Carrots, Apples and Pears, Oh My! Weight Watchers, Part 1

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It’s What’s For Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Grapefruit, kale, strawberries, lemons, limes, chia seeds, protein bars, tofu, almond milk, coffee with skim, sugar free jello. Mmm, that’s pretty much my diet these days. You might notice the distinct lack of anything fun or indulgent or even that satisfying.

Welcome to Weight Watchers.

On the last Saturday of August I made a commitment to lose weight. My muffin top (and muffin bottom) had been troubling me for a few years. I spent 2009 through 2012 wearing pants that were too tight and vanity prevented me from jumping to a 38 inch waist. At one point I weighed in at career high 248.

The tipping point was running races. I was putting in 20-25 miles a week and racing once or twice a month. With all my training I assumed I had lost more than just a few pounds, but my race times were slowing down. My advancing years could account for some of the sluggishness I felt on hills, but there was more to it. I decided to weigh myself for the first time in over a year and was shocked to see I was still carting 238 pounds around. Damn.

I can’t just sort of lose weight in the same way that I can just sort of do anything. I need to go all in or it won’t happen. Half-assed isn’t the path to success for me. I was primed for action. Enter Weight Watchers. They had a decent deal going so I signed up. Downloading the app, I realized there was no turning back. This was the push I needed. I was on the edge and now my momentum was heading in the right direction.

Entering my details online, I received 41 SmartPoints per day plus 42 weekly points to use as I saw fit. I also could earn extra FitPoints through exercise. In case you are wondering, a single fast food meal can devour all those SmartPoints and not even fill you up.

I did Weight Watchers about a dozen years ago and it was a little different. Back then just about everything counted against me. Today I can eat all the fruit and vegetables I want, plus protein is a good bet. Sugar, oil and carbs are pretty much no-nos. I can eat them, but they aren’t worth the points. Goodbye bread, butter and breakfast cereal!

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Teeth Not Required

The NutriBullet I received for my birthday has played a big role in my program. Every morning I toss a bunch of fruit, almond milk, greens and protein powder into a cup and blend it up for a perfect low calorie breakfast smoothie. Some nights I return for a dinner bullet with greens, tomatoes, hot sauce, lemon and whatever else sounds good. They aren’t always as delicious, but they fill me up. Some days it seems I hardly use my teeth at all as my meals now come in liquid form. Yum!

My strategy is to preserve FitPoints by eating a low point breakfast and a medium point lunch so I can eat a decent dinner. Three nights a week we’ve been cooking Blue Apron and those are pretty satisfying after a long day of apple slices and crudité. Occasionally I indulge with a slice of pizza or a bagel, but most days are pretty simple and kind of boring.

At first I was starving. Then I was always a little bit hungry. Now it’s just what I do. It sounds torturous, but you get used to it. I make sure I have a lot of point-free snacks so I don’t want to splurge on a box of cookies or a half dozen doughnuts. Dessert has all but disappeared from my life as has most processed sugar.

That’s what is key about Weight Watchers. It forces me to track and think about everything I eat. At some point soon I will hit my goal and have to figure out a sensible compromise between complete deprivation and eating everything in sight. The real trick will be learning how to keep it off.

So far it’s been six months. How much have I lost? The answer in Part 2 coming soon.

 

 

Is Cooking a Secret Key to Productivity?

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For an hour I was in my kitchen engaged in a frenzy of synchronized motion, focused solely on cooking dinner. Just a man, his knives and a frying pan. Everything else faded into the background. It was a Blue Apron night and I tackled fresh linguine pasta with roasted fennel and garlic breadcrumbs.

First, I prepped the ingredients. Slicing an aromatic fennel bulb into thin slivers, I readied it for roasting. I zested and deseeded a lemon, then minced and mashed fresh garlic. The last step was chopping castelvetrano olives. I am in perfect harmony with my knife and cutting board intoxicated by the sounds and smells.

No fingers were lost in the preparation of this meal.

Then, the cooking began in earnest. The fennel roasted while I browned butter to make garlic breadcrumbs. Once the breadcrumbs were toasted to a nice golden brown I prepared the sauce, combining the lemon juice and zest with olive oil. My fresh linguine finished boiling on the back burner. Coating my al dente pasta with the sauce, it was ready to plate.

While I cook I never fail to disparage the dish until it all comes together. At the last moment I realized how good it would be. When I nestled a hearty dollop of lemon ricotta atop the pasta and garnished it with chopped green olives and homemade breadcrumbs, I knew it was a home run.

Minutes later it was gone. We destroyed it.

I love cooking, but life and kids and work and chores and more kids pretty much get in the way. My go-to approaches for meal preparation are either something frozen from Trader Joe’s in the microwave or something else from a menu delivered to my front door. Sure, I might get fancy and make real food on the weekend, but burritos take just minutes from freezer to plate to my gaping maw, so the stove doesn’t get much action.

Then, my beautiful fiancée scored me three nights of Blue Apron per week. They do the hard work of getting the ingredients to my kitchen along with a recipe. It’s up to me to slice, dice, roast, stir, sauté and beat those fixings into something resembling dinner. In just four months I have rediscovered the sheer delight and serenity of cooking.

The process of creating something delicious while under pressure to pull it all together is an adrenaline rush. Hammering through the prep work while whisking a sauce and caramelizing onions demands perfect timing. One mistake and my hard work could end up in the compost. I love making it happen and seeing the results.

After a few months of stretching my culinary abilities (as well as my gustatory limits) I realize several things I demand as a cook also ring true in how I maximize my productivity in life and at work.

No Distractions. I am at my best when I can concentrate fully and put all my focus into the task at hand. I don’t mind quick conversations or interruptions, but I’m working. Cooking demands full attention or food burns, sauces curdle and dinner suffers. I want to be fully engaged and immersed in preparing the best meal I can.

Clear Space, Clear Head. Some thrive in a cluttered space. Not me. The kitchen island must be empty, the dishes washed and the counters clear. When I can chop all my ingredients, arrange them in bowls while I am preparing everything with ample workspace and plenty of clean dishes, that is a little bit of heaven.

The Right Tools Matter. I want the right tools for the job. Sharp knives, good pans, utensils within reach, all sizes of measuring spoons and a full set of measuring cups. Plus, I want my tools organized and always in the same place. That’s all.

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The Best Christmas Gifts Ever

Preparation, Practice & Repetition. Prepping ingredients is key to a successful meal. The sight of several colorful bowls of vegetables, herbs and other ingredients all perfectly chopped is so satisfying. A few months ago I worked slowly and meticulously. The details matter and I wanted to do it right. Through sheer repetition my skills have improved and now I speed through the process. I have a long way to go to master the kitchen, but I’ve begun to deploy my growing proficiency on non-Blue Apron nights.

Prioritize. This is the balancing act, the make or break part of the cooking process. The more I sauté, stir and roast, the more I learn to juggle several tasks simultaneously. The rote functions have become instinctual and I have it down to a science (with occasional laboratory explosions). Some days it all flows and I can push all parts of the dish forward without missing a beat.

Presentation Is Everything. It might taste great, but if it looks terrible I’ve failed. This is why focus on every step to get to this point matters. All my work is wasted unless that dish pops off the plate and says “Eat Me!”

Clean Up Your Mess And Do It All Again Tomorrow.
Sink, soap, sponge, drainer. Leave no trace. Need I say more?