Author Archives: Shawn

Progress and Questions Answered

042017 FitnessStats:

44 years old. 5’0″ (on a good day, before gravity takes hold). Current weight: 104. Target weight: 102.

I am down 15 lbs (12% of my original body weight) since January 1.  I had some requests to post about various things, so I’ll cross post this to Facebook for those that follow me  there.

Settle in, this is going to be long..

Why I Did It

It was for many reasons, from health to aesthetics to performance.  My weight had creeped up in the last few years from various factors. As we age, our metabolism slows from 1-4%/year after about the age of 25.  My TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure) is already low due to my age, gender, and height. This isn’t helped by my metabolic condition, nor by the fact that my entire job is wine, beer, and food related.  I eat my feelings, but in reverse of many people: if I’m happy, I celebrate with sharing food and drink (if I a depressed, I can’t keep food down). I am happy. Ergo, lots of awesome (calorie-rich) food and beverage.  Diabetes runs heavily in my family, and I have always known that is a risk for me.

Overall, this meant I was uncomfortable in my own skin, felt sluggish and my athletic performance had really suffered. Hiking, backpacking, paddling–none of this was as pleasurable for me as it had been when I was at my best weight. It was time to make a change, to get things back under control, and to develop an eating style that was sustainable long-term.

How I Did It

I am already pretty active, especially since my job is active, and the reality is you can’t out-train a bad diet anyway. I did start keeping better track of my activity and lifting heavy again, but really this was more for building muscle than losing weight. Weight is, for almost everyone, 90% diet.  So, here goes:

  1. I figured out my TDEE. There are a lot of calculators for this, but I used this one.  Then, I dropped my estimated by TDEE by 500 calories a day to get a target of what I should be eating, and did that for two weeks to see how it went. I ended up having to adjust down more (the shorter you are, the farther the algorithms tend to be off. This works the same way for tall people, as well). Every 5 lbs, I revisited this, because the less  you weigh, the less calories you need.
  2. I started logging all my food–all of it–in an app. I chose MyFitnessPal primarily because I wanted something that would work well with my phone. I set my macros (protein/fat/carbs) to a higher protein diet because it works well for me.
  3. I gave up grains and “simple” carbs, processed food, and processed sugars.  Not because they’re bad or that not eating them was going to magically reduce my weight. Weight loss is primarily what is known in the fitness world as “CICO,” or Calories In Calories Out. Protein isn’t a macro I can really reduce much if I want to keep muscle (which I definitely do!), so the calorie cut had to come from the other two. It’s easier, at least for me, to replace pasta with shirataki noodles and vegetable noodles, rice with riced cauliflower, bread with lettuce wraps, etc.  than it is to give up enough fat to make a meaningful difference in calories.Essentially, this means I bulk absolutely everything with fibrous veggies. Taco salad? Sure: mixed greens, broccoli, tomatoes, diced zucchini, Greek yogurt instead of sour cream, 1 oz of shredded cheese, and a chicken/eggplant mixture for the “taco meat,” topped by salsa.   I also snack on raw veggies (carrots, red & green peppers, cucumbers, etc.) and salsa, or cauliflower hummus (I also don’t do beans, or do them in very small portions, for the same reason I don’t do grains).  The bulk helped to keep me full, so I didn’t overeat or make poor snack choices. If you do this, be prepared for the first few days to be interesting. It’s a LOT of fiber. Your body is going to notice and react. Proximity to a bathroom is paramount. Just sayin’. 

    I eat a lot of fruit, as well. Theoretically, it’s “high” in sugars; but, in reality, it’s a much better way to satisfy a sweet tooth (from a calorie standpoint) than almost anything else, and helped me hit my vitamins and minerals. I don’t eat bananas, but that’s as much because I don’t really like them as it is because they are really starchy and high-calorie as fruit goes.

  4. Protein choices. Seafood became a real thing for me. Especially shrimp, canned tuna, and wild-caught salmon. Good fats, good protein, lower calories than some other forms of protein. I love pretty much all seafood, so it wasn’t a hardship from a dietary choice standpoint, but it’s also expensive.  I supplemented with chicken, venison, and TVP (textured vegetable protein). I still ate other red meat, but not frequently (again, not because it’s “bad for you,” but because it’s higher in calories than other protein sources). And, sometimes, protein powder. I don’t like the last because I haven’t found one yet that isn’t somehow disagreeable to me (taste, gritty, too sweet, or some combo), but I use it when needed.
  5. I tracked my macros. My TDEE  is low. It’s hard to hit all the vitamins and minerals I need within my calorie counts, but it’s possible. It just takes a lot of dedication and management. I do still supplement some calcium and iron (the latter has always been a thing I’ve had to do), depending on the week, as well as fish oil.
  6. I took BCAAs to help me maintain muscle while cutting weight, and lifted heavy weights to keep strength and bone mass. BCAAs taste awful, there’s no real getting around that. But, there was a definite, noticeable improvement after I added them.

And that is about it. I tracked, I stuck with it. I don’t really get cheat days, and if I take one it’s more like a cheat item very infrequently, because my TDEE is so low it’s hard to make it up. Yes, that sucks; but, feeling as much better as I do has been enough to mostly keep me on track.

What I Learned

  1. There’s a lot of “bro-science” out there. Weight loss, at it’s heart, simple: CICO. Not necessarily easy, but simple.
    Bro-science mythbusters:
    There is no set “minimum” healthy calories for all adults (a 6-foot dude is going to have a much different “minimum” caloric need to function than me, by a good bit, for example).  My maintenance at 102 lbs, which is a very healthy weight for my age, gender, and height, is going to be about 1000-1100 calories (which is what I am eating at now, and why my last 2 lbs is going to come off very slowly), and people tend to freak out when they hear this. “BUT YOU NEED 1200/1500 CALORIES A DAY! OR…THINGS WILL HAPPEN!”  No, no they won’t. Everyone is different, and having a tested TDEE that low is just the genetic lottery ticket I happened to pull. What it means to me, having done this for 4 months now with meticulous tracking of macros and micros, is that I have a better handle on my nutrition than most people do. My blood work came back excellent, I have a lot more energy, a lot less pain, and I am sleeping better than I have in years. It also means I decided to not aim for my original goal of 100 lbs (which is still in my healthy weight range of 97-120 lbs–yes, that’s a huge range) because there’s no way I’d ever stick to the low calorie intake required and I know that.
    Starvation mode isn’t a thing for pretty much anyone who isn’t, well, starving. It takes huge calorie deficits for long periods of time to kick your body into what people think of as “starvation mode.” Eating at a 500 calorie deficit isn’t going to do it.  People who’ve had lap band surgery eat about 800 calories a day, if they’re following recommendations, and their bodies do not go into “starvation mode.” (Don’t get me wrong, there are other issues with losing a lot of weight really fast, such as hormone issues). I am not saying folks should embrace huge calorie deficits, I am just saying this “starvation mode” needs to stop being bandied about as what happens when you lose weight in a reasonable, healthful manner.
  2. Being hungry sucks, but you get over it. The worst parts for me were the first two weeks of my cut, then again when I hit 107 lbs.  The first two weeks were just getting over the bad habits, adjusting to the dietary changes, and coming down off holiday sugar. Once that was over, it was much easier. Until I hit the place where I had to come to terms with what my actual TDEE clearly was going to be at my best weight, which was below what I’d hoped it was, and what that meant for me for the rest of my life: be more vigilant than most people have to, and make a lot of sacrifices, or become pretty unhealthy as I aged and my metabolism continued to slow. That was hard. It did push me to more weight lifting, and to research more food options that would keep me from totally blowing it because I felt so deprived and/or hungry. It took about two weeks for me to really come to terms with that, mentally and emotionally.
  3. There are people who don’t want to actually know how you did it despite asking you for advice. They want to hear it was easy, that there’s a magic diet or food, etc. It took me a while to realize this.  Rarely do they want to hear that I track everything that enters my face, every day, all the time, and that I ate at a calorie deficit, and that was really it. I eat almost no processed foods, and I almost never eat out (in part because it’s really hard to find things that fit in my calories for the day). So, yes, I am eating healthy, too;but, really, that is a side effect of me wanting to not be hungry all the time and needing to hit some pretty specific numbers to stay healthy.
  4. People want to give you advice, even when they have no idea what they’re talking about. I’ve learned to do a lot of smiling and nodding, because telling someone that no, upping my calories will not “reset” my metabolism so I can eat more isn’t scientifically sound never goes well.
  5. I can manage this lifestyle, and stick with it.
  6. It’s amazing to have supportive people around you. Joe’s been incredible: helping with meal prep, including my least favorite tasks (I hate ricing cauliflower–it goes everywhere!) and eating the same foods as me (with tweaks–he needs a lot more calories than I do, so we add some extra things into his meals). He, too, has lost 15 pounds, and is excited about it.
  7. I don’t get to “cheat,” really, because…maths. At this point, and once I reach my goal weight, eating at a deficit if I overdue is going to be, at best, a real challenge. If I want a treat, I have to fit it within my daily goals.  This means I am a huge pain in the butt with food, so I try to take my own and not impose on others.

And, I think that covers it.

Food this week, and Supplements

We’re doing a lot of seafood this week. Partly, I am low on iron, which is a constant battle for me; so, things like tuna are a good idea. And, partly because it’s a great source of protein and other healthy micros.

Foods for This Week:

Sous vide steelhead with steamed broccoli. It was on sale at Costco. Sous vide is the way to go with this–it melted like butter, had  tons of flavor, and used no additional oils to cook. We had portions for dinner, the rest I saved to eat cold over baby spinach salads for lunches and quick dinners.

Caprese Meatloaf. This is a combo of lean ground turkey, venison, and TVP, as well as baby spinach and some mozzarella cheese, seasoned with lots of basil, garlic, parsley, and pepper, topped with spicy Diavolo sauce. I’m serving it over zucchini noodles for me, and with mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli for  the fella.

Ciopinno Soup. I used this recipe, but tripled it so we could eat leftovers this week. If you’re doing bread, this is a great recipe to dip some sourdough into (I am not, of course, but I wish I was!).

Other things I’ll be incorporating: spicy tuna & avocado salad over greens,  lox-wrapped avocado & egg, boiled eggs, and, as always, tons of fresh fruits and veggies.


I do take supplements, but I feel  it’s important to say that the supplements I take may not be one you need, and vice-versa. For various reasons, I have always had issues with anemia, and have had iron supplementation on and off for my whole life. I also take calcium (twice a week), fish oil,and CLA (the last two are daily). I don’t do much dairy and somewhat limited amounts of meat,  which is what these tend to supplement.  And, during winter months, I take Vitamin D. If you can, get your blood levels checked to see if you need any of these. For most people, a balanced diet provides adequate vitamins and minerals,but sometimes supplements are helpful. But, don’t just take stuff to take stuff.

All the Things.

Some folks have asked for some links, so here goes!

My Fitness Class Facebook, where I post all kinds of random fitness and food stuff.

My current YouTube Fitness playlist of ZuzkaLight, which I’ll be rotating through this week in addition to hiking and teaching.

My Pinterest recipes.

And, last week’s foods, cross-posted from Facebook (I’ll try to keep cross-posting for those who don’t do Facebook):

Last week, it was easy lunches and dinners. And, for three days, no lunches because I didn’t have time. Breakfasts were 2.5 scrambled eggs and some fruit, and dinners were one of these:
-Chicken taco bowls. Heaps of greens, chicken breast with taco seasoning, Greek yogurt (instead of sour cream), a sprinkling of cheese, some sliced olives, pickled banana peppers, and lots of fresh salsa.
-TVP bolognese. TVP re-hydrated with beef stock then mixed with one of Wegman’s organic spaghetti sauces and served over a combo of zucchini noodles and shiataki noodles. Not gourmet, but it’s what I had time for that still got my protein and fiber in.
We also had our one year anniversary, so we cooked prime rib and opened a bottle of amarone! It was definitely a cheat day, but it was worth it!
This week, breakfasts are still eggs and fruit, but I’ve been able to toss in lunches of mixed fruit (pineapple, oranges, grapes, blueberries, strawberries), avocado-tuna salad over greens, TVP (beef broth for re-hydration) & rice cauliflower “kheema.”
Dinners are pork loin with whipped cauliflower and green beans, East Indian Chickpea Stew over cauliflower rice, and steak with veggies.

On the Menu, 2/7/17 Edition

This is the most complicated thing on the menu this week. Parchment baked fish (that’s 20170206_2016301the bit with the lemon over it), roasted mixed veggies, and my favorite cucumber vinegar salad. I love parchment baked fish. This recipe is a good basic starter, and I add and subtract things depending what I am going for. 20170206_2014431The one you see here has a bit of spicy  tomato sauce, Italian herbs, and lemon. The roasted veggies are green beans, eggplant, mushrooms, and Brussel sprouts tossed with some olive oil and Italian herbs.

So, with that, let’s get onto this week’s menu!

Batch Cooked For the Week:

Indian Inspired Crock-Pot Chicken. This is one of my favorite easy, healthful recipes. I double the spices, and I’ll be eating it over riced cauliflower instead of basmati.

Shrimp Fried Cauliflower Rice. I’ll be giving this recipe a whirl this week, but also adding shredded Brussel sprouts, broccoli, and green beans. I’ll also marinate the shrimp first for a few minutes in Chinese 5-spice, rice vinegar, hot chili oil, and teriyaki for extra flavor.

Veggie Protein Taco Bowl. I’ll be whipping up some Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP) with taco spices, salsa, and chipotle peppers in adobo sauce and serving it over mixed greens with shredded cheese, sliced olives, and a dollop of Greek yogurt instead of sour cream.


Tuna and avocado salad (1 can albacore tuna, half a ripe avocado, lemon juice, pepper, sriracha sauce). Zucchini and Shiritaki noodles with Puttanesca sauce, with sardines.  Grandma’s Cucumber Vinegar salad, seen above on the plate with the fish (sliced cucumbers, tomatoes, sliced red onions, red wine or champagne vinegar, pepper, olive oil, water).

Snacks: Apples, oranges, grapes, blueberries, protein powder (with whatever beverage–coffee, almond-coconut milk, water, etc.–that is handy). Cauliflower hummus with veggies. Boiled eggs.

And, new this week: dessert-y things! I’ve decided to add a very occasional, no-added-sugar and low calorie dessert sometimes. It’s occasional because I’m not a huge fan of artificial sweeteners and the like, so want to keep it rare. The reality is that I am not sure I’ll stick with having these. While I hope they help with some of the feelings of deprivation (mostly of carbs in general, but of sweets specifically), I also know my willpower with those things can be challenging. Generally, I do better when I walk a hard line with my diet because if I eat something sweet, I’ll want the whole thing. If I eat the few bites of mac and cheese, I’ll eat the whole pan. So, I am trying some things that, if I do eat the whole thing, won’t completely derail things.

To that end, you’ll see some ingredients here that, if you’re a long-time reader, you won’t have really seen before. Bear with me while I see how this goes.

Apples w/caramel Spring Rolls. Diced apples tossed with Sugar-free Cool whip flavored with butterscotch sugar-free pudding mix.

Cherry Jell-o with Tart Cherries and chocolate “mousse.” Sugar free jell-o, with canned tart cherries in it’s own juices. Sugar-free Cool Whip flavored with chocolate sugar-free pudding mix, then frozen.

What is on your plate this week?

Shrimp & Eggplant Soup

shrimp-soup I really need a better name for this, don’t I? Whatever the name, it’s delicious. And stupidly healthy, not to mention really low-calorie. This huge bowl? Under 200 calories.

The thing is, this recipe is going to look really involved, and a lot of work for one bowl of soup. But, all the ingredients are going to be used for other things. So, really, I had quadruple everything below except for the broth (I had chicken broth left over from something else that I wanted to use). The rest of the eggplant will get used over zucchini noodles with a light Asian-inspired sauce. The remainder of the 2 lbs of shrimp will get used as a cold salad with avocado and kale, and over more zucchini noodles with pasta sauce. So, total meal prep time was fast, since I was doing it all anyway. The beauty of batch cooking!


-1 c chicken broth (low sodium if you want)
-Tails from 2 lbs of shrimp (or full shells from .5 lbs, or shrimp flavoring or bouillon)
-1″ fresh ginger, peeled and thin-sliced
-2  cloves garlic, sliced
Directions: Put everything into small sauce pan, and simmer on low heat while you prep the rest of the ingredients.


4  1/2″ slices eggplant
2 tbs yellow miso
1 tbs chili garlic paste
1.5 tsp. rice vinegar
splash fresh orange juice

Directions: Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Line baking sheet with tin foil and spray with olive oil. Lay eggplant slices on foil. In small bowl, stir all remaining ingredients until combined. Reserve half of mixture, and spoon other half evenly on top of eggplant slices (spreading to cover slices). Pour some broth (from above) into bowl and stir to collect any remaining miso mixture, then return to broth pan. Bake eggplant for 15 minutes. Use tongs to turn slices over, and distribute remaining mixture. Broil on high for 3-5 minutes, until slightly browned. Remove from oven.


10  31/40 count shrimp, cleaned and de-veined
1/4 of a lemon
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/2  tsp. garlic powder
Directions: Combine all ingredients and allow to sit in refrigerator for 10-20 minutes. Heat non-stick pan (I use cast iron) over medium-high heat, and add shrimp mixture (all of it). Cook, turning once, until shrimp are pink, about 3-5 minutes (do not overcook!). Remove from heat.

To Serve

Put 1  cup zucchini noodles into large bowl, and cover with broth. Add shrimp, with juices, and eggplant.  Eat and enjoy (add more chili & garlic paste if you like it super spicy)!


On the Menu, New Year 2017!

So, it’s officially started. The reality is that, for most people, weight and health are about 80-90% what you put in your mouth. I am not saying exercise doesn’t matter, because it does, and you all know that I do a good bit of it; but, most of us cannot exercise enough (especially once we’re over 35-40 years old) to do an eat-whatever-you-like-whenever-you-like kind of diet. We can exercise enough to be able to eat some of what we want some of the time, while eating what we should eat the rest of the time. As a small women, this is even more true (sorry, it’s just reality). So, here we go, back on the good eating trail.

Aside from breakfast, which is Bulletproof coffee 5 days and scrambled eggs the other two, here’s what this week looks like for food (all but the steak will make leftovers to carry us through the week):


Steak Sous Vide with Roasted Broccoli. I love my sous vide machine. It lets me cook amazing food with very little effort and about zero chance of messing it up. Plus, no oils necessary! The steak I’ve made with this is, hands-down, the best steak we’ve ever had (no real thanks to me, all I did was seal the bag and turn it on).

Italian Chicken Sous Vide over Zewdles. Italian herbs (gotta love a window garden in  December) and fresh lemon, finished with a shot of lemon olive oil, then seal and into the cooker! It comes out super moist, and perfect for serving over steamed zucchini and carrot “noodles” that are seasoned with pepper and garlic.

Spicy Shrimp over Quinoa. Shrimp is one of those easy, quick foods I cannot get enough of. I’ll marinade it in chili and garlic sauce and toss a touch of Chinese 5 Spice in, along with a splash of orange juice. Sear it all in a pan quickly, then serve over quinoa.


Spicy Tuna & Avocado Salad. Yep, you saw this last week. You’ll probably see it again next week. It’s easy, it’s delicious, and I don’t have to heat it up, which makes it much easier to deal with at work.  Generally, I’ll serve it over kale or other greens, but sometimes I just eat it on it’s own.

Chicken, apple, and walnut salad. Honeycrisp apples with the leftover sous vide chicken, dressed with a splash of balsamic vinegar and whipped avocado, then topped with roasted walnuts.

Seafood & Zewdle Soup. Swai (white fish) and leftover shrimp in a spiced chicken and coconut milk broth with zucchini noodles.


Roasted nuts, almond butter & apples/carrots, boiled eggs, imitation crab legs, kale & miso salad with grapes, all kinds of fruit.

So, what are you eating this week?

On The Menu, 12/27/17 Edition

Those of you who have been reading for a while (and stuck with me for the times I don’t blog much) know that I do a ton of batch cooking. My life is busy, and if I don’t do it this way, I’ll eat like crap. So, today is prep day. All told, it took me about 2 hours. It’s generally closer to an hour, but some of the things I did today won’t be weekly (like roasting nuts and boiling eggs).


Indian Chicken over Quinoa. I love this recipe because it’s stupid easy, takes zero time since it’s in the slowcooker(and the quinoa, pictured here, is done in the rice  cooker), is really healthful, and is full of flavor. I do tend to double the 20161227_134534spices she uses, since I like things spicy ( and also because, unlike her, I am not feeding kids so don’t have to worry about it). Also, I add some frozen spinach at the end, usually 2 cups or so (which so far everyone who has tried it loves). So, no need to make additional veggies as a side.

20161227_133030Salmon Sous Vide, with roasted broccoli. I love my sous vide machine. If you don’t have one, you can do roast the salmon, as well. It’s just salmon fillet, olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper, lemon juice, and fresh rosemary. I’ll eat it cold later (amazing on salads!), but it’s fantastic as soon as it’s done, as well.

Spicy Eggplant over Zewdles. This one was takes a few more steps, since you need to sweat the eggplant to give it a nice texture when roasted.  Essentially, clean the eggplant (remove top, bottom, and peel), lay on a cookie sheet, and sprinkle with salt. Allow it to sit for about 15 20161227_114226minutes, then turn over and sprinkle salt on the other side. 15 minutes later, rinse off salt and pat dry, then season eggplant. I used paprika, garlic, chili powder, onion powder, pepper, and rosemary. Baked it for 10 minutes  side and finished with a quick broil for some crispness. I’ll serve it over zucchini noodles (a.k.a. “zewdles”) with a pomodoro sauce (Wegman’s Organic).


Some of my lunches will be leftovers from above. Some will be a selection from the things below.

Tuna and Avocado Sriracha Salad.  1 can tuna, half a ripe avocado (mashed), and sriracha, lemon, and pepper to taste. That’s it. I serve it over greens or quinoa, or just eat it off a fork.

Egg and Avocado Salad. Make egg salad,  but use mashed avocado. I like paprika in mine, and a bit of lemon and pepper. This gets served on lettuce leaves, like a sandwich.


Boiled farm-fresh eggs, dark roasted almonds & walnuts, watermelon, oranges, grapes, 20161227_115722blueberries, celery and carrots with hummus or nut butter (no peanut butter for me, unfortunately), Krab sticks (I love fake crab–seriously, it’s an addiction), and pumpkin seeds.

I’ll also supplement some days with an almond/coconut milk  protein shake (if I am low on protein). My ideal ratio will be 40% carbs, 30% protein, 30% (healthy) fats.

So, that’s what’s on the table for this coming week. When I can, I’ll post what I’m eating daily here; but, if you’re interested in that kind of thing, you’re more likely to find it on my fitness Facebook page.