Monday, October 24, 2011

Greens for Dummies, Part I

There are oh so many trends in the blogworld that I jumped on and loved. Pumpkin baked goods, greek yogurt, almond butter, acorn squash...I joined some bandwagons later than others, but still, bloggers have really done a lot to expand my diet, and almost all in very, very good ways.

But there are some trends I just never caught on to.

Like kale.

Not for any specific reason, really. Mainly, it's just that I'm a habitual eater, and between broccoli, brussels sprouts, and green beans, I just didn't feel the need to extend my vegetable rotation. And I did have a raw kale salad one time when I was out (probably from Whole Foods), and I definitely did not care for that was that.

But now that I'm banned from all cruciferous veggies for the rest of this month, I've been forced to expand into kale. (And collard greens, but that's for another post.) So, how to prepare it?

Easy. Melt a little butter (I used about a teaspoon for 5-6 leaves of kale). Add a dash or two of hot sauce to the melted butter. Tear your kale off of the big stems into smaller pieces and toss in the melted butter until coated...just use your hands for this. It's much easier. Spread on parchment paper on a baking sheet and sprinkle lightly with kosher salt.

Right before I melted the butter, I preheated my oven to 415 and put the kale in as soon as it was ready - my oven had reached about 115 degrees by then. Monitor your kale pretty closely, because the line between "baked and crispy" and "burnt and crumbling" is a pretty thin one. My kale is usually done about a minute or 90 seconds after the oven reaches 415.

Tasty. This reminds me of popcorn...and also makes me realize that the only thing that's good about popcorn is that it tastes like salt and butter.

As I suspected, after a few days of eating only meat and greens, my cravings started to come in pretty forcefully. I spent a nice fat chunk of Sunday fantasizing about all of the amazing delicious foods I'm going to eat come October chips and dip. And chocolate. And a pumpkin scone or a pumpkin cinnamon roll from my freezer (or both). Oh, and nachos. God, nachos would be great. And then I drank tea and did a puzzle and tried to stop thinking about tasty snacks.

In the meantime, though, I'm so happy with how things have gone. A long time ago - ugh - I wrote about how I had been battling with a particular case that is just a complete thorn in my side. Last June, when this case put me under the attack of the stupids, I coped by faceplanting into a veggie pizza. (Observation: that pizza that I ate last June definitely didn't kill me and didn't make me obese overnight. However, it has not made that case go away. It has not made their counsel any less frustrating to deal with, and it has not made their arguments and delay tactics any less frivolous, since here I am, about 16 months later, dealing with the exact.same.argument.) Today, preparing for tomorrow's hearing made me want to punch the world in the face, but the idea of drowning my sorrows in nutritionally-questionable food did not even cross my mind.

This, my friends, is progress.

(Also, an embarrassing and true story. In law school, I did very well in my school's internal moot court competition. As in, my partner and I won the entire competition, and I snagged the "Best Oralist" award during the final argument (LOL THATS WHAT SHE SAID). I would prepare for arguments by listening to that Eminem/Dre song "Shake That Ass" on my way there. It would get me all psyched up and get me in the mindset of how I was going to destroy my a law school make-believe oral argument. I still sort of do this for real life arguments. Sigh.)

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Last Ten Days

I suppose this will be more intense than the first 20, but let's see.

To recap: I started by cutting out all artificial sweeteners, eliminating fruit (I could have just cut back on it, but I tend to do better on an all-or-nothing basis), giving up my semi-weekly "kip meals" and adding a little dairy back into my life, in the form of swapping my coconut milk creamer for grass-fed half & half. As the challenge progressed, I limited my intake of chocolate from about half an ounce to an ounce of 77 or 85% about five times a week to Friday and Saturday nights only. I finished the last of my jar of almond butter and didn't buy more, and the only between-meals snack I eat is my precious, precious buffalo jerky. And, starting on October 15, I added in BCAAs pre and post-workout, and am starting to get accustomed to chugging glittery vodka.

I've seen fabulous results even in the short period from October 1 to October 19. I've dropped six or seven pounds and can feel a significant difference in my body composition, in really funny ways - like how my arms feel when I'm washing my hair, or how my lower back feels when I reach back to rub it at work (my desk chair has awful lumbar support), or what my thigh feels like when I brace my forearm against it when I'm putting the dogs' leashes on.

ANYWAY. So now we start the final ten-day stretch, and of course it's time to turn up the intensity.

Starting yesterday (October 20) and continuing through the end of the month, here's my life:

The keys here: meat and greens and animal based fats only. No cruciferous or starchy veggies, like carrots, broccoli, brussels sprouts or beans. No sweet potatoes. No avocado. Continue to get tons of protein in, but instead of cooking with olive oil (which I occasionally do), use butter or animal fat. No more dairy in my coffee.

For a lot of my meals, this isn't a big change. Breakfast, for one.

Look familiar? Messy desk, smoked pulled pork, over-easy eggs. This time I've added a handful of raw spinach (greens). Recently, more out of sheer laziness than anything else, lunch has been almost exclusively protein - this week, for example, PhillyGuy grilled me a ton of pork chops on Sunday afternoon, and that's what I've been bringing to work for lunch. (Thank goodness I can close my office door. There's just something...not professional...about sawing through a fat pork chop with a plastic knife at your desk.) Most days I had been bringing a little bag of raw veggies of some kind (peppers or carrots or green beans), so that's out...but otherwise, minimal change.

Dinner is the big difference - about twice a week I'd have a sweet potato, so that's out. And I have to replace my usual suspects (brussels sprouts, beans) with greens, which of course I need to figure out how to cook properly. Last night I had two chicken sausages, two eggs and a gigantic pile of kale chips, which I tossed in butter, topped with kosher salt and baked for a few minutes until crispy. Not so bad. I'm less enthusiastic about my ability to cook the giant bunch of collard greens I picked up.

And...of course. My best friends. Black coffee and water. So. Much. Water.

Naturally, this stage is not intended to be permanent - this is a "turn-up-the-heat" stage to force my body to burn its own fat so that I can lean out as much as possible in a short period of time. So far, I don't have any issues, but so far, it's only been 24 hours of eating this way, so we'll see how I feel tomorrow or Sunday...when I'm sure my cravings will skyrocket, and everything I see will turn into a walking Chocolove 77% dark chocolate bar, a'la Tom and Jerry. Maybe this isn't the best weekend to start burning my new "salty caramel corn" scented candle.

But sweet jebus it's been worth it. I PR'ed my front squat the other day by 15 pounds, and I was so surprised at how smooth and how good that 130 pounds felt. I did a jumping pullup on my door-mounted bar at home. And every morning, when I put on pants that used to be snug, or - better yet - used to be completely off limits, it's just a fabulous feeling.

- Tuesday: gymnastics. Back extension rolls, bridge-ups with kickover, back limber. I killed the metcon - three rounds for time of 10' bridge walk, 10' forward rolls, 10' plank walk, 10' backward rolls. 6:00 exactly - the key is that I mastered the bridge walk almost immediately. That shit is disorienting.

- Wednesday: front squats, starting with triples and working up to a peak of 1. 65x3-85x3-105x1-120x1-130x1. Natural glute-ham raises. Metcon: AMRAP double-unders in 5:00, 73. My DU's are getting better but I was having trouble stringing more than three or four together.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


One of my halfway-there-CFCC-BCCC-observations is that everything I eat now is delicious.

I mean...really.

I have steak almost every Friday night, with sweet potato rounds baked with cinnamon, paprika, chili powder and cayenne pepper. I call them "fries," but they're not - they're just fricking delicious.

And then the salmon wraps. This was a great discovery.

Smoked salmon, avocado, grape tomatoes and crumbled bacon. If you don't like this, you have no soul.

But...okay. Maybe not EVERYTHING is delicious.

Starting on Saturday - the halfway point - I added in a supplement. Erin made this recommendation at our first meeting, but I just didn't get around to picking them up until this past weekend.

BCAAs (branched chain amino acids) are, for chemistry and biology dummies like myself, three of the nine essential amino acids necessary for the body to function. They are metabolized in muscle, rather than the liver, and once broken down into their individual components (leucine, isoleucine and valine), are either burned as fuel by the body, or used by the body to build new proteins. BCAAs are a popular supplement in crossfit and in bodybuilding and olympic weightlifting in general for their ability not only to increase energy during a workout, but to assist in recovery. (Let's be clear: this is obviously not my independent scientific study, but just the understanding I've developed based on a whole lot of internet research. Take it with a grain of salt and do your own research, internet-based or otherwise.)

So, starting with Saturday's intro to oly, I've been taking 5 grams of BCAAs dissolved in about 6-8 ounces of water before and after each workout. Let me tell you something about BCAAs.

They taste awful.

A lot of articles describe it as a bitter taste, but I think it tastes exactly like that cheap-ass Barton's vodka we used in well drinks at TGIFriday's. People recommend adding citrus, but I'd rather just get used to the taste and deal with it, I think. Also, once they dissolve, you end up with something that looks like a bottle of water with glitter floating in it. It's far too early to make any real observations about what they actually DO, but I can say that - coincidentally or not - I'm not really that sore from the past three days of workouts.

Speaking of which:

- Friday. Some skillwork on the snatch, which is still not my best lift but is getting better. I need to just practice this a lot until muscle memory starts to kick in so I can get the form correct. Worked up to 65lbs, which isn't much, but it's something. Metcon: Jeremy. 21-15-9 of overhead squats (95-65) and burpees. I wanted to do it RX'd, but when your first three reps feel heavy, it's not I dropped down to 55. Arms were like jelly by the end. 9:19.

- Saturday: intro to oly. Clean & jerk. I started with just the training bar to work on the form for the split jerk; tried the push jerk but that's just not me. 15-35-45-55-65-65-75-75-85, mostly doubling up the jerks with some singles towards the end. This is much, much stronger for me than the snatch.

- Sunday: gymnastics. Forward rolls (speed rolls with two connected, dive rolls) and handstand walking. Getting much better at shifting my weight and working towards the single-arm handstand, but haven't walked on my hands yet, despite many attempts. Metcon: death by handstand thigh slaps (handstand against the wall, shifting weight to one arm and bringing opposite arm off the floor to slap your thigh - one rep is both sides). One in the first minute, and then adding one more each consecutive minute until you can't finish the prescribed amount in the minute. 7 full rounds plus 6 thigh slaps.

- Monday: power cleans, starting with doubles and working up to a peak of one. 65x2-65x2-75x2-85x2-85x1-95x1-105x1. Metcon: death by thrusters (95/65). One thruster was OK; my shoulders were NOT having me rep them. Rather than aggravate my weaker rotator cuff muscles, I substituted front squats after the first minute. Starting with three thrusters in minute 1, 10 rounds + 8 front squats at RX'ed weight.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Halfway-There Musings

October 15 marks the half-way point in the CFCC BCCC. Here's what I've done so far:

- Since Day 1 (October 1), I've eliminated all artificial sweeteners of any kind. For me, this included the packet of sweet & low I usually added to my morning (and afternoon) coffee, as well as the gallons (literally - this is not exaggeration) of diet soda I drank each week.

- Since Day 1 I've significantly reduced and nearly eliminated the amount of fruit I've eaten. I could have a moderate amount of fruit each week if I wanted (the example Erin gave at our first meeting was "buy three apples each week and when they're done, they're done") but I just haven't bought any.

- Related to the above - since Day 1, I haven't touched a single Larabar. Even the coconut cream pie one that's been in my desk drawer since September 28. Cruelly, the challenge started six days after I'd bought two cases of Larabars...coconut cream pie and gingersnap.

- Since Day 1, I've replaced my coconut milk creamer with grass-fed cream. I had originally brought in coconut milk creamer as a replacement for the regular, full-fat half & half I added to my coffee, because when I started eating paleo, I cut out all dairy products except for the occasional butter I've used in cooking.

- Finally, since Day 1, I haven't had a shred of gluten, a speck of added sugar, soy anything, or anything that remotely smacks of the foregoing [potential] allergens.

I've made a few further cuts since then:

- Starting with Week 2, around October 6, I limited my chocolate consumption from about half an ounce of dark chocolate (77% or 85%) about five times a week to weekends only - a total of twice over the course of Friday evening through Sunday evening. (I was SO looking forward to that chocolate last night after my steak.)

- Starting with Monday, October 10, I don't eat anything between "meals" except for my absolute favorite buffalo jerky - this just meant eliminating other options, like coconut water or almond butter.

- Also starting with the week of October 10, I'm being mindful of the idea that sometimes, it's OK to be a little hungry, and that when there's no good food available, it's better to fast for a few hours until something solid and real and quality is available.

With the exception of the artificial sweeteners, these cuts are not a drastic change from how I was eating before. The biggest difference is that I haven't taken a single "kip meal" (I really prefer that term to "cheat meal," which has such a negative connotation) since that blessed Last Supper at COOK on September 30 (and what a kip meal that was). This is probably why it's been so easy for me, relatively speaking, so far. Here are my midpoint observations:

- I drink more water than I did diet soda. Before, I basically drank no water whatsoever unless I was at the gym, during or after a workout. I just really like diet soda. It's fizzy and it's delicious, and water is not. I averaged anywhere from 60-100 ounces a day (two 20-ounce bottles at work, sometimes a third, and probably a liter or two over the course of my evening at home). I have a 26-ounce water bottle at work that I fill at least three times a day, if not four or five, and I'm continously draining a large glass at home. I don't track ounces but I'm estimating I'm closer to 130 a day, especially if you include my nightly cup of Sleepytime tea.

- I was (am?) not "addicted" to diet soda. I quit it cold turkey on October 1 and have only really craved it once or twice since then. Looking back, I feel kind of silly spending SO MUCH MONEY on diet soda every day at work. I have a feeling this is going to be an all-or-nothing thing for me, though - if, say, on November 4 we have a lunch meeting at work and I have a can of Coke Zero, I am NOT going to want to switch back to water when I get back to my office. We'll see.

- Overall, I have really had minimal cravings. I think this has a lot to do with the fact that I'm not substituting any "paleo" facsimiles of the foods I've cut out. Example: when I was "on Atkins" in college, I still craved things like bread and potatoes and chips and BBQ sauce from time to time. I tried to satisfy those cravings by eating low-carb bread, "zero calorie" BBQ sauce (oh, god, WHY) and "chips" made from parmesan cheese piles. My friends and I would share bags of sugar-free chocolate and sugar-free peanut butter cups. Since I was still eating "Atkins versions" of the foods I was supposed to be eliminating, I still wanted the foods I was supposed to be eliminating. And one should be sentenced to a life of calorie-free BBQ sauce. I cannot fathom how I convinced myself that was good.

- Everything I eat is delicious. I mean...SERIOUSLY. Sure, I've gotten a little bored with rotisserie chicken. But I don't eat anything that's "only OK."

- Notwithstanding the above, there are definitely moments - albeit few - where I would kill someone for chips and dip. Not gluten free chips and dip, either. Give me cheap, mass-produced, super-salty tostitos (the little bowl kind) with a vat of the chili cheese dip they make at Whole Foods, or that lobster spread they sell at Costco. It passes. Every time.

- My tastebuds have adjusted a bunch since I've eliminated so much sweet stuff - both artificial sweeteners and fructose. I had a container of grape tomatoes this week that I used in my breakfasts and dinners - holy crap, they tasted like candy. I mean, WOW sweet.

- I suck at peeling boiled eggs. Hard boiled eggs are not as disgusting as I imagined they would be, but they are not delicious at all and the yolk looks like a pencil eraser. Soft boiled eggs are much better.

- I can't speak for inches but I've lost some weight - about six pounds since the beginning of the challenge. Given that the changes I've made are relatively minor (no kip meals, no artificial sweeteners, eggs for breakfast instead of fruit), I think this speaks volumes about how much you can accomplish by really dialing in your nutrition and not being lazy about it.

Sadly, while I have made a bunch of progress on the body comp side, I haven't made as much progress on my goal of improving my pull ups. Shockingly, this is because I haven't practiced pull ups (though I did a bunch in this week's benchmark WODs).

Time to grab a quick breakfast. Intro to oly at 11 today and then hopefully a bunch of nothing for the rest of the day...wish me luck and happy weekend!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Paleo Breakfasts

One of the notable changes I made with the CFCC BCCC was eliminating my usual breakfast of some kind of fruit and almond butter.

The "why" behind this is pretty simple: sugar and fat without any real protein is not a good way to start your day. Not only do you end up with a quick insulin spike, but - and this is anecdotal - it just doesn't keep you full. At all. There's not much to run on.

I needed protein-focused breakfast alternatives. And, since I'm kind of lazy and not at all interested in cooking every single weekday morning, I needed (or at least really wanted) stuff that could be made ahead of time, preferably the night before, with minimal work in the mornings.

Here's what's been in my rotation the past few weeks.

Option 1: go to DiBruno's in the Comcast Center and pick up a made-to-order omelet, usually with bacon, tomatoes and green pepper.

Pros: very tasty, and the least work possible, since someone else is doing the cooking. DiBruno's cooks with clarified butter, and the ingredients are decent quality. Cons: it's not cheap. An omelet is $4.99. And obviously, it's just not possible to get an omelet without coffee too (even if I've barely finished the first cup that I made at home), so it ends up being closer to $8 after tax and all that good stuff. Who needs to spend $40 a week for convenience?

Next: scrambled eggs with whatever's in the fridge. This is from this morning and included grape tomatoes, crumbled bacon (I bought a big bag of precooked bacon crumbles at Costco), and spinach.

Pros: much cheaper than an omelet from DiBruno's and just as tasty. I definitely know what's going into it since I made it myself. Cons: more time-consuming than buying pre-made breakfast and no make-ahead option (scrambled eggs do not reheat so well). Still, time commitment was moderate - about ten minutes total, including time to wash the pan and spatula.

Next: smoked pork topped with two over-easy eggs.

Pros: god, this is delicious. And it's easy. The pulled pork is Kirkland brand from Costco, with a surprisingly paleo-approved ingredients list. I had some for dinner one night, and then reheated the rest over the course of a few days for breakfasts (and leftover dinners). Cons: it's definitely fatty, which can leave me feeling a little sluggish if I'm too generous with the pork. I think next time I will add in some spinach or something a little more "fresh" tasting. This is also not a make-ahead deal, but cooking and cleanup time is minimal at six minutes total.

Finally: soft-boiled eggs, smoked salmon, spinach, grape tomatoes.

Pros: a complete make-ahead breakfast. I soft-boiled six eggs on Tuesday night and made two of these neat little containers with 4oz of smoked salmon each, a handful of tomatoes and a handful of spinach. It's lower in fat than some of my other breakfasts (cough, smoked pork, cough) and it doesn't need to be heated. Cons: smoked salmon can be kinda stinky. And it's pricey, which bumps the cost of this breakfast up a bunch. Also, I haven't mastered the soft boiled egg yet (that's not really a con, it's just me).

So...that's what I've been rotating through. So far, the salmon dish has been my favorite. It's cold and refreshing and not heavy but still unbelievably tasty. I'm going to try steaming my next batch of soft-boiled eggs, which promises to be simpler and also help the shells peel more completely, so I don't waste half an egg by picking the shell off bit by bit.

Lots of benchmark workouts this week, since we're between strength cycles:

Monday: A little snatching, followed by Crossfit Disco. 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 of box jumps (24/20) and pull ups. Cap of 10:00, even if you're as RX'ed...which I was not. I used the average band for my first couple sets of pullups and then quickly realized I was failing every couple reps, so I added the mini band so I could finish within the cap. I fucking suck at pull ups. 9:57.

Wednesday: Some kettlebell snatch work, followed by Helen. 3 rounds for time of 400m run, 21 American KB swings (1.5/1pood), 12 pull ups. I used the RX'ed weight but did Russian swings as American were bugging my left shoulder, and average + mini bands. 11:51. In the third round, I was failing every third or fourth pull up. BAH.

Thursday: Elizabeth. 21-15-9 of power cleans (135/95) and ring dips. Last time we did Elizabeth was during the last week of September, when I didn't log a single workout. I know I used 65lbs and recalled it being relatively easy, and I know I'm not so hot at ring dips, so I estimated that it took me over 10 minutes to complete. This may not have been correct. Using the light band for my dips and 65lbs, I completed this in 8:41. Time to move up in weight. Not in dips (I did them 2-3 at a time and failed a few reps in the last two sets).

Tonight is Jeremy, which I haven't done since my very first on-ramp class. And, since that was with a PVC pipe and still kicked my ass, I'm pumped to see how today goes. Happy weekend!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Short & Sweet

Making this a quick one - I'm trying to blow through a ton of work today in the hopes of getting out of here early enough to get home, walk my pups and get back to CFCC for some snatch action. (The jokes just write themselves.)

I sort of expected this weekend to be something of a challenge. PhillyGuy and I road tripped it up to visit his parents and grandparents, which - like any visit to an Italian family - typically involves food (and gluten, and sugar, and and and) in excess. Normally, for a weekend like this, while I don't just go balls to the wall and eat everything that's offered to me, I have no compunctions about eating a fresh cider donut or a couple pieces of toast with breakfast or a slice or two of sheet pizza. Not so much this time.

I prepared myself as best I could by packing some necessities into my purse:

Two bags of my favorite buffalo jerky (for snacks and, if necessary, emergency meal replacements...I asked PhillyGuy to get me four, but this is apparently all that was left in the store), jump rope (for travel WOD-ing on the in-laws' back porch), water bottle (for surgically attaching to my hand), food log (for, well, food logging).

Also, my nook (for reading lots of US Weekly and maybe some of the Impressionists). Which has nothing to do with this challenge.

Here are the challenges I expected: lots of donuts, pizza, bread and desserts being offered. Lots of pressure to change my mind after I politely declined said donuts, pizza, bread and/or desserts. Lots of scrutiny about what I was eating or not eating. Lots of questions about what I was doing and why.

Here is what actually happened: true to form, Mama PhillyGuy greeted us with a jug of fresh cider and a dozen or two warm, fresh cider donuts from the Cider Mill down the street. She offered both of us one (or two or ten), and asked me if I'd ever had one warm. Perhaps PhillyGuy gave his parents a heads up, or perhaps they gleaned some stuff from facebook or something, but she wasn't surprised when I told her that I wasn't going to have one.

There were some questions about what I was doing - "is it some kind of cleanse or something?" has been a common one, not just with my inlaws but with almost everyone who's caught wind of it - but thankfully, very little else. There was one point where she literally shoved some kind of caramel apple pie directly under my face, and one incident in the grocery store where she tried to convince me that I could have apple crisp, since she didn't add sugar to her apples, but all in all, it was really nothing.

Which I was completely grateful for. I really, really dislike being scrutinized about my eating, particularly WHILE I'm eating. They were very accommodating - when his dad grilled up some spiedies and locally-made sausages for lunch, Mama PhillyGuy helped me check all of the labels to make sure there was no added sugar or anything else funny in the ingredient lists, and made sure that she was OK to use her regular rice vinegar to dress the salad - but not at all intrusive, and no one tried to get into a debate with me about how whole grains are healthy or whatever.

All in all, the weekend was a non-issue, but it's eye-opening. My takeaways:

- It's amazing just how much ritual is built around food. PhillyGuy and I have discussed numerous times how it's a struggle, particularly for him, to eat well when we visit his parents. It's not just because there is, literally, ALWAYS food available - plates of candy and homemade cookies everywhere at Christmas, everyone you visit putting out a tray of snacks, ranging from antipasto and crackers to home-smoked prosciutto to candied nuts and cheese - when you come hang out with them. It's also because you associate so many things with "coming home" or "family time" or whatever. It's fall, so we always, ALWAYS have cider and cider donuts and usually an apple pie or apple crisp. His parents frequently pick up a sheet pizza to snack on when the kids come visit (like spiedies, it's a Binghamton thing - pizza baked in a sheet pan, topped with american cheese) that we inevitably graze on, hot or cold, for the duration of our stay. We'll go visit his uncle, who might make three varieties of homemade pizza or homemade pasta or both. You don't eat because you're hungry, you eat because it's ritual.

- Not partaking in the ritual feast doesn't stop you from partaking in the important part of the ritual - hanging out with people you love and catching up with them.

- The only time I was a little jealous of the "let's eat whatever" mentality was Saturday night. We were all stuffed from gorging ourselves on spiedies, salad and sausage around 2 or 3 that afternoon, so no one had dinner. Around 8 or 9, people started getting snacky, and one by one, my husband and his parents went into the kitchen and then returned to the living room with big plates of apple pie and whipped cream. I didn't want the actual pie (I'm not a pie fan in general), and I wasn't even hungry OR particularly snacky myself, but I felt a little left out that everyone else was eating and I wasn't. So silly, right?

- PhillyGuy had the bright idea that "he" (read: both of us) would make breakfast for nine people. While cooking this much food in someone else's kitchen is nerve-wracking, this was good because I got to control the menu enough to ensure that there was plenty of food for me. We made two pounds of Whole Foods fresh cut black forest bacon, twenty eggs (some fried, some over easy, the rest scrambled), a few links of kielbasa, and diced sweet potatoes pan-fried in bacon grease with an onion. I had three (small-ish) eggs, a little bit of potato, three slices of bacon and two small slices of kielbasa. Everyone else built out the breakfast with toast, pastries, a variety of cider donuts, juice and fruit - and no one commented on what I was or wasn't eating, which was a relief.

- There is a noticeable difference in the quality of the $5 jumprope I picked up at Target and the jumpropes at the gym. The workout I intended to do involved 50-40-30-20-10 double-unders alternated with overhead squats with the rope, but I couldn't get the rope to move fast enough to do more than one DU at a time. After it took the better part of 5-6 minutes to get to 25 DU's, I said "F this noise" and switched to twice as many singles. Total, this workout took me about 12 minutes, I worked up a nice dripping sweat, and got it all out of the way before my inlaws even woke up. There truly is NO excuse not to work out when you're traveling.

So now I'm back to work and experimenting with portable breakfasts with minimal AM prep time.

Repeat from Friday and one other day last week: shredded smoked pork (from Costco - surprisingly clean ingredients list and I think $8 for three or four pounds) topped with two over-easy eggs. Total prep time of six minutes, including a quick wash of the pan and spatula.

Rest of last week's workouts:

- Friday 10/7 - Lynne redux. 5 rounds of max bench presses and max pull ups. I hadn't done this workout since the first round four weeks ago, before I hurt my shoulder. We were instructed to use the same weight and (if applicable) same band, with the goal being to show progress in the number of reps you could complete. For me, this was 90lbs/average band. The weight felt a LOT heavier than it had the first time, which I chalked up to my shoulder - I was noticeably weaker on my left side, but I was eking out 5 or 6 reps in each round. And then, three rounds in, Liz noticed that I was actually lifting 95 pounds, not 90. So, you know, fail. Can't measure progress with this one, but my rounds were 6/11, 5/11, 4/10, 4/9 and 4/8.

- Sunday 10/9 - travel workout! I put together my own based on the suggested workouts available on the CFCC page. 50-40-30-20-10 DU's alternated with 25-20-15-10-5 OH squats with the rope...except I actually did 25DU's followed by 80-60-40-20 singles due to rope suckage. Still sweated my butt off.

OK, much for a "short" and "quick" post. Hope everyone had a good weekend!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Grilling Machine

One of the things I'm most grateful for about the CFCC BCCC is that it won't interfere with my favorite night of the week:


PhillyGuy and I are fortunate enough to have steak night about once a week, though some weeks it doesn't play out. It's pretty much replaced our previous tradition of a weekly (pricey and indulgent) meal out. True story? PhillyGuy's steak is just as good - if not better - than the steaks we used to shell out for at places like Butcher & Singer (which is still my favorite steakhouse in the city, I think), AND it's about 1/5 of the cost, AND I get to eat it in my sweatpants. Win.

PhillyGuy is in charge of the grill. I'm pretty sure I've only used the grill like...three or four times since we got it. It was life changing, though - no matter what anyone tells you, a George Foreman, while it has its place, is NOT the same.

Cosmo constantly supervises. (And also, LOOK AT THAT FAT BUTT. It's amazing...he was so emaciated when we got him, and now he's my little tank. Or sausage. Whatever.)

We get our ribeyes at Costco. Sometimes we change it up and get strips, but usually, it's ribeyes. They're USDA Prime and they're about $15/lb, anywhere from $50-70 for a pack of four. They're a couple bucks more per pound than the USDA Choice ribeyes there, but it's worth the investment. Not cheap, but they are substantially better than any other steak I've picked up anywhere, including much pricier grassfed ribeyes/delmonicos from Whole Food and DiBruno's. I'm not sure what it is.

So while he grills his steak (and sears mine - baby, I like it raw) (ugh sorry), I'm in charge of this.

And this.

The veggie varies between brussels sprouts, broccoli and green beans, but I always roast them with salt, pepper and olive oil. The sweet potatoes get a bath in olive oil, chili powder, paprika, cinnamon and cayenne pepper, and then dusted with kosher salt when they come out of the oven.

The only thing I need to eliminate with the BCCC is the beer. And that's not a big deal to me - I really don't drink much, maybe a glass or two of wine or a beer once or twice a month. In fact, PhillyGuy and I SPLIT these two beers on this particular steak night a few weeks ago. I love me an ice cold dirty martini with my steak when we're out, but I never bother with that at home.

So, yes. It's Friday and it's steak night in the PhillyGirlRuns household. And here is a quick recap of this week's workouts (kind of meh - it's been a busy week, I have a shoulder injury and I haven't had a ton of time to get to CFCC):

Saturday, 10/1: Before I got my bake on, I got my partner workout on. In teams of three, 20 minute AMRAP of 15 front squats (135/95) and 75 double-unders. My team went with 65lbs for the front squats - they were easy for me but I think RX'ed would have been REAL tough. The double unders were the suck factor, at least for me, though I was able to complete 10 or 15 at a time by connecting them with singles. We completed 4 rounds + 3 front squats...outside in the middle of 13th street.

(Picture credit to Kimberly, heisted from CFCC's blog. I'm in the unflattering squat in the pink.)

Wednesday: Sandbag shoulder turkish getups. 30-40-60-70-80 (right side only, ran out of time). Metcon: 8 minute AMRAP, 8 single-arm overhead squats strong side, 8 SAOHS weak side, 8 jumping goblet squats (1.5pood/1pood). I hurt (NOT tore, thank goodness) my left rotator cuff last week doing knees-to-elbows, so I didn't add weight on my left arm - instead I did squats with a 40lb sandbag over that shoulder for that side. Otherwise RX'ed at 1pood/16kg/35lbs - it was tough but felt good, and I am very glad I did the 16kg instead of 12kg. 4 rounds even.

Thursday: sumo deadlifts, peak of 1. I do not like sumo deadlifts - I always feel awkward, AND the bar scrapes up the top of my knees due to the wide stance (wah, wah, wah). Nonetheless - 115-155-175-205-225-235 (fail)-235 (ugly but up). My form on the last lift was horrendous - I was somewhat surprised to find the bar off of the ground, so the rest of me was like - LOL WUT - and there was a lot of side-to-side shifting. That would be a 5lb PR - WOOT. 15lbs left to get to my 2011 goal. Metcon: 5 rounds for time, 10 russian kettlebell swings (2pood/1.5pood), 20 double unders. My DU's have improved significantly in the last two weeks, and I'm now stringing 5-6 together unbroken pretty consistently, without the need to do singles in between. This was still the suck factor in this workout, though. 6:40 as RX'ed.

happy weekend all! And happy first-week-through-the CFCC BCCC. I feel good.
Soooo that's it this week.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Food Torture

...aka, making pumpkin whoopie pies on the first day of a thirty-day nutrition cleanup.

So, Saturday - October 1 - marked the first day of the CFCC BCCC. Which is also the first day of my thirty days of no cheat meals (or, as Drywall would say, no kip meals). It was also the day that my friends and I had been planning for weeks to have dinner. I was put in charge of dessert, which, as a rule, makes me happy, since I love to bake. (Mostly for the batter, actually. I feel "meh" about actual baked goods, for the most part - with a few exceptions. But raw cookie dough or raw cake batter? Oh god, sign me up. And give me salmonella. Whatever.)

If I were a complete jerkface I'd have brought a bowl of mixed berries to my friend's house. But not so much. Instead, I did what I usually do when I can't decide what to bake - scour EatLiveRun's "recipes" page and find something fabulous.


I know Jenna's a baking genius, but it's little things like this that make it clear. Along with the usual suspects in pumpkin baking (cinnamon, ginger, cloves and nutmeg), these whoopie pies had a little bit of white pepper. I assume it brings out the other flavors. Maybe I'll make these again in November and make sure.

So, we go from this

to this.

While they cooled, I got to work with this:

SO NOT PALEO. Or, well, I guess this part (where it's just a ton of softened butter all whipped up) is arguably paleo. In someone's world. If you wanted to lick whipped butter off of the beater. Which even I did not.

I particularly love making baked goods that include homemade frosting. I guess it's because something like a basic vanilla buttercream is so freaking easy, but it's one of those things that most people don't do, so they find it impressive. Like driving stick, or using chopsticks.

A little piece of me died inside when I couldn't taste this. Instead, I called PhillyGuy in from the living room, where he was parked watching football, to taste the buttercream for me. "Does it need more vanilla? What if I added some cinnamon and made half of them with cinnamon filling?" Poor guy's got it rough.

After the cakes (pies? cookies? whatever) were cooled, I piped in the frosting and assembled everything. Behold, the whoopie pie.

Once again, I had PhillyGuy sample the finished product to make sure it was OK. This was unnerving, because here I was, bringing eighteen homemade whoopie pies - something I'd never made before - to dinner with friends without having tasted them AT ALL to make sure they were okay. And trust me, I have screwed up some baked goods before. Like that time I tried to make candy cane Joe-Joe's. THAT was not pretty.

But he gave his seal of approval. And my friends all gave their seals of approval. I think between the seven-and-a-half (including my friend's 11-month-old daughter, who heartily approved of the whoopie pie) others who were at dinner, at least half of the whoopie pies went that night, and I distributed the rest of them to my friends to take home.

Perhaps a piece of me died a little inside, but I'm pretty proud to report that this food torture went down without my tasting so much as a single scrap of cake, drip of batter or speck of flour. One of my friends commented on my "amazing willpower." I definitely do NOT have amazing willpower. What I do have is the ability to flip a switch inside my brain once I decide I am on a structured plan of some kind.

And also it helps when you start your day with a good solid sweat, and then eat this before you bake.

(Three eggs over-easy, served over a handful of baby spinach, half a diced sweet potato cooked in a skillet with some chopped onion, and two beautiful slices of fresh cut black forest bacon from Whole Foods.)


Sunday, October 2, 2011

So, About That Challenge

As I mentioned last time, October 1 marked the beginning of a 30-day nutrition challenge at Crossfit Center City. I kicked off my challenge by meeting with a coach, where we took stats and reviewed a three-day food journal I kept last Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

Here are my goals, for 30 days as well as for the rest of 2011:

In case you can't read - my primary goals for October 31 are to lose enough body fat to drop another clothing size (for anyone playing along at home, that should take me from a size 8 back into a size 6. It won't necessitate buying new clothes yet but will open up a whole slew of pants I haven't worn since late 2009) and to seriously improve my pull-ups. Right now, I can do about 4 or 5 with the "light" plus "mini" bands, and can do one very ugly pull up with the mini band alone. If we're doing pullups in a metcon, I have to use the "average" band. By the time 30 days is up, I would LOVE to be repping them with a light band or better. Truth be told, this would actually make me even happier than dropping a pants size.

By 12/31/2011, I want to improve all three lifts for the Crossfit Total, to go from a 230lb DL to 250, from a 165lb back squat to 185, and from a 75lb press to 80, and to do bodyweight pull ups. And not need to go to my knees for pushups.

I have a lot of work to do.

BUT ANYWAY. Starting this week, my major focus was something I knew was coming, but was dreading: cutting out the artificial sweeteners.

I don't care about the 3/4 packet of sweet & low I usually add to my morning coffee. But I freakin' care about my precious diet soda. Remember that time I tried to switch to drinking only water at work to save money? Yeah, clearly that didn't go too far. According to my blog, I lasted at least a week, but I can tell you - although there's no record of it - that it definitely didn't last much more than that.

So I spent a few minutes washing my pink water bottle on Friday afternoon, since god knows when the last time was that I used it. And now that will be my best friend at work. I've been carrying around a freebie North Face squeeze bottle at home - something I picked up at the Philly Half expo last year - and I'll throw this random metal bottle I have into my gym bag. For someone who doesn't like to drink water, I sure have a buttload of bottles.

Okay, so. I'm cutting out the artificial sweeteners, at least for now. Erin promises this will have a tremendously positive effect on my health, and will aid me in reaching my goals. I'm skeptical, but clearly I need to give this the whole 30 days before I can really judge, so here goes.

The other big focus was to not eat fruit for breakfast. See, I used to eat fruit and plain Greek yogurt every morning, with the occasional granola mixed in. When I cut out dairy back in July, I swapped my 4-6 ounces of yogurt for a couple tablespoons of almond butter, but kept the fruit. Even though I found that the almond butter had more staying power than the yogurt, I would still end up hungry by 10:30 or 11 most mornings. This doesn't happen when I have eggs. So, I've been googling "microwave omelet" for the last ten minutes or so, and we'll see how that goes this week.

All in all...the past two days have been a little challenging, but nothing awful. Yesterday I spent hours baking pumpkin whoopie pies, and then filling said whoopie pies with two flavors of homemade frosting. I managed not to taste the batter, the frosting, the finished product, or so much as lick my fingers. I had dinner at my friend's house without an issue (due in no small part to the fact that I ate about half a rotisserie chicken and some raw green beans before I left the house). Today, when walking through Costco to stock up for the week, I couldn't help but feel small pangs of jealousy for people who were spending the day watching the game while chowing down on chips and dip. And I pretty much would have killed someone for a cold Pepsi Max with my steak tonight.

But so far, two days of success, down. 28 more to go. Here's to bodyweight pull ups.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Last Supper

Today starts CFCC's fall body composition challenge. For the next 30 days, I am focusing on keeping my nutrition super-clean, starting to experiment with supplements, and gettin' strong. Adios, gluten. Buh-bye, copious amounts of fruit and Larabars. And - this is the one I'm really going to be bummed about - see ya later, artificial sweeteners. (As of now, my precious aspartame is the one thing I do plan to reintroduce come October 31, but we'll see.)

However...the challenge started today. October 1. Yesterday was September 30. Which meant my last chance for some unrestricted eats.

And I was so, so grateful that I had booked a class at Audrey Claire COOK months ago.

What better way to spend my last supper than with burgers handmade by Rob Wasserman and Michael Yeamans of Rouge? (And also of 500 degrees, which I thought opened a few months ago. Um, apparently it's been open for a year and a half. Fail.)

You better believe I started out with some bread. This was nice and crusty, with a dusting of salt on the ends and some fennel seeds baked in that I actually kind of liked. (I usually despise fennel, since I cannot stand licorice.)

As you can see, the space is fabulous - very intimate. There are sixteen seats spread around the bar, and you're only a foot away from the action at most.

It had a distinctive dinner party feel. Mike (who looks a WHOLE lot like Cliff Lee) did almost all of the hands-on work, while Rob led the show by talking through the courses and entertaining us. (By the way, sorry for the iPhone pics, but I wasn't sure if photography was going to be allowed so I didn't bother bringing the DSLR.)

First course was a tuna tartare, diced from the biggest, freshest slab of tuna I've ever seen, and tossed with a chili/soy sauce/rice vinegar dressing. It was served with salted wonton chips, some seaweed salad and an extremely pungent wasabi mayo.

The first course was paired with a light, crisp white wine - whites aren't my favorite, but this was decent. I was much happier when they started pouring a shiraz - it meant that the big guns were coming out. And I was right - we took a break between these two courses so that Mike could get our dessert (a flourless chocolate cake) in the oven.

After the miniature cakes were in the oven, he came around the table and gave a dollop of leftover raw batter to anyone who was willing to admit they wanted it. You better believe I got some, and ho.lee.shit. Five ingredients (sugar, eggs, butter, dark chocolate, heavy whipping cream) - serious bliss. I regret not taking a picture of that.

I didn't have too much time to mourn, because before I knew it, the burgers were fryin'.

O.M.G. Naturally, they weren't about to reveal their proprietary blend of meats, but they did confirm that it was 80/20, with a mix of beef, short rib and brisket. BRISKET. Under that beautiful blanket of gruyere is a pile of perfectly caramelized onions.

I mean, COME ON.

Third course was a truffled gnocchi. Below is about $600 worth of food: three white truffles, sitting gracefully in a bowl of dry rice, and a gigantic pile of truffle butter.

Mike showed Rob how to shave those gorgeous, expensive fungi over the handmade gnocchi.

This was easily my favorite dish of the night, and I am a serious, serious fan of red meat. The gnocchi were soft and pillowy, and the garlic oil and truffle butter combined with the shaved truffle was almost cheesy. I could have eaten a bucket of this.

A few minutes later it was time for dessert. (Cooked this time - not like the raw batter palate cleanser we had earlier in the night.)

The flourless chocolate cake was good, but not mind blowing. It stood up well to the Barbera that was flowing, and it somehow managed to be dense and fluffy at the same time.

("I like soup. It's a chunky's a liquid's chunky and liquid at the same time. I don't get how they do that shit.")

All in all, it was a fabulous night, and the best "last supper" I could have asked for. If any of you are considering it, DEFINITELY grab a reservation at Cook. It was a great experience - definitely a little pricey ($250 for PhillyGuy and I), but we got four courses, three free-flowing wines, and an intimate, informative cooking demonstration, with recipes to bring home. Maybe not a once-a-month thing, but we'll definitely be back. AFTER the body composition challenge, anyway.

Plus, being able to indulge like that last night made it juuuuuuust a little less painful to spend most of today baking goddamn pumpkin whoopie pies. I can't eat 'em, but DAMN do they look beautiful - plenty of pictures and I'll share tomorrow.

Happy weekend!