Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Buffets on a Diet: The Ten Commandments

Since joining Weight Watchers a mere month and a half ago, I have felt that I could stay on it for life. The structure of the program, especially the flexible “weekly points” to dole out how you like (my weekly points about to about 1.5x the amount I get per day), allows you to live a pretty normal life that includes “bad” foods you love. You just have to plan for them.

Now is a good time to admit a bias here: it really bothers me a bit when people seem reluctant to use their weekly points. Those points are there to be spent!! You will still lose weight if you eat them all, and you will be MUCH happier if you can treat yourself while on a diet. I wonder how many of the folks who quit the program after a few months don’t regularly utilize their weekly points? Or didn’t start out using them? I don’t know. I haven’t even been with the program for a few months yet, so I guess my annoyance is premature.

Anyway, back on topic: It took me 6.5 weeks in the program, but I finally manned up and decided to conquer the biggest beast of them all:

The Casino Buffet.

No regular buffet would do here. I was looking for a trial by fire. This particular casino buffet, at Harrah’s in Atlantic City, had all the fixings: Brazillian churrascaria, pasta bar, chinese food, and a whole half of the room dedicated solely to---you guessed it---desserts.

I ate to my heart’s content and managed to stay within my points allowance (although I used up all but five of my weekly points). Had I listened to my hunger signals, I would have been left with even more points. But it’s a buffet, and you couldn’t expect me to be totally good, right?

So, in an effort to facilitate “on program” splurging, I am detailing my strategy below. Weigh-in is on Wednesday, so hopefully I don’t have to follow this post with a sheepish entry about gaining 5 pounds. But even if that happens, my main point here is that it’s possible to stay within your points at a buffet if you plan ahead.

The Jewish Girl’s 10 Buffet Commandments

1. Thou shalt know thine enemy.
Before dinnertime, scope out the scene whenever possible. I’d been to this buffet before so I knew what was going to be there. I was not caught off-guard by the delicious-looking-but-very-high-in-points Brazillian sausage, because I knew it was there. I was able to steel my mind against its wonderfully fatty influence. Although no food is off-limits, the goal was to stretch my points over as wide a variety of food as possible, and foods like sausage just don’t make sense when you can also have alternatives like steak or prime rib, which are leaner and lower in points per ounce.

2. Thou shalt save your weekly points and keep them holy.
If you have enough lead-time on the buffet, you can save almost all of your weekly points for the occasion. Eat during Game Day, but eat light. Leave yourself at least half of your daily points to work with, maybe more.

3. Thou shalt not have any other plates before salad.
The salad bar is your friend, friends. Load that baby up with zero-point value veggies and add some balsamic vinegar for flavor without the points. A big salad is about .5 points. Don’t count it as zero---it’s a lot of food---but be happy that you are satisfying your initial ravenousness with something that won’t kill your food/points/calorie budget.

4. Thou shalt not bow down before the red meat idol.
While salmon is relatively high in points, high-quality buffet staples like crab legs and shrimp are not. Load up your second plate with this seafood. Skip the drawn butter (this broke my heart too) and go with cocktail sauce to dip to save yourself an absolute ton of points.

An added bonus of the seafood plate might be particular to me as a Jewish Girl...but I enjoy feeling like I’m eating my money’s worth at a buffet. This often leads me to focus on the steak and other quality meats, which are okay but are also doing my body a disservice. Seafood is a great value not only in points, but also in price. That stuff is pricey by the pound!

5. Thou shalt not covet the plate of thy neighbor.
This may seem obvious, but it will be difficult to munch on that salad or peel that shrimp when your boyfriend sits down with a plate of other yummies. The goal is to fill up on delicious things that you like that are low in points before you have some of the delicious things you like that are high in points. Do your best to keep your blinders on and focus on the game plan.

6. Thou shalt not eat fatty foods in vain.
Eat them, just don’t allow them to ruin your efforts---and don't bother with them if they're not wonderful. Before walking into the buffet, I knew the points values of almost everything I wanted to eat. I had a specific idea of how many ounces of high-points things I could eat, and I stuck to it. 3 oz of two kinds of steak. 1/4 cup macaroni and cheese. Three plantains. These things were delicious, and I’m glad I ate them. I’m also glad I limited my intake since it allowed me to eat the variety I wanted while still sticking to the plan.

7. Thou shalt honor thy tracker and thy points calculator.
Tracking as you go (or at least before you go for dessert) can help you decide whether it’s worth it to have an extra slice of steak if you know it will cost you a bit of ice cream. When calculating points values, round up in portion size or add two teaspoons of butter to your tracker if you’re eating anything that could even remotely have butter in it. Better to overestimate a bit, since there’s probably hidden fat somewhere.

8. Thou shall not limit thy vegetables to salad.
The Harrah’s buffet has a mongolian grill, which was a great option to add some steamed spinach and other veggies to my plate. When the food is cooked to order, you can specify that you don’t want any oil or sauce, which provides a safe 0-points, filling side dish.

9. Thou shall not bear false witness against thine own love for dessert.
Really, be honest with yourself. Are you SERIOUSLY going to resist the revolving dessert display?

Methinks no.

That’s OKAY. I planned to only eat one dessert (delicious crepes + cherries made to order), but I also planned to totally cave in a moment of weakness and eat an unplanned second dessert (FLAN! They’re always out of flan!! I can’t believe there’s FLAN!). If you plan your dinner right, you’ll stay in the neighborhood of fifteen or twenty points. With enough weekly points left, you can be naughty at the dessert table. So custardly naughty.

If you do manage to resist the dessert tray (I tried bringing along a delicious weight watchers mini bar as a substitute to no avail), then you’ll have an added bonus of having weekly points left to enjoy on another day. Win-win.

10. Thou shall not murder your enjoyment of a delicious meal.
Don’t forget: you saved up your points for this. You planned. Yes, you are indulging. Yes, you are using an obscene amount of points/calories, but you are having a delicious dinner. Even more, you are at a BUFFET. ON A DIET. Keep relishing the fact that you are still losing weight as long as you keep to the game plan. Guilt should be out the window if you’re on the program!

I’m telling you: that knowledge makes the food taste even better.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Keebler Mini Fudge Stripe Cookies (100 Calorie Pack)

Small? Yes.

Taste a lot like the big thing? Yes.

Eat ~10.5 per pack for 2 points? Also yes.

Fun to take pictures with because it’s so teeny tiny? Indeed.

Hungry-Girl.com: 1/3, but it’s a REALLY good one.

[First, a disclaimer: I realize the photo quality on this blog thus far is not what you’d expect from an industry-standard food blog. After an unfortunate snorkeling accident, I’ve been left with just my iPhone to take pictures. However, I bought a new digital camera today, so things should get better once it arrives.]

A few weeks after I started Weight Watchers (down two more pounds this week!), I discovered Hungry Girl (HG). The basic premise of her website is that she is a chick who likes eating (hence the name---get it?), but she also likes not being fat. Her website is filled, among other things, with helpful suggestions for “swaps,” in which you trade the fattening and points-heavy version of a common food for something that’s better for you, but still tasty.

I have spent the week preparing the various HG recipes that jumped out at me. Onion rings. Butternut squash fries.

Look great, no?

Well, no.

Both my attempts at HG swaps came out burned, withered, rubbery, and just not tasty at all. I’m willing to attribute this to perhaps an increased cooking speed in my oven (I followed her suggested cooking times), and I may try them again with modifications, but in general I was disappointed with my results.

I was almost reluctant to get back on the Hungry Horse, but I just couldn’t resist trying HG’s version of Mac & Cheese. I adore mac & cheese, but it’s very points-heavy (9 points a cup for just the Kraft Blue Box...don’t even ask me about a real M&C casserole). HG’s version was just 4 points a cup, so if there was even a slim possibility that it would not come out tasting like bathwater, I was probably going to work this recipe into my weekly routine.

Thankfully, HG hit it out of the park with this one.

The M&C was incredibly easy to make, delicious, hearty, and had the perfect mix of ingredients. I was skeptical of the cauliflower, and I was skeptical that extra cheese (the laughing cow wedges) were needed. However, after having tried the cheese sauce without the laughing cow, I can safely say that the wedges added a wonderful thickness and creaminess that tasted a lot like the M&C I get at some of my favorite bars and BBQ restaurants. It’s rich, thick, and cheesy. REAL cheesy, too, not chemical cheesy. Is it possible I’m just delirious from dieting? Maybe. Is this stuff good enough to feed to my boyfriend, who is not on a diet? Definitely.

I’m copying HG’s recipe below. I made a half recipe, since I’m just once person and my grocery store doesn’t sell family-sized bags of Green Giant veggies. I also added a dash of paprika for a bit of a different flavor. Served with steamed broccoli and a Gorton’s grilled fish fillet (2 points).

Hungry Girl’s Mac & Cheese

  • 1 package Green Giant Family Size Cauliflower & Three Cheese Sauce (freezer aisle) [Family Size is 24 ounces. I used one 10 oz. package]

  • 2 cups uncooked Ronzoni Healthy Harvest Whole Wheat Blend Rotini Pasta (or another whole-wheat or whole-wheat-blend pasta) 
[I used 1 cup]
  • 3 wedges The Laughing Cow Light Original Swiss cheese [I used 2 wedges]
  • Optional: salt and black pepper, to taste [I added paprika]

Prepare pasta according to the instructions on the box, and then drain well and set aside. While pasta is cooking, place contents of the cauliflower & sauce package in a large microwave-safe bowl. Cover and microwave for 12 - 16 minutes, until sauce has melted and cauliflower is hot.

Once the bowl is cool enough to handle, remove it from the microwave and add cooked pasta. Set aside. Unwrap cheese wedges and place in a small microwave-safe dish. Microwave for 30 seconds. Stir until smooth, and then add to the bowl.

Mix thoroughly, ensuring that the Laughing Cow cheese is evenly distributed and the pasta and cauliflower are coated in cheese sauce. If you like, season to taste with salt and pepper. Enjoy!

MAKES FOUR 1-CUP SERVINGS [Mine makes two]

Four weight watchers points per serving!! That’s about 200 calories, 4.5 grams of fat, at 5g of fiber.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Pot(f)uck Key Lime Pie

On Saturday, I went to my first potluck while on a diet. I knew this would be a disaster without advance thought, so I developed a plan of attack. My strategy was pretty straightforward: stuff myself with veggies and hummus all day (low cal, low points), and save all my points for dinner. Bring a low-points dish in the category of food in which I least expected to have options.

I sort of failed in my first goal (SAVE THE POINTS!) by having a bit of BF’s homemade fettucini masterpiece with lunch without calculating it first (two ounces = 5 points! WTF!). My second goal, however, was definitely a success.

The theme of the potluck was “Internationality,” in which each guest brought a dish reflecting their heritage. I’ve got a bit going for me in that area: Jewish, Russian, New York, Florida, and Weight Watchers (I consider this to be part of my heritage now). I figured there would be meat and vegetables in the appetizer/entree category, but I assumed (correctly) that the dessert table would be filled with battered, fried, sugared, and fatty foods. I started hunting for diet-friendly, but also taste/potluck friendly, desserts.

I found a recipe for a 5-point-per-slice key lime pie (hello Florida!). This was so incredibly easy to make that I will definitely be making it again. The only problem with the recipe, IMO, was that it didn’t fully set. Despite cooking it for almost ten minutes beyond the recommended time, it still didn’t quite solidify. It had the consistency of a pudding rather than a custard. I’m inclined to blame myself and not the recipe. I’ll try cooking it for longer next time, but even with a bit of goopiness it was still delicious.

“What do you mean you’re on a diet??” Key Lime Pie

  • 6 oz pie crust (I used graham cracker. I was reluctant to use a pre-made crust, but the filling softened up the crust nicely. You can tell the difference, but you save several points per slice by avoiding the homemade graham cracker crust)
  • One can (14 oz) fat-free sweetened condensed milk
  • 8 oz egg beaters
  • Fat free whipped cream (8 oz)
  • 1/2 cup fresh lime juice
That’s right---just three main ingredients!

  1. Preheat oven to 325.
  2. Wisk together the egg beaters, lime juice, and milk.
  3. Pour into the pie crust. Put the pie crust on a baking sheet. (I didn’t use a baking sheet. Could that explain the goopiness?)
  4. Bake about 15 minutes, until the center looks “set but still slightly quivery, like gelatin.”
  5. Let it cool on a rack. Then put in fridge and let cool more for about two hours.
  6. Top with whipped cream as you please.

Bad picture, I know...I need to get a new camera. The fat-free whipped cream melted SUPER-fast, and I sort of hurriedly put it on in a less pretty pattern than before.

I’m a Dendrophobe

I’m walking down a flight of stairs, I lose my footing, and I fall forward, landing on my face, and then slide down a few steps until I come to a stop at the bottom with my teeth knocked out and my mouth bloody. I haven’t been to the dentist in two years, and I finally show up for my cleaning, only to learn that my teeth are almost totally decayed; half of them will need root canals, and half will need to be taken out. I get into a bar fight (I’m scrappy) and someone knocks out my teeth with a pool cue.

For the last several months, I’ve been having these horrible thoughts about something catastrophic happening to my teeth. They’re not “visions” or “premonitions,” since I don’t have a strong sense that any of these thoughts will come true. They can’t be nightmares, because I’m awake. It’s especially bad on stairs.

I looked it up, and there’s a name for this fear: Dendropophobia. Fear of losing your teeth.

Trust me on this: do NOT google image search "knocked out teeth."
This is the least horrifying picture I got.

I love my teeth. They form a really beautiful smile, and I have long considered my smile to be my best quality. It’s the kind of smile I’m often afraid to unleash upon strangers in full force, as it often causes people to spontaneously fall in love with me.

I’m only slightly exaggerating. It’s a good smile.

I think my fears of losing my teeth are connected to aging. I’m still quite young, but I’ll be thirty within five years, and I’ll only get older from there. There’s nothing wrong with aging---I think women become more confident and comfortable as they age---but I do sometimes worry about where I’ll be when my skin is no longer as tight or smooth as it is now. These thoughts have always been mitigated by the calming idea that I’ll always have my teeth.

Until one day a few months ago...I first had the thought of falling down stairs. I haven’t been able to shake them. For the last several months, I’ve been waking up with my teeth tightly clenched.

I went to the dentist today for the first time in about a year and a half. I was terrified that one of my visions would come true, but I knew I had to start taking steps to rid myself of these horrible mental pictures. The prognosis was better than I thought: one cavity, one potential trouble spot. I’m supposed to consult with a periodontist about receding gums (remember when your parents/dentists told you to brush your teeth really well as a kid? we now know that hard brushing causes receding gums in adulthood. thanks for telling me now!) (this might have to wait until I get better dental coverage). The dentist noticed signs that I’d been gnashing my teeth in my sleep, so I’m going to get fitted for an overnight bite guard.

I feel a bit better now that I’ve enlisted a professional to take care of concrete problems.

I still think I’ll be taking it extra-slowly on staircases, though.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Well Played: My Evidence Professor

This is an excerpt from the next section of reading on our syllabus:

Funny guy, my evidence professor.

For further proof, see, e.g.:

Two One-Pound Bags of Rice are HEAVY

As I alluded to in my last post, according to the WW scale at my meeting last night, I’m down two pounds this week! And I hit my 5% goal, meaning that I lost 5% of my starting weight. So, my home scale has me down 1.5 pounds in the last two weeks, and the WW scale has me down 1. That’s pretty close.

I attribute the loss to the fact that I “taxed” myself in most restaurants, adding a few teaspoons of oil or butter to each meal. I also over-counted some of my sandwiches to account for the effect of cumulative points.

When I entered my new weight into weight watchers online tracking tool, it actually told me to be careful since I might be losing weight too fast. I’m a bit worried that I will gain a bit back and be back over my 5% mark (I’m only .4 pounds under 5%), but I’m trying to be better about accepting small fluctuations as normal.

For now, I’m pretty happy. But am headed to DC this weekend to hang out with the BF, and that usually leads to lots and lots of restaurants. I’m going to try to insist on cooking one dinner. I’ve got a new cookbook I want to try out, and this section has lacked recipes.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

A Peanut-Buttery BARgain

One of my favorite holiday treats is the Reese’s Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Pumpkin. It’s basically a big Reese’s cup, but with 2x the filling and the same amount of chocolate. In other words, it is some kind of nirvana. They also make them for Easter (in the shape of giant eggs) and Christmas (trees).

I was reminded of these last night, when I was prowling the law school cafeteria for a quick snack. I thought I’d splurge, but then I calculated the points, and I couldn’t justify spending four points (the equivalent of a veggieburger with cheese on a sandwich thin) for a piece of candy. I was sad at the thought of giving up this delicious goodness in the absence of countervailing exercise.

THEN, I tried these little delights after my WW meeting today (I’m down two pounds! More on that later):

Holy lifesaver, Batman. These babies are DELICIOUS. They taste similar to my beloved Reese’s trees/eggs---and I mean “on a diet” similar, as in, nobody is getting fooled in a blind taste test but they are still causing my tastebuds to break dance. And the best part is that they only cost one point. These are good enough to eat even if you are a non-weight watching person who likes peanut butter and chocolate. I want another one already, even though I only just finished my first one two minutes ago. I actually meant to take a picture of the bitten bar for this entry, but the bar was so good that I ate it before I could remember that I wasn’t supposed to eat it until I took a picture.

I’ve had mixed experiences with WW products (see one example below), but this one is an all-around total winner.

Holy lifesaver, Batman. These babies are DELICIOUS. They taste similar to my beloved Reese’s trees/eggs---and I mean “on a diet” similar, as in, nobody is getting fooled in a blind taste test but they are still causing my tastebuds to break dance. And the best part is that they only cost one point. These are good enough to eat even if you are a non-weight watching person who likes peanut butter and chocolate. I want another one already, even though I only just finished my first one two minutes ago. I actually meant to take a picture of the bitten bar for this entry, but the bar was so good that I ate it before I could remember that I wasn’t supposed to eat it until I took a picture.

I’ve had mixed experiences with WW products (see one example below), but this one is an all-around total winner.

Take a moment and imagine what the item inside this wrapper looks like. Just guess.


Got it? Got a good picture of it in your noggin?


Okay, let’s open that wrapper...

WTF. No wonder this nugget is only one point. (In fairness, though, it’s really good. It’s like a Rolo, but in a nugget. Maybe it melted?)

In other news, I am freezing my “snack bar” budget until further notice. Things in my pantry are getting out of hand:

Offensive In-Class Moment #81

I’m breaking my self-imposed ban not to post during my morning evidence class (which largely explains my lack of posting over the last two days) to post this prickly moment from in-class discussion. I apologize in advance if this is not interesting to anyone but law students taking Evidence. It actually might not translate at all online, but I’ll try.

Generally, you can’t offer evidence to show that someone has a trait of character if you’re offering that evidence to prove that they acted consistently with that trait. One of the many exceptions to this rule is if you’re talking about “habit” or “routine practice.” This is meant to refer only to items that are mindless, unthinking, automatic, rote, mechanical. Basically, these exceptions mean that in x situation, you will pretty much always do y.

Offensive moment:
We’re talking about the stricter requirements for evidence of a sexual assault victim’s character/sexual history. Our professor asked why it might be relevant if the victim has had sexual interactions with the defendant in the past.

One of my classmates answered, “Because it’s habit or routine practice?”

Something about a student thinking there could ever be a situation where a woman would consider sex with a man to be so rote and mindless that she instantly would remove her clothes and have sex with him in a given scenario...

....okay, well, now that I put it this way, it sounds more relatable. I guess I should emphasize that “habit” is truly automatic and doesn’t leave room for, “I didn’t feel like it that day.”

I don’t know. Maybe this is just my oversensitive Jewish Girl Law Student coming through? Does it affect your coloring of the situation if I tell you that the student commenter is male? Did you already assume that?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Weigh-In Number 5

Wow, I didn’t realize that I hadn’t posted in this portion of the blog since my gain last week (or, semi-gain, if you account for the 1/2 pound loss on the home scale).

Tonight is my fifth weigh-in. I’m down a pound from last week’s home scale number. I’m trying not to drink soda or have much salt today so I don’t retain water---I want that loss to show! I’m gonna have to come up with some kind of unified standard for weigh-in day. I’m thinking: clothes(T-shirt, jeans, belt); food during the day (nothing to eat or drink within an hour of the meeting, no soda during the day); generally avoid foods with lots of added salt.

The things that helped me deal with the minor disappointment of last week’s gain include:
  • Focusing on the program. I tracked EVERYTHING, I overestimated in restaurants (I added presumptive butter or olive oil points to all of my meals). Whenever I had a sandwich or other kind of combo food, I used the “recipe builder” e-tool to come up with the cumulative point value for my food (which was generally one point more than the component parts).

  • Reading the online WW message boards. I only did this for a day, but one of the women on the boards said something about how she’s been with WW for three years, and she often sees people quit after 3-6 weeks. She says these people are the ones who are overachieving perfectionists who get discouraged with their progress and leave the program. I was never thinking about quitting, but I could see my own personality traits reflected in that comment. I am definitely an overachiever, and I did feel discouraged by the small setback of gaining a pound.

  • I cut back my restaurant patronage. It’s just harder to know what you’re eating, and you KNOW they’re using more butter and oil than you would at home. Unfortunately, I don’t always have the option to cook for myself---visiting my boyfriend in D.C. is often a restaurant-fest---but since I could this week, I did.

  • I didn’t weigh myself every day. I’ll admit, after the gain I weighed myself again on Thursday. And then again on Friday. And I was not liking what I saw. Finally, I just gave up on seeing the numbers drop overnight and focused on making good choices for the rest of the week. From now on, I’m only allowing myself one weigh-in a week, and that’s for purely statistical purposes.
I’ll let you know how it goes. It’s been good to have the home scale measure. If I stay OP, eventually, the WW scale will catch up.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Look out for #1

My week 4 Weight Watchers book has a quiz to help you assess the problems you face that keep you from losing weight. I’m not sure how telling it is that, of 40 questions about my feelings and habits, not ONE of my responses indicated that I’m not putting myself first.

I’m sure my mother could have a field day with this one. (hi mom!)

Gaining a Foothold

“You’re up this week.” Then the weigh-in guy at my weekly meeting started jotting something down in my weekly book.

I wasn’t sure what he meant. Up in what? Poker? Yes, that’s true. Up...how? Then I understood---I was up in weight this week.

“You’re still doing great though!” He smiled as he handed back my book. He’s right; I’m down 6.4 pounds this month, and I’ve been eating lovely foods and exercising more and feeling mostly great about how I’m living. And in fairness, I felt a bit heavier and suspected that maybe this week would register a gain...but I followed the program, so I figured the heavy feelings were in my head.

Well, they weren’t. So now I’m trying to understand what happened. Maybe those weight-watchers/dieters among you can give me your thoughts on the situation.

I’ve been thinking about it in two different ways.

Way #1: I didn’t ACTUALLY gain a pound this week (although I probably didn’t lose anything either).

Supporting evidence:

I weighed myself at home yesterday morning, before eating/drinking/wearing anything, and I was down half a pound from last week.

I was potentially wearing slightly heavier clothes this week than last week (this one is probably negligible)

I ate a veggie/hommus snack and drank some water right before being weighed at the meeting.

Way #2: I did actually gain a pound this week, because even though I thought I stayed within my points, I didn’t actually.

Supporting evidence:

I ate at restaurants a LOT more this week than usual, and for at least two of them, I ate something blatantly unhealthy (usually I only have one blatantly unhealthy restaurant meal a week). While I included all these points in my points tracker, the likelihood of miscalculating point values in restaurants is quite high---you never know how much butter/oil/secret ingredients are being used in whatever you’re eating.

I haven’t been counting meals cumulatively, I’ve been counting them in pieces. For some foods/snacks, the combination of ingredients adds up to more points than the cumulative point value of the components. For example, I had fruit and yogurt for breakfast this morning. The yogurt was 0 points, the fruit (three varieties) was 0.5 points. Normally, I’d mark this down as 0.5 points. But I entered this combo into the WW Online calculator as a recipe, and together, the fruit + yogurt added up to 2 points. If this has happened a few times a day, that (plus the guesstimated point values of the restaurants) could account for mistakenly going over my points.

I’ve been drinking a LOT of diet soda this week. As in, several cans a day. I’ve read that soda causes you to retain water, which could account for part of the pound.

So, I’m a little disappointed because I felt like I followed the plan this week, but it’s certainly possible I accidentally (and unknowingly) fell off the wagon amidst all of these restaurants.

The goals for this week are as follows:

Record all meals/sandwiches/combinations of ingredients as recipes/meals in my online tracker to get a better record of cumulative points.

Each day, drink as many glasses of water as cans of soda. (I’d really like to avoid giving up diet soda entirely if I can help it)

Only one heavy (i.e., non-fish, non-salad, non-chicken; pasta, cheese, bread) restaurant meal allowed.

We’ll see how this goes. It helps that I am weighing myself independently and I know I’m doing okay, (and my official WW weight shows that I’m doing okay as an average weekly loss), but it’s still a bit disappointing. All of last night, I felt like I could feel my stomach expanding around me---I was hyperaware of my weight in a way that I haven’t been for the last three weeks of weight loss. I’m trying to focus on the fact that the choices I am making now are much better than the ones I’d been making before that had been causing me to slowly but surely gain.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

“Facebook Ruined My Relationship”

My boyfriend recently sent me an article from the Wall Street Journal about the perils of friending your former flames on Facebook (but not about using too many “F”s in one sentence). In the article, author Elizabeth Bernstein---also a Jewish Girl?---describes some of the many perils of friending former romantic interests, including:
  1. Your flame has gotten fat and you subsequently feel grossed out.

  2. Your flame is a different sexual orientation, and you subsequently feel grossed out.

  3. Your flame is still hot and sexy, you leave your current relationship/marriage/family member for your facebooked flame, and those around you subsequently feel grossed out.

Aside from the fact that 1 and 2 would not gross me out, nor would number 3 ever occur, I have another big problem with Bernstein’s article.

To deal with what Bernstein makes out to be a horrific epidemic of people suffering from grossedoutedness at the hands of former facebook flames, she proposes a number of “New Rules.”

Strike an agreement with your current partner that you will each disclose any Facebook friends you have slept with. Or, like Katie Robinson, limit your online "friends" to people of the same sex. "It is hard enough to have a relationship without the intrusion of people from your past," says Ms. Robinson, a 33-year-old artist in Memphis, Tenn.

. . . I beg your pardon? What? How do you even go about having that conversation? I have like 700 friends on Facebook. Are we supposed to go through all of them to find the negligible (I REPEAT: NEGLIGIBLE) number of them that are relevant to this inquiry? Or maybe it would be easier to just send my boyfriend direct links to the relevant profiles. This strikes me as completely absurd.

Even more absurd is limiting your friends to the gender to which you are sexually attracted. Who is this Katie Robinson woman, and why is she so tempted by the hot steamy intrusions of her past facebook flames? Here’s a thought: if you can be convinced to leave your current relationship by an intrusion from another male, maybe you jumped into your current relationship a bit too soon, eh? Just a thought.

Her other suggestion---sharing passwords---is slightly less offensive, but still bad.

I sometimes keep in touch with ex-boyfriends, sometimes through Facebook. None of my relationships really ended badly (nor were any of them longer than a few months), and I still like many of these guys as friends. I am not fielding pokes from them on a daily basis, but we do keep in touch; we consider ourselves friends. Other people---my BF among them---cut off former flames immediately upon breaking up and never look back. I don’t think I’m like that, and I don’t necessarily think there’s anything wrong with that. Am I wrong?

My bottom line here is that trust is a vital component of a relationship. These measures all imply that you don’t trust your partner. You can’t control or know about every aspect of your partner’s life, and why would you want to? Where’s the excitement?

Perhaps my view of this is tainted by the fact that I have yet to be horribly betrayed by a man I was dating (other men in my life are a somewhat different story). Still, I approach relationships with an underlying level of “trust until proven untrustworthy.” If ever proven untrustworthy, I couldn’t stay, but until then...keep your Facebook friends, and I’ll keep mine.

And I definitely don’t want to know which of my BF’s friends he has boinked.

I’m curious to hear your thoughts on this, readers. Do you keep in touch with former flames? Are you facebook friends with them? Do you think such a thing is an unforgivable offense? What do you think of Bernstein’s solution to this whole situation?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Advice for those contemplating Sweet ‘n Low

Are you thinking about adding an artificial sweetener to your drink? Is there no Splenda or Equal in the near vicinity? Are you thinking about using Sweet ‘n Low instead? Allow me to suggest the following diet-friendly alternatives:
  1. Try peeing in your drink instead. It will taste the same, but you won’t feel compelled to drink the pee.

  2. Punch yourself in the esophagus. If you aren’t capable of punching yourself very hard in your own esophagus, get a friend to help you.

  3. Use regular sugar. Four packets = one weight watchers point, and---unlike coffee with Sweet ‘n Low---the resulting mixture will actually be drinkable.

Ech. I cannot for the life of me understand why this product is still manufactured.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Five point lunch!

I love it when I do this.

Turkey Sandwich (3 points):
Arnold’s Sandwich Thins whole wheat bun (1 point)
Three slices 98% fat free smoked turkey breast (1 point)
One slice low-fat Kraft White American Cheese (1 point)
Lettuce and tomato (0 points)
Hellman’s low-fat mayo (0 points)
Nathan’s Deli Mustard (0 points)

On the Side:
One and a half cups Split Pea Soup (2 points)

To Drink:
Canfield’s Diet Chocolate Fudge Soda (0 points)


I had a cheeseburger and cheese fries last night (still within my weekly points, but basically decimated what I had left), and I woke up this morning feeling gross. Could this be the start of bigger changes? Who am I if not a lover of bad foods?

Major Life Decisions: The Law Firm Edition

I picked a summer job on Friday. I was fortunate enough to have a few options among excellent firms, and I picked the place that seemed the best for me. I felt good about it when I made the decision.

In economies past, my work would be done. I could sit back, relax, and enjoy several fancy lunches a week and an eventual offer for full-time employment. However, times have changed---whether firms want you to believe that or not.

Law Firms: “Pay no attention to the economy behind the curtain!”

The Law Firm Hiring Model: A Primer

Large law firms (“Big Law”) generally hire new associates over a several year time span. In the summer after a law student’s first year, they interview for summer jobs that they will hold after their second year. These summer jobs often result in job offers to return for full-time employment after graduation. This means that new employees start at firms in a large group, called a “class.” You move through the firm with members of your class, and in many places distinctions are made about the work you can do based on your class year. A new class starts every year to do the work that the year-older class is now too senior to do. The model assumes that people will leave at some point and do something more personally/professionally satisfying than law firm grunt work.

Ever Heard the Acronym “FUBAR”?
Everything is different now. The economy tanked, people stopped leaving their cushy law firm jobs, but there wasn’t enough work to go around. Firms started laying people off. When this didn’t work, firms started telling students they’d hired for 2009 to bug off. Then, firms reduced the number of offers they gave to their 2009 summer associates in an effort to reduce the incoming class of 2010. But firms are still in a pickle, so their overcompensating with students in my year by cutting their summer hiring dramatically, by more than half in many cases. Whereas last year, a student with great grades at X law school could traditionally expect a job at Y--Z kinds of firms, that same student now can’t even get a second interview anywhere.

I was lucky enough to have choices for a number of reasons, but accepting an offer is just the tip of the iceberg. I’m banking on the economic stability of the firm I chose, of the office I’ll be working in, and of their ability to hire me after my summer is done (assuming I do great work, which I will).

Alright, before I continue, excuse me for a moment while I put on the appropriate eyewear...

Okay, now I’m ready.
Class of 2011, We’re Not As Screwed as They Say.
  1. EIP is no longer the only game in town. EIP (Early Interview Program) and OCI (On Campus Interviews) were rough. I know. People didn’t get the jobs they thought they’d get. Many people still don’t have offers. Many people still don’t have second interviews. I know, I know. But here’s the thing: firms are over-compensating right now. Not only are they hiring few people, but they’re all hiring the same people. These people can only accept one offer. As the NALP 45-day deadlines approach, firms will need to reassess their hiring needs as they realize that their summer programs are empty.

  2. Hiring will be continual over the year as firms reassess their needs. As a corollary to #1, I expect we will see multiple OCIs this year as firms continually reassess their needs. I expect October/November, January/February, and even March/April OCIs will become commonplace as firms get more work and realize they need more students.

  3. Offer rates this summer will be higher. Many firms took a large publicity hit when they no-offered large chunks of their summer class. To portray the image that they have recovered (even if they haven’t), firms will err on the side of caution in summer hiring, and I believe will be unlikely to hire more people than they can safely make offers to at this point. This overabundance of caution is making it difficult to get a job on the front-end, but should make it easier to get a job on the tail end.

  4. Our class year will be smaller, increasing our possibilities for advancement once employed. Compared to larger classes (or what remains of them after layoffs), the class of 2011 will be relatively tiny. There will be fewer people to choose from when it comes time for us to do fun stuff (i.e., depositions), or when it’s time to decide who gets to make partner. I don’t think of myself as being on a linear partnership track, so this part doesn’t so much apply to me, but still, you’ve gotta think of that as good news.

...So, those are my thoughts. I’m trying to be optimistic, and I feel lucky to have made a decision with a place I like a lot. Now the toughest part will be taking stories about my firm on AbovetheLaw.com in stride.

Filomena, D.C.

Thanks to a recommendation from a person sitting next to me on the Bolt Bus, the BF and I tried out a new restaurant in D.C. this weekend. The restaurant is called Filomena, and it is known for its fresh-made pasta, kneaded and cut by the “Filomena Ladies” in a window looking out over Georgetown’s portion of Wisconsin Avenue.

BF is a huge pasta person, and I love the stuff too despite its relatively high point value. Considering my seat buddy’s total enthusiasm for the place (“Oh my god, I am so excited for the meal you are about to have”) and the restaurant’s high prize (winner of Citysearch’s “City’s Best Italian” for the last three years), I was surprised we’d never heard of it before. Since our planned skydiving expedition had been canceled (BOO), I needed a pick-me-up anyway.

The restaurant is entirely underground, save for the pasta ladies in the window. As we walked down the stairs, we found ourselves in a rather dimly lit dining room with lots of dark wood, green, and brass features. I almost felt as if we were right back on our cruise ship, but without the air of pretension. It would have been difficult for the place to be pretentious even if it tried, given the fact that it was decked.out. in Halloween decorations. I’m talking bloody zombies coming out of full-size coffins with their arms extended inches from the patrons, three-foot diameter fuzzy spiders on the ceiling, etc.

It was Friday night at about 8:30 and we didn’t have a reservation, but were told we could wait at the bar and would be seated in about fifteen minutes. We ordered extra-dirty Grey Goose martinis ($14 each! Are you kidding me? Jewish Girl’s money-dar was happy that the BF offered to pick this one up), and within a few minutes were told we could sit down. We needed some time to close our tab, and by the time we were ready, the host walked past us initially, almost ignoring us. When he came back, BF apologized for the wait, and the host reponsed, “Are you kidding me? Not a problem. I fucking love my job. I just needed to take a Tylenol for a headache.” How could you NOT love a place like this?!

After we sat, the BF struck up a conversation with the couple seated next to us and asked for recommendations. The guy we talked to was Italian and refused to eat anywhere but Filomena’s. He recommended the cavatelli, the gnocci, and Neopolitan Ragu con Rigatoni. This third dish featured pulled beef that had been marinated for a glorious 24 hours before being used in the dish. The BF opted for this one, and I stuck with my traditional barometer for Italian restaurants: lasagna.

The bread brought to the table was delicious---there were three varieties, and the kind I tried (the wheat bread) was warm and almost sweet, and it was served with olive oil and fresh herbs.

We started out with an order of something called Aranzini, which is described on the menu as:
“Rice balls--All time favorite of Little Italy’s Street Feast of San Gennaro and seen in scenes from “The Godfather”. Italian Arborio Rice rolled and stuffed with Mozzarella and Bolognese Meat, dusted with Bread Crumbs and quick fried. Served with Tomato Sauce on the Side. New Yorker’s “buy ‘em by the dozen”.” I’ve never heard of these, nor have I ever bought them by the dozen, but they were warm, creamy and delicious. I could only have one (I estimated they each were about 4 points, that may have been generous) but BF had no problem finishing the other five on his own.

The menu featured quite a bit of this “As seen on [X] movie/show ” “As ordered and loved by [X] celebrity.” I hated myself for being swayed by that kind of thing, but if this menu is any indication, Bono and I have similar tastes (he didn’t recommend the lasagna, but a pasta/sausage dish that looked fantastic).

Our food came very quickly. The lasagna was solid. Lots of ricotta---a bit much for my taste---but they didn’t skimp on mozzarella or meat, and the sheets of pasta were perfectly cooked al dente and tasted as homemade as they were. BF’s rigatoni was definitely the winner of the night, though; not too cheesy, unbelievably seasoned meat that was the perfect degree of stringy tenderness and chewiness, and fantastic al dente rigatoni. If we ever go back, I will try one of the specialty pasta dishes instead of this old Italian standard.

We ordered the chocolate mousse cake for dessert, which is a tri-colored mousse with a chewy chocolate crust. I’m not a big sweets person (and I much prefer custardy things to chocolatey things, but the cake was pretty good. Maybe more solid than you’d imagine mousse to be; it had the consistency of cheesecake, just a little lighter in density. Along with our dessert, our waitress poured us glasses of amaretto and sambuca (with roasted coffee beans) on the house. No, we didn’t get this special treatment because they’d heard I am the webmaster of StuffJewishGirlsLike.com---this courtesy is standard.

In all, Filomena’s was a great experience. The food was fantastic, the pasta perfect, and the ambience highly romantic. It seems like a great place for a special night out, and is a must for pasta lovers.

Filomena Ristorante
1063 Wisconsin Avenue NW
Washington, D.C.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Looking for a bargain (and eating cheese fries).

One of the things I most appreciate about Weight Watchers---bearing in mind that I’m only three weeks in---is the fact that nothing is off-limits. The basic idea is that all foods have a “point” value, which is a simplified way to express fat and calorie content (minus fiber content). You get a set amount of points per day based on your gender, activity level of your job (personal trainer v. biglaw cog), starting weight, and whether you are breastfeeding (highly correlated with gender). I have 22 daily points. You also get 35 points per week to use however you want (I call them “flex points”). You can divide these however you want---so you can go over your daily allowance by five points every day, or you can save up your 35 points and splurge on a gigantic buffet at the end of the week.

So this means you can eat what you want within these bounds.

Want that slice of chocolate cake? Fine, go for it! That’ll be 12 points.

What? Don’t want to spend more than half your daily allowance on a single slice of cake? Well, you could always have 1/12th of it and push it away (1 point). Or bring along a diet-friendly 100-calorie brownie for these occasions. Or, if you’re like me, realize that you don’t want to look like a douche by unwrapping diet food while everyone around you eats delicious chocolate birthday cake, suck it up, cut yourself half a slice, and eat the whole thing. And you better enjoy it, too, buddy.

I have been managing pretty well so far by substituting things I usually eat for very similar things that have dramatically lower points values.

Example: a typical New York Bagel is 6 points, and can be 7 or 8 with cream cheese. A lowfat wheat English Muffin is one point. Two points with lowfat cream cheese, and still one point with sugar-free jam. Do I still eat bagels? Yes, sometimes, but not that often anymore. The nice part for me---The Jewish Girl---is that it doesn’t feel like a restriction, it just feels like I’m eating something on sale. I get a bagel-like item for 84% off the price of a bagel?!?! SIGN ME UP! nom nom nom.

When I look at the diet this way, it becomes more of a shopping challenge than a diet challenge. I buy foods now trying to find the best points “price” for my money, which is kind of fun (if not a little calculator-heavy).

Some of the things I’ve been relying on for the last few weeks to satisfy me for half-off the original brand name food:

  • Weight Watchers Yogurt, 1 point (other fat free yogurt: 2 points)
  • 94% fat free popcorn, 3 points per bag (regular popcorn: 15.5 points per bag) (sometimes I’ll spray on some “I can’t believe it’s not butter” spray for extra nonbuttery goodness and zero points)
  • Skinny Cow Ice Cream Sandwiches, 2 points (regular ice cream sandwiches: 3--4 points)
  • Edy’s Tart Yogurt Blends Honey Flavor, 2 points per 1/2 cup (regular ice cream: 4 points) (this flavor of frozen yogurt is FABULOUS even if you’re not watching your weight. It’s like Pinkberry meets Haagen-Dazs.

The best part about all the points I save by making these choices?

I can spend them on a cheeseburger and cheese fries at Shake Shack. :-)

This picture does not do these fries justice. That cheese sauce tastes like macaroni and cheese, just without the macaroni. I recommend getting it on the side, so you can dip. The whole experience is like angels singing in your ears while Satan gives you a foot massage. It’s amazing and totally worth 10 points.

Actually, when you think about it, these cheese fries themselves are a huge saving over my favorite cheese fries in the world from Outback Steakhouse, which pack a whopping total of 73 points. Of course, that’s the point value for the whole plate...but honestly, if I order those cheese fries, I’m not sharing.

(Another kind of funny note: it was really hard to find the nutritional information for a whole plate of cheese fries. Everyone assumes that people will eat a normal human serving, which is about a fourth of the plate. When you order the cheese fries as your entree, as I have been known to do in my heyday...)

Sunday, October 4, 2009

One day, people will go to jail because of me.

...Well, more precisely, they’ll go to jail because they will have committed a crime, but one day I will be the person who prosecutes them and secures the conviction. It’s odd to think about this as I plow through (actually: procrastinate on) my evidence reading; it seems like such a distant future. But if my plan for my legal career goes anything like I hope it will, this future is not that far away. I’d like to think I’ll be facilitating justice, but tonight I was reminded that this may not always be the case.

This semester, my schedule is laden with litigation-focused classes. At the end of a small litigation seminar this evening, a few of us stayed behind to talk about a particular point of strategy: is it ever wise to have your defendant directly contradict something said earlier by a cop? The facts provided for our in-class mock trial are sparse, and leave lots of room for improvisation. In one instance, the police officer says that the defendant said something incriminating, and it is possible for the defendant to either deny it in his own courtroom testimony or admit to it but provide a reasonable explanation for why he said it. In other words, the question boiled down to this:

In a clash between Cop-Says and Defendant-Says, can the defendant ever win?

My thoughts on the matter were absolute. “No.” Between defendant and cop, there was no doubt in my mind that the cop has more credibility. If it can ever be avoided (as it could in this case), the defendant should not pit his word against the cops; it looks more credible to explain the incriminating statement in a way that diffuses it. Sure, not all cops are good cops, but the defendant is without question the most biased person in the whole courtroom. This seemed open-shut to me.

The professor and some of my classmates had a different take. “Cops lie,” they pointed out, and my professor reminded me of a number of unjustified shootings by police officers that took place recently in New York. Citizens are often more skeptical of the police than they are of an accused criminal. Acquittal rates are highest in boroughs like the Bronx, where much of the jury pool has likely been hassled by a cop without reason.

Of course, not all cops lie, and it’s not fair to generalize based on a few instances, but it was good for me to be reminded of the fact that a uniform and position of authority do not combine to make truth.

As we all filed out of the classroom, a classmate asked why conviction rates were still so high---well over 90%---in New York City. Before the professor could respond, one of my classmates quickly responded, “Because they’re all guilty, right?” It took us a second to realize he was being sarcastic, and we all started to chuckle. Then I suddenly became aware of the gravity of the statement. There is probably a low statistical likelihood that such a high rate of conviction is accurate. That probability does set up a funny law student comment, but it also implies that there are people sitting in jail right now---put there by people like me---who shouldn’t be there.

I stopped laughing.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Starbucks Test

I was talking through my website idea with a law school friend of mine, and he practically fell out of his chair when I told him the title.

“Stuff Jewish Girls Like? Are you kidding me?”

What’s the problem? I thought it was a pretty good name. I am Jew(ish) after all--certainly culturally so---and in any case, it seemed catchy.

My friend remained skeptical. He asked me, “What do you order at Starbucks?” I told him: medium drip coffee. I had a little half & half and some splenda.

With this, he said, I failed the Jew test. According to him, you can walk into most Starbucks places in New York and ask for something called a “Long Island,” which gets you a grande half-caff skinny mocha cappuccino extra foam and sugar-free syrup or something equally absurd along those lines. This, he says, is what the Jewish girls get. This, he says, is why I’m not a Jewish girl.

The thing is, he has a point in a lot of ways. I don’t think I share interests with many Jewish girls. I only recently got my first credit card and I don’t enjoy spending money (this may be more of a Jewish male trait). I do like shopping, and I like cooking, but I also love poker and am probably somewhat below the mean when it comes to being emasculating.

Beyond the superficial and somewhat tongue-in-cheek stereotypes---I often speak in faux-stereotype, much to the dismay of my mother---I’m struggling to figure out where my religion fits into my life at this point. I hope to write some more entries about this as time goes on---frankly, while it’s an important struggle, it generally takes up less of my mental space than other topics.

Still, the title of the site remains on the page. It also remains somewhat of a misnomer; I am a Jewish girl by nature, but the stuff I like isn’t always.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Things that break my heart

Flopping quads early in an online poker game...in a dry pot with opponents who didn’t hit anything.


I don't diet.

I don’t play sports, either. I used to run a lot---I ran my first marathon in January---but not so much anymore.

Naturally, this has created a bit of a problem.

The situation is not exactly THAT serious.

Still, I have been steadily gaining a few pounds since starting college. I came to realize that those few harmless pounds would become a life-threatening problem within five or ten years if I didn’t act now to turn back the damage and learn better habits.

Roissy recently pointed out---in his own special way---that eating one Krispy Kreme donut a week, if you change nothing else about your life or the way you eat, will cause you to gain five pounds every year. This absolutely blows my mind. FIVE POUNDS a YEAR! From ONE 200 calorie donut a WEEK.

To me, this absolutely epitomizes my problem. It’s too easy for me to live a sedentary life, and on top of that I absolutely love the foods that are horrible for my body. You know it’s a bad sign when you read a list of the top ten worst appetizers in America and you recognize all of your restaurant favorites. Outback Steakhouse Aussie Cheese Fries and I go waaaay back.

So I joined Weight Watchers.

This is sort of a low-value thing to admit, but I’m sharing it anyway because I’m absolutely loving the program, and any future entries about food or dieting will be infused with language about daily points, weekly points, and activity points.

My favorite thing about WW has been (and this is bad) the fact that I can eat cheese fries. I love food way too much to give up my favorites entirely while on a “diet.” I love the idea that at any given moment, I can eat whatever I want---I just can’t cumulatively eat whatever I want at every given moment. This isn’t what I was doing before, of course, but I certainly wasn’t cutting much food (or exercising more) to make room for my proverbial weekly Krispy Kreme.

I’ve been on the program for three weeks and have lost weight every week, despite going out to restaurants on many nights (and yes, eating cheese fries). As I continue my hobby of cooking in my new lifestyle, my recipes may reflect the new choices I’m making: I can either use whole milk to make my dessert, or I can use skim and then I eat more of it. :-)
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