Tuesday, March 19, 2013
I'm trying to calm my nerves before I start my PT session soon, and somehow flashed back to that weird discussion we had in World History.
Where would you have been in the Middle Ages?
My classmates spun tales ranging from being of noble blood to being a simple peasant. When my turn came up, I said "Dead". Cue enraged teacher, wondering why the problem kid wasn't cooperating yet again.
I had my reasons. A skeptic from a family of skeptics, and a woman at that? Burn the witch! Someone who knew about herbs? Burn the witch! Someone who wasn't good at anything handiwork but who loved mathematics? Burn the witch! And that was after all the perils of the times, childhood illnesses, and general maladies had their chance.
My teacher told me I would've been raised differently, would have been socialized differently- I told her I didn't believe that my core attributes would have changed. She agreed- the premise had been to transplant OURSELVES into the Middle Ages, and leaving behind both skepticism AND the need to acquire knowledge would have been to invalidate the exercise.
I finally relented to "probably banging on the doors of some school in Persia", because nobody wanted to face up to anyone probably dying as a small child.
So, just as a whimsical thought exercise, where would you have been in the Middle Ages? And "dead" is not allowed ;)
Monday, March 18, 2013
I wrote about wanting to get a personal trainer a couple months back. Thank you ever so much everyone who gave me pointers!
I've been on the lookout, but so far, it's been a little difficult finding someone who would be willing to work with my unpredictable and insane work hours.
For one, I'm an absolute night owl. To everyone who says you can adapt to being a morning person, maybe YOU can, but I can't. I was forced to live as a lark for most of my life, and it was absolutely miserable. Forget being energized by morning workouts- I was beat for the rest of the day every single time. Night workouts were when I always had my best results (yes, even as a teenage Olympic hopeful).
For two, those night workouts could start at 10:30pm the earliest, because normally I'm having a business dinner or something else work-related before that.
Well, good luck finding a night owl PT. All the ones I interviewed so far were starting out very nice, very much informed, wouldn't push products on me, but as soon as I said that I just couldn't work out in the mornings (my sleep time is already at my personal optimum of six hours, less or more makes me cranky) it was the old "You can change if you want to! You just need to sleep earlier and more! I just don't believe you know your body like I do people!"thing. Seriously, after thirty years on Earth spent inhabiting the same body, and putting it through some pretty extreme adventures, I'd say I know my hard limits quite well. I don't want this to be just another miserable thing for me, I want to have fun training with an expert! I want to get back to martial arts and fencing and running! I want to regain more function in my stupid leg! I want someone to help me along my weight loss journey (that is, unsurprisingly, the easiest thing).
So, no luck so far. I have a very promising candidate lined up for tomorrow- I hope he'll want to take me on. I found out, through this entire process, that I work a lot better with men than women. They accept a no-nonsense, no-frills stance, women tend to want to be a little softer with me (RehabNazi excepted). Maybe it's also because I exclusively worked with male trainers throughout my entire athletic career? Anyway, the women I tried out were a lot more focused on aesthetics rather than function. I don't CARE if my legs look "unbalanced", I want them to frickin' work! I'd be lying if I said I'm not in this to look better- self-deception only goes so far, and being my trim and slim self in the mirror again is a BIG part of why I'm doing this.
To get there, I need to have a fit and working body first, though, and thus it's function over form for me.
I'm excited for tomorrow- the trainer I'm going to be working with also does CrossFit classes, which is something I've always wanted to try out but haven't been physically capable of so far. HIIT has always been a favorite of mine, maybe he'll get me to where I can keep up with doing modifications on the fly so I can join in? Keep your fingers crossed!
Tonight is team training, focus on defense which means I'm going to be running all over that court (I play the libera position). Have to remember to re-set the bionic leg to minimum movement or I won't be able to get up the stairs post-training (not that that ever happened before... *innocent whistle*). Going back to volleyball training three times a week is another thing I love about this March.
More sports=a so much more positive attitude for me. Every time I come back to it after a long-ish period of near inactivity, I marvel at this and promise myself to take better care of me and keep it up. Then life interferes.
Well, the good thing is, I can experience the wonder of getting active over and over again. Hi, endorphins, I missed you! You're my favorite drugs- after coffee ;)
Saturday, March 16, 2013
I'm an adrenaline junkie, someone who loves working out in a competitive team setting or challenging my best time when running (not that I'm up to running just yet, it's more of a staggered limp-hop walk). Using workout videos, in front of my TV, at home, just never struck me as enough of a challenge, or enough of a fun setting.
I've changed my mind, I think. I did a few workout videos today, amounting to a total of 30 minutes, and I included both cardio and strength elements. It was fun! First, I had to select videos and exercises I could actually do, limited by injuries. Then I combined them into a workout and downloaded them to my TV, set up a nice playlist (MY nice playlist!) and got to it.
Some things, like side-plank crunches, were quite fun- after falling over for the third time, I finally figured out a way to balance even with my bum knee unable to take the weight it should be holding up, but my arms were BURNING! Others, like the cardio intervals, I will need to redesign as they weren't challenging enough. I ended up jumping rope for ten minutes before cooldown because I still had cardio energy to burn.
Still, it's somehow great to just hop into a sports bra and go workout where nobody cares whether or not you've shaved your legs (what? It's winter here! Shush!), whether you're fashionable or not (gym, I'm lookin' atcha!), whether your face gets redder than a tomato (ultra-pale redhead here- I always look like I'm dying!) or whether or not you curse as you fall attempting to pretzel yourself into a yoga position your body CLEARLY wasn't meant to be in (I'm not very flexible).
I'll definitely be keeping it up while the great outdoors is utterly inhospitable (icy, snow, slush... freezing!). Plus, the short distance to my OWN shower is definitely a plus, so quite possibly workout vids will stick around at least until summer temps make working out indoors unlikely :)
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
Thank you, lovely commenters, for giving me the inspiration for writing this post with your questions about how I can cook the way I do and still stick to my diet.
The real answer is: How couldn't I?
The more elaborate answer also goes into both my history with food and cooking and my understanding of what I feel makes a good meal.
My first secret is very simple: Except in the rarest of circumstances, I only eat once a day. One meal, in the evening, is usually all that fits into my schedule, plus I'm just not hungry when I'm busy (which I normally am all the time during the day). 1200-1500 calories is a huge amount to spend on a single meal, so I can go all out. But even if I eat more often than that, I try to keep it to very small portions, or maybe just a small smoothie, because my body just doesn't want food during the day anymore.
The second is...
my spices (stacked three deep, not shown are the fresh ones I keep in my freezer after harvesting) and
salts, peppers, oils and cooking condiments like Mirin (can't fit all of them on that small space so it's mostly different oils) plus spice mixes I'm giving a try (the little packets).
I don't add a lot of extraneous calories to my food- fresh, high-quality ingredients combined the way I feel would be tastiest is my way of cooking. I rarely use recipes- well, I use things I observed from toddlerhood. I've never been a fan of sauces- if I make them, they're usually not cream- but broth-based (made from the cooking juices of whatever I'm preparing).
I'm very privileged in that I have had food security all my life (with the exception of a few end-of-the-month weeks at college/grad school). I also grew up in a coastal town with an abundance of fresh food and with two of the most amazing cooks I know preparing two meals a day (my nonna lives on the same property, my gran isn't that far away). I'm also a very curious person and always have been, so with the exception of a few things I absolutely can't stand, I'll eat anything and everything, which is good if your mom likes to experiment with things like Indonesian hot pepper salad. Not having to pay attention to any food allergies helps, too.
I learned to cook the way a cook might- I started out only being allowed to wash dishes, and vegetables and fruit if I promised to be extra careful. The cooks in the family taught materials science during that time- what everything was, how to prep it, how to use it, what it might go with and what not.
Next, when I was allowed a knife (still before I started school), it was chopping veggies for me (and my brother took over dish-washing duties; my parents were adamant that they learn the same things since my dad regrets to this day that he never learned to cook). More materials science went along with that- how to slice and dice, which ways of cutting released the most flavors in combination with which way of preparing the ingredient, how to be both fast and precise when dicing, why it was important to have evenly-sized pieces of vegetables, what order they were to be added so nothing would get mushy when cooked and so on. There were a lot of hands-on lessons about herbs and spices in there, too- how to pluck them, chop them, grind them, which went together, which didn't, which flavor or scent would be dominant in the resultant dish, how to temper certain rather unwanted flavors- and things like compensating for using a lot of salt e.g. by adding finely chopped celery root or lovage, or that it really hurts if you manage to scrape your fingers along a ginger grater.
A few years later, I think I was eleven, I was allowed to season for the first time. It was a catastrophic failure, despite everything I had learned- I used way too much of everything. Moderation was the key. Around that time my interest in patisserie started, something that was exclusively my own because while the cooks in the family loved to bake, too (and were very good at it), they weren't really interested in the very involved techniques of, e.g., sugar art. I still love experimenting with it, in moderation and miniature.
That's my third secret, by the way- moderation. Now, since I learned cooking by doing so for a very large family with a lot of guests I am incapable of making food for less than four people, but the good thing about that is that my freezer is always full of home-made meals I'll just have to warm up. I tend to cook about once every three days- I have to have dinners out around three nights a week on average, so this rhythm keeps me in food. Moderation for me is preparing things as perfectly as I can, then arrange a reasonable portion of it as beautifully as I can, keeping it at the temperature where the scents waft up to titillate my nose, making my mouth water as I anticipate the flavors and textures that will explode in my mouth upon the first bite.
And thus we have arrived at the fourth secret for me: I'm not punishing my body for forgetting what it means to eat mindfully and intuitively. Most diet food has the appeal, look and taste of cardboard to me. I'd rather not eat anything at all than have it. I love aesthetic food, food that engages the senses and satisfies rather than just satiates. Preparing a good meal, being involved in all stages from shopping to arrangement, just makes tasting, enjoying it so much more satisfactory for me that sticking to my calorie limits and portion sizes isn't hard work. Most of what I make is very simple- just a few ingredients. I try arranging it in a way to please the eye and seasoning it in a way to please the nose, and cooking it so it's not a single mushy texture to please the palate. Food, to me, shouldn't be just fuel, it's a joy. It's sensual, and satisfactory.
I'm attempting to re-learn the way I ate when I still lived at home, before I left for college: Mindfully. Eat when I'm hungry, what I'm hungry for, in a quantity that will still that hunger.
If it's a pastry (like an apple pie, e.g.) I crave, I'll make a batch, then either freeze all but one palm-sized treat or give them away to the neighbors, and enjoy my apple pie. Maybe I'll even make a small amount of vanilla custard to go with it (making it from scratch from low-fat milk doesn't take long and tastes SO good!).
So, to sum it up, my secret to sticking to my plan while also cooking elaborate meals:
-eating once a day
-fresh ingredients, lots of flavors
-mindful eating, portion control and enjoying my food
-food/being on a diet isn't punishment. I'm still living life to the fullest AND enjoying what I eat, just a smaller amount of it.
Some smaller contributing factors: There are no such things as tartar sauce, mayonnaise or ketchup in my home except under very extraordinary circumstances (like a Super Bowl party). I'm not too big a fan of fried foods, and I'm a pescatarian (mostly). I try to make the broths, fonds, and demiglaces I use myself, if not, I buy the ones that consist of all-organic, natural ingredients. Nothing containing MSG or similar flavor enhancers, no bake mixes, the ready-made spice mixes on my shelf all contain nothing but herbs, spices, salts, and vegetables. It's taken me a long time to get my spice collection to where it is- it's a very expensive endeavor to buy everything at once, so go slow. Quite a few things were collected on travels all over the world and might be hard to get, but don't worry: They're never essential.
The final secret: Take your time. Making a great tomato sauce takes me six-eight hours, only one of which is spent actively working. The rest is simmering on very low heat. Anticipation will add even more flavor to your meal. If I have friends coming by (which happens a lot because I have an open house policy- just try if I'm home if you're in the neighborhood and we'll have dinner together), I take even more time eating very slowly while enjoying the company both when preparing the meal and when eating it.
Good food, good company- it's a good life, and I like to savor and enjoy it. There are enough external factors trying to sour it up, I don't need to let them come into those relaxing hours.
Here we come back to my first, short answer to the question: How couldn't I? If I didn't cook, I wouldn't get all the endorphins from the complete meal experience, and being happy? Makes it a lot easier to lose weight for me.
Thursday, March 07, 2013
Not as late as last time, at least!
I host a Super Bowl party every single year. This year's the first time I've ever done it in Germany- plus the first time I had hot dogs on the menu. They aren't pictured, though.
This burger is a foot in diameter. We had three of them in total. The bowls contain different dips (guacamole, pico de gallo, a French vinaigrette, herbed Quark [sort of like Greek yogurt]).
Double-baked potatoes, deviled eggs, stuffed eggplant and zucchini, some mini salmon burger patties
Mini salmon burger patties and whole-grain-and-herb "pancakes"
Vegetarian stuffed eggplant and zucchini- I'll try to write down the recipe one of these days... It was super delicious!
Dessert section. The wine glasses contain guava, raspberry and apricot puree and home-made sugar-free applesauce to go with the orange and lemon mousses. The white bowl contains filleted oranges.
I found gold food spray paint to spray paint my red orange and cranberry cupcakes with!
Orange and lemon mousses. The black on top is the vanilla that unfortunately went to the bottom of my bundt mold.
From top to bottom: red wine cake and cognac torte. The lemon on the right side is a small Amalfi lemon (I used most of the skin on the lower side in my lemon mousse).
Sparkly purple food coloring. Whee! The oreo cake is a little misshapen because I didn't have enough Pam left to cover the entire baking pan :(
Bonus: Tarte au citron meringuée I made today- birthday cake for my friend whose birthday is tomorrow :)
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