Waking Up After Hibernation

Interestingly, the blog has been inactive for longer than I had thought (Sept 2014? Really!?). So, I guess we have all kinds of catching up to do!

At the end of 2014, we accepted a transfer to be relocated from the Texas panhandle toward the middle of the state, ending up in Waxahachie (pronounced like “woks” not “wax”) which is about 30’ish miles south of Dallas. We continued our Weight Watchers membership here for that first year, while we were living in an apartment, and we had some mixed results with the changes that they had made to the new plan. Some things we liked, and some we didn’t, and overall we ended the year mostly disappointed.

We moved here primarily so that Jenny could take over for another person in her department that was getting ready to retire, and also to take on a new set of responsibilities so that she could put more of her talents and experience to use so that she wasn’t continuing to be underutilized. When we got here, we found out that the position they had in mind for her wasn’t at all what we were expecting, the situation was really a big mess, and the new challenges that she was looking forward to she never had any time to do, and they wanted her focused on the same old things. Add to that the fact that the oilfield really sucked at the time so they were cutting back on expenses, and this job that was being handled by two people previously they wanted her to take on by herself. To make a long story short, life sucked after this job change. With the oilfield being one of the primary industries in Pampa, it also took us eight months to sell the house, so paying mortgage on that along with the rent in the apartment for a year certainly contributed to the stress levels. After a few months of the new job we decided that my paycheck would suffice and the added stress that she was dealing with at work certainly wasn’t worth the money, so we had her quit.

There’s more to that story, but I’ll let her tell it at a later date if she feels up to it. You can read about her personal feelings about that situation on her other blog, in Cracked, and her subsequent post about how she felt a year later, A Year in Review.

Relocating to Waxahachie itself was a great move for us. It got Jenny back into a larger city, which is where she really thrives, and I’m happy in pretty much any surrounding, so seeing her happy made me happy, and I personally enjoy Waxahachie quite a bit myself so it was good all around. We moved here in January 2015 and stayed in the apartment until December 2015, at which point we bought a house. Moving into the house made things in Waxahachie even better. We both love the house, and its location. But of course, new house meant new monthly payments, and for a couple of months it meant paying for the apartment as well as the house itself. We had put up with doubled living expenses for 8 months with the housing market being so bad in Pampa, so we knew what that part was going to be like, but thankfully we knew before hand that it would only be two months’ worth this time around which was far less stressful. (Jenny reminded me we didn’t have to double-pay during this time, it worked out perfectly).

However, those increased expenses combined with the reduced income of Jenny no longer having a job, meant that we needed to cut back on some expenses, and the first thing to go was Weight Watchers. Since the last couple of years worth of changes to how WW works hadn’t done us a whole lot of good in the weight loss department compared to how things were previously, we didn’t mind getting rid of it. We had learned how to change our lifestyle and our habits, and how to control our eating enough that we were comfortable going it alone at least for a few months until things calmed back down on the monetary front. We closed on the house on December 28, 2015 and moved in two days later.

Then along came 2016. Or as we like to call it, the Year of Thousand Stresses.

There were a lot of great things from 2016, and as a whole I can’t honestly complain about it too much. However, it was a year in which we had constant health scares and/or deaths come up on both sides of the family or friends. The oilfield still sucked, and I was still working for the same company only I was doing so from home rather than in the office. There were a lot of projects for me at work last year with important deadlines, we had gone through several layoffs as well as closing some facilities down completely, and every time things started to calm down at work someone got sick, someone died, someone got injured, or someone got sick/injured and death was a real possibility. As soon as the health scare cleared up, here came a brand new deadline for work. And since we were in a brand new place, that of course meant that we had to make new friends which carries some stress of its own. But as if everything else wasn’t bad enough, every time we started to develop a close relationship with another couple, they moved. We just couldn’t get ahead for nothing. We were loving the house and loving the move, but pretty much everything else sucked.

The result of that, as far as the Chubby Couple is concerned, as that we gained weight. We knew it was happening, but so much energy was going into other things that we just didn’t have the energy to do anything about it, or to really care all that much to begin with. I mean, sure we cared, but we had too many other things to worry about. Things finally started to calm down for us a bit around November 2016. Not everything, but enough that we were finally started to feel like we were back in control again. But, we decided that with the year being as bad as it was so far, we’d put the weight loss goals on hold until the new year. We didn’t want to voluntarily introduce another stress to the mix, we were going to enjoy our holidays and the weeks surrounding them.

So here we are in 2017, ready to get back on track. Things are looking up for the oilfield, we’re still loving our house and being able to have people come over and enjoy it with us, and (insert every positive superstitious thing you can think of) almost everyone’s health has stabilized for the time being. I don’t know for sure how active the blog is going to get this year in regards to our weight loss. We’re going to give it a go this year with MyFitnessPal.com (MFP: Psynister). Weight Watchers is essentially a simplified version of counting your calories with the use a points system rather than the raw numbers, so it’s basically doing the same thing except that our support group is online and each other rather than a room full of people.

No promises on when the next post will be, but there’s a little summary of what’s happened since that last post a long time ago, in a city far, far away.

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Quick Update

It’s an incredibly busy day here in the Texas panhandle, so I’ll keep this one short.

Jenny wasn’t feeling good yesterday, so I went in to the weigh-in alone. This whole week has been ridiculously busy and we’ve ended up eating out for almost every meal as a result. High stress plus eating out generally means terrible results, so I went in expecting the worst. But, I came out with a loss of -1.0 lbs. That’s just fine with me!

Before I left the meeting, our leader gave us a copy of her recipe for homemade spaghetti sauce. I don’t know for sure when we’re going to try it, but if we like it I’ll go ahead and share it here for you. If you’d like to get the recipe regardless, let me know in the comments and I’ll send you a copy early.

♫ I Get Knocked Down, But I Get Up Again ♫

So, despite our best intentions, we fell off the weight loss wagon this year, and we fell pretty hard. Not hard as in we gained tons of weight, but in that it’s taken us seven months to get back on track. I haven’t had time to go back to January and see what our weight was to know for sure how much we’ve both gained back during that time, but it’s somewhere in the 15-20 lbs neighborhood for both of us, I believe.

That lack of time has been one of the major factors in our inactivity this year. Work just keeps on getting busier for us both, and by the end of the day all of our energy and cognitive resources are used up, and it’s easy to throw planned meals and smart choices out the window and just eat whatever’s quick and easy. It’s not an excuse, it’s just how it is. We could have been strong, pushed through it, and stuck to the plan. But we didn’t.

But, we’re reaching that point again where we’re not just going back to meetings because we “feel like we need to”, we’re going back because we want to. We’re going back because we want to lose the weight, we want to be inspired by the other people going to the meetings, and we want to inspire them in return. We’re ready for it.

A couple of weeks ago we got back from a business trip to Las Vegas (all of the Cirque du Soliel shows we wanted to see were on vacation or otherwise not showing while we were there *fistshake*), and tomorrow (today, when this post gets published) we’ll be on the road to Denver for about 8 hours. We’ll spend the night with Jenny’s best friend from high school, then we’re back on the road for another 9 hours to Salt Lake City to see her family before one of her brothers heads off for two years to serve a mission. Then we turn around and do it all in reverse on Monday morning.

With that trip, we’ll miss weigh-in tomorrow so we won’t have any results to share with you until the following week, and vacations being vacations who knows what kind of numbers we’ll pull. We’re not stressing about that though, we’ve got plenty of other things filling up the stress category for the time being. This trip is for enjoying time with family.

Overload Mode

Sometimes life happens.

This last week was one of those weeks. Things got out of whack early and there was so much going on that it just stayed that way all week long. We did some grocery shopping with only half a meal plan, Jenny got sick, being short on time and energy meant we went out to eat instead of cooking things at home, and everything just snowballed from there.

In short, we weren’t on plan at all during this last week. We didn’t do Simple Start, Simply Filling, or PointsPlus, we just threw it all out the window and did whatever came to mind when meal times came around.

We were both positive that we were going to have a gain last night, and since the temperature had just dropped yesterday and the snow started and everything we were primed with a great little excuse to not bother showing up to the meeting at all. People were talking about the roads being slick on their way back from lunch, so we had a great little fake reason for not going and we were planning to use it, too.

But as we left work and headed towards the house with every intention of climbing onto the couch with blankets, hot chocolate and puppy snuggles for a night of television, we saw that the roads weren’t slick at all. It was 15 degrees outside so it was definitely cold, but not something we couldn’t deal with. I started getting the urge to go and face it all, and Jenny was mostly with me (puppy snuggles and hot chocolate are her weakness after all). So we made a bit of a compromise and decided that we would go ahead and weigh in, but then skip the meeting itself and head home early.

Jenny: +0.4 lbs
Jason: -0.6 lbs

Once we stepped on the scale, we were both surprised to see that Jenny had only gained 0.4 lbs, and even more shocked that I managed a loss. Happy with the results not being as disastrous as we had imagined they would be, we went ahead and stayed for the whole meeting after all.

Even though we didn’t stick to any kind of plan at all during this week, you can’t help but recognize the influence that Weight Watchers has when you treat it as the lifestyle change that it’s meant to be. Even when we’re not following all the rules, the things we’ve learned still stick with us. When we went out to eat all those times, we weren’t counting points at all. But, we were making decisions of what to eat based on knowledge that we gained from going to those meetings and being familiar with the plan. The foods we ate while we were out certainly weren’t the best for us, but we still made educated choices that helped us out in the long run.

We’ve developed habits from being on Weight Watchers that help us make good(ish) choices, even when we’re being bad. There were only two meals during the week where I would say that we really ate things that we shouldn’t have. I started to share them with you, but I’d rather not toss a temptation out there for anyone that might be struggling while they read this, so we’ll just leave it at that. Overall, I’m more concerned about the amount of money we threw away by eating out for all those meals than I am with what I actually ate.

We’re going to do our best to get everything back on track this week. We don’t have a meal plan put together yet, so we’re going to have to go out to eat again for lunch today, but hopefully I’ll have the time and opportunity today to put a plan together and keep us on track. Jenny’s been doing a fantastic job with the meal planning for the last several months, but she’s getting a little burned out from doing it all so I need to step up and take over for a while. I’ve failed at the meal planning before, but I’m going to do my best to stay on top of it this time.

As always, we’ll be back next week to let you know how it turned out.

Simple Start Results: Week 1

We started the new year off by trying Weight Watchers’ new addition to the plan, called Simple Start. I’ve already talked about it a couple of times before, so I won’t get too much into the plan today, but basically it’s a simplified version of their Simply Filling technique that already exists within the plan and they tried to take as much of the “work” out of it as possible to give you about 40 different quick and easy meals that you can just throw together and eat as much as you need to and go on. They’ve really tried to make a simplified version of Weight Watchers so that even the people who don’t like doing the math required to use Points.

This was our first week of doing Simple Start, but I do need to throw a disclaimer out there that there were two days that we did not follow Simple Start, so basically we were doing Simply Filling instead since Simple Start is a two week program without any interruptions in the plan. But, we did Simply Filling using the tools of Simple Start.

Jenny: -3.0 lbs
Jason: -4.2 lbs

So, I would say that so far Simple Start has been a great success for us!

The only problem we’ve had with it so far is that it completely changed how we pre-plan our meals, which threw us off a bit. The first day that we went back to PointsPlus was because we had to go out of town to get our car repaired and we were there for the whole day and didn’t want to bother with trying to find restaurants that would work, so instead of stressing about that on top of the $2,500 we were spending on the car, we just went back to PointsPlus and rolled with it. The second day that we went off plan though was when we realized that we handled the meal planning wrong when we switched to Simple Start.

We had decided that instead of planning meals we would just buy all the things we needed to make Simple Start recipes and then just make things for each meal that we felt like eating. That was totally the wrong move for us. We cut out the planning mostly because Jenny’s planning method requires her to set portions and weights and all that, which Simple Start doesn’t use because you eat as much of the food as you need to in order to feel satisfied. You’re not counting points, so there’s no reason to weigh and measure your food to know the points values, and if you’re not doing that then tracking is nothing more than saying “I at chicken.”

Our problem wasn’t with the plan at all, it was all in how our process had been set up before, and how we choose to (not) address it when we first made the switch. To solve the problem, this week we’ve changed it up so that we are planning our meals, we’re just leaving out all of the weighing and measuring from the tracking as well. We got the meal plan together, and we did the shopping we needed for it last night, so we’re ready to put it all into motion now. We missed our scheduled breakfast this morning because we slept in and didn’t have time to cook anything, so we fell back to just having fruit at work instead. I’m going to do my best to keep us on track for the rest of the meals, though.

The first week turned out pretty well, so now to see what the second week has in store for us!

East Meets (South)West

Today I wanted to share a little recipe (sort of) for a meal that we came up with last night and then made for lunch today. The end result was basically a lettuce-wrapped burrito, but the idea came from lettuce cups. So we took the eastern lettuce wrap and combined it with the south western taco/burrito and it turned out pretty well.

Simple Start
I talked about Simple Start just a little bit last week, and we’ll probably get into it in more detail when we actually have the time to write it all out instead of just doing the quick posts that we’ve had to lately out of necessity/time constraints. Basically, Simple Start lets you stop tracking your points in exchange for making you eat from a “small” (quotes because it’s actually fairly large) list of foods that are healthier for you and take your body longer to process which means you’ll feel fuller for a longer period of time. You eat as much as you need to, so you stop when your body signals to you that you’re satisfied, so you don’t have to weigh and measure what you’re eating.

One of the things that’s good about Simple Start is that it allows the majority of the proteins that you would normally eat anyway, except that some of them have certain restrictions such as ground beef needing to be at least 95% lean or else you do have to count points for it. The drawback is, the things that aren’t part of Simple Start (aka. Simply Filling) are often things that you need to create certain meals that you might be used to. For example, let’s say you’ve got ground beef, shredded cheese, sour cream, salsa, assorted vegetables, 45-calorie bread and tortillas at home and you need to figure out what you’re going to cook for your next meal. The first thing I would think of in that situation, which is the situation we were in last night, is burritos. While we can have burritos on Weight Watchers while we’re using the PointsPlus method, tortillas are not allowed in Simple Start unless you want to spend your weekly points on them (49 points for the whole week).

The “Recipe”
While we were driving back home from Amarillo last night we were talking about what to do for lunch today with the things we already had available at the house. The two things that kept coming to mind when we were thinking about what to do with the ground beef was sloppy joes and tacos/burritos. Neither of those things can be done on Simple Start because sloppy joe sauce does not count as a Power Food (those are what you’re required to eat for Simple Start, I can give details or examples if anybody needs them), and neither do tortillas or taco shells. That doesn’t mean we can’t eat them anyway, it just means we’d have to spend our weekly points on the things that aren’t allowed.

So we started to come up with alternatives that would allow us to eat the meals that we wanted by making simple changes. We didn’t have any other type of sauce that would work as a substitute, so the sloppy joes were out. For the tacos/burritos though we were thinking about some of our options. Since shells or tortillas were the thing we needed to get rid of, I knew we needed some kind of base that provided the structure you needed and/or a simple flavor that did not contrast with the fillings but did add bulk to the meal so that you got full without having to eat a lot of extra protein.

Rice was my first thought, which would work well but completely lose the taco/burrito concept since you’d just be eating it all with a fork. The next few ideas all fell into the same trap as they were similar things like couscous. But then I remembered an appetizer we ate at a Mongolian grill a couple of weeks ago (not for the first time) which was lettuce wraps. We could use the green leaf or romano lettuce in place of a tortilla or shell, but otherwise treat the meal as though we were eating tacos or burritos.

I went for the big leaves of lettuce first, so I started out with something like this:

Then I rolled it all up like a burrito and ate it like this (though I did wrap all those lose ends of the lettuce better when I had access to both of my hands after setting the phone down):

I had intended to use the lettuce in a burrito fashion to begin with, so I was surprised when Jenny mentioned that this was the new way to have Taco Tuesday, and I looked over to see her eating hers like a taco instead. So I grabbed a couple of the smaller leaves of lettuce and made myself a couple of mini-tacos too.

Overall we both think this was a great success. It allows us to eat the flavors that we want in the way that we want without consuming the extra points for the filler. If we were really craving the flavor of the taco shell or tortillas then we could certainly go ahead and use them, but we don’t need to. The lettuce provides the crunch that you’re used to having, and it serves well as a vessel to get the food from your plate to your mouth. Unless we’re feeling those cravings in the future, I’m pretty sure this is going to be the preferred method of doing tacos and burritos at our home from now on.

As far as recipes go, it doesn’t get a whole lot simpler than this:
Ingredients
95% (or better) Ground Beef, as much as you’ll need to feel satisfied (we used 3/4 lbs)
Fat-Free Cheese, if you’re not doing Simple Start use whatever cheese you want (we each had probably 1/3 cup)
Desired Condiments, we only used salsa but could have added Fat-Free Sour Cream or similar products
Green Leaf Lettuce, or any other green that’s sturdy enough to support everything else
Taco Seasoning
Water, for the taco seasoning as needed (seasoning packet will tell you how much)

Instructions
1. Brown your meat in a skillet on high
2. (Optional) Remove excess fat/moisture from the skillet using paper towels
3. Add taco seasoning and water
4. Bring the beef, seasoning & water to a boil then reduce heat and let simmer per your taco seasoning’s instructions
5. Take your individual leaves of lettuce and add meat, cheese, and other toppings as desired and either roll into burrito shape, or fold into taco shape
6. Eat until you’re satisfied
6a. Insert into mouth
6b. Chew
6c. Swallow
6d. Repeat step 6
7. Leave us a comment and tell us how fantastic it was

That’s all there is to it!

Unintended Holiday Blogging Hiatus

It’s been a few weeks since the last time we posted here, which we didn’t intend to do. We usually take a holiday break from the blog as well, but this year we didn’t plan on doing that. I don’t really have a topic to discuss this week because it’s been a crazy week for both of us and we haven’t had time to sit down and really think about what we’re going to write about.

Let’s start it off here by getting caught up with what results from the hiatus weeks:

The week before Christmas was when all of the holiday parties were going on with coworkers and friends, followed by the craziness before the holiday itself, and very few opportunities to hit the gym. We weren’t especially “bad” but we weren’t all that great either, so we went into the meeting expecting small gains or to maybe stay the same.
December 19th
Jenny: -0.0 lbs
Jason: +4.0 lbs

I wasn’t expecting 4 lbs worth of gain. I was thinking I might gain 1 – 1.5 lbs.

The week of Christmas was actually better than we thought it would be. I did more snacking during the family get togethers than I intended to, so I figured I’d probably have another 1 – 1.5 lbs gained and Jenny figured she would have a small gain as well.
December 26th
Jenny: +3.8 lbs
Jason: +0.2 lbs

This time it was Jenny’s turn to be shocked. She had some other issues going on that would have contributed to that gain as well, so she knew not to worry too much about getting that weight back off.

And then we have last night. Because I had just gotten back to my routine at the gym this week, I figured I’d end up with another small gain and then next week I’d really make a comeback with a good loss. Jenny thought she had done pretty good and wasn’t quite sure what to expect on the scale, but she thought she had probably earned a loss of some kind.
January 2nd
Jenny: -2.2 lbs
Jason: -3.2 lbs

So I’ve lost all but 1 lbs worth of my holiday weight in the first weigh-in of the new year, and Jenny lost over half of her’s. We didn’t have huge losses, and right now we’re losing at a good enough rate, on average, that we’ll both be completely over the holiday gains by next week.

Right now Jenny’s average loss since May of last year, which is when we got back on track with Weight Watchers after the Great Kitchen Debacle of 2012, is sitting at -1.2 lbs per week and she’s lost of total of 36 lbs during that time. My average for the same period is -1.3 lbs per week, with a total loss of 39 lbs. Roughly seven months after getting back on track, we’ve lost 75 lbs together.

New Plan (Sort of): Simple Start
The new thing with Weight Watchers this year is something they’re calling Simple Start, which is basically the Simply Filling option that we’ve had since they switched to the PointsPlus system. The only differences that we’ve seen so far is that they’re asking you to do it for two weeks at a time to start with and then decide after you’ve tried it whether you want to go back to counting points every day, stick with Simply Filling, or combine the two. The other change is that they’re now giving you some more tools for building Simply Filling-style meals by giving you a multiple-choice format to build your own meals from their pre-selected options, or to give you ideas for building your own meals using the same principles.

We started Simple Start on Thursday since that’s our weigh-in day, and our plan for right now is to go ahead and stick with it for the first two weeks of the year as they’ve asked and then go from there. So far, I think I like it. I’ve only been doing it for two days though, so we’ll have to see how I feel after the two weeks.

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