Saturday, December 28, 2013

Last Friday - Tips, Tricks and Inspiration

It's the last Friday of 2013. Whew!

First, the memo: I posted my menu plan to Bright Love last Monday since it was more holiday than health-conscious, but if you're looking for ideas, there's the link.

I've been reading some interesting news in the fields of weight loss and whole health lately. Firstly this:
Restaurant labeling works and I am not surprised. While getting to the point where most restaurant fare could be called healthy is a ways off, at least with the labeling, research shows people do make better choices. Hence the tip of the week: Do take the time to read those labels and go for a healthier choice -- you will feel better about it. Did you know that California has had restaurant menu labeling laws for some time? Thus, if you plan on going to a chain restaurant, take a couple of minutes before you go to look up the restaurant online and enter your location as somewhere in California. You will then be able to see the whole menu with nutritional information. Cool, huh?

My trick of the week is an obvious one that bears restating. During these challenging holiday times, instead of saying "I can't have that" and depriving myself, only to binge later on something else. As we enter into week 2 or this long holiday time, try giving yourself permission to have a small piece or a single serving of your favorite holiday foods. Pass up any food that isn't your favorite to help offset the extra calorie expenditures. Trick 2 is one that everyone knows but seldom applies -- and this applies especially to buffets and group meals: If you take a bite of something and it is not nearly as good tasting as you thought it would be, do not take another bite. Try whatever you want to try, but only eat the really good stuff. I also make a point to pass up food we eat any time of the year -- breads, mashed potatoes, regular cake, etc -- and focus on the seasonal foods to lower the calorie cost of the whole meal. Make sense?

Although some would consider this last article bad news for someone like me, I take it as inspiration. I was actually relived to read that "healthy obesity is a myth." Yes, I have "good numbers." And as I tell my doctors, "I'm perfect on the inside." Still everything in me wants to fight the fat even though it's an epic battle with no victory yet in sight. None of my doctors will tell me to lose weight because my numbers are good. It's crazy. So I fight on for another year. What inspires you to keep fighting?

Have a safe, happy, and healthy new year!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Lose to the Last - It's Menu Plan Monday!

Welcome to Menu Plan Monday!  I love to link up with to share menus and be inspired by others!

I am doing things a little differently this week. I made a short list for each breakfast, lunch and dinner, bought all the ingredients and am selecting which meals to make each day. Having the plan plus the flexibility will help me adjust to the ever changing climate inside and outside the house.

This menu has a lot of our favorites in it but the Farmer's Fritata and the Macaroni Salad are sure winners. There aren't seven meals here because we always have at least one leftover day and one or two days where no one seems to be here at the same time so we eat what we can find!

Farmer's Fritata with Goat Cheese (recipe below)
Egg, Tomato and Avocado Tostados

Nicoise style tuna sandwiches  (here is a link to a recipe but we do not put mayo on ours)
Lemony Hummus and Goat Cheese with Homemade Whole Wheat Pita Chips
Classic Macaroni Salad with fresh veggies and cheese cubes (recipe below)
6 color rice, boiled egg, vegetables (inspired by this)

Filet Mignon (3 oz each) with Shaved Zucchini (sirloin for the little kids)
Grilled Shrimp Ceasar Salad (we use the classic ceasar dressing recipe and are sparing in application)
Pork Lo Mein

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Farmer's Frittata (Weight Watchers)
Serves 2

1/2 medium red potato (cook 3 minutes in microwave, then dice)
1 small zucchini, diced
1/2 green bell pepper, diced
1 tsp. olive oil
2 pinches salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 Tbsp. fresh basil, minced
1 large egg
4 egg whites
1/3 cup goat cheese, crumbled

Saute the vegetables in the olive oil about 4 minutes.  Reduce heat to medium; add the eggs, gently lifting the edges so the eggs can flow beneath; add salt and pepper on top. Place lid on, cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Sprinkle the goat cheese and basil on top, replace lid, lower heat to medium low for 2 minutes, until cheese softens.

Remove from heat. Cut into quarters for easy serving; serve 2 pieces per person.

This recipe is so delicious and such an easy way to get in a full serving of vegetables!

                                          -- * -- * -- * -- * -- * -- * --

Classic Macaroni Salad Remake by Weight Watchers

Serves 4 (doubles easily and keeps well refrigerated for several days)

8 oz macaroni, whole grain
1 cup small broccoli florets
1 large tomato, chopped
2 celery stalks, diced
1 small red bell pepper, diced
1/4 cup reduced fat mayonnaise
1/4 cup fat free sour cream
1 Tbsp. lemon juice  or pickle juice
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper

Cook the pasta according to the package directions.  Rinse under cool water to stop cooking. Combine pasta and vegetables. Combine dressing ingredients in small bowl.  Add to pasta and vegetables.

This salad is so good and has a full serving of vegetables per serving. There is no reason ever to make the full fat kind again!  I dice the vegetables really finely which keeps the kids happy.  If sending for lunch, I add an ounce of cheese cubes and a fruit for a complete lunch. Grape tomatoes are also a nice complement to this salad.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Festive Food That Won't Break the (Calorie) Bank

'Tis the season to party! I hate going to a party empty handed but this time of year, I also need to know there will be something there I can eat without guilt!  I saw this cute idea and decided to test it out for the teacher's luncheon at Tinker's school today.  Here is the result:

This was so simple.  Ingredients:
2 heads of broccoli
1 head of cauliflower
1 yellow bell pepper
 A few grape tomatoes
Neufchatel cheese (4 oz)
A few pieces of spaghetti

Cut the broccoli and cauliflower off the stalks.  Save a fat broccoli stalk for the trunk.

Slice the pepper thinly, saving a part to cut out a star.

Arrange your broccoli first.  Then cut a slice of stalk for the trunk. I used Neufchatel cheese to stick the broccoli and cauliflower to the tray. Now arrange your pepper slices. (Next time I will cut them as rounds before cutting them in half to allow more creative control!)

Break spaghetti into pieces to use as toothpicks to get the tomatoes and star to stay where you want them.

Simple huh?  The whole project took about 20 minutes and the teachers were so appreciative.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Fit Friday - Tips, Tricks and Inspiration

I apologize for the inconsistency in posting lately; my parents are in town for several weeks and I am suddenly super-stingy with my time, trying to soak up every minute of family time!  Nonetheless, the fight to fitness goes on so here I am!

I have a tip: If you want to change the state of your health, don't spend time worrying about small things, like the timing of meals, but focus on reducing calories and increasing activity. This article on timing of meals is interesting, but in the end, metabolism plays only a small part in weight loss. Exercising more can reduce stress and build muscle -- which does speed up our metabolism -- but most importantly, the common side effect of exercise is that when we feel better about ourselves, we make better choices about what we eat. We all want the magic thing that will make weight loss easy and while speeding up our metabolism can certainly aid our efforts, in the end, it's all about what we eat versus what we burn.

The trick of the week is one I picked up at Weight Watchers from last week:  Put your fork down and take a small sip of water after every bite.  It's a simple tip to slow down my eating enough for my brain to get the message that I've had enough. The question is, how will I remember? My plan is to take the time to set a lovely table in the dining room each evening so I remember -- this is family time, not mindless-eating-time. I think is as much a challenge for the week as a trick; who is going to try this with me?

For this week's inspiration, I offer this wonderful article from the amazing Dr. Katz. When I suggest to people that toddlers and children can eat whatever adults eat, they think I'm crazy. Even some of the healthy eaters we know feed their young children differently than they eat. Dr. Katz says we are ruining our children with "kid food" and I agree. After 10 years of eating mostly home cooked healthy food with limited forays into processes or restaurant food, I will tell you that those odd chemical flavorings that are added to almost everything these days taste really weird to me! My concern is that if we acclimate our children to these chemical flavors, real food won't stand a chance.

The flavors in nature's food are more subtle than chemically enhanced ones. Kids will complain at first so we parents have to be patient but any child can learn to eat healthful, real food. Bento boxes are one way we've made real food fun for our kids. One of my proudest moments as a parent came when a worker at school commented on my 4-year-olds love of all types of vegetables. Oh and be realistic; my kids go to birthday parties and trick-or-treating. They get their occasional dose of candy and confection. It's all about moderation and a gradual lifestyle shift. Please read the article for yourself and let me have your thoughts.

I'm healed up from a foot injury so back to my Couch to 5K program this week.  Have a good weekend, everyone.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Fall Friday - Tips, Tricks and Inspiration!

Fall -- don't you love it?  When we have fall weather in Texas, we celebrate; it can turn back to summer at any moment.

The downside of this time of year is that we have dark evenings and they are especially dark for the next two weeks until the time change. I noticed our neighborhood walkers have disappeared with the dark evenings (and not just because I can't see them! - ha!). In the autumn we have to revamp our exercise routine to factor in cooler weather and darker evenings and mornings. Here's a tip, take time this week to figure out how you can continue exercising in consideration of the environment. Maybe it's time to take all the clothes off the clothes rack -- err, exercise bike -- or dust off the yoga DVDs. "Just Dance" is an ever popular form of exercise in our house when it's too cool or dark outside. Maybe you can incorporate a stop by the gym into your commute or ride your bike for work or errands. Making a plan now ensures that we will be able to keep exercising through the holidays. My personal plan is to hit the home gym before I fix dinner each night. The Littles will need a hearty snack after school to tide them over to a later dinner.

Fall is time for soups, stews, and chili's, right?  Trick your family and your metabolism with this yummy no-meat chili. To speed things up, cook the beans in the crock-pot and then dump it all in a saucepan to finish after work. Alternately, cook the beans a day ahead and store them in the fridge until ready.

You Won't Miss the Meat Chili
Serves 6 
5 Weight Watcher's Points Plus per serving 
Freezes Great

1# 9-bean or 7-bean soup mix; discard the seasoning packet. (Cook beans according to package directions.  Do NOT add remaining ingredients until the beans are soft).

When beans are cooked or nearly so, add:

2.5 T chili powder;
1 tsp Oregano
1 tsp Cumin
1.5 t salt; 

1/2 tsp Cayenne (or omit if too spicy)
1/4 tsp. powdered ginger (helps with "repeating")
2- 16oz cans diced tomatoes, un-drained; 
1 can (16 oz) tomato sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced

Heat til bubbly; reduce heat, cover, simmer 30 minutes. 

At the last 10 minutes, mix:
6 oz. of beer (room temp is fine)
2 tablespoons masa (corn flour) or regular flour

Add to the chili.

 For a slightly more caloric version of this chili, try this version with cornbread dumplings. SO yummy.  

I also love Surprise Chili which is a more conventional chili but includes pumpkin!

Finally, this week's inspiration is from our little Bennie. He's a four-year-old gabby gander but surprisingly wise. He has India on his mind this week; apparently he's been watching the news. When Tinker said she wanted to move to India, Bennie said, "Don't do it! They don't have enough water!" The next day as we were both exercising, he asked, "Mom, do people in India have elliptical's? " "I doubt it son; I don't think in general they have problems with overeating. I think they have trouble getting enough to eat." "Well," he said, "that's sad." 

I would use the word "humbling." It's the perfect example of a "first world problem." Poor me, I have to go in my home gym and watch my  big screen tv to exercise off all the pounds I gained by overeating. (Whine).

Oh my goodness. I am going to try to put things in perspective this week and actually stop eating when I've had enough to eat. I am not a big over-eater  but I am aware that several times a week I do eat when I am not hungry. I think a little more hungry in my life could be useful.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Fall Friday Tips, Tricks, and Inspiration plus a Challenge

It's fab Friday! Time for some tips, tricks and inspiration, plus a challenge.

Here's a tip: Don't Instagram your food if you want to fully savor it. In an interesting study on satiety, researchers see a link between a loss of enjoyment and Instagramming photos of food. I take a lot of photos of food to use in my "Menu Plan Monday" posts and also in my recipe file, so this study made me sit up and take notice. Now to be sure, it's a "first world problem." Nonetheless, as a weight watcher, enjoying my food is part of what keeps me on plan, so maybe I will cut back on that food photography!

Have you ever tried veggie noodles?  This is a simple trick to get more veggies, fiber and vitamins into your diet. In the interest of full disclosure, these "Zoodles" (recipe below) do not taste like noodles, but they are surprisingly satisfying.  I actually crave them now. I love my pasta but these Zoodles are good! My solution has been to eat the zoodles and include a half-serving of pasta along with them. I've fed them to the kids too; I just don't try to convince them it's pasta.  I love them most with tomato based sauces but am experimenting with other recipes too. Try them and let me have your thoughts.

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4 - 6 Servings
4 medium zucchini
Salt 2 tsp.
1 Tblsp. olive oil
1 clove garlic minced

Julienne the zucchini using a julienne peeler, mandoline or spiralizer.  Salt it liberally (use 1/2 tsp. per zucchini) and allow to sit in a mesh strainer for 20 minutes. Don't skip this step; it's essential. 

Rinse the squash to remove some of the surface salt and then gently squeeze it with your hands to remove some of the excess water.

Heat the olive oil gently in a non-stick skillet and add the garlic; when the garlic becomes fragrent, increase the heat to medium high and add the zucchini.  Gently stir fry until heated through, about 3 minutes.

Serve with any sauce you enjoy with pasta.
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Just in time for fall, my inspiration this week came not from a weight loss story, but from a story about apples and a man who loves them. I promise, there is a farmer in me somewhere. Please enjoy this lovely story about apples and then visit a farmer's market near you in search of a new apple to enjoy. If the first story intrigues you, the second one on the same vein is also fascinating. 

I've decided to add a new item to my weekly Tips, Tricks and Inspiration blog: A challenge!  This week's challenge is to make an apple based dish in celebration of fall. Let me know what you love and I'll share your findings here! 

Happy Friday, Friends.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Vegetarians, Exercisers, Potassium (Spuds) and Saturday

Happy weekend! I missed my Friday "Tips, Trips and Inspiration" because I am getting over a terrible cold and just couldn't wrap my brain around getting up even earlier. But here I am on Saturday so, hello!  And hello to my 23 new followers reading from Feedspot; I look forward to your comments.

Regular readers of this blog know: I'm not a vegetarian. Although I have a wandering palate and interest in many types of foods, I have never succeeded at vegetarianism because I find it too hard to get my protein. That said, some studies, including the big one in this Fooducate report, have indicated that vegetarians are indeed thinner than the rest of us. It's an excellent tip; move toward a consciously plant based diet if you want to be thinner. There is a lot missing from the aforementioned study, like the cause of the body differences but it isn't too big a leap to say that adopting a conscientious eating style will serve you in the long run. I notice that as I have personally cut back on my consumption of meat in the past several years, I am getting more protein from other sources, naturally.

The trick of the week is . . . (insert drum roll here) exercise. Yes, it's so simple. For those of us with stubborn metabolisms and seriously obese ancestors, it's especially important. Lean muscle speeds up your metabolism in a way nothing else does. That's why those crazy TV "scripted reality" shows have those contestants exercising 6 hours a day. Lean muscle changes the way our bodies respond to food. I am NOT saying that 30 minutes a day of leisurely walking will change your body much  -- though it does benefit your heart and your mind! -- but serious exercising where you are actually building muscle will change things over time. Calories in, calories out is now and always will be the true equation for weight loss but for those of us with metabolic issues, exercise is crucial. You cannot  My commitment (now stated out loud) is to 6 hours a week until January and then I will ramp it up again. What are you committing to?

These two things have to find balance; if we adopt a vegetarian or more vegetarian lifestyle, balancing those proteins is important. If we are increasing our exercise in a significant way, getting enough protein and enough healthy carbs is also important. I would love to see more of us adopting simply healthy lifestyles where we enjoy healthy foods 90% of the time with occasional treats, exercise regularly, sleep enough, etc. I'm at about 75% on all of that. My goal is to be at 90% by the end of the year.

I've been brushing up on my veggies lately; potatoes have gotten such a bad rap in the "bad carbs" hype --but white potatoes and sweet potatoes too are full of fiber, vitamins and other nutrients, like potassium. Should we eat potatoes smothered in butter and cheese at every meal? Of course not. If, however, you are going to eat the carbs (and we know you are ) then consider potatoes at these meals instead of pasta or rice; you will get a lot more bang for your buck.

Get inspired this week to make a beautiful, healthy meal for yourself and your loved ones. My favorite meal of the week was Crockpot Chicken Tikka Masala to which I added green peas. We served it with a lovely whole grain couscous and Cucumber Raita.  I make the Tikka Masala waistline friendly by removing the chicken then cooling the sauce so as to completely de-fat it.  It was so delicious. We also use non-fat yogurt in our Raita and it is so lovely beside the spicier Tikka Masala.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Menu Plan Monday

Welcome to another week of healthy eating! Okay, well there may a few meals in here that require temperance, but nothing that will require too much self-control. In some cases, I have included the Weight Watchers Points Plus values in parenthesis. 

Lunch: Leftovers

Lunch - Lemony hummus goat cheese pitas, Red  cabbage slaw, apple slices
Dinner - Cheese grits, blindfolded eggs, fresh fruit.

Lunch - 
Dinner - Take-out Pizza, salad

Lunch - Filet Mingon, Six Color Rice (based on this recipe)i, mandarin oranges
Dinner - Pasta Thursday - spaghetti with meat sauce, broccoli, fruit for dessert

Lunch:  School lunch trays today!
Dinner: Shrimp salad, toast and Mamaw's homemade jam

Lunch: Leftovers
Dinner: Weight Watchers Homemade Mac-n-Cheese (6), sliced tomato salad

Lunch: Snack plate
Dinner: Slow Cooker Brisket, (9)  mashed potatoes, green beans

Linking up to OrgJunkie's Menu Plan Monday; check out all the great menus!  The "real food" low-fat menus are hard to come by but I get tons of inspiration from what other people eat.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Fab Friday Tips, Tricks and Inspiration

Friday.  This one came around fast. I have been reading a lot of interesting news lately but I will try to restrain my reporting to my usual Friday themes.

Trying to change up your whole grain world?  Here's a tip, try red rice. If you don't know about red rice, this Fooducate article will enlighten you to this underutilized super food. But I have my own reasons: It's pretty.  I used both red and black rice with brown this week for our 6 Color Rice and it is so pretty. Best practice though? Cook the red rice separately, then add in if you are doing multi-colored rice; it bled a bit into my brown rice and darkened the whole delicious dish. (I haven't typed up the 6 Color Rice recipe yet, but my starting point was this 7 Color Inarizushi recipe.)

It turns out an apple a day not only keeps the doctor away, but also the hunger at bay. My friend Gina has a trick for eating less at meals, especially potlucks and parties. She eats an apple on her way to the table.  It also bears repeating that numerous studies have shown that diners who have soup as a first course eat significantly fewer calories in the meal than those who do not.

At work today, I checked someone's drivers license and could not help commenting that she must have lost a great deal of weight. She had, indeed; 168 pounds were "lost" and she was not trying to find them! The photo itself, though hugely, inspiring, was not the most inspirational part of this interaction. She mentioned that before losing the weight, she was a diabetic with high cholesterol and sky high triglycerides. All are under control now and she takes no medicine for any of it. Her enthusiasm for life and joy at what she'd done made my day.

That's it for me, folks. It's late and mama's tired. Have a fantastic and fit weekend!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Menu Plan Monday - Eating Fresh and Healthy

School is in full swing and we are back-to-bento. Packing 7 lunches a day takes a bit of pre-planning but my family is happy and prefer Mom's lunches to the school's . . . sweet, victory. We are "winging" it for breakfast since I realized I don't follow my breakfast menus - like - ever. That said, we tried two new things for breakfast that we adored.  The first is this odd looking egg cloud; easy and fun -- just use a light hand with the salt!
The other yummy dish was this morning's cinnamon pancakes. They are 2/3 whole grain and very filling. They are 7 Weight Watcher's points+. (390 kcal, protein - 11.3, fat - 5.6 g, 47.8 carbs, fiber - 3.6 g)  I got the recipe at my meeting (and made only a slight modification):

6 servings 

1 C old fashioned Oats
1 C whole wheat flour
1 C all-purpose unbleached flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. brown sugar (mix all the dry)

2 eggs,
1 Tbsp melted butter
2 cups buttermilk.


Lunch: Leftovers

Dinner:  Tacos and fixins (both crunchy corn and whole wheat tortillas), Yellow Polka Dot salad (a new favorite!), Blueberry-lemon pound cake

Lunch - Pork asparagus rolls with sauce, cooked potatoes, strawberries, mandarin orange, green salad with dressing.  (I love these new bentos I found at World Market. The side with the salad closes, then flips over and it becomes a cube. It holds a ton, too, perfect for Dad and The Captain).

Dinner - Chicken Spaghetti, salad

Lunch - Meatloaf "cupcakes," cooked carrots, pasta with pesto, raw broccoli, fruit

Dinner - Italian Chicken Rolls, zoodles (zucchini shreds), pasta (for some), green salad 

Lunch - School lunch trays today!

Dinner - Salsa Verde Chicken Tostadas (with Slaw) - there are two links here, one for the crockpot chicken, the other for the tostadas with the simple slaw
Fresh fruit salad

Lunch: Boiled eggs, broccoli, grape tomatoes, pretzels, grapes, strawberries

Dinner: Shrimp salad, Zesty Zucchini soup, toast and JAM!

Lunch: Leftovers

Dinner: Chicken Pot Pie (lower fat), pretty salad, fresh fruit

Lunch: Grilled Chicken with Corn and Tomato Salad, crusty bread for the kids

Dinner: "Root hog"
(When I was a child, there was an old saying, "Root, hog, or die!" I know, it sounds terrible, but in my family, "Root Hog" meant we each got to find what we wanted to eat, and eat it.  It might be leftovers, ramen noodles, or a bowl of cereal. "Root hog" happened but rarely and we loved it.)

Linking up to OrgJunkie's Menu Plan Monday; check out all the great menus!  The "real food" low-fat menus are hard to come by but I get tons of inspiration from what other people eat.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Progress Report

On Wednesday, I passed my 6-week mark since my return to Weight Watchers. To be sure, it was an unusual start with two hospital stays, a surgery, and a vacation all in there. Nonetheless, I have been "on plan" except for a couple of days that I failed to track.

My net loss so far? Plus 0.4 pounds. I know, I'm going the wrong way.

Oddly, I'm not discouraged. My restrictions on exercise lasted most of the first 4 weeks, we're under tremendous stress at home with summer ending and all the kids dribbling back into school, and, truthfully, my medicines have changed 3 times. I think it could be worse.

I think this is the first time in my entire weight loss journey of 8 years in which I could honestly say, "It's not all about the scale." I am doing a great job providing the family with healthful food and beautiful food too. I know I am eating the things my body needs. I feel great, for the first time in months, and I feel happy about what I'm eating too. I did start exercising last week and it's going well because I feel well.  There just isn't that much to be unhappy about.

This week, I'm experimenting with using only my daily points and not my flex points, although I have used 8 because of forgetting to log a food one day. I am staying the course and feel happy about it. I like that Weight Watchers allows me any food; that freedom helps me keep to my personal health guidelines and stick to what's in "my box." I have managed to "cook ahead" a bit to ease the pressure of school lunches.

I am encouraged, actually, that I managed to navigate all the obstacles of the last few weeks and remain, basically, the same weight. I have accepted that my life is always in a little bit of flux and I cannot wait for everything to fall into place.

I'd love to hear from some of you about what is working for you in your own weight loss or maintenance journeys, especially from my loyal 5 followers!   Cheers!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Thank Goodness it's Friday! Tips, Tricks and Inspiration

I lost 5 lbs. this week. Normally that would be cause for celebration but it was the 5 pounds I gained the week before due to my weigh in falling in the few hours I had between two hospital stays. That said, I could honestly say that I was in my points range for the whole 3 weeks so far and I stayed on plan, even in the hospital. I will stay the course and see how I do this week.

Thank goodness it's Friday. I went back to work yesterday and while I did okay, I was beat when I got home. So I only have today and tomorrow morning and then some time to rest.

I have a simple tip for this week: Eat more watermelon! I read these fun facts about watermelon on Fooducate and realized my over-the-top love for this fruit is actually justified. I'ts a good source of Lycopene, and Vitamin C and it's a "filling food." The article offers some alternate serving suggestions at the end but to me using watermelon as an ingredient is akin to grinding up steak and using it as an ingredient. It's already perfect the way it is! I'm not too much of a purist though, a fat slice with a little cayenne and salt is the perfect snack.

You've tried logic, so now you want to know how to trick your teens into giving up sugary sodas. A new study had a surprising finding: If you label the soft drink cooler with the amount of exercise it will take to burn the calories from the soda, a lot fewer teens will choose the drink. Who knew teens were logical? Read the details in this brief article by The Salt on NPR.

While looking for something else, I stumbled across this government publication on the benefits of losing weight. If you have a metabolism like mine and weight loss comes slowly, it's helpful to have a little inspiration to keep working at it. Take a look at it and see which of the many benefits would mean the most to you right now.

I am focusing on small changes now. For instance, I am committed to journaling  my food, no matter what I eat. Knowing I will be logging it later helps me make a good choice in the moment. What small changes are impacting you right now? I want to hear from you!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Fab Friday Tips (Produce), Tricks (Lettuce) and Inspiration (Thriving through a Family Reunion)

Well it's Friday and it has been quite a week. More on that later!

The tip of the week is to buy your produce for several days and prep it all at once. For instance, chop bell peppers into both strips and chunks and put them in sandwich bags, about a pepper's worth of strips or chunks per bag. Wash the grapes and divide them up into kid sized bags. You get the idea!

The trick this week is one taught me some time ago by the indomitable Pam Tischler.  It is a sanity saver and makes your lettuce last -- crisp and ready -- up to a full week. Here's how you do it::

Throw the head of lettuce into a clean sink of cold water.  Pull the leaves out and gently spin dry them.  Then lay them out one leaf at a time onto paper toweling. Gently roll the towels back up, replace into your produce bag, close with a tie and throw them in the vegetable drawer. Or use a big zipper bag if you are not as cheap as I. When you are ready for a leaf for a sandwich or several for a salad, unroll and use as many as you need.  Isn't that cool? Trust me on this, it saves twice as much time as it takes and you won't wind up letting half the lettuce spoil because it's ready to use.

My Weight Watcher's buddy truly inspired me this week. She joined just before heading off to a family reunion where she did none of the cooking and had no input into the menu. Yet she managed to stay on program enough to lose weight. Give her a hand, ladies and gentlemen! It is truly amazing. One trick she and her hubby used was to keep a bag of apples in their cabin. As they hiked to each meal, they ate an apple so when they got there, they weren't ravenous. She also saved her calories for the things she really loved (read, "homemade") and passed up the more ordinary fare, like cake from the bakery. We weighed in on Wednesday and Thursday, she was off to the beach for a family vacation. I wish her as much self-control this week!

I, on the other hand, gained 5 pounds! On Tuesday, I wound up back in the hospital and got sprung Wednesday afternoon so that I could check into a different hospital on Thursday for a fairly urgent procedure. While in the first hospital they pushed the fluids through IV and drink because my blood pressure was very low and they were trying to bring it up. As a result, I carried all that liquid to the scale in my veins Wednesday night. I was surprisingly nonchalant about it. I had  forgone the delicious sausage gravy and biscuits the hospital served and taken an small egg-white omelet and fruit for breakfast. I'd had a large salad for lunch and was well within my points range for the week. No point in getting upset about elements beyond my control. I'm home from both hospital stays now and if my recovery goes well, I should have a good showing on the scale this week!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Work Space

Did I mention I went back to Weight Watchers? A friend wanted to re-join and I seem to have leveled off, weight wise, so I said I would go back with her. The inspiration and support makes a difference to me. I lost 0.4 pounds last week, so I'll take it.

There are two things I love about Weight Watchers and always have. One, you can eat literally anything; you just assign a points value to it. I can certainly have an ice cream dinner if I wish to, but I'll definitely temper my consumption because a cup of ice cream is 10 points. That is a third of my daily allotment. Yikes.

The other thing I love is the practical help they give you. This year's focus is on routines and spaces. At our meeting last week, I committed to myself to take charge of my work space. I am tired of being hungry at work! My workmates often eat out and so I join in but try to make a healthy choice and I wind up being hungry. Therefore, something had to give.

 Thursday, I dropped the Littles at day care an hour earlier than I had to and went to the grocery store on my way to work, confining my purchases to my lunch time stores. We have some free cupboard space in our office kitchen and I can usually make space in the fridge by throwing away old stuff, so I wasn't worried about space. I was going to take a picture of my stockpile but I got intimidated carrying everything in and chickened out!  Here's what I purchased:

Pantry food:
Dr Kracker (a favorite whole grain snack)
Regular snack crackers, thin ones
Almonds (in a can so they stay fresh)
2 bananas

Freezer food:
A loaf of whole-grain bread (we have a toaster at work)

Fridge food:
Non-fat greek yogurt
Grape tomatoes
Good cheese (an ounce will do me!)
Turkey diced and packed in two ounce cups

A good knife
Lidded plastic containers (for leftovers)
Water bottle for my desk

Unflavored sparkling water
Diet soda
Izzy-esque 4 pack (love those but they're so expensive)

That day I had an absolutely delicious 8 point lunch. And it was so filling. Really good cheese (Double Gloucester), a couple of crackers, a piece of toast, raspberries, turkey, grape tomatoes. I ate and ate.  Every few days I will replenish the meat, cheese and fruit and I will be set for a long while.

No more being fat and hungry at work! What ideas do you have? I dare you to take a picture of your work space pantry!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Fun Friday! Tips, Tricks and Inspiration!

Woot, woot! It's Friday.  I am posting late after a fun day with the kids but it's still Friday, so it counts, right?

My tip of the day is actually a question: Why are you taking a multi-vitamin? I have eschewed them for myself, finally, but in the spirit of full disclosure, I am still giving them -- irregularly -- to the kids. There is so little evidence that vitamin supplements do what we want them to and yet, inexplicably, millions of us take them. Check out this interesting Fooducate article and let me have your thoughts, please.

Do you have any tricks for eating out?  My favorite trick used to be to get a to-go container when the meal was delivered and put half of it away to take home. The down-side to that is that if it is as tasty as I hope it will be, then I will actually eat that half the next day. In fact, I have moved restaurant food to the category of "occasional treat" and therefore, taking it home to eat again, I am still  eating it and even though the calories are more reasonable, does not really fit with my larger goals. Now, I split a meal. I like it not only for the calories saved, I am very much enjoying the aspect of choosing my meal with someone else; quite often I wind up with quite a different meal then I'd have selected on my own. There is a sweetness in sharing that brings intimacy to the meal. I love it!

I have been inspired by Hunt, Gather, Love  (a Paleo Diet blog) for some time. I am not a person who has embraced Paleo, but there are aspects of it that appeal to me. So I was surprised by her April post entitled, "Breaking up with Paleo." Her reasoning made sense to me; for me, I just can't understand why if all this beautiful food grows on the earth, why should I avoid it?  I have successfully avoided most breads for months now consuming processed starches about once a week and as an exception. Otherwise, we mostly shop and eat from the outside aisle and serve a lot of potatoes, rice, oatmeal, legumes and grits as starches. Since I started restricting breads and processed grains, I know I do experience a "sugar crash" after I eat them and I also know that it does not happen for me after potatoes, rice, oatmeal, beans or grits. I do not think I'm willing to live without them even temporarily so Paleo is out for me. I love the "purity" of it though, and will keep learning from the Paleo community.

I hope you've found something useful here. Have a wonderful weekend!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Strong Start Day

So . . . it was quite a spring. I slogged through February and March, being sick most of the time and just feeling crummy but maintaining my weight despite the fact that I gave up exercise for all of March. Then I had a pre-Easter hospital stay in which I dropped a couple of pounds.Then April and May in which I tried to build up my stamina while adjusting to a new job and new medications. Finally I am "back to normal" in terms of feeling well and managing to lose weight through a little trick but being undisciplined in my eating.

To get through Easter, 5 family birthdays, Mother's and Father's Day, as well as a half dozen "eat out" ball tournaments and a new job, I've simply been eating whatever I want, but half as much as I want to - or would normally - eat, pretty much at every turn. The exception is fruit and vegetables which I eat in full portion.  So if I want a bowl of cereal, I take a tiny half-sized bowl. This is working if my goal is to lose weight. But my true goal is to be healthy . . . which I'd somehow lost sight of . . . so I am returning as of today to my "box."

It dawned on me recently that my inner core of true health has been slipping away. That health has already rescued me once this year, so I don't want to get sloppy about it. It was that core of good health that "saved" me during all my weeks of Afib so it's crazy to not be "minding" it now! As of today, I am also getting back to regular exercise. My cardiologist cleared me for exercise three weeks ago, but I've been scared it will put me back into Afib. But as he says, I've got to get on with my life. I have to start slowly, 15 minutes a day, so today is the day.

In all these months of struggling with having enough energy to do the minimum I needed to do for my family, one thing has become abundantly clear: losing weight, per se, is not what matters most to me. Living is what matters. Being healthy and strong matters. Seeing my kids to their future matters. Having my hubby at my side matters. Having a core of health to support me in the next crisis matters. Weight loss is the means to the ends, not an end in itself.

Happy Strong Start Monday!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

I can't help but notice I've not been posting that much in this space. There's "an elephant in the room" and I'm trying to avoid talking about it. Pretending it isn't there isn't working, so . . . here goes!

Back in the winter when I posted about building my "box," there was something I didn't say. About that time, I'd had a revelation that my overweight was tied to sin and then, later, that it was about rebellion and vulnerability. This was a progressive revelation that I came to understand more fully over a period of weeks.

As often is the case with me, seeing the root cause of my issue set me into a flurry of rebellious activity.  I had a couple of weeks of strong commitment and actual progress followed by several weeks of off-and-on compliance followed by days of sticking my head in the sand. It has gotten so bad that on Sunday as I was standing in my closet, I actually convinced myself that trying to lose weight was pointless and that because my health risks are low I should just accept that this is my weight and learn to live with it.

Fortunately a half hour later I was sitting in church in front of a priest I'd never met (and still haven't) and he somehow brought the whole issue full circle back to sin. He said, "The devil is real and has a trick and I'm going to let you in on his secret. Satan's big trick is planting a seed of doubt." I immediately realized that I had experienced that very thing in my closet epiphany. At this point I realized it wasn't an epiphany at all, but in fact the opposite.

It strikes me as really funny that the opposite of "epiphany" is secret. What do you do if you want to keep something secret? You keep it in the closet! So "closet epiphany" is a bit of an oxymoron, don't you think?

The revelation was pounded home last night by, of all people, Jillian Michaels as I watched Biggest Loser. "This is unacceptable," she screamed at the contestants. "You have this amazing opportunity and you are just phoning it in."

And there you have it. I'm "phoning it in." So I am going to stop writing now, plan my calories for the day, look at how I can get in my exercise and get off my bottom.  How about you?

Friday, February 15, 2013

Friday Tips, Tricks and Inspiration

Happy Friday! Here are your tips, tricks and inspiration to start your weekend strong.

We have a crazy busy weekend planned so I am working to get in two hours of exercise today. To combat the boredom, I am mixing in some new exercises and activities. I found some great tips to fight the flab in my arms.  These exercises use a medicine ball, but you can substitute a cantaloupe   Alternately, you can make your own medicine ball by taking a kids playground ball (the durable rubber kind), cutting a slit in it, insert a ziplock bag, fill with sand or earth, then zip the bag. It's always a good idea to mix up our workouts not only for variety, but to keep our muscles challenged. Here are the instructions on Livestrong.

I decided to refresh my knowledge on Cholesterol lowering foods since one of our kids has a genetic predisposition to high cholesterol.  These foods are actually a health trick since they raise your HDL ("good" cholesterol) which affects the LDL/HDL ratio and lowers your overall cholesterol score. Some studies have found that emphasizing these foods has a much bigger impact than focusing on foods which contain cholesterol. We eat a lot of these foods regularly in our household, but I did find a few surprises.

There was an interesting and inspiring Washington Post article recently on Japanese school lunches. Having spent (too) much time in my son's lunchroom, this style of lunching appealed to me.  The kids in the feature are not used to choices -- there is one meal served and they eat it (kind of like at home!).  They involve the kids in the serving and the meals are simple, healthy and do not contain sweets. For a fascinating glimpse at what "could" be, please check out the article.

Have a wonderful, healthy weekend.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Setting a Caloric Goal

I've certainly posted on this topic before, but it's what I'm thinking about and reviewing for myself right now.  Most people approach caloric intake in one of two ways:  They pick a number for any number of reasons; this number is usually a very low number like 1000 or 1200 calories.  Others do what I call "backward math."  They calculate the number of calories needed to maintain their current weight (basically, your BMR), and then subtract from that the caloric deficit needed to affect a pound (or two) a week weight loss.

The first idea is just a bad one.  It's arbitrary, does not account for height or weight or age or activity and just plain is a set-up for yo-yo dieting.  Some people can maintain very low calorie diets but they use special supplements designed to keep them feeling full.

The second idea is better than the first, for sure, but still leaves something to acknowledge.  If you have 100 pounds to lose, you can sure lose a pound or two a week but if you have 10 pounds to lose, maybe not. In addition, it's a bit arbitrary; why would the calendar dictate a choice about the number of calories you need to sustain you?

Many years ago on Fat2Fit Radio, I heard that the best way to set your caloric goal is to set it at the weight you need to maintain your goal weight.  For example, I am 5'11" and 53 years old.  A healthy weight for me would be 155.  Using the BMR math, that puts my maintenance calories at 1660.  Therefore, if I eat only 1660 calories a day, I will lose weight and when I get to my goal weight, I will already be used to maintaining.  It makes so much sense, doesn't it?

Using "goal weight math," I have set my daily caloric range at 1500-1660 calories.  I like to have a range because it keeps me from eating one more thing to make my goal if I'm not really hungry.  It also gives me a little wiggle room for any BLTS (bites, licks or tastes) I may forget to record.

I have been eating at this range for about 3 weeks (with a couple of exceptions) and I have not really been hungry.  I'm eating very well out of my "box" and that is certainly helping me feel full. I have had more bread recently than my plan calls for but will just forgo it in the coming weeks.

There have been two side benefits to this out of the box eating:  First, I am not having those insulin spikes I get when I eat a lot of refined carbs or sugar.  No more post-dessert nap taking!  Secondly, I notice that my personal focus on fruit and vegetables has rubbed off on the older girls and they are snacking more on these items as well.  Have you built your box yet?

Try setting your calorie range from your goal weight maintenance calories and let me know how it works out for you!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Building my Box

I admit it, I haven't been active here because sometimes I get tired of thinking/talking/writing about weight loss. But then I decide to pull on my big girl pants, stop whining, and think about what really fuels me in my weight loss journey. So with new computer in hand (or on lap, technically) and the holidays behind me, I am back to blogging! For the next couple of installments, I'll be writing about my favorite tools and maybe while I'm re-motivating myself, I'll inspire you, too!

A while back, I decided to stop focusing on what I "couldn't" or "shouldn't" or "did not choose to" eat and changed the way I framed it.  Instead, I now make a comprehensive list of what I do choose to eat and I focus on these foods.  This works because regardless of what plan or method I'm using to lose weight, I can "build my box" and fill it with the foods that support me.  

Can I eat foods that are "out of the box?"  Yes, of course, I can (and apparently do).  Yet if I choose the foods in my box, I'm going to get a lot better results, faster, never be hungry and most importantly, feel happy with myself.  That matters the most to me because if I make too many rules or set it up to be an all or nothing situation, then I am sure to go right out and shoot myself in the foot.  I'm just that way.

So without further ado, here is my box to start the new year. These are foods I like. I don't put anything in I don't like (or that doesn't sit well). I have it in layers (modeled after Michi's ladder) but focusing on my personal "super foods."  The layers make my choices easy.  

Free, free, free - Any amount, any time (emphasize*):
Vegetables:  asparagus*, beets, Brussels sprouts, bok choy, green cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, chili peppers, cucumbers, garlic, ginger, lettuce, kale*, papayas, parsley, spinach* and zucchini. salsa
Fruits: apples, cranberries, grapefruit, lemons, oranges, pineapple, raspberries, strawberries* and tangerines.

Eat every day* or most days number or servings determined by calorie guidelines):
Grains: Oatmeal, brown rice, black beans (any bean),
Dairy:  Non-fat yogurt, fat-free milk, Greek yogurt
Protein:  Turkey, white fish, 
Fruits and Vegetables: Blueberries, pumpkin, tomatoes, kiwi, blackberries, (starred* items above), broccoli sprouts, mushrooms, pears, peppers, tomato sauce, string beans, peas, cherries
Fats (carefully portioned): Walnuts, Olive oil, canola oil

Eat two or three times per week:
Grains: Barley, whole grain bread, cous-cous (whole-wheat), chicken, humus
Dairy:  Low-fat cottage cheese
Protein: Eggs, Scallops, non-fat refried beans, tuna
Fruits and Vegetables: Edamame, bananas, baked potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, corn, pineapple, peaches, watermelon
Fats (carefully portioned): nuts 
Other:  soy sauce, honey, mustard

Eat once a week:
Grains: whole-wheat pasta, whole grain cereal
good cheese
Protein: Salmon, beef (London broil, round steak, eye of round)
Fruits and Vegetables: 
Fatty foods and fats:  Avocado, olives, sunflower seeds

Eat rarely (perhaps once a month):
Grains: Popcorn, pancakes, white rice
Dairy:  cheesy foods,
Protein: Salmon, pork tenderloin, lean steak, 
Fatty foods and fats:  Avocado, olives, sunflower seeds, mayonnaise
Other:  Ketchup, sweets of any kind, wine

What's in your box?