Healthy(ish) Living: Mixed Results

In early April I posted about my hardcore goals of living well & healthy while on residency at Jentel in Banner, WY. Well, call me idealistic in that sense. Once I got situated at Jentel and you know how much I loved it there, there was a quick camaraderie with the other residents and it was suggested by Joyce (who'd been at Jentel previously) that some groups tended to cook each night for the group. This could cut down on shopping costs and also make for a good rotation of varied eats. As we saw when looking through the "memory books" that this was indeed something that many of the groups did often and many kept schedules and took pictures and there's a growing Jentel recipe book chock full of international eats!

So, once it became a group thing rather than an individual thing for eating and also the fact that I have crap willpower things changed a bit. Plus, chocolate was everywhere! Everywhere I tell you! (Two words: M&M Pretzels.)

So to look at the points I posed for myself let's see how I did, shall we?

1) Eat very little red meat. Result: Fail. Since I didn't eat ham or pork some of the alternates that were provided to me was beef. We also had a rotation of goods or overabundance of certain meats and that left beef as a substitute. I cooked very little beef only two servings for myself, but consumed many tasty treats by others that included it. I'm not complaining.

2) Very little if any baked goods. Result: Fail. Beyond the constantly refilling bowl of M&Ms there was also brownies to welcome us there for our first evening meal. We had some nice festivities including Joyce's delicious apple tart and as a way to get rid of excess items Rachel and I baked towards the end to try and get rid of perishable goods. I also had to try Java Moon's delicacies such as their pumpkin bar (really a cake, ok and their strawberry scone, very good). Plus, a friend/co-worker purchased a large Zabar's NY chocolate package for me and that couldn't go to waste, could it?

3) Eat at least 3 servings of fruit & veggies a day. Result: Success! Finally! Since my fellow residents were quite health concious there was always salad available with a meal of a nice veggie side and as pre-dinner apps we'd eat carrot sticks or celery sticks with hummus. During the morning I ate at least two servings of a fruit and also like some natural applesauce with my pretzels.

4) Bake rather than fry items. Result: Success! Like I said in my post I often do this at home so it wasn't a big deal to apply this while at Jentel either.

5) 1 takeout meal a week. Result: Major success! Once a week Karen was kind enough to drive us into town to try some other eateries in the area and for us to get a break from cooking and cleaning. So we didn't go out often. Mainly stayed in and cooked for ourselves which was the point, really. We went to Oliver's, Silver Spur, and Lulu's Cafe and tried Java Moon's items once we went into town every Thursday. I also did a quick Arby's trip one day. Love that stuff.

6) Eat more fiber. Result: Fail. I did end up eating oatmeal cookies. (See week 3 post of Joyce's huge cookies.) Karen turned me on to quinoa pasta which is heavy in protein rather than carbs and I ate artisan multigrain bread every so often but outside of that and wheat thins, little additional fiber added to my diet. Oh, I did have Kashi cereal which is more fiber enriched than your everyday General Mills stuff, but still I could've done better.

7) Snacks should be 100 calories or lower. Result: Mixed. I did make sure to eat the serving size for items like pretzels and wheat thins and crackers. I ate more cheese so that could've added some items but got low-fat as often as I could. Karen also introduced me to kale chips which I love! I can't imagine those are more than 100 cals per serving if you eat less than a bunch or half that. Tasty snacks. Of course snacks also included sweets like M&Ms and desserts (cookies, tart) so this fluctuated.

8 ) Incorporate seafood as much as possible. Result: Mixed. Mixed because, like I said, we cooked for each other a lot and I wasn't always in control of meals. I bought a lot of shrimp and made 5 meals from it including a large one for the group, bought some shrimp scampi and also salmon and we had fish tacos (a la Lisa one evening) and even when we went to Lulu's I ordered some salmon, so I think I did okay.

9) Exercise at least 40 minutes a day. Result: Not a fail, but not satisfactory. Some of us residents spoke about these ideals we had about coming into our residency. What happens when on residency is that you work and you work and you work. Especially if you know you won't have this time after said residency ends. So, it was like a work day and as time wound down it came time for us to put in OT! Add on top of that fluctuating weather where it snowed all day and/or rained and you have not good walking weather. When I walked I walked for over an hour and I did this on a few days. I also exercised in my room for at least 30 minutes of cardio a handful of days also. Surprisingly I saw that I did lose weight as per the scale in my bathroom. I think it was from eating less often and eating more veggies and fruit as snacks and in meals. Plus the place itself was huge so that helped getting from point a to b.

So that's my tally of excuses! Wasn't easy in the least but creatively I got a lot done and was happy I didn't add too much weight. My first week home however has been horrid and sweets abundant from co-workers so we'll see if I can try to apply said rules to my daily life rather than when I'm away.

Low-fat or Bust!: 4 Weeks of Healthy(ish) Living

In less than two weeks I'll be heading to Wyoming for a one month writing residency at Jentel Artist Residency Program. One of the main things about my upcoming travels is that I will be secluded in Wyoming away from the rowdy life of NYC and in turn will be away from all those wonderful restaurants and bakeries that I frequent and love. The main point of this residency is being spirited away from all the distractions of the city and having time and space to write. Part of that is also looking after yourself.

While some residencies have chefs on-hand to cook for residents many don't. One of my main responsibilities besides writing will be to cook meals for myself of which I will be supplied a weekly stipend.

Now, cooking (as you may have noticed) is not something I'm a stranger to. But, being far away from stores and such in a whole new environment for a longer duration of time is something to get accustomed to. Wyoming is not another country, but I don't know how much they have in terms of options for those wanting to pursue healthy living or those who may be lactose intolerant or vegans. New York City has an array of options, restaurants, night life, 24 hour delis and so on. I highly doubt Banner, WY will have as many options as I am spoiled by here. And since I'll be without a car for the most part I'll be relying on the kindness of strangers to take me into the town of Sheridan (population 28, 662 as per the 2008 U.S. Census).

The goal while in Wyoming is to make and eat items that make me feel good and more productive. I've done my part to make meals "healthier": use ground turkey or chicken instead of beef, use olive oil and not any other oils or butter when frying, using the low-fat/reduced sodium version of whatever I could find instead of the full fat. And sometimes it's hit and miss with these things.

I've also purchased or obtained cookbooks with supposedly "good recipes that are good for you." One of which was Devin Alexander's Biggest Loser Family Cookbooks. Of the several recipes I made I only liked one, and then upon reheating didn't like it. This was the low-fat meatballs (made with quick oats instead of bread crumbs) and cutting corners on a lot of other less healthy items. All of these dishes were very low in fat, but the taste just didn't keep. In fact the taste was barely there if non-existent. I've also tried a few recipes from the Cooking Light 2009 recipe copulation cookbook that didn't pan out. A risotto that wasn't too tasty and pumpkin biscuits that tasted more like dough than biscuits.

So, let's consider this my next project for 2011. Going a month on a low-fat, health conscious cooking spree! A couple of books I have on-hand to help are the Cooking Light 2009 (yes I'll give it another try since there are hundreds of recipes available) and also My Italian Kitchen by Janet Zappala which includes healthier versions of classic favorites like baked ziti and key lime pie.

I'll also have in my arsenal many Food Network recipes, particular ones from favorites like Giada DeLaurentiis and even Jamie Oliver. I'll try to stay away from Paula Deen recipes (as good as they are) which are just loaded with needs for dairy (in particular butter). I'm doing my research and checking out food blogs I like to see their progress and welcome any suggestions.

So what will I be holding myself to while away? The following are just a few items I can think of off-hand:

-Very little red meat. At most 1-2 meals containing it for the 4 weeks I'm away.

-Very little if any baked goods. (I know, I know. Why not just shoot myself? But it must be done.) At most 1-3 desserts for the duration of my stay. And by that I mean 1-3 servings, not pan of brownies = 1 dessert.

-Eat at least 3 servings of fruit and veggies a day. I tend to meet this during the week at work, not so much on weekends at home though. Hopefully I'll be able to go above this while in Wyoming.

-Bake rather than fry items. Again, something else I do while at home, but when I travel my healthy eating tendencies tend to go AWOL.

-1 takeout meal a week or every other week. By this I mean pizza or Chinese or whatever may be available for me to pick up during our weekly outings.

-Snacks should be 100 cals or lower per serving. So basically try to stay away from high calorie/high cholesterol snacks. Meaning more organic, natural things and less fried, processed items.

-Eat more fiber! (Oatmeal! And not oatmeal cookies!)

-Incorporate seafood as much as possible. I tend to eat shrimp a lot, but should eat more fish and find the best types to eat that offer good vitamins and such to promote a healthier lifestyle. And preferably, make sure these items aren't fried. (Sigh, no fried calamari.)

-Exercise at least 40 minutes a day. (Since I won't have to go to work for the most part this shouldn't be an issue. I should be able to make time to write and exercise pretty much everyday and perhaps even go over this amount if not double it per day.)

I'll more than likely add to this list as time goes on. But for the most part I know this is doable because I already do it or won't have the distractions to keep me from being more proactive and healthy. I look forward to Wyoming and some fresh air and some healthy habits. Heck, they may even stick when I return!