A blog about life after weight loss.

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Engagement Photo Fun

Earlier this week, we told you we were having our engagement photos taken Wednesday night. Here is the story of our night.

Our friends Rudy and Tammi, aka The Married Photogs, took our pictures. This was part of a barter between them and Liz, as she baked their wedding cake and desserts last year. They made us feel comfortable and relaxed the whole time, and their creativity and attention to detail was impressive.

Fortune smiled upon us in the form of good weather. In southwest Ohio, October is its own schizophrenic season. You get a little spring, a heaping scoop of fall, and a dash of winter–sometimes all in one day. These fluctuations make it hard to pick an outfit in the morning. Wednesday was sunny and the thermometer steadied between 70-75 degrees.

We started our photo session at Riverside Park in northern Kentucky. Riverside overlooks the Ohio River, hence the clever name, and allows for a spectacular view of downtown Cincinnati. Red and orange leaves covered the park’s lawn as the late afternoon sun shined through the trees. The scene was more picturesque than we could have hoped for.

We had a little fun during the park photos by putting on Cincinnati Bengals hoodies and striking Heisman poses. Liz even pretended to tackle me in one of them. Our next stop was the historic Roebling Bridge.

Photo of the Roebling taken by the Married Photogs.

Before our bridge pictures, we had to perform a wardrobe change in the car. This was tricky for Liz, as she was switching from a sweater and jeans to a black and gray dress. We were in a public park, so before she could perform her gymnastic costume change, we waited for an old man parked behind us listening to the radio to leave. Then a group of four people meandered around the park in the vicinity of our car. I held up my blazer to hide Liz from her unintended audience.

The bridge session was magical. The sun had set and the city lights served for a tremendous background. I can’t wait to see how those photos turn out. The last part of our night was set at Cincinnati’s Fountain Square. Again, we got lucky. Not many people were on the Square, and the fountain was running. The four of us were approached by a homeless man who offered to take “real pictures” for a dollar. His invasion of our time and space annoyed us, but he left in short order.

After the shoot, we celebrated with pomegranate margaritas and tomato basil flat bread at our favorite restaurant. We had reached an important milestone on the way to our wedding, and we hit our fitness goals along the way. What fantastic reasons to raise a glass.


A Cup Full of Calories

If you are like me, you start every morning with coffee. The first thing I do every morning, before I shower or eat breakfast, is get the coffee maker running. Without my morning Joe, I would be a zombie. To enjoy my coffee to the fullest, I use coffee creamer.

Before I became more calorie-conscious, I used to dump creamer into my morning mugs. Literally, half of my cup would be full of silky white liquid, and my coffee was sweet and delicious. I could stretch a pot out for about half a day, too. Little did I know my morning ritual was a minefield of calories.

Depending on the brand and flavor of coffee creamer you use, each tablespoon contains 25-35 calories. I usually buy Coffee-Mate’s fat free variety, which comes in at 25 calories per tablespoon. Before, when I would pour in creamer like a glass of milk, I was drinking in 200 calories per cup. 200 calories! That is nearly a meal in itself, and I was receiving little, if any traditional value. On a typical morning, I drink three cups of coffee; so before I ate any solid food, I had already consumed 600 calories, almost a third of what my daily caloric intake should be.

Today, I set my trusty tablespoon atop the coffee maker. I measure out two tablespoons per cup, and never have more than three cups of coffee in the morning. If you are a coffee creamer junkie and cannot shed the pounds you long to lose, start cutting back on the cream. The results will pleasantly surprise you.

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Sand Volleyball: That Set Cray

Tonight, we will take to the sand for our summer session of volleyball. We’ve been playing sand volleyball together for a couple years now, and we can no longer imagine not playing. We have been off for two weeks between sessions, and we are thrilled to play again.

Our weekly league is a great way to burn some calories and, particularly in these humid summer months, work up a good sweat and set a nice base tan. We participate in a rec league where no one is gunning for the Olympics, so we win on account of hustle. We sprint across the court, jump at the net, and exercise in ways the gym just cannot provide. We do get into some games where we remain as stationary as mannequins because one team will get on a hot serving streak, but for the most part we are constantly moving.

Photo courtesy of Sandbar Facebook page.

But let’s be honest: sand volleyball isn’t all about exercise; it’s about fun. We like playing, but we love seeing our friends every week. As we get older, we find it more difficult to coordinate schedules with friends. There are work schedules, family obligations, and straight-up fatigue to contend with. But sand volleyball trumps all that. The six of us on our team break our weekly monotony and assemble for some friendly competition. You can’t beat that.

Sand volleyball does present a Skinnyfat dilemma. To drink, or not to drink? That is the question. One of our teammates goes to the bar for a bucket of beer before anything else. He doesn’t say hi or even acknowledge us until he has that bucket in his hand. He’s not a jerk; that’s just his way. Our first season starts in late March. It’s easy to turn down a cold one when you are wearing long sleeves and icy sand turns your feet to stone, but now that we have hit the dog days of summer and can break a sweat simply standing still in the shade, frosty beers and mixed drinks are that much more enticing. Sometimes we indulge, sometimes we don’t.

We play in a league run by Cincinnati Sports Leagues. Note the city. We live nowhere near a beach, but still get a beach experience. CSL also offers kickball, softball, co-ed flag football and several other fun ways to get some exercise. Chances are, a similar league exists in your area. If you want a fun way to break your routine and get fit, do a little research, call your friends, and have a blast.

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Scorching Indulgence: Our Skinnyfat Summer Staycation

Starting last Tuesday evening, Liz and I enjoyed a summer staycation. We were excited to spend some time together and away from the obligations of the office or the daily squeal of the alarm clock. As such, we dreamed big. We planned on hiking, getting massages, riding the ducks on the Ohio River, catching a World Choir Games friendship concert, and eating whatever the hell we wanted. After all, the word “vacation” comes from “vacate”, and we were itching to vacate our diets for a few days. Unfortunately, not everything went as planned.

Here is a daily rundown of our Skinnyfat staycation.

Tuesday, July 3

We kicked off America’s birthday with foreign food. After Liz’s work day ended, we went to our favorite Mexican restaurant, Nada, for their delicious baked tortilla chips, mini sliders, and margaritas. The chips are so warm and salty, they make me want petition Congress to annex Mexico. When we left the restaurant, we watched a magnificent fireworks display at Fountain Square in Cincinnati. The fireworks added a magic to what was already a fantastic night. Another pair of couples joined us, and we hit another bar before heading home for the night.

The fireworks on Fountain Square.

Wednesday, July 4

We did not wake up for the country’s actual birthday until around 11:00am. Happy Birthday, America. Sorry we were late to your party. Not feeling our brightest, we spent the day in our apartment. We caught up on our DVRed shows, and watched the entire season of the HBO series Girls. That’s right, the whole season. We decided the Fourth of July would be the perfect day for our monthly pizza ritual. Each month, we split a large pizza and a large order of bread sticks. We opted for a pepperoni pie this month. My mouth is watering just typing about it. I can’t wait until August.

Thursday, July 5

Following a day of resting up and downing Advil, we were ready to hit the city. Unfortunately, the sun hit us first. Temperatures reached triple digits around the Queen City for the remainder of the weekend. We quickly crossed hiking off of our staycation wish list. We tried to see a World Choir Games friendship concert at the Cincinnati Art Museum, but apparently so did the rest of Cincinnati. There was nowhere to park our car, and from what we saw on the news, nowhere to sit and watch the show. We made lemons out of lemonade and looked at the plants at nearby Krohn Conservatory and took a short walk on a shaded path in Eden Park until we felt too hot for comfort.

We split a BLT at Bar Louie at Newport on the Levee. After lunch, we went to see the movie Moonrise Kingdom. It was a sweetly quirky movie that moved Liz to tears. Director Wes Anderson outdid himself. After the movie, we rode an amphibious vehicle on the Ohio River. It was a blast! We learned a lot of interesting facts about the Ohio and its bridges, and we quacked at pedestrians and bystanders when the wheeled boat hit the downtown streets. This was the unquestionable highlight of the week.

The Skinnyfats blowing in their quackers.

Friday, July 6

On Friday, the heat was especially stifling. It was so hot, I broke a sweat on the one block walk from our apartment to our car before we drove to Cincinnati Premium Outlets in Monroe, Ohio. The merchandise selection was underwhelming, but we stopped in nearly every store just to take a break from the brutal humidity. We had dinner at the Melting Pot that evening. Liz brimmed with excitement to take me to this upscale fondu restaurant for the first time. Her excitement turned to disappointment when they sat us in a dark corridor that was little more than a glorified closet. We asked them to turn the lights up, but we still struggled to read our menus. The food was good, but dessert was, without a doubt, the best part of the meal. We dipped strawberries, bananas, and marshmallows into a bowl of melted chocolate and washed it all down with s’mores martinis.

Between the heat, having to miss the choir concert, and the pitch black restaurant, staycation was starting to feel like a bust. In need of  laugh, we went to Go Bananas comedy club. The headliner was a local product so the house was packed, but the crowd did not stop us from getting some laughs at just the right time.

Saturday, July 7 and Sunday, July 8

This was it, the last weekend of our summer staycation. We could not avoid the gym any longer, so we did the Spartacus 2012 workout just to feel human again. We spent our Saturday night playing Nintendo Wii with friends. We dueled in a virtual game of doubles’ tennis, and managed to avoid elbowing each other in the face even though we were flailing our arms around a small living room. The four of us snacked on sweet potato and apple chips. They were really tasty, and a healthier alternative to Doritos, Fritos, or the normal snack fare.

We spent that Sunday like any other; we relaxed and enjoyed each other’s company. The afternoon was punctuated by naps and we caught up on laundry.

Liz went back to work yesterday and we dropped right back into our workout and food routines. In the moment, staycation was not all we had hoped, but it is people who make life interesting. We’d do it all again in a heartbeat.

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A Skinnyfat Confession: Our Post-Engagement Celebration/Calorie Marathon

Last week, I wrote about the biggest event in our lives, our engagement. Today’s post is not a celebration; it is a confession. In the interest of honesty, and integrity, I must tell you about the calorie marathon we ran after Liz said yes.

For those of you who have never been engaged, in the days that follow you will float through life. Nothing can touch you because you are on a natural, euphoric high. You drift through your days awash in happiness, and cartoon birds land on your outstretched finger tips to whistle you lovely songs. True story. Well, all except the cartoon birds thing.

As much as people wanted to see the engagement ring or hear how I popped the question, they wanted to join in our shared happiness, to bathe in our euphoric beams. The problem was this: they wanted to do it over meals and cocktails, and we were so excited that we did not turn them down.

Here is a rundown of our indulgences.

The Sunday morning after we became engaged, I was hungry. Blissful, but hungry. Instead of waiting to go to Bob Evans for breakfast (a tradition we have on return trips from Indy) I took down a tin of cashews. These were not all natural, from the Earth cashews, they were salt and preservative fortified cashews. To add poverty to my pot belly, I didn’t go to a vending machine and slide four quarters in for my treat; I ate the $12 hotel room cashews. We were engaged. Calories and cost be damned!

We made our usual stop at Bob Evans, where we split a stack of pancakes. We could have opted for the wheat pancakes, but we went with the cinnamon variety instead and gleefully accepted the helping of whipped cream on top. To wash that sweetness down, we each ordered a large chocolate milk. This was a time for celebration, not sensibility.

Two of Liz’s friends happened to be downtown that afternoon, so she met up with them and surprised them with the news as I went on my first run as an engaged man. This was my only health conscious decision of the day. When I returned, I received a text message from Liz asking me to meet the three of them at Mynt Martini, a restaurant/club in downtown Cincinnati. The ladies greeted me with a pair of hugs and a margarita. I ordered a second as I told our engagement story for the first time.

We ordered a large pepperoni pizza from Donatos for dinner that evening. Pizza is our favorite food. If there were no consequences to our waistlines or our wallets, we would eat it every night. As far as we were concerned, there was no better food to polish off our first full day of fiancé-hood.

The following week was punctuated by two celebration dinners with two sets of parents. By happy coincidence, both of these meals were at Italian restaurants. Between us, we ate several loaves of bread and slurped fettuccine thick enough to wax a handlebar mustache. These dinners were delicious, but heavy.

The last leg of our post-engagement calorie marathon was our engagement party. I have to hand it to Liz’s mother and bridesmaids; they put together one hell of a good time. Part of that good time was food. Everything was chocolate covered—pretzels, Oreos, marshmallows, strawberries, and even some of the furniture. Larosa’s, a local pizza parlor, catered the event with pizza, hoagies, and boneless Buffalo wings. To put a sugary bow on this wonderful present, Liz’s mom baked a cake. In fairness to us, 30 to 40 people helped us eat these treats, but the leftovers ended up in our apartment, then in our bellies.

Engagement party treats.

A table of chocolate covered goodies.

Engagement party treats.

Chocolate covered pretzels and marshmallows.

The morning after the engagement party, we looked at each other and said enough was enough. We celebrated for a month; it was time to get back on track. After all, we have a wedding to plan, and we want to look our best for it.