So…I Stopped Eating Meat

funny-picture-vegetarian-because-i-hate-vegetables

I haven’t eaten meat for the past three months…well, six months, really, but with a caveat. I stopped eating meat on September 12, 2016. Exactly two months later I made an exception for a gyro, pastitsio, and souvlaki at the local Greek food festival and later meatloaf for dinner. Worth it. Gyros, you guys, come on, gyros. Then I went right back to not eating meat. I had a little bit of meat over Thanksgiving and Christmas, and when I got on the plane to fly back home after the holidays I was done.

Before I move on, let me just do my instructor and other Texas friends favor and yell “HIPPIE!” Yes, yes, I know. I am a hippie.

Going vegetarian was not difficult for me. I’ve done it before, and even during periods when I ate meat, I rarely ate it every day. It’s not so much that I’m giving up meat (and most of the time dairy, but I’m still hanging on to my local farmer’s market eggs), but rather, I’m taking the opportunity to eat a boatload of vegetables and fruits plus keep up the good work with whole grains and nuts. I’m much more likely to make vegetables the star of the meal when meat isn’t an option.

Meat and I just don’t work well together. It tastes good, and I’m daydreaming about a gyro right now as I write this, but it’s not nice to me, especially beef. One year I spent a week with my then-boyfriend’s family at Christmas. While his parents were fabulous cooks, nearly all the meals were centered around their hearty Bolivian diet of beef, white rice, potatoes, and thick bread. By the end of the week I felt very sick, heavy, and unable to digest anything. I felt awful. The starchy carbs didn’t help, but I knew it was the beef that was doing a number on my digestive tract. I’d never craved green vegetables so much in my life.

Sometimes I can’t even get meat down into my unhappy digestive tract. Just about every time I eat beef, chicken, or pork, no matter how tender it is or how tiny of a bite I take, it gets caught in my throat. I’d rather not be strangled by my own food. (How ironic would it be if I choked on a baby octopus?) Plus—and this is a big reason—I’ve seen and read way too much about factory farming and slaughterhouses to in good conscious continue eating meat from nationwide producers. And I still occasionally eat dairy and eggs and own several leather accessories and pieces of furniture so I’m not going to pretend to be absolved of being involved in this process. I do what I can even though it’s minimal. My blog is not my political platform, so I’ll leave it at that. You can learn more on your own if you choose.

I can hear you asking: But you still eat fish, right? NOPE. I hate the taste and smell of fish and never eat it anyway, plus I’m allergic to shellfish, so giving that up was a non-issue. I don’t get people who claim to be vegetarian but proclaim they still eat fish. It’s from an animal, therefore it’s meat nor do I understand that question when I say I follow a vegetarian diet. My brother and I used to argue with our Catholic Sunday school teachers that eating fish on non-meat days didn’t make sense. Have you ever seen a fish gutted and cleaned alive? I’ve seen plenty, and the fish are PISSED. It’s an animal, duh! I guess if I wanted to do penance I’d choke down some fish because I hate it so much. Forgive me, Father for I have sinned, let me just skip the Hail Marys, hold my nose, and eat this disgusting packet of tuna so I can be absolved of my sins…

I feel good! I’ve lost nearly 10 pounds over the past few months. Some of that was due to some unexplained stomach problems, but I think not going to Arby’s and Jack in the Box and eating more fruits and vegetables helped.

But where do I get my protein? I get plenty of protein; I’m just fine. Animal products are not the only source of protein. I still eat eggs, plus avocado, nuts, tofu (to the point that I actually crave it, mmmm!), beans, lentils, almond or coconut milk, seeds, and of course, God’s gift to humanity, peanut butter. More plant-based food sources than you think have protein such as quinoa, steel cut oats, leafy greens, and broccoli…yes, really!

So what DO I eat? More like what DON’T I eat! I eat just about anything other than meat of course, lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and eggs and cheese on occasion (and chocolate…and alcohol). I’m not vegan although my diet ends up being vegan many days. I have plenty of energy for the taekwondo classes I attend 4-6 days a week. And I don’t care what some of these purist fat-phobic hippies in the vegetarian/vegan world say, I’m not giving up olive oil. Not because it’s a source of healthy fat but because I’m ¼ Italian and cook everything with it. I can’t give up olive oil now, not while a picture of my Nonon is glaring at me from my living room mantelpiece.

I try to stay away from refined carbs and processed foods, although I have to have a little bit of the junk poison from time to time…okay, sometimes more than a little bit. I once knew a “vegetarian” who only ate mac & cheese and cheese pizzas so it is possible to avoid meat and still have a very unhealthy diet, but I haven’t quite fallen that low yet…well….Uh…I had a bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch for dinner Sunday night and okay, so I had a grilled cheese sandwich and fries Monday night, but that was after a REALLY hardcore taekwondo workout, shut up, whatever! (Sigh) Was it vegetarian? Yes. Was it full of helpful nutrients? NOPE. Will I eat that stuff on the regular? Nah, probably not. I did put fresh raspberries in my cereal and used an almond/coconut milk blend. That should count for something, right?

During my little meat-eating holiday interlude did I my mother’s delicious Thanksgiving stuffing made with Italian sausage? OH HELL YES. Did I eat her Christmas Beef Wellington? F-ckin’ A, you know I did, and I even took on the job of wrapping the tenderloin pieces in puff pastry. If I go to someone’s house and they make a special meal just for me that includes meat, will I eat it? Yes, I probably will to be polite although I’ll be piling on the veggie side dishes. But 95% of the time I’ll pass on the meat and load up on plants. But then there’s this BBQ place I’ve been stalking for a while. As a Texan it’s my duty to try it out…maybe on my birthday. Just one time.

So what did I eat today? I had egg and veggie tacos for breakfast with some raspberries on the side, brown rice/quinoa pasta with homemade marinara for lunch plus a clementine, and Thai vegetables and tofu with brown rice for dinner and a big fat juicy navel orange afterwards. Yummy and satisfying! (And a tad more healthy than sugary cereal and fries)

Should you go vegetarian? That’s entirely up to you. If you’re into fitness and want to explore a vegetarian diet a good blog to check out for tips is No Meat Athlete by Matt Frazier. Frankly I don’t care what anyone else eats so I’m not going to judge anyone for eating meat. Like sexual orientation, reproductive choices, and religion, what other people eat is none of my business. I just know this works well for me. If you’re looking for something to shake up your diet and help you eat healthier, then consider joining me on the green side and giving a plant-based diet a try.

Chocolate Chip Cookies for Your “Cheat” Days…or Every Day

funny_chocolate_chip_cookie_throw_pillow

While fitness is one of my highest priorities, I haven’t given up my sweet tooth. Luckily I have found the Holy Grail: a recipe for chocolate chip cookies that are both tasty and SLIGHTLY less harmful than the normal processed white flour crap you’d find on the shelf at the grocery store. It can’t be brown rice and vegetables 24/7. You need to have a little fun.

First let me give credit where credit is due. I originally found this recipe on Ambitious Kitchen. (Click here) It all started with some cookies I had at a yoga retreat (you can stop rolling your eyes now.) They were fat, chewy, sweet, and unbelievably yummy…and just happened to be Paleo, but whatever. I couldn’t get the taste out of my mind, so I hunted down a similar and even tastier version on the Ambitious Kitchen website.

How awesome are these cookies?
-They are soft and chewy. Who likes a hard crumbly cookie?
-The dark brown sugar and coconut oil give them a unique taste.
-They’re gluten free thanks to the quinoa flour, and can be dairy and soy free depending on the type of chocolate you use….but, sorry vegans, they do contain eggs. I don’t understand Paleo, so I don’t know if they are or not….nothing against it; I’m just too lazy to research it.
-They are very popular. Other than two people, no one in my family has dietary restrictions and has to avoid wheat and soy. Everyone just likes the cookies because they are THAT good.

Ingredients
-2 cups quinoa flour (I have found it at Sprouts and Fresh Market)
-1/4 tsp salt
-1 tsp baking soda
-2/3 c melted coconut oil (Whole Foods sells some liquid coconut oil specifically for cooking, but it’s hellaexpensive. Target now carries liquid coconut oil for about $6. Yeah!!)
-1 1/4 c dark brown sugar. (Seriously, get the organic DARK kind, not just that regular sand-colored brown sugar if you want a yummy, molasses-y flavor.)
-1 egg
-1 egg yolk
-2 tsp vanilla
-1 c chocolate chips (Now this is where I do get down with Whole Foods. Their in-house brand 365 jumbo milk chocolate chips will make you want to leave your family and live on a paradise island with a bag of these chips.)
-sea salt for sprinkling. Don’t forget!

Instructions
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Whisk together quinoa flour, baking soda, and salt.
3. In a separate large bowl, beat together the coconut oil and brown sugar with an electric mixer. When it starts to smooth add the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla. Beat until it becomes creamy.
4. Add flour mix. Mix on low speed and add chocolate chips…if you haven’t eaten all the chocolate chips already.
5. Roll into 2-inch balls and place on a cookie sheet.
6. Bake approximately 12 minutes or until they turn golden brown.
7. Remove from oven.
8. While the cookies are cooling, very lightly sprinkle with sea salt.

Option: Chill the cookies in the refrigerator if you like cold cookies. Once in a while the quinoa taste comes out, which is a little weird, but that goes away when those amazing chocolate chips punch you in the face.

How to Handle the Holidays When You’re an Athlete with an Appetite (Or, My Justification for Pie)

sleeping at gym

Exercise is good for you, and so is sleep. She is multi-tasking!

“I feel like Jake LaMotta when he’s all fat and out of shape and laughing at his own stupid jokes at the end of ‘Raging Bull.'”

I was leaning against the counter at my parents’ house, drinking a glass of wine and munching thoughtfully on a tortilla chip. As I’ve been coming off a serious back injury that brought my exercise routine to a screeching halt, I’ve been going into the holiday season, which means excuses to eat are everywhere. I haven’t exercised since the Friday before I hurt my back, and unlike the weeks before my black belt test, I’ve been eating a little more than my typical brown rice/roasted veggies/eggs/fruit diet.

So what to do when you’re an athlete in a demanding sport, but you also have a mother who puts Italian sausage in her Thanksgiving stuffing? (I know, awesome, right?) Here are my tips for staying semi-fit and fully sane during the next month of solid eating:

1. Choose Wisely
Unless you have some serious dietary restrictions, it’s OK to indulge. We only get one life, and that life should include carbs, sweets, and salt. It doesn’t mean you need to eat every salty, sweety, carby treat that’s in your sights. I can skip the store bought cookies at the office potluck, but the aforementioned sausage-infusted stuffing? NO. I’m eating it. If you’re going to indulge, choose wisely and really enjoy it, don’t just mindlessly shovel in crap that doesn’t even taste good.

2. Honor the Family Traditions
Is there a special dish that is significant in your family? Don’t deprive yourself!
This isn’t a holiday food per se, but I recently had the very last taste I’ll ever have of “lake fish,” which any family members reading this will understand. My grandparents owned a lake house for thirty years until selling it last year, and there is nothing better than finely filleted and fried crappie that was swimming happily (and organically, just FYI) until its untimely demise. No one cleans a fish like Grandpa, and no one fries fish like Dad. After my grandparents sold the house we all knew there was a dwindling supply of “lake fish” in the freezer, so every last bite was cherished.
Will I ever eat fried fish any where else? Gross, no. Other than “lake fish” prepared by Grandpa and Dad, I hate fish and refuse to eat it. I’m not going to waste my calories on some sub-par, disgusting, greasy fried catfish with bones sticking out everywhere and the skin still on it. (Cause y’all know that’s how most people fry fish. Amateurs.) The calories I spent on hand-cleaned and deep-fried Oklahoma crappie were calories well spent.

3. Keep Up the Exercise
I hate cold weather with a bloody passion and may have to resort to my cold weather inside routine if the ice storms hit. Sometimes it’s hard to stay motivated when it’s gray and yucky outside. Feel like skipping the gym? Just remember how good it feels to get your body moving and feel those endorphins kick in. Even if you can’t do your regular workout a walk around the block or some push-ups while you’re watching a movie can keep the winter blues at bay.

4. Trim the Fat Elsewhere
I always try to lose a little weight before the holidays kick in because I know I’ll be indulging and will be hindered from  getting out as much as I’d like to by rain and cold weather. Maintaining a steady diet of whole grains, produce, and lean proteins will help you stay energized and feel light during a time when it’s so tempting to curl up under  a blanket and eat cookies. If I keep up my normal nutrition and exercise as much as I can I feel like I have more leeway to indulge at Thanksgiving and Christmas.

5. Cut Yourself Some Slack
Look, if you gain a pound or two over the holidays, is it really that big of a deal in the grander scheme of things? We put so much emphasis on things that don’t matter: getting all twisted over a project at work that really can wait until tomorrow, mindlessly scrolling through our phones while ignoring the other people in the room, agonizing over a bite of cake because deep down we feel ashamed of our own bodies. My grandparents are almost ninety. I would rather sit at the dinner table, linger over pie and coffee, and listen to them tell stories than go for a run outside by myself. The exercise and the diet opportunities will always be here. My family won’t.

I know I’ve gained a little weight, and going back to taekwondo class is going to be tough after a two-week break. I know taking the pounds off won’t be as easy or as fun as it was to put them on. Oh well, I’d rather be thankful for a healthy and fit body than make myself miserable when I have my moments of being a tad less fit. I can breathe, walk, move on my own, take care of myself without assistance, and feel that as far as being able wake up the next day, the odds are in my favor. Many people don’t have that reassurance. Be grateful for what your body can do.

No one will love you or respect you any less for that slice of pie, and if they do? F*ck them and their insecure, superficial, limited little minds.

6. Remember That Spring Will Come
Okay, so it’s sleeting outside and your aunt made her famous brownies that you don’t think you should eat, but you reaaaaally want to. The world is not going to end if you can’t make it to the gym or if you have that brownie. Practice moderation, remind yourself that you will soon be able to get back to your regular training, and remember to enjoy the precious moments with people you love, Italian sausage, brownies, and all.

And if you don’t like your family? Go outside for a run! Problem solved!

Eat, Practice, Love

arm heart

I spent the final week of May indulging in home-cooked Italian food and fine dark chocolate and to no surprise gained a few pounds.

In my defense I was nearing the end of a very sad, painful, drawn-out situation in my personal life. Usually I stop eating when things get really bad, but this time I seemed to stress eat, albeit good quality food rather than chips and cheap candy bars, as if that makes any difference. Then whenever I start to feel better I “happy eat,” so I can’t freaking win.

I did exercise and attend taekwondo class as usual, so my very slight weight gain was only noticeable to me. Then again, I’ve been fat-shamed at 116 pounds and told I looked better when I was “skinnier,” i.e., miserable and haggard and subsisting on whiskey for dinner (yes, really), so everyone’s perspective is a little different.

It’s starting to sink in that my black belt test is around the corner, so that’s as good a reason as any to clean up my act and stay motivated. I’ve already been off alcohol for two months and feel much better–stay tuned for a blog post about that in a few weeks. Why not, as my yoga teacher would say, let go of other things that no longer serve me?

I didn’t even enjoy my Netflix movie marathons or heavy food towards the end of my mourning period/indulgent exile. It was time to let go. So last Sunday morning I hit the gym and the juicer and have deflated back down to, well, 116 pounds. I even feel confident enough to prance around my condo complex’s pool this afternoon.

Besides chocolate, pasta, Netflix, and sleeping in, I’d also been indulging in an emotion that tastes good at first but makes you feel crappy later: anger. Bitter, searing, hateful anger that was finally unleashed after about six months of pent up stress and frustration. I was surprised at the grinding resentment I felt for someone who once held a very important place in my life.

And then I heard my taekwondo instructor’s voice in my head say, “Don’t let it escalate.”

A long time ago I’d jotted down a quick “gratitude list” about this person, probably when I was annoyed with them, ha ha. I’ve always kept it in my desk at work, so Monday morning I dug it out and read it again. It calmed my anger and reminded me that this person is more than just a culmination of our most recent encounters and is hurting just as much as I am. It reminded me of how much I once loved this person.

If you’ve been regularly following my blog you know I’ve been dealing with this “situation” for the last several months. I think we’re all tired of talking about it, and I’m tired of clinging to it as justification for being cranky, eating poorly, and until two months ago, drinking heavily. The anger and hatred are no longer serving me. It’s not motivating me to move forward and make bold decisions anymore.

I won’t forget and am not ready to fully forgive, but like the junk food and sleeping in and movie marathons, I can at least let the anger go. The bitterness and anger and hatred are making me just as unhealthy as the salami and chocolate were. If I let it escalate then I am responsible for the consequences. How can I possibly love myself if I’m so wrapped up in hating somebody else?

Learning to love myself has been a very long arduous learning process. My yoga practice and especially my taekwondo practice have been instrumental in helping me turn the corner. Much of it has involved learning to let go—of impossible expectations, of doubt, of fears, of hatred and anger. Do you know how many years I’ve wasted hating myself for being “fat” (as in, to the point of being suicidal) even though I’ve never weighed more than about 125 pounds? Do you know how many times I’ve silently chided myself for being stupid, boring, ugly, and a failure? How could I possibly love myself if I was so wrapped up in hating myself?

I’ve learned that I have to let go of those same feelings toward other people—the expectations, the fear, the anger when they make mistakes or when they hurt me. I have learned to let myself be a perfectly imperfect human being, and I suppose I should extend that same gesture to others who cross my path.  The weight of the negative feelings is much heavier than a few stress eating pounds (or happy eating), but easier to lose if you give it a try.

So what will I do on this new bright path?  Keep taking care of my body, mind, and spirit, keep practicing taekwondo, keep learning from mistakes and triumphs, keep growing, keep loving.

Week Two of Black Belt Training – Rolos, Man…Rolos

rolo-feat

Oh you won’t stay unwrapped for long, my friend. Enjoy your last moments on earth, Rolos.

Okay so I had a pack of Rolos Tuesday night. And Indian food for lunch on Wednesday.

I told y’all I was going to need some sweets during the next couple of months of amping up my training! Read the post! On the plus side I’d had a very healthy vegetarian lunch that day and a very light dinner. I had gone out to gas up my car and well…somehow I ended up inside the convenience store handing over some change for candy because…Rolos, man…Rolos. What child of the 1980s doesn’t enjoy a pack of Rolos now and then?

Other than the Rolos and the Indian lunch my diet was pretty solid—whole foods with a few protein bars thrown in. My boss has two big jars of candy in his office, so I steered clear when I had meetings with him. Thursday night I went to a happy hour supporting the local arts district, and I didn’t have a drop of alcohol. Hooray! Instead I snacked on treats catered by the hippie organic restaurant in my neighborhood. Then I walked over to the frozen yogurt place because it’s finally warm enough to appreciate a frozen dessert, but I topped my yogurt with tons of fresh fruit instead of the typical chocolate/peanut butter candy crumbles that I like to have with it. (OMG, you guys, what if you could have cut up Rolos on chocolate milkshake-flavored frozen yogurt?? ROLOS. I’m already having withdrawal symptoms.)

As for exercise—I sort of got back into early morning exercise on Friday when I got up a little before 6 AM and did some Pilates with my favorite DVD. I used to be such an early bird, getting up around 4 AM most days to swim, and then I turned thirty-five and my body said, “Nope!” I had two taekwondo classes Friday night. Saturday I lifted weights and did the elliptical. This morning I made it to the gym before 6 AM to swim laps, but apparently last night’s thunderstorm knocked out the power to my gym. Ugh! It’s not raining today so when this post is finished I’ll go for a run and do some yoga and Pilates at home later.

As for habits — I’ve found that the more I sleep in the worse I feel and the harder it is to wake up and drag myself out the door to go to work, so my goal is to get up earlier and stay up—no more 5 minute naps on the couch after I’ve eaten breakfast! Throughout the day I try to work on my “Pilates posture.” I have a tendency to slump forward and lurch my right side forward even more. A strong core is important all around, not just for athletic performance. Plus, it’s getting hot down here in Texas, and bathing suit season is around the corner. I don’t keep dark chocolate in my desk at work any more and amazingly the craving to have a piece of chocolate after lunch every day has finally worn off. I just don’t keep sweets around at home because they are too tempting. If I want something (like, say, a pack of Rolos or frozen yogurt) I go out and buy an individual serving.

And what about taekwondo training? I attended three nights a week, with two classes in a row on two of those nights. I got the hang of my new form, helped a blue tip with his form, figured out what I need to work on in sparring (I instinctively wince and close my eyes when someone’s foot goes near my head, ugh!), got thrown on the floor really hard, and toughened up the bottoms of my feet from lots of sliding. I did have to use an ankle brace, and I thought I was going to get through a whole week without ice packs, but I ended up icing my thighs, knees, and left ankle Friday night.

Oh, and I think I broke my middle finger a few weeks ago, so I’m going to a clinic tomorrow to get it checked out. But I NEEEED that finger to communicate! 🙂

I lost another pound (2 pounds from happy weight!), and have kept off the 2 inches I lost from my waist. The only thing that could derail me from my dreams are Rolos, man…Rolos.

Food Hacks for Future Black Belt

kung-fu-skeletons

Oh man, if only I looked like that…and could do a flying side kick like that too. 

So now that I’ve lost my winter depression/hibernation weight and am not eating candy every day I can actually talk about nutrition without seeming like a total hypocrite. After my bo dan test I was really pumped to get into prime shape for my black belt test. I had given up alcohol in late March for health reasons, and I was ready to say goodbye to junk food and refined carbs after I’d had a last tearful rendezvous with a Cadbury crème egg. I can go without alcohol for a while, but I know I WILL need some chocolate or fries every once in a while or there will be a trail of death and destruction behind me. Women will weep and men will gnash their teeth…you get the picture.

Oh and here’s a fabulous side bonus. I’m probably going to lose more pounds from stress! After last night’s setback I’m feeling too much sadness, humiliation, blind hatred, and fury to be hungry. The last time I starved myself I got down to 108 pounds and looked so haggard that several people at work pulled me aside and asked what was wrong (of course I lied to them and said I was fine). Let’s see if I can go even lower! Yay!
I did eat breakfast and lunch today, but they were small meals and I plan on skipping dinner. And just in time for bathing suit season. YAAAAYYYY!

So here’s what I ate for the week:
Breakfast: some combo of oatmeal with blueberries and soymilk, boiled eggs, a banana or clementine, yogurt, grapes, or a Larabar for those mornings when I was dragging
Snacks: some combo of peanut butter (Jif makes little 250-calorie individualized cups of creamy peanut butter, AWESOME!!), cashews, banana, apple, clementine, cottage cheese, yogurt, or a protein bar
Lunch: roast chicken, roasted vegetables, brown rice, fruit, and diet gingerale because something was troubling my tummy*
Dinner: either a power bar on TKD nights (not great, but I get home late and I’m exhausted), soup (Tabachnik makes tasty frozen soups that are low in salt and preservatives) or whole wheat pasta with homemade marinara and a sprinkle of hard parmesan. If I’m just dying for dessert I’ll have sugar-free chocolate pudding or banana “ice cream.”

Food Hacks That Make My Life (and Possibly Yours) Easier:
Vegetables: I’ve been doing the roasted veggie thing for quite some time since I’m not as inclined to reach for vegetables as I am fruit. No problem with getting my daily intake of fruit. I’d shoot it up like heroin if I could.
Every week I chop up a variety of vegetables, toss them with Kosher salt, black pepper, a little garlic powder, and olive oil and roast them for about 30 minutes at 425 degrees. You can add more spices, but I actually like the natural taste of the vegetables with the olive oil (extra virgin of course).

Banana “Ice Cream”: You have to plan a little for this one. Bananas suck because they all ripen at once so I always end up with one or two mushy mottled ones by the end of the week. Chop them up in chunks and freeze them. Then throw a few frozen chunks in the blender and pulse until smooth and creamy. It takes a few tries of playing with blender settings and smashing down the banana bits with a spatula, but my first attempt ended up being delicious and satisfying so I’m going to keep doing it. I didn’t add sugar or milk or anything. It just naturally takes on the texture of ice cream and the ripe bananas are already sweet. MAGIC!!

*Chicken: I’ve gone through vegetarian and vegan phases and enjoyed them, but right now my body is just saying, “No, woman. Feed me the flesh of domesticated flightless birds and their unborn offspring.” I hate cooking meat, so lately I’ve taken to picking up a roasted bone-in chicken breast from the grocery store, and “harvesting” little 1 cup baggies of chopped or shredded meat to use with my meals. I can get about 7 or 8 cups out of a large chicken. I’ll eat them with the roasted vegetables and brown rice, or I’ll mix it in with a mashed up avocado for extra protein power. I think, though, the chicken might be the cause of my tummy troubles this week (and my need for ginger tea and gingerale). It comes with the skin on it, which leaves the chicken greasy even after I remove it, and I have a pretty bad feeling that it is NOT from a cage-free, hormone-free, antibiotic-free chicken so I think I’ll have to go back to buying the hippie organic version and cooking it myself.
I also eat beans, nuts, eggs, and once in a great while lean beef. I absolutely hate fish and am allergic to shellfish so I just avoid seafood entirely. The smell alone makes me want to curl up and die. Nasty!

Eggs: Oh how I love eggs (from cage-free hens, of course). I also love how I naturally have low LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and a healthy amount of HDL (“good”) cholesterol, which means I’ll eat whatever the hell I want without doing too much damage to my arteries. Every week I make a batch of six boiled eggs using a technique a former coworker gave me:
1. Boil the eggs for 10 minutes.
2. Take the eggs of the burner, cover, and let them sit for 20 minutes.
3. Put them in an ice bath for 30 minutes.
You’ll end up with eggs with bright yellow yolks that are easy to peel.  I keep them in a little half carton in my fridge for a convenient, tasty, and protein-packed breakfast or snack.

Homemade Marinara Sauce: Psych!! As if I’d give away my secret here! It’s so tasty I will eat it out of the container with a spoon, seriously. Okay, here’s a hint: watch the scene in the first “Godfather” movie where Clemenza is making sauce and teasing Michael about his girlfriend. His method is pretty close to mine although I don’t dump meatballs and sausage in while I’m making fresh sauce. Cooking meatballs and sausage is an entirely separate process that I’ll probably need to avoid anyway during the next six months of conditioning. (But not completely, they just taste too damn good. Not to brag…okay I will brag, my homemade meatballs are almost as good as my marinara, and Italian sausage with oily soft peppers is just about the best meal ever invented).

Boom! Black belt diet!

Brain Freeze, Spring Thaw

jabba pie

I haven’t written a post in over a week, and I’ve only had two nights of taekwondo in the past two weeks. The taekwondo absences have been due to freak Texas winter storms and a belt test I wasn’t scheduled to attend, but I’m not sure about the writer’s block. I think this dark gloomy weather starts a snowball effect, no pun intended, of lethargy and dulling of my mind. As I said in an earlier post, we may not be covered in feet of snow down here, but our roads get extremely icy and the drivers are even worse. You don’t have much motivation to go out when it’s like this. Even when it warms up and the snow is melted the rainy, gloomy skies and crisp chill in the air aren’t very inviting.

The days off work thanks to the weather have been a welcome treat, but I was a bit concerned to see how I could quickly deteriorate into the depression and loneliness that are always around the corner but usually kept at bay. Cleaning the house and doing home workouts get old after a while. It’s just too tempting to sink into the couch, watch more TV, eat more comfort foods, and drink more alcohol. If I’d had a hookah and a metal-bikini-clad captive I would have given Jabba the Hut a run for his money.

I noticed how my body had slowed due to a week or two off my normal routine when I inadvertently became a victim of “Weekend Warrior” syndrome. I had the best intentions–I wanted to kick my body back into gear to lighten my mood and get me back in shape for the dojang. I ran Friday night, went to yoga class Saturday morning, swam a mile Saturday night, and felt it all during yoga class today. My ankles are sore and tense, and my twice-injured and currently irritated left shoulder forced me out of chaturangas and into more child’s poses. I’m glad I exercised though. As much as I love it if I take a few days off suddenly the slippery slope of sedentary living becomes very steep.

As I listen to the rain outside on a dark night I am comforted with the fact that there’s sunny weather around the corner. I’m telling myself not to feel too down about the winter doldrums. I know the one or two pounds and bloat I’ve put on will melt off as soon as I’m back into my normal eating and exercise routine. Sometimes you just have to go into hibernate mode for a while. Sometimes you just need a break from everything. Sometimes you need to give yourself permission to shut down, if only for a little while. Spring is almost here, and not only is it a time for renewal, it’s a time for action. The cushion of “well, it’s just the beginning of the year, we have plenty of time” for work projects is waning. For those in school, the end of the semester and subsequent tests will be here before you know it. My black belt test isn’t until the fall, but now is the time for preparation, for strengthening my body and mind to endure what I know is coming.

Tomorrow will mark what is hopefully the first full week of taekwondo classes I’ve had in way too long. The ice has melted, the clouds are rolling away, and the seeds of success are beginning to bloom.