My somewhat rocky path back to Weight Watchers

Yesterday I racked up a fourth consecutive week of weight loss at my weekly Weight Watchers meeting.

Yes, I said Weight Watchers. I am giving it another go, but this time I'm going to meetings instead of doing the online program. I finally found a leader I like, and the local franchise is now corporate owned, giving the place a more upgraded vibe.

And to offer more support, I started a small, secret Facebook group with a few other friends who are doing the program. We share our progress, recipes and brainstorm strategies.

So why did I call it a "rocky path back"? 

Guuurrl ...

I did not set off on the right foot. Maybe it was breaking old habits, maybe it was not counting the Smartpoints in the fruit I put in my smoothies, but the first two meetings I gained weight. I did a little soul searching and decided that instead of trying to game the system, like I am wont to do, I'd count the damn Points, plan my meals better and act like a grownup.

That was just the trick to turn the tide. 

Week after week after week after week I have notched down. Listen, it's not earth-shattering numbers but it's four straight weeks of weight loss, and that hasn't happened in ages, so I'll take it.

I'm also not eating goofy diet concoctions. No "2 Points for the whole cake" science fair projects made of diet soda and wheat bran. I'm focusing on relatively unprocessed foods that keep me full for a long time, like oatmeal, eggs, Greek yogurt and cottage cheese. 

Here' a lil' sampler of some of the things I've been eating:

Ggg-pear-and-cheese This was an afternoon snack of a wedge of Laughing Cow Light spread on pear slices.

 
Ggg-pear-and-cheeseHere'a s blast from the past: Cottage cheese mixed with a little stevia and a lot of cinnamon, atop a piece of whole wheat bread and toasted until the cottage cheese gets a little melty. Way back in the day (we're talking the very first Weight Watchers cookbook) this was a Weight Watchers "Cheese Danish" but I still like it. It's great with a side of fruit and coffee.

Ggg-ricotta-waffleI found this recipe on the Weight Watchers website. It's ricotta flavored with lemon juice and zest, sweetened with a pinch of powdered sugar, put atop a toasted waffle and sprinkled with a bunch of blueberries. Great little breakfast.


Ggg-pear-and-cheeseThis was my choice at a ramen shop in Gainesville, where I found myself last month. While it probably had enough sodium for two days, I guzzled glass after glass of water and between the water and the broth, I was beyond full. Yeah, there's a fair amount of noodles but overall, a bowl of real ramen (not the grocery store garbage) is a decent restaurant choice.

I even, EVEN! fit in a 2-mile walk on Tuesday, another major milestone because I have been battling an angry left achilles and right IT band. My exercise the past -- yeesh -- year has been somewhat sporadic, and I definitely saw the result of that on the scale. I've also been going to sleep too late, waking up too late, jumping into the home office and working while multitasking laundry and food prep, looking up at the clock and thinking "CRAP. When am I going to fit in a workout?" 

Tuesday I found myself in that predicament, but instead of blowing off the workout (again), I asked Cortana what time the sunset was, laced up my sneakers and beat the sun in a brisk 2-mile walk on a still sweltering early evening. I didn't even care if my left or right leg would flare up -- I was going FOR. A. WALK. A hot, sweaty walk.

And no issues! Everything was good.

So, like I said, I found a Weight Watchers leader I like. She's fun, feisty and stays on topic -- an issue I had with other leaders in this region. But yesterday she drove me a bit crazy when she brought up the notion of "negative-calorie foods."

Ain't no such thing, and if you say there is I WILL FIGHT YOU.

via GIPHY

 She insisted that there were and recited a list of the usual suspects: celery, lettuce, blah, blah, blah ... 

Are we really going to do this? Iverson-caloriesI calmly raised my hand and said "negative-calorie foods is a myth." She didn't believe me, and when I started to explain, she said I was being negative. 

Yeesh.

All the retirees in the crowd were feverishly jotting down the list of miracle foods and my eyes were rolling back in my head. Fortunately it was at the end of the meeting so I flounced out.

via GIPHY

 Listen, I am a journalist, an editor by trade, and I do not handle pseudo-facts well, so as soon as I got home I fired up the WW website and asked one of the 24/7 coaches whether Weight Watchers has even taught their leaders about negative-calorie foods. 

Uh, no.

(BTW, while she was awaiting an official response from the WW higher-ups, I asked her about whether to count the points from a banana processed in a Yonanas. 

Uh, yeah. 

via GIPHY

 But 5 Smartpoints for a Yonana'ed banana with a teaspoon of cocoa powder isn't too bad.

The past year has really been a bit of a weight loss and fitness shitshow but I feel a lot better about things now.


Say (blue) cheese for a delicious yogurt-based dressing and dip

This is a sponsored post from Stonyfield and Taylor Farms. All opinions are my own.

Blue cheese dressing is one of my favorites, but I’m not talking about that overprocessed goo in the salad dressing aisle. (I don’t even think some of those bottles have actual blue cheese or dairy products in them!)

I’ve been making my own yogurt-based blue cheese dressing for eons. I don’t think Greek yogurt was even a “thing” when I started making this dressing! That said, you can use any type of plain yogurt -- nonfat, low-fat, or whole milk, Greek or, um, non-Greek (what is regular yogurt called?).

This dressing is super thick so it also makes a great dip for vegetables. You can thin it out with water if you like your dressing thinner.

In addition to salads and dipping, a dollop is also great on a grilled hamburger. I didn’t have any feta cheese for a Greek cheeseburger recipe so I added a spoonful of the dressing to my burger and topped it with sauteed spinach, which was fab.

Blue cheese salad products
This month’s Stonyfield Clean Plate Club project was tag-teamed with Taylor Farms, so I headed to the Super Target for a big clamshell of baby spring mix. (I also picked up some baby spinach for those Greek cheeseburgers.)

I used Stonyfield’s plain Grassfed Greek yogurt, which made the dressing super thick and luxurious, yet still healthier than traditional bottled dressing -- and a thousand times tastier. I processed the dressing in my Nutri Ninja to get it super smooth, then stirred in chunks of blue cheese to make it extra extra. I paired the dressing with the spring mix, plus grapes and pecans for sweetness and crunch. The salad is great on its own or add some grilled chicken for a complete meal.

Blue cheese salad labeled
Sweet and Savory Blue Cheese-Pecan-Grape Salad

Blue Cheese Dressing/Dip:

  • 1 cup plain yogurt (I used Stonyfield Grassfed Greek)
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 4 ounces crumbled blue cheese, divided use
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons water

Salad:

  • 3 cups of your favorite salad mix (I used Taylor Farms Baby Spring Mix)
  • 10 grapes, halved (I used one of these amazing gizmos that is meant for grape tomatoes but it works great on grapes, too)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped pecans

To make the dressing: Add yogurt, mustard, half the blue cheese, salt and water to a small blender cup and process until smooth. Remove from container and stir in remaining blue cheese chunks.

To make the salad: Top the salad mix with a dollop of dressing (2 tablespoons works fine), then add the grapes and pecans.

Makes 1 serving.


I discover Walmart's organics in a series of Kristen Wiig GIFs

This is a sponsored post from Stonyfield and Walmart. All opinions are my own.

I was all set to do my usual Sunday grocery haul at my usual place when I remembered the Walmart gift card that Stonyfield had sent me to check out Walmart's organics lineup. 

Score!

via GIPHY

So off I headed to the (fairly) new Walmart near me to switch up my grocery game for the week. 

Once there, I checked out the usual things I buy organic -- dairy products, apples, and eggs. 

via GIPHY

 Yeah, I was pretty amazed and psyched.

via GIPHY

The prices and selection were great!

I'm not an "organics or bust" kind of shopper, but I do insist on organic dairy, which is why I love Stonyfield. 

When I got back home, I made myself an awesome bright red smoothie with Stonyfield plain Greek yogurt, cherries, beets and avocado. Feel free to use fat-free or whole milk yogurt, depending on your macros. The cherries and beets give the smoothie plenty of natural sweetness. My smoothie was super thick so I ate it with a spoon.

Cherry beet smoothie labeled

Cherry-Beet Smoothie

  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 avocado
  • 75 grams beets (I keep mine frozen for smoothies)
  • 140 grams frozen cherries

Blend everything, adding water if it's too thick. 

Makes 1 smoothie.


All hail the Chicken Caesar Sandwich!

I was sent a free coupon from Al Fresco for the purpose of creating a recipe.

Chicken caesar dogs

My family is knee-deep in end-of-the-school-year activities -- and this isn't just any year-ender. It's high school graduation time for the teenager, which makes for a busy house (mostly him but also for mom and dad).

I try and resist the urge to just give up and go out for dinner most days, so I look for super easy meals that I can whip up in a flash, and chicken and turkey sausages come in really handy for that.  I pretty much always have a package either in the fridge or the freezer, ready to go for additions to pasta, the grill, and skillet meals. I always reach for poultry sausage because while they have the same great flavors as pork, they're a lot lower in fat and calories.

This quick meal idea was inspired by something I saw on a menu while on vacation this spring. In all the time I've been cooking with chicken sausage I saw it and thought "Great idea -- why haven't I done this before?"

So now I did. 

I made these on the stove but they'd be a great addition to your Memorial Day grill menu.

Armed with a coupon from  Al Fresco, I picked up a package of Sweet Italian Style chicken sausage and made a sandwich twist on the classic chicken Caesar salad that includes all the familiar flavors, including a well-placed anchovy on top.

I was running low on Caesar dressing so I extended it with some Dijon mustard, and I discovered that I liked it even better. The mustard helps bridge the salad and sausage worlds.

I simply toasted the buns but if you want to do it up big-time, brush the buns with garlic butter before you toast them to get that crouton flavor.

Chicken Caesar Sandwiches

  • 1/4 cup light Caesar dressing (I used Simply Dressed light Caesar dressing)
  • 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
  • 4 hot dog or small sub rolls
  • 4 Al Fresco chicken sausages (I used  Sweet Italian style, but Roasted Garlic or Roasted Pepper and Asiago would also work well)
  • 2 cups shredded romaine lettuce
  • 1/4 cup shredded or shaved Parmesan
  • 4 anchovy fillets (optional)

To make the sauce, mix the dressing and mustard in a small bowl. Set aside.

Toast the buns, and while they're heating up, cook the chicken sausage. (I heat them in a dry skillet over medium heat until the sausages start to brown.)

Place the sausages in the buns, top with lettuce, sauce and Parmesan and top with an anchovy fillet. 

Makes 4 sandwiches.

 


A watermelon-lime-kefir smoothie for a feel-better Monday

I've had a cold all weekend, and I'm hoping it goes away quickly because this weekend is BUSY! The kid has his spring band concert on Thursday, the band banquet is Friday and he has senior prom on Saturday.

Plus, I have not one but two dental appointments on Wednesday, and have you done that when you can't breathe out of your nose? Good times.

Anyway, here was my breakfast:

Smoothie and sudafed

The one good thing about cold medicine is that it completely kills my appetite so I really had to work up an interest in making breakfast. 

I had some leftover watermelon chunks in the fridge, which inspired me to make a smoothie based on an agua fresca. The combination of watermelon and lime is one of my favorites and I figured that a base of plain kefir would go with the sweet-tart flavors. I figured right. I also added a little agave syrup. If you use a flavored kefir (Lifeway makes a limited-edition watermelon kefir!) you can skip the agave.

Watermelon lime kefir smoothie labeled
Watermelon-Lime-Kefir Smoothie

  • 1 cup plain kefir
  • 1 cup watermelon chunks
  • 1/4 of a peeled lime wedge
  • 2 teaspoons agave syrup
  • 1/2 cup crushed ice

Blend everything together until the lime and ice are thoroughly processed.


Hemp, hemp, hooray for Stonyfield and PrAna!

As a member of the Stonyfield Clean Plate Club, I received products and coupons from Stonyfield and PrAna to write this post. All opinions are 100 percent my own.

Now that my mouth is pretty much back to normal, I’m adding back in some things that were off limits, like seeds. When you can’t eat things with chia seeds and hemp seeds, you realize just how many things you buy with chia seeds and hemp seeds.

Banana hemp yogurt labeled

I was inspired to make a little bowl of breakfast yum by a pair of prAna workout capris.

Chetan caprisHuh?

This month Stonyfield and PrAna are teaming up to celebrate #TheWholeYou, so I was sent a pair of PrAna’s Chetan capris, which are a blend of cotton and hemp (a ha!) They’re super comfortable and a little heavier in weight than my usual workout capris, so they’ll be great for wearing to more than the gym. They’re a warm charcoal gray and have cool diagonal piecing on the lower legs. They also have a handy little pocket sewn in the waistband. (Here's a detail shot of the capris at right. Are those my legs? I wish!)

I kinda live in workout clothes. Every morning I wake up and change into them because my goal is to get some work done, take a workout break and go back to work.

The past few weeks have NOT gone that way, what with dental surgery, vacation and IT band stuff, but yesterday I actually did that and it felt great to get back to my routine. Mouth doesn’t bother me, I’m caught up on work, I’m working through the IT band thing (curse you!) and I have a fridge stocked with Stonyfield yogurt, which REALLY came in handy when all I could eat was soft stuff.

Grassfed-greek-plain-24oz-1So what’s in my bowl this morning? Six ounces of plain whole milk Greek yogurt topped with a small sliced banana, a drizzle of honey and about a teaspoon of hemp hearts. I used to be really into flavored yogurts, but lately I'm all about the plain. You can add whatever you like, make it sweet or savory and use it in place of sour cream on things like tacos. It makes a great base for a super thick smoothie, too.

I was more than ready to celebrate #TheWholeYou, and you can, too.

PrAna is offering my readers 15 percent off using the coupon code WHOLES17GGG through the end of May.

I highly recommend the Chetan capris and may get a pair in another color!


Make it mushy: Notes from a post dental surgery menu (and a bonus smoothie recipe)

I've been off the Motrin 800 for more than 12 hours now, which means I might be over the pain hump of Wednesday's periodontal surgery. Some gross little infection had set up shop below a molar implant, and while it didn't hurt one bit, it was causing the bone around the implant to recede. Not good. 

So Wednesday, I had my gum split open (TMI?), every thing cleaned up and some bone graft packed in there. It was a fairly short procedure but the healing part is going to take awhile.

  • Nothing crunchy
  • Nothing spicy
  • Nothing too cold
  • Nothing too hot
  • No seeds
  • No straws

So obviously, all I want is sriracha and chia seeds -- the heart wants what the heart wants.

I've spent the past few days basically sacked out in the den with ice packs, soup and straw-less smoothies, brushing my teeth and rinsing with that gross antiseptic mouthwash multiple times a day. 

Hey, how was your weekend?

But I woke up this morning and am feeling like I can brave the discomfort without any meds. Feeling better, I whipped up this super simple smoothie that I poured into a bowl so I could eat it with a spoon because sucking through a straw might suck the stitches right outta my face.

A smoothie bowl! How trendy! But, alas, I couldn't decorate it with kiwis and chia seeds like all those Pinterest-pretty ones. Still, it was yummy and provided plenty of calcium and protein I need to regrow all that bone around the implant.

Super smooth mango smoothie bowl
Super Smooth Mango-Green Tea Smoothie

  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup frozen mango chunks
  • 1/4 avocado (I keep my avocado wedges in the freezer)
  • 1/2 cup chilled green tea
  • Stevia to taste (optional)

Blend everything together (I use a Nutri Ninja to make sure it's super smooth) and enjoy.

Other smooth and mushy things I've been enjoying, in case you're going to have dental surgery:

  • Carrot ginger soup: Pacific Natural Foods makes a good one, as does Trader Joe's. I mixed in half a scoop of unflavored Quest protein powder to pump up the protein and surprisingly it blended well and didn't taste weird.
  • Campbell's Well Yes Tomato Carrot Bisque: Holy yum, this was good.
  • Pizza Loft's eggplant Parmesan: We threw an 80th birthday dinner for my mom and my aunt (they're twins), and the eggplant parm was the perfect mushy comfort food. If you live in South Florida, Pizza Loft in Davie is a longtime family fave.

Other less exciting things: oatmeal, avocados, yogurt, kefir, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, and of course, smoothies. But I have to set aside my beloved Wyman's berry blend because SEEDS. Here's a list of what I came up with for smooth smoothie ingredients:

  • Mango
  • Peach
  • Banana
  • Cherry
  • Peeled apple
  • Papaya
  • Avocado
  • Smooth nut butter (none of that stone-ground stuff)

Yoo hoo -- here I am!

As a blogger, I think there's nothing worse than the "So where have I been?" post, but where HAVE I been?

No worries -- I've been kicking ass on the work and weight front.

I just wrapped up the 10 in 4 Challenge, which is an "anti-diet" plan to get your head screwed on straight(er) about weight loss and eating healthfully. It dovetails perfectly with what I've been doing via the Superfood Swap, in that there's a big emphasis on whole, clean foods and lots of vegetables. 

10 in 4 dinner
One of the dinners on the 10 in 4 Challenge.


It's a 4-week plan, which gives you recipes, strategies, daily emails and loads of support through a Facebook group, and while I didn't hit the "10" I did lose a little over 5 pounds, which for me is great. I also picked up a few new tools for my healthy toolbox that I'll be using from now on.

I don't want to give away too much about the plan, but trainer Dave Smith has you focus on vegetables first. Hungry in the afternoon? Vegetables. Looking to beef up your dinner portions? Vegetables. Lately I had gone a little fruit crazy, but this plan has me hitting the vegetable bin first now (and if you've never made carrot fries in an air fryer, you're missing out on a great snack!).

The other two people on the support team are Jennipher Walters and Kristen Seymour of Fit Bottomed Girls -- and speaking of FBG, I've been doing a lot more work at Fit Bottomed World -- not only writing, but editing, social media and graphics. That's what has been keeping me busy.

If you want to find out more about the program, you can read this post from Kristen. A new 10 in 4 Challenge starts May 1.

But, man! I need to prioritize the whole work-life thing. It's super easy to stay up too late, roll out of bed into workout clothes, start working and, ummmm, never get around to the working out thing. (Hey, at least I look the part!) And I need to schedule those workouts in because my right IT band has flared up something awful and I know it's NOT from working out. It's from NOT working out.

So I pulled out my PiYo program because I need something that'll work me out and stretch me out. I've had the program ever since it came out but never did it because I saw one pretzel-like move and thought "No way." Had I actually popped the DVDs in, I'd see that there are modifiers galore, so I'm finally going to give it a go.


Gimme a B (Corporation)!

I am a member of the Stonyfield Clean Plate Club and was a sent a selection of B Corp products for this post.

 

B corp stuff
I just got a care package from Stonyfield -- in addition to two containers of Stonyfield's new 100 Percent Grassfed Greek Yogurt (yum!), was granola, a toothbrush, fragrant hand soap, gluten-free flour, matcha tea, and a coupon for a carton of eggs.

Now, I suppose I could test myself and see what I could make with all the products (some sort of soapy granola yogurt tea parfait omelet?), but what these products REALLY have in common is that they're Certified B Corporations.

What is a B Corporation? The B Corporation website sums it up pretty simply:

"B Corp is to business what Fair Trade certification is to coffee or USDA Organic certification is to milk."

(And here's a little video to further explain things.)

Turns out, many of my favorite companies are certified B Corps -- King Arthur Flour, Pukka Organic Teas, Method cleaning supplies, Pete & Gerry's Organic Eggs, Preserve Products (the toothbrush is made from recycled yogurt cups!) and my new favorite granola maker, Purely Elizabeth. That blueberry hemp ancient grain granola is fabulous -- especially sprinkled over the yogurt. 

Stonyfield b corp
Stonyfield says it felt a need to join forces with a like-minded group of businesses around the world who believe they have a responsibility to others. After poking around on the website, I'm not entirely sure what the "B" stands for, but the assessment has been developed to Measure What Matters and allows B Corps to compete to be the Best for the World, so my guess is that B is for Best.

I'm one of those persnickety shoppers who looks for things like organic, sustainable, Fair Trade, bee-friendly, etc., so this new certification is something to B on the lookout for when you shop for ethical products.