Green it and Mean it

For the holidays, my dad purchased me a Vitamix blender (I had asked for an older version that was much cheaper, but my dad is a sweetheart and opted for more power!).  You might've seen them in action -- they're the same blenders that you see at Starbucks, Jamba Juice, or Smoothie King, making smoothies and crappuchinos frappucinos.  A Vitamix isn't like a normal blender--it's a blender on steroids.  There are things that a Vitamix can do that a normal blender cannot. (Side note:  Vitamix cannot do your taxes...)
But now that I had one in my house, I was going to put my Vitamix to better use.  What do I mean by "better use"?  Let me use my favorite smoothie from Jamba Juice to illustrate: 

Look in the list of ingredients -- it looks pretty healthy with all the fruits and veggies listed -- but the proportions are totally off in terms of making it healthy.  There are way too many fruits and juices and not enough low-calorie greens.  This is basically a sugar bomb.

And maybe instead of a Jamba Juice, you're drinking a V8 Splash, thinking it's healthy:

High fructose corn syrup is the second ingredient -- and tucked in at the very end is sucralose (Splenda).  So sure it might be low in calories, but it's piss poor when it comes to actual nutriton.   

Surely I could do better than what was available at the grocery store and in the local smoothie shops.  I started with the Mean Green Juice/Smoothie as popularized by the documentary "Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead":

6-8 leaves kale
1/2 lemon
1 tbsp fresh ginger
4 celery stalks
1 banana (optional)

I start with the 2 cups of cold water in the blender and 1 cup of ice.  Then I add in the ginger, kale, and lemon.  I put the Vitamix on the "Smoothie" pre-programmed function and let it whirl.  I do this to give the kale a head start on getting blended down into a pulp (I don't know if a regular blender could handle this). 

In the meantime, I prep the rest of my fruits and veggies -- coring the apple (leave the peel on), peeling the banana, peeling the cucumber (I do this b/c cucumber skins make me gassy, but feel free to leave the skins on -- just wash them thoroughly) -- and then add them to the blender for another whirl around on the "Smoothie" function.

I store my smoothie in the fridge and add ice/water to my glass as necessary.  Depending on how much water I added at the start, and/or the composition of the mix (i.e. if I have a large cucumber that adds a lot of water) -- the mix can be a little "flurpy" (just say the word "flurp" and you know what I'm talking about).    One whole pitcher (showing everything above) is between 350-375 calories.  In other words, one 64 ounce Mean Green juice contains about the same number of calories as one 24-ounce Jamba Juice.

Right now, I'm using this to supplement my daily intake of calories and nutrients.  I'm seeing the benefits of drinking my Mean Green and other home-made smoothies:  I'm taking in less sugar, more fruits/veggies, more water, and I feel great.  My skin looks and feels great, I am *raises an eyebrow* very regular, and I feel good about putting healthy fuel in my body. 

I know that some of you also like making fresh/homemade smoothies (i.e., not from a pre-packaged mix) -- what are some of your favorite recipes?

Guest Post: Expectations

Let me introduce one of my closest friends, Emily.  I met her the day of her ex-boyfriend's senior prom, and I've been counting my blessings ever since.  I've introduced Emily before -- but hear in her words about her battle with weight and expectations.  I hope you all have a friend like Emily -- someone who shows you what is possible and then helps you achieve it.

If there's one thing I can do, it's gain weight.
I'm also quite adept at losing weight as it turns out.

According to my mom, I started to put on weight when I was 7, which I later learned coincided with the increase of fighting between my parents. I don't remember being particularly fat, per se, until I was in 5th grade. My gym teacher was up in front of class leading us in some 1991-era appropriate Jane Fonda-esque workout and she yelled "This is a great exercise if your thighs are starting to rub together...EMILY!"

Twenty-one years that has stuck with me. Twenty-one years of thinking my thighs shouldn't touch, of comparing myself with everyone else, of not eating in front of people lest they think "look at that fat girl eating." My teens seem like an antisocial blur to me now, summers in bed watching ER reruns, returning to school in September pasty white because I avoided the beach. I do remember stepping on the scale the day of my then-boyfriend's senior prom when I was 17. 199lbs at 5'7".

The next time I remember weighing myself I was 240lbs. It wasn't as though I'd never dieted before. Sporadic attempts at Weight Watchers Online, diet pills, eating pints of Mint Chocolate Cookie ice cream at a time, breaking up Tostitos into bowls so it looked like I was eating less of them...ordering two meals from McDonald's and pretending one was for someone else...and having it DELIVERED (man, you can get anything delivered in NYC). I never lasted on anything, and nothing ever worked.

In January 2006 my mom passed away [[Robby: um, have I ever mentioned how much Emily and I have in common?]]. We chatted, before she died, about how she wanted me to "take care of myself," but I'm not entirely sure what I did was what she had in mind.

In March, 2006 I marched into a Weight Watchers meeting, about ready to throw up. Someone was going to know my weight, hell, I was going to know my weight...and I was going to be judged for it. I stepped on the scale, and 255 glared at me in angry red scale-talk. BMI; 42. My goal weight set. 160. FUUUUUCK.

It took 2 entire years for me to get down to 152lbs. 2 years, countless meetings, countless miles run and weights lifted and countless hours spent obsessing about food.

Here's what I wasn't prepared for: Once I lost the weight, it changed neither my issues with food nor my perception of my body. I went from a size 22 to a size 6 and thought I was still fat (and my thighs still touched, by the way). I started eating one apple and one container of yogurt, daily, and running at least 6 miles, daily...losing is actually easier than maintaining as it turns out. My epilepsy came back, I reverted to my antisocial ways all to maintain my BMI. I got so sick, that one week I had 36 grand mal seizures and could remember neither my name, phone number, how to get into my apt, or my social security number. Needless to say, this was in no way maintainable.

Five years later, I'm 168lbs, my BMI is 21. The thing I'm learning is moderation, and self acceptance. I'm a size 8, my thighs rub together in a sweaty awful way in the summer and in a normal annoying way in the winter, I have more pec than boob these days, but I can go out to dinner with friends and have a glass of wine and breathe. I finished a MARATHON, and a 152 mile bike ride in 9.5 hours, and my legs are muscular, damnit.

I went to the doctor, and she said that despite being a little over my Weight Watchers-imposed goal weight I am the picture of health. I work out 6 times a week, eat healthy, and holy shit the scale isn't the only measure of health.

Scratch your head and read that again.
The scale isn't the only measure of health.
Fuuuuuuuuck again!

Everything I'd been conditioned to know out the window. These days I'm working on appreciating my body for what I put it through, all the countless miles pounded and hours in a bike saddle. I will never be a size 2, I will never be long legged and fawny like we're taught we should look. My stretch marks are a form of pride, and my thighs will touch every day for the rest of my life.
So fuck you, 5th grade gym teacher. Fuck you and your unrealistic expectations.

A $49,286.25 Gift

I've said before that I'm thankful for the technology and skill that were combined to help give my neck a new lease on life.  But there's another unsung hero in all of this:  my medical insurance. 

I don't want to get into the tangled mess of politics/economics regarding medical insurance on my blog, but I do want to say that the question of "how much will insurance pay?" has weighed heavily on me.  With or without insurance, I think everyone has wondered the same or similar when it comes to medical issues -- "how will I pay for this?"

Even though I received a letter stating that my surgery would be covered, I've been sitting and waiting for the bills and insurance claims to roll in. 

Part of me wondered if they were going to cover 100% or if I'd still be on the hook for some of it.  I tried to clear all the debt off my credit card as well as build up my savings.  My dad even said he'd help me if it came to that. 

I braced myself for the fallout.

A fallout that never happened...

I did the math for you -- my surgery cost $49,286.25 -- 100% of which has been paid by my insurance.  So while I'm not the $6B Woman, I'm sporting around some costly hardware.

What a huge relief.... right?

Well, it's also a huge responsibility:  I've been given this very expensive second chance, and it's up to me to take care of my neck as well as my overall health and wellness.  You know, to not squander this gift. 

Just thinking about this made me feel guilty about all the years I squandered a relatively healthy body.  Do you ever go through that?  Once I turned 18, nothing and no one was preventing me from leading a healthy life except for myself.  Yet, it took many years for me to figure this out as well as to come up with plan.  It took even longer to act on it. 

I try not to entertain futile thoughts, such as "if only I had figured this out sooner..." or "if only I had acted on this sooner..." but every now and then they sneak their way in to my brain only to be answered with an impassioned "Do it now!  Make it count now."  (Every now and then a little brain cell knows exactly what to tell the rest of me.)

And that's all we can really ask of ourselves -- to learn the lesson and to evolve.

[EDIT:  just received a new claim -- new total is $52,295.25]



Another "Progress, Not Perfection" post

We've all been there, right?  The days when we want to do it the "easy way" (caveat:  that means so many things to so many people, so I'll try not to offend and I apologize if I do) -- when we want to lose weight without exercising, when we want cheeseburgers to be healthy, and we want to be cured from ever having been unhealthy in the first place.  If you haven't been there, count yourself amonth the lucky ones.

It's easier to buy a box of waffles than to make them from scratch. Don't even get me started on cinnamon rolls.  It's easier to sit on the couch than to go to the gym and put in the work.  Sometimes we're so focused on the results (mmmmhmmm waffles) that we start making up excuses about the behaviors ("just this once won't be a big deal").  And worse -- we start believing those excuses.  Isn't that how this came to pass in the first place? And I'm not just talking about food or exercise, but isn't it easier to ignore our emotions than to actually deal with them?

There is hope.

The more we practice and familiarize ourself with the "hard way" it no longer becomes hard.  It become a habit. It just becomes that thing we do. It becomes natural.  The behaviors become a lifestyle.  The behaviors become who we are.

We arrive at a place where we what we do matches what we want for ourselves and our lives.  Our behaviors show the world how we feel about ourselves.  There's no more struggle or strain.

We learn to be at ease with ourselves when we do right by our body, our mind, our spirit.

It was only hard because we had to learn how to how to honor ourselves after years of doing everything but.

Déjà vu, All Over Again

My weight loss journey started with the motivation to look good in a bridesmaid dress for my friend Nancy's wedding.  And with that motivation, I reached my lowest adult weight of 188lbs and looked damn good in that dress

After Nancy's wedding, I lost focus and gained a few pounds back, but still felt like I was within striking distance of my goals.  But then, as you all know, I got injured...again.

Now that I'm all fixed up, I have to admit that I'm a bit nervous about getting back into the gym.  I need to get through the first few sucky workouts where my mind/body is not going to do what I want it to do, before I get into my rhythm. I also don't want to push myself too hard before my surgeon gives me a 100% all-clear to get back into the gym (all I'm allowed to do right now is walk and elliptical).  (Has anyone else ever felt this way? I feel like it's double dutch jump roping and I'm just trying to get the rhythm down so I can jump in.)

So the post's title is "déjà vu all over again" because I have about 7 months to look good (I miss my triceps!) in this dress (that can be worn a few different ways) for my friend Megan's wedding:

Side note:  whenever I get married, it's going to be like 27 Dresses, isn't it? Thank goodness I wasn't in a sorority!


I posted the above on New Year's day.  I saw people posting on Twitter and Facebook their disdain for "Resolutionaries" -- people that join gyms at the beginning of the year and take up time/space on the machines and in classes.   Ever think that you were once that person?  It might not have been a new year's resolution, but someone might've looked at you and wondered what the cat dragged in.  Someone might have considered YOU to be the one out of place and not belonging in the gym.

But you're not a scared neophyte anymore, are you?  You know how to use the machines.  You let people "work in," you wipe down your equipment, you figure out how to make space in a crowded class for one more person.  You've realized that we're in this together--that when one person succeeds, we all benefit. 

I just want to take this moment to remind my readers of The New Rules and Rule No. 1 (no, it's not "No one talks about fight club):  leave no one behind.  If someone works up the courage to make it to the gym, or to ask you how you've achieved success, don't you feel like it should be your duty to help them?  Even if it's just 5 minutes of your time, I feel you should honor the trust that they've placed in you as someone they feel they can learn from or be inspired by. 

You all know that I talk about my family, and my family's history/attitudes with food and weight.  This year, I'm proud to say that my father has had the beginnings of the epiphany.  While I was recovering from surgery, Dad and I watched "Fat Sick and Nearly Dead" and something just clicked.  In the documentary, Joe Cross reshapes his health and weight by doing a 60-day juice fast.  Joe not only loses weight, but he reverses the effects of an auto-immune disease that causes rashes/hives to form on his body.  (Now, I don't recommend that anyone goes on a juice fast without the guidance of their doctor, but I wholeheartedly recommend people look at just how much fruit/vegetables they have in their diet.  Chances are you're not eating anywhere near the amount of fruits/veggies that you truly need.  Juicing is a great way to supplement your diet as a way of getting more fruits and veggies into your body.) 

It pleases me to no end that I'm getting emails and text messages from my dad telling me that he's bought a Vitamix (the heavy duty blender that make Starbucks Frappes or Jamba Juices) and a Breville Juicer, that he's gone to the grocery store and has picked up fresh produce to play with, that he's trying out recipies and beginning to tweak them (for instance making a Manhattan clam chowder-inspired soup with sauteed calimari instead of a cream-heavy bisque).  I'm trying to show my support by including juices in my diet as well (today I'm drinking a spinach, blueberry, mango, celery, ginger juice), and sharing the ones that taste good (fresh ginger does amazing things).

Dad had to come to the epiphany in his own time and in his own way.  But now that he's there, I'm so proud to support him on his quest to be a healthy role model for his whole family, on his journey towards living a long life, and on the healing path for his body. 

Growing up, I always heard from Dad's coworkers that he's always saying how proud he is of his kids.  I'm glad that now I get to return the favor and say how proud I am of him.

Keep up the good work, Daddoo :)

#GoTheDist 2013 Theme

In the #GoTheDist 2013 announcement post I didn't include 2 things:  (1) a graphic (2) a theme.  People have asked me about both.  Truth is that I was so distracted by my injury/surgery, that I failed to come up with these two things.  I've corrected my lapse: 

Image at:
Truth is that I didn't look far for this theme.  Everyone has been joking about me being bionic now.  If you know a little TV history about the Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman and the tag line "We can rebuild him...we have the technology." 

To a degree we're all trying to rebuild -- we're trying to change the habits that didn't do us any favors, we're trying to recover from injuries, we're trying to be better today than we were yesterday.  And we all have the technology at our fingertips.  We have the knowledge and support that will make the changes possible.

I would love how to hear how you interpret this theme for yourself....

It also reminds me of my family motto -- which i'd love to share with you all: