Improving My Body Image (+Caramelized Banana Oatmeal)

Losing weight for a healthier body and lifestyle is common medical advice. By age 18 I was nearly 200 lbs. My parents worried about my weight, but I felt pretty good about myself. I started exercising my freshman year of college with my best friend. I remember walking around in sweatpants and a sports bra, thinking I looked really good.

I’m not 100% sure what happened. By the time I got to my goal weight, it became exhausting to step on the scale. I weighed myself daily, panicking at the slightest gain- I’m talking 1-2 pounds. I would call Boyfriend in tears, terrified of gaining all of the weight back.

My biggest goals for myself this year are self-care and self-love. I’ve been working harder in the gym, strengthening my body and accepting the changes that come with building muscle. Today I am about ten pounds heavier. I’m not 100% sure since I haven’t weighed myself very consistently. My pants size hasn’t really changed. I’ve noticed changes in curves, but more than anything, I can lift more, I can run longer. I feel healthier and I’m not torturing myself for enjoying certain foods.

The diet mentality tends to label foods as “good” and “bad.” An Instagram account previously called #nutribollocks has been phenomenal in combating shame. I focus more on honoring my hunger and respecting my fullness. Granted, there is still a balance in what I’m eating.

On Sundays I get to sleep in a little before Boyfriend comes home and we go the gym. After the gym we may grocery shop. I’ll cook us a large breakfast to help us recover from the work-out. Some mornings Boyfriend prefers to sleep in, so I get a quiet morning to myself. This happened last Sunday, so I decided to try a warm oatmeal recipe for the cold morning. Oatmeal is a healthy breakfast choice with lots of fiber. Overnight oats are classic, but sometimes I like to cook old-fashioned stove top oats. Since I prefer sweet oatmeal, these caramelized bananas (with coconut oil instead of butter) offer sweetness without going overboard!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 3 bananas, sliced
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup real maple syrup
  • sprinkle of cinnamon
  • dash of vanilla
  • sea salt, chocolate chips, and other desired toppings

Instructions:

1) Heat 2 cups of milk in a pot until it boils. Add 1 cup oats and cook about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cover and remove from heat. Let sit about another 5 minutes.


2) Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the maple syrup, cinnamon, and vanilla, and let it bubble until foamy.

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3) Add bananas and simmer for a few minutes on each side until soft and plump.

4) Remove from heat. Stir half of bananas into oatmeal, and reserve the other half for topping

I chose not to stir in the bananas for myself, but I assume this makes a creamier texture. I did not pour the remaining syrup into my oatmeal either; I’m pretty sure it would be too sweet if I did.

Add some chocolate chips and it’s done!

Final Thoughts: This surprisingly did not take as long as I thought it would! It may not be a work day breakfast, but it was certainly quick. I’ve never cooked anything with coconut oil, so I was quite surprised that I didn’t get an underlying coconut flavor. I’m assuming the other flavorings masked the coconut (or perhaps I need new coconut oil). This was a sweet and warm, healthy start to my week.

Black Bean Brownies (GF)

A lot of people try gluten-free or vegan treats as a healthier alternative to desserts and sweet treats. I don’t know if it makes them healthier, but it’s good practice for friends and family with food allergies or dietary restrictions. I made brownies for a coworker, so another coworker requested an additional pan of black bean brownies. The idea is that the beans make the ingredients “stick” instead of flour. It’s a gluten-free option that keeps the brownies moist.

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 15 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips

Instructions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8×8 baking dish.

2. Place all ingredients except the chocolate chips in a food processor (or blender) and process until smooth. Scrape the batter into the baking dish and level the top.

 

 

Honestly there’s nothing easier than shoving everything into a food processor. If you’d like, taste it and see if it needs a bit more cocoa.

3. Sprinkle chocolate chips over the top of the batter. Bake for 25-27 min.

4. Let cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing.

If you don’t let them sit, they’ll be too soft to cut and just fall apart.

Final Thoughts: This was a 50-50 dessert. It’s easier to make than regular brownies, plus it’s gluten-free with extra protein! While I enjoyed the dense texture, it’s obvious it’s made with beans. About half of the people who tried mine really disliked them. The other half went crazy for them! To each their own, I guess. Which one do you guys like better – regular or black bean brownies?

Yakisoba-Style Spaghetti Squash

Yakisoba is a Japanese fried noodle dish that I became familiar with at a neighborhood restaurant called Tomo’s (meaning Friend’s). In high school, I ate there as often as I could. Most often I would order chicken or beef yakisoba. I was practically obsessed with the crunchy vegetables with the soy sauce and sesame-flavored noodles.

Recently I stumbled upon a recipe for a lower carb version of yakisoba. I haven’t had much luck with spaghetti squash in the past. I find it difficult to cut apart and cumbersome to cook. I was shocked when the recipe said I could microwave it! What a difference from baking for 40 minutes. This quick and tasty low carb meal is perfect for your dinner on Meatless Mondays.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 lbs. spaghetti squash
  •  1 small onion, chopped
  • shiitake mushrooms
  • 2 stalks scallions, chopped
  • 1+ cup cloeslaw mix of carrots and cabbage
  • 1 Tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp dried red chile
  • 4 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1/2 Tbsp granulated sugar
  • salt and pepper, to taste

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Instructions:

1) Slice the spaghetti squash in half lengthwise. Place it cut side down on a microwave safe plate. Microwave for 10 minutes.

 

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Prior to cooking, remember to scoop out the seeds with a spoon!

2) Mix the sugar and soy sauce together while the squash cooks.

2) Remove from the microwave. If soft enough, drag a fork across the inside to make “spaghetti.” If too hard, continue microwaving.

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3) In a large pan over high heat, add sesame oil. Cook the onions until soft (2-3 minutes). Add the coleslaw mix and red chile. Cook for another 2 minutes.

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4) Add the mushrooms. Cook for another 2 minutes.

I cooked mine separately because Boyfriend doesn’t care for mushrooms. This was not a good idea. The mushroom flavor was so strong without being properly cooked and mixed in the stir-fry.

5) Add the spaghetti squash, scallions, and sauce. Mix well. Cook for 2 minutes, then serve.

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Final Thoughts: Spaghetti squash has always been a tedious vegetable to cook. Had I known I could microwave it, I would have tried more recipes! This was so delicious and filling even without meat or tofu. Boyfriend and his brother gobbled it up without even realizing it was vegetarian. The coleslaw mix was another surprise. I’ll definitely be using it in future stir-fry recipes. Boyfriend suggests I try meat for the next time I make it. Once spaghetti squash is actually in season, expect me to be cooking more of this!

 

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Turkey Sweet Potato Skillet

What a flashback! Right when I started this blog, I picked a healthy recipe off of Pinterest and gave it a try. I consider this to be the first delicious meal I ever made. Yes, I forgot an important ingredient, but I cooked this all on my own. My first triumph: this Ground Turkey Sweet Potato Skillet.

I forgot to buy peppers at the grocery store. I scrambled to defrost the meat. I remember struggling to chop vegetables. My very first attempt was a complete mess, disorganized from the start. Remaking this dish really gave me the chance to measure my progress.

Ingredients:
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 lbs. extra lean ground turkey
  • 1 tsp garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 cup onions, diced
  • 1/2 cup yellow pepper, diced
  • 1 1/2 cups sweet potato, diced
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • a pinch of red chili flakes (I left this out because I’m a wimp)
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
  • parsley for garnish

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Something to note about the ingredients. Be sure to defrost your meat before you get started. If it’s been in the freezer for a while, place the whole package in a bowl or bag and let sit in the refrigerator overnight. It should be thawed by dinner time.

Instructions:

1) In a skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat.

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2) Add the ground turkey and garlic. Use a spatula to break up the turkey while it cooks. Stir occasionally, cooking for about 5 minutes.

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3) Add the onions and yellow peppers. Cook until the onions are soft.

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Both vegetables will look translucent (see-through) as they soften.

4) Add the sweet potato, chili pepper, salt, and pepper.

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5) Cover the skillet and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Stir occasionally.

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At this point I drained much of the fat off. I used more meat than the recipe required, so there was quite a bit of leftover fat. I didn’t drain it before hand to let the fat flavor the dish as it cooked.

Here the recipe offers 2 options. Either:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Add the cheese to the skillet and place the pan in the oven for a few minutes to melt the cheese. OR

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Add the cheese to the hot skillet. Place the lid back on the pan for 5 minutes.

Personally, I am terrified of the broiler so I sprinkled cheese on top and covered the pan.

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I was actually disappointed by this. The food was plain despite multiple attempts to season. I think it would have packed a better punch if I hadn’t accidentally minced my onions. I still love the sweet potatoes, but the turkey seemed like it would be better if it had been marinaded prior to being cooked, or if it was served with a sauce. Still, this is a healthier dish and, provided there isn’t extra salt in your turkey, a low sodium option as well.

 

 

 

Happy, Healthy New Year!

Looking at me, you would never guess that I used to weigh nearly 200 lbs. My parents have always lived healthy, active lifestyles and encouraged this lifestyle for my siblings and myself. Beginning in high school, my interests turned from sports to theatre and music. I spent less time exercising, and even as a swimmer my diet was never the greatest. This is me just before last Halloween. I weigh between 150-155 lbs. I’m a dress size 8 instead of the 16 I wore to prom.

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I was the fat kid in my family. We would go on vacation, and I would be the one lagging behind on the bike ride or huffing and puffing my way up the stairs. I’m tall, so it never seemed like obesity was a problem. Most people tell me that they can’t picture me heavier than I am now. Here I am in 2013 on the left, 2010 on the right.

One of the most common New Years’ resolutions is to lose weight or get healthier. Now that we’ve reached the end of January, it’s a good time to check-in with your goals. I heard on the radio that 80% of people give up on their resolutions by the end of January. Making these lifestyle changes isn’t easy. Many of you have probably noticed that diets fail and shortcuts don’t produce results.

Slowly, over the course of three years, I made changes to my diet and general lifestyle that contributed to my weight loss. Today I’ve lost nearly 40 lbs. Everyone is different, so what works for me may not work for you. Also note that even though I want to be a doctor, I am not a doctor; this is not medical advice.

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After my first 5k! The Color Run

Here are some small changes that can add up for big results!

1) Drink Your Coffee & Tea Plain

Real talk. Caramel macchiatos, vanilla frapuccinos, and chai lattes are packed with sugar. Some of those drinks can have over 300 calories! Add a muffin or a breakfast sandwich and you’ve already pushed past 600 calories for one meal.

I know cutting back on sugar is difficult. I still struggle with resisting candy and other sweet treats. Some people may not care for coffee without the sugar and cream. If that’s the case, start cutting back. Use some honey instead of sugar. Use plain milk instead of sweetened creamers. Cut back on the number of creamers or sugars you add in.

Black coffee is between 2-5 calories. No fat, no sugar. Tea is about the same. You can get your caffeine without adding on the unnecessary.

2) Stop Drinking Your Calories in General

I’m convinced soda is poison. The amount of sugar in soda should be criminal. I’ve known plenty of people who have dropped 10-15 lbs. just from cutting out soda! Diet soda is still soda. Though there’s no “sugar” there are additives that create a similar insulin response. Bottled teas, juices, and drinks like “Smart Water” can have between 20-40 grams of sugar. That’s as much as a candy bar!

Check your labels. If your drink has more than 15-20 grams of sugar, drink water instead. If you can, replace as many beverages as you can with water.

3) Check. The. Labels.

If you’re trying to cut back on salt, sugar, fat, or calories in general, read the labels. You might be surprised by which foods aren’t as good for you as they seem. Check the serving size! A bag of chips that you’re used to eating in one sitting may actually have 2 or 3 servings. Without knowing it, you’re eating twice as much food as you should.

4) Take the Stairs

The stairmaster and I are not friends. I used to despise taking the stairs because I got easily winded. Now that I take the 4 flights of stairs up to my office every day, I’ve gotten better. Take the stairs whenever you can. Start with one flight a day, up and down. Take them at the mall or the airport, whenever the opportunity arises.

5) Track Your Food

You’ve heard the expression “watch what you eat.” There are a couple ways to track your food. I use the free app, My Fitness Pal. If you have a Fitbit or similar device, the app should allow for diet tracking as well. I’ve met people who just write down everything they eat; this way they don’t get too caught up on the numbers. I’ve also met people who take a picture of everything they eat in a day, then post it online for accountability.

6) Make Your Cheats Small

I think that you have to make room somewhere in your diet for the unhealthy things you’ve come to love. Denying myself makes me more likely to binge. I don’t recommend a full cheat day, but at least one cheat meal or treat in a week isn’t going to kill your progress. That is, as long as you don’t go overboard. Some people take cheat meal to mean they can eat whatever you want. You still have to exercise some self-control. If you buy a candy bar, don’t buy the King size bar. If you miss those frappucinos, order a tall and maybe skip the whip. I’ve found that over time there are fewer junk foods that I like to eat anymore.

7) Walk 30 min. Every Day

Walking is a seriously underestimated form of exercise. I first began losing weight with a brisk walk after work. Though it isn’t as intense for me anymore, it is excellent for your heart and for weight loss. Work your way up to 30 minutes if you don’t feel ready. Start with 10 minutes. Walk at a pace that allows you to talk, but not to sing.

8) Beware of “Health” Foods

While reading the news the other day, I came across this article listing the 100 Unhealthiest Foods of 2018. The list includes the obvious choices: candies, fast food, chips, etc. Shockingly, it also includes items from Weight Watchers, Special K, Power Bar, and Muscle Milk. I stopped eating many protein bars including Power Bars, Balance Bars, Cliff Bars, and Think Thin once I read the label and realized how much sugar they have in them. Even natural peanut butter was listed. Marketing is not always honest. Read the labels and get to know the nutritional content of the food you eat every day.

9) Don’t Change Everything at Once

It’s great that you want to make changes, but if you get carried away, you’re less likely to keep your resolutions. Start small. Cut out soda, then once you’ve kicked the habit, cut out candy. If you work somewhere you need to take the stairs, take a few flights or take them once to start.

10) Eat at Home

I swear one of the reasons I lost so much weight is that I could eat at home. When I cook for myself, I eat smaller portions with less salt and sugar. I often eat more protein and vegetables, instead of packaged foods high in fat and salt. I don’t buy candy and cookies and other junk, so when I eat at home there’s less temptation.

Losing weight isn’t easy, but I hope even small changes like these will help you on the journey. Have you made a resolution to lose weight? Have you already lost weight? Share your tips on getting and staying healthy! Even better, share a healthy recipe!