Tag Archives: nutrition

MyFitnessPal Exploration

Howdy y’all!

So, remember how the other day I had dropped some significant pounds? All of a sudden they’re back.

This could be for a few reasons: maybe having several days of running in a row is causing water retention; maybe eating more carbs (even if they’re within my WW points) is causing some sort of retention; maybe I’m putting on muscle (this is doubtful).

The tricky and disturbing part is that I have religiously stayed within my points, and have only eaten half my activity points on any day. I used to not eat the AP at all, but now that they represent up to and sometimes over 1,000 calories within a day, I know I’ve gotta eat them.

I did have my gram’s birthday and my Mom’s birthday, but I’ve been saving activity points and never touch my weeklies except for weekend splurges — so even still, I’m within my points.

Yet here these mysterious five lbs have reappeared.

I’ve also considered water and digestion and all that. In my own analysis, I’ve ruled them Not The Cause.

So what’s a girl to do?

Today, I made a MyFitnessPal account. While I strongly disagree with it’s focus on calories, I appreciate its food database and I appreciate that it’ll easily and accurately count the nutritional information from my fruit.

I eat a lot of fruit, berries and veggies — WW doesn’t count them, but MFP does. I think for the next few weeks (as best I can with two bridal showers coming up where I did not prepare the food) I will try to adhere to what MFP dictates (while still tracking on WW, of course) and see what happens.

Here goes nothing!


Week 15, A Love Story in 2 Parts (Part 1)

This post has been a long time coming.

Together, we have finally arrived at Week 15. Well, it’s Week 16 now, but we’ve reached/passed Week 15, and to me, that’s a big and special week. Long, long ago when this blog first began, I was struggling to keep up my motivation. In one of my posts, I wrote:

“One pound could be anything.

And so, it’s hard to celebrate 1.5 lbs.

It almost feels like the road to weight loss hasn’t started at all yet — it would be so easy to flail and give up now and go back to the world of non-obsessive eating habits. If a pound can fluctuate on any given day, how do I even know I can attribute its loss to my efforts? It’s so tempting to just “start next week,” or have a massive brownie “just this once,” and plan (and then re-plan, and re-plan) on starting tomorrow or next week.

But I suppose I’d never see week 15 then.

And I really want to see week 15. And week 30, week 54.”

In my head, I had a budding romance with Week 15 the way little girls dream of their Prince (or Princess!) Charming. I waited for it. I worked for it. I wondered what it would be like. I imagined myself squeezing into old clothes with ease. I imagined myself running MARATHONS. Actually, I’m kidding about the marathons. Back when I wrote that post, I really hoped in the depth of my heart that I would be able to run a mile or two at once. That was all I wanted. Week 15 became the Camelot, the Promised Land, blah blah blah. Week 15 would not be one ambiguous pound, I thought to myself, Week 15 won’t be able to be denied.

I wanted to see Week 15.

I wanted to see it so badly.

Knowing that if I hung in there long enough, Week 15 would roll around, I realized I had to continually put in the work if I wanted this little waystation/weighstation (har har har) to be what I imagined. So I did. And you helped me. And here’s where we are today.

Today is just past Week 15. We’re on Week 16 now.

And as of a midweek weigh-in, it’s looking pretty definite that I will have lost over 20 lbs by this Friday’s weigh-in, and I’m closing in on the 160’s after beginning this January in the mid-180’s, and beginning WW in general years ago at 198 before finally getting my act together. So that one ambiguous pound has turned into twenty. It cannot be denied.

As of today, I am sitting at my desk and wearing my very favorite shorts. They’re khaki shorts from Loft and they’re comfy and cute and can be worn to look classy or slouchy, depending on whether I feel like a preppy lady or a hipster Q. I love them dearly — and for the PAST THREE YEARS (well, since two full summers and a winter ago) they have not been able to even be buttoned. Today, I’m wearing them slouchily with a flannel and a knit cap, and I’m wearing them with a belt, and I look adorable, and this is the first time I have worn these shorts outside my house (or at all) in THREE YEARS, and it cannot be denied.

When I first began runnning, a “long run” was anything more than a mile. The 30 minutes of Couch to 5K left me beat, every time. The only way I was able to convince myself to keep doing it was to say “It’s only 30 minutes,” and then think of all the other things I could do in 30 minutes and how short it seemed. 30 minutes for Family Guy episodes, a phone game, petting Tag, scrolling through FB… So I convinced myself I could spend the 30 minutes another way. Time went by; I graduated Couch to 5K; I kept running. Now, my shortest runs are 4 miles; my medium runs at 5-6 miles, and my longest runs are 6.5 miles and up. I’ve also cut my per-mile time from 12 to 10. When I first started running, my weight loss was stubborn and I didn’t see immediate changes — and that made it so hard to stick with it. Now, I am losing (on average) 1.7 lbs a week. Now, I look forward to my run each day (well, 5-6 days a week). Now, I do with the treadmill what I used to do with TV: “Oh, five more minutes, please!” I am running, and loving it, and have breezed through most of the 160’s weight-wise with such speed that all I can do is wonder why I didn’t start running sooner. I am a RUNNER, now. It cannot be denied.

Back when I first began my WW-hustle, I used to say to Chelsea pretty much every day: WHEN WILL I GET TO EAT LIKE EVERYONE ELSE AGAIN? WHEN WILL I STOP WANTING SHITTY FOOD? These days, I love everything I eat. I don’t WANT to go back to eating crappy food — the thought makes me queasy. So if that’s how “Everyone Else” eats, well, too bad/so sad. As for wanting shitty food: I don’t, anymore. Aside from the occasional NEED for chocolate, I don’t crave bad foods or large portions anymore. To me, this is perhaps the most shocking victory of all.  I used to get frustrated by smaller portion sizes, by the need to sub ingredients, by the thought that I could never have my “favorite” foods again. Now, I feel as though I eat like a queen. And I feel happier and healthier than I’ve ever been. It cannot be denied.

And so Part 1 of this “Love Story” is the story of all the things I’ve just shared — the weeks we’ve muscled through together, my body and I, and emerged victories. The one pound that has become twenty. The “changes” that became “habits.” The “running goal” that became the best part of my day. Wellness is the slow and beautiful journey of falling in love with yourself. I’m not quite there yet, but I do see more strength and conviction in me than I’ve ever seen before. Finally, my outsides are matching my insides: determined, proud, nuanced and hard-won.

It cannot be denied.

Sodium Sleuthing

Today, I am feeling ponderous.

Here’s what’s up:

Yes, I ate more than usual this weekend. But I did stay within my flex points/activity points even with the extra noshing. At the same time, I do think I gained a little — nothing I couldn’t lose again through some long runs this week, but a gain nonetheless. Meanwhile, for the first time in forever, Chelsea and I made cabbage soup and planned on eating it this week for dinner. Our cabbage soup recipe is divine, yes, but it is also profoundly salty. My weight has shot up in the past two days, despite me going for a nearly 7-mile run, having a functioning digestive system and eating within my points. I think sodium and water retention are the culprits — but how can I be sure?

For starters, I need to make sure I’m drinking enough water to both 1) keep my tummy working and 2) flush sodium out of my system. But then, I still need a plan.

I think my plan for tonight will be to make tuna salad or tofu or something for dinner tonight and eat it instead of the cabbage soup, and see if it changes my water retention or if my weight goes down. Maybe a less-salty option will improve this retention situation. It’s not like I care if the gain is just water and if it lingers awhile, but I don’t want to be marching forward into a bad pattern or bad habit and leaving said pattern/habit unexamined. If sodium is going to take this significant of a toll (nearly 3.5 lbs!) on me, it’s probably a sign I should back off the sodium. Of course, this won’t be hard to do. I can simply eat what I’ve been eating all spring long, and when I make the cabbage soup, use less salt and less bullion. Maybe add some oregano or chives to season in an alternate way.

If switching to a lower-sodium dinner doesn’t do the trick, I’ll assume the weight was gained this weekend — as confusing as that would be. As I say to Chelsea every now and again: I really can’t lose sleep over things like this. If running between 18-25 miles a week and eating within my points won’t cause weight loss, what will?

I’m confident the problem will resolve itself; I just think it would be helpful to pinpoint the problem so that it doesn’t become a problem again.

Spaghetti Squash: MY CHANCE AT LOVE.

Fellow WW-ers, you know we ain’t ’bout that high-carb life.

At first, that was tough for me. I love bread. I could care less about rice or pasta, but I do love bread. These days, I eat NO rice, NO pasta and my bread is very limited. And, really, it doesn’t bother me. I’m strong; I’m healthy; the food pyramid that says you should eat a ton of grains is full of crap. Plenty of people eat no grains and get their protein elsewhere and are healthy, happy people. So, haters, take note. You don’t need to patronize me with tales of how I MUST eat rice, etc.

I’ve noticed that most WW-folks who still want rice and grains used in their diets multiple times a week aren’t including those things for nutrition’s sake anyway — but rather because they don’t want to give them up. Makes sense. But I had a realization and the realization led to a firm stance:

If what I’m putting into my mouth isn’t 0PP, it has to “do” something for me. It has to have some nutrients or antioxidants or fiber or protein. It can’t just be useless.

As far as I’m concerned, most processed carbs are useless. I like quinoa and bulgur, but am pretty much phased out of everything else. And everything else, friends, includes spaghetti.


My sister-in-law, Jill, mentioned to me that we should explore spaghetti squash. Recently, we decided to try. And boy, were the results delicious!

I can’t really post the recipe, since Chelsea made it — not me — and so she’ll need to guest-post to tell you her process. I know it contains tomatoes, spaghetti squash, mushrooms, spinach, vegetarian “chicken” strips, and seasonings. I know a whole massive bowl makes me so full I could die, and is only 5PP. I know I have had it for dinner twice this week and loved it.

If you’re unfamiliar with spaghetti squash, here’s a brief description: It’s a squash that you cut in half, scoop out the guts, bake, and then peel out the flesh. It comes out looking like little spaghetti noodles. It’s as simple as that.

The texture, of course, is only sort of similar to spaghetti. It doesn’t taste like a bowl of carbs. But if you’re already not eating much by way of noodles, it doesn’t really matter — gave the same effect to me, for example. And because it can be served heated, you can make any pasta-esque dishes using it and not have to sacrifice flavors or heat. Not everything can be served over a bed of greens, ya heard? As much as we love salads at my house these days, we were interested in finding a low/zero PP way to make hot mixed dishes like the one Chelsea’s been making this week. Now, we have a way!

The squash are deceptively filling and go a long way, portion size. We initially bought two small squash. That ended up being enough for FOUR dinners. So, word to the wise: Don’t over-buy. The squash is a totally reasonable price though and keeps fine in a fridge one prepped. What’s not to love?

Mostly, I’m excited because I’m a gal who loves a hot dish. I’ve learned to like salads, etc. as meals, but my favorite thing to dive into after a long day is a steamy bowl of, well, anything.

The texture and flavor of spaghetti squash means I can make warm meals with savory elements that are low or zero PP – healthy comfort food ahoy!

All in all, finding new ways to enjoy foods that grow right from the earth is always exciting to me, especially when they open doors to new aspects of cooking (or, should I say, offer a return to the preparation of certain types of dishes). Eating “clean” is a great way to make sure that you get nutrients and all that good stuff from the earth instead of a factory — I truly feel better since I cut out processed stuff and looked for more earth-based foods.

If you’ve not yet tried spaghetti squash, I totally recommend. It seemed intimidating at first to bake and prep the squash, but Chelsea swears it was a breeze. SO THERE ARE NO EXCUSES.

I command you, dearest readers, to go find spaghetti squash at your local grocer RIGHT NOW, so that you too can experience its glory.

You won’t regret it!


How I Conquered Holiday Dinner

If you don’t already know, I should tell you: I love my family. I love my family — both immediate and extended — with a love so big it could eclipse the sun. I love our traditions. I love our holidays. I love our chats and our laughs and our memories. I love the way we protect one another and lift one another up and celebrate one another. My family — brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandma, my parents, everyone — means the world to me.

And so holidays, then, are an important time. As you’re probably aware, this past weekend marked the Christian celebration of Easter, which is a big day in my family. My aunt and uncle and their daughters drive in from Virginia; we have a blessed breakfast at my mom’s house where my dad’s side of the family comes and joins us; we sing in the church choir at all the masses of the Easter Triduum. We have a big dinner at my gram’s.

Though I’m a Unitarian Universalist now, I love the Catholic celebration of Easter and have been looking forward to seeing my family and experiencing the rich and beautiful traditions of the season.

What else was I looking forward to? THE FOOD.

We are VERY Polish, and so Easter is a time for kielbasa and raisin bread and potato salad and ham. And my Aunt Maryjane, who drove in from Virginia with her husband, daughters and very sweet little dog (Antony!), is an incredible cook and an even more incredible baker. And so the Easter feast is not to be missed!

As the weeks near the holiday drew closer, I thought about how I might manage my WW skillz while still enjoying the holiday. Should I count points? Work out extra? Eat less? Party down and eat whatever for a day? I didn’t want to set myself back, and I didn’t want to miss out on some of the best food of the year. What to do?

Here’s what I did.

I ran 25 miles in the week leading up to Easter, and did not run (but did go for long walks both days with my mom and Gracie) on Saturday or Sunday.

On Saturday, I ate things I would normally eat. AKA, no weeklies or activity points consumed.

On Sunday, at my mom’s absolutely delicious blessed breakfast, I limited myself to two small kielbasa pieces, one slice of raisin bread, a small slice of ham, two egg whites, and cottage cheese. Everything was divine.

At dinner, I made sure I filled half my plate with salad (the salad was a delight — apples, berries, mixed greens, etc.) and I filled the other half with the treats I wanted most: more kielbasa (so Polish, I know), and a few slices of homemade raisin bread (AAH SO GOOD) and some sweet potato casserole. Then, for dessert, my aunt had made this layered, berry-having, light-cream-cheese-and-pudding-having, shortcake layered concoction — I don’t know how else to describe it. I do know, though that I had some of it and it was WORTH. EVERY. POINT.

I calculated what I ate for the day and was shocked to find out that every 3 oz of kielbasa is 7PP. I weighed out five pieces of kielbasa (since I’d eaten 5 throughout the day) and got the weight and calculated it.. I HAD EATEN 17PP OF KIELBASA. Oh well. #noregrets. I calculated everything else, too, and all told, I ate all my dailies and about 17 of my activities/weeklies, which left about 60 of those points left untouched! I was pleased.

Then, this morning, I decided to weigh myself to see what the weekend’s damages had been.

And lo and behold: I lost 0.3 lbs! An Easter miracle indeed.

All this is to say the following: If you exercise, plan ahead, save your points, and don’t starve-then-binge (what a foolish thing to do, fellow WW-ers, starving all day then eating holiday dinners until you’re sick — so many people posted online that they did exactly this and felt like crap after. Well, no wonder! Your body wasn’t designed for that!) but rather eat calmly and with control throughout the day — then you, too, can eat your fill at Easter dinner and even have dessert! And still, somehow, end up lighter than you started.

No need for holiday anxiety. I am the captain of this ship. I’m in control of this journey. I plan the work and work the plan. And, if the way I felt about seeing pictures of myself from this weekend are any indication, that effort is paying off.


Recipe: No-Noodle Spinach Lasagna

You guys. Holy crap. We saw this recipe Sunday morning (courtesy of the geniuses at BeyondDiet) and we looked at one another and back at the recipe and back at each other and said: WE HAVE TO.


For starters, all the ingredients were stuff we keep in our house anyway.


For seconds (?), the points for this glorious dish were only 7 PP a person.


For thirds: only a half hour in the oven? Ingredients that can be prepped one at a time? HOKAY YES.


And so, we endeavored to make this casserole.


Without hesitation, I will tell you it is amongst the best recipes we have ever made. Ever. In our lives. Healthy or not.


Now, we got “healthy” versions of the ingredients involved and that influences the points pretty dramatically. So of you’re doing that WW hustle, don’t screw around with reckless ingredient picking.


But anyway, here’s the recipe: enjoy!


(Oh, and one thing: The recipe’s title says there’s onions in it. But, um, there isn’t? Not in the recipe itself? So… there’s that.)

— 1 lb ground turkey or beef
— 1 TBSP italian seasoning (for beef, we also used garlic and onion powders)
— 8 oz mushrooms, sliced (we used 16 oz, and we seasoned them with thyme)
— 1 TBSP butter (we didn’t use this at all)
— 4 cups packed fresh spinach (we used closer to 6, and really, there’s no such thing as overdoing it.. spinach cooks down so small!
— 15 oz spaghetti sauce (we got Ragu’s Light, No Sugar Added Tomato Basil sauce, and we used the whole jar. It was incredibly point-friendly. No Sugar Added sauces are your friend!)
— 1 cup ricotta or cottage cheese (we used 1% fat cottage cheese)
— 1/4 tsp garlic salt (or, if you’re Karen & Chelsea, like, a tablespoon of garlic powder and some shakes of sea salt)
— 1 cup raw cheese, shredded (we used Fat Free Mozzarella from Kraft)
— 1 egg

— Preheat the oven to 375.
— Grab a skillet. Brown the meat and add whatever seasonings you’re using. When the meat is done, put it in a separate bowl.
— Using the same skillet (Chelsea left the meat juices in, too, to avoid using other liquids or oils or butter), saute the mushrooms until they’re tender. We also seasoned these with thyme. When they’re done, put them in their own bowl too.
— In the same skillet again, wilt the cups of spinach. Place in a bowl, or leave in the pan.
— Drain any water in the spinach and mushroom bowls/pans.
— In yet another bowl, mix the egg, the cottage cheese, and the garlic salt (and any other seasonings — we added chives).
— Grab a 2 qt casserole dish. Add 1 cup of sauce to the bottom (we did 1.5 cups on the bottom).
— Add a layer of turkey, then spinach, then mushrooms, then a layer of cottage cheese. Sprinkle with the shredded cheese and repeat the layering process a few times until you’ve got 2 or 3 layers and your ingredients are gone.
— Top final layer with whatever’s left of your shredded cheese.
— COVER THE CASSEROLE IN TIN FOIL, and bake for 35 minutes.
— Take it out after 25, remove the foil, and cook it for 10-15 more minutes until the cheese browns a little and everything is bubbly.



If you’re aiming for 2 cups of lasagna a person, it makes 4 servings. Each serving: 7 PP.


Mind. Blown.



Recipe: Zucchini Fries

This one is definitely worth going out on a limb to try! And further, for those of  you on WW or who are conscious of your calories/diet, the “substitute” ingredients we purchased were CLUTCH to making these healthy and low-point. One of the biggest diet traps is making stuff like this and thinking “OH IT’S JUST ZUCCHINI NOM NOM NOM I CAN EAT IT ALL NOM NOM NOM MOSTLY WATER ANYWAY NOM NOM NOM GUILT FREE NOM NOM NOM” because things like flour and bread crumbs are NOT free, not even A LITTLE. And so we’ve included the directions to the original recipe, and some notes about what we followed or tweaked.

Now, as a former fried-food-fan (these days, I genuinely don’t think I’d enjoy most actually fried foods if I were to eat them), I really miss things that have that salty, crispy casing on them. As I progress on my WW-journey, I’ve learned to become cool with things that have a semblance of that casing and are BAKED instead of fried. And so when I saw this recipe for zucchini fries, I thought, “Well, heck, it’s the weekend and I’ve got over 40 activity points saved up and all my weekly flex points, so let’s toss this recipe into the recipe builder on my iPad app and see what we’ve got.” Turns out, for 45 fries (our batch made 50), the way WE did it was only 4 PP a person if you split the spoils IN HALF. You heard me: 20-some of these zucchini fries (they are not small) for 4 PP.

Obviously, we had to try it.

So there I was, looking at the ingredient list for this recipe. It called for flour and bread crumbs. The author of the recipe (original format here) used something called “chickpea flour/besan,” which I had never heard of before. I did some point-sleuthing and, wouldn’t you know it, this miracle powder is LESS POINTS than regular flour! So we needed it. Hmph.

Chelsea, I declared, We’re going to the hippie store.

I affectionately call our local organic/whole foods grocery shop “the hippie store,” and I spend a lot of my time there these days. I’m really looking the part lately, too. Vegan Baggalinni? Check. Prius? Check. Lesbianism? Check. I fit right in. :-p

I’ve noticed that while not EVERYTHING at Down To Earth is at a reasonable or competitive price (their peanut butters cost nearly twice as much as the same brands do at Wegman’s!), their bulk foods and baking stuff cannot be beat. Plus, if ANYWHERE was gonna be selling chickpea flour, it was Down To Earth. So off we went. And we found it. And it was $2.00 for a pound of it. Success.


Now, bread crumbs… I looked into panko (which we have in the pantry) and wasn’t elated by how many points the recipe would become through its use. A cup of panko is no small amount of points, ya dig? Italian bread crumbs are even worse. So I endeavored to make my OWN bread crumbs, by buying a loaf of WW’s whole wheat bread, double toasting it, and then chopping it in the food processor. Success.


The recipe itself is so simple you’ll smack yourself for not having come up with it, and the results are so delicious that you’ll immediately wish you could un-smack yourself since now, you’ll be grateful SOMEONE came up with it.


Here goes:

— 2 or 3 small zucchini, cut into fry shapes. (I used 2 zucchini — small ones — and first cut them in half, then into quarters, then into fry shapes from there. Oh, and I cut off the ends before doing the above.)

— 1/4 cup chickpea flour (We ended up needing a little bit more than this. Probably about 1/2 a cup — but it didn’t all get used. When we were getting down to the bottom of the original 1/4, though, the fries were hard to coat because of the shape of the bowl. So more flour made for easier coating, even though we didn’t use it all. If that makes sense)

— 1/4 tsp garlic powder (HAHAHA I scoff at anyone who says I should use less than a tablespoon of garlic powder at any time for any reason. You KNOW Chelsea and I upped the ante on that ‘ish.)

— 1/2 cup milk of choice (we used flax milk, and we needed more than 1/2 a cup)

— 1 cup breadcrumbs (again, we needed more than this — but that’s in part because our crumbs were getting soggy from all the dippage. You’ll see. Maybe other types of crumbs are more resilient.)


— Preheat the oven to 420.
— Spray a bake-able cooling rack with cooking spray and put it on a pan. (Pics in the original recipe’s post will be helpful here).
— Make an assembly line: in one bowl, your flour, garlic powder, and any other seasonings. In a second bowl, your milk. In a final bowl, your breadcrumbs.
— Dip each little zucchini piece first in the flour, then the milk, then the breadcrumbs. Add to the cooling rack.
— Bake for about 20 minutes (in our experience).



The above recipe, using flax milk and WW crumbs and chickpea flour, made an 8-PP overall recipe that became 4 PP a person. And we couldn’t even eat them all in one sitting. And so, a point-friendly delicious snack.


Recipe: Cabbage Casserole

Ah, dear friends and readers!

You know Chelsea and I love cabbage. It’s cheap, it’s mineral-packed, it’s healthy, and it can be prepared about two million ways. Cabbage for Mayor! For President! FOREVER. Our finest recipe is the cabbage soup dish we shared with you all a few months back. I’m Polish and was raised on halupki and halushki — we like cabbage, ok? We just do.

So when I saw this recipe (originally from Beyond Diet), I knew we had to try. The ingredients seemed fairly similar to our cabbage soup, but the cheese and Worcestershire sauce intrigued me.

On Saturday, we made this for dinner. And it was pretty good… not amazing, but pretty good. The carrots had a really strong taste, surprisingly, and the cheese did not. Also, the recipe looks NOTHING like the picture the website presents. I mean, vaguely I guess. But don’t expect that level oh “oooh!” if you make this yourself.

All in all, in the future I’d just as soon make cabbage soup instead. Fewer ingredients, less prep time, easier to store, and more flavor per bite.

However, for any cabbage fans, this is certainly worthy to keep in your arsenal. Ya never know when a low-cal casserole will be needed!


— 1 lb beef
— 1 medium onion, chopped
— 2 TBSP butter (we used cooking spray instead to save PP)
— 1 cup shredded carrots
— 3 cups shredded cabbage
— 1 tsp sea salt
— Dash of black pepper
— 1 TBSP chopped chives
— 1/2 cup raw, grated Colby Jack Cheese (we used fat-free cheddar from Kraft)
— 15 oz. tomato sauce of your choice


1 lb. Grass fed ground beef (10% fat or less)
1 medium Onion, Chopped
2 Tbsp butter
1 Cup Shredded Carrots
3 cups Shredded Cabbage
1 tsp. sea salt
Dash black pepper
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp Chopped Chives
1/2 cup grated raw colby jack cheese
1 Jar Organic Tomato basil Spaghetti sauce 15oz


— Preheat oven to 350.
— Grab a medium skillet. Saute the chopped onions in butter (or cooking spray, if you’re being thrifty with your points) until they’re soft, but not browned.
— Add the ground beef, and saute with the onions until the meat IS browned — or at least isn’t so pink.
— Grab a 2-quart casserole dish. Layer the shredded carrots and half the cabbage.
— Sprinkle with salt and pepper and any other seasonings you’re interested in. We used a little beef bouillon.
— Add the meat to the casserole dish and pank it down a little.
— Toss on the remaining cabbage.
— Grab a medium mixing bowl. In it, mix spaghetti sauce, Worcestershire, and chives. We used extra chives and Worcestershire.
— Pour the mixture over the casserole dish.
— Cover the casserole dish with tinfoil, and put it in the oven for about an hour or until cabbage is soft. We recommend maybe an hour and ten or fifteen minutes, because we did just an hour, and our carrots (at the bottom) were still a little crunchy. If you like that texture then an hour should be fine! But if you want utter softness, go longer.
— When the cabbage is soft/hour has passed, take the casserole out of the oven.
— Sprinkle with cheese, and return to the oven UNCOVERED for about five more minutes, until the cheese is gooey and starting to brown up.
— Serve, and enjoy!

PP for 2 cups’ worth: 8


* We doubled this recipe and used a 3-qt. dish. It’s intended to serve 6, which we took to mean about 6 cups of meal would be made. This seems accurate, as when we doubled it, it looks to be twelve cups worth of food. We cook once or twice a week, and eat leftovers — so bigger batches suit us better. I will say that two cups is a fair serving for an adult if this is the main course of dinner; one cup, I think, would leave a diner hungry. Lots of veggies, and not really a lot of meat. Not that meat is the end-all-be-all of a dish (we’re practically vegetarians except when a recipe really requires something else; no attachment to animal proteins here), but I just don’t think one cup would be filling. As such, prepare accordingly. Double the ingredients and dishware, but keep the cooking time pretty similar. Just a tip!

Emotional Progress?


Sorry, I’m just feeling particularly sprightly today.

I’d like to write about a change I’ve been noticing in myself — a good change — and I wanted to write about it here since I know so many of you who follow this blog are struggling with some of the same issues as I do, and have some of the same hang-ups, and have all of the same insecurities.

I’ve been trying to think about how to talk about what-I-wanna-talk-about in a way that doesn’t sound preachy and that DOES sound linear. And for all the athletes who follow this blog, the revelation I’m about to make will probably sound #obvious. But, oh well.

I guess we’ll start here…

Okay, so obviously I’ve been trying to lose weight. Yes, I want to be healthy and well — but I also want to lose weight. Most of you reading this are trying to lose weight, too. And Weight Watchers helps me do this; I will go so far as to say Weight Watchers is a miracle for me: I have learned to cook (and become really, truly excellent at it; no lie), have learned how to better understand myself and my food and why I want to eat it or eat too much etc. etc., have learned portion control, have learned a whole new appreciation for raw foods. What else has come with Weight Watchers, though — and which is absolutely necessary to the program — is an “appreciation” for my scale. This, friends, is both a great thing and an awful thing.

Here’s my scale journey in a nutshell:

When I first started doing WW, I would stress about weigh-in day. I didn’t want to eat anything heavy that day. I was nervous to over-hydrate in case I bloated. All this, because the number at the end of the week was the signifier of “if I did well that week.” Now, I know what you’re all thinking: KAREN OBSESSING OVER THE SCALE IS BAD LIKE I TOTALLY WORRY FOR YOU IF YOU CARE THAT MUCH. Now, listen to what I’m thinking: Shut up. Seriously. Shut up. Caring about that number consistently going down while on a weight loss journey isn’t a bad thing: it is a necessary thing, to ensure progress and accountability. Otherwise, ya just gain and lose the same 5 lbs over and over and over.

So for a long time I have cared about the scale. Then, everyone started telling me: “You better only weigh in once a week; anything else is obsessive.” I ignored you, though, and weighed myself once a day. Sometimes twice. Never really attaching a value to what any of the weights said except for the one on weigh-in day, never really getting stressed if the numbers went up or down during the week. And here’s the thing: THE NUMBERS SERIOUSLY GO UP AND DOWN A LOT DURING THE WEEK. To the point where I stopped taking my weekly Friday weigh-in so seriously: it wasn’t always representative of the week’s progress!

On WW, we’re supposed to lose between 0.5 and 2 lbs a week. I am here to tell you that as someone who ALWAYS eats within my points and now works out 5-6 days a week intensely, my weight can change up to two lbs literally overnight. I can go to bed weighing 171 and wake up 169. Conversely, I have some morning where I’m actually heavier than I was the night before. This weighing-in-often thing wasn’t about obsessing about if the number went down: it’s been about understanding how the number changes, fluctuates, bounces around, etc. and understanding that my body isn’t just some machine that will mechanically trend in any one direction, weight-wise, per week.

I have, then, FINALLY reached a point where — yes, I will definitely continue to weigh myself because monitoring my ever-changing habits (adding more workouts, and thus more protein and sometimes more carbs, monitoring the effects etc) is key to understanding if my body is pickin’ up what I’m throwin’ down — but I also no longer care as much about the numbers. Why? Because I trust that if I do the work, they’ll go down. And if on Friday I’m retaining water and haven’t lost, or am up half a lb or whatever, then seriously… whatever. If eating within my points and running 4 miles a day isn’t enough for weight loss, I should probably just keel over and die now. I move through my days confident that I am doing EVERY. SINGLE. THING. right — I am not making excuses for myself; I am not cutting corners. I am just RIGHT. And that’s a powerful feeling.

What inspired this change?

Oh, that’s easy. WORKING OUT. Specifically, running. When I go on the treadmill for anywhere between 35 minutes to an hour, I gain somewhere between 6 and 9 activity points. I very rarely eat them; at most, I have one or two. But the foods I eat during my day are already geared towards body efficiency: high protein, medium fat, usually low carb unless I’m getting ready to run and then, a little more carbs. I eat beef jerky — lots of protein. I eat eggs. I eat cottage cheese. You get the picture. No need to supplement my lunch with like, an extra chicken breast #becauserunning. Why? Because my lunch is already supremely fortified. Of course, some days I’m hungrier. On those days, I eat more of the activity points. It’s whatever. I do what my body tells me I need to do.

Anyway, this isn’t about what I eat or don’t eat really. Instead, this is about the fact that I know, in my heart and mind, that I am pushing myself every time I get on the treadmill. I am working out and really giving it everything I’ve got. And I’m doing it often. And I am not cutting corners or making excuses. I’m legit DOING THIS. And that knowledge, armed with eating within my points, makes me less obsessed with what I’m putting into my body and moreso interested in what I can do WITH my body.

And your point is…?

Now that I work out hard and work out often, I no longer feel as obsessively beholden to my points. I’m still eating within them, yeah, and I avoid eating my activities until the weekend when we usually have a delicious cheat-day. But on a day to day basis, if I’ve run 4 miles, yeah, I’ll have an extra egg. Some extra nuts. Whatever. I still track and count them, but I’m not afraid of overdoing my intake.

Even more importantly: The scale isn’t everything anymore. I look better. I feel better. And if I weigh 1.5 lbs more tomorrow than I do today, I seriously can’t be bothered anymore. Because for all I know, by Saturday, I’ll weigh less than I did today. It’s all such a crap-shoot. It’s roulette with water retention and digestion. It’s not the point. The number on the scale is not the point, even though weight loss is. That sounds weird and crazy; I know. But it’s true. I am here to tell you that your weekly weigh-in might reflect the extra glass of water you drank or the hard-to-digest dinner you had the night before. I am here to tell you that assigning the entirety of your weight-loss success to ONE DAY A WEEK’s measuring will often leave you confused and disappointed and frustrated.

This journey — for me, and hopefully for you — is not just about a weekly ritual of numbers on a scale. It’s a lifestyle change. It’s getting healthy. It’s working out. It’s doing EVERYTHING IN YOUR POWER to make sure you’re becoming increasingly well/healthy/fit. It’s admitting to yourself that if all you’re doing is counting points and not working out or exercising, then you and I both know you’re not doing everything you can. And that the reason you’re clinging so obsessively to your points is because you don’t want to have to make yourself vulnerable to another part of the process. And no matter how many times you say “Well, I lose even without exercise,” you know — don’t lie, you know that you know — inside that you are not doing everything you can. You know you’re cutting corners.

Once you admit it, you’ll be freed.

Once you start working out, you’ll feel in control.

Once you stop caring what a goddamn scale says on one appointed day a week, you’ll start caring about your HEALTH, not just your weight.

And once you start caring about your health, you’ll realize that this IS a journey — not just a numbers crunch.

And once you realize THAT — you’ll start to love yourself a little more for the things you are becoming, and not just the things you’re losing.

And that, moreso than anything else I’ve learned so far, might be The Points Of It All.

Recipe: Hidden Valley Ranch Dip

This one isn’t so much a recipe as it is a suggestion/pro-tip.

At SAMs Club, near the spices and baking supplies, they sell a fairly big bottle of ranch powder.

The nutrition facts on the side are for 1/8 a teaspoon which is useless since half the values are set to zero, but I’ve done a little figuring and I think it would take over two tablespoons of the powder to make one PP. Which is really not bad, considering that for 8 oz of dip, you only need 1.5 tablespoons.

The directions suggest milk and mayonnaise.

I KNOW you guys aren’t dumb enough to think I would use mayonnaise in anything except maybe poison.

So here’s what I did:

1.25 cups of plain Greek yogurt (I used fat free chobani)
1.5 TBSP ranch mix
3 TBSP water
A pinch of salt

Then I mixed it together with a whisk in a bowl.

I tell you: it did not taste like diet ranch dip or low calorie ranch dip. It tasted like delicious, creamy, mmmmm ranch dip. Not as thick as a full fat store brand but not at all thin. Store brand can be clumpy. This wasn’t. Think, Greek yogurt consistency. Because #obviously.

For 4 PP total this dip was a hit at my house — we ate some with snap peas and celery stalks while watching Pretty Little Liars. We’ve eaten some of it two more times and are still on the original batch — so the above recipe makes a fair amount.

All in all, a really richly-flavored and fun to snack on dip for movie night or get togethers. I’m keeping it in mind for if we ever go to a party and need to bring a dip or veggie tray!