November 10, 2015

A lesson from Chef Isabella

Yesterday, I decided to try and hit a newish running milestone: run three sub-9:00 miles outside. I hadn't done that since last Thanksgiving when I ran the Turkey Trot 10K. I watched my pace get slower and slower as I dealt with my stress fracture and weight gain. In the spring of this year, I had a hard time even hitting sub-10:00's for three miles.

Last month, I ran a sub-9:00 mile. Then, I ran three miles with a sub-9:00 average pace (one of the miles was 9:17 or something like that). And yesterday, my goal was to hit all three miles at an 8:something pace. It was pretty cold outside, so I wore running tights, long sleeves, and a jacket over that.

Yesterday's run reminded me of the old days, when I was always working on getting faster. I would play mental games with myself to stick it out to the end. During the first mile, I kept thinking about how hard it was and that I didn't want to try to do three. I was thinking of excuses to just do one. When I reached one mile (8:57), I told myself that if I could do just one more, then it would be okay to jog the last mile.

That whole second mile, I was tired and just trying to focus on completing it. That second mile felt like forever. As I got close to the end of that second mile, I started thinking, "Do I jog home? Should I keep going and try for three?" And I decided to aim for three. I knew if I *didn't* try then that little goal would be hanging over my head all week long. So I told myself that if I could do all three at a sub-9:00 pace, then I could do the rest of my runs at a very easy pace for this week. I knew I'd feel a big sense of accomplishment in doing it, so even though it was tough, I pushed through another mile. As soon as my watched beeped (about a block from home), I stopped the Garmin and started walking. I managed to hit all sub-9:00's AND negative splits.

Ideally, I will continue to push the pace until sub-9:00's are comfortable again (at least for three miles). I'd like that to happen by the end of this year. Then in January, I can start to increase distance ever so gradually until I'm running six miles comfortably (I don't have plans of doing more than a 10K distance for next year). I love doing these little short term goals (and mind games) to improve my running.

This morning, I took Joey to Lucky Puppy (his doggy daycare). He hadn't been there in a couple of months, so he was super excited when we pulled up! I went from there to Weight Watchers, because I hadn't been there since late September. The time just keeps going by so fast! I could have sworn I was just there a couple of weeks ago.

For the meeting, Chef Isabella Nicoletti was going to speak. Chef Isabella is Florine Mark's personal chef, and she was hired by Weight Watchers to create dishes that are more WW friendly. Even though I'm not doing WW anymore, I found her absolutely delightful to listen to (that's an odd word to use, but it describes her perfectly). She's Italian, with a strong accent, and I could just listen to her talk all day long--she's hilarious in a sarcastic sort of way.

She talked about how you can make any recipe to work for YOU--by swapping ingredients, or playing around with different types of ingredients to personalize the recipe. She said that recipes are really just a guideline, but you should change things to make them how you want them. This is something I've been doing for years now; I rarely follow recipes exactly as written. Anyway, I was jotting down notes to write about on my blog later, so here are a few tidbits:

  • When you first start swapping things out in recipes, you can make changes based on what you have in your house or what you enjoy, and swap things from the same category--protein for protein, veggie for veggie, carb for carb, etc. Even to make something vegetarian, just swap the animal protein for a vegetarian protein. 

  • Look at the recipe, and if there are ingredients you don't like, just take them out and swap them with something you do like, in the same category. 

  • Lean meat, which is what most people who are losing weight are eating, tends to be dry (she used the boneless, skinless chicken breast as an example). If you find that your meat is always dry, it's overcooked, and you should cut down on the cooking time.

  • She emphasized that it's worth spending an extra point or some extra calories to eat bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts, because they aren't nearly as dry and they are more flavorful. A lot of WW members sacrifice flavor for lower points values, and "that's boring". She also suggested trying chicken thighs for more flavor (even if it is a little higher in calories or fat).

  • Around Thanksgiving, you can use turkey instead of chicken in all sorts of recipes. You don't necessarily have to roast a whole turkey for Thanksgiving--you can find pretty much any chicken recipe you like and swap out the chicken for turkey.

  • She kept stressing how important it is to know the points (or calories) in everything in your kitchen. It make take a while to learn them, but once you do, you can make lower calorie swaps, and you can add up the points in a recipe while you're cooking. 

  • This is a no-brainer, but she said if you're a volume eater, then to add veggies to your meal--you get to eat more volume, but without adding any points.

The meeting was really interesting, and it made me excited to try some new recipes! Here is a video of Chef Isabella if you want to see how delightful she is ;) If you happen to be a WW member in Southeast Michigan, she does a lot of meeting room demos, which you can find a list of here.


  1. she was great. great tips. thanks for sharing! :)

  2. These are great tips! I discovered boneless, skinless chicken thighs last year and I haven't looked back.

    Congrats on hitting your running milestones; that's got to feel so good!

  3. Adding veggies for volume is still something that I use to this day! all great tips.

  4. Great tips! I do those same mental games with myself for encouragement, it's so fun!


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