"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" ~ Mary Oliver

Tag: losing weight

mushroom barley soup for lunch! . . .


I’m still on the search for a steady way to lose weight and have come full circle back to trying out some semi-macrobiotic recipes. The other thing we have decided to do is to forego sandwiches at lunch and to eat soup or salad instead.

So yesterday, I made a simple onion soup which is a tried-and-true easy recipe that is astonishingly tasty based on the simple steps below:

  1. Slice up a Vidalia onion (they’re sweeter and juicier than the yellow ones)
  2. Brown the onion in unsalted butter in a small soup pot
  3. Add a packet of Knorr’s homestyle beef broth (or a can of beef broth)
  4. Cook until the onions are soft

I used to heat up some leftover bread sprinkled with parmesan cheese under the broiler and serve it on top – but am going without it during this bread-less time.

Since macrobiotic cooking features hearty grains in the diet, I bought some millet, brown rice and barley at the store yesterday. This morning, I thought I’d parboil some barley in water to make a mushroom-barley soup for our lunch. I let the barley soak while I prepared the rest of the soup:

  1. Heat up a small soup pot and melt a tablespoon of unsalted butter
  2. Cut up half of a vidalia onion and brown in the butter
  3. Cut up a box of white button mushrooms (I had about 2/3rds of a box to work with) into quarters, not small bits and pieces. I like these big pieces of mushrooms because they give the soup a more robust quality
  4. Cut up a carrot into small pieces – stir fry the mushrooms and carrots with the onions until nicely browned.
  5. Add two Knorr homestyle beef broth (oval gelatin-like concentrate) plus water to cover
  6. Drain soaked barley and add to the soup
  7. Cover and cook very gently for an hour, checking there’s enough liquid as the barley expands in the soup. Taste that the soup is not too salty by adding more water
  8. Taste for seasoning and serve with cracked pepper for a hearty Fall lunch!mushroom-soup

Very low in calories, hearty, warming and delicious! Not that time-consuming to make either if you start early enough in the morning.

BTW, here’s a funny article about a guy in New Zealand who proved it’s the amount of calories that you consume that allows you to lose weight, not what you eat. He cut his intake by a third to 1600 calories and ate nothing but pies and low-cal beer – and he lost over SIXTEEN POUNDS in just four weeks!! Hmmmmmm


one of the “biggest losers” . . .

DSC_0735Today at the end of our Seniors Strength exercise class at the YMCA, one of the members introduced his grandson (I’ll call him “Andrew”) who was visiting from Vancouver, B.C. A year ago, this trim looking fellow weighed 323 pounds, his grandfather said, relating that out of 1000 applicants, he was chosen as one of the 20 contestants for the reality show, “The Biggest Loser” which began in May of 2014.

He managed to stay on the show for six months (the winner’s pot was $1M) but was cut three months from the end of last year’s series. It turns out that there was a consolation prize for those who were eliminated who lost the most weight at home by the final viewing of the show. And guess what, Andrew did just that, weighing in at 181 pounds and winning $100,000 which was no small chunk of change either.

When asked what motivated him and kept him on track, he said it was the pending birth of his son (born in October, 2014) and living long enough to see him graduate from school and to have children of his own someday. Andrew described how he learned to cook his own food on the reality show, making up shopping lists, and providing his own meals in addition to exercise and training. Now, he cooks all his meals for the week on Sunday so that he doesn’t get tempted to stray during the week.

As has been reported recently in other news briefs, what you eat and how much less you eat is the biggest factor in weight loss, much more so than exercise. Perhaps even as high as an 80-20 percentage (eating better to exercise.) He also said that when you snack on an apple, to add some protein to it so that the glucose spike and drop doesn’t occur as sharply as it might with just fruit alone.DSC_0015

When he got home, he emptied out his pantry and lost enough weight to win the runner-up prize three months later. He gave one metaphor for what to eat: which was if you’re stranded on a desert island, you would eat four kinds of food: fish, vegetables, nuts and fruits. That about sums it up.

What I found most interesting about the visit by Andrew was the discussion about personalized motivation. My husband’s mother is 96 going on 97 in October. Despite falling, eye problems and taking about 16 different medications every day, she is determined to live long enough so that her son, J., doesn’t have to retire prematurely (forfeiting part of his pension) in order to take care of her. They live in the same house across the street from us and J., my husband’s younger brother who never married, enjoys taking care of his mother in her old age. Without his care, she might be living in a nursing home by now. He has sixteen weeks to go before he retires with a full pension. You can bet she’ll be around to see that happen too, four months from now when she turns 97!

So, if you want to be healthier for the sake of your children and your own health, that’s a strong motivator. If you want to stay alive long enough so that others aren’t penalized for taking care of you, that’s another. For myself, I think I would like to have a healthy life with few physical ailments and see my children get to the age I am now and see how their lives turn out.

And more than that, I’d like to stick around long enough to be able to keep taking care of my dear husband, G., and myself as long as I can. Now is the best time to start, whatever age we might be.

Rather than forcing ourselves with abstract goals (lose weight, get healthier) identifying personalized goals can give us a sense of meaning. Which makes all the difference, don’t you think?

fresh start . . .

Made a smoothie for breakfast that tastes lighter than usual and is very refreshing:

almond coconut milk
freshly squeezed juice from two navel oranges
fresh spinach from Idylwylde Farm (half a handful)
fresh parsley (half a handful)
fresh blueberries (a quarter of a handful)
frozen peaches (about 6 slices)
frozen banana (fresh, cut up and stored in freezer)
a large knob of peeled ginger root

Mixed in the Vitamix. Makes two tall glasses, one reserved in the fridge for later in the day.

This smoothie was markedly different from others that I have made so far. Adding freshly squeezed juice from two navel oranges to the almond-coconut milk base added flavor and resulted in lighter liquid content. Parsley and spinach were less dense greens than kale by itself. Plus, frozen fruit (peaches and banana) made the drink colder than room temperature smoothies of the past. The knob of ginger root was peeled and at least twice the size I normally use. It added zing and provided a clean aftertaste. Overall, this concoction was lighter in density, more flavorful and colder than normal: a keeper recipe to jot down in my food journal.

Last night, photos (shuffle) appeared on my Mac laptop while we watched the game (the Bruins made a stalwart effort tying the game at 5-5 but lost in overtime.) As the images came and went, I couldn’t help but notice how much older I looked a couple of years ago and even as recently as this last holiday season. In addition to growing my hair longer, I think I may have lost about twenty pounds these last six months because I feel/look much healthier/better.

Of all the things that might have helped, I think the little Oster citrus juicer has made the most difference. Whenever I find myself craving something to snack on, I juice up a pink grapefruit and two navel oranges. It is a refreshing drink that also satisfies my desire to eat something. Plus, I keep the fruit in the fridge so that the juice is nice and cold. Adding fresh juice to almond-coconut milk was a good experiment.

So, that’s today’s fresh start for the day.

best of both worlds . . .

juicing photo for blogIf truth be told, I think I live in the middle way between what some would label “new age” practice (Denise Linn) and creating the good life (Martha Stewart.) Before you laugh, hear me out on what I’ve learned from each in the last couple of weeks.

1. Denise Linn‘s 28 day program’s first week focuses on intention by creating clarity about what’s important. De-cluttering your environs and your inner self is a means to an end to rid the extras so that new things can enter. I’ve described some of the results of this process in the last two posts. A lot to do in the first seven days.

2. Martha Stewart‘s new book on how to live “the good long life” is full of practical pointers for maintaining your health and enjoying life no matter what your circumstances or your age. Despite all the jokes people make about Martha, I feel that she’s paid her dues and in this book, imparts a tone of friendly good-naturedness about aging (as she is) and how to enjoy it at the same time.

Last night, I was feeling slightly uncomfortable physically from having eaten a little too much and indulging myself a lot over mother’s day meals. I remembered that I had forgotten I was doing a two-day a week fasting regimen which had me feeling slimmer and full of energy up to a few days ago. I confess I read about the two-day fasting regimen elsewhere than these two women’s writings, but basically, it’s taking in only about 500-600 calories for a day, at least a day apart, every week. It’s easier than you think, especially when you can have 250 calories at two meals even while you are “fasting.” I like to do it by juicing on those days, drinking lots of water and having raspberry zinger tea. I also discovered that a shrimp is only about 9-12 calories, and a handful of them makes a great lunch or dinner along with salad. This kind of fasting/dieting is so easy to do a couple of days a week that then allows me to eat (judiciously) whatever else I like to cook the rest of the week (fish, chicken, vegetables, fruit.)

From Martha’s book, I found a recipe for green juicing that she drinks every morning and that I use during my fasting days. I have a Breville juicer that has what seems like many parts, but does a much better and faster job juicing than my old Osterizier juicer that was hard to clean.

On a fasting day, I take out and wash these ingredients, then put them into the juicer in this order:

2-3 stalks of celery
half an english cucumber
2 granny smith apples in quarters
1 pear
half a bunch of fresh flat leaf parsley
half a bag of spinach
a big knob of fresh ginger root

When the juice is made, I stir it and pour a medium size glass of it, adding a heaping spoonful of Pure Synergy, an energy/health boost that I’ve been taking for almost a decade. Taking Pure Synergy regularly, my energy level feels elevated all day without feeling hyper. I put the remaining pitcher of green juice in the fridge to drink later in the day.

After the green juice, I’ll also drink hot coffee while reading the newspaper, drink lots of distilled water during the day and brew raspberry zinger tea to drink with honey for a pick-me-up. If I feel like it, I might make a fresh strawberry banana smoothie with soy milk as one of my “meals.” strawberry smoothie

On a fasting day, you can have up to 500-600 calories per 24 hours so it’s not like you are starving yourself, just letting your insides have a brief rest. This kind of fasting purports to improve your immune system and prolong your life. Even if it didn’t, it truly feels fabulous. And you do lose weight, or at least I have.

So, de-cluttering as Denise suggests, allowing your body and systems to rejuvenate every so often is “a good thing” as Martha would say. Besides, I can’t tell you how virtuous it feels to wash all these vegetables and fruits, lay them out on the counter and then drink the elixer of all that fresh produce throughout the day, sip by sip.

Admittedly, it’s easier to juice if you have the right equipment and Breville juicers are expensive, to be honest. But compared to the relative costs of what we might spend on some prime steaks, lobsters and legs of lamb, you could probably rationalize the cost of a juicer that will provide a means to a slimmer waist and hips as well as a glowing complexion. Instead of looking slightly puffy from too much rich food, wine and desserts, your face will look smooth and alight with health. PLUS, you can still eat all that other stuff on the days you’re not fasting. . . just in moderation.

Postscript: since I wrote this post, I received a simple electric citrus juicer that I bought on Amazon for $16. It has allowed me to quickly make fresh orange or grapefruit juice anytime that I’m thirsty. Add a couple of ice cubes and sip a cool fruit juice drink!