Hot Pink, High Heels, & Explosions

So I am a southern woman.  I was a fat woman.  I was also a fat child.  When you are large, when you are fat, when you are already overweight …one of the benefits is that you eat what you like honestly.  Sure you have those crash diet moments, those “lifestyle change” moments.  But when you are off of those moments….you get real, and put food that taste good in your mouth.

Now lets clear up some mythology about food and fat people.  There are quite a few of us who do not “live to eat.”  There is this idea that all fat people are fat since they are sitting around eating HoHo’s and DingDongs with a Super Gulp of Coke and a side of butter.  Not the case.  Before my weight loss surgery I had never been able to loose more than 20 pounds off my frame.  I worked out, I was on Weight Watchers, I TRIED.  However, did I also indulge in foods that I liked though.  If you are going to be large, then you might as well not be miserable like everyone else.  Eat the cake, Annie Mae…..

So now that I’m off my soapbox, back to being southern.  I was on my way into my GA position, and I really really really wanted a biscuit from Hardees (which is Carl’s Jr. for those out on the West Coast).  A delicious, flakey, buttery biscuit. Nothing else on it ….just that luscious thing you see above.  It’s just….well it’s just a normal breakfast down here.

Do you know what that thing COSTS in Weight Watcher points?!  EIGHT points.  For ONE biscuit.  *passes out on top of her points tracker*  Now here is the thing — yes I CAN eat it.  That is why I am faithful to Weight Watchers even AFTER having weight loss surgery.  You can eat whatever you like — you just must track it.  Want a whole bottle of wine — sure thing…but track that sucker.  Know you are indulging, well working out will get you some extra points on TOP of your extra 49 weekly points.  So yes you really can eat real foods, tasty foods, “bad for you” foods on this plan.  [I am not being paid by Weight Watchers, as a matter of fact I pay them.]

However, I did not want to spend those points.  I wanted to keep that money in the food bank.  So I only got a diet coke, and tried to figure out what I could eat that wasn’t oatmeal (that’s another post for later on this week).

However, this is something that I struggle with.  Sometimes I miss being larger, because I never felt guilty for eating a biscuit every now and then.  I really did eat lots of veggies.  I lived off soups in law school. I actually put better food in my body when I was larger than I do now.  Is that partially because I never felt bad about making a kick-ass pot roast with gravy for my friends and I?  Is it because I wasn’t concerned with staying thin, so I didn’t feel bad when my friends and I would go to this awesome french bistro (Blue Talon — Williamsburg, VA.  Eat there, trust me!) and split a cheeseburger that was served with a fried egg on top, and their mac & cheese with Virginia ham — ending the meal with some decadent french mousse.  I saw that meal as a treat, and something I could do on occasion. Now I would worry about gaining weight, not looking as fit as I should, not fitting into my wedding dress, not meeting the worlds expectations.

Yes, one biscuit — one little buttery snack put me in that tailspin.  However, upon reflecting on it — should I be that caught up with my weight?   Should I be so paranoid that I am flipping out over ONE biscuit?

I’ve started following a wonderful blog/facebook page written by an inspirational woman named Kate:  This is Not a Diet — It’s My Life.  I’ve asked permission to link a meme that Kate created.  It spoke to me so much.

From This Is Not a Diet

From This Is Not a Diet

Kate is right.  I am a human being, and my weight SHOULD be the least interesting thing about me.  I should NOT need charts or measurements to validate me.  I should not need a certain number to prove my worth.  However, admitted at this point in my life.  I still do.  That number on the scale, and on my dress still defines me.  I still feel as if I would be judged if I decided to move from being a 12 to a 14.  What does 12 mean anyhow?!  I am so concerned that I flipped out about a tiny little baked good.  I was only going to have one.  Just one little baked good.

I think that this is a greater problem with the idea of fitness, thinness, and health.  I swear I had less health issues when I was heavier.  My BP has been borderline lately — it was always normal or even LOW when I was heavier.  My knees hurt now sometimes from working out — when I worked out as a larger person I was out of breath maybe but my knees were in tact.  I also — most importantly — had more confidence as a larger woman.  Now I’m just constantly worried about gaining weight, not looking the part.  And, I hate it.  I find Kate more inspirational than any fitness icon that exists.  Why?  Because Kate is real, she is inspiring others to be REAL, and she is actually happy with herself being herself.

I have to stop hating myself over a desire to eat a biscuit.  I have to stop thinking that a number on my dress or scale defines my worth.  I must stop worrying that I am meeting everyone else’s expectations.  This is not me giving myself leeway to gain 50 pounds, but so WHAT if I ebb and flow between one weight and five to ten pounds higher.  So what if I never can wear a steady 10?  So what?  My fiancé loves my thick thighs, he think’s I’m beautiful, and more importantly he loves that I am smart.  My family and friends who are really there for me — think I’m awesome.  So it’s time that I listen to them, and not others who want to define my abilities and my health through their arbitrary numbers and charts.

So — this is me.  In 2008 I weighed 350 pounds.  From 2009-today I’ve lost roughly 150 pounds.  That is an entire person.  That is a WHOLE person.  According to the charts, I am still overweight.  I am 5’9, and I wear anywhere from a size 10-14, size M-L — and I weigh around 208lbs currently.  No matter what that chart says, I am fitter than I have ever been.  I need to be happy with how I look, and I am working towards it.  I will still do Weight Watchers but that is only to get me to balance my food options better  not to focus so much on the scale.  

But you know what.  I recently had lunch with my fiancé at one of our favorite places.  You know what I ate…a biscuit.  And it was delicious, my pants still fit, I can still teach a fitness class, the sky hasn’t fallen, and I was beautiful before I ate it — while I was eating it — and now.  I’m working on being more like Kate, and I hope that anyone out there who hears the same voices that are negative in their lives use Kate as a wakeup call to real happiness and acceptance.

If you can’t tell already, Panera is my go-to fast(er) food restaurant. There at least incorporating a veggie or fruit is made easier than at most joints, and you can craft your meal to be healthier than normal. The downside in my opinion is that:

  1. The dressings for salad’s at Panera are tasty and delish, so I eat them — I know I could cut major calories going with a oil/vinegar combo — but my tastebuds aren’t having it. I believe that as long as you account for those extra tasty calories, then eat them. I do get extra dressing mostly because raw veggies do not work well with my Lap-Band (see THIS previous blog post for more information on the lap band and eating issues), and if I have to take a calorie/fat intake hit to get real veggies in my system — then that’s what I’ll do.
  2. The bread: some folks are low/no-complex carbs people. They shun bread, the white potato, crackers, chips, et al. I am not that girl. My grandmother onetime was consoling me when I was having a down day as a child due to my weight. She pointed out a very thin fit person and asked me if I knew what was going to happen to her in old age. I rattled of something about her being fit and trim and healthy. To which my grandmother responded that yes — she ate well, worked out, refused to eat things that might have given her a bit of pleasure all in persuit of health and a great body. But in the end — she was going to die just like all the overweight folks. What Grannie was trying to say is that for some of us, maybe giving up ALL that we love is a silly concept. If you like cupcakes, go to your local baker and get ONE — don’t bake a dozen in your home that you might eat all yourself during an episode of Scandal (best show ever, FYI). My fiance and I did that yesterday — we are in the process of picking favors of wedding cupcakes with our baker, so we went in and each got one we hadn’t tried. We don’t do this ever week, maybe once a month at most. But when we leave — there are two cupcakes in a bag. For us to share, and see if it makes our cut. I’m happy because not only did I get a tasty treat, but then once it’s gone — it’s gone. I count it into my Weight Watchers’ tracker as best I can, and then I move on. So if you like that portion of baguette at Panera with your meal, over the apple (me and raw apples usually don’t work sadly) then get it — count it in your Tracker, and move on.
  3. The cost: Panera is quite expensive folks, in comparison to other dine and dash restaurants. On one meal, a person could easily spend $10+ depending on the choices that they make. As a PhD Graduate Student, I know all too well about counting costs and watching what you spend. However, what I have decided is that if I *can* afford Panera over some other restaurant — then I will choose it. However, I have a list of other healthier options from places for when I’m on a tighter budget or not close to a Panera (e.g. the Grilled Chicken Sandwich at Wendy’s with a side salad or baked potato as the side + Diet Coke) .

So along with the Hidden Menu launch nationwide, Panera also used January to relaunch their Salmon offerings, and to launch a Spinach Power Salad. According to the website, the new salad contains

fresh baby spinach, roasted mushrooms and onion blend, diced egg, Applewood-smoked bacon, frizzled onions & smoky Vidalia onion vinaigrette.

They suggest using it in the “You Pick 2” offerings with the Bistro French Onion Soup. The “Pick 2” program pairs a 1/2 salad, cup of soup, or 1/2 a sandwich together at your choosing. Prices are lowest if you pick cafe styled foods (think the basic greek salad, and a turkey sandwich) and rises with every premium or signature offering you select. And that is exactly what I had for lunch last snowy Friday afternoon.

I did make a few changes. First, I did add a second serving of dressing. I still appreciate this method because it is measured out. Instead of dumping half a bottle on my salad, I know I am really just adding 2 additional tablespoons. Second, I added a serving of salmon on my salad. I happen to love salmon, but my fiance does not. So when I can have it while dining out — I typically choose to do so. It adds a punch of protein, which is a focus of lap-band patients — and helps keep me full longer. When the salmon is not available at Panera, I tend to add chicken to my salads.

The Verdict:

I am actually in love with this salad. Again, the appearance was a bit lacking — and we do eat with our eyes, but that pretty piece of salmon worked wonders.

Weight Watchers Points Values (keep in mind that you can tweak your intake by asking the staff at Panera to remove some items like the cheese in the soup, or choosing an apple over the baguette):

Taste: The dressing is great, a little sweet which pairs nicely with the rest of the dish. I am a big fan of raw spinach, because it actually 8 times out of 10 works with my band. The addition of roasted mushrooms and onions is a big hearty plus for me, and I loved the crunch of the “frizzled” onions (which reminds me quite a lot of those french fried onions that top holiday Green Bean Casseroles in my humble opinion…). Oddly enough, I am nonplused about the bacon. Take it out, leave it on — I didn’t feel like it added to the salad, but it didn’t detract either. I might consider leaving it off honestly.

This is a salad that I would order in the full size happily. I just hope they keep it around for longer than a season (if you’re reading this Panera Executives — please keep this salad, seriously. And salmon on the menue as long as possible. Thanks!). If not, I think the next salad I will try is the hidden menue turkey one, since it also uses spinach as a base. Does anyone know if you can order spinach as a salad base on a regular basis?

Have you heard about Panera Bread Company’s “hidden menu” of new food items? Well it’s not really a secret menu, like the one at In and Out Burger (which my fiance dearly misses having spent some time on the West Cost to move back East where we have no idea what an In and Out burger is…). Panara merely says that they tested these few items on a smaller scale, and now are realeasing them nationwide but with little fanfare. The items will not be on the menu board, there are only slick food porn shots of them on-line at their website. The items are a lower carb set of dishes: two breakfast, four lunch/dinner items. The items (with some nutritional values) are:

I was sort of excited to see this. Panara is my go-to fast food joint, because I know I can get food quickly that is good for me (or at least better than any other fast food). I stick with their salads (the Greek one + a protein is my favorite) and soups. I use dressing because LapBand Fun Fact we really don’t do well with lettuce and many other raw veggies, so I need some sort of lubrication to try *crosses fingers* and keep a few bites down (which does not always work, but I try) Plus dressing just taste good, and yes I get extra. I also eat the bread. I am no low carb-er. There are so few things I can eat (for a food refresher see my earlier blog post on the LapBand and Eating) that I eat what works. Sometimes a toasty baguette piece with my soup works, and so I eat it. Sometimes it does not. Regardless, I was impressed with the nutritional stats of the items, so I thought I’d give it a try.

I ordered the Power Breakfast Egg White Bowl with Roasted Turkey (180 calories, 7g Fat, 7g Carbohydrates, 2g Fiber, 25g Protein — 5 Weight Watchers Plus Points (and the idea of it also being a serving of veggies). The bowl contains egg white, roasted turkey, spinach, and roasted peppers. I pulled up to the drive thru of a local Panera on my way to work, and bravely ordered. They did know what I was talking about, after asking for clarification a few times.

Visuals: When I opened up my bag, I was excited — but then visually I was dissapointed. The meal looked very small and very sad. I wished that it had far more than the five spinach leaves. I wished that the peppers were even increased. The egg white portion was very large though, and the turkey was on the smaller side. They did a great job of food porn photography on the website, none of which was passed into actual execution.

Taste: It did TASTE good. The turkey was the best –a warm and juicy surprise for a morning meal. The egg white was very plain, and I wished I had had some hot sauce or salsa to go with it. The five wilted spinach leaves were good, but again I wished I had had more. And the roasted red peppers perked up the bland egg whites. Again, for a healthy breakfast on the go from a fast-food joint — it was good.

20130117-093326.jpg

 

Verdict: I most likely would order it again. I wonder if I could ask for more spinach, or if this is something that came out of a package for them to slide into the box. I really was looking forward to a nice serving of veggies for breakfast to continue to try and (1) eat breakfast and (2) make my daily quota of fruits/veggies which I generally do not do (since for veggies to work they usually need to be cooked). Would I go out of my way for it — no. Not unless my o

 

rder was a fluke, and it really should look closer in size to the photo on the website (and by size I mean more spinach, more peppers, and more of the pesto that makes the eggs go from bland to better — I wouldn’t complain for more tasty turkey either but that was reasonable).

Has anyone tried any of the other items? I am sort of curious about the lunch/dinner turkey meal, and the chicken meal. I like that the turkey ones come with spinach which I can usually tolerate, even when raw.