Monthly Archives: March 2010

my guest post at Then Heather Said

Fellow healthy lifestyle blogger Heather of Then Heather Said recently started featuring guest posts for her “More Than” series.  When she reached out asking for guest bloggers, I knew I had to share my story of learning how to maintain a significant amount of weight loss.

Heather posted my guest post yesterday afternoon and I wanted to share it all with you. You can find it here:

My Guest Post at Then Heather Said: “More Than: Alicia of PIP”

…or you can read it below.  Regardless, make sure to check out her fantastically witty and awesome blog. There are some fantastic posts in the rest of the series, but more importantly, Heather’s just one great lady! Another big thank you to her for letting me share my story!

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Greetings from Cleveland! My name is Alicia and I am the proud blogger at Poise in Parma. My blog is about maintaining a healthy balance in life while enjoying my hometown of Cleveland, Ohio. I try to capture this by sharing my recipes, cooking techniques  and meal choices when dining at local restaurants.  I’m definitely a foodie, so  it takes a balance, but know that it can be done!  When Heather reached out to the blog community asking for guest bloggers in the “More Than” series, I jumped at the chance to participate in such a great concept.

Over the past eight years, I have maintained a weight loss of nearly 120 pounds. How did I lose it? I did it the hard way: less burgers with french fries, more minutes on the treadmill.   No magic pill. No surgery.  No other medical breakthrough.After losing it all, now I find maintaining the weight loss is so much more of a struggle. My story goes like this:

As a freshman in college in 2002, my gain of the “Freshman 15” put me at 250 pounds.  At 5’8”, that put my Body Mass Index at 38, which put me in the “obese” category.   Hello, wake up call.  I was an adult now and decided to take the steps towards a healthier lifestyle.  I started cutting down my portions and going to the school’s recreation center. My boyfriend (now husband) taught me how to use the cardio and weight machines and created a workout plan for me. It was nothing overly strenuous, but it was enough to keep me moving.  I knew a traditional “diet” would be too hard for me to commit to, so I decided to take my weight loss slowly and focused on an overall lifestyle change. As a college student, it wasn’t easy to say “maybe I don’t need to bong that second beer”.   I continued to lose weight slowly, with an average weight loss of 10 to 15 pounds a year.  Time progressed:  I graduated in 2005, got married in 2006, and in December 2008, I reached my “100 pound goal” of 150 pounds.

I was happy with my weight in that 145 – 150 range. Proud for achieving my goal, I searched for a new fitness goal.  Instead of signing up for a 5K or becoming a group fitness instructor, I pushed myself in my usual workout route.  An hour long gym trip became a two hour long session: I would do a 30 minute session on the elliptical before a 60 minute kickboxing class, and then get back on the elliptical for another 15 minutes after class.  Around that time, I took a promotion at my job which came with more responsibility for not much more salary.  In June 2009, my company cut back on staff and those who were left were already overwhelmed.  My department went from a staff of five people to a staff of two: just my supervisor and myself.

Through the combination of insane workouts and high levels of work & personal stress, I continued to lose weight.  In October 2009, I hit my lowest weight of 127lbs. I always said that my goal wasn’t to be a size 4, yet there it was on the tag of the new pants. My body had reached what many people consider to be perfection, but it was telling me otherwise. The stress from work caused high anxiety levels which developed into insomnia.  The poor sleeping patterns meant I had no energy and was forced to take a hiatus from working out.  I couldn’t even make it through a yoga class without looking like I barely survived a war.   The last straw was when my hair stylist told me my hair was significantly thinner since my last appointment.  For an Italian/Slovak girl, it was another wake up call – just as important as the first. I was finally discovered it was time to focus on my health and happiness. I came to realize the exact message that Heather is trying to spread with this series:

“Healthy living is more about healing, and having a healthy soul. Facing fears and becoming a stronger person. Listening to your heart and knowing how to take advice and ask for help when needed.”

In 2010, I am living by the motto “Be Happy – Be Healthy – Just Be”. Today, I am maintaining around 135 pounds.  I look back to last fall and how excited I was to fit into a size 4, but then I remember how miserable I was.  Now, my health is my priority, not thinness.

I’ve reassessed my fitness goals this year, committing myself to running and yoga by embracing what my hometown has to offer.  Every single year, my New Year’s resolution to “become a runner” would dissipate in mid-February.  This year, I’m taking advantage of the fantastic regional parks system and am training for a 5K in April on their all purpose trails. I’m even considering running a half marathon in the fall.  In a nearby suburb, I found a yoga studio with talented instructors trained by the best in the business, but the studio is small enough to offer personalized attention during class. (Side note: I was doing downward dog incorrectly for years! Did you know your feet are only supposed to be about two fists distance apart from one another?!)

As for my dietary choices, I am sticking with what I know and enjoy.  I never see myself becoming a vegetarian or being able to “eat clean” 100% of the time, but I tend to crave fresh ingredients instead of overly processed foods. My husband – God love him – has learned to love broccoli and other veggies he would have never dreamed eating before we married.  Embracing Cleveland’s remarkable food scene, we are constantly trying new restaurants featuring different types of cuisines and ingredients. We’re opening our minds to the world’s food offerings while remaining in our backyard.

LONG STORY SHORT: I stick with the “everything in moderation” message in all aspects of my life:  that includes ice cream, minutes on the elliptical and blog posts:

It’s okay to enjoy a cup of coconut ice cream at my favorite local ice cream shop, just not every day.

It’s okay to rock out on the elliptical for 75 minutes, as long as the next day is a rest day.

It’s okay to not write a post after every meal, as my blog doesn’t need to be comprehensive of my entire foodie life.

After all, remember the overall message of the “More Than” series:  healthy living is facing life with an understanding that we are constantly available to grow, change, & learn more about ourselves. Once you let go control and “just be”, you’ll find “just enough” of every single thing in life will satisfy every need or want you’ll ever have.

restaurant review: Flying Fig

Giddy to be hours away from our rendezvous with Michael Buble, I decided to treat my mom to dinner at the Flying Fig that Tuesday evening before the concert.  Many the Cleveland blogger recommended this restaurant, so I was ready to see what all the buzz was all about.

photo credit: Byron Miller c/o theflyingfig.com

From their listing on opentable.com: Our mission at the Flying Fig is simple, to offer professional, courteous service, in a casual, relaxed setting. We provide wine-oriented cuisine utilizing the finest ingredients available, sourced locally whenever possible.

Upon our arrival, we were seated by a lovely hostess at a table right in the front window of the restaurant. The bar was hopping nearby, so I was glad I made online reservations requesting a table in the bar area.  Sunshine poured on us through the window on that lovely March evening, allowing for some great food photos from my Nikon point and shoot camera!

My mom and I both ordered the happy hour white wine selection, which if I remember correctly, was the 2006 Muga Viura/Malvasia from Rioja, Spain. I was driving, so I only enjoyed one glass, but would have had another if I didn’t take allergy meds about an hour before…

To start, we ordered the House Made Bread & House made Snowville Creamery Butter:

QUESTION: How do you feel about being charged for bread in upscale restaurants? That plate right there set me back $2. BUT IT WAS WORTH EVERY PENNY. The bread just burst with flavor, it had a great balance of herbs. I seriously considered ordering another two rounds of the stuff.

For my starter, I went with the night’s special of the Bibb Salad with radish, carrot, feta cheese and Goddess Dressing:

I requested the dressing on the side as usual. Let’s see: put a pile of fresh veggies with feta cheese in front of me? You can’t go wrong. This was my first experience with Goddess dressing (I’ve been living under a rock apparently), which I enjoyed Flying Fig’s version of on this salad.  I ate every bite contently.

My mom picked the Endive & Watercress Salad with Sun Chockes, Apples, Buttermilk Blue Cheese, Candied Walnuts, Lemon Vinaigrette:

I managed a bite away from my mom, who can be quoted as saying “I don’t know what I’m eating, but it’s very good.” This was a solid. Even with the walnuts and blue cheese, this salad didn’t feel heavy. The chef dressed it with just the right of ingredients to not weight down the salad.

For our main course, we decided to split a couple different options from the Small Plates section of the menu, starting with the Crispy Polenta Cake with Tomato and Fennel Sauce, Mascarpone Cheese:

I don’t tend to eat a lot of fried foods. I also don’t tend to eat a lot of polenta. I suppose I haven’t investigated its potential in my culinary world just quite yet. That being said, this was quite tasty. The polenta was perfectly fried on the outside and yet still soft on the inside. I really enjoyed the tomato and fennel sauce with it.  If all fried foods tasted the way this did, I’d be in trouble.

Another one of our selections was the Herbed Ricotta Gnocchi with Caramelized Onions, Killbuck Farm Mushrooms, Greens & Romano Cheese:

The gnocchi was well prepared and nicely seasoned.  I enjoyed the extra veggies with the pasta. However, I have to admit: even for a “savory small” option, I was surprised by the amount of food in the bowl. I’ve ordered “small plates” from other restaurants and received much more in a serving size.

From the happy hour specials, we got an order of 12 Mussels served in a Tomato Broth:

They also had this in a larger size portion of 18 mussels cooked with chorizo. Once our waiter set the plate down, I wished we ordered the bigger size – not necessarily for the amount of mussels served, but I knew the sausage would have added that extra kick to knock this out of the park.  The broth enhanced the mussels and we both enjoyed this dish. I managed to save a few pieces of bread to soak up some additional broth, which was the smartest thing I did all week.

Speaking of that waiter:  I have to admit I was rather disappointed with our waiter that evening. Sure he was polite enough, but not overly helpful. When we asked for his suggestions of his favorite things from the menu, he said something to the point of “I really don’t know what you are looking for. Really anything you pick will be excellent as the chef uses fresh ingredients every day.” Seriously? You couldn’t even say “I really suggest you start with an order of house made bread with your salad” or “I really enjoy the beets myself”.  We mentioned we were going to the concert that evening, and the only time he seemed in a rush to do anything is when I placed my credit card in the bill holder.  Maybe we caught the guy on a bad day, but I was rather thrown by his “eh, I’m working on a random Tuesday night” sort of attitude.

LONG STORY SHORT: Would I go back to Flying Fig? Yes. Anytime soon? Eh… if I was choosing, probably not. Don’t get me wrong: the food was good, but when the bread is the highlight of the meal, that’s saying something.  I plan to return to try something off of their entree menu – the halibut special our waiter described sounded DEVINE. But overall, I’m in no hurry to return to this fine, upstanding establishment: there are just many more restaurants in Cleveland for me to try!

Flying Fig on Urbanspoon

cut the crap challenge

Allison over at Green Dog Wine announced her Cut The Crap Challenge yesterday. Her plan consists of:

  • Drink no more than 12 ounces of coffee/day.
  • No cheese WHATSOEVER. None. Zero.
  • Keep yogurt, eggs, and other dairy to a minimum, and if using milk – stick with almond milk.
  • My goal over the next 20 days is to STAY away from any ingredients I can’t pronounce, and try to eat lots of fresh produce and natural ingredients.
  • Reduce use of Sweeteners: No artificial sweetener since doing the Clean Life challenge, I don’t think this one will be too much of a challenge, if anything – it will apply more to packaged ingredients.  No white sugar.
  • No white flour.
  • Try to get whole wheat bread and other whole grains – really check the ingredient list!
  • No alcohol!

Remember: this is personalized to Allison’s needs and wants for her health at this time in her life, which includes wanting to feel better inside and out, and getting in tip top shape for the 2010 Cleveland Marathon that she is currently training for in May.

Inspired by this awesome CLE blogger, I’ve decided to join her in my own version of the “Cut The Crap Challenge”. Her challenge is inspired by the original Clean Life Challenge found over at Hangry Pants and On a Lobster Placemat from back in 2009.

For my version of the challenge, here are my plans to reduce my consumption of processed foods & toxins:

Milk/Dairy:

  • Gradually make the switch from 1% to skim milk
  • Purchase organic dairy options.

Sweeteners:

  • Wean myself off of artificial sweeteners: Sweet N Low, Equal, Splenda, etc. I foresee this process being the hardest part of the challenge for me!!!
  • Kick my sugar free gum habit.
  • Stay away from white sugar.
  • Investigate natural sweeteners.

Caffeine:

  • Consume no more than one travel mug of coffee a day.
  • Reduce use of sweeteners in un-caffeinated tea consumption.
  • Increase my water intake (it is one of my resolutions for 2010 after all!)

Bread:

  • No white flour: I hope to carry this thru to all the foods I consume.
  • All recipes calling for flour will be made with whole wheat flour.
  • Continue to buy wheat bread, whole wheat pastas and other whole grains.

Produce:

  • Start to investigate organic produce options.
  • I’d also like to visit more farmers’ markets and to buy more local produce.

Product Goal:

  • Be more aware of my consumption of processed foods.
  • Read ingredient lists thoroughly.
  • Research products before I buy them, specifically to be more aware of soy and high fructose corn syrup in the products I purchase.

Emotional – a poise in parma addition to the challenge:

  • Get out of my head. I think ALL.THE.FRICKIN’.TIME. I feel like my brain is always “on”. I need to learn how to clear my mind and to relax.
  • Eliminate the “fat talk”: every woman should read this page over at Healthy Tipping Point on what our negative thoughts do to our self-esteem.
  • Embrace my body for what it is today: I’ve been A LOT heavier in the past. I’ve also been about ten pounds lighter. I have to remember that health is the priority, not thinness.

Why I’m Doing this Challenge

  • Do my part in the Food Revolution lead by Jamie Oliver
  • To kick my artificial sweetener habit.
  • Maybe, just maybe, help to influence others eating habits.
  • To find a way to feel “better” inside and out.
  • To embrace my 2010 mantra:  Be happy. Be healthy. Just be.

So… are you in? Are you ready to “cut the crap”?

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