In the past, I've done what many people do: I've used the first of the year as the marker for change by stating a couple of resolutions and trying to stick to them. And like many people, the resolutions don't last, because change will only happen when you are ready for it. In the past, I wasn't ready.
For me, my "new year" started on July 9th, 2009. That date wasn't any sort of milestone for me; there was no cosmic reason why I chose that date over any other. But it has become a milestone now, as that was the day I decided I was not going to be a fat person any more. And really, that was all it took - me making a conscious decision to eat healthier and as a result, lose weight.
When I began, I knew I didn't want to feel like I was on a diet, because if I did, I would give up. So I researched healthy eating and cooking and discovered that the Weight Watchers system was the way for me to go. I did my own makeshift version of WW for the first month, to make sure I was going to stick with my plan before spending money on joining. When I saw I was losing weight and wasn't feeling like I was deprived of anything, I joined the Weight Watchers Online program. Instead of going to meetings, I do everything via their Web site. Better yet for me is the WW iPhone app. I can keep track of what I eat no matter where I am. As a bonus for someone who loves games, trying to stay within my alloted points and still feel like I can eat just about anything is like a game of sorts - do I get cheese on my sandwich, or have an extra glass of wine? Decisions, decisions.
But the best part of all of this has been cooking. I've always liked cooking, but for the last few months I've really began to love it. I make weekly menus and try to incorporate at least one new recipe a week. I read cookbooks and cooking magazines, looking for ways to tweak the recipes to make them WW-friendly and therefore healthier overall. I've learned that WW-friendly doesn't mean diet food - it means using light butter, cutting back on the olive oil, cooking with ground turkey and skim milk, etc. Instead of using fat to flavor food, use herbs and spices and fruits and vegetables. I get creative with my weekly menus, trying to make sure that I use the whole package of celery throughout the week instead of one or two stalks and letting the rest go bad. And I've been experimenting with flavors and ingredients that I never would have thought about before. I never knew "dieting" could be so fun, so exciting and so enjoyable.
Since July 9th, 2009, I've lost nearly 40 lbs. That's a lot of weight. That's a large bag of dog food, and if you've ever tried to lug one of those you know how much that is. I still have more to lose, but I'm not daunted by that fact the way I would have been a year ago. Losing weight is not impossible, it's not painful (okay, maybe it is a little painful, especially since I got a recumbent bike for Christmas and am now incorporating exercise into my life), it's not about deprivation or starvation or any of that. It's about change, and being the person you know you are, and finding something to get excited about, and - I know this sounds cliche but it's really, really true - taking it one day, one meal at a time. If you eat something really decadent, or slip up, or whatever, it's okay - there's the next bite, the next meal, the next day. That meant that I DID have a slice of pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving, I DID have pizza at our office holiday party, I DID have a some of my awesome chocolate peanut butter pie at Christmas. But I did so with an understanding of what eating those items meant for me, and because I have my overall health and well-being in mind, I did so with no guilt whatsoever.
But since it IS a new year, and a new decade, I might as well try something new(ish). Since I've been cooking more, I would like to share some of those recipes that we try throughout the year with you. Some will be hits, some will be misses, but I guarantee I'll have a good time making all of them :) I'll try to post photos and notes about our experiences with the recipe, and maybe I'll include Weight Watchers points (although I hear the WW goons frown on that).
To get started in 2010, here's a recipe I made a few weeks back. It's based on a fantastic squash curry we had at a Laotian restaurant in Madison, Wisconsin.
Red Chicken and Mango Curry
Weight Watchers Points: 9 per serving
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks
1 bunch green onions, finely sliced
1 Tbsp. garlic or chile oil
1 1/2 Tbsp. red Thai curry paste
1 14-oz. can light coconut milk
1 c. chicken broth
2 tsp. fish sauce
1 1/2 c. butternut squash cubes
1 1/2 c. sweet potato cubes
1 c. mango cubes
1 tsp. lime juice
3-4 Tbsp. cilantro, chopped
2 c. brown rice, cooked
Saute chicken in skillet over medium-high heat until browned and cooked through, and remove to a plate.
Fry green onions in oil for 1 minute, then add curry paste. Whisk in coconut milk, broth and fish sauce and bring to a boil. Add butternut squash and sweet potato cubes and simmer, partially covered, about 15 minutes or until tender.
Add chicken back to pan and bring to a boil. Add mango and lime juice and heat through.
Serve over rice and sprinkle with cilantro.
NOTES: Mmm… now this is about as close to comfort food as it gets, folks. The flavors are amazing and blend so well… my mouth is watering just thinking about it. Of course, we made a few modifications. First, we added a small, diced onion – we sauteed them with the green onions. Then we used frozen butternut squash instead of fresh, because cutting up fresh is a pain in the arse. However, we should have waited to add it until after the sweet potatoes were tender – instead, the cubes we added were already cooked and broke down in the sauce. It was still delicious, but chunks of squash would have been better. We also used bottled lime juice – next time, we’ll use fresh lime and squeeze a wedge on each plate. Oh yeah, we’ll be making this one again for sure.