Thursday, October 23, 2014

Nutri Ninja: Review and recipes

Note: I was given a Nutri Ninja Pro to try with no obligation to blog about it. I met with company representatives way back in June at Fitbloggin' and they said I might be receiving one. This review reflects my own experiences with the product but is not compensated in any way. This review also contains Amazon Affiliate links.

I was impressed by the smoothies created by the Nutri Ninja representatives at Fitbloggin', and thrilled when I received my very own Nutri Ninja pro to review This product has been sitting, unopened, until I got my midterm grades done and had a chance to play with it. I'm pretty experienced with blenders and food processors, so I wanted to see if this could replace both products. It comes with a motorized base, two different sizes of cups (18 and 24 oz.) with two lids and a blade attachment that fits both cups.  The idea is that you could quickly blend up a smoothie or juice blend and head off to start your busy day. There is also a recipe book with 30 recipes for smoothies, green juices, salsas, and dips.
Peanut butter was not listed as one of the applications, but that's what I use my food processor for, so I thought I'd give it a try.  My peanut butter has three ingredients: Unsalted dry-roasted peanuts, peanut oil, and salt. 
I loaded up the larger of the two blender cups and got started. I only roughly measure but it is about 1 tablespoon each of oil and salt to a full jar of nuts. I had to leave some of the nuts out because I didn't want to overfill the blender cup -- I added them in later after things had blended a bit. 

The instructions say to use short pulses instead of one long one, so I pulsed away for a while. I took the cup off and kind of shook it to make things mix a little more evenly. It took a little longer than in the food processor and the result was more liquid than I usually get, but it was easier to get the peanut butter out for storage.

I was planning to make a smoothie with peanut butter, so I decided to get as much of the peanut butter out of the cup and then use the same cup to make my smoothie, so as not to waste any. I scraped out the cup as well as I could and estimate that about 1 tablespoon was left in the jar.

 Berry Butter Smoothie:

1 cup frozen blueberries
1 small banana
1 cup lowfat plain kefir
1 cup baby greens
1/2 teaspoon chia seeds
1 tablespoon peanut butter

Nutritional info for entire recipe: 446 calories, 11.6 g fat, 70.6 g carbs, 8.7 g fiber, 48.7 g sugar, 21.2 g protein

As you can see, this recipe makes a meal replacement smoothie, not just a snack. If you want a snack, share it with someone. This ended up being my lunch today.

Be sure to measure out the fruit and not just estimate, as one cup of blueberries doesn't look like as much as you think, and the fruits (and nut butter) provide most of the calories in this smoothie. I did feel free to just pack in the greens, since one whole cup was only 7 calories.

Then I was ready to lid up and blend. The smoothie came together much more quickly than the peanut butter did.

Obviously you could make this smoothie in any blender and not just the Nutri Ninja. I noticed again that the consistency was much more liquid than I get from my blender -- my blender tends to leave things slushier. It's probably a matter of personal preference. However, that smoothness is why you can use this to make juices as well.

You can just put the lid on and go -- unfortunately, I found that my straw was not long enough to go all the way into the big cup, and I managed to get some peanut butter on the outside of the cup, so I decided to pour this into another glass. The smaller cup would be better for individual smoothies.

Everything cleaned up very easily by hand. I just put a little dish soap in the cup, filled it with hot water, and shook it to start rinsing it out.  It looked clean after a quick hand-ways, but it still smelled a little like peanut butter, so I was happy to see in the instructions that everything except the motor base (which can't be immersed in water) can go on the top rack of the dishwasher.

I don't think the Nutri Ninja can replace a food processor, just because it tends to liquify everything. If you want to make tabbouli or even chunky peanut butter, I don't think this is the device. There is a salsa recipe in the accompanying recipe booklet, but I think you would have to be very careful not to turn that into vegetable juice.  If you are someone who enjoys smoothies, protein shakes, or juices (especially green juices, which are hard to get smooth enough in the blender), this is very quick and convenient, and less expensive than some of its competitors.  It feels very durable and high-quality.

Do you have any favorite smoothie or protein shake combos to recommend?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Weight Watchers and iOS 8 Health app integration not ready for prime time?

It sounded great in the press release
NEW YORKOct. 3, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Weight Watchers International, Inc. (NYSE: WTW) is announcing new features for its subscriber app that make the most of the new iOS 8 and HealthKit capabilities to improve the member experience in the Weight Watchers app for iPhone.
One of the reasons Weight Watchers works is that people can track what they eat and how much they exercise in their goal to achieving long term weight loss.  The features implemented with iOS 8 and HealthKit make both food and activity tracking easier as well as allowing members to easily see where they stand for the day compared with their target.
Without opening the Weight Watchers app, members who are using an iPhone running iOS 8 will now be able to:
  • See their PointsPlus® value totals for the day simply by swiping down from the lock screen to view a dashboard in the Today View, which helps them to make smart food decisions in the moment.
  • Read nutrition and fitness data in the Health app with user's permission to calculate the PointsPlus value. For food purchased through an app, members will benefit from automatic tracking. For activity, the Weight Watchers app will be able to read Steps data captured in the Health app and automatically track.
"When our team learned about iOS 8 and HealthKit, we were eager and determined to be among the first to use the new capabilities to improve our digital tools, " said Dan Crowe, Chief Technology Officer at Weight Watchers International. "A successful, seamless and engaging member experience is at the core of our technology platform. Integrating with Apple on these updates provides a powerful combination of efforts around innovation, science and technology."
So when iOS 8.1 became available today, I decided to give it a try. I was in a bit of a slump with WW, so I thought trying something new would help re-energize me. Since Health has no way to enter food directly, I connected LoseIt! It didn't take me long to see some problems.

At first, WW customer support seemed eager to help.  I supplied screenshots of my LoseIt! and WW data, and even hand-logged all my food for the given time period.

Then they seemed to give up on me.
And the brick wall went up.

I was really surprised to hear that they were going to integrate with other apps and devices in the first place, since WW is normally so proprietary.  I have no doubt that Weight Watchers will get this straightened out, but I was disappointed that they didn't seem interested in troubleshooting it with me, since I had the data and was willing to help.

"Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose."

Edited to add: To be fair, the problem may be with Apple's Health Kit App, There is a whole thread in the Apple Support forums about Health Kit problems.

Wednesday weigh-in: Frustrated

Note the graph above. The weight loss that I had scrambled hard for all school year almost completely reversed. Yesterday's weigh-in was a little better than last week's, but not by much. I was down 8.8 at my lowest point, so close to that 10-pound mark.  Obviously I had some reasons to lose focus, but to be honest, it makes me angry that it is incredibly hard to lose one pound, and so easy to gain four. 

There are definitely new things to come at Weight Watchers -- the only real hint I got yesterday is that leaders are being encouraged to come clean about their own struggles. I'm can't believe it took Weight Watchers this long to figure out that honesty would be helpful. Those chirpy, fake-enthusiastic leaders are the worst. If this wasn't hard, I wouldn't be spending $45 a month to get help. 

Monday, October 20, 2014

By request: Gwynnie Bee private label fit testing

Back in early September, Gwynnie Bee (affiliate link) solicited participants to help them fit-test redesigned garments for their private labels Flor Spruce & Sage Postcards Flutter, Triste. They had been getting some negative reviews on the fit and fabric of the original designs.

You can see one of those old private label garments in my "Not a Model" shoot, it's the green Flor Electric Animal dress. In fact several of those old-fit garments are now only $25 in the Gwynnie Bee shop. Many people didn't like the soft jersey fabric of those garments, and the fit was also inconsistent. I really liked a couple of them, but the jersey fabric was very warm and some of the styles were huge on me, and then others had very tight waistbands. It was hard to order the right size.

The new fabric is a polyester/spandex blend with a semi-matte finish and a nice weight. The fit has changed quite a bit. In the old brands, I would always order the smallest size, but even though the 0X looked good on me, there is an elasticized band at the waist in the fit-and-flare dresses that feels tight on me, so I have experimented with sizing up to the 1X. I was a little frustrated that this "sketch" print didn't look great in photos, so I tried taking a picture outdoors.

In the shift dress, which is not supposed to be fitted at the waist, the 0X was a little clingy. I got a pucker in the small of my back with the 0X, which is why I took the picture below, to try to show that. It also was clingy in the belly area so, again, I think I need to size up to the 1X for the fit to be just right.

The quality of the new garments was definitely better, or at least more consistent. They have a coordinating lining to help them fit more smoothly and avoid any show-through of undergarments. 

It was fun to participate in this project. All I had to do was try the dresses, write a review, and take some photos.

Edited to add: The easiest way to get a good fit on Gwynnie Bee garments is to use the size charts when they are provided. The new size charts seem accurate, but these dresses may run smaller than many subscribers expect for a GB brand.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Progress photos: Before, during, trying to get back to after

After my father passed away, we spent a lot of time going through old photos. This photo was taken on a family trip to the Mall of America when I was at my absolute heaviest. I have no idea what I weighed, because I was avoiding the scale and pretending that things weren't really that bad. I know that those shorts were a men's size 36, and they look skintight. I was wearing whatever I could fit into, men's or women's sizes.  Occasionally I would go to Lane Bryant if I needed something that looked decent.  After I saw the photos from this trip, I made my first attempts to lose weight.

The photo I have been using up until now as a "before," above, was taken many years later, after I had lost weight but rebounded. This was right around the time that I had a "Come to Jesus" moment with my doctor, because on his scale I weighed 197 pounds.  I think in the first photo I look much heavier, so I might have been as high as 225-250.

Triste Blurred Lines Shift Dress
Here's a more recent photo of me, taken for a Gwynnie Bee (affiliate link) fit-testing project for the updates to the Triste sizing. I'm around 180 pounds in this photo.

Finally, the photo above is me at or near my Weight Watchers goal weight of 155 (with my husband, who was also at what is probably his ideal weight). We were dressed up for my 15-year high school reunion, which was in 2003.  I loved that dress and still have it in my closet.

It's hard sometimes when I struggle to lose, or make some progress only to regain. Looking at these photos helps me to remember that even though I'm not quite where I want to be, I have made progress. The fact that I have maintained the initial loss of whatever amount of weight is between the initial picture and the one above is no small feat.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Linking Weight Watchers and Jawbone UP

When I heard that the Jawbone UP and other activity trackers were now going to be able to be linked to Weight Watchers, I was intrigued.  Weight Watchers had a history of preferring their own proprietary tools (like ActiveLink), and this seemed to be a big change for them. I looked forward to connecting my Jawbone UP to my tracker. 

I was disappointed when I did link it up.  Yesterday's activity earned me 2 points. I had a very normal day, but instead of running or walking, I did a 30-minute swim.  If I had tracked the 30-minute swim on my Points Tracker, it would have earned me 6 points. When I looked up the reason in the FAQ, it had to do with not meeting the activity baseline for the day. The baseline formula is not available, but Weight Watchers seems to have a fairly high standard for a "low-activity day" if 6,000 steps doesn't count. The Activity Points formula was already designed to take into account that people overestimate the calories that they are burning.  Adding in a high baseline seems to be set too high a bar.

True, I didn't have 10,000 steps on top of my 30-minute swim, but if I had done a 30-minute walk instead of the swim, which would have made me exceed the 10,000 steps goal, I wouldn't have burned as many calories as I did in a 30-minute swim. Would I have earned more Points? I haven't used the ActiveLink, but the reviews I read suggested that results were similar. Users doing step-based activity got a lot more points than those doing other types of exercise, even after entering those activities. 

I know this will be controversial, but I disconnected my Jawbone UP after that first day. I'm already finding Weight Watchers hard to stick to because the points allowance seems low for me. I get 26 points a day, plus an average of 7 from the Weekly Points. The approximate value of a point is 35 calories, putting me at just under 1200 calories a day if I used all of those Points (and many people don't use their Weekly Points. Even if I add in a few Points for activity and a reasonable amount of "Free" fruits and vegetables, I should have a sizable deficit.  If I didn't use any APs and stuck to the baseline, I'd feel too tired and hungry and would be more likely to just quit.

I don't want Weight Watchers to be any harder for me to stick to, even if that would make it more "pure" somehow. When I was tracking consistently and swapping my Activity Points for food, I was finding it much easier to stick to, and I was losing weight -- multiple pounds a week.  If my weight loss slows, maybe I'll go back to the "better" way. For now, I'm doing what was working for me.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Getting back to my routine

The view from my napping place

I'm trying to get back to a little more of my normal routine, as I have been feeling pulled in too many different directions lately. I feel the need to put things in order a little more. When I don't have meetings, my days are kind of flipped -- I get up early and do my "me" things before going into the office in the afternoons and teaching in the evenings. I like the quiet and having time in the house with just the kitties. The house stays so much nicer when I have alone time to tidy up.

My Tuesday evening class has ended (though I still have to grade some of their assignments), so I will have another free evening.  I went to a Weight Watchers meeting with my favorite leader and weighed in. This leader is the reason I have enjoyed Weight Watchers so much more this time around, and I haven't been able to get to her meetings. Most Weight Watchers leaders are too chirpy and cheerful. Tina keeps it real, and I feel like she's in it with me and knows how hard it is sometimes.

I knew I would be up -- everyone has been bringing over food, which is nice, but when I was already feeling emotional and tired, I didn't have as much willpower.  That kind of food also is saltier than the food I make for myself. My goals for this week are simple: Track every day no matter what, and get in some kind of workout every day. 

Today I hit the pool for a swim -- this was only the second time since the outdoor summer swimming season ended that I got into the pool. I only did half an hour, but it felt good anyway. On the way home I stopped at a different grocery store and stocked up on fruits, veggies, yogurt, and other foods that fit well into my Points.  My husband is getting a cold so I picked up the ingredients for my Chicken Pho soup, which is the best thing in the world when you are sick.

I came home, put all the food away and reorganized the fridge.  Then I had a snack and took a short nap.  I'm way behind on sleep and I think it is going to take a while to catch up.

I'm hoping to be caught up at work by the end of this week.  I have an exciting new product I was sent to review but I'm not touching it until all my grading is done.  Ditto the new camera setup I bought so I could take Gwynnie Bee outfit photos by myself. 
"Count your calories, work out when you can, and try to be good to yourself. All the rest is bulls**t." -- Jillian Michaels at BlogHer '07