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Oh, Spinach, how I love you

We use a lot of spinach in our house.  A lot.  We buy a huge tub of organic spinach in the beginning of the week and it’s most definitely gone by the weekend – or sooner.  Spinach is probably the most popular dark, leafy green, and for good reason.

We love it, not only for its versatility, or its flavor, but also for the mean nutritional benefits it has to offer.  According to Greens Glorious Greens!, one of my favorite “kitchen books”, spinach is high in vitamins A, C, and E, the vitamins shown to reduce the risk of cancer.  It also makes the top-10 list of fruits and vegetables with the highest sources of carotenoids, a large family of nutrients (that includes beta-carotene) being studied for preventing disease.  Spinach also fulfills the daily requirement for folacin (aka. folate/folic acid – especially important in women trying to become pregnant or that are pregnant, as well as in infants and children), and contains more iron and oxalic acid than most other greens!

So, obviously the facts can’t be disputed.  Spinach is a nutritional powerhouse, and it’s really easy to include it in your diet.  I can (and do!) add spinach to almost every meal.

Oh, Spinach, how I love you.  Let me count the ways …

My favorite summer-time breakfast is an egg-white omelette and fruit.  The only thing better than an egg-white omelette with fruit?  An egg-white and spinach omelette with fruit! It’s super easy to add the spinach to this meal and get your extra vitamins in.  I finely chop a couple of handfuls of spinach, throw them into my heated and sprayed saute pan white I beat my eggs.  The spinach cooks in 2 minutes or less.  Once its wilted, I pour the spinach into my eggs, beat them a couple more times (sorry eggs), and pour everything in the pan to cook.  Couldn’t be easier, or yummier.

My second favorite summer-time breakfast is a smoothie … even a green one.  Don’t be dismayed by the color of this smoothie.  It.  Is.  Delicious.  Even my toddler will drink it.  Shoot, even my husband will drink it!  This one could quite possibly even be easier than the eggs.

All you have to do is add a couple of handfuls of raw baby spinach to 8 ounces of whatever liquid you use in your smoothies.  We use unsweetened almond or coconut milk.  Blend the spinach and the milk together before you add your other ingredients.  After the spinach and the milk are blended together, I usually add a banana, a handful of blueberries, maybe a tablespoon of ground flaxseed, and maybe a scoop of brown rice protein powder.  You can really add anything you want to the spinach-milk mix.  You can NOT taste the spinach, and you’re getting tons of nutrients in without even noticing.

Drink it in a wine glass to make yourself feel a little bit more fabulous in the morning.  I do it all the time and the hubs makes fun of me … but I love it.

One of the hubs favorite ways to have spinach is sautéed.  In the  Greens Glorious Greens! book, they say this is how you make Italian spinach.  That may be true – this is how we grew up eating it – so we just call it spinach ;)  This is also super easy (are you noticing a trend here?) To saute spinach, all I do is thinly slice two cloves of garlic and add them to a heated saute pan that has been lightly sprayed with cooking oil.  I heat the garlic until it begins to become transparent and fragrant.  Then, I throw in a few large handfuls of spinach.  When you are cooking spinach it cooks down a LOT.  What may seem like a lot of greens, after a few mins will almost disappear.  I toss the spinach around in the heated pan for a few minutes – it will likely only take 2 to 4 minutes to cook.

Once it’s done, I serve it as a side, or as I did today, as a bed for organic grilled chicken breasts for the hub’s lunch bag.

The last thing I do with spinach on a daily basis, is pretty much a no-brainer … I use it as a base for my salads instead of using lettuce.  I like the texture better, and its more nutrient rich.  Like I said, a no brainer.

The additions to my salad can vary from day-to-day, based on what’s in the fridge, or what I feel like having.  Today I added a tomato, mushrooms, avocado, carrots, cucumber, celery, and a sprinkle of goat cheese.  I’ve been using Annie’s Organic Balsamic to dress my salads lately if I don’t dress them myself.  It’s awesome — definitely give it a try if you come across it.

So, those my friends, are the many ways I fit spinach into our meals every day. And the reason that my giant tub of spinach that I bought only 3 days ago looks like this:

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Getting a Little Uncomfortable

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I’m a creature of habit.  My husband is my high school sweetheart – we’ve been together for almost 11 years.  We bought my grandparent’s house as our first home – the home in which I spent my first 5 years of life, and nearly every Sunday thereafter.  I’ve been going to the same gym for 8 years, the same hairdresser for 8, the same nail girl for 6.  I eat basically the same foods Monday through Friday on a seasonal basis almost all year-long.  Maybe it’s because I’ve been able to figure out what works for me and stuck with it, but I also must admit that in part, it’s due to the fact that I’m afraid of change.  I’m one of those people who has a clearly defined comfort zone and has a difficult time stepping outside of it.  At least I used to be.

As of late, or really, since I’ve become a Mom, I’ve been forced out of my comfort zone more frequently than I have cared for. Each of these times I’ve learned something, and more often than not, I’ve learned a lesson about myself.  In general I’ve found that I don’t give myself enough credit.  I under-estimate my intelligence, my strength, my humor, my adaptability, etc. For me, leaving my comfort zone doesn’t necessarily mean doing something crazy, or totally out-of-the-box.  A lot of the time it just means doing something completely benign.  Like running with a friend, or going to a play-date with a few other moms and kiddos that I don’t really know very well. I’m sure to many the fact that something so seemingly normal is uncomfortable to me is probably pretty weird.  For me …. it’s comfortable.

I think in most cases our comfort zones are made of confidence and security and stepping out of them leaves us in a vulnerable state where we arent exaclty sure what to expect.  I know how I run on my own – how I pace myself, what playlist gets me going, whether I want to sing outloud, take a walk break, or do some speed work. I don’t know how my friend runs.  Whether she likes to listen to music or expects me to chat, whether she’ll want to take a walk break at all, or keeps close track of her pace on her Garmin.  I know how I play with my toddler, what snacks she likes, what her favorite games and toys are, when she needs a time-out, or a quiet book-break.  I don’t know how other moms deal with their kiddo’s terrible-two fits, or how a group of four nearly two-year-old girls will play together for several hours in a home that is not theirs, and with toys that I can almost guarantee there are not quadruplets of.  So, today when I was invited to do each of these things – run with a friend, and have a play-date with some moms and kiddos that I don’t really know very well – I immediately said, YES!  And then I remembered that I would be completely out of my comfort zone.

A few years ago I would’ve declined both invitations, assuming that it would be a waste to run with someone else, because I would definitely slow them down and make a fool of myself, and if I got together with a group of girls I didn’t really know, I would be the ugliest, dumbest, and least funny, or relevant person there.  It irks me to even say that I would have felt that way, but it’s true.  Becoming a Mom has instilled a desire within me to love myself and to believe in myself so that my daughter could love and believe in me, but more importantly, so she would know how to love and believe in herself.  Raising a little girl is my life’s greatest challenge.  I want her to be everything that I am, everything that I wanted to be, strived to be, failed to be, dreamed of being, and more.  The old saying “monkey see, monkey do” is quite true, I think, in parenting.  Modeling a behavior is the quickest way to get your child to catch on and do it themselves.  So, how can I expect that she challenge herself to try new things if I don’t do it?

Maybe I will be slower than my friend during our run on Thursday.  But maybe I won’t.  And maybe when G and I get together with her friends and their moms on Friday I won’t have anything interesting to add, or I’ll forget how to parent …. but I doubt it.  I’m sure that I’ll still be alive on Saturday, and probably more comfortable than ever.

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A Sunrise Run

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After making my commitment to run the Diva Half Marathon here on the blog, and subsequently receiving comments from two of my favorite bloggers (!!!) (and possibly the only 2 people that read the blog besides me and my dad – let’s be real, everyone checks their stats) I felt extra committed to sticking to what I said.  (Wow — it’s true what CaitlinHTP says about the blog being a source of accountability)!

I havent been on a training run since last September when I was training for my full marathon, and I havent been on an early morning run since then either.  I feel so guilty when I have to ask my husband for help with the baby in the morning before he goes to work, but this morning I put my big girl panties on and did it.  Of course, he obliged, and I hit the streets at 5:30am.

I did a quick out and back as per Hal Higdon’s training plan.  3.5 miles sounded so short to me, but I guess since I havent done an outdoor run in a while, it started out a bit tougher than I expected.  Plus, I think I was a little bit anxious because I want to be successful in this endeavor.  I did 1.75 miles out and on my way back I got to see the sun come over the horizon. A big smile came across my face, and I relaxed.  I remembered that I’ve been here before – I done this training run and countless others, and that I’ve run multiple half marathons during my training for the full, and that I would be OK.  The rest of my run was enjoyable and seemed effortless.  I finished up at 32:27 with an average pace of 9:32. It should be noted that I don’t intend to win the Diva … I just want to have some fun.

*I generally run between and 8 and 8:30 mile, but learned that for distance races I should add a minute to my pace – what do you all think?

So, first training run in the books, and feeling strong and excited, and remembering this morning to never discount how good a sunrise run can make you feel!

 

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Back to the Races

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I’ve only participated in two races before – one marathon (yes, I conquered the 26.2), and a 5k.  In that order.  I know it probably sounds absurd to have jumped right into a full marathon having no race experience at all, but I did it …. and I loved every painstaking moment of the experience.

In 2009 I had my very first (and only) baby.  Figuring out how to lose the baby weight is something that every new mom is challenged by, and I was no different.  Being that I had a September baby, my challenge was increased by finding a way to exercise in my home during the winter months.  So, as my “push present” I didn’t ask for diamonds … I asked for an elliptical.  It was effective during those first months of motherhood, but quickly lost it’s luster.  I found it difficult to motivate myself to climb on and want to sweat in between (far too close) nursing sessions, bouncing-the-baby-in-my-arms sessions, baby-wearing-while unloading-the-dish-washer-and-various-other-household-task sessions, and not-sleeping sessions.  I also grew very tired, very quickly of the monstrous machine taking up almost 1/3 of the space of my living room. Spring came quickly enough and I invested in a jogging stroller.  I had always wanted to be “a runner”, but never really got into running distances.   I might do a mile here, or two there, but in general, my pre-baby workouts were mostly made of things like kickboxing, elliptical-ing (at the gym), and spinning/cycling.  During the first months of warm weather, I ran with the jogger through my neighborhood streets, and worked my way up to completing four miles at a time.  Then one afternoon, I got a Team in Training brochure in the mail.

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I had heard of TNT before, and the work they had done to raise millions of dollars for cancer research, but I had never thought  of participating in an event with them.  I somehow convinced my mom to attend one of the informational meetings with me a couple of weeks later, and by the end of the meeting, we were both signed up to run a half-marathon 5 months later.  I found the training process with TNT to be AMAZING.  There was so much support, a clearly defined training schedule, and lots and lots of running buddies.

One gripe I have about being a stay-at-home mom is that I find it pretty difficult to get (or ask for because I’m kind of too proud to ask for help sometimes because I feel guilty -  shame on me – this is not a good quality) any kind of help with childcare, and thus hardly any time to do things alone — like run.  Having a clearly defined training schedule forced me to ask for help.  I asked everyone – I asked my husband (bless his heart, he woke up extra early almost every morning for four months Monday through Friday), I asked my parents, I asked my brothers, and I asked my in-laws.  I got all of the help that I asked for and then some.  Maybe I will write another post about the mental health benefits that come with finding some solo time for exercise (ie. time that your child is in someone else’s care rather than sitting in a bouncy seat, or playing with building blocks in front of your elliptical, or yelling from the seat of your jogger for more snacks).  For the first time since becoming a mother I found a bit of independence in training for my race.  ‘Twas a beautiful thing.

Back to marathon training.  As I said, I had originally signed up to run a half marathon with TNT.  I was really enjoying every mile that I put in, I was feeling really strong, and I was actually pretty good at running (surprising, save for my short Sicilian legs).  So, I felt inspired, and less than two months before the race, I doubled my commitment and changed my registration to the full 26.2.  It is an incredible accomplishment to have finished a full marathon.  I learned that less than 1% of the population has ever finished a full marathon, so, it’s pretty cool to be a part of such a small club.  Someday I’ll write a post on my actual marathon experience because it was eventful, and I learned several important lessons about myself, and about training.

The only race that I’ve run besides the marathon was a 5k that I ran pretty recently with my husband, sister-in-law, and my daughter.  (Technically she was a passenger … her Daddy pushed her in the jogger).  It was a REALLY cool experience to have done something like that with my family.  One of my goals as a mom is to make my child(ren?) understand the importance of, and find a love for activity.  It’s not about exercise, just about moving your body.  I think running races as a family, playing kickball as a family, baseball, golf, soccer whatever it may be – sends a GREAT message to kids.  Aside from the sentiment of the race, I found it to be an interesting experience for me.  I enjoyed the short distance because when I got my finishing time (26:42) I thought immediately “I can do better than that”.  A 5k is a nice short distance that is easy to play with.  I like the idea that I can try to improve my time and probably do it easily.  Unlike a marathon, which would require a lot more training, and, of course, is subject to a higher risk of injury, etc.

 

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So, I havent raced in a long time, or much at all, but it is one of those things that when you finish, you crave more, and more immediately.  I do anyway.  I love the atmosphere surrounding race day, I love the preparation for race day, and I love the sense of accomplishment that comes with finishing a race.  That said, today I decided that its time for another.  I’ve been toying with the idea of registering for the  Diva Half Marathon  since last year.  I’ve heard it’s a really fun race, and a half seems totally doable for me right now.  Being that I havent been running as much as I have been spinning, I’ve decided to be safe, and follow Hal Higdon’s half marathon training schedule for a novice.  I’m not a novice, but as I said, I havent been running much, and I’d rather say I’m a novice and be able to do more than I should, than follow the intermediate schedule and get an injury.  I’m starting late since it’s a 12 week schedule and the race is only 9 weeks away, but I think I’ll be ok.  Right now I should be in the middle of week 3.  I plan to just pick up there and hope for the best.

So, it’s back to the races for me, and I couldn’t be more excited!

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What’s up with that?

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The hubs and I love this skit on SNL.  I especially love Jason Sudeikis as the back up dancer in the Adidas track suit.

 

This morning I set out for a run – nothing out of the ordinary – I expected to get a quick 5-miler in, and run some errands before I had to pick up G from camp. I ran out my door, and onto my usual route, noticed that I felt especially strong and had no pain from my recovering injuries. Awesome — great start.

Suddenly I find myself looking at my Garmin which is telling me I’ve covered .49 miles.  Yep.  Half a mile, and I was already ready to quit. What’s up with that? Needless to say, my mind got the better of me and sadly, I only ran 1.5 miles before running straight back into my door.

I find it interesting how a work out can vary so greatly from day-to-day. Just last night I spun my little heart out for almost 90 mins, and loved every sweaty moment of it.  This morning’s experience was very different – despite my strong start, I wound up feeling tired faster, uninterested, and ended up with about a minute slower pace overall than I normally have.

I do think it’s important to encourage yourself throughout a workout when you’re not feeling into it.  I often repeat positive affirmations, remind myself why I’m out there, play games and break my remaining time or distance down into small increments that seem easy to conquer. Today, none of that was working for me. And you know what?  I am OK with that.

It has taken me a long time to get to a place where I can be OK with not getting a full (read; at least 500 calorie burn or at least an hour of sweaty, nasty, dirty work) workout in. For many years I was an all or nothing kind of girl, nearly killing myself in the name of being “skinny enough”. But today I can say I live a healthy, balanced lifestyle … and I am happy!!

For me, I find great comfort in knowing that I do the best I can for my body 95% of the time.  I make healthy food and lifestyle choices as often as I can.  (Green veggies? Check.  Plenty of water? Check.  Daily exercise? Check.)  Knowing that makes me more comfortable with the occasional not so healthy lifestyle choice. (Eating the toddler’s leftover pastina for dinner at 9:00 at night after getting home from a crazy day instead of steaming broccoli and broiling tofu?  Check.  Turning back in from your run after completing less than half of your goal? Check.)  I can feel OK about these couple of slip ups because I know that my next meal will be chock full of veggies, and my next workout will kick my butt.

So, as long as my good choices outweigh my not-so-good choices, I feel confident in knowing that there’s always tomorrow!

Do you have workouts or meals that don’t go as planned for you? How do you deal with the slip up?

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Hello World

Every time I find a new blog that I’m interested in, I look into its history to try to find the very first post.  I want to see how this blogger navigated the uncomfortable introduction of themself to the potential thousands of readers that they’d someday have.  (I mean, let’s be honest – everyone that starts a blog does so with the intention that people are going to read it.  Maybe even thousands of people. Maybe even more! Come on, Perez started somewhere didn’t he)?  I’ve started several blogs – maybe 4 – and only once have I gotten beyond the first post. 

First posts are so awkward.  They’re like the, “hi, my name’s Dana. What’s yours”? of the internet world. I was never much good at that, “hi my name is” thing either.  I suppose introductions in general are awkward.  How am I supposed to effectively communicate who I am, what I’m all about, what I love, what I’m passionate about - all in an introduction.  It’s not gonna happen.  I’m (obviously) a generally verbose, long-winded, wordy, sort of rambling kind of girl.  I don’t get straight to the point.  I gave you that birthday/Christmas/Valentine card that had a heart-felt message filling the 2 inside pages, and had that tiny arrow at the bottom, reminding you to flip to the back cover to find the rest of my very long (yet well written) note. Yeah.  That’s me. 

So, this first “Hello World” (as WordPress has kindly dubbed it for me) post isn’t going to let you know exactly who I am, or exactly what you’ll find here.  I’m not going to try to make that happen.  I think that if I try to do that 2 things will happen: 1 – I will certainly fail at it – as I said before, I was never very good at that introduction thing.  Plus, I’m sure there’s some sort of limit as to how long one post is allowed to be. And, 2 – I’m still not quite sure exactly what you’ll find here! This is not a food blog, or a fitness blog, or a fashion blog, or a pop culture blog, or a blog documenting the adventure that is being a stay-at-home mom to a rather adventurous toddler … although it may be an amalgamation of all of those things.  I love to dish about all of those things, and that is why I called this blog The Big Fat Skinny. I want to get right down to it – give you the big, fat skinny on all of those things that I love! It certainly is a sort of very general and varied group of interests, but hopefully some will find something interesting!

Happy reading!

Oh, so, hi!  My name’s Dana.  What’s yours?

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