Saturday, July 27, 2013

I Don't Have the Time to...

Yes, it's been quite some time since I've posted anything on this blog.  It's not for lack of ideas/topics; I have an opinion on everything.  Oftentimes my mind is overloaded with thoughts; writing is my cathartic release.  One would think I would write/post far more often than I have... ultimately it comes down to the "I don't have the time..." excuse. 

When people say, "I don't have the time to..." the truth is not necessarily having time but making the time.  If something is important enough we will always make the time. 

Every day we wake up by the grace and mercy of God (Allah) and are given 24 hours.  Whether you believe in God or not, this is an indisputable fact.  People around the world aspire to greatness and accomplish the (seemingly) impossible with the same 24 hours you and I get each day.  We are the managers of our own time.  What kind of manager are you?

I'm a busy mama of three little monsters.  I homeschool.  I cook (nearly) everything from scratch every day.  I exercise 5 days a week, usually at a minimum of an hour.  I typically keep a clean and tidy home (although I concede I'm blessed enough to have a cleaning crew help with the major cleaning every couple weeks).  I get a LOT done throughout my day. 

Although I'm fairly confident in my time management abilities, there are definitely areas with room for improvement.  Namely, I need to spend less time on the computer and a bit more time in prayer and the remembrance of God.

I also have the desire to write/blog more often and will endeavor to make time for it.  I need to post an update on my amazing weight loss journey (I've reached my goal!), share my recent sewing projects and recipes, etc... 

Stay tuned (and feel free to nag me if I fall off the writing/blogging time management wagon)! 

Monday, March 11, 2013

Serena's Loaded Whole Wheat Banana Muffins


INGREDIENTS

2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour (or all-purpose flour... see notes below)
2 cups rolled oats
1 cup packed brown sugar
3 T. wheat bran
4 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt
2 generous cups mashed (very ripe) bananas (about 5-6)
2 cups plain yogurt (see notes below)
2 eggs (see notes below)
2 1/2 cups dried fruit (see notes below)
1 - 1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts (optional)
ground flaxseed (optional)


NOTES

Baking is a science.  Although this recipe is made entirely with whole wheat flour - it's important to note you really should use the two different flours otherwise it will affect the texture of the muffins. 

For the yogurt - I've used whole yogurt, low-fat yogurt and fat free yogurt.  They all work equally well - although the whole yogurt produces the moistest muffin.  I've also used Greek yogurt - however, Greek yogurt is packed with protein (awesome) and the increased protein does typically produce a denser muffin (again, baking is a science).  Ultimately, you can use whatever yogurt you have on hand and it will work - just wanted you to have "all the facts." 

You can use either 2 eggs or 1 egg and 2 egg whites.  I, however, always opt for 2 whole eggs.  

For the dried fruit I typically use a combination of flame raisins, blueberries, and cranberries.  You can opt for any dried fruit combination you want - dates, figs, cherries (LOVE these muffins with cherries but dried cherries are fairly expensive), apricots, etc...

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350˚F.  Fill muffin/cupcake pans with liners or lightly spray pans with cooking spray. 

Combine flours, oats, brown sugar, wheat bran, baking soda and salt in a large mixing bowl; mix well.  In a separate mixing bowl combine mashed bananas, yogurt, and egg; mix well.  Add banana mixture to the flour and gently stir until moist and all ingredients are well-incorporated.  Add nuts and dried fruits and fold into the batter.  Spoon batter into the prepared pans and then sprinkle with ground flaxseed (optional).

Bake 20-22 minutes (or until the muffins spring back when gently pressed in the center).  Remove muffins from pans and allow to cool. 

Recipe yields 24 muffins (more if you make smaller muffins or less if you make giant muffins - but cooking times will need to be adjusted accordingly). 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

I'm Human

I'm going to let you all in on a little secret... I'm HUMAN!  



The last 4 days were rough and I ate my way through them.  :(  I haven't eaten "emotionally" in such a long time!  I kept telling myself, "STOP Serena!" but the urges were consuming my every thought.



I'm not going to pretend that...



The batch of cookies I purposely made on Friday to binge on was completely gone by Sunday (and, of that batch I ate a wee bit more than a dozen cookies)...



An entire box of Samosas and a half-box of Thin Mints were consumed between Friday and Monday (the majority being eaten yesterday, Monday, because I was out of the aforementioned cookies I made on Friday).  It should be a crime that such tiny cookies pack so many frickin' calories!  :/



I did attempt to make up for my transgressions by running 9+ miles on Saturday (my typical day off - but since I didn't exercise on Friday - I had to make up the missed day).  Actually, I ate really well on Saturday because I was atoning for my dietary fiasco on Friday.



Sunday started out great... I exercised for 97 minutes and torched nearly 1300 calories.  Sadly, however, I was terribly moody later that day (primarily because I was exhausted from not getting enough sleep) and surrendered to my little inner demon's demands for junk!



Monday was the worst of all the days.  Although I typically exercise on Monday I had two long/hard workouts on Saturday and Sunday so I decided it was in the best interest of my knees to make Monday a rest day (my knees seem to have finally recovered this past week and I wanted to make sure I didn't aggravate them again).  Of course, staying up until 4am didn't help my energy level or my mood.



I was an emotional wreck all day!  I didn't want to do anything but relax in bed and knit (I recently learned and truly enjoy knitting - but I don't have a lot of spare time to do it so I had been staying up very late for days to squeeze in time).  What I wanted and what I needed to do were at odds!  My responsibility for taking care of my family won so I forced myself to finish planning my weekly menu, go grocery shopping, prepare lunch, clean, etc... I managed to get it done, but it took me all day (we didn't have "lunch" until after 3pm)! 

I cried on and off yesterday because I felt so miserable.  I knew an hour run would have helped me feel remarkably better but I was so drained emotionally and physically I couldn't talk myself into it.  Instead, while hubby took the kids to the park, I cuddled up on the couch with a cup of almond milk, a half a box of Thin-Mints, and my knitting... 

The pleasure was fleeting, at best.  Last night I resolved to "pull it together" because I was terrified of what would happen if I continued to let myself spiral out-of-control as I had in the past.  Yes, I made some terrible decisions the last few days but that certainly didn't have to define my future.  Those decisions don't mean I'm a failure - they mean I'm human. 


I evaluated the last few days (and even the last couple months) and realized...



1.  I need to start tracking my food again.  I haven't tracked my food in a couple months and although I have continued to lose weight - my weight loss slowed down significantly after I stopped tracking.

2.  Sleep is crucial!  I am fairly certain the root cause of all this was because of accumulated sleep deprivation.  I stayed up very late several days in a row because I was so obsessed with my knitting.  My health (and sanity) is far more important! 

Just as I had to establish a strict 5-days-a-week workout commitment to myself last year when I started this journey - I now must establish a strict 10pm bedtime (although I'm going to aim for 9:30p because I wake up at 5:30a every day).  



3.  I don't believe in banning foods/food groups (the only exceptions to this rule are soda and artificial sweeteners - for me, those are banned indefinitely).  I wholeheartedly believe in "everything in moderation."  However, with that said, I also believe in using one's common sense.  If you knowingly have a "food trigger" (a food you just can't seem to control) then it's for the best to avoid it entirely, until you feel comfortable enough to have it without falling-off-the-wagon.  



For me, that means no more Chocolate Peanut Butter or Chocolate Coconut no-bake cookies!!!  I've made these cookies several times in the past 3 months (because they're extremely quick and easy) and without fail I've eaten way too many every time I've made them.   



Also, as a precaution, I'm going to give the remaining 2.5 boxes of Girl Scout cookies to the neighbors and the knitting teacher/class.  I don't typically have things like this in the house and it's in my best interest just to be rid of any possible temptations.  

I'm not saying I won't enjoy "something sweet" from time to time - but I truly find a bowl of fresh pineapple way more satisfying than a measly cookie!!!

I feel remarkably better now that I've finished confessing and evaluating my transgressions. I'm NOT going to mentally beat myself up over this weekend any more.  I've got my head up, my exercise clothes on and I'm going to sweat like a rock-star!




Tuesday, January 1, 2013

What Happened to You?

Exactly a year ago I had oodles of people in my home over the New Year’s weekend for a religious gathering (we had an out of town group of Muslims from Brunei and many Muslim sisters in the community came to visit/learn). A local sister, whom I hadn’t seen in several months, had the audacity to ask me, “What happened to you? You got BIG!” (All while using her hands spread incredibly wide as a gesture to reinforce her question - as if there was some small chance I didn’t understand, I suppose)

Mentally, I had a few choice words lined up... What I really wanted to know was why the pot would ask the kettle such a question. However, I refrained my snarky thoughts and simply explained I gained a lot of weight from medications.

This was in part true. I did gain roughly 70 pounds after I started taking various medications for my bipolar disorder... What I didn’t admit to, however, was the medication wasn’t entirely to blame.

Yes, the medication altered my appetite drastically. I honestly could eat, and eat, and eat and never feel full. I had incredibly intense cravings. The cravings were so bad that oftentimes I just couldn’t function until I fulfilled the craving (Coke, chips, cakes/cookies, Frappuccinos, sushi, etc...) and I would go out of my way to get said craved item(s). In spite of all that - I still made the choices that resulted in the 70-pound weight gain. I could have opted for one Coke instead of drinking 3 Cokes in succession (usually on a daily basis). I could have ordered one small sushi roll instead of 3-4 gluttonous sized rolls. I could have allowed myself an ounce of chips (a serving) instead of half the bag. 

Medication became my convenient scapegoat. Sadly, however, at that time - I hadn’t been on medication in months - so I truly had no excuse for why I was still morbidly obese. I had given up on myself and continued to secretly eat and drink like a glutton in spite of the consequences.

I stewed in the pain and anger from that question for a day before literally crying on my hubster’s shoulder. He gave me a great big hug/kiss and told me he loved me and just to ignore it. I did just that - I continued to ignore the reality that I was a giant hot-mess. A month later I finally received the little spark which ignited the fire that has become my determination to lose weight and get healthy! {You can read about that here}

I have only seen her once since her offensive question - and even then, although I had lost weight - she still managed to make a fleeting comment about us both being heavy. Seriously, what is her obsession with pointing out my size?  *lots of annoyed eye rolling going on over here*

Today while I was out running I passed that Sister’s house. I was VERY tempted to stop “just to say hi.”  I was not at all interested in catching up - I just wanted to see the look on her face as I stood there 100+ pounds lighter and looking awesome, red-faced and sweaty from running- but awesome nonetheless.

Instead, I kept on running. I knew my intention wasn’t right and honestly, I have nothing to prove to her. I haven’t worked my butt off for nearly a year because of her - I did it for me! I won’t lie - I still relish the thought of us crossing paths because I look forward to that priceless look and hopefully the opposing question, “What happened to you?  You got smaller!" I doubt that's the question I'll be asked... more like, "How did you do it?" 

Sunday, September 9, 2012

199, NOT 200!

The concept of prices ending in .99 is a marketing strategy.  For years, .99 at the end of a price was a sign of a sale or good deal.  There is also a psychological effect involved - it's a little magical phenomenon when a person associates $19.99 as $19 as opposed to $20.00.   

Don't believe me?  Is there any chance you recall how much you paid, per gallon, the last time you filled up your gas tank?  Of course, it depends on where you're living (what grade of gas you buy and where you buy it), but let's keep it simple and say the regular unleaded gas, at your local gas station, was $3.97.


Ahhhhh... not so fast!  You (likely) forgot the 9/10ths of a cent next to the price.  Yes, my friends - you didn't really pay $3.97.  You paid $3.97 and 9/10ths of a cent, which is practically $3.98.  However, all we see is the $3.97. 

But I'm not here to talk about prices or gas.  I'm here to share with you all that I've finally reached that wonderful moment when the scale went from the 200's to the 100's.  I'm not happy I weigh 199(.4) - I'm ECSTATIC!

I've worked my way from 276 pounds on February 4, 2012 to 199.4 pounds as of September 8, 2012.  That is 76.6 pounds I'm saying goodbye to forever, God willing!  Those pounds aren't technically "lost" because I truly have no intention on finding them, EVER again! 

How did I do it?  I know everyone secretly wants to hear, "I took this magical little pill, ate like an animal, never exercised a minute and just lost weight."  Sorry folks - there is no easy way out when it comes to weight loss.  My answer will continue to be - HARD WORK and RESOLVE (in the form of a balanced, portion controlled diet and exercise). 

I'm not done with my weight loss journey... however, I'm relishing this moment and am truly proud of how far I have come.  When I started I couldn't recognize my own self and now I've rediscovered some of my lost happiness.  I couldn't even run to the end of the block without feeling like I would keel over and die and now I can run 9+ miles!   

The last two days I've seen a few friends I haven't seen in months to as much as a year...  they were all so amazed and proud of me.  It brings me to tears as I think about it right now - because what all my friends saw was more than just the physical weight loss - they saw the pure joy in my face and my spirit.  I am not the same person physically or mentally! 

Losing weight is more than the numbers on the scale - it really does have an impact on your health and wellness!  However, with that said - I am going to celebrate my numerical accomplishment.  The number 9 is my new best friend!  When you're over 200 pounds - hitting 199 is a breath of fresh air (just as 299 is to someone over 300 pounds).  Even if you don't have a significant amount of weight to lose, the number 9 is still magical!  Going from 160 to 159 or 130 to 129 -- it's a wonderful feeling and sense of accomplishment to be in a whole new weight bracket.   

CHEERS to 199!!!