Love Triangle (Thinking Healthy)

Let’s finish the story today. What the leader at the weight loss meeting should have said was “Nothing tastes as good as being healthy feels.” I can get behind healthy. Healthy is quantifiable. Resting heart rate, blood pressure, relief of aching joints… When I had lost weight and was exercising regularly, I had more energy. I could carry things up a flight of steps without being winded and when you live on the second story that is important. My overall sense of well-being was better. So why did I stop and why am I starting back now?

I don’t know for sure. Wrong motivation? Food deprivation? Cessation of exercise? All that I do know is now that I am approaching 53, I need to get back on track. I hurt—feet, ankles, knees, hips. I sound like a bowl of rice cereal when I get up in the morning. If I live to be a senior adult, I want to be an active one. The kind that kicks ass and takes names. (I’m kind of kidding about that last part. I just want to be able to lift my feet up and remember names!)

And now I start… Well, actually, I started about three weeks ago. I purchased a fitness band and began logging my daily food and activity. While it takes a bit of time, it’s so much easier than following a plan or counting points. It’s simple math of calories in verses calories out. That is the basic formula for weight loss. (Weight loss in real life should be so simple! At the very bottom of this blog, I’ve attached a couple of links that calculate calories.) I would like to lose 20 of the 30 pounds I gained. Why just 20? Because maintaining that full weight loss was a constant struggle. I don’t want to fight anymore and since I’ll never “feel” thin enough ever, I’m letting that go as well. I am eating better and incorporating intentional exercise back into my life. I walk more days than not and have added a fitness class using drumsticks into my exercise repertoire to mix things up a bit.

If you would have told me nine years ago that I would be where I am now, I would have told you that after working so hard to lose the weight, I would never let myself put it back on again. Heck, I would’ve said the same exact thing each and every time I’ve lost weight. And nine years later, I’m back at it. I’m not going to lie. It’s still a struggle. When I get up in the morning, I can think of 100 reasons not to walk. But when I look at my progress over these few short weeks, I lace up my shoes, crank up my walking music and haul my lazy butt out the door. And, I have started food planning. You have to when you are choosing to live a healthier lifestyle because hunger is an enemy of good food choices. When I’m planning now, I’m occasionally including small portions of food I love because otherwise, I’ll have an unplanned overindulgence.

I honestly don’t know where this journey will lead. It would be a relief if it busts up the triangle/hexagon but old habits die hard. I know this because I have been trying to kill these for years. The only thing I do know for sure is that I’m headed into the right direction and according to my fitness tracker, I’m 227,681 steps further ahead than I was three weeks ago. Wish me luck!

Me at present day, after I managed to find the 30 pounds I had lost!


Here is a link to a site that allows you to calculate, based on age, sex, current weight, height and activity level, calorie intake needed to maintain or lose weight.

Caloric Intake Calculator

This is a link to a Body Weight Planner. You tell it your stats and what you’d like your weight to be by a certain date and it will calculate the number of calories you should eat daily to hit that goal. This is on the USDA website.

Body Weight Planner

(Disclaimer: I am not being compensated in any form for attaching these links. These are sites that I’ve found useful and just wanted to pass along.)

Love Triangle (When I First Realized I Was Different)

Love Triangle (Thinking Thin)

Love Triangle (Thinking Thin)

“Nothing tastes as good as being thin feels.” That’s what a leader in one of those organized, pay as you lose, weight meetings once said. Forgive me for my language but for me and every other person who struggles with their weight, I’m calling bullshit. I have lost and regained weight for all of my adult life. Most recently, seven years ago I lost 55 pounds and have since regained 30 of it. The weight gain was due to several factors but primary was the reintroduction of foods I had previously given up eating and secondary was the cessation of intentional exercise.

Let’s start with food, or more to the point, the lack of it. It’s that whole “deprivation” thing. After a while, it backfires. Big time. I hate deprivation about as much as I hate being overweight. Let’s face it, chocolate cake tastes good. As does fried chicken or a rare plus prime cut ribeye… Yes, those things, and many others, taste damn good. But as for how being thin “feels”? I haven’t got a clue. That “feeling” or lack thereof, is at the heart of my issue with food.

Once I self-identified as fat, no matter how much weight I lost, I never “felt” thin. Honestly, I could lose enough to fit into every chart and guide and still not “feel” thin. Minus 55 pounds, I still spent as much time in front of the mirror fussing over my appearance as I do now.  And when I say “fussing over” what I really mean is “critiquing my appearance against unrealistic standards for any human.” Thin is a state of mind that, unfortunately, many of us will never identify as no matter our size.  And in my mind, if I’m never going to be “thin”, why fight it? It’s much easier to succumb to this triangle/hexagon thing I have going.

And why did I quit moving? When I chose to give in to food, to stave off the inevitable weight gain, I had to move—A LOT! I think there’s a secret ingredient in chocolate cake that wears down your resistance over time. That would be the easy excuse to use. Actually, when I began to reintroduce more “junk” into my diet, I just didn’t feel up to exercising. Overindulging in fat and sugar made me feel tired and sluggish and just reinforced my innate desire to remain sedentary. And once the pounds begin to creep back on, fat starts coming back, previously conditioned muscles hurt from exertion and it becomes easier to let go.

Let’s face it; I used the word struggle for a reason. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is like being in a constant conflict with myself. After a while, the clash between my desire to eat and my desire to lose weight becomes too much and I give up and give in to food. Tomorrow I’ll move forward to present day and where I’m at now.

On the left of this photo is of me at my heaviest in 2007 and me after losing 55 pounds in 2009.


For Part One of this story, click here: Love Triangle (When I First Realized I Was Different)

Love Triangle (When I First Realized I Was Different)

I have a confession to make… I have been embroiled in a love triangle for a long time and this sordid affair must come to an end. On one side, there’s me. On the other side, there’s food. And, on the remaining side, there’s my desire to be fit and maintain a healthy lifestyle. If truth be told, it’s probably more like a love hexagon when you also consider my love for anything that remotely resembles a dessert, that I hate the feeling of deprivation when I’m “dieting” and that, in addition to work, my hobbies (blogging, reading, genealogical research) are sedentary. Of course, a love triangle sounds much sexier than a love hexagon but when you’re in conflict with food and your emotional and physical well-being, there’s nothing sexy about it whatever terms you choose to use.

In my family we have a saying, “Some people may eat to live but we live to eat.” From home cooking to fine dining and everything in between, count me in. I love food. Always have. I was every mother’s dream. Put any jar of Gerber’s in front of me and I ate it. Food marked every special occasion or celebration and was a way to demonstrate love.  As in, “Happy birthday! Here’s your favorite meal of fried chicken, gravy, mashed potatoes, corn and homemade rolls. Oh, and I made your favorite, an oatmeal cake with brown sugar icing for dessert.” And at our family reunions, the amount of food could feed a small third world nation. Now before you get any ideas, I must tell you I had an extremely happy childhood, surrounded by people who loved and supported me. But in addition to the abundance of love, there was always an abundance of food.

The teasing and taunts about my weight began around fourth grade. I don’t think I really noticed a difference between me and my peers until they ungraciously pointed it out to me and from that point forward, I became “fat.” It started to become ingrained into my identity. I wore “chubby” sized kid clothes (I think they call them “pretty plus” now). I was picked last for any group activity in gym. I started choosing more solo activities to avoid the name calling. I developed a warped sense of my body image. If my peers thought I was fat, well, I saw myself as bigger than fat. The result of this?  Around about the age of nine, my love/hate relationship with food commenced and the love triangle was firmly in place.

I’m not asking for a pity party and I certainly don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me. This is just part of my story and before I can move ahead, I feel I owe you a bit of the backstory.  Tomorrow, I’ll delve into my attitude towards weight loss.

This is my fourth grade school picture.

Fourth grade edited

For Part Two of this story, click here: Love Triangle (Thinking Thin)

Strawberry Balsamic Jam with Cracked Black Pepper

This is a soft-set jam with the consistency of a loose fruit spread.  The balsamic vinegar turns the jam a deep purple and adds a tartness, which is unidentifiable as vinegar, and the black pepper provides a slow, pleasant heat. This recipe will make approximately 2 cups (or four half pints) of jam.

4 cups mashed strawberries

2 cups sugar

4 tablespoons of a good quality balsamic vinegar

2 teaspoons of freshly ground cracked black pepper (grinder set on largest setting)

Place strawberries and sugar and a non-reactive container and refrigerate for a few hours, even up to overnight. This will allow the fruit to macerate and dissolve most of the sugar prior to cooking.

Before you begin cooking the fruit, prep and prepare your jars for water bath canning. If you are new to canning or need a refresher, Ball, is the universal canning guru. I am not receiving any compensation from Ball or any of their affiliates. I am attaching a link to their site because they are just so good at what they do. In my opinion, they set the gold standard for canning. Following is a link to their site:

Place the strawberry and sugar mixture in a heavy skillet that is deep enough to hold the mixture and allow it to boil without boiling over. Place over high to medium high heat and stir to dissolve any remaining sugar crystals. Allow mixture to come to a boil, reduce heat to keep it at a low and stir occasionally to keep the strawberries and sugar from burning. Once the berries have reduced to half in volume (this can take anywhere from 30 minutes on up) add the balsamic vinegar and cracked black pepper and cook for about 5 minutes more.

Remove prepared jars from canner. Fill jars to about 1/4 inch from top. Apply lids and rings and place back into the canner. Allow water to come to a boil and process for 10 minutes. Remove jars from counter and place on a heat proof surface. Listen for the distinctive “pop” or “click” to indicate that the jars have sealed. Allow jars to sit, undisturbed, for about 24 hours, check the seal, and if sealed properly, remove rings and store in a cool, dark area. (I have shelves in a rarely used guest room that I store my canned goods.)

Any jars that have not sealed, place in the refrigerate as they are not safe for room temperature storage.

I plan on enjoying my jam over brie with a glass of red wine and some crackers.

JamStrawberry Season

Strawberry Season

Even though we had a mild winter and the seasons seemed to blend together this year, I know that summer is approaching because strawberry season is upon us. Where I live, strawberries are the first fruit of the season and depending on my canning reserves, strawberry jam is the official herald of my canning season.

We have a small garden but we do not grow strawberries. We just don’t have the space for what they yield. The strawberries I processed came from a small “pick your own” farm about a 40-minute drive from my home. I had a game plan of what I intended to can and picked accordingly. With two pecks (around 25 pounds) of plump, ripe berries, I had a couple of days work ahead of me.

I knew I wanted to try a small batch of Strawberry Jam with Balsamic Vinegar and Cracked Black Pepper. I decided to try a soft set method without pectin. I mashed berries until I had two cups and allowed them to macerate with one cup of sugar for a few hours in the refrigerator. I then placed this mixture in a large skillet that was deep enough to allow the berries to boil without boiling over. I cooked the jam until it was reduced to half and thick, about 20 to 30 minutes. At that point, I added three tablespoons of a quality balsamic vinegar and a teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper. I let that cook for about five minutes and then removed it from the heat. I poured the jam into prepped half pint jars and processed it in a water bath canner for 10 minutes. I ended up with two half pints (a cup total) and just enough left over for a few people to taste.

This jam is delicious. There is a pleasant, unidentifiable tartness from the balsamic that is finished with a slow burn from the pepper. It is a very soft set. The part jar I have in the refrigerator is the consistency of a loose fruit spread. That doesn’t bother me. I grew up in a household where soft set jams were used as a replacement for syrup on pancakes. This jam will be perfect ladled over a brie with a nice glass of red wine and a few crackers.

When I make this jam again, I will do a couple of things differently. After reading at least 20 different recipes, I compiled my own. I will double the amount of strawberries and sugar (four cups of mashed berries and two cups of sugar) as it’s a lot of work to only end up with a little over a cup of jam. I will only add one tablespoon of balsamic vinegar for each cup of prepped fruit instead of the 1 ½ ratio. I think less than that will not be enough and more than that makes the jam border of the edge of tartness that might be unpleasant for some. It’s fine for my taste as I drizzle balsamic over a salad or even vanilla ice cream but there’s some people, bless their hearts, that don’t appreciate the taste of it. I will also set my pepper grinder on its largest grind setting as I think it will help with appearance although when you add the balsamic, the jam goes from bright berry red to a deep purple in color. You can find the recipe here:

Strawberry Balsamic Jam with Cracked Black Pepper

For the rest of the berries, I made four batches of plain Strawberry Jam and two batches of Strawberry Pepper Jam, the peppers consisting of jalapenos and a habanero. The only thing I switched up was the type of pectin I used. Normally, I use Sure-Jell, but over the years I had been reading about Pomona’s Pectin. It is a vegan, gluten free pectin that gels with low sugar or any type of sweetener. It has made a believer out of me! I had five cups of mashed berries and only used one cup of sugar and the jam set up as promised. I will say that it does not have the glossy consistency of traditional jam canned with Sure-Jell but being able to reduce the amount of sugar from seven cups to just one, I’ll take it and the strawberry flavor is off the charts.

I am not getting paid or compensated in any way from Pomona’s Pectin but I am attaching their link as I think it’s an excellent product, especially if you’re looking to reduce the amount of sugar in your diet or find alternatives to using sugar as a sweetener when canning.

The picture attached shows the fruits of my labor, except for the cat. Whenever our cat, Flash, sees a box, he’s in it. His motto? “If I fit, I sit.” And if it were up to him, his furry behind would still be planted in that box and I would have had to find an alternate container to pick in.



Smile and Say “Cheese!”

Today is Mother’s Day. Yesterday, after I could no longer deny my self-induced social media shame, I began searching for that “perfect” photo of me and my mom to update my Facebook profile. Sad thing was, in the brief few minutes I spent looking, I couldn’t find any of us together as adults. I’m sure there’s probably a few that exist, they just haven’t been scanned and saved yet. But given that I am the family photo repository, it bothers me that’s there not an assortment from which to choose.

Yesterday, we had a surprise 86th birthday party for my mother in law. We had a wonderful time. And the best decision of the day? People who know me well will be surprised to read this but it was having a photographer present to record and capture the memories of the day. I think after the search for my mom’s photo, I was particularly sensitive to it.

I have always hated having my picture taken—from my smallest to heaviest weight, braces, hairstyles, it doesn’t matter. I can always find something wrong. I don’t need an outside critic—no one can be harder on me than myself. And I think my mom was the same too. Compound that between the two of us and you end up with no photographic evidence of us together as adults.

Here’s the rub. When I look at pictures of people, I’m not looking at their physical traits (although some of the fashion choices we made makes me smile) I am looking at the sweet souls I love dearly. I am thinking about the day the photo was taken, the laughs we’ve shared and the times we’ve spent together. And sadly, for many of the people in these pictures, I can no longer get just a “me and them” photo.

The picture of me and my mom that I’ve attached to this blog is not the best but I smile every time I see it. We were having one of those “laugh until the tears run down your legs” moments that we often shared and someone captured it on film. I am so thankful they did.

There’s going to be a lot of photo taking today. Like Elsa sings in the movie Frozen, “Let it go!” Release the insecurities you feel and take the photo. It’s not about the perfect body or hair. It’s about the love and relationship.

Smile and say “Cheese!” The people who love you will be grateful you did.