Corn Dogs and Wine Pairings…the Happiest Dietitian on Earth!

Can ANYONE tell my why I wanted this picture more than any other at Disney World?

Can ANYONE tell me why I wanted this picture more than any other at Disney World?

Yes, that was my week! Spending the week in Walt Disney World is a great time for (almost) anyone, but for a foodie dietitian, there is a whole other level of adventure…FOOD! You can travel most places in the world these days and eat pretty much the same as you do at home, but I like to give my palate a vacation as well!

A classic...Gotta have it!

A classic…Gotta have it!

(Now, that’s not to say I didn’t have typical American fare such as french fries and ice cream, but whenever possible, I had them in the contexts of fish and chips in an Irish pub and a Mickey Mouse ice cream bar, respectively.)

The first mini-adventure was our first experience with the Disney Dining plan. Each of us got a snack, “quick-service” meal and “table service” meal each day. We had wanted to prevent any delay getting out the door in the morning, so we brought groceries with us (actually checked them on the plane!) for breakfast. I had heard lots of opinions regarding this new feature at WDW, and within our group of 12, we probably had varying opinions about it. But here’s my take: once you got the hang of it, it was great! Yes, you do pay upfront, but not having to carry a wad of cash or melt your debit card from overuse made things much more user-friendly. We also ended up with a LOT of food! The quick-service meals include a dessert, which adds up to WAY more sweets than I usually have. Also, the portions were big, and any buffet was overflowing with a great variety of quality, tasty food. (Smoked salmon for breakfast? Shrimp ceviche for dinner? Yes, please!) There were some things that were not covered by the meal plan in any way, such as a corn dog–more on those later–but hey, you can always just charge those to your room, provided you are wise enough to stay on the property! (wink, wink.) One other twist is that if you choose to eat at a upper-level restaurant, or one that has a dinner show, two meals will be taken off you account. This still seems fair, based on the prices and quality we saw at our restaurants. SO know that the technicalities are out of the way, what did I eat?

Corn Dog croppedFirst, I righted what most of my in-laws saw as a major flaw in my past, and ate my first corn dog…ever! I don’t really know why I had never eaten one before; like any other Midwestern-American kid, I had eaten my share of hot dogs, and liked them just fine. Also, I have always liked corn bread, and in my youth could down platefuls of deep-fried food with no unfortunate after-effects, such as weight gain, heartburn, and others you could probably name. But alas, I have eaten brains and grasshoppers before my first corn dog! So how did it taste? Greasy and salty, which I suppose is the point. Corn dog…check!

I was able to have two special, memorable lunches as well. First, Chad and I were able to eat in a French restaurant in Epcot, a sister of the one we ate at the first time we were at WDW together. It was a warm, but not roasting, day, and we enjoyed a bottle of wine with our decadent croque monsieur (a very tricked out ham and cheese,)  lobster bisque, and of course vanilla creme brulee!french lunch collage 2

It wouldn’t be quite a Disney experience without seeing a character, so we were happy to see…

His name is NOT Ratatouille!

His name is NOT Ratatouille!

Second, we got to eat in Belle’s castle, in the Be Our Guest restaurant. Because its new, the line stretched over the “moat” and onto the main walkway, but as our youngest traveler had “Belle fever” we had to give it a try, and I’m so glad we did! The line did move surprisingly quickly, they use a GPS “rose” to find where you are sitting, and the food gets brought to you! We ate in the beautiful ballroom, but were also able to see the West Wing, which was also, well, cool! As this is considered a quick-service meal, since you basically have no waiter, I planned on just refueling, and wasn’t expecting anything to surprising. But wait, this is Disney we’re talking about! I had the tuna nicoise salad, with seared, sushi grade tuna over a mixed green salad and a poached egg on top! (Surprise!) Also, for my dessert, a lemon meringue cupcake!

This restaurant actually has their calories posted on the website, which is great, though not a concern of mine during this special week. However, looking back, this meal was 1,065 calories.

This restaurant actually has their calories posted on the website, which is great, though not a concern of mine during this special week. However, looking back, this meal was 1,065 calories.

I also got to cross another thing of my bucket list; yes, in addition to the corn dog. Chad and I were able to score reservations at Victoria and Albert’s, an award winning restaurant at the Grand Floridian. It is a six course dinner, and in order to do it justice, we of course had to get the wine pairing, so we had a different wine with each course. (Oh, and there was a 3-bite amuse-bouche with champagne, three types of bread with 3 different butters(!,) coffee with dessert, and a few final sweets.) I had courses like “Masago Crusted Gulf Shrimp with Ponzu Vinaigrette,” “Vermont Quail with Parsnip Puree and Fig Gastrique,” and “White Chocolate Gelato with Tableside Shavings.” The food was excellent, the staff was perfect, and there was a harpist with some great sets (M*A*S*H theme song along with Barry Manilow!) Pretty much a dream date! (Maybe the Chef’s table next time, sweetie?)

Most, but not all, of what I ate during our Victoria and Albert's dinner.

Most, but not all, of what I ate during our Victoria and Albert’s dinner.

OK, back to reality.

As I said, we had a grab and go breakfast plan, and most days I had a cheese stick, turkey meat stick and a chewy granola bar or some Trader Joe’s nuts. This is NOT what I normally eat for breakfast, but the protein and extra calories worked well. I usually ate some of that at the park, and I was still hungry for lunch when we rode and walked until were about to drop!

Speaking of walking, what kind of calories did we burn? We roughly plotted a couple days’ walks on MapMyRun when we got home, and figure we walked about 6 miles each day. This is as the crow flies, and for anyone who has wandered around Disney parks, you know there are many extra steps in addition to getting from point A to B.

To help burn some of those delicious calories: wonderful sunrise runs in shorts and tank tops!

To help burn some of those delicious calories: wonderful sunrise runs in shorts and tank tops!

In addition, I was able to sneak in a couple runs at around the hourglass pond at our hotel, and in general we were on our feet about 12 hours per day! That’s why it’s not surprising that Chad only gained 1.5 pounds, despite our extravagant dining.

Oh, and there were rides, parades, characters and shows, too!

As Chad mentioned in his last post, I’d also like to thank my in-laws, Gene and Mary, who took us on this fabulous vacation! And though Chad likes to tease me about my crazy Disney behavior, I’d also like to thank him for running around to score some very convenient Fast-passes, and to congratulate him on riding 6 of the best Disney thrill rides in three parks in one day! (I think I created a mini-me!)

The obvious next step is to start saving my pennies for the Epcot International Food and Wine Show!


Week #23 Weigh-in…and Various other life stories.

As I write this post, I have just crawled out of bed after 15 straight hours. I have some weird intestinal bug, picked up on the plane back from Disney World or from the beautiful cesspool of germs a high school in Wisconsin in January becomes. So while I haven’t exercised even one time this week, I’ve still been shedding pounds because I can’t eat, don’t want to eat, or simple don’t have the energy to eat. Sounds like fun, huh?

I figure it is karmic. Since I had such a great time at Disney with my family, when I complained to most who would listen about how I was positive that much close family time would drive me nuts, and then I loved every minute of it, I sort of deserve a week where I feel extra crappy. Again, karmic.

Disney really can be the happiest place on earth. I am surprised to learn that because I can be extraordinarily cynical when it comes to multi-national corporations whose primary reason for existence is to make money for their shareholders. It turns out that Disney, much to my surprise, is still trying to make money for their shareholders, by making sure their customers have the best possible experience. That seems like an antiquated business model in today’s world sometimes, but it did dent my cynicism for the week I was there.

Watching the faces of my nieces and nephews, my sisters and parents, and especially maybe my Disney crazed wife, I couldn’t help but have an extraordinary time. I also completely took the reins off of my diet while I was there. I had ice cream and steak, cheese cake and cheeseburgers, corn dogs and creme brule, margaritas and wine, croque monsieur and pizza. It was a little ridiculous. However, because I also walked about 60 miles in 7 days, I gained 1.4 pounds though the whole deal. I stepped on the scale on Monday, not my normal weigh-in, but I wanted to get a post-vacation read, at 332.2#

And because I’ve been sick since Tuesday afternoon, I missed my weigh-in yesterday too. But I did step on the scale this morning at 325.4# My first foray in the 320s since the 1990s. 🙂 It’s not a real number, I know that. The lack of food and the dehydration are certainly a part of that low number, but I still looked extra long at the scale today. I can’t believe that as sick as I am, I could feel so good about a number. But that number represents 15 years of struggle, almost all of it losing.

As to the 40 by 40 goal, my BMI today is 42.2. I’ve lost 55.6# since August 17th. My BMI is 77% of the way to my 1 year goal, with 29 weeks to go. Another 17 pounds and I will be at a BMI of 40. Who wants to party?

Thanks for all your help. Thanks to my wonderful mother and father for giving our family such an amazing trip last week, our first full family vacation since 1994. I love you very much. Thanks to my amazing wife for all her help, with this project and with her planning of the vacation; without you, neither would have had any chance of success.

Be careful out there.

Week #21 Weigh-in…and healthy living at the Happiest Place on Earth?

Stepped on the scale this morning at 330.8 pounds, down 8.6# in one week. Now, is that a good thing or a bad thing? Good because it is movement in the right direction? Bad because it is way more than my planned loss of 2 pounds per week?

It’s both, probably…but mainly good. If you remember, my eating has been really erratic over the holidays. In fact, so erratic that I lost and gained weight with almost roller coaster like consistency. ;-). So while this seems like, and is, a BIG drop in weight, if you go back to my pre-holiday weight-loss trajectory, this new weight actually lines up with those old numbers. (Michelle is writing a post about that, I think.)

It might be bad, especially if I lose almost 9 pounds again next week! 😉 however, since I am spending the week at Walt Disney World in Orlando with my wife, both sisters, brother-in-law, three nephews, two nieces, my father and my wonderful, amazing, loving mother who is footing the bill for the whole trip, I think it is unlikely that I’ll lose any weight at all. I’ll probably come back up 20#!!!

My BMI is down to 42.88 from a high of 49.4 and last week’s 43.99. So made good progress there as well. I am now 69.5% of the way towards my goal of a 40 BMI. Looking good and feeling good!!

Also, cracked $600 in my fundraising for 3 Days for a Cure this week. Thanks to all who have donated to this worthy cause. Today marks 30 weeks until Ellen and I walk 60 miles over 3 days through Chicago Land!! If you are interested in helping out with a donation,, go to this webpage and just search by Chad Harnisch.

Thanks again for all of the support, and as always, be careful out there!!

A “Graphic” Look at the Holiday Season

The holiday season is over, and for any health-conscience person, that brings a small (or large) sigh of relief. I do say that with a couple caveats: first, Valentine’s day is next month, but Chad and I have never really celebrated that holiday. Second, we do have another significant change coming up in our daily lives…we will be spending a week in Walt Disney World! [This will no doubt effect what we eat and drink and also how much exercise and activity we get–I’m sure there will be stories to share!]

Chad had his first true post-holiday weigh in today, and was down 9 pounds! Now, if this was any other week, the dietitian-wife would be quite concerned, but knowing my client as I do, there are a few reasons I am not worried.

  1. Our normal diet is quite healthy and we eat little of the processed foods that are known for their incredibly high salt content. (And yes, restaurant foods, even if not highly processed, are high in sugar and salt.)
  2. As we have mentioned in previous posts, we had decided to not skip the culture of food that accompanies the holidays, and enjoy the seasonal treats.
  3. We have had a varied exercise routine lately, though Chad has done a great job of keeping as active as possible by snowshoeing, working out in hotel gyms, even dancing! However, it hasn’t been quite enough to keep up his previous rate of loss.
  4. Now that we have had a bit more normalcy in our lives, Chad has done a great job sliding back into his pre-holiday eating and exercising habits.

So, yes, we are past the roughest spot of the year, but what about the loss of 9# in one week? As you may have read, Chad is able to lose several pounds in a week when he really focuses, and would lose 3-4 pounds per week early in 40 by 40, which was above his goal of 1-2 pounds/week. With his dedication to getting back on track, I am not surprised he had a big week of loss. Also, though it is “fuzzy” science, I do know that some of his loss was due to the extra salt and fluid being flushed out of his body. As a small experiment with a super-tiny data set, we weighed him not only the Wednesday after Christmas, but also the next day. He had lost one pound in a day! This pound, as well as the 9 pounds lost this week, cannot be attributed to the strict rule of “calories in/calories out,” as he would have needed to have deficits of 3500 calories in 24 hours, and 31500 calories over the past week, respectively. His exercise and food records bear out that this was definitely not the case.Screenshot_after holidays

After resuming his regular diet and exercise habits, and a bit of a “drying out” period, you can see he was able this week to achieve his lowest weight of 40 by 40, 330.8#. [Please note: The process of getting rid of extra water weight is NOT a diet plan. Tampering with your salt and fluid balance and/or retention can lead to cardiac difficulty. Some are predisposed to this condition, which is why Americans in general should eat less sodium than is in the current American diet.]

Finally, looking at the graph, you can see how holidays can wreak havoc on your weight! This is something we were expecting, given all the special occasions and traveling we had done, but seeing it really drives the point home. It is because the contrast is so stark, it makes us all the more determined to “take the straight and narrow path” (Name that Disney movie song lyric!) whenever possible.

Roasted Cauliflower Dijon

Cauliflower is a vegetable that is technically in season in the fall, but it can be found easily year-round, and it is hardy enough to keep well in the fridge for several days after purchase. It is good when eaten raw, but its great when cooked, and both Chad and my preferred way to eat cauliflower is roasted with a lemon-Dijon sauce! Its flavorful, easy, hearty, filling and quite low-calorie…perfect for winter dinner and leftovers!

Ingredients:2013-01-07 18.14.47
1 whole cauliflower (~8 cups)
1/4 C Lemon juice
1-2 T Dijon Mustard
2 t Dry Vermouth or white wine vinegar (optional)
1 t Salt
1 t Pepper
(Note: This is a fragrant, flavorful dressing! If you’d like, you can always change the amounts to your personal tastes.)


  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees, and spray a glass, metal or disposable aluminum roasting pan with cooking spray.
  2. Rinse cauliflower, and cut cauliflower off “stem” and into florets no bigger than golf ball or walnut size. Place in roasting pan.
    2013-01-07 18.00.46

    My way of prepping cauliflower

    2013-01-07 18.01.46

    Smaller pieces absorb more flavor, cook faster and get more tasty black bits during roasting; take the time to cut them properly.

  3. Any any small bowl or dish, mix all other ingredients.
  4. Pour dressing over cauliflower and mix until cauliflower is coated. NOTE: There will be extra dressing at the bottom of the pan, which will be absorbed while cooking.
  5. Roast uncovered in oven for 35 minutes, stirring twice. You can also cook it more or less depending on how crunchy you like your cauliflower.2013-01-07 18.52.28Notes:

    cauliflower label

    Nutritional information for raw cauliflower…low calorie, and check out the vitamin C!

  • The vermouth/vinegar is optional, but I find it adds to the tartness and tangy-ness of the Dijon mustard.
  • I do like my vegetables very crunchy, but I also like the slight charring a full 35 minutes provides!
  • This recipe uses no cheese, nuts, bread crumbs or olive oil, so 1 cup is about 40 calories. (About 6 servings, depending on the size of the cauliflower.)
  • If you frequent farmer’s markets, CSA’s (community-supported agriculture groups) or stores that carry more unusual varieties, look for purple, green or orange types!

This is a go-to recipe in our house; as low calorie as it is, Chad and I often have this once a week, aside from all the raw cauliflower we eat!

English: Close-up of a remarkable cauliflower ...

Chroniflower, of the subspecies caulicannabanis

Week #20 Weigh-in…and reminders are all around.

On Saturday, 12/29, one of my students was involved in a snowboarding accident which fractured his spine. He’s been in intensive care since, he is currently suffering from extensive paralysis, is on a ventilator, and has developed pneumonia. However, his spine is not severed and he is an amazing kid, tough and strong and healthy and positive. I am confident that he will recover.

But I’ve spent most of my week back a school worried about him and his friends, those who were with him when it happened and those that are closest to him. I worry about them because, just like all of us, teenagers are often ill-equipped to deal with the emotions related to grief and trauma. It’s that worry that makes me good at what I do. It’s that worry that leads me to seek the resources that can help these teenagers through times like this. It’s that worry that had me just now eating a piece of Pizza Hut pizza at 5:15 on a Friday night with 3 tough, awesome young men worried about their friend as they planned a fundraising event to coincide with tonight’s basketball game which will help support their friend and his family financially through the long months of rehabilitation ahead. And it is that worry that has me exhausted and feeling like my blog about weight-loss maybe isn’t so important this week.

However, I haven’t missed a week yet, and 20 weeks seems like an inopportune time to stop. So here’s the numbers. I stepped on the scale on Wednesday at 339.4#, up 0.6# since my last weigh-in. I was a bit disappointed by that, but I also was visiting friends for New Year’s Eve on Monday, and watching the UW-Badgers lose to Stanford on Tuesday, so I am not surprised. I did make it through the Holiday season losing 5 pounds total from pre-Thanksgiving. Since most folks average a weight gain of 5-10# during that same period, I feel like a 5 pound loss is a win.

Also, as I’ve mentioned before, my weight can fluctuate wildly from day-to-day. So to prove that point, I stepped on the scale this morning after playing basketball and before breakfast. I weighed 334.0#, or put another way, I lost 5.4 pounds in 48 hours. We’ll see what happens next week.

And, keep my student in your thoughts and prayers this week. I know he will recover, but we can all use a little help once in a while.

Be careful out there.

2012 in review

Chad and I would like to thank all of those who have read any part of our blog this year, especially those who have taken the time to comment. We hope to share a lot more of Chad’s 40 By 40 progress with you, as well as other topics, like recipes and my evolution from a fish stick eater to a sushi eater!

One of the good things about WordPress is it gives me lots of geeky data to look at, and at the end of our first 4 months, we are able to take advantage of their year-end summary. Feel free to check it out.

May you all have a Happy and Healthy New Year!

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 3,500 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 6 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.