Finding my (th)inner self

I'm getting healthier all the timeYesterday was one of those funny clothing days, where I walked around knowing that I looked–and felt–good. Sure, I could be a size 6 (if I starved myself for a few months), but that’s not the kind of “good” I had in mind.

There I was, walking around in my size 14 jeans (a nice change from the size 16 I was sporting a year ago), my brand-new 38D Natori “Feathers” bra from Nordstrom (because, shockingly, the 42B t-shirt bra they’d been fitting me for at Lane Bryant was WRONG WRONG WRONGITTY WRONG), and my awesome hot boots from the Clarks Outlet. I felt comfortable in my own skin.

I haven’t given up on losing more weight. On the contrary, I’m still working on it wholeheartedly–just in a manner that actually works for me. I have my “go-to” items that help to keep me on track, and they’ve become reliable staples of my diet. Let me be specific about “diet” and what that means for me:

I don’t adhere to a “diet” in the sense of a system, a theme, or some other titled designation. I’m talking “diet” in terms of HOW I EAT. No title needed. 

U.S. News & World Report recently released a ranking of 35 diets (ranging from for-profit plans to more general lifestyles, like vegetarianism), and the key foci that were used for ratings were things like ease of adherence, nutritional completeness, ability to produce weight loss (short-term and long-term), safety, and ability to prevent chronic conditions, like heart disease and diabetes. When I think about how I try to eat, I’m focusing most heavily on adherence, safety, ability to produce long-term weight loss, and preventing chronic conditions (since I have a family member with Type 2 Diabetes and heart disease).

If I were to pick a “diet”, I’d be looking hard at the list from U.S. News because their approach was logical and their methodology appears sound. To me, that’s far better than the nonsense I typically see peddled on Facebook, like people making “Paleo” cookies, the endless array of “cleanses”, shakes, and other gimmicky items that are either chemical-laden or just not right for someone looking for a balanced approach to their life. I’m a hypoglycemic (mild enough that I manage it in how and when I eat, versus with medication), and the concept of deprivation or extreme limitations just doesn’t even work. It doesn’t even make sense!

So, how have I been able to lose weight? Here are three items that are reliable, faithful helpers in my quest to continue to fit into my skin:

1. Lipton Iced Tea: drinking a glass of tea with any meal keeps me hydrated and fills me up, without being the “boring” drink that water can sometimes be without some kind of additive. During the warmer months, I buy the gigantic box of Decaf Lipton Iced Tea bags and brew sun tea out on the back porch in large plastic pitchers. Last winter, when the temperature dipped, I switched to an Arizona sweetened decaf iced tea–and I gained weight by drinking it. This winter, thankfully, I discovered that Lipton makes an iced tea bag specifically for brewing in cold water. It’s great! Now, the grain of salt is that this isn’t as good tea as, say, the Earl Grey that I brew a cup at a time with perfectly heated water in my kettle–but that’s not what this is about. This is about my being able to reach into the fridge and pour myself a glass of unsweetened decaf iced tea whenever I want, and with the ability to cold brew a pitcher in as little as 4 minutes without being beholden to the summer sun. (n.b. – I actually let it brew for at least an hour, because I like my tea strong.)

2. York Minis: these are the perfect dessert when I want something sweet but I don’t want something heavy. A handful of 10 of these makes a serving–and that’s actually a really good amount. I have a sweet tooth, and we have quite the selection of candy in the house. Somehow, though, one way or the other, there’s always some amount of York products in the house so that I have the variety I need in order to give myself a lighter (and still totally satisfying) option. It can be a challenge not to eat the entire bag in one sitting, but I find that if I count out the 10 (or sometimes 15) into my hand as I go–and then SHUT THE BAG–I can keep from going overboard.

3. Starbucks Decaf Coffee: After I gave up the sweetened syrups at Dunkin Donuts because they contain High Fructose Corn Syrup, I also started to evaluate how much I was drinking sweetened lattes and mochas. Especially during the warmer months, my co-workers and I often go for afternoon coffee walks–walking meetings to discuss work that include a stroll over to our local Starbucks store. Trouble was, having one of these fattier, sweetened drinks every day (or nearly that) wasn’t helping my waistline and was totally counteracting the value of the walk itself. Switching to regular decaf coffee, whether having it sweetened by the barista with the “classic” sweetener or by adding sugar on my own, works; and, making the latte and mocha the exception–rather than the rule–has also contributed to my weight loss.

Looking at this list, it’s pretty easy to see that none of these items fall into the category of “highly unhealthy” foods, and they’re all easily sustainable. In general, they’re also fairly affordable (and substitutes exist–especially for my caffeinated friends). Even better, I’m not sacrificing flavor; my taste buds are still quite satisfied. I have milk and sugar in my coffee, and I’m not counting how long I pour. If I have 15 York Minis instead of 10, I’m not going out for a power-walk to make up for the extra handful of calories. And if I chug my tea too fast, another pitcher is no more than a few minutes to an hour away.

Of course, this is what works for me. Different people have different solutions, but mine is based on my desire to find something that I can do for the rest of my life without feeling like I’m owned by any one company, like I have to justify myself to my doctor, or like I’m sacrificing anything. That’s big. And when you’re trying to get smaller, big can be a really fantastic thing.



Note: product links are provided for illustrative purposes. If you decide you want to purchase from Nordstrom or Amazon – go for it! Otherwise, feel free to buy these items wherever you’d like. Also, none of the companies noted above paid for me to mention their products.

Adventures in CSA (year 2 week 2): Better in several ways

Surprisingly, while there was a still a price gap between what I paid and what I got, it was a smaller gap in several ways. First off, I got several things that my grocery store doesn’t actually carry IN-STORE. The easiest way to price these more random items was to find the closest equivalent on the “To Go” portion of their web site, which allows me to see a vastly larger array of produce than what’s available in the store. For example, the spinach (on the stems) and the shell peas were only available on the web site; in store, you can have bagged spinach leaves and bagged (shelled) peas. I used Baby Bok Choi as the closest equivalent for tatsoi on pricing, since it looked just similar enough for these purposes. I’m still in a net negative position, financially, BUT I’m getting things that are harder to find than what I normally come across, and that’s worth something that you can’t really put as much of a price on.


Year 2 – Summer Week 2
Grocery Store Unit Price
(per lb)
Grocery Store Total Item Cost
Blueberries (pint) 1.00 $4.99 $4.99
Shell Peas 2.25 $2.49 $5.60
Summer Squash 0.89 $1.99 $1.77
Pickling Cucumbers 1.65 $1.99 $3.28
Green Beans 1.00 $1.99 $1.99
Spinach 0.45 $2.98 $1.35
Tatsoi 0.28 $2.99 $0.84
Carrots 0.73 $0.99 $0.73
Grocery Store Total Cost $20.55
Year 2 Summer Week 2 Savings (Deficit) ($1.45)


As of Saturday, when I went grocery shopping, we had yet to really dig into this box, since we’re still finishing off LAST week’s box, but I’ve already got my schemes in mind. One suggestion (thanks, Tammy!) was to put a bunch of the items from the box (including the blueberries) into a blender and make a smoothie out of them. I don’t see this as any kind of a cop-out: it’s a great use for fresh fruits and veggies! I have to admit, coming into the grocery store yesterday and filling my cart first with produce, I felt pretty happy about what I was pushing around, seeing how my cart was packed to the gills with all kind of fresh fruits and veggies. Of course, that didn’t completely cancel out the turkey pepperoni and Gatorade I put in the cart right after that…but, oh, don’t judge.

Adventures in CSA (year 2 week 2): Tatsoi ahoy!

I have to remember not to call this veggie Tetsuo. He was a character from “Akira”. Tatsoi looks a bit like a baby bok choi, although it’s supposed to be something akin to the love child of bok choi and spinach. THAT ALL WORKS FOR ME.

It’s week 2, and we’ve made it through much of what was in our week 1 box. What didn’t go into the stir-fry typically went as a side-dish for dinners, except for the strawberries – which disappeared in near-record time. This week’s box is a mostly green box, accentuated with some interesting splashes of orange, blue and yellow. Man, oh, man…do I ever love seeing all that luscious color splayed out on my counter like a splatter of Pantone chips.

At this point, I don’t yet have an opinion on the value of the box. It weighed more than last week’s box (good!), and it includes something obscure enough that I’m nearly 100% sure I’ll have to check Whole Foods to get a price for it. Some of the items, like green beans and carrots, are fairly cheap, so those always weigh down the value. Still, I’m not in this solely for the financial gain. With the deadline looming for the sign-up for the veggie box program through work, we need to figure out whether we want to stick with what we have now (through our local farm) or if we want to revert back to the prior deal. Decisions, decisions. Well, in the meantime…

Here’s what was in this week’s box:

  • Shell peas
  • Tatsoi
  • Green beans
  • Summer squash (both yellow and green)
  • Carrots
  • Blueberries
  • Spinach
  • Pickling cucumbers
Year 2 Week 2 box contents

Such lovely colors…

I’m scheming on something that may or may not involve the tatsoi, carrots, and summer squash. I’m still thinking on it. The tatsoi is too small to make decent Bok-os with (unless making them appetizer-sized), but that’s okay…it lets me branch out and forces me to be a bit more creative. I like that. Half of the fun of getting a new box every week is in the challenge: “What will I make with THIS stuff?” I prefer not to make the same thing over and over again, since repetition can breed boredom, but certainly I do like to repeat some dishes that have enjoyed good traction with the kids.

Never having pickled, but knowing several people who have, I figure we can come up with a decent solution for the cukes. The blueberries are likely to disappear in dh’s morning cereal, as well as straight from the hand into the bellies of at least several members of the household. And who doesn’t like peas? The peas and green beans are perfect for us, since those are staple veggies in our family. And the summer squash…well, I believe I have a friend they should meet. His name is Ka-Bob.

I can’t say for sure all of what I’ll make with this box, but I’m definitely looking forward to checking out this Tets…tatsoi and seeing just how tasty it can be. Preferably without the futuristic, post-apocalyptic Tokyo setting.