Progress pics!

Old baseball on wooden background and highly closeup

I’ve no time for a real post right now, but I just finished my eight weeks with Zac Smith Fitness last Saturday. Final weight is 114 lbs and pound under my target! I’ve signed up for another round, this time to work on abs and booty. 🙂

I’m also happy with the way I cook and flavor chicken breasts with the use of Flavor God and coconut oil. Will post recipe hopefully next week.

Here are my progress pics. This is from May 23 to July 18. My eight-week progress. 🙂 I have never ever in my 48 years have this shape, especially if you look at the side view, I never had that curve in my back or butt.

Tells you what a couple of lunges and squats can do, huh? 🙂

 

The program is mostly high protein and low carb, but it makes use of sensible carbs. I caught a glimpse of my next program and I now can eat some fruit, nuts and rice! 🙂

 

frontprogress_veronperez

 

backprogress_veronperez

 

sideprogress_veronperez

 

New Goals

When the numbers on the scale become irrelevant.

When the numbers on the scale become irrelevant.

 

Well, shucks, I thought my next post will be about that last five pounds. It turns out, the number on the scale is but a number now. I’ve reached my “goal” weight, but now it’s time to set new goals. I have two more weeks to go on Zac’s program and I’m signing up again. This time I have specific goals in mind.

The changes in my body are happening fast. When I’m about to write about one change, something else changes. Some are not immediately visible until I turn and look at my back in the mirror … is that my back fat melting away???

The thing is, this journey is not without challenges. Believe me, in my 5th week, I had a tiny rebellion going on thinking what the heck am I doing? Why am I giving up sugar? Why am I denying myself those lovely chunks of pork belly? My resolve was tested. I got invited out to my favorite fried chicken place. But I had to ask myself if it was worth it. I had to remind myself why I signed up in the first place.

Some of your friends won’t get it and that’s okay. You do not have to explain yourself to them and maybe if they see your results, that in itself will be explanation enough and they may join you in the journey.

Zac said that you should do it for yourself. Not for others. I’ll take some pics on my eighth week when I finish this first cycle. I think the recipes for the second cycle will be more interesting.

Follow me on Instagram. I keep it updated everyday with whatever I’m doing toward my fitness goals.

I encourage you to follow Zac Smith Fitness on Instagram. Whether you choose to join his program or not, his everyday motivational posts will keep you going and make you think about the best that you can be.

 

#bestcoachever

 

 

Losing My First Five Pounds

Salmon Salad

Baked salmon over greens, red quinoa, green salad with Ceasar dressing.

*** The results below are my personal experience. Please consult with your doctor before embarking on any weight loss plan. Everyone is different and foods will affect you differently.

For the past three years after I had shut down my baking business, I had led a very sedentary lifestyle. I worked part-time in computers, I wrote books, I read books and pretty much did nothing else. I was either on the couch with my nose in the iPad or in front of my Macbook.

I would occasionally go for a run to get off my butt, but it’s a half-hearted effort with no clear goal. I’d gone on a 7-day cabbage soup diet with the hubby. I lost 3 lbs and gained it back. The hubby lost 7 lbs and went on to lose 30 lbs in 8 months. So, that was his jumpstart; it wasn’t mine. He is now sporting an enviable six-pack, by the way, at 50 years-old.

Anyway, with working from home, I’m always in my sweatpants. I’ve developed a fear of my closet because what was lurking in there was becoming my enemy. Which one of my jeans are not going to fit me next or which shirt would be the victim of the dryer? This made me anti-social because I didn’t want to leave the house.

Anyway, a meltdown was in the stars. It happened one day in April this year when the hubby and I had a dinner to attend. He told me at last minute that it wasn’t a casual dinner party, and we had to dress up.

Uh, what?

This was two hours before we had to leave.

So I stalked into my closet and sure enough, nothing fit! I was pissed at the hubby, at myself, at the person who had to go have a dinner party when nothing of my clothes fit. Anyway, in the end, I resigned myself to my middle-aged self and my fate. But something happened at the party. I saw some women, a bit older than me, and I saw their jiggly arms. I told myself, oh my God, are my arms that way?

The very next day, I went for a run, came home and did some quick bicep and tricep workout. I also decided not to buy more soda and drink water instead. A change in eating habits needed to be planned, but with a trip to a wedding coming up, I decided to wait. A few days before leaving for the trip I clicked on a link when I was surfing CNN. I nearly kicked myself because it was one of those promoted stories, and usually they wanted to sell something. And they did, but the video was very informative about how a healthy liver was important to efficient weight loss.

That caught my attention.

When we get older, our liver becomes less and less efficient in its functions because of the years it worked to process nutrients received from the intestinal system and its detoxification of harmful chemicals from processed foods, medicine, and alcohol. It was also responsible for estrogen metabolism. With a whacked out balance of estrogen, the body will secrete more fat in the fat cells, especially around the belly. Chemical estrogen is everywhere—from plant, plastic bottles, scented candles—everywhere. There was a whole slew of other convincing evidence in the video, but I couldn’t remember it all.

Anyway, I was curious about the herbal supplement called LivLean, sold by Perfect Origins. I go to a herbalist and I’ve been on most of the major components of the supplement: Milk Thistle, N-Acetyl Cysteine and Alpha Lipoic Acid, which I’ve used to help with my blood sugar before. I will warn, though, that Milk Thistle has different effects on different people … I guess because it detoxifies the liver. For me, it makes me not crave wine. For the hubby, it made him pissy and not want alcohol either. 🙂 This is a good thing because when the liver processes alcohol, it can do nothing else. That’s why there’s always a warning not to take alcohol when you’re on medication.

I don’t want to dwell on this. I’m not an expert on the topic. Suffice it to say I gave this supplement a chance to become a part of my plan. By this time, I’ve already consulted with my brother who in his mid-forties, went from overweight to running marathons all over the world. His advice—drop the simple carbs. Do not eat carbs especially late at night. I’m not a potato person, and I’ve survived not eating bread, but can I give up rice at least for the short term, or better, just reserve it for that cheat day?

Healthy Groceries

Healthy groceries * note I determined the pears were too sweet for my low carb

For two weeks this was my typical meal.

10:00 am – Overnight oatmeal ~ recipe adapted from Skinny Taste cookbook – my version at the end.

1:30 pm – Salad greens, as much as I want with a tablespoon of any dressing I wanted.

3 tbs red quinoa

1 whole boiled egg, plus one egg white

a sprinkling of feta cheese

After lunch I’ll have two pieces of dark chocolate.

At around 4:00 pm, I’ll be hungry so I’ll have around 10 pcs of raw almonds or walnuts

6:00 pm – Baked fish (I buy frozen wild cod and king salmon filets from Whole Foods)

Salad greens with choice of dressing

3 tbs red quinoa

 

If I was hungry before bed time, I ate two celery sticks. If I was hungry during the day I will eat nuts or egg whites.

* I drank a lot of water. Saturday is my designated cheat day and I’d eat a steak and rice. 

I lost five pounds in two weeks on this diet. I ran three miles—3x a week and walked two miles 3x a week with light weights in between and I mean really light in a fasted cardio—meaning I did my cardio upon waking up with no food. I did have coffee though. For the first two days, I had a headache and was cranky. I guess this was from carb withdrawal. I truly think the LivLean helped me during these times in managing my blood sugar levels and even my fat loss.

By the third week though, my runs became more difficult. It was like running on empty and then my weight inched up half-a-pound.

I panicked.

I know, I know, it could be muscle right or just a change in my body chemistry? But I was feeling kinda soft, not lean. The last thing I wanted was to lose muscle. I didn’t want to be on a restricted diet like this forever. We’ve all heard it before, if you eat very little, your body is going to go on starvation mode. Not what a foodie wants to hear. So I started to add sweet potato and lamb. The morning after I ate meat, the strength came back.

The problem was, I was getting tired of salad and fish and I’m trying to sustain my weight loss. I’d be happy to lose one pound a week. Slow but steady. But how?

I’d call this phase my jumpstart. If you’re curious about Milk Thistle, google it, but I’d advise to consult alternative health practitioners. If you have medical conditions like diabetes or are on medication, it’s best to consult your doctor. It would be great if he is open to supplements instead of just pumping you full of drugs to fix a symptom.

Again, this is my personal experience. Everyone’s physiology is different. But it’s good to look beyond the obvious of counting calories and figure out what’s keeping your body from shedding the fat.

Overnight Oats

Overnight Oats

Overnight Oatmeal 

adapted from Skinny Taste Cookbook

1/4 cup oatmeal

1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk

1 tsp raw sugar

1.5 teaspoons chia seeds

A handful of blueberries

Put the above ingredients in a sealed container and shake. Store in refrigerator. The consistency is like pudding. I love it. Before eating, I add a tablespoon of almond butter on top, mix it in (it can’t really blend well) and then eat.

Other notables for my jumpstart plan which was starting to plateau by the third week.

* I did not purposely add the link for Perfect Origins because they already have a massive marketing campaign and I want to keep my experience personal. I paid for all my supplements.

  • I do not use artificial sweeteners. If I want to sweeten something, I will use raw sugar.
  • I use full fat cheese. Sometimes I grate parmesan on the evening salad
  • I use full fat salad dressing. Usually when it’s low fat they add sugar to make it more palatable.
  • For fish, wild cod and wild salmon are best. Avoid farm-raised fish.
  • I hate vegetables, but I found a brand called Organic Girl. Romaine lettuce is very filling for me. I buy them pre-washed and only the hearts. I take a scissor and cut it up. Easy peasy. I add arugula or other mixed spring greens.
  • Take Omega 3 and Multivitamin supplements. On a restricted diet, you are bound to lose some essential nutrients.
  • Moisturize! You don’t want to get all wrinkly when you lose all the fat. 😉

Next stage:

I was lucky enough to stumble upon an online fitness coach. I’m beginning my third week with him. The results, so far, are stellar and I will update this blog once I’ve verified that this is indeed a workable lifestyle change—probably in the next week or so.

At the start of my journey in early May, I had 13 pounds to lose. My next post will be about losing more fat and gaining lean muscle. I’ve lost an additional 3 pounds as of this writing with the help of my online coach. The challenge will be to blast through those last 5 pounds.

 

A great diet or being delusional

pariparichix
Pari-Pari chicken

I’ve been so busy this past week getting Petites Bouchees back into gear: seeing clients, returning correspondence, baking macarons and creating fondant/ gum paste decorations, that figuring some time to fit anything else can be quite challenging.

Attempting to lose weight when I am not sure where to insert my workouts and how to plan my meals around my baking schedule are additional tasks that require careful planning.
After all wasn’t it Bill Phillips who said that, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail?” (although I’m quite sure it’s a known phrase even before he mentioned it in his book)

I know all of you say it’s just a matter of discipline (seriously, what % of the population has this?) but when you’ve got a gazillon things zinging through your head and if you’ve got the attention span of a gnat, some simple …er.. research can turn into hours (darn internet) and before you know it you realize that you haven’t done a single tangible productive thing on your to-do list all day.

But the key here is “trying”…

So far I’ve eaten healthy in the beginning of the week and have gotten my 4 workouts in. I kinda fell off the map and went and ate Chinese take-out last night after three consecutive days of crazed baking and making fondant flowers until the wee hours of the morning (surprisingly, when I turned off the t.v., making fondant flowers went faster). It’s true that when you are tired you will eat anything.

Before all this madness, I was fortunate to find a Japanese cookbook with easy and rewarding recipes. Harumi’s Japanese home cooking is a gem of a cookbook. I’ve tried several recipes from it and they all turned out very well. Plus, judging from the author’s size, this must be healthy-type eating fare. 😉

I’m not drastic in dieting, I don’t exclude any food groups except, perhaps, pork belly for now. After all, I think I’ve eaten my fair share of it this year. I just try to substitute white rice with brown rice and start eating some vegetables.

So I’m not averse to baking chicken thighs with its skin on. I’d still do anything for crisp chicken skin but someone on twitter told me it’s half the calories of the thigh and so many fat grams. You may try it with breast meat. But I think with high heat cooking, the breast would dry up. Most of the fat will be rendered off anyway and it’s really up to you to slather those delicious drippings back on. And as long as I don’t eat five of this, I think I’m still on track to losing those 5 lbs.
 

Pari-Pari style Chicken

from “Harumi’s Japanese home cooking”

Serves 4 (I think it serves 2 as main dish)

1 1/2 lbs chicken thighs on bone with skin on
1 tablespoon shokoshu or dry sherry
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 tablespoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon freshly grated garlic
pepper 2 tablespoons sesame oil – to coat the chicken
Worcestershire sauce -optional

  1. Debone the chicken. Lightly score the chicken skin.
  2. Mix together the shokoshu, soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic and pepper and marinate the chicken for about 15 minutes.
  3. Preheat the oven to 425F. Cover a baking tray with foil and place the chicken on it, skin side up. Bake for 20 minutes, then remove and brush with sesame oil. Continue cooking for about 10 minutes more until the skin is crispy.
  4. Remove from the oven. While hot, cut the chicken into smaller pieces and arrange on a serving plate. Serve with Worcestershire sauce, if desired.

Harumi suggests her Peppers and Crab Mixed rice. I’m not too fond of peppers and that’s why I didn’t think this rice was anything special. But for those who do love peppers I can see how this might be a recipe to keep.
 

pepperscrabrice
Peppers and crab rice

Peppers and Crab mixed rice

serves 4-6

1 1/2 cups uncooked rice
2 teaspoons granulated chicken stock or 1 chicken bullion cube
1 3/4 cups water
1/2 cup red pepper
1/3 cup green pepper
5-6 mushrooms
1/2 cup cooked white crabmeat
1 3/4 tablespoon butter

  1. If using Japanese rice, wash, drain and leave to stand for 30 minutes before cooking.
  2. Dissolve the chicken stock powder with a little hot water then add the remaining water.
  3. Cut the peppers open and discard the seeds. Cut the red pepper into tiny square pieces (1/4 inch) and chop the green pepper into 1/2-inch square pieces. Slice the mushrooms thinly and loosen the crabmeat flakes, ensuring that there are no pieces of shell remaining. Cut the butter into small pieces.
  4. Cook the rice in the chicken stock, adding the bay leaf for extra flavor.
  5. Once the rice is cooked, stir in the butter, season with salt and pepper and roughly mix. Then add the peppers, mushrooms and crabmeat, mix again and serve.
     

These two recipes are highly customizable, you may substitute ginger for the garlic in the chicken recipe or season the rice more with any spice you like.
Whether chicken thighs with skin on becomes the next great “diet” food or I’m being delusional that this works remains to be seen. I do think in order to successfully lose weight it helps to look forward to your meal – not dread or feel miserable eating it. I’ll have a macaron or half a cupcake or a piece of chocolate with a cup of espresso and not feel guilty. I did try going to the salad bar at the Whole Foods and realized I’m not the “other” grains or salad type of gal.

I need some meat and I’ll eat my veggies and please don’t hold the rice.

Honey, does this make me look fat?

Tokyofried

You betcha!

            That was a standing joke between the “Hungry” hubby and me ever since that commercial came out. I used to take it lightly, but it was not sounding too funny lately.

Somehow I managed to gain close to 10 lbs in the past year. That’s a lot on a 5’4” frame. I suspect it started when a constant stream of visitors sailed through my home in the past 18 months and surprise … the start of my food blogging.

This past spring, I went shopping at Banana Republic, and in resignation, bought a size bigger than what I normally wore. Today those pants are kind of snug as I almost pinched my skin pulling the zipper up the sidezip. Ouch! And I cannot blame HH for shrinking them in the dryer either (as I always find the excuse to) because they were dry-cleaned.

Two separate visits from both brothers this past summer which naturally included some food bingeing of some kind, my recent culinary-related trips, and my half-baked efforts of any form of exercise, all contributed to the popping of the merry buttons.

How did I let it come to this? The realization of weight gain did not immediately hit me. It went through the following stages.

First: Denial. This is when I lay blame on the evil object in the utility room known as the “dryer”, for shrinking my clothes. Or, I blame the dinner I had the previous night. “Too much salt,” I’d say. “I’m just bloated.” Hand in hand with this statement, I stare at myself in the bathroom mirror, suck my stomach in, at the same time splaying my hands against my belly to stretch my skin upward. “There, see just a little bloaty!”

Second: My “Next week” excuse. It seems exercise and moderate eating come in weekly blocks.  This is when I somewhat admit that a few pounds might have crept up on me. I am also conspicuously ignoring the inanimate gadget in the bathroom known as the scale. After all didn’t they say that it was bad to weigh yourself everyday (I haven’t weighed myself in months by this time). Also, every time something delicious presents itself, I would say “ Hm, I’ll just watch what I eat, next week.” Or, since my lazy ass decides to sleep in rather than work out I would say,” Oh well, I already skipped yesterday, might as well start next week.”

Third: Desperation. “The scale is broken,” I’d whine to HH. I’d insist on buying a new one. Short of shaking me to my senses, HH suggests that maybe it was time to watch what I ate particularly the ice cream bar I’d been eating EVERY night, sometimes after having had dessert already. I would always retort, “Milk is good for me.” At this stage, I would also try three-day “cleansing” diets only to bounce back with a binge afterwards.

Fourth: Acceptance. Finally admitting that what I am experiencing is more than a mere bloat, I decide to take action. After all, 10 lbs appear more than just fluid retention and it couldn’t be muscle because I have not worked out. Crap! 10 lbs of fat! I remember one time when a nutritionist had shown me how a pound of fat looked like.

OMG, I think I’m going to be sick!

But I refuse to say the four-letter word. You know, the one that starts with the letter “D”.

And no way am I going to stop food blogging – at least for now.

I just need to gain some perspective of some sort.

First, a Haagen Daaz bar every night needs to stop. When my brother and his kids (nieces and nephew) were here, I got addicted to those HD ice cream bars – you know – the chocolate ones on a stick further glazed with a crisp chocolate layer.  HH suggested having it as a treat once a week (although with all the desserts I’m making, I have no idea why I would crave commercial ice cream – oh well).

Second, watch my rice and pasta intake at night. This is the hardest because I just love rice but I also know that this is what my body cannot metabolize properly thereby turning it quickly into the dreaded belly fat.

So am I going to munch on salad for a while? Well, not exactly.

I’m going to try my old Fried Chicken solution.

What? You must be shaking your head. Is she still in denial?

Seriously, on two separate occasions I lost weight eating Fried Chicken. Twenty years ago, I would eat a piece of fried skin-on chicken breast, a cup of rice and a cup of steamed broccoli for dinner. I lost 10 lbs in about 6 weeks. And then about 8 years ago, I remembered I developed a fondness for Chick-Fil-A nuggets. I would eat the nuggets with a cup of rice each time – no waffle fries of course. The side effect, I lost about 7 lbs. in 4 weeks.

I think the real key here is moderation. Although I think the fat in the fried chicken was what kept me satisfied so I didn’t feel deprived.

Of course, I’m also 40 years old now. You know, the age when they say your metabolism changes and the battle of the bulge begins? So I don’t know if deep-fried chicken will work for me this time – there is only one way to find out. And it does not have to be fried chicken all the time.

So, the game plan will be: to continue eating what I want like fried chicken, steak, duck etc. (although I’m afraid the foie gras, pork belly and crab fat have to take a backseat for a while). But this time I’m going to be aware of my portion sizes (at least until I lose some weight)- maybe a four-ounce size of protein will be reasonable. HH also promised to make me some delicious salads to go with every meal so I will not eat too much rice.

I’ll continue to make desserts on weekends only and I’ll just have a slice – I do need to taste it to make sure it comes out right, yes?  But the rest will have to go to the office. Better make them fat instead of me, right? Bwa ha ha…

So in my quest for homemade, weight-losing fried chicken, I tried one from the book Japanese Women don’t get Fat or Old by Naomi Moriyama. In the book, she reinforced what I had always thought about deep-fried food. It’s not any less greasy than something pan-fried or sautéed. You just need to make sure that the temperature of the oil never gets below 350 °F so your food will not allow oil to seep through and instead create that delicious crispy layer typical of fried fares.

Tokyo Fried Chicken

4 chicken breast ( approximately 4-6 ounces each)

3 tbs reduced-sodium soy sauce

2 tsp sake

2 tbs mirin

one 2-inch piece fresh ginger

2 cups cooking oil

Potato starch

The amount of the ingredients above had been adjusted because I felt the marinade was too bland. Of course in the book, Miss Moriyama advocates a low-sodium diet.

Grate the ginger over a cheesecloth set over a bowl and squeeze out the ginger juice. You should get around 1 ½ teaspoon.

Cut the chicken into bite-size pieces. Combine the soy, sake, mirin and ginger juice and marinate the chicken for at least an hour. (The book said 10-minutes but I felt this was not long enough).

Heat 2 cups of oil in a pan until the temperature reaches 350 °F. If you do not have a thermometer, sprinkle some flour and if it turns brown immediately then your oil is hot enough.

Take the chicken pieces out of the marinade and pat dry. Roll them in the potato starch and put the pieces in the hot oil, taking care not to crowd the pan. When they are well-browned and cooked, take the chicken out and transfer to a cooling rack set atop a baking sheet (the book said to put on paper towels but I feel that this makes the chicken soggy so I set them atop a cooling rack.)

Cooking Notes:

     The chicken might taste bland to some palates, so feel free to experiment with the amounts in the ingredients. That was probably why Miss Moriyama suggested serving this with a dipping of soy sauce because the fried chicken was pretty neutral. I did enjoy dunking this Fried Chicken in soy sauce – maybe a bit too much; I think I ate too much rice! So much for portion control, oh well I’ll just be more mindful next time (notice, I did not say next week).

      The crispy edges of the chicken had some hints of sweetness probably from the mirin. The chicken itself –despite its seemingly bland taste- was quite addictive to pop one in after another. That’s the appeal of fried food; it’s hard to go wrong with it. I might also consider using flour instead of potato starch that had annoyingly left some white residue on some chicken pieces.

    I served the chicken on top a bed of sautéed spinach sprinkled with fried garlic bits. To make the crunchy garlic bits, cover the minced garlic in enough oil to fry it. Once it gets brown pour it immediately over a strainer so it will stop the cooking. The oil can be used in sautéing the spinach. Garlic done this way gives it a slightly bitter taste but I like the crunchiness of it and it goes so well with steamed or sautéed leafy vegetables.

Exercise Notes:

     I will augment my reformed eating habits with some exercise. One particular workout video I like is David Kirsch New York Body Plan. Though not a fan of his diet, I like his workouts. They are not bulk forming but more of firming. After all he is Heidi Klum’s trainer (no I do not have any delusions of ever having her body). Also, HH is going to put me on the Pilates reformer maybe twice a week, to help me with my core stability. For cardio, I have the treadmill or maybe I can just start walking after dinner. That way I can take my mind of the Haagen Daaz ice cream bars!