Food and Weight: An Ongoing Journey

Archive for the ‘Weight Watchers’ Category


There is some very good news this week. I spoke to my surgeon, Dr. Soriaya Motivala, on Thursday. She says that I do not have to wear the bone-growth stimulator anymore and that I can start using my Peloton exercise bike again, so long as I go slowly and do not overreach.

In other good news, I dropped six pounds this week, so I am cautiously optimistic that I am getting back on track. Wednesday, I decided that on days that I’m not going out I will go back to tracking my food for a while. but may switch to “Simply Filling” on days that I am going out. (I did track last night’s dinner – it was pretty easy to do since I planned what I was going to order before I left the house.

Dinner last night was wonderful. We ate at an old favorite, El Gran Castillo de Jagua, at 355 Flatbush Avenue, which makes some of the best Dominican dishes around. I had the fillet of salmon with a side order of sweet plantains. I did sneak a bite of Marc Glasser’s mofongo with pork (mashed plantains, usually with some meat or fish added). For a change, I managed to get through dinner without ordering any soda. The attendees were Marc Glasser, Cyndi Cascanti, Joe Sullivan, Sue Levy (the roomie), Maury Kestenbaum, Chuck Hancock, Ariel Winterbreucke, Mark Blackman, and me. Joe was kind enough to drive Marc, Sue and me to Marc’s afterward
deb-lucys-carrot-stewOkay, I promised I would post the carrot stew recipe. Let me start by posting what Lucy had to say about it that inspired me to make it:

“I’ve started adding what I call ‘carrot stew’ to my repertoire. The name comes from a picture book we had when our kids were small, The Tawny, Scrawny Lion, in which a hungry lion encounters a fat little rabbit, but before the lion can gobble him up, the rabbit invites the lion to come home with him and share a dinner of carrot stew with him and his five fat rabbit brothers and six fat rabbit sisters.  So this lion goes home with him, thinking that 12 little fat rabbits will make a better meal than just one, and the rabbits throw carrots and onions and mushrooms and some other vegetables and some fish into a pot and when it’s cooked they share it with the lion and then serve bowls of berries for dessert. And afterward the lion walks home, whistling to himself in the moonlight.”

Lucy and Deb’s “Carrot Stew”

Ingredients:

Frozen (pre-cut) or fresh veggies

(I used frozen spinach, 2 diced onions, a bag of baby carrots, a can of new potatoes, 2 ribs of celery, pre-cut bagged zucchini and butternut squash, and canned mushrooms)

1/2 cup pearl barley

2.4 lbs of salmon, cut into bite-sized pieces

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp black pepper

tarragon, to taste

dill, to taste

Auntie Arwen’s Ultimate Garlic Insanity, to taste (Auntie Arwen has a shop on Etsy, and her spice blends are magnificent and reasonably priced.)

Water to cover

Directions:

I swear this recipe is pretty much fool-proof. You just put all the ingredients into a large pot, cover, and simmer until the fish is cooked and the vegetables are tender. It is a very forgiving recipe. I made the whole recipe, without the mushrooms, then added them after Sue had taken her portion, then reheated it until the mushrooms were also warm. Cooking took about two hours, and the resulting stew is wonderful – even after being reheated four days later for today’s lunch.

The recipe is also incredibly Weight Watchers friendly: only 3 Points Plus for a one-cup serving.

Last week, I made a commitment to Robert, my WW coach, that I would meditate at least once a day. He suggested that I use the free trial at Headspace to get started. Even though I have done meditation many times in the past, I figured I’d give it a try, and I love their method, so I have added it to my routine (I don’t talk about this much, but I try to remember to meditate twice a day already). I actually like meditating; it’s refreshing to take a little time to not have my brain running around like a madwoman. I’ve also noticed that on days when I do take the time to meditate, I seem to have less trouble reacting to things that happen.

So that’s where things are today.See you all next time!

 

 

 

 


As most of you know, there are three measures by which I know I’ve taken back my life from the health issues of last year: walking, cooking, and blogging. Slowly – far too damned slowly – I am doing all three.

Yesterday, I went to a most excellent housefilk at the home of some friends. Not only was I able to sit up for the whole thing, but I was able to get the rollator up the front steps to their building by myself (normally, Sue or Marc drags it up the steps, while I use the banister to haul myself up)! I was also able to walk to the car after the housefilk, and survive the car rides to and from Josh and Lisa’s place. I was even able to walk around their apartment a little without using any support at all.

But that’s not today’s accomplishment. The roots for that actually go back to a job I had from 1977 to 1987. Back then, I worked for Rialto Management Company, a small real estate firm in midtown owned by Ruben Shulsky. One of the best parts of that job was the little kosher meat restaurant across 30th Street and halfway between Broadway and Sixth Avenue. It had no name, but had some of the best food I had ever eaten. One of my favorite dishes there was cholent – a beef/bean/barley stew. Cholent is one of those things observant Jews eat for Shabbos lunch, because it can be started on Friday before sundown and kept on the top of the stove over a very low heat until they can turn the light off after sundown on Saturday. Well, I loved that cholent, but not being an observant Jew, I didn’t know how to make it. Over the years, I asked observant friends and looked on the Internet for recipes – and there were some interesting ones – but they never quite tasted like the cholent from that restaurant. Cholent is one of those things where everyone has a slightly different recipe, usually learned from their mom.

lucys-cholent-picA few months ago, an acquaintance of mine posted about cholent in an APA we both belong to (AWA, or A Women’s APA). I asked for her recipe, and she posted it in the following collation. I started it yesterday after we got home from the housefilk, and when I tried it for lunch today it was exactly the taste I remembered! I even put it into the Weight Watchers recipe calculator and discovered it’s 5 Points Plus per 1-cup serving, which is not bad for a meal! Without further ado, here is the recipe for Lucy Schmeidler’s cholent, as written in AWA:
Lucy Schmeidler’s Cholent

1 – 1 1/2 lbs lean beef, cut into bite-sized chunks
1 medium large Idaho (russet) potato, cut into bite-sized chunks
1 – 2 medium yellow onions, chopped
6 – 10 baby carrots
2 stalks celery, cut into 1/2″ slices
1 4-oz can mushrooms
1/2 cup pearl barley, soaked
1/2 cup navy or small white beans, soaked
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp paprika
2 Tbsp minced garlic
Cooking oil
Water to cover
3-qt heavy pot

Friday morning: Brown onions in oil. Add meat, potatoes, carrots, mushrooms, celery and water to cover. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally to keep from sticking. (Deb’s note: We did this for about an hour. Also, since the roomie is allergic to mushrooms, we made it without, and when she had taken what she wanted, I added the mushrooms and reheated it thoroughly.) Add barley, beans, seasonings and more water to cover. Cook covered overnight over low heat without stirring. Serve for Shabbos lunch.

So, I want to thank Lucy for helping me solve a  – to me – 35-year search!

In other “taking back my life” news, my surgeon says that I am doing amazingly well – far better than she had expected. I went to lunch with the roomie to a place we often order from over on Emmons Avenue, the Opera Cafe. The food was excellent, as always, and it was good to get out. I’ve also started up the fannish dinner group again, although we have been sticking to places in Brooklyn so far. Future plans include maybe doing a Monday night dinner so the Kosher Krew can join us, and possibly some weekend brunches. There are just too many great places to eat around New York City. (And if anyone reading this is in the area and wants onto the list for the dinners, please leave a comment, email, or otherwise message or call me. I’d be happy to add you to the list. Attendance is not mandatory at all; all I ask is if you are joining us on a given week, let me know in case the group for that week is big enough to need reservations.)

 


Sigh. I know, I know. It’s been way too damned long since I’ve even tried to write anything.

I do have a good excuse, though. I had spinal surgery (nerve decompression and laminectomy from L3 to S1) on 27 September, and sitting up to type has been more than I could do for a long time.

One of my conditions for letting the surgeon have at me was that my rehab would be at home; my six weeks in a rehab over the late spring/early summer convinced me that I never want to be in a rehab/nursing home again. Fortunately, my surgeon, the most excellent Soriaya Motivala, believes that you make more progress at home, and faster than in a rehab, so that was no problem. Once the infection was cleared up for good (I had to wait a month after the stint in the rehab to make sure it was all gone), everything – except me – moved pretty quickly. I saw Dr. Motivala in early September, and we set up the surgery date.However, her assistant, the otherwise wonderful Jennifer, forgot to tell me that now that I was a cardiac patient I would need more than just a clearance from my primary care guy. This meant that on the 16th I got a call from the hospital noting that none of my paperwork had come in. So, I then had to set up all of the clearances except my primary care guy (who I had seen the day before). Between Naomi Moslow and the roomie, I made all the clearances in time, which was amazing.

The surgery took place, as planned, and I’ve been recovering since. I was released from the hospital on 1 October – just in tie for the High Holy Days.

Unfortunately, due to the need for the surgery, I missed a lot of stuff during the summer/early fall, including a wedding, a funeral, and – most important to me – the dedication of the Torah that my cousin Mitch’s synagogue had commissioned in his memory. I’d really been looking forward to that, but it was two days before my surgery, and I realized that there was just no way I could do a ride up to Mount Kisco, sit through the ceremony and the meal after, and then ride back. Since I didn’t want to take attention from the ceremony, I stayed home, instead. This coming Monday, I will be missing the funeral of a fannish acquaintance for the same reason. I have spoken to one of the friend’s kids, and since he’s also had similar surgery to mine, he understands why I won’t be there.

I have to admit, the healing process has been much slower than I would like, which I attribute to my weight as well as my age. Let’s face it: you just don’t heal as easily at 64, while carrying a lot of extra weight, as you do at 24 while carrying much less extra weight. I have not given up on relosing the weight, however; to date, I have dropped 64 lbs. I still have a ways to go to reach my goal, but I will get there. It’s been an even more interesting journey this time, since I decided when I rejoined Weight Watchers, that when stuff came up, I would deal with it, rather than just brushing it aside for later. I also made a decision that seems, in retrospect, to be one of the smartest decisions I’ve made around weight – since I am not expending anywhere near the number of calories I used to when I could go walking every day, I cut down the amount of food I was eating proportionately.

I got a huge piece of the puzzle of me the other week, and I’m still processing how to deal with it. I had ordered a lamp, and it needed different bulbs than the lamp I was replacing. My ex went off to get the proper bulbs, and I was lying in bed crying. The roomie said to me, “Deb, it’s okay. It was just a stupid mistake.” My response, which I never expected, was, “But I’m not allowed to make mistakes.”

Now I know that sounds ridiculous, but my father used to beat the mess out of my sister and me if we made mistakes, no matter how small, so I had apparently internalized this, and carried it with me for my whole life. Now that I know it’s there, though, I can work on reminding myself that I AM allowed t make mistakes. I can also give thanks that while I carried this around for most of my 64 years, I don’t have to carry it around for my 65th year.

In other medical news, and this relates back to the weight a bit, my doctors have finally adjusted my blood pressure meds to reflect the weight loss. The industrial amount of diuretics they had been giving me were so extreme that I was totally dehydrated, no matter how much liquid I drank. For a while, the doctors were so pleased with my readings that they were weaning me off the drugs at the rate of one per visit, but when it took the cardiologist three tries to even find my blood pressure, they decided to cut all but one of the blood pressure meds. We are all still watching my readings (my cousin the doctor suggested I get a home monitor, so I could take morning and evening readings and show them to my primary care guy), but so far everything seems to be okay. As I rehydrated, I gained a little weight, but my legs now look like legs instead of bones covered with skin.

So, on the whole, things are improving – even if it’s not as fast as I would have it happen.On the other tentacle, one thing I learned after my heart surgery in 2014 is that it remains important to be kind to myself. In this case, that means listening to my body and doing things when it is ready to do them, rather than trying to hurry things up.

I will try to write more regularly again, but I am making no promises at this point. I am hoping to write at least once a week, but it depends on how well sitting up goes on any particular day.


Yeah, I know – it’s been way too damned long since I’ve posted. Life does that sometimes.

Somewhere around March, I realized that I had fallen into a pretty bad depression. The weight gain, the impaired mobility, the inability to get the MRI I needed, the loss of several relatives and friends all served to hit me pretty hard. I started working my way out from under, and have been coming along slowly but surely.

One thing that helped is that I have been getting more social again. That started with the 25th anniversary party for two close friends. Two adventures lie therein, btw. The first was finding an appropriate gift for our friends, which entailed a trip to Eichlers, a Judaica store on Coney Island Avenue. Being a Sunday, parking was a pain, and we ended up parking around the block from the store. The Ex held my arm as we walked there, and the kind store staff found me a chair to sit on so I could catch my breath. We got the couple a lovely Havdallah set. The second was the saga of the lock. The morning of the party, I got up, got dressed (a beautiful long dress from Holy Clothing), and was checking my email when the Roomie came in and told me she couldn’t unlock the front door. I went up front to check, and sure enough, it wouldn’t unlock. Called the Landlady, who was in the Poconos. She called her dad and sent him over, so we cleared enough space by the front window to hand out our keys so he could try to open the door from the outside. No luck there. Next step was that we removed the doorknobs so we could try to manipulate the mechanism from the inside. That didn’t work.I was beginning to think I’d have to climb out the front window to get to the party. Called the Ex, who was also going to the party, and he came by. We got the Landlord’s dad to open the side gate, and the Ex came to the back door to try to push my bed forward by pushing the door open. To do this successfully, I had to try to move the 140 lb. Peloton exercise bike that sits in front of my bed. Not fun, but somehow I managed to do it. Marc got the door open enough that I could climb over the bed and out of the apartment.Then it was down some stairs, up the alleyway, then up a bunch of stairs. We got to the venue, and it was down some more stairs, which was a bit much, but I made it. The party was lovely, and while I was out the Roomie called a locksmith, and had the lock replaced properly. So we now have a properly working lock.

Since then, I have been out on several Friday dinner missions, a Saturday mission that included a book party, then a walk of about three blocks (2 half-avenue blocks and one street block) to a local ramen place we like and knew could hold a large group, and a Passover Seder that included a climb up stairs and down the same stairs. Pretty good for a mobility-impaired person who also has sciatica. In fact, these days, the sciatica is more of a problem than the heart is.

Today was my three-month cardiologist checkup. He was delighted with my blood pressure (132/80), and even more delighted to find my heart murmur has gotten a bit softer. Best of all, at some point – about three weeks ago – my ankles stopped looking like grapefruit and have started looking like ankles again. My left ankle is totally unswollen at this point, and the right one is so slightly swollen that you have to really look to see it. The legs are unswollen, too, which is nice. I also had a bit of a walk – the car service missed the turn at East 27th Street, so I had him drop me at the corner of my block, and walked the one-third of a block to my house.

I’ve been doing the Weight Watchers Simply Filling plan since the end of March and have lost 20 lbs. so far. I still have a long way to go, and I’m still annoyed that I have to do this all over again, but I can be annoyed and be working on it or I can be annoyed and doing nothing about it…I’d rather be the former, so that it gets done. I am taking advantage of their coaching program, since I was able to book my coaching sessions with my favorite lecturer. At some point, I will be able to get around enough to go to meetings, but for now, this is working, so I am happy about that.

Anyway, that’s about where things are for the moment, so I’ll be heading off to eat breakfast. Talk with everyone again soon!

 

 


I am a sucker, especially in winter, for a good, hearty, homemade soup or stew. A stoup, as defined by Rachael Ray, combines the best of both worlds. It’s real comfort food. I adapted this from Simple Nourished Living‘s recipe for “Mom’s Simple Hearty Lentil Sausage Stew”. I used a cooking method my friend Mamadeb had mentioned in her blog, Steadily On. It is a Weight Watchers friendly recipe; most of the ingredients are power foods. Beef and Lentil Stoup works for the Simply Filling plan and is 5 Points Plus per 1-cup serving for those doing tracking.

Beef and Lentil Stoup
Adapted by Deb Wunder (otherdeb)

12 1-cup servings
5 5 Points Plus per serving

Prep Time: 15-20 minutes
Cook Time: About two hours

    Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, choped rough
  • 1 yellow pepper, seeds and stem removed, chopped rough
  • 1 lb beef chunks (round, trimmed)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups dry lentils
  • 1-1/2 boxes broth
  • 2 10-oz cans Ro*Tel, undrained
  • 5 ribs celery, cut into 3/4 inch pieces
  • 1 large carrot, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 medium parsnips, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1 tsp black pepper

Directions:
1. Chop the ingredients that need chopping, cutting, or dicing
2. Put the olive oil into a Dutch oven. Add the onion, garlic, and pepper. Cook for 5-8 minutes, stirring occasionally
3. Add the beef chunks and cook for about 8 minutes.
4. Stir in the lentils, broth, tomatoes, celery, carrot, parsnips, Ro*Tel, and spices.
5. Partially cover pot and bring to a boil.
6. Preheat oven to 300∘ F.
7. Cover pot, and put in the oven on a rack for approximately two hours, or until stoup is the thickness you desire. If it gets too thick, add a bit of water or broth.
8. Divide into one-cup portions and serve.
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I bit the bullet and rejoined Weight Watchers this morning. Chose a three-month, online-only plan that gives me access to a coach at all times. I had a discussion with one of the coaches today – a lady named Janet, and we spoke about how I was feeling. I’m not sure how it will work out, but the pain of being out of shape and obese is, perhaps, finally stronger than the pain of doing the program again.

I finished an interesting book today: Fuschia Dunlop’s Shark’s Fin And Sichuan Pepper: A Sweet-Sour Memoir of Eating in China. She covers how she ended up becoming a certified Sichuan chef and a food writer specializing in the cuisines of China. IF you are interested in a look at the foods of China – in a context of life in China – I recommend it.

Anyway, that’s it for now.


Okay. Just got back from the cardiologist, and here is the latest.

I am not the ideal candidate for open heart surgery, or even for the ablation.  We already knew that. My age, my weight, yadda, yadda…

The other problem is that I am presenting oddly. For one thing, my heart’s septum distortion is 15. Normally, people with the amount of disability I’m having present with a much higher distortion. For another, the relatively small amount of drugs I am getting are slowing my heart down to 55. So they cannot presently give me greater amounts of drugs because there is a risk of slowing my heart down too much. Dr. S. has found a surgeon for me, but the surgeon has the same issues that Dr. S. and I both have about me undergoing surgery at this time.

The current plan, therefore, is to set up an MRI to doublecheck the amount of distortion, because there is a possibility that the echocardiogram under-represented that. Dr. S. is also changing out the 25 mg of carvedilol (twice a day) for 50 mg of Metoprolol (twice a day). After we get the result of the MRI, he will possibly schedule a CAT Scan of the head, neck and chest to see what is going on with my voice. Once we have those ducks in order, he will likely have a pacemaker put in, so that he can give me larger doses of some of the meds. My next few weeks will clearly be filled with doing some internet research, and making up some more questions to add to the list I’ve been keeping.

I know that caution is warranted. I know that I’m really glad my doctor is conservative in his treatment plans. But, dammit, I really want my life back. The problem is that, given how un-ideal of a surgical candidate I am, the big risks with open heart surgery are that a) I might not survive the surgery, and b) I might not be incredibly functional afterwards because of the issues that make me a less than ideal candidate.  Dr. S. and I both agree that if stubborn were the major thing I need I have that in spades, but we also know that open heart surgery — especially when it means shaving off some of the heart wall as well as fixing the valve — is a big, damned, risky thing.

Meanwhile, I’ve been dealing with it about as well as possible. Marc, Abby, and a host of other folks make sure I get out of the house at least once a week, so I don’t just sit and obsess about how little I can do. I have been taking on as much work as I can, because work is always a good distraction. I’ve been reading, and even logged back into a couple of social games on Facebook, so that I’m not becoming too isolated.

I know I need to lose weight, but I am having trouble getting over myself and doing what I know works. I’m really resentful that I have to do it all over again. It took me two years to do it last time, and I was healthy and could walk a lot then. The gods know how long it will take without my being able to walk the way I used to. Honestly, the weight depresses me more than the heart issue. I was born with the heart issue and could not have done anything about it, because – until it triggered – no one even knew it was there. The weight – well, I’d lost most of it before I crashed and burned, and then, when I couldn’t go walking anymore, it all came back. So now I have to do it again, without the one exercise I love best in the world. I really need to get over myself, and go back to Weight Watchers, or at least start doing it at home or something, but I am just so frustrated about the whole issue. It’s the one whole part of this thing that makes me want to run away and hide. I’m trying to figure out how to get myself back to doing Weight Watchers, because I know that if I don’t go into it committed to doing it and doing it right, I will half-ass it and just be setting myself up for failure. And that’s the one thing I don’t have the option to fail at this time.

So, that’s where things are at right now. If any of you who know me well enough have ideas on how I can get over myself and get my ass back in gear, please let me know. Every day I can’t manage to do it makes a real difference at this point.


Our regular leader was back from vacation, and I was hoping she’d fire me up again, but my head still doesn’t seem to be in the game yet.  I gained back a little more this week, but I was expecting it, so I’m not tremendously annoyed or anything.  I’m just a bit sad that I seem to have lost the momentum.

I’m in Starbucks at the moment, waiting for A to meet me, and planning to get a bit of walking done once she does. And we’ll be meeting M & H for dinner. I’m hoping we can stay in the midtown area for that, so I can get the bus home, and not have to take a car service.

Anyway, that’s about it for today.  See everyone Monday!


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