True talk? I’m trying to lose a little bit of weight. There, I said it. It’s out in the open. The girl with the food blog, who loves to eat and bake and cook, wants to drop a few pounds. I feel as if I’m not supposed to admit that, that it’s taboo, that I couldn’t possibly be unhappy with my body. But, I am.
I’ve never been what people would call “heavy” and for majority of my life have been at a happy, healthy weight. I’ve always had a healthy appetite and been active in sports and athletics – making weight gain a pretty nonexistent issue. Then I was diagnosed with a heart condition.
I was out of sports and then out of shape and then into surgery. I came out of the whole ordeal in about six months with a clean bill of health and, unfortunately, 15 extra pounds.
I joined a Biggest Loser competition at school, started my fourth and final season on my soccer team, and began to understand and watch the food I put into my body. I dropped 10 pounds during the remainder of the school year. I trained and worked out even harder during the summer to lose another 10 pounds – weighing less a year after my surgery than before I was diagnosed.
Then college started, and control stopped. I was bombarded by all the pitfalls a freshman faces in the dorms and dining halls. Endless munchies and huge portions, late nights studying with pizza and more frequent trips out to restaurants. Enter another 15 pound weight gain.
Leaving freshman year behind and returning home for the summer meant more than freedom from textbooks and exams, it was freedom from temptation and unnecessary caloric splurges. If possible, I trained even harder this past summer. I began to enjoy the strength that came as a result of my intense workouts. I even ran a 6:06 mile, a feat I had never even accomplished during my years in cross country.
I kept up a good show of it when school started. I was doing my gym and workout routines, but again, the mammoth portions beat out my miniscule willpower. I couldn’t stop eating. Then I injured my neck and was ordered to abstain from exercise for one week. That week became two, which turned into three. Before I knew it, a month had passed where I had barely lifted a finger, let alone a weight. It’s no wonder my pants didn’t fit. Once again, I had put on weight.
It had to stop. The yo-yoing and the negativity and despair and beating myself up over a number on the scale. Before winter break began, I made the decision to change. Change my habits, my diet, my thoughts, my perceptions, my future. I couldn’t change my past. I couldn’t take back the extra cookies eaten or the workouts missed. But I could make the decision to never let that happen again.
It’s been about six weeks since I made my decision. For the most part, I have been true to my word. Some days are better than others, and some days are worse. But I feel different. I feel positive. I know I can do this, and, more importantly, it’s something I want to do. I know this is going to be a long journey, it already has been, but I’m not going to stop anytime soon. I am determined to achieve my goals without sacrificing the things I love most, eating and creating delicious food.
After a weekend filled with a ridiculous amount of delicious food, I was beginning to feel a little bit of that old guilt creep back in. Before, I would have succumbed to the feelings, let them drag me down and hold me there, feeling like a failure. But not anymore, instead I focused on how much fun I had. How part of that fun was from food, it was integral to the memories I made these past few days. The happy memories.
That’s where these granola bars come in. After a weekend of indulgence, these granola bars are healthy enough to be a perfect pre- or post-workout snack without making me feel deprived of all that is good in this world (read: chocolate). They are just part of what I’m doing to stay on track.
They can also be changed to suit any taste. Mix up the mix-ins! Use raisins, walnuts, or coconut. Omit the pumpkin and use banana. Use all oats and no nuts. The possibilities are endless. Always remember that.
Good Riddance Guilt Granola Bars (makes about 16 thin bars, adapted from All Recipes)
1 ½ cups old fashioned oats or multigrain cereal blend
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup wheat bran
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. ground ginger
1 cup applesauce
½ cup pumpkin puree*
3 TBSP agave nectar*
1 ½ - 2 cups mix-ins (for this batch I used ¾ cup sliced almonds, ¼ cup sunflower seeds, and ½ cup
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cookie sheet or 9x13 cake pan with parchment, set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together oats, flour, wheat bran (wheat germ would be wonderful to), salt, cinnamon, and ground ginger. Set aside.
In another bowl combine the applesauce, egg, pumpkin, and agave. Add to dry ingredients, stirring until fully incorporated.
Add mix-ins to prepared batter, stirring until combined.
Spread batter into prepared pan, evening out the bars with your hands so they are equal thickness throughout.
Bake in preheated oven 14 – 18 minutes, longer for thicker bars or less for thin.
Remove from oven when bars look done on edges and the middle is firmly set. Keep on pan until cool.
Cut and store bars in air tight container for up to one week.
*for sweeter bars you can substitute pumpkin butter for the puree (which is what I initially did) or up the agave nectar to 1/4 -1/3 cup.