31 December 2012

picture perfect

So here we are. Final weigh-in of 2012. Bum-bum-bum.

Despite the fact that this was a pretty tough week (Christmas Eve. Christmas morning. Christmas cookies) and I did some traveling and wasn't feeling well for part of my staycation, I lost 1.4 lbs this week! I started 2012 at 260.4, which means I lost 77.4 pounds this year and 128 total!

Admittedly, I was also lazy this week. Really lazy. As in didn't really work out. Like, at all. Well, okay, I did go for a thirty-minute run on the dreadmill (my new favorite phrase, thank you Fit & Free with Emily), my friend Alexa and I did do some decent walking around Ann Arbor on Saturday and yesterday I attended the community yoga class at the local lululemon, but that's about it, folks. Guess this is one of those situations that shows the food component really is the most important part.

Weight Watchers is doing this Pic You Amazing campaign and it was fun choosing all of my photos. Going clockwise starting at the top left: My Dec 2010/Dec 2012 comparison - Woman's World article - "I've lost a Missy!" - Onederland - Wheel at my family reunion - good ol' Cleveland - finish line at LMM 5K - my very first craft show -100 lb Reward tattoo - and finish line at my 3rd 5K.

Amazing, amazing year and I can't wait to see where 2013 takes me!

Speaking of memorable moments, Thursday evening I headed to my hometown of Stars Hollow for a very special coffee date:

These lovely ladies are all dear friends from high-school. Yes, as One Ordinary Mom on the far left pointed out, we've known each other half our lives. (Yeah, 'cause that doesn't make me feel old or anything.) This is one of those groups of friends where we sort of lost track of each other after graduating, but thanks to social media and blogs we've reconnected over the past few years. I've seen or gotten together with a few of them individually and I know they have as well with each other, but this was the first time we've all been in the same room in a looooooong time. It was so much fun catching up on the things we don't post online and "talking shop," so to speak, when it comes to blogging. Hopefully we won't have to wait another several years before the next one!

How was your 2012? Any plans or goals for 2013? 

Love from them ashes,
Lady Lazarus

28 December 2012

2012 Race Year Review

I only started running back in February of this year, which honestly is kinda crazy. I've come to love it so much and it's hard (and weird!) to imagine and remember what it was like before I started running. When I saw that Better With Veggies did a recap of her race year, I decided it was a fabulous idea that I just had to steal borrow.

Recap: Running With A Mission 5K
Held at the Cleveland Metropolitan Zoo on June 23, 2012, this was my first ever race! I signed up mostly for locale, not fully appreciating the stupid hills on the stupid race course. Even my college roommate -- who also raced and was waiting for me at the finish line -- commented on the fact that I picked a brutal course for my first race. But I was so happy to even participate and complete the race that I fully embraced coming in last place with a time of 47:40.

Recap: Cleveland Clinic Race For Wellness 5K
For my second race, my parents were able to attend and having a personal cheerleading section proved to be nice motivation: just as I was coming up on the final leg of the race I felt myself grow tired and slow down, but I looked up and saw Papa G. hanging out by the third mile marker and it was enough to push me to keep running and I finished in 45:12.

Recap: Veteran's Memorial Stadium 5K
Of all the races I ran this year, this was the one I was the most personally and emotionally invested in. After spending all of my middle- and high-school years walking the annual mile, it was so incredibly poignant to return to the scene of the crime, so to speak, and run not just one mile but 3.1 of them. With a time of 42:52, it was my fastest race to date!

Recap: Nature's Bin 5K 
Ah, nice flat course in good ol' Lakewood, Ohio. My parents weren't able to attend, but a childhood friend was also running (it was her first 5K!) and her mom was there so I still had my cheerleading section! Finished the race in 43:28 and won a gift card to a local restaurant at the post-race raffle! (Which I still haven't used. Should probably get on that.)

Recap: Next Step Run For Shelter 5K
Fifth and final race of 2012 was held at Edgewater Park and not only did I win the Extra Mile Award for being the top fundraiser ($1065!) but my final time of 41:33 was a Personal Record! Next year's Run for Shelter 5K is November 2, 2013 and I'm definitely going to sign up again. I love the idea of finding one race and making it an annual thing. Plus, I have my fundraising title to defend!

Looking ahead to 2013:
As it stands right now, my first race of next year will be the Conoco Phillips Rodeo Run 10K in Houston, Texas, in late February. My uncle will also be running in it and I'm super excited about visiting with my mom's family for the weekend. Then in October is the Cleveland Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon, I'm planning on signing up for the St. Malachi 5 Miler in March and over the weekend Papa G sent me a link for the local Towpath Trilogy. The June 10K is very tempting!

How was everyone else's racing experiences this year? Have you started putting together your 2013 racing calendar yet? Also, in case you missed Wednesday's post because of the holiday, I'm currently running a giveaway to win a copy of Happy Herbivore Abroad! Visit this post for my review of the cookbook and details on how to enter.

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

26 December 2012

interview & giveaway: happy herbivore abroad

Ohmygosh, you guys, I can't even tell you how excited I am for this post. I first talked about Happy Herbivore in my post on my Favorite Food Blogs and today, blogger Lindsay Nixon, author of The Happy Herbivore Cookbook and Everyday Happy Herbviore is here answering some of the questions I had about her own plant-based diet as well as her new cookbook, Happy Herbivore Abroad! The interview is part of a blog tour she's doing as a way to promote the book (what a fabulous idea, btw) and there might even be a book in it for one of you lucky readers, too!

But first, the interview:

1) What are some common misconceptions people have about the (perceived) difficulty of switching to a plant based diet? 

I find people thing eating a plant-based diet is expensive and it doesn't have to be. Seasonal fruits and vegetables are a bargain, frozen vegetables are cheap. Dry beans and grains (like brown rice) are very inexpensive.

2) Your elephant logo is so adorable! What made you choose that particular animal? 

I wanted an animal that was a herbivore and always loved elephants :)

3) Christmas is coming up! As a holiday that usually includes a big family meal, it can be tricky as the only vegetarian in an omnivore family. Any suggestions for new non-meat-eaters? 

I've written several posts about what to take to Thanksgiving on happyherbivore.com's blog, and most of those dishes would translate to Christmas as well. Use the search bar on the blog to find them

4) Reading your blog I know you do a lot of traveling. Favorite place to visit?

I don't really have a single favorite -- many of the places I traveled to were so different from each other you can't compare. How can you compare the mountains to the desert, for example? There were places with mesmerizing vistas that I could stare at for days, but then there were other places, with no vistas, but such beautiful architecture... or a culture that was so rich and vibrant it was intoxicating...

5) Your new book is called "The Happy Herbivore Abroad." Any tips for veg*ans traveling to other countries?

Not in the book (that's just recipes) but I've written dozens of blog posts on traveling and eating out on happyherbivore.com's blog -- use the search bar to find the posts, or click the "travel" label.

6) Favorite recipe from the new book?

Asking a chef to pick their favorite recipe is like asking a parent to pick their favorite child.

7) If you had to stick with one ethnic cuisine for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Probably America, only because a lot of "American" dishes are borrowed or inspired by other cultures, so it wouldn't feel limiting.

Being one of the hosts of the blog tour, I was provided with a copy of Happy Herbivore Abroad to review and holy cannoli is it fabulous. Even just flipping through the pages the first night I had it I knew this is a book even omnivores would dig. In the few weeks that I've had it I've been able to try the Cuban Black Bean soup, the Vegetarian Enchiladas, Homemade Enchilada Sauce, the Pasta E Fagoli is on the menu for this weekend and I cannot wait to try the curries!

As the title suggests, this cookbook is full of ethnic recipes from different cultures and countries. Lindsay loves to travel, so along with talking about her recipes she gives us a sneak peek into some of her travel history, including gorgeous personal pictures. Speaking of pictures, the recipe pictures are stunning, too. I don't know about you, but I have to have pictures in a cookbook. After all, we all tend to eat with our eyes first and in this respect, Happy Herbivore Abroad definitely delivers.

One thing I have always loved about her recipes is how easy they are. Plus they use simple, common ingredients. I think there is an unfair assumption that a veg*n diet require crazy, fancy (ie: expensive) ingredients and that's simply not true as Lindsay's recipes prove. There may be a small handful of things you would have to buy (like, say, non-dairy milk) but for the most part, the ingredients are things you probably have in your kitchen or already buy on a fairly regular basis.

Seriously, peeps. No matter your eating habits, you will love this cookbook. Which is why I'm so grateful that as part of the blog tour, a reader of mine has a chance to win a copy of Happy Herbivore Abroad!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Fine print: Open to US & Canadian residents only. At the completion of the giveaway, winner will have 48 hours to claim their prize. BenBella Books provided me with a free copy of Happy Herbivore Abroad to review as part of the HHA Blog Tour. All opinions are my own.

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

21 December 2012

Baddha Konasana: My One Year Yogaversary

In the sacred text of the yogis, the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna proclaims that one comes to yoga in his life only by having practiced it in a previous life, and is pulled toward it against one's will, as toward a magnet. -- Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, Yoga Mala

After one really disheartening experience at a yoga studio in Cleveland and another rather enlightening experience at a yoga studio in Las Vegas, I was determined to find a studio and a practice that fit what I was looking for. What that specific thing was I was searching out remained to be named, but I firmly believed I would know it when I found it.

So it was that one year ago on the Saturday before Christmas, I found myself walking into The Studio Cleveland on the East Bank of the Flats. After putting together a list of all of the studios in the area, I decided to visit them one by one and The Studio was first on my agenda for no other reason than proximity. The class was Ashtanga Vinyasa, and while I had absolutely no idea what that entailed, the Saturday morning session fit my schedule so off I went.

Walking in blind was probably the best decision I could have made. Had I known that I was about to challenge my body in every conceivable way through one of the most physically demanding practices out there and that by the end of my first 90+ minute class I would be a puddle of sweat and goo on my mat and that my body would feel sore for a week afterwards, I can't say for sure I still would have gone. Fear and my comfort zone would possibly have trumped all desire to find the elusive je nais se quoi.

At this point in my journey, I had already lost a little over 50 pounds, but still weighed in at about 255. In my mind this made me the antithesis of any and all yoga practioners and, in fact, that was what turned me off to the first yoga studio I visited. While it was subtle, I couldn't help but feel as though the initial yoga teacher just didn't know what to do with me at my size. (Thankfully, Swami Ramananda at Ceasar's Palace in Vegas opened my eyes and helped me reevaluate and realize that inclusive yoga instructors do exist.)

So, naturally, I pulled the heavy glass doors of The Studio open with trepidation. But the woman who greeted me at the desk -- tall and lean, like a gazelle, her long dark hair a mess of tightly coiled curls -- was more welcoming and cheerful than I could have even anticipated, let alone hoped for.

This, ladies & gentleman, was Jessica.

After introducing herself, she showed me around. Pointed out the Thai massage rooms and artwork, all of which is for sale. I saw the main large studio, the showers and cubbies, and the smaller Ganesha room, so named because of the large image of the Hindu deity (he of the elephant head) hanging from the ceiling.

As she chatted away, asking about my previous experiences with yoga and telling me about the practice of Ashtanga, it slowly dawned on me that never once during this conversation did I ever feel like my weight was an issue. It was almost as if she somehow hadn't noticed. From the very first moment I walked in and slipped off my shoes at the front door, I felt as though I had found a place where I belonged. Everyone I've met at The Studio over the past year has been incredibly supportive of me and my journey: a few weeks ago, in the span of about two days, I had two different people I met through The Studio tell me they recommended my blog to people they know struggling. But I also know they would be equally supportive if I weighed the same as I did when we first met.

One of the things I love most about Ashtanga is that it's a set series: every class is the same poses in the same order. Depending on requests or the level of the people in a given class, Jessica will sometimes throw in other poses, like One Handed Tiger or Bow Pose. But she does them in such a way that we still fit in the traditional Ashtanga series and the benefit to this is that you are truly able to see progress.

This has never been more apparent to me than as I reflect back on the past year and how far I have come. Poses that were impossible in the beginning are now second nature. Remember when I couldn't do Plow without potentially suffocating thanks to my well-endowed bosom? These days not only are the darlins not a problem, but I can roll over far enough to get my toes on the floor behind me. Then there was the day I suddenly was on my head and these days I'm working on doing my headstands away from the wall. I've conquered Wheel enough that I can show off pop up at family reunions and I still can't get over my back muscles in Prasarita Padottanasana. Back in October I participated in the Grow Soul Beautiful Yoga A Day Challenge, I've added Sun Salutations to my morning routine and, yes, Yoga Teacher Training is still one of my goals.

Of course, despite the often persistent perception that this is a form of exercise or a way to burn calories, yoga is, first and foremost, a spiritual discipline. A moving meditation. What I love most about practicing is the non-physical changes that come as you journey through the series.

In my very first post for this blog, I explained the reasoning behind the blog's name and the significance of Baddha Konasana, or Butterfly pose. The transformation I've had in the past year is remarkable. To the point of there not being words. Not just in my practice, either, but personally, mentally, emotionally, all of it. And, of course, nothing speaks more to my self-discovery during this process than my 100 pound reward tattoo.

Tomorrow morning I will, yet again, head on over to The Studio Cleveland for my 10am Saturday morning Ashtanga class. Only this time will be different. This time, this class, will mark my one year yogaversary. I even bought myself a new Gaiam mat as a present for myself. Went for the extra thick one, too.

Hopefully my now-bony ass will thank me during Boat Pose.

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

19 December 2012

What I Love Wednesday: Christmas Songs

With Christmas, oh, y'know, one week away I thought I'd spice things up just a smidge by sharing with y'all some of my favorite holiday songs!

Right! So, seeing as how, like, 90% of my Christmas decorations (including all of my tree ornaments) are Snoopy and the Peanuts Gang, I have to start this list off with the classic "Linus & Lucy". Only I'm taking a more unusual twist and going with the Bela Fleck & The Flecktones cover. Because it is awesomesauce squared.

Next up, Trans Siberian Orchestra and "Mad Russian's Christmas," which is a reworking of some of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker music, including "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies" and "Russian Dance." (As an alternative option I offer Trans Siberian's Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24)

Keeping with the whole revamped Nutcracker theme, we now jump back to the swinging '60s and Duke Ellington's Harlem Nutcracker album. I first heard his "Sugar Rum Cherry" [Sugar Plum Fairy] in college and have forever been cast under its spell. Every time I hear it I picture Don Draper and Joan Holloway and the rest of the Mad Men cast at some swanky office holiday party.

Ah, "Carol of the Bells." Another timeless holiday song with so many variations and covers. Personally I always go for good ol' George Winston.

Now. Technically speaking, "Greensleeves" is not a traditional Christmas song. In fact, it is often credited as being written by King Henry VIII as a song for his lover and future queen Anne Boleyn. (The fact that I have loved this tune since childhood and have a slight obsession adoration for Tudor history is entirely coincidental. Especially considering there's actually no proof that good ol' Hen wrote the song. And while one of the things I couldn't get past on the television show The Tudors was their gross reinterpretation of history, I did get a small kick out of seeing them have Henry play this.)

All of that being said, what gets this little English folk ditty on the list is that it eventually went on to become the tune for "What Child Is This."

Finally, if I had to pick just one Christmas song that I love beyond all others it would be "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." There's just something so, I don't know, hauntingly bittersweet about the song that I simply adore. I am also completely unable to pick a favorite version as I have two that I adore equally. First up, Tori Amos.

Finally, the version Kenny G did on his 1994 holiday album (and no, I am not at all embarrassed to admit the fact that, yes, I do in fact enjoy a little Kenny G every now and then).

Looking at this list I realize that I apparently really, really, really like jazz inspired Christmas music. Huh.

What are some of your favorite Christmas or holiday songs?

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

17 December 2012

zero dark one-twenty-five

If you've never suffered from any kind of food addiction or disordered eating, you have no earthly idea of what it's like. If you've never suffered from weight issues, you have no earthly idea of what it's like. If you've never measured in the morbidly obese category, you have no earthly idea of what it's like. And if you've never lost 100 or more pounds, I guaran-fucking-tee you have no earthly idea of what it's like. I mean, hello, I've lost an entire person. When I get to goal weight, I'm going to have lost half of me.

Friday afternoon/evening, I had the very, very fortunate pleasure of spending several hours at a coffee shop talking with a friend of a friend who understands my journey because he's on the exact same one. I cannot even begin to explain to you how refreshing it was to talk to someone -- really talk to someone -- who gets it. Who has been where I've been and is on the same path and has also accomplished the task of losing over 100 pounds.

One thing we talked about at length was the idea of The Number. And how the Number can become too big. I don't mean the number itself, I mean the shadow of the number. Without realizing it, I started living under the number's shadow. I started buying into the hype of being the woman who has gone from 311 to 189. I bought into the celebrity of having lost 120+ pounds. It made me comfortable. It made me complacent. It made me stop challenging my body. Challenging myself. Excuses became easier and easier because, hey, look at how much I've already accomplished.

I'm comfortable where I am. I'm below 200 (186 as of this morning) and am without a doubt in the best health and shape I've ever been in. Being comfortable at this weight in of itself isn't the problem. The problem is that I'm using that as an excuse, a defense mechanism to hold back. To not push and challenge and put myself into uncomfortable, but ultimately rewarding, positions. Because this is when things start to get scary. Start to get fucking terrifying. Because right now I am the smallest I have ever been in my adult life and having now lost 125 lbs, I only have a mere 25-35 pounds to go (still undecided on goal, but that's for another post).

25-35 pounds. That's it. Roughly 10% of my starting weight is all that is left to conquer. And that is downright petrifying.

 But it's not the fear of failure that makes it scary, that holds me back. It's the fear of success.

I've never been this small and I've definitely never been as small as I'll ultimately be and that's scary. It's the dark unknown. The brave new world. I don't know what that world is like, what it will be like.

What I'll be like.

When I confessed I was worried that this entire journey would change me, that is, alter the very fundamental existential me that I have always known, and he asked "So what if it does?", I didn't have a response. I just sat there, staring at him, speechless Because, really, so what if it does? Change doesn't have to be bad. Sometimes, the best things happen from change. Changing states. Changing careers. Changing yoga studios. Hell, changing my hair color eleven years ago will go down as one of the most important decisions I will ever make.

I like to say that one of the things that keeps me motivated on this journey is that I want to be the best woman that I can be. But how can I do that if I'm not willing to push myself the distance? How is holding myself back conducive to or in support of that end goal?

(Hint: It's not.)

It's kind of like running a race: prior to my August 5K, I had never experienced the notion that when you get near the finish line you find a second wind. Because for my first and second 5Ks, just participating was accomplishment enough and I wasn't necessarily concerned with time (as witnessed in embracing last place).

But during that third race, there I was, right near the end. I could see the clock, the finish line was in sight. So I dug down deep and sprinted towards the finish line. It didn't matter how the previous 2 3/4 miles had gone or how tired I was or the fact that I could give myself a golf clap just for showing up. Those last few yards defined that race.

That's where I am right now. After 23 months and 125 pounds, the finish line is once again in view and this is the moment -- the defining moment -- where I dig down deep and sprint home.

So today we reset. Today the counter reverts back to zero. I'm no longer going to look at The Number or the Big Picture. Instead, I'm zoning in on the last 25-35 pounds I have yet to go. Doesn't matter where I started. Or how far I've come. I might be tired. I might be comfortable. I might be okay exactly where I am at this moment in time.

None of that matters.

What does matter is that I set a goal. I set out on this journey with a specific destination and I'm not done yet. Nor am I going down without a fight.

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

14 December 2012

the birth of venus

In Boticelli's iconic painting, a nude woman stands in the middle of the sea, elegantly poised on an upturned seashell. Her long red hair flows behind and around her and you can almost taste the saltwater on the breeze.  The length of her mane provides function as well as splendor as she attempts some model of decorum.

Uffizi Gallery

This is the Renaissance painter's interpretation of the goddess Venus, she of love, beauty, and sex. Given that Boticelli was Italian, he naturally went with her Roman name, although in the Greek tradition she is known as Aphrodite. According to one interpretation of the myth, Venus emerged from the sea in the form of a fully grown woman.

That is sort of what it feels like these days.

I have become unrecognizable. Or at least that's what friends said when I posted this on Facebook. I hear it from co-workers, too: the picture on the left is what I looked like when I started my job two years ago, but if shown this picture they all tell me they don't ever remember me looking like that. Students will see my very outdated staff picture in the hallway and ask if that really is me.

Truthfully, even I feel a complete disconnect to the picture on the left and the way I used to be. I have to force myself to remember that, yes, I used to weigh a hell of a lot more and used to be really, really fucking lazy and binge eat and was, let's face it, slowly killing myself.

Lately I find myself reading a lot of Agatha Christie and every so often, as most murder mystery authors do, she'll introduce a character, be it suspect or victim, who seems to have just sort of appeared one day. No history, no past. No ties or connections, it's like moving through life as a phantom. When I first went away to college or moved to Kentucky, I thought Nobody knows me here. I can be whoever I want to be. 

That. It's like that. Although these days, when I meet someone new, it's more of a I can be the runner and yogi and healthy eater and nobody has to know how lazy and sedentary I was or how poor my eating habits were or the fact that I used to weigh over 300 pounds. 

Of course, people do know me. Friends and family (and readers!) who have supported me through this nearly two-year journey, but even they have a hard time remembering what I used to look like, used to be like. The transformation was slow. It took time and work. It took sacrifice. And even now I still sometimes slip up.

But with it comes surprise and gratitude and a new appreciation for my body, both where it has been and how far it has come. The other day I was thinking about how I'm very quickly coming up on my one year yogaversary. On the one hand, it feels like yesterday I walked into my first Ashtanga class at The Studio and met Jessica. On the other hand, yoga has had such a profound effect on both my life and body that I can't remember a time when I didn't practice.

I think C.S. Lewis said it best: Isn't it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back everything is different.

As it happens, the whole springing forth full form thing is common in mythology. Athena (in the Greek, Minerva in the Roman) was said to have, well, popped out of Zeus' head. True story. (Or, well, mythological story, but you know what I mean.)

The Goddess of Beauty and the Goddess of War. That sounds about right.

Anyone else familiar with this experience? Where all of a sudden it's like you're a completely new person one day and can't really remember the old you?

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

12 December 2012

my healthy holiday gift guide

As Christmas is just over the river and through the woods, I thought some of you might still be scrambling for last minute gift ideas. While the holidays are known as a time for excess and overindulgence, they don't have to be. Especially when it comes to presents. If anything, this is the time of year when people make plans and, well, resolutions, to get healthier which means it's the perfect time for you to help them out with some healthy living and fitness related gifts!

There are so many options and similar lists out there on the good ol' interwebs, so think of this as my own personal episode of Oprah's Favorite Things. Only, y'know, without Oprah. And free stuff for my live audience.

(Full blogger disclosure: I'm not getting compensated for any of the mentions on this list. These are items I use in my everyday life and really do love. That being said, I am a member of the Amazon Associates Program, so if you purchase any items through my Amazon Store I do receive a small commission.) 

For the Runner
Running gear can get pretty expensive so gift cards to athletic stores are always appreciated. I'm also the type to fully support shopping local. Here in Cleveland we have Cleveland Running Company on the east side to Second Sole on the west and quite a few in between and in the 'burbs, such as Vertical Runner.


The SPIbelt is the Mary Poppins of running accessories, because while it looks small it expands to hold a ton of stuff. I can fit my iPhone and full set of keys and still have room to spare, yet even with all of that in there it doesn't bounce and I often forget I'm wearing it. They come in a wide range of colors and patterns and are now offered in a Plus Size version which is the same as the original but with a longer belt. $20 - $30

For the Yogi
For the curvy yogi consider buying Permission to CURVE from CurvyYoga.com. This eBook is the perfect resource for someone interested in starting a yoga practice but feels slightly intimidated. Don't let the name fool you, as Anna's tips are for yogis of every size, age, and ability. The basic eBook is $25 and includes 15 video interludes but for $97 you get the eBook and an expanded video library.


Yup. Yoga pose shaped cookie cutters, courtesy of Yummi Yogi. I mean, hello, how fabulous are these? There's Tree Pose, Down Dog, Warrior III, Warrior II, and Crescent Lunge. Truthfully this is the one item on this list I don't actually own, so if anyone wants to buy me them I promise cookies as a thank you. $40 for set of 5 

For the Weight Watcher
We all know losing weight during the holidays is difficult, so help 'em out with some tools of the trade. Me, I would be lost without my food scale. At first it was weird getting used to weighing foods, but now I pretty much weigh anything I can. I still measure with cups and spoons, but with certain foods weighing just makes more sense. (There are so many food scales on the market, but mine costs about $20).

Speaking of food, packing my lunch and taking it to work everyday has been a huge assistance in keeping me on track and I love my Sistema Lunch Cube container! Can put a sandwich in without worrying about it getting smushed, plus there is room for some fruit, hardboiled egg, baby carrots, etc. $6

H2O is, of course, a very necessary part of a healthy lifestyle and now that I've given up soda, water is pretty much the only thing I drink. But constantly buying bottled water is expensive and bad for the environment, so I always have my favorite handy-dandy reusable water bottle. It holds 24 ounces and has a little handle which makes it easy to carry. But what I really like is that on the lid is sliding intake meter, so I can keep track of how much I drink during the day! $10

For the Foodie
Since I love to cook and bake, I can't put this list together without including a few cookbooks. Two of my absolute favorites are Appetite for Reduction and the brand new Happy Herbivore Abroad. While both books are vegan, I promise omnivores will also love the recipes in these books. The recipes are fast and fabulous and will please a wide range of palates (I highly recommend the tortilla soup from Appetite For Reduction & Cuban Black Bean soup from Happy Herbivore Abroad). $12- $25


Y'all know I love me some peanut butter. And I especially love me some Peanut Butter & Co. peanut butter. This mix has all of my favorite flavors (because it's impossible to pick just one) but they also have a ton of other gift box options. Some even include jelly and marshmallow fluff (which is usually vegetarian, as it doesn't include geletin)! $32+ for gift assortments

Stocking Stuffers
It's winter. Which means it's cold outside. Which means your favorite runner is layering it up, so throw in a pair of festive knee high socks! Team Sparkle has some fabUlous options and you know I love my TARDIS socks (and totes plan on buying the Dalek ones soon). For the techie who has a love for fitness related apps, consider an iTunes gift card. Lip balm is always nice for those of us who like exercising outside and you can never go wrong with a really basic pedometer.

So those are some of my favorite gift ideas! To round things out, I also asked on Twitter and Facebook for suggestions, and got Polar Heart Rate monitors, FitBitCamelbak water bottle and GPS watch.

Finally, while exercise is a great way to reduce stress, sometimes you need a bit of extra help in that area. Particularly around the holidays, so a gift certificate for a massage would make an ideal gift for just about everyone on your list. And if you're in Cleveland I suggest Anat. Massage Therapy. Tell Lauren I sent you.

What are some of the healthy gifts you're planning on giving (or hoping to receive) this year?

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

10 December 2012

not my finest hour

Saturday night was my work Christmas party. I was on point all week and had been on a run the day before and had yoga that morning and went in with a plan. Got to the party and all was well and good.

But then two things happened.

1) My one coworker brought this todiefor artichoke cheese dip.
2) I saw the dessert table.

And then my plan went poof.

When I say "artichoke cheese dip," it's a bit misleading. It was more like a couple pounds of baked cheese with bits of artichoke in it. My co-worker tried to argue that it was low fat cheese, but, I'm telling ya it didn't matter because it was pretty much all cheese. And I seriously just kinda stood there spreading it on one tortilla chip after another.

With dessert, I was able to ignore the cheesecake and carrot cake and lemon squares and cookies and pastries. It was the stupid mini cream puffs and stupid mini eclairs that were my downfall. So cute. So mini. So yummy. So easy to just pop into your mouth. And pop I did. One after another after another.

It wasn't exactly mindless eating, I mean I knew exactly what I was doing, but it was pretty close. I didn't even bother with a plate. I had once again turned into the quintessential fat girl at a party, hovering around the food table. You'd think my staff photo -- which is still from March or April of last year -- right above the appetizer buffet would have been a deterrent, a reminder of how far I'd come, but nooooope.

And then, I still ate other appetizers and dinner at the party, too. Going into the party I had roughly 40 Weekly Points left and they were all gone, just like that. A couple of my Activity Points, too.

Thing is, in the grand scheme of things it wasn't that bad. I tracked everything, and all told I consumed, oh, about 2400 calories for the day. Minus the 300 or so I burned in Ashtanga that morning and my net calorie intake was, well, about average for a normal non-dieting human being. Maybe a little high for a woman of my height and weight, but still not that bad. It's only when you consider that I normally eat 1300 - 1400 calories a day that you realize just how much above and beyond I went at the party.

Of course, it would seem that all of the exercise I had done earlier in the week helped, because when I stepped on the scale this morning I weighed the exact same as I did last week. And, believe me, I am so okay with that I can't even tell you. I think I just need to remind myself that this time of year it's a holiday, not a holimonth. So pace myself and don't use one party as an excuse to go crazy, 'cause I gots a lot more parties coming up and I need to treat them like normal days. I could also take my own advice from Thanksgiving and perhaps shift goals. That is, spend the rest of the month working on maintenance instead of necessarily losing weight. I had forgotten how hard the holidays can be and I have to be realistic about the next few weeks.

How was everyone else's weekend?

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

07 December 2012

fashion sense for cents

Back when I was 311 pounds, shopping was tedious. I did it out of necessity more than anything else and while I tried to at least attempt some sense of fashion, nothing ever looked or felt right on me. I was also working at a job where the one thing you didn't want to do was draw any sort of attention to yourself, so I wore a lot of bulky sweaters, blouses with no shape, and whatever size 28 pants I could squeeze myself into. High heels were a joke: just imagine trying to carry around 300 pounds on tiny little sticks at the bottom of your feet for eight hours a day and you'll understand why my closet was full of flats.

Now, though, shopping is a brave new world and with it comes a more precise understanding of style. Of wanting to be stylish and wanting to use style as a form of expression. I often compare myself to a butterfly who spent years tucked safely away in her dark cocoon. But 23 months and 120+ lbs later, I've finally broken free from my isolated shelter.

For the first time in a very long time my spirit welcomes the chance to fly high. Be it sleek shoes, adorable accessories, or daring dresses, style is my opportunity to show off my wings.

Blinged Out Paisley Watch & Chunky Leopard Print Earrings. That's how I roll, yo

Of course, when you're losing weight, shopping can bring it's own element of tediousness. Having to buy new clothes every few months (or weeks, in some cases) is annoying and, frankly, expensive. I'm not sure about you, but I don't have a huge disposal income to allow me to go to the mall that often. Nor do I really want to fall in love with a $50 article of clothing that I know I'm only going to be able to wear for a short period of time.

In the past I would scour thrift shops for deals, and while that certainly helps the economical dilemma, very rarely do I find the chic bargains my friends always seem to luck into. My stuff would be a bargain but definitely not chic. And, let's face it, you just naturally feel better wearing clothes you know you look good in.

Which is where the fabulousness that is consignment shopping comes in.

Thanks to a local store, I have a closet full of well-known brands all purchased at deeply discounted prices. I think the most expensive piece is a high-end label maroon sweater which the store was selling for $30 (I'm guessing originally it was at least $45). However, because I was trading in some of my too-big clothes, I paid zilch for it. Nada. Zero dollah.

For the same price of just one or two of those labels off the rack at the actual store, I've managed to build quite a clothes collection. Each can be paired with either basic black or grey pants and are perfect for work and going out. They aren't brand spanking new, but I know the store is very picky about what they take and I have managed to buy clothes with the original tags still on. Sure, they are a couple of seasons behind, but who really cares when each piece has something that lets my personality shine through? Maybe it's the color or key hole back or sparkly star detail. Dressing to impress doesn't have to be about keeping up with the runway. As Coco Chanel once said, Fashion changes but style endures.

With the holiday season upon us, now is the perfect time to flex a little flair in your wardrobe. Dressing up for Christmas parties is one of my favorite parts of December, and with a new silhouette to show off, you know I'm gonna pull out the style and spirit for my friends' annual shindig.

In this case, it's the brand new red sweater dress I bought a few weeks ago. Normally I wouldn't go anywhere near a sweater dress, never believing they were flattering on me. But it's a lovely shade of red and shows off my figure quite well (if I do say so myself). Plus, since it was purchased on Black Friday, it was quite the steal.

The other half of the outfit is leggings, another piece of clothing a year or so ago I wouldn't have touched with a ten foot pole. But as soon as I put the dress on, I knew black leggings with black wedge heels was just what was needed to help me feel super foxy. Headed over to another Black Friday deal where leggings were on sale for $5 and I just happened to have a $5 rewards coupon. Holla!

Clothes speak volumes. What we wear matters, for no other reason than they make a first impression long before a single word is spoken. As such, it's important to cultivate and define your own sense of style, whatever it may be. Don't worry about what the media or industry is telling you to wear, make sure you like what it is and remember that you don't have to break the bank to let your inner fashionista out. Case in point: when the sweater dress is eventually too big, I can just turn around and take it the consignment store and hopefully get some moola that I can use to score some outfits for the spring!

And that, ladies & gents, is how you do it.

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

05 December 2012

What I Love Wednesday: Streaks App

As I mentioned on Monday, I am now 32 34 days soda free!

Cutting out soda (yes, I live in Northeast Ohio where we call it pop. Blame my two years in Kentucky) is something I've been wanting to do for a long time, I could just never find the right combination of motivation and determination. It's not that I drank it all that often and I've always been good about drinking water, but I knew I really didn't need soda. What I did need was something that would keep me on track.

Enter Streaks App.

Need Motivation? There's an app for that

I had seen this app mentioned by other people in the Healthy Living Community but, y'know, I like free apps and wasn't sure the $1.99 is worth it. (It is, FYI.) One thing this app allows that the free ones didn't was you can have calendars. So I have my No Soda Calendar and my Sun Salutations/Plank A Day morning routine calendar. Both calendars were started on November 1st and since I check off the second one in the mornings, I'm at Day 35! That's thirty five #plankadays!

The App is super easy to use. You pick the goal, how often you want to perform the task, and if there are any days that are okay to skip. So they don't have to be daily goals and in the case of my Sun Salutations I could reasonably skip on Saturdays, which is when I have Ashtanga and do 10 Sun Salutations anyway. But, as I like keeping up with the daily routine I still do them before class.

But the really great thing about this app is it keeps me motivated. Who would have thought I'd get such pleasure and satisfaction in creating a little X on a calender? Some mornings I would much rather sleep in for an extra ten minutes than get my salutations on. Or I'm out to dinner and want something to drink besides boring ol' water. Knowing I have the app waiting keeps me on task. Sissy keeps one for her plank a days and skipped a day in the beginning and mentioned how it was a little sad seeing the counter for her current streak reset to zero.

As far as I know, this particular app is only available on the iPhone but Sissy found a similar one for Android. And you don't have to use it just for healthy living stuff either: anything you do on a routine basis but need just a little extra motivation for, this is the app for you!

Do you have any daily tasks? How do you keep track? 

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

03 December 2012

monday morning musings

This is gonna be quick and dirty as I spent an obscene amount of hours over the weekend working on my Etsy shop (new pictures! new products!) so I really don't have anything super enlightening to talk about.

1) Lost 1.8 lbs this week, bringing my total to 121.6! Not only that, I'm in the 180s!

2) I'm going to go a bit more into detail about this on Wednesday, but as of last night I am 32 days soda free!

3) One of the hardest parts about giving up soda was that my usual go to bar drink is Mailbu and Diet, so for the past month when I've ordered drinks (which isn't that often) I've gotten a cosmo. I've always been a cocktail girl and have never liked beer.

3a) Or, as I learned Saturday night when I went to dinner at Bac with my two besties, I do like beer. It's just a matter of finding the right one. Lindy Loo ordered the Breckinridge Christmas Ale and I tried it (she always offers) and liked it so much I ordered my own bottle. CA-RAY-ZEE.

3b) I never pay attention to the Weight Watchers points for beer because, hi, I don't drink it, but looking them up after dinner I was totes okay with them. In between a Malibu & Diet and Cosmo, you get way more bang for your buck with beer in terms of amount. It's like a whole new drinking world. My friends will be so pleased, I may actually drink more often when we're out! (gasp!)

4) Plane tickets for Houston have been purchased!

5) Over the weekend, a former co-worker contacted me after seeing the Woman's World article. Love it.

6) Dinner this week is shepherd's pie. I took this recipe from A Year of Slow Cooking and just used Boca Crumbles instead of ground beef (I also only used 2 cups taters and 1 cup cheese. Veggies were peas & California medley (broccoli, carrots, and cauliflower)). It is awesomesauce. Seriously. Make it. Now. Or, y'know, after you buy all the ingredients.

6a) Have I ever mentioned I want to marry my crock pot?

How was everyone else's weekend?

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus
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