Regaining Control

With the school year coming to an end, a week of exams this week, and summer activities beginning to ramp up, it’s been hard to exercise and be aware of my diet. I’ve been busier than usual studying the past few weeks so that I could go to a wedding this past weekend.  I’ve been so focused on trying to do well on my last neurobiology test and getting enough done so that I could attend the beautiful McGinnis-Deweese wedding that I haven’t exercised in almost two weeks and have been slightly over eating. Each day that I don’t exercise, I’m aware that it’s something I should be doing, but I just haven’t had the drive lately. The same thing goes for my diet; I’ve been eating healthy things, but I’ve just been over doing it. I’ve also given in to my cravings for sweets more times than I’ve ignored them. I recently read that after periods of weight loss, the amount of gastrointestinal hormones you release increases and your motivation to exercise decreases. This is why it’s common for people to plateau and re-gain the weight they’ve lost. I think that I’ve slightly fallen into this trap that my body set for me.

The past few weeks I’ve noticed myself being hungry more often and not caring about running on days that I think I’m too tired or too busy to exercise. I think I’m starting to feel it though. I can tell that I’ve been eating a little too much and that I haven’t been exercising. I don’t feel as energized and in general, I just don’t feel as healthy or good about myself. Consciously I’ve been aware of what I have been lacking the past few weeks, but I haven’t made myself care. I’ve just slowly been letting myself give in. I’ve been making excuses to make myself feel okay about it too. I tell myself that I’ve worked hard for a long time and maintained my exercise and diet regime for almost a year, so I certainly deserve a little break, right? Wrong! While I do believe it’s important to treat yourself every once and a while, especially after you’ve deprived yourself of delicious fried chicken or chocolate ice cream for so long, you can’t afford to let yourself go off the deep end for too long.

It’s important to remember why you started working so hard to begin with. The reasons we start diets and exercise plans are so that we can live a healthier and longer life. It shouldn’t be so that we can look good for bikini season or to fit into a certain dress for someone’s wedding. It’s a long-term commitment to change your lifestyle for the better. You have to work hard and keep working hard for the rest of your life. I do think it becomes easier as you go, but you have to be aware that you will face challenging times that will tempt you take the easy way out. If you give in to those excuses, that you don’t have the time or the energy, you have to make the time and find the energy. That’s what I’m working on right now.

I’m disappointed that I’ve let myself go almost two weeks without exercising and that I’ve allowed myself to “sneak” extra bites after dinner. So, I’m going running today and I’m not going to continue to let myself keep over eating. I don’t know that I can honestly take a break from my desert habit, but I’m definitely going to try to cut down for a while. With summer vacations coming up, I’m going to enjoy my vacations without going overboard and I plan on being very conscious of my exercise and diet while I’m at home. I might even exercise while I’m out of town!

On another note, I was recently introduced to a healthy living program called The Southern Remedy. It was developed by a physician at UMMC and is pretty similar to how I’ve developed my new lifestyle. It’s got some great information so, if you’re thinking about giving the healthy life a try, you should check it out. Now, here are some of my recipes from the week.

Baked Shrimp with Feta
My sister and I threw this recipe together a few nights ago for dinner. It’s a simple recipe that doesn’t take much time or preparation. We used cooked frozen shrimp, which I would not recommend using. Shrimp don’t take long to cook, so when you heat them in a skillet and then bake them there’s a good chance that they will come out over done. Since the shrimp I was using were already cooked I chose to omit the baking part and just cook everything in the skillet. They still came out a little tough and over done. I think I followed the recipe for everything else. We served it over brown rice, which complimented it really well. The shrimp and sauce were kind of similar to a spaghetti, so it would go well with pasta also, just make sure you use whole wheat. Click here for the recipe.

Lemon Basil Orzo
My home grown herbs have grown so much that I probably have enough basil to supply an italian restaurant for a whole night. I really wanted to use some of my fresh basil, but couldn’t think of anything appetizing. I got on cooking light online and searched for recipes with basil in them. Most of them were pasta recipes since the two go so well together, so I tried to find one that was light. I also already had whole wheat orzo, so I didn’t even have to get any new ingredients from the store. This was easy to put together and was pretty filling since it had pasta in it. I didn’t have anything as a side, but a small salad or some vegetables would work great. Click here for the recipe.

Chicken Tacos
Last night I went down to my friend Allison’s to hang out after all our tests and have dinner. Her boyfriend, Jake, made some yummy chicken tacos that seemed pretty easy to make. He marinated chicken in an italian dressing then cooked in it a skillet with a little bit of taco seasoning. Allison whipped up a black bean and corn salsa and some guacamole to top them off. Throughout my dieting, I’ve learned that mexican food is usually pretty healthy. The amount of fresh vegetables, herbs and spices that are classic ingredients for any mexican dish are pretty healthy. As long as you eat the appropriate amount of chicken and cheese and don’t eat ten tacos, chances are, if you’re making a homemade mexican dish, it’s probably going to be pretty good for you. I’ll have to get the black bean and corn salsa recipe from Allison and post it next week.

Happy Cooking!

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The Weight of the Nation

This morning I was browsing recipes on Cooking Light and came across an ad for a documentary series called “The Weight of the Nation” by HBO. The series contains four episodes, two of which air tomorrow tonight, the other two air Tuesday night. It looks like it’s going to be a very interesting and informative documentary addressing the major health problems that our nation faces as a result of the overwhelming number of people that are overweight and obese. I wish that it was airing on a station that is more available to more people though. It does look like you will be able to view the episodes online after they air on tv. They also have the option of hosting a screening event for the series, which I have inquired about. Hopefully I’ll be able to do that in the near future for those in the Jackson area that are interested. As for me, I’ve pretty much been up to the same things lately, just studying, all the time. This week is my last week of class before our final round of exams, and I can’t believe it! Here are a couple of recipes that I tried this week.

Seabass with Romesco Sauce
This recipe called for halibut, but they didn’t have any fresh at the store so I decided to go out on a limb and try seabass. I’ve never had seabass before, but I’ve heard that it’s good.  I seasoned the fish with pepper and pan seared it until it seemed to flake easily. The seabass was firm, but light and I really enjoyed it. The romesco sauce is what I was really interested in trying though. I had never heard of a romesco sauce before, but it sounded pretty easy to make and it looked good in the picture so I decided to give it a try. It had some interesting ingredients that I would have never thought would make such a delicious sauce. It called for roasted red peppers and a roasted ancho pepper, both of which I roasted myself. I think I used a jalepeno though, they didn’t have anything labeled as ancho at the store so I just grabbed a pepper that looked spicy. Some of the other odd ingredients included roasted almonds and a slice of whole wheat bread, which I replaced with half of a whole wheat tortilla instead. There are a few other ingredients that you add and then use a food processor to blend them into a sauce. All of the ingredients balanced each other so well, there was a little spice and a little sweet. I think the sauce will go great on any fish and I might even try to use it as a pizza sauce sometime. Click here for this recipe.

Chipotle Shrimp Tacos
One thing I love to make is shrimp tacos. I found a recipe sometime last year and have loved making it when I need something I can toss together without much effort.  I see lots of different shrimp taco recipes online, but have yet to venture away from my favorite go-to. Well, this week I decided I’d give a different recipe a chance. I was slightly disappointed in the result though. I just didn’t find that this recipe had as much flavor as my other shrimp taco recipe. To be fair, I omitted the chipotle chili powder because I didn’t have any and I used frozen shrimp that were already cooked so I think the marination process probably didn’t reach it’s full potential. I also prefer my taco recipes to have fresh avocado, tomato, and cilantro. The recipe didn’t call for cilantro or tomato, but I did add my own cilantro. In my opinion, these shrimp tacos just didn’t have the flavor that I was looking for. Maybe if you use the chipotle chili powder and marinate them properly they’d be great. Click here for this recipe.

Oh, and…. Happy Mother’s Day Mom! Maybe you can talk dad or Jonathan into making my seabass recipe for dinner tonight!

Change is Good

I think I’m about to get on my soapbox, my appologies for that. I promise there are two recipes at the bottom.

Sometime over the past couple weeks, I had a lecture on helping people change in my psychiatry class. I found it really interesting to listen to the things that serve as barriers for someone trying to make changes in their life.  The topic applies to just about anything, whether you’re trying to quit a bad habit (like smoking), or start a good habit (like dieting and exercising), it can be hard to make changes. A few of the barriers that the professor listed were: foresight, motivation, time constraints, self esteem, cost, support, and direction. As an up and coming physician, it’s important to understand why my future patients may not want follow my suggestions to loose weight and eat healthier. Most people who want to take that advice find it challenging for many reasons. People typically find it difficult to focus on their long term health; instead, they focus on what is bothering them here and now. If nothing is bothering them, they often think nothing is wrong, even though they may be 30 pounds overweight and will likely develop cardiovascular disease and/or diabetes. People also find it difficult to make changes if they feel like they can’t do it, don’t have enough time, or feel that they have no support from family and friends. Another factor that plays a role in making lifestyle changes is a patient’s physician. If an overweight physician who doesn’t exercise tells their patient that they need to loose weight and start exercising, how likely do you think it is that the patient will follow through with the physician’s suggestions? It’s pretty unlikely.

While listening to the lecture, I thought back to what it was like when I made the decision to start living a healthier life. Throughout college, I knew that I needed to exercise more often than I was, and that the food I ate in the cafeteria wasn’t healthy, but I continued to live that lifestyle. I continued until I went to the doctor to get a physical as part of my paper work for medical school. When I stepped onto the scale and realized that I almost weighed 160 pounds, I had an overwhelming realization that I was on my way to becoming overweight. Thankfully  I had the ability to realize that I was heading down a road that would lead me to a number of possible health problems. That was a road that I did not want to make it to the end of, so I decided to make some changes.

I came up with a plan and stuck to it. It was hard at first, and there were definitely times that I did not want to stick to it, but I did. My motivation came from several sources. First, I didn’t want to end up like the majority of Mississippi’s citizens who are obese and have long lists of health problems, mostly due to their weight. Second, I didn’t want to become a physician that preached something I didn’t practice. Third, I wanted to set and example for my family, friends, and most importantly, my future patients. I guess that’s why I started this whole blog thing. I want to make it easier for the people around me to make better choices and give them advice from my personal experience. Change is hard, but it’s also good. It’s been almost a year since I started my health kick, and I’m honestly surprised that it’s lasted this long. In the beginning, I didn’t think that I could do it, but I wanted to prove myself wrong. I was pretty hard core with my diet and exercise when I began, but now I’m able to maintain my weight by exercising and eating healthy, properly portioned food as often as I can. Sometimes I go out to eat, some days I don’t exercise, and sometimes my addiction to ice cream gets the best of me. But, for the most part, all the hard work I put in at the beginning has helped me learn how to control my diet and exercise habits. I’ve officially lost just under 25 pounds, which is more than I set out to do, but I feel great! I don’t just feel good because I feel better about how I look, I feel good because I made a change for the better; I’m healthier and it feels great.  I’m not going to let myself become overweight or unhealthy and I plan to continue to try  to set the best example I can for my future patients. So, I encourage you to make some changes for the better in your life. Whether it’s to quit smoking or start being healthy, give it a try. You might find that it’s easier than you think, especially once you come up with a plan that works for you. If you think you can’t do it, prove yourself wrong, and you’ll be glad that you did.

Pesto Shrimp Pasta and Pesto Pizza
A few weeks ago, I made my first veggie lasagna using pesto sauce instead of tomato sauce. I often have leftover ingredients, so I try to find ways that I can use them instead of throw them away. This recipe was no different; I had a little less than half a jar of pesto sauce left after making the lasagna.  I came up with two ways to use it the following week. One night I used it as sauce for one of my personal tortilla pizzas that I make when I’m in a hurry and in the mood for something light but satisfying.  Another night, I hadn’t had time to go to the store, so I used the rest of the pesto to make a shrimp pesto pasta. I had shrimp in the freezer and I always keep pasta on hand as a back up. I also added some frozen peas to my pasta while it cooked so that I would have some veggies. Both recipes were easy, fast, and delicious, plus I came up with them all on my own. Coming up with quick and tasty recipes has been one of my favorite things about starting to cook. Once you become familiar with certain foods, it’s easy to come up with things that go well together. Last week was definitely one of those weeks when keeping things on hand in the pantry and in the freezer came in handy. Sometimes we just get too busy to go to the store and make a nice fresh meal. It’s good to keep some relatively healthy things on hand so you don’t end up in line at McDonald’s one night when you haven’t had time to go to the grocery store.

Chicken Scallopine With Broccoli Rabe
While I can’t say that I know what the words scallopine or rabe mean, I can say that what I ended up with after making this was good. As usual I didn’t follow the recipe word for word, so I’m sure if you do that, this dish would be even better. I think the only things I left out were the white wine and the capers. I’m not much for buying a whole bottle of wine just to use half a cup and not be able to drink the rest before it goes bad since I’m studying all the time, that’s why I left that out. As for the capers, I just don’t like them, so whenever I have a recipe that calls for them I either leave them out or replace them with something that is naturally salty (like Kalamata olives). I also just used regular ole’ broccoli, I figured it wouldn’t be much of a difference. I would say this is a good staple dish to have every now and then. Pan frying the chicken doesn’t take long, nor does pan sauteing or boiling broccoli. Having a salad, rice, or quinoa tabuleh (which is what I had) on the side would definitely make it a complete healthy meal, as long as you keep your chicken portions appropriate (about 4-5 ounces, which is the size of your palm). Adding different herbs to the italian breadcrumbs could help personalize the recipe to your liking. I think I’ve added parsely to this one before, but you could really choose anything you like. Click here for this recipe. 

Time Flies When You’re Having Fun

Well, it’s May. I’m not quite sure how the first four months of 2012 have flown by so quickly. It’s also crazy to think that, in 23 short days, I will have completed my first year of medical school. The past eight months have been quite an experience, a good one for the most part. I’ve been enjoying school even more since my neurobiology class started. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m staying caught up, which is a great feeling, or if it’s because I know I’m almost done with my first year. April flew by especially quickly since I’ve been buried in the books, and now we only have one set of tests left at the end of this month. I had three tests yesterday, so last week was pretty busy, but I managed to cook up a couple things to share. Aside from studying all week, I had an exciting encounter in my backyard. Long story short, I had a limb cut down in my backyard that happened to have a bird’s nest in it. I had been watching the nest for a couple weeks waiting for the eggs to hatch, and low and behold they hatched the day the limb got cut. I quickly researched how to handle nestlings that had fallen from their nest online. I moved the three baby birds back into their nest and tried to find the safest place for the nest. I was unsure if their parents would find them, but after about half an hour they were feeding them in their new location. Sadly, I recently checked the nest and there is only one baby bird remaining. I’m not sure if the other two have moved on by themselves or if nature got the best of them. All in all, it was exciting to watch them over the past week; hopefully the last one will stay a bit longer and maybe I’ll get to see him fly away. Enough of that, here are the recipes I have to share for the week.

Mini Refried Bean Tostadas
These are really fun to make! They are almost like a mini personalized taco. I made them one night last week for dinner and then made a batch for a get together that some of the girls in my class were having last night. The recipe is simple (as always) and doesn’t take much time at all. The main ingredients include canned fat-free refried beans, tortillas, shredded cheese, shredded lettuce, salsa and fat-free sour cream. The refried beans sound like they would be terrible for you, but I don’t actually think they’re that bad. To put this all together, you just place the tortillas in a muffin tin and bake them until they are slightly crisp on the edges.  When I made this for dinner, I used 8 or 10 inch whole wheat tortillas, but when I made it for the party I attended I used regular 6 inch ones. It really doesn’t make a difference which ones you use, I just cut the perimeter off the large ones so that they would fit in the muffin tin more easily. After crisping the tortilla you add the refried beans into the tortilla cup and for the most part, you can stack whatever you want on top before adding the cheese and baking them another 5-10 minutes to melt it. I just added the beans and cheese and baked it until the cheese was melted. After that I just piled on the rest of the ingredients. I, of course, added a few fresh veggies and herbs that the recipe didn’t call for. You can really make these whatever you want. At the party, I just let people add their own toppings and I think everyone really liked them. On top of the beans and cheese, I personally added avacado, tomato, lettuce, red and green onion, salsa, cilantro and a small dollop of sour cream. If you’re cooking this as a meal, I recommend making enough fore each person to have two, unless you are having sides with it, then one per person should be fine. Anyway, they turned out great and I think I’ll be making them a lot in the future. The recipe can be found here. And, if you’re interested in what kind of party I attended, keep reading!

Mini Grilled Cheese Appetizers
I also made some mini grilled cheese appetizers for the party. I had to improvise with the recipe a little bit because I couldn’t find the cocktail size pumpernickel bread at the grocery store. Instead I used a loaf of marbled rye and cut the sandwiches in half to make them one serving size. Once again, this was really easy and I think it made a great party snack. I think the actual recipe called for gouda cheese, but I decided to use white cheddar instead. Since I was making the tostadas at the same time I baked the cheese on the bread at 350 until it melted instead of broiling it. Like the tostadas, this is a recipe that you can pretty much make your own, if you don’t like an ingredient, just replace it with something similar that you like better. I think half the fun of cooking is changing things up to suit your taste and make things healthier. Next time you have to make appetizers for a get together, look for a healthy recipe that people will feel good about eating. Click here for this recipe.

Stella and Dot
My friend Deani, threw a Stella and Dot Jewelry party for all the girls in my class on Monday after our tests. I offered to make some snacks for everyone and it was really fun. I’ve never really made appetizers for a party on my own, so it was kind of exciting to share my new found hobby with some of my friends. Anyway, the party was great so I thought I would share the link to the website if anyone wanted to look at the the jewelry. The party made shopping for my friend’s birthday present really easy. You can look at samples and the catalogs, order at the party, and  the jewelry arrives in 3-5 business days. Click here to check out the jewelry and make an order through Mikie Haggerty.