Sunday, August 14, 2016

Poached eggs atop sauteed leeks, baby bella mushrooms, and zucchini - Plus, updates!!!

With my new found refocus on my weight loss goals - my inspiration in the kitchen has also come back full force, which I am grateful for, as it's been a while. Bj and I have been continuing on our low carb path - and this past week I lost another 6.6 lbs. I am officially 109 lbs down from my starting highest weight.

This past week I have absolutely been ** killing it ** at Plant Armstrong (home gym). I've been doing a mix of kick boxing, weight training, cardio/aerobic. I really like the kick boxing the best. There is something really satisfying about punching the strike bag and kicking the crap out of the pads Bj holds for me to practice with. The best part is - I WANT TO work out. I look forward to it. I look forward to feeling how hard my heart is pumping that I can HEAR IT in my ears. I look forward to the sweat, and the heat, and the static energy in my veins. And, yes, I'll admit it... I've turned into quite the self absorbed self loving narcissist. I am fascinated in the ways my body and face are changing. And, while I may be a good stones throw from my end goal - I love how I'm looking. I feel that I LOOK healthier. And happier.

I never in a million years ever thought I'd be ok with having my picture taken during a work out - let alone posting them on line. But, I'm proud of these. They are progress. They are proof that I'm keeping to my word, and I'm following through on the promises I'm making to myself. So what if my hair is messy and I have fat arms? Who gives a shit? I'm a work in progress.

During the times that I'm not absolutely rocking it in my jammies and home gym - Bj and I have been cooking deliciousness squared. The exercise we do means absolutely NOTHING if the food we put in our mouths is garbage. We make sure to spend a good amount of time being picky about what we make. Tonight, I have to say, was some of the best food I've ever tasted. Not just because I made it - but because the simple ingredients are what truly make a dish.

Poached eggs atop sautéed Leeks, Portabella mushrooms, and Zucchini

1 large leek - out leaves removed, tops removed, and the roots removed. Keep just the white bulb just into the green part of the leaves. I sliced the leeks into rounds, then cut in half to make half moons. Separate and soak the chopped leeks in a bowl of water. Leeks grow in very sandy dirt, and grit will get in between the rings. You will want the dirt to settle to the bottom of the water bowl, and with a slotted spoon, remove the leeks and dry on a paper towel. Use about 1/2 cup for this recipe. Save the rest for another dish.

3 Baby portabella mushrooms - chopped into bite size pieces

1 small zucchini - chopped into bite size pieces

In a sautee pan, spray with coconut oil - and sautee veg until the leeks take on a nice caramelized flavor, the bellas have shrunk down in size, and the zucchini is fork tender. Be sure to season with salt, pepper, and parsley.

While the veg is sautéing, bring water to a boil in a small sauce pan. GENTLY place two eggs in the boiling water, making sure to not move the eggs around to cause the whites to separate. Let them sit, and turn the heat down to low. Gently spoon water over the tops of the eggs to ensure they cook properly all the way around. Cook for 3-4 minutes or until the whites are no longer jiggly.

With a slotted spoon, remove the poached eggs and allow them to strain on a paper towel. Plate the vegetables, and top with your two poached eggs. Sprinkle with additional salt, pepper, and parsley.

I like my yolks to still be soft... so that it creates a sauce over the vegetables. This dish is creamy, rich, and comforting.

Eating these real, whole foods makes me feel better... and I don't have any guilt after I'm done. I don't think to myself "I just ate such and such, and now I have to work out twice as hard because of it". Make what you put in your body work for you and your goals. Make it delicious, make it fun, and make it healthy. Healthy doesn't mean flavorless and boring. Be creative in the kitchen, and just have fun. You'll be surprised at what you can come up with.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

What a difference a year and 4 months can make

I don't really take many "progressive pictures". But tonight I was going through old photos of when my husband and I started our journey and I can't believe how different I look from when we first started a year and 4 months ago to now. I still have a ton of weight to lose... but that's ok. The scale is going in the right direction - even if it is slow. I'll take what I can get.

Having PCOS has caused a lot of road blocks and plateaus, but I haven't allowed that to completely derail where I'm going, and what my end goal is. So, here is a "before" or starting picture - a "Sweaty selfie" we took on one of our work out walks - the other picture is from a couple days ago.

I feel like I'm not even the same person as the old picture anymore. I'm someone that is more confident, happier, healthier, and much more positive. The changes weren't just the food addiction and making healthier choices - but it has also been an exhaustingly mental, emotional, and spiritual journey for me as well.

I'm 36 years old, and for the first time in my life I finally like "me". Not just the physical me - but the person I'm becoming by adapting a healthier life style. In the beginning, it wasn't easy. I wasn't always nice to myself. I was critical and worried (constantly) about making the wrong choices. I'd sometimes get into my own head, and I'd derail myself from making progress. It wasn't until I stopped (mostly) caring about the scale that I started to see movement again.

Getting healthy has to be a personal choice that you make for yourself. You can't do this for someone else. Not your family, your husband, or even your kids. You have to love yourself enough to say your life is worth more to you than that donut, or cheese burger, or that addiction. You have to WANT to be healthy. You have to want to live.

I'm not going to sit here and tell you I've been a perfect Angel for the past year and a half. I haven't been. I've had temper tantrums and ate my donut out of spite for myself. There were days that I wanted to say "fuck it" and throw in the towel. You know what haunts me, though?

That burning, searing pain in my leg that prevented me from walking. The idea of leaving my husband, my family, and my friends behind in my wake if I were to die because of my poor choices. The thought that I will some day become a burden to a care taker who won't be able to move me because of my size. Those things strike fear in my heart like you can not even begin to imagine.

But I'm worth enough to myself to want to be healthy. To WANT to live. Because what I was doing for 35 years before all this wasn't living. I existed. I was miserable, and cranky, and had nothing to look forward to in my life. Now, I have goals, and dreams, and I want to see the world. You can't do that (Easily) as an obese person.

Anyway, I'm sorry I'm long winded. If you're ever in a place where you think you're not getting anywhere - KEEP PUSHING. The scale doesn't dictate your life, who you are, or where you're going. It's just a measure of mass - but it can't measure your heart. Keep fighting - you're worth it - and I can finally say with full confidence - I believe this to be true for myself, too!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Poached egg and Artichoke salad

Poached eggs has to be my second favorite way to have eggs - my first being fried over medium. Poached eggs, when done correctly, are positively divine. I find bringing salted water to a boil, with a splash of vinegar helps to prevent the egg white from separating from the yolk in the cooking process. I also swirl a large spoon to make a whirl pool in the boiling water before (Gently) dropping an egg in the water. Continue to swirl the water to keep the egg whites nicely tight together. Once the whites are set, strain the eggs on a paper towel.

To assemble I used a small jar of marinated artichoke hearts, sliced cherry tomatoes, and two pieces of crumbled bacon. Low carb, low calorie, fully satisfying meal for brunch.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Anxiety - the ugly truth

The other night I had one of the worst anxiety / panic attacks that I've had in a very long time. I think the last time I had a panic attack like this was 12 or 13 years ago. I've been on and off anti-anxiety medication since 1999. It helps, somewhat, but really drugs only help to suppress symptoms - they don't fix root cause. And lets face it - I've had a lot of shit go down in my life that has added to this anxiety disorder. So, when I have one of these slightly scary attacks, it's a big deal. I've noticed in the past maybe 4 to 6 weeks I've been really on edge. Not over anything in particular, because these kind of disorders don't really like to follow rules or patterns - but I've been really "off". I've been way more bitchy the past few weeks than I have been in a long time - and it's been pretty evident in not just my personal life at home with my husband - but it's filtered into my every day life at work, with friends, on line, with myself, etc. To be honest, it's put me in a dark place inside myself that is a little scary for me to be. I become irrational, and agitated, vengeful, and jump to conclusions (whether right or wrong) quickly. But, I'm at least recognizing the signs that I'm some what spiraling out of control.

One of the biggest hurdles I still face is food addiction. Normally food has always been my best friend. It's been my comfort, my happiness, my sadness, my "shoulder to lean on", my excuse to continue being unhealthy. And the other night, while in the middle of this really terrifying panic attack - I thought about eating. I thought that if I just ate something - I would feel better. But I didn't.

I'll try to describe to you what having a panic disorder is like. I don't know that words can adequately describe it - but I'll try.

It's the loneliest feeling in the world. When the attack first started coming on - I was on line. I quickly went through my cell phone looking for someone to call. And there were people - but then this voice (the demon as I like to call it) repeatedly told me put the phone down. No one gives shit about you. No one wants to hear you sniffling, and whining, and your sorry excuse for a life. No one wants to be called at 10pm on a work night to be disrupted by someone as worthless and meaningless as me to talk me off the ledge, because I'm such a failure at being a well put together adult. It felt as though my heart was being strangled, and my chest was being crushed under slabs of stone, and that my brain was going to turn to sludge and fall out of my nose. This went on for a good hour. And I cried. I sat in my living room, on my sofa, starring at my phone. And I just cried. I felt so alone. And what's worse is I was making myself feel that way. But at the time, I felt so helpless to fight against this panic inside my brain. After about an hour, I went upstairs. Normally, I would just crawl in bed, and cry as quietly as I possibly can to not wake up Bj. This night, however, I didn't do that. I woke him up.

Bj has never had to experience a panic attack of this magnitude with me. I was in a fit of frenzy and hysteria - and I was violently convulsing. He tried to hold me down to stop the shaking - tried calming me - but that "demon" in my head just got louder, and louder, and louder.

And the thing that this particular "demon" likes to say over and over again is "YOU ARE WORTHLESS. YOU SHOULD JUST KILL YOURSELF".

The voice of that demon? It's mine. It's never some foreign unknown voice. It's always my voice.

Bj didn't let me go. He held me until I fell asleep, and it was the safest I have felt in a long time. Specifically, safe from myself. I find killing myself with food is my preferred way of "suicide". And I think, really, that's what I've been doing for the past 20 years. I've just been killing myself to shut that voice up in my head, and by proxy, killing "me". Food really had taken over my life.

The scary thing about being a food addict is - there isn't true "Rehab" from it. You have to eat. Humans require food to sustain life. I'm not saying that food addiction is worse than drug or alcohol or gambling, etc... I think they are all equally destructive. But the one difference is - you HAVE TO have food. You don't have to have drugs, or alcohol, or gamble - to sustain life. So for me, dealing with this food addiction - it's sometimes paralyzing. Finding a balance between eating food you like to eat, and eating healthy, is sometimes a hard balance to find.

But the fact that I didn't succumb to my desire to stuff my face to "eat the pain away" the other night - that's a big step for me. I have pretty weak will power most of the time.

I think that there has been such a negative stigma in society surrounding mental health issues that most people are afraid to talk about this kind of thing. But, I think as a society - the more we talk about it, the more we bring these kinds of disorders to light - the better chance there is for us to heal from it, and help others face and deal with their "Demons", too. I'm not ashamed that I have a anxiety disorder. I'm not ashamed that I have depression, and struggle with a food addiction. I'm not ashamed that I'm still struggling to find my feet in this world. It's my journey, and I'm not ashamed of that.

I've been thinking about getting a new tattoo for some time. But I didn't know what I wanted to get. Putting something permanent on your body is an expression of who you are through art. It should mean something to you - it's part of your story. And I finally found the perfect piece that I want to have inked on me.

This will be going on my inner left forearm. I think it's a good reminder to myself when I'm in these dark places in my head that it doesn't matter what lies this "demon" tries to tell me - I AM enough. I am perfectly imperfect. And I'm a work in progress. I will be free of this addiction. I will succeed at being happy. I will be me. Whatever the cost.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Low Carb Cauli-Tots - so delicious!

I can liken these to McDonalds hash browns... Lets face it - that's about the only good tasting thing at McDonalds besides their fries. I was craving tater tots in the worst way the other night, and my husband came up with this brilliant recipe. It is so good, and so satisfying. I will never have to sneak a McDonalds hash brown ever again.

Here's what you'll need:

3 cups cauliflower rice - steamed in microwave for 2-3 minutes
2 tbspn butter, melted
1 cup pork rind crumbs
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
pinch garlic powder
pinch onion powder
1 egg

After steaming cauli-rice in microwave, add melted butter and egg - beat well. Add cheese, pork rind crumbs, and seasoning - mix until completely incorporated. If the mixture is too wet - add more pork rind crumbs. Mold in hands into disks - and put on parchment lined baking sheet that was sprinkled with additional pork rind crumbs and parmesan cheese. Bake 15 minutes 375 degrees, then flip over and bake an additional 5 minutes.


Sunday, June 19, 2016

Chocolate coconut pinwheel sandwich cookies - Low Carb

There are days when all I want is to eat a huge chocolate bar, and while that is not an option - finding alternate ways of having the snacks you crave is possible. I love chocolate. I love cookies. I love cookies that are chocolate. From that love, these little chocolate pinwheel sandwich cookies were born.

What you're going to need:

1 Stick butter, softened at room temperature (salted)
1 Cup sugar substitute (we use Pyre which is a Stevia based sugar substitute)
1 tsp Vanilla extract
3 Large eggs
2 Tbsp coconut flour
2 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder (Use the lowest carb one you can find - ultimately, unsweetened cocoa powder should be zero carb. Some have fillers - check for that)
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
3 Tbsp water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat butter, sugar, and vanilla together until fluffy. Add cocoa powder. Mix. Add eggs and beat until incorporated. Mix in coconut flour, and coconut flakes. Once this is all combined, see how stiff the batter is after sitting for 2-3 minutes. If it's really stiff - add 1 Tbsp water at a time to the batter to thin out to make a consistency that will work in a piping bag, but still hold form when piped.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. With a spatula, scoop cookie batter into a piping bag fitted with a star tip. If you don't have a piping bag and tips, just put the batter inside a large zip lock bag, push down into 1 corner, and snip the corner with a pair of scissors. Pipe 1 inch round cookies onto the parchment paper. You will get approximately 50 cookies. I actually got around 56 when I made this the first time.

Bake for 5-7 minutes. Check the cookies half way through - if they still have a shiny appearance they are not ready yet. Touch them, if they are dry but still springy - they are ready to be taken out of the oven. Allow them to cool for a few minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.

Meanwhile... make the filling. You will need 1/4 cup sugar free chocolate syrup used for ice cream. I keep mine in the fridge which makes it really nice and thick. To that, add 1/4 cup butter, and 1/4 cup cream cheese. Beat together until creamy and soft. Do not melt the butter or the cream cheese. You need all the ingredients to be solid - not melted. Add 1 Tbsp sugar substitute at a time, and add until it reaches your desired sweetness.

Once the frosting is done, and the cookies are cooled - spread a little of the frosting on one of the cookie halves, and place a second cookie on top of that. Once all done, I put the cookies in the fridge to allow the frosting centers to set.

Each sandwich cookie is approximately 1.5 net carbs per sandwich cookie. These are a perfect little treat when you need something sweet.

Friday, June 10, 2016

I have brothers, three.

Because I'm the youngest of 4 children, it's no surprise that not many realize that I have three older brothers. Specially, half brothers if you look at blood lines and give a shit about those kind of definitions. I am ten years younger than my youngest brother, and 14 years younger than my oldest.

I only know one of my brothers. And to say I "know" him is probably a stretch. He is the one that I had closest proximity to growing up. I don't know what his favorite food is, his sports teams, his favorite band (I think Metallica?), his favorite color, or what his best subject in school was. I couldn't tell you what his dreams and hopes were growing up as a kid, and if the life he has now is all he dreamed it would be. And that breaks my heart. Because I love him. I love all my brothers. But I don't know a single one of them.

I've tried pushing aside for many years my disappointment in not having a tight family unit my entire life. And honestly, there have been times that I felt like the unwanted sibling. The one that kind of just showed up and changed their lives. I'm only their half sister - but I don't feel like a sister at all. And God I wish I did. There are so many times in my life that I needed (WANTED) my brothers to be there for me. To be able to pick up the phone and call them. To share with them my accomplishments, my failures, to seek advice - and most importantly, be part of their lives, and the lives they've built.

In the past few years my middle brother Bob (the one that grew up in Vermont with me) and I have been working on rebuilding our relationship - and I'm so grateful for that. I've missed so much - watching his kids grow up - watching them start to build families of their own. And those times that I've been able to spend with him, I feel the love that a brother has for a sister, and likewise, the love a sister has for her brother. I've missed that. I love the times I've been able to spend with him, and his family - I cherish those times, because they've been so few. I look at old family photos of when I was young, and my brothers were almost always with me in those photos.

My oldest brother didn't move to Vermont with us in 1982. He stayed in New Jersey. He was 16, and was finishing highschool, and had a life there. My two other brothers did move to Vermont - but my youngest brother moved back to New Jersey when I was 6 or 7. My memories of Richard are limited to me usually annoying the shit out of him, or him drawing. He was (IS) an incredible artist. I wish I had a fraction of the talent he has. My middle brother and I are the only ones that remained in Vermont. And I think that killed Bob a bit inside, to not have his brothers with him, too.

I look at us all now - grown adults with very different and separate lives - and I realize as much as I don't know them - they don't know me, either. I don't know if I make them proud, am a disappointment, or if they couldn't care either way. I haven't seen Richard in probably 10 years (maybe more), and my oldest brother Bill I haven't seen since 2012.

How is that I can miss people I don't even know, the way that I do? Is it the blood that binds? Or that inherent need to a family connection... It doesn't make it hurt less. In fact, it scares me that the older we get, and the more that time separates us - the less chance there is to build a family relationship.

I know I keep going back to this - but, it's the only thing I can compare to. Jordan, who passed away in March, was the youngest of the 4 Smith boys. His passing had such a profound affect on not just his family, but his community. Their family has a bond unlike any I've ever witnessed. And it terrifies me that some day - we're all going to have to attend one of our siblings funerals (because lets face it - we're not going to live forever) and I won't know what to say. I won't have funny stories to share, I won't have memories that will tie with any one else.

And they would not have anything they could say about me. I'm Tracy. I'm their youngest sibling. I live in Pennsylvania with my husband BJ. I have cats, and rabbits, and I like to cook. Beyond that, I don't think they have much else to go on. And it hurts. God it hurts. Because I so much want them to want me as their sister. And I don't know if I'll ever have that - and honestly - I'm so terrified of the rejection - I haven't reached out because I'm too scared of not being wanted.

A few weeks ago my therapist wanted me to write a letter to each of my siblings. I've sat down to write these letters more times than I can express - and the words just won't come. I love people who are phantoms to me. I miss memories that never happened. I long for a bond that I might never have. And I mourn the relationships that never existed.

I guess that's why I'm so intent on living in the here and now. I've already missed so much - I don't want to miss more. And even if I never get to build a relationship with Bill and Richard - I'm so very grateful to build one with Bob. He has no idea how much I've needed him, and wanted him in my life. And how much I've missed having that connection to another person who shares family history with me. I haven't been a perfect sister, sister in law, aunt, or cousin - and I can't reverse time to fix things. All I can do now is make sure I'm as present as I can be, and not waste an opportunity.

I have brothers, three. And they all mean so very much to me. I wish they knew... I wish I was important, too.