Reflection, action and dedication.

I’m approaching Week 8 in Norcal and I’m finally starting to feel grounded in many facets of my life. This is an opportunity to better myself through reflection, action and dedication.

This change hasn’t come over night, but I’m pushing every day to stay consistent and honor myself through hard work in the kitchen, in the gym and on this keyboard. I’m seven pounds down since arriving in February and while I still weigh more than I did at this time in 2014, the pieces are in place to accomplish my weight loss goals through action and dedication.

To that end, I have implemented several changes or stuck to certain routines over the last several weeks that have helped me build a consistent routine and stay on course:

I’ve been forcing myself to cook even when I don’t want to … especially when I don’t want to, actually. It has helped me regain my creativity and resourcefulness in the kitchen and I’ve been making some of the best-tasting dishes that I’ve ever made. Most of them have been reasonably quick and simple to make, which has been a bonus. Follow everything I’m cooking on the Fat Dude On A Diet Instagram page.

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I’ve also been working on a new streak of days logged on MyFitnessPal. I have a 23-day streak logging my calories and I take it very seriously because it has provided me with an engaging way to document what I am eating. Counting calories this way has become an integral part of my efforts now that I am focusing on the consistency of my healthy choices. It was also something that helped me in previous weight loss efforts.

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Finally, I’ve been pushing myself to improve physically almost every day. I train in the mornings, at nearly the same time every day, and my routine carries between many different activities: walking long distances, burst running up hills, throwing punches at the bags, and doing box jumps, bear crawls and planks. I was struggling to walk even two miles in February; now I walk more than five miles a day and recently accomplished a goal of walking 25 miles in a week. I’m also able to box longer than before. Fitness is becoming fun, and that’s how I hope it stays.

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I have one month before I leave on an exciting vacation, so there are certain actions I am talking beforehand to ensure I can be the healthiest I can be when I get there. I will continue counting calories and eating healthy, trying to do a better job of eliminating sugar from my diet. I will also start weight training very soon, with the intent of hiring a personal trainer beginning in June. I was taught by my former boss to always have a strategy 40 days out. I have a gameplan and whether I fail or succeed is solely on me now. There are no other variables left in the equation.

Only me. Only dedication.

My favorite fitness and nutrition website

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The best thing about the Internet is also the worst thing about the Internet when it comes to self-researched weight loss: there’s a lot of information online, but almost too much information to know what to do with. That’s not including conflicting sources, stories or methods, or websites designed to sell quick fix weight loss solutions.

Everyone I know who has lost weight or maintains a healthy weight earns it through consistent diet and exercise. But even that for me can be confusing at times. That’s why I like Darebee.com (formerly Neila Rey). The website provides in-depth resources and information, meal plans and the greatest workout plans, modeled after cartoon and video game characters (like the Super Mario workout or the Batman workout).

I went through the website recently and had several links I wanted to keep for reference, so I thought I’d write this post and get them all in one place. Here are some of my favorite resources from Darebee:

Fitness
How to maintain your commitment to fitness
A few tips to get to the right place mentally to stay committed to your fitness routine

How to lose weight
“In order to get fit and then stay that way you need to understand how the process works. It’s not magic and it’s not rocket science, it’s logic—more specifically your body’s logic.”

How to get rid of the belly
“Since we can’t target our bellies specifically no amount of crunches or other ab specific exercises will help us burn reserves there faster. It doesn’t matter how much muscle we put on in a specific part of the body, we burn body fat in an overall way.”

How to build muscle
“It really comes down to what you have access to. Any way you choose to train will get you results provided you put in the time and you keep on challenging your body.”

Boxing basics
“Boxing training is awesome. It will teach you to use your arms and legs. It will push your aerobic capacity to the max. It will tone you and make you feel like a war machine. And it all starts so seemingly simply.”

Hero’s Journey
The ultimate video game-themed battle: A 100 percent bodyweight training crash course in 60 days. Level up, then defeat win the Boss Fight on Day 60.

Recovery
Muscle soreness and recovery
“Exercising with sore muscles, reasonable training without going all out, is extremely beneficial and will help you get stronger faster and, eventually, reduce the next day soreness.  You just need to power through in the beginning and do something, anything but do it all the same.”

Nutrition
Calorie counting explained
“Although Calorie counting can be very handy if you want to keep yourself in-check there are a few things we should keep in mind when you count them.”

Practical guide to eating healthy
“A reasonable guide to eating just a little bit healthier by changing our eating habits and not going broke in the process.”

Healthy eating on a budget
“Healthy doesn’t mean rare or complicated, that’s where “expensive” comes from. Healthy is what your body, not just your taste buds, will appreciate and then use to build a healthier and stronger you. It simply means: nutritious food.”

Top affordable protein sources
“If you need to lose weight protein diets are the best. Low calorie diets may work fast but you lose too much muscle in the process and then gain fat back a lot faster.”

How to eat more fruits and vegetables
“The key to solving this lies in convenience: if we make it convenient to eat more of the healthy food and we will. Here are some practical tips.”

The Modern Hero Diet
A full weight loss and maintenance meal plan. Here’s one for vegetarians.

Healthy snacks
Pictures and recipes of some great healthy snacks.

Health is not a state of mind, it’s a state of action

 

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When I started this blog in October 2010, I said then that it may not be my last time trying to lose weight. In fact, as the graph above shows, these last five years were anything but a victorious decent toward skinnier jeans.

Weight loss is often described as a roller coaster, and for someone who has struggled with weight and their relationship with food for their entire life, it’s interesting to look back on what I’ve done, examine what I’ve learned, and see how that correlates over time.

Things I’ve deduced:

-I start strong every year, but end up giving it all back (and sometimes then some) by year’s end.

-Based on what was going on in my life at the time, it was a combination of how I deal with stress during busy times (by letting go of will power and stress eating everything in sight) and having that coincide with the holiday season from Halloween to New Years (when everything delicious IS actually in sight).

-The greatest dip in my weight loss came in mid-2013 when I was walking at least 3 miles per day, three to five times per week for more than 250 miles that year.

-I always thought healthy, or at least thought of my health or lack of healthiness the entire time, but it was only during times of action that anything positive occurred.

And now I’m basically back where I started from. I ended up in the same cycle this November and December. Combined with an impending move and having all of my stuff in boxes, I gained a lot of weight back in the latter part of 2014 and early 2015. But part of the reason I made huge changes in my life was to actualize my desire to be a healthier, happier person. This week is my sixth week in Northern California and I’m learning something new with each experience a new week brings.

I was recently talking to my friend Neil about this blog and he said what I knew a long time ago, that it lost its focus. Really, that’s a reflection on me and the fact that I had lost focus in making my physical health a priority. I’ve mentioned briefly before that I have struggled with major back issues throughout the last several years. I’ve been recovering for the first time since mid-August and every day I get better in that regard.

Which leads to where I am now, and what I’m doing to get to what’s next.  Continue reading

Recipe: Sous vide top sirloin with garlic roasted broccolini

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One of the last meals I had before leaving Orange County was the Ultimate Steak Dinner at Playground 2.0 in Santa Ana (info), an over-the-top beef party (yeah, I said it) that only left me with the craving for more bloody red flesh.

If I’m ordering a steak out, chances are it’s a ribeye, skirt or hanger cut. But Costco sells packages of prime top sirloin in quantities of four to six for between $20 and $25. Top sirloin’s one of the leanest cuts of red meat, so it makes for a great weeknight dinner in portions that aren’t of the XL steakhouse variety.

I’ve been trying to pair simple meats with simple veggies since I got back in the kitchen. We cooked the meat first in a water bath and then pan seared it to produce a very flavorful dish. Keep reading for the recipe and how-to.

Continue reading

A great way to start off in the Bay

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I posted an announcement on the Fat Dude Facebook page a couple weeks ago, but for those who haven’t read it, I packed up in Orange County and headed north, back to where I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. I’ve started Knife & Spork Public Relations, a firm dedicated to the communications needs of emerging and established restaurants here in the Bay.

I’m also excited because now that I have my own schedule, I have more time to dedicate to this blog, cooking and building an exercise routine that works for me. I’ve been here a week and a half now and the focus has been on cooking, walks and weights. I even caught a guest invite to a cooking demo by James Syhabout, chef/owner of the revered Oakland restaurant Commis.

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He cooked the kohlrabi and salmon soup, pictured up top, at the Google Test Kitchen in Mountain View where my friend works. There, Syhabout shared his tips in the kitchen and lessons learned as the owner of multiple restaurants. As I embark on my own entrepreneurial journey, hearing the successes and challenges of others definitely helps craft my business sense and outlook for Knife & Spork and Fat Dude On A Diet.

There’s a lot going on these days, but I’m happy and incredibly fortunate for the opportunity to continue finding happiness and health in this new year.

Time to get to work!

OC Weekly: Niyaz’s Top 5 Dishes of 2014

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I was fortunate that 2014 was a year of great eating across the country: Spicy Pie slices on the Coachella sprawl (an old favorite); the best steak of my life in Maui; impossible gnocchi in D.C. But there were many dishes to be discovered in Orange County as well. From new twists on old classics to simple things done right, I knew right away what dishes inspired me in the kitchen, or simply kept me coming back for more.

Read my Top 5 Dishes of 2014 at OC Weekly’s Stick a Fork In It blog.

Here’s how I cooked my Thanksgiving turkey, and what I did with the leftovers

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We had guests in town for the holidays, so I was honored to cook the Thanksgiving turkey in our house this year. It’s not every year that I get to cook because we typically eat Thanksgiving lunch out with my family and then fill our bellies at night with Nadia’s family, but lucky me, this bird had my name on it.

I wanted to make something a little different this year, so I went with orange and orange juice, and a few Asian ingredients I had in the pantry. I guess we’ll call this one Asian Orange Turkey. Keep reading to see how I brined and cooked the bird, and what I made with the leftovers. Continue reading

OC Weekly: Eat This Now—Confit & Caramelized Pork Belly at Marché Moderne

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Before our friends Neil and Gina went back to Norcal on Monday, we stopped by South Coast Plaza to share with them our favorite “celebration” restaurant, Marché Moderne. Plates aren’t cheap here, so we don’t come often, but when we do it’s typically for their insanely delicious, insanely priced 3-course $25 lunches (more on that here).

I’ll post more photos from that lunch soon, but for now, here’s a menu item we ordered separate from the prix fixe, which I ended up writing about for OC Weekly. Check out what I have to say about Marché Moderne’s Confit & Caramelized Pork Belly here, at OC Weekly’s Stick A Fork In It blog.

22 crazy courses and more at SAAM at the Bazaar

saam_1My wife Nadia’s 30th birthday is today and we were lucky enough to celebrate with our many of our friends over the weekend. Our group of five—myself, Nadia, middle school friend Neil, his wife Gina, and high school friend Matt (known nerdily to ourselves as the Pentapod)—have made it tradition to celebrate our milestone birthdays together. I’ve blogged about those epic trips before, like when we ate through San Francisco, CoachellaSolvang and Las Vegas (twice).

This weekend the Pentapod was in L.A. and Orange County so we found places near home to enjoy together. Neil and Gina are fans of molecular gastronomist and chef José Andrés, having been to two of his restaurants—é in Las Vegas and SAAM at the Bazaar. They wanted to share the experience with us and I’m glad they did because the 3 1/2-hour meal we had at SAAM turned out to be one of the best dining experiences of my life.  Continue reading

Tattoo No. 6, Version 2.0

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Recently the blog went offline for a while, but now it’s back and I have an iPhone’s worth of food to write about this winter. I’m also going to write a lot more about non-food stuff because I’ve been in the mood to stretch these fingers out on the keyboard for a while, so let’s do this.

First up: My new tattoo!

Here’s what I’ve learned over sitting for 6 tattoos:

-Always research your tattoo artist and their work
-Always check your design stencil twice (four! five!! six times!!!) before it gets inked
-Never get something without thinking through how it will look on your body

With all that said, I recently got a new tattoo to cover up an old one that didn’t come out the way I wanted it to. The positive: I know have a piece of art that I really love, and it’s much better than the one on there before. I found the picture online after searching for art related to the band Tool and their album “10,000 Days.” Their last two albums featured liner note art by Alex Grey, who makes some of the most beautiful and unique paintings I’ve ever seen.

I had three qualifiers for the artist: 1) Can tattoo feathers; 2) Female; 3) Local artist. All of my previous ink was done by men and they tend to hunker in and drill down until the work is done. There’s something to be said about having a light touch—especially when you plan on having multiple needles jammed into your skin over and over.

The lovely and talented Latisha Wood at Vatican Studios in Lake Forest drew the piece directly on my arm and went away at it for 6 hours until we had the final product above.

Feeling good about yourself is important, and as a tattoo “collector” (as I was recently called), fixing the old tattoo was important to me. I couldn’t be happier with the final result, and now I’m already thinking about what No. 7 should be!

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