Developing An Instinct for Recipes and Exercise

I remember well the days when I had no faith in my instincts, particularly as it pertained to recipes and exercise (imagine I’m saying that in my best Peter Brady impression).

In terms of food, I never strayed from a recipe except to omit onions if my kids were eating it or to reduce the amount of salt. The recipe was the expert, not me. As the years and pounds have fallen away (and I’ve become more picky about what I eat), I’ve been listening to my inner foodie and have become more adventurous in ad libbing.

I’m not out to reinvent food or write a cookbook. I’ve just made some small changes to existing recipes that I like and reading new ones with curiosity. I could use this for that… goes through my mind now when I read cookbooks or search recipes online. I don’t discard a recipe idea just because it has meat or eggplant or exorbitant amounts of oil. If the foundation of the recipe sounds good, I think around it and find substitutes.

I especially love putting together; things from scratch with a little of this and a little of that. You know, the few leftover carrots that don’t quite constitute a serving, the quarter-cup of mixed veggies on the bottom of the bag in the freezer, the two ounces of tofu that if you don’t use soon will go bad (and no wise cracks from the peanut gallery about how can you tell, OK?)

Here’s an example of what I mean. I made soup yesterday because I had a few leeks and rutabagas in the fridge, some lentils in the cupboard, bits of frozen corn and green beans, an opened container of veggie broth, and a lonely stalk of celery. I hate seeing things go to waste, especially in this economy, so here’s what I came up with. It’s pretty basic, but very tasty.

Lynn’s Smorgasbord Soup

1 cup thinly sliced leeks, rinsed well
1 clove garlic (or more)
1 tsp. olive oil
4 cups boxed vegetable broth
2 cups water with 2 tsp. vegetable broth granules (substitute 6 cups of boxed or homemade broth, or 6 cups of water and the equivalent granules)
1 can (15 ounces or so) diced tomatoes
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup diced celery
8 oz. cubed rutabaga (or use sweet potatoes or butternut squash)
½ cup frozen corn
½ cup frozen green beans
1 cup dried green lentils, rinsed and sorted
½ tsp. marjoram
½ tsp. dried thyme
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. pepper

In a Dutch oven sprayed with non-stick spray, sauté the leeks and garlic in oil on low to medium heat for about 5 minutes. Stir frequently. Dump everything else in and simmer for about an hour.

Makes 6 hearty 2-cup servings, and if you make it like I did, it’s 3 Points per serving.

Last night, I made stuffed peppers from a cookbook recipe. I reduced the bulgur from 2/3 cup to ½ cup because it seemed like too much starch, and I added a ½ cup tomato sauce because my eyes told my mouth that the peppers might not be all I wanted them to be without some tomato. It turned out I was right and the peppers were just how I imagined.

There are times when my instincts fail me, too. Let’s just say there are some things that shouldn’t be mixed with lime juice and leave it at that.

The other area I lacked confidence was exercise. I was a by-the-book kinda gal. If some expert said I had to do cardio an hour a day to maintain my weight loss, by god I was going to do an hour of cardio a day. When another expert told me I could get by with just two days of strength training, that was good enough for me. The problem was that my body said no to both these scenarios, and so over the last several months, I’ve allowed my body to be the expert.

Let me say right now: I hate cardio. Well, at least I hate an hour of cardio. Thirty to 50 minutes, no problem, but an hour? I dreaded it, and you know and I know that if you dread something, you’re less likely to do it. Now I do about 120-150 minutes a week of cardio and this makes me a much happier exerciser. I’ve lost the guilt. (Yes, I felt guilty for not doing cardio like a maniac. Kinda sick, huh?)

What I lost in cardio, I upped in strength training. Using books and other guides, I developed my own routine for upper and lower body that works with my body and its abilities, not against them. I’m not a personal trainer and I haven’t had any classes in physiology (ergo, would never advise anyone on what they should do), but I know my body best and it’s responding to the three to four hours a week of ST nicely. Best of all, I love it. It’s my favorite exercise ever. Well, besides biking, but there’s 12 inches of snow still on the ground. I won’t be out on the trails for quite some time, I’m afraid.

So are you listening to your instincts, too? What are they telling you? I’d love to hear how you’re learning to (or have learned to) trust yourself in weight loss/weight maintenance.

10 thoughts on “Developing An Instinct for Recipes and Exercise

  1. I loved this post Lynn and I’m so with you on both fronts of recipes and exercise. I’ve always been a throw this in kind of person when it comes to recipes but during my weight loss journey I’ve really tried more things, some have worked out some haven’t but I feel good knowing I’m bettering my family’s health as well as my own. As for exercise, I’m so happy to hear you say you hate cardio, me too. I do about as much as you with plenty of strength training and what I’ve found is I’m able to eat more because I’ve bettered my metabolism through the weight training. It is about what works for a person and I’d like to think this will work for life for me. Thanks for this post, feels good to know I’m not alone.

  2. my mother was reading a recipe to my 11 year old over the phone. My mother said that as the 11 year old wrote – she was commenting on her substitutions – egg beaters for eggs, applesauce for oil, etc. This same child will automatically ‘halve the sugar’ in traditional recipes because she knows it will taste the same to us. My mother commented that this child was figuring the substitutions – mentally – as she wrote – as fast as my mother was reading to her over the phone. this same child was the one that finally took the new food processor out of the box (I did run it through the dishwasher), watched the DVD and then proceeded to make a from scratch chocolate cake recipe that called for 2 cups of shredded zucchini – because she said she would be able to do the whole thing (easily) in the food processor. (she halved the sugar and no you couldn’t see any green bits and it was pretty good).She thinks nothing of all these things – she is young enough that this is normal life to her. I asked the other day – and she only remembers going to McD’s once in her life – for pancakes (after an early morning ortho appointment when her mouth was sore) on the way to school. If you asked my oldest (19) and my middle child (15) they would remember MANY more trips to McD’s. . .

  3. UPDATE –told my 15 year old about the youngest only remembering pancakes (once) from McD’s. And the 15 year old only remembers fruit and yogurt parfaits after gymnastics. She has no memory of fries or a happy meal. She had them – but no memory. I am assuming that since I never get tired of hearing about your granddaughter – that you never get tired of hearing about my kids. . .🙂

  4. I’m really learning to listen to myself if I really don’t like something. That means something and I have to understand that. It can make the difference between a happy Lori and a grumpy Lori – which also can make the difference between staying on plan or not!If I don’t like something, I also try to figure out why, and what tweaks might be done to make it something I want to do, or try again, or eat.This pertains to diet and exercise – or any other new activity for me.

  5. I never follow a recipe to the letter, usually because I never seem to have all the ingredients called for. In fact, I hardly ever use a recipe at all but just make stuff up and hope for the best. I learned a long time ago that at the end of the day, nobody cares if I make up an Italian style stir-fry or some other unorthodox concoction. It’s just dinner! As to exercise, I used to follow set rotations (I use home fitness DVDs), but now I use them in whatever order I want. I happen to love cardio, and I also enjoy weight training, kettlebells and yoga, so no problems there. 🙂

  6. Bbubblyb, you’re definitely NOT alone. I think a lot of people don’t like to admit they don’t like cardio because they’ve been told it’s so “great” by so many people. It’s OK not to like it 🙂 Having said that, it’s not that I use it as an excuse not to do it at all, but it’s nice to know I can compromise on how much and what. Vickie, you done good with the kids, babe 🙂Lori, it’s kind of fun to walk into that dark void of “how can I make this mine” space, isn’t it? Good luck with your tweeking! Carla, I like what you said, “It’s just dinner!” hehe Sometimes I take meals WAY too seriously.

  7. I am happy to see this post. I love in Orange County where everyone is on a low carb diet….my body responds to it….however, i frankly dont really love meat……and after about 3 days I am disgusted….i was a pescatarian (eats fish) several years ago…started eating meat again because my new husband did…..anyone similiar?

  8. Hi Lynn, I love tweaking recipes. Before losing weight, I was a pretty good cook. But learning to cook for weight loss was like learning a completely new skill. But once I got the hang of it, I started noticing certain similarities in recipes. Certain foods that I seem to like in recipes (egg whites and cottage cheese–who knew?) and got more and more willing to tweak recipes, and am very happy with my cooking now!

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