Ironic Cooking

I have never been much of a cook. I know how to make a few key things really, really well, and can produce edible but not very interesting food the rest of the time. Here are the things I’m known for:

  • turkeyThanksgiving turkey – I’ve been cooking the turkey for my family the last few years. It is my mother’s recipe, so I guess she gets the credit, but I do it really, really well.
  • Roast chicken – Pretty much like a turkey, but smaller and takes a lot less time.
  • Sea Bass – I grill it or cook it in the oven and it is delicious. My trick is wrapping it in foil so it never dries out.
  • Pea Soup – This one is my father’s recipe, but I may have improved it a bit. I use the slow cooker and it takes about two days to make.
  • Pork chops / Chicken cutlet’s  – I basically cook them the same way. They are fried, and delicious.
  • Rice and beans – this is a new one for me. Again, I use the slow cooker, lots of garlic, and adobe. Everyone loves it.

That’s pretty much it. I make spaghetti from a jar, and heat up lots of other things, but don’t consider myself much of a cook.  I don’t hunt out recipes or enjoy cooking shows and my eyes tend to glaze over when people start talking about recipes.

As a single parent, this pretty much means my daughter hasn’t had too much cooking instruction. She took a semester of gourmet cooking in high school, but without having a chance to try everything at home, she doesn’t remember much. And she really wants to learn. So when I saw an ad for plated in my Facebook feed, I checked it out, for her. And it has been fabulous.

Here’s the premise: You purchase dinner for two (or more I guess) and they send you all the ingredients and the recipe. And voila! You have a gourmet dinner that you prepared yourself.  Most of the meals take between 45 min to an hour to cook (it usually takes us a little longer than the suggested time) and there are usually plenty of choices in the 400-600 calories per serving range. Many meals are a main entrée and a side dish, although there is some variation. I try to stay on my healthy eating program, but there are sometimes I have to stray a bit. The good news is  that you are cooking exactly the right amount for two people, so even if one of the recipes is higher calorie, you aren’t going back for seconds.

The first time we tried it we really didn’t know what we were doing, but we had so much fun doing it together and amazingly the food came out terrific. Since then, we have ordered about 16 different “plates” and its been a lot of fun. Some of the recipes are simple to do. We call it “re-plating” when we purchase the ingredients ourselves and then follow a recipe we have already done.  It is so cool that every recipe starts from scratch. If you need lemon, you zest a lemon. If you need rosemary, you pull the leaves of the rosemary plant and mince them up.

IMG_2262Hands down our favorite recipe is the pizza with vodka sauce, which is one of the less “healthy” choices we have picked. (I didn’t have any vodka, so we made the sauce with Grand Mariner, and it wassoooooo good.) We also really loved the Red calamari soup, the smashed fingerlings potatoes, and pretty much anytime we get to eat meat on a stick. We have tried foods we never would have tried before, like dandelion salad or Pork Tonkatsu. There are plenty of ingredients we never heard of or can’t pronounce. We have cooked Greek, Japanese, Basque, French, and Turkish meals.

The best part is doing something fun with my daughter. We are learning together, which is great for her. Usually I know more about something than she does, but in cooking we are about even. She does most of the chopping. I read the recipe aloud (multiple times, usually) and sometimes we screw things up (like the time we put the mixed up where the cucumber and the rosemary were supposed to go. No worries, it still tasted great).

So why is this cooking ironic? Because right now I’m following the most boring, uninteresting food plans of my life. I have been successfully getting healthier and losing weight largely because I eat the same thing day in and day out.  And I choose this same time in my life to improve my cooking. It actually works out well. The only thing that makes the boring, eat the same thing food plan work is knowing that I can enjoy food sometimes without everything going out of whack.  Also, in a way, these recipes do follow my food plan. All of them use natural, whole ingredients. I try to avoid meals with wheat and flour, but if I get one from time to time it is one small serving in one isolated meal. Also, as I get better and better at cooking, I’m learning to improve my go-to boring meals. Instead of just grilling a chicken breast plain, I marinate it in soy sauce, garlic, and Dijon mustard.  Rather than just stir-frying my kale and mushrooms, I add in a bit of lemon juice and garlic.

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All You Need Are Running Shoes

I'm on my fourth pair of these awesome running shoes. I was starting to get a small tear, but I emailed the company and they are sending me a replacement. I love a company that stands behind their product.

I’m on my fourth pair of these awesome running shoes. I was starting to get a small tear, but I emailed the company and they are sending me a replacement. I love a company that stands behind their product.

You know why running is such a great sport? Because you can do it anywhere and all you need is running shoes. Unlike other sports, like hockey or football or even golf. Those sports require lots of expensive gear just to get started. But not running.

You can run anywhere as long as you have a decent pair of running shoes. And a sports bra, obviously. Yup, that’s it. Just running shoes and a sports bra. Well, and you need clothes to run in, like shorts or sweatpants. And if you can get lycra pants, that’s even better.

So running shoes, bra, and lycra pants and a shirt. That’s it. Easy-peasy.

Well, if you are going to run year round you will need different clothes for hot and cold months. Tank tops for summer. Long sleeves and long johns for winter. But you are saving so much money by not being in those expensive sports, so a few different running outfits, running shoes, sports bra. And definitely some running socks, because I don’t want blisters.

So shoes, bra, clothes, socks and the open road. Best sport ever. Just me and the few things I wear and I can run, run, run. Well, maybe a stop watch to time yourself, right?

If you are running around a track, a stop watch works great, but on the open road it sure would help to have a pedometer or GPS (or both) to track your distance. So that’s it: running shoes, bra, clothes, socks, stop watch, pedometer, and GPS. And maybe an MP3 player to listen to some tunes. And of course headphones. The kind that hook over your ear so they don’t fall off while you run. You know, with this much gear I should probably just use my smart phone and download a few apps to help out.

Running shoes, bra, clothes, socks, stop watch, pedometer, smart phone (GPS, MP3, and apps) and headphones. But that smart phone is kind of heavy to carry, so I should probably pick up a belt or armband carrier. That will help my time. Just a few simple things.

I'm always amazed at how much I manage to spend on this sport.

I’m always amazed at how much I manage to spend on this sport.

That’s it: shoes, bra, clothes, socks, stop watch, pedometer, smart phone, headphones, and running belt. And that’s all I really need. Except  on those really long runs, when I need some type of hydration system because getting dehydrated is the last thing I want.

And sunglasses and maybe a hat if it’s sunny out. And one of those elastic bands to keep the sunglasses from falling down my nose.

And sunscreen, because I don’t want skin cancer.

And bug spray for when I run the trails.

And reflectors for when I run after dark.

Boy, I sure am glad I don’t participate in one of those gear-heavy sports where you spend all your money on new equipment.

But I sure would like a heart rate monitor.

 

Run For Your Life (literally, it seems)

runninglegs

My take-away: Not exercising is way more damaging to health than being fat. Don’t exercise to get thin; exercise to get strong. Strong is healthy at any size.

So while reading one of my favorite blogs, I ran across an article from the Los Angeles Times Science Section claims that if you can run for 5 minutes a day, you may add years to your life.  The article is actually based on a real scientific study (unlike many Internet articles) from the Journal of the American College of Cardiology which found that running had a positive impact on your life expectancy.

Put another way, non-runners were 24% more likely than runners to die during the study period. In fact, the mortality risk associated with not running was greater than the mortality risk associated with being overweight or obese (16%), having a family history of cardiovascular disease (20%), or having high cholesterol (6%).

Interestingly enough, you don’t have to be very fast or run very far: According to the study, just running 30-50 minutes per week made a big difference. Also, 15 minutes of brisk walking had a similar positive effect.

Of course this is just one study, and there are limits (“Most of the adults who were tracked were college-educated, middle-class or upper-middle-class whites.”) but it does seem to support some of the other research I’ve been seeing and supporting the getting healthy at every size campaign that many promote. (Not to be confused with Size Acceptance, which is also important).

I did find another study that said you can overdo it; high-mileage runners (over 3 hours per week) have shorter lifespans, so that’s something to keep in mind. I would like to see more studies like this, and to expand the studies to see if swimming, biking, or other forms of exercise make such a difference.

The Shame Game

First, read this lovely blog post:

Unashamedly, Unapologetically FAT – a response to Linda Kelsey.

If you want more on this topic, read Dances with Fat: Unapologetically Fat

selfloveBoth authors do a great job at refuting an utterly shamefully article written by Linda Kelsey. I’m not linking to the original article, because I don’t promote hate. If you choose to read the original, be warned. It is ghastly and upsetting.

Linda’s original article is  so out of touch with reality that at first I thought it was satire. Her shock that three women would have the nerve to share a bag of crisps was so outrageous that I laughed before realizing she wasn’t kidding.  The biggest crock is that she thinks shaming fat people will make them not want to be fat any more and that she is being brave to say what no one wants to say. Sorry, Linda. Everyone says what you say. They are just wrong.

There is so much evidence that diets don’t work and that yo-yo dieting is more harmful to health than fat. There is no evidence that says making people feel bad about themselves improves their quality of life.

 

Body Positive Video

Love, love, love this video that a friend posted on my FB.  As I get closer and closer to 50 I have to face up to how my body has been changing. I’m healthier now than I have ever been in my life. Even at my thinnest, I could never have run 4 or 5 miles. Even in my teen years I never ate this well or felt this strong. At the same time, there are lines in my face that were never there before, and as I lose weight my skin doesn’t bounce back the way it once might have. But I actually like how these things look on me.  I feel like the survivor that I am, something I never had a sense of in my younger life.

I’ve seen a few  other body positive YouTube videos over the past couple weeks, but haven’t posted them for one reason or another. For example, Meghan Trainor’s All About That Bass, which is cute and catchy, but I feel has some negative “anti-skinny” sentiments. It is just as wrong for women of size to put down women of smaller sizes as is the reverse. The Militant Baker says it best, “Bodies rest at different weights naturally; some of us are small and some are large. Simply a fact of life…the harm comes from thinking that they must to be found worthy and the journey that follows. The journey paved with failure, self loathing, perceived inadequacy and more.”

Donnalou Steven’s Older Ladies  is different, in my opinion, because it never puts down the opposite. Instead, it celebrates our bodies changing due to age, something we all have to deal with at some point. I love how many different bodies she has in her videos, and how lovely they all are.  Throughout the song she celebrates the features that make her who she is now (grey hair, chicken neck, saggy skin) and actually loves those features on herself without taking away from who she was in a younger version. I also just love the repeating verse, “If that’s the reason that you don’t love me then maybe that’s not love!”

Update:

I just found this lovely cover of Meghan Trainor’s video. Ok, so the recording is a little shaky and the tempo just a bit slow, but the young lady has a lovely voice and she really cleans up the lyrics beautifully. (See Meghan, it wasn’t so hard). I also love her responses to the negative comments that of course she received. She is respectful and calm, but maintains her position. Nice work!

Yuck!

A Strong Woman  looks beautiful as she is acts as her heart tells her to plays true to herself isn’t afraid to speak her mind respects herself  is passionate on her own terms treats her body like it belongs to her, not to someone else is the lover of anyone she wants chooses who to love  when to love how to show that love and when to stop loving protects herself when she needs to stands up for herself when she has to and doesn’t put up with this misogynist crap.

 

So, the poem or saying or whatever it is on the left was posted on Facebook by someone I only marginally know. My first instinct was to write a long comment about how icky I think the whole thing is and all the reasons why I think it is icky, but I deleted the comment without posting and clicked away. I do this quite a lot. Many people love to get in long, drawn-out Facebook arguments but that isn’t why I go to Facebook. Basically I like to see pics of my family and friends. Please post more kids, cats, dogs, and vacations. Also tell me how much you need coffee, how little you clean your house, and how funny things happen to you. I live for that stuff. And arguing about politics or feminism or religion just isn’t what I like to do there. So I tend to write these scathing comebacks or long thought out précis and then delete them without ever posting them. Usually that is enough. The process calms me and I can move on and enjoy Facebook.

But this one kind of stuck to me for a few days. It is just so icky on so many levels and the idea that someone posted it as an empowering meme just stuck in my mental craw.  So I dug it up and created the above comeback. I wanted to make the “international no symbol” more pronounced, but then you wouldn’t be able to read the original and see how much it actually sucks. There isn’t one line in the original that doesn’t offend me in some way. Even things that sound good, like “unconditional love” is really just a way of saying put up with my crap because you love me.

I thought about my own daughter as I wrote my response, thinking, what kind of person do I want her to be. I may have said “Be a Good Girl” to her a few times in her life, but what I really want is for her to be a strong, capable woman who can decide who she is and what that means. I don’t want other people’s ideas of what a woman should be, think, or feel influence how she acts, thinks, or feels. I also tried to think of all the different types of women I know (cis, tran, gay, straight, etc.) and tried to include all of them in my response. I hope I was successful. If you can say it better than I, please share!

 

Describe Your Body in One Word

Embrace – The Documentary

Rethinking Before & After Shots

So I saw this pic that went viral last week and I really liked the whole concept. But I didn’t pursue it. So today, I saw that the woman in the photograph is starting a kickstarted campaign to create a documentary about body image. Now there are so many kick-starters now on this topic, but it looks like she is going to make her goal, which is fantastic.

One of the questions she asks women in the video for her kickstarter is “What is one word that describes your body?”  And it is just heart-wrenching to watch woman after woman answer this question: fat, wobbly, fat, disgusting, imperfect, gross. I probably would have answered the same way just a few months ago. But right now I don’t think I would.

I was out running today and I was wearing my new running clothes, which consist of spandex capri pants and active t-shirt. Because I ponder a lot of things when I run I was thinking about how my family reacted when I first showed up in that outfit. People were saying how great I looked, how they can’t believe the transformation over the past six months. Then I was wondering what strangers saw when they see me. In my mind I imagine they are wondering what I am thinking wearing such tight-fitting clothes.

Coincidently, The Militant Baker posted today about this very issue. In her I Wear What I Want post, she extolls the virtues of wearing clothes formerly thought of to be “off-limits” and how this empowers her.

I remember the first time my mother convinced me to buy spandex running pants. She pushed and pushed, swearing it would be fine. It was mortifying because I couldn’t find anything in my size and had to buy men’s pants. (I later found compression pants at Old Navy). When I wore them running for the first time I felt practically naked. I had never word anything like that in public. I really only did it to get my mother to shut up about it. And then I ran in them.

Some days this is me. Some days, not so much, but I'm working towards it!

Some days this is me. Some days, not so much, but I’m working towards it!

Wow. I couldn’t believe the difference a pair of pants could make. No more chaffing. No more worrying if they would slip off during my run. They felt great. And over time, I felt great in them. I started wearing them to the gym as well as on runs. I remember the first time I ran into a store wearing them, after a run. I was embarrassed, at first, but eventually got over it. Now, I feel great in my spandex. It makes me feel strong. It makes me feel powerful. It makes me feel like an athlete. And I really don’t care what anyone else thinks, to tell you the truth.

So, what is one word I would use to describe my body?

 

 

Brooke Refuses to Be Body Shamed

So I came across a post on my Facebook feed: It was about a woman who lost over 170 pounds. She was going to be featured on Shape Magazine’s website, only to be told they wouldn’t use her picture unless she sent one with her stomach covered. I see these things a lot, and wondered how legit the story was, so I researched and came across the original blog: Brooke Not On A Diet.

brooke

The picture on the left was published on Self Success Stories, December, 2012. The picture on the right is Brooke, who they told to cover up!

I was excited at first that Brooke had lost 170 pounds by not dieting, but it turns out she is doing Weight Watchers, which is fine and doesn’t take away from her accomplishment, but it certainly is a diet, in my book.

I liked reading her blog post, because she includes the emails back and forth from Shape, which the original article didn’t include. These emails are very revealing. The reporter from Shape insists that the request has nothing to do with Brooke’s body, but is part of their editorial policy for these types of stories.

Being the fact-checker I am, I found that Shape’s “editorial policy” that doesn’t allow them to post regular people unless “fully clothed” is either a very recent addition, or completely bogus, because I went through their Success Stories.

It seems odd that this magazine is worried about a woman's midriff showing.

It seems odd that this magazine is worried about a woman’s midriff showing.

While it is true that most of the recent pictures show people with covered bellies, I did find a pic of a woman in just a sport’s bra. There were many others of this genre when you went back in time, but it does look like (other than this one pic) all the photos in the last year show people covered up – which seems odd  (but not at all surprising) for a magazine whose covers almost universally show women in bikinis.

Here’s the thing that really struck me, though. I admire Brooke for ability to accept her body as it is. A lot of women would have either covered up or bemoaned that they needed surgery to get rid of the skin, but she stands there proudly, looking beautiful, and stands up to the glossy media giant (they are owned by the same company that publishes The National Enquirer, Start, and The Globe, btw). I love seeing her confidence and admire her ability to tell it like it is.

Update: 5/13/14

Today Show Interview – Watch this video to see Brooke and Shape editor meet on the Today Show. Shape not only apologized (throwing the reporter under the bus in the process), but is also showcasing her (and five other women) in their magazine discussing what happens after weight loss.

Why Fat Acceptance is Important To Me

 

You can be attracted to anyone you like. I recommend you start with yourself.

Why Fat Acceptance is Important To Me

You may think that since I’m exercising and changing my eating habits (please don’t call it a diet) and weighing myself and losing weight, that I must not be part of the fat acceptance movement. You would be wrong.

The Militant Baker, a wonderful writer and activist, has written many of the reasons why in her post: 6 Things That I Understand About The Fat Acceptance Movement. For me, the most important step of this journey I’m on is that I had to stop shaming myself. I had to be able to expand my definition of beauty. I had to look at my scars and see survival. I had to learn to value strength and power. In essence, I had to learn to love myself. I’m still struggling and there are days I beat myself up, but I wouldn’t have gotten here without the Body Positive movement.