Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Me in the Soup, Chicken that is

I love soup, all kinds of it. Corn chowder, lobster bisque, roasted sweet potato, onion soup. But my favorite? Chicken Soup... for the Soul, that is.

I got word this week that the Chicken Soup for the Soul folks accepted a story of mine for one of their collections: Shaping the New You. It's the story of my weight loss success. Woo hoo! Look for it in December, just in time for another round of New Year's resolutions.

If you're a writer (and I know from all your blogs that you are!) take a look at the Chicken Soup website for their books in progress. I submitted two or three stories before this one was chosen. I'd like to give the book on grandmothers a try. Already pondering memories of my wonderful grandmothers!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Food love: Then and now

You know by now that this blog is all about success. Weight loss success. I'm having fun sharing people's stories, people who lost anywhere from 20 pounds to 220 pounds.

But today, I just want to have a little fun. Over on Mary's weight loss blog, A Merry Life she posted a meme that made me laugh: five foods you used to love before your weight loss journey, five foods you love now, and five foods you still hate.

I consider it success to look at a list like this and see how desires change to make a healthy life possible. I'll post my own list here, although it's not a very exciting one. Eating was never my big downfall. My love of the sedentary life was. But, anyway, here goes.

Five Foods I Used to Love

Potato chips and dip. This combo was a bottomless abyss for me. Wash it down with plenty of diet soda and I could keep on going until there was nothing but crumbs left in the bag.

Bleu cheese dressing. Not by itself, of course, but slathered on huge salads topped with bacon, provalone, boiled eggs, pine nuts and what not. Healthy, right?

Chocolate. Dark chocolate. Bars and bars of it.

Onion rings. I'd only indulge occasionally. Or should I say, overindulge? My husband and I once came across an onion-ring maker who'd park his London double-decker bus on sideroads in Maine and dish out vats and vats of these beauties. We'd vacation there just for that reason! And order an extra helping for the ride back to our cottage. And eat them until we were sick. Now there's a good time!

Mashed potatoes. Like the other four foods, this is something I still love, made with butter and slathered in butter. My go-to comfort food.

Foods I Love Now

Avocados. Or is that avocadoes? Either way, I love them in salads and as guacamole.

Salads. But more healthy ones now, topped with a few splashes of a homemade olive oil and raspberry champagne vinegar dressing.

Pears. Usually on the salads. I don't like the sweetness of most fruits, but pears snuck up on me.

Roasted veggies. Carrots, snow peas, onions, sweet potatoes, green beans, asparagus. Roasted in the oven or pan-seared in a cast iron skillet. The smoky sweetness of roasted, carmelized veggies is tops in my book.

Anything made in a cast iron pan. Cooking with cast iron creates new favorite foods every day! Scallops, crusty on the outside, gossamer light and sweet on the inside. Toasted cheese, beautiful to behold. Spiced potato wedges, pure gold.

Five Foods I Still Can't Stand

Mushrooms. Raw or cooked, they give me the willies. It's the texture. When they're cooking, the odor makes me gag. (Blame it on my sister... it was a craving of hers in our teens. The house always smelled of the things.)

Pasta. This one' s a bummer. So many fast meals can be made from pasta. But cold or cooked, even al dente, it's that texture thing again. Slimy and never hot enough.

Pizza. And isn't this a bonus?!? This is a hard one for many people to give up. It just bores me. Crust, tomato sauce and cheese in endless combos. It doesn't even interest me as a cook.

Soggy stuff. I can't stand to see someone ruin a perfectly good piece of cake by topping it with a scoop of ice cream or drowning it in milk. Or dunk cookies in milk, or biscotti in coffee. Are you a dunker? Not around me, please! Same goes for soggy desserts like bread or rice pudding. Or side dishes like risotto. Eggy breakfast casseroles. Ugh.

Bad coffee with skim milk. It would have been a lot easier to lose weight drinking my coffee black or with sweetener and skim milk. But I love my half 'n half! It's a disaster of infinite proportions when I run out -- almost as bad as running out of t.p.

There you have it. I'd love to hear what you love and hate. Pass it on!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Pastor Robert Hartwell: The Skinny on Sacrifice

Most people make weight loss resolutions only after the annual holiday binge. But it was on New Year’s Eve 2007 that the Rev. Robert Hartwell’s weight-loss odyssey came to a dramatic close. That morning, he stepped on a scale on NBC’s Today Show in front of 10 million people.

Just how the pastor of Village Lutheran Church in Bronxville, NY, got to this point began two years earlier. Pastor Hartwell's church had started a campaign to pay down an $8 million mortgage the church had assumed for a building project.

One day, Pastor Hartwell got a baffling call. A former parishioner, someone who kept close ties with the church, offered to make a substantial donation. But there was a catch. “This donor said that he wanted me to commit to losing 70 pounds, and if I did so, he would donate $5,000 for each pound I lost,” he says.

It was both an intriguing and a heartbreaking offer. “I was crushed—mortified—that someone had discovered that I was overweight, although of course everyone saw it when I stepped into the pulpit each week,” Pastor Hartwell says. “But this donor said he wanted to know that I was as committed to the project as he was.”

So was born “The Skinny on Sacrifice” campaign. Although up this point Pastor Hartwell hadn’t acknowledged his weight problem, he certainly understood how it had happened.

“My life is so hectic. I was always eating on the run. I’d grab a muffin between hospital visits, get home from council meetings at 10:30 at night, exhausted and ravenous, and grab a couple of sandwiches and chips,” he says. “And I was a volume eater—I could eat a half a pizza by myself, or eight White Castle burgers at a time.”

By the time the sly donor came into the picture, the six-foot-tall pastor weighed about 270 pounds. After consulting with his parish nurse practitioner, Pastor Hartwell took up the challenge, choosing NutriSystem for his meals.

On a food plan of about 1,500 calories a day, Pastor Hartwell lost 10 pounds almost immediately, and he continued to lose two to three pounds a week. He and his wife, Sue, had always walked for pleasure, and he made sure he got in two to three miles a day. After six months, he started going to the gym at next-door Concordia College, where he is an adjunct professor. A congregant who is a personal trainer showed him how to use the machines. He found the college atmosphere stimulating. “I was there with the 19- and 20-year old baseball players, and they motivated me to keep going,” he says.

Meanwhile, an employee at the church’s school who happened to be a lighting director for the Today Show brought the pastor’s challenge to the attention of a producer. The producer asked whether Pastor Hartwell would be willing to weigh in on the show the morning of December 31, 2007.

“I had already told the donor that I wouldn’t weigh in during a church service, and here I was agreeing to do it in front of a live audience on national television,” he laughs. “Barring Jesus projecting it in the sky over the earth, it couldn’t get any bigger than that!"

Just before Pastor Hartwell stepped out onto the stage, someone clipped a microphone to the back of his shirt. “This thing must weigh five pounds!” he protested. No matter. Robert made the donor’s 70-pound limit, with 8 extra pounds in the bargain. The donor wrote a check for $390,000, which church members augmented for an even $400,000.

Since then, Pastor Hartwell has lost 18 more pounds, bringing his total to 96. And, while he originally targeted 200 as his goal weight, he now wants to see 170—a total loss of 100 pounds. He still uses NutriSystem, and intends to continue even after reaching his goal.

In 2008, Pastor Hartwell challenged his congregation and the church's school to join the Skinny on Sacrifice II challenge. Over 200 people took it on and by last year had lost over 3,000 pounds. Many participants reported improved blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels, allowing many to reduce or eliminate medications to treat those conditions.

Pastor Hartwell says he now believes that weight loss is not only an individual pursuit yielding personal satisfaction, but a goal with wide-ranging possibilities for strengthening family and community ties. “Food is a short cut. Food is really a substitute for spending time with each other. I just decided we weren't going to do that anymore," he says.