Sunday, January 30, 2011

Weigh-in no. 23 & Winner of CSN Giveaway!

I've had a pretty good week this week.  It's been pretty productive:

The front of the quilt
The back of the quilt
I finished a baby quilt for my friend's baby - it's the first quilt I've actually finished!!  Although I know I made some mistakes on it, I was still pretty proud of the outcome! 

I also finished writing a sermon about Rahab (from the Old Testament - Joshua 2 & 6) for a friend's book, which will hopefully be published by the end of this year.

I also ran lots of errands, caught up on stuff I had been neglecting (including making an appointment to get the exhaust on my jeep fixed), and generally crossed quite a few things off my list.  Not bad!

Nevertheless, on the weight-loss front, I'm feeling a little bit adrift.  I still show a loss this week (for which I'm happy as I wasn't sure I'd have one), but I have lost quite a bit of momentum.  In case I haven't said it in previous posts, I started a new job last week and, as such, I haven't been driving into town every day to work since I can work from home.  That's great but it made going to the gym easier since I wasn't making a special trip.  But now I'm going to have to.  So while I had made a schedule for myself to make sure I went, I haven't done it which means I need to revise it, tighten the belt, and get on with it.  This sitting on my ass at my desk all the time isn't doing me any favors.

Plus, over the last week or so we've gotten a bit lazy with food and we haven't been planning meals like we used to, so it makes it hard to eat healthier when we leave it to the last minute to figure out what we're going to eat.  Although, I have to say that the fact that we haven't gone out for fish and chips or a burger instead of cooking is a bit of a triumph.  Lord knows I've certainly been tempted, but I'm proud of us for hanging in there and actually cooking.

It's not the end of the world by any means, but it does signal that it's time to shift into another gear as I recognize in myself that I've gotten a bit lax.

weigh-in no. 23 (- .4 lbs)

Last week:    288.8
This week:    288.4      
Loss of          -    .4
Total Loss     - 38.6

My goal is for next week to have hit the 40 lb loss mark!


I also wanted to announce the winner of the giveaway I hosted this week 
for a online giftcard to CSN Stores.

The winner of the CSN Giveaway is Shel (from Ohio)
who won for entry no. 39 where she told me what she'd want to order from CSN with her gift card.

My low-tech way of registering entries! 

Congratulations, Shel!!  

And hopefully I'll be hosting more giveaways in the future, 
so keep checking back to see what's happening.

Here's to a new week, new opportunities and a fresh influx of resolve and commitment 
to this journey!

Question for comment: How do you keep your resolve to keep going in your endeavors?  What activities do you do?  What do you tell yourself?  Where do you find motivation?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Scale

This post was inspired by post at Reborn Foodie's blog, who also included the video below.
I've been working hard the last couple weeks on how I think about my scale.

If you're like me, you have a love/hate relationship with it.

When it tells you good news which seems to affirm your hard work, you love it.
When it tells you bad news which seems to negate your hard work, you hate it.

The scale is both hard reality and a fickle bitch.
(sorry, I couldn't think of another way of saying that)

It's difficult to argue with.
It doesn't listen to your arguments.
It says what it thinks and then shuts down.
But sometimes, it doesn't tell you everything you need to know.
Sometimes it's very limited in its "truth-telling."

I love what is said at the end of this video:

The scale weighs EVERYTHING on it...
fat, organs, bones, water, poop

The scale DOESN'T measure your will,
how many old habits you broke or
new, healthier habits you started.
It doesn't know the effort you put in
at the gym and it doesn't care.

The scale doesn't have any
idea of how hard you're trying,
how many times you overcame
and got "back on" when you felt like
giving up all together.

It can't measure your drive or your
determination.  Only you can do that.


Easier said than done, I know.
But it's a nice reminder that the scale is not the be-all and end-all 
of your healthier-living progress and success.
Hang in there if the scale isn't reflecting what you want it to right now.
Find other ways of measuring your success:
inches lost, endurance gained, habits broken, effort made and determination mustered.

It can - and WILL - be done!!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Weigh-in no. 22 & reflections on what it means to be human

Right.  Back on form this week.  YAY!

Out of the goals I posted for the week, I achieved all of them except one:
  • to buy a new scale - done on Thursday
  • to plan & cook proper meals (instead of eating cereal for dinner) - it was an effort, but we did it
  • to allow myself to get frustrated & vent, but in the end, to get some writing (even if it's just a little bit) done every day and not let it defeat me - I ended up having a pretty productive week writing-wise and my supervisor is happy with what I've done
  • to go to the gym at least twice this week - didn't happen, but I'm ok with that.  I got a lot of writing done as a temporary substitute.
  • to talk to my friends and make connections that combat withdrawal - I talked to three friends back home this past week and have plans for more calls this coming week
  • to appreciate the movement toward spring with the slowly lengthening days and imminent arrival of flowers and birdsong - although it's been pretty cold the last week, it's been mostly clear and having the sun higher in the sky changes the light somehow (it's less 'watery'?) and that has been really niceAnd the birds are singing, the sky has been blue, and my crocus, daffodils and tulips are pushing themselves through the soil to meet the oncoming spring.

I've finished my second week on anti-depressants and I feel mostly normal again.  Naturally, I've been thinking about it quite a bit and trying to determine the causes, other routes I can take, how it relates to my weight (since it seems a lot of overweight people have issues with depression and/or anxiety), and the future maintenance of it.  Therapy is not out of the question, but at the moment and having had it several times in the past, I'm not convinced that's the best route right now although as I get further into this process, I think it'll need to be done.  A friend and I were talking about the medication issue earlier this week and she said something to the effect of, “I have to take medication to help my body produce insulin sufficiently.  I need to take it every day for the rest of my life.  That’s just the way it is for me.  So why is there a stigma about taking medication to help your brain produce seratonin (or whatever it is that keeps you mentally healthy)?  It’s the same thing.”

I think she was totally right.  I am more myself now than I was in the dark days.  And just like if I had a deficiency in my ability to produce insulin or cortisone, I'd need to take medication for me to be myself and healthy.  So if I am able to maintain with temporary 'top-ups' of medication, that's fine, but if it's better for me to stay on it all the time, I'm more open to that now than I was.  (And as for insurance goes, all I can say is thank God I live in the UK, where healthcare & prescriptions are free - otherwise, this all would be a much bigger deal and cause even more emotional strain trying to figure out how to pay for it.  Folks who advocate against socialized medicine must have never experienced its beauty.  But that's another topic for another day.)

So, the world is brighter, spring is coming, I have been able to be productive, my supervisor is happy with my work, I have more energy and I'm not feeling so overwhelmed and incapable.  Life is good for me again.

However, this week has been hard for many around me and I'm once again struck by the triumphs and tragedies, the messiness of life.  A friend's sister-in-law who had been struggling with depression and PTSD from a horrific childbirth experience decided to put an end to her life and misery, leaving behind 3 kids, a husband and other family members and friends grieving the loss.  Another friend has decided to start training for her first triathlon and is wondering what she signed up for (although I know she's gonna rock it).  Another friend's 3 year old girl who has been struggling with a form of cancer suffered a possible stroke sometime while she was having extensive surgery or in the aftermath, so they're waiting and watching to see how her little body is going to recover and heal itself.  And another couple of close friends welcomed their little girl into the world this weekend, beautifully named Hazel Wren, and are full of anticipation and joy for their life ahead together as a newly expanded family.

And so I pause, light a candle, and reflect with awareness on how precious life is and how I can be present to those around me who are full of joy, sorrow and watchfully cautious hope.

Peace be with you.

Life is an endless spectrum between the sacred and profane, the deeply meaningful and the absurd, the silly and the serious, birth and death, sickness and health, feast and famine.  It's all part of our experience.  And all are a necessary part of what it means to be human.

As such, I guess it's time for weigh-in.  Oh, the irony.

I got a new scale and I have to say it kicks serious butt.  The whole 'body analyzer' function on my old scale never worked and I always chalked it up to the fact that I weighed too much for it to register the values properly.  Now that it has died, I'm wondering whether or not it was always malfunctioning.  Oh well.  I have a new scale and I love it.  (Would I love it as much if it had registered that I had gained?  Hmm....maybe....)  Here's what it said this morning:

Weigh-in no. 22 (-4.8 lbs)

Allow me to interpret:

Picture on the left:

Body Fat percentage: 67.2%
This is helpful so that I can measure if I'm losing muscle mass or fat as I lose weight.  The average body fat percentage for a woman in her 30s should be between 22-32%.

Body Water percentage: 35.7%
This is helpful so that I can measure my hydration.  It's supposed to be between around 50% for a woman in her 30s, so I need to be drinking more water.

Weight:  288.8 lbs (-4.8 lbs)

Picture on the right:

Muscle Mass: 34.2%
The average for an adult woman is around 30-40%.  But muscle mass may decrease by nearly 50% between the ages of 20-90, so if you don't do anything to replace that loss, you're losing muscle and increasing fat.  So if you're losing weight, keeping track of your muscle mass and making sure it's going up or staying the same ensures your losing fat instead of muscle.   Plus, each kilogram of muscle gained burns 110 calories when the body is at rest, so... (plus there's an "athlete mode" on this scale in the event you have a higher muscle mass)

Body Mass Index (BMI): 45.4
Another BMI graph I use (on says my BMI is 45.23.  I may stick with what I've been doing, but it's good to have another outlet for information.

Base Metabolic Rate (BMR): 2065 calories
This is helpful because it is an estimation of the energy expended by my body at rest (so if I sleep or just sit on the couch all day) through heartbeats, respiration, and maintenance of body temperature to maintain normal body functions.  If I exercise or even move around, it's more.  So as long as I eat less than 2065 calories per day, I will lose weight.  That's good to know.  If you don't know your BMR and you want to figure it out, go here and it'll tell you how to calculate it.

So that's my new scale.  Don't worry, I won't bore you with all of these figures every week.  I'll just stick with the weight in pounds for the weigh-ins, and if there are significant changes to any of the others, I'll let you know.  But I'm excited because I feel like it gives me a more accurate picture than just "weight" which can be helpful but a bit black and white.

Here's to a meaningful week ahead, as I continue to strive for balance, awareness, presence and health.  If you're joining me (as many have told me they are), I wish for you the same.  Please leave comments and let's support each other!  And if you're struggling, hang in there.  Spring is coming.

Questions for comments:  How are you?  How have you reflected on life this week?  Is there anything I can do to be more present for you and your struggles and questions on this blog?


Friday, January 21, 2011

Another Losing Half My Weight CSN Giveaway!! (NOW CLOSED)

Need some retail therapy to get you out of the winter slump?

 I love this duvet cover!
Well, I have just the thing!  CSN stores has asked me to host another giveaway for a $35/£25/€30 online gift card!!  This time, the giveaway is open to readers from the US/Canada, UK and Germany!  (You'll get the gift promo code in the denomination of your location.)

I'm excited because some of my European readers can join in this time!  YAY!!

If you haven't heard of it already, CSN is comprised of 200+ stores, from modern bedding to cookware to health and fitness, and my lucky winner can use his/her gift card at any of them, according to their location!

Damask Printed Yoga Mat!
The main sites for each location are as follows, so you can go and see what they've got:


The Rules

So here's how it works.

First, the giveaway is limited to readers shipping to U.S./Canada, United Kingdom (including Northern Ireland!), or Germany.

You've got 1 week!  Do one or more of the things below by midnight 28 January 2011, and I'll enter you in a drawing by assigning each entry a number and using to choose the number for me.

Second, if you've won a CSN giveaway already on my blog, you're ineligible.  Sorry!!

Here's what you need to do to enter (each person is limited to 5 entries):

1) If you're new to the blog, follow me through Google Friends on the right side of the blog and leave a comment that you did so.  - 1 possible entry

2)  If you are already a follower, leave a comment on any blog post that meant something to you.  Say anything you want to say, but be nice.  :o)  You can leave as many comments as you want, but I'll only count the first one toward the giveaway. - 1 possible entry  (Edit: No need to tell me you've left a comment anywhere on the blog.  I'm notified automatically as I have a moderated comment system)

3) Like Losing Half My Weight on Facebook (see the link on the right to my facebook page).  If you already like me, leave a note on my Facebook page saying anything you like! - 1 possible entry  (Edit: no need to leave a comment here that you've joined or commented on the Facebook page - I'll know by looking who's joined and who's commented)

4)  Follow me on Twitter (see the link on the right to my Twitter feed) and send me a message via twitter that you've done so.  If you already follow me, send me a message and say hi! - 1 possible entry

4) Leave a comment on this blog post telling me what you would buy from CSN Stores with the $35/£25/€30 you win. Again, just one entry here will count. - 1 possible entry

5) Post a link to this giveaway on your blog, Facebook or Twitter (@jaymeLHMW).  - 3 possible entries
- if you post to your blog, leave a comment with the link to your blog post
- if you shared via Facebook, leave a comment on my Facebook page and let me know
- if you shared via Twitter, mention me (via @jaymeLHMW) so that your tweet registers

I'll announce the winner on my blog in my weigh-in post on Sunday - 30 January 2011 - and if you win, you will need to email me [losinghalfmyweightATgmailDOTcom] with your contact info and location (US/Canada, UK or Germany) so I can get you the $35/£25/€30 online gift card code, so make sure and check back to see if you've won!

 Good Luck!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Chicken Tagine with Honey, Apricots & Almonds

yield: Makes 4 servings
active time: 45 min
total time: 1 1/2 hr

  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 3 tablespoons plus 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1-1.5 lbs of boneless chicken thighs (or breast if you want to go healthier, although it won't taste as good)
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 medium red onion, halved, then sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 3-4 sprigs fresh cilantro/coriander, chopped
  • 2-3 sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons mild honey
  • 1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick or 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • optional: 1 small chopped chili or chili sauce
  • 1/2 cup dried Turkish apricots, separated into halves
  • 1/3 cup whole blanched almonds
  • Special equipment: a 10- to 12-inch tagine or heavy skillet w/ lid


Stir together ground cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, pepper, 1 teaspoon salt, and 2 tablespoons oil in a large bowl. Add chicken and turn to coat well. 

Heat butter and 1 tablespoon oil in base of tagine (or in heavy skillet), uncovered, over moderate heat until hot but not smoking, then brown half of chicken, skin sides down (if it has skin), turning over once, 8 to 12 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Brown remaining chicken in same manner, adding any spice mixture left in bowl.  Remove chicken and leave juice in the pan.

Add onion and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt to tagine/skillet and cook, uncovered, stirring frequently, until soft, about 8 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, 3 minutes.  Add cilantro/coriander and parsley to tagine along with 1/2 cup water, chicken, and any juices accumulated on plate. Reduce heat and simmer on low, covered, 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure it's not sticking to the bottom. 

While chicken cooks, bring honey, remaining cup water, cinnamon stick, the optional chili and apricots to a boil in a 1- to 2-quart heavy saucepan, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until apricots are very tender (add more water if necessary) and liquid is reduced to a glaze, about 20 minutes.

While apricots cook, heat remaining 1/4 cup oil in a small skillet over moderate heat and cook almonds, stirring occasionally, until just golden, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain. 

Once the chicken has cooked on its own for 30 minutes, add apricot mixture (discard the cinnamon stick) to chicken. Cook for another 15 minutes or so, allowing apricot mixture to caramelize a bit.  Then serve chicken sprinkled with almonds on top. 

Serve with cous cous, flatbread, hummus and/or greek yogurt.

Nutritional information per serving:
Calories 610;  Fat 40.7g (because of almonds & chicken thighs); Sodium 884mg; Carbohydrates 15.7g; Fiber 1.7g; Protein 45.5g

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Sometimes you just need to slump: reflections on a non-weigh-in

It's official.  My scale is dead.  And like an idiot someone who trusts things are going to work like they say they will, I neglected to keep the receipt and box, despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that the flippin' thing had a lifetime warranty.  Grrrrr....

So, another week, another non-weigh-in.  I hope to be back on form next week.  Until then, you'll have to settle for a reflection on the past week, which has been enlightening in some ways.

Last week's post was frought with angst at the end.  The prospect of not knowing what I weigh and whether or not I was losing sent me into a tailspin.  And the fact that my scale just decided to mess with me and throw up numbers beginning with 3 just made it worse.

Upon reflection of last week's post, however, I noted that it was time to go back to the doctor and get some help.  I recognized the signs.  And while they weren't as bad as previous times, I knew it was imminent.
  • Lethargy
  • being able to sleep practically 24-7 if allowed
  • no motivation to do ANYTHING but sit and stare at the TV
  • inability to silence, redirect or ignore the negativity which sends me into a spiral of self-doubt and criticism
  • feeling overwhelmed with all life brings
  • latent anger and sadness
  • a general feeling of heaviness (emotionally, mentally, physically)
  • no pleasure in food (I've eaten a bowl of cereal for dinner more times than I can count the last 2 weeks)
  • loss of libido
  • a desire to withdraw
Yep, that old companion depression was back.  And it's no wonder, to be honest.  There's been a lot going on recently - transitions either taking place or on the horizon - that would be overwhelming on a bright, warm and sunny day.  Add to it the dark, cold, damp, and depressing winter days of Northern Ireland and it's a recipe for a prescription of anti-depressants.  The rest of the year, I have the tools to deal with it (for the most part).  The rest of the year, I can see the irrationality and nip it in the bud.  But at times like this, I just don't have the capacity.  The strength isn't in me to do that and keep up with the pressures of everyday life.  I need help.  It's a low dose, but it's just enough to alter the chemicals in my brain to get over the hump that is winter while still allowing me to deal with the real issues at hand.  Last time (2009), it topped me up enough that I was able to get by last winter without them.  But it seems as if my stores are depleted once again, so it was time.  If it weren't for the Ph.D dissertation writing pressures on this year as well, I probably could have ridden it out, but I just can't afford the couple months of dormancy that riding it out would have required.  Now I've been on them for about 5-6 days and my world is slowly starting to straighten again.  What a relief! 

It's humbling to note, however, that despite my doubts (fueled by the depression, no less) about my own value, capabilities and contributions to the world, I am surrounded by a whole host of people who cheer me on and who believe that what I have set out to do will be accomplished.  Despite my temptation to withdraw, the value and support of the community which surrounds me (both in real life and online) is strong.  You hold me up.  You remind me of why I'm doing this.  You show me that what I'm doing may not be as worthless as my depression tells me it is.

Even superheroes need help sometimes
It reminds me of the scene in Spiderman 2 where he's just battled Dr. Ock and saved a train-load of people.  But the battle has taken its toll on Spiderman and he loses his mask, slumps down and is carried by the people he's just saved to safety and restoration.  Messiah-complexes aside, this scene makes me cry every time as it shows me that even the strongest among us need to be cared for and supported, that sometimes they just can't do it all and need to let their guard down, let people see who they really are and slump for a while.

I have no idea if I've lost or gained this week.  And I'm trying to be ok with that.  I'm trying to remember that I am doing this for more reasons than just to see a lower number on a bathroom gadget.  But I have hearty admiration for folks who go through this journey without the scale and are still successful.  I have no idea how they do it.

And yet, life goes on and in the end, you do what you can do and let the rest handle itself as best it can.  So, my goals for this week are:
  • to buy a new scale
  • to plan & cook proper meals (instead of eating cereal for dinner)
  • to allow myself to get frustrated & vent, but in the end, to get some writing (even if it's just a little bit) done every day and not let it defeat me
  • to go to the gym at least twice this week
  • to talk to my friends and make connections that combat withdrawal
  • to appreciate the movement toward spring with the slowly lengthening days and imminent arrival of flowers and birdsong
With the last one, I bought myself some flowers to remind me that spring IS coming.  Winter is not the end and does not get the last word.  Life does return.  Plus, you can't be depressed when tulips, daffodils and lilies are near.

What are your strategies in dealing with times when you are down?  What do you do that gives you life and hope?  Who holds you up when you can't stand on your own?

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Weigh-in no. 21: The "Just Say No to Irrationality" edition

Well, life has returned to normal.  Almost.  After the break that was Christmas and New Year, this week was spent trying to get back into the groove of things.  It hasn't been easy and I'm still struggling with finding the headspace for writing and concentrating on work.  And, I'm finding that I have a distinct lack of motivation in general.  C'est la vie.  Gotta plug on.  I've been here before and have survived.  I'll find some way of cracking down and getting back to the grind, hopefully sooner rather than later.

While my friends were here over Christmas, I didn't go to the gym.  I wanted to spend as much time with them as possible, and I knew we'd be going all over seeing stuff, so hopefully I'd still get in some exercise walking around with them.  A day or two after Christmas, we went to a local must-see site called Giant's Causeway.  It's along the cliffs on the North Antrim coast of Northern Ireland and there are trails all around the area for people who like to hike, etc.

the Giant's Causeway cliff route - those little specks on the path are people!

For me, this place has been a bit of a bug-bear physically.  Walking down the main paved route to the causeway isn't hard (not shown), but walking back up or taking the cliff route shown here (up or down) can be daunting.  I had only taken the cliff path down once (never up) a few years ago and at the time swore I'd never do it again.  But my friend Richard, who enjoys a good hike, wanted to do it and I decided to go along and push myself, especially since I hadn't been going to the gym while they were visiting.

the stairs of death on the cliff at the Giant's Causeway

Holy cow.  We would choose a day when the cliff path was still icy to do it.  But, I did it.  I survived.  And, to be honest, it wasn't that bad!  I'd do it again next time I go.  And that's saying a LOT.  All in all, I'd estimate that we hiked about 2.5 miles, down the main route to the water and then up and over the cliff.  Back in the day, I'd have just sat on the bench and watched them and then taken the bus back.  I was proud of myself.  Did I pant and have to stop twice on the 160 steep and uneven stone-carved stairs?  Absolutely.  But I didn't quit.  And that was a victory.

Despite that, I went back to the gym this week, feeling like I had done a bit while away, but suspecting that I had lost some of my stamina and strength over the 2-3 weeks I was off.  To ease into it a bit more, I went back to Week 2 of C25K just to make sure I could do it (and it was hard, but I did).  But I also got back on the elliptical (my nemesis) and did 10 minutes without any bother, so I'll be upping my time on that this coming week.  So all in all, I saw a little decrease in my ability, but nothing huge.  I had a fear somewhere deep that I'd have to start from scratch.  It was nice to know that that isn't the case.

However, I do have a bit of a dilemma: my scale seems to be broken.  And it's practically new as I bought it in August or September, so I'm not sure what's up.  I usually weigh once a week on Sundays, but this week, I weighed on Thursday and was surprised to see a 291 number - which was a bit lower than I expected, but hey, I wasn't going to complain.  Then I got on it on Friday just to see if the 291 had been a fluke and it said I was 294.  Again, I was a little surprised, but ok.....maybe I was dehydrated, retaining water or something.  And then this morning, the scale settled on various numbers if it bothered to register at all, ranging from 289 to 326.  Not cool.  I stood in the bathroom, attempting to get a stable weight from the scale for about 10 minutes and never got the same number twice.

This does not make me a very happy camper.

So, no official weigh-in until I get that sorted out.  Maybe it needs a new battery.  Or maybe it just has given up the ghost.  Maybe it got wet and has shorted out.  No idea.  But it has me nervous....and it's not a good nervous.  Why?  Because...
  • What if that 294 number was right?  That means I gained this week.  What if the 300 numbers that showed up were right?? (Notice I'm not even questioning if the 289 was right....)
  • What if everything I've "lost" according to my currently-not-working scale is just a fluke?
  • What if I get a new scale and it puts me back in the 300s?
Irrational fears, I know.  But it does highlight two things of which I have become aware:
  1. I don't really trust that I've lost this weight.  Yeah, I'm wearing smaller clothes, but I still feel the same.  On most days, I still feel like a massive tub of lard I weigh 327 lbs and any day now, the scale will show me that what I think deep down is true.  I thought I had conquered this, but today's experience has shown me that I haven't.  (So much for being gentle on myself)
  2. I rely on the scale much more than I thought I did.  Folks in the weight-loss blogging community frequently talk about the power of the scale and how you become addicted to it, or rely upon it to determine one's success and self-worth.  I totally understand that.  And when I started, I weighed every day, realized it messed with my head and emotions too much, and then went to weighing every week instead.  That move was good and I thought I had come to terms with it - but the prospect of a new scale which may show me weighing heavier than what my old scale said (as this last one did when I bought it) fills me with dread.
You say it's just a number.  I've said it's just a number.  And rationally, I know that is true.  There are many ways to measure my success than just by a number on a scale.  But those numbers are easier to measure.  They're easier to take satisfaction from.  They're in black-and-white (when your scale is working, that is) and harder to ignore or argue with.  I can rationalize all day long that I can run this distance or lift this weight or bike this far or climb this cliff, but if the scale still says I weigh 300 lbs, those physical achievements feel as if they are for naught.  Not cool.

The rational Fit Jayme knows this is rubbish talk.  

The irrational Fat Jayme makes a stupid face and says "I told you so."

We'll see who gets the last word.

Question:  What battles do you think you've conquered only to realize they're still there?  What are your strategies for telling yourself the truth and believing it?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Lamb or Beef Kofta with Harissa & Cous Cous

This recipe is from BBC's Good Eats but has been tweaked for our tastes as well.  This is one of my all-time favorite meals.  I could eat this every day.  No joke.

  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 2 tbsp ground coriander
  • 50g / 3.5 tbsp breadcrumbs
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 500g / 2 cups lamb or beef mince
  • juice 1 lemon
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 20g pack mint, most leaves chopped
  • 2-3 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 150ml / 2/3 cup natural yogurt to serve

  • 300g / 1.25 cup couscous
  • 50g / 3.5 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp harissa - shop-bought or see below, to serve
  • 2 tbsp lemon or lime juice
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • Spices such as chilli, cumin, coriander, cinnamon to taste
  • Optional additions: sultanas, chopped almonds or pine nuts, diced dried apricots, diced fresh tomato, diced and sautéed courgette/zucchini and aubergine, etc.
  1. Heat a heavy-based pan over a low heat. Add the spices to the pan then toast for 2-3 mins until fragrant. Crush using a pestle and mortar. Set aside.
  2. Mix the breadcrumbs with 2 tbsp water and the garlic and stir well. Add the lamb/beef, lemon juice, crushed spices, egg and most of the mint. Season well. Mix well then shape into 16 balls. Chill for a good 30 mins.
  3. You can do the kofta in a George Foreman-type grill or, if on the cooktop, heat oil in a frying pan and fry the balls for 6-7 mins, turning now and then, until golden brown and cooked. Keep warm. Put the couscous in a large heatproof bowl, then add the garlic, oil and harissa.  Mix well. Pour over 400ml (1.5-1.75 cups) boiling water, cover and leave for 10 mins. Fluff up and season with your optional spices and additions. Shred the remaining mint, then mix through. Serve with harissa and yogurt. 

Serve with a pita or flatbread.
How to make your own homemade harissa

Put 2 tbsp each coriander, fennel and cumin seeds into a hot, dry pan. Toast for 2 mins until fragrant. Grind until fine in pestle and mortar. Wipe out pan, add 50ml / 3.5 tbsp olive oil, gently fry 4 chopped garlic cloves, 1 chopped red onion, 1 chopped red pepper and 6 fat red de-seeded chopped chillies until soft. Mix spices and veg in food processor and blend to smooth paste. Leftovers will keep in fridge for up to a week, covered with layer of oil.

Per Serving (serves 4): 
651 calories, protein 33g, carbohydrate 50g, fat 37 g, saturated fat 16g, fibre 0g, sugar 2g, salt 0.84 g

Monday, January 3, 2011

Flatbread & Turkish Lamb Flatbread

This recipe comes from BBC's Good Eats, but has been tweaked a bit for our own tastes.

You can make your own flatbread easily, either to use as a bread or as a base for a Turkish-type pizza.

  • 250g / 1 cup plain or bread flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp easy blend yeast from a 7g sachet
  • 150ml / 2/3 cup warm water
  • Optional additions: sun-dried tomatoes, chilli, garlic, cumin, harissa paste, coriander

Flatbread Pizza Topping Ingredients
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 250g / 1 cup lean minced lamb or beef
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 tbsp natural yogurt
  • 2 tbsp pine nuts
  • handful mint , chopped (or use a sprinkling of dried)
  • Honey

  1. Heat oven to 220C/475F. Make the bread dough by mixing together the flour, salt, sugar and yeast. Add the water and mix to a soft, smooth dough. Knead for 2 mins on a lightly floured surface. Then divide the dough into two and roll out into large ovals. Transfer to a large, floured baking sheet.  Leave in a warm place to rise for 15 mins before baking in the oven.
If you want to make the flatbread pizza, then:
  1. Prepare your dough as above, and pre-bake the dough until the middle is semi-firm (not doughy squishy). (edit: actually, don't pre-bake the dough.  after trying it without pre-baking, I realized that the meat actually will stay on the 'pizza' better (rather than rolling off) if you put it on the unbaked dough, plus it'll flavor the dough better as the juices from the meat will be able to be absorbed).
  2. In a bowl, combine the onion, lamb/beef, garlic, spices and yogurt, and season. Crumble over the pre-baked dough almost to the edges, then scatter over the pine nuts. Bake for 15-18 mins until the bread is golden and crisp and the meat is browned. Sprinkle over the mint and drizzle with scant amount of honey, then serve with a green leaf and tomato salad.
Per serving (serves 4)
377 calories, protein 22g, carbohydrate 47g, fat 12 g, saturated fat 4g, fibre 3g, sugar 3g, salt 1.24 g

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Happy New Year, #Reverb10 catch-up and Weigh-in no. 20

So, today is the second day of 2011.   Happy New Year!  

So far, so good.

My year started in the presence of some of the people I love most in this world: Jim and my close friends, Suzanne and Richard.   Of course, yesterday was also the day that Suz and Richard flew back home to Virginia, which brought a bittersweet beginning to the year.

I have been blessed to have some amazing friends.  I believe God has placed these people in my life to fill the vacuum left by the dysfunction of my family.  For all intents and purposes, I feel and function like an orphan.  My friends are my family, as I've said before.  Long ago, I learned that biology and sharing genes with someone means nothing (unless you're looking for an organ donor, maybe).   It is about the emotional and spiritual bonds you form with people, the commitment and love, who you look to for comfort and challenge, the honesty and ability to be real, and the soul sustenance you're able to give one another by being in each other's presence. 

Anam Cara 
(Gaelic: pronounced ah-num kah-ra)
"soul friend"
originally someone to whom you confessed, revealing the hidden intimacies of your life. With your Anam Cara, you could share your innermost self, your mind and your heart. This friendship was an act of recognition and belonging. When you had an “Anam Cara”, your friendship cut across all convention, morality and category. You were joined in an ancient and eternal way with the “friend of your soul”.  When you are blessed with an “Anam Cara", the Irish believe, you have arrived at that most sacred place: home. This bond between friends is indissoluble: “This, I say, is what is broken by no chances, what no interval of time or space can sever or destroy, and what even death itself cannot part”.
~ from “Anam Cara…Wisdom from the Celtic World“, by John O’Donohue

Me and Suz this past week while visiting Carrickfergus Castle

My soul has been fed this past week with the presence of my soul friend, Suzanne.  Reflecting with her over the last few days have put my mind and heart in a good place to start the new year.  I start the year with a full tank.  My heart, soul and mind are full, despite the grief I've been feeling since her departure and the return to life as normal.
As a result, I've been thinking about the coming year, what I want out of it and how to achieve it.  She and I were both doing #reverb10 and had some conversations about the experience so far.   I've never been one for New Year's resolutions, even when it came to losing weight.  I always felt that to make a New Year's resolution was to set one's self up for failure.  But when I really think about what it means "to resolve to do something", I find that the new year isn't special.  Resolution means "a firm decision to do or not do something" or "the quality of being determined or resolute."  We resolve to do things throughout the year.  I made a resolution when I started this blog and began this journey of losing weight and finding balance.  So, for me, New Year's resolutions are more of an effort to think about what kind of year I want it to be and who I want to be in it.
As such, I want to finish the #reverb10 posts which help me process 2010 and 2011.  Some of the questions I thought were a waste of time or too big to include here, so I'll indicate which ones I've skipped.  So here goes:

Dec. 19: Healing. What healed you this year? Was it sudden, or a drip-by-drip evolution? How would you like to be healed in 2011?

This weight loss and life changing journey is a process of healing.  It began in August and will continue indefinitely as I don't think we are every completely healed for once and for all.  It is healing by making the decision of letting go - letting go of the past failures, letting go of unrealistic expectations, letting go of fears that kept me from moving on.  This coming year, I would like to continue this process of letting go, continuing to work on gentleness toward myself and those closest to me, and continuing to seek and implement that balance that brings healing.

Dec. 20: Beyond avoidance. What should you have done this year but didn't because you were too scared, worried, unsure, busy or otherwise deterred from doing? (Bonus: Will you do it?)

I have no regrets.  I've never really been one to have regrets to be honest.  I think I have to say that I'm pretty good at implementing what I have decided to do (at least for the big stuff).  I have no desire to live otherwise.

Dec. 21:  skipped

Dec. 22:  Travel. How did you travel in 2010? How and/or where would you like to travel next year?

I took 2 bigger trips last year - one home to Virginia and one back to Bosnia (first time in 5 years) for research and participation in the Peace Academy, participating in a fantastic module related to memory and its role in conflict and conflict transformation.  They were great trips and I was glad I went.  However, I had hoped to have a true vacation this year - somewhere lying on a beach, getting a suntan, drinking wine, seeing the sites, and sampling traditional fare.  It didn't happen.  In fact, I discontinued my subscription to Lonely Planet magazine because it was frustrating me each month with all the new options and my lack of funds to enable such travel to happen.

However, if all things are well and I/we can swing it this year, my preferred possibilities would be Andalucia (southern Spain), Provence (southwestern France) or Morocco.  But we'll see.  If any of those happen, you'll certainly hear about it here.

Dec. 23-25: Skipped  

Dec. 26:  Soul food. What did you eat this year that you will never forget? What went into your mouth and touched your soul? 

Bosnian pita.   YUM.  YUM.
Funnily, this question excited me but I'm having a difficult time pinpointing it.  I love good food and so I've had some great meals this year.  However, when I think about the emotions that were evoked by eating something in particular, I'd have to go with the tikvinice (pumpkin pita) that I had when I was in Sarajevo.  In Bosnia, you can get these savoury pastry things that are filled with either meat, potatoes, cheese, spinach and cheese, pumpkin and sometimes apples (for a sweet option).  It's an everyday street food and everyone eats it.  I have to admit that although I had lived in Bosnia for 2 years previously, I had never had the pumpkin one.  But dang - there was the BEST place for pumpkin pita/tikvinice right next to where I was staying, so I had one almost every day for the 2 weeks I was there.  Tikvinice with a glass of fresh yogurt to drink - O.M.G.  I know some of you may be thinking it doesn't sound that appetizing, but don't knock it till you've tried it.

The tikvinice was great but it touched my soul because it brought me back to a place that was familiar and almost elemental for me, to be sitting in Bosnia - a land that I love and will always do whatever I can for - eating a new version of one of my favorite foods, surrounded by familiar sights, sounds and smells and reminded of memories that are precious to me.

Dec. 27: skipped

Dec. 28: Achieve. What’s the thing you most want to achieve next year? How do you imagine you’ll feel when you get it? Free? Happy? Complete? Blissful? Write that feeling down. Then, brainstorm 10 things you can do, or 10 new thoughts you can think, in order to experience that feeling today.

I'm not sure if "achievement" is the right word, but I know what I want out of this next year.

I want:
  • to continue to learn to be more gentle with myself and others
  • to pay more attention and seek out joy, beauty and pleasure where it may be found
  • to continue the quest for achieving balance in my life, physically, emotionally, spiritually and mentally
  • to run a 5K
  • to finish my Ph.D dissertation
  • to be proud of who I am, what I've achieved and where I'm headed
I think I'm on the path to all of these things.  I think that 4 of the 6 will be lifetime goals, things that I will be working on way after 2011 has come to an end.  And I think the things I can do and thoughts I can think in order to make them happen are rooted in reflective practice, greater self-awareness, and a resolution to end some habits that keep them from forming more fully in my life.

Dec. 29-30: skipped

Dec. 31:  Core story. What central story is at the core of you, and how do you share it with the world? (Bonus: Consider your reflections from this month. Look through them to discover a thread you may not have noticed until today.)

My core story is about a girl who, despite the odds, is trying her hardest to live into her fullest potential.  It's about breaking free from boundaries that have been placed upon me (or that I've placed on myself - although those are harder to break) - culturally, religiously, physically....even financially, at times.  It's about doing what one dares to dream and finding ways around the "impossible".  On the days I get really down either through my own self-criticism and doubt or other people's perceptions and decisions, I need to remember this core story of me.

And now, since it's Sunday, I should also weigh-in....

Weigh-in no. 20 (-3.2)

Last week:    296.8
This week:    293.6      
Loss of          - 3.2
Total Loss     - 33.4

As I suspected, last week's gain was residual hanging around because of the lack of water and the amount of wine I drank as well as the massive amounts of protein (compared to my normal diet) that sat in my gut for what felt like days.  I'm now back to almost pre-Christmas weight (.2 lbs more).  I think that's a success.  I'm delighted!  I think somewhere in my head this morning, I was half-expecting the big 3 to pop up again, but it seems to be gone forevermore.  Huzzah!

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