Monday, February 25, 2013

Single, Sanity, & Chicken Noodle Soup

Days like this are truly challenging for me.  My daughter woke up sick...throwing up sick.  Aside from the vomiting, she complained of stomach aches & headaches.  She had no fever, so I was sure it wasn't the flu.  She was ill just a week ago.  She wasn't throwing up then but she did play it safe & ate soup.  I had no soup left in the house.  I don't like canned soups at all.  They are loaded full of sodium, chemicals, & pesticides.  The vegetables & noodles are mush & in general they have no flavor.  They taste like salty broth.  That's it.  Nevertheless, when I run out of homemade that I have prepared ahead & frozen, and don't have time to make more, I will resort to canned soups.

Today, however, I was determined my daughter would not have to suck down that canned junk!  I was not able to be home with her.  She is seventeen & perfectly capable of taking care of herself, but it doesn't change my feeling of needing to be home to care for her only a mother can.  Being a single mom is at it's most challenging when my kids are sick.  It is especially so with the job I have now.  I am not allowed to use sick leave to be home with my kids.  I have to use vacation time.  I get only 15 days a year.  This began this year.  Up to this year, I got only 10 days a year.  Having to use vacation for sick kids means not being able to take vacation time for any other reason or leaving the child home alone to care for themselves.

I had to work a full 8 hour day.  My day didn't end there, though.  I had agreed to swap days I teach spin class, so I had to teach that before I could leave the campus.  That had me leaving the campus at 6pm.  I knew I didn't have everything I needed to make the chicken noodle soup, so I had to go the store before I could go home.  Sure, I could have just bought the canned soup & been done with the matter.  To me, this was unacceptable.  My daughter has had numerous health problems since she was 12 years old.  Not a single physician has been able to diagnose what causes her to be nauseated & dizzy on a daily basis.  I already knew but after watching the documentary "Food Matters" I was convinced of it that our food can either heal us or make us sick.  Socrates said "Let thy food be thy medicine and let thy medicine be thy food."  After taking my daughter off the allergy & asthma meds she had been on since she was 4 in an attempt to make her symptoms less severe & it working, I decided the next thing we needed to try was cleaning up her diet.

She has gained about 30 pounds since she started working last August.  She works at a Chinese restaurant.  She eats junk there & eats junk most of the time when she is not under my watch.  For the first time in her life, she has body image issues...along with her health problems getting bad again.  She agreed to start eating better & has been taking direction from me.  In addition to eating better, I told her the next thing we needed to do was try making that food cleaner.  Making the food cleaner means more organic, whole options.  Organic foods are not produced with the chemicals of non-organic foods.  Those chemicals make us sick.  Period.

This is why I opted to make her chicken noodle soup from scratch.  She deserves the best.  Making a sacrifice of time is the least I can do for her.  Did I want to sit down & take a load off...after working all day...after teaching a 45 minute spin class...after grocery shopping...of course I did!  But she needs me & this is what she needs right now.  It took me a total of an hour, start to finish.  My chicken noodle soup, like my chili, spaghetti sauce, lasagna, & a few other things, has no recipe.  I'll attempt to give an approximation of quantities & build a recipe.

1-1.5 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breast
1 medium yellow onion
4 cups water
Himalayan Sea Salt
ground black pepper
4 medium carrots
6-8 celery stalks
1 tsp. fresh thyme
1/2 Tbsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. minced ginger
1.5 cups no yolks noodles
2 cups water
1 cup vegetable broth, low sodium

Add water to a large dutch oven.  Dice the yellow onion.  Add chicken (whole) & onion to dutch oven.  Grind in the sea salt with a 3-4 turns of the grinder.  Add in a couple of dashes of black pepper.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer.  Simmer 20-30 minutes until chicken is cooked through.

Remove chicken from broth.  Set aside to cool.  Add all remaining ingredients to the pot.  Dice the chicken into bite size pieces and add to the pot.  Return to a boil.  Reduce and simmer 8 minutes, until carrots are fork-tender...NOT mushy!

This makes 6-8, 1-1.5 cup, servings, and should be under 200 calories per serving.

Making this made battling to meet deadlines at work, being the best instructor to my class, & the stress of not being able to be home with my daughter, where I really wanted to be, worth it.  Making this soup for my sick child meant I have the ability to still help my child, to be the best mother I can for her, regardless of our circumstances. This one hour chore made better the whole day, for my daughter's health, for my sanity.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Single Friday: This is How We Roll

The social life of a single mom is tha shit!  You will NOT believe what I'm doin ta-nite!

My girl and I are cuttin it up in da house!  The beats are rockin...tha boys are fly...tha base is bumpin

I'm just playin'!!!  Had ya goin!!!

My daughter and I are watching "Pitch Perfect."  I love the old school songs they brought back.  We are laughing and rocking, and singing along the whole time.  Afterward...guess...I'm gonna get my sweat on!

Does this single mom know how to rock a Friday night or what!

THE Single-Most Effective Weight Loss Method, Guaranteed to Work

The latest and greatest magic pill is now available for YOU!  All you have to do is swallow and the pill does all the work.  Wake up tomorrow a brand new YOU!

Sound familiar?  Okay, so maybe not in those exact words!  You get the point the though.  The media is constantly capitalizing on our need for instant gratification.  If you live inside a city limit, even in the smallest town, I’m sure you have…at the very least…a convenience store that sells food they have fried up and put on display in a nice little warming cabinet for you to drool over as you make your selections.  We have become a “drive-thru” society.

Simply waiting 1-2 minutes on the microwave to reheat or cook our meal at the moment seems an eternity because “oh my god, I’m starving!”  First, NO you are NOT starving!  Few people who say that phrase are actually starving.  Are you hungry? Certainly, I’m sure you are, but not starving.  Trash that phrase because it is a painful insult to those desperate people who are ACTUALLY starving.  Yes, I went there! Get over it!

Back on topic…INSTANT!  Instant oatmeal!  Instant breakfast!  Instant, instant, instant!  The only thing our INSTANT has gotten us is lazy and as a result, overweight, obese, morbidly obese.  So many people know they need to lose weight, not just to look the way they want to look but for their overall well-being.  They are taking prescription drugs to make better the symptoms of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, bladder disease, kidney infections, bladder infections, joint pains, muscle pains, varicose veins, on so on.  They pay their physician just to walk through the door of the physician’s office, then they pay the labs who test the blood/urine taken at the doctor’s office, the x-ray lab to take and read x-rays…okay, so you’re following me now!

These people start down the road on their journey to lose weight.  After three or four days, maybe even a week, they already start losing hope because they lost only 2 pounds!  TWO pounds!  “I can’t believe I lost only two pounds!  I’m tracking my calories and I’m working out.  Why am I not losing more weight!!”  Uh….maybe because it’s only been a few days?  Hun, you didn’t get to be 25/50/100 pounds overweight over night!  It is NOT going to come off over night!  An average weight loss of 2 pounds per week is sustainable for the long-term.  Don’t get discouraged and don’t lose sight of your goal.

A few will take this advice and keep going.  They will reap the reward in 2-3 months, when they have lost 25-50 pounds.  They will be encouraged, motivated, and driven to keep up the new lifestyle that has added the pep in their step.

Sadly, a few of these people won’t be happy at all with even the smallest success.  They will give up because it didn’t happen as quickly as they expected.  The will repeat this vicious cycle over and over and over.  Some will eventually get it and be happy in their new lifestyle.  Most will continue to fall victim to the latest fad diet, gimmick, and gizmo to hit the market year after year and wonder why they just can’t lose the weight.

A few of those have the doubts in the beginning and choose to keep going will see the reward of their effort in the first 2-3 months, also, and be happy.  They, too, will continue with what they have been doing to lose that weight.  These people, however, will hit a wall.  They will stop losing weight and some will even start to regain weight, not because they have changed what they are doing, but because of WHAT they are doing.  These people are those who believe in the myth “eat less, lose more.”

These people have put themselves on a starvation diet under the guise of losing weight faster because they are eating less.  When we look closer into what they are eating, we find that they may be eating somewhere in ball park of 600-900 calories a day.  The average person (if you’ve ever read a nutrition label, it states it there) consumes 2000 calories a day just to MAINTAIN their weight.  This means these people are consuming 1100-1400 calories below the daily recommended level.  To lose 2 lbs per week, the average person needs to create a surplus of 1000 calories per day, or 7000 calories per week.

Consuming less than 1200 calories a day will cause your metabolism to slow down.  Your metabolism is what burns the fat.  Ones intent should be to speed up the metabolism so that it works more efficiently and burns fat at a higher rate.  So, how does a person who wants to lose 2 lbs per week create the surplus required for that rate of loss?

First, let me preface this by saying that EVERYONE should first consult a physician BEFORE starting a new exercise routine or change in nutrition, especially those who are obese or morbidly obese or elderly. 

Now, some calorie reduction is required but the reduction is based upon ones daily activity level.  For a person who has a desk job, their job is sedentary.  A person who does hard, manual labor has a very active job.  These two individuals will require different caloric consumptions to meet their goals.  They will also require different activity changes in their lifestyles.

Ideally, it is most accurate to have a professional assess your fitness level and metabolic rate (rate at which you burn calories).  This determines your individual calorie consumption for maintaining current weight.  I’ve had mine done.  At the time, I weighed 146lbs at 5’8”.  My fitness level, together with my activity lifestyle and metabolic rate, determined my daily maintenance calorie consumption to be 1800 calories.  For the sake of ease and example, we will use the government’s determined level of 2000 calories.

The sedentary person can start with that daily recommended calorie consumption for maintenance, 2000 calories.  This person does little more than a brisk walk between meetings for any kind of exercise on a daily basis.  To lose 2 lbs per week, he/she needs to create a surplus of 1000 calories per day.  Now, simply restricting calories consumed would put this person eating only 1000 calories per day.  THIS IS NOT HEALTHY!  This cannot be done long-term.  Sure, short-term, this person will lose weight.  However, over time, their body will fall into “starvation mode.”  I will go more into this in a moment.

How does this sedentary person, then, create the necessary surplus but still keep the consumed calories at or above 1200 calories per day?  They’ve only cut 800 calories per day in what they eat.  They still need to cut another 200 calories.  Guess what! They MUST get moving!  This person doesn’t necessarily have to jump right into sports conditioning.  A person who has never done any kind of formal exercise is likely highly opposed to anything of the sort.  It is a fear of the unknown.  That’s okay!  They don’t have to do formal exercise.  They do, however, have to find a way to get their heart rate up to a level at which it is difficult to speak more than a word or two at a time for at least 30 minutes a day.  This will give them the calorie burn they need to meet their goal.  This 30 minutes doesn’t have to be done all at once.  It can be done in only 10minutes, 3 times a day, or 5 minutes, 6 times a day, or 15 minutes, 2 times a day, whatever is necessary to meet the goal.

Let’s look at our very active, hard laborer.  He works out in the sun all day, bending, climbing, stooping, hitting, whatever it is he does for a living.  He gets plenty of physical activity in and likely isn’t too fond of the idea of doing more after a long day at work.  That’s okay!  He doesn’t have to!  This guy simply needs to get his caloric intake down to 1200 calories per day and he will lose the weight.  However, I would strongly encourage this guy to, in the very least, invest in or borrow a heart rate monitor.  It needs to be one that requires user-specific data, such as, height, gender, and weight.  I would then ask him to wear that heart rate monitor for a 24 hour period during a workday to better determine his daily burn, given his current activity level.  Why?  He likely burns 2000-3000 calories per day, depending on his height and weight and the type of labor in which he engages.  This be the case, to lose 2 lbs per week by cutting 1000 calories per day, he still needs to consumer 1200-2000 calories per day.  If his daily burn is 3000 calories and he is consuming only 1200 calories, he crash and burn for lack of energy because his body isn’t getting the minimum fuel it needs just to get through the day. 

Losing weight isn’t difficult.  Fighting the battle in your own mind against your own will is difficult.  Take the time to do some deep self-reflection.  Be 100% honest with yourself about why you make the choices you make.  Point-forward, ask yourself if the choice you are making is going to push to closer to where you want to be.  Be 100% honest.  The very second you start to negotiate and bargain with yourself take a step back, be honest, and tell yourself that choice is NOT the RIGHT choice for you and back away.  The first 2, 3, 7, 10, or 20 times you do this will be difficult, but each one will be easier than the last.  Over time, you will have created a positive, healthy habit that will constantly push you toward your goal, no matter it be weight loss, career advancement, fitness…no matter what…you WILL BE succeeding!  YOU.CAN.DO.THIS!!!

Resources & References
Notice the Mayo Clinic References at the bottom.  I like because the articles can be read by the average person, no medical to English translation needed.
Calculate calries needed to lose weight
Crash/Yo-Yo/Fad/Extreme Diets
Shape Magazine - I love this magazine for recipes, free workouts, and inspiration.