Jan 192015
 

Well, we are a few weeks in to 2015! How are your new year’s resolutions going? Are you still on track? If your goal was to lose weight this year, I hope you are finding your groove and settling in to your new routine.

I think there are a lot of different ways to approach weight loss. Weight Watchers is a great program and I think it’s one of the best options out there (although I never did WW). It teaches you portion control and how to eat in a healthier way in the “real world” as opposed to a Jenny Craig type program where you only eat their food.

Whatever your path, here are a few tools that can help you along your way:

Scale

I know, I know, the dreaded scale. If you can get away with losing weight and not using a scale–just go by measuring and how clothes fit–more power to you. You’re probably better off. But for most of us, a scale is a necessary evil. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of factors that go into weight loss and health and they can’t all be measured in a number. But this is a good place to start to track your progress.

If you can, find one of those fancy scales that don’t show the number. They sound fantastic and someday I’d like to have one. Basically you set up the scale, weigh yourself, then put in your goals. The next time you step on the scale it will tell you your progress without telling you your actual weight. I like the concept–I think it’s healthier emotionally than seeing a number and feeling devastated but instead you see that you lost a percentage of your weight compared to the last weigh in.

No matter what you decide to get, make it a habit to weigh yourself consistently. Whether it’s once a week or every other week or once a month, try and be consistent: same time of day, before eating or drinking any water. Keep a journal or track the progress in some way.

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Heart Rate Monitor

I’ve talked a lot about heart rate monitors on this blog. I never had one while I was losing weight and I kind of wish I’d had. I think it could have spend up some of the weight loss. What the HRM did for me was twofold: 1) It taught me to TRAIN SMARTER and 2) It gave me better accuracy in the gym.

With training smarter, I noticed it first with running. It taught me how to pace myself. It really did teach me how to run. When I first started running I thought it was “run as fast as you can as long as you can” and that’s not right. Or healthy. Or effective training. The heart rate monitor taught me how to pace myself and stay within the zone for extended periods of time. I am such a better athlete because of my HRM.

With the accuracy, I finally knew how many calories I was really burning. The cardio machines aren’t accurate at all, even putting in my age and weight. And when I don’t do machines, I want to know how many calories I’m burning lifting weights or doing body weight exercises. It helps knowing the actual number.

Read this old post for more details: Polar Heart Rate Monitor Tutorial.

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Food Diary App/Journal

I think tracking is THE number one way to lose weight. Being aware, being consistent, being HONEST with food tracking WILL work. The trick is to be honest with portions and calories you are consuming. If you aren’t honest in your journal, you won’t see weight loss. And this is something I know well!

There are a ton of free options out there. I know that Spark People was a really popular website for people. If you are on the go and want something that you can use anywhere, a smart phone app is probably the best choice. I use My Fitness Pal and I know that Lose It is also a really popular app.

The reason I think a calorie app or food journal is so important because it’s right in your face. It makes you be aware. You are aware of calories in food, you are aware of what you are eating, you become aware of what food makes you feel good and what food does not. Tracking your calories will show you where you need more work (for me, it’s sugar). If you get an app that breaks down your intake you can see if you’re eating enough protein and fiber, if you’re eating too much sugar (ME!), if you are deficient in vitamins. It’s just all around a great tool to help you in your journey.

Check out these old post for some more suggestions:

How Do You Track?

How to Count Calories

The Battle of The Calorie Counters.

 

Water Bottle

I am always trying to drink more water. I am so bad at this, but I’m getting better. Having a large water bottle at work that sits right next to my computer reminds me throughout the day.

Drinking water is a good thing all around, but if you are trying to lose weight drinking more water can be essential. It fills you up. It takes the edge off hunger pains. How often have you thought you were hungry and you mindlessly munch of snacks when in reality you were just thirsty? I’ve done that many times. Listening more carefully to body cues can help with weight loss (am I REALLY hungry? Or just bored? Thirsty? etc).

My tip would be to ditch the sodas, the juice, etc, stop drinking your calories and switch to water.

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Food Scale

This has done so many great things for my weight loss. For a long time I just went off the nutritional labels and then eye-balled portions. Portion sizes have always been my downfall and you can go along, thinking you’re doing great and then discover you’ve been tracking for 1 serving when really eating 2 or 3! No wonder weight loss wasn’t happening. For awhile I did the food measuring with measuring cups. This is better than eye-balling it and guesstimating, but it’s still not perfect.

A food scale was so eye opening for me. We got one a few years ago and one of the first things I used it for was cereal. The box says a serving size is 3/4 of a cup or 1 cup. Okay cool. I measure out a cup and think I’m doing ok. Then I used a food scale and measured out the serving according to grams (per the nutritional label) and HOLY COW. I had been eating way more than I thought!! (Read this post: M is for Measuring Mistakes!)

A food scale is fantastic. If you buy ONE THING to help in your weight loss goals, this would be the one I’d recommend.

Finally, if you’re new to my blog, check out this weight loss series I did a few years ago:

How to Lose Weight Series: 

Week OneWeek One Check In

Week Two , Week Two Check In

Week Three

Week Four

Week Five

Five Truths of Weight Loss

Five Truths of Maintenance

Hope it helps jump start your weight loss resolutions!

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Jan 142015
 

I remember when my best friend Rachel and I went to Chicago and on our last day there we went out to a fancy dinner at a fancy restaurant and did the “chef’s choice” meal. It was like 5 courses of whatever the chef decided to make for us. It was the first time I’d ever tried ahi tuna and it was the first time I’d ever had butternut squash. It was a creamy butternut squash soup in an espresso-sized cup and it was so amazing; I wondered, how had I never had butternut squash soup before??

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I wanted to make it for myself. It sure took me long enough to give it a try…Like 10 years! But finally, I tried. I searched for awhile to find the right recipe. I remembered it being pretty sweet and I found a lot of recipes that claimed it was so sweet it could almost be a dessert. That wasn’t quite what I was looking for. I wanted savory, with a hint of sweet.

I found this recipe:

Butternut Squash Soup With Toasted Cashews

Prep Time: 1 hour

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 45 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Calories per serving: About 169

From: http://whatagirleats.com/butternut-squash-soup-with-toasted-cashews/

Ingredients

  • 1 medium butternut squash, about 6 cups cubed.
  • 3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 sprig of thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ? teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Heavy cream or half and half, thin to desired consistency
  • Kosher salt, and white pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Halve squash and place cut side up in a baking pan with ½" of water. bake uncovered for about 45 minutes.
  3. Squash won't be fully cooked, but slightly tender. Cool.Using a vegetable peeler, peel of outer skin and scrap inside to remove seeds and stringy fibers. Cut into cubes. Should yield about 6 cups. (I think you can actually cheat on this and get pre-cubed squash in the produce section of your market).
  4. In a Dutch oven or large pot heat butter and oil until hot and shimmering. Add shallots and stir, for a minute or two. Add garlic, stir.
  5. Add squash and broth and bring to a boil.
  6. Add thyme and bay leaf, reduced heat and cover.
  7. Simmer on low about 45 minutes until squash is tender. Remove bay leaf and thyme sticks, if there are any.
  8. Puree soup using an immersion blender or upright blender, until smooth.
  9. Return soup to pot, add half and half or cream to thin to desired consistency. Finish with toasted, chopped cashews and a drizzle of cream.
http://www.110pounds.com/?p=10283

It sounded pretty good to me! I knew I’d add a little bit of extra things here and there that I had seen from other recipes I liked. For example, a few recipes called or a pinch of cayenne pepper and I LOVED that idea.

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Other than that I followed the recipe pretty closely, except for the bay leaf (didn’t have one) and I added cayenne. I put it all in my Dutch Oven and let it simmer down. I used my immersion blender (which I LOVE) to puree it up.

I taste-tested the soup after pureeing it and added a pinch more of the cayenne pepper. Once I felt like it was good, I dished it up. I thought it was a little odd that the recipe called it “Butternut Squash with Toasted Cashews” when the cashews were really just a garnish. I read the recipe a few times to make sure I wasn’t skipping a step. Sure, the cashews were nice and added a nice crunchy texture to the soup, but I don’t know that it added anything else beyond that. I originally thought the cashews would be ground up and mixed in.

The texture was super creamy. It was a little too close to baby food/applesauce in consistency and I could have added more milk to it to make it more soupy.

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I served the soup with a green salad (swiss chard, spinach and kale) with Bleu cheese and a raspberry vinaigrette dressing. I also had one large cheesy kaiser roll that I split in half for Michael and I to share.

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Michael and I both liked the soup a lot. It was pretty easy to make. I would add more spice to it next time I think. I got 4 servings out of this recipe and that made it around 150-165 calories a serving. Super low but it was filling and I didn’t feel like I was deprived of food afterwards or hungry in an hour.

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I had some leftovers that I took to work for lunch on my two rest days (there weren’t enough calories in it to eat on a gym day). It was just as good the next day. A little bit of spice, but not too much. It was creamy and the best part— SUPER filling for less than 200 calories!

I will be experimenting more in the future trying to find the perfect squash soup recipe. Do you have a favorite? Please share!

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