Have you ever been to a restaurant and enjoyed a dish so much that you went home to try to prepare a version of it? Well, that’s how this recipe came to life. My son and I use to share a bowl of sausage soup at an Italian restaurant chain, and we liked it so much, that I studied the ingredients and decided to make a heart healthy version. Keeping the flavors savory and vibrant, yet more heart healthy with the turkey, this recipe has turned out to be a huge hit amongst my girlfriends and my family.
I like to enjoy this soup as a “flat belly” recipe on days I am eating light. The original recipe included rice, however, to keep the carbs low, I do not add rice. To turn this into a meal for my family, I serve this with a delicious salad and a slice of freshly prepared garlic bread. Remember, the wise words of Hippocrates: “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” This recipe won’t disappoint in flavor, and it contains all the heart healthy ingredients to boot! “Sahtain!” – Enjoy this toward good health.
Italian Turkey Sausage Soup
1 lb of Sweet Italian Turkey Sausage
1 cup of chopped white onion
1 cup of chopped carrots
1 cup of chopped celery
2 cups of chopped fresh spinach
1 – 2 cloves of chopped garlic
2 boxes of Organic Chicken Stock (32 FL OZ)
Shredded Cheese (to taste)
Red Pepper Flakes (to taste)
Lightly brown the turkey on medium. Add all the other ingredients together and bring to a boil on high. Reduce heat to low and allow time for all the vegetables to soften. (Approx 20 minutes). Add your favorite cheese and Red Pepper Flakes to taste. *Note, depending on which chicken stock you choose, additional salt is not necessary.
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I am going to have a heart to heart with you in this blog. You will learn things about me I have shared with only a select few. With this information, I hope to bring you closer to the possibility that you too can enjoy a certain freedom as you move toward good health and fitness…because, true be told, I am not all proud of this story.
In some respects, I am very fortunate, because I have always enjoyed working out. I think I was born with a rare interest in fitness. In fact, my sister Leila will tell you that I was born “buff.” Admittedly, there are a couple of pictures of me as a three-year old with pretty ripped arms and legs that I seemed to have earned just from “playing.” Unfortunately, my relationship with food is not so impressive. You see, despite being “set up for success” with loving and supportive parents, I naively fell into the “comparison trap” as a teenager. So as the magazine age of the über thin super model rose, I morphed my once healthy idea of beauty to something über unrealistic…especially for my fit, full-figured, body type.
Maybe you can relate to some of my story.
To achieve this morphed image, I dabbled with crazy fad diets. I invented restrictive methods such as eating all my calories for breakfast and nothing else the rest of the day…only to lose steam come 3:00 pm during softball practice when I needed the energy most. How stupid. But there is more. A couple of the girls on the team thought that if we wore this wet suit contraption that was advertised on TV during practice then we could “sweat off” our excess fat. So, I spent my hard-earned money from my first paying job to buy this ridiculous wet suit thing so I could sweat off my fat, (which I didn’t even have looking back!).
Then it got uglier. I dabbled with bulimia. The worst part for me with bulimia was that it went against my personal commitment to follow Christ…You see, me and God we were (still are) tight. I always talked to God. So when I would throw up, well, I felt guilty because I knew better….I’d push out the rationals thoughts such as, “how is doing this, honoring the body I was given?” Mind you, I kept talking to God…only, with each conversation I had a lot of explaining to do…I never blamed God or felt abandoned…I just kept praying and seeking throughout my awkward conversations. Seems that God knew my heart and answered my prayers with two significant women: my mother and Wenda. My mother had this gift of encouragement. She never really knew about my bulimia till after the fact…(and let me tell you, I was so ashamed to tell her). But she was fully aware that I struggled with a negative body image and so she constantly reinforced a positive body image saying repeatedly that I was beautiful and perfectly healthy. My figure was like “Sophia Loren” she’d say with her sweet Lebanese accent. “Why be so skinny, anyway? This is not healthy…and you are gorgeous!” She was the “good cop.” Wenda, well, she was the “bad cop.” Wenda was my childhood best friend and she was tough. She called me out on my bulimia many times. One time she turned off the water so I couldn’t flush the toilet and forced me to confess! I am grateful to have had such support, because with it, I became even more determined to stop.
First step, I began to educate myself. One of the books that really helped me during this time was a book called, “Diet’s Don’t Work,” by Dr. Bob Schwartz. This book helped me move away from the whole “diet” cycle. I imagine we all have that one book that helped us get past a “hump.” This book was mine. Next, I began to study about fitness and exercise. And, the truth be told, a large part of why I even went into the fitness industry as a group exercise instructor (besides loving fitness) was because I wanted to pay it forward. I wanted to be like my mom and tell my students what they probably needed to hear, “You are gorgeous and healthy.” I wanted to be like Wenda and challenge my students…maybe hold them accountable…the solution being fitness. I wanted to encourage my students to learn to enjoy cooking healthy recipes. I desired, in earnest, to be the one with the microphone sharing the good news of health! Today, with RaqiSa Fitness, this is the mission; this is the message.
But the story is not over.
CRISIS POINT: PUTTING MY MESSAGE INTO PRACTICE
Everything was going pretty well until I became pregnant with my first child and I gained 40 lbs of extra weight, even though I worked out daily. I was fit. Sure. I was fit and fat. I suppose, subconsciously, I thought I could compete with what I ate through exercise. You see, before that, I really never was over weight. And I was managing my weight smoothly with healthy eating and working out. But with pregnancy all bets were off – the only thing that seemed to make me feel better were: food, sleep, and exercise. In that order. I can remember when my daughter was born, I went for my 6 week appointment and was weighed. Right there and then I realized exactly HOW MUCH weight I put on. I came home, stood in the kitchen and panicked. So, I started a conversation with myself, “Okay. You have 40 lbs of weight to get off. You’ve never had to lose this much. I want it off fast, but healthy. How do I do it?” For a split second bulimia crossed my mind and I felt this fear sweep over me. “No, you’re just going to have to do this.” I told myself. I remembered to keep my priorities straight: I gave God thanks daily for my baby and my health. I desperately wanted to be a good role model for my daughter like my mother was for me.
Meanwhile, I returned to teaching my classes two days a week. To be honest, when I looked at myself in the mirror, I didn’t recognize myself. On top of it, there were a couple of other women who also just had babies…but didn’t gain weight at all. I felt embarrassed and frustrated with myself. As I was teaching my class, I was also coaching myself. I told myself to just hang in there, to not be hard on myself. I pushed out the negative thoughts. I ate reasonably and weighed myself weekly.
It took me nine months, but I finally arrived to the last 10 lbs. I was at a plateau and tired of being my own coach. I needed someone to help ME. I was also physically tired from being a sleep deprived new mother. By this time, I had stopped breast-feeding, so, I decided that I would try Jenny Craig because the food was prepared; and I needed something easy. I loved it. I loved it because it was a no-brainer, the food was pre-portioned and seeing the portion sizes really helped me. The calories were pre-measure and this was helpful. I learned a lot of methods to “add volume” with “free vegetables” to various foods as well. I was able to lose the weight, but guess what? The day I returned to my svelte pre-pregnancy weight, I found out I was pregnant with my son!!!!! And YES, I gained weight AGAIN! This time I didn’t panic. I knew that I could get it off myself; and if I needed additional support, I would go on Jenny Craig again, (which I did).
To be sure, I got the weight off and learned many lessons along the way. The first being, “no matter how hard we work out…if we are not mindful of what we put in our mouths, we will gain weight.” Ultimately we need to learn how to have a healthy relationship with food. Let me be clear that this is by no means a promo for Jenny Craig. It was simply an option I chose for convenience as a new mother. My beautiful sister Leila lost over 100 lbs on Weight Watchers and I am inclined to believe this is the best solution for long-term weight loss. With RaqiSa Fitness, I promote life-style and cooking. Because the best way to gain control of what we put in our mouths is to fall in love with cooking delicious foods as we measure our portions.
Below, I hope that you will try this delicious and easy Americanized Arabic Pizza; and I hope that you will be mindful of having the proper serving with a healthy salad to honor your personal portion size meant for your body. In addition, if you are seeking support, my sister Leila leads a Facebook group called, “Biohacking Glamazons for Weight loss and Well being.” Request to be added to the group. Leila also embraces the RaqiSa Message; after all, we shared the same precious mother!
As far as my personal story goes. Well, I hope the parts that will resonate most are to:
1) Learn to love yourself as you educate yourself on health and fitness; 2) Learn to coach yourself; 3) Learn to control your portions; 4) Learn to seek additional support when needed.
So, in my house, when I need to lose some extra weight, my daughter and son have learned to say that “mommy is going on a LIVE-IT…not a DIE – IT.” I explain carefully that I am grateful to be healthy and that good eating actually FEELS better…I feel more ALIVE! I try to let my kids see me enjoy the foods we always eat, but with a portion size that is catered toward weight loss. I try to limit eating out and I try to cook at home. And yes, I still love finding support from friends or professionals who can coach me through as needed.
In summation: It’s the 80/20 rule. What we put in our mouth does matter. Working out is so important because our bodies were MEANT to move and we were designed to have muscle balance to function in life. In addition, exercise lifts our spirits! RaqiSa Fitness offers fun, flirty, results based solutions to help motivate you to move! It is my hope that you will learn to enjoy exercise not as a punishment to “lose weight,” but as joy. And if you happen to be full-figured like me…Well, start to believe what my mother said, “You’re Gorgeous! You look like Sophia Loren!” ….Hey, why not?
What’s for dinner? Americanized Arabic Pizza!
Enjoy this fast and easy family friendly recipe in your home today!
1 lb. of ground beef
1/2 cup of finely chopped onion
1 (14.5 oz) can of diced tomatoes (drain excess juice)
1 tsp of salt
1 tsp of cayenne pepper
1 tbls of olive oil
Combine all the ingredients and mix well with hands.
Pat meat mixture to cover a 10” wrap (or tortilla) and place on a baking sheet
Preheat oven broiler and place rack in center
Broil pizza for 4 minutes or until meat is cooked to your preference.
Place Individual Pizza on a Plate and Drain excess liquid carefully.
Serve with Fresh Squeezed Lemon, Tomato, Pickle and Wrap Tightly. Enjoy!
*Add additional cayenne pepper or salt to your taste on individual pizzas.
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