Weighty issues (oh, and slow cooker thyme pork roast)


I think I set a record on Sunday.

The very first person — ever, in the history of kitchens — to call out, “Oh, don’t even TELL me we’re out of caraway seed.”

Because … who uses caraway seed? And who uses caraway seed so often that they actually fear running out of it?

(Well, my delightful grandmother, who made the Polish-inspired dishes from her own youth that I devoured in mine. But, you know.)

Never fear: our jar of caraway seed was more than halfway full, so I could stifle the panic building in my chest as I prepared this slow cooker meal for Monday. That’s right, friends: I officially got my act together and prepared a meal a day in advance, refrigerated it and pulled it out Monday morning to simmer for that evening’s dinner. (Just let the crock warm up to room temperature first, of course.)

And it was delicious.

Like, oh, much of the adult population, January finds me thinking about goals and priorities and all that adult-ish stuff. Now that I’m also a mother, a working mother and an often stressed working mother, I really want to get back to writing out a serious meal plan on weekends, sticking to it, grocery shopping on Sunday and placing an emphasis on healthy eats.

Despite my hesitancy in my last post, I went ahead and jumped back into Weight Watchers (affiliate link). It’s been three years since I nervously attended my first meeting and two since I hit my goal weight, dropping 35 pounds, but I’m now — post-Oliver — heavier than I was when I started in 2013.

I just wasn’t sure I was ready for that level of commitment. Last summer, when I was an exhausted new parent who had just returned to work, I got it into my head that I needed to get “me” back. Now. If I let myself slack off with my eating, I thought, I’ll never lose the weight again. I’ll roll right back into old habits. That will be the end of the person I used to know.

Well, I was right — and wrong.

I’m not my pre-baby self again, of course. Everything that happened in 2015 — the beautiful, the scary, the overwhelming, the miraculous — changed me forever. Becoming a parent changes you forever . . . and I’m extremely grateful for that! I mean, it should.

But I did go back to old habits. It’s tough to come out of a pregnancy — unexpectedly early, too — and go right back to tracking every single thing you put in your mouth: something I was not in the habit of doing. Like, at all. For the last few weeks of my pregnancy, I pretty much lived off Chick-Fil-A’s frozen lemonade milkshakes.

When Oliver remained in the hospital for a month, Spencer and I ate whatever was quick and convenient. This translated to many lackluster cafeteria meals a few floors down from his NICU, as well as Wendy’s and Chick-Fil-A runs at odd hours driving back from Baltimore.

When he finally came home, it was just about stuffing something in your face between feedings, and diapers, and screeching.

Prepping enough to prepare healthy, quick meals with a newborn in the house? It just didn’t happen. I had grand ambitions of getting freezer meals ready before the baby came, trying to make our lives a little easier, but . . . well. That obviously didn’t happen.

After I went back to work in mid-June, I thought: it’s time. I now have nine uninterrupted hours in which I can focus on my job and control what I’m eating at ye ol’ desk.

That didn’t happen, either.

I was tired. And sick. Our company was sold over the summer and everyone’s duties changed quickly. Many of my friends were laid off, and I was staring down an extreme amount of change in a short time. It was the final straw in a very stressful season.

Quite honestly, I was depressed.

Though I haven’t discussed it publicly, I’ve been struggling with PTSD and postpartum anxiety since last spring — and there are times it was all I could do to get through the day. I finally sought help in the fall and feel about 1,879,986 times better than I did in October. The pressing weight of worry has lifted.

Through all that? I wasn’t obsessing about eating pumpkin pie, I can assure you.


But I’m out of excuses now.

Oliver has been sleeping through the night — with the occasional hiccup, of course — for months . . . which means Spencer and I have, too. That early haze of dead exhaustion, which clouded absolutely everything, is gone.

Work has settled down. I’m happy and excited with my new responsibilities, and enjoying the new challenges. I’m still writing my column, but also working on projects and articles about different, interesting things. It’s really . . . fun. I miss my friends, of course, but we’ve kept in touch through the holidays.

The holidays are over. They were beautiful, but there’s something refreshing about vacuuming up all that rogue tinsel. It was sad hauling out the Christmas tree, but let’s be honest: the holidays have their own pressures that can’t be denied. Choosing perfect gifts, paying for said gifts, trying to see family and friends in a short time, traveling. It’s . . . a lot.

But January is bare. January is clean. January is scrubbed fresh, a calendar waiting to be filled with whatever we choose, and I’m ready again.

So I’m choosing my health.

It’s been a whole four days since I got back on track with Weight Watchers, so the aroma of my enthusiasm is still quite strong, I know! But honestly, there’s comfort in getting back to a familiar program that helped me so much before. It taught me to control my eating — and gave me such confidence — for the first time in my adult life.

Weight Watchers has been revamped for 2016, and I love the changes. LOVE. (They are not paying me to say this, by the way; my subscription is paid for by yours truly, along with generous affiliate referrals.) With their new “Beyond the Scale” approach, there’s a much greater emphasis on physical activity — not just your pants size. Obviously we’re all joining Weight Watchers to learn healthier habits and drop pounds, but everything begins and ends with overall health.

They’ve revamped how points for foods and drinks are calculated, and the new method makes much more sense. Under the old system, fats were fats; it didn’t matter if they were saturated, “bad” fats or good, healthy fats, ones we need and should eat. For example, a tablespoon of olive oil and tablespoon of butter could have the same points value. So what’s the incentive to go with the healthier option?

Many things haven’t changed, thankfully: fresh fruits and vegetables are still zero points, so you can — and should! — eat as much as you want. That was my saving grace the first go ’round. If I’d overindulged earlier in the day and was out of points for that after-dinner snack, I could always reach for a clementine and not feel deprived. There was always something to eat — as long as I’d made the effort to stock up on healthy food for the house. (But that’s another post.)

The first time I joined WW, I wanted to feel better: physically, mentally, emotionally. And I absolutely did. But I’ve come back to WW because I want to get my blood pressure down, return to a much healthier relationship with food and start showing my son — right now — that how we treat our bodies matters. And I know WW works.

So: there it is. My current weighty issues. It feels good to just . . . get all that out.

And I swear, this started out as a recipe post!

So, um, did you want to talk about pork tenderloin? Sure. Okay. Let’s do this.

This recipe is a WW recipe, actually: from the Weight Watchers New Complete Cookbook, which is ringbound and glossy and pretty. Some of the recipes I’ve made from it have been hits, others misses, but this one? Definite hit.

If you don’t like sauerkraut, you won’t like this. But if you do? You will. So much that you’ll want to make it again immediately. The apples lend a delicious sweetness to the dish, while the sauerkraut, caraway seed and onion — which mellows through slow cooking — give it punch.

It’s the perfect blend of sweet/sour. Dig in!


Slow cooker pork roast
with sauerkraut and apples

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 (1 1/2-pound) boneless pork loin roast, trimmed of fat
2 teaspoons canola oil
1 (2-pound) package of sauerkraut, rinsed and drained
1 large red or white onion, sliced
1 McIntosh or Cortland apple, peeled, cored and diced
2 teaspoons caraway seeds
1/2 cup dry white wine
Chopped fresh parsley

1. Sprinkle thyme, pepper and salt over pork. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add pork and cook until browned on all sides, about 6 minutes.

2. Combine sauerkraut, onion, apple and caraway seeds in 5- or 6-quart slow cooker. Place pork on top of vegetables; pour wine over. Cover and cook until pork and vegetables are fork-tender, about 4-5 hours on high or 8-10 hours on low.

3. Transfer pork to platter and cut into 6 slices. Spoon sauerkraut mixture around pork and sprinkle with parsley. Serves 6.

The last 2 pounds

As of Wednesday, I’m officially 2.2 pounds from my goal weight.

Though I’ve barely budged in months, I’ve tried not to get discouraged . . . because everyone said this would happen.

weight lossAfter going like gangbusters for months, completely revamping my diet and getting serious about every. little. morsel. passing through my lips, I took off more than 30 pounds in nine months. My progress was crazy. I felt so different, so much better . . . and just really, really proud.

Because I took off so much so quickly, I figured I’d be at my goal weight by now. I took it for granted. It’s been a little frustrating to see the scale barely move, but I’ve actually lost 3.5 pounds since writing this post near my birthday.

I’m so close to being “done” . . . but I really know I’m just beginning.

When I started Weight Watchers (affiliate link) in January, the hardest part was accepting the changes I was making weren’t temporary — the goal is, of course, to get healthy for a lifetime. I was emotional in those early days, whittling down my portions to something the program would deem appropriate, thinking I simply could not survive on anything less than a bowl of pasta a day.

I’m serious.

I could, of course. And I have. I won’t say I don’t have my bad days — my crave everything, bring me lots of chocolate and don’t ask questions days — but they are few and far between. The best part of Weight Watchers has been gaining the knowledge that you can eat whatever you like . . . you just have to hold yourself accountable.

WW has taught me how to do that. Not to deprive myself or starve myself, send myself on endless guilt trips or get hooked on some kind of diet food . . . but to really live my life, and well. I still eat cupcakes; I just count them into my daily Points allowance. I’m so indoctrinated on Points values and high-protein foods and eating well that I really don’t even think about what I’m doing anymore — I just do it. I’m on WW autopilot, and that’s a beautiful thing.

But I haven’t gotten here alone. From the beginning, my fiance — newly-minted at the time! — has been endlessly comforting and supportive of my changes. I didn’t realize I’d slipped into a dark place until I saw the splinter of light my new lifestyle afforded me — and though I would stress Spencer certainly never pushed me into making changes, he has always encouraged me. Because he wants me to be happy.

In fact, Spence and I joined WW together — and have stuck with it together. Though never overweight, he was interested in adopting healthier eating habits and, of course, keeping all the bad stuff out of arm’s reach for me. We learned the ins and outs of eating well together, limiting our portions and getting endlessly creative at mealtimes, and I’m so thankful for his love and dedication to helping me be more.

That’s why he’s going to make an excellent husband . . . in less than four weeks!

All this is to say, if you’re thinking about making a change — with your weight, diet, exercise routines, whatever — well, the “buddy system” is far from baloney. Having someone really in the trenches with me, guiding me and offering advice made a world of difference.

And if you don’t have that buddy to make the first change or visit to Weight Watchers with you, have no fear — because you’ll make new friends in meetings. I guarantee it. Though it’s been months since I met up with our Wednesday night crew (shame on me!), we met so many awesome people of all ages and walks of life by sitting ourselves down with a leader once a week for inspiration and encouragement. I miss that group.

I joined Weight Watchers for Spencer, wanting to know we’d have as many healthy years together as I could grant us. Wanting to be happy — and not self-conscious — during our engagement. But I’ve stayed with it for me.

One of my biggest fears is the idea of being felled prematurely by an illness or disease I might have been able to prevent if I’d only lived a little cleaner, so I drink my water, eat my vegetables, indulge in the occasional treat and really savor it — and I don’t worry so much anymore. Losing weight has freed up so much of my mental space and given me so much energy . . . though both have been consumed by wedding planning of late.

But no matter.

Even if the last 2 pounds linger, if they refuse and refuse to budge . . . well, I’ve come so far that I could never go back.

I’m in the home stretch, and it will continue to be a beautiful ride.

Ten percent weight loss

weight loss

Who knew losing 10 percent of something could feel so good?

Losing 10 percent of your paycheck? No.

But losing 10 percent of your weight? Something to be celebrated. And after 17 weeks, I hit that milestone Wednesday.

In January, the idea of losing 17 lbs. was daunting. Though I didn’t doubt my commitment to getting healthy, I had a hard time actually visualizing the weight coming off. The scale going down. My energy increasing. It was all too abstract . . . in the beginning, at least. But then I did start slimming down and eating better. Losing dress sizes. Investing in new clothes. Changing my thinking.

In the last month, I’d hovered around the same weight — even gaining for the first time since starting — and was starting to think I’d hit a plateau. Though I wasn’t exactly goofing around with my eating, I have been slooooowly introducing little treats back into my diet. That’s not a problem because, you know, this is real life. If I want to eat a baby Snickers bar, that’s going to happen. No, the real problem was feeling myself backsliding into a “just a little taste” mentality.

Just a little slice of cake.
Just a little bowl of ice cream.
Just a few M&Ms.
Just a handful of chips.

And I would eat them. And I would enjoy them. And life would go on as usual because this isn’t some sort of war against snack foods, you know? But all of those “little tastes” add up — big time. And if I dance around enjoying “just a little” of this or that, I waste the calories I could have used to eat, say, a chicken breast.

Chicken keeps fills you up better than potato chips, y’all. An indisputable fact.

So I reigned myself in. Got myself back in a healthy mentality. Returned to politely demurring in the face of a mountain of sweets and reminded myself that an occasional indulgence is A-OK, but I can’t slip back into a “eat whatever you want when you want it” mindset.

After 17 weeks of Weight Watchers, I’ve officially lost 18.4 lbs. and hit that 10 percent weight loss goal! I remember sitting in our first January meeting, right after I’d been handed my personal goals, and wondering what in the world I would look like with 17 lbs. shed from my short frame. And now I know. And though I’m still going strong, just having hit that magic number feels awesome.

Sorry if I talk about weight loss too much. I swear I’m not becoming That Girl who goes on and on about her eating habits (er, am I?), but this was too exciting not to share.

I’m holding my 10 percent keychain in the second shot, complete with my 16-week charm for sticking with it for four consecutive months. It’s a tangible representation of what makes me feel so good: not the weight loss persay (though losing two dress sizes is fantastic), but the joy I feel at having kept a commitment to myself.

Even when it was challenging.
Even when I didn’t feel like it.
Even when it made me angry.

I did it. And I’m doing it. And I’ll keep doing it.

My personal pride? The real icing on the (low-fat) cake.

Getting on a track


My current read -- and record on the treadmill!

I’m not a runner. Not only am I not a runner, I think it would be pretty generous to say that I’m even a jogger. Heck, I’m barely a walker — except to walk from my cozy front door to my car, then to my office and back again. That usually results in, oh, twenty minutes or so outdoors.

And I’m usually sitting cross-legged at my desk for eight hours or so, shifting my weight around when my ankles start to bother me. I don’t move around much. My hands are always flying, of course, clicking rapidly on my mouse or typing up a hundred e-mails or answering the phone. But my legs? Not so much.

I’ve never been very active, and I’ve always been just slightly on the plumper side. I wouldn’t say I’m heavy, but I’m definitely no stick. Despite being a sportswriter’s daughter, I have no athletic ability whatsoever — and rarely do anything at all “athletic.” The best shape I’ve ever been in in my life came as a result of a horrible parking lot assignment my sophomore year of college at the University of Maryland. UMD is a pretty enormous campus and, as a transferring commuter student, I was assigned to the dreaded Lot 6. Anyone who has ever had to park in that garage, right next to Comcast Center, can relate exquisitely well to my pain. It wasn’t an exaggeration to say I would have to walk a solid half hour, and more than a mile or so, from my car to my first class every morning. One way.

Did it suck? Yes. Absolutely. I still laugh with my family about my first week on campus. I had a 45-minute drive to and from school and, after that very first day of driving to College Park, cruising home and walking my little butt all over campus with a heavy messenger bag, I came home and literally collapsed on the sofa. My legs went flying, I covered my face with my hands and bemoaned the fact that there was no way I could make those climbs every single day.

Of course, I look back on all of that fondly now! It was rough, but I made it through — and I lost ten pounds my first semester. I lost even more, and kept it off, my remaining years of school. Even after I got a better parking assignment for my junior and senior years (Lot 1 — sweet!) I managed to keep my weight in check.

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