Cooking for One

Cooking for one person isn’t a lot of fun.

Unless you really like cooking, I suppose.  Which I do not.  I don’t hate it, but it’s not something I’m going to do just for fun.

And let’s not even talk about the “fun” of cleaning up the kitchen.

Still, I’m trying to make my diet more well rounded and less “grilled chicken breast, steamed veggies in the microwave, baked sweet potato.”  Which is pretty much my default meal.  It’s nutritionally sound, I suppose, but oh so very boring.

I’ve been getting a Blue Apron box every other week for the past few weeks, which has been working out well.  The two person box means that I get at least six meals out of every box, sometimes more, depending on how big the servings are.  And the food is pretty good, though I probably should be bulking it up with more veggies.   That would allow me to stretch the meals even further, now that I think about it.


This is what happens when I forget to bring a real fork to work and end up having to use the child’s fork I keep at my desk. Why I don’t keep a real fork at my desk, I do not know

Because I workout after work, I’ve discovered that the best way for me to plan my meals is to have my biggest meal after lunch.  After a hard workout, the last thing I want to do is eat a big meal, so I often have a green smoothie with some toast or cottage cheese or something along those lines.

So on the evenings that I have a lighter workout, I’m often cooking and packaging up meals for lunch for the next two days.  The other option is bigger batch cooking on the weekends, which does happen, but then I end up freezing things, and not everything I’m cooking does well after having been in the freezer.  When I’m really on my game, I batch cook some soups or stews and freeze them in individual portions so that when I run out of time, I can just grab something for lunch that day.

But lately, I’ve just been eating out on those days.  Thankfully, I have a lot of great healthy options in the area, but it’s not been great for my wallet, that’s for sure.

I’m always looking for tips on the best way to handle cooking for one person and how others handle eating healthy while not eating the same thing every day all the time.  Services like Blue Apron certainly help (and I’ll likely try out Hello Fresh again in the next few months – I used them early in their existence and it was terrible).  What works best for you?


Diet Changes

condesign / Pixabay

After yesterday’s Inside Tracker post, someone asked what sort of changes I had made to improve my cholesterol numbers.  And well, I can’t tell you specifically what changes had what effect, but over the past few months, here’s what I’ve been working on in regard to my diet.


Hydration is hard.  There are all sorts of studies that say how much water you need, but basically, the number seems to be somewhere between half an ounce to an ounce of water per pound a day.  So if you weigh 150 pounds, you need between 75 to 150 ounces of water a day.  If it’s hot, if you’re working out, if the air is exceptionally dry, you need to be drinking on the higher end.  If you’re sitting on the couch, you can be on the lower end.  I aim for at least 100 ounces a day.  It was going really well through the fall, and now, not so great.  So I’m working on it.

Processed Food

I was the queen of Lean Cuisines for lunch every day.  When those suckers were on sale, I would stock up.  But that has entirely gone by the wayside.

Added Sugars

I try to keep my added sugars low.  I don’t worry about fruit sugars, but no more snacking on sweets.  I eat a lot of Kind Bars (with 4 or 5 grams of sugar) and drizzle honey on my oatmeal, but that’s about it.  It was a tough switch, but worth it.  I don’t crave sweets like I used to.

Lowfat Products

No more lowfat products for me. Full fat Greek yogurt.  4% fat cottage cheese.  They’re more satisfying and help prevent cravings.  Also, those flavored yogurts?  Check out the sugar content.  It’s ridiculous.


I’m doing my best to ensure that I meet my veggie intake daily.  This often means a giant smoothie filled with chard and kale and whatever else I can cram in, but hey, a bit of pineapple thrown in masks the flavor.  I figure it’s better than nothing.  I also try to eat a bit of avocado every day (as if this is a hardship) to get those healthy fats and other vitamins.

Really, a big key has just been eating mindfully.  The other day, I threw away part of a cookie because it wasn’t that good and I realized it just wasn’t worth it to be eating it.   Admittedly, I’ve fallen off the wagon a bit lately (I blame the Girl Scouts and their evil cookie ways) but I’m working on getting back to it and getting off the weight plateau I’ve hit.  I know that my weight loss has had a positive effect on my health, but I have a ways to go.

To be honest with you, it’s not been that hard.  It takes commitment, but none of what I’m doing is a challenge.  I’m still a lazy cook.  Lunch is often baked chicken, sweet potato, and a veggie.  It looks like I’m eating clean, but mostly I’m just too lazy to do anything else and it’s easy.

It’s all about figuring out what fits best into your schedule and way of life.  You don’t need to be spending all your time in the kitchen to eat properly.

Inside Tracker Update

Last summer, I did my first Inside Tracker test.  What is Inside Tracker?  Well, in brief, it’s a heath analytics company.  You buy a package, get your blood tested, and they give you the results AND tips on how to improve.  Blood Doesn’t Lie, after all.

And just a note – I paid for all of this myself and am reviewing because it’s something I like and want to share.  Zero compensation here (unless you count the high fives from their social media team)!

I initially bought two Performance level tests.  I did the first in June and then intended to do the second 6 months later.  That put me into December, when life was just crazy.  It’s not that the blood test takes that long, it’s that I knew my stress levels were high and my diet wasn’t great.  While it might have been interesting to see what that did to my numbers, I wanted to know how my diet and weight loss was affecting my overall health.  So I waited and finally got my test done last Tuesday. Amazingly, my results were available by Friday!  So let’s see how things are going.

My biggest concern has been my cholesterol levels.  And while I’m still not perfect, I’m super happy with the changes I’m seeing.

Cholesterol - Improved!

My total cholesterol has dropped.  I went from being borderline high to being in the “normal” range.  Not yet optimized, but I’m just happy to no longer be borderline high.
LDL, improving but high

LDL is also creeping down.  I’m still in the borderline high range, but it’s better.  It’s clearly a slow improvement, and I need to add more fish to my diet.  I admit, my diet is mostly chicken, just because it’s easy to cook.  Inside Tracker sends you an email with an indication of any issues that you should discuss with your doctor, and this was the only one listed.  Last time, this list was much longer.

HDL - Improving, but low

HDLs are still on the lower end, but better.  Again, fish.  More fish.

Triglycerides - Optimized!

This one makes me happy.  My triglycerides weren’t in a bad range, but the drop pleases me.

Vitamin D - Optimized!

Last time, I was surprised by my Vitamin D levels being so low, especially since it was summer and I was outside, though somewhat coated in sunscreen.  Either way, I got that one figured out!  Good job, self.

Glucose - Improving but low

I’m pleased by the drop in my blood sugar.  It’s not great, but I’d always trended on the high end of normal, so this is a good sign.  It’s probably a combination of diet and really working to eliminate added sugars as well as losing weight.

Sodium - Low

Here’s one that surprised me.  My sodium is low.  I worried I would be on the high end since I do add sea salt to a lot of things, specifically my evening avocado toast.  And occasionally a pinch in my oatmeal in the mornings.  (Try it, it’s good!)  But one of the biggest changes I’ve made in my diet is to eliminate processed foods (I should have bought stock in Lean Cuisine given how much of it I used to eat), and those tend to be higher in sodium.  I didn’t really think about it, since my sodium level was fine, but that’s a big change.  It also explains why I frequently end up with leg cramps while in the pool.  I don’t focus on electrolytes in my drinks while indoor training, especially on workouts lasting under 90 minutes, just because I didn’t think it was something I needed.  I’m going to try adding Osmo or Nuun to my water for my shorter workouts as well.

Calcium - Low

This one I don’t love.  Calcium is so important and mine is on a steady drop.  I’m still in a good range, but it’s falling.  I joke that since my sodium and calcium are low, I just need to be eating more salty cheese.

hsCRP - Improving

hsCRP is an interesting one and important for athletes.  My inflammation levels are in a normal zone but still not optimized, and reducing inflammation is so crucial for proper performance and recovery.  I often notice that even after a rest day, I’m still a bit sore, and I’m wondering if this has to do with increased inflammation.  I’m not scientist, but I’m going to continue to work on my diet (see that fish up there?  Yeah.) and do what I need to to get healthy.

So there you go.  You now know more about my health than you ever wanted.  Do you know more about my health than yours?  Might want to check that out.  While this was the last Inside Tracker test I have available, in a few months, I will be purchasing another to continue to track my results.  And the great thing is that I can also input tests that my doctor ordered.  While these aren’t all areas that my doctor tests at my annual physical, she will run my cholesterol numbers, so when I get those back, I will be able to input them into Inside Tracker and see where I stand.

If you try out Inside Tracker, let me know what you think!

A review of the Swim Bike Fuel Nutrition Plan

photo credit: Johnny Vulkan via photopin cc

photo credit: Johnny Vulkan via photopin cc

Kelly over at Some Random Thursday just wrote a review of her thoughts on the Swim Bike Fuel program, and I realized it was high time I did my own review.  Kelly and I have very different opinions on the program, but I’m in no way saying that her opinion is wrong.  I respect her thoughts.  I just wanted to present a different view.

So what is Swim Bike Fuel?  Well, if you’re a lady triathlete, especially a newer triathlete, you’ve probably heard of Swim Bike Mom.  Meredith A. is a fabulous lady who really presents the raw truth of training for a triathlon.  She discusses life balance and weight struggles, and one of the things I love about her is that she isn’t perfect and she’s happy to share that.

That said, like many of us, she found that her diet needed some work, so she started working with Meredith V., a nutritionist and all around lovely lady. Together, they developed the Swim Bike Fuel program.  Swim Bike Fuel is a 26 day nutrition program.  It’s not necessarily a weight loss program, but for many of us carrying around a lot of extra pounds, figuring out proper nutrition will probably lead to weight loss.

I joined the September group.  It wasn’t cheap, but I was at my wits end with weight loss.  I had been trying to lose weight for years.  Basically, once I got sick in 2010, all bets were off and my weight steadily crept up.  Some of it was stress eating.  I also blamed medications.  But I let it happen, and suddenly I was in the 180’s.  I’m 5’3″.  That’s not good.  So I tried Weight Watchers.  And I would lose a few pounds and gain it back.  I tried calorie counting.  I would lose a few pounds and gain it back.  I started to realize that my “lows” were just under 180.  I just wanted to say good bye to the 180 mark for good.  So in a fit of desperation, I signed up.

The plan is a 26 day plan, with one lesson a day.  The first lesson, I thought “Oh no.  This is obvious.  Did I just waste my money?”  But the lessons kept coming and on Day 5, I realized that I was already failing to follow Day 1.  And it got more into proper diet and emotional eating (I joke that I eat my feelings) and I realized that I was slowly starting to lose weight.  And yet, I didn’t feel like I was making MAJOR changes in my life.

One of the great things about the plan is the complete access to Meredith V. for the duration of the plan.  Each session has a private Facebook group, and while I wondered how she would give personal attention to all 100 people, she definitely managed it.  I can’t imagine how many hours she was spending answering questions.  There were also two “office hours” where the Merediths answered questions that were submitted, which were surprisingly helpful.  And recorded, if you couldn’t make the scheduled times.

Was it worth it?  To me, it definitely was.  I started the plan September 1.  I’m down almost 15 pounds since (soooo close to nailing that 15 pound mark).  Those 180’s are long gone and I hope to never see them again.  And that’s including a trip to Disney and a trip for a family funeral.  I did not eat particularly well during either and I’ve reached a bit of a plateau, but hey, I’ll take it.  I do think I made smarter choices than I would have a few months ago.  But the bigger key is that I feel better.  My skin is clearer.  I have more energy.  And the best part of the plan is that almost nothing is off limits.  (MV will tell you to avoid a few things, but hey, I haven’t missed them at all.)  I’m not calorie counting.  I’m not strictly logging what I eat (though if my weight loss stalls completely once I get back to really properly eating, I may log for a bit to see what the numbers look like).  I feel like I’m eating more food, but I think the key is that I’m eating a more balanced diet so I’m not dealing with cravings all the time.

I wasn’t sure how I felt about the Facebook group at first, since I’m not a huge sharer in groups like that, but it turned out to be great.  Why?  Because it wasn’t a standard weight loss group where everyone is at a different spot.  Sure, we were all at different places in our weight loss journey, but when it came to this program, we were all in the same place.  And we shared recipes and successes and failures and had a great time.

I’m not saying this program is for everyone.  Like I said, I’m not sure there was a whole lot that was “new,” but rather than dealing with contradictory information from many different sources, I just stuck with what we were taught, even if it seemed counter to what I knew (like not calorie counting, for example), and accepting that this was going to happen in baby steps.  And it worked.  There were definitely a few “A ha!” moments in there too, which I did not expect.

Don’t get me wrong.  It’s not magic.  There is no magic pill to weight loss.  But for me, this is what worked.  I’m a smart lady.  I thought I should have figured it out by myself, given all the research and reading that I did.  But I just couldn’t put it all together into a solid action plan.  So if like me, you’ve tried all the plans and you’re still struggling with weight or proper nutrition, check out the info and consider giving it a shot.

Losing Weight

photo credit: Johnny Vulkan via photopin cc

photo credit: Johnny Vulkan via photopin cc

I’m battling a cold because a coworker thought it was a good idea to come into work super sick.  So my workouts this week have been… pretty much non-existent.  I rode my bike for 45 minutes last night and it felt like a killer workout, but really wasn’t much of anything.  It’s hard to write about fitness when all you’ve been doing is sitting on the couch.  I am enjoying the new fall TV though.  Which is good, because I’m going to need something to fill up all of the trainer and treadmill time I have planned for this winter.

I’ve talked about my weight loss struggles before.  When I moved to DC, I was in the best shape of my life, thanks to a summer of studying for the bar exam.  I made the gym my study break, and I was so paranoid of gaining a ton of weight that I ate so incredibly healthy.  I looked darn good when I moved here.  8 years later, I was up almost 40 pounds.

I’ve never actually seen that in writing.  40 pounds.  That’s… a lot.  The weight slowly came on as I started my new job, as was to be expected, but because it was slow, I wasn’t really paying attention.  And when I really started to pay attention, it was almost too late.  So I started calorie counting.  And it worked, to a point.  But then I would have a day where I screwed up and it all fell apart.  I tried Weight Watchers.  That didn’t work either, again, because of my own failings.

Back in September, I did the Swim Bike Fuel program.  It was expensive, but I needed to do something.  For whatever reason, this seems to have worked.  Since September 1, I’m down almost 10 pounds.  I’m at the lowest weight I’ve been at in years, and I don’t feel deprived.  I’m not calorie counting.  I’m not specifically avoiding any foods, but I’m being conscious about the choices I’m making.  What I loved most about the program was that there was nothing in there that felt funny to me.  No magic potions, no tricks.  In fact, if I’m honest, I knew a lot of the information that was presented.  But I just didn’t know how to put it into action.

While the program worked for me, I’m not necessarily saying that it’s what’s going to work for you, but it’s about finding what works for you.

For example, one change that I made (that wasn’t part of the SBF recommendations, but was approved when I asked about it) was that because I workout after I get home from work, I switched my big meal of the day from dinner to lunch.  Yesterday, for lunch I had baked chicken, squash, quinoa, and broccoli.  Dinner was a green smoothie (which I love – feels like a treat).  I don’t get super hungry in the afternoons anymore, and I can get through my workouts without hitting a wall.

I’ve also been working on my sugar addiction.  The holidays are going to be rough because I LOVE sweets.  Way too much.  But it’s all about moderation and choice.  I no longer eat the cookie just because it’s there.  I eat it because I want to eat that particular cookie.  And sometimes, I don’t eat it.

I guess it’s starting to be noticeable, because a coworker asked me what I was doing to lose weight.  I made a few comments about eating well and avoiding the donuts in the kitchen, and she looked at my healthy lunch and said “Oh, that sounds too hard.”  Okay then.

Over the past two weeks, I’ve fallen away from the plan a bit, and I’ve noticed that in my weight loss.  I’m still at a record low, but I’m stalled here.  Some of that is likely due to comfort eating since I’m sick.  For some reason, when my throat is sore, it hurts to drink, but feels good to eat.  So I end up eating too much.

How much weight do I want to lose?  I don’t know.  But I do need to get into a healthy weight range.  Even though I’m down 10 pounds, it doesn’t feel like a huge difference.  Some of my clothes fit better, which is nice.  Given my height, I’m still obese according to the BMI charts.  I know that the charts have their limitations, but they’re a starting point.  Getting to “normal weight” on the BMI charts would put me below what I weighed 8 years ago, so that might be a bit unrealistic.  Right now, I don’t really have a number goal.  I’m just seeing what happens with good eating and exercise.  Every pound I lose is one more that I don’t have to haul up the hills on my bike.  And that’s a good thing.