Traveling: Then & Now

I’ve been lucky enough to spend a good portion of my Summer break traveling which, after years of a weekend trip here or there, has been truly amazing.

Last summer, my sister and I went to Key West, Florida for a few days at the very end of the summer. I ended up getting strep on the trip, and apart from that, I was generally sick and tired all the time. We walked around in the heat, and I ended up being 2-3 strides behind my sister the whole time. She told me that she was so worried about me. This was my favorite photo from that trip:


This year, I spent a week in and around Portland, Oregon with one of my closest college friends. I told her when I booked the trip that I wanted to do “all the outdoorsy stuff I physically couldn’t do last visit”. That last visit was two years ago. This was me and Ericka on that last visit:


So, Ericka planned all sorts of fun things for when I was in Oregon. We hiked miles upon miles in beautiful places, but there were two moments where I just stopped and appreciated how far I’d come. We were on a trail at Silver Falls State Park and we just kept going and going, up and down hills, taking photo after photo of gorgeous waterfalls. At one point, we took a short little dirt trail to a rather hidden waterfall, and I took off my shoes, waded in the water, and climbed up onto a rock to take a little breather. Considering I was breathless in that photo above after walking up a short flight of stairs, this was quite an accomplishment. We ended up hiking almost 9 miles that day!


A couple days later, we took a short road trip up to Crater Lake, quite possibly one of the most gorgeous places I’ve ever been. We hiked about 3 miles that day, and there was only one point where it was just “too much”. I mean, really, a 45 degree angle for miles at a time is hard for everyone!


Just this past week, my mom, her best friend, my sister, and I all went to Barcelona, Spain and the Mediterranean coast. We’d spent months planning, and surprised my mom with the trip for her birthday back in May, and it was every bit as amazing as I’d imagined it would be. We walked a minimum of 12,000 steps each day (thank you FitBit!) and I was able to keep up with my sister this time! We even talked about how I wasn’t “scurrying behind her” on this year’s vacation. These are a few favorites from this year’s trip:




And just so you don’t have to scroll up to see, here’s a comparison of last year to this year:


Now, let’s talk food a minute. I’m a huge fan of food, obviously. On both my trips, I generally ate what I wanted, but the quantities were significantly different than in the past. In Oregon, keeping low-carb was really easy, as Ericka is gluten-free. We enjoyed amazing meals, I think I may have overeaten once, and I rediscovered my love for peanut butter.

In Spain, I was bound and determined to eat as much authentic food as I could, and yes, this included carbs. I had fruits, bread, desserts, wine at lunch and dinner, and enjoyed thoroughly every last bite. I ate a ton of seafood, sucked the stuff out of shrimp heads, drank Fanta Limón, and don’t regret a thing. The minute I touched down on US soil, it was back to plan: a salad at the airport during our layover, followed by a lettuce wrap for dinner before I went to bed at 8:45 p.m. I can say today that I’m proud of myself for indulging the way I wanted to without overdoing it, and I have no regrets about what I didn’t indulge in.

I do, however, regret that I didn’t bring back any jamón iberico… sigh…

Week 17: Making changes

The bane of my existence for as long as I can remember has been physical activity or exercise. I mean seriously, why run? Why go lift heavy things for FUN?

I was told when I started my OptiFast journey that exercise and activity were key to not only losing weight, but making the habit of working out was key to maintaining. Damn.

I half-assed the physical activity as soon as I felt up to it, starting with basic Pilates and a class here and there, mostly doing YouTube videos at home. Then, my friend Michele asked me if I wanted to take a boot camp with her, and I figured “sure, why not?”

We bought the LivingSocial deal for a boot camp type place near my house, and went to our first class on Saturday morning. It was a circuit-type workout, and I successfully completed three rounds! I flipped giant tires, I did planks, chest presses, squats, and I ran on a treadmill. RAN!

I felt awesome. Today, I decided to start the Couch to 5K program, and I’m starting Zumba on Thursday. I managed to walk a couple miles with my sister downtown today, and am looking forward to another bootcamp tomorrow!

WHO AM I!? I don’t hate physical activity. I just hated physical activity when I was heavier. I’m wicked sore though. Advil here I come…

The benefits will be worth it though. I’m loving feeling so much better, and definitely loving being smaller…and the clothes are a nice benefit too!

Week 10 (the rest) & Week 11: The beginning

I spent the majority of week 10 worrying about what I was going to do about Thanksgiving.

I know, it’s silly.

I had these moments of panic envisioning myself taking one bite of real food and going completely ape-shit, eating everything in sight, then proceeding to get sick, and then deciding to do it all again over the whole weekend, vowing to “start over” on Monday.

I got a little more realistic and realized that, no matter what, I wouldn’t completely blow it. I would definitely eat something. I made an appointment with the dietician for after my weigh in on Wednesday, and planned out what would make for a sensible and satisfying first meal. She was wonderfully supportive, and heard every last one of my concerns and helped me visualize what a good serving would be. We decided on about 2 ounces of turkey, about 10-12 roasted brussels sprouts (not too many, so my stomach didn’t do crazy things) and a few bites of whatever was for dessert.

Oh, about that weigh in…


FREAKING 40.3 pounds!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! HOLY HELL!!!!

That gave me the push I needed to keep going with my plan, eat only a small amount of food, and not completely blow it. That’s exactly what I did.

My mom had made some remarkable (really, really amazing) turkey stock which I ate in addition to my 2 ounces of turkey, 10 brussels sprouts, 4 green beans, and bite of mashed sweet potatoes. Dessert was a few bites of pumpkin flan and a pistachio French macaron made by my sister. (Officially can cross that off the cravings list!)

The conversation was wonderful, the company even better, and I was completely satisfied with my choices to eat. The jokes were endless, because after over 10 weeks, I’d nearly forgotten how to use a fork and plate.

A few photos ensued:


(me, my sister, and my mom)


(Me and my sister)

I must confess, later in the weekend at a favorite restaurant during a surprise party, I ate one bite of tuna tartare, and one bite of Peking-style chicken. Totally worth it.

A few non-scale successes:

  • Bought a 1X down coat for the upcoming freezing Chicago winter, to replace the size 22 pea coat from last summer.
  • My mom bought me boots for Hanukkah. Knee-high boots. That zip all the way up my calf. This is a first.
  • Bought off-the-rack jeans from Old Navy in a size I haven’t seen (or worn) in years.
  • I had to return an XXL sweater for an XL.

And now, since I’ve been fighting a bad cold since a week ago, I’m going to bed.

Week 1: Day 8

Well, I told all my work friends about this whole OptiFast thing today. They’d asked me where I’d been at lunch lately, so I finally just told them, and they were are amazingly supportive. It’s just another testament to the fantastic place I work. My support system just keeps getting bigger, which I’m thinking will help me stay on track.

I noticed something today.

While I’m absolutely exhausted when I get home from a day of work, it’s less of a physical exhaustion and more of a mental one. My joints aren’t hurting like they did. My skin is clearer. I’ve had a bit of a headache, but who knows what that’s from. I get headaches if an ant falls off a leaf.

This can’t be from losing weight already, but I’m thinking it’s from the lack of crap I’ve been consuming.

In talking to my friends today, I realized that I feel better overall than I have in months. My stomach doesn’t ache when I go to bed. The haze of a nearly-permanent food coma is gone. I can focus enough to grade more than 5 papers at a time…in fact, I’m all caught up for the first time in years. It’s amazing how much time I have when I’m not shopping, planning, cooking, photographing, and writing about everything that I cook! Not that I don’t love and miss that, but the break and the reset is quite welcome.

I’m living by these words by Hippocrates lately: “Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food”. In fact, I made this to print out… (you can too if you want).


Week 1: Day 7

Another school day is down in the books… I’m realizing exactly how out of it I was last week when my teammate asked me today why/how exactly I’m spending SO MANY DAYS on one unit. I honestly don’t even think I realized it. Oh well. The students could use an extra couple days on calendar vocabulary.

I tried a slightly different schedule today, with OptiFast products at 7, 9:30, 11:30, 3:30 and 7 p.m. Something about the slightly later breakfast-time one helped me not get so ridiculously hungry. Another thing that’s helping? BeneFiber. Seriously. That stuff is AWESOME.

I proudly avoided: peanut butter cupcakes, danish, apple cider donuts, and white chocolate chip cookies today.

I also realized something: I have to completely change my leisure computer reading. Almost all of my blog subscriptions are food-related. Not that I don’t LOVE my food blogger friends, and I do, but the temptation is just a little much for me right now.

I tried some sugar-free jell-o today too. Definitely don’t like jell-o. Nope. Not at all.

Also, if there’s anyone reading who’s done this program, or knows anything about it… I can’t stomach the reconstituted bouillon soup. It’s just gross. I got some low-sodium boxed chicken broth which has a whopping 9 calories a cup. Think that’s “ok”? I’ll be finding out for sure on Thursday…


Week 1: Day 6

If this were a normal week, tomorrow would be my weigh-in day. But, because my first appointment was on a Monday, I started OptiFast on a Tuesday, my first week will be 9 days instead of 7. Oh well.

I spent a lot of the day today with my mom, who is so wholeheartedly supportive of me and this journey, which makes it so much easier. She’s enthusiastic, which makes me feel so hopeful that this is really “it”. We took a trip to World Market and I got a few sugar-free Torani syrups to try in my shakes, and “bopped around” the suburbs for a while. I noticed that I had significant energy, and it’s almost like that shroud of sleepiness I had most of the summer is lifting.

I was less hungry today, most noticeably so in the afternoon. Again, it may just be this weekend schedule, which I’m going to try to stick to at school. Time to learn to like black coffee…

I’m also starting to get a little worried about getting bored with the choices I have available to me. I got some sugar-free jell-o today, and some 10-calorie low-sodium chicken broth to maybe tide me over when I’m sick of the shakes. For now, I’m good.


Week 1: Day 5

The lovely women at my class on Thursday weren’t lying when they said it would get easier “by the weekend.”

I woke up this morning quite hungry, as was to be expected for a Saturday morning. I slept in (and I use that term loosely) until about 7:30 and was raring to have some coffee. It’s my drug, I admit it. I’ve been making “frozen mochas” for breakfast since I started OptiFast, and they’ve helped me maintain some semblance of normal since every good day must begin with coffee.


These frozen mochas are simple: 1 packet of chocolate shake mix, 8 ounces coffee, 5-6 ice cubes, and 1 packet of MonkFruit sweetener. (Like stevia, but from the monk fruit instead of the stevia plant, it’s a bit less sweet). I’ve found, oddly enough, that drinking the shakes quickly, and savoring… ok, wait, savoring isn’t the right word. Savoring is for things like my sister’s desserts, a slow-cooked short rib, or delicious stew. “Eat slowly” is the term I’m looking for. If I drink the shakes quickly, yet eat my bars and soup slowly, my hunger level is MUCH lower. I guess this is all part of the learning curve.

I spent a few hours today taking photos of a friend of mine for his upcoming album. Usually, I would’ve jumped at his offer for pizza and caesar salad afterward, but I said no thank you, and came home and had soup.

Oh, and too much garlic powder in this soup mix makes for dragon breath…sorry Adam… and cats…and dog… and anyone I may talk to in the next 36 hours…

Another thing I’m noticing: my weekend fueling schedule (food is fuel…food is fuel) seems to be much more manageable than my weekday one.

Weekday schedule:

6:30 a.m. shake w/coffee

9:30 a.m. bar or shake

11:30 a.m. bar or shake

3:30-4 p.m. shake

7:00 p.m. soup

Weekend schedule:

8:30 a.m. shake with coffee

11:30 a.m. bar or shake

2:00 p.m. shake

6 p.m. soup

9 p.m. bar

I wonder if I could swing this at school… no one has to know what’s in my coffee mug!

Week 1: Day 4

Today was absolutely, definitely easier. I don’t know if it’s that I mixed up the order in which I consumed my Optifast products (I hesitate to call it “eating) or if that it’s really getting easier. Let’s go with a good combo of both.

Today had me craving a massive helping of salmon sashimi. I don’t know why, but man, sashimi sounds good, with lots of wasabi. I guess there are worse things to crave?

It was interesting all the time we had this evening when we weren’t trying to figure out where to go for dinner, eating dinner, waiting at dinner…

I did my nails, started a crochet blanket, and we’re watching a movie in a bit. I’m still more tired than normal, but that’s to be expected. Is it possible my rings are looser?

I’ve decided on a couple of weight loss “rewards” that I’m going to indulge in:

  • an “anchor” to wear every day, to remind me to stick with it. Probably a ring for my right hand.
  • at 25 lbs gone: a haircut/style
  • at 50 lbs gone: the new tattoo I want

I’ll decide more later… for now, baby steps.

Week 1: Day 3


I went into my first class at the Weight Management center today. I was excited to talk to the dietician, and the nurse and doctor about how I’ve been feeling.

I’m still a bit dizzy, but less so than yesterday. I guess cutting 2200 calories from my diet in one fell swoop will do that to a girl.

So I walked in to the center and the receptionist remembered me from Monday and asked how my first days were going. She said she liked my enthusiasm! The nurse called me right back into the exam room and I got on the scale, not expecting much.

I’ve lost 3.1 pounds in 3 days.

Wait, what? That’s more than I lost the whole time I was on Weight Watchers last time. Maybe I really can do this…

The class was interesting, and something I’ll file away for when I prepare my own food again. The dietician was fantastic, nice, and supportive, just what I needed.

One day at a time…


Week 1: Day 2

So this is what it really feels like to be hungry.

I feel ok, I actually have a decent amount of energy, I’m a wee bit dizzy, but in all honesty I feel ok.

Except for this insane gnawing hunger. I’m told it’ll get better and I won’t feel that way anymore after a while. I’m seeing where I’ve messed up on other food plans before. I’d get hungry and since “I could eat anything” as long as I “counted it”, that’s just what I would do.

On this? Notsomuch. Dammit, these things cost $3 a piece and I’m going to use them properly. I definitely had the thought of “ok, no snack and then I can have soup AND a bar for dinner.” Nope. That’s not “as directed.” I feel like food is everywhere though. On TV, billboards, at work, all over my pinterest feed, my entire blog reader… I may need to change some of my reading habits for a while.

My first class is tomorrow, where I will weigh in and meet with others in a similar situation. In the mean time, it’ll just be another Thursday at school.

I’m debating making a weight loss reward list for myself… more on that tomorrow.