30 August 2013

all those in favor, say Aye!


Stop telling the fat person to step away from the fridge. Stop telling the thin woman to eat a cupcake. Stop telling meat eaters that their steak will give them cancer and stop assuming veg*ans can only get adequate protein from animal sources. Stop telling "dirty" eaters to eat clean and stop telling clean eaters their dietary choice is over hyped. If you want to eat carbs, eat carbs. If you don't, then don't. No one is going to force a bagel down your throat at gunpoint.

I don't like labeling foods as either "good" or "bad" because it's all subjective. Eating habits are incredibly personal and certain food choices may come with mental, emotional, and  physical issues attached. When you tell someone they "should" eat something you may actually be enabling their behavior or risking their health. Your "good" might be their "bad." More to the point, do you know what happens when you criticize someone with food issues or disordered eating patterns about what they're eating? If someone doesn't eat gluten they shouldn't feel like they have to explain their entire gastrointestinal history.

If someone makes a decision to not eat something, before you condemn that choice please stop and consider for just one second that they may have a very good reason and shouldn't be forced to defend it just to satisfy your curiosity. Because the fact of the matter is when we get right down to it, someone else's food choices are none of your business.

I fully support educating myself and others about your dietary habits. I'm all for discussions. But do not lecture and do not, under any circumstances, judge.

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

28 August 2013

healthy living lessons from orange is the new black

Have you guys been watching Orange is the New Black on Netflix? Because if you haven't you need to start. Like, yesterday.  Personally, I don't know why it took me so long because I'm usually all about anything set in a prison and once I started I was hooked. I mean, I managed to completely binge-watch and finished all 13 episodes of the first season in about two days.


I know I've mentioned it before but my first gig after grad-school was the sole librarian at an all-male minimum security prison up here in Northeast Ohio and while obviously some of the things you see on the show are dramatized for the sake of plot (For instance, because they were involved in the same crime Chapman and Vaus would never be put in the same prison) other things are one hundred percent accurate. Like mother and daughter being in the same prison (in ours it was usually father or son or cousins or brothers, etc.) or inmate/employee relationships. I was hired because the person before me had allegedly had something going on with an inmate and like clockwork every six months another female coworker was being walked out for establishing a relationship with an inmate and then within the year of my leaving there were another two.

Oh, and like I told Bold Butter Baby, the chapel usually was the hot spot for illicit inmate rendezvouses. Our Chaplain caught inmates on more than one occasion. I also knew a Corrections Officer who treated inmates with the same swagger and power trip as Mendez. He even had the pornstache although his bravado eventually got him fired.

Trust me, people, I could tell you stories that would make you laugh (like the idiot that gave himself a tattoo with an ink pen and it got infected), make you cry (imagine trying to stop your girlfriend from giving your child up for adoption while you're incarcerated) and some that would leave you horrified (like that time I broke my elbow and had it in a sling only I wasn't allowed to wear the sling when I was around the prisoners because it could have been used to strangle me. True story.)

And that is just the tip of the ol' iceburg. So, y'know, if any OINTB writers are reading this and looking for story line ideas for Season 2 my contact info is hanging out over there in the sidebar....

Just sayin'.

Of course, y'all know how much I love to find healthy living lessons from untraditional sources, so off we go!


If you've been reading this for awhile you know that I'm a big believer in breakfast. If you're new to this blog, I'm a big believer in breakfast. Officer O'Neil is right, breakfast is the most important meal of the day and I always make sure to start my day off right with a good breakfast. Maybe it's overnight oats with some fruit and peanut butter or eggs with avocado and an English muffin. Always make sure it's healthy (like, while breakfast is the most important meal of the day, donughts for breakfast isn't doing anyone any favors) and that there is some form of protein with your breakfast as that's what will keep you full until lunch. Actually, the protein rule goes with any meal or snack.


I love the character of Red so freaking much I not only want to go as her for Halloween but I named my new-to-me iPad Red in her honor (the fact that I bought it a red cover doesn't hurt). Plus, actress Kate Mulgrew is married to Northeast Ohio politician Tim Hagan so what's not to love about that?

Of course, while Red probably has an entirely different idea in mind when she talks about the magical properties of fowl, it does not distract from the fact that certain food do hold powers that should guide your meal choices. I'm talking those micronutrients like protein, healthy fats, vitamins, etc. Consider what Office O'Neil said about starting your engine right -- food is fuel after all and you don't want to fill your fancy car's gasoline tank with sand, correct? You want to fill it with the good quality stuff that will keep it running at top performance.


The hardest part about changing your life isn't adopting new eating healthy eating habits or finding time to work out or staying on plan. The hardest part is facing your reality. Facing who you used to be and trying to shed that old persona. I spent decades of my life hiding under over 100 pounds of excess weight and when it all came off it left me feeling vulnerable and alone. When you no longer have that mask, have that safety net, you are suddenly confronted with all those issues you had managed to silence for so long with food. It's scary and heartbreaking and it takes a ridiculous amount of courage to meet them head on and really deal with them. Man, I'm still dealing with them. Work in progress here, baby, and proud of it.


As inmate Andy Dufresne once said in The Shawshank Redemption: Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies. (Also, am I the only one who finds it weird that in both instances it's the character named "Red" that is bringing the contraband in?) The road to a healthy lifestyle can get rocky and sometimes you'll hit pot holes or need to take a detour and turn around, but always try to see the positive strides you are making. I only lost .2 pounds this week but last Friday I ran 7.5 miles. That kind of outweighs (pun intended) the results of the scale.  So keep hoping, baby. Even when it ends up that tomorrow is actually going to be beef and noodles night.

Finally, we have Taystee, an inmate I so would have loved to have had working in my library.


Let's be honest, here: Sriracha is the new black.

Do you have any favorite quotes from Orange Is the New Black? I so wanted to figure out how to fit in "I threw my pie for you" just because it's so fabulous.

Love from the new ashes,
Lady Lazarus

26 August 2013

how losing weight is like training for a race

Thursday night a dear friend of mine texted me about her weight loss journey. She's just started and hopes to lose 60 pounds in six months, in time for a trip she and her family are planning for early February.


 That averages to 10 pounds a month and while I applaud and respect her desire to lose such a significant amount of weight, she also realizes she may be setting herself an unrealistic goal and it got us talking and me thinking.



I am officially halfway through my half-marathon training (hello, where did the last six weeks go?!) and I've also already completed training and races for both 5Ks and 10Ks. Obviously the actual miles you run while in training is going to change depending on which race you're actually preparing for, but the basic concepts of a training plan are the same across the board.

In fact, for all the races I've already run, there is one constant rule that seems to come up in all of the training plans no matter which distance you've chosen:

Don't set a time goal for your first race at a new distance. 

I don't care how awesome your training has been. At that very first 5K or 10K or half or whatever it is, your only goal should be to cross the finish line. That's it. Don't worry about pace. Don't worry about place. Just finish. You can't predicate what will happen come race day, be it weather or an injury or the course is more difficult than you anticipated. That first time around, go in with the right attitude but know that it's gonna take as long as it takes.

The same attitude applies to weight loss. I know that people have vacations and weddings and whatever and that they want to look and feel a certain way when those events roll around. That's perfectly understandable and I've done it, too. The problem comes when you set a weight deadline and don't meet it. And I've done that, too. When I started my journey in January 2011, I wanted to lose 50 pounds by my 30th birthday and our family trip to Las Vegas that November. After all my hard work I fell just short, like 47 or 48 or something.

I was so close to hitting my goal but I didn't and in not doing so it did put a small damper on the whole weekend. Which is ridiculous because, hi, I'd lost over 45 pounds. I should have been celebrating that fact rather than lamenting the two pounds I missed by a week.

Despite the science behind weight loss, weight loss itself is not a science. You can not predict or guarantee how much you will lose week to week, month to month. Those averages of 1-2 pounds a week? They are just that: averages. Statistics, taken from a wide range of people of varying weights, activity levels, eating plans, lifestyles, backgrounds, jobs, gender, etc. Take that 1-2 pounds as a guideline and keep it in mind but there is no way to effectively and consistently apply it to your own weight loss journey.

Just because your body is able to lose 1-2 pounds a week doesn't mean you actually will. Which is why you shouldn't set any sort of deadline for yourself. The body is a tricky, tricky beast.

And by "tricky" I, of course, mean "unpredictable."

You can have a killer week and do everything right and stay exactly the same. Or you can go completely off the rails and lose 3 pounds. True story.

If you're working out on a regular basis you're going to be getting muscle. Which is denser than fat. Which means the scale is going to show a higher weight. (Which is why your focus should really be about fat loss, not necessarily weight loss. But that's for another post.)

When I first registered for the Rock 'n' Roll Cleveland Half Marathon I told them I thought I would finish in about three hours. That's a little less than a 14 minute mile which is fairly consistent with my other race times. Now that I'm actually training and getting into the 7+ mile long runs I'm realizing it's difficult to keep a 5k or 10K pace for 13.1 mile and by the time race day rolls around I may need to consider moving back to a slower corral.

Do I wish I had a shot at being a top finisher in my age group? Sure. Do I wish I could run faster? Of course. But right now I can't and that's the reality I gots to deal with. I would love to be able to run a 9 minute mile and finish that half in under two hours. But that's not gonna happen and it would be stupid and dangerous for me to set that goal because in doing so I'd risk serious injury in attempt to meet it and then I'd be upset at not hitting a goal I was never even gonna hit anyway. So, instead, I'm going with reality that says my half time may be closer to 3 1/2 hours than 3 and I'm perfectly okay with that. Because, hello, when I'm done I'll have completed 13.1 miles.

With my weight I'm having to lose 30 pounds that I already lost a year ago. Like my friend, I want to be able to wake up tomorrow and be back at that lower weight. But that's not how it works. There are no magic wands or magic pills. In fact, before signing up for meetings I had already tried relosing these 30 pounds (well, then it was 20. Or 25.), telling another friend that I wanted to be back at 175 by the end of summer. Well, it's now the end of summer and I'm not there. In fact, I'm heavier than when I told my other friend my goal.

Could I drop the weight super quick? Sure, if I wanted to starve myself. But I don't want to do that and not just because I love eating and I like food. I don't want to crash diet because it's stupid and dangerous.

So, instead, I'm taking the attitude that there is nothing different between these 30 pounds and my upcoming 13.1 miles. Both are going to take as long as they take and I'm not even going to worry about the time. All I can do is put in the work, follow my training guide, follow my food plan, and just cross those finish lines in whatever time it takes me to do so.

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

23 August 2013

friday favorites from around the web

This was a good week on the internet. By that I mean lots of really good posts and articles that I just have to share with you guys.


I Lost 70 Pounds In 30 Days
You know whenever you see those ads for quick loss diet programs and schemes claiming someone lost a crazy amount of weight in an even crazier amount of time? Ever wonder where those Before & After photos come from? Chances are they were stolen from somebody who lost weight the right way, which is what happened to Roni Noone when one of those companies stole her photos and used them for an ad claiming she lost 70 lbs in 30 days. Roni, like the good blogger that she is, took to social media and was even featured on GMA yesterday about the situation!

Finding Confidence Through Fashion
Over on Monogram, the always fabulous Authentically Emmie published a great post about finding confidence through fashion as a plus size gal. I never really cared about fashion or clothes or high-end brands until recently and I think a lot of my reasons are outlined in Emily's article. (True story: I cried in the dressing room the first time I fit into a Calvin Klein dress. It's the only label I have ever lusted after and I fully blame Back to the Future.) Plus I so want the typewriter Kate Spade handbag she's holding in the one photo.

My Story. After Biggest Loser.
Speaking of Authentically Emmie, earlier this week both she and Sweating Until Happy shared links to this piece from former Biggest Loser contestant Ashley "Pink Ninja" Johnston. I loved Ashley on her season of Biggest Loser and I am so grateful she came forward about her weight gain post show. I've often suspected a good number of Biggest Loser contestants struggle after returning home from the ranch but it's not openly talked about because of the shame involved. After losing such a huge amount of weight in front of a national audience it takes serious balls to be open about it. I'll definitely be following her blog and looking forward to seeing her new journey.

Join Nishkama Yoga at Athleta Beachwood
September is National Yoga Month and Alicia from Poise in Parma is celebrating along with some of her co-workers from Nishkama Yoga by teaching classes at the Athleta store in Beachwood! So if you're a fellow Northeast Ohioan I highly recommend checking out one of these yoga sessions. I've practiced with Alicia before and if she's any indictation of the talent at Nishkama you'll be in excellent hands no matter which class you attend!

Join the Post-Op Party On Facebook
My gal Mae from Reduced Fat Girl has recently reduced her amount of loose skin after having plastic surgery and in true blogger fashion she's not holding anything back about the post-op recovery process.

Thin Women: I've Got Your Back. Could You Get Mine?
You need to read this for the first paragraph alone. You also need to read this because the writer and I share the opinion that the whole "real women have curves" campaign is, while good in theory, horribly misguided and complete bullshit. I have non-curvy friends and trust me, they are just as sexy and "real" as this curvy gal right here. But, more to the point, weight-shaming anyone of any size is wrong. Pretty sure we can all agree on that point. The problem is when it develops into an Us vs. Them or Thin vs. Fat mentality when we should all be on the same side. Too often I feel the "body positivty" or "body acceptance" movement focuses solely on fat acceptance and while I am of course all about that, the reality is that thin women are not exempt from body image issues. As author Lindy West says, "Thin-shaming and fat-shaming are not separate, opposing issues—they are stratifications of the same issue: Patriarchal culture's need to demoralize, distract, and pit women against one another. To keep women shackled by shame and hunger. To keep us obsessing over our flaws rather than our power and potential. To get our money." (And, yes, I realize I am quoting that as someone who is giving money to Weight Watchers in order to lose weight but that is a personal decision that has nothing to do with how other people view me but because I want to be my happiest and healthiest and I don't feel I can be that at my current weight.)

What are some interesting or noteworthy posts you've read this week?

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

21 August 2013

tricks of the trade

Monday was my first weigh-in after signing up for Weight Watchers meetings last week and even though I knew I did well I was still pretty nervous about stepping up on that scale. Turned out I didn't need to be, though, since I lost 1.6 pounds!


I am able to attend meetings at an actual Weight Watchers store and I really like the facility. In the past I'd attended meetings in church basements or community buildings but the store has a more permanent feel to it with its bright green chairs and display cases that have the Weight Watchers food and cookbooks. Sissy asked me to keep an eye out for one of the coconut calcium fortified smoothie type drink thing and I bought it for her along with the mint cookies & cream for me. Because of its 10g of protein I plan on using it as a post-workout recovery drink after my training runs.

Signing up for the meetings was, hands down, one of the best decisions I've made in a very long time. Certainly within the past seven months and I do kind of want to kick myself for waiting so long, but c'est la vie.

Even just two meetings in, this decision of mine has caused me to start asking a lot of questions of myself. Like the idea of going further than my initial goal of 175 and becoming a Lifetime Member and sharing my story as a Leader... But that's all for another post.

Before the meeting I went out to a late lunch with co-workers. Since I had already had my lunch I didn't plan on ordering anything and while I always tell myself that, I inevitably do or I end up eating all the free chips and salsa or bread and butter. Plus, work has left us all stress eating since winter (hello, 30 pounds) so there is usually plenty of unhealthy fried food at the table to choose from. So, yes, this is a triggering situation and one I should probably remove myself from but I only ever get to see these co-workers on Mondays and want to take advantage of their company whenever I can.

This time though I knew I had to weigh in about an hour later and I knew that no matter what my mind was telling me I wasn't actually hungry and didn't need to eat anything. But since I always try and tell myself that anyway and it never works I needed a new plan of attack.

So I sat on my hands.

True story.

The only time my hands went anywhere near the table was to pick up my coffee mug. Other than that I sat on them. I don't even know if my co-workers noticed but it was the only thing I could think of: if my hands were restrained that meant I couldn't be reaching for the bread or the menu.

It sounds silly but it totally worked and a trick I'm going to have to employ more often when in those types of situations.

Do you have any simple mind games or tricks you play with yourself to stay on track?

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

19 August 2013

running in the river

Rocky River, that is. Specifically the Rocky River Reservation, which is where I headed for Friday's seven mile training run. It's a part of the Cleveland Metroparks that I haven't visited that much and figured with lots of miles to cover I might as well take advantage of its relative close proximity to my apartment. I live in a very urban area, so super close long runs are limited unless I want to spend the run watching out for cars or waiting at cross walks. As I'm going to have to drive anyway, so 15-20 minutes isn't that big of a deal to me.



Before leaving for this run on Friday, I talked about pace and accepting that I will probably have to walk part of the half-marathon. When I set out Friday morning I didn't really have much of a plan other than wanting to incorporate walking into the run just to see how I felt about it when it was deliberate (versus walking because I was tired).

Only, once I started running I didn't really want to stop. Even when I told myself it was okay, I knew that if I did start walking it would only be because I thought I maybe should, not because I wanted to and definitely not because I needed to.



And you know what? Except for about 1/4 of a mile that included a very short but very steep hill, I ran all seven of those miles.

Yes, I ran slow. Some may argue I actually jogged. My overall average was a 16 minute mile which means it took me nearly two hours to complete those seven miles but I did it. I ran 'em. I took some things with me to use as fuel and I kept to my schedule of noshing on something every mile (once I have a better idea of what works for me I'll write more in detail) plus I brought along a granola bar for when I was done. I carried my water bottle in my hand the whole time which was kind of annoying but Sissy has a sweet belt/fanny pack thing with a water bottle holder she's going to be sending me! It should arrive before this Friday's 8 mile run and I'm looking forward to breaking it in.

Tonight I'm headed to my next Weight Watchers meeting after signing up last week. I'd forgotten how nervous it can make you, even though I know I stuck to the plan this week. Plus I'm so used to weighing in first thing in the morning and naked. I know doing it in the evening can include water weight plus of course clothes can add a bit. When I did it in the past I would wear the exact same clothes to every meeting to at least take that variable out of the equation.

How was everyone else's weekend?

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

16 August 2013

accepting limitations & setting your own goals [half marathon training]

I knew going into this whole half-marathon thing that there was no way I was ever going to actually run the full 13.1 miles. Some of it will undoubtedly need to be walked.

And I am completely and totally okay with that.
 

I'm the woman who embraced coming in last at her very first race so I know the pride and dedication that comes from just crossing the finish line. So that's my goal. To finish. To conquer those 13.1 miles at whatever speed, pace, and time it takes me.

But while I know that I'll probably have to walk and am okay with that idea in theory, I've had difficulty applying it to my training. I think I feel like I should be able to run the whole thing and am disappointed when I can't even run the entire length of all of my training runs.

I also think I had sort of lost a sense of why I wanted to complete a half marathon. So instead of seeing the training runs as steps taken to achieve that goal I saw them more as a chore, a means to an end. Something I was supposed to do because my training schedule said so.


Pace is also something I need to work on as well. Because I've spent the past few weeks viewing each training run as a separate entity and not part of a bigger whole, I haven't really been thinking in  terms of pace. That is, I've been thinking I have to run six miles today, that's essentially a 10K when I should be thinking I have to run six miles today, which is less than half a half. Instead of seeing six miles as just six miles, I have to figure out how those six miles fit into the overall 13.1 and when I run treat them like I will on October 6th.

Today's 7 mile training run will be the longest distance I have ever completed. Earlier in the week I was having a small freak out, questioning my decision to register, questioning my ability to finish. I slacked on my smaller runs this week which didn't help. Part of it is that this is the point in my training where I'm going to have to start planning food choices while I run and that's new territory for me. I eat before and after races, but none of my distances thus far have required fuel during.

So instead of retreating from the fear, being the librarian that I am I did research on both fueling and pacing. It's a little overwhelming, especially the food choices. As it happens, at Monday's Weight Watchers meeting I was given a sample of a 3 Points Plus trail mix granola bar that's going with me along with some other things.

I know this is going to be a bit of an experimental process, finding what works best for me and when along the route it needs to be eaten. But I'm no longer freaked out about the process of running today's seven miles or increasing mileage in the remaining few weeks of my training. I'm actually excited. I also know that the training plan is just that -- a plan. It's a guide, not a rule book. So, sure, I should try not to slack off anymore but if it happens the best I can do is just lace up those shoes the next day and try again.

Plus I really have to figure out how to carry my water bottle with me without getting annoyed by it. Hmmm....

What are your favorite fuel choices while running?

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

14 August 2013

remember that time I signed up for weight watchers meetings?

My first professional post-grad job was a librarian at a minimum-security, all-male prison on the far west side of Cleveland.

(Just go with me on this one. I promise it applies.)

The majority of inmates were in on charges related to drugs or alcohol. They were sent to our facility on purpose as we had a strong substance abuse program and there were multiple Alcoholic Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymouse (NA) meetings every day.

Most of the inmates I met during my 2 years wanted to do their time and get out and AA and NA meetings were a way to start the long climb to recovery. Some went to meetings every single day and I often had to schedule my workers around their regular session, but I was more than happy to do it because I saw their commitment and desire to have tools that would help them succeed once they were released.

Getting sentenced to prison was their rock bottom. Mine was stepping on the scale Monday morning and seeing that I had gained thirty pounds since the beginning of the year. It was comparing photos of myself from six months and being able to see the extra 30 lbs in my face. It was realizing that if I didn't stop screwing around I would soon no longer be able to say I have lost over 100 pounds.

So Monday night I found myself at a Weight Watchers meeting.


I've attended WW Meetings before, but it was back in college and it's been almost ten years. When I started this journey in January 2011 I opted for the online version, both for convience and financial reasons. And it worked, obviously. Even the registration person at the meeting was impressed I had lost that much online.

But at some point it stopped working. Or, really, I stopped working. I stopped caring. I got lazy and sloppy. One bad decision would bleed into the next. I fell back on old habits and was doing the constant restart over and over instead of just committing and following through. I had, essentially, spent the past seven months yo-yo dieting.

Because of my half-marathon training I'm exercising 5-6 days a week and while I'm willing to concede that some of the weight gain might actually be muscle, not all of it is. Certainly not most of it, judging by my food choices. I was still following Simply Filling and really like it -- the problem was when I would eat non-SF foods and treat them like SF foods and essentially not track them. This was worst on the weekend when I turned all my food choices into a free-for-all.

It had become very very clear that I was no longer able to hold myself accountable and online only just wasn't going to be enough anymore.

But I also know myself well enough to know that if I didn't do something about it immedietely I'd lose momentum, so while the Monday night class conflicted with spinning, I was willing to give up the bike for one night if it meant getting registered. By purchasing the Monthly Pass I'm given unlimited meetings, so my plan was to at least start the plan now then check out other meetings this weekend that fit my schedule a bit better.

Of course, then I actually attended the meeting and found myself really liking the leader and the leader is key, trust me. It's one reason I stopped attending back in college where I was in a small town with limited WW meetings around.

So, instead of finding a new regular meeting I'm going to find a new regular spinning class.

That being said, because of a crazy work situation eventually I am going to have to find a new meeting, but not for a few months. So I'm not going to worry about that right now. Right now, all I'm going to worry about is staying on track, getting in my Good Health Guidelines, sticking to my Half Marathon Training, and making a plan for this weekend.

As my sister reminded me, the one thing I always tell her is One. Day. At. A. Time.

(Also, speaking of Sissy, it's her birthday today! Happy Birfday!)

Planning is so important to staying on track and cooking at home where you have more control is the best way to do that so when the leader announced all Weight Watchers cookbooks were 25% off, I may have made a couple of impulse buys.


The one on the left is their vegetarian cookbook while the Power Foods are the basis for the Simply Filling plan. Lots of the meals in that one uses meat proteins, but they also seem pretty adaptable and there is a vegetarian section. I've already found multiple recipes from both books I can't wait to try, starting this weekend. I've also gone through my cupboards and fridge and did a complete clean sweep. If it's not in my apartment I can't eat it. (Luckily there wasn't that much that needed to be pitched. Less than what I was expecting, which I think is a good sign.)

So this is me, waving the white flag. I tried for seven months to get back on track on my own and I couldn't do it. Meetings will hopefully give me the accountability and commrodarie I need right now. In fact, the Monthly Pass lets me weigh in only once a week but I can attend as many meetings as I want so maybe I'll take a page from those former inmates of mine and go to some others this weekend. As that's the time when it's most difficult for me to stay on track, that extra meeting may be just what I need.

While part of wishes I had found the courage to admit defeat and sign up sooner, I also know better late than never counts for something, too.

Congrats to Corinne, who won the signed copy of Chef Michael Symon's Carnivore cookbook! Thanks to everyone for entering! 

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

12 August 2013

Review: Market District Solon

Thursday morning I was up bright and early so I could drive to Solon, Ohio to visit the brand new Giant Eagle Market District and, of course, hang out with Chef Michael Symon. (Pssss. There's still time to enter the giveaway on that post and maybe win a signed copy of his book Carnivore: 120 Recipes for Meat Lovers!) Market District is a growing brand -- you've probably noticed the Market District labels on foods at Giant Eagle, but there are only seven Market District store locations and all are either in Pennsylvania or here in Ohio.


The first thing I have to tell you about Market District is that it is huge. Gargantuan. Enormous. Vast. Brobdingnagian. (I may have whipped out my Thesaurus for this part. That last one can be traced to Gulliver's Travels.) I'm talking 100,000 square feet of yummy gourmet goodness.

So big, in fact, that when shoppers were first entering the store they were handing out maps.


What makes Market District distinct, among other things, is that it's more than just a grocery store. They have the market section of the store, but they also have the cafe section which features things you'd expect, like salad and hot food bars, prepared foods you can take home, a bakery, and a variety of daily soups.

But they also have vendors you might not expect, like pizza and burger stations, gelato, sushi, and even an antipasti bar.

Look at all those olives!

The idea is that they are more than just a market where you get in, grab what you need, and get out. Instead this is a grocery store aimed at foodies who appreciate quality, seasonal ingredients, love to cook, and want a more high-end market experience while still shopping with a brand they are familiar with, like Giant Eagle. You can earn FuelPerks shopping at Market District (in fact, the Solon store has a GetGo right outside, which worked out well 'cause I needed gas before heading back to work and had some FuelPerks on my card) and the website has multiple options for signing up for coupons and getting alerted to Giant Eagle's weekly specials.

With the cafe, this also means getting to eat some fantastic foods before or after your grocery shopping or even just popping in for lunch on the weekend. They even have the most fabulous seating area up on the second level.

Can I just move this into my dining room, please?


Which is just perfect because the first rule of grocery stores is never go shopping while hungry. So, y'know, grab a quick bite before heading into the store. They also have a mini coffee shop and even a bar. (Like I said, this is not your average grocery store.)

Of course, while it might not be your average grocery store, it is still a grocery store, so we can't forget that part. I mean, seriously, just look at how bright and beautiful that produce section is. So fresh and colorful!


They also have a pretty impressive bulk foods area.


Yeah. I may need to go back to take a closer look at those baking bins....

Then, of course, y'know, are all the aisles full of foods you'd expect from a grocery store. (Not only did I find PB2 there, but they had the chocolate version, too! I've only ever seen that online.) There's also a Health, Beauty and Wellness section along with a Drive-Thru Pharmacy.

The prices are comparable with a regular Giant Eagle and, as mentioned, you can earn FuelPerks shopping there and earn discounts using your Giant Eagle Advantage Card. So, Market District is essentially your neighborhood Giant Eagle with just a little more oomph added in.

Tomorrow is your last day to enter my bacon flavored Symon Says giveaway to win a signed copy of Chef Michael Symon's cookbook Carnivore: 120 Recipes for Meat Eaters!

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

09 August 2013

it's a bacon flavored symon says giveaway!

Earlier in the week, Giant Eagle contacted me to see if I would be interested in attending the grand opening celebrations of the new Market District in Solon, Ohio. After seeing the one in Pittsburgh last weekend I was very excited for an opportunity to get a closer look at this brand of grocery stores and was even more excited upon learning that this special VIP event included a Meet & Greet with local celebrity chef Michael Symon from Iron Chef and The Chew fame.

Normally Thursdays are my half marathon training rest day and I get to sleep in but some things are worth waking up early for.

(Look at his face, then check out the eyebrow in the drawing behind him)

In person, Chef Symon is, hands down, one of the friendliest most personable people I've ever met. When my mom -- who was able to join me -- asked if he'd be willing to put on his hat for their picture together he was more than obliging. Which isn't that surprising if you've ever seen him on any of his television shows. He really is a What You See Is What You Get guy who also has a fierce love and pride for the city of Cleveland.

(When asked some of his favorite restaurants in the city he mentioned, among others, Greenhouse Tavern, Flying Fig, and Red. Just, y'know, if you're in the area and looking for a place to go. I can also second his recommendations of Greenhouse and the Fig.)

Oh, hey, here I am telling him he should offer more vegetarian options in his restaurants.

See, told you he put the hat on.

True story.

To which he laughed and said, "Why?" which is, of course, the name of the vegetarian burger at B-Spot (gotta love the man for his sense of humour. Especially since the menu there almost seems to encourage you to add bacon to the veggie burger).

Granted, there are always salads and at B-Spot I have ordered the BLT minus the B but with an egg instead ("That's totally legal" he told me) and Lolita has pizzas. Plus, y'know, I get it. You can't quite do the same amount of things with tofu as you can with all the variety of meats out there. Especially in a city like Cleveland, which has the West Side Market and its million and one butcher stations.

Apparently, though, his son is a vegan which even Chef Symon admits is a horribly cruel joke of the universe. (Upon hearing that his son is vegan and sorta kinda my age I may have asked if he was single. I really am shameless.)

After the Meet & Greet there was a cooking demonstration for the press, including us bloggers, where he whipped up a quick and easy Sloppy Joe recipe and the whole time I was watching I was thinking Dude, I can totally make that vegetarian! (Sorry, Mike.)

So worth using my vacation hours at work

While cooking he was telling everyone about his upcoming book 5 in 5. Based on his The Chew segment of the same name, the recipes are all five ingredients and take about five minutes to make (although he even admits that sometimes on the show he doesn't finish in time). It comes out next month and I'm excited to check it out. I love fast and fresh recipes and if the sloppy joe was an indication it will be a book full of recipes that I can easily adapt.

As part of the event, we were all given signed copies of his most recent cookbook, Carnivore, which has the tagline 120 Recipes for Meat Lovers.


Some, if not all, of the side dishes are vegetarian friendly but it seems kind of silly to keep a cookbook that I'm not going to use and I would much rather pass this along to someone who will really be able to appreciate Chef Symon's recipes.

Which can only mean one thing...
a Rafflecopter giveaway

That's right, ladies and gents. One of you lucky meat loving readers is going to win my copy. (See, aren't y'all glad you read this here vegetarian's blog?) As far as cookbooks go this appears to be a really fantastic one. It's divided up by protein (Beef, Pork, Lamb & Goat, Poultry, Game, and then Sides) and each recipe has a little introduction from Chef Symon plus plenty of pictures (some I can totally tell were taken at West Side Market). At the Meet & Greet he mentioned how everyone should treat recipes and cookbooks more as guidelines than actual rules. Like, if there's a game recipe that sounds good but you don't want to actually use game or some other protein is on sale that week, go ahead and use that. Or if a recipe calls for a spice you don't like, don't put the spice in. Substitute it for something else that you DO like. That's pretty much how I do most of my cooking and have discovered some new recipes by using what I had in my kitchen rather than going out and buying what the recipe called for.

I'll have a more detailed review of the Solon Market District on Monday, but until then happy weekend and happy entering!

Fine Print: Open to US Residents only (but only because international shipping is hella expensive). Giveaway ends Tuesday August 13, 2013 at 11:59 PM EST. At the completion of the giveaway winner will have 48 hours to claim their prize.

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

07 August 2013

clean bill of health

So get this: after all that worry I had last week about my new work insurance not covering my doctor's office, I got for my appointment and what's the first thing I see? A sign notifying patients that my specific primary care provider is leaving the facility.

In the words of Meredith Grey: Seriously? Seriously?!

Turns out she's taking a completely different position at an urgent care facility on the east side of Cleveland. Better location and hours for her family, which I totally understand, but still. Womp, womp. I mean, it's not like I go that often, it was just nice to have finally found someone I actually liked going to, y'know? So we'll see how her replacement is next time I have to go in for something.

When I got there she seemed a bit confused that I was in for my "woman's wellness" exam as I had completely forgotten that on our very first appointment together months ago she said that because I've had more than three in my lifetime and all have been normal and, I think, because I'm over 30, I only have to come in every three years or something. It no longer has to be annual, but I've been doing it annually for so long I just scheduled the appointment without even thinking. So that was a nice bonus to my Friday.

But while I was in we decided to check my cholesterol, something we'd talked about before but hadn't done yet. Usually you are supposed to fast before having it checked but as I hadn't planned on doing it and needed food before going out on my six mile half marathon training run I had eaten breakfast before my appointment.

Okay, well what did you have?

Eggs.

Oh, the irony.

Anyway, I guess there is a non-fasting cholesterol test so she just had me go ahead and do that. They called me on Monday with the test results and everything looks pretty good. My HDL levels (that would be the good cholesterol) were awesome: They want it above about 45 and mine was, like, 78. So yay!

My total cholesterol level was 207 -- they like to keep it below 200 so she said it's not crisis time, more like "room for improvement." Admittedly my eating hasn't been the best since the beginning of the year, although it's gotten significantly better these past few weeks, so this information is coming at a good time. I like having something tangible like numbers and test results to see as goals. Lowering my total cholesterol level is something that can easily be measured and is a far stronger indicator of overall health than weight alone.

Looking back, I wish I had thought to have these sorts of tests done when I first started this journey as I'm sure the numbers would be interesting to compare. Then again, 2 1/2 years ago when I was at 311 pounds this journey was just about losing weight. My health was sort of secondary. Or, well, I guess I went in thinking if I lose weight then my health would improve naturally but it wasn't something I was actively working towards correcting.

Ultimately this is all very good to know: the reason she mentioned having my cholesterol checked is because my paternal side of the family has a history of heart disease. I mean, it's substantial enough that even my mom, sister, and I have all make sure Papa G. gets regular check-ups.

In other news, after seeing Monday's post, Giant Eagle invited me to attend the Grand Opening of the new Market District Solon store! It's a special VIP event tomorrow morning that includes a Meet and Greet with local celebrity chef Michael Symon which is so totally awesome. I am allowed to bring a guest and invited my mom, who mentioned wanting to visit the Solon store when I saw her and my dad on Sunday. Of course I'd forgotten she also mentioned maybe having jury duty this week so hopefully she won't need to go in. (She also suggested maybe just "forgetting" to go in if she gets called, which is so unlike her I love it.)

I'm sure I'll be Tweeting and IG-ing it up tomorrow morning while I'm there, so be sure to follow to see all the fun and fabulous before it gets posted on the blog!

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

05 August 2013

to market, to market

On Saturday I headed to Pittsburgh to visit my one of my oldest and dearest friends Jenn and her young daughter for a fabulous morning at IKEA. We here in the Land of Cleves are not fortunate enough to have one nearby and while this makes me sad, at the same time my bank account sighs with relief.

Of course, as I was traveling to Pittsburgh of all places I had to wear a fabulous shirt that showed off some fierce Cleveland pride courtesy of the CLE Clothing Co. (trust me, if you lived in Northeast Ohio you'd understand).

After IKEA, we were trying to decide where to go for lunch when Jenn asked if I had been to the Giant Eagle Market District before. When I said no, Jenn made an executive decision that is where we would be heading. Admittedly I was curious -- I've seen the store from the freeway when driving to and from Pittsburgh so I was fine with her choice. She pretty much said it was the food court to end all food courts and while I'm prone to trust her (she's one of my go-to people for book recommendations) I was still a little skeptical.

Then we actually got there.


This doesn't even begin to give you an idea of what the cafeteria section was like. They had a bar, people. Like, an actual serving beer and wine in the grocery store bar. Which is a really big deal in Pennsylvania where liquor stores are the law. I always take for granted my ability to just pop on over to my local grocery store for some alcohol. And there you could buy single bottles of beer too which is a really genius idea. If you're like me and don't drink a lot, an entire six pack seems kind of excessive. It's also a great way to try new beers you are unfamiliar with.

The food stations were everything from stir fry to pizza to sandwiches. Not only did they have a bakery with some serious baked goods but they also had gelato and crepes.

Like... I... What?

I was also greeted by one of the most beautiful salad bars I have ever seen.


It was just so bright and colorful and fresh. I wanted to marry that salad bar. It's ultimately where I got my lunch from, loading it up with all sorts of veggies and they had small chunks of tofu as a protein for us vegetarians (swoon, thank you Giant Eagle). Next to the salad bar was a section with hot ready-to-eat foods like various forms of chicken and lots of really good looking veggie sides, like cooked squash and asparagus and couple different types of potatoes.

There was also a big prepared food section with things that were sort of half cooked -- like the sort of thing you'd buy and take home and bake or heat up for dinner that night.

Oh, and lest I forget the sushi station.

And this was just in the cafe. We didn't even go into the regular grocery part of the grocery store so I can't even imagine what that looked like. Luckily I won't have to keep imagining as there is a Giant Eagle Market District opening in Solon, Ohio later this week. It's not super convenient, like it would take a special trip to go out that way, but at least the cafe means I can easily plan lunch around my grocery shopping. Plus that new Earth Fare is out that way, too!

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

02 August 2013

i'll tri anything once

In a little bit I'm headed to my doctor's for my annual "Woman's Wellness" exam. I love that they give it such a quaint name, as if it somehow makes the whole thing easier to deal with. Let's just call it what it is, folks: a really annoyingly uncomfortable session where someone is poking up in my vajayjay for what feels like is forever but is really only about five minutes.

But I digress.

I really like my primary care provider (who is actually a nurse practitioner). I feel comfortable with her and we get along well so when my job announced they were switching health insurance companies I had a panicked moment that she'd suddenly be out-of-network and I'd have to start the process of finding someone new to go to. Considering I haven't had a regular physician since probably childhood and have spent years overpaying co-pays at urgent care this was not a happy thought. I also couldn't find the facility right away when I looked at the new insurance company's website but I tried again and found them. Crisis averted.

Normally I would walk to my appointment as it's only about a mile and a half away, but I'm planning on going to Edgewater Park after for my training run and there's not a super convenient way to get there by foot (though I think the pedestrian bridge is finally open). Plus, well, my reason for walking would be to get some exercise but as I'm going to be running for six miles I think in this instance a car is allowed. And, honestly, after having my vajayjay poked at followed by running six miles I really don't want to have to walk home.


(As today's run is six miles, it seems appropriate to wear my Cleveland Marathon 10K shirt. I also love that my one Bondi Band perfectly matches.)

As its name suggests, Edgewater Park is on the edge. Of the water. Clever, I know. The water is, of course, Lake Erie and the beach gets pretty packed during the summer months plus they have a Honey Hut, 'cause who doesn't love local ice cream? (Speaking of, the new Mitchell's in Ohio City needs to open up ASAP.) I went there for last week's five mile run and about one mile in I kept looking over at the lake thinking Man I should have brought my swimsuit for after... cause man oh man did that water look tempting.

According to my cousin Matt this is the first sign of turning into an Iron (Wo)man. What will come next is thinking how easy it would be to bike to and from the park and then boom, there's the trifecta.

Whoa, whoa, whoa. Let's slow down here, kids. Today's run marks the last of my comfortable training runs. That is, distances that I've already conquered and even with six miles I've only done it twice. After this is when the challenge really begins if I want to stick to my training schedule to be prepared by the time October rolls around. I'm visiting Sissy in September and taking the day before off so I can be sure to get my 11 mile long run in before I leave because I don't want to miss a run that close to the half nor do I want to try and figure out a time to do it the morning I fly out or while on vacation. So let's not go all crazy talking about triathalons and swimming several miles and don't even get me started on cycling, as bicycles and I have a long and sordid history.

Though it would be nice to have a bike to get around the city during the summer months....

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus
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