A Lighter, Brighter Life

400143_10152424783370089_266590942_nSeven weeks have passed since I last wrote, but instead of being a bit further along in my quest to eat well and exercise, I hit a roadblock. I stopped putting in the effort and making time for healthy eating and exercise. I forgot about my promise to prioritize working out, to get there atleast three days a week. I was at one, sometimes none, days a week.

Two things happened that added to my slow slide into complacency:  Christmas and Plenty of Fish (POF). Yes, we are playing the blame game again. I blame my lack of progress on the week-long binge of baking and booze that inevitebly accompanies Christmas. It started in December, with chocolates from students (not that I blame THEM…no, they are the good ones!), treats in the staff room, and nights out for dinner and drinks with friends who were home. Then I started baking, and that was a major mistake. While friends and family benefitted from my baked goods, they were trouble for my serious sweet toothe. I had to test everything:  from the Gingersnaps (not my best), to the Shortbread I made especially for my dad (it tastes better raw, honestly) and my newest discovery-Snickerdoodles (YUM!). And of course there were cupcakes…oh the cupcakes:  Gingerbread with Lemon Buttercream and Chocolate with Peppermint Frosting. They were amazing…but my soon to be expanding stomache and ass wouldn’t be so quick to agree. And I drank ALOT of wine, which led me to eat ALOT cheese and crackers, appies and even more sweets. I wasn’t yet gaining a lot of weight back, but I could see the numbers on the scale very slowly climbing again, and that got me scared. Of course not so scared that I immediately went out and bought the pass at the YMCA I have been talking about getting since the beginning of December, but it got me THINKING of making changes. I also needed do a serious overhaul of my diet; get healthy groceries, plan meals and keep track of my food.

Then I began an unhealthy love-hate relationship with online dating. I allowed my bestie Crystal to help me make a profile and pick the prettiest but un-cheesiest pictures of myself to upload, and began what can only be described as the scariest and silliest experience of my life. Seriously, this stuff is terrifying, but in a bad horror movie sort of way:  you can’t believe you are watching that crap, but it’s actually kind of funny how awful it is. First, you are putting yourself out there for all the douchey as well as dashing men in the country to see. Besides the fact that if you were not smart, you could end up on the tv show Catfish, you are opening yourself up to constant judgement, and the very real possibility of pornographic pictures hitting your inbox (Mom and Dad, stop reading…your baby girl did not in fact receive a picture from a creep that made her scream in disgust then laugh with embarassment, more for the guy ha ha!!). It can make you feel all at once flattered for the attention, and frustrated by the quality of men handing out the compliments (I get why people often call it PFO rather than POF). It is both hilarious and horrifying. Case in point:  when you create your profile, you have to choose your body type-Thin, Athletic, Average or A Few Extra Pounds. What, no Curvy or Hourglass!?

POF also has an addictive quality to it. At first I was scared to message guys back, or initiate conversation, but once I found some nice, normal ones to chat with, it was hard not to want to check my inbox several times a day. There were a few I was quite taken with:  smart, funny, good-looking, and age appropriate. It quickly became a source of interest to my girlfriends as well:  they were as excited as me, sometimes even more so, about these new prospects. And while I am embarassed to admit it, I was guilty of taking “selfies” (those cheesy self portraits done in the bathroom that teens the world over popularized). When you are taking pictures of yourself all pouty/pretty in your dimly-lit bathroom and spending too much time chatting with guys you haven’t even met, rather than having real conversations with your actual friends, something needs to change.

It wasn’t all bad. Save for the sick picture and a few dashed hopes when I failed to hear back from some promising “fish”, it did result in me talking to and meeting a few great guys. The actual dates were  initially nerve racking (I may very well develop an ulcer before snagging a boyfriend!), but in the end, I had alot of fun and am excited to see where things go from here! I am not ready to give up on this new adventure (material for a second blog!?), I just need to devote some of my energy elsewhere. I realized that while dating online isn’t all bad, it is definitely starting to monopolize my time; time that could be spent cooking healthy food and working out at the gym. I had momentaringly lost sight of my goals to lose weight and get fit. While some guys might like me in all my curvalicious glory, I am still not satisfied with my body, so I need to get back to doing something about it.

desireSo this is where I am now-more than mid January and ready to renew my commitment:  better late than never, right!? I cleaned out my cupboards and fridge, ridding them of the treats and temptations that lie within. I spent all my Christmas grocery store gift certificates on healthy, Clean food. With my other gift certificates I bought some new workout clothes, cause this girl needs to look cute to feel motivated! And I have finally bought that pass at the Y and even signed up for three sessions with an awesome personal trainer I saw a few times years ago. Did I mention that the other night I made baked salmon, kale and asparagus for dinner then ran my ass off at women’s soccer at the Fieldhouse!? Yup, my butt and thighs hated me the next day, but I felt great. And the practice paid off; I felt I played better than ever at Friday’s game. I proceeded to eat two cheesy bread wedges when we went for after-soccer ceasars (oh and I had two of those too, oops) but atleast my workout warranted the indulgence this time. Baby steps people, baby steps;)


me in dress

Twenty two weeks after I began this journey, I am almost 20 pounds lighter, and feeling pretty proud of myself! While I have hit road blocks along the way, struggled to to eat well and have yet to fully commit to making exercise a priority, I feel that I have made some major progress towards losing weight, getting healthy and being happy in my skin.

Walking down the hallways at work has been a huge boost, as my coworkers (all women of course) have consistently noticed my slowly shrinking frame. These women made me feel beautiful and stylish even before I started losing weight, as they have always been generous with compliments, but their acknowledgement of my recent efforts and progress boosts my self esteem on an almost daily basis! Then there are my friends and family, who celebrate and encourage each announcement of weight loss, and continue to support me by reading and commenting kindly on this blog. But it’s when your young male students comment, somewhat awkwardly in front of the whole class that you are losing weight and in a completely non-creepy way that you are looking good, you know that true progress has been made.

Another sign that I have come far, besides the male population finally noticing and announcing my weight loss, is when I fit into size large and can now happily shop at stores other than just Reitman’s, Sears and Superstore (I still love the comfort of these “real women” stores, but being able to shop elsewhere, especially for a serious shopaholic like me, is totally exciting!) I had been able to fit into a size smaller in jeans and dress pants, and I was able to buy shirts at my favourite Moose Jaw stores Guys and Dawls and Hibiscus, but the moment of true celebration came in Regina, while shopping with my favourite person. Tarren is my other, better half; more than my cousin and friend, she is my sister.  We often text ten times a day to share our musings on fashion, beauty, current Hollywood gossip, our friends, work and respective furry babies. To have her there to share in the moment when I fit into a size large, long winter coat in a gorgeous shade of “look-at-me-I-am-fun and fashionable” red was amazing. She gave me a huge hug, told me I had to buy it, and I did a little happy dance:) When her mother, my aunt Michelle, walked into the store and shared in my excitement, my joy was magnified. These were the two women who, along with my mother, witnessed me at the lowest point of my disease, managed to lift me up with their unfaltering support and ultimately helped me seek help. My friends have been a constant source of love, support and encouragement, but there is nothing quite like family to get you through the lows, then celebrate the highs. The only thing that could have made the moment sweeter is if Tarren’s sister Dakota had been there with us. Dakota is my littlest “sister”; she would have enjoyed the day spent shopping and witnessing this milestone in my weight loss journey.

Then came the ultimate test of body image resilience:  a wedding. My dear friend Cathy was about to get married to the love of her life in front of friends and family at a gorgeous ceremony and reception. Unlike some women in their late 20’s and early 30’s, weddings don’t send me into a devastating spiral of “when is it my turn?” I would like to get married, but I know if it’s in my future, it will come when the time is right. What weddings do put me through though is a panic of “what am I going to wear?” and “how best can I hide my love handles and the ample junk in my truck with a the right combination of super-duper spanx and control-top tights?” (thank god for winter…love covering up my pale thighs in dark, patterned tights!).

I bought a dress about a month before the wedding; a black and white polka dot wrap-style dress, which I hoped to pair with red lips and old-Hollywood hair. After trying it on and being unsatisfied with the result, I went looking for something that covered up areas on my body I still wasn’t crazy about, while highlighting those that were looking a bit better, post-weight loss. And I also wanted something all black…yup, the slimming effect of black will never be lost on this girl!! I didn’t have to look far, finding a winning number at Sears, which I liked so much I bought it in two sizes…I hope to be in the smaller one by January or February…no pressure ha ha;) It highlighted my smaller waist, clothed my no-closer-to-being-toned arms in sexy black lace and for once, my amples TaTas weren’t spilling out:)

That night was monumental not only because one of my best friends got married, but because I haven’t felt that comfortable in my skin in years:  I felt good where I was, in that moment, at that size, in that dress. In fact, I felt gorgeous! I also did something I haven’t done in a long time:  I drank, I enjoyed myself, but I didn’t get out of hand. I didn’t feel the need to drink myself into a stupor to mask how unhappy I was with my appearance, nor did I require it to give me false confidence. I felt great that night, and the next day, my alcohol-hating body really thanked me! It was a night to remember for a number of reasons, but when I look back at pictures, I can recognize how good I looked AND felt in my little/size large black dress:):)

Revelation #1: Pumpkin makes for amazing pasta! I found this out one night when I followed through on my plan to use the leftover pumpkin from the not so healthy pumpkin spice cupcakes I baked for Thanksgiving. I found a few intriguing recipes online, and ended up taking parts from each to create my own version of these two clean eating pumpkin pasta dishes. I was out of zucchini and didn’t feel like stopping at the store to get light coconut milk. But I did have whole wheat pasta, light cream cheese, parmesan, chicken broth and mushrooms, and added carrots to the mix. If you love all things pumpkin, then you need to try one of these:

Pumpkin Pasta Surprise

Clean Eating Pumpkin Spaghetti

It also makes great soups! Here’s a pretty basic pumpkin soup recipe I made one night, and it was delicious:

Spicy Pumpkin Soup

If you are feeling more ambitious, this one looks delicious (I will try it soon and report back):

Roasted Garlic Pumpkin Soup

So I started Spin and Sculpt again at Double Shift, this time the morning session, and I didn’t fare very well-you know the girl who runs out during the sculpting cause she pushed herself (or is just way too out of shape) during the spin!? Well friends, that girl was me…almost twice!! But I was sticking with it; even after getting sick, I made a point of hauling my tired, big booty out of bed to make the 6am class. I even felt like I was making progress; after a few sessions I didn’t feel horribly nauseous following the first half hour, and felt good about my sore thighs and abs the day after…you know the feeling, the good kind of hurt! Then life through another wrench in my weight loss plans…

Revelation #2:  when things start going good, expect another curve ball to hit you in the face! I crashed my car (my fault guys! The rumours about me being a horrible driver have now been proven correct-FML!). With no vehicle, and no friend or family willing to pick me up at such an ungodly hour, the torturous but rewarding spin and sculpt sessions had to be put on hold.

So here I am, not working out much and not eating not so great (I blame Halloween and those oh-so-yummy, seemingly innocent mini chocolate bars that are unfortunely between 40 and 60 calories each!). I started soccer (more on that later…all I will say now is it kicked my ass!) and have finally ventured down the hallway and the whole two flights of stairs to the fitness center at work. But I am thinking about getting a pass at the gym all my friends frequent, just to have another option when the school is closed, or I just don’t feel like working out next to my 19 year old students!!

Revelation #3:  Dancing on my own in my room to Robyn’s aptly named song really does make a sad girl feel better. I thought I would attempt this after re-watching the 1st season of HBO’s “Girls”;  like the cynical black sheep baby of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and “Sex and the City”, this show is a must-see for anyone who has a dark, sick humour;) So I thought if this song can perk me up while blaring in my bedroom, what could it do to my mood while loathing my life on the treadmill!? Great things people. This song is nowhere close to my break up experience, and it’s not the most pumped up of gym songs, but it nonetheless inspires me to push forward, dig deeper, and generally work out harder. So here is my playlist (some old, some new) for the girl trying to push her blues away, or just have a more motivated exercise session:

“Dancing on my Own”-Robyn

“Survivor”-Destiny’s Child

“Fighter”-Christina Aguilera

“Since You’ve Been Gone”-Kelly Clarkson (or “Walk Away”; she has so many empowering, post break up anthems)

“I Don’t Wanna Be in Love”-Good Charlotte

“Cry Me a River”-Justin Timberlake

“You Oughta Know”-Alanis Morisette (my all time fave break up song!)

“Rolling in the Deep”-Adele

“Feelin Good”-Muse

“Single”-Natasha Bedingfield (or “Pocket Full of Sunshine” when you need more of a pick me up)

“So What”-Pink

“I Saw the Sign”-Ace of Base (Or “Don’t Turn Around”)

“I Hate This Part”-Pussy Cat Dolls

“Too Close”-Alex Clare (my fave new song, and has a great beat)

“Bleed”-Anna Nalick

“One More Night”-Maroon Five (makes me wanna box…you would get this if you’ve seen the video…mmm, Adam Levine!)

“It’s My Life”-Bon Jovi

“Stronger”-Britney Spears (yes, I love her…make fun of me all you want, I don’t care;)

So remember when I ate not so great for a few weeks, but was lucky to not gain back any of the weight I’d worked so hard to lose?!? Well, I wasn’t so lucky this time. I started off at 11 pounds down from where I started 10 weeks ago, at the beginning of my blogging journey. Even before a weekend of indulgent eating (birthday makes for too much drinking and too much cake!), I had done major damage by shattering many of my break up rules. First, I breached the one to not watch any sappy chick flicks by watching He’s Just Not That Into You, Someone Like You and The Sweetest Thing. I completely disregarded my self-imposed promise to work out rather than wallow by skipping almost all of all of my Tuesday/Thursday night Spin and Sculpt sessions. And I broke the Thou Shall Not Drink When Going Through Emotional Turmoil rule, which resulted in the complete breakdown of my eating well resolve (I start by consuming too many calories drinking, then try to compensate for the hangover that is sure to come by eating when I get home at night, which never works because I still end up waking up with one, and finish this vicious cycle the next day by indulging in my craving for McDonald’s, cheezy pasta or pounds of candy!).

I guess I can’t be too hard on myself; it takes most of my energy just to make it through most days without falling apart. Getting through the days with little sleep is hard enough, and to make it to a killer workout class is more than I can seem to accomplish at the moment. But sitting in front of the tv, watching Cameron Diaz whine about the dating game while eating Kraft Dinner isn’t making things better either! I get out of the funk long enough to make a healthy dinner or get out with my friends, but then I fall back into my black hole of emotional eating whenever something reminds me that I am once again on my own, away from the man I love and things are never going back to the way they were. Knowing that I did what was best gives me little to no comfort; and the old adage that things will get better only makes me frustrated…when people, when???

I have moments when I try hard to stay on track. Before a party I made sure to eat a healthy dinner (I was rushed so all I could muster was a Lean Cuisine…bettter than KD though); I hoped this would curb the cravings I would innevitably feel standing near the appetizers. It worked till my second glass of wine (Skinny Grape wine…cheaper and better than Skinny Girl wine, and it’s Canadian!). When I went for groceries I stuck mostly to my guns and said no to packaged pastas, gummy candies and cheese (other than Laughing Cow Light). This resolve only lasts so long though.

Then the bad eating event that trumps all bad eating events, save Christmas, happened:  Thanksgiving. I had told my mom I would bring a clean eating version of dressing…but I didn’t. I said I might look into a healthier version of potatoes, maybe even my Creamy Cheesy Cauliflower, faux-version of mashed potatoes…but I didn’t. But guess what I did make? Pumpkin Spiced Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting. While this is meant to be a blog detailing my healthy eating and adventures in getting fit, I feel I have to share this recipe because it is that delicious (just don’t eat a cupcake’s worth of batter, use light cream cheese as I did, and only make them to share with your family and friends this pumpkin season;)

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Oh and don’t save the extra frosting just in case…cause you won’t throw it away; you know you’ll eat it!

So this is where I am at-Monday night of the long weekend, watching the new 90210, drinking a glass of wine to wash down Brie cheese, crackers, and prosciutto and feeling pretty low about the status of my journey to health and happiness. I need to quit making excuses, stop wallowing, whining and being generally apathetic. I need to take an active role in my health and happiness, and actually do the things I need to get there…not just talk about doing them!

I have taken some steps recently:  I signed up for Spin and Sculpt again, but this time the 6am class. I did this with the hope of no longer being too lazy following work to make it to the night class (whether a girl who loathes mornings can somehow make the bright and early class over the evening one remains to be seen!!). And I signed up for indoor co-ed soccer, starting at the end of this month. This one should combine my adolescent love of soccer with my need to get physical activity, and the social aspect of it shouldn’t hurt me either (Friday nights spent running on the soccer field sound like a way healthier option than sitting in front of the tv drinking wine and eating popcorn!).

As for getting back on track with my diet, I have already looked up several recipes for dinners this week, and made a new grocery list on my phone, complete with lentils and brown rice, spinach and kale. I even have a clean eating pasta using the leftover pumpkin in my fridge planned for Tuesday night. Now to follow through on these goals…only time will tell!

So life threw me a major curveball. Ok, more like a slow-pitch ball to the chest; I wasn’t blindsided, more numb to the impending injury. It took out my heart nonetheless. This blog isn’t a place for me to divulge all of my relationship hardships, or publish the private struggles of my partner and I. All I will say is that I have moved out on my own. As Fergie so elequently said:  “I need some shelter of my own protection baby. To be with myself and center, Clarity, Peace, Serenity”

See, I still have a sense of humour in all this. I refuse to take myself too seriously; even in the midst of heartbreak I still see the hilarity of quoting a pop singer;)

All kidding aside, I need to express what this major life event is doing to my quest for weight loss and fitness:  bad things people, bad things. I read an article about a girl who was going through a break up at the start of her total lifestyle overhaul. She didn’t let the pain and stress derail her desire to lose! Me, not so much…

There are two kinds of people in this world:  those who cannot eat during crisis, and those who use a tumultuous time to consume every greasy, fattening, chocolaty food insight. I, unfortunetly, fall into the latter category. Instead of sticking to my plan to eat well and get to the gym, I wallowed in my sadness, and thought copious amounts of candy and fast food would be the cure. Did the pizza I ordered, the McDonald’s I consumed (twice) or the Dairy Queen I indulged in help my mood? For a time, yes. But looking back, it didn’t make me feel better for long, only worse because it severely derailed my progress (not in terms of weight gain-surprisingly, I didn’t gain back any of the weight I lost).  Eating horribly for a few weeks made jumping back on the healthy train that much harder.

A major detour, besides the aforementioned pizza, McDonald’s and Dairy Queen, was a serious binge of Chinese food. Not the Chicken in Black Bean Sauce on rice I had started ordering as a slightly healthier alternative when stuck ordering Chinese with the family, but the deep fried Chicken Balls, Shrimp Fried Rice and greasy Chow Mein my broken heart had me craving.

One night I went to Quizno’s with the express purpose of ordering the Turkey Ranch and Swiss on Whole Wheat, and left instead with the Carbonara Chicken (extra sauce), Broccoli Cheddar Soup (it’s like there’s crack in it!?!-seriously addictive…a small cup is good but it might make you dependant on the stuff!), Raspberry Lemonade (look it up on myfitnesspal.com and then you’ll get why it’s so bad…but so good!) and a big oatmeal raisin cookie! Seriously, any sense of willpower I had found since I began my weight loss journey was completely MIA!

Another big slip up was my red wine and Red Velvet Ice Cream night-yup, I bought into the stereotype of the broken hearted girl eating a tub of ice cream while watching a sappy movie (one of my new break up rules:  NO SAPPY MOVIES-thanks Cathy;) I not only bought into the stereotype, I milked it for all it’s worth-watching The Vow I proceeded to fill my face with the most delicious Ben & Jerry’s ice cream (after Chunky Monkey of course), gulp down wine (and not Skinny Girl wine at that. Nope, nothing skinny about this picture!), bawl, drool over Channing Tatum, and bawl some more…very sad and therapeutic only in the sense that I got it out of my system.

By Week 9, I picked myself up out of the dark hole I’d climbed into and jumped back on the healthy eating train. One noteworthy healthy dinner was Roasted Beet Salad with Goat Cheese, Walnuts and Honey-Dijon Vinaigrette. OMFG-delicious! It kicked all my fattening foods’ big booties…if there was someone around to cook this for me everyday, I’d have no problem losing weight. Damn not being born Jennifer Aniston (or not, that girl has way bigger boy troubles than I’ve ever had!!)! You have to try this one:

Goat Cheese Beet Salad

With the deliciousness that was the beet salad, I baked chicken in the oven with Epicure’s Poco Picante Salsa Mix and a little olive oil. It was awesome-I don’t use the mix for making homemade salsa, but I love it for seasoning meat!

Salsa seasoning

Another night, I was craving my mother’s mayonnaise and cornmeal-coated chicken…mmm! My mom, Bonnie, or Bonbon as we call her, is the best cook! While I love this dish, it’s not the healthiest. I looked online for an alternative, and tested this one out! It’s Bree-approved:

Skinny Greek Yogurt Covered Chicken

I continued to eat healthy most of that week, baking garden potatoes and carrots in the oven with olive oil and dill to go along with some “natural” smokies I had found (they were lower in calorie than the cheddar cheese-filled ones, and I had a serious craving for smokies in general!). When I went with my aunt and cousin for a walk and coffee to Coffee Encounters, I ignored the cupcakes on display and the pushed back the thought that hot chocolate or some frothy latte would help heal my soul, and went instead for the iced Cherrybana tea, sweetened only with evaporated cane juice-so good! I have been reading about the benefits of evaporated cane juice, and wanted to try it. While it’s not less calories, it’s sweeter than other sweeteners, so I definitely think I would use less! If you’re interested in investigating the hype, here’s one article I read:

Evaporated Cane Juice

I even found the strength to finally get in and out of Quizno’s with only a Turkey Ranch and Swiss on Whole Wheat-take that willpower!!

On Sunday of Week 9 I ordered sushi for dinner; indulged with Tempura Udon (my comfort food of choice for almost 2 years while living in Japan-this version didn’t live up to it, unfortunetly!). But I balanced it out by having no treats, save a Bud Light! And while I curled up on the couch to eat this comforting meal, I watched another one of my new boyfriend’s movies-yes, I’ve already moved on…to Channing Tatum LOL! This is a healthier picture than the one of me crying into a tub of ice cream, bottle of red wine in hand. It was me, a bowl of noodles, and a light beer, laughing out loud watching 21 Jump Street:) I think I’ve come a long way in 3 weeks!

FYI-My feet are much cuter! And my nail polish is not so offensively shinny…more of a matte coral at the moment…just so you know;)

If I had forgotten how I gained the Freshman Fifteen my first year at university, my first weeks back at school provided me more than an inkling. Studying brings out the supreme piglet in me:  as I’m reading a textbook or article, I feel the strong need to snack; typing up an assignment brings on the munchies; at coffee break I walk toward the nearest vending machine instead of bee-lining for the washroom.

It’s been over 7 years since I was in school, but in terms of my studying habits, little has changed. While reading about educational philosophies, I picked up handfuls of popcorn. Typing up my article review took me an extra 30 minutes because I had to wipe my fingers after each dip into a bag of  maltballs and sour gummie worms (which I had actually only bought for my 2nd week mini-lesson plan on How to Use Chopsticks, using the candies in place of sushi and noodles. But I bought way too much; a bad idea to have such tempters hindering my success around the house!). There were times the force was strong in me, and I resisted the urge to raid the cupboard or drive to the store for a junk food fix, but more often than not, I was too weak to fight the urge to snack. It’s as if candy and chocolate, popcorn and chips are my kryptonite, and I am powerless against them. Other times, they are the only thing between me and the school-related meltdown that is boiling just under the surface of my bubbly student persona.

Another characteristic of my student self that hasn’t changed is my tendency to procrastinate. I begin by budgeting my time, planning out the steps, then failing miserably to follow-through on them. It’s a given that I will working on as assignment till midnight the night before it’s due. I will most likely be printing my paper out the morning of the deadline. And I will probably be the student racing to apologize to the instructor for getting it in a few minutes past due. But another thing is still quite certain:  I will rock each and every one of those down-to-the-wire assignments. So is junk food my fool-proof fuel, propelling me forward, motivating me onward with each bite? Why can’t I crave carrot sticks when I read? Rice cakes when I type up a report? Go for the packed apple at break, rather than the chocolate or chips at $2 a package?

As I feel the pounds packing back on, I worry that all my hard work has now been compromised. So I need to figure out ways to not propel my studious self forward with fattening foods. Because this is not the last 3 weeks I will be studying. This is just the start:  I now have 4 on-line courses to take (I already see myself popping smarties into my mouth as I read about educational technology) and another 3 week course to complete (I’m sure this be a repeat of the “f*** sandwiches, bring on the brownies” mantra I developed for my recent 3-week stint on campus). And now I am very keen to start my Master’s, which would involve almost a dozen graduate classes through the U of R, resulting in more commuting  with crap meals on the go, serious studying accompanied by salty and sweet treats, and inevitable late night nibbling.

I can’t forego completing the online classes or 2nd 3-week course, as they mandatory for my job. And I am not going to give up on my dream of getting a Master’s degree. So I need to find a way not to snack while studying, or more realistically, make healthier choices. The last week of school, I tried harder to have 70% dark chocolate at home, to nibble on with fresh cherries. I bought pretzels to satisfy my need for salt and crunch. One night I even chose a partly skimmed mozzarela cheese string and an apple, rather than leftover pizza. My go-to sweet snack right now is Greek yogurt:  Key Lime or with Honey…both delicious!

I am now on the hunt for some new studying snacks; other students may come to class equipped with Tablets and I-pads, but I am choosing to come armed with healthy snacks and clean-eating treats. Technology might be essential tools for some, but I’m going to do some studious research into the tastiest and freshman-fifteen-free foods I can find.

Until then, these are some snacks I’ve tried making in the past, and will strive harder to make for my next study session:

Roasted Chickpeas

(love making these spicy!)

Kale Chips

(almost as good as chips…almost! I make the curry ones with cumin and turmeric)

Jum Jills

(these taste like Eat Mores!)

Chocolate Mint Shake

(when craving After Eights or Junior Mints)

Chocolate Bark

(to combine the sweet and salty…in chocolate of course!)

Creative Cooking

So I am back at school. Commuting to Regina everyday, sitting in class from 9-4, studying Adult Education…and feeling very, very sorry for myself. It’s not the content getting me down, rather the grind of waking up early, driving an a hour and a half a day, and trying to stay on top of reading and assignments. It’s also the lack of healthy options at the free lunch throwing a wrench in my weight loss plans:  pre-made sandwiches with high sodium sandwich meat on white bread and buns, piles of pasta and plenty of sweets (you know the ones:  slices, brownies, cookies and cakes). There are always veggies and dip, salad and fruit, but I have a seriously hard time saying no to all the goodies and sticking only to the healthier fare. There are also free treats at the start of the day, danishes, doughnuts or cinnamon buns…with a side of fruit some days…not what I needed only 4 weeks into my attempt at a whole lifestyle change.

I should have created some healthy alternatives to bring for lunch, but without a fridge to store them in, the best I did was make a healthy snack to rely on when I veered towards the mini muffins or banana bread during morning and afternoon coffee breaks. I had found a recipe on The Gracious Pantry I really wanted to try:  Clean Eating Pumpkin Spiced Energy Bars. These are SO yummy, and so filling. Jon’s mom tried one that night and loved it. Grannie is a diabetic; she had one and it kept her full, and her blood sugar was at a good number when she tested it hours later. They are a sweet, filling breakfast; the bought baked goods at school didn’t stand a chance!! If you like pumpkin, peanut butter or oatmeal, you’ll love this recipe!!!

Pumpkin Spice Energy Bar

I had another cooking revelation, when I successfully made faux mashed potatoes. I had heard about the use of cauliflower to create a healthier alternative to creamy, cheesy potatoes. I had a head of cauliflower, I had cheese…YUM! I tweaked some recipes online a bit to come up with this delicious creation:

Breezy’s Cheezy, Garlicky Mashed Cauliflower

1 head of Cauliflower

1/4 Light Cream Cheese

1/4 cup Parmesan Cheese (I used Parmesan-Romano-Asiago)

1/2 tsp Garlic Powder

Salt and Pepper to taste

Cut and boil cauliflower just until soft. In a blender, food processor or using an immersion blender, puree cauliflower. Add cheeses, garlic powder, salt and pepper and puree until well blended. Season more with garlic or salt and pepper if desired. Enjoy with steak and mushrooms, chicken and green beans…or whatever you like! (And if your boyfriend’s mom says it’s like baby food, ignore her…some baby food is really good;)

The Produce Aisle in My Backyard

Are you all getting tired of hearing how amazing I think my garden is!? I’m sorry to repeatedly mention how amazed I am every time something new breaks through the soil, or sprouts on a stem, but it doesn’t get old to me! Being able to walk ten steps to pick my veggies for dinner is just about the coolest thing!!

One night I baked salmon with a tablespoon of pesto on top (I’m going to get to making my own soon enough, with the basil from…you guessed it, the garden!!). I boiled yellow beans and then sauteed them with a teaspoon of Italian Olive Oil and salt and pepper. It was delicious, and definitely going into my mental recipe box:)

The next week, I barbequed cheddar jalapeno smokies, potatoes with olive oil and fresh dill grilled in tin foil and zucchini seasoned with salt and pepper, olive oil and a little parmesan cheese. These picked-from-the-garden veggies were amazing, and delicious left over.

Love for a Certain Lean Cuisine

I’ve said before how I’d prefer to make my own healthy dinner, but when in a rush, I rely on certain frozen meals. And I just found my favourite:  Lean Cuisine Shrimp Alfredo with Whole Wheat Pasta. There are not many Lean Cuisines I love. Lets be honest, they usually are too small a portion, taste like cardboard or lack anything resembling real meat. But this one really stood out. If you are in need of some ready-made meals on the go, this one comes recommended!