On Weight Gain

On November 2008, I decided I really needed to lose some weight. I started changing my diet and worked out a whole lot. It took me from November ’08 to June ’09 but I lost 15 pounds. In June ’09 I met my soon-to-be-husband Carlos. Suddenly I was going out to eat a lot, spending a lot of time with him developing our relationship and less time at the gym. I also started taking bc pills (as you do). Not only did I gain back those 15 pounds, I gained 15 more on top of that. The biggest mistake on my part was not buying a new scale immediately when my old one broke. When I finally did get around to buying a new scale was when I noticed the 30 pound weight gain. If I had gotten a replacement scale earlier I could have nipped this in the bud earlier. But I didn’t.

Now it’s September 2012 and I still haven't lost any of that weight. It took me over a year to gain the 30 pounds and I’ve been trying to lose it for 2 years without any success.  The most I lost was 5 pounds and I would gain it back within a couple of weeks. I have not surpassed my highest weight from 2010 but I can't maintain any weight loss either. Why can't I lose the weight? I really don't know. I just know I have some obstacles in my way:

Metabolism – My metabolism has slowed as I’ve gotten older. It started to slow when I was a teenager. I noticed that I started gaining weight even though I hadn’t changed my eating habits. Unfortunately, my eating habits back then were really bad. Lots of fast food restaurants including Taco Bell, DQ, McDonald's and Wendy's. With each year, I’ve learned more and more about nutrition and exercise and my lifestyle has improved immensely. However, my metabolism keeps getting slower and I find it just too easy to gain weight, very difficult to maintain weight (I work on it daily) and almost impossible to lose weight.

Time Crunch – I used to be able to devote a full hour to exercise every evening. That included cardio and strength training. Now that I’m in a long-term relationship, I find I have less time. I devote at least 30-45 minutes on weekdays to exercise and try to do more than an hour on Saturday and Sunday. If I can get 2-3 hours on a Saturday or Sunday, even better! I’ve had to put some of my hobbies aside in order to devote time to exercise. I read less, watch fewer movies, blog less, spend less time online (when I’m home) and don’t hang out with my friends as much. All of these sacrifices have been made just to be able to make time to make dinner and exercise.

Medicine – I know that there have been studies that show that bc pills don’t cause weight gain but I think it’s all based on some sort of technicality. I really do blame a lot of my weight gain on my medication. It’s increased my hunger immensely. I never used to be this hungry all the time. Also, I’ve read studies that say that the pill makes you more efficient in digesting carbohydrates. They turn into fat a lot more easily than if you are off the pill. The bloat and the mild depression that it causes doesn’t help much either especially with comfort and with motivation.

Hypoglycemia – A low blood sugar drop is dangerous and it's an every day worry for me. I always have candies or chocolates on me in case of an emergency. I can not go more than 4 hours without eating. It’s just not possible. As soon as I break my fast in the morning, I have to eat every 2-3 hours. This makes me feel like a total pig. I’ve switched my snacks to healthy options. My in-between meal snacks are fruit, plain almonds, dark chocolate, etc. They used to be more carb and sugar-based options so I’m glad I switched them out. But I still have to eat all damn day. I'm sure my coworkers think I'm some kind of food addict. And the increase in hunger from my medication hasn’t helped either. Also in the past, the pill has made my hypoglycemia worse. I’m sure that's what's happening now too. I’ve stopped drinking caffeine altogether as it causes my insulin to rise and blood sugar to drop triggering my hypoglycemia.

Picky Eating & IBS – There is a really severe conflict between my appetite, my mind and my digestive system. I get bored with food really easily and have to constantly find new recipes to make for meals. My mind tells me I should have grilled chicken/fish for veg each dinner but when I try to do that my appetite gets repulsed. And my digestive system, because of my IBS, just doesn't like anything but cereal. The biggest problem I have is with chicken which I tend to be grossed out by in texture even though I enjoy the flavor. My mind tells me grilled chicken with veg, my appetite tells me meatballs, spaghetti and green beans and my stomach tells me “none of the above”. Trying to pacify my appetite, mind and stomach is very difficult sometimes impossible. It’s something I struggle with every day.

Stress - I don't want to go into this too much but my current situation isn't very good. My relationships are all fine but I do need to make some other life changes so I can move forward. Also, I have a bit of a medical emergency that is weighing on my mind (I go to the hospital for treatment next week). All the stress makes me snack more.

I have a lot of obstacles ahead of me if I really want to lose the 30 pounds I gained plus the other 10 pounds I was originally intending to lose.

Have you ever struggled with weight gain and weight loss? What worked for you? What didn’t?

Natilla - Colombian Custard

While I was browsing Goya's website for recipes, I found this one for Natilla, a Colombian Custard perfect for the Holidays. I went to the grocery store with all intentions of buying the ingredients needed but I couldn't find a bag of Panela (chopped dried sugar cane). I browsed the web to see if I could find a swap for the Panela (in one recipe it said 1 cup of dark brown sugar) but instead I discovered this wonderful version on My Colombian Recipes that required no Panela or Dark Brown Sugar at all! Instead, it had coconut milk, sweetened condensed milk and plain sugar, all of which I had on hand. I also liked that the shredded coconut was inside the custard and that it was dusted with cinnamon on top. It also looked a lot more visually appealing than the Goya recipe or the other ones I found online. I'm trying to reduce my lactose intake so I swapped out regular milk for Almond Milk and besides the butter and the sweetened condensed milk, this was pretty light on the lactose. If you don't like egg-based custards, give this one a try!

Adapted from My Colombian Recipes


3 cups of milk (or Almond Milk), divided
1 cup of cornstarch
2 cinnamon sticks
1 cup of coconut milk
1/2 cup of shredded coconut
1 can of sweetened condensed milk 
1/4 cup of white sugar
dash of salt
1/2 tsp of vanilla
1 tbsps of butter
ground cinnamon to taste

In a small bowl, add 1 cup of the milk and 1 cup of starch. Mix thoroughly until all the cornstarch is dissolved and there are no lumps. Set aside.

In a pot over medium heat, add the rest of the milk (2 cups) and the cinnamon sticks. Warm up the milk without bringing to a boil. Make sure you cover the pot! While that's heating up, add the coconut milk and coconut to a blender and blend until it's as smooth as you can. Roughly 1 minute.

When the milk is warm, add the coconut-coconut milk mixture. Stir and bring to a boil. Add the sweetened condensed milk ,sugar, salt and vanilla.

Now the original recipe says to heat at low for 2-4 minutes until it thickens. I tried this and it was still watery. So I turned it to medium heat (on the lower side) and stirred constantly for about 10 minutes or so until it noticeably thickened and clumps began to form. Drop in the tablespoon of butter at this point.

I took the pot off the heat, grabbed a whisk and whisked until all the lumps were gone. Then I took a 9 X 13 baking dish and poured the custard in. Let cool for an hour. Sprinkle some cinnamon on top then let cool for a couple more hours (or up to 2 days) in the fridge. Cut slices cold and serve. Enjoy!

Amsterdam Falafelshop in Davis Square - Somerville, MA

Amsterdam Falafelshop is the newest eatery in Davis Square (Somerville, MA). I'm very glad for this new addition to the area! Amsterdam Falafelshop offers hot, fresh and crispy falafels in white or whole wheat lavash bread. You can order a small with 3 falafel or a regular with 5. The bread is the same so if you order a regular it's basically an overstuffed sandwich. A small with 3 falafel is plenty and leaves enough room for lots of toppings.

Oh and the toppings. There are tons and tons of toppings. Amsterdam Falafelshop is basically a build-your-own falafel place. They stuff the lavash bread with the falafel and hand it to you in a paper cone. They you add toppings (unlimited!) which include:

Garlic Cream Sauce
Yogurt Dill Sauce
Baba Ganoush
Chickpea Salad
Imported Pickets
Pickled Turnips
Pickled Cauliflower Salad 
Garlic Parsley
Redd Cabbage
Cucumber Onion Salad
Beet Salad
Cole Slaw
and more

There are no fresh tomatoes which made me a bit sad.

 It's a bit awkward to order here. There is no menu board so I wasn't sure what the heck I was doing. The signage with instructions was small and I completely missed it (you can see it above). There was a nice lady at the counter who explained everything to me including the sizes. I didn't know they had fries until after I left and had read a Yelp review. Apparently they also have curry ketchup to go with the fries which I didn't know.

 I got a small 3 falafel sandwich on whole wheat. My toppings included Garlic Parsley, Tahini, Humus, Pickled Cauliflower salad, Beets, Imported Pickles and Pepperoncini. It was delicious. The falafel balls were hot and crispy on the outside. The seasonings were just right. Not too much herb mixture. All the toppings I got were delicious. The Garlic Parsley is amazing. Next time, I'll add more of that and the tahini and skip the hummus.  The pickled vegetables were good too and I found myself picking them out to eat them whole. My only regret was not adding more of those amazing Imported pickles!

They do have a couple desserts including an imported Stroopwafel caramel waffle cookie for $1.75 and chocolate brownies for $2.50. I had a Stroopwafel and it was delicious. Very flavorful caramel with some really good vanilla. It's basically an over-processed cookie but I thought I would get it for fun. For drinks they have bottled water and IZZE sparkling juices. Not much of a selection but I didn't go there with drinks in mind.

Once I was done building my falafel sandwich, I had to awkwardly hold the cone while I was rung up and signed my receipt (they take credit cards by the way!). I wish the falafel sandwich was served in a box container which one could close up when paying at the cashwrap. I like the build-your-own set-up, I just forsee me dropping one of those sandwiches before I get out the door. The guy at the cashwrap offered to wrap my falafel sandwich in foil and put it in a bag which helped.

The quality of the food at Amsterdam Falafelshop is very good. They just need to work on signage, traffic control and packaging. But I'll be back!

Beef and Vegetable Ramen Soup

Back in my college days I really loved Cup 'o Noodles. But today I avoid it because of all that MSG.  I was feeling nostalgic for my beloved Cup 'o Noodles complete with dehydrated meat and veg. I searched online for a Cup 'o Noodles or Ramen that was sans MSG but  it was to no avail. However, one good thing about that cheap Ramen Noodle packets is that the powder that contains the MSG is in a separate packet. In the Cup 'O Noodles it's sprinkled on top of the dry noodles. So I could just toss the packet and eat the Ramen! Woohoo!

I got this recipe from Family Circle which called for the beef flavor packet with MSG and water but I replaced both with beef broth. Much better! A grown up MSG free Ramen soup.


6 cups of beef broth
(or 1 box of beef broth, which equals 4 to 4-1/2 cups of broth, and water to make 6 cups total)
2 tablespoons of soy sauce
1 teaspoon of chili garlic sauce*
1 teaspoon of ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper*
1 head of Chinese Cabbage, cored and finely shredded
3 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
2 packages of ramen instant noodle soup (throw away the MSG packets)2 large mushrooms sliced
1/4 cup of frozen corn kernels (fresh is even better!)
1 small steak, cooked and thinly sliced
sliced green onions for garnish

*If you don't want your soup spicy, then omit these items

Add the beef broth, soy sauce, chili garlic sauce, ground ginger, cayenne pepper to a large pot. Cover with lid and bring to a simmer over medium heat.

When it's simmering, add the cabbage and carrots and cook for about 5 minutes. Then add the ramen, mushrooms and corn and cook for another 3 minutes.

Once it's done, add the sliced steak and top with sliced green onions. Enjoy with some chopsticks!

Vegetable Egg Scramble and Arroz Con Fideos (Rice with Noodles)

This is one of my favorite comfort meals. It's something my mom used to make for me on a regular basis and I now make it for my husband. It's pretty easy on my sensitive stomach and it's very satisfying. It also makes for a very inexpensive vegetarian dinner.

Make the Arroz con Fideos first then while that's cooking start the Vegetable Egg Scramble.

Arroz con Fideos

2 rounds of angel hair pasta
extra light olive oil
2 cups of rice, rinsed
2 cups of boiling water
salt to taste

Pastene sells Angel Hair rounds. Goya also sells them as "Fideos".

In a pot, heat up a couple drizzles of olive oil until it starts to sizzle and pop. Crumble the angel hair pasta over the oil. Stir and toast until it starts to turn brown. Stay with it because it burns really quickly. You don't want it to burn but you do want it to brown.

Add the 2 cups of rinsed rice to the pot. Stir then add the 2 cups of boiling water and salt to taste. Stir and let sit at medium heat until the pasta and rice have absorbed the water.

Turn the heat to very low and cover. Cook for 11 minutes. Then stir the rice bringing the rice and noodles from the bottom up. Then cook for another 11 minutes.

Vegetable Egg Scramble

10 eggs whisked with 1 tablespoon of water
1 large tomato or 2 plum tomatoes seeded and chopped
2 scallions chopped
1/2 green pepper chopped
Extra light olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

In a large skillet, heat up some extra light olive oil. Once it starts to sizzle, add the vegetables and sautee until the green peppers start to get soft. You'll want to cook the vegetables before hand so that some of the moisture out. I like to cook the green peppers first then add the tomato and scallions later. You can also substitute sliced thin white onion for the scallions.

In a medium bowl, crack 10 eggs. I like to take one egg yolk out to make it a bit lighter. Add 1 tablespoon of water and whisk. The water helps the eggs blend better.

Add the eggs to the skillet with the vegetables. Stir and move the eggs around until fully cooked. You can make this as an omelet but I prefer it scrambled.

Serve with the Arroz Con Fideos and enjoy!

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