Wednesday, January 1, 2014

New Year: Day 1

It's late... 9:30 on January 1 and I should already be in bed, but this has been on my mind for awhile and it's time to do something about it.

I am bringing this blog back to life. No more recipes, no product reviews, no weekly reports or anything even approaching a plan. From now on it is simply a place to share my progress and thoughts on health and fitness.

2013 was a rough year. I started out really well, made tremendous progress and hit my lowest weights in over 10 years. Then I started to go backward, slipping a little more each month, until I had gained back 20 pounds.

It was depressing. Frustrating. I came close to giving up entirely.

If it wasn't for the memory of this blog, those old photos and the knowledge that I am still, even now, much better than I was 5-7 years ago, I dare say I would have continued to slide. Admitting that I am still more than 15 pounds above my lowest weight just makes me sad and embarrassed, but you know what? That's still a good 40 pounds lighter than my heaviest! That counts for something!

I don't have time to go into everything that happened in 2013, and maybe I never will. For now I'm just starting over, with a new January 1 weight of 231.2, surprisingly only 3 pounds over my report from last New Years Day.

This is where I am right now, starting off the year:

• I'm on a new diet, which has helped me avoid a ton of calories in December, and I may share more about that in the future.

• I'm back at CrossFit, trying to challenge myself after giving up after hurting my knees.

• I'm finally writing again, which is good for me in so many ways.

• And most of all, I'm looking forward to a good year ahead, with some real success to keep me going.

I hope to keep this up, but won't plan any schedule for now. I may move the blog to a new setup, clean up old posts that don't have much to offer, or just change the design to reflect my fresh approach. Or I may just write this stream-of-consciousness blargle whenever the urge strikes me as a way to open up about health and fitness, to own who I am and take control of who I can be.

For now, that's enough for me.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Vita-Mix Recipe: Tropical Strawberry

Sometimes it helps to get back to your comfort zone. Over the past few weeks I've struggled to keep up with the important things in my life. Diet and exercise fell off little by little, old habits crept up, and writing just went out the window completely. The only blog I've managed to continue is my daily photo challenge, and while I'm not treating it quite the way I wanted, at least I haven't missed a day.

The same cannot be said for this space, or my minimalist blog, and let's not even mention my new cooking blog, left out to rot when I was barely started. I've had time to write, but a lack of energy and inspiration killed my enthusiasm. Worse, I was doing everything wrong in my personal life, eating poorly, avoiding exercise, being lazy in every way imaginable, and I cannot write about health & fitness, or minimalism, when I am so disconnected from the subject.

Honestly, I'm not ready to write yet, but tonight's dinner inspired me. I have been thinking about this blog, where I am with my goals for health & fitness, so while I am trying to recover from a long run of junk food and sweets, it's time to ask the question: what now?

Where am I going with SpoonMatters?

I need a fresh start for 2013, fresh goals. I have some ideas, but I'll get to that perhaps next week. For now just know that I plan to post at least once a week for awhile, until I get my life running smooth enough to commit to a heavier writing schedule. For the rest of this year, I will focus this blog on a few things:

The 50 Plates Project - This is still going well, though I've discovered a dangerous side-effect. Before the end of March I will get caught up on our meals thus far, and explore the next level of 50 Plates.

• Home-cooked snacks - Part of 50 Plates is making sure I have enough food options at home to avoid unnecessary splurging. I plan to explore more snacks and healthy meals in this space as I find things that help me eat at home.

• Exercise, getting back to the basics - Did I mention that I ran a 5K a couple weeks ago? Yeah, I finally did it, but I've been sitting on my butt ever since, and thus don't feel great trying to talk about it. It's time to start some daily exercise again.

I probably won't bother with the weekly reports anymore, but I will at least weigh in once a month. April's weigh-in has me worried, but with another week and a half I could potentially get things under control.

Over the next few weeks I'll get caught up on this blog, but for now, I want to share tonight's dinner. I wanted something light after a long day of snacking to stay awake, so I took advantage of all the fruit we froze earlier this year and just threw something together. Thank goodness for the VitaMix!

Tropical Strawberry Smoothie
serves 1

1 cup orange juice
1 banana
1 cup strawberries
1/2 cup mango
1 tbsp chia seeds
1 tbsp ground flaxseed
water and/or ice as needed

Add ingredients to VitaMix in order listed. If using frozen fruit, add a little extra water to the orange juice before adding frozen fruit. Blend on low for 30-40 seconds, then shift to high and blend until smooth.

I used banana, strawberries and mango that we froze at home, as well as fresh-squeezed orange juice made with our Citristar Citrus Juicer. This has to be one of the freshest tasting smoothies I've made in quite awhile.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Weekly Report: The danger of a two-income family

Last week was rough. February on the whole was busier and more stressful than January, and it showed in my March 1st weigh in last Friday. It didn't help that my wife joined me at work for the last week, filling in while we were shorthanded. We were rushed in the morning, lunch was unpredictable, and by the time we got home neither of us wanted to cook anything healthy.

What a difference from when my wife stays home. We are fortunate that our lifestyle enables us to live on a single income, because both of us working this kind of schedule would put us right back where we were 3 or 4 years ago. I'll let the details speak for themselves...

Weekly Report
219.8 lb.
Weight change (+/-)
- 1.4 lb. 
Body Fat %
29.0 %
Total Net Calories (+/-)
+ 4,566
Average Daily Food Calories
Exercise - Total Calories Burned
Exercise - Total Time
2.5 hours

Weight - I shouldn't complain. With the kind of week I had, a loss of 1.4 pounds is respectable. It could have been better, and I keep looking at how far I am from my low last month, but every pound counts. The purpose of these weekly logs is to admit when I fall and build confidence every time I get back up.

Food - This was a horrible week for food. I went overboard almost every day, snacked on anything I could find, even resorting to candy and soda to stay awake. Comfort food was the theme of the week, and while it could have been worse if we were eating out every meal (as we have done in similar situations before) it definitely took a toll on my health. I expanded my stomach by overeating several days in a row, which just made me hungrier and hungrier, and now I have to suffer a little to retrain my body.

Exercise - My exercise habits also suffered during the week. I started out running after work, but soon we were too tired and just wanted to crash on the couch. Old habits of laziness took over, though some nights I did get off my butt and go for a long walk in an attempt to burn some calories.

I really need to fit exercise into my morning routine. Leaving it for the end of the day is a risk. Despite the positive effects it has on my mood, coming home grumpy always kills my desire to run. I need to start running in the morning, so if nothing else I maintain the practice long enough to build a good habit.

Overall - The stress of last week had a definite impact on my consumption. I know I'm repeating myself, but it all comes down to habit. I have to break the habit of comfort food, eating my feelings, and being lazy when I don't feel good. I must replace that with healthy food, working out my feeling by running, and, well... when I don't feel good there's not much I can do, but I must avoid eating junk to "feel better". It usually just makes me feel worse anyway.

Photo taken on March 1, 2013

My eating habits last month, especially over the past week, show in my face. I look bloated, which is no surprise as I weighed in 4.6 pounds higher than February 1st. The good news is that I'm still well below my starting weight for the year. I just have to fix my habits before the damage becomes permanent.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

50 Plates: 2 Month Report, Stress & Travel

Status as of yesterday, March 1, 2013:

Day 60 of 365 (week 9)
8 meals eaten in local restaurants
1 meals eaten in chain restaurants.
Frequency of eating out: 1 time per week

Nine weeks already? I don't know what happened to February, but it certainly went by fast. The past month began with a long weekend trip visiting my wife's family in Houston, and finished with a crazy week at work. We were short several people in the office, and business was not slowing down to cooperate, so I wound up eating my feelings more than once.

The good news is that I've managed to stick to my 50 Plates so far. We've had weeks like this in the past, and I always wound up eating out once or twice a day to deal with stress. Because of The 50 Plates Project we had to keep plenty of food in the house, and there was no temptation to eat in chain restaurants. I may have eaten too much during the week (more about that in next Tuesday's Weekly Report), but I ate less than I would have going to Chilis or Tijuana Flats.

Now that another month has passed, how are we doing on our challenge to find local restaurants?

Plate #6
Local rating: 4 Star
Feast, Houston, TX
Braised shoulder of beef with red wine, carrots and mashed potatoes

When I was planning our visit to Houston, I knew I should be able to find a spot that served locally sourced food. It's Texas, there has to be local beef, right? Originally intending to eat out only once on the trip, I selected a local restaurant to treat my in-laws to something special.

Feast was a wonderful experience. None of the meat served in their restaurant is factory farmed. Their menu shifts from day to day to match their local supply, and on the back of their menu they print a list of ranches and farms that provide the food cooked each evening. This is exactly what I was looking for, and it is the first restaurant we've visited this year to earn a 4 star local rating.

The meal was delicious, and I kicked myself for eating nothing but fast food and chains when I lived in Houston. It is such a big and diverse city, and I spent a little more than two and a half years going to school there, yet I never branched out and to find any local treasures. I was a different person back then, and I am thankful that part of my life is in the past.

Plate #7
Local rating: 2 Star
Barry's Pizza, Houston, TX
Barry's Special (pizza with pepperoni, mushrooms, ham, bell pepper, onion & Italian sausage)

Speaking of local gems, how on earth did I not try Barry's Pizza when I lived less than a mile from it for 2 years? I drove past this log cabin restaurant countless times, only to dine across the street at Dave & Busters or down the road at Wendy's... why? You would think any place with pizza would have been on my list, but sadly it took The 50 Plates Project to get me in the door.

Although I had not planned to eat another restaurant meal during our trip, Monday was the start of a new week and we needed lunch on the way to the airport. Scrambling to find a local place to eat, I knew it was easy to find local pizza so my wife searched yelp while I drove and we hit upon this delicious spot.

I should rate Barry's as a 3 star local restaurant, but they do have a small location in the Houston airport, which makes them 2 star: smaller local chain with only a few locations in one city. The food was first rate, though, on par with my favorite pizza joints over here on the east coast. Enjoying pizza so soon after Plate #5 (Eddie & Sam's N.Y. Pizza in Tampa) inspired me to make a new rule: only one pizza per month. Otherwise I could find enough local pizza parlors to eat nothing but pizza throughout this challenge, and that's just not right.

Plate #8
Local rating: 3 Star
Indochinois, Tampa, FL
Cóm Ga Xào (stir fried chicken with vegetables) and Chá Gió (fried spring rolls)

This was supposed to be another beautiful Saturday in downtown Tampa, but it did not quite work out. Instead of trying one of the many local restaurants around the business district, we fled the race traffic and parked ourselves in a familiar plaza on South Dale Mabry. We walked into Indochinois, a local Vietnamese restaurant, unaware that a power outage at the water treatment plant had put the entire city on a 48 hours boil water notice.

No tap water to drink, no ice, and the news put a damper on our mood, leaving this restaurant at a disadvantage after the two previous hits. The service was fine, and their egg rolls were quite good, but it was hard to enjoy a mostly empty restaurant while hearing the few other diners talk about the water problems. I promised my wife good asian food, so I had to make it up to her the next day with...

Plate #9
Local rating: 3 Star
Thai Blossom, Winter Garden, FL
Chicken with garlic sauce

This is the closest we've been to breaking the rules. In fact, I have to say we stretched the rules just a bit, taking advantage of Sunday, which can act as the first or last day of a week. I felt foolish, failing to plan ahead that weekend. Not only was Saturday a horrible day to visit Tampa, Sunday was our anniversary and a natural choice for eating out. We've focused so much on our upcoming cruise, when we are officially celebrating our anniversary, that I forgot to watch for the actual date.

But a visit to Thai Blossom in Winter Garden is always wonderful, and I ordered my favorite dish: chicken in garlic sauce. My wife ordered the pad thai, with egg fried rice on the side, and we shared, bringing a little home for later. Because it was a special occasion, I said I could live with 2 restaurant meals back to back, but after such a great experience I decided to make it my plate for this week.

Now we're into March, and in a few days we leave for south Florida to go on a 4-night cruise. It will be the first time that I eat most of my meals outside of the home, since I was able to cook meals for most of our Houston trip, but I look forward to visiting one local restaurant in downtown Fort Lauderdale the night before we sail.

Plate #10, here I come...

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Weekly Report: Anniversary Edition

Sunday was our 6 year anniversary, nothing like an extra day of treats to bump the Monday weigh in. We had planned to spend Saturday enjoying downtown Tampa, eating and walking around, but nothing went according to plan.

I learned an important lesson this weekend: If you plan to visit a city, check their news first. We were we greeted with above average traffic and a complete lack of parking downtown thanks to the Gasparilla Distance Classic, a collection of races and events we were unaware of before making the drive over. Then after deciding to eat lunch in another part of town, followed by coffee, we learned that the entire city was under a 48-hour boil water notice, thanks to a power outage at the water treatment plant Friday morning.

No water? Not a good day...

We made the best of it, but our lunch was nothing special and there was no coffee to be had, so Sunday we splurged on our second restaurant meal of the week to make up for it. It was the first time that I've broken my 50 Plates challenge, though since Sunday is on that cusp between one week and the next, I may count it as this week's meal and not eat out for the next seven days.

Weekly Report
221.2 lb.
Weight change (+/-)
- 2 lb. 
Body Fat %
29.9 %
Total Net Calories (+/-)
+ 1,116
Average Daily Food Calories
Exercise - Total Calories Burned
Exercise - Total Time
3.2 hours

Weight - I shouldn't complain about losing only 2 pounds in one week, but knowing I was under 220 on Thursday is a tad frustrating. With only a few days left in the month, my chances of getting down to where I started are slim. I don't want to see a gain at the end of the month after such a successful January.

This is the danger of an especially low starting weight. Our juice fast overlapped the last week of January and the first day of February, so I was hitting my lowest recorded weight again and again. I expected to bounce back, of course, but I did not expect the damage to last more than a week.

Food - I found out Friday that I am just as bad at resisting grilled burgers and hotdogs as I am resisting a milkshake. We had a cookout at work to celebrate the end of a long week, and I ate more than my share of goodies: one and a half burgers, 2 hotdogs, a bag of Sunchips, two pieces of a grapefruit pound cake I made the night before, and most of a can of soda afterward because I felt bloated and wanted some bubbles.

It's embarrassing to type all that, though similar days in the past were often worse. My eating habits were better this week than the two previous weeks, but Friday's huge lunch followed by extra calories over the weekend bumped my weight back a couple pounds, robbing me of a few days' progress.

Exercise - This was a much better week for exercise. I only skipped one day (Saturday), and I found running intervals every day after work to provide a giant boost in confidence and mood. I kept up with my 20-20-20 routine, again only missing one day, and I am enjoying the push-ups and sit-ups more after a good run.

Fitting exercise into my weekly schedule is easy when I make it my first priority every evening, but the weekend is not as simple. I think I should be walking and running Saturday morning, before I shower or eat breakfast. Otherwise the day tends to get away from me, and once it's late I lose much of the motivation to get moving.

Overall - Just looking at the scale, this week would be a disappointment. I was watching the pounds drop off for a few days, then I forgot how to shut the pie hole and suddenly no amount of exercise can burn the excess calories. But I don't regret it, because overall this was a good week, and it ended with a great day with my wife, filled with good food, walking and talking, cleaning the house, and baking a delicious-smelling buttermilk oatmeal banana bread for snacks during the week.

If I'm going to create long term change, I need to be held accountable for my eating habits more often than once a week. So readers, if any of you use myfitnesspal, let's connect so you can view my food diary and help me stay on track! Tracking calories works a lot better if you know there are other people who will see that ice cream bar or can of soda.

Friday, February 22, 2013

5K in Two Weeks

With a week and a half until our anniversary cruise, there is only one thing on my mind:

Don't get sick!

Spending our previous vacation sniffling and sneezing was a real bummer. I was looking forward to running my first 5K on Disney's private island, on my birthday no less, and that chance was gone when I came down with a bad cold the morning we left for the cruise. No 5K for me; I spent my birthday asleep in a lounge chair trying to get plenty of rest.

Yeah, I know, even if you're sick, it's hard to complain about that view.

So when we booked a short cruise to celebrate our 6th anniversary, I started looking forward to my second chance to run my first 5K. The race is only two weeks away, and this time I am not going to let anything stop me!

The past week I have been running every day as soon as I get home. Since I've had difficulty forming lasting exercise habits, I'm not focusing on any specific plan, and thus I may not be ready to run much of the 5K, but I will run as long as I can.

My daily workouts range from 1-2 miles, with intervals varying each day. Some days I run/walk mostly equal intervals for the entire workout, other days I have a longer walk to warmup followed by longer intervals of running. Doing something different each day has helped me keep it fresh and prevent my muscles from getting used to one routine.

One thing is certain: deep down, I know I am a runner.

The time spent running this week has shown me just how powerful running is for the mind and soul. We've had some busy and stressful days at the office, but the first thing I do when I get home is change and go for a run, and suddenly there is nothing in the world that can beat me down.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Weekly Report: 2 week wrapup

When I brought back the weekly report at the start of this year, I thought it would be a good tool to help me stay on track. But like any other tool, it's only as good as the person using it, and the past two weeks I have been lazy with tracking calories. I made it through half a week prior to our trip to Houston, then I managed a couple days after we got home before giving up again. I did not restart until Sunday, and by then it was too late to get accurate numbers for the week.

So this week is an example of how easy it is to let things fall apart. I could keep it quiet, skip the sharing until I've had a full week of recording my caloric intake, but this is also a reminder to myself: don't make this mistake again!

Weekly Report
223.2 lb.
Weight change (+/-)
+ 6.8 lb. 
Body Fat %
28.6 %
Total Net Calories (+/-)
Average Daily Food Calories
Exercise - Total Calories Burned
Exercise - Total Time
1 hours

Weight - This is just embarrassing. Granted, this increase occurred over two weeks, not one, but I have completely reversed all the good that came from our juice fast. There is a chance that a few pounds are just water retention and junk food taking longer to get through my system, so hopefully I will see it decrease quickly.

Either way, it's not going to drop more than a couple pounds, so I've essentially thrown away a week's worth of hard work. This has happened countless times in the past, but those were usually longer periods of laziness. Hopefully I can recover by remembering the shock of this morning and knowing that all it takes is two weekends of slacking to kill my progress.

Food - Eating habits are to blame for my incredible weight gain over the past two weeks. Despite my intentions to use Fitlife after our Houston trip and get back to small portions, I had a particularly stressful couple days late in the week that led to an entire weekend of binging on junk. Ice cream, mac & cheese, hot dogs, and more ice cream, with no effort to track: that's all it takes to pile on the pounds.

There is no excuse. Unless I stop using food to make myself feel better I will not make lasting progress. Breaking this habit must be my main focus this year.

Exercise - I struggle, I struggle, and then I struggle some more. Building the exercise habit should be easy, I just have to get out of my own way and make it happen. Last week I ran only twice, and there is no way I will be prepared for my 5K in less than three weeks.

Truth is, I have trouble maintaining motivation. I've chosen an exercise program that is as simple as it gets, so the only thing stopping me from doing it everyday is my reluctance to make the effort. My observation from last Friday, that I only follow food and minimalism blogs, may contribute to this issue. I need to read about exercise to help myself stay excited about it.

Overall - As much as I want to say that I've learned my lesson, I'm a better, stronger person moving forward, I know this is just one example of my years of ups and downs in my health. It's not any easier today than it was 3 years ago, and the only way I will get better is with long term change.

This means no cheating, no extra snacking, no emotional eating, no days without exercise, for months at a time. I have to make these habits stick, otherwise I will still be here posting the same fluctuations year after year.