Standing Strong in the Midst of Uncertain Waters

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Here I am on a floating dock, but standing tall. It’s the perfect metaphor for where I am in my gastric sleeve journey. While I’m not sure where the water is going to move me while I’m on the dock, I’m still standing firm. I am happy that I am confident where I am in life, but I know it’s OK to change direction and seek help no matter what!

 

I looked at this particular photograph the other day and realized it was the perfect metaphor for how I am feeling these days: standing strong in the midst of uncertain waters. For the past few months, I’ve felt out of sorts and I couldn’t quite figure out why. Oh, I could say that say that the move to new state and all the changes that come along with it is the cause for my fatigue and stagnant physical and mental health. Even with trying new exercises, going to bed early and eating better, I just seem to be coasting along on my continuing journey to being the healthiest “me” I can be.

Even though I’m standing tall and living my life happily, something kept nagging at me, that perhaps all wasn’t right. Falling into bed exhausted at 9 PM wasn’t typical for me, a former night owl. I cut out all the sweets from the holidays and still felt hungry and in need of caffeine constantly. I kept trying to improve at my swim class, but I was still tired after each class.

Finally, I decided to do something about my health. While I’m almost four years out from gastric sleeve surgery, I reminded myself that my journey isn’t a straight line. I am always looking to improve and sometimes you need help when the improvements you make on your own aren’t working. There is no shame in admitting you need help, whether it’s with physical or mental health. It was time to look for help.

Since we’ve moved to a new state, I needed a new doctor. I picked a naturopathic doctor. I wanted to get a new perspective on my health and while it might seem contradictory, I want the least about of medical intervention in my life. Going off high blood pressure medicine was one of my favorite successes with my weight loss, so I would like to improve my health as naturally as possible. Trust me, I’ll all for medicine when necessary, but if I can be better through proper eating and exercise, I prefer that method!

My new doctor looked at my June 2016 blood work in shock. She couldn’t believe I was functioning with such low iron levels. I told her my previous doctors didn’t seem too concerned but I could tell she was. And when the new blood work came back in, my fatigue all made sense. My iron is extremely low and might be the cause of other symptoms I have like itchy skin. I’m on iron supplements in hopes it will bring my levels up, otherwise I need to do an IV infusion. Between my supplements and improved diet, I hope to avoid the IV, but I will do what is necessary to for my health.

Besides the regular blood work, we did a food sensitivity test since that could also a reason for my low iron absorption, although gastric sleeve patients can have vitamin and mineral absorption issues as a result of surgery. The look of horror on my face when I read the results must have been Oscar-worthy. It said high sensitivity to wheat, dairy, sugar, and coffee. Yes, I said coffee. Losing wheat and dairy from my diet wasn’t as horrifying as the thought of coffee and sugar.

No, I didn’t run from the doctor’s office. Instead I went to see a nutritionist to work on a month-long elimination diet. I will eliminate the foods that show I have a high sensitivity for a month and then slowly add them back to see how I react. I’m not starting it until after my birthday on March 8th, but I’ll keep you posted. Or perhaps you’ll just hear a crazed woman calling out for coffee and know that it’s me.

OK, yes, I’m nervous about this diet, but with the help of my nutritionist I feel like I can do it for a month. Really, I barely ate anything for the first month after my gastric sleeve surgery, so I know I will survive. Her suggestions of new meals that included bacon are encouraging. Really, as long as I have bacon I’ll be OK. And I have a list of coffee substitutes to try so I might just get through it without sobbing every time I pass Starbucks.

So, I have a plan to improve my nutrition, but what about improving my exercise routine? While the swimming class  I’m doing is challenging and different, my first exercise love is running. It’s the perfect activity for me physically since I can do it indoors or outdoors. Mentally, I love it because I can do it alone with just my music, or I can run with a friend. And while I’ve been running for over four years now, I just can’t improve my time. No, running isn’t all about pace and distance, but I feel like I’m just not going anywhere with it, so to speak.

Every day I am thankful to my ever-supportive husband who knows just when to encourage me out of my comfort zone. While the whole family met with a trainer at our new YMCA, the hubby asked about running trainer for me. Forget candy and flowers, this woman is happier to have a trainer! My first training session was last week and it was encouraging and humbling. We did some tests and exercises to see where I am in my physical fitness. I’ve come along way since my pre-weight loss days! But when I stumbled during the session, it was a good reminder that there is always room for improvement.

And this is the main reason I am working with a trainer: to improve what is already working. I exercise more than I have in my life, but I’d like to be more efficient. I’ve researched fitness online and through books and magazines, but having an expert work with you one on one can’t be beat. You can’t hide in the back of an exercise class when it’s just you and your trainer. This is getting me out of my running comfort zone.

Now, I don’t want to make it sound like I’m unhappy with where I’m in my weight loss journey. I spent too many years thinking that “life would get better once I (insert any goal here)” and I know that’s not true. I am proud and ecstatic with the success I’ve made in becoming a healthier and happier person. What I didn’t know before I began this journey was that there isn’t an ending to it. Sure, I might reach my goal weight, eat healthy every day, and run races, but those are just milestones along the way.

There will be times that I need to adjust what is working and there will be times I need help from professionals. And I will always need help and encouragement of my family and friends. Thank you for supporting me here at Down the Scale while I continue to stand tall in the midst of ever-changing waters of health and happiness.

Trying Not to Drown…

“Our only goal is not to drown!”

Goggles are making it easier to get over my fear of putting my face in the water.  My weight loss journey continues with new physical and mental challenges!

Goggles are making it easier to get over my fear of putting my face in the water. My weight loss journey continues with new physical and mental challenges!

This was the first promise my friend, S., and I made when we decided to join the pre-masters swim class at our local YMCA. It’s a class for adults who want to improve their swimming techniques along with getting a good workout. She and I were both looking for a challenge to our regular workout routine for the new year.

So, how’s it going a month into the new year? The class is full of friendly adults, many older than me, and has a great coach. We start with core exercises on the pool deck and then get into the lap pool for a variety of drills. I’d really love it if I didn’t have to swim. Wait, what? Yes, the swimming part is the hardest part for me! Here’s a few reasons why:

*I have no recognizable swimming style. I never took swimming lessons and I’ve pretty much learned to swim by watching others. I can swim enough to be comfortable in the water, but I always feel like I’m splashing about. I don’t know how to breathe properly when swimming so I stay above the water as much as possible.

*I’m scared of putting my face in the water. I’ve used the excuse that I wear contacts so I don’t want to go under water, but really I am scared. As I child I got caught in some rough waves at the beach and it took a number of turns around the ocean to finally get out. And while my brain knows I won’t drown in the pool and that I’m perfectly safe, the rest of me isn’t buying it.

*Swimming involves more prep work and wearing a bathing suit…I hate it! Actually, I’m OK with wearing a suit even though I’m feeling lumpy and bumpy these days. Swim class isn’t a fashion show and really, no one cares who wears what or how your body looks. I just hate having to switch into a suit and either shower at the Y or rush home to shower. Running is all about putting on your running shoes and going! Not much preparation there!

So, with all those complaints, why am I still going to swim class? Because…

*I need to make myself uncomfortable. I blogged about pushing myself out of my comfort zone last September and I find that I still need to do it. To keep myself motivated and interested, and yes, to help with weight loss, I need to challenge myself whether it’s my exercise or eating routines. This swim class makes me try something I haven’t done so far in my weight loss journey.

*I feel great afterward! Yes, I hate the prep and clean up after class, but my body feels good. Oh, I’m sore since this is a full body work out, but it’s a good kind of sore. I also feel empowered. While I’m not a great swimmer, I complete the class! And no, I haven’t drowned yet! I’m even putting my face in the water more and more each time. Who knows how far I’ll go to improve my swimming technique, but I do know that I’m doing something great for my body and mind.

*Exercising with other people is fun and encouraging! Being accountable to another person is a great way to keep up with an exercise program. I’m thankful to have my friend, S., meet me at class. But even when one of us can’t make it, the other person goes to class and let’s the other know what the drills were that day. For me, I like the instructor and the other swimmers. Our instructor is well aware of my underwater phobia so she encourages me to keep trying, but never guilts me into doing more than I’m comfortable with. And the other swimmers are great! When you swim with women 20 years older than you, you are inspired! It reminds me of one of the many reasons why I started my weight loss journey: to be healthy as I grow older. Yes, it’s humbling to have older people swim better and faster than you, but I use it as inspiration, not negativity.

So, yes, like Dory, I will just keep swimming. I hope to improve my technique and get over my fear of going underwater, but I am not pushing myself too hard. I always tell my kids, it’s important to try something, even if you fail or it doesn’t work out. I am now telling myself that, too. I hope I’ll get more comfortable with swimming so it will lead me to a triathlon, but now I’m just taking one stroke at a time. As long as I don’t drown, I’ll keep swimming Down the Scale…

 

Proof that I am actually going in the pool!  And yes, I'm in a bathing suit!  Be comfortable with your body..it's the best gift you'll give yourself!

Proof that I am actually going in the pool! And yes, I’m in a bathing suit! Be comfortable with your body..it’s the best gift you’ll give yourself!

Down the Hill Literally

A quick video from me as I try out a new activity!​​

Starting off on the Right Foot

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Finished my first run in 2017 at the indoor track at my local YMCA!  Neither weather delays or long to-do lists could keep me from getting back to exercising! I am thrilled to continue my weight loss journey in 2017!

It only took me to January 10th, but I finally got my first run in for the year.  As I wrote last year, I don’t make resolutions any longer, but I do like to start the new year on the right foot.  The holidays alway make it harder to stick to a healthy eating and exercise routine.  And let’s not forget that trying to stay sane and calm doesn’t always come easy during the holidays.

This was true for me.  Between construction in our rental home, stomach bugs and homesick kids, our first Christmas and New Year holidays in our new home state made the whole family feel a bit out of sorts.  Adjusting to some many new places, people, schedules, and even snow, was exhausting for all of us and it took its toll on my body and mind.

So, yes, it’s taken me this long to get back on track.  And I thought it wasn’t going to happen as school was delayed two hours due to icy roads.  I planned to go run at the YMCA, but when I woke up to the school news, I almost gave up on my plans.  Oh, it would have been easy to skip it. My to-do list is a mile long, but I stopped myself and said, “You are important, too.”  My health must be a priority.  I know how I feel when I don’t take care of myself and I don’t like it.  I never want to go back to the version of me who didn’t think it was important to make my physical and mental health a top priority.

Although it was only 30 minutes, I did get to the YMCA and run around the indoor track.  For that quick half hour, I recharged my batteries.  Isn’t it strange how exercising actually makes you feel better?  That good feeling was just the reminder I needed to keep to a schedule when it comes to exercising and planning healthy meals.  I’ve already put my exercise schedule in my calendar so I remember to keep it a priority!

So whether it’s January 10th or May 10th, whenever you start a new routine or go back to your previous one, it’s not too late.  I am excited to start running again, trying out new recipes, finally unpacking the last boxes, and exploring my new hometown.  I will continue to keep trying to be the healthiest version of me as I go Down the Scale in 2017….

 

New Workout and Friends in a New Hometown

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Since I started my gastric sleeve surgery journey over three years ago, I’ve been fortunate to have friends who encourage me to keep active.  My friend, N., started me on running journey even before I had surgery, and she continues to encourage me to try different workouts like spinning.  My other friends like A. and R. ran races with me and I even ran my first half-marathon with my college and adult friend, B.

Now that we’ve been in our new hometown for a little over a month, I’ve struggled with keeping active.  Instead of walking my daughter a half-mile to school each way, I walk down the street to the bus stop.  I am still unpacking  and getting settled into our new place, so I’m not running as often as I like.  With winter approaching, I was concerned about keeping active.  Running in 30 degree weather doesn’t sound as appealing as sitting in front of the fireplace with a cup of coffee, does it?

As I’ve shared many times, my weight loss journey is just that…a journey.  It’s not just about weight loss, but about continuing to strive for the best me I can be.  I realized that if I want to continue to keep the weight off and improve both my physical and mental health, I need to be proactive.  Last week the family joined the YMCA and today was my first visit.

I knew from previous experience, the Y is a great place to workout and meet people.  When we moved to Florida when my oldest child was an infant, the Y became my go-to place.  And even though I was obese then, I kept active, albeit slowly, and I met other stay-at-home moms.  Finding a community, especially with little kids, was my saving grace.

I finally committed to using our new membership this week and I was fortunate enough to have a new friend show me the ropes.  While volunteering at my daughter’s school a few weeks back, I meet another mom, S., who mentioned she belonged to the Y.  We made plans to meet today and I am so grateful we did!

To make a new friend in a new hometown is always a relief and comforting, but to make a friend who also likes to work out and has a positive energy and spirit is even better!  S. was kind enough to show me all around the Y after we walked about three miles on the indoor track. We’ve even made plans to try out the pre-masters swimming program in January.  I am so thankful to have found someone who is active like my San Francisco friends.

I still have new plans, including coming up with better, more interesting eating habits and ways to incorporate being active besides workouts,  to develop as we settle into our new hometown.  But I feel more grounded now that I have a new workout place and friend.  Sometimes, it’s just the little things that help you feel grounded, and in my case it’s the little things that help me continue to go Down the Scale…

 

 

Keeping Positive…Even in the Rain….and Through the Stress….

Five years and counting! I'm proud that since 2012, even before my gastric sleeve surgery, I've run a Thanksgiving race. Running keeps me going Down the Scale!

Five years and counting! I’m proud that since 2012, even before my gastric sleeve surgery, I’ve run a Thanksgiving race. Running keeps me going Down the Scale!

2016 is the year of change for me in many ways. I shared in my last blog  that we moved from California to Washington last month. I realized that running would keep me centered and help me feel at home in my new surroundings. I was sure that running my annual Turkey Trot race would help. Did it? Well, at times it did, and in times it made me more stressed about our move. Here’s what happened…

First, let me share that since 2012 I’ve run a Thanksgiving day race with my personal cheerleader, N. Not only did she get me to start running, but she has been with me at every Turkey Trot. She is always there at the finish line to snap a photo and congratulate me and go for coffee afterward. This would be the first year without her and I started to miss her from the day I signed up for a race here.

But I did sign up for a race! My two children decided to join me and I was thrilled. While this wouldn’t be the fun race through Golden Gate Park that I usually run, it would be exciting to race in a new place. The kids thought so, too….until the day before.

I never want to force my kids to do anything, so when they said they didn’t want to run, I tried to hold back my disappointment. OK, let me be honest, if I run by myself, I feel the need to push myself on time. I really wanted to make this run about family and not about the pace. Yes, I realize this is a silly notion that I am putting on myself. I’ve never claimed to have a sane mind, have I?

My son rallied the next morning and decided to join me! I was thrilled and quite impressed since it was raining. Oh, I don’t mind a sprinkle, but this was an official Washington downpour. We managed to keep positive and drive to the running store where the race was to begin and end.

My hope for this race was that we would meet some new friends. Well, this didn’t happen although everyone was friendly and chatty throughout the race. Since I was the only person wearing a turkey headband, or for that matter, anything turkey related, it was easy to start a conversation with us. Although we didn’t make new friends, we enjoyed the camaraderie that races have. I find that there’s always a positive energy at races.

We needed this positive energy as we ran the 5K through rain-soaked trails and unfamiliar neighborhoods. It was my son’s energy that kept me going and helped me forget this was a completely new course and that it was freezing cold! I think I learned just about everything there is to know about the current video games he plays, but we also talked about the changes we are facing in this move. While I always try to remain optimistic, I have to admit it’s always tough to move, even when it’s a positive change. I am thankful that Jack and I not only shared the run, but how we feel through this stressful time. He usually doesn’t run with me, but for this race he did and I was most thankful for it.

Running with my son is one of my greatest joys! He keeps me motivated and inspired! And up to date on all the latest video games during our runs.

Running with my son is one of my greatest joys! He keeps me motivated and inspired! And up to date on all the latest video games during our runs.

Well, he ran with me until the last quarter-mile and then he sprinted down the road to the finish. I didn’t mind as I was happy to see his face when I crossed the finish line. I missed my friend, N., but I was appreciative that Jack shared the moment with me. And he shared a trip to Starbucks with me, too, after the race. Coffee after a turkey trot is my tradition and I will keep to it, no matter where I am!

Running my 2016 Turkey Trot Race was tough physically and mentally, but I am thankful that I did it. It was a good reflection of the day-to-day struggles that I face during this stressful transition. More importantly, it was a good reminder that even when life is tough, or in this case cold and rainy, that there are positive things going on as well. Spending a day with my son and completing another 5K race are pretty special and I look forward to doing them again at next year’s Turkey Trot. While I know there are more stressful and difficult times ahead, I will keep looking for the positive as I continue to learn and grow during this transition and as I continue to go Down the Scale…

Finding the Familiar in the New

Jen First Lake Run

Here I am on my first run in my new hometown! I am very lucky to have a running trail around a beautiful lake by my home! No excuses not to run now!

Well, it’s been a while since I’ve posted here at Down the Scale. Honestly, I have a good reason! We moved from California to Washington! We’ve gone from noisy city living to the quiet wooded suburbs. It’s a big change for the entire family. New schools for the kids. New job for the hubby. New everything for me. Well, today I found one familiar thing in my new life…running.

Yes, I finally went out for a run this morning. Well, more like a walk/jog/run. It was slow and I’d like to blame my pace on the incredible new scenery, but in fact, it’s the first run I’ve done in a month. Yes, a month. Forgive me fellow runners, for I have sinned. Yes, I let my running slide in the midst of our move.

Actually, it was easy to let everything slide during this move. Bad eating habits and little sleep become the norm during the past month. While it’s fun to have treats and drink sugared coffee drinks at times, after a while it becomes old. I never thought I would believe that, but when I think about how my body felt over the past month, I know it’s not the comfortable me. It reminds me of the old me who didn’t know how important and rewarding that eating well could be.

It felt great to put my running shoes on once again! Keeping healthy, no matter what the circumstances, is so important!

It felt great to put my running shoes on once again! Keeping healthy, no matter what the circumstances, is so important!

So today’s run was slow and involved more huffing and puffing than I’d care to admit, but it still felt good. Being outdoors, especially in a new and beautiful setting, was just what my body and soul needed. It took me away from the boxes, the struggles of new schools and routines and reminded me to take care of myself. Just 30 minutes of exercise helped me to clear my lungs, but more importantly my head.

Oh, the boxes and stress and worry of the move will be here for a bit, but I’ll get through it. I’ve moved many times before, but this time I have more “tools” to deal with it. Since having my gastric sleeve surgery, I’ve learned to take on new challenges with the strength, courage, and determination that I now know that I have as I go back Down the Scale…

Pretending to be Wonder Woman

While it's not the most elaborate costume, I am participating in Halloween this year. Here's to enjoying the spirit of Halloween!

While it’s not the most elaborate costume, I am participating in Halloween this year. Here’s to enjoying the spirit of Halloween!

Happy Halloween!  Normally, I go all out and dress up like Snow White or Joy from the movie “Inside and Out”, but this year I went simple.  Just a Wonder Woman T-shirt and crown is all I can muster up.  I hope that dressing like a super hero will make me feel more like one this year.

Why do I want to feel like a super hero?  Well, we’re in the midst of a very quick out-of-state move.  It’s a very positive move, but even good change is hard.  It’s difficult to say goodbye to friends, places and the “known.”  We’re heading into the unknown with about two-weeks to do it and let’s just say it’s crazy!

My healthy habits, both mental and physical, have fallen a bit to the way side, but not horribly so.  Well, I haven’t been running, I am walking as much as possible and I’m trying to eat healthy.  Although I throughly plan to indulge in some candy tonight!

So, maybe I am a bit more like Wonder Woman than I thought.  Even she has ups and downs, too.  You know what, I’m going to wear my costume proudly today and be positive about all the things I am getting right during this hectic time!  I’ll enjoy Halloween and be Wonder Woman today even if I’m not always her when I go Down the Scale…

Let’s Get Uncomfortable

“You’ve become comfortable.”

Those important and truthful words were simply stated last week by my friend, N. She is one of my strongest supporters since I began my weight loss journey. She is also my most honest friend. She is brave enough to speak the truth even when I don’t want to hear it. That is the sign of a true friend.

“You’re right.”

Most people would consider this a "before and after" photo, but I like to think of it as a "before and my current state" photo. My weight loss journey continues to evolve as I strive to be the healthiest person I can be!

Most people would consider this a “before and after” photo, but I like to think of it as a “before and my current state” photo. My weight loss journey continues to evolve as I strive to be the healthiest person I can be!

That was my immediate response to N. When you speak without thinking, without filtering your spoken words, you know you’re sharing your truth.

Why did I agree I’ve become comfortable? Because I feel stagnant in my journey to become a healthy person. No, it’s not just about losing weight; it’s about physical and mental progress. For me, becoming comfortable can lead to falling, even jumping, backward. This is not what I want.

I’ve become complacent in terms of my physical health. The weight I gained over this past year is still here. I am used to it. And if I felt like this was where I wanted to be, that would be OK, but I don’t. I don’t like my tight jeans. I don’t like the new extra jiggle in my arms. When I’m honest with myself, I am not happy with my body now.

I’ve also eased off on my physical fitness. Having run my first half-marathon in May, I should set a new goal. I like having goals. I unabashedly admit I like to check off boxes on my own to-do list. I like something to focus on down the road. I’ve become too comfortable with running two to three miles twice a week and one spin class. While it’s great that I do have an exercise routine, I’ve been comfortable just keeping the same pace and exertion.

The biggest area I’ve become comfortable with is eating. Yes, my gastric sleeve stomach keeps me from overeating, but I admit I have been snacking more. The protein bars I claim to buy for meals have turned into candy bar snacks. It’s easy to slip back into poor eating habits. “I’ll starting eating less and drinking more water” is my new Sunday night mantra.

Now that I’m being honest with myself, what do I do next? Staying comfortable is not an option. I need to push myself to get over this plateau and stop the backward sliding into poor habits. I want to get to the next level of mental and physical fitness. This means being uncomfortable. It doesn’t mean forgetting where I’ve come from, though.  This just means reminding myself of the success I’ve achieved. I’ve come along way, baby! I’m maintaining a huge weight loss, exercising regularly, and, for the most part, eating healthier. Yes, I am proud of where I am, but I know I can do better. I can be better.

And this is what I’m going to do to get to the next level of health: I’m going to get uncomfortable:

*It’s time to weigh myself weekly. While I’m a firm believer that the scale isn’t the end all, be all of fitness, it does give me a tangible indicator of where my health is going. My blog isn’t called “Down the Scale” for nothing!

*Crank up the physical intensity. I already started last week at spin class by turning up the resistance on my bike. I ran faster and longer on this morning’s run. Sure, I was tired after each outing, but my head and body felt better. Pushing through the initial pain made me improve. I still need to come up with a tangible goal like last year’s half-marathon, but starting to challenge myself in my every day life is a good start!

*Back to eating mindfully. Snacking, for me, is a mindless activity. Snacking, even if it’s healthy food, is mostly done without thought. I do it for the instant gratification or to help ignore stress, pain or depression. I promise to take the time to think about why I’m eating. I know this will be the most uncomfortable step in my continuing journey. It’s easier to ignore my feelings by eating. That is my lifelong struggle.

When I began sharing my experiences, I thought I would have a definite before and after photo and story. Yes, I have before photos, but the after photos and stories are just landmarks on my personal map. Sometimes these landmarks are strong and majestic, but some times they are more weak and ugly. And by ugly I mean negative, unhappy and dull. They are not the places you want to stop at when looking at a map, but I’ve learned I can get through those places.

When I am complacent in taking care of my body, mind, and soul, I slide back into bad habits and negative thinking. It’s easy to be comfortable in the dark. Pushing out of the dark and into the light is hard, sometimes frightening and it is definitely not a straight line type of journey. For me, stepping forward after going backward is always worth it. Being truthful is hard! Here I go being honest as I seek out new, positive landmarks on my journey Down the Scale….

Cooking and Weight Loss Go Hand in Hand

I love cooking with my kids!  And maybe one day, I'll get them to chop the onions!

I love cooking with my kids! And maybe one day, I’ll get them to chop the onions!

You learn many things when you start a weight loss journey. Of course you learn about exercising and eating right. You learn about taking care of your head and heart as well as your body. One of the more practical things I learned over the past three years is to cook. Yes, I could cook before my gastric sleeve surgery, but I’ve realized that I’m actually a better cook now than I was before I lost weight.

I can definitely attribute some of my adult weight gain to my cooking skills…well, my lack there of cooking skills. I claimed it was easier and cheaper just to get take-out or buy frozen meals since I lived on my own. I lived so close to quick and cheap take-out restaurants so it was convenient as well.

When I moved in with my husband, we weren’t the best at cooking at home either. Occasionally we would be inspired to cook new foods, but most of the time we just made pasta dishes since they were quick and simple. And when we added two children to the family, cooking became another chore, another necessity to keep the kids happy and heathy. Take out food, frozen meals, and once the kids could sit at a restaurant without too much damage, eating out were just the easiest ways to eat.

Now I can’t say that post gastric sleeve surgery meant I was suddenly the next Julia Child. For the first few months, food was a chore and I wasn’t really interested in expanding my cooking skills. And while I did start to cook at home more often, it’s really been the past year that I’ve made more of an effort. When I started to analyze labels and food costs I decided to make a change. I knew by cooking at home I would eat better, my family would eat better, and more importantly, I would set a better example for my children. How can I send them out into the world and expect them to cook on their own if I haven’t shown them?

So what am I cooking these days? Here are a few examples:

  • Crock pot meals are awesome! Really, there’s nothing better than to come home in the afternoon to the smell of a home cooked meal! Now, there is some prep work to making a crock pot meal like browning meat or chopping vegetables. Of course, there are recipes that are just a protein thrown in with a canned soup, but I avoid those since they’re full of sodium and not always the tastiest. Here are a few of my favorite meals:
  • The oven is also your friend! As much as I love my crock pot, I’ve found a number of easy meals to make in the oven. Some of my regulars are:
    • Crispy Chicken Thighs. These are boneless and skinless, but with just a bit of seasoning and olive oil, this recipe reminds me a bit of fried chicken. Not only is it healthier than fried chicken, it’s easier to make. https://www.pinterest.com/pin/269512358930672295/
    • Baked Fish. I admit I wasn’t a big fan of fish in the past. Once I realized that fish really is good for you and doesn’t have many calories, I became a convert. I still only like the meaty white fish, but it’s a start. I buy wild caught Mahi Mahi from Trader Joe’s and with just a little olive oil spray, seasonings, and lemon, it makes a great meal in less than 15 minutes.
    • Zucchini lasagna. First, let me say, this takes a bit of prep work. Sure, using pasta noodles instead of zucchini would make it easier, but I think the zucchini actually tastes better than pasta and, of course, it’s fewer calories! I’ve recruited the whole family to help me make this dish and that in itself makes it a fantastic meal! https://www.pinterest.com/pin/269512358930794427/
  • Prepared meals are a necessity, too! Listen, we all have days when dinner needs to be quick and easy. Here are a few meals that make my life a little easier some days:
    • Prepared salads are fast, easy and tasty. Trader Joe’s has a wonderful selection of salads, but you really need to read the labels. I always check the calories on each salad. Remember, salad doesn’t always equal healthy. Salad dressings and toppings can be full of fats, sugars, and calories. My current favorite is the Lemon Chicken & Arugula Salad. It’s a nice mix of flavors and only 300 calories for the whole package!
    • Pre-seasoned meats. While I mentioned earlier I’m not a big fan of crock pot meals made with canned soups, there are days I don’t have a lot of time to prep a meal. My go-to pre-seasoned meat is Trader Joe’s Cabernet Beef Pot Roast. It’s flavorful and we always have leftovers. Some days, you just need to let someone else do some of the work for you.

Again, I’m not a fancy cook by any means, but I’ve learned a few tricks to make my meals better:

  • Flavored salts go a long way to make food better. Almost every day I use Eatwell Farms flavored salts that I buy at our local farmers’ market. Rosemary salt goes on thinly cut pork chops while heirloom tomato salt is perfect on roasted vegetables. To add more flavor to baked fish, I use the lemon salt.
  • Switch things up! I admit that I get in a rut when it comes to cooking. I tend to do the same meals over and over. While it does make life easier, it also makes dinner boring. I’ve learned to mix things up; not every Tuesday needs to be Taco Tuesday. I also plan to change how we eat our favorite meals like fish. Baked fish is great, but why not make it into fish tacos?
  • Getting the whole family involved in cooking is fun. Of course my kids love to bake cookies every Christmas, but I finally noticed that they enjoy cooking all year round. My kids love to help in the kitchen and I’ve learned that they can do more than I realized. Somehow I always end up being the one to chop onions, but they like to chop other vegetables and brown the meats on the stove. The zucchini lasagna has become a family meal from prep to cooking to eating!

Don’t get me wrong, we still enjoy the occasional take-out meal and restaurants. Who doesn’t? And sometimes you have to eat the best and quickest way you can that night. But now that I put effort into meal planning and recruited the best sous chefs, we have better meals. Learning to cook and appreciating healthy and tasty food is one of the best results of my healthier lifestyle. The fact that I am sharing this with my children is even better. I am thankful I can share this positive effect of my weight loss journey as I continue to go Down the Scale…

I love that the whole family takes part in cooking dinner.  Zucchini Lasagna is our current favorite!

I love that the whole family takes part in cooking dinner. Zucchini Lasagna is our current favorite!