Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Cauliflower & Cheese Soup

Winter is the time for soups.  And as I mentioned when I posted the Curried Butternut Squash Soup recipe, I prefer to make soups that are chunky and thicker (which, sometimes, are not as pretty as Jim's beautifully pureed, colorful soups).

I came across this recipe in Eating Well and had to try it, with my own little tweaks.  It was lovely!!

So without futher ado....

Cauliflower and Cheese Soup

Makes 4 servings of 2 cups each

Cauliflower & Cheese Soup adapted from Eatingwell.com
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 small or 1 large onion
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic
  • 4 cups chopped cauliflower florets (from 1 medium head)
  • 2 1/2 cups low-fat milk, divided
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne or smoked hot paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon white or black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups extra-sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice (because Jim says you need the lemon juice to cut the sometimes 'farty' taste of the cauliflower. ha! but if you like or don't mind that taste, it's optional)
  1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onions & garlic and cook, stirring, until very soft. Add cauliflower, 2 cups milk, water, bay leaf, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring often. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the cauliflower is soft, about 8 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, whisk the remaining 1/2 cup milk and flour in a small bowl. When the cauliflower is soft, remove the bay leaf and stir in the milk mixture. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring, until the soup has thickened slightly, about 2 minutes more. Remove from the heat. Stir in cheese and lemon juice.



Per serving: 372 calories; 20 g fat (10 g sat, 6 g mono); 50 mg cholesterol; 0 g added sugars; 20 g protein; 4 g fiber; 825 mg sodium; 400 mg potassium.

Nutrition Bonus: Vitamin C (45% daily value), Calcium (27% dv), Vitamin A (15% dv).

1 Carbohydrate Serving

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Weigh-in no. 19: The Day after Christmas

This weigh-in post is going to be short and to the point.  It's the day after Christmas - St. Stephen's Day or Boxing Day in this part of the world - and my body is feeling the effects of this past week's (well, the last 2 days really) food choices.

All in all, I've been pretty happy with myself thus far.  Jim begged me to make peanut butter and jelly bars, which caused me to lose control briefly, but on the whole (in comparison to other years), I've not eaten until I was so full that I felt sick or even cleaned my plate and went for seconds.  This year, I only ate half of my portion of Jim's lovely Beef Wellington and have walked away when I've felt full.  That's a victory.

Despite that, however, I have gained this week... 

Weigh-in no. 19: + 3.4

Last week:    293.4
This week:    296.8      
Loss of          + 3.4
Total Loss     - 30.2

But I was prepared for that.  I'm not upset or ashamed.  I had already said I would be enjoying Christmas and if I gained, I gained - knowing full well that I wasn't going to be going "whole-hog" and eat everything in sight and gain everything I've lost back.  Some of the gain is undoubtedly because of the amount of calories I've consumed the last few days and the lack of exercise (I haven't done much of anything the past week), so I'm not going to make excuses.  However, I'm sure some of the gain is also water-retention; I've had a mini-cold the last few days, have eaten more salt than usual, have had more alcohol than I've had in months, and I feel utterly dehydrated, yet bloated.  Also I haven't had as much fiber the last few days as normal and I'm feeling the effects of having eaten a lot more protein than I normally do, so my gut is feeling a little heavy.

So, what's my plan now?  My friends are still here (yay!!!!) and we are still going to enjoy great food.  But now that the weather seems to be easing up and getting warmer (c'mon thaw!), we'll be getting out and walking around more, eating healthier, more everyday foods and I need to start drinking lots more water to hydrate and get things moving.

I'll be less ok than I am now if I show further gain next week, but still I know it's temporary.  In the end, I don't want this holiday to be remembered for the amount of weight I gained or lost, but for the amount of time I was able to spend with my friends and the fun we had cooking & eating, laughing, exploring and being in one another's company.  This is Christmas, after all.  :o)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

#Reverb10 catch-up: Lesson Learned & Try

Dec. 17: Lesson learned. What was the best thing you learned about yourself this past year? And how will you apply that lesson going forward?

I think it's been a lesson being learned for several years now, but what stands out to me right now is a stronger understanding of my accomplishments and greater confidence in my ability to see things through, which is timely since I've got a lot to accomplish and see through this coming year.

This lesson has come by two different ways/means that have been given a lot of attention here.  The first is the job search.  Despite the occasional paralyzing bouts of doubt and fear, starting the job hunt and actively thinking about what I'm qualified to do has been a good exercise for me in that it has confirmed choices I've made, my skills and abilities, and what I've done in order to prepare myself for the future.  I'm satisfied with what I've chosen to do and I'm more confident in the experiences I've had that have prepared me thus far.

The second is the weight-loss journey.  I've got a ways to go and I know there's more challenges and struggles ahead.  But for years, I have struggled with my weight and my desire to lose it versus my desire to hide behind it.  I've been surprised to learn that once I made the decision that I didn't need it anymore, losing has been much easier than I anticipated it would be.  Don't hear me saying that I've got this licked because I know I don't....but I am still shocked most days that my resolve toward this losing weight business feels different than times past.  Even the bad days, in retrospect, really haven't been that bad considering what I anticipated having to face.  I've realized that in this journey (compared to other times) there's no "if I can lose this weight, I'll....", there's no contingency plan......instead, it's "when I get to ____ lbs..." and dealing with it one day at a time with full knowledge that it'll happen.  I will get there.

Dec. 18: Try. What do you want to try next year? Is there something you wanted to try in 2010? What happened when you did / didn't go for it?

I started running in 2010.  I had tried a couple times in the past, but never really got past the first day.  But in September 2010, I started the C25K training program.  Now it's December and I'm still on Week 3, but I am running.  A few minutes at a time, but I am running.  That makes me happy and I try to remind myself of that when I get frustrated about my slow progress.

What would I like to try in 2011?  I'd like to run a 5K.  I have no idea where and when, but it is on my radar.  There may be one in May 2011 here in Belfast, so that might be a possibility.  But regardless of when it'll be, I want to try to do that - something I've never done before.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

#Reverb10 catch-up: 5 minutes & Friendship

December 15:  5 Minutes. Imagine you will completely lose your memory of 2010 in five minutes. Set an alarm for five minutes and capture the things you most want to remember about 2010. (Author: Patti Digh)

To be honest, 2010 wasn't a very memorable year for me.  I'm realizing this as I've been asked these questions for #reverb10 and I can't think of a lot to say.  Was it a bad year?  No.  There were some great times.  Was it a fantastic year?  Uh.....not really.  It was an "ehh...it was alright" year.  I've had better.  I've had much worse.

So, if I had 5 minutes before I lost my memory and could only remember stuff from 2010, it would be:

1.  The warmth on my skin and laughter in my heart when I spent a day at home in the lovely city of Richmond with Jim and my friends Scott and Ana at the newly opened Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, followed by more friends and laughter while eating pizza outside under the railway bridge later that evening.  It was a fantastic day.
2.  The day in August when I decided to start running determined to make some changes.
3.  The familiar and otherworldly sound of the last call to prayer for the day going up around the city of Sarajevo while watching an outdoor film at the Sarajevo Film Festival in late July.
4.  The smiles and time catching up with friends whom I had not seen in several years.
5.  The smell, sound and feel of sweet little Joseph crawling into my lap to tell me a story.

There were other things that were good that happened in 2010, undoubtedly, but these are the ones I would choose to remember.

December 16: Friendship. How has a friend changed you or your perspective on the world this year? Was this change gradual, or a sudden burst? (Author: Martha Mihalick)

I feel like my friends are always changing me in one way or another, challenging me, encouraging me, giving a voice to my innermost thoughts.  I continue to be shaped by them and the experiences we have together.  My friends are my family (outside of Jim and the dogs, of course).  They are my support, my strength, the wind beneath my wings. (I had to say it)

So, it's difficult to pinpoint one friend and one thing.  However, I think for the purposes of this post and my blog here, I have to highlight my friend Sean, with whom I do not communicate as often as I should, who helped me early on in trying to get my head straight about this whole losing weight business.

He had never told me that he had lost a great deal of weight.  And in a blog post where I vented a lot of anger I was feeling, my friend Sean responded with the **PERFECT** email.  I sat there and read it and cried.  He was so right and it was exactly what I needed to hear, how I needed to hear it (expletives and all), and from someone I was able to hear it from (when I might not have paid attention to others). 

He said:
Firstly, when I got married I was a fat bastard by my standards, and those standards are the only ones that really matter. What you define as fat is what defines what is fat for you. Anyone else's definition can fuck right off. 
I began running every day, at first a pathetic few miles, then the distance grew. In the first few months I gained weight, which people assured me was muscle mass. But it was the shittiest thing ever in the history of ever. How the F am I running like 18 miles a week and GAINING WEIGHT.

Now I honestly don't read your blog enough to know what exactly you are doing, and that makes me a shit, but if you are working out, well then its mass, if not, FUCK IT. This is a marathon, a life choice that if you stick with, 1.2 lbs or whatever it is will matter little.

You have a huge set of balls for doing this. Muddle through it, keep your chin up and press on.

Hang in there, you are awesome and brave, and this is going to be a painful period for you. Literally teaching your tired and slovenly body how to be different, but you are strong and motivated!

I remember when I would go running, I would imagine all the Bourbon, and Cigars sort of coming out of me like some exorcism. Maybe visualize whatever comfort foods or drink you consume coming out of you into the ether.

Anyway, I have no idea why I decided to respond to this. Hope you still like me tomorrow.

Since Sean's email, I have kept his words to heart:  This is a marathon, a life choice, that in the end will overshadow all the small stuff that I think is difficult at this moment in time.  I think about those words at least a few times a week.  And I have no idea if Sean continues to read my blog or not - but if you see this, Sean, thank you.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

Periodically, Jim whips up a quick soup for me to take to lunch during the week while we're making dinner over the weekend or on a Monday evening.  I love it when he does that and I'm guaranteed great lunches for the week!

However, I have noticed that we are different in our soup-making methodologies (oh dear.....I can't believe I applied the hated word to soup-preparation).  Jim is classically trained and goes the more European route of making blended or pureed soups.  I, on the other hand, prefer chunkier soups and stews with bits of texture throughout.  Regardless, Jim's soups are always YUMMY.  So, I'm going to post this recipe a la Jim and later on I'll post my most recent soup-making endeavor (Cauliflower and Cheese).

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

(quantities are approximated and should be adjusted for amount you're cooking; for the seasonings, you may want to start conservatively and then add at the end if you're wary)

  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1-2 tbsp curry powder (depending on how spicy you like it)
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1.5 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cracked black pepper
  • 1 large butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed  (you could also substitute and use sweet potatoes or parsnips - and to jazz it up even more, add a green apple to it)
  • water - just enough to cover
  • 1 cube of vegetable stock
  • 1/2-1 cup of milk, cream or coconut milk (depending on what you have available or how rich you want it)
  • plain yogurt (optional)


1.  Sweat the onions and garlic in a little bit of oil until soft.
2.  Add the seasonings, warming them up until aromatic.
3.  Add the cubed squash (or sweet potatoes or parsnips).
4.  Cover with water (just barely) and add the vegetable stock cube.
5.  Let boil until the squash (or potatoes or parsnips) are soft.
6.  Add the milk/cream/coconut milk and remove from heat.
7.  Puree the soup in blender or food processor and then pass the soup through a sieve or coarse cheesecloth to remove any stringy bits (Seriously, this is important.  Don't miss this step.  No one likes little bits that feel like hairs or grit in their soup even if it still tastes great)
8.  If serving immediately, return the soup to the heat for serving.  If not serving immediately, leave out to cool and then put in the fridge.
9.  If desired, serve the soup with a dollop of yogurt and eat with a hearty, crusty bread or a bit of naan bread.

Serves 6

Nutritional Info for squash version of soup:

Calories 125; Fat 0.6g; Carbs 37g; Protein 3.5g

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Weigh-in no. 18: The "Christmas is coming!!" edition

Well, the snow's back.  With a vengeance.  We got about 8-9 inches on Thursday night and got about another inch between then and now.  The pups are loving it!  (In case you're wondering, Piggy's off snuffling around in the snow somewhere off-camera, so don't be worried that you can't see her).

Beyond that, no big news to report, really.  So this weigh-in might be a bit short because I've got lots to do today to get ready for my friends arriving tomorrow, inshallah.  Fingers crossed, prayers said, candles lit, chickens killed - whatever needs to be done - in order to make sure all flights run on schedule!  I have friends who are having a hard time leaving here to go to the U.S., but I think it's just because there's a backlog and their original flights were canceled, so the airlines are just trying to get them slotted into new flights.  But so far, the forecast looks clear for the next few days, so I think all will be well.

Have I said yet how much I'm looking forward to Christmas this year??  Yeah, I thought so.  And to be honest, it's all about the company of loved ones and the food that'll be coming out of our kitchen.  That's what I'm excited about.  OH!!  Big news on the culinary front - we have a new gas (!!) hob AND a new oven!!  They're the stinkin' shiz!  Man, our old ones were bad, but dang.....we had no idea how bad until we've started cooking on these new ones (thanks to our landlord, who is, indeed, a star!).  I know it's corny, but the phrase "Now we're cooking with gas!" has all new meaning for me.  Literally.

So, yeah, in case you missed it last week, some may be wondering what my plans are for the holidays with regards to eating and losing weight.  There's lots of chatter in the blogging community about having a plan for the holidays to make sure you don't blow it.  My plan?  To enjoy Christmas.....in moderation, of course.  I have no desire to go hog-wild on anything.  But I'll be damned if I'll be agonizing over what I can eat for the next 10 days.  There will be no angst or agony.  I want to use this time to sort-of test myself.  I think I've learned some good lessons the last few weeks and am learning that, on the whole, I can trust myself around good food, that I can enjoy it and then walk away.  Or so I'm hoping.

So the next two weigh-ins will be interesting to see if that has truly been the case.  If it is, it will certainly allay some fears about whether or not I will be able to maintain loss in the future.  If not, it will help me determine where I'll still need to do some work in relation to how I think about and deal with food.

As for this week's weigh-in....

Weigh-in no. 18 (-1.8)

Last week:    295.2
This week:    293.4      
Loss of           - 1.8
Total Loss     - 33.6

I'm still struggling with Week 3 of C25K.  I just can't seem to get past that last 30 seconds of the second 3 minute interval.  But as I said last week, I'm not going to pressure myself to move to Week 4 until the new year.  I did, however, do the elliptical this week for the first time since that first day starting the gym.  When I first started, I could barely do 3 minutes on the damn thing and stopped using it.  So when I decided to challenge myself on Wednesday, I set the timer for 10 minutes, sort of thinking I'd just see how much of it I could do.  Verdict?  I FINISHED ALL 10 MINUTES!  woohoo!!  I still don't enjoy the machine, but I'm no longer defeated by it, so that's a good thing.  Will see if I can increase that in the coming weeks.

Next weigh-in will be Boxing Day (26 Dec), so in case I don't post anything new in the coming week, I hope you have a great holiday!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

#Reverb10 catch-up: Action & Appreciation

December 13:  Action.  When it comes to aspirations, it’s not about ideas. It’s about making ideas happen. What’s your next step? (Author: Scott Belsky)

What are my aspirations?  This question needs to be answered first, before I can map out my plans to make them happen.

1.  To be healthy and happy
2.  To finally be working in the field that I've spent years preparing for

Crazily, that's it.  Those are my two biggest aspirations right now.  There are lots of contingent ones, but those two pretty much sum it up.

And what actions need to be taken to make them happen?  Well, more of what I've been doing lately, I think.

1.  Working hard at getting healthy emotionally, physically, mentally, financially
2.  Finishing my dissertation, searching for and applying for jobs, utilizing resources and support freely given to me by friends, colleagues and supervisors, and believing that this preparation has given me what I need and that I have something valuable and unique to offer to those who are looking to hire me.

So I think I'm on the right road.  We'll see how it all develops over the next few months.

December 14 – Appreciate.  What’s the one thing you have come to appreciate most in the past year? How do you express gratitude for it? (Author: Victoria Klein)

To be honest, I think I'd have to say that the one thing I have come to appreciate most this year has been my life.  By that, I mean several things:

1.  The experiences I've had
2.  The amazing people that have been a part of it and made it great
3.  The sense of purpose I've had for most of it that drives me to do things that are often labeled by others as courageous, meaningful, and self-giving
4.  The sheer fact that I live, breathe, move and have my being here on this wondrous earth

Image by Ferlinka Borzoi via Flickr
I have a dear friend whose father (to whom she is very close) has been slowly dying of cancer this year.  I've been around or experienced the effects of death before -  in the quiet letting go, in the desperate mourning of what was taken, as well as the violent destruction.  And in those moments, along with all of the other questions that arise in each context, I am reminded of the gift that life is, of what we do with the time we have here, of how we leave our footprints on this earth and in the hearts of the people we love (and hate), and the sacred nature of it all.  Whenever I have a conversation with my friend about the impending death of her father, I know I am on sacred ground.  And I am reminded of how much appreciation I have for my life and that of those around me, including those who are standing around a bed, holding the hand and showing their own appreciation for the life of one whose is fading.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

#Reverb10 catch-up: 11 things & Body Integration

Dec 11:  11 Things. What are 11 things your life doesn't need in 2011? How will you go about eliminating them? How will getting rid of these 11 things change your life?

This is a bit bigger question than some of the previous ones!  I'm glad I'm doing catch-up because this one has taken me a couple days to think about and write. 

Ok, so 11 6 things my life doesn't need in 2011, how I'll get rid of them and how it'll change my life:
  1. This extra weight:  I may not get rid of all of it in 2011, but I'll be seriously working toward losing as much as possible by doing what I started this year.  And life will drastically change as a result, I'm sure.
  2. Fear: I imagine this will be a lifetime challenge, but I would like to spend 2011 identifying my fears and beginning to think about how they motivate me and what I can do to change it.  I know my need to control is tied up in my fears, so exploring that and learning to lean into the fear will be a goal in the coming year.
  3. Guilt: Besides fear, guilt is my other biggest motivator.  I'm tired of it.  I'm better at dealing with it than I was last year and I'd like to be better still next year.  I want to identify what makes me feel guilty, why it has that effect, and seek ways to undermine its power in my life.
  4. Self-criticism/Self-doubt:  My inner critic is harsher than is healthy.  My spirals of self-doubt can often put me in a confidence tailspin which is unhelpful.  Again, I'm better at dealing with this than I have been in previous years, but I would like to work on this a bit more in the coming year, particularly since this will be the year that I need to be comfortable in touting my abilities and persuading people why they should hire me.  Now is not the time to be humble and self-effacing.  I would like to identify under what conditions I start to doubt myself and my abilities, what fears feed those criticisms and doubts, evaluate how realistic my standards are, and learn ways in which to channel them into more productive and healthy inner conversations that push me to do better without beating myself up.
  5. Debt: There is no way I will be debt-free at the end of 2011 unless I win the lottery.  Undoubtedly, I'll be paying off my student loans until I'm 80.  But I do want to get wiser about my money, how I manage it, what little things I can do to whittle away my debt and situate myself so that I live more healthily in body, mind and finances.
  6. Extra Junk: At times I feel like I live like Sanford & Son, particularly when it comes to our storage areas.  I often wonder, "Who needs all this crap???"  It's getting time for a big purge and so I'll be hoping to do that early in the new year.
I think that's enough.

Dec. 12: Body integration. This year, when did you feel the most integrated with your body? Did you have a moment where there wasn't mind and body, but simply a cohesive YOU, alive and present?

oh, remember the days with Tom was a stud?
Why am I suddenly reminded of quote from an early scene in Top Gun:
Son, your ego is writing checks your body can't cash!
I find this question curious.  Maybe I'm not quite sure what is meant by being "integrated with my body" or maybe I'm so disintegrated that such a thought seems foreign to me.  There are times, sure, when I wish my body looked a certain way, was able to do a certain thing, or whatever.  And, less often, there are times when I know my body wants to do something and my mind says "uh...no."  But on the whole, I don't really think (at this point in time....give me a few months and ask me again) that I have a big issue with this. 

At the moment, I'd say that I'm pretty blessed because I'm aware that the time it takes my mind to get around the idea of changing thought patterns and adopt healthier habits coincides so far with my body's ability to put those thoughts and habits into action.  There are days when I wish my body was small enough to fit into certain clothes I see, but deep down I know that I'm not emotionally ready for that yet anyway, that there's still a bit more work to be done, and that when I can wear a size 12 I'll be healthier in lots of ways.

    Tuesday, December 14, 2010

    'Slap Yo Mama' Pizza

    Ok, so I don't endorse slapping your mother.  I'm an advocate of and activist for nonviolence.  It's just a saying in the American South referring to something that is soooooo good that it'll make you want to 'slap yo mama.'  I have no idea how it got started.  But it makes me laugh, because why would you want to slap the person who (where I'm from) is usually the one who cooked it?

    Anyway...I digress....


    I've been promising this recipe for donkey's years and so here it is.  As you'll see as you read, you'll understand why it took me a while to get it posted.

    It's really easy, but there are some tips you need to know to make it the best.  These are tips that my lovely chef and partner Jim has shared with me, and while sometimes it pains me to say it, he's right most of the time when it comes to cooking issues.

    So, I'm going to give you the recipe for the crust and then talk you through how to make a 'slap yo mama' pizza that'll ruin you for Dominos or Pizza Hut for the rest of your life.  Proceed if you dare....

    First step: THE CRUST

    This is where deciding to have pizza for dinner requires a bit of forward planning and is the only 'down-side' to it - but it's not really a down-side as:
    1) it's WAY better than store-bought or delivered pizza and
    2) it's WAY healthier than store-bought or delivered pizza and
    3) we all know delayed gratification makes the end product all the better!

    You're going to make your own crust - with yeast and everything.  Here's what you do:

    1 cup warm water
    1 tbsp oil
    1 tbsp sugar
    1 tsp salt
    2.75 cups flour
    1 small packet of fast-acting yeast

    Mix yeast and warm (not hot) water together in a small bowl and leave to work for 5 minutes.  Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl, add oil & then water/yeast mixture.  Mix together until forms a smooth dough and the sides and bottom of the bowl are clean.  Shape into a ball (you can do this in the bowl or on a floured surface on the counter) and put back in the bowl.  Cover bowl tightly with cling film.  Leave to rise for about an hour or so in a warm place (or if you want to speed up the process, you can ding it in the microwave for 10 seconds and then leave it in the microwave for 20 minutes, then ding it for another 10 seconds, and leave it for another 10-20 minutes). 


    Here is where your imagination can run wild.

    Whatever you like on pizza can go on top, but the trick is to cook it first and get the excess moisture out or else the water from your veggies or whatever will just seep out into your crust and make it soggy.

    So, if you like veggies on your pizza (like me), then:
    1) saute each one individually and then
    2) put them in a colander in the sink to cool and drain the rest of the moisture from them while you're waiting for your crust to finish rising.

    So, for my favorite pizza, we saute (individually) onions and garlic, fresh tomatoes (seeded and sliced), spinach, courgette/zuchinni, and mushrooms.  As we finish each batch, we put them in the colander to drain and their flavors will mingle together while they sit and wait.  If you put a little bit of salt on the veggies, that'll help draw the moisture out as well.

    If you like meat on your pizza, make sure the meat is already cooked too.  If you're using parma/serrano ham (my favorite), salamis, pepperoni or other prepared meats, you don't need to do anything other than make sure it's in bite-size or slightly larger pieces.  For this pizza recipe, we use about 4-5 slices of parma or serrano ham (because it's healthier and more flavorful than some other pizza meats) ripped into about 12-15 smaller pieces.

    You'll also want to prep the cheese at this time just to make it easier when it's all ready to put together.  I used to think that the more cheese, the better the pizza, but I have to say I have been converted to a new way of thinking.  Actually, too much cheese drowns out the flavors of anything else on the pizza and can also make your crust soggy, so you want to actually be kinda sparing.  For one batch of pizza (i.e., for this recipe), I would use no more than 1 ball of fresh mozzarella (cut up or torn/pressed/squeezed into thinner pieces - no need to shred it) or a small log/wheel of goat's cheese.  A couple tablespoons of finely shredded parmesan or grand padano added to these will finish it off nicely.

    Third step: PRE-BAKE THE CRUST

    Your dough should have risen at least another half its size if not twice its size (if it hasn't, it's either too cold or your yeast is dead).  Once it has risen, you're ready to work it and get it ready for the oven. 

    I hate a soggy crust.  So to keep this from happening, turn it out onto a floured surface and begin to stretch it into your desired pizza shape.  We usually do a long rectangle (sort of a large cookie sheet size) that sits directly on the oven rack.  However you do it, you want about 4 serving sizes out of it (they're good sized portions).  Then put your sauce on it (we just use a cheap tomato sauce/marinara, but you could also use a cheese/bechamel sauce if you like).  Then put it in a hot oven (200/475+ degrees) until the crust rises and feels like it is firmer and no longer dough-y in the middle (about 10-15 minutes).  You don't want to bake it all the way - just enough to make sure the bottom is firm so it doesn't go soggy after it's been topped.

    Fourth step: TOP AND BAKE THE PIZZA

    So, this is when you put all those goodies you've prepared onto the pizza!  There's nothing you need to know about this part really.  You've already done the hard work in the prep stage.

    When the pizza is topped, put it in the hot oven and bake it until the cheese has melted (since everything is already cooked) and the crust on the sides has browned to your liking.

    If you like an egg on your pizza (it goes really well with spinach, mushrooms & goat's cheese), crack a raw egg into the middle of the pizza before it goes into the oven.  It'll cook in about the same time everything else does.

    Fifth step: FINISH THE PIZZA

    This is an important step, so don't rip into it as it comes out of the oven.  Finish it off nicely before you cut into it.

    After it comes out of the oven, sprinkle the pizza lightly (total of about 2 teaspoons) of olive oil and with a couple pinches of finishing salt like Maldon Sea Salt crystals or something similar.  The texture of the oil and the salt just adds that little bit of oomph that makes the pizza spectacular.


    Serves 4

    Nutritional information per serving for pizza topped with Mozzarella, Parma Ham Zuchinni, Mushrooms, Onion & Tomato:
    Calories  556; Calories from fat  155; Total Fat 17.2g (Saturated 6.1g; Trans 0.0); Cholesterol 37g; Sodium 1234mg (because of the parma ham and parmesan); Carbs 74.8g; Fiber 3.7g; Sugars 5.4g; Protein 24.4g

    Monday, December 13, 2010

    #Reverb10 catch-up: Party & Wisdom

    Dec. 9: Party. What social gathering rocked your socks off in 2010? Describe the people, music, food, drink, clothes, shenanigans.

    I'm not much of a party-er - at least not in the way that people seem to party here.  I don't enjoy drinking too much or being out of control (are we seeing a theme here??).  But I do enjoy the company of friends, great food, laughter and fun conversation.

    I'd say in 2010, the last really good 'party' was when I was home in the states in May and a group of friends went out with me and Jim to a Richmond place called "Bottom's Up", which is a pizza place that is built down in the Shockoe Bottom area of the city (it's called the Bottom because there are interstate and railway bridges that run above it all).  It was me, Jim and some of my closest friends (Suzanne, Richard, Joseph, Ana, Scott and Vanessa).  My Richmond friends do my heart good (well, Scott & Ana no longer live in Richmond, but they're still 'Richmond' friends).  They are my family.  They are home.  Nothing delights me more than being in the presence of the people that I love and it is always such a soul-reviving, all-is-well-with-the-world feeling for me when we are able to be together.

    I was listening to one of my favorite radio podcasts - On Being (formerly known as Speaking of Faith) and the episode I was listening to was an interview with the late Irish poet and philosopher John O'Donohue and his thoughts on "The Inner Landscape of Beauty".  It was a beautiful episode, but one of the things that struck me was when he said:

    ...when is the last time that you had a great conversation, a conversation which wasn't just two intersecting monologues, which is what passes for conversation a lot in this culture. But when had you last a great conversation, in which you overheard yourself saying things that you never knew you knew. That you heard yourself receiving from somebody words that absolutely found places within you that you thought you had lost and a sense of an event of a conversation that brought the two of you on to a different plane....a conversation that continued to sing in your mind for weeks afterwards, you know? ...it's just absolutely amazing, like, as we would say at home, they are food and drink for the soul, you know?

    That's a good time for me.  That's what knocks my socks off.  And the people that I love the most in my life do that for me nearly every time I see them.

    Dec. 10: Wisdom. What was the wisest decision you made this year, and how did it play out?

    Hmmm....this is a difficult one because 'wisdom' has a great deal of meaning for me.  A wise decision and a smart decision are not always the same thing in my mind.  Wisdom implies maturity, forward-thinking, sometimes painful but ultimately better decision than what one may do otherwise.  Several years ago, I was pretty focused on wisdom, trying to get to the root of it, how one gets it, etc.  Maybe I'll write about that some time.  So to ask me what the wisest decision I made was this year is a big question.

    The easy answer is to say that it was my decision to lose weight.  But that sounds too simple to me.  Wisdom is more than that.  Wisdom seeks out health, wellbeing and wholeness for all.  Wisdom leans into the pain and works through it for the greater good.  Wisdom knows the real value in things.  Wisdom seeks balance, with acknowledgement to the joyful as well as the suffering.

    So if I look deeper, I'd say that the wisest decision I made this year was to let go of my fear and shame and strive to be who I know I can be.  I knew I wasn't living up to my fullest potential.  I knew I could do better.  I knew I could achieve more.  I knew I could be happier and less restricted.  So the wisest decision I made this year was to set out to overcome the obstacles that were hindering me, to root out the causes and search for solutions that would allow me to be free.

    Sunday, December 12, 2010

    Weigh-in no. 17: The "I wish I lived in Hawaii" edition

    Finally, the 5 inches of snow we had hanging around for 2 weeks up here in the village is thawed.  The sky is clear, but frost from last night is still hanging around even though it's well into the morning (well, 11am....sunrise was 2 hours ago).  The last 2 days have been positively subtropical, at around 5/41 degrees but we hear it's supposed to all come back later this coming week.  Lovely.

    What I would give to live somewhere warm right now!  Don't think that climate won't be playing a role in where I look for jobs at the end of this academic year!  I'm thinking somewhere near a beach, some palm trees, a little tiki hut to sit and theologize in.....it could happen!

    Anyway, not a whole lot to report this week other than the weigh-in, mostly because I've done a lot of reflection and writing this week with the #reverb10 posts.  See, I told you I wanted to post more stuff than just weigh-ins once a week!  Now you're getting something every day!   And I've got recipe posts waiting to go up as well.  It'll feel like Christmas with all the stuff I'm giving you!  :o)

    Speaking of Christmas, I'm pretty dang excited that my close friends Suzanne (read her blogs here and here or buy her art here) and her husband Richard are coming to spend Christmas with us here (which I've probably already mentioned).  I'm actually not usually really big into Christmas - I like it ok, but it's not usually something I get terribly excited about - but I am looking more forward to it than normal.  I'm looking forward to the fun, the laughter, the deep conversations, the art, the food, the rest and the topping up of the ol' love tank.  It'll be a wonderful time.

    Until then, it's time for this week's weigh-in.....

    Weigh-in no. 17 (-1.6)

    Last week:    296.8
    This week:    295.2      
    Loss of           - 1.6
    Total Loss     - 31.8

    Not bad considering I picked writing time at the library over the gym all week.  I have to turn in a preliminary draft of my methodology chapter (ugh!) to my supervisor tomorrow, so I've been trying to crank it out and needed the extra time.  Will get back to the gym and running starting tomorrow since I won't have another deadline looming until January.  I'm still on Week 3 of C25K, but I'm happy.  I'm going at the pace I need to go and I'm satisfied with that.  I imagine I'll be on it at least another week - or may just stay with it until Jan. 1 as I'm not sure how regularly I'll get to the gym while my friends are here.

    And, in case it needs to be said, I will be enjoying my time with them and not obsessing over what I can eat over the holidays.  Between the four of us, there's gonna be some amazing food in this house and I have no intentions of depriving myself.  I will, however, be mindful of amounts and if there are places where I can cut corners, I will.  But I've also decided:  If I gain, I gain.  It's not the end of the world.  It's not like I'm gonna go crazy and gain 10 lbs.  But if I can enjoy it all in moderation and maintain, I'll be a happy camper.  If I can enjoy it all and still lose, I'll be ecstatic.  But times like this don't come around very often and I have every intention of enjoying it.

    So, on that note, I will bid you adieu and get back to working on my methodology chapter draft.  Say a prayer for me.

    Saturday, December 11, 2010

    #Reverb10 catch-up: Community & Beautifully Different

    December 7 - Community. Where have you discovered community, online or otherwise, in 2010? What community would you like to join, create or more deeply connect with in 2011?

    I feel a lot of tension with this question because, while I have discovered some community with the online weight loss blogging community, I still feel very much like an outsider and I’m wary of it.  So, I’m a part of it, I’d like to join or get more deeply involved, but at the same time I am reluctant to dive in completely.

    There have been some fabulous people that I have “met” through this journey - readers and fellow bloggers alike - and I’ve been really glad to be welcomed, included, and supported by them.  I love that support and really admire the way they have endured and triumphed over their struggles in such a way as to give hope to others.  That’s something great that I want to be a part of.

    Yet, as I mentioned in my weigh-in post a couple weeks ago, I struggle with it as well because there are times when I feel like I haven’t “earned” my place within the community and despite some efforts to get involved, in some ways it feels like it hasn't really worked out for me yet.  I wonder if I'm doing something wrong, but then I have to remind myself that some of these people have been doing this and have known each other for years, so it's unreasonable to expect being welcomed and included with open arms this early on, particularly given the number of people who start this whole thing and then drop off.  There's been some talk about this on the Fit Blog Guide which was helpful, talking about blogging cliques and the sometimes divide between the larger and smaller bloggers within the fit blogging community (which, let's face it, is just a fact of life.  it's how humans function).

    I also struggle internally because I know that I have no intentions or desire for this part of my life to absorb me and I'm afraid that if I jump into the deep end of this blogging world, it'll seem that way.  I'm adamant about this - losing weight and working out are not all I want to think or talk about (and if I’m honest, I rarely talk about it at all in person unless someone asks me directly…. so my main outlet is here).  Yes, it is a part of who I am and what I’m dealing with right now, but as I strive to be healthy in all manner of things, I feel like being obsessive or anxious about my weight loss or eating would be counter-productive.  So I want to keep a balance.  I want you guys - my readers - to know that I have a life and I do other things outside of my weigh-ins each week to show that to lose weight doesn't require someone becoming single-minded, obsessive, and worried about every single thing they eat or the day that you didn't make it to the gym.  'Cause that's just annoying (even though I'll admit I still do that occasionally).  I want what I do to be real, accessible, identifiable, and inspiring for anyone else to be able to do in the midst of their own busy, conflicted, and sometimes stressful lives without adding to the burden.

    December 8:  Beautifully different. Think about what makes you different and what you do that lights people up. Reflect on all the things that make you different - you'll find they're what make you beautiful.

    For the most part, I have been proud of the fact that I'm different.  At times it can be a pain (like my innate refusal to start liking a particular musician/band unless I've 'discovered' them - not just by recommendation...I know, it's weird and impractical), but generally speaking, I find being different is an important part of who I am.

    I had a crisis about 18 months ago when I realized I was feeling as if my life wasn't my own - that everyone liked what I liked, I didn't have anything that was solely mine, and I no longer felt unique or that I made any particular contribution to the world that was different from anyone else.  I think folks like me that enjoy being different find situations like this pretty scary.  I made some decisions and reasserted my individuality (mostly in my own mind) and things got better, but it was a bit of a rough patch.

    So what makes me different and what do I do that lights people up?  I can't speak for other people and what I do that lights them up.  Perhaps Jim should write this portion of my post.  :o)  But, to me, what makes me different are many things including the following:
    - I have been to or lived on 5 of the 7 continents and have moved and lived somewhere different about every 2-3 years, so my sense of place, home, geography, politics, world view, and what's possible are influenced by that and, therefore, unique.
    - I love knowledge.  LOVE it.  Jim says I'm like Johnny 5, constantly declaring "Input!  Input!"  But I don't like knowledge just to have it - I want it to serve a purpose.  I want it to be put to use.  I want it to change the world.
    - I can rope a cow, build a great fire, bake a lemon chiffon cake, tell you where to go in Sarajevo for the best pita, change a tire, piece a quilt and give you a treatise on the hermeneutical tools of a variety of liberation and feminist theologies.
    My experiences have formed me into who I am - and they will continue to do so.  And, on the whole, I'm proud of that.

    Friday, December 10, 2010

    #Reverb10 catch-up: Let Go & Make

    December 5 – Let Go. What (or whom) did you let go of this year? Why?

    While this may be a process of letting go rather than a one-off event, I feel like I let go of the fat version of me this year.  Fat Jayme is still there definitely, but I let go of my need for her, or perhaps it is better said that I let go of particular needs that she fulfilled – the need to keep people distant, the need to ensure my own safety, the need sit on the sidelines and not draw attention – and the some of the shame that accompanied it all.

    I’m still an introvert, so fundamentally I don’t think I have changed, yet somewhere over the course of the summer of 2010, I let go of that part of me that I no longer wanted to be.  And while I’m sure the shame is still there lurking in some inner recesses, but it’s not as present in everyday life these days. 

    December 6 - Make. What was the last thing you made? What materials did you use? Is there something you want to make, but you need to clear some time for it?

    the early stages of my first quilt
    I don’t spend nearly enough time making stuff as I should.  I enjoy the creative process, but unlike some of my very gifted friends, I don’t usually make the time.  The last big project I had was a quilt, which I’ve been working on for almost 2 years now.  The top is mostly done and I’m at a standstill because I have not bought the filling to put everything together and finish it.  I have a newer, yet similar, project going at the moment, but again, find myself wondering if I’ll finish it for the same reasons.

    What do I need to do to make it happen?  Buy some batting, carve out some time and get on with it.

    Happy Birthday, Luna!

    So, our baby Luna is a year old today! 

    When she joined the family at the end of January this year, she looked like this:

    she's had her first trip (of many) to the beach:

    she's endured the cone-of-shame female rite of passage

    and, while she's got a lot more to do, she's getting so big!

    Happy Birthday Luna!

    Thursday, December 9, 2010

    #Reverb10 catch-up: Moment & Wonder

    December 3 – Moment. Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year. Describe it in vivid detail (texture, smells, voices, noises, colors).

    Wow.  This is difficult.  And this is a bad time of year to ask me when I felt most alive since everything is grey, dark, and covered in ice and snow and feeling kinda dead right now….but hey, maybe that’s why they asked it – to remind us that there is life, it does come back, and winter is not the end.

    I can’t think of one particular time at this moment, but I can say what experience I have on a regular basis (when weather permits) that makes me feel most alive:

    going to the beach.

    There’s a particular beach we like to go to here in Northern Ireland called Tyrella Beach that except in the height of summer season (July-August) is mostly empty.  It’s a wide, expansive swath of beach, but because of its location and the tides, the sand is usually that compacted texture – not the fluffy stuff that’s difficult to walk through.  Tyrella is on the edge of Dundrum bay, so the waves are small and overlooking the beach are little Irish cottages built upon the rocks and dunes.  To the east is a yellow and black striped lighthouse and to the west are the Mourne Mountains, topped with its highest peak, Slieve Donard.

    Jim and I go there and take the dogs.  They run and play, chasing their red ball and exploring all the sights, smells and sounds that the tide brought in and left behind.  I hear their paws slapping in the water, Piggy’s collar tags jingling as she trots off to find goodies, and Cody and Luna play growling as they chase each other through the water.  We laugh and run with our girls, or walk quietly looking up to the mountains on the other side of the bay, holding each other’s warm and comforting hands and generally reveling in the loveliness of it all.  With the beach so empty most of the year, I feel like I am but a small, yet living and dependent, part of this huge organism that is Earth.  That me and my loved ones walk upon it, love and live here, as part of a larger whole.

    December 4 – Wonder. How did you cultivate a sense of wonder in your life this year?

    I’ve been thinking about this question for days, actually.  So there is a benefit to this catch-up business.

    I really struggle with this, if I’m completely honest.  I mean REALLY.

    My high need for intellectual stimulation, information, accuracy, control, efficiency and rational understanding makes wonder a very rare – and sometimes frightening – thing. 

    To be in wonder is to be vulnerable.  And I don’t like vulnerability.  To be bowled over by something is to be out of control.  And I like to maintain control.  As a result, when I am struck by wonder, I am usually silent and still and I prefer to be alone.  It is very difficult for me to share that with someone else, most likely out of fear of looking like a fool.

    Jim with seaweed on his head
    I was struck by Krissie’s post on Questions for Dessert about her husband bringing wonder into her life.  If I’m honest, Jim probably plays that role for me when I let him – but again, if I’m honest, I rarely do.  When he exclaims, “Jayme!  Look at this!” I often take my time responding and then look up, am puzzled as to why he was so struck by it, say something equivalent to “That’s nice, dear,” and then go back to my own (most probably cerebral) task.  Jim dances around like Tigger, excited about the smallest things, singing songs he’s made up to me or the dogs, and generally being foolish (but in a good way).  Meanwhile, I work very hard at not disrupting the calm waters and rocking the boat, fearful of looking like a fool and showing irrational, unreasonable emotion.

    So, this past year, I can’t say that I did cultivate a sense of wonder in my life.  And thinking about it now as I write this, that makes me sad.  It makes me realize that I don’t appreciate Jim’s sense of wonder as I should.  That my need for control and strength (instead of vulnerability) are weaknesses which keep me from enjoying life as I could do otherwise. 

    Perhaps 2011 will be the year that, on top of everything else, I make an effort to work on that.

    Wednesday, December 8, 2010

    #Reverb10 catch-up: Word & Writing

    So, after watching the Brene Brown video this past week, I decided that I needed to do a bit more internal work.  As if I don’t have enough to do, eh?  And I’ve been surprised at how much I’ve enjoyed reading people’s #reverb10 posts – they’ve been great questions that offer lots of room for reflection – so I decided to have a go. 

    If I’m able to catch up and then post every day as the creators intended, great.  If I need to work on it over the week and post them on the weekend, then I’ll do that.  For now, I'll post 2 days at a time to catch-up and then go from there.  And no pressure for me here – if the day’s question isn’t worth my time and energy, I won’t do it.  But I suspect that they will be, for the most part.

    So, without further ado….allow me to play a bit of catch-up…

    December 1 – One Word. Encapsulate the year 2010 in one word. Explain why you’re choosing that word. Now, imagine it’s one year from today, what would you like the word to be that captures 2011 for you?

    Of all the questions asked so far, this one is the hardest and requires the most thought.  What a way to start!  One word?  Seriously? 

    Ok.  *deep breath*  What word would I use to describe 2010?  I think I’ll go with……

    Photo by Black Box on Flickr

    Until August, seeds that have been planted for a while laid (lay?  I can never remember) dormant.  Conditions weren’t right.  Ground was still frozen, too hard, too dry, __insert appropriate farming metaphor here__. 

    But since August, conditions have changed.  I’ve felt this before but it has come in a different form: It’s time to grow.  A lot of work and preparation has gone into this.  It’s time to start sprouting, weeding, pruning, fertilizing - putting the effort into myself, strengthening, and getting ready for what will come next.

    What will be my word for 2011?  To continue with the farming theme, I hope it’ll be


    Next year has a lot in store, inshallah.  Significant weight loss, completion of my Ph.D dissertation, job search, relocation (probably), and who knows what else.  I hope by this time next year, I’ll be reaping some of the rewards – harvesting, if you will – at least some of the work I’ve put in this year (and years before).

    Photo by churl on Flickr

    December 2 – Writing. What do you do each day that doesn’t contribute to your writing — and can you eliminate it?

    If I take this question literally (since productivity in writing is a real issue for me), I’d have to say the internet is what doesn’t contribute to my writing.  I still really struggle with the time drain caused by spending way too much time on the internet.

    How can I eliminate it?  Well, the most obvious thing is to not go on the internet or limit my time.  I’ve tried that in a variety of ways and it doesn’t really work.  I am most productive where the internet is not even a temptation.  So I go to the library in town where wifi is not available (thank God for lo-tech places!) and I’m able to get work done.

    And I find it ironic – what am I doing now?  Surfing the internet, writing a blog entry on how I can’t write because of the internet.  Ha!

    Another thing that doesn’t contribute to my writing is my lack of clear focus.  During the times when I know exactly what I want to write and say, where I want to go, and how I want to get there, writing is no problem.  I can hammer it out and all is well.  But when it comes to things that I’m not sure about, I don’t feel as if I have grasped the full picture, have less confidence in, or generally couldn’t care less about, it is as if I am enduring breech labor.  My methodology/hermeneutics chapter of my research has this effect on me.  I know enough to know how much I don’t know and, I’ll admit it, it intimidates me.  Because I don’t feel like I know everything about my particular subject, I get paralyzed.  Must really work on that!

    Tuesday, December 7, 2010

    Being Whole-Hearted

    So I saw this video making the rounds among my friends on Facebook, but I didn't watch it.  But when I saw that my bff Suzanne had posted it on her blog - Reverend/Artist/Mother - I figured I'd better pay attention. 

    This video spoke to me and I've passed it on to others, such as Krissie at Questions for Dessert who took it as inspiration to make public (and be vulnerable because of) her writings for #reverb10.  But I think I need to work through what Brene Brown is saying here myself.  Perhaps taking up #reverb10 for myself might be a good way to do that.  But until I have some more solid formulations, I'll leave you with the video to watch and hopefully it'll strike a chord for you as well.

    Grab a cup of coffee or tea, some toast, and sit and watch (it's about 20 minutes):

    Sunday, December 5, 2010

    Weigh-in no. 16: The "I'm writing this wearing my skinny jeans" edition

    It's been a good week.  I've been productive, I've felt good, Jim and I have done a lot of work winterizing this old, draughty, stone house and 2 of my closest friends are gearing up to come spend Christmas with us here in Norn Iron.  I put up the christmas tree yesterday and we got the fire going after having the chimney swept.

    Life is good.

    I feel like I go up and down here on this blog; yet, I know life is a series of ups and downs (since flatline is for people who are dead), so I know I needn't feel bad about it or think that it gives an impression of me being unstable.  Ha!  Sincere thanks to everyone who chipped in on helping me figure out the funk and the possible physical aspects of it a couple weeks ago.  I have been testing a few things since then and so far I think I have it figured out.  The weather conditions have been terrible the last week (we got our first major snow here and it's lasted a whole week so far), so barometric pressure has been moving in all kinds of directions and I've been ok.  The key has been starting back on my allergy medication (generic Zyrtec) which seems to be keeping sinus congestion caused by allergies to mold, dust, etc. at bay which had been causing severe pain when the air pressure changes.  I've been taking that for 2 weeks now and haven't had a headache since.  But I'm not so cocky as to think that I've got it licked.....will continue to keep an eye out and let you know how it goes.

    I feel kinda bad that for the last few weeks, I've only been posting weekly.  But don't worry - this isn't going to turn into an apology session each week.  I do what I have the time to do and when I have inspiration, so.......  When one has to write all the time for work, going home and writing a blog entry doesn't sound too appealing sometimes.  But I do think I want to start posting more videos and news stories, etc that speak to me (which don't require as much time), so be on the lookout for those in the coming weeks.  I have to remind myself that each post needn't be a treatise or some big revelation.

    So, yeah............  (as my friend Emma would say)

    The pile of clothes that are now too big for me - donate or quilting?
    Earlier this past week, I finally did my celebratory 'leaving-the-300's' cleanout of my closet.  Most of the stuff was quite old anyway - but there were a few things I bought when I was in the states in the spring that had to go as well.  Despite it being fairly new, it was just too big.  So I'm trying to decide if I should donate them to the local charity shop or cut them up to use for quilting fabric.  Would a quilt made out of my 'fat clothes' be comforting or something I'd never want to see again?  Not sure.  Still need to think about that one.

    I'm still a bit shocked at how unsentimental I've been about that transition.  I think it may have been because I never really accepted in my mind that I was over 300 lbs.  I think somewhere deep down I knew it, but I was shocked at how far above 300 I was when I started this process 16-17 weeks ago.  I've flirted with 300 for years, but somewhere in my head I've been telling myself that I was in the 290s.

    My progression of jeans size (thanks to Tara for this idea)
    It's like those folks who refuse to say they're in their 30s and continue telling everyone they're 29.  Everyone knows different, but the one claiming that age doesn't want to face up to the fact that they're getting old.  So, I think it'll be more emotional for me to get further and further away from the 290s....because I think that's when the change will become more and more real to me. 

    And as you can tell from the title of the post, I am now wearing my skinny jeans.  They are jeans that I haven't worn since February 2007 (for a brief period of time) and before that May 2002.  I've kept them all this time.  They're knackered - stained and ripped with the crotch worn out and patched up -  so they're nothing really valuable, but they help me to measure my progress and that's nothing but a good thing.  Luckily, I have 3 other pair of jeans about this size that I can wear as well, but they're fairly new.  I bought them months ago so that I would have something to work towards, so now I have jeans I can wear without having to wear a belt to keep them up.  I've also ordered a pair of size 20s from Old Navy (I love their jeans!) for my friends to bring at Christmas so I'll have them on hand when I'm ready.

    I'm wearing my skinny jeans (May 2002)
    It's interesting to me - in the picture of me in Kenya wearing my skinny jeans, I must be about the same weight as I am now (if not even a little lighter), but I don't think I was nearly as fit.  My endurance was pitiful.  I remember us climbing a cinder cone to survey the Great Rift Valley and I just gave up about a third of the way.  I couldn't do it.  I'm not saying I'm fit now, but I do think that today I would keep pushing to get to the top.  It makes me sad for my self back then, that I gave up so easily when it came to physical exertion, and I remember feeling the shame of it.  I feel sad that I missed out on opportunities like that, and it makes me wonder what else I've missed out on.  But I recognize that that was where I was at the time and I can't change that.  What I can change is what I do now, and how I deal with opportunities that present themselves to me now and in the future.  And so I keep on going....

    So, this week, the scale says:

    weigh-in no. 16 (-2.0)

    Last week:    298.8
    This week:    296.8      
    Loss of           - 2.0
    Total Loss     - 30.2

    I can't wait to go over to my Goal page and mark things off:  I have now lost 30+ lbs.  I am wearing size 22 jeans.  I can run 3+ minutes.  Plus, I can do 60 reps of 65 kg (143 lbs) on the leg press.  I was inspired by Skinny Emmie's post about the stairmaster this week, so I am keen to get back on the bucking horse elliptical machine this coming week and eventually show it who's boss.  I will not feel defeated by a stupid machine.

    And, despite the inevitable bad days, it'll only get better!

    Sunday, November 28, 2010

    Weigh-in no. 15: The "It's really real" edition

    So this past week has been spent trying to get back on my feet and in the groove of everyday, normal life after the disaster that was last week. 

    I'm pretty much back to normal, but I have noticed that I still have a pretty short fuse and delight still takes a lot to get to.  But the self-doubts have stopped; quitting hasn't been seriously thought about again; the sinus headaches have been mastered with drugs (mostly allergy meds to clear out the crud); and work on the dissertation has continued with some new books I've discovered and have enjoyed reading.

    To be honest, I still don't know what it was.  I'd say it was a combination of things, really.  Pressure about the future, the weather getting me down, the internal work that comes along with this weight loss journey, physical ailment, etc.  I don't think it was one big thing that I've been unable to identify.  I don't think it was me trying to sabotage myself, although I heard a voice from my past (my Bosnia colleagues who read this will recognize it) suggesting that perhaps I was "deluding myself" and that perhaps I was "mired in self-deception."  Whatever.  Maybe it's true, but I usually know deep down when I'm trying to hide or convince myself of something, and I wasn't feeling it this time.

    Regardless, I'll be on the lookout in the future.  Through this journey, I'm finding that I'm delving even more into my personality, about who I am, about what makes me tick and what stresses me out (which inevitably leads to the downward spiral, I think).  It'll continue to be a process of figuring out how to channel that knowledge into learning how to keep at bay or defeat these periods of negativity when they do arise.

    One thing that helped this week was that in doing Week 3 of C25K, I realized that I can run for 3 minutes straight without stopping  (at 4.8 mph no less!).  As far as I can remember, that's the longest I've ever run in my life.  And I know it's not much and that I will continue to break that record over the coming weeks, but it felt good all the same.  It reminded me that I'm not a failure, that I have set out to do this thing that seemed impossible and I'm doing it....and that change comes in steps taken, either by walking or running but taken nonetheless.

    And being out of the 3s is real.  I've yet to celebrate.  I had decided that I would clean out my closet, getting rid of everything that's too big for me now.  I think it'll be meaningful and helpful, but it is still cleaning out a closet, so I have to psych myself up to consider it a celebration rather than a chore.  :o)  But hey, it's a good problem to have so I'm not complaining.

    And without further ado, here is the reality:

    Weigh-in no. 15 (-0.8)

    Last week:    299.6
    This week:    298.8      
    Loss of           - 0.8
    Total Loss     - 28.2

    I still half-expected to see a 3 this week for some reason.  The little self-doubting voice seeking affirmation that it was right was wrong.  That little bit of triumph was needed this morning.  .8 lbs isn't huge, but it takes me 1.2 lbs away from being back in the 3's, so I appreciate it.  This week also included Thanksgiving, jaffa cake cookies at work, and some other less-than-stellar food choices.  So there's no complaints here this week.

    It's like Fit Jayme is saying, 'Right.  It's confirmed.  You're now in the 200s.  Let's get on with it."

    And so we shall.

    Monday, November 22, 2010

    Weigh-in no. 14 (belated)

    This week was crap.  Absolute crap.

    Well, I should correct myself.  Monday and Tuesday, I was fine.  Going about my business, getting stuff done, just fine.  But I started feeling myself going downhill on Wednesday - and I can't really say that I've fully recovered yet, although last night (Thanksgiving dinner) was nice.

    "What's up?" you may ask.

    Hell if I know.


    Remember those posts a few weeks back where I talked about being in a funk?  Yeah.  It's back.  With a vengence.  But the strange thing is that my eating hasn't been out of control like the previous times.  I've been eating fine, if not better.

    Yet somehow, I convinced myself this week that I wasn't going to lose anything.  That I'm never going to finish my Ph.D.  That I'll never find a job when I'm finished.  Poor me.  Everything sucks.  I suck.

    What in the world??!!  I didn't realize just how much I spiralled into this whirlwind of self-doubt until I caught myself on Friday thinking - somewhat seriously, I should add - about quitting this whole losing weight business.  And as soon as I realized what was going on (which I have to say was after a few minutes), I mentally pulled the reins and said, "WHOA!!!" 

    Of course, I had to start picking it apart: Why do I feel this way?  Why did such a thought enter my mind?  What's going on that I suddenly start doubting myself so strongly? 

    I still don't know for certain, to be completely honest.  I have thought about it and tried to figure it out, but I just can't diagnose it.  Some options are:
    • The lack of daylight: the dark days get to me here.  I already know that.  I've been saying I was going to get a SAD light ever since I moved to Northern Ireland and I still haven't done it. (mental note: Time to finally do what you've been saying for the last 4 years!)
    • I think I have inherited my mother's propensity for sinus headaches, related to drops in air pressure, so when the weather is bad (which can be most of the winter here! yippee), my head really hurts and pretty much zaps me of any energy and good will.  They've gotten worse as I've gotten older - my forehead hurts, my eyes hurt, my teeth hurt, my cheek bones hurt, it hurts for my glasses to be on my nose.  Sad times.  And I've had a pretty consistent headache since Wednesday.
    • I started up on Twitter and am following lots of other weight loss bloggers (which is cool), but I found myself getting frustrated and a little overwhelmed by many of the posts, checking in with details about what they ate, how many miles they ran, asking each other how they're going to keep healthy over the holidays, etc.  It made me wonder: Is this all they're about or am I doing this wrong?  Should I be consumed with how many calories I ate today or whether or not I can have pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving?  I don't think so.  But it made me wonder if I am just a poser or if I'm really dedicated to this whole thing.
    • I had two applications that needed to get done this week, on top of everything else.  One was for a research fellowship at Cambridge, which I'm sure there'll be tons of competition for and I'll be surprised if I get (but you have to start somewhere, eh?), and here I am saying to myself, "You're not a Cambridge scholar.  You won't fit in there.  You have no real publications, just stuff you've done for organizations.  Some Cambridge scholar's going to come up to you and ask about Aquinas' take on the theology of transubstantiation or Hegelian ethics and you're not going to have a clue." That kind of stuff.  And there's two more I'm looking at - another Cambridge one and one at Oxford - along with whatever other opportunities arise in the coming months.  And I still think I'm not good enough.
    So yeah.....a bit of a pity party.  A whining session.  Woe is me.

    So yesterday (Sunday), I decided to just try to ignore it and get on with things.  I had friends who were coming over for Thanksgiving dinner (we decided to celebrate early to suit everyone's schedules) and so I had a full day of cooking to do, etc.  I debated about weighing-in and decided to go ahead with it, but I was in no hurry as I was convinced that it wasn't going to say anything different - or it would show a gain - as had been the case earlier in the week.  I had convinced myself I had failed.  So I went upstairs after prepping the vegetables, dreading what was coming.

    And here's what the scale said:

    Weigh-in no. 14 (-2.2)

    As Gomer Pyle would say, "Surprise! Surprise! Surprise!"  I got off and got back on the scale 5 times.  I didn't believe it.  Never once did it put up a number that started with a 3.

    I almost cried, but was still too shocked.  I still didn't believe it, really....and to be honest, even now, I wouldn't be surprised if I go up there right now and weigh and it says like 305.  Would it?  No.  But my state of mind is such that I expect the worst.  So because of that, I haven't really celebrated.  I haven't told anyone (you, my readers, are the first to know.....again, because I'm reluctant to believe it's true).  I have no idea what's wrong with me.

    But whatever.  Weighing 5 times pretty much confirms it, I think.  So here's the math:

    Last week:    301.8
    This week:    299.6      
    Loss of           - 2.2
    Total Loss     -27.4

    As you can tell, I'm feeling distinctly unsentimental about saying goodbye to the 3s.  Maybe I'll want to celebrate and do something meaningful in a few days when I'm out of this god-awful funk and accept the reality that I no longer weigh over 300 lbs.  But for now, this is where I am.

    Now I'm off to hunt for a SAD light......