Sunday, February 12, 2012

Healthy Place check in for the New Year

I'm sure it seems odd to be doing a New Year check-in post in the middle of February, but as you'll find out (if you keep reading!), in a way the New Year is really only just beginning for me.

I'm not normally one for New Years resolutions but I did have an eating plan in mind, namely cutting out cheese (because I overindulge in it and it's certainly not a health food) and refined sugar (the reasons for this one should be obvious). The holidays are not a smart time to start such a plan so I figured starting in the new year just made sense.

The first week of January, I came down with what I thought was the flu, and eventually discovered about 2 weeks later (when I went to the doctor because the cough just wasn't going away) that I actually had pneumonia. This put me out of commission for most of January. On top of that, I injured my back during one of my worst coughing fits, and only now is my back finally starting to feel better. As a result, going to the gym has not been on the menu, although in the past two weeks I have started going a couple days a week to recumbent bike and ease back into exercise. I really miss it, especially Body Pump, but I know that a back injury is not something to mess around with. Hoping now that my back is feeling better that I can start easing back into some strength training and work my way back up to the level of exercise I was doing before the new year.

On the plus side, I have been able to stick to the eating plan quite well. There were a few "must have comfort food" moments when I was sick, but for the most part I didn't have much of an appetite, so it was pretty easy to stay away from cheese and sugar. Even now that I'm feeling better, it's been surprisingly easy to stick with. I think the key for me has been being flexible about it - cheese and sugar are ok on special occasions, like Friday night when I had pizza with some friends, or on Valentine's Day coming up when the BF (or should I just say F for fiancé now?) and I will no doubt share a nice dessert. Treats like that make it easier for me to say no on an everyday basis.

Some food substitutions have been helping as well. I recently made Dreena Burton's "Vegveeta" dip and enjoyed it as a wonderful "cheezy" accompaniment to broccoli, tortilla chips, and drizzled on a butternut squash and lentil stew. I like that this cheeze sauce doesn't include nutritional yeast - I have nothing against nooch per say, but it's pricey and also hard to find at the stores in my area. I also like that it's delicious!

Natural sweeteners have also made a difference - I've been sweetening my yogurt with honey or all-fruit jam, and I made Super-Charge Me cookies (Dreena Burton again!) which use maple syrup for a sweetener and which were some of the best cookies I've ever had.

This morning I'm enjoying a yummy pumpkin muffin sweetened with honey. The recipe for these came from the Crazy Plates cookbook and they are chock full of good things like wheat bran, carrots, walnuts, and of course pumpkin.

My goals going forward are to get back to to the gym and back into some sort of normal exercise routine, and on the eating front, try to cut back on my use of fat. For the most part I use healthy fats in my cooking (olive oil, nuts and nut butters, avocado) but some days I feel like it's too much of a good thing, so I want to try and be more mindful of how much fat I'm consuming and look for areas where it can be cut back or removed all together (for example, sauteing veggies in broth instead of oil).