Falling In Love Again

Falling in love with the gym, that is. In typical trying-to-lose-weight fashion, I got a gym membership, went every day the first week, and then dropped to a handful of times a month (if that). Some of this was due to illness and then a sprained ankle (I’m a klutz), but most of it was me telling myself I didn’t have time to get to the gym (which is literally right next to my apartment).

My gym has a great sign that says something like “Instead of saying ‘I don’t have time’. Say ‘It’s not a priority’ and see how that feels.” Many people don’t have the time or resources to go to the gym – I’m not trying to diminish that. I’ve been that person balancing a full-time job and college and an Etsy and clients before. I didn’t have time then. Now, though, I have one job and an Etsy shop. I’m also new to the area and don’t have a crazy social life right now. Not exactly an unmanageable time load.

A lot of what was keeping me out of the gym was intimidation. My gym is a bit musclehead-y, and that’s intimidating! I want to work on form and learn to do more exercises, but when it’s busy, I don’t feel like I can.

I’ve followed Grace from GraceFitUK since early in my fitness journey and seen the amazing guide results that she posts. I decided to try Grace Fit Guide 1 and 2 for a total of 16 weeks and see how doing the guide changed both my body and my attitude toward the gym. Here’s my before:

My weight when I took these photos was sitting at 269.8 pounds.

It’s now been one and a half weeks, and so far, I love this guide. The guide goes by weeks, which pushes me to get in 5 workouts every week so I don’t fall behind. It also comes with app tracking through Aflete, which has been the most helpful thing about the guide. Rather than needing to search through the exercise encyclopedia, there’s a play button next to every workout in the app. If I don’t remember how to do something, I can sneakily watch it on my phone between sets and then walk to my next exercise like I know what I’m doing. That helps a ton with my gym anxiety, and I’m feeling more confident. It also tracks your personal best weight for each exercise, which is the best way to push someone like me. I’m not competitive with others, but I’m constantly wanting to best myself.

I won’t be posting progress photos at the beginning of every month as I had before. I want to see the transformation from Guide 1 and then Guide 2 all at once, so I’ll be posting photos again when I finish the first of the two 8-week programs. I’m about to start another fitness challenge at work, so I’ll be back to posting my weight weekly again soon.

If you have any questions about the guide, please leave them below! I’d love to answer them when I discuss my thoughts at the end of Guide 1.

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A Week of Dinners

On Monday, my Fittest Loser team had had a rough week. Easter candy plus a stressful week made for some less than fantastic decisions when it came to food. We only have 2 weeks to go, so it was time for a bit of a kick in the pants to finish these last few weeks out strong. It was also healthy eating week for our check in with the Daily Herald, so I issued myself a challenge that would boost the team as well: make 1 dinner every night this week that takes 20 minutes or less of prep work, photograph it, and share the recipe with them. Here’s what I came up with:

IMG_0109Monday: Pantry Turkey Tacos

I love this recipe for ground turkey tacos because the seasonings for the meat are always in my pantry. All I ever need to buy is 99% lean ground turkey and whatever fixings I’d like. I’ll frequently have just the meat in a romaine leaf for a crunchy, refreshing taco.

Ingredients:

1 lb. 99% lean ground turkey
1 tbsp. olive oil
4 oz. tomato sauce
Seasonings to taste – I used about 1/4 tsp. each chili powder, onion powder, paprika, garlic powder and 1/2 tbsp. Penzey’s Salsa seasoning along with salt and pepper. Add more or less chili powder depending on your tastes.
4 6″ flour tortillas
1/2 c. shredded Mexican cheese
2 c. romaine lettuce

  1. Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the ground turkey, breaking it up with your spatula, and brown the meat.
  2. Add the tomato sauce and spices. Stir to combine, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 5 minutes.
  3. Arrange meat on your tortilla with 2 tbsp. cheese and romaine lettuce and enjoy!

Serves 4

Macros: 296 cal, 36 P, 21 C, 13 F

Tuesday: Baked Katsu

Last week, I had a bit of a food slump. I was eating the same thing over and over (whole wheat pasta with chicken sausage, in case you’re curious), and when I wanted some variety, I was eating whatever takeout my partner ordered instead of making the effort to cook something else for myself. To break through that, I bought a new bento box cookbook. The focus on colorful, appealing bento boxes means they usually have plenty of fresh produce! Katsu – breaded and fried pork loin – was one of the recipes I was interested in, but I didn’t want a heavy, fried dinner or lunch. I tried to bake it like I do with my favorite method of making chicken tenders (more on that later).

The onigiri in hats are optional but fun. They are a MUCH less detailed version of MosoGourmet’s tutorial here.

Ingredients:
1 lb. thin-cut pork loin (should be about .5” thick)
Salt
Pepper
2 tbsp. flour
1 egg
¼ c. panko crumbs
Olive oil spray

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Trim off any excess fat. Make small incisions between the pork and remaining fat, as they will cook and shrink at different rates.
  3. Use a meat tenderizer on the pork loins. If you don’t have a meat tenderizer, there are some other options in your kitchen that will work; I wrapped some plastic wrap around my rolling pin.
  4. Push the pork loins back into their original shape with your hands.
  5. Season both sides of the meat with salt and pepper.
  6. Put flour, egg, and breadcrumbs into 3 separate bowls. Dredge the pork in the flour, then the egg, then the panko crumbs before arranging on a greased baking tray.
  7. Bake for 20 minutes, flipping halfway through.
  8. Enjoy! Serve with your choice of sides and maybe some tonkatsu sauce!

Serves 4

Macros: 156 cal, 24 P, 7 C, 12 F

IMG_5295


Wednesday: Orange Chicken Tenders

My partner is a great guy, but he is not adventurous when it comes to food. Healthy recipes had better at least slightly resemble a food he likes, or I’m on my own for dinner. Getting very creative with chicken tenders is an easy way to make sure he’ll enjoy dinner (and not order tempting takeout). This chicken tender recipe can be used with all kinds of sauces, from barbecue to sriracha. I make them with orange sauce when I’m craving some greasy Chinese food late at night. Double the recipe and make a big pan all at once to freeze and reheat later to bust cravings – just pop them in the toaster oven at 400 degrees for 8 minutes for a crispy reheated tender!

Ingredients:

1 lb. chicken tenderloins
Salt
Pepper
2 tbsp. flour
1 egg
¼ c. panko crumbs
Olive oil spray
Sauce of your choice

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Season both sides of the chicken with salt and pepper.
  3. Put flour, egg, and breadcrumbs into 3 separate bowls. Dredge the tenderloins through the flour, then the egg, then the panko crumbs before arranging on a greased baking tray.
  4. Bake for 20 minutes, flipping halfway through.
  5. Serve with your choice of sauce and enjoy!

Serves 4

Macros: 156 cal, 24 P, 7 C, 12 F

Thursday: Freezer-Friendly Meatloafballs

When you’re a recent college grad with loans to pay back, you become an expert at bargain shopping. Recently, I’ve started going to the grocery store without a shopping list, just an idea of what I need (2 proteins, 3 veggies, some fruit, etc) and buying whatever is on sale. Which is how I ended up with a pound and a half of ground beef and no idea what to do with it. I thought about making meatloaf, but knew I’d need to freeze a lot of the recipe, and meatloaf doesn’t exactly freeze well. That’s how I ended up preparing the beef like meatloaf, then cooking it in meatball form.

The meat I used was slightly less lean than I usually choose, but that is what was on sale. If you want a leaner version, this works fine with ground turkey (and that’s actually what I usually use for my meat loaf). This is awesome for a ketogenic diet with only 5 g of carbs.

Ingredients:

1.5 lbs. 90% lean ground beef
1 egg
1/4 c. bread crumbs (I used seasoned Italian)
1/4 c. ketchup
1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
Salt, pepper, and dried oregano to taste
2 tbsp. olive oil

  1. Combine all ingredients except oil in a large mixing bowl. You can try using a spatula, but the mixing will go a lot quicker if you just get in there with your hands.
  2. Form the meat into 1″ meatballs. You should end up with about 40.
  3. Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Fry the meatballs in batches, turning to brown all sides.
  4. Remove the meatballs onto a plate lined with paper towels. Serve immediately. To freeze, arrange on a baking tray and place entire tray in your freezer. Once frozen through, remove to a freezer-safe bag or container.

Serves 8

Macros: 314 cal, 20 P, 5 C, 23 F

Friday: BBQ Pulled Chicken Tacos

I still had some leftover tortillas and fixings from Monday’s meal, so for Friday, I cooked up a huge batch of BBQ pulled chicken. This is a great fix it and forget it or crock pot recipe that takes barely any prep time (but a longer cook time). I used the chicken recipe I shared in my Southwestern BBQ Pulled Chicken Quinoa Salad Bowl blog, then used the meat in my tacos. Yum!

 

I hope you enjoyed! If you try any of these recipes, please tag me @amandasternklar on Twitter and Instagram.

Motivation (Weigh-In 12)

Ugh.

I’ve been blaming my lack of workouts on first my injured knee, then the fever/stomach bug that sidelined me for a week. To be honest, though, my motivation was flagging before that. I’ve been eating like crap and thinking it fit into my macros, when I was likely waaaaay underestimating how much I was eating. Work has been overwhelming, money is very tight, I’m preparing for an artists alley this weekend, and my health is the last thing on my mind.

Which is horrible, when you think about it. No matter what’s going on, my health should be a priority. Yesterday, I saw I’d gained nearly 3 pounds in 2 weeks. It’s the largest gain I’ve ever had while attempting to lose weight, and it was a shock. The weight isn’t really the point, but the fact that I was so out of touch with where my body was at was hard to swallow. There’s a reason this post is coming the day after the weigh-in. Some things take some time to process.

I took last night to think about why I started and what I can do to get back on track. I went to the gym for a heavy leg day, then to the produce market to re-stock my fridge. I meal prepped for the next few days and packed my gym bag for today. I loved the gym when I started, and though it’s going to take some time, I’ll get back to that place. I felt good yesterday and enjoyed having some “me time” to just catch up on YouTube on the treadmill!

I started this because I wanted to stop feeling sick and tired all the time. When I’m working out, I have more energy and fewer migraines. I’m happier and less stressed by work things. Also, I can’t afford new clothes right now; being able to fit into old clothes again will significantly help my budget. Not the most ~inspirational~ motive, but something to look forward to. I like cooking healthy meals for myself and my partner, and I like saving money by not buying lunch every day. I love my body, for the first time probably ever, and I want to take care of it.

There’s one week left in the Fittest Loser challenge, so I’m going to smash it and then head into phase 2!

Weight: 272.8 pounds
Lost this week: -2.8
Lost so far: 9.2
Pounds to goal 1 (5% loss): 4.9

Dance the Night (Pounds?) Away (Weigh-In 11)

(This is last week’s weigh-in, which I didn’t finish editing as I’ve been knocked out by some flu-like bug. I checked my weight this morning and it’s more or less the same. Going to focus on eating what I can and trying to get over this bug this week.)

I didn’t go to a party school. I went to a quiet school with no frats and minimal partying. Combined with crippling anxiety, I didn’t really go out much. Now, though, I’m living near a major city with young people my age. For the first time, I have a group of friends who are way more outgoing than I am (and much cooler), so they actually know what’s going on. And they invite me to things! This week was a Silent Party, where attendees receive headphones where DJs are spinning on three separate channels. It was incredible seeing a mass of people dancing to different beats.

It also lowered the anxiety for me. I spent years as a dancer, but if something isn’t choreographed, I don’t know what to do with myself. Especially with people watching. However, when the person next to me is listening to different music, they have no idea if I’m on the beat, or if my moves make sense, or if I’m just doing my own thing. I danced for 4 hours straight, and since I didn’t have a great week in terms of eating, that was definitely a major contributor to my weight loss this week. There’s a silent party every two weeks in my area, so I’ll definitely be going back soon!

Weight: 270 pounds
Lost this week: 1.6
Lost so far: 12
Pounds to goal 1 (5% loss): 2.1

Double Digits (Weigh In 10)

I think I can call myself officially back in the swing of things. I meal prepped this week, bought healthy snacks I’d like to have in my desk drawers, and focused on eating only when I was hungry. It showed on the scale again, which is gratifying! This week’s challenge is getting back into the gym. Lifting was going really well, and I want to keep on that! Update on how that’s going next week.

March wasn’t the greatest month for me. I gained twice and didn’t lose as much as I had in February. However, it’s still showing in progress pictures. I’m not feeling the weight loss quite yet, but when I look back at photos, I can see it. That’s pretty cool. I never took progress photos before, and it’s amazing how much it helps. I absolutely recommend taking progress photos, even if it’s just for yourself.

AND on weigh-in 10, I am officially down over 10 pounds! Double digits! I want to push really hard next week, because I really want to keep that weight lost above double digits. I’m starting with a workout tonight as well as a fun trip to the local Japanese supermarket for some ingredients for the recipe post later this week.

Short post this week, but that’s how progress is sometimes. I kept going. And that’s great.

Weight: 271.6 pounds
Lost this week: 1.4
Lost so far: 10.4
Pounds to goal 1 (5% loss): 3.7

Progress Pictures:

Mixed Persian Frittata (Kuku Sabzi…sort of)

I’ve talked before about the Persian restaurant where I used to work in college. Persian food remains one of my favorite cuisines, and I still have cravings for it all the time! Around Persian New Year, the restaurant would serve a special dish called Kuku Sabzi. Kukus are a bit like frittatas – egg dishes that are great to clean produce and cheeses out of your fridge. Kuku Sabzi is packed full of herbs that make it bright green, which is probably what makes it my favorite Kuku recipe.

Recently, my mother sent me a recipe for cauliflower Kuku! I work right next to a Trader Joes and have been coming home with their bags of riced cauliflower frequently. I’m always looking for new ways to use it since I don’t love it on its own. It’s great for adding bulk to more calorie-dense recipes (and someday I’ll manage to successfully make cauliflower pizza).

I decided to merge the two and pare them down to ingredients I could find much more easily while maintaining the awesome flavor I love. This is by no means a traditional dish, but it’s still tasty and a serving size is a pretty bulky quarter of the entire recipe! It keeps well in the fridge and is still delicious cold in a sandwich. Hello, easy on-the-go breakfast. With the olive oil, this meal is very balanced, which I sorely need! I hit my carbs without a second thought, but I surprisingly struggle with hitting fats. If you don’t have that issue, you can switch out the whole eggs for egg substitute and/or reduce the olive oil and use non-stick spray to sauté the onions.

Ingredients:

2 tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1.5 tbsp. minced garlic
1 16 oz. package riced cauliflower
8 eggs
1 tbsp. baking powder
½ tsp. ground cardamom
¼ tsp. ground cumin
½ tsp. ground turmeric
1 cup chopped parsley
1 cup chopped cilantro
1 cup chopped dill
Salt and pepper to taste
Non-stick spray

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 F.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat and add the onion. Stir, then add the garlic. Sauté until onions start to turn translucent.img_5518
  3. Add cauliflower to the pan and stir. I sprayed a bit of olive oil spray on top to help coat the whole mixture. Cook, stirring occasionally until cauliflower is cooked (it will become slightly translucent and golden), about 5 minutes. Remove pan from heat and set aside.
  4. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, baking powder, spices, salt, and pepper. Add the herbs and whisk lightly to combine. Slowly stir in the cauliflower, onions, and garlic.img_5517
  5. Spray a 9” by 12” baking pan with non-stick spray (I used olive oil spray). Pour in egg mixture.img_5519
  6. Bake until center is set and edges start to pull away from the pan, 20-25 minutes, depending on your oven.img_5521
  7. Allow to cool slightly before slicing into 6 segments. This is delicious at any temperature, but I prefer it warm with lavash or pita bread. Enjoy!

Macros:

Calories: 201
Protein: 12 g
Carbohydrates: 10 g
Fat: 13 g

Halfway (Weigh In 9)

I didn’t write an entry last week because I honestly forgot. Which sort of shows you where my motivation has been. Last week, I was up another .4 pounds for a total of 275.4. Due to an enormous amount of stress, I was back to ready meals and skipping the gym. I’d come home from my full-time job, work on Etsy orders, and crash. My partner would find me curled up on the couch and gently prod me to go to bed. Gaining for one week is suboptimal but generally easily reversed. Gaining two weeks in a row is the beginning of a pattern that I didn’t want to fall into again.

Last week marked the halfway point of the Fittest Loser competition. I honestly haven’t thought about it much, as my focus is on the long haul. I started before the competition started and will finish long after. Regardless, though, that final weigh-in day is looming. The initial weigh-in also measured our blood cholesterol and blood sugar. Those were a real wake-up for me. Being overweight is something I’ve always known and lived with, but blood levels were a shock and indicative of immediate health risk. I want to be able to look at those results and see a real change in these 12 weeks.

This week, I made small steps like I did when I was first starting. I went to the gym and incorporated walking-related activities on the weekends. I tracked everything. I inched back into cooking my own meals, if a bit more simple than my previous bowls. Whole wheat pasta, chicken sausage, and sauce I can manage to dump into a pot even on my busiest days. I separated smoothie ingredients into individual bags in the freezer to make it as easy as possible in the morning to get some micronutrients, fiber, and protein. Small steps while still enjoying myself and being flexible. I had chicken tenders this week because the chicken tenders at the restaurant near my house are delicious.

It’s been working. I was honestly surprised when I stepped on the scale today. I was dreading it, afraid that since I’ve been out of the gym, I’ve continued the upward trend. However, it turns out getting the rest you need makes a difference. Since last week, I’ve lost three times what I gained in two weeks.

I’ll be back to cooking more exciting meals within the next week, so we should be back up to two posts a week shortly. Thank you guys for sticking with me!

Weight: 273.0 pounds
Lost this week: 2.4
Lost so far: 9.0
Pounds to goal 1 (5% loss): 5.1

What Health Means (Weigh-In 8)

I gained weight this week.

I had to put that first, to internalize it. I gained a little bit of weight, which is never fun, but happens. It was a rough week. I went from a stomach bug to a cold, both of which left me craving nutrient-dense comfort food without being able to work out. I’ve felt pretty generally gross this week, and it showed in my progress.

Despite wanting to work out, I chose to get some rest. Several things in my life are in turmoil right now. I know I will be fine eventually, but in the meantime, I am scrambling to stay on top of everything. I haven’t been sleeping, I haven’t been eating as balanced as I’d like to, and I haven’t felt like I had time to relax. So I took how awful I was feeling as a sign from my body to calm the heck down. And I did.

I mentioned to a team member this morning that I was worried about our weigh-in, as I hadn’t been able to work out. She immediately turned it around. “This challenge is about health – that includes taking the time off to heal when you need it. Just as long as you go back.” So today, I’m still shaking off the time change sleepiness (seriously, why), but my workout bag is in the front seat of my car. I’m pushing to make sure I hit my macros and drink enough water. Next week, I will have lost weight, but more importantly, I will feel healthier.

Weight: 275.0 pounds
Lost this week: -0.4
Lost so far: 7.0
Pounds to goal 1 (5% loss): 7.1

Progress. (Weigh-In 7)

It’s crazy that it’s only been a month. In February, I joined a gym, started lifting, cleaned up my diet, rediscovered a love of cooking, and ultimately found a balance I haven’t felt in years. I also lost 7 pounds, but at this point, that’s sort of a footnote.

I still had some bad days. Work is hectic and definitely isn’t slowing down soon. My Etsy shop has experienced an exciting (but stressful) boost. The difference is in the approach – I turned a frustrating day around with a run and an arm session. I have the energy to work on my shop even after a long day thanks to balanced, yummy food. The trick now is to keep that momentum, keep making and sticking to the changes that work for me.

Speaking of changes, dropping popcorn worked. I lost more weight this week, and I ate more wholesome food instead of straight carbs. That said, am I giving up my popcorn forever? Hahahahaha no. I learned I definitely eat popcorn out of boredom instead of genuine hunger frequently, but not all the time. On Saturday, I actively wanted popcorn. Not just something to eat, not even a salty snack, I specifically wanted popcorn. It’s frustrating because when you have a craving, nothing else will quite satisfy what you’re looking for. I’m definitely looking forward to a bowl tonight – but the kernels and butter will be measured, not eyeballed. And it will be just as satisfying when eaten in a reasonable serving.

This was a great week, and I’m blown away looking at the progress photos. I haven’t really seen progress in myself yet just looking in the mirror, but looking at the photos, I definitely do. This is why progress photos are so important! So here is the comparison from the end of January to the first week of March.

Weight: 274.6 pounds
Lost this week: 2.0
Lost so far: 7.4
Pounds to goal 1 (5% loss): 6.7

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