I've been silent for a while, as I worked things out since my mid-August refresher, and I'm ready to share my new perspective on dealing with sugar and carb cravings. When these cravings start up, I ride them out like a wave. After the waves cease, my craving calm down, and I continue my journey from a more grounded place.
Ride your cravings out like a wave and then continue your journey.
I went off-program in Dec. and I struggled to get back on track for months. When I realized I needed help, that I had gained weight and I couldn't get back on track on my own, I went to a refresher. The first month after my refresher I felt great, motivated and on the right path.

Then the sugar and carb cravings were hitting me and hard. I pushed back equally hard and
I won. I thought a lot about what goes on in my head.  I looked at what happens when I choose to push back on sugar and carb cravings versus when I don't push back. I have a new perspective on my weight loss journey since my refresher.

Just Say No to Non-Key Foods

Every time I say yes, I teach my body that it can not trust me.
Every time I say yes, I want more and more sugar and carbs.

Every time I say no, I want sugar and carbs less and less.
Every time I say no, my body learns that it can trust me.

Each time I say no…it’s easier to say no tomorrow.
I choose to just say no to non-key foods.

Mix Thing Up in New Ways

I realized I was bored with my meals, both at home and at restaurants. I started changing that by trying new recipes. Hence the large number of recipes posted last week.

I found another way to switch things up. I usually only have one vegetable with my meat and one night I decided to have two small sides with my pulled pork: a side of corn and coleslaw. This was an easy change and something I plan to do more often.

Eat Smaller Portions

When I heated up my leftover pulled pork, I made my serving size smaller than usual. I intentionally gave myself a "normal" size portion instead of the supersize servings I've become accustomed to. This did not leave an easy option for me to go back for seconds. After dinner I wanted more, but I rode the wave and sure enough the hunger ceased. I'm retraining my brain that smaller portions are "enough." If I'm still hungry 30 minutes or more later, I'll eat more. The more I do this, the easier it becomes, because I have new memories of eating less and I'm satisfied with less. 

Return to What I Know Works

I know this program works. It feels good to be back on track and eating cleaner. I'm back to the basics and aiming for as close to 100% as humanly possible.

I've resumed my daily walking goal of 10,000 steps. I know that using a Fitbit helps me meet my step goals, so last week I replaced my Fitbit, which died 6 weeks earlier. There were a few days I didn't reach my step goal. However, looking a this from a positive perspective: I walked a lot more than I have in months.

This kind of accountability works for me. Plus my new Fitbit Charge 2 has animated features like a rocket ship that takes off when I reach my daily goal and another feature that  encourages me throughout the day by buzzing and asking questions like "wanna stroll?" It's a riot. I try to get up and walk when I get those messages, but I don't do it every time. Not yet at least.

Forgiveness is Key

After gaining weight this year, I felt ashamed and embarrassed. I knew feeling this way wasn't going to help me. I focused instead on a more positive thought: there was a time when I was happy to be this size, which is far smaller than I was five years ago.

I embraced the concept that this weight gain is simply a part of my journey. If weight loss was so easy, obesity would not exist.

I know that beating myself up for not being ON 100% is harmful. I know that even if don't meet my daily goals, I'm doing my best.

To be successful on this journey, I must forgive myself when I fall short and then let go.

Life After My Refresher 

At my refresher, I learned this weight loss phase of the key program is meant to be a phase we go through until we reach our goal size, then we go through maintenance, and then we maintain our goal size. We only return to weight loss phase a few times a year if we find ourselves at the tighter end of our goal size clothes.

After my refresher, I felt resolved to sprint to the finish line and that no little sweet thing was going to get between me and my goal size. I still feel this resolve today.

What about you? How do you do to push back on food cravings? What do you do to keep yourself motivated to stay on course?
A new twist on making fajitas, this recipe, by Lou Mayo the one handed Chef, bakes the ingredients in the oven instead of frying.
Oven Baked Fajitas
Ingredients
  • 1.5 pounds boneless (I used 4 Breasts) skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips 
  • Olive Oil 
  • 2 tsp chili powder 
  • 1 1/2 tsp cumin 
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder 
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano 
  • 1/4 tsp seasoned salt 
  • 1 (15 oz) can diced tomatoes (not drained) 
  • 1 medium onion, sliced 
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into strips 
  • 1 green bell pepper, cut into strips
Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. 
  2. Add a bit of Olive Oil to your baking dish and spread around with a paper towel. 
  3. Place chicken strips in the oiled baking dish. 
  4. In a small bowl combine the chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, dried oregano, salt and about 2-3 tbsp olive oil. 
  5. Drizzle the spice mixture over the chicken and stir to coat. 
  6. Next add the tomatoes, peppers, and onions to the dish and stir to combine. 
  7. Bake uncovered for 30-40 minutes or until chicken is cooked through and the vegetables are tender.
I'm on a roll with adding new recipes, as I'm in the "switching things up" mode! These Breakfast Cups, a recipe from key-friend Lou, offer a great way to make a few meals ahead.
Lou's Breakfast Cups
Place cooked breakfast sausage in the bottom and a little up the sides of muffin a tin.

Add any other ingredients you wish.
Breakfast sausage, diced peppers, eggs
 Bake at 325 for 20-30 min.
Breakfast Cups
Scramble some eggs and pour in the cups covering everything. I also put a whole egg on 6 of the cups instead of the scrambled just to test it out and I like the scrambled much more.
Here's another great recipe from Lou: Lou's Awesome Meatloaf, which you'll notice does not contain cheese or breadcrumbs (no longer allowed during the weight loss phase of the program).
My version of Lou's Awesome Meatloaf
Update 09/16/16: I made this yummy recipe today and as I prepared this I took photos to add to this recipe. I made two minor changes: 1) I didn't have cumin so none was added to my batch, and 2) I used red peppers instead green.

Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 finely chopped green onions
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1/2 green pepper, chopped
  • 2 ribs chopped celery
  • 6-8 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 2 1/2 lbs ground meat (I use 1 1/2 lbs beef and 1 lb pork)
  • 3 large eggs (this is essential as it acts as the binder)
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
Meatloaf ingredients
Directions

Melt the butter in medium skillet over medium/high heat.

Add the green onions, regular onions, green pepper, celery, and garlic and cook until softened.
Chop green onions, regular onions, red pepper, celery, and mince garlic
Add veggies to melted butter
Stir in salt, cumin, black pepper, and cook 1 minute.
Cook veggies 1 minute with salt, cumin, and pepper
Stir in ketchup simmer 2 minutes.
Simmer 2 more minutes after adding ketchup
Cool for a bit.

Heat your oven to 350 degrees.

Combine meat, eggs (lightly beaten) and Worcestershire in a large bowl.

Stir vegetable mixture into meat mixture until well blended (I just use my hands to mix it up).
Mix veggies into meat mixture with hands
Plop the mixture onto a sheet pan and free form into a loaf. I do it this way so it's not drowning in it's own grease.
Create a free form loaf with meat mixture
Bake for 70-90 minutes or until temperature of meat registers 160 degrees.

Cool, cut, plate and eat.
Meatloaf with side of coleslaw
Once again, our key-friends have dreamed up new ways to use cloud bread. Lou makes a key-friendly Ruben "sandwich" and in another recipe he makes a loaf of cloud bread and adds meatloaf between two slices. Another key friend uses cloud bread to make Cloud Fajitas. See recipe details below.
Cloud bread baked in a loaf pan
Cloud Bread Loaf

In this cloud bread loaf recipe, Lou added extra eggs and baked the cloud bread in a loaf pan, and the results: a nice loaf of cloud bread he could slice like regular bread and make sandwiches. 

Follow the standard Cloud Bread recipe except for this recipe:
  • add 5 eggs (instead of 3 eggs)
  • pour the cloud bread into a loaf pan
  • bake it longer
Lou made this loaf of cloud bread and
Meatloaf Cloud Bread Sandwich
Cloud Bread Ruben
Cloud Bread Ruben
Shrimp Cocktail Roll Up
Put a scoop of the cloud bread mixture on a warm dry frying pan and cooked it for a few then flipped it and squished it flat.
Shrimp Cocktail Roll Up
Cloud Fajitas
Cloud Fajitas
Cloud Bread Burger with Roasted Carrots
Cloud Bread Burger with Roasted Carrots
This recipe and post comes from our key friend Momomig who felt the need to contribute a recipe. Momomig says she's been working on adding to her repertoire of side dishes for her summertime grilling and making chicken, steak, chops, and burgers on the grill. She found this  Eggplant Lasagna is a welcomed ready-made side dish.

Keep in mind that they layers are THIN!!! This is the trick. Very little of anything at one time!

Peel a large eggplant and slice lengthwise as thinly as possible. Layer the slices on salted paper towels in a baking dish.

Layer: paper towel, salt, eggplant, salt, paper towel eggplant, etc.

Place a smaller baking dish on top and weigh it down with canned and bottled goods. Wait 20-30 minutes.

Remove each slice of eggplant and wipe any salt/liquid off. Dip into a shallow dish of egg beaters (or beaten egg), then into a shallow dish of finely grated Parmesan and/or Romano.

Shake off all excess - this is important!. Set aside until all slices are coated.

Heat olive oil in a skillet and begin to brown the eggplant in the pan. As each eggplant are finished cooking, place onto paper towels and blot.

Take a small amount of tomato sauce (I use Prego) and place a thin coating on a baking dish.

Place a layer of fried eggplant.

Put the THINNEST POSSIBLE slice of mozzarella from the deli on top and then a thin layer of tomato sauce, then the thinnest possible layer of ricotta cheese* thinned to spreading consistency (like warm peanut butter) with egg beaters, and then continue the layers. If done correctly, the eggplant is the star, and the cheese is secondary.

*I used the cottage cheese with egg instead of ricotta. Perfect. I beat the two together, to make the same consistency as ricotta. I used a whisk and I used a hand mixer. Hand mixer works best. Adding extra egg to the CC makes a very spreadable consistency that allows for extra thin layers.

This recipe is divine, and the thinner the layers, the better!

NOTES

About the cheese...I tried the lasagna without the mozzarella, and it was just as good. If you are even concerned about the Parmesan/Romano you can simply fry the eggplant until lightly browned. You may want to leave a bit of the salt on the eggplant, as the cheeses tend to add some flavor.

About the tomato sauce...you can use a tomato sauce with salt. Because of dietary restrictions, I use the Heart Smart Prego sauce, but a more flavorful sauce would help without the cheese.

About adjusting this recipe...I've made this recipe at least 4 ways:
  1. with cheeses
  2. without cheeses
  3. with only the Parmesan to create a "bread-like" consistency on the eggplant
  4. with cottage cheese and egg
I also made a version where I added a layer of grilled hamburger patties. It was gone in 2 days!

Suffice to say that there is really no wrong way to make this. For some reason, the eggplant takes on the consistency of noodles, and so long as you keep the liquid down, and the layers very thin, it seems to be foolproof. 
This is key-friendly "egg samich" comes from our key friend Lou. He has perfected cloud bread and has created many different ways to use cloud bread. In this instance, he uses cloud bread to make an "egg samich" on clouds grilled on a dry skillet.

Instructions: follow the recipe for cloud bread, fry an egg or two, place the eggs between 2 cloud breads, place sandwich on dry skillet, and toast on both sides to your liking.

Hmm, I wonder how this would be with my favorite cooked or if I grilled it on my panini grill?
Ingredients
  • 1 whole chicken separated into 8 pieces 
  • 3 tbsp olive oil 
  • 1 large onion sliced 
  • 3 garlic cloves minced 
  • 1 red bell pepper sliced 
  • 1 yellow bell pepper sliced 
  • 3/4 c chicken broth 
  • 2 tsp vinegar 
  • 1 ½ cups crushed tomatoes 
  • 1 tsp dried oregano 
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes 
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Directions
  1. Season chicken with salt and pepper. 
  2. Add olive oil to a large high sided sauté pan or heavy-bottomed pot and place over medium-high heat. 
  3. Add chicken, skin side down and cook until golden brown, about 5 minutes. 
  4. Flip and cook until browned on the other side. 
  5. Move chicken to the side of the pot. 
  6. Add the onions and garlic, and cook until soft. 
  7. Add the bell peppers and sauté for a few more minutes. 
  8. Season with salt and pepper. 
  9. Add the chicken broth and vinegar and simmer until reduced by half. 
  10. Add tomatoes, oregano, red pepper flakes and season with salt and pepper. 
  11. Partly cover pan and simmer for about 35 to 40 minutes. 
Submitted by Sue Zuron
Ingredients
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • 3 large handfuls lacinato kale, torn into shreds
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Directions

Preparing to Bake
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°
  2. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
  3. Combine the salt, smoked paprika, and garlic in a small bowl.
  4. Wash the kale. 
  5. Rinse the kale leaves, then put them in a salad spinner and spin until the green becomes a blur. Round and round, spinning and spinning — let the kale dry.
  6. After removing kale from spinner, dry it even more with paper towels. Those leaves should be bone dry.
Oiling the Kale
  1. Put the kale leaves in a large bowl.
  2. Drizzle over 1 tablespoon of the olive oil.
  3. Massage the oil into the leaves. You might need more. You might have larger hands than I do. Use your judgment.
Bake the Chips
  1. Arrange the kale chips onto the sheet try and slide it into the oven. 
  2. Bake until the leaves are crisp to the touch but still a dark green. When they turn brown, they turn bitter.
  3. Check at the 12-minute mark, to be sure.
  4. Remove them from the oven. 
  5. Sprinkle with the garlic smoked paprika salt.
  6. Let them cool a bit. 
  7. Eat.
Play with the spices to your liking. I like to add a bit of lemon juice to the oil.

Recipe submitted by Doryne Pederzani-Dinneen
Steak with Mushrooms
Ingredients
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil 
  • 3/4 pounds skirt steak, cut into 4 pieces 
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt 
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 5 ounces mushrooms, trimmed and quartered 
  • ¼ teaspoon cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves 
Directions
  1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. 
  2. Season the steak with salt and pepper and cook, 3 to 5 minutes per side for medium-rare, reserve the skillet drippings.
  3. Let steak rest for 5 minutes before slicing. I removed all the fat from the steak before serving.
  4. Add the mushrooms to the drippings in the skillet and cook, tossing occasionally, until browned and tender, 3 to 5 minutes. 
  5. Add the balsamic vinegar, stirring occasionally, until slightly reduced and syrupy, 2 to 3 minutes more; season with salt and pepper. 
  6. Top steak with the mushroom sauce and sprinkle with the parsley.