Thursday, February 28, 2013

Sweat, Pain, and The Morning Hobble

I went to the gym a few times about a month after surgery and it was truly agony. I just felt like I had no energy, eventhough I had been given the all-clear by the surgeon and told that the anesthesia fog and surgical fatigue should have been wearing off. I admit that I kind of gave up on the idea of exercising in any structured fashion for a while after that.

That is, until this week. This week I realized that if I want to keep this weight loss going (and not end up a weakling in the process from the musscle loss associated with quick weight loss), I would need to get up off my rear end end get moving. It helps that I'm starting to feel like a normal human being as far as energy and enthusiasm. I went to the gym on Saturday and Sunday with the wife and did 20 minutes each day on both the treadmill (or the dreadmill as a friend of mine likes to call it) and the recumbent stationary bike. That was a pretty good start, but I definitely noticed a difference in my energy level and my muscle strength on the second day so I decided to take a day off to recover. No big deal, right? Just a little tired...been a while since I exercised regularly....I'll bounce back in a day or so and then return to the gym to make my 2 day trend into a Life Long Habit. (Why no, I don't set huge goals for myself, why do you ask?)

Then Monday rolled around and I quickly realized that my normal hop out of bed and shuffle to the coffee pot was going to be more like a Morning Hobble. I. Was. Stiff. And sore. What did I forget guys and gals? Yes! I forgot to stretch. Yowch. Sweet fancy Moses, my legs hurt! Mostly in the adductor muscles (the outside of the hip/top of the thigh) and my knees, but with a fair amount of soreness scattered everywhere else, too. So, taking the day off turned out to be a good plan and I gently stretched a few times throughout the day and felt better able to fathom the idea of returning to the gym yesterday, which I did with a bang. I did 40 minutes of combined treadmill and bike again, but added in a lower body strength training workout. Today I trundled on in there again and did the same cardio, but this time a complete upper body strength training work out. I really busted by  tail today, I tell you. I alternated 10-15 minutes cardio with 2-3 strength training exercises and I was at the gym for about 90 minutes all told. I left there tired all over and very sweaty. Like-please-get-me-to-a-hot-shower-ASAP sweaty. (Yick.)

...and now I'm realizing that even with the stretching I've been doing this evening, that the odds of The Morning Hobble returning tomorrow are very high. Very high. And I'm back at the gym for another leg workout tomorrow. It's ok, though, since I'll be taking Friday and maybe Saturday off. And not just off, I mean couch potato off. I need to exercise my movie watching muscles at least some of the time, right? ;-)

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Best Roast Chicken

My wife absolutely adores roasted chicken. I like it, too, but she likes it even more than I do. There was a stretch last year when I was making one a week (usually on Sundays - how very 1950s of me!) I haven't made it since surgery but after a trial run eating some roasted chicken breast last week, I think this is a practice that may have to be reestablished. I found the roasted meat to be much more tender, moist, and flavorful than other ways of cooking chicken and it went down very well, without any discomfort or "sticking."

This recipe is based on one by Ina Gartner, though I'm way less fussy in my preparations. I strongly recommend the lemons and thyme for the fresh flavor they lend to the dish, but if you don't have any handy don't worry, this is still very yummy.

The Best Roast Chicken

5-6 lb. Roaster Chicken, giblets removed
2 T. Butter, melted
Carrots, Turnips, Parsnips, and Onions, cut into 2-3" pieces (enough to fill the bottom of your baking dish)
2 heads Garlic
6 sprigs Fresh Thyme
2 Lemons, halved
Olive Oil Spray (I use regular olive oil in one of these)
2 t. Garlic Powder
Salt and Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425F.

Fill your baking dish with the chopped veggies. Slice the garlic heads in two along their equator, so all the cloves have been halved and nestle them in among the veggies. Add 4 sprigs of fresh thyme. Spray everything lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper (about 1.5-2 t. for a 9"x11"x3" baking dish full of veggies.) Toss to coat.

Use kitchen shears to remove any excess fat or skin from chicken, but leave the skin over the breast and thighs/legs intact. Place the chicken on top of the chopped veggies and tuck the tips of the wings under so they don't burn. Pat dry as much as possible with paper towels. Stuff the cavity of the chicken with the remaining 2 sprigs thyme and both lemons. Don't worry if the lemons are coming out the end, just mash them in the best way you can. Brush the cold chicken with the warm melted butter all over top, ends, and sides. The butter will congeal on the cold chicken, but this is what you want. Sprinkle the chicken lightly all over with garlic powder, salt, and fresh cracked black pepper. Place in preheated oven and roast 1.5-2 hours, or until an instant read thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh reads 170F. Remove from oven, tent loosely in foil, and allow to rest 20 minutes before carving. When serving, squeeze the roasted garlic out of their skins and mix into the veggies. Squeeze the juice of the roasted lemons over servings of the chicken.

I can't really give you nutrition on this one cuz there are too many variables (if you eat the skin or discard it, how many veggies you eat, if you consume the pan juices, what part of the meat you have - thigh vs. breast, etc.) I can tell you that 3 oz. of the breast of this chicken and about 1/3 C. of the roasted veggies went down like a dream, tasted divine, and filled me up.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Random Thoughts

I've been reading a lot on message boards and communitiers devoted to Weight Loss Surgery lately and I've noticed a very all-or-nothing attitude from many posters. Now, I'm not knocking it. If it works for you, then that's what you should do. But that view has never really worked for me. I approached things differently because whenever I give myself hard rules and then I don't follow them perfectly, I end up beating myself up about it and feeling crappy and then making further choices that aren't helpful to my goals. (Notice I didn't say "bad choices." That's because thinking in terms of "Good" and "Bad" gets me in mental/emotional trouble.)

So, I approach it by looking at every meal, every bite of every meal, as an opportunity for me to decide to move toward my goals...or away from them. There are still Rules - it's WLS and lifestyle changes after all - but I give myself permission to not be perfect at following the rules. I aim to follow the rules and make decisions that bring me closer to my goals at least 80% of the time. More is better, but less is okay as long as it doesn't develop into a multi-day trend. For instance, I was craving chocolate in the worst way last week. Instead of torturing myself with NO chocolate (I didn't have anything sugar/fat free that was chocolate flavored in the house), I allowed myself to have 8 morsels of the Ghirardelli 70% Cacao chocolate morsels - the little chips that you can buy in the bags to make cookies. I ate them 1 at a time and let them melt slowly in my mouth and it was heaven. It killed the craving, I didn't feel deprived, and I also didn't feel the need to beat myself up about it. In fact, I felt a sense of pride and accomplishment that I was able to limit my portion to an appropriate amount and still enjoy it! Obviously, I can't do that every day, but allowing myself to do it once and really enjoying the experience, was a new and liberating thing for me. I felt less like food was in control, and more like I was in control of the food (and my body.)

As far as the Food Mourning issue goes...I'll tell you that it doesn't stop with surgery. I had it come and go for months before surgery and now 2-3 times in the 9 weeks since surgery. I've been dealing with it by just giving myself permission to feel sad and angry, no matter how "silly" it may seem. I communicate what's going on to my docs, close friends, and wife so that they can support me.

I think it's easy to forget that even after a major life change like WLS, we are still the same people with the same lives/issues/challenges that we were before the surgery - for all the good AND the bad of it. It's easy to fall into a pattern that life will be rosy after surgery....we'll be thin and attractive and everything will be perfect! But it's just not how life works and it can be a major disappointment when that sinks in after you get through the initial recovery and start to feel physically better. For instance, I'm still a person that really doesn't enjoy exercising, even though I do enjoy how it makes me feel. I still love bread. I don't eat it much these days (or at all, really) but I still love it. And I miss it. But I have to just ride it out like surfing a wave. I smell freshly baked bread from a bakery and I allow myself to feel sad and miss it. And then I move on. Sometimes I have to give myself a mental push to move on from the sad feelings, but I do it because it's a decision to do it. I make a decision to allow myself to feel sad, but then I also make a decision to not allow myself to get bogged down in it.

Friday, February 15, 2013

30" Inches!

You wanna see what 30" of snow from a true New England nor'east blizzard looks like? Of course you do!

This is where the snow blew in the front door of our building and created a mini snow drift indoors. The little bit of green you see in right side of the picture is the cap of a 1-gallon milk bottle that we put out in the hallway when we lost power in an attempt to keep it cold. (It worked beautifully - we had icy cold/partially frozen milk for 2 days!)

This was the snow piled up on the threshold of the front door to our building.
And the view to the left and right, respectively, from our front door. In the right hand view you can see a light pole with a fire box in the center of the image. That fire call box is approximately 5' off the ground, just to give you some reference for the height of the snow drifts.

And lastly, the view straight out the door. You can just see the top of the railling for the second set of steps almost buried in the dift.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Green Soup and Ham

A few weeks ago I made a massive ham roast at the request of my wife, which I glazed in brown sugar, cloves, and ginger and it came out beautifully. But then I had all this ham! And I'm not eating much these days. ;-) My wife ate what she could and then I put the rest of the meat from the roast (and the bone, natch) into the freezer for a later meal. One of those meals came this evening in the form of Green Soup and Ham. It's essentially a nutritionally ramped up split pea soup and it's got all the unctuous mouth feel and salty, hammy, flavor you would expect out of the original version. I halved the split peas with lentils because split peas have such a high carb count and lentils have more protein. I also added a little extra in the way of veggies to boost the fiber and vitamins. After pureeing the soup, you don't even notice them.

It would also be worth noting that I tend to make large amounts of soup and we eat off them for quick lunches and dinner for a few days before I freeze the rest for future lazy days when I don't feel like cooking. (Depending on the soup, sometimes there's nothing left to freeze!)

Green Soup and Ham

2 T. Olive Oil
2 Medium Onions, chopped
2 Medium Carrots, chopped
2 Stalks Celery, chopped
3-4 Cloves Garlic, minced
1 Bay Leaf
1 t. Thyme
32 oz. Fat Free, Reduced Sodium Chicken Broth
1 C. Dry Split Peas
1 C. Dry Green Lentils
2 C. Frozen Chopped Kale
3 C. Cooked Ham, fat removed and cut in to bite sized cubes
Salt and Pepper to taste

In a large pan, sweat the veggies with the bay leaf and thyme until they are very tender and have given up a lot of their moisture. Add the chicken broth, cover, and bring to a simmer. When the broth is hot, add the dried peas, lentils, and frozen kale and cook 20-30 minutes, or until the beans are very tender. The peas will start to break down. Remove soup from heat and use an immersion blender (or whatever you like) to puree the soup to a smooth a silky consistency. Return the soup to the heat, add the ham, and return to a simmer to heat the ham. Adjust the salt and pepper and serve.

Makes 8 1 C. Servings

Nutrition Roundup: Calories 192, Total Fat 6.3 g, Total Carbs 18.1 g, Fiber 5.9 g, Protein 16.4 g.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

I'm Not Politically Correct

And I'm not sure I care! I made The. Most. Incredible. lamb shoulder chop for dinner tonight. I started by giving it a little rub down with olive oil, sprinkled it with salt and garlic & herb Mrs. Dash and let it sit for 30 minutes before searing it in a red hot cast iron skillet. I let it rest under foil for 5 minutes while I cleaned the pan and then sliced it thinly accross the grain. It was nicely medium in the center and blackened evenly on the outside, giving it the smoky charred flavor you expect from a grill. (It created loads of smoke, but I have a pretty good vent fan over my stove.)

It was just about the most satisfying meat-involved meal I've eaten since surgery. Beef used to be my first love for red meat, but since surgery even the leanest beef feels heavy in my pouch and I feel icky for hours after I eat. Lamb, however, never feels like that. I know that lamb isn't particularly popular here in the US because everyone thinks of Bambi when they hear the word, making me one of a very small group of people I know who actually eat it , but it really is very tasty and pretty healthy, for a red meat. It's not quite as lean as beef, weighing in at 3g of fat and about 65 calories more per 3 oz. serving vs. the same amount of beef, but the fact that it doesn't weigh me down like buck shot makes it worth a few extra calories of compensation is another part of my day.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Reliable Chicken Salad

I heard from a friend this past Friday that the local grocery store runs a special on their precooked rotisserie chickens each Friday, marking them all down to $5. I had my wife go get one because it seemed like too good of a deal to pass up on, particularly on a weekend when I knew i wouldn't feel like cooking. But my intentions for a quick meal were thwarted on Friday night when we splurged on alare lunch at our favorite Indian restaurant and again on Saturday when I was in the mood for tofu and my wife wanted a bean & cheese burrito. And so that lovely rorisserie chicken just sat in the fridge looking tasty and forlorn until this evening when I realized that I could make chicken salad. Duh!

While I'm always game for new flavors and unique combinations, when I want something reliably tasty, I default to the Simple Is Better philosophy. This chicken salad falls into that category, with only 5 ingredients. I ran it through my mini food processor to get an almost baby food consistency (regular cooked chicken is still too tough for me to digest), but you don't really have to make it that way.

Reliable Chicken Salad

12 oz. Cooked Chicken, defatted and deboned
2 Large Carrots, chopped
2 Celery Stalks, chopped
1/2 t. Onion Powder
5 T. Low Fat Mayonnaise
Salt to taste

Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and process to your desired consistency. Spoon into a storage container and give it a good stir to ensure that all the mayo and onion powder is evenly distributed.

Makes 4 servings

Nutrition (from recipe calculator): Calories 180.2, Total Fat 7.3 g, Cholesterol 58.8 mg, Sodium 290.4 mg, Total Carbs 7.5 g, Dietary Fiber 1.6 g, Protein: 20.2 g.

I've taken to using canning jars for storage containers. I have loads of them in the house and they're convenient.