Wednesday, May 30, 2012

"You look good"

I'm a very social, outgoing person -- a social butterfly. As a morbidly obese woman my social prowess was stifled. At 388 pounds, I didn't feel so good about myself and as a result I just didn't have much to say out loud. I actually preferred not to be in social settings and shied away from speaking in crowds.

Today, 170 odd pounds lighter, I feel good. Real good. Inside and out. So, I'm always chatting it up, striking up conversation with folks. Anyone willing to listen -- or not, hears my weight loss story. Doesn't matter where I am, I'm talking:  The grocery store, bank, post office -- everywhere. When I speak at local venues and have a captive audience all the more fun.

When I tell folks I use to weigh nearly 400 pounds, I tend to get the same reactions, the same responses "Oh, really. Good for you for losing the weight," "Wow. What an inspiration," and the awkward compliment "You look good." That one always gets me. I'm not really sure what to make of that statement. Do I look good because I look good ? Or do I look good because I lost so much weight? Those are rhetorical questions of course. Perhaps my questioning the compliment is part of the negative inner battle that I often blog about. I guess, it's about time, I take the response, "You look good" at face value.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Simple things

I don't want to start this blog off on the negative, but the fact of the matter is being weighed down by 388 pounds kind of limits your ability to do things. Normal everyday things. Things most people take for granted.

Now, that I've shed the pounds let me tell you...It's a wonderful thing to be able to walk effortlessly, bend over and tie my shoes, cross my legs, and heck -- help move a sofa.

Yesterday, I proudly helped my uncle move my new sofa. We unloaded it from the truck, and carried it 25 feet into the house. It felt good to kneel down, pick the sofa up, and haul it.

Today, I celebrate my body and the ordinary everyday functions that I am able to perform. The countless weight lifting and cardio classes I've endured have not been taken in vain. I'm stronger and more flexible. Coming from a place of morbid obesity makes me appreciate the simple things.  They haven't always been so simple.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Test Kitchen: Oatcakes

The best part of writing a cookbook -- testing the recipes!

My upcoming cookbook will focus on the use  of fresh, whole foods to create "Outside of the Box" meals.  We all get a sweet tooth now and again and I don't want us to be deprived. So, I've been browsing recipes to find dessert items that use whole food ingredients. I found an appealing Oatcake recipe from Heidi Swanson that fits the bill. Yesterday, I opened the test kitchen and put my spin on Heidi's recipe.


Rolled oats
Whole wheat pastry flour 
Aluminum-free baking powder
Sea salt
Flax seeds
Chopped walnuts
Dried apricots
Dried cherries
Coconut oil
Unsalted butter
Pure maple syrup
Demerara sugar

Score card:

Level: Moderate

+ : Biting into oats, nuts, seeds just made me feel good. Lightly sweetened and dense.
-: Oops, I over-toasted the walnuts. 

Comments: While I liked the crumbly, drier texture I'm not sure that others would appreciate it -- they were more like a scone. Retest.

Grade: C

Shop, Cook, Eat: Outside the Box...
Coming Fall '12

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Food Addict

Grubbin' on
Sautéed Collard Greens
Hi. I’m Chrisetta. I’m a food addict.

Hi Chrisetta.

I’ve abused food my entire life. One of my worst food abuse memories: Piling up a plate with four homemade ground beef tacos, Mexican rice, and refried beans topped with melted cheese. A drink laden with sugar would wash down the highly caloric meal. Shortly, after consuming all the fats and sugars, I’d find myself nodding off to sleep. Since I was at home (I never would be seen in public eating this way), I wouldn’t fight the feeling. Instead, I’d go to bed on a full, very full stomach.

The years and years of abuse caught up to me, my weight had reached a mortifying 388 pounds, and my health became a concern. I was having trouble breathing and walking. Fed up – I decided enough is enough.

Unlike a drug or alcohol problem with food you have to still use. There’s no putting down the fork. Rather, I’ve had to confront my addiction – one bite at a time.

First, I made a commitment to myself. I understood the gravity of beating my addiction and I figured it best to sign a contract with myself. Next, the hardest part -- create a new relationship with food. I had to change the way I think about food. How I interact with food. And, of course, I had to change the types of foods I eat and how I prepare them.

Not to overwhelm myself, I started with small changes. No to sugary drinks. Yes to water. Bye-bye boxed, processed food. Hello, meals from scratch. My relationship with food is ever changing and my food choices today look quite different than when I started kicking the habit.

I’m proud to say, I have successfully created a healthy relationship with food. I respect food and honor my body. I no longer overeat, nor do I eat when I'm not hungry. Today, I eat to fuel my body, not my emotions.

After years, of retraining myself I now enjoy food without abusing it. I prepare 99 percent of my meals from scratch at home using fresh, whole foods. I also channel my love for food by sharing with the community: Teaching cooking classes and writing cookbooks.

Thank you, Chrisetta.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


I feel amazing, strong. This afternoon, I successfully intensely rowed for 50 minutes. I've rowed with the crew before, but today was different. I matched them stroke for stroke. With the same level of intensity.

It takes strength and great effort to row -- you want the the power in your legs. It took me a while, but today I felt it in my legs. The sound of the water: swish, swish. That was assurance -- I was in unison with the crew. The rowing crew.

A few days ago, I was chatting with Sherri (owner of Northwest Personal Training) about my fitness goals. Sherri advised me not to focus so much on my weight, but focus on getting stronger. She said, the stronger you get, the more efficient your body will perform. And eventually the pounds will drop. She used some other fancy training terminology, but that's the gist of it.

Working out is not only about physical strength -- it's more about the mental strength. I battle with myself often, but when I get out of my own way, I'm stronger, more efficient. Today, I feel stronger than ever. Thanks Sherri and NWPT for helping me get stronger.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

A page from the Italians

After cycling class on Monday a few of us became engaged in a conversation about our Mother's Day food indulgences. It turned into a conversation about Italians and their daily indulgences. They (Italians) eat rich food, drink plenty of wine, and always have dessert. But, somehow the Italians don't have the weight and health issues as Americans. Hmm...How is this possible? Here's what I think...

For starters, they eat fresh, seasonal food. No processed, boxed stuff. If it's not fresh, local then no-go.
  • They take their time with their food. There's no rush -- no half hour lunch breaks and then zip back to the office to sit. Their meals can go on for hours.
  • They eat their meals in courses. The food is served on separate plates. One dish at a time. By eating, one dish at a time, they're concentrating on the goodness of each dish. Also, this means the food has time to digest.  
  • Eating is social. It's about catching up on the day's events, laughing, and enjoying one another and the food. No sitting in front of a computer or TV and eating solo. No. No. Food is about togetherness. Nothing like a meal shared.
  • They walk -- everywhere. Repeat: They walk -- everywhere.
  • And finally for the Italians -- it's quality over quantity. No big gulps. No super-size. No massive plates piled high. The food they eat is excellent so they don't feel the need to overindulge. They are not gluttonous.
Italians indulge daily -- in food, excellent food, conversation, laughter, and they walk everywhere their feet will carry them.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Test Kitchen: Fresh Green Bean and Potato Salad w/Balsamic Vinaigrette

Testing, Testing! Winner, Winner!
Today, in the test kitchen, I whipped up a beautiful, simply delicious Fresh Green Bean and Potato Salad w/Balsamic Vinaigrette.

Here's how it went down:

Steamed red potatoes and green beans (separately)
Chopped red onion and fresh basil
Prepared balsamic vinaigrette

Putting it together:
I drizzled a little of the freshly made balsamic vinaigrette on the potatoes after I halved them while they were still warm. Then I hit the green beans with a touch of kosher salt right after they were steamed so the salt would cling. Next, added the diced red onion and freshly chopped basil leaves. Gently mixed it all together. Finished it with more balsamic vinaigrette. Served room temperature.

Score card:

Level: Easy

+ : The potatoes and green beans were perfectly steamed. The lemon opened up all the flavors in the vinaigrette and made them come alive. It was like springtime in my mouth. The tangy Dijon mustard provided just enough kick. The vinaigrette was a nice consistency and clung beautifully to the potatoes and green beans.

-: None.

Comments: Another five ingredient or less, success. This recipe has earned a spot in the cookbook.  Shop, Cook, Eat: Outside the Box -- Coming Fall '12

Grade: A +++

Monday, May 14, 2012

Three weeks difference

This actually happened a few weeks ago right before I came down with the flu. A must share…
I was having a bad day. A really bad day. The last few days, my mind had been full of the negative self-talk combined with self-doubt. I’d been working out hard for weeks and eating clean as I possibly could. I was really questioning myself, my efforts.  Maybe this is it for me. Maybe this is goal weight and I just need to face it. Maybe there is no Next Level, Fit by Forty.

I lost five pounds the first week I started training with Northwest Personal Training, but then the scale was fluctuating and not necessarily in my favor. I looked in the mirror and wanted to smash it out of pure disgust. Especially, the studio mirrors. My goodness!

On this particular day I really, really didn’t like what I saw. Sorry. I know, I’m supposed to be your positive role model, your real example. I’d be remiss though not to share my true feelings. I’ve said this umpteen times it’s more than a battle of obesity it’s a battle of self. Day in, day out.  

Any of you who have met me, know how dramatic and animated I am. Well, if Kara, (Fitness Director at NWPT) didn’t know this about me -- she knows now. I ran into her outside the studio that day as we both were headed to our cars. Poor Kara, I went on a tirade about how this wasn’t working out. How I didn’t think I could do it anymore. How I’m sick of being the fattest person in the room.  Blah, blah...Kara entertained my crazy and let me get it all out. With a very straight, but warm face, she asked: “How long have you been working out with us?” 

Me: “Three weeks.”
Kara: “Oh, three weeks?”

When she repeated out loud “three weeks” I just started laughing. It sounded so ridiculous. I had been working out consistently and eating clean for three weeks. Three whole weeks. Sometimes I too lose sight of how much it really takes to shed the pounds. More importantly, to be fit, to be healthy.  Three weeks is not enough time to see the type of results I’m looking for. Deep down, I know better than that, but still sometimes I get caught up. I'm no different, in that respect, I want it now.

Kara went on to say, “Chrisetta, most people would give up. You though, you keep coming. You keep trying. We’re glad you’re here, trying.”  She’s absolutely right. Sure, sometimes I let the negative self-talk get the best of me, and I‘m a little unrealistic about where I should be.  The difference is, no matter -- I keep suiting up, I keep trying.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Test Kitchen: No-bake Whole Food Energy Bars

I was super-excited to receive my first assignment for the upcoming cookbook. The team has asked me to include a whole food energy bar recipe in the book. Uh, one small issue...I've never tasted a whole food energy bar, let alone made one. I hear Lara Bars are the "In thing." So, first up, sample a couple of Lara Bars. I tried the Cashew Cookie and Chocolate Coconut Chew. They tasted pretty good.
  • Find a few base recipes using the ingredients listed on the Lara Bar packages
  • Tweak the recipes and put my spin on them
  • The fun part -- make the bars
I created three different bars-- no names for them yet. Simple (five or less) whole food ingredients. No additives. No sugar. No baking.

Here's a peek of testing,  Bar #1:

Ingredients for Bar #1

Pulsing ingredients for Bar #1
Finished product, Bar#1

Score card:

Level: Easy

+ : They were very fresh. You could just taste the goodness. Especially the Cranberry Almond one-- the cinnamon came alive in the mouth. The chocolate coconut one was perfectly sweet. The Cashew bar was salty, sweet.

-: Maybe a little too crumbly. Maybe more nuts to give them a firmer texture. Or place them in the fridge for a while. Hmm... Also, adjust the recipe to make a large serving.

Comments: I'll re-test again and have the team sample for their input. Overall simple, fresh, and delicious.

Grade: A -

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Sweat does the body good

Nothing like a good sweaty workout. The more I sweat in a workout, the more accomplished I feel. Ooo wee! I love when I'm riding hard in cycling and drips of sweat hit the floor. That hasn't always been the case.

When I was a bigger gal my internal thermostat always ran hot. Walking at a normal pace caused me to break out in a serious sweat. Beads of sweat would form on my nose -- so embarrassing. I hated that. And working out as a bigger gal caused my thermostat to run real hot, much hotter than everyone else.  I'd be on the treadmill, sweating profusely and huffing and puffing. Sure, others were sweating too, but it was all that internal, negative stuff...I felt like everyone was staring at me because I was the big gal. I felt so, so embarrassed.

Those days are behind me. My internal thermostat runs average and I no longer sweat from a normal walk. I do, however, still sweat profusely from working out, but -- duh, I'm suppose to sweat; I'm working out. I'm breathing harder, exerting energy, working muscles.

I read recently in an article that sweating is our body's way of:
  • Regulating body temperature
  • Releasing toxins and impurities (think steam room, sauna)
  • Increasing metabolism
    So, these days, I welcome beads of sweat. Sweating does the body good.

    Tuesday, May 8, 2012

    Soup's On!

    SOUPer good news!

    February: Serving it up
    ...Starting in June, New Seasons Market - Fisher's Landing will serve my "Simply Unforgettable" Tomato Soup fresh in their deli. It will also be available packaged in the Grab & Go section for easy, reheating at home. On the days, they sell the soup they will also cross-promote "Bringing Cooking Back."

    This deal came about after rave reviews when I served samples in the store in February during my cookbook signing. The deli manager, Seth sampled it and bashfully came back for another helping. I even had to give him a bigger bowl. The rest is well, history.

    Thanks to chefs, Todd and Peter, my little four serving recipe has been converted to 12 gallons. As SOUPer excited as I was, am -- I did have a little apprehension about selling the soup in the deli. Y'all know, I'm a proponent of home cooked meals using fresh, whole food. Hello, I'm trying to "Bring Cooking Back" and that is still very much my goal. I realize, however, sometimes it's just not possible to cook at home. On those occasions, eating at New Seasons Market is a very good option. I rarely eat out, but when I do, New Seasons Market deli is on my list. I know, they use quality, fresh ingredients and have a great selection of dishes to choose from.

    I trust, Todd and Peter. We've talked and laughed together. I shook hands with them. They will make my soup from scratch using the freshest, juiciest tomatoes, and best olive oil. This is a partnership, I'm proud of -- soup's on!

    Hope to see you all -- June 9th from 11 a.m. - 1 p.m. I'll be back in the store, serving up my "Simply Unforgettable" Tomato Soup prepared by Todd or Peter and signing cookbooks with a BIG smile.

    Thanks New Seasons Market for all you do.

    Monday, May 7, 2012

    Takin' it to the streets

    Surprise! Surprise! Mid-way through this morning's boot camp we took our drills to the streets. It was kinda cool. Refreshing.

    Our first drill was to sprint a block then drop for 10 push-ups, repeat x 4. Back to the studio for drills including burpees, chopping wood exercises, and ski monologues (I think that's what Jenna called them). Then, back outdoors for another drill this time partnered up: Running up the hill with thick rubber band around our waist partner pulling behind us for resistance. These exercises can be performed indoors, but being outside changes the dynamics of the workout. The pavement has cracks and grooves. Making it a more challenging workout. It's kinda nice to mix things up and get some fresh air.

    Never the same workout at Northwest Personal Training they are full of surprises. I'm diggin' my new training studio -- they take it to the streets.

    Thursday, May 3, 2012

    Chew: Real food

    You can trust what I'm about to say. After all, I use to live inside the box -- the processed food box. Now, that I happily live outside of the box.  I can tell you the truth: Real food tastes better, is better for you, and it makes you feel satisfied sooner and longer.

    Yesterday, I sat down to eat the gorgeous salad I made for myself: Baby spinach leaves topped with wheat berries, sliced red and orange peppers, feta cheese, and drizzled with a freshly made lemon vinaigrette. Yum! After about five good bites I was full. Probably because I had to actually chew. Raw spinach is roughage. Wheat berries are whole grains (the germ, bran, and endosperm) little chewy kernels that require you to really chew.  BTW, I'm in love with wheat berries.

    When I use to eat boxed, processed food I could chow down and eat tons of that crap. Most of the time I would eat way more than the recommended serving. Yet, never feeling satisfied. I just ate and ate. The more I ate, the more crappy and sleepy I felt. At my heaviest -- 388 pounds I use to fall to sleep while driving. Ticking time bomb, for real. But, at the time I didn't realize what was happening. Now, I see that I was drugged from all the crappy processed food. The more I ate, the more I craved. I was trying to feed a hunger that I could never satisfy. It was a hard addiction to break, but I've successfully done it. I've changed my eating patterns, and I prepare and eat fresh whole food.

    I love the way I feel. I never feel tired and crappy like when I gorged on boxed, processed food.  Food is suppose to fuel our bodies so that we have energy to perform not make us feel crappy and tired. And, we shouldn't have to eat large portions of food to reach satiety.

    Though, I'm a journalist by trade right now I'm acting as a blogger. Sometimes I feel bad because I throw heavy issues out here and don't fully explore them. I hope I pique your interest enough where you want to seek more information.

    Go forth, chew real food and seek more information. You'll see, I'm right.

    Wednesday, May 2, 2012

    Cookbook writing, fun

    So I told y'all already that I've been asked by a very reputable organization to write a cookbook for them. What a great honor!
    Still not ready to divulge the name of the organization that I'm writing for quite yet, but it's local and BIG. 

    Anyhoo, I am knee deep in cookbooks, articles, and emails going back and forth between the department whom I'm writing for. We're still determining which recipes will be in the cookbook. This is a special population I'm writing for so we really want to tailor the recipes to meet their needs. For now, I'm writing the introduction, how to cook basics, citing sources, etc. Also trying to create the look and feel of the book. Once we determine the recipes, I'll move onto recipe development and testing. Seriously, is this my life? I love it!

    Shop, Cook, Eat: Outside The Box © coming Fall 2012.

    Tuesday, May 1, 2012

    Tradition, love, and recipes

    My mom found it, while spring cleaning. We have been talking about it for a while. Oh, how we’ve longed for a cool, dense wedge of lemon pound cake. My deceased uncle was thought to be the last person in the family to have the recipe in his possession. My mom and I both have tried to duplicate the recipe, but have never quite mastered it. All the recipes we have tried never compared. Too much lemon. Not enough lemon. But, at last we’ve got the original family Lemon Pound Cake recipe.

    I’ve been thinking and talking a lot about food lately. It’s ironic to me a culture so obsessed with food is so disconnected from it.  The only real connection we have to food is the act of -- eating.  More often than not, unfortunately, we eat from boxes or restaurants. Gone are the days of cooking. Really cooking. Like you know from scratch?  Peel the potatoes. Zest the lemons. Cut the whole fryer. Oops, I’m off on a tangent.

    Think a minute about one of your favorite family dishes. Ever wonder who started making the dish? Does the dish have cultural significance? There's often stories tied to dishes and how they came about. Some recipes may have been by accident. Some creations very deliberate. Either way there's usually a story. A story from your mother's, mother. A story from your great aunt. It's more than food, it's tradition. It's love. If we stop preparing family recipes how will they live on?

    I’m afraid at the rate we’re going: Eating from boxes and restaurants. We are in jeopardy of losing family dishes and recipes. Sure, I can go to the internet and find another recipe for Hot Water Cornbread, but it won’t be my great, great grandmother’s Hot Water Cornbread.  There’s a lot more than our health at stake by not preparing, cooking, and eating meals at home.

    We are in jeopardy of losing generations of tradition. Pulling through a fast food restaurant and handing your child a bagged meal is quite different than cooking and enjoying a sit down meal at home. What will your children remember from your kitchen? What recipes will you pass down?

    Cooking and eating is more than just a mindless past time. There is tradition and love in food and in recipes.

    Now, that we've found the family Lemon Pound Cake recipe. I’ve made several copies of the original and retyped it for safe keeping. I gave my mom a copy, my daughter a copy, and our family Lemon Pound Cake recipe will live on. Good save, mom. Good save.

    Bonus: On the other side of the page was a Zucchini Bread recipe.

    The Obesity Epidemic is REAL!

    The evidence of an epidemic is everywhere.

    · Two-thirds, more than 190 million Americans are
    overweight or obese.

    · Obesity-related diseases are a $147 billion dollar
    medical burden every year.

    · Childhood obesity has tripled in the last thirty years

    Source: CBS News