What Is This Thing About?

Kicking Some Midlife Ass

You must do the things you think you cannot do.

— Eleanor Roosevelt.

I am not quite sure where to begin. At the beginning, I suppose. But which beginning?

I will start with the beginning of the transformation. Sure, my transformation was physical – I lost 80 pounds and dropped clothing sizes, but it was so much more than that. I spent the past two years overcoming “I can’t.” The “I can’t” which has been embedded in me for decades. Almost half a century. I just made the decision, one decision at a time.

I gritted my teeth and slowly but surely said “Yes” to as many new experiences I could. I decided the only way to grow was to be uncomfortable, so I pushed through my comfort zone and came out the other side, mostly unscathed.

I plan on blogging each new experience, working through my fears and anxiety along the way. I will also post practical things which helped me on my journey, from meal prepping to mindset. Sometimes, I’m sure I will kick ass. Sometimes, it’s going to suck. And that’s ok.

Why do I entitle my journey as a Productive Midlife Crisis? Well, I incorrectly see myself as midlife. I’m sure most would argue that ship sailed 10 years ago. Productive? That is a personal definition, but for me it means to set goals, each just slightly further along than the last, and work to get there. It’s been crazy making myself proud with every step forward that I take!

Join me in making our second act the better act and become the person you always wanted to be! The world needs you!

To read about my journey, see the pages below:

Putting Yourself First

Drowning

Just Don’t Quit

One Small Decision

The Secret To Weight Loss

Small Steps

Photo credit @shaunterhune https://www.facebook.com/shaunterhune/

Instant Pot Lentil Soup

This cold weather means it is time for soup! This lentil soup is hearty enough for dinner, and zero points on WW Blue (Freestyle) program! Can be made on the stovetop or in a slow cooker as well.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 c. brown (French) lentils

1 onion, medium

3 cloves of garlic

2 carrots

3 stalks celery

1 can (14.5 oz) Fire Roasted Tomatoes

4 cups chicken stock

1 tsp thyme, dried

Directions:

  1. Chop garlic. Dice onion, carrots, and celery. Spray bottom of Instant Pot with cooking spray, and add chopped vegetables to Instant Pot.

2. Rinse and pick over lentils. Discard any stones/debris. Add to Instant Pot.

3. Add tomatoes, chicken broth, thyme and salt to taste. Mix together evenly.

4. Set Instant Pot to High for 19 minutes. Release steam when it is done.

This recipe makes 4 servings at zero points per serving on WW Blue (Freestyle) plan! Easy, simple and delicious!

Please note: I am not a fitness or health professional. I will be listing recipes and meal plans on this blog which follow the WW program, This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical or nutritional information. Before starting any diet program, be sure to consult your medical or health professional

Rigatoni with Spicy Sausage and Broccoli Rabe

Sometimes, you just have to have pasta! I used chicken sausage to manage the fat and calories, measured the olive oil, and weighed the rigatoni to provide a hearty meal for only 8 points a serving (Blue/Freestyle plan.) Delicious and simple!

Ingredients:

1 bunch broccoli rabe (NOT broccoli or broccolini)

2 garlic cloves (not pictured)

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 can (15.5 oz) Cannellini beans (I have 2 in the picture above, but only used one)

5 links Hot Italian Chicken Sausage (I used Nature’s Promise Organic: 8 points for 5 links)

4 oz (dry measure) Rigatoni

Directions:

  1. Broccoli rabe is quite bitter. To cut some of the bitterness, bring a pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Place the broccoli rabe in for 3-4 minutes, then drain.

2. Over medium heat, saute garlic in 1 Tbsp of olive oil. Add in the broccoli rabe and salt to taste. You can also add some red pepper flakes for a little heat. I left them out, as I used spicy sausage.

3. While the broccoli rabe is cooking, measure out 4 ounces of pasta. Bring a pot of water to a boil (I cooked it in the same pot I used for the broccoli rabe) and cook according to package directions. Drain when done.

4. While pasta is cooking, add sausage to garlic and broccoli rabe. (I cut the sausage into slices using kitchen shears.) Since the sausage I used was fully cooked, I cooked the mixture over low heat until heated through, adding garlic powder and salt to taste.

5. Drain and rinse cannellini beans. Add into the sausage mixture and heat through.

6. Add cooked drained pasta to pan.

Makes 3 hearty servings! If you are following WW Blue (Freestyle), each serving comes to 8 points. Top with parmigiano reggiano for an additional point.

Please note: I am not a fitness or health professional. I will be listing recipes and meal plans on this blog which follow the WW program, This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical or nutritional information. Before starting any diet program, be sure to consult your medical or health professional

No One Noticed

My fiftieth birthday was fast approaching.

I had spent the two months prior to my birthday planning, obsessing and tracking every food choice. I meal prepped food on Sunday so I had a pre-planned, pre-portioned meal every day of my work week. I controlled my food with a military like precision. It was the control I knew I needed, as my life had seemed so out of control in the months before.

Fifty was the point where I decided to not give up on myself.

This change was supposed to have happened a decade earlier. My best friends from high school decided we would be forty and fabulous, but, as things happen, there was a falling out, a rift which splintered our decades old group. I plummeted into the throes of being a working mom and fell prey to the “I’m busy” mindset, when in reality I chose to be the very last on my list. For years and years.

Fifty was part of the reason I woke up. I wasn’t ready to die, and I knew I was closer to the end rather than the beginning. I didn’t even have hopes of being fabulous at fifty, simply healthier.

Emotional eating does not disappear. After decades of stuffing down emotions by stuffing my face, it lies underneath the surface, waiting to reemerge through the cracks of any pain or hurt. Or celebration.

As my birthday inched near, I fixated on cake. I love cake. I can eat cake for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I don’t, but I could. I decided that I would have every cake I wanted on my birthday and bought 3 different kinds – carrot cake, chocolate cake, and cannoli cake. I ate a piece of each and threw out about 90% of them. Then my attention went to the next eating fest, a month and a half away.

To celebrate my birthday, many of my friends were coming together for a girl’s weekend in my favorite place on earth: the White Mountains of New Hampshire. We rented a huge house, complete with indoor pool, and I began planning my food, many days away from vacation. I worked my plan every day, with the vision of pancakes, lobster rolls, pastry and maple syrup as a reward for my steadfastness.  Not the healthiest relationship with food, but it was the one I had to work with. Going from one food reward to the next.

The result of the food control, the planning, cooking, and tracking, began to show. By the time Memorial Day rolled around, I was down twenty pounds. It was the first time in years that weight began to come off. 18 years before I had followed a low carb diet to be at my lowest weight in years.

Then I put all of the weight back (and more) over time and life – life which happens while you are planning other things. Miscarriage. Pregnancy. Birth. Post-partum depression. Leaving my career. Losing my identity. Working a side hustle to make ends meet. Not having 2 nickels to rub together. Losing my stepfather to leukemia, after struggling through a bone marrow transplant. My mother moving away. Evaluations of my child which blindsided me with the level of delays she had. Dealing with IEPs, 504s and therapy sessions. Marital stress. Father in law with Alzheimer’s. Work stress. My career changing in front of my eyes, yet being tied into the medical insurance and the pension.

You know. Life. The roller coaster that it is.

When you manage your emotions with food, you will never get healthy.

My mental health was struggling, and it showed on my body.

Yet, here I was, down 20 pounds! I went on this trip, and reality set in when I looked at the pictures.

I did not look any different.

I was so morbidly obese, that 20 pounds was just a drop in the bucket. I was still in the same size of clothing (2x shirt, 16 jeans.) When I put on 5 pounds, it was hard to tell. When I took off 5 pounds, it was impossible to see, also.

At work, seeing the same people every day, no one noticed.

At home, none of my friends noticed.

Months and months of hard work. The scale inched down to the tune of twenty pounds.

No one noticed.

Disheartening. Depressing.

I spent the Girl’s Weekend completely off plan, and, to be honest, I did not regret one single bite. Not one. That’s because of one thing that changed.

When I went home, I went right back onto my journey. Back to planning. Back to cooking. Back to tracking.

Normally, I would be derailed. I would think, “Well, I screwed up. Fuck it!” And Fuck It eating would be the new norm. I would go back to eating whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted.

This time, I just decided to continue on with the planning, cooking, and tracking.

This time, I would not quit on myself.

This time would be the last time.

Italian Wedding Soup

It is soup season! I had a higher fat version of this soup this past weekend at a Women’s Wellness Weekend Camp (so much fun!) and I decided to rework it to lower the calories and WW points. Hope you like it as much as I did, and it’s only 2 points per serving!

Ingredients:

1 lb 99% fat free ground chicken

1/2 cup panko, Italian seasoned

1/2 tbsp garlic powder

1/2 tbsp Penzeys Pasta Sprinkle (or use basil and oregano)

4 cups chicken broth

2 1/2 oz orzo

1 1/2 cups frozen chopped spinach

1 medium onion

4 medium carrots

Directions:

  1. Make meatballs by gently mixing ground chicken, panko, seasonings and salt to taste.

2. Form into tiny meatballs (about 30.) Place into a nonstick pan sprayed with cooking spray.

3. Cook over medium heat, until lightly browned.

4. Dice onion and carrots. Place into a large pot with cooking spray. Saute until soft.

5. Add stock, 2 cups of water, meatballs, and spinach. Add salt to taste. Bring to a boil and add orzo.

6. Cook on a low boil for 10 minutes, then reduce to a simmer for 20 minutes. Make sure meatballs are cooked through prior to serving.



This recipe made 6 one cup servings at 2 points a serving. Enjoy!

Please note: I am not a fitness or health professional. I will be listing recipes and meal plans on this blog which follow the WW program, This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical or nutritional information. Before starting any diet program, be sure to consult your medical or health professional



Avocado Toast with Egg

I could eat this breakfast every day! I add hot sauce and like my eggs with a runny yolk, but make this recipe yours! It does not disappoint.

Ingredients:

2 ounces avocado, mashed (about 1/2 of a large one, but I do weigh it)

2 eggs

2 slices bread (Old Tyme 647 Italian Bread is 1 point per slice! Best I have found)

Everything But The Bagel Seasoning (I prefer Trader Joe’s brand)

Hot Sauce (optional)

Directions:

  1. Weigh 2 oz of avocado.

2. Mash avocado and add Everything But The Bagel seasoning to taste.

Weighing avocado will be less points than if you used more general terms (“1/2 an avocado”)

3. Toast 2 slices of bread.

4. Spread avocado mixture onto toast.

5. Spray a nonstick pan with cooking spray. Cook two eggs to your liking. (I prefer over easy)

6. Serve eggs on toast. Top with hot sauce, if desired. (My favorite by far is Truff, black truffle hot sauce.) I do not make any money from links, simply supplying resources if you’re interested.

Total WW points = 5 (3 for the avocado, 2 for the bread.) Your points may vary if you use different brands.

Please note: I am not a fitness or health professional. I will be listing recipes and meal plans on this blog which follow the WW program, This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical or nutritional information. Before starting any diet program, be sure to consult your medical or health professional

Instant Pot Spaghetti Squash

Cooking spaghetti squash in an Instant Pot is foolproof and only takes 7 minutes (plus time for it to come up to pressure.) It is perfectly cooked every time, and ZERO points! Pair it with my Chicken Bolognese Sauce for a quick weekday dinner or my Puttanesca Sauce (sans anchovies) for a perfect Meatless Monday meal.

Ingredients:

1 spaghetti squash

1 1/2 cups water

Directions:

  1. Carefully cut spaghetti squash across the middle, as pictured. I also cut the small stem off.

2. Scoop out seeds. Discard.

3. Place steamer rack into Instant Pot. Add 1 1/2 cups water. Place squash into pot as pictured.

4. Cook for 7 minutes on High Pressure. Use Quick Release to release pressure.

5. Use a fork to separate the strands. (Careful! It is HOT!)

Serve with your favorite sauce or mine! (Chicken Bolognese or Puttanesca Sauce.) Best of all, it is zero points!

Please note: I am not a fitness or health professional. I will be listing recipes and meal plans on this blog which follow the WW program, This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical or nutritional information. Before starting any diet program, be sure to consult your medical or health professional.

One Point Puttanesca Sauce

Legend has it, this sauce was created by prostitutes in Italy, in between other “obligations.” It is everything you want for dinner – fast, spicy and easy! And if you haven’t tried anchovies, they melt into the sauce as you cook, but add so much to the flavor profile! Or, omit anchovies entirely for a meatless meal. Makes 6 servings at 1 point per serving.

Ingredients:

1 tin anchovies, drained

(1) 28 oz can crushed tomatoes

(2) 14.5 oz cans fire roasted diced tomatoes

20 kalamata olives, chopped

2 Tbsp capers

Crushed red pepper

4 Garlic cloves (not pictured)

1/2 onion, diced (not pictured)

Directions:

  1. Place drained anchovies onto paper towels to remove excess oil.
  2. In a large pot sprayed with cooking spray, add in anchovies, garlic and onion. Saute over medium heat until onion and garlic are soft, and anchovies are melted down.

3. Add crushed tomatoes and diced tomatoes and stir.

4. Add olives, 2 Tbsp capers with brine. Add crushed red pepper to taste, 1-2 tsp, and salt to taste. Lower heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes.

This can be served with pasta, spaghetti squash or zoodles! Also can be paired with my Italian meatballs for a delicious lunch or dinner. Makes 6 generous servings, at 1 point per serving.

Please note: I am not a fitness or health professional. I will be listing recipes and meal plans on this blog which follow the WW program, This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical or nutritional information. Before starting any diet program, be sure to consult your medical or health professional

Italian Chicken Mini-Meatballs

These are delicious, and can be eaten with my Puttanesca sauce or your favorite Marinara! As a teacher, I am always hungry when I walk through the door in the late afternoon, so I grab a few of these or my Buffalo Chicken Meatballs. This recipe makes 28 meatballs, and you can have four meatballs for zero points, or up to 13 for one point!

Ingredients:

1/2 onion, diced

4 oz (1/2 package) baby portobello mushrooms (you could use button mushrooms if you prefer), chopped small

1 pound ground chicken (98% or 99% fat free)

1/4 cup Italian seasoned Panko bread crumbs (I use 4C – other brands may affect Points value)

1/2 cup Kraft Fat Free Mozzarella (other cheese will affect Points value)

1 Tbsp basil (not pictured)

1 tsp oregano (not pictured)

1 tsp parsley (not pictured)

1 tsp garlic powder (not pictured)

salt to taste

Directions:

  1. If baking, preheat oven to 350 degrees. I made these using my air fryer.
  2. In a nonstick pan sprayed with cooking spray, saute onion until soft. Season with salt to taste. Add mushrooms and more salt if desired, and cook until all moisture is released. Cool before proceeding.

2. In a large bowl, place ground chicken, mozzarella, and panko.

3. Add cooked onions and mushrooms.

4. Add all seasonings, including salt to taste.

5. Mix gently with your hands until everything is evenly distributed, being careful not to overmix. If mixture is too sticky to work with, put into refrigerator for 30 minutes.

6. Using a small scoop, make meatballs. If baking, I would recommend nonstick Reynolds foil, and spray with cooking spray. I sprayed my air fryer basket with cooking spray, and cooked in 2 batches.

7. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes, checking for doneness. I went with 350 degrees in my air fryer for 17 minutes, shaking every once in a while. My airfryer is new, and cooks more quickly than my last one, so I still am on a learning curve.

8. Always check that they are cooked through. Store in the fridge for a snack, or serve as part of dinner. I served half of these with my Puttanesca sauce and spaghetti squash.

This recipe made 28 mini meatballs, at zero points for up to 4, or one point for up to 13! Points may vary if you made more or less than the 28 I made. Enjoy!

Please note: I am not a fitness or health professional. I will be listing recipes and meal plans on this blog which follow the WW program, This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical or nutritional information. Before starting any diet program, be sure to consult your medical or health professional

Cilantro Shrimp Flatbread with Ranch Drizzle

This was absolutely delicious! Cheesy, with garlic flavor complimented by the Ranch drizzle! I make flatbread from the Two Ingredient Dough, but to save time and points, you can substitute a FlatOut Wrap or Joseph’s Pita bread. This recipe makes one serving for 7 points, and worth every one of them!

Ingredients:

1 serving Cilantro Shrimp (about 8 shrimp)

1/2 cup Kraft Fat Free Mozzarella

2 Tbsp Parmesan

1 serving Two Ingredient Dough (I make this in advance, split into 4 servings, and keep in my refrigerator in a Ziploc for 3-4 days)

1 Tbsp Bolthouse Farms Ranch Dressing

Directions:

  1. To make flatbread: Roll out Two Ingredient Dough into an oval shape. Spray with cooking spray on both sides.

2. Place into an air fryer at 375 degrees for 3-4 minutes, until it just begins to brown. Flip so the more cooked side is on top. Could also be cooked on a nonstick griddle.

3. Place shrimp and both cheeses on the flatbread.

4. Continue cooking the flatbread until bread is cooked through, and cheese is melted, approximately 4-5 minutes, but it depends upon your air fryer. If you cooked the dough on a nonstick pan, bake the flatbread in your oven (375 degrees) on a cookie sheet or on a tray in a toaster oven until bread is cooked and cheese is melted.

5. Drizzle with 1 Tbsp Bolthouse Ranch Dressing. (Best tasting one I have found, and only 1 point for 1 tbsp, 2 points for up to 3 Tbsp!)

This recipe makes a terrific lunch or a great supper when paired with a green salad. Makes one serving for 7 points.

Please note: I am not a fitness or health professional. I will be listing recipes and meal plans on this blog which follow the WW program, This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical or nutritional information. Before starting any diet program, be sure to consult your medical or health professional.

Cilantro Shrimp

This recipe can be used on salads, in tacos, with cauliflower rice or in my Shrimp Flatbread with Ranch Drizzle. Best of all, these shrimp are super simple, zero points and full of flavor!

Ingredients:

8-10 Jumbo shrimp

2 cloves garlic, chopped

Garlic powder

Handful of fresh cilantro, chopped

Directions:

  1. In a nonstick pan sprayed with cooking spray, sprinkle shrimp with garlic powder and salt to taste. Saute with garlic over medium heat.

2. When pink on the bottom, flip to other side, and add cilantro.

3. Continue cooking until all shrimp are cooked through.

That’s it! I chilled these, and used them the next day for lunch in my Cilantro Shrimp Flatbread with Ranch Drizzle. Also great on salads, with cauliflower rice (or regular rice) or fajitas. Only zero points!

Please note: I am not a fitness or health professional. I will be listing recipes and meal plans on this blog which follow the WW program, This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical or nutritional information. Before starting any diet program, be sure to consult your medical or health professional.