Fit Eating: Panera Bread Co.’s Power Salad

If you can’t tell already, Panera is my go-to fast(er) food restaurant. There at least incorporating a veggie or fruit is made easier than at most joints, and you can craft your meal to be healthier than normal. The downside in my opinion is that:

  1. The dressings for salad’s at Panera are tasty and delish, so I eat them — I know I could cut major calories going with a oil/vinegar combo — but my tastebuds aren’t having it. I believe that as long as you account for those extra tasty calories, then eat them. I do get extra dressing mostly because raw veggies do not work well with my Lap-Band (see THIS previous blog post for more information on the lap band and eating issues), and if I have to take a calorie/fat intake hit to get real veggies in my system — then that’s what I’ll do.
  2. The bread: some folks are low/no-complex carbs people. They shun bread, the white potato, crackers, chips, et al. I am not that girl. My grandmother onetime was consoling me when I was having a down day as a child due to my weight. She pointed out a very thin fit person and asked me if I knew what was going to happen to her in old age. I rattled of something about her being fit and trim and healthy. To which my grandmother responded that yes — she ate well, worked out, refused to eat things that might have given her a bit of pleasure all in persuit of health and a great body. But in the end — she was going to die just like all the overweight folks. What Grannie was trying to say is that for some of us, maybe giving up ALL that we love is a silly concept. If you like cupcakes, go to your local baker and get ONE — don’t bake a dozen in your home that you might eat all yourself during an episode of Scandal (best show ever, FYI). My fiance and I did that yesterday — we are in the process of picking favors of wedding cupcakes with our baker, so we went in and each got one we hadn’t tried. We don’t do this ever week, maybe once a month at most. But when we leave — there are two cupcakes in a bag. For us to share, and see if it makes our cut. I’m happy because not only did I get a tasty treat, but then once it’s gone — it’s gone. I count it into my Weight Watchers’ tracker as best I can, and then I move on. So if you like that portion of baguette at Panera with your meal, over the apple (me and raw apples usually don’t work sadly) then get it — count it in your Tracker, and move on.
  3. The cost: Panera is quite expensive folks, in comparison to other dine and dash restaurants. On one meal, a person could easily spend $10+ depending on the choices that they make. As a PhD Graduate Student, I know all too well about counting costs and watching what you spend. However, what I have decided is that if I *can* afford Panera over some other restaurant — then I will choose it. However, I have a list of other healthier options from places for when I’m on a tighter budget or not close to a Panera (e.g. the Grilled Chicken Sandwich at Wendy’s with a side salad or baked potato as the side + Diet Coke) .

So along with the Hidden Menu launch nationwide, Panera also used January to relaunch their Salmon offerings, and to launch a Spinach Power Salad. According to the website, the new salad contains

fresh baby spinach, roasted mushrooms and onion blend, diced egg, Applewood-smoked bacon, frizzled onions & smoky Vidalia onion vinaigrette.

They suggest using it in the “You Pick 2” offerings with the Bistro French Onion Soup. The “Pick 2” program pairs a 1/2 salad, cup of soup, or 1/2 a sandwich together at your choosing. Prices are lowest if you pick cafe styled foods (think the basic greek salad, and a turkey sandwich) and rises with every premium or signature offering you select. And that is exactly what I had for lunch last snowy Friday afternoon.

I did make a few changes. First, I did add a second serving of dressing. I still appreciate this method because it is measured out. Instead of dumping half a bottle on my salad, I know I am really just adding 2 additional tablespoons. Second, I added a serving of salmon on my salad. I happen to love salmon, but my fiance does not. So when I can have it while dining out — I typically choose to do so. It adds a punch of protein, which is a focus of lap-band patients — and helps keep me full longer. When the salmon is not available at Panera, I tend to add chicken to my salads.

The Verdict:

I am actually in love with this salad. Again, the appearance was a bit lacking — and we do eat with our eyes, but that pretty piece of salmon worked wonders.

Weight Watchers Points Values (keep in mind that you can tweak your intake by asking the staff at Panera to remove some items like the cheese in the soup, or choosing an apple over the baguette):

  • 6 points — 1/2 Spinach Power Salad with ONE dressing
  • 5 points — Cup of Bistro French Onion soup with Gruyere Cheese and Crouton Toping
  • 5 points — portion of Baguette served with meals

Taste: The dressing is great, a little sweet which pairs nicely with the rest of the dish. I am a big fan of raw spinach, because it actually 8 times out of 10 works with my band. The addition of roasted mushrooms and onions is a big hearty plus for me, and I loved the crunch of the “frizzled” onions (which reminds me quite a lot of those french fried onions that top holiday Green Bean Casseroles in my humble opinion…). Oddly enough, I am nonplused about the bacon. Take it out, leave it on — I didn’t feel like it added to the salad, but it didn’t detract either. I might consider leaving it off honestly.

This is a salad that I would order in the full size happily. I just hope they keep it around for longer than a season (if you’re reading this Panera Executives — please keep this salad, seriously. And salmon on the menue as long as possible. Thanks!). If not, I think the next salad I will try is the hidden menue turkey one, since it also uses spinach as a base. Does anyone know if you can order spinach as a salad base on a regular basis?

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Up In the Gym — Fitness and a LapBand

So this is the second part of my lab-band based postings (read part one here).   Fitness.

Working out is critical to success with a lap band.  Unlike Gastric Bypass (I will do a post on the differences between the band and bypass — since two months before I was banded my mom got the bypass.  And we live together.  That was difficult to say the least…still can be *side eyes the candy jar she keeps full….*) there is no real “automatic” weight loss with the band.  Bandsters can cheat even during the liquid diet phase (cause…milkshakes are liquids too you know).  As I will reinforce, my surgeon warned me that success with a lap band could be a 20lb weight loss.  And while that sounds “normal” for someone who has undergone typically a year of preparation, spent thousands of dollars, and is typically severely obese and using this procedure as a last resort — that is not comforting.

Think about it.  If you were 5’8 and weighed 350lb when you under went weight loss surgery– a year from that date you could just have lost 20lbs?  You would still be over 300lbs, still well outside of that annoying and arbitrary height/weight chart maximums, still with an obese BMI.  The Lap Band is a TOOL.  One more time, the band is a TOOL.  It is not a promise of any weight loss, let alone large amounts of weight loss.  It does not prevent “cheating”, and it does not prevent weight re-gain.

So in order to achieve those goals, to even have a chance to do that — most people who undergo banding must change their diet (MYTH: Not all large and obese people eat Ho-Ho’s and Twinkies (RIP Hostess), while watching reality TV.  Some of us had quite healthy diets, some of us went to the gym before the band, some of us had healthy stats.  Not all of us, but some of us.  One of my goals is to dispel these horrible myths of obesity, and to let people know the real deal).  They also must figure out a work out regimen that works for them and their lifestyle.

I spoke a bit about the struggles with choosing healthy food options versus choosing something that will insert calories in the body in my previous post.  So now lets talk fitness.  As an obese woman, a fat woman – I did go to the gym.  I had a gym membership all through law school.  And yes — I did go to the gym when I could.  I took Tribal Belly Dance when I lived in Richmond.  I joined the YMCA when I returned to my hometown.  I was not sedentary.  I was not running half-marathons — but I was not sitting on the couch all day, every day.  Also when I returned home I ended up taking a position in retail, which had me on my feet all day walking around the store — stocking shelves — climbing ladders.

When I returned to my hometown I also finally found a form of exercise that worked with my personality.  Zumba(TM) fitness.  A wonderful woman taught it at a local parks and recreation center.  I finally had found a form of exercise that worked well with me — I hate running, I do not like working out to the point of throwing up, I do not enjoy step (I tend to always be concerned about taking a face plant off that sucker).  However, I always loved to dance.  Being larger I could never stay in any formal dance classes — I literally sized out of ballet and tap — they didn’t make the costumes in my size.  I sized out of baton, and I was kept on JV cheerleading due to my size.  That did not stop me from dancing all over the club, in my dorm room, at dances….I love to dance.  My fiance laughs at me because I dance in the laundry room.

This love got to blossom with Zumba.  In Zumba class I could feel the music, move my larger body appropriately, and I even found myself helping others because I got the moves and they didn’t.  I took Zumba until my instructor found out she was expecting, and stepped aside.  Then there was a lack fo Zumba in my hometown for a while.  When an instructor appeared at the YMCA where I was a member by then, I jumped at the chance to jump back in.  Ultimately I became a Zumba Fitness instructor in November of 2010, and it was a huge milestone for me.  I am still not a size 6 — I will never be that ultimate model of fitness; that super petite, very thin and toned, very perky woman who looks fantastic in spandex.  However, what I am is someone who has been where most people are.  Who knows what the average woman (who is a size 14; not 6) feels when they step into a fitness class or the gym.  I know how to push people without making them feel like they shouldn’t be there.  I push them so they can see how awesome they are, not so that they feel as if they do not belong.  I’ve been personally blessed to have wonderful Zumba mentors who have helped me be the best instructor that I can be — including a woman who does look like that ultimate model of fitness.  But she welcomes all, encourages all, and allows me to teach for her even though I am not that size 6.

I still am scared to death of face planting off of a step, my thighs still jiggle in spandex (but I wear it anyhow), and I laugh at myself more in Yoga than at any other time of my existence because I can do some moves like a Yogi rockstar — and others I look like a hot mess.  Most importantly, there are days where I have NO DESIRE TO GO WORK OUT.  I do not want to go.  I want to sit down somewhere, read a book, catch up on sleep.  So do not feel alone if you do not like working out.  I teach group fitness, and there are days where I do not want to work out myself.  I so understand.  However, what my surgeon says is the key to my successful weight loss is that I am willing to go to the gym and sweat out my hair (Admittedly, I do miss having amazing hair like in my avitar photo….I don’t keep hair looking that good.  I sweat through yoga yesterday, and I will sweat today when I teach class.  I just let it go, went natural, pull it up in to a ponytail, and call my stylist only when I have to go somewhere or get a photo taken.  But I do miss my amazing hair….).  So find some form of fitness that you are comfortable doing, and maybe even want to do (even if it’s just 45% of the time — that is better than doing nothing).  No action is too small.  Walking your dog counts, dancing with your partner in the kitchen.  If you like belly dance — go shimmy and shake it.  If you love to swim, go splash in the pool.  If you are a tri-athlete; well this post probably isn’t for you…. But for the rest of us, just move when you can — how you can.  One of the reasons why I like yoga so much is because they give you levels and encourage you to explore what YOUR body can do.  You aren’t trying to compare your pose to your neighbors, you are trying to get the best pose out of yourself.  That is some kind of awesome body acceptance, right?  It’s not about feeling bad if your knee lift is modified, its about the fact that you are lifting it!  So find something that works for you, and go for it!

Again, the lap band is a tool. This is not easy, this is not cheating, this is not a quick fix.  Some of us will be able to loose weight, we will work hard to eat the best we can and work out when we can.  We will sweat, have many awkward moments in the gym and life, and try to figure out how to live with our new tool.   And some of us will still hate to run, no matter if we are roughly 135lb lighter than our highest weight……

LapBand What?: Explaining Weight Loss Surgery

I am simply blow away that so many people, most of whom I do not know — are reading my post that I made in a moment of total honesty.  I hope that for anyone who read that post, they will find out either more about what it is like to be a former fat kid — or even find support in the posting.

When I reviewed the posting, and did a bit of research.  I determined that there was not a lot of information about Gastric Banding out there.  There are TONS of books on amazon.com about Gastric Bypass and even the Gastric Sleeve.  Yet there is not a lot of personal information from Gastric Banding patients about their experiences    I have had many people, some who were thin and curious — others who were overweight/obese and looking for answers, to ask me about my band.  So I thought this would be the most appropriate follow up blog to the last one.

COPYRWRITE: Pink Explosions Blog

Copyright: Pink Explosions Blog

Alright — there I am again.  Law school again.  So how did I move from that girl up there to this one down here?  

Copyright: Pink Explosions Blog.

Copyright: Pink Explosions Blog.  Photography by: Liz Mitchell

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Size 26 and beyond: My path to Weight Loss Surgery and a Loss of Confidence

As I sit and write this post while rocking my VS Pink PJ’s, I never thought I would be here.  Sometimes I forget that being a size 12 [give or take — for example JCrew takes (usually an XL/14 or 16) while Talbots  gives (usually a Medium/10)] was a pipe dream.  I sometimes forget how long and hard I worked to get here.  I usually forget those things while wallowing in a big vat of “not good enough.”  It is during those times that I wonder why I just can’t be a size 6, why I just can’t stop life to work out more, why I just can’t stop eating entirely to achieve societal perfection.

I was always a chunky kid.  I never was thin.  So until I was roughly 27 years old — I was overweight, obese.  Fat.  What always burned me was that I never was the kid who was pounding down milkshakes and twinkies.  I played sports, I hated icing on cake (still do), I asked for seconds of veggies and fruits.  So why in the world was I so fat?  My doctor basically looked at me one day and said: Kid, you were born this way — you are healthy — it’s how you were meant to be.

I never truly accepted that, however.  I — like most fat kids — hid the insecuirty with extreme confidence, hid the pain of being made fun of or passed over during gym class with jokes.  I poured myself into extracurricular activities and my studies.  I would have minor moments of weight loss, but over all I still was large.  I never wore Junior sized close in high school — by that time I was living in Lane Bryant.

I remained large and (seemingly) in charge through college and law school.  I had boyfriends, I had friends, and I had fun.  I was not the larger person who hid in the shadows, I was not the fat girl to be pittied.  I had a kick ass life — and my weight never stopped me from trying to learn to fence, belly dancing, kissing boys at frat parties, or kicking ass in class.  Not all of us chunky girls were wallflowers, not all of us chunky girls were so concerned about what the skinny folk thought that we hid in oversized clothing hugging walls.

I forget that sometimes.  I forget how amazingly confident  self-assured, and full of life I was.

Sad to say, my path to dedicated weight loss came not from my own prerogative — but from a man.  I was befrended by a man on an online dating site.  Yes you read right.  He somehow used this dating site to find FRIENDS.  Odd I know, but that is another blog post for another time.  Regardless, *I* was into him.  Then one day he said that he could never date anyone who was fat.  I blinked on the phone — that kind of blink that you can hear if you listen close enough.  *blink, blink blink* What?  Did he really just say?  Oh no he didn’t!!  Well friends, yes he did.  We went on to debate a while…and he stood by his point.  He needed to date someone who cared about her body — since being fat must mean that one does not care.  I yelled, he yelled, and then we got off the phone.  Sad to say my move towards desperate measures to loose weight came that night — when I decided I would NEVER give a man an easy reason to not want to date me.

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