Health Month

May has been all about personal growth for me. Setting goals and doing my best to meet them. Some of these goals have been huge like Weight Watchers. However, there are so many smaller goals that I want to achieve but until this month have had to real way to track them. That is, until I discovered Health Month.

Let me backtrack a bit. I am one of those people that constantly think in terms of "shoulds." I should exercise more.  I shouldn't drink so much. I should have known better. What do you do with shoulds? They are completely useless and they just clutter your head with even more useless guilt. And who likes Guilty Gwen anyway? Problem is, Guilty Gwen and Should-Do Sheila are totally BFFs and are usually found hand in hand.

So what I would usually do is, after hanging out with the girls for awhile (GG and SDS) I would decide that I was going to make changes.  I would make a list of all my shoulds and look at them, then forget about them until I needed to feel guilty again. Not very fruitful, is it? This has been going on for a long time for me - a really long time. I guess you could say that Guilty Gwen and Should-Do Sheila were more than just occasional guests, they were roommates. I started to think that this was just part of life and I would just have to get used to them being there. Like you get used to that little crack on the wall that no one can see but you. Then along came Health Month.

Health Month is an online game that helps you track goals. Like the name implies, many of these are health  related, but it's not limited to physical health but mental health as well. Actually, it's not limited to anything. Whatever goal you want to set in order to improve your life is game. And, really, when you improve your life you are naturally improving your health. Right?  For me, it's a way to organize Should-Do-Sheila and keep her on track thus preventing Guilty Gwen from ever having a need to come around.

So, it works like this.  Each month there is a kind of contest.  You choose the rules you would like to follow for that month.  These were mine for May:















When you are choosing your rules, choose carefully because once the month starts you can not alter your rules in any way.  You can see most of my rules were pretty easy, but all of them were important to me.  At this time you also choose your "reward" in you win the game and a "punishment" if you lose. I chose to buy a new outfit for myself if I won and to donate $10 to Health Month if I lost. If you do decide to pay, it's a $5 donation to the developer which is cheap and totally worth it in my opinion.

So, now you are ready to play. You start off with 10 life points. Each day you are asked to check in. If you follow all your rules you get game points and fruit. If you don't you lose a life point. If you still have life points at the end of the month you "win" the game. Sounds simple, right? Well, the game itself is simple, but following all the rules was harder than I thought! I lost 3 life points during May but was able to earn new ones as the month went on or purchase one with fruit. While the month isn't over yet, I can confidentially say I won. More than winning the game, though, I have won something much more important - confidence! So much so that I have chosen 20 rules for next month.  How that for confidence?!

In addition to playing this game on your own, you can also choose to be on a team. Teams can compete with each other and other teams making this a giving Health Month a social aspect. Right now I am playing against myself really. It's one thing that I do just for me. It might be interesting to play with someone else or have a team. Wanna play?

What the Heck Do I Order?!!


Last Friday my friend and I went to a Photoshop Power User seminar at the convention center in South San Francisco. I didn't even know they had a convention center in South San Francisco (it's a separate city) let alone what restaurants would be around there so I had no way to plan my meals. Planning my meals is half of my diet strategy! Turns out the only thing near the convention center was Houlihan's. So if I wanted to eat breakfast and lunch that was my choice.

Breakfast was pretty easy.  I had an egg, english muffin and some fruit. I could roughly guess that it would be about 7 points and it actually turned out to only be 5.  Regardless, I knew I was safe on that front. We happily enjoy breakfast and waddle off to the convention center.  The seminar was fantastic and the first half of the day went really quickly suddenly - Lunchtime!

Back to Houlihan's we waddle, but what I thought would be a pleasant lunch turned out to be a Weight Watchers nightmare. I opened the menu and there was nothing, absolutely nothing that I saw to order. (If you want to see for yourself you can view it here.) I searched and searched and searched.  The first thing that caught my eye was the Fish Tacos, but being with chipotle mayo and being breaded in panko I didn't think that would be a good choice. I kept looking over and over the menu and then thought that maybe I should just look up their menu online to see if they had nutrition values, but guess what? My AT&T iPhone is permanently set to "Show Zero Bars When Phone Is Needed" so I was totally on my own.

So, what did I do? I did exactly what I always tell myself not to do. I ordered a salad. I know, I know, I know that it never turns to be as figure-friendly as it should be, but I have been trained just like the rest of us to think that a salad is the "healthy choice." It certainly wouldn't be an evil hamburgers. No, no, those hamburgers are the sole reason that America has an obesity problem. So, I choose my "healthy" Seared Ahi Tuna Salad and hoped for the best.

When I got home I diligently looked up the nutrition values online. So, I bet you know the outcome. The salad was much higher in calories and points than I expected. No surprise there, what did surprise me was when I did a little comparison of foods on the menu and their points value:

Item
Calories
Fat
Points
Ahi Tuna Salad
1074
67
28
Hamburger
703
13
18
Veggie Burger
825
14
21
Fish Tacos
876
39
23

So look at that!  A plain old hamburger is almost 10 points less than that "healthy" salad.  10 POINTS! What's more shocking is that the hamburger is even less points than a veggie burger, even with all that fiber veggie burgers have!  And, those fish tacos, you got it, fewer points than the salad.

So what did I learn here.  Well, I reaffirmed my suspicion that most entree salads are not figure-friendly. Far from it! More importantly, I learned that if I really need a go-to item when faced with a menu I am not familiar with that old fashioned hamburger is probably my safest choice. Imagine that! I guess it's not the culprit in America's obesity problem.

When Temptation Comes A Callin'

Let's face it, whenever you are trying to change your lifestyle at some point Temptation Tammy is going to show up and ask you to party. This is true whether you are dieting, exercising, quitting drinking or just wanting to focus more.  I would be a big, fat liar if I said she hasn't visited me yet on this journey.  She's been knocking on my door all week and yesterday I thought I would just open the door a tiny bit and she just barged right in.

It all started when I decided that I deserved to treat myself to a little Taco Bell. I did my due diligence and went right to their website and looked up the nutrition stats.  It's all right there on their nutrition page. In fact they even have a nutrition calculator where you can add up all the items you want to have and determine their total values.  All I wanted was a simple bean burrito and a taco, so I looked them up. Armed with this information I went my handy Weight Watchers points calculator and found it right in my points range, albeit a bit high for lunch at 13 points.  No matter, I rarely used up all my points and I deserved it. I was having a hard day, goo!

I got my taco and burrito and I have to say it was satisfying. Just what I wanted. I had let Temptation Tammy in and now it was time to show her the door. Problem was she wouldn't leave. I no longer wanted to have a figure-friendly meal for dinner.  I wanted quesadillas. I wanted burritos. I wanted chocolate!  Oh no!  So, what did I do? Well, I had a quesadilla and some chocolate.  Okay, I had two of each.  I was terrified to add up my points, but thankfully I made it - barely. I ended the day with zero points to spare. I was lucky this time, but next time who knows.  But you know what?  If I screw up more next time  I am certainly not going to throw in the towel. I may have "gone off" my diet yesterday but that doesn't mean I haven't been dieting nor does it erase all the work I have done for the last few weeks. That's just stupid.  What is does mean is that I need to be careful. I need to watch myself and do my best to keep Temptation Tammy away from my house.  So, I told her my friend Greg was having a party this weekend.  He's too skinny anyway.

Week 3 - Progress Report


Well, we made it three weeks and I have to say, so far so good. Both Joey and I have lost about 9 pounds each or an average of 3 pounds a week. This is a little bit more that we both expected, so we are happy.

So far this hasn't been all that difficult.  Neither of us are eating all the points allotted to us, so we certainly aren't starving.  We are, however, eating less.  I am serving about half the portions for dinner as I did in the past.  For dessert we are having fruit or Skinny Cow desserts. (They are marvelous, by the way.) We are also taking full advantage of artichokes being in season and are eating those twice a week for dinner.  They are amazingly satisfying. We have been steaming them and having them with salad dressing mixed in with non-fat yogurt. You get all the flavor and hardly any of the calories.  We had a ton of salad dressing in the fridge and I want to make use of it rather than toss it out for not being figure-friendly. Artichokes have no points so we are basically having 1-point dinners twice a week. Hey, if it works, why not?

So, 3 pounds a week, 3 weeks, we have it made, right? Not quite. Now comes the hard part. I know myself well enough to know that the novelty of this new adventure is going to wear off very shortly. I can already see myself thinking, "Oh, what would one donut hurt?"  That's where one gets into trouble.  To battle this I am being doubly diligent in tracking my points and making sure I have plenty of satisfying snacks available to me at all times.  We still have quite a bit of road ahead and I need to be prepared.

Cuties - My Snacking Saviour


Joey and I started Weight Watchers at just the time - Springtime!  With all these fruits and vegetables coming into season we can alway find something healthy and delicious to snack on.  My favorite snack has been Cuties.  What's a Cutie, you ask?  Well, Joey's my cutie but California Cuties are actually two different fruits: Clementine mandarins and Murcott mandarins. Clementine mandarins are harvested from mid-October through mid-January; Murcott mandarins from mid-January through April, though they are still selling them in the markets. They come in 3 or 5 pound bags and are about $1.00 a pound here in California.

Cuties are perfect for me because they are easy to carry, easy to peal and are packed with vitamins, minerals and fiber!  Just two provide me with all my vitamin C and have 4 grams of fiber, which helps curb hunger.  I probably eat about six of these little guys throughout the day when I am at work. It has really helped me resists the jars of Jelly Bellies and M&Ms that are all over the office!

So, if you need a healthy snack, I would pick some of these up soon before they are gone for the season! They are the perfect snack and at zero points are the perfect choice for someone on Weight Watchers.

Eating Out on Weight Watchers

One of the hardest things about dieting is what to do when you go out to eat.  It's bound to happen sooner or later and for us, it happened sooner. Actually, quite soon - our first week. We don't eat out that often anymore, but the past couple of weeks I have been out three times.  I am proud to say that each time I managed to eat a nice meal and stay within my points.  I didn't even dip into my points allowance!  So, what did I do?  I bet you're thinking that I must have had salad each time, but have you ever really done a calorie count of the meal salads you get when you go out?  A chef salad can be 25 points. To give you a reference, Joey gets 32 points for an entire day. An entire day!!! That's a lot of points for a salad. I don't know about you, but if I am going to blow a ton of points on something it sure as hell is not going to be a salad! When I go out I want to have a real meal. However, I have to admit it's hard to know what is within your points range and what's not, but with a little planning it is totally possible to eat out, have a wonderful meal and not break the points bank.  That's the key - plan ahead!

Check out the menu online - In this day and age you'd be hard pressed to find a restaurant that didn't have it's menu online. Take advantage of that and decide what you are going to have before you go out.  It's surprising how much you can get if you order correctly.  When Joey and I went to Fog Harbor Fish House, we really were able to get a huge meal: appetizer, soup, salad, and an entree! If we hadn't decided what we wanted beforehand we probably would have ended up ordering one thing we thought was healthy and ended up still hungry. Worse yet, that one thing could actually have a zillion points without us knowing it. We each had 25 points for dinner so, with my 25 points, a-plannin' I did go.

The first thing I did was go over the menu at home and see if there was anything that I just had to have. In this case there was. One can't really go to Fisherman's Wharf and not have clam chowder. That was a good start for me and when I found out that a cup was only 5 points my tummy did a little jig. A cup was all I needed and that gave me plenty of points for an entree. I looked over the menu and checked off the things I knew I couldn't have, but then I had a thought - we could order anything we wanted if we split it.  Luckily, Joey and I like the same things and we decided on Fish & Chips. Since we were splitting it, what would have been 16 points was now only 8.  Yippee, that's only 13 points total! Now, I may be counting points, but I have 12 points left and I am going to use them! I certainly am not going to let them go to waste.

Since we were sharing the entree, why not share a salad as well? I know I said that salads can have tons of points, and they can, but there are ways to cut that.  We had the Crab Louie and ordered the dressing on the side.  The thing was huge and really was just crab and vegetables.  The only thing that had points was the crab and the dressing.  That turned out to be only 6 points and that left me with 6 left.  Yay, appetizers!

Appetizers were hard, especially at a place like this.  There was a lot of cheesy, bready, deep-fried goodness on that front.  We could split away and still would go over our points. I gave up on that one.  We didn't really need an appetizer anyway.

The meal was delicious, satisfying and best of all in our points range.  We did it!  Appetizer, soup, salad and entree.  Yep, we did get to have an appetizer after all and a tasty one at that! I noticed while we were waiting for our table that they had oysters on the half shell. I figured a couple oysters would be about 6 points, but guess what? It's six oysters for 1 point!  How awesome is that?  Our entire meal was only 20 points.  We might have been able to use our 5 extra points for dessert, but honestly we were too full for that.

Weight Watchers - My First Gold Star!


Okay, it's not really gold, but close enough.  I earned my first 5-pound star!  I have to say I am a sucker for virtual praise and have found it works quite well for me. Getting recognition for small successes really motivates me and these little icons hold special meaning.  Joey also got his star but he isn't nearly as needy as me on the praise front.

These past two weeks have not been hard at all, but we have had to make conscious changes.  The only thing I am really noticing is that I am eating a ton of fruit and, I have to admit, I am bitchier.  The fruit thing is good, the bitchy thing is not, so let's pray that Cranky Kelly takes a hike fast.

So, congratulations to us!  There is still a long way to go (26 more pounds for me), but we are off to a great start and we need to celebrate each milestone along the way no matter how small. By the time we're finished I will have a horn o' plenty of little Weight Watchers stars!

Weight Watchers Update


Last week, on May 1st, Joey and I decided that we were going to take the plunge and join Weight Watchers.  It's been almost two weeks now, so I thought I would give an update on how it's going.  I intended to write this earlier in the week, but have't been able to post since Wednesday with all those blogger problems.  No matter, now is as good a time as any to give an update.

First off, I am so happy we took this step.  It's really true that every journey starts with one step. Often times, though, that first step is the hardest to make.  For me, I get all caught up in the timing and planning of that first step.  So much so that I never end up taking it!  I am glad to say with this particular adventure, we just pretty much decided, let's do it and if we don't like it we will find out later.  I am happy to say we like it - a lot.

The past couple of weeks have been fantastic.  Yes, we have had to get adjusted to a slightly new way of eating, but it's not nearly as hard as I remember it being the last time we did this over six years ago.  I am noticing some key differences, though.  The new points system really encourages you to eat a lot of fruit and vegetables.  Since almost all fruits and vegetables are 0 points (yes, ZERO) I am eating a whole lot more that I ever have in my life.  Before a banana would be 1 or 2 points; and, let me tell you, I was certainly not going to waste a precious point on a banana when I could use it on pasta! I know, I know, that makes no nutritional sense, but when you are dieting and have some choices you are not going to make the smartest ones! Anyway, now I can eat as many bananas as I want and I am!  That along with all sorts of delicious fruits and vegetables that I now kick myself for not taking advantage of before!  There was all this yumminess right at my disposal and I just ignored it!  But, there is not use kicking myself for not doing yesterday what I am now doing today.

I have been very diligent tracking my progress with the online Points Tracker, but I am going to be honest and say that little tool, while has vastly improved, needs some more work. I cannot tell you the number of times I have input all my information for the day and have it not save.  This is very frustrating!  Besides that, it is a good tool, though, and some of the new features they have introduced, like the Progress Reports are really great.  It gives me a graphical representation of my entire week!

I guess you can see that I am happy with Weight Watchers.  As the weeks go on I will be writing more about it along with more detailed reviews of its various components. For today and just wanted to get it out there that for Joey and me, so far so good! We are losing weight, eating better and generally feel better about ourselves.  That, in itself is worth the price of membership!

Oh, I guess I should also share our progress!  Ready for this?  We both lost 3.8 pounds our first week! Can't wait to see what the scale says tomorrow!

Brazilian Cheese Rolls


I have been meaning to post this recipe, but never got around to it.  While this certainly does not fall into our new Weight Watchers Program, it is too good to keep to myself!

Bob's Red Mill Tapioca Flour, 20-Ounce (Pack of 4)A few weeks back my friend Marya told me about this fantastic recipe she had made over the weekend.  I love sharing recipes with Marya because they are usually easy, tasty and often fun.  Most importantly the ingredients are accessible.  I don't know about you, but nothing drives me crazier than recipes with this one ingredient that you have to travel to India for.  Before I go on, this does contain one ingredient that you most likely don't have in your pantry - Tapioca Flour.  Out here in California, or at least in San Francisco, it's super easy to find at the supermarket.  I am sure any Whole Foods has it.  There is one more thing you will need for this - a mini muffin pan. For my first batch Marya lent me her pan as well as provided me with some tapioca flour.  Since I can't do that I am just going to say this.  The first time I tried these I ordered the pan right away - they are that good!  It was only $9.99 and, to my surprise, I have used it for two other recipes already.  I have also made these rolls no less than six times!
Baker's Secret 116424001 Basics Nonstick 24-Cup Mini Muffin Pan
Now that I got all that out of the way you might be asking, "What are Brazilian Cheese Rolls?"  The best way to describe them is they are airy, chewing, cheesy bites of goodness.  They are like little popovers in that they puff way up, but the bottom is really chewy.  All I can say is I love them.  They make a great accompaniment to any meal couldn't be easier to make.  All you need is a blender!  You can even make the mix ahead of time!

Marya presented me with two recipes for this little goodies: one from Simply Recipes a favorite site of ours; and, the other from Our Best Bites, a site by two Mormon mom's which is also becoming a favorite of mine.  I actually tried both recipes on the same weekend.  The verdict?  Well, I am probably going to get my gay card revoked, but Our Best Bites won hands down.  The rolls were much puffier and lighter.  There isn't a big difference between the two, but the difference make a difference!

You must try these out.  I guarantee you will be making them on a regular basis.

Ingredients
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 cup tapioca flour (sometimes labeled tapioca starch) no substitutions
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 C grated cheddar cheese* (preferably medium or sharp)
  • 1/4 C grated Parmesan cheese

* You can use any combinations of cheeses. My favorite is Monterey Jack. You can also add herbs. Last time I added Rosemary and it was delicious!

Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Place egg, milk, oil, tapioca flour, and salt in blender and blend until smooth. Add cheeses and pulse 2 times.
  3. Immediately pour batter into a mini muffin tin (if your muffin tin isn’t non-stick, spray lightly with non-stick spray first), filling each well about 3/4 full, or just slightly less.
  4. Bake for 15-20 minutes until puffed and golden.
  5. Remove from oven and cool for a few minutes before removing rolls from pan.
  6. Serve warm.

Notes

These actually don’t reheat well so I recommend making and eating fresh. I can almost guarantee you won't have any leftovers.

Great Deal on Organic Olive Oil - 60% off!

Okay, I am a total sucker for a deal.  I saw this on the Care2 website this morning:

60% off Organic Award-Winning Olive Oil

I just couldn't resist the $10 for $25 coupon so I broke my promise not to internet shop this month.  But only this once!

I have never been one to use fancy ingredients.  I really never thought it mattered, but recently I bought some olive oil and balsamic vinegar at the Castro Farmer's Market and it was amazing.  I really could tell a huge difference.  So what the heck!  I am going to give it a try.  If food critic David Rosengarten and Heidi Swanson of 101 Cookbooks like it then that's good enough for me.

Weight Watchers It Is!

Joey and I have wanted to diet for a long time, but were really having a hard time taking the plunge.  While we were waiting we decided to do Dr. Mao's 8-Week Program, but we starting losing interest in it.  Not that it was hard or anything.  Actually it wasn't hard at all which was kind of disappointing.  However, it seemed like a good idea while we looked for a diet plan that suited us.  I had these grand plans of researching different diet plans and going with the one that was best for us.  The problem was, I was doing no research and we were getting fatter. Oh, I did buy a book - The Dukan Diet.  Since the royals were doing it . . .well you know.  After doing  a little research it really seemed too extreme for me.  Yes, it would be great to suddenly drop all this weight, but it really didn't seem like a way of life to me.  And, let's be honest, the side effects did not sound all that appealing.  Who wants bad breath and fatigue? 

We kept looking around, but I think we both knew that we were most likely going to go back to Weight Watchers.  We had done it six years ago with huge success.  I was looking back over our progress that year and I lost over 25 pounds!  I kept the weight off for a couple years, but now I am almost 40 pounds heavier than my lowest weight.  Once I realized that I decided not to waste any time so, Sunday, May 1st, we took the plunge and joined Weight Watchers Online.  

The first thing I noticed when we joined is that the program is vastly different.  The points are calculated in a completely new way and I am still wrapping my head around it.  I seem to have an awful lot of daily points - 44!  At the end of the day today I still had 11 points left.  I don't think I ever had points left on the old plan.  I started to think that something was wrong, but then I realized that Joey and I don't eat particularly badly, but we indulge ourselves way too often.  For example, we have a Groupon for Beard Papa that we need to use this month.  Joey calculated how many points the cream puffs were and one chocolate cream puff is 8 points!  Honestly, we would have eaten the entire dozen over the weekend and that would be 48 points each!!!  Right then I knew that our decision to join Weight Watchers was a good one.

I think this is going to be an interesting journey.  I am older now, and hopefully a little bit wiser.  If noting else I am determined to fit in my skinny clothes and that will make this all worthwhile.

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About Sean & Joey

Joey and I are just a couple of guys living in San Francisco. I love cooking and we both like trying new things. Planning our meals is one of our "together" things. I hope you enjoy our blog! - Sean

Dedication

This blog is dedicated to the two most important people in my life - my mom, Ernee Jean O'Brien, and my partner Joey Concepcion. They both have showered me with unconditional support and love and have always encouraged me to be myself. I will always miss my mom and I don't know what I would do without Joey.

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