Food and Weight: An Ongoing Journey

Archive for September 2012

…so it’s time for some accountability.

I stayed the same at weigh-in, which I’m pretty sure is due to the physical issue I’ve mentioned in the past.  No big deal, since I knew it was likely.  Just means I will probably have a very nice loss next week.

At meeting this week, we discussed a challenge that Weight Watchers is doing as a count-down to Thanksgiving.  Each week for the next eight weeks, starting the week of September 30th, there is an assigned task.  I am going to take on this challenge.

The challenge assignments are:

Week of:

  • September 30:  TRACK AND DISCOVER
  • October 14:  SNACK AND TRACK
  • October 21:  GET ACTIVE
  • October 28:  TAKE TIME
  • November 4:  POWER UP
  • November 11:  MAKE A LOSING LIST
  • November 18:  LIGHTEN UP!

This week’s task is to TRACK AND DISCOVER.  The assignment reads:

Review your tracker daily to see what you can learn or tomorrow — whether it’s insight into what, when, or why you’re eating; a way to fit activity into your day more easily; or a better alternative to your afternoon coffee drink.

They note that if a person loses half a pound a week, for the next eight weeks, that person will be four pounds lighter by Thanksgiving.  Given that many of us on program lose between one and two pounds a week, we could conceivably be eight to sixteen pounds lighter by Thanksgiving!

Walking Accountability:

  • Friday:             3,353 steps
  • Saturday:        1,551 steps
  • Sunday:           2,528 steps
  • Monday:         145 steps
  • Tuesday:         23 steps
  • Wednesday:   0 steps
  • Thursday:       2,655 steps

Again, not as consistent as I’d like, but I’m getting there.  And the walking was helped by the Brooklyn Book Festival on Sunday.  The Festival is set up in three rows of booths over Cadman Plaza, and is a lot of walking, including traveling between the two stage areas (more if you go to the nearby off-site lecture venues, which we didn’t).  I got 20 activity points from that plus the walking I did  from our parking spot to a reading we went to afterwards, and back to the car after the reading.  Much to my surprise and pleasure, the leg neuropathy did not act up at all.

This week, I had a big challenge on Thursday.  I knew I was eating lunch at a Mexican place, so I checked their menu on the Web, and walked in with a plan and stuck to it (I had a large chicken tinga burrito, 18 tortilla chips, and some salsa, all accounted for in my tracker).  However, I had no idea what dinner would be.  My friends and I decided to go for Indian food.  We ended up in a sort of Indian fast food place.  I had a chicken tikka kebab, but brought home the rice and pickled onions to use in a salad, and I had half of a channa masala roll (garbanzos, onions, and spices rolled up in a chapati), bringing the other half home (and these were also tracked; I love eTools).

This morning, instead of going to our usual meeting in Manhattan, my friend Claudia and I (accompanied by my roommate) went to the Kings Highway Center, here in Brooklyn, for weigh-in, because the three of us were planning to go to a talk by Jean-Michel Othoniel, an artist who works in glass.  This is the exhibit that Claudia and my roommate took me to for my birthday.  My roommate surprised me by giving me the accompanying book — just in time for me to ask the artist to sign it before his talk.  It was a really great time, and since the museum is “Pay what you wish, but you must pay something” it’s one of a number of places I can go to do some walking when the weather is rotten.  I am going to start accumulating a list of those, so that I have a way to get out of the house when the weather would otherwise prevent me from walking.

So, it has been a very interesting week, with lots of “wins.”  And I’m looking forward to challenging myself over the next eight weeks, since one of my big goals this time around is to actually do the work on myself, rather than just dropping the pounds.


…I highly recommend checking out the various ethnic neighborhoods.

Little Russia (formerly Little Odessa) is the nickname given to Brighton Beach.  It is a mix of various Russian cultures, and has a ton of supermarkets like Gold Label, and smaller stores where you can find some of the widest cheese, meat, and “appetizing” selections in the borough.  There are also the restaurants, ranging from grand catering halls that do a dinner sitting on nights they are not hosting parties to little holes in the wall, like Varenichnaya, which specializes in dumplings, and where two can eat or under $15.00, if ordering carefully.  While it may take a little bit of time to get there, it’s well worth the trip.  You can get there by taking the Brighton Line subway (B or Q) to the Brighton Beach stop.

The  three Brooklyn Chinatowns (Avenue U, Bensonhurst, and  Sunset Park) are a collection of restaurants, markets, nail salons, electronics stores, and bakeries.  They are fairly easy to access by subway (Avenue U – the B or Q to the Avenue U stop; Bensonhurst – the D train to Bay Parkway; and Sunset Park – the R train to 45th St & 4th Avenue, then walk over to 8th Avenue).  The name “Chinatown” is a slight misnomer, though; these neighborhoods are a mix of Asians!  The Avenue U Chinatown is the one nearest me, and I love the Asian supermarkets there.  The prices are generally better than mainstream supermarkets, and they have a number of things, like shirataki noodles, and seafood that is generally fresher than the chain supermarkets.  I highly recommend both Sea Bay (Avenue U near Homecrest  Avenue) and New York Mart (Avenue U near East 23rd Street, and another new location at around 18th Street and Avenue U).

African/Black/Dominican/Haitian/Jamaican communities are all over Brooklyn, although the greatest concentrations are in Bedford-StuyvesantCanarsieCrown HeightsEast FlatbushFlatbush, and Kensington.  These areas are a melange of restaurants (specializing in jerk meats, oxtail, doubles, etc.), clothing stores, religious articles stores, and bookstores.

Caribbean/Dominican/Hispanic/Mexican/Puerto Rican communities are also all over Brooklyn, with large concentrations along Fourth and Fifth Avenues in and around the Park Slope area. Coco Roco, one of the few Peruvian restaurants in the city is located here, on Fifth Avenue, between 6th and 7th Streets.  (They also have a location in Carroll Gardens.)  There are also large groups of these restaurants in  Williamsburg, and along Fulton Street and Crescent Street in Cypress Hills, and in Bushwick,  East New YorkBrownsvilleConey Island, and Sunset Park.

The Indian and Pakistani communities have their enclaves too.  They are largely located along Coney Island Avenue from Church Avenue over to approximately Avenue M (the B or Q to any stop between Church Avenue and Avenue N), and along McDonald Avenue clustered around it’s junction with Church Avenue (F or G train to Church Avenue).

Park Slope is an unusual concatenation of eateries, ranging from the “Latin” restaurants on Fourth and Fifth Avenues to the varied international restaurants on Seventh Avenue. It’s easily reachable by train; take the F or G to Seventh Avenue, or the F, G, or R to Fourth Avenue-Ninth Street.

Italians are well represented in Brooklyn, too, mostly in the areas of  Bay RidgeBensonhurst, Williamsburg, South BrooklynDyker Heights, and Cobble Hill.

Please note that this is in no way a truly comprehensive list, because there are many excellent ethnic restaurants located outside the noted neighborhoods.

Also, please note that this is just the first part of this exploration, as doing a totally inclusive list for Brooklyn would take more bandwidth than any one entry should occupy!

For those who observe, I wish you an easy fast. For all of my friends and relatives, both online and in real life, I hope you are inscribed in the Book of Life for a good year.

One of the first things I learned the last time that I did Weight Watchers is that a number is just that:  a number.  It is not the end of the world if that number is not the one we want each week; there are far better ways to mark where we are along the path.

Now, as those of you who read this regularly know, I do post my numbers on Fridays.  It’s my accountability to both myself and to you guys, who are – after all – my support system.  And I won’t deny that I am pleased with the numbers so far, because I am.  But I find that other markers are much more important to me.

On Sunday, my roommate (Sue), my ex (Marc), and I headed out to the Brooklyn Book Festival, and it provided me with all the markers of my progress that I need (at least or the moment).

First of all, I was able to get back into my size 24 jeans again.  They are my second favorite pair of jeans (my favorites are my size 16s).

Next, I was able to do all the walking at the Book Festival, and to and from dinner and the reading we went to afterwards, without having an asthma attack or reaching for my inhaler, having to stop to sit after every half block, or (after the initial drop across the street from the main stage at the Book Festival) having to have Marc drop me at the door before going to park the car somewhere else.  I was also able to climb the front stairs at Borough Hall to get into the rotunda for an autographing session I wanted to attend.

Third, when we got home, I felt like myself – not the exhausted wreck I have often felt like after much less exertion.  More surprisingly, I had done enough walking to earn 20 Activity Points on my Plan!

These markers are more important to me because they are not some abstract number that some insurance company has decided is *my* number, but are real indicators of my progress on the path.  They are the indications that I am getting healthy again, and that even the small steps that I have taken to date are having a very real, very concrete effect on my body, and on my attitude.

So, my questions to ponder for this post are:  What changes are the markers you can use instead of a number?  What does progress on this path look like to you?  How does it feel as those markers begin to be achieved?

Down 1.8 lbs. at weigh-in this afternoon. New weight is 251.2! I’ve hit my 5%, and lost 11.4 lbs. total.  Lost a point from my daily allowance; I now get 32 points/day, plus 49 points to use as I wish during the week.

Today at meeting we were discussing how, for many people, it’s harder to stay on plan over the weekend than it is during the week. I mostly sat and listened, because — for me — weekends aren’t very different from weekdays. A lot of people noted that the reasons they have issues on the weekend were:

  • parties
  • a feeling of being “off-the-clock”
  • a less structured environment
  • having easier access to food at home than at work
  • drinking/dinners with family and/or friends
  • mindset
  • grabbing the quick and easy foods
  • boredom

While I don’t have much difference between weekdays and weekends, I did a little looking at the reasons to try to see how they affect me.  The social things are not my usual problem areas.  For me, it’s often boredom that pushes me to stroll over to the fridge and grab whatever I find there. And that is not necessarily the best thing I could do.  When I get bored, I have no dearth of choices:  read, draw, walk, dance, listen to music, practice guitar, clean or organize something, talk to a friend; the thing is to remember to choose one of those, rather than run to food.  Regarding lack of structure:  I can see where that could be an issue, but it is one that I actually learned to overcome the last time I tried this, because my schedule was much crazier then.  Also, mindset is important!  I need to remember that what I want in the future is to be a Weight Watchers leader, and that I can make the choices that will enable me to reach goal, become a Lifetime member, maintain that, then get hired and begin to work up to Leader status.

I have not been quite as consistent in my walking this week, but I was doing a lot of sedentary stuff, including a long day of tech support for my sister.

9/14:  3,282 steps
9/15:  837 steps
9/16:  83 steps
9/17:  0 steps
9/18:  0 steps
9/19:  418 steps
9/20:  1,515 steps

On the other hand, my daily average steps or this month is 1,281, which is a huge advance over last month’s (which was 680), so I am not displeased.

So, the question on the board this week at meeting, which I will put here or you to contemplate (even as I do this week) is:  How easy is it to stay on Plan over the weekend compared to during the week?

Hi!  Here are some more useful links:

Food Lists and Restaurants Guides or the Palm  While I don’t know if anyone still uses the Palm platform, back when I did this was a massively useful site, so I figured I should include it here.

Real Age  They have lots of tips tricks, and an evaluation you can take to find out the age your body is in terms of wear, tear, and general health.

The Fresh Loaf  Not necessarily for dieters, but a good site for those who want to learn to bake breads.    Once you know the basics, you can tweak things to fit whatever program you are on.  Also good for adding to your skill set.

I am running today — my sister needs help with her computer (this is a continuation from last week).  She was nice enough to call me last night to see if I could eat what she was planning to make.  It sounds pretty good — bluefish is one of my favorite fishes.


I love to cook. And I know that many people are not big vegetable fans. I also know that while there are a ton of really interesting recipes out there, some of the really appealing “ethnic” ones are not Weight Watchers-friendly. So, one thing I have learned to do is to tweak recipes.

this recipe is one of my favorites for carrots.  It’s from Madhur Jaffrey’s excellent cookbook, World of the East: Vegetarian Cooking. Besides tweaking a couple of the ingredients, I divided the recipe into six portions, as opposed to the four she used.

Madhur Jaffrey’s Carrots with Raisins and Dates (Serves 6)


  • 5 medium carrots (I used 4 large)
  • 1 medium onion (I used half a giant one)
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter (I used 4 Tbsp Country Crock with Omega)
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup pitted dates, cut into 1/4″ slivers
  • 1/3 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp sugar (I used cooking Splenda)

Melt the butter in a large skillet on medium-low.  Toss in the carrots, onions, raisins, and dates and fry (stirring gently) for 5 minutes.  Toss in the Splenda and salt and continue to fry (stirring gently) for another five minutes until the carrots are tender.  Dish up and eat.  (Try not to eat more than one portion.)

Points Plus Value:  5 per serving

In other news, I made it through Rosh Hashanah dinner just fine.  My ex came over (and his son picked him up later, so I got to see him for the first time since he got home from the Peace Corps), bringing something I’d not seen before — whole wheat challah.  It was very tasty, and I had half a slice with just enough butter to taste.  Dinner was totally reasonable:  roasted chicken, baked potato (with 1 tsp of butter & fat-free sour cream), and a double portion of steamed veggies for me.  Had coffee after, but all of us were too full for dessert, so no temptation there.  As for the traditional apple and honey to stand for a sweet year, that was easy.  I had an apple, but spread 1/2 teaspoon of honey over one slice of it.  I also managed to make it through my birthday week, and a number o dinners out just fine, so — overall — I am pleased with my progress to date.

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