Monday, February 18, 2013

I Am Still Chubby...(sort of)

What happened?!?!?
I was posting almost every day for so long and then all of a sudden- I disappeared! Well first of all, I am safe and sound. I have had so many significant changes in my life since the last time I posted but first let me explain…

Being a blogger is a labor of love. It is so much hard work taking pictures, figuring out the right recipes, writing, editing, editing, and more editing. I really loved it, but it got somewhat taxing. I was moving full steam ahead with this blog and even began looking at taking it to the next level with a really cool branding scheme.
Then- I got a new job. My new job came with a move. And then EVERYTHING changed.

I moved to Atlanta and lived in a tiny studio apartment. I started cooking for just me. I started eating more and more as a way of coping with emotions- not for the enjoyment of cooking. Let’s just say I felt like I was moving quickly towards a place of being unhealthy.
My WW Leader Dee and I
Now I have always said I firmly believe one can be “chubby” and still be perfectly healthy. I think being “chubby” is a mindset and not necessarily the way someone looks. In fact, I think you can still be moderately overweight and still be in great health. However, in early 2012, I was quickly moving towards my 30th birthday, obese, and not making good daily food choices. I knew I needed to do something about it- but I kept on struggling with what would be the right way to turn things around.

In April of 2012 I made the decision to join Weight Watchers- for the second time. The first time I joined (in ’07) I liked the program but I don’t think I committed fully. I allowed doubt (and de-motivators) to slip in and I stopped. This time around was different. My leader (Dee) told me on my first day that this time I was going to get to lifetime (hitting goal weight and maintaining it for 6 weeks) and I believed her. This time was different.

What I love about Weight Watchers is essentially the program is designed to allow you to eat whatever you want (vegan and all) - as long as you track it (write it down) and follow some basic healthy food guidelines. The program can let you succeed long term by providing weekly support and accountability (meetings & online) and gives you the flexibility to still be a normal person.

I started my journey with Weight Watchers in April of 2012 weighing in at 215.8 pounds. As of today- the day I hit lifetime- I have “gotten rid of” 62.3 pounds. When I started I had two chronic illnesses (IBS & High Blood Pressure) – both of which are gone. In April of 2012, my capacity for physical activity was limited. Since I started my journey I have dramatically increased my activity level- running a handful of 5ks and finishing my first 10k on January 1st (in the pouring rain).
Over the course of this journey I have moved (twice), divorced from my partner of 8 years and had to separate my three dogs (two in PGH and one in Atlanta). I had every single reason to quit. I had every single reason to eat through my emotions. I had every reason for doubt and skepticism to sneak in. But- this time was different. My motivation is the spirit that lives inside all of us.

Today is a special day and I wanted to use this platform to share it. Today is the day I hit lifetime- having been at my goal weight for 6 weeks. It’s a wonderful feeling and I wanted to share it with those who still come here to share this piece of my life. I also wanted to share my before and after pictures- because who doesn’t love a before and after picture!

Although it is a significant accomplishment that I am extremely proud of – I do not for one second view it as an ending. Instead, I view this day as the beginning of the second half of my journey.  For many people, “getting rid of weight” is an up and down journey- with way more ups than downs. I have been on that path before, but this time is different. I have committed to Weight Watchers for my life. I am accountable to myself every single week for the choices I make - good or bad. I continue to track every single thing I eat – a vital part of my success. I continue to make physical activity a priority every day. I continue to go to meetings every week to maintain a level of social support- and most important accountability.

I always allow myself to indulge...

Best of all, I continue to eat whatever I want- in moderation. I 100% still call myself “chubby” and hold on to that title with the vigor I had when I started this blog. I still eat lots of amazing foods at restaurants across the country. I still believe in indulging in beautifully crafted desserts and vegan wonders whenever possible. Just now- I go from eating 5 cupcakes to 1. I make the choice to pick the 2 things I want to try at a new bakery instead of 2 there, 2 at home, and 2 more the next day. I cannot and will never sacrifice- it just leads to failure.

90% of my diet is a whole foods plant based diet (think Engine 2, Forks over Knives) and the other 10% is the occasional junk food vegan things that I enjoy too much to ever give up (soy Frappuccino’s, ice cream, cupcakes, and vegan cheese). I remain a vigilant vegan and have not given up my principles in anyway. In fact, I love being the “token” vegan at Weight Watchers who constantly reminds people they can have amazing meals without the need for animal based items.

I love to see some of my posts popping up on other blogs and on pinterest. This blog still gets lots of traffic and it makes me miss the vegan community that I was so connected too. I have had many people suggest that I start writing again and posting the Points Plus value of the things I make. While I think about it often, I haven’t made the choice to jump back in. Maybe someday- who knows!
For now, I wanted to share this journey with anyone who wants to read it. It is a very long road with bumps and curves along it- but it has no ending. In order to succeed you must go one day at a time and maintain the lifestyle changes that got you here. No ending- just new beginnings. Thank you to those who still enjoy my silly stories and recipes- I appreciate you visiting.

Onward and upward…

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

{Custom Made} Shortbread Cookies

Husband is really into shortbread. Since it is a cookie, I am also a fan. However I can’t say that I would be the first in the shortbread line at the bakery.

Shortbread always reminds me of your Great Aunt Mary or your grandmother’s friend with a ridiculous nickname like Boopie or Dodo. Not really sure why, but it just makes me think of old folks.

I bet if you were to investigate the sale of Sandies, you would be sure to find an older clientele. Nothing wrong with it, it is just my humble observation. Without old people, we would not be able to enjoy in such spirited treats as starlight mints, ice cream sandwiches, and early bird specials.

But, I digress.

I saw this recipe from Pittsburgh favorite Emily Levenson forever ago and I decided to try it out with my fancy new cupcake cookie cutter. The pictures are with my old camera so they are slightly atrocious. However, the cookies are yum, yum, yummy and super easy to make. Plus, you get to dip them in chocolate and make them even better. Excellent...

Recipe after the jump.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Creamy "Cool" Slaw

Do you ever have one of those foods that you really can’t explain why you like it so much, but you just do…

One of my pre-vegan favorites was coleslaw from Kentucky Fried Chicken.

I will give you a second to absorb how awful everything about that statement is. However, at one time I could easily gobble down some KFC sides like I was on the tasting payroll. Clearly, I am no longer a visitor to KFC, but I still have a special affinity for coleslaw.

When I saw this recipe in Appetite for Reduction, I knew I had to try it. Here is a lowdown of why I love it.
  1. It has only a few (cheap) ingredients.
  2. It is lower in fat / calories that most other coleslaw.
  3. It is insanely easy to make.
In the spirit of Labor Day picnics, this is another excellent summer barbecue treat to impress all your friends. Who needs nasty old KFC anyway?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Southern Macaroni Salad

I am back…
I am still a little broken, but I am back.

It is still summer and I think summer comfort foods are to often ignored. I don’t really know why, but give me a big ear of corn on the cob and macaroni salad and I am a happy Chubby Vegan. The last few weeks have made me seek comfort foods a little bit more than necessary.

Sometimes I drown my sorrows in food. Yeah?! What?!? Want to fight about it?
<puts up fists>

Anyway, this Southern Macaroni Salad is a gift from the vegenaise gods and my bud Terra. She sent me the recipe and also snuck it into our work staff newsletter. Let’s give it up for vegans editing the staff newsletter!

I made this macaroni salad with orecchiette pasta, which looks like a beanie (or a condom.) I saw some at the store and thought they were cute and it made this just a little bit more formal. Of course you could use any pasta, but you will lose some cool points.

Summer is (sadly) drawing to an end, so make this soon. Perhaps a labor day picnic food…? Although, whoever said foods need to be restricted to a season? I will eat ice cream on January 1st and be just fine with it.

Take that society!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Rest in Peace Nana Bear

Yesterday we lost one of our dogs, Nana. She was the sweetest little angel and we were so lucky that she graced our lives. She brought us so much spirit, joy, and unconditional love and it was unbearably hard to say goodbye to her.

Nana had been suffering from lymphoma and mammary cancer for over a year. Her pain and discomfort became too much to bear and we finally decided she was ready to move on into her next life.

In between uncontrollably crying yesterday, I sat silent most of the day. I decided the best way for me to move through my grieving process was to share Nana’s story. Her life was full of difficulty up until her last two years. Her life is so important to me and her story needs to be shared. Thanks for reading.

Husband and I had fostered a dog named Jesse James from the Washington County Humane Society a little over two years ago. I stood firm that we were foster parents and would not be adopting him. Much to Husbands dismay, Jesse was adopted by his previous foster family. He was with us for only a month.

When Husbands mom was visiting, we decided to take a trip back to the Washington County Shelter because another dog that I was considering fostering was there. When we arrived the other dog was in the process of being adopted. We were so happy! Being animal lovers we decided to go back and visit with the other shelter dogs. Sitting alone in a cage was a little old beagle named Jasmine. She had a face that only a parent could love. We looked at each other, picked her up out of the cage, marched up to the front desk and said, “She is coming home with us.”

Jasmine didn’t have much of a story. She was a stray beagle that ended up at the shelter in her old age. Judging by her teeth (which were in bad shape) the shelter believed her to be about 10 or 11 years old. Like most beagles in Washington County, she was probably a hunting beagle; unloved, over bred, and used only for a job. This was a little over two years ago.

When we got her home our little old lady fit in perfectly. I was standing firm that we were only fostering her. We even took her to an adoption event in hopes of her finding a forever home. Of course, she had other things in mind. She knew our house was just right.

After fostering Jasmine for about two months, we received a call from a family who was interested in adopting her. Husband took the call and said, “Sorry, she is no longer available.” We adopted her the next day.

Her kind and loving attitude along with her old age gave her the nickname, “Nana Bear.” This was the perfect name for our elderly lady. Her name stuck and we said goodbye to Jasmine and hello to Nana.

Nana made herself right at home. She loved to cuddle and sit on our lap. Like most beagles, she loved to eat. She loved her new brother Buddy, although she made sure to tell him when she didn’t want to play. She followed Husband around everywhere he went and we started calling her his shadow. She liked our other dogs, but she always made it clear that she loved her Daddies the most. Well, that is unless Mom-in-law was visiting.

Nana was an incredible dog. She was the most caring, gentle, and loving dog anyone could ever ask for. She never barked. She never fussed. She even taught herself to go potty in the drain in the basement. You couldn’t ask for a better dog. We loved her so much.

As time grew, Nana started to grow tumors on her little body. First, tumors started to grow on her mammary glands. We could have removed them, but with her old age the Vet advised us that her recovery may be far too hard and painful. At that point we decided that we would continue to love and care for Nana as long as she would let us.

Almost a year later, her disease spread to her lymph nodes. The lymph nodes in her neck and back legs began to grow quickly. Although we kept her on a variety of medicines they grew too quickly.
Over the past few weeks her condition began to deteriorate rapidly.

Having a sick dog is one of the hardest things to endure. Nana could never tell us when she hurt. She never barked or cried. She carried on. She gave us love always. She never let us onto her pain although we knew that she was uncomfortable. As time went on her pain got worse and worse. Over the last few days she had difficulty breathing and began to throw up everything she ate. We spoke with the Vet and had to make one of the hardest decisions ever.

When you love and care for an animal as much as we loved Nana, the decision is unbearable. I would sit next to her rubbing her head and asking for her to just tell me if she was ready, if she was done fighting. She would just look at me with those beautiful brown eyes and give me her love. That is all. That is what she was best at.

When we brought her to the vet’s office yesterday, I kept on telling her that it will be okay. It was as if there was nothing more I could say to her. I would say, “Daddy loves you” and “it will be okay.” This was the first time I have ever lost an animal and I had known it would be hard. I didn’t imagine just how hard it would be. 

When we walked her into the office I started to feel numb. I lost feeling in my feet and hands. We laid her down on the couch and sat with her. We petted her and kept on telling her that it would be alright. The feeling was indescribable. I had played out in my mind what the moment might be like and it was surreal. I couldn’t believe that the day had come. I knew she was in pain. I knew what was best for her. This day when she looked at me you could tell that she was done fighting. She was ready to say goodbye.

What happened after was a blur. All I can remember is when the doctor said, “That’s it,” I burst into uncontrollable crying and hyperventilating. I couldn’t bare it. I still can’t. I could not believe our little angel was gone.

As I sat next to her, I couldn’t believe it. She just looked like she was asleep. I sat with her and the same thing kept replaying in my head, “Because I knew you, my life has been changed for good.” This line is from a song in the musical Wicked that was playing on repeat in my head. Because I knew you Nana.

I've heard it said,
That people come into our lives for a reason,
Bringing something we must learn,
And we are led,
To those who help us most to grow,
If we let them,
And we help them in return,
Well, I don't know if I believe that's true,
But I know I'm who I am today,
Because I knew you.

Like a comet pulled from orbit,
As it passes a sun,
Like a stream that meets a boulder,
Halfway through the wood,
Who can say if I've been changed for the better?
But because I knew you,
I have been changed for good.

I think this describes my feelings best. Nana was the so special. She was my angel. She came into our lives for a reason and brought us unbelievable joy. I love her so much. I still cry every time I think of her.

Regardless of what we believe, I know she is in a better place, a happy place. She is sending me love from wherever she is. I miss her. I will always miss her.

Because I knew you Nana Bear, my life has been changed for good.

Thank you and Daddy loves you. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Happy Birthday Madonna

When I was a little boy, I would imagine what my life would be like as a grown up. Like most boys, I had fantasies of playing for the Patriots, having a wife and kids, being a marine or firefighter being best friends with Madonna.

When she burst onto the scene I was just a baby. I was born in May of 1982, and her first single dropped in October of ’82. Coincidence? I think not.

Susan Sarandon once said that, “The history of women in popular music can, pretty much, be divided into before and after Madonna.” I couldn’t agree more. She has single handedly changed cultural norms of gender, sexuality, religion, and popular music. She truly is an icon.

When I was little, I would sneak in my house to watch her videos on MTV. I remember watching the Girlie Show on HBO and being glued to the TV. When I was 19, I saw her in concert (Drowned World Tour) for the first time. I went to Madison Square Garden, alone, and stood on the floor. When she ascended onto the stage I cried like a 12 year old seeing Justin Bieber. I saw that show four times. I have seen her in concert 6 times. The 5th time (Re-Invention Tour) I was lucky enough to be about 10 rows from the stage. There was a moment where I swear she looked at me. I felt it.

Maybe I am a super fan. Maybe I am a little obsessed. It doesn’t matter. For a chubby gay boy like me she has always represented the culmination of fashion, sex, music, love, freedom, confidence, and power. She was an escape when I may have not been at my happiest. Some people turn to drugs, I turn to Madonna.

Today is her birthday and what better day to step back and realize the impact this one woman, whom I have never met, has made on my life. 

Happy Birthday Madge… and thank you.

While I can't say that I have an absolute favorite Madonna song or moment, here are a few of my all-stars after the jump...

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