Wednesday, July 22, 2015

8 weeks A.D. (After Diet)

Well here I am, 8 weeks after my diet, doing my best to maintain. The hurdles are piling up. The McDonald's next to our office that was closed during my whole diet, opened back up in last few weeks of my journey. Plus just the chaos of taking a large group to Italy, then coming back to plan another event in the next month, kind of wears you out.

But have no fear!! I have not lost my moxy! I am determined to hold this for as long as possible. I have made some serious life changes, portions and self control. I am sad to announce I have gained 3 whole stinking pounds back in the last 2 months. 3 rakk-a-frakkin pounds! They mock me in my sleep. But it could have been worse. Fortunately I did not make good on my promise to eat 30 Big Macs right after the diet.

However, those 3 pounds are enough to have me worried. It always starts with a couple innocent little pounds, but then they invite their friends, then they invite their friends and before you know it, you have the next Delta House blow-out happening in your body...or maybe I should say blow-up!

Now I did try to cancel my membership to my gym when we returned, since PMQ was footing that bill and the diet was technically over. Man, they lock you in for life! Their immediate response was, "No problem. Just provide proof you are moving out of range of any of our locations and that won't be a problem.". After some indignant arguing on my part, I finally responded, "Ok brother, I'm moving to Syria. You guy's have any locations in Syria?!". And without a beat I was met with, "Of course not. Just provide proof of residence and we'll let you out of the contract.".

I've never really been a meat-head, or gym rat type, more physically ambiguous, but currently my soul belongs to my gym for the next 8 months. Is this a bad thing? Not at all. One reason I didn't join gyms is because I always lose interest. I'm on the hook for the next 8 months...that interests me.

I have been getting back into the gym slowly, couple days a week. Just to get my moneys worth. But there is nothing like the feeling after the workout. Accomplishment, fulfillment, strength, and all the other adjectives that equal getting off your arse and doing something good for yourself. I have a motto I received on a tie pin from my grandfather, YCDBSOYA: You Can't Do Business Sitting On Your Arse. It really applies to anything in your life.

While I never really went on a food binger after my return from the Food Valley of Italy, I have made sure to hold myself to responsible portions. I did venture out from the pizza realm once the diet was over, but kept everything under control. My main enemy is the lack of working out. With that currently being remedied, I am about to venture into another 4 month stint of pizza, portion control and pumping iron. I would like to take my current success as a starting point and delve down back into my previous P90X weight. I would like to go from 258.2 ( my current weight) down to at least 230 by Nov. 27th. I will start my next journey July 27th.

I will immediately find myself in distress as I will be doing a Pizza Adventure through Colorado following Richard Ames, of Daddio's Pizza. We will be following him on his adventure visiting Pizzerias and PMQ's Think Tank members. We will have a panel with some independents and then get to visit their shops. I then immediately return to home base only to set out on a couple vacation days back to Good Ole' Indiana, to marry my best friend Craig Swearingen. Wait, wait!!!! I won't marry him, I will officiate his ceremony. Yeah that's right, I'm an ordained minister. I've already married our art designer Eric and associate Editor Andy. Granted, against their will, but now it's the courts problem.

I will try to hit a few of my old pizza haunts along the way, while seeing a lot of familiar faces and loved ones. But fielding a hurdle such as this in the beginning of your journey can either make or break your efforts. I was able to manage it well in Ohio the first go round, I think I have this under control. Just tune into my facebook (Brian Hernandez) in case I falter. Your encouragement and comments always help. It's like all of America is my diet/gym partner.  :') I love you guys so much!

I lost the weight, but didn't lean out as much as I would have liked...scratch that, as much as I should have in my mind, at no ones fault but my own. With a renewed sense of vigor, I'm dragging my co-workers to the gym with me. I don't care if it costs me $7 a guest pass. It's always better to have a partner in physical
misery! Eric Summers, Kara Hoffman, I'm coming for you. Plus my pool just opened so I'm gonna pay the $50 and get a summer pass and do laps at lunch, Andy Knef, I'm coming for you with this one. Plus I'm tired of being the whitest Mexican in town. By the end of the season I will be a Bronze Adonis. Greased up muscle pics to follow.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Weeks 15-17: Past, Present,and Pizza

Well the end of my journey has presented itself. Using the food I love to reshape my body and life for the better, against all the nay-sayers who say pizza can't be good for you, I walk away triumphant!

My final weight at week 16 was 257.2, down 29.4 lbs. from 286.6, and a 45" navel measurement, down from 49.25" 4 months ago. Almost 30 pounds and 4 inches down!

Week 15 saw me preparing to take the US Pizza Team to Italy for a competition. I was able to lose 1.4 pounds that week, but the loss slowed in week 16 during the final days before the Herculean task of herding the U.S. Pizza Team at the World Pizza Championships, only losing .2 pounds.

I am still extremely happy with my results. I feel better about my body and health. And I plan to continue my routine for as long as possible.

Week 17 saw me in Parma, the food valley of Italy . Cheese, prosciutto and wine aplenty. the U.S. Pizza Team performed admirably, improving scores from last year and even taking second place in freestyle acrobatics, and despite the temptations I was able to maintain some discipline on my meals. Only a couple days where the portions were larger than I would have liked, but when you are learning to make an 8 course meal at Academia di Barilla, you eat what is presented!

I took an extra day in Italy to try to unwind from the chaos that is the World Pizza Championships. I ventured to Venice, no translator, no plan, just one lost American. After a lengthy train ride, dodging pan handlers and a huge language barrier, I stepped off the platform to the beautiful sight of the grand canal. Giving in and allowing a hotel porter service to help me find my hotel, I made my way a quarter mile through the crowded streets, up the 3 flights of stairs, and then I was in an expensive closet, oh wait, I mean my hotel room. However, it was right on the canal, which wasn't that bad.

Cleaned up and ready to go, I immediately walked out the door and started taking random turns. Having sufficiently lost my self in the city, I sat down for a whiskey and a Margherita pie at Dolfin Ristorante Pizzeria. Completely stuffed after a few slices, I headed back to the hotel for some rest, I made a few circles and retraced some steps, but in the end, found my way back.

Rested up from my day adventure, I chose a pizzeria closer to the hotel this time to avoid getting lost at night. I ventured to the Mari Bar right on the canal. I sampled a Marinara pie for the first time ever. It was quite a tasty thing for having nothing on it but sauce and garlic.

Having survived my "pleasant" travel experience back to the U.S.A, I weighed myself
to see what damage had been done. Lo and behold, I actually lost a whole extra pound!! Finishing the 4 months at 256.2 lbs. All the walking and maintaining the portion control paid off!

All in all, the Pizza Diet has been one of the most inspiring and life changing events I have embarked upon. It's not about what you eat, it's about how you eat it. I know this is basic knowledge for any dieter, but it takes a lot to change your mind set and create new habits. And once you create new, better, healthier habits, you better keep to it. Nothing in life comes easy, but in the words of the great George McFly, "If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything."

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Week 14: Barriers have been broken!

Well I did it America! I broke the 250' barrier. With a loss if 1.2 pounds this week, I am down below 260
for the first time in a very long while. I went from 260 flat to 258.8 pounds, and from a 45.8" navel measurement to 45.25"! I'm very excited.

This week is also a very boring week for me as I had to put my head down and focus up for the last 3 weeks of my 16 week journey. I got in my gym visits, but had long hours at work as well. So there was very little fun in between, but honestly, losing weight and achieving my goals is fun, so I guess I'm alright.

This week for my diet I was able to make a pie that really exceeded my expectations. I finally made my Chicken Broccoli Alfredo pie. Grilled up some chicken breast, shredded it, then tossed the chicken and some broccoli in a little Alfredo sauce. I used a light amount of Alfredo as the base since I already coated the chicken and broccoli, Then added a light layer of mozzarella to hold it down. I then added a little bacon and tomatoes on top. Very little. Topped it with a mozzarella cheddar blend and some diced garlic and a little sea salt. To repeat myself from an earlier blog..."It was gooo-oood!". I also Made just a plain cheese to balance out the lunches and dinners. I assume I don't need to give you that recipe.

Now a question I get asked almost everyday is, "Don't you ever get tired of pizza?". And while my answer face to face is always a resounding "no", can you keep a secret America?

Yes, at times I tire of pizza. I am a man that loves food, all kinds of food. And while pizza offers you the diversity in flavors to make whatever you crave, at the end of the day, it's still pizza. And sometimes you don't have dough ready and available, or are just too plain tired or in a hurry to wait for a whole pizza. But I found ways to stick to the diet while branching out into non pizza items. All these options used pizza ingredients, just transformed to different dishes. I should really try out for Chopped! I'd just like to run down the list of a few pizza-esque options I threw in.

1. Pretzels - This is the simplest of the recipes. I just  take an 8oz. dough ball, cut it into about 4 strips then roll them into 12"-14" breadsticks. I use a food grade lye solution made of 16 oz. of warm water and .63 oz. of lye. Use gloves as it can burn if left unattended on the skin, dip the sticks in the solution, then place on a tray with parchment paper. Form them into any shape you wish really. Then add some pretzel salt over the top. You can get both pretzel salt and the lye online. I like to dip in a cheese or red sauce.

2. Spinach Artichoke Bites - This one takes a little more work, but is bite sized and tasty. Find your favorite spinach artichoke dip recipe and whip it up.Then you use some Filo dough, or thinly sheeted pizza dough. Place the dough in a small cup cake or biscuit tray. fill the cups with the dip and bake. They come out nicely browned and melty. You can make them any size, depending on your tray.

3. Mozzerella Sammich - Just toast some bread on a skillet with some olive oil (or in a toaster without the oil of course). I used a nice ciabatta bread bun. Add a layer of mozz while still in the skillet, cover for 30 seconds to start the melt. Remove after the 30 seconds, add a dab or two of red sauce and basil, if you so choose. I almost always do. Top the sandwich. You can also sprinkle some fresh grated Parmesan on top as well for an extra little kick.

4. Pizza Burger - I love my burgers! So I decided to try out a way to have one with my diet. My first attempt used a flatbread cut in half (this one used a regular bun), spread with a thin layer of ricotta, garlic, parsley mix on both halves. I made the burger stuffed with mozzarella cheese, placed a slice of provolone on top. Topped with green peppers, black olives, red onions, and crisped pepperoni. Dabs of red sauce on top then put the bun on. Brushed with a little garlic butter, sprinkle with Parmesan and basil. Delicious! Now it is a hefty burger, I ate mine in several stages, but I'm also developing this recipe for something I'm doing online.

5. Pizza Cone - A friend of ours at PCI Frozen Foods sent PMQ some pizza cones to try out in the test kitchen. While still technically pizza, it was transformed enough to feel new and different. We tried several options of toppings including black olives and green pepper, Margherita and a prosciutto. Not to mention your standards of a pepperoni and a cheese.  You can find videos online of how to make you own pizza cones at home.

Well I have two weeks left to go on my diet. I'm making great strides and I am very excited. My goal is to be 30 pounds lighter by the time I'm done. I was originally shooting for 40 pounds, but I can live with 30...for now. We are in the homestretch now America. I really appreciate you guys joining me on this journey. Stay tuned for the finale. Only two more episodes left!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Week 13: Better late than never!

Well America, I have those 2 pounds I owe you. I am down another 2 pounds from 262 to 260. It was a hard trek but obviously worth it.

This week there really isn't much to report on. I buckled down, got into the gym for my three days, and kept
portions under control. Motivated by my less than stellar performance in weeks 10 and 11, I can hold my head up this week as I'm that much closer to breaking the 250 barrier.

Once again I kept my recipes simple. This week I made a bacon pizza.
If I have to tell you the recipe, shame on you! Albeit, slightly overdone, it still tasted great, but was simple, small, not over filling. I have my chicken defrosting now for another great tasting pie next week. Alfredo chicken and broccoli!

While this week has very few interesting stories, that in itself is a great triumph. I have recovered my momentum and am heading back down the correct path. I have received a workout buddy. An old friend from Indiana reached out to me and confessed he has begun his own journey. And his results mirror mine. We both started around the same weight and have lost about the same amount. I think he might actually be beating
me by a pound or two. It's always nice to have someone who is in the exact same boat
you are. I have several workout buddies and motivators already, including Matt McLellan and Jay Sherinsky, but they are in a slightly different boat. Matt is already well toned and has lost the weight. Even in his first incarnation, he was never really that big. But trying to come down from the amount of mass I was and still am carrying is a different story. My new buddy has a little more understanding of the difficulties and triumphs associated with this type of loss. Thanks buddy!

With 3 weeks left I'm pushing myself as hard as I can. I can see the finish line for this leg, but I have no set finish line for after. I'm gonna keep the momentum going as long as I can.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Week 12: Back on Track

Hello America, here's the thing, I’ve only got two pounds on me, you think I could pay you the rest next week?

As stated above, I must report I fell short of my promise to you by 2 pounds. I was able to lose another 1.7pounds--bringing me from 263.7 to 262 pounds even. And I dropped down from 46" to 45.8" navel measurement. I fell short of my promise of losing 4 pounds by 1.8 pounds, unfortunately...but hey, how many pounds did you lose this week?

I was able to get on my bike for a couple of rides, but then the heavens opened up and rained for almost an entire week. I made the ride home for a high-intensity workout session, in one blow. I didn't have to make a base camp for the night or anything. And it only took me one minute longer to get home than it did to get to work. This felt very good. Although I have realized my butt is out of shape. I don't mean me overall as a person. I mean, literally, my's out of shape. Bike seats hurt!

With this accomplishment under my belt, I was able to get a couple trips to the gym in and monitor my food and water intake a little better this week. This helped in recharging the mojo and direction of my diet. I’m cracking down on the exercise aspect for the last four weeks before my 120 days is up. As said, I will continue this past the 4-month date, but I want to achieve as much as I can in the time allotted.

Eating so much pizza got me thinking about the first time it actually appeared. I learned a lot from the Pizza Class John Arena gives at Metro Pizza in Las Vegas, but I was looking for the origin of the word. Apparently it first appeared in Latin texts in Gaeta, Italy, in 997 A.D. Basically, the text was more or less a bill, stating that the tenant of a certain property owed the bishop of Gaeta
“duodecim pizze,” or 12 pizzas, every Christmas day, and another twelve on Easter Sunday. But back then pizza wasn't the food we know today. The tomato had not yet been introduced to Italy, so it more closely resembled foccacia bread. Italy didn't even know what a tomato was until the mid sixteenth century, when it was brought over by Spanish Conquistadors. Man, I wish I could pay my rent with 24 pizzas!

I decided to take a simpler approach to my meals this week--well kind of. I’ve been making very fancy, heavy, elaborate pies in the past. Tired from a workout and not trying to think too much, I decided I didn't want a big, topping-heavy slice that day. I went old school. Classics are called classics for a reason. So with some "Via Pizzeria 1-2-3" sauce from my good friend Gino Rago of Panino's Pizza in Chicago, I made a very simple, very cheesy, pepperoni pizza. I topped it off with my first harvest from my basil plant, and confidant, Herb. He has really bounced back, and he's very tasty!

The Pizza Burger
Now here's the not-so-simple part. I decided to play around one day with a recipe I'd been thinking about for a while. A Pizza Burger--Hamburger stuffed with mozzarella, a flat-bread cut in half and toasted, with a Ricotta, garlic, parsley spread and some red sauce on the top. I added provolone slices on the patty, topped it with green pepper rings, red onions, black olives, thin-sliced Romas and some crisped pepperoni. Then I spread the top of the "bun" with some garlic butter and sprinkled more of my good friend Herb on top. The taste was amazing. The size was, well, huge. But do not be dismayed, America, I only ate a portion each day. In fact, there's a bite or two still left to work on.

Well that's my week America. I ‘m so sorry I couldn't reach my goal I promised you. I really tried my best, but that motivation got me back on track. I needed it. Thank you. So now the slow crawl downward continues, with renewed commitment to my workouts and making sure I don't let my portions increase again. We're in the final leg now, folks. Let's make it happen.

Cats and pizza, what could be better?!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Week 11: Slow crawl from the trenches

Well week 11 has arrived, halfway to the deadline of my promise to America of losing 4 pounds. Well, it's a slow start, but a start nonetheless.

Down from 264.2 to 263.7 pounds. A half a pound loss, but still a loss! I did maintain the 46" navel measurement. Now, I can't be too down on myself. While progress has slowed, I am still pushing forward. Being down 23 pounds and 3.25" from the start is a big thing.

I was able to get my gym visits in this week. Just two, but for the third, I dusted off the old family truckster, i.e. my bike, and took it for a spin! The tires were flat, it was covered in mud and pollen from all the rain and shedding trees, but now she is shined up and ready to ride. While I didn't attack the Everest like incline that is the ride home from work just yet, I feel it coming soon. I might have to make basecamp halfway up on my first attempt and try for the summit the next day, but it will be done.

With my workout routine back up and running and my wheels greased, I am ready for the grueling task of losing another 3.5 pounds in week 12. I feel energized and motivated to do this. With those pounds lost I will be that much closer to my milestone of breaking the 250's. Will you guys throw me a party? Hint, I like pizza.

Encouraged by a loyal reader to add a little bit of interesting into this blog vs. just listing my weekly doings (after all, isn't that what Facebook is for?), I looked into some of the healthiest pizza toppings out there. Inspired by some of my earlier readings about the health benefits of items like spinach, basil, tomato and artichokes., I wondered what the top ten healthiest pizza toppings were. So here are some of the top ten healthiest choices for your pie, according to

The health benefits include lower blood sugar, lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and reduced risk of colon cancer thanks to the chromium, vitamin C, and fiber.

Black Olives
Olives are full of healthy unsaturated fats that fight heart disease and lower cholesterol. You’ll also be getting some good things known as polyphenols and flavanoids. The fat will also help you absorb the nutrients from your other toppings.

Red Peppers
Chock full of Vitamin C, A, and B6, along with antioxidants like beta-carotene.

I recommend making a paste out of chopped garlic and olive oil. You can spread that on the crust before you load it down with everything else. Lots of health benefits from garlic, plus the heart-healthy fats you get from this flavorful bugger!

Not only is it loaded with antioxidants, but it’s full of iron, lutein, and zeaxanthin. The iron will build your blood (no EPO necessary) and the lutein and zeaxanthin will protect your eyes from macular degeneration.

One of the few fruits that works on pizza. It contains Vitamin C and an enzyme called bromelain. Bromelain will aid digestion, a good thing if you eat as much pizza as I do, and it even acts as a natural anti-inflammatory, easing your aching muscles. If you were just out hammering for 5 hours, pour on the pineapple!

While being neither fruit nor vegetable (mushrooms are actually a fungus,) they add great flavor and great nutrients. They are packed with selenium and riboflavin (and other B vitamins,) along with other nutrients that could ward off cancer.

Sliced tomatoes make great toppings, especially on a white or pesto pizza. Even if you already have tomato sauce on there, adding tomatoes just increases the healthiness.

This one is full of Vitamins C, A, and K, along with quite a bit of folate and dietary fiber. Broccoli offers significant anti-cancer effects, and when paired with tomatoes or tomato sauce, the veggies can boost each other’s effects for even better cancer fighting.

It’s full of protein, but not full of saturated fat and sodium like pepperoni. Chicken also has some good stuff like zinc and selenium (to boost your immune system) and essential B vitamins.

Now a Fox News poll replaced red peppers and black olives with ham and parmesan cheese. I'm ok with that! I was happy to see I have already been hitting a vast majority of these. I will make it a mission to incorporate the last few into a pie. As for black olives, pineapple, broccoli and mushrooms, I already have some great ideas.

This week was fueled by, of course the hearty breakfast pie, and a new concoction, a basil pine nut pesto with homemade Italian sausage and banana peppers. I made a basil pine nut pesto procured from this online recipe. This recipe is very similar to the recipe of the month by Roberto Caporuscio several issues ago. A pie he fed me in New York. At the time I was skittish about pesto, but out of respect, tried it. It pulled me
out of my pesto shell and I haven't looked back. The sausage I used was left over from Michael LaMarca's visit, made special for Master Pizza. Just spread the pesto over the base, cheese it and add the sausage. I added banana peppers halfway through the bake to keep some of the crunch. Very filling pie with lots of zing! For an added crunch I suggest adding diced pine nuts on top as well. It just ups the flavor.

 With the mandatory workout and menu report done, I am off to the gym! Eventually they are gonna kick me out for taking pictures, even if they are just of myself. I will continue my rides building up to the Herculean task of the ride home, and vary my menu with some of these healthy suggestions. Just 3.5 pounds to go to reach my promise. I'm doing my best America, for you!