Guest Blog Post: Sore but satisfied

Meghan

This is Meghan, lover of sriracha, scarves and all things vintage!

A couple weeks ago, I introduced you to my beautiful friend, inside and out, Meghan. Just one of the many things that we share in common – in addition to having been cheerleaders, dancers, musicians, good students and one of four – is our success with Weight Watchers. She successfully lost 30 pounds in 2013 through a combination of Weight Watchers, clean eating and yoga. Let’s follow Meghan’s experience as, what she calls herself, a “gym ‘newbie’.”

 

I’ve completed my first full week at the gym and second week of my fitness journey. While it may seem trivial, I’m beyond proud of myself in so many ways. I’ve accomplished a lot in the few short days. I may have just begun my gym experience, but I’ve conquered a lot of fears and phobias, as well as discovered a lot about myself.

Week No. 1: Move over, machines

I’ve officially developed a love of using free weights. In the past, I always gravitated towards machines when I worked out. I mean, they had pictures on them. I could do that. Weights were another story. I’ve watched enough YouTube videos showing disastrous occurrences at gyms to venture to that side of the gym. But, with my work-out plan in hand, I began my routine.

I learned two things that first day:

  1. It’s better to use a lower weight and complete your reps than attempting to use heavier weight; and
  2. I’m significantly stronger in my right arm, which is my dominant arm.

Both of which I learned were fine and quite normal.

I’m really impressed with the amount of exercises you can do with dumbbells, both for arms and legs, and I’ve grown to really enjoy my routine in “my” corner of the gym I’ve claimed as my own.

The progress I’ve seen in my arms is very surprising, as well; I’m already starting to see definition in my arms while completing my reps. Seeing my arms begin to develop has really made me want to keep going, and is a wonderful motivator!

Week No. 2: Pushing past the pain

My second week at the gym was also one of the first times I actually worked out when I was still sore from a previous workout. This, too, was another MAJOR event that I never would’ve thought of doing in the past. I was beyond proud at the fact that I, Meghan Ragni, actually worked through the pain and completed my routine.

You get used to the burn; in fact, it actually pushed me to keep going! I’ll admit it. I cried when I was done. Not because I was done, but because I kept at it.

Did it hurt?

Yes!

Could I have stopped?

Absolutely!

But the fact that I finished that workout meant more to me than anything else. I wouldn’t trade that sense of accomplishment for anything.

While I was sore the entire week, I felt satisfied. I was sore for a reason, but it was because I was busting my butt. However, it was quite an eye-opening experience realizing I was too sore to wash my back in shower or blow-dry my hair! This was a new feeling. Wow.

The worst pain I’ve had, (that I’m still dealing with), has been from weighted calf raises. I’m struggling to walk normal, because my muscles are still so tight. It makes me want to walk on my toes. (Attractive, right?) I’m hoping by tomorrow I’ll feel better, so I have been using a heating pad on my calf muscles when I can.

My next big accomplishment was getting over my fear of doing exercises that I’ve never done before. Prior to going to the gym, I sat and watched how to do all my exercises for that specific day that I wasn’t familiar with and to ensure my form was correct. I felt much more confident going to gym knowing that I knew what I was doing, or at least I looked like I knew what I was doing.

My boyfriend created a wonderful work-out plan for me, which includes various exercises that I do throughout the week and provides me with a wealth of opportunity to explore new exercises and get more comfortable with them.

My second week was big for me in that I did everything that was on my work-out plan. My first week, I’ll admit, I skipped some of the more intimidating machines/exercises, because I was just too nervous. However, this week, I did everything, even if I wasn’t entirely comfortable with it.

Guess what?

I was able to do it!

Finally getting over that hump was immensely satisfying for me and also provided me with another boost of “I got this.” Overall, I found the week to be a wonderful success. I’m so proud of myself, and actually look forward to going to the gym during the day.

Will I have some set-backs? I’m sure I will at some point on my journey, but I have proven to myself this week that I can do so much more physically than I ever thought possible, and the sky is the limit with where I want to take my body and mind. Until next time…

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Dinner tonight: skinny chicken cordon bleu meatballs

I love making food that is put together creatively or unexpectedly but still looks appetizing. When ordering chicken cordon bleu on a menu, you’d expect to get ham and Swiss cheese rolled up in a thin-sliced chicken breast or cutlet, right? This recipe is not only a wonder for how it’s presented but also for its taste.

Are you intrigued yet?

The meatballs were:

  • Made of ground chicken, among other ingredients;
  • Stuffed with ham and Swiss cheese; and
  • Covered with a sauce made with a little butter, flour, white wine, reduced-sodium chicken broth, milk, lemon juice and parsley.
chicken cordon bleu meatballs 1

chicken cordon bleu meatballs accompanied by lemon-roasted asparagus

Divine!

Modifications:

  • I added extra meat, which made about four more meatballs. I was slightly more generous on the other ingredients to account for this:
    • Two pounds of ground chicken instead of a pound and a half
    • Four slices of ham instead of two
  • I used two medium eggs instead of one large.

Considerations:

The Skinnytaste Cookbook has been very easy to follow, but it didn’t seem to go into much detail about how to effectively stuff the meatballs with the ham and Swiss cheese. That being said, I’m providing step-by-step instructions for this task:

chicken cordon bleu meatballs

Step No. 1: After making the meatballs, use your thumb to make a hole. This is where you’ll stuff the ham and Swiss cheese.

Step Nos. 2 – 7:  Take a quarter of a piece of ham and a quarter/sixth of a piece of Swiss cheese. Place one in top of the other. I placed the cheese on top of the ham, because the cheese was smaller. Roll them up to create a “pouch.”

Step No. 8: Stuff the ham and Swiss cheese pouch into the hole that you created in the meatball.

Step No. 9: Press it in with your thumb.

Step No. 10: Pinch the whole closed, and roll the meatball in your hands to ensure that the ham and Swiss cheese pouch is evenly surrounded by the meatball.

Rating: 5/5 charms!

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Dinner tonight: skinny chicken parmesan

If you’re looking for a satisfying, quick and relatively inexpensive meal that appeals to varying tastebuds, The Skinnytaste Cookbook has your bases covered with this one. In fact, Skinnytaste knocked it out of the park with this one!

skinny chicken parm

Since this recipe was so easy, I don’t have a whole lot to say! All I can do is sing its praises.

Modifications:

Last Sunday, I mentioned how much I love thyme. Well, tonight it’s all about basil. This recipe called for a quarter of a cup of basil, but this is an herb that I like to use generously.

Considerations:

  • We ate a late lunch today, so we ate the chicken parmesan without a side. I recommend serving it over a bed of whole grain pasta or veggie noodles made of zucchini and yellow squash sliced using a mandolin or with asparagus or broccoli rabe.
  • If you’re like me and haven’t made sauce from scratch (until today), don’t let that deter you from trying this one. The sauce recipe was also very easy. Just be sure to watch for splatters while it’s simmering. Ouch! A couple other time-saving tips:
    • Buy your onions pre-diced. Chopping onions makes my eyes sting pretty badly!
    • Buy your garlic pre-minced and in a jar. I recommend the minced garlic in water versus in olive oil.

So far, I’m very impressed by The Skinnytaste Cookbook‘s Italian recipes, and I look forward to trying more!

Rating: 5/5 charms!

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Skinny Sunday soup: chicken pot pie soup

Can I begin by declaring my recent LOVE of thyme? This recipe calls for only a pinch, and I definitely used a handful of sprigs. Now that we got that out of the way…

It’s chilly and rainy today in Augusta, and my sweet husband has been doing major maintenance on my car all weekend.

Chicken Pot Pie 1

Mama’s got a new timing belt! Here’s to another 105,000 miles!

When I busted out The Skinnytaste Cookbook this morning for some meal planning and grocery list making, picking a recipe from the “Skinny-licious Soups and Chilis” section was a no-brainer. I’ve been saying lately how much I’d love to make chicken pot pie, so I chose the soup version.

Chicken Pot Pie 2

Modifications:

You’ll see below that I loaded up on the veggies:

  • I used 12 ounces of mixed veggies instead of 10.
  • I used six Yukon gold potatoes instead of two, because they were small…and I LOVE potatoes.
  • I used four celery stalks instead of two only because celery always goes to waste in my kitchen.

Considerations:

Chicken Pot Pie 3I make a mean turkey chili, but this was my first time making soup.

  • Similar to other soups and chilis – the longer the soup simmered, the more flavorful and thick it became. That being said, I recommend letting it simmer and cool a bit before enjoying.
  • This soup lacks some of the creaminess that I love about chicken pot pie filling – and, of course, the buttery, flaky crust.

The Skinnytaste Cookbook has various other soups that I look forward to trying and reviewing on this blog!

I put a good dent into the batch while typing this post, so I better call in Nate before I eat it all!

Rating: 4/5 charms

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Guest Blog Post: I’m the the New Year’s resolution gym “newbie”

Meghan

Meet Meghan, lover of sriracha, scarves and all things vintage!

I’d like to introduce you to my beautiful friend, inside and out, Meghan. She’s a third grade teacher and creator who’s wanted to be a teacher as long as I’ve known her (the day when I wore this God-awful watermelon dress – photo below), and she’s perfect for the job. She’s also an avid clean eater who enjoys trying new recipes. A little more than a year after I reached the maintenance phase of my weight loss journey, I looked to her for help with this lifestyle. *Meghan, I still refer to that email you sent me almost a year ago, on Jan. 21, 2014, for recipes!* Just one of the many things that we share in common – in addition to having been cheerleaders, dancers, musicians, good students and one of four – is our success with Weight Watchers. She successfully lost 30 pounds in 2013 through a combination of Weight Watchers, clean eating, yoga and now the gym. We’re going to follow Meghan’s experience as, what she calls herself, a “gym ‘newbie’.”

watermelon copy

Watermelon dress circa 1994 (me on the left; my older sister, Adrienne, on the right) – This was taken on my first day of school at Hampden Elementary, May 3, 1994, after moving to Mechanicsburg, Pa., which was also the day when I met Meghan. She loved me without regard to this dress!

For many people, New Year’s has always been so much more than a day off. It represents a second chance; a second chance for love, job opportunities, friendships, bettering oneself, and most commonly, a better health and body. However, before you pass judgment on all those “newbies” that you feel are invading “your” space or hogging your machine, I urge you to pause and think twice and put yourself in my shoes for a brief moment. Why my shoes? I’ll admit it. I joined a gym this week, and this is the first time I have set foot in a gym in years. Now most people who are gym regulars would be quick to roll their eyes at me, chuckle under their breath, group me into the “she’ll last two weeks” category, or look at their co-worker and smile when I walk in the front door (I’m looking at you Planet Fitness girl!). While this is a common reaction, it’s also an unfair reaction as well. Here my story.

My journey began in November of 2013 when I joined Weight Watchers at the urging of my mother and sister. I was overweight, unhappy with my diet, had high blood pressure, and was on medication for depression and anxiety. I was extremely successful with Weight Watchers, consistently losing weight each weigh-in…all without any exercise. My sister (an avid athlete and gym-goer) would get so angry at me, and claim it wasn’t fair. I wasn’t doing it the “right” way. But for me it was a personal victory, because all I was looking at was the number on the scale. I wanted it to get lower, and I would do everything I could to lower it…without exercising. I’m a teacher, so organization and planning are a daily part of my life, and I applied that to my weight-loss routine. I counted points and food-prepped meals with the rigidity of a drill sergeant. NOTHING went in my body without being counted. Within a year, I had lost 30 pounds without any exercise. I was so proud of myself…until I realized I had lost too much weight. Weight Watcher’s couldn’t help me anymore. Now what? I truly was lost without counting my points. Luckily, while losing the weight was wonderful, it was the nutritional knowledge I received along the way that truly changed my life. I began to embrace a clean eating lifestyle, which really opened my eyes to the importance of knowing what goes in your body. If I couldn’t pronounce something, or I didn’t know what it was, I didn’t eat it. I threw myself into educating what my body needed and how to listen to what my body was telling me. This was where I began to reap the benefits of clean eating. In July 2014, I found out that due to my clean eating I no longer needed high blood pressure medication or my depression and anxiety medication. WIN. That same month, I also was broken up with by my BF of two years and lost my job…on the same day. LOSE. As I sat on the couch listening to Taylor Swift (don’t judge me, it was a rough day), I realized that this was something that my clean eating couldn’t fix. All the research, all the planning, all the new recipes, all the cheerful Instagram pictures, all the weight that I had lost, didn’t mean I still wasn’t going to struggle with OTHER unhealthy choices in my life. Something needed to change. Perhaps it was me.

It is now 2015. I nervously stretch in the corner of the gym floor, shaking my long legs, and hoping no one notices my chicken arms (a red flag that I am a gym “newbie”). I, along with so many other people this month, have joined a gym. Why the gym? I joined when I realized that it was something that terrified me. I was comfortable with clean eating, I embraced yoga, I loved being outside, but the gym scared me. It represented some “unknown” entity that I didn’t want to meet. It also was something I knew I needed in my life. For days after I purchased my membership, I was too nervous to even set foot in it, afraid of the stares, the questions, the judging…the unknown. It led to an anxiety that I hadn’t felt in months. People refer to me as “skinny” and “thin” when asked my body type and this was how I was reacting…I could only imagine how someone bigger must feel when they joined the gym. That’s when I realized something. People are always going to judge you in your life, whether it’s personally or professionally. At some point, you have to ignore it and do what’s best for you, whether you are comfortable with it or not. This gym membership wasn’t solely to improve my body’s physique, but it represented me stepping out of my comfort zone to improve my INNER SELF. My clean eating was always my security blanket of sorts; it showed people that I DO care about my body and that I genuinely am a healthy person…so don’t judge me for not exercising. Now, as I enter the gym I have nothing to prove to anyone but myself. While I like to think I bounced back, (I returned to the teacher profession after two years of working in Finance, and I found an AMAZING new BF), to say I was happy to leave 2014 in the dust was a gross understatement. I like to think that I’ve grown in the past year. I went through a couple months that I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy, and realized that no matter how diligent you are at planning things are still going to happen unexpectedly that will challenge your mind, body, and soul. To all my new gym-goers, when I say, “I know how you feel,” I mean it. It’s scary to know that people are judging you, especially when we are bombarded with it on FB and social media. Is it frustrating? Of course! We all have a story, a personal struggle, a health issue, a reason that has led us to join the gym. Do we get to share it? Unfortunately, no. But WE know why we are there, and we cannot forget.

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Dinner tonight: skinny lasagna

My husband, Nate, and I left the house around lunchtime today to grocery shop for the week, as we do every Sunday – unless we’re feeling super on top of our game and shop on the way home from dinner on Saturday night.

I hadn’t put any thought to what I’d make for dinner tonight or what I’d prep for the week. Then, I suddenly came up with an idea better than any single meal I could’ve made: swing by Barnes & Noble to buy The Skinnytaste Cookbook.

Noodle-less Zucchini Lasagna 1

It was about time, since:

  • I had been following @skinnytaste on Instagram for some time and making the recipes since my weight loss journey began in early 2012, about three years ago.
  • Most of the recipes I share the social media platforms for this blog are from Skinnytaste.

Once I tracked down a mint-condition copy – which was just waiting to get splattered with olive oil and sauce – I braved the rainstorm and ran to the car so I could crack it open. Between Barnes & Noble and Kroger, I managed to plan tonight’s dinner and a meal for the week and make a grocery list (while Nate drove).

Nate’s a carnivore, so I skipped to the “Lean Meat Dishes” section. We landed on noodle-less zucchini lasagna. It’s made of a homemade sauce, which has lean ground beef in it; slices of zucchini, instead of lasagna noodles; and a ricotta cheese, parmesan cheese and egg mixture.

Modifications

I made just a few modifications based on Nate’s and my preferences and the kitchen tools and appliances we have in our kitchen.

  • MORE MEAT: When my husband expects to eat what I’m planning to make, I often double up on the meat. I also like to go more lean. That being said, I used 2 pounds of 96 percent lean ground beef instead of 1 pound of 93 percent lean.
  • NO MANDOLINE: The recipe asks the reader to slice the zucchini length-wise with a mandoline. We don’t own one, so I sliced the zucchini diagonally to make oval-shaped slices.
  • NO GRILL: I didn’t feel like dusting off the grill for the first time since early summer, so I “grilled” the zucchini slices in a non-stick frying pan.
Noodle-less Zucchini Lasagna 2

next stop: Best Buy to purchase a mandolin

Considerations

  • I only had enough sauce, zucchini and ricotta cheese/parmesan cheese/egg mixture to make two layers, instead of three. If the sauce weren’t so thick, I probably could’ve stretched it further.
  • By the time I put the lasagna in the oven, I had used only half of the mozzarella cheese that the recipe calls for, so I topped it with a little more after it came out of the oven.
Noodle-less Zucchini Lasagna 3

before going in the oven

Noodle-less Zucchini Lasagna 4

after coming out of the oven

The recipe makes eight servings. Admittedly, Nate and I each ate two.

Noodle-less Zucchini Lasagna 5

If we were normal-sized people with normal-sized appetites – or just some self-control – one serving would’ve been enough.

Noodle-less Zucchini Lasagna 6

one serving

Noodle-less Zucchini Lasagna 7

Empty Plate Club status!

Rating: 5/5 charms!

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