Monday, June 23, 2014

Southwest Chicken Dip

As a teacher, I am definitely enjoying the extra time I have in the summer.  I really enjoy playing in the kitchen when I have time, but during the school year that seems like so little.  So I was excited today when I got the inkling to try something new.  Of course, I went to my favorite place for inspiration - Pinterest!  What I found made my Texas taste buds cry out "try me, try me!"  It was this recipe for homemade baked tortilla chips from Bless this Mess!  Well, since I knew tortilla chips alone would not be a healthy meal, my creative juices started kicking in and decided to make a Southwest Chicken Dip that would be the perfect compliment to the chips.  So here's what I did:

1.  I started with the chips because they had to go into the oven.  First I preheated my oven to 400 degrees.

Then I got my cookie sheet ready with parchment paper.  Can you say EASY clean-up!

Then I gathered all my ingredients.  Corn tortillas, extra virgin olive oil, salt and spices.

Side note:  If you are looking for a clean tortilla, these corn tortillas from Sprouts are my absolute favorite!  They are so soft and fresh.  I try to stock up any time I am by a Sprouts.

I started by spreading a little olive oil on both tortillas.  I used a total of 1 tsp. of extra-virgin olive oil for both tortillas.  And since I couldn't find my pastry brush I opted for the old fingers!

Once I spread the olive oil (I used about half for this side) over the entire front surface I lightly sprinkled with salt and garlic powder.  Then I cut each tortilla into 8 triangles.

Then, again for the sake of easy clean-up, I turned the tortillas over right onto the parchment paper on the cookie sheet.  This time the oil side was down.  I then used the remaining oil to spread over the back side of the tortillas.  Then I lightly salted and dusted with a chili power seasoning for some kick!

I spread the chips out and then put them in the over for about 10 minutes.

I actually checked at 10 minutes and opted for a couple more.   I pulled them out when the edges were light brown.  They looked like this and it took all my will-power not to dive right in!

While the chips were baking I started the Dip!

2.  Southwest Chicken Dip

So I found that this was a great dip for using up some leftovers!  I generally always have grilled chicken cooked and ready to go in my refrigerator - it just makes life easier for me, especially during the school year.  So I grabbed some chicken and my other ingredients before I got started.

I used grilled chicken, black beans, corn, green chilies and avocado.  You could also add any other southwest flavors you like, including onion, tomato, or red peppers.  Since I just threw this together from my head I used what I had and what I like.

I started by dicing the chicken into small pieces (small enough that they could easily be scooped by a chip) and added them to my bowl.  Then I washed and drained my black beans and added about 1/2 the can.  Next came the corn.   Now before you think that I always cook corn on the cob and cut it off - I don't.  But I had it left over from the other night so I decided to use it instead of opening a can.  Next up is one of my favorites - hatch green chilies!  I added about 1/4 cup of green chilies with the liquid (or one small can).  I stirred everything together.  I really wanted to avoid adding greek yogurt or something to "hold" it all together, so I was glad when it really didn't need it.  Last thing I added was about 1/2 of a diced avocado.  A little black pepper to taste (I opted not to salt since the chicken had already been seasoned) and Voila!  I tasted it and thought "it's still missing something.  So a quick look in the refrigerator and I grabbed one of these:

I rolled the lime on the counter using firm pressure to loosen up the juices.  Then I cut in half and squeezed the juice right into the dip.  One last stir and it was ready to go!

Time to get it on the plate with my warm tortilla chips and a side salad.  This recipe made 2-3 meal size servings of the Southwest Chicken Dip.  You could easily make more to serve to guests.  I am an "eyeball it" kind of cook.  So I started with my chicken and "eyeballed" the rest of the ingredients.  If the thought of this makes your head spin - leave me a comment and I will make it again and this time measure out everything so I can give a real recipe!

All I can say "I can't believe this is healthy!"  It was so good and each bite left my taste buds dancing with flavor.  The chili powder and garlic on the chips was just the perfect touch to step it up.  I don't think I will ever buy tortilla chips again.  These were delicious and so easy!  Who doesn't love warm tortilla chips!  I can't tell you whether they were good once they cooled down because they didn't last that long!

Yep - this was the last yummy bite! 

If you decide to try it, I'd love to know what you think!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

My Plan

First I want to say thank you to everyone who stopped by to read My Story.  Thank you for all the amazing comments both here and on my FB Page.  You guys are amazing!  So as promised - I wanted to follow My Story up with My Plan for changing my lifestyle, losing weight, and becoming a healthier person.

I came up with My Plan after doing lots of research (please read into this Pinterest, blog stalking and FB pages - not mounds of science journals).  I knew that I wanted to lose 100 lbs. or more, and specifically looked for people who had done just that.  As I "researched" I kept coming across the same things and these are what made up my plan.

Puzzle Piece 1 - Clean Eating

If you have never heard of clean eating, the concept is pretty simple - eat foods that are in their natural state, that have not been processed or had chemicals, preservatives, and/or sugars added to them.  Yes, the concept is simple, but making the change may not be so simple.  I was an eater and cooker that loved convenience.  Fast-food was an almost daily occurrence for my family and if I was cooking at home it came from a box or the freezer section because it was easier.   Veggies are not my favorite thing - in fact my vegetable repertoire included green beans, corn, potatoes, and an occasional salad.  Yes - I know that most of those aren't really vegetables, but I was really good at convincing myself that what I was eating wasn't so bad.

If you know me, you know that once I decide to do something I jump in with both feet.  My first step was to talk to the hubby about clean eating.  I told him what it was and that I was thinking about trying this.  To my surprise, he was open to the idea.  I think was a complete God-thing and am so thankful that the hubby jumped on board with me.  I had already decided that if it was necessary I would go the route of preparing 2 different meals - but I'd be lying if I didn't say that I am SOOOOO glad I don't have to do that!

Our first step was to do a pantry clean-out.  I know this sounds a little extreme, but I also know myself.  It's one thing to jump on a band wagon, but when the going gets tough its so easy to jump right back off.  I knew that if the "old food" was still around it would be one giant temptation for me. So we cleaned out the pantry and donated boxes of food to a local food pantry.

Then we went on a shopping trip.  We decided to start at a whole foods store called Sprouts.  We read lots of labels and restocked the house with veggies, fruit, meat, whole grain items and we even found some breads with no preservatives or added "junk" to try.  I had found some fabulous clean eating shopping lists and suggestions for different "clean" brands to try.  This is really what I used at the beginning.  I stored all of this in my Pinterest account so I could go back and reference it over and over again.  You can find that Pinterest board here.

Let me also add that our goal was to go 90% clean eating.  I actually think we did better than that (I never sat down and calculated though).  You've got to have a little room for other things or else I don't think we would have been able to stick to it.  Again, jumping in with  both feet.  If you are not ready for 90% start small.  Babysteps work too!  In fact, it is the baby steps approach I am using with my son who is not to keen on change.

I also created some "rules" that I wanted to try and follow.  Now let me say upfront that I really just made these up for myself.  I used some of my weaknesses and combined it with research to make rules that fit me.  I still try to follow these rules but I definitely don't beat myself up when I don't.

1.  I try to make a salad a meal everyday.  I usually put grilled chicken on it.  Salad dressing - now that is part of my 10% not clean.  I know myself well enough to admit that I don't like Fat Free dressings or anything like that.  AND if I don't like the dressing, then I won't eat the salad.  So I allow myself salad dressing.  I have found some salad dressings that I really like that are clean and have low fat gram counts so I generally go with those.  But if I go to Jason's Deli you better believe I going to have the world's best ranch dressing!  I don't put dressing directly on my salad anymore, I put it on the side and I dip my fork in the dressing then get my bite of salad.  I have found that I use a lot less dressing this way but still get the taste that I like.

2.  I try to limit complex carbs to once a day.  Carbs are a big downfall of mine thus this rule. I love bread and potatoes and pasta, and the list could go on and on.  So, I set my goal to limit that to once a day.  For bread I use "clean" whole grain bread (no preservatives, colors, flavors added).  We switched to whole wheat pasta and brown rice.    Since then we have added some new favorites to our pantry including quinoa.

3.  I try to limit my dairy consumption.  Now milk, that was no problem at all because I don't like the taste of milk.  But cheese and ice cream - well that's another story all together.  I used to tell myself that it was OK to eats lots of cheese and ice cream because a girl needs her calcium - right?  I guess deciding to get honest with myself was a good decision.  Now I use almond milk instead of milk which I like better.  Although I hate the aftertaste that is in yogurt, I really like greek yogurt (which has the added protein that the helps burn calories).  Greek yogurt, cheese and almond milk are my main dairy sources now.  Almond milk I have on a daily basis, the other 2 I use only occasionally.

4.  I gave up soda!  This was actually the very first step I took in my journey and it was a huge one for me - because for most of my life I have had a diet coke in my hands.  Remember that Spark packet that I received from the grandparent of one of my students - I decided to try it and I loved it!  Now I will say upfront that Spark does contain caffeine - so I am not caffeine free.  But I have eliminated the artificial sweeteners and other junk that's in there.  I am not going to get on a No Soda Soapbox because quite frankly I don't believe in shoving things down people's throats.  For me this was the right time and I was ready.  Every person will have to decide on their own if and when they are ready for this.

I replaced my first thing in the morning diet coke with a Spark and loved the benefits I received from it.  At first I wasn't sure because I did not see this huge burst of energy.  However, I noticed that after a couple of days I was coming home from work and cleaning up the kitchen or putting laundry in instead of collapsing in the recliner.  Even today I find it hard to just sit for more than a few minutes.  I was sold and still to this day start each morning with my Spark!  I love that its is made with numerous vitamins, minerals and nutrients instead of artificial sweeteners and chemicals.  I usually only have one each morning, but if I'm having a particularly sluggish day I might have a second one in the early afternoon.  But as of today I am 161 days with no diet coke - a feat I never thought would happen!

I guess I should have put this one first, because giving up Diet Coke and starting Spark was the first thing I actually did.  It was not until a week later that I started clean eating.  In the first week and a half, just dropping soda I lost 11 pounds.  I know some of that is water weight too but I was truly shocked at what a difference that one thing made.

Puzzle Piece 2 - Shakeology

Now I guess this might be considered part of clean eating, but it is such an important part to my success that I feel it needs its own attention.  Remember my friend who had been planting seeds of change via Facebook?  Well, I kept seeing her mention Shakeology.  I had heard others mention it before but I never really thought anything of it.  But this time, it was coming from someone who had dropped 100+ pounds, that I knew and trusted.  I decided to send her a message and find out what this Shakeology was all about.  Long story short, Shakeology is an amazing concoction of protein and super-foods from around the globe.  It is packed with vitamins and nutrients many of which I would never be able to get in my daily diet.  I started doing some research about it and saw lists of benefits from it; the least of which was weight loss.  Some of the other benefits I kept running across were increased energy, reduced cravings for sweets and junk food, improved digestion and regularity, healthier skin, hair and nails, and an overall great feeling.  All of those were things I wanted.

I shared it with my husband who mentioned some other protein shakes he was aware of.  Back to the research as I compared the different options.  I also went back to my friend and started asking questions about her personal experience.  I decided that Shakeology was the best option for us but was leery to try mostly because of the cost.  I couldn't see spending over $100 on something I had never even tasted.  What if it was gross like those Slim Fast Shakes I used to subject myself to, that was not an experience I really wanted to repeat.  So I decided to ask her to sample it.  She was so gracious and brought me some samples for both hubby and I to try.  We made it up, tried some different recipes (there are TONS out there) and decided that we really liked it.  What pushed us over the edge was the 30 Day - Empty Bag Money Back Guarantee.  I thought - Wow - now that's a company that stands behind its product.  We purchased our first month of Shakeology and haven't looked back!  Thanks Kimberly for your inspiration and support!  I wouldn't be on this journey if it wasn't for you.

As for all the benefits they are true and amazing.  I drink Shakeology every morning for breakfast.  It is fast and easy and helps me get out the door and to school on time.  My energy level has been fantastic.  For the first time in my life my nails started to grow faster than I could bite them.  For the first time ever I am not embarrassed by my nails.  My hair stylist can't believe how fast my hair is growing too!  And as for the cravings - there were none!  Yep you read that right - I cut sweets and sugar from my diet and never had any cravings.  That was nothing short of a miracle and I attribute this to Shakeology!  I also have friends who have started using Shakeology who have said the same thing about the cravings.

I could go on and on about this because I love it and believe it in so much.  But I'll save you from that.

Puzzle Piece 3 - Get Moving

I knew that to do this healthy lifestyle the right way it was time to get this body of mine moving.  At 40 not only was I much bigger than I wanted to be, but I was out of shape, and losing flexibility and strength.  In talking with my Facebook friend she not only told me about Shakeology but also about Beachbody workouts.  I'd be lying if I told that my first thought was "I could never do that - I am so far from having a beach body."  But I decided to keep an open mind and look into it.  I had my list of excuses ready and slowly each one got shot down.

Excuse 1 - No Time to Workout
By the time I get home from school I am tired.  After fixing dinner and helping my kiddo with homework its bed time.  When am  going to fit a workout into this?  Then I found a program that offered workouts in 30 minutes.  What?  30 Minutes?  Yeah - I guess I could find 30 minutes.  I started looking into T25 a little more.

Excuse 2 - Too Hard for this Out of Shape Body
My body is not ready for an intense workout.  It's bad enough just walking down the street!  Oh - there is a modified activity for every exercise in the workout?  Yeah - I guess I could try that.

Excuse 3 - I get bored doing the same thing everyday
I don't like to walk around the neighborhood because - quite frankly - its boring to me.  Not quite as boring as walking or running on a track, but still boring.  I like to change things up.  What - this comes with multiple workouts and a workout calendar that tells me when to do each one?  Sounds good to me!

Excuse 4 - I don't want to go to a gym or anywhere else that people can see me
Remember that starting this journey I was totally uncomfortable in my own skin.  I had no desire to do anything that might draw attention to myself.  And since I was sure that I would look totally ridiculous there was no way I was going to a  class or gym to workout.  What - I can do this in the privacy of my own home with all the blinds shut?  That is just down my alley!

OK - with every excuse shot down I was ready to try it!

I decided to jump in and try Focus T25.  Why not, I've jumped right in with everything else and so far so good.  I ended up purchasing T25 and Shakeology together as a Challenge Pack because I got a discount for doing them together.  (Yes I really wanted to make this change, but hey I like to save money too!)

I was so excited and a little nervous to get started.  When the program came I read through the materials and then jumped right in.  I followed Tina - she modified the entire workout.  I listened to my body and slowed it down or walked in place when I couldn't go on.  But most importantly - I didn't quit!  I actually followed Tina through the entire 90 day program.  But I was still moving my body and getting a good workout.  I noticed that I was getting stronger and my body shape was changing - not to mention the weight just falling off.  Each day that I made it through a workout my confidence built.

Since finishing T25 I started a new program called The 21 Day Fix.  I love this program too!  The added benefit to this program is the easy to use eating plan which has really helped me learn about correct portion sizes.

Puzzle Piece 4 - Support and Accountability
This is the last but I think one of the most important pieces of My Plan.  I don't think I would where I am today without the support and encouragement of my friends and family.  Now at first, I didn't even tell anyone other the hubby that I was doing this.  But after a few weeks, people started noticing.    I have some amazing friends and co-workers that were some of my biggest cheerleaders!  Thanks Kimberly, Brenda, Kristy, Betsy and Gracie!  I don't know what I'd do without you.  I also have a super supportive family that is always willing to help and encourage too!

For me accountability is very important.  I have tried this journey many times before all alone, with no accountability.  I just didn't stick to it.  This time I made sure to add accountability to my plan.  I started at school with the Biggest Loser contest in January.  It was actually stepping on the scale to weigh-in for the first time that made me realize I had to do this change, and I had to do it now!  I am just slightly competitive so this was a great kick start for me.  We weighed in once a week with the nurse from January through May.  Although my goal was change my lifestyle, not win a competition, the competition aspect was always in the back of my mind.  Did I win?  No - I got second place.  But I won something even better - new healthy habits!

The second level of accountability came in the form of a Challenge Group on Facebook.  I started this group when I started T25.  Each day we would report in on Facebook to rate our day.  We checked in on Saturdays to report our stats.  I like having other people to be accountable to.  When I struggle, I know there are others going through the same thing.  I really don't think that I would be where I am today without the amazing ladies in my challenge group!

If you are on this journey or wanting to be on this journey and you don't have a support or accountability person in your life PLEASE contact me.  I would be more than happy to be that person for you.  I feel that strongly about this piece of the puzzle and I truly believe it can be the difference that leads to success!

So that's it.  This is My Plan.  A plan that becomes more and more a part of me each day.  It's not a diet.  It's a lifestyle change that I want to embrace for the rest of my life.  It has not always been easy, but overall it has been easier than I thought.   For me jumping in and switching everything cold-turkey worked best.  For someone else, it might be making one change at a time.  If you are looking to make a change toward a healthier lifestyle I just want you to know that You Can Do It!

P.S. Thanks again for hanging in there with me.  I promise that brevity is coming!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

My Story

So I have to start with an apology - this post should have come right after I started the blog.  But as I thought about it, I realized this was going to be a tough one to write.  I have told myself from the beginning that if I was going to go forward with I Can that I was going to be honest with whoever might be reading.  So after a couple weeks of thinking this through, I am ready to face the truth and emotions and share my story with you.  So here it goes . . .

My name is Amy and as long as I can remember I have struggled with my weight.  Here's me as a child of the 70's.  Please don't judge the clothes - I didn't dress myself!

Now I don't show these pics to show that I was born obese, but just to say I have never been one of the dainty, petite little girls.  However, as I went through elementary school I do remember the weight adding on despite being a competitive swimmer.

By the time I entered the awkward middle school years I was fat.  In fact I'm pretty sure that by this time my thighs touched and I know I had the stomach pouch (something that the fashion of the 80's didn't flatter at all).  I can remember shopping in women's clothing section and bypassing the Junior section completely.

I have to say that at this time in life I wasn't a couch potato.  I played basketball in middle school, played outside with friends and my brother.  Despite knowing that I was "doing things" I also knew I was fat and that in my mind "ALL the other girls" were skinny (OK - a little teenage drama).  It's hard enough going through all those hormones, but knowing I wasn't happy with myself made it even harder.  I distinctly remember a day in middle school when I tripped and dropped my books in the hallway.  Not so bad, right?  Well, it was the nick-name "Rolly Polly" that I got after that incident that hurts still to this day.  Some time during these years I started Weight Watchers for the first (but not the last) time.  I even went to the doctor to have my thyroid tested. And no - I couldn't get out with that as a reason.  It really was me.

Fast forward to high school where I continued to play basketball and then became a cheerleader.  Now becoming a cheerleader goes to show my commitment and dedication toward meeting a goal.  I have always been one to set a goal and work to meet it.  My best friend worked with me everyday after school to help me with the gymnastics, jumps, and general cheerleader moves before tryouts.  THANKS Mel!  I loved being a cheerleader, but I have to say that didn't make it all better.  Just becoming a cheerleader didn't make me thin.  In fact I remember being the only person who had to order a cheer uniform in a double digit size.  Becoming a cheerleader didn't take away the pain on the inside.  But it did teach me how to smile no matter what, and that was a skill that still comes in handy.  Through high school I think I was on a constant diet.  I was always trying lose weight.  Yes, my weight would fluctuate but I never got to a place that I was comfortable with my own skin.  In fact, I think I purchased my first blousy, skirty swim suit in high school.  Yes, I have a picture.  No, I won't bore you with the details.

High School graduation!  Class of 91!!

Now I want to stop and say that life was not terrible.  In fact my life was very good.  I  have an amazing God who has guided me and protected me through thick and thin (or thick and thicker!)  I love my family and they have always been sooooo supportive of any crazy endeavor I wanted to jump into.  I have been blessed with some amazing friends that have filled with my days with fun!  But inside I was unhappy with myself.

OK - back to the story - I graduated high school and headed off the college.  As a freshman I was determined to not let the freshman 15 find me.  I worked out and tried to make good food choices and overall I think I did pretty good.  But years 2 - 4 were not so good.  By the time I graduated from college I was wearing a size 22/24.  My face was really round, and so was my body I guess.  I tried to hide it with big hair and a bigger smile.  But on the inside I still wasn't happy with myself.

This is me during the college years.
College graduation - 1995
So college led to law school and the same cycle continues.  Lots of dieting and weight fluctuating.  Up and down, up and down.  I really, REALLY wanted to change my lifestyle, but for some reason nothing stuck for long periods of time.  You name the diet, I've probably tried it.  But I think that might have been part of my issue - I always thought of it as a diet.  A diet to me has always been a "quick fix."  But I have not had long-term success with any diet.  In fact, in the long run it probably hurt me more because it would look like this:  Lose 20, Gain 25.  Lose 30, Gain 40.  Not the healthiest of cycles to be on but I was stuck.  So stuck in fact, that I continued this cycle for another 20 years.

After one of my losing phases of the cycle I met this great guy.  We started dating and spending almost everyday together.  But something else happened in this and I got slack on the "diet."  In fact, I think I started matching his eating which led me to a gaining phase of the cycle.  So up and down we go again.  I worked hard at minimizing the gaining cycle because I had a wedding dress to get into.  But this amazing phase of life wasn't without its pain.  I remember choosing a wedding dress because the fit "looked good" on my figure as opposed to the dress I really wanted.  But nonetheless, it was a beautiful day.

A couple of years later I got pregnant and had an amazing little boy!  One of the things that I wanted to very badly was cute baby belly photographs.  Well, that never happened because I never had a baby belly - I truly just looked fatter instead of pregnant.  But baby belly or not I had a wonderful, healthy little boy!  In the years that followed, he became my focus and my reason for wanting to lose weight.  But the up and down cycle continued.

Now he is 11 and I've been on this roller coaster cycle for 40 years.  After a very stressful fall 2013, more and more weight piled on.  Yes, I ate when I was stressed.  Actually I ate when I was happy, sad, and bored too.  I couldn't actually tell you how much weight piled on because I had not stepped on a scale in years.  But my clothes didn't fit, I felt tired all the time, I wanted to do nothing but sit around.

Something started building up in me around November of 2013.  It started when we took family pictures with the extended family.  I was so excited to have a beautiful picture with my recently adopted niece and nephew.  The day came and I literally remember thinking "how can I hide in this picture?"  I was embarrassed about my appearance and so uncomfortable in my own skin.  I relived those feelings over and over.   The pictures came in and I hated them.  All I saw was this huge coral blob that stood out like a sore thumb.  I guess my hiding didn't go so well.

(When I find a picture I will update this blog post and add it here)

I knew it was time to make a change but I didn't know how.  I knew that I didn't want to just do the same thing again.  I knew I had to break the cycle.  God is so good.  During this time, a friend of mine was posting on Facebook about her 105 lb. weight loss story.  She was truly inspiring and although I didn't jump right in, the seeds were bring planted.  I also ran across a blogger (while watching The Taste) who also lost over 100 lbs.  I checked out her blog to see what I could find.  More seeds planted.  Then I had a sweet grandma of one of my students send me a Spark sample with a note about how she is losing weight.  After being offended (I don't know why - it's not like I could hide all my weight) I took it home and set it on the counter.  More seeds.

Over Christmas break the stress level went down and the seeds really started taking root.  I started doing research, but still had not told a single person (the hubby included) that I was thinking about making a change.  I still was not 100% committed.  One thing I know about myself is that if I'm not all in, it will fizzle.  But if I am all in, then I give it everything I have.  I wasn't ready yet.  I kept reading, researching, looking and letting those seeds take root. Slowly I was getting ready for change.  But this time it was different.  I didn't want to change to be skinny; to be popular; to find a husband; for my child . . . this time I wanted to change for ME!  It might have taken 40 years, but I finally got sick and tired of being sick and tired (and fat)!

I woke up the first week in January, 2014, and I. Was. READY! I knew it wouldn't be easy but I was ready and that meant I was committed.  Remember that thing about me setting goals and working like crazy to meet them.  Well - living a healthy lifestyle is my new goal!

Be watching for My Plan to see what I did.  I promise it won't take near as long to post as this one.  The hard part (being honest with myself and facing the emotions of the past) is done!  Thank you for sticking with me on this long post - I won't make a habit of it!


Saturday, June 7, 2014

And so it begins

Follow my blog with BloglovinWelcome to my little corner of cyberspace.  I created this blog to document my journey of weightless and healthy living.  Did my journey begin today - no.  This new journey began on January 6, 2014.  Thanks to some amazing friends and supporters I am now taking journey a little more public.  I hope you will find this a place full of encouragement, ideas and support.  Along the way I will share how my life has changed, great foods and recipes I have discovered and so much more.  I also look forward to you sharing and taking part in this journey too!  I by no means have all the answers, just a commitment, determination and willingness to learn.  So here goes nothing.  Time to hit Publish and let this part of the journey begin!