I lived alone, and would freeze half of whatever I made. This spared me the doldrums of eating the same meal every damn day for what felt like forever. Also, if I didn't feel like going food shopping, I could grab an emergency meal from the freezer).
Since almost all of my earthly possessions (including my cookware and cookbooks) are still in storage, I relied on the almighty internet and my brain for inspiration. Here's what I made:
Broccoli Curry Udon – Isa Chanda Moskowitz is a badass vegan cook. I have several of her cookbooks, and this recipe is heavy in my rotation. Over the years, I've learned that the most important part of this recipe is the curry and ensuring your ratio of curry to non-curry isn't skewed too heavily in either direction. In other words, feel free to swap out the broccoli with one of the variations Isa suggests, or do your own thing, just make sure you make enough so your dinner doesn't resemble curry soup (unless that's what you like). I made mine with less broccoli (Casey's not much of a broccoli man), and added red pepper and tofu. I also replaced the udon noodles with brown rice to try and make it cleaner. This recipe hasn't failed me yet, and Casey liked it so much that he asked me to make it again next week.
I promise, this tastes way better than it looks. Also, I promise to do my best to improve my food photography skills.
Vegetarian Ramen – For sure, one of my guiltiest pleasures in Austin was going to Ramen Tatsu-ya on Sundays for their veggie ramen. Seeing as how we have yet to find a decent Ramen place in or around Asheville, I decided to take a stab at making something ramenesque. The noodles in this were definitely not clean, but I stuck to what the package referred to as a single serving, and loaded the bowl up with vegetables and an egg. Cooking this at home enabled me to significantly reduce the salt content, and while it may have paled in comparison to the real deal, it scratched the ramen itch, and is certainly a recipe I am going to keep noodling with (pun intended).
This photo was from the first night I made ramen. On the second night, I managed not to overcook the egg, so that the yolk was slightly runny. Next step? Learn how to make a proper ajitama! Note: The broth was also much richer after sitting overnight with the caramelized onions.
Vegan Mini Meatloafs with Smashed Cauliflower and Asparagus – This is by far my favorite fake meatloaf recipe. The "this" in the link is not the meatloaf I made last week. Casey doesn't like mushrooms, so I went online in search of mushroom-less veggie meatloaf recipes, found one that fit the bill, and naively bought into the notion that it might be good. Looking back, smashed kidney beans mixed with frozen vegetables, ketchup, mustard, worcestershire sauce (heads up! Most worcestershire sauce is not vegetarian. That shit's got anchovies, son! So if you're a vegetarian, keep an eye out for vegan brands like Annie's.), and some spices sounds like something I would make someone eat on a dare. If you're looking for a veggie loaf, do yourself a favor and make the one I provided a link for instead. It's a bit more labor intensive, and it has mushrooms, but it is totally worth it.
One of my favorite foods on the planet is mashed potatoes, but when I make them, I go full on Paula Deen on those bitches, so I try to only eat them on special occasions. Cauliflower boiled then smashed or pushed through a ricer is a slightly inferior, but way healthier substitute.
Frito Pie – The Frito pie is a tiny miracle I learned about in Austin. It usually consists of a single serving bag of Fritos sliced open and topped with chili. It looks like this. I know, Fritos are not at the top of any health food lists (fun fact: they are vegan), but I made a vegetarian bean chili and used a fraction of the amount of Fritos you'd find in a traditional Frito pie (i.e. an actual single serving of Fritos). It's all about progress, not perfection, man.
I topped the chili with avocado and Sriracha to make it look nice. Also, it's been scientifically proven that Sriracha makes everything awesome.
During our first week, we went out for lunch once, and celebrated Casey's birthday with dinner at Curaté, a tapas restaurant here in Asheville (it was incredible!). I also enjoyed a beer with dinner most nights, because I have ridiculously good taste in beer, and there are proven health benefits in doing so. I had a great time cooking, and I don't think either of us missed dining out all that much. In fact, Casey said he was almost sad we were going out for his birthday.
As far as exercise goes, Casey and I managed to get out a few times for long walks around the neighborhood. On Friday, I cleaned kegs at One World Brewing, which, while unconventional, was still a pretty awesome workout!
I don't think there were any major physical changes to my appearance, but I do feel better. All in all, I'd call it a successful week, and I'm motivated to keep it up!