Fit and on Plan during EuroTrip 2011!

May 22, 2011 § Leave a comment

I feel relaxed and fulfilled, realizing how lucky I am  to be able to say that I just traveled abroad to visit extended family in EUROPE.  Just returned from a trip to Hamburg and Paris (oooh la la!) where I was able spend much-needed QT with family and explore both the historic and ultra modern parts of both cities. To describe my trip in one word – FREEING. It was my first vacation after almost EIGHT months (since my last week of time off) of intern insanity and not a singe two day weekend since that time. It was needed and well deserved.

The most remarkable part about all of this, keeping with the purpose of this fitness blog, is show how I managed to stay on track while enjoying traditional Afghan and European meals.  I was actually terrified to go; I know my appetite and the fact that I was traveling to food & wine-rich places with opportunities to eat my way fat again was almost overwhelming.  I am also proud to say that I come from a long line of talented cooks who know their ingredients and NEVER measure.  While this is a blessing, it’s also hell for me because once I taste a morsel of well-made Afghan food, I find it almost impossible to control my portions.  I was also going to spend a considerable amount of time with my cousins so I was fearful that we’d frequently go out to eat and that I’d have a hard time controlling my cravings from the flavor and lipid- heavy menu options.  Point is that I didn’t think I had what it would take to control myself in Europe and basically didn’t trust myself to make smart decisions. Thankfully, I couldn’t have been more wrong.

My tactic once I arrived at Manchester airport: Simple, really. Just followed the Points system.  I didn’t want to spend the money on an internet package for my phone so I picked up a few paper trackers during my pre-trip weigh-in.

  • tracked EVERY SINGLE bite I ate. And I mean every, from each bit of cucumber to chocolate croissants
  • I did NOT limit myself because I knew I deserved the hell out of this trip and I was not about to leave without tasting some things I had dreamed of, I just tracked each bite
  • Walked almost everywhere, except taking flights, driving from one city to the next in which case we either took the train or my cousins drove
  • made sure I had a bottle of water with me at all times and made sure to drink at least 3 daily
  • told my cousins that I was trying to keep track of what I was eating (love my family but regardless of how Westernized my family is, all Afghans have the same habit when it comes to feeding your loved ones…they pile food on your plate regardless of whether you can eat it or not and love to buy snacks/food for you everywhere you go)
  • made sure to keep some homemade trail mix with me just-in-case
  • took the stairs where ever possible; train stations, museums, the Eiffel tower where I was determined to take all 669 stairs to the second level, and the  hotel room in paris…which was on the 13th floor
  • only had one dreamy cup of cafe while in Paris (I’ve been poison coffee  sober for almost 2 months! Living off of a daily venti iced unsweetened green tea.  Coffee/espresso makes my stomach feel like i’ve released a piranha in it)
  • wore comfortable, practical shoes so that I was able to get the most out of my trip without developing painful feet
Results: Weighed-in two days after returning; Lost 1.6 lbs!! Since then, at today’s weigh-in, I’m down another 2.6 lbs.
Reasons why I think I’ve been successful lately:
(1) continued tracking and being very careful in Europe + walking all over the cites,
(2) started to Spin again. I looked back to my lowest weight while on WW and realized that I was spinning at least 3-4 x/week. Lately (for the past 5 months) I’ve been spinning nearly ZERO times. I had been doing P90x at the encouragement of one of my closest physical therapy friends…that DID NOT work for me at all.  I was actually doing p90x Lean and still managed to gain weight despite continually tracking and staying within my points range for the most part. My clothes felt tighter and I felt uncomfortable.  It was not just muscle weight I was adding, there is just not enough cardio in that program and it didn’t work for me. I still occasionally use a few of the programs when I’m mixing up my weekly routine, but spin class, body pump and sorry attempts at running really give me my weight loss mojo.
(3) when i got back I re-read the WW Articles in search of the major pitfalls on the new PointsPlus system, because I really didn’t think was working as well as the old Points system for me.  I had been losing weight faster on POINTS and looking back on pics from November, noticed a clear difference in the way my face looked at that time…wasn’t as round as it is now.   I noticed that I might be eating too much fruit and probably underestimating volume.  This article was great. 
Just a tid-bit about European culture: their diet is generally not composed of the same processed garbage as ours.  Yes, they still have a McDonald’s and Au Bon Pain at every corner and have adopted the cafe culture like no other, but the food QUALITY is pristine.  For example, my cousin’s wife in Hamburg (and subsequently my cousin in Limoge) made the most amazing eggs I’ve literally EVER had.  Here’s why they were amazing; they were real eggs.  I wish I had taken a photo – the yolks were a deep orange, smelled like a farm fresh egg (if you’ve ever had one, you know exactly that freshness that I mean), and the taste…Oh my god…the taste was out of this world. Who knew that a simple egg seasoned with just salt and black pepper sould taste this heavenly.   Second, the MILK.  The 2% milk tasted like whole and it was naturally sweet.  Ice cream even tastes “cleaner” in Europe.
**Side note: I’m big into researching environmental impact on food quality and I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmingly upset that the europeans are light years ahead of the US when it comes to food quality and environmental standards.  It’s based on a EU policy which Germany has obviously adopted but perfected by working towards less fossil fuels and nuclear energy towards more natural forms of energy.  We have a long ways to go….even in terms of their modernism which makes all of the US appear like a third world nation (if you don’t believe me, check out the architecture of South Hamburg – it’ll blow your mind).**
Few Pictures of my trip

Croissant

In the Eiffel Tower

L'arc de Triomphe, Champs Elysees

Macaron, Paris

Cidre and Galette

Cheese at the Market, Paris

Fois Gras....not weightwatchers friendly but very Foodie Friendly

Afghani Aush at my uncle's in Limoge, France.

Crepe with pureed apple, walnuts, vanilla ice cream, and more chocolate than even I could handle

Iranian restaurant with my cousins in Hamburg. total happiness

How have you stayed fit while vacationing?

Here are a few tips to review (which I should have done before I went abroad) if you’re about to embark on a trip abroad:

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How do you do it?

September 23, 2010 § 4 Comments

This post will be sort of a hodge-podge but the meat and potatoes are in the middle…it’s my deconstructed Shepherd’s Pie, if you will.

Luckily I’ve had plenty of time to blog over the past few days.  It’s given me an alternative way to unwind in ways that exercise and my daily prancing around the stove have been (unusually) unable to.  Somewhat of a side note – I had initially planned a flight to Sacramento which would allow me about 3 days in Lake Tahoe and 3 days of wine tasting in Napa.  The plan was set but man, I had a VERY difficult time parting with money that I had saved.  So much time, sweat and sleep deprivation had gone into making that money that I couldn’t part with it.  I know, I know. This seems foolish because I know I’ll burn out before my next vaca, but I’ve developed a little bug in me that already wants to start saving for my childrens’ education (mind you, I have ZERO children/pets/nieces/nephews/godchildren/not even a pet cockroach and no potential to have any in the next few years). So I’ve spent some time doing a little local travel and mainly spent my time put-sing around the kitchen, trying out new recipes and taking in as much of the local fare I can.  Festivals and farmer’s markets galore!  With all of this free time and writing also came time to read some blogs that I had never read…

On to the meat

Being a sort of successful weight watcher’s gal, I tend to stick close to home and read the blogs of fellow WW girls.  I can commiserate with their struggle, get ideas on snacks and healthy lunch or dinner items, and get some fab work out ideas.  Overall I find this soothing in a way; knowing that I’m not totally alone in this battle of the bulge.

This time off from work has made me curious  and I’ve been able to read through the blogs that I’ve never visited…I won’t name names – they’re excellent blogs), but what I’m finding is….they’re pretty impressive!  There’s an astounding number of people who can challenge weight loss on their own.  How do they do this?  How/where do they find the motivation?  How do they figure out what’s right for their body and what limitations to set?  In other words, how do they do this on their own?  Many of these “independent” fitbloggers don’t point this out.  I’ve tried elucidating this from the “about me” sections but they seem to be similar to mine – meaning that they basically felt some sign or urge to make a general change and just moved forward.  What made one turn to weight watchers and the other turn to him/her self?

now the potatoes

Eating healthy and exercising seem incredibly simple if you have a little motivation and time but in reality, it’s really not.  Not at all.  I’m sure you’re reading this thinking “Good job, little doctor.  Your 1/4 million dollar education seems to have really paid off (giant eye roll).”, but here’s the thing, medical school doesn’t teach us HOW to be healthy, it actually does quite the opposite.  I will rant about this in a later post.  In all of my years of schooling I of course knew that calories burned must exceed calories consumed, but I could not practice this for a multitude of reasons.

  1. No motivation,
  2. Literally never took the time to take care of myself because I’m disgustingly competitive and felt the need to study for 10-16 hrs/day (and FYI I was no where near as successful as most students who were just as intense and obnoxious as I was…probably because I never took care of myself – didn’t sleep more than 4 hours, didn’t eat well at all, ever, and was just miserable…you get the ugly picture).
  3. I didn’t have a supportive network by any stretch of the imagination,
  4. I wasn’t willing to take the time to prepare healthy meals.  **Message to pathetic old Me, how much time does it REALLY take to make and pack a sandwich, as opposed to the daily nonsense of stopping at Panera/subway/Moe’s, etc  for almost every meal?  Hello – waste of $$$$ that you don’t have!**

Back to my original thought….

If I didn’t pay someone to basically teach me what I already knew about health and wellness, to weigh me weekly, or  to set limits for me in terms of exactly how much I was allowed to eat daily, I would not have lost 35 lbs. I know it.  Not on my own.  I just don’t know if I have that determination in me.

How do you self-propelled people do this?  What triggered your mind to become structured and to stick with it? How did you determine (aside from the clear calculations of kcal/kg/day along with carb/fat/protein breakdowns) how much and what to eat daily? How do you not just give up when you don’t have a monthly WW bill hanging over your head? (Mind, I know WW has helped me to this point and it’s not only about paying to lose weight..some days it is, but 90% is wanting to be healthy and to look/feel like $4 x my tuition).  I really give you all a lot of credit for being so successful on your own.  I wish I could harness an ounce of that determination to succeed on my own.

Another thought. I wonder if long term success rates differ between self-propelled and weightwatchers people.  I wonder if I would have stuck to a plan this long if I hadn’t been shelling out $40/month to get my self in gear.

Any feedback or thoughts? (about that pesky topic of medical school and nutrition, more on that in another post)

Now for something fun and random

Also, I thought if I had time I’d start posting new recipes in the body as opposed to a separate recipe page.   I love my new camera and have been making great use of it (in the kitchen) so why not share the photos and the food?

I had some left over potatoes from a previous meal along with some carrots and a new BAG (hangs head in shame) of butternut squash.  I had been craving butternut squash soup as it’s healthy and nicely accents the new seasonal changes underway.  I typically only use squash and potatoes but having the carrots on hand was a great change.

Spiced Butternut – Carrot Soup


  • 1 cup yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 tbsp light olive oil
  • 2 cups frozen (preferably fresh) butternut squash, cubed
  • 2 cups carrots (or parsnips), chopped
  • 1 cup peeled boiled potatoes
  • 1 cup LIGHT cream
  • 1 and 1/2 cup fat free, reduced sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 1 tsp ground ginger root
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp marjoram
  • 1 tsp sage
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 Tbsp dark brown sugar
  • s/p to taste

*hand held mixer or food processor

My Method

In a 5 quart pot, heat oil and add onions and carrots.  Once onions develop translucency, add squash and potatoes and heat until squash becomes soft.  Add cream, stir to incorporate, and add broth.  Allow to simmer for approximately 15 min.  Carrots should become soft at this point.  Now either remove mixture and add to food processor or blend with hand held.  Consistency should be that of farina o…or to your liking.  At this point add herbs and sugar. Allow to simmer for another 15 min.

I garnished with toasted Thomas’ Bagel Thin (cinnamon raisin- with a light spray of light olivio and sprinkle of cinnamon/sugar) crostini, a dallop of light cream cheese and chives.  It definitely hit the spot.

I also found a great deal on some organic figs and figured the best way to celebrate the season was so preserve them to enjoy all week month long.I ended up making a cinnamon fig/apple/walnut jam as well as a raspberry/nectarine jam infused with orange.

Such beautiful figs

decorating a piece of Manchego

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